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Adam Vinatieri misses another extra point in Colts loss to Dolphins



INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich has gone from defending struggling kicker Adam Vinatieri earlier season by saying things like he had all the confidence in the world in him to now not speaking with as much certainty about his future with the franchise.

Vinatieri continued his season-long problems when he missed another extra point in the Colts’ 16-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Vinatieri’s missed extra point ruined a chance for the Colts to have an opportunity to kick a field goal to send the game into overtime. Needing a touchdown to win, the Colts were stopped on fourth down at Miami’s 8-yard line with 40 seconds left in the game.

“Really, no comment,” Reich said. “We’ve been committed to (Vinatieri). We’re going to always evaluate. Everybody gets measured. Everybody is held accountable, from top to bottom. That’s always the case. Nothing meant to read into that. That’s the reality of the business. There’s been no discussions about that between (general manager) Chris (Ballard) and I. That’s just the business.”

Of all the problems the Colts were expected to endure this season following Andrew Luck’s retirement, kicking wasn’t on the list with the NFL’s all-time leading scorer, Vinatieri, on the roster.

But Vinatieri, instead, has turned into almost a weekly problem for the Colts. He has missed six extra points and five field goals.

Five of Vinatieri’s six missed extra points have come when the game was within three points, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He is making just 16.7 percent of his extra points in those situations. Every other kicker in the NFL with at least two extra-point kicks has made over 75 percent of their attempts in that scenario.

The Colts are 5-4, a full game behind Houston (6-3) in the AFC South, but Vinatieri has been responsible for two of the losses — against the Chargers in Week 1 and the Steelers in Week 9 — and potentially Sunday’s loss to Miami with the missed extra point.

“It’s fine. It’s there,” Vinatieri said about his confidence level. “It’s not a matter of that. It’s just a matter of executing.”

When asked if he’s been dealing with any kind of injuries, Vinatieri said, “We don’t talk about injuries one way or another. I’m healthy enough to be out on the field.”

One of Ballard’s strongest attributes has been a desire to push for competition on the roster. That hasn’t been the case for Vinatieri outside of when they worked out six kickers prior to Week 3. Reich acknowledged earlier in the season that there are some different standards for Vinatieri because of the success he’s had during his 24-year playing career.

But staying loyal to Vinatieri has already cost the Colts some this season, and it may hurt them come December when they’re trying to make the playoffs.

“It’s the track record and it’s what we see in practice,” Reich said. “I believe this guy, mentally, to be one of the toughest guys to ever play. To do what he’s done in his career. That’s what’s going into (sticking with him). There was a stretch there of about four or five weeks where the operation was good for four or five weeks there. These misses have come in small bunches. There is an expectation there. We need to make those.”

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49ers set to embark on historically difficult three-game stretch – San Francisco 49ers Blog



SANTA CLARA, Calif. — To say the San Francisco 49ers’ schedule is about to get tougher over the next three weeks would drastically understate what’s coming.

The journey the Niners are about to begin — with games against the Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints — could be the most difficult stretch any team has faced this late in the season in the Super Bowl era.

Through Week 11, those teams have combined for a 24-6 record (all three are 8-2), good for a winning percentage of .800. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, no team has played three straight games against teams with an .800 or better winning percentage this late in the season in the Super Bowl era. If the Ravens and Saints can win their games before facing San Francisco, the Niners would be the first team to face such a stretch.

What’s more, only four teams in the Super Bowl era — the 2007 Detroit Lions, 1999 Cleveland Browns, 1990 Washington Redskins and 1990 Minnesota Vikings — have played three such games (not consecutively) in their 11th game or later.

None of those teams entered such a gantlet with as much on the line as these 49ers, who are 9-1 and in control of the NFC playoff picture.

“This is why you play football, for this kind of a stretch,” Niners right tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “We have put ourselves in a pretty solid position here, but it means nothing if we don’t get our jobs done over these next few weeks. … We’ve got our work cut out for us but we’ve got the right coaching staff to get us in the game plan, and I believe in this locker room to execute and get the job done.”

For much of this season, the 49ers’ turnaround has been met with raised eyebrows. Even after manhandling teams like the Rams, Panthers and Browns, the Niners’ lack of top-tier victories has left skeptics questioning how good they really are. Suffice it to say, definitive answers are coming soon.

ESPN’s Football Power Index rates the 49ers’ remaining strength of schedule the most difficult in the NFL, with the next three games providing the stiffest of tests. FPI gives the 49ers a 61% chance to beat the Packers on Sunday but those numbers drop to 34% against the Ravens and 40% against the Saints. The latter two are the lowest-percentage chances for wins remaining on San Francisco’s schedule, and a Week 17 trip to Seattle offers the only one lower than the Green Bay game.

It all starts with the Packers traveling to Levi’s Stadium as the Niners look to win the one home game of the three. At a combined 17-3, the combined .850 winning percentage is the best in a game between these historic rivals in the Super Bowl era.

At stake? A spot in the driver’s seat for the NFC’s No. 1 seed. FPI gives the 49ers a 45% chance at the NFC’s top spot with a win and just a 10% shot with a loss. Green Bay would have a 44% chance at the 1 seed with a victory and 4% with a defeat.

None of that includes juicy subplots such as the first meeting between quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Garoppolo and the offensive battle of Mike Shanahan coaching-tree luminaries Kyle Shanahan and Matt LaFleur.

“It will be another unique battle,” 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said. “It’ll be a play style similar to what we see week in and week out with Kyle and their offense. So we’ll prepare for that. A-Rod is one of the best to ever do it. So it will be a tremendous challenge for us, and we’re excited about it.”

A win against the Packers would go a long way before heading on another weeklong stay on the other side of the country. Like they did earlier this year — when they went to Tampa Bay and Cincinnati with a week in Youngstown, Ohio, in between — the Niners will travel to Baltimore, play the Ravens, travel to Florida for the practice week and then head to New Orleans before returning to the Bay Area.

If the 49ers can pocket a victory against Green Bay, it would mean a split of the two road games would keep them in a prime position for a bye and the top seed, especially if that win came in New Orleans. It would also likely mean losing both games wouldn’t be a death knell to their hopes of advancing directly to the divisional round.

“Week in and week out, you always find out stuff about your team,” Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said. “You find out about people. There’s lots of football here to play. Each game’s going to be huge, so just trying to take it one week at a time and make sure we don’t look too far down the road because everyone’s in this it seems like right now.”

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Los Angeles Chargers’ Michael Davis suspended 2 games for violating NFL’s substance abuse policy



COSTA MESA, Calif. — Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Michael Davis has been suspended two games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

The Chargers (4-7) are on their bye this week. The suspension will cover road games against Denver (Dec. 1) and Jacksonville (Dec. 8).

Davis, who is in his third season, has started nine games this year and has an interception along with 27 tackles.

General manager Tom Telesco said in a statement that Davis is a good person who made a “significant mistake this past offseason.”

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Washington Redskins place TE Vernon Davis (concussion) on season-ending injured reserve



ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Redskins placed tight end Vernon Davis on injured reserve Friday, ending his season and leaving his career in doubt.

Davis, 35, suffered a concussion in Week 4 and has not played since, though he had been limited in practice for most of that time. Davis missed the last two games of 2018 with a concussion. Another Redskins tight end, Jordan Reed, has missed the entire season because of a concussion as well.

For Davis, this could mark the end of a productive career. He caught 583 career passes and his 63 touchdowns ranks sixth on the all-time list by a tight end. Davis, the sixth overall pick in 2006 by San Francisco, played nine-plus seasons for the 49ers’ and remains their all-time leader in receptions (441), receiving yards (5,640) and touchdowns (55) by a tight end.

Losing Reed and Davis were severe blows to the Redskins’ offense. The Redskins rank 28th in the NFL with only 28 receptions by a tight end this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Davis spent half a season with Denver in 2015, winning a Super Bowl ring. He signed with the Redskins that offseason and caught 122 passes with eight touchdowns playing for his hometown team. Davis grew up in Washington, D.C. and played collegiately at the University of Maryland.

Davis is signed through 2020, but with the Redskins needing to undergo a major rebuild this offseason – they will have a new coach – it’s hard to see him returning. He’ll then have to decide if he wants to continue playing elsewhere.

If this is the end for Davis, he already knows at least one thing he wants to do next: act. Davis has already acted in several movies, including “Hell on the Border”, which will be released on Dec. 13.

The Redskins also promoted defensive lineman Ryan Bee off their practice squad to take Davis’ roster spot.

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