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Cowboys fall to Bears for 3rd consecutive loss, 6-7 record on season

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CHICAGO — Jerry Jones might not be in a position to keep Jason Garrett as Dallas Cowboys head coach anymore.

Thursday’s 31-24 loss to the Chicago Bears was the latest disappointment in a Cowboys’ season that has gone wrong but still has the potential to lead to a playoff appearance.

Jones has made only one in-season coaching change in his tenure as owner and general manager and, at times, Thursday’s game was reminiscent of Wade Phillips’ final game on Nov. 7, 2010, a 45-7 defeat to the Green Bay Packers.

The day after that loss Garrett was installed as interim head coach and has had the job ever since.

Thursday’s loss was the Cowboys’ third straight and as disheartening as any they have had because of what was on the line.

After the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Buffalo Bills, Jones said he would not make a coaching change and professed faith that Garrett was the right coach to change the team’s fortunes. Jones was envisioning the Cowboys running the table, winning the NFC East and becoming a threat to compete for a Super Bowl.

Given the performance Thursday, even Jones’ confidence has to be shaken with his team 6-7 with three games to play.

For the second straight game, the Cowboys’ offense opened with a first-possession touchdown. For the second straight game, things went downhill after that.

Like the loss to the Bills in which the defense allowed 26 straight points, they were scorched again, giving up 24 unanswered points to the Bears.

The Cowboys’ defense had a first-possession interception, its first takeaway in 263 snaps, but then gave up touchdowns on three of the next four possessions to close out the first half. The defense contributed mightily as well with three third-down penalties that kept Chicago’s touchdown drives alive.

The offense wasn’t much better. After opening with a season-long 17-play drive that covered 75 yards and ended on an Ezekiel Elliott touchdown run, the offense went six straight possessions without a score and gained just 57 yards.

Jones has remained more patient with Garrett than he has with any other coach. Chan Gailey was fired after making the playoffs in 1998 and ’99. Dave Campo was finally let go after three straight 5-11 finishes in 2002. Phillips made the playoffs in 2007 and ’09 but was doomed by a 1-7 start to the 2010 season.

Garrett is the second-winningest coach in Cowboys’ history to Tom Landry with an 83-66 record, but he has not gotten past the divisional round of the playoffs in three postseason appearances. He entered this season with a must-win mandate since he does not have a contract past this season.

A potential issue for Jones is who to make the interim coach even if he wanted to make the switch. In 2010, Garrett was the clear choice. In 2019, passing game coordinator Kris Richard, who calls the defense, and coordinator Rod Marinelli have presided over a group that has disappointed.

Despite entering Thursday with the top-ranked offense in terms of yards per game, with first-year coordinator Kellen Moore, the offense has bogged down in recent weeks.

If there is any optimistic bent to the Cowboys’ playoff chances, which might save Garrett’s job, it’s this: According to ESPN’s FPI, the loss dropped the Cowboys’ chances of making it to the postseason to just 70 percent. Had they won, their chances would have improved to 77%.

But is there any sense of confidence that the Cowboys can right all their wrongs before they play the Los Angeles Rams at AT&T Stadium on Dec. 15 even if Jones makes a change at head coach?

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Mike Zimmer, restructured Vikings switch focus, hire co-defensive coordinators, including his son

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings announced a handful of changes to their coaching staff.

Adam Zimmer, coach Mike Zimmer’s son, and Andre Patterson were named co-defensive coordinators Monday and will take over the position held by George Edwards for the past six seasons. Edwards’ contract expired at the end of the season and he was hired by the Dallas Cowboys as a senior defensive assistant last week.

Additionally, Minnesota officially announced Gary Kubiak as its next offensive coordinator after he served as the team’s assistant head coach/offensive adviser upon being hired last season. The change was made last week following the departure of Kevin Stefanski for the Browns head-coaching vacancy.

The Vikings reshuffled other parts of the coaching staff, promoting Andrew Janocko to wide receivers coach and hiring Daronte Jones from Cincinnati as the defensive backs coach and Phil Rauscher from Washington as the assistant offensive line coach. Janocko had served in that role since 2017.

Mike Zimmer has called defensive plays for the Vikings since he was hired in 2014, and it’s unclear how play-calling duties will be divided between the two co-defensive coordinators should the head coach opt to hand off the responsibility for 2020. Adam Zimmer will still oversee the Vikings’ linebackers in his new role, while Patterson will continue to lead the defensive line, a role he’s held since re-joining the franchise six years ago.

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Ex-Browns coach Freddie Kitchens joins Giants as tight ends coach, source says

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Former Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens is joining the New York Giants as their tight ends coach, a source confirmed to ESPN.

Kitchens’ hiring is a move that has been in the works for several weeks, ever since he was fired after a 6-10 season and the Giants named Joe Judge their head coach. In 2004 and ’05, Judge and Kitchens were together at Mississippi State, where Judge was first a player and then a graduate assistant.

Kitchens was the Bulldogs’ tight ends coach in 2004.

“Ultimately, you want to work with guys you have relationships with, professionally and personally,” Judge said last week. “You know what to expect.”

The news of Kitchens joining the Giants was first reported by Fox Sports.

Kitchens is the latest addition to the staff to have head-coaching experience. This could prove valuable considering Judge has never been a head coach at any level.

Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and Kitchens have been head coaches in the NFL. Garrett had a nine-year stint with the Dallas Cowboys that ended after this season. Kitchens spent one turbulent season in charge of the Browns but has a long history of working with tight ends. He coached tight ends at Mississippi State and for the Cowboys (2006) and the Arizona Cardinals (2007-12).

Outside linebackers coach Bret Bielema and offensive assistant Derek Dooley have also been head coaches, at the college level; Bielema at Wisconsin and Arkansas and Dooley at Louisiana Tech and Tennessee.

Kitchens, who originally came to Cleveland as a running backs coach, took over as offensive coordinator midway through the 2018 season after head coach Hue Jackson was fired. With Kitchens calling plays, quarterback Baker Mayfield thrived and went on to break the NFL rookie record with 27 touchdown passes.

The offensive surge in the second half, propelling the Browns to a 7-8-1 finish, prompted former Browns general manager John Dorsey to make Kitchens his first head-coaching hire in Cleveland, even though Kitchens had never been a head coach at any level. Although the Browns hadn’t won their division in 30 years, expectations for Cleveland ballooned even higher when Dorsey traded for All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from the Giants in the spring.

But with Kitchens still calling plays, the offense never found a groove. Mayfield threw 21 interceptions, the offensive line struggled to protect him, and star wideouts Beckham and Jarvis Landry battled nagging hip injuries.

Cleveland ranked just 22nd in offensive efficiency and scored more than 30 points only twice all season. Meanwhile, without suspended star edge rusher Myles Garrett, the Browns’ defense crumbled down the stretch, surrendering at least 30 points in each of the final three games.

After a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals to close out the year, Kitchens admitted this season failed to meet expectations.

“Six and 10 is not even remotely good enough,” he said. “We’re not running an operation here to try to be 6-10.”

ESPN’s Jake Trotter contributed to this report.

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Several NFL teams, including Bears, see Twitter feeds hacked

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The official Twitter accounts of nearly half the NFL’s teams were apparently hacked Sunday and Monday, as the world turns its attention to Super Bowl LIV in Miami. The league’s own Twitter account was apparently hacked as well.

The Chicago Bears‘ Twitter account was the first to begin displaying messages Sunday from a hacker group that called itself “OurMine.” One of the messages said the hack was to announce that “we’re back” as well as to “show people that everything is hackable.”

Similar messages appeared on the other team feeds as well as the NFL’s. A tweet still posted to the Green Bay Packers‘ account as of mid-afternoon Monday read: “Hi, we’re Back (OurMine). We are here to show people that everything is hackable.” It then provided an email for information on how to “improve your accounts security.”

The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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