BALTIMORE — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was asked how the rain affected the passing game, and he let out a sigh of frustration before collapsing forward on the podium at his postgame media conference.
“You seen the balls. You seen them,” Jackson said. “Horrible.”
Jackson’s run of impressive passing numbers ended Sunday, but his ability to lead the Ravens to victory did not. In a 20-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers, Jackson proved that he can knock off a top team when not at the top of his game.
This wasn’t like the last three weeks when the Ravens were in so control of the game that Jackson spent his fourth quarters putting on sunglasses or dancing on the sideline with running back Mark Ingram. This was a heavyweight fight, where Jackson had to rely as much on determination as his athleticism in the final moments.
Jackson finished with a season-low 105 yards passing and lost his first fumble of the season. But in leading his third career winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, Jackson completed all three of his passes for 27 yards to set up Justin Tucker‘s 49-yard field goal.
What did Jackson show his teammates in a performance such as this?
“Just the toughness. Just the grit,” linebacker Matthew Judon said. “This isn’t ideal football weather, and he got it done. As he goes, we go. We all know that.”
Jackson entered Sunday’s game on one of the best hot streaks by a quarterback. The NFL Most Valuable Player front-runner had played three straight games with at least three touchdowns and no interceptions. Only four quarterbacks have had longer such streaks in NFL history: Tom Brady (four straight in 2007), Peyton Manning (four in 2013), Aaron Rodgers (four in 2014) and Russell Wilson (five in 2015).
That wasn’t going to happen in a constant downpour with winds that reached 15 mph. Jackson went 0-of-4 passing on third down. He entered the day completing 69% of his third-down passes, second-best in the NFL. Jackson was 3-of-6 for 18 yards when targeting wide receivers. That’s the fewest passing yards to wide receivers by a starting quarterback in a win this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Jackson completed just four of 11 passes for 20 yards without the aid of play-action. That made it his worst passing game (completion percentage and yards) as a starter without play-action.
This isn’t the first time the weather has affected Jackson. In his other rain game this season, against the Seattle Seahawks, he connected on only nine of 20 throws.
“I was throwing passes behind my receivers,” Jackson said. “I hit Hayden [Hurst] on the sideline on the corner behind him [and] Seth [Roberts] on a drive route behind him. It was ticking me off. A lot of passes were getting away from me. It messed with me a lot.”
Where Jackson really hurt the NFL’s top-ranked defense was with his legs. He ran for 101 yards and one touchdown, including a 7-yard run on which he faked K’Waun Williams so badly that the cornerback fell to the ground.
Jackson’s biggest run was a 3-yard sneak on a fourth-and-1 from Baltimore’s 44-yard line. Eight plays later, Tucker hit the winning kick.
“I was a little nervous, but I wasn’t surprised,” wide receiver Willie Snead IV said of the fourth-down decision. “Coach [Harbaugh] gives us the green light. He has full confidence in Lamar and our offense.”
Jackson has now won eight straight starts. The only quarterback in the Super Bowl era with a longer streak before he turned 23 years old is Ben Roethlisberger, who won 13 straight in 2004.
Unlike many of Jackson’s previous wins — the double-digit margins against the Seahawks, Patriots, Texans and Rams — Sunday’s game was a grind. His first three drives in the second half ended with a fumble, a punt and a deflected pass on fourth down.
But when given the ball for the final time, Jackson found a way to win. He marched Baltimore into field goal range on a 12-play, 34-yard drive that took the remaining 6 minutes, 28 seconds off the clock.
“Him being a serious competitor, he puts a lot of pressure on himself,” guard Marshal Yanda said. “Great players that want to be great, they have that.”
Chiefs regroup after starters Damien Williams, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif opt out – Kansas City Chiefs Blog
The Kansas City Chiefs thought they had two advantages over most of their competition heading into training camp, one being startling continuity for the salary-cap era and the other a high-scoring offense led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Those advantages might still be there, though not in the abundance they were before the calendar turned to August. Two offensive starters, running back Damien Williams and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, opted out of playing this season amid the coronavirus pandemic, dealing the Chiefs a blow.
“It hurts,” tight end Travis Kelce said. “The guys that we have in that locker room can fill that void. I honestly believe that. We have an unbelievable roster, and I’m excited to see how this group molds together.”
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There’s no reason to believe the two player losses will unravel everything the Chiefs have going for them. Eighteen starters still return from the Super Bowl LIV win over the San Francisco 49ers. That familiarity could provide an edge in a season without offseason practice and preseason games and with an abbreviated training camp.
But Williams was the Chiefs’ leading rusher last season and a Super Bowl star. He ran for 104 yards against the 49ers and scored the final two touchdowns in the fourth quarter of the 31-20 victory.
The Chiefs also lost their second-leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, who left as a free agent. They did draft LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round, but their veteran running backs have a total of five NFL starts among them.
The Chiefs already had big expectations for Edwards-Helaire as a rookie. Now he must deliver.
In an illustration of just how important he is to the Chiefs this season, a defensive player, linebacker Anthony Hitchens, said, “Our job [on defense] is to get him ready for Week 1: show him different looks, practice hard, try to strip the ball out, playing tight coverage on him.”
The Chiefs also lost Stefen Wisniewski to free agency, so they need starters at both guard positions. They had to mix and match along the offensive line last year. Injuries forced them to start five different line combinations.
So between free-agent additions Kelechi Osemele and Mike Remmers, part-time 2019 starters Andrew Wylie and Martinas Rankin and young players in Nick Allegretti and Lucas Niang, the Chiefs have plenty of candidates.
The Chiefs won’t have as much time to sort through the possibilities as they usually do.
“The older guys, the more they play, the easier it is to mesh them together,” tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. “Obviously, [Osemele] has had an awesome career and Remmers has had a really good career too. Those are guys who understand fits and understand how to play with people, next to people. So that’s not something I’m too worried about.”
Giants lose third opt-out player with CB Sam Beal’s decision
According to the NFL’s daily transaction wire, linebacker Josiah Tauaefa was also removed from the reserve/COVID-19 list one day after being placed on it.
Beal becomes the third Giants player to take the opt-out route, joining offensive tackle Nate Solder and wide receiver/kick returner D’Mari Scott. Under the agreement reached between the NFL and NFLPA, players had the option of opting out of the upcoming season without penalty by 4 p.m. on Thursday. The opt out is irrevocable.
The Giants already had question marks at cornerback prior to Beal’s decision. Cornerback DeAndre Baker is on the commissioner’s exempt list and faces charges of armed robbery and aggravated assault with a firearm. He is unlikely to play another snap with the Giants.
Baker was a first-round pick last year. Beal was a third-round supplemental pick out of Central Michigan in 2018 who missed his entire rookie season with a shoulder injury. He played in six games with three starts last season and finished with 25 tackles and one pass defended. He missed the season finale with a shoulder injury.
Beal, 23, was expected to be in the mix, along with second-year cornerback Corey Ballentine, for a starting spot opposite offseason acquisition James Bradberry. Rookie fourth-round pick Darnay Holmes also appears to be in serious contention for the job.
Beal’s absence now leaves the Giants with an obvious void and a lack of depth. A source indicated recently — even before Beal’s opt out — that the team was searching for cornerback help on the waiver wire or via free agency. Among the options on the open market are veterans Logan Ryan, Aqib Talib and Dre Kirkpatrick.
New coach Joe Judge has firsthand experience with Ryan and Talib from their time in New England. Ryan appears to be the most likely option, especially since the Giants will gain $13.55 million in salary-cap space from Solder’s decision to sit out the 2020 NFL season.
Growing frustrated by suspension, Cowboys’ Randy Gregory lashes out, says he’s ‘doing everything right’ as he aims for reinstatement
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory took to social media Wednesday to say he is being treated unfairly by the NFL as he attempts to be reinstated from an indefinite suspension.
“I really miss playing football and being a player in the NFL,” Gregory wrote. “I’m doing everything that is asked of me and I’m in great shape physically, mentally and emotionally but I’m being held back from furthering my career because of Covid and testing. I’ve been ready to play and test for months but still have gotten little to no help to resolve my reinstatement. I’m asking more questions than I’m getting answered. It’s amazing that the powers that can keep passing the buck and also use this pandemic as a way to prevent me from joining my team. Telling me to just sit and wait in limbo over things I can’t control, all the while doing everything right off the field is unfair and flat out wrong!!!”
A request for comment from the NFL regarding Gregory’s status has been made.
For all of you that’s wondering… pic.twitter.com/gj7nWJpw5e
— Randy Gregory (@RandyGregory_4) August 5, 2020
Gregory applied for reinstatement in March, according to sources. Last month ESPN reported his attempt to return had not been denied but he was not cleared to return either and sources said there was some optimism he would be allowed around the team in some fashion even if he could not practice.
Gregory is on an indefinite suspension for multiple violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy dating to his rookie year in 2015.
Under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, players can no longer be suspended for a positive test for marijuana, but because he was penalized under the old system he would still need to be welcomed back by commissioner Roger Goodell. A player can continue to be suspended for missing tests or not taking part in a care plan.
Gregory missed all of last season after playing in 14 games in 2018 and finishing with six sacks, which was second on the team. He missed 30 of 32 regular-season games in 2016 and ’17 because of suspensions. He has played in only 28 of a possible 80 regular-season games in his career.
The Cowboys selected Gregory in the second round in 2015 and have stood by him, including agreeing to an extension with him last year that was ultimately blocked by the league. The team had a short-term extension for Gregory blocked last year by the league because of the suspension.
Earlier this offseason, pass-rusher Aldon Smith was conditionally reinstated by the NFL after multiple suspensions that have kept him off the playing field since 2015. Smith has passed numerous tests within the last year and has agreed to a strict after-care program.
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