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Aaron Rodgers and the Packers roll past the Rams; Patriots win sixth straight; 49ers stay red hot

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 11/28/2021 Mark Maske, Cindy Boren, Des Bieler, Andrew Golden
Mac Jones, Damien Harris and the Patriots have now won six in a row after a 2-4 start after Sunday's 36-13 victory over the Titans. (Mary Schwalm/AP) © Mary Schwalm/AP Mac Jones, Damien Harris and the Patriots have now won six in a row after a 2-4 start after Sunday's 36-13 victory over the Titans. (Mary Schwalm/AP)

The NFL’s Week 12 slate Sunday was short of a couple of games following its trio of contests on Thanksgiving, and it was also somewhat light on major drama even while culminating with a highlight-filled, high-profile win for the Green Bay Packers over the Los Angeles Rams. That game was among some notable results, including a comeback win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Indianapolis Colts and a rout of the Tennessee Titans that moved the New England Patriots to within a Baltimore Ravens loss Sunday night of the top of the AFC.

Elsewhere in that conference, the Cincinnati Bengals stomped the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Denver Broncos took a key divisional showdown from the Los Angeles Chargers and, in a battle of 2-8 teams, the New York Jets slipped past the Houston Texans. The victorious Miami Dolphins harassed Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton into a miserable performance, while the Minnesota Vikings’ Dalvin Cook was carted off the field during a loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Finally, the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons got much-needed wins over, respectively, the Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars. Read below for details and analysis of the Week 12 action.

8:03 PM: Aaron Rodgers is sharp as Packers beat Rams, 36-28

Rasul Douglas celebrates his touchdown with Packers fans. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke) © Matt Ludtke/AP Rasul Douglas celebrates his touchdown with Packers fans. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)

Aaron Rodgers played well even after not practicing all week because of his fractured toe and the Green Bay Packers beat the Los Angeles Rams, 36-28, at Lambeau Field.

The Packers rebounded from their loss at Minnesota last week and improved their record to 9-3 entering their bye. Rodgers said last week that he would use the time off during the bye to consider all options, surgical and otherwise, for dealing with the toe injury that he said he suffered while working out during his 10-day isolation period after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Rodgers completed 28 of 45 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a rushing touchdown. Cornerback Rasul Douglas had a touchdown on an interception return for the Packers.

Wide receiver Davante Adams had eight catches for 104 yards. Wideout Randall Cobb had four catches for 95 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with a groin injury.

The Rams suffered their third straight loss to drop to 7-4. They didn’t fix their problems during their bye week, as they’d hoped. Quarterback Matthew Stafford had an interception returned for a touchdown for a third straight game. Stafford also threw for 302 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had five catches for 81 yards, including his first touchdown of the season on a 54-yard connection.

By: Mark Maske

7:47 PM: 49ers stay hot in win over Vikings

San Francisco's Deebo Samuel did plenty of damage on the ground against Minnesota. (Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) © Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images San Francisco's Deebo Samuel did plenty of damage on the ground against Minnesota. (Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers’ seesaw season is on an upswing, and their latest win was enough to get them back over .500.

Rookie Elijah Mitchell ran for 133 yards and a score and wide receiver Deebo Samuel added two rushing touchdowns to help San Francisco top Minnesota, 34-26. For the Vikings, a painful defeat was made all the more so by an injury to standout running back Dalvin Cook, who was carted off the field in the second half with what the team called a shoulder injury.

The 49ers began the season 2-0, then lost four straight but have now won four of their past five to get to 6-5. Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk chipped in with a game-high 91 yards on three catches.

Minnesota continued a pair of notable trends, the oddest being its habit of taking seven-point leads, as it has now down in all 11 games this season, despite emerging Sunday with a losing record at 5-6. All of those games have also been decided by 14 points or less. The Vikings had a chance to tie the score late, but after getting to the 49ers’ 3-yard line with just over nine minutes left, they failed to get a touchdown on a fourth-down play.

By: Des Bieler

7:25 PM: Broncos defense comes up big in 28-13 division win over the Chargers

The Denver Broncos bested the Los Angeles Chargers, 28-13, in a battle of AFC West teams looking to keep pace in a competitive division. The Broncos win puts them in a three-way tie for second place with the Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders at 6-5, while the Kansas City Chiefs are a game ahead of the pack at 7-4.

Teddy Bridgewater, who was replaced for a stretch by Drew Lock after suffering a lower leg injury, started the scoring with a 11-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter. Lock led the Broncos on a touchdown drive, but threw an interception right before halftime that led to a Justin Herbert-Austin Ekeler touchdown connection for the Chargers.

In the second half, down 14-7, it was Herbert who made the mistakes. He threw interceptions on back-to-back fourth-quarter drives to Patrick Surtain II, the second of which was returned for a 70-yard touchdown. The Chargers tacked on a late score but it wasn’t enough.

By: Andrew Golden

7:10 PM: Odell Beckham Jr.'s 54-yard touchdown catch gets Rams closer

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. caught his first touchdown for the Los Angeles Rams. In fact, it was his first touchdown catch of the season.

Beckham ran under a well-thrown pass by quarterback Matthew Stafford, made the catch and dashed to the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown in the opening minute of the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field.

The Rams added a two-point conversion and drew to within 36-25 of the Green Bay Packers.

Beckham has three catches for 67 yards in his second game with the Rams after being released by the Cleveland Browns.

By: Mark Maske

7:06 PM: Vikings’ Dalvin Cook carted off the field

The Minnesota Vikings could only hope for the best after star running back Dalvin Cook was taken off the field in the second half of a game against the San Francisco 49ers. Replays showed Cook’s right leg appearing to get twisted as he was being tackled, but it’s his shoulder that was injured, per the team.

Cook fumbled on the play, and the 49ers recovered the ball at Minnesota’s 9-yard line. The Vikings did not immediately disclose the nature of his injury.

Widely regarded as one of the best in the NFL at his position, Cook ran for over 1,500 yards and racked up over 1,900 yards from scrimmage, with 17 touchdowns in 2020. All of those numbers marked career highs. Since being selected by Minnesota in the second round of the 2017 draft, Cook has also struggled with injuries. He has yet to play in each game of a season, including missing two games this year because of ankle issues.

By: Des Bieler

6:58 PM: Broncos’ Patrick Surtain returns second pick of game for a touchdown

Pat Surtain, the Broncos’ 2021 first-round pick, entered Sunday’s game with one interception this season. He’s added two more on Sunday, intercepting Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert on back-to-back drives.

His second interception, a tipped pass off the hands of Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, landed in the hands of Surtain, who returned the pass 70 yards for a touchdown to give the Broncos a 28-7 lead in the fourth quarter.

He also intercepted Herbert in the red zone, halting the Chargers’ momentum when the Broncos only led by seven.

By: Andrew Golden

6:44 PM: Vikings’ Adam Thielen reaches elite TD mark for undrafted WRs

Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen, top left, leaps for one of his two touchdown catches against the 49ers on Sunday. (Jed Jacobsohn/AP) © Jed Jacobsohn/AP Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen, top left, leaps for one of his two touchdown catches against the 49ers on Sunday. (Jed Jacobsohn/AP)

With two touchdown catches thus far on Sunday for the Minnesota Vikings, Adam Thielen has reached a noteworthy threshold. The eighth-year player is now just the fourth undrafted wide receiver in the NFL’s common-draft era to score 50 touchdowns (per NFL345).

Thielen, who went undrafted in 2013 out of Division II Minnesota State, has 49 receiving touchdowns and one as a rusher. With his total of 50, he joins three other undrafted wide receivers in Rod Smith (69), Gary Clark (65) and Wes Welker (50). He has 10 receiving touchdowns this season, tying him for the league lead with the Los Angeles Rams’ Cooper Kupp and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Mike Evans.

The NFL’s common-draft era began in 1966, when the NFL and AFL agreed to select players from the same pool, ahead of their 1970 merger.

By: Des Bieler

6:26 PM: Packers rule out Randall Cobb with groin injury

The Green Bay Packers will be without wide receiver Randall Cobb for the remainder of their game against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field.

The Packers have ruled out Cobb because of a groin injury.

He finishes the day with four catches for 95 yards and a touchdown.

The Packers lead the Rams, 27-17, in the third quarter.

By: Mark Maske

6:06 PM: Aaron Rodgers is sharp as Packers lead Rams, 20-17, at half

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is playing with a fractured toe and didn’t practice all week. No matter. He had a superb first half and the Green Bay Packers lead the Los Angeles Rams, 20-17, at halftime at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers completed 15 of 24 passes for 199 yards. He threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Randall Cobb in the second quarter. Rodgers also had a one-yard rushing touchdown on a first-quarter keeper.

Cobb had four catches for 95 yards in the half. Fellow Packers wideout Davante Adams had five catches for 80 yards.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford had two touchdown passes in a nine-for-14, 154-yard half for the Rams. Stafford threw second-quarter touchdown passes of 79 yards to wide receiver Van Jefferson and six yards to running back Darrell Henderson.

Stafford targeted wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., playing his second game for the Rams, four times in the half. Beckham had one catch for five yards.

By: Mark Maske

6:03 PM: 49ers forge 14-14 tie with Vikings just before halftime

For Vikings fans, Minnesota’s first half Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers followed an all too familiar script. The Vikings twice took seven-point leads but went to the locker room with a tie game and the promise of yet another close finish.

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hit wide receiver Jauan Jennings on a three-yard touchdown pass with just 18 seconds remaining in the first half. That helped knot the contest at 14-14.

The Vikings came into the game as the 20th team in the Super Bowl era to take a lead of at least seven points in each of their first 10 contests. While their predecessors combined for an .816 winning percentage, though, Minnesota has only a 5-5 record, and all of its games this season thus far have been decided by less than 14 points.

San Francisco is also 5-5, making this a key NFC matchup in terms of postseason positioning. The 49ers’ other touchdown Sunday came from wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who scored on a running play for the third straight game.

Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins, who threw for a total of 635 yards and five touchdowns over the past two weeks, was again productive in the first half. He completed 12 of 17 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns, both to wide receiver Adam Thielen. Cousins has not thrown an interception in his past 212 attempts.

By: Des Bieler

5:53 PM: Denver Broncos lead the Los Angeles Chargers at halftime, 14-7.

In a battle of division rivals, the Denver Broncos lead the Los Angeles Chargers at home, 14-7, through the first 30 minutes of action.

Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater got the scoring started early with an 11-yard rushing touchdown on a scramble in the first quarter. But on the team’s third drive of the game, Bridgewater was sacked by Derwin James and headed to the locker room with a lower leg injury; he is questionable to return.

Drew Lock, the Broncos’ starting quarterback in 13 games last season, replaced Bridgewater and the team tacked on a 9-yard touchdown run by Javonte Williams on the same drive. Lock made a crucial mistake with 1:22 remaining in the half and was picked off by James, giving a Chargers offense that had been stagnant a short field.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert found running back Austin Ekeler for a 12-yard touchdown right before the half to cut the Broncos’ deficit in half. Herbert has completed 11 of 18 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown.

By: Andrew Golden

5:11 PM: Rams fall 10 points behind Packers, then regroup with long touchdown pass

The Green Bay Packers have the early advantage over the Los Angeles Rams in a clash of NFC contenders at Lambeau Field.

The Packers lead, 10-7, early in the second quarter.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, fractured toe and all, had a first-quarter touchdown run.

The Packers added a second-quarter field goal by kicker Mason Crosby after the Rams failed on a fourth-and-one attempt from their 29-yard line late in the opening quarter. It was an aggressive call by Coach Sean McVay, to say the least, and it backfired. But the Rams at least held the Packers to a field goal.

The Rams then responded with a 79-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Matthew Stafford to wide receiver Van Jefferson.

By: Mark Maske

5:10 PM: 49ers WR Deebo Samuel scores rushing TD in third straight game

Deebo Samuel is technically a wide receiver, but he also gets plenty of handoffs in the San Francisco 49ers’ offense, and with good reason. The third-year player is one of the NFL’s most dangerous threats with the ball in his hands, regardless of how it arrived there.

Samuel again showed off his ball-carrying skills Sunday in the 49ers’ game against the Minnesota Vikings. Handed the ball on a first-quarter play, he ran around the right end, turned the corner and didn’t stop until he reached the end zone.

It was Samuel’s third straight game with a rushing touchdown, a rare achievement for a wide receiver, and his fourth such game this season. He also came into Sunday’s game with 994 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 55 catches.

By: Des Bieler

5:08 PM: Drew Lock replaces injured Teddy Bridgewater as Broncos lead 14-0

Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is questionable to return with a lower leg injury after taking a hit from Chargers safety Derwin James in the first quarter. Bridgewater was replaced by third-year quarterback Drew Lock and Bridgewater went to the locker room.

Bridgewater had completed six of 10 passes for 59 yards in two drives and on the team’s second drive, he scrambled for a 11-yard touchdown to give the Broncos a 7-0 lead. Even with Bridgewater out, the Broncos’ offense has still been effective.

Lock, who started 18 games in his first two seasons, led the Broncos on another touchdown drive that was capped off by a Javonte Williams touchdown run.

By: Andrew Golden

4:33 PM: Jets stage comeback, beat Texans in battle of 2-8 teams

It wasn’t pretty, but that was probably too much to expect from a battle of 2-8 teams. What mattered for New York Jets Coach Robert Saleh and his team was that they came away with a 21-14 win over the host Houston Texans.

In his return to the Jets’ lineup after a four-game absence with a knee injury, rookie quarterback Zach Wilson looked shaky, but New York was nonetheless able to stage a comeback from a 14-3 deficit in the first half. Tevin Coleman gained 67 yards on 16 carries, and fellow running back Austin Walter came off the practice squad to add 38 and a touchdown for New York.

Houston quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw a pair of touchdown passes but managed just 158 yards on 26 attempts with an interception and five sacks. Wilson took four sacks while completing 14 of 24 passes for 145 yards and a pick.

“He was fine,” Saleh said of Wilson. “Obviously, there’s a little rust there after a month, but I thought he managed the game well.”

By: Des Bieler

4:30 PM: Tampa Bay beats Indianapolis behind four Leonard Fournette touchdowns

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette ran for four touchdowns, his final one with 20 seconds left that was the dagger in a 38-31 comeback victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts returned the ensuing kickoff to Tampa Bay’s 32, but couldn’t pull off a miracle late.

The Colts, who entered as winners of five of their past six, jumped to a 24-14 lead at halftime after Carson Wentz threw three touchdowns on Indy’s three second-quarter drives: a 62-yard bomb to Ashton Dulin, a 15-yard touchdown to Jack Doyle and a 4-yard touchdown to T.Y. Hilton right before the half.

But in the second half, the Buccaneers’ defense slowed the Colts. Wentz was strip-sacked by Bucs linebacker Shaq Barrett and then intercepted by safety Antoine Winfield on back-to-back possessions. The Colts had five turnovers on the day.

The Buccaneers scored 17 unanswered points to take a 31-24 lead, but the NFL’s leading rusher, Jonathan Taylor — who finished with 83 yards — scored a touchdown to knot the game at 31 before Fournette’s final touchdown.

Tom Brady finished 25-of-34 for 226 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

By: Andrew Golden

4:16 PM: Giants hold on against mistake-prone Eagles, 13-7

The New York Giants didn’t exactly rev up their offense but still managed to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 13-7, at MetLife Stadium.

The Giants won their first game since firing Jason Garrett as their offensive coordinator last week. With Freddie Kitchens taking over as the offensive play-caller, the Giants reached the end zone only once. Quarterback Daniel Jones threw a third-quarter touchdown pass to tight end Chris Myarick. Kicker Graham Gano added a pair of field goals.

The New York defense made that stand up on the day the Giants retired Michael Strahan’s jersey No. 92 during a halftime ceremony.

The Giants forced four turnovers. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts threw three interceptions and tailback Boston Scott lost a fumble. The Eagles still might have pulled out the game on their final drive but wide receiver Jalen Reagor could not hold on to two potential touchdown passes by Hurts.

By: Mark Maske

4:14 PM: Falcons stifle Jaguars’ rally, get to 5-6

The Atlanta Falcons improved to 5-6 with a 21-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Cordarrelle Patterson led the Falcons to a 21-3 lead, and Atlanta was able to stifle a Jaguars rally.

The contest wasn’t decided until Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft who has struggled as a rookie, threw four straight incomplete passes with under two minutes left. The Jaguars fell to 2-9, and they are tied with the division-mate Houston Texans for the second-worst record in the NFL, behind the winless Detroit Lions.

Atlanta was able to hang around the playoff race thanks in large part to Patterson, the team’s hybrid running back/wide receiver who led the game with 135 yards from scrimmage and scored the first two touchdowns. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan completed 19 of 29 passes for 190 yards, an interception and a touchdown pass to wide receiver Russell Gage, who had a game-high six catches for 62 yards.

Running back James Robinson, who had 115 yards from scrimmage, was Jacksonville’s standout player on offense. Atlanta has won four straight against the Jaguars, along the way holding them to an average of 14.2 points.

By: Des Bieler

4:11 PM: Patriots win sixth straight against short-handed Titans

The Patriots continued their hot stretch with another dominant victory, this time a 36-13 victory against the Tennessee Titans, to push their winning streak to six games. With the win, the Patriots are 8-4 and a Baltimore Ravens loss to the Cleveland Browns on “Sunday Night Football” would vault the Patriots into the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Quarterback Mac Jones and the Patriots’ offense fired on all cylinders, reaching the Titans side of the field on nine of their 11 possessions. Jones and wide receiver Kendrick Bourne connected on two touchdowns — a 4-yard catch on the first drive of the game and a 41-yard score in the third.

Five Nick Folk field goals and a Damien Harris touchdown in garbage time capped off an impressive showing for New England.

The Titans, losers of two straight games, have struggled without injured running Derrick Henry (foot) as well as Julio Jones (hamstring) and A.J. Brown (chest). Running backs D’Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard each ran for 100 yards and the offense had 355 yards of offense, but only 13 points to show for it because of three fumbles and an interception.

By: Andrew Golden

4:06 PM: Bengals use two Joes — Mixon and Burrow — to beat Steelers

Joe Mixon pointed the way after a third-quarter touchdown against the Steelers. (Justin Casterline/Getty Images) © Justin Casterline/Getty Images Joe Mixon pointed the way after a third-quarter touchdown against the Steelers. (Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Joe Mixon rushed for 165 yards and Joe Burrow passed for 190 as the Bengals beat the Steelers 41-10 in Cincinnati.

Mixon had 28 carries and scored two touchdowns while Burrow completed 20-of-24 passes, with one touchdown and one interception. Tee Higgins was the leading receiver with four catches for 116 yards and a touchdown.

Ben Roethlisberger passed for 252 yards, completing 20 of 40 passes for a touchdown late in the game, with two interceptions. Diontae Johnson caught nine passes for 95 yards and Chase Claypool caught three for 82 yards. Najee Harris rushed for 23 yards on eight carries.

By: Cindy Boren

3:58 PM: Rams hope for more from Odell Beckham Jr., Von Miller against Packers

Odell Beckham Jr. had two catches in his Rams debut 13 days ago against the 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) © Ezra Shaw/Photographer: Ezra Shaw/Getty Im Odell Beckham Jr. had two catches in his Rams debut 13 days ago against the 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Rams have had 13 days to figure out how to incorporate wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and linebacker Von Miller into what they do.

The Rams are coming off their bye week and face the Green Bay Packers in a key late-afternoon game at Lambeau Field.

The go-for-broke Rams have lost two straight games, most recently by 31-10 to the San Francisco 49ers on the road in a Monday night game Nov. 15. Beckham and Miller made their Rams debuts that night but had little impact. Beckham was targeted three times by quarterback Matthew Stafford and had two catches for 18 yards. Miller was credited with three tackles and did not have a sack as the Los Angeles defense was overrun by the 49ers.

Beckham, in particular, will need to do more as the Rams deal with the loss of wide receiver Robert Woods to a season-ending knee injury. Beckham said after the loss to the 49ers that he’d spend the bye week diving into the playbook to be ready to be a more significant contributor. He’ll be facing the team, in the Packers, that was the other finalist in the modestly priced bidding for him in free agency after he was released by the Cleveland Browns.

By: Mark Maske

3:47 PM: Cam Newton benched as Panthers trail big in Miami

Cam Newton’s no good, very bad, truly awful passing day for the Carolina Panthers appears over.

Coach Matt Rhule has gone to P.J. Walker at quarterback, sitting down Newton.

Newton, in his third game and second start since being signed by the Panthers for his second stint with the franchise, completed only five of 21 passes for 92 yards before his benching. He threw two interceptions and had a passer rating of 5.8. Newton did have a first-quarter rushing touchdown.

Walker also has thrown an interception. The Panthers trail the Miami Dolphins, 33-10, in the fourth quarter in Miami Gardens, Fla.

By: Mark Maske

3:36 PM: Buccaneers take 28-24 lead after Wentz interception

Leonard Fournette had scored two touchdowns midway through the third quarter. (Jeff Lewis/Associated Press) © Jeff Lewis/AP Leonard Fournette had scored two touchdowns midway through the third quarter. (Jeff Lewis/Associated Press)

The Buccaneers have a decimated secondary and Vita Vea lost a tooth, but they forged ahead of the Colts with two third-quarter touchdowns.

First, Leonard Fournette scored on a four-yard touchdown run that capped an eight-play drive and narrowed the Colts’ lead to 24-21. Midway through the third quarter, Fournette had scored twice for the Bucs, with 50 yards rushing on 12 carries. Tom Brady had completed 17 of 23 passes for one touchdown.

Jonathan Taylor, the NFL’s leading rusher had been held to 24 yards on eight carries. Carson Wentz had completed 24 of 38 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns.

Then Antoine Winfield intercepted a Carson Wentz pass at the Tampa Bay 5 and returned it 30 yards. From there, Brady led the team to a score, helped by a third-down pass interference call on a throw to Cameron Brate in the end zone. On the next play, Ronald Jones ran one yard up the middle to give the Bucs the lead.

By: Cindy Boren

3:25 PM: New England extends its lead with a 41-yard touchdown from Mac Jones

The New England Patriots have been in a tight contest with the Tennessee Titans, leading the whole game but struggling to pull ahead by a significant margin. But up by six, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and wideout Kendrick Bourne connected for their second touchdown of the game, this one 44 yards, to push the Patriots ahead, 26-13.

The Patriots haven’t had any trouble moving the ball, reaching Titans territory on every drive except one. But they only had one touchdown to show for it, a 4-yard Bourne touchdown on their opening drive. Since then they scored four field goals, but couldn’t find the end zone.

But they finally broke through and found the end zone. The Patriots have won five straight games and win a win would extend their streak to six.

By: Andrew Golden

3:21 PM: Cam Newton struggling in passing game against Dolphins

Quarterback Cam Newton’s midseason return to the Carolina Panthers was highly celebrated.

But now it’s just about settling in and playing the games, and Newton is struggling as a passer in the second start of his second go-around with the franchise.

He has completed only five of 21 passes for 92 yards against the Miami Dolphins. Newton has thrown two interceptions and has a passer rating of 5.8 in this game thus far.

The Dolphins lead, 27-10, late in the third quarter.

By: Mark Maske

3:04 PM: Aaron Jones is active for the Packers

Tailback Aaron Jones is active for the Green Bay Packers for their late-afternoon game against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field.

Jones returns after missing one game because of a sprained MCL in his right knee.

He practiced on a limited basis all week and was listed as questionable on the Packers’ injury report.

It’s a bit of an aggressive approach for the Packers, given that their bye week is upcoming and they could have given Jones an additional two weeks off by missing one more game.

Wide receiver Allen Lazard also is active for the Packers. He’d been listed as questionable because of a shoulder injury.

By: Mark Maske

2:43 PM: Bengals cap first-half dominance with pick six, lead Steelers 31-3

The first half of Sunday’s matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers has been one to forget for Ben Roethlisberger and his teammates, as the Steelers trail the Bengals, 31-3.

With 37 seconds remaining in the first half and down by 21, Roethlisberger attempted to throw an out route to James Washington, but his former teammate Mike Hilton broke on the route, intercepted the pass and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown.

Roethlisberger finished the first half completing just seven of 15 passes for 83 yards. Running back Najee Harris has been bottled up for 15 yards rushing, while the Bengals offense has been able to do whatever they have wanted against the Steelers defense.

Bengals running back Joe Mixon already has 117 yards rushing and a touchdown on 20 carries and Joe Burrow has been nearly perfect, completing 14-of-16 passes for 154 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

The Bengals beat the Steelers in Week 3 and are looking to sweep the season series against their rival for the first time since 2009.

By: Andrew Golden

2:40 PM: A bungee jumping mascot turned into a snagged Jag

Jaxson de Ville successfully executed his maneuver before the Nov. 21 game. (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) © Julio Aguilar/Getty Images Jaxson de Ville successfully executed his maneuver before the Nov. 21 game. (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Jaxson de Ville, the Jaguars’ mascot, makes a thing of bungee-jumping from way, way up high in TIAA Bank Field and riding down to the field.

It’s rather breath-taking and on Sunday it also happened to be downright scary because the apparatus became stuck, stranding the mascot and requiring him to be lowered into the upper tier of seats.

Fortunately, the stands were sparsely populated.

Here’s how it looks when it goes as planned, as it did in London last month.

By: Cindy Boren

2:32 PM: Giants still sputtering on offense but they lead Eagles, 3-0, at halftime

The New York Giants weren’t exactly scintillating on offense in their first half since last week’s firing of Jason Garrett as their offensive coordinator.

But they lead the Philadelphia Eagles, 3-0, at halftime at MetLife Stadium.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts threw a pair of first-half interceptions for the Eagles. He threw a goal-line interception on the final play of the half soon after the Eagles had a touchdown negated by a holding penalty.

With Freddie Kitchens taking over as their offensive play-caller, the Giants scored the game’s only points so far on a first-quarter field goal by kicker Graham Gano.

By: Mark Maske

2:19 PM: Vita Vea loses a tooth, isn’t terribly upset about it

A funny thing happened to Buccaneers nose tackle Vita Vea during the second quarter of the game against the Colts.

He lost a tooth and it was funny because, well, he thought it was funny and who are we to argue? His helmet was pushed back on his head and he was struck in the mouth, which sent his tooth flying.

By: Cindy Boren

2:08 PM: Cordarelle Patterson helps Falcons jump out to 14-0 lead on Jaguars

Atlanta’s Cordarelle Patterson has put on a show through the first quarter and a half against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He scored his second touchdown of the game with 6:40 remaining in the first half to put the Falcons ahead 14-0.

Patterson entered Sunday’s game as questionable after missing last week with an ankle injury suffered against the Dallas Cowboys. But he suited up Sunday and has dominated against Jacksonville’s 20th-ranked defense.

Patterson already has 84 yards on the ground to go with his two touchdowns and, after his second touchdown, he had more yards of total offense than the Jaguars, who only had 74 as a unit.

By: Andrew Golden

2:06 PM: Eagles’ Jason Kelce questionable to return after knee injury

The Eagles listed center Jason Kelce as questionable to return with a knee injury suffered in the second quarter.

After heading for the locker room, Kelce returned to the sideline and took a few practice snaps, appearing to be in some pain. Nate Herbig remains in the game at center.

By: Cindy Boren

1:58 PM: Bengals build big second-quarter lead on Steelers

The Bengals are taking it to the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC North clash in Cincinnati.

They lead, 17-3, in the second quarter.

Quarterback Joe Burrow had an eight-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tee Higgins in the second quarter.

The Bengals got a field goal off an interception of a pass by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

By: Mark Maske

1:54 PM: A miffed Mike Vrabel pirouettes as he throws challenge flag

Mike Vrabel's toss was a thing of beauty. (Steven Senne/Associated Press) © Steven Senne/AP Mike Vrabel's toss was a thing of beauty. (Steven Senne/Associated Press)

It wasn’t so much that Titans Coach Mike Vrabel challenged a call on the field as the way he did it that spoke volumes.

Nick Westbrook-Ikhine caught a short pass from Ryan Tannehill and fell, untouched, just shy of the goal line. He slithered over it, again, untouched by a defensive player. The ruling on the field was that he was down short of the goal line, a decision that Vrabel could not believe he had to challenge and yet … he had to challenge it.

HIs execution of the red flag throw was exquisite, saying so very much about the silliness of the situation.

Upon review … touchdown.

(The extra point attempt failed, so the Patriots had a 7-6 lead.)

By: Cindy Boren

1:44 PM: Jets’ Zach Wilson tosses clumsy interception versus the Houston Texans

New York Jets quarterback and 2021 No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson is playing for the first time since suffering a PCL injury in Week 7 against the New England Patriots. It’s clear that he’s still trying to build back his chemistry with his teammates.

As the play broke down on third and 17, Wilson attempted to scramble and pick up some yards to salvage a drive that had gone nowhere. Wilson started to run, so running back Ty Johnson attempted to block for him. But then Wilson tried to throw a shovel pass to Johnson as Johnson turned, the ball hit him in the back and fell into the hands of Texans cornerback Tavierre Thomas.

Wilson has now thrown 10 interceptions this season and just four touchdowns; the Texans have forced 11 turnovers in their past three games.

By: Andrew Golden

1:39 PM: Panthers offensive lineman assists Cam Newton on touchdown run

Quarterback Cam Newton had some help in scoring a first-quarter rushing touchdown for the Carolina Panthers against the Miami Dolphins.

Newton was credited with a one-yard touchdown run.

He took a direct snap and ran toward the goal line, only to be stacked up by the Miami defense shy of the end zone. But Panthers offensive tackle Trent Scott grabbed Newton and pulled him into the end zone for the touchdown.

It’s legal for a player to push a teammate forward on a run. The Panthers and Dolphins are tied at 7.

By: Mark Maske

1:35 PM: Miami Dolphins block a punt and recover for a touchdown

The Miami Dolphins jumped out to a 7-0 on the Carolina Panthers after a great special teams play by linebacker Duke Riley.

After a Panthers three-and-out, Riley broke through the Panthers line and blocked Lachlan Edwards’ punt.

Riley was the last player to run onto the field on the special teams unit and get in formation after he was substituted late. The ball was recovered by cornerback Justin Coleman, who was carried by a pile of players into the end zone for a touchdown.

The Dolphins are currently on a three-game winning streak after losing seven straight.

By: Andrew Golden

1:16 PM: Titans finish pre-game warmups with huddle on Patriots’ logo

Before Sunday’s matchup against New England, the Tennessee Titans huddled on the Patriots logo before heading to the locker room. The Titans are looking to bounce back after losing 22-13 to the woeful Houston Texans a week ago.

The Titans stirred up controversy last season when they did the same ahead of the team’s matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, a game they went on to win 30-24 in overtime. Titans Coach Mike Vrabel and Baltimore Ravens Coach John Harbaugh exchanged words before the game as did players on their respective teams.

Baltimore and Tennessee went on to face each other in the AFC wild-card game last year in Tennessee and, after cornerback Marcus Peters intercepted Ryan Tannehill to clinch a 20-13 victory, the Ravens celebrated by stomping on the Titans logo.

By: Andrew Golden

1:08 PM: Winter is coming and Mac Jones is bracing for it

Mac Jones is ready for whatever winter has in store for him. (Mary Schwalm/Associated Press) © Mary Schwalm/AP Mac Jones is ready for whatever winter has in store for him. (Mary Schwalm/Associated Press)

It gets cold in Florida and Alabama, but Mac Jones is about to learn what it’s like to play in teeth-chattering, eyelash-freezing cold weather.

A native of Jacksonville and star with the Crimson Tide, the Patriots’ rookie quarterback knows what is coming in New England.

“It’s going to get even more cold, so [I’m] just getting ready for that,” Jones said last week. “I mean, you can’t really predict or prepare. It’s not like you can go throw it in a refrigerator or something or freezer. You just got to go out there and do it, and it is what it is.”

The game-time forecast for Sunday’s game against the Titans in Foxborough calls for temperatures in the mid-to-upper 30s, with only a 20 percent of light snow (with little or no accumulation) or rain. In eight days, the Patriots travel to Orchard Park, N.Y., to play the Bills, with two more home games and games in Miami and indoors in Indianapolis.

The Patriots are riding a five-game winning streak during which Jones has completed 95 of 138 passes for 1,068 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions for a 102.6 passer rating since Week 7. As he prepares for wintry blasts, he is consulting veteran backup Brian Hoyer.

“I think just take each day day-by-day and try not to focus on it too much and just wear whatever you’re supposed to wear and take the advice from the older people that have played a lot in the cold and just trying to figure it out,” Jones said. “It’s just another challenge, but you just have to look at it positively, like as if it was raining or really windy or whatever the situation is. It’s football, and you’re going to have days where it’s cold and days where it’s windy and days when it’s raining, so you have to be ready for all situations.”

By: Cindy Boren

1:05 PM: Matt Nagy keeps his job in Chicago, but for how long?

Bears Coach Matt Nagy, right, consults with quarterback Andy Dalton (14) during the Thanksgiving win in Detroit. (Duane Burleson/AP) © Duane Burleson/AP Bears Coach Matt Nagy, right, consults with quarterback Andy Dalton (14) during the Thanksgiving win in Detroit. (Duane Burleson/AP)

The report that the Chicago Bears already had decided unequivocally that they’d fire Matt Nagy as their coach following their Thanksgiving game at Detroit, regardless of the outcome, never made much sense. The Bears were playing the winless Lions, and who makes an in-season coaching change immediately after a victory?

That speculation about Nagy coaching his final game against the Lions was, not surprisingly, off target. The Bears won the game and Nagy remains their coach.

Which changes nothing, really, about Nagy’s prospects for keeping the job beyond this season. The Bears are 4-7 and there have been times this season when Nagy’s offense didn’t seem to be doing any favors for the development of rookie quarterback Justin Fields.

Andy Dalton filled in for the injured Fields and led the Bears to the triumph in Detroit. But this is all about what’s best for Fields’s ability to become a franchise quarterback, and Nagy is yet to make much of a case that his presence on the sideline beyond this season would benefit Fields.

Nagy went 12-4 in 2018 in his first season with the Bears but has coached them to a record of 20-23 since then. His job is in jeopardy. His job was in jeopardy before the Thanksgiving game. It remains in jeopardy after the Thanksgiving game. But it never was very likely that he would be fired Friday, barring a loss to the Lions.

By: Mark Maske

12:53 PM: T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick are back to bolster Steelers’ defense

T.J. Watt (90) is set to return for the Steelers. (Keith Srakocic/AP) © Keith Srakocic/AP T.J. Watt (90) is set to return for the Steelers. (Keith Srakocic/AP)

The Pittsburgh Steelers are getting some reinforcements on defense.

Star pass rusher T.J. Watt and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick are set to play in the Steelers’ early-afternoon game Sunday at Cincinnati.

Watt, who ranks second in the NFL with 12.5 sacks, missed one game because of knee and hip injuries. Fitzpatrick was activated last week from the covid-19 reserve list.

The Steelers, however, said Saturday that cornerback Joe Haden will miss the game because of his foot injury. He previously had been listed as questionable on the injury report.

All three missed last Sunday night’s wild 41-37 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in Inglewood, Calif.

By: Mark Maske

12:46 PM: Zach Wilson set to make his return for Jets

Zach Wilson missed four games because of a knee injury. (Adam Hunger/AP) © Adam Hunger/AP Zach Wilson missed four games because of a knee injury. (Adam Hunger/AP)

Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson makes his return to the New York Jets’ lineup in their early-afternoon game at Houston.

Wilson, the No. 2 overall selection in this year’s NFL draft, missed four games because of a knee injury. The Jets went 1-3 without him, as Mike White and then Joe Flacco filled in as the starter.

It has been a mostly calamitous first NFL season for Wilson, even before the injury. The Jets have gone 1-5 in his six starts. He has four touchdown passes, nine interceptions and an unsightly passer rating of 63.5.

It will be interesting to see Sunday whether the time off enabled Wilson to get his bearings and perhaps settle in for a more promising finish to his rookie season. There’s not much else to watch in this matchup of 2-8 teams.

By: Mark Maske

12:35 PM: With help from Sean Murphy-Bunting, Tom Brady sent high school players into euphoria

One of the best “who dis” wrong numbers ever happened Wednesday when Vinny Tartaglia, a center on the Notre Dame Prep basketball team in Pontiac, Mich., set up a group chat for fellow freshman players and mistyped by one digit the phone number for a teammate.

“Y’all meant to add me to this?” came the texted response. Yes, the players answered and were asked, “You know who I am?”

They’d accidentally texted Buccaneers cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting as he sat at his locker before practice. Although one player texted the group “that dude’s in the NFL,” others were not convinced that Luca Gasperoni wasn’t pranking them.

“lmaoo i can promise you i’m not luca,” Murphy-Bunting, who was born in Michigan and played at Central Michigan, texted, adding a selfie with his Bucs helmet and locker nameplate. With that, as the Athletic chronicled, the encounter was about to become truly surreal, with Murphy-Bunting then Face-Timing the group. He handed his phone to Leonard Fournette, who answered a few questions before giving them a tour of the locker room. Enter appearances by Rob Gronkowski, Richard Sherman, Lavonte David, Devin White and Mike Evans.

One player was missing, so the request was made for a Tom Brady appearance. But Brady was in a team meeting, so, for 10 minutes until he was free, Fournette walked around the locker room, talking to the kids until No. 12 appeared with a quick, “What’s up, fellas?”

Colin Whelan, who first recognized they’d reached an NFL player, was in the office of his father, Jason, an assistant coach and counselor at the school, the whole time and Jason Whelan shared images on social media. As the images showed during the Brady encounter, the boys lost their minds. Jason Whalen is a friend of Scott Merchant, who coached Murphy-Bunting at Chippewa Valley High School, and texted him as the call was progressing.

“He’s like, ‘That is so Sean,’” Whalen told the Athletic. “He wouldn’t hang up on them. He’s like, ‘You guys are from Michigan? What’s going on?’”

The whole encounter lasted about 30 minutes and ended with Murphy-Bunting telling them, “Ball out this season!”

By: Cindy Boren

12:13 PM: A.J. Brown joins list of sidelined Titans’ standouts ahead of clash with Patriots

Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) won't have wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) among his pass-catching options against the Patriots. (Wade Payne/AP) © Wade Payne/AP Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) won't have wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) among his pass-catching options against the Patriots. (Wade Payne/AP)

The Tennessee Titans will be decidedly shorthanded on offense when they play an early-afternoon game Sunday at New England that matches up top AFC contenders.

The Titans placed wide receiver A.J. Brown on their injured reserve list Saturday. He’ll miss at least three games because of a chest injury. Brown joins tailback Derrick Henry and wideout Julio Jones among the key Titans players on the IR list.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s wide receivers against the Patriots will include Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Dez Fitzpatrick, Chester Rogers and Cody Hollister. The Titans signed wideout Golden Tate last week but did not promote him from the practice squad to the active roster for this game.

By: Mark Maske

12:05 PM: No provision in settlement for NFL expansion team in St. Louis

Rams owner Stan Kroenke, his team, the NFL and fellow owners settled the lawsuit filed against them by the city of St. Louis and its partners for $790 million. (Kyusung Gong/AP) © Kyusung Gong/AP Rams owner Stan Kroenke, his team, the NFL and fellow owners settled the lawsuit filed against them by the city of St. Louis and its partners for $790 million. (Kyusung Gong/AP)

The city of St. Louis and its partners in its lawsuit against the Rams and the NFL over the franchise’s move to Los Angeles secured a sizable financial payment as part of the settlement announced last week.

But they did not secure an NFL expansion franchise for the city.

According to two people familiar with the terms of the settlement, it does not contain any provision for St. Louis to be awarded a team.

The settlement is worth $790 million, officials in St. Louis announced Wednesday.

The city of St. Louis, St. Louis County and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority filed the lawsuit in 2017 against the Rams, their owner Stan Kroenke, the NFL and team owners, accusing the league of violating its own franchise-relocation rules in a manner that broke state law.

The owners voted in January 2016 to allow the Rams to move from St. Louis to Inglewood, Calif.

By: Mark Maske

11:52 AM: Thaddeus Moss, Randy Moss’s son, is active Sunday for the Bengals

Thaddeus Moss scores a touchdown for LSU against Clemson in the national championship game in January 2020. (Sue Ogrocki/AP) © Sue Ogrocki/AP Thaddeus Moss scores a touchdown for LSU against Clemson in the national championship game in January 2020. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Tight end Thaddeus Moss is active for the Cincinnati Bengals for their early-afternoon game at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is in line to make his NFL debut.

The Bengals elevated Moss, a former undrafted rookie who is the son of Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss, from their practice squad to their roster Saturday. Moss was not on the game-day inactive list announced Sunday, making him eligible to play against the Steelers.

Moss could join his more celebrated former LSU teammates, quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, in the Bengals’ offensive lineup.

Moss originally signed with the Washington Football Team after going undrafted but was injured and did not play any games last season.

By: Mark Maske

11:48 AM: Freddie Kitchens expected to debut as Giants’ offensive play-caller

Freddie Kitchens is a former head coach of the Browns. (Tony Dejak/AP) © Tony Dejak/AP Freddie Kitchens is a former head coach of the Browns. (Tony Dejak/AP)

It is generally expected that senior offensive assistant Freddie Kitchens will take over as the New York Giants’ offensive play-caller following last week’s firing of Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator. If so, Kitchens’s debut in that role comes in the Giants’ early-afternoon game Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles in East Rutherford, N.J.

Coach Joe Judge declined to specify following Garrett’s dismissal Tuesday which Giants coach would serve as the offensive play-caller. Judge called it a collaborative process and the Giants did not make an offensive coordinator available to speak to reporters later in the week.

But Judge mostly oversaw special teams with the New England Patriots before being hired by the Giants as a head coach. He did have a brief stint as the wide receivers coach in New England.

Kitchens had success as an offensive coordinator in Cleveland before being promoted to head coach and lasting only one season in that role. He joined Judge’s staff with the Giants last season as the tight ends coach.

The Giants are ranked 23rd in the NFL in total offense and 25th in scoring offense.

With the Giants at 3-7 and on their way to missing the playoffs for the ninth time in the past 10 seasons, more changes could be coming. Judge is in his second season as the team’s head coach and has a record of 9-17. Even if he stays beyond this season, he could work with a new general manager. Dave Gettleman has had a spotty draft record that includes controversially using lofty picks on tailback Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones. So it hardly came as a surprise when the NFL Network reported Sunday that Gettleman is unlikely to return for another season.

By: Mark Maske

11:35 AM: Don’t look now but there actually could be a race in the NFC East

Coach Nick Sirianni (with play sheet) and quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) have the Eagles playing better. (Paul Sancya/AP) © Paul Sancya/AP Coach Nick Sirianni (with play sheet) and quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) have the Eagles playing better. (Paul Sancya/AP)

The Philadelphia Eagles have a chance to make the NFC East race at least somewhat interesting.

The Eagles have won two straight and three of four games. They’re within a game of .500, at 5-6, entering their early-afternoon game Sunday against the New York Giants in the Meadowlands.

With a victory Sunday over the Giants, the Eagles would pull to within 1.5 games of the suddenly struggling Dallas Cowboys for the division lead.

The Cowboys are supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. The Eagles are in retooling mode with Nick Sirianni in his first season as an NFL head coach and Jalen Hurts in his first full season as an NFL starting quarterback.

The Cowboys have looked like the class of the division all season and had a chance to turn the NFC East race into a runaway. But they’ve lost two straight and three of four games following their Thanksgiving defeat at home to the Las Vegas Raiders.

It still would be a shock for the Cowboys not to win the division. But the Eagles at least have an opportunity to create some measure of December intrigue.

By: Mark Maske

11:22 AM: A tough task looms as Jonathan Taylor pursues history

Jonathan Taylor is coming off a game in which he shredded yet another NFL team’s defense. (Jeff Lewis/Associated Press) © Jeff Lewis/AP Jonathan Taylor is coming off a game in which he shredded yet another NFL team’s defense. (Jeff Lewis/Associated Press)

Colts running back Jonathan Taylor, the NFL’s leading rusher, can trot into NFL history against the Buccaneers by rushing for more than 100 yards and scoring a touchdown in his ninth straight game, something no other player has accomplished in the same span.

He’ll have his work cut out for him, though, because Tampa Bay’s defense is giving up an average of only 78.4 rushing yards per game, a figure that is tops in the NFL, and an average of 3.8 yards per carry. The defense has given up only six rushing touchdowns all season and only the Bears’ Khalil Herbert has gotten to triple digits, running for 100 yards. As if that weren’t daunting enough, the Bucs will be bolstered by the return of run-stuffer Vita Vea from a knee injury.

Against the Bills last week, Taylor rushed for 185 yards and scored four touchdowns (with another coming on a pass), becoming one of only four running backs to do so since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.

“You get a sense of his confidence, but you’d never know,” Carson Wentz said of Taylor’s growth after the game against the Bills. “You’d never know he was a superstar walking by him in the locker room or in the grocery store, whatever. He’s just a low-key guy but he knows what he can do and he’s confident in himself. I think you keep seeing more and more confidence in his ability, really obviously running the ball but catching the ball out of the backfield, pass protection, all of that and every game it just looks like he’s getting better and better.”

By: Cindy Boren

11:12 AM: Huge viewership number for Cowboys-Raiders reinforces NFL’s TV might

The Cowboys and Raiders played Thursday before a massive TV audience. (Jerome Miron/USA Today) © Jerome Miron/Jerome Miron-Usa Today Sports The Cowboys and Raiders played Thursday before a massive TV audience. (Jerome Miron/USA Today)

The television-viewership might of the NFL was reinforced in a big way on Thanksgiving Day.

The late-afternoon game Thursday between the Dallas Cowboys and Las Vegas Raiders drew an average of 38.531 million viewers on CBS, according to the network.

It was the most-watched game of the season and the most-watched show on television since last season’s Super Bowl.

It also was the most-watched NFL regular season game since a Giants-49ers clash drew 41.474 million viewers on ABC on Dec. 3, 1990.

The Raiders-Cowboys game was far from elegant. The two teams combined for 28 penalties as the Raiders prevailed, 36-33, in overtime.

But in this time of changing viewing habits and declining ratings for most TV properties, the mammoth audience drawn by the game reinforced the NFL’s place as the most valuable commodity for the networks.

By: Mark Maske

11:04 AM: Aaron Rodgers faces Rams after no practices all week

Aaron Rodgers runs with the ball during the Packers’ loss at Minnesota last Sunday. (Bruce Kluckhohn/AP) © Bruce Kluckhohn/AP Aaron Rodgers runs with the ball during the Packers’ loss at Minnesota last Sunday. (Bruce Kluckhohn/AP)

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers will face the Los Angeles Rams in the Green Bay Packers’ late-afternoon game at Lambeau Field without having practiced all week.

After that, the Packers will be on their bye week and Rodgers will decide on possible treatment options for his fractured toe.

“It’s just about pain management,” Rodgers said during his midweek news conference. “There’s surgical options as well that wouldn’t involve missing time …. I’ll definitely look at all options over the bye week and decide what would be best to make sure I get to the finish line.”

Rodgers said he does not intend for the injury to keep him out of the Packers’ lineup at all.

“I don’t plan on missing any time,” he said. “That’s why I mentioned there are surgical options. But I wouldn’t entertain that unless … it prohibited me from playing. I’m going to deal with the pain. It’s all about pain management. I’m going to deal with the pain as this goes on. And hopefully we get some healing during the weeks with limited practice reps. But I’ll try to be on the practice field as much as I can, deal with the pain and the goal is to play every single week.”

Rodgers has played two games since returning from missing one game following his positive test for the coronavirus. His injury occurred during his 10-day isolation, he said.

“It comes down to managing the pain,” Rodgers said. “The injury, I suffered when I was in quarantine doing my own workouts and trying to ramp up my conditioning. Didn’t think it was what it was, until I got to the facility on Saturday before the game and got X-rayed when I got cleared.”

Rodgers showed his foot to reporters during his video news conference to demonstrate that he did not have “covid toe” as he’d mentioned — not seriously, it turned out — during his weekly appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show.”

“I have a fractured toe,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “I’ve never had a covid toe before.”

By: Mark Maske

11:01 AM: Challenges remain as NFL reaches two-thirds mark of second season amid pandemic

The NFL reaches the Sunday of Week 12 of its 18-week regular season with no games having been postponed so far due to coronavirus issues. (Greg M. Cooper/AP) © Greg M. Cooper/AP The NFL reaches the Sunday of Week 12 of its 18-week regular season with no games having been postponed so far due to coronavirus issues. (Greg M. Cooper/AP)

The stretch run of the NFL’s regular season is at hand. The league must hope that its relatively good fortune in dealing with coronavirus-related issues continues as it attempts to reach the finish line on its second season played amid the pandemic.

This is the two-thirds mark of the 18-week regular season, as the NFL plays the Sunday slate of Week 12 games. Teams have continued to deal with disruptions from the virus this season, with some players and coaches missing games under the protocols. But the disruptions have been comparatively minimal and isolated thus far, with no games having been postponed leaguewide.

There are worries as the winter months arrive. Caseloads in the United States are up, particularly in areas of the Upper Midwest and Northeast. Experts worldwide are expressing concern about the identification of the new Omicron variant in South Africa.

NFL officials regularly say that the league’s testing results generally are reflective of the conditions in teams’ surrounding communities. The league has tightened protocols around the Thanksgiving holiday. Players, coaches and team staffers will be tested twice this week, regardless of their vaccination status, and are subject to toughened mask-wearing requirements within team facilities.

This will be a key week for the league as team members return from holiday gatherings. The number of cases within the NFL recently has been up, and league leaders have offered reminders to teams of the need for vigilance in the coming weeks.

By: Mark Maske

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