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  • Watt dominates as Texans down Browns 23-7 Nov 16, 2014 3:39 PM
    J.J. Watt caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Mallett, dominated on defense and the Houston Texans climbed back to .500 with a 23-7 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Watt was all over the field. Along with his TD, he recorded a strip sack, made five tackles — three for a loss — recovered a fumble and hurried Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer into several bad throws. Watt provided more proof he’s the NFL’s best defensive player. Mallett threw a pair of TD passes and finished with 211 yards in his first career start. The four-year veteran was promoted during the bye week after the Texans (5-5) benched Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Texans played without star running back Arian Foster because of a groin injury, but rookie Alfred Blue stepped in and gained 156 yards on a franchise-record 36 carries. The Browns (6-4) won’t spend a second straight week atop the AFC North. They lost for just the second time in seven games, and Watt is the main reason why.

  • Rams surprise Manning, Broncos 22-7 Nov 16, 2014 3:37 PM
    ST. LOUIS — Shaun Hill was effective in his first start since regaining the quarterback job and the St. Louis Rams defense made life miserable for Peyton Manning in a 22-7 victory over the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos on Sunday. Rookie Tre Mason had 29 carries for 113 yards, the most allowed by the Broncos’ top-ranked run defense. Kenny Britt had four catches for 128 yards with a 63-yard score and Greg Zuerlein was a career-best 5 for 5 on field goals for the Rams (4-6). Manning was 34 for 54 for 389 yards with two interceptions, but was held to a 42-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders, ending a streak of 15 consecutive games with at least two touchdown passes. The Broncos (7-3) were held to 28 yards rushing and failed twice on fourth down deep in St. Louis territory. Manning threw incomplete from the 37 in the first quarter and rookie Aaron Donald’s sack ended a drive in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-4 from the 28.

  • Grading the Bears Nov 16, 2014 7:59 PM
    Joe Aguilar grades the Bears after their 21-13 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

  • Gray runs wild as Patriots blow out Colts 42-20 Nov 16, 2014 11:50 PM
    Tom Brady keeps finding ways to beat Indianapolis. On Sunday night, he relied on New England’s running game to deliver the body blows. Then he came up with the knockout punch. Jonas Gray rushed for a career-high 199 yards and a franchise-record four touchdowns, leading Brady and the Patriots to a 42-20 victory over the Colts. Brady threw two touchdown passes in the second half of New England’s sixth consecutive victory, the last to Rob Gronkowski with 6:46 left. He was 19 of 30 for 257 yards with two interceptions. “We put together a great game plan and we hammered it in all week,” said Gray, who began the day with 131 yards rushing over his first three NFL games this season. “A lot of times that’s what we’re best at.” The AFC-best Patriots (8-2) also have won five straight over the Colts (6-4). The result could have major playoff implications for the Colts, who have now lost head-to-head matchups with Denver and New England. Andrew Luck was 23 of 39 for 303 yards and two TDs, running Colts’ franchise record for consecutive 300-yard games to eight. He needs one more to match Drew Brees’ NFL record. But Gray was the surprise star. He had scoring runs of 4 and 2 yards to help New England to a 14-10 halftime lead. And after Brady opened the third quarter with a 2-yard TD pass to Tim Wright, Gray had another 2-yard scoring run and a 1-yard TD plunge to run the lead to 35-20. Patriots coach Bill Belichick followed the same tack he used in last season’s 21-point playoff victory over Indy — by relying on the run. The Patriots rushed for 244 yards on a night when Brady struggled at times. But he was still good enough to deliver another frustrating blow to the Colts in one of football’s fiercest rivalries. Unlike Luck’s previous two losses in the series, he minimized his mistakes Sunday. The third-year quarterback threw one interception — costing the Colts a scoring chance when Darrelle Revis deflected a pass that was picked off by Devin McCourty. “We were really determined and we played well,” Revis said. As usual, Brady wasted no time taking advantage of the miscue. He led the Patriots on a 68-yard drive that ended with Gray’s first 2-yard TD. Indianapolis had just 19 yards rushing and the defense couldn’t get the Patriots’ surging offense off the field. The Colts also lost two players, with tight end Dwayne Allen departing with an ankle injury in the first half and running back Ahmad Bradshaw sidelined by a lower left leg injury in the fourth quarter. The Colts had no answers for Gray or Brady. After the Patriots forced a three-and-out on the game’s opening series, Gray capped an 89-yard drive with a 4-yard TD run. Adam Vinatieri answered with a field goal, but Gray made it 14-3 with a 2-yard run with 3:50 left in the first half. Then, after Brady threw an uncharacteristic interception with 1:16 to go, Luck hooked up with Hakeem Nicks on a 10-yard TD pass to cut the halftime deficit to 14-10. Brady improved to 12-4 against the Colts, and Belichick tied Curly Lambeau for the second-most consecutive non-losing seasons (14). Only Tom Landry (20) had more. Vinatieri also reached two milestones against his former team — scoring eight points for his 17th 100-point season, breaking a tie with Jason Elam for the most in NFL history, and becoming the fourth member of the 2,100-point club. He finished the game with 2,106 points. “Very disappointed, not acceptable by any means,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “I felt like we played better than we did, but any time you give up the rushing yards we gave up and can’t get off the field and they go 5 for 5 in the red area again, give them credit. They beat us soundly.”

  • Shuffling Bears’ line continues to protect Cutler Nov 16, 2014 11:51 PM
    The Bears used their sixth different offensive line combination in six weeks but were still able to prevent quarterback Jay Cutler from being sacked in Sunday's 21-13 victory over the Vikings.

  • Imrem: Imagine that, Bears fans surprisingly encouraging Nov 16, 2014 7:24 PM
    Bears' fans came from faraway places, including Manitoba, and were surprisingly encouraging. They were rewarded with, for whatever it's worth, a victory over the Vikings.

  • Chiefs defense preserves 24-20 win over Seahawks Nov 16, 2014 3:47 PM
    The Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles got the better of Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch in a tantalizing matchup between two of the NFL’s top running backs. Charles can thank Kansas City’s defense for clinching the win. The Chiefs stopped Lynch and the Seahawks on fourth down three times in the final quarter Sunday, helping to preserve a 24-20 victory in a rare meeting between former division rivals. Charles ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns, and Knile Davis also ran for a score, as the Chiefs (7-3) won their fifth straight game and moved into a tie for first in the AFC West. Russell Wilson threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns, and Lynch had 124 yards rushing for Seattle (6-4). But the star running back, fresh off a four-touchdown game, was stuffed twice by the Kansas City defense with the outcome hanging in the balance. The Seahawks’ last-chance drive ended when Wilson threw incomplete on fourth-and-18 at their 20-yard line with 1:13 left in the game. Kansas City simply ran out the clock. The first fourth-down stop came with about 6 minutes to go. Lynch was stuffed after a two-yard gain on third down, and coach Pete Carroll elected to gamble at the Chiefs’ 2-yard line. Wilson rolled out and overthrew Doug Baldwin in the corner of the end zone. Seattle held to get the ball back, and appeared to get a first down with a completion at the Chiefs 35. But coach Andy Reid challenged the spot and replays showed that wide receiver Jermaine Kearse was a full yard short. Again going for it on fourth down, Lynch was stuffed for no gain, giving the Chiefs the ball back with less than 4 minutes to go. By the time the Seahawks got the ball back one last time, they were pinned so deep in their own territory and had such little time left that it hardly mattered. It made sense the two playoff contenders would wage an old-school, back-and-forth affair. Both are built in the same mold, featuring stout defenses and strong running games. Kansas City struck first with a grinding, meandering 15-play drive that took up more than 9 minutes of the first half and ended with Charles’ 1-yard touchdown run. Seattle answered with its own 16-play drive, chewing up exactly 9 minutes and ending with Wilson’s TD pass to Baldwin. Nothing really changed the rest of the half as the teams kept grinding away. Charles broke off two long runs on the Chiefs’ next series, including a 16-yard touchdown scamper. Lynch came back with a punishing series of carries to help set up a first field goal. The Chiefs made their first major mistake late in the half, when Travis Kelce fumbled near midfield. The Seahawks took over with 1:09 left, enough time to convert another field goal. After the Chiefs answered with a field goal of their own early in the third quarter, they committed their second major mistake. Charles was fighting for extra yardage again near midfield when he was stripped of the ball and the Seahawks recovered. Five plays later, Wilson hit tight end Tony Moeaki — who spent most of his first four injury-plagued seasons with Kansas City — with a short touchdown toss for a 20-17 lead. Once again turning to Charles, the Chiefs marched the other way to answer. The elusive running back put a nifty juke on Earl Thomas and scampered 47 yards before getting pushed out of bounds. Gassed, Charles watched as Davis capped the drive to give the Chiefs a 24-20 lead. Their defense would preserve it the rest of the way. Notes: Seahawks WR Ricardo Lockette was ejected in the second half for throwing a right hook at Chiefs CB Kurt Coleman at the end of a kick return. ... Seattle C Max Unger was carted off the field midway through the fourth quarter. Patrick Lewis finished the game in his place.

  • Not just Bears: Eagles lose to Packers 53-20 Nov 16, 2014 8:31 PM
    Aaron Rodgers handed off to Eddie Lacy, turned and started jogging to the sideline before his running back had crossed the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown. It was as if the Green Bay quarterback knew what was going to happen. Just another first-half score and big early lead for the Packers at Lambeau Field. Rodgers passed for 341 yards and three touchdowns, Lacy accounted for two scores, and the Packers defense stuffed the high-octane Philadelphia Eagles for a 53-20 win Sunday. “This is not easy,” Rodgers said. It sure looks that way, though. The Packers (7-3) blew out another opponent in the cold comfort of home after a fast start. “There’s a lot of preparation that goes into it,” Rodgers added. “It takes 11 guys to win, to do the job to make something like that happen.” The matchup of NFC contenders quickly turned lopsided after Green Bay took a 30-6 halftime lead. Rodgers threw for two touchdowns in the first half, while Micah Hyde scored on a 75-yard punt return. Julius Peppers finished off the Eagles by returning Mark Sanchez’s pass 52 yards for a 39-6 lead in the third quarter, the second interception return for a score this season for the veteran. “It’s good to see that. He pretty much got a gift,” linebacker Clay Matthews said with a smile. Philadelphia (7-3) was held to 11 points below its NFC-leading scoring average by a Packers defense rejuvenated since Matthews started getting more time at inside linebacker. Matthews finished with five tackles and a sack after rushing from his traditional outside spot unabated to Sanchez. Green Bay’s offense was in good hands again with Rodgers, who broke Tom Brady’s NFL record of 288 straight passes at home without an interception. Rodgers finished 22 of 36. The Packers set another record by putting up at least 28 points in a first half for the fourth straight home game. They’ve outscored opponents 128-9 before halftime during that stretch. “We felt strongly that this game was going to come down to big plays, the big-play opportunities,” coach Mike McCarthy said, “and I thought our players did an excellent job in all three phases.” Playing with big leads allows the Packers defense to focus on the pass and hone in on opposing quarterbacks. Sanchez flopped in his second start since taking over for the injured Nick Foles. He was 26 of 44 for 346 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. To make things worse, Sanchez couldn’t corral a high snap out of the shotgun with an empty backfield in the fourth quarter. Cornerback Casey Hayward scooped up the loose ball and jogged 49 yards into the end zone with an escort of two blockers to make it 53-13. The Packers also got to Sanchez early with sacks on Philadelphia’s first three drives. “They played outstanding and we played pretty poorly,” Sanchez said. It was the Eagles’ worst loss under second-year coach Chip Kelly. The previous low was a 52-20 thrashing at Denver in Week 4 last season, and Kelly is now the only coach in team history to allow 50 points twice. “None of us played where we needed to play against this team,” Kelly said. The Eagles finally reached the end zone after Sanchez hit receiver Jordan Matthews for a 10-yard touchdown pass to make it 39-13 with 2:21 left in the third quarter. The Packers had no such problems. Rodgers found Jordy Nelson streaking down the right sideline for a 64-yard completion on the game’s third play from scrimmage — the pass attempt that allowed Rodgers to break Brady’s record. Rodgers hit Davante Adams for a 6-yard touchdown catch late in the first quarter. Nelson hauled in a 27-yard scoring pass with 10:39 left in the second, making the grab while delicately navigating the sideline near the pylon to make it 24-3. NOTES: Nelson finished with four catches for 109 yards, while Randall Cobb had 10 receptions for 129 yards. ... Nelson appeared to reach down at his right hamstring after making the Lambeau Leap on his touchdown, but McCarthy said afterward his top receiver seemed fine. ... Lacy also turned a 32-yard catch into a touchdown. ... Eagles RB LeSean McCoy had 88 yards on 23 attempts.

  • DEA agents check at least 2 NFL medical staffs Nov 16, 2014 5:10 PM
    Federal drug enforcement agents showed up unannounced Sunday to check at least two visiting NFL teams’ medical staffs as part of an investigation into former players’ claims that teams mishandled prescription drugs. There were no arrests, Drug Enforcement Agency spokesman Rusty Payne said Sunday. The San Francisco 49ers’ staff was checked at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, after they played the New York Giants. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ staff was checked at a Baltimore-Washington International Airport after playing the Redskins. The operation was still ongoing, and other teams may be checked later Sunday, Payne said. “DEA agents are currently interviewing NFL team doctors in several locations as part of an ongoing investigation into potential violations of the (Controlled Substances Act),” Payne said. The spot checks were done by investigators from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. They did not target specific teams, but were done to measure whether visiting NFL clubs were generally in compliance with federal law. Agents requested documentation from visiting teams’ medical staffs for any controlled substances in their possession, and for proof that doctors could practice medicine in the home team’s state. The nationwide probe is being directed by the U.S. attorneys office for the Southern District of New York — where the NFL is headquartered — but involves several U.S. attorney’s offices. The investigation was sparked by a lawsuit filed in May on behalf of former NFL players going back to 1968. The number of plaintiffs has grown to more than 1,200, including dozens who played as recently as 2012. Any violations of federal drug laws from 2009 forward could also become the subject of a criminal investigation because they would not be subject to the five-year statute of limitations. Federal prosecutors have conducted interviews in at least three cities over the past three weeks, spending two days in Los Angeles in late October meeting with a half-dozen former players — including at least two who were named plaintiffs in the painkillers’ lawsuit, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the meetings who spoke on the condition of anonymity because prosecutors told them not to comment on the meetings. The lawsuit alleges the NFL and its teams, physicians and trainers acted without regard for players’ health, withholding information about injuries while at the same time handing out prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet, and anti-inflammatories such as Toradol, to mask pain and minimize lost playing time. The players contend some teams filled out prescriptions in players’ names without their knowledge or consent, then dispensed those drugs — according to one plaintiffs’ lawyer — “like candy at Halloween” as well as combining them in “cocktails.” Several former players interviewed by The Associated Press described the line of teammates waiting to get injections on game day often spilling out from the training room. Others recounted flights home from games where trainers walked down the aisle and players held up a number of fingers to indicate how many pills they wanted. The former players have reported a range of debilitating effects, from chronic muscle and bone ailments to permanent nerve and organ damage to addiction. They contend those health problems came from drug use, but many of the conditions haven’t been definitively linked to painkillers. The lawsuit is currently being heard in the northern district of California, where presiding judge William Alsup said he wants to hear the NFL Players Association’s position on the case before deciding on the league’s motion to dismiss. The NFL maintained in court that it’s not responsible for the medical decisions of its 32 teams. League attorneys also argued the issue should be addressed by the players union, which negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that covers player health. The DEA investigation comes during a turbulent time for the NFL. The league is still weathering criticism over its treatment of several players accused of domestic violence, and just wrapped up an arbitration hearing involving Ravens’ running back Ray Rice, who is contesting the length of his suspension. The league has hired former FBI director Robert Mueller III to investigate its handling of the Rice case. The NFL is also trying to finalize a $765 million class-action settlement reached in August 2013 over complaints by thousands of former players that the NFL concealed the risk of concussions.

  • Images: Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings Nov 16, 2014 4:51 PM
    The Chicago Bears played the Minnesota Vikings in th cold and snow Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Bears won their first home game of the season with a 21-13 victory over the Vikings.

  • Spellman Bites: Yeah, Bears won the game, but ... Nov 16, 2014 8:27 PM
    Yeah they finally won at home. Yeah they beat a (weak) division foe. Yeah the defense didn’t give up 50 points.But in the big picture, the win doesn’t mean a thing except a lower spot in the draft.

  • Forte carries the day for Bears’ offense Nov 16, 2014 8:25 PM
    The Bears snapped a three-game losing streak and nearly a yearlong drought in their home stadium with a 21-13 win over Minnesota on Sunday. The Bears could thank Matt Forte, who maybe has been the most consistently good player for a disappointing offense this season. “It gives fans something to cheer about," the soft-spoken Forte said after the game.

  • Step in the right direction for Bears Nov 16, 2014 7:59 PM
    The Bears still have a long way to go to get back to respectability, but their 21-13 victory over the Vikings Sunday at Soldier Field was at least a step in the right direction.

  • Rozner: Bizarre Bears beat bad Vikings Nov 17, 2014 5:17 AM
    This strange Bears season continued with more odd behavior Sunday, but at least this time they managed to beat a bad team at Soldier Field. Even with all the odd clock management, weird decisions and strange explanations, it was the first home win since Dec. 9, 2013, against Dallas, and the Bears were happy to take it.

  • LeGere: Plenty of motivation for Bears, Cutler says Nov 15, 2014 10:39 PM
    Bears quarterback Jay Cutler knows he's in the best position to try to spark a team that has lost five of six and three straight,

  • Rozner: Bears blame game? Starts at the top Nov 15, 2014 9:48 PM
    The Bears have resisted bringing in someone capable of leading the football operation because the family has never wanted to give up that kind of control to an outsider. Thus, you endure decade after decade of circus clowns and the mess left behind by horses and elephants.

  • LeGere: Allen, Bears just looking for a win Nov 15, 2014 9:45 PM
    After getting torched in back-to-back games, the Bears' defense could get a break this week against the Minnesota Vikings and rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Sunday is also another chance for Bears defensive end Jared Allen, a former Viking, to get his first victory at Soldier Field.

  • Twitter spat prompts Bears’ Marshall to challenge fan Nov 14, 2014 7:02 PM
    Bears coach Marc Trestman didn't think that Brandon Marshall's silly Twitter feud with a Lions fans would disrupt the team's preparation for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears will be attempting to snap a three-game losing streak.

  • Dolphins end skid against Bills Nov 13, 2014 11:16 PM
    When Miami Dolphins rookie receiver Jarvis Landry dived into the end zone for a fourth-quarter touchdown, he was just getting started. A replay review upheld the score, and Landry then sprinted up and down the sideline in a celebration of redemption. Landry bounced back from a potentially disastrous fumble, and the Dolphins ended a streak of three consecutive losses to Buffalo, overcoming a third-quarter deficit to win 22-9. “It was great to swing the tide,” Landry said. “It was good not to be the little brother.” Ryan Tannehill shook off five sacks to throw late touchdown passes of 7 yards to Brandon Gibson and 8 yards to Landry. Tannehill went 26 for 34 for 240 yards, and Lamar Miller rushed for 86 yards. Miami trailed 9-3 before outscoring their AFC East rivals 19-0 over the final 18 minutes. The Dolphins improved to 6-4, their best record after 10 games since 2008. “You have to start playing good football this time of the year,” coach Joe Philbin said. The Bills, trying to end a 14-year playoff drought, fell to 5-5 with their second loss in a row. Stymied by Buffalo’s front four in recent meetings, the Dolphins had scored one touchdown in 33 possessions against the Bills before late TD drives of 80 and 63 yards. That was quite a rally by a team that hadn’t won a close game all season. Otherwise stout a defense did the heavy lifting for Miami, which scored a safety on a penalty. The Bills, ranked last in the NFL in red-zone touchdown efficiency, mounted grinding drives of 67 and 85 yards on their first two possessions. But Miami held them to a field goal each time, and those were their best TD chances. The Bills have reached the end zone once in their past nine red-zone trips. “In the first half we had two drives we didn’t finish,” coach Doug Marrone said. “In the second half we just didn’t play well.” With the Dolphins leading 12-9, Landry lost a fumble on a kick return, but their defense again dug in, and former Miami kicker Dan Carpenter missed a 47-yard field goal try. He made earlier attempts of 33, 21 and 46 yards. The Dolphins, also ranked poorly in red-zone efficiency, missed chances early themselves. They came away with three points from trips inside the 20 on their first two possessions, and didn’t reach the end zone until 42 minutes into the game. Miami led 10-9 before scoring a safety when Kyle Orton was flagged for intentional grounding from the end zone. Under pressure from Olivier Vernon, Orton threw a pass that landed closer to the Bills sideline than to any player. “It set the tone for how we were playing defense in the second half,” Philbin said. The Bills padded their NFL-leading sack total while working against Miami’s makeshift line, reshuffled after left tackle Branden Albert’s season-ending knee injury last week. But Tannehill kept getting back up, and he finished with a passer rating of 114.8. Orton’s rating was 69.7. He went 22 for 39 for 193 yards, and the Bills — missing their top two running backs — netted only 54 yards on the ground. Marrone said he’s not considering benching Orton in favor of E.J. Manuel, the starting quarterback at the beginning of the season.

  • Bears’ offensive line better be up to the task Nov 13, 2014 9:58 PM
    The Bears' offensive line could face its toughest pass-blocking challenge of the season Sunday against the Vikings, who leads the NFL in sack percentage.

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