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    Dolphins' Tagovailoa, Chargers' Herbert set for prime time
    By JOE REEDY, AP Sports Writer | 
    12/8/22

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Draft Class of 2020 alums Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert are preparing to face each other for the second time — and with more at stake for their respective teams.

    Both quarterbacks are trying to do something classmates Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts have already accomplished: get to the postseason.

    Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins bring an 8-4 record into Sunday night's showdown and are in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

    Herbert's Los Angeles Chargers (6-6) haven't been to the postseason since 2018 and sit one game behind the New York Jets for the final spot in the AFC.

    Tagovailoa was the fifth overall pick three years ago while Herbert went one spot later. Herbert said it has been tough to build camaraderie with his classmates because of how COVID-19 affected the draft.

    “A lot of it was separated, so we weren’t able to work out together and things like that,” Herbert said. "For the most part, it was just checking in when we were at the scouting combine and things like that.”

    Both teams are coming off losses. The Fins had a five-game winning streak snapped last week at San Francisco and the Bolts fell at Oakland, their third defeat in the past four games.

    Tagovailoa has thrived under the offense installed by first-year coach Mike McDaniel. He leads the league with a 112.0 passer rating and is sixth with 21 touchdowns.

    Miami has the NFL’s second-best passing offense and fourth overall offense.

    Tagovailoa said the Dolphins’ offensive struggles against San Francisco showed what the team still needs to improve.

    “There’s areas of work that you thought maybe you had down that, ‘Hey, reality check. Here’s what the deal is,’” said Tagovailoa, who has won 15 of his last 18 starts. “So it was good for all of us offensively to see the mistakes, to talk about the mistakes.”

    Herbert is fourth in the league with 3,339 passing yards and tied for seventh with 20 touchdown passes. For most of the season, Herbert and the offense were able to produce despite his early-season rib injury and receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams being together on the field for five quarters. But over the past four weeks, a subpar running game and injuries to the offensive line have taken a toll.

    Herbert has been sacked 16 times in the past four games after going down 10 times in the first eight.

    “We’re just trying to move the ball as much as we can, convert on third down, limit turnovers, and push the ball downfield. Get the run game involved and just do the things that we know that we can do," Herbert said.

    Tagovailoa and the Dolphins beat the Chargers 29-21 in Week 10 of the 2020 season. Herbert was held to a career-low 187 yards in that game.

    MATCHUP TO WATCH

    Miami receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle could have big games against a Chargers defense that is susceptible to allowing big plays.

    Las Vegas' Davante Adams torched LA's secondary last week with eight receptions for 177 yards and two touchdowns. The last time the Chargers played on Sunday night, Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce had six catches for 114 yards and three TDs.

    The Chargers have allowed a league-high 13 touchdowns of 20 yards or more, including three last week. Opponents have 54 plays of at least 20 yards, which is tied for fifth most. Los Angeles could also be short-handed in the secondary with safety Derwin James (quadriceps) and cornerback Bryce Callahan (groin) questionable.

    Hill — who has two 100-yard games in 11 career games against the Chargers — leads the league in receiving yards (1,379) and receptions of at least 20 yards (22). He also needs 11 yards to break Mark Clayton's franchise mark for a single season, which has stood for 38 years.

    Waddle is fifth in the league with 972 receiving yards and has 16 receptions of 20 yards or more.

    GROUNDED

    Both teams have struggled in trying to establish a running game. The Chargers' 84.7 yards per game on the ground is the second-lowest in the league, while the Dolphins have the fifth-lowest average at 89.7.

    According to the NFL's Next Gen Stats, the Dolphins have been held to no gain or negative yards on 23.1% of their rushing attempts, the sixth-highest rate in the league. The Chargers are seventh at 22.9%.

    NO PLACE LIKE HOME

    Dolphins linebacker Jaelan Phillips, who is from Redlands, California, estimated he will have about 91 relatives and friends at Sunday’s game. Phillips played two seasons at UCLA before transferring to the University of Miami.

    “This whole city is real nostalgic for me,” Phillips said. “It has a special place in my heart. Obviously it didn’t work out with football, but there’s no bad blood at all, man. I’m just grateful to be back here soaking in every moment.”

    In his second NFL season, Phillips has emerged as one of Miami’s best edge rushers with five sacks.

    FLEXING

    The league flexed Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs out of the Sunday night spot in favor of this matchup. Even the drama surrounding Russell Wilson and the Broncos wasn't enough to keep low-scoring Denver under the lights.

    Last year, the NFL flexed a Chiefs game into the prime-time spot in Week 13 and bypassed a Chargers-Bengals matchup that would have featured Herbert and Joe Burrow.

    It is likely this won't be the final schedule change involving Miami and Los Angeles. On Jan. 1, the Chargers and Rams are slated for the Sunday night game, but that is likely to be moved. One of the candidates to replace it is Miami at New England.

    ___

    AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

    49ers rookie Purdy to make starting debut vs. Brady's Bucs
    By JOSH DUBOW, AP Pro Football Writer | 
    12/8/22

    SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Brock Purdy was 5 days old when Tom Brady played his final college football game, not yet walking when Brady was drafted and a toddler when Brady won his first of seven Super Bowl titles.

    When Purdy makes his first career start on Sunday for the San Francisco 49ers against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Purdy and Brady will have the same title as starting quarterbacks.

    “I think it’s awesome in terms of Tom Brady coming and playing and playing his team, but at the same time, I’m playing the defense," Purdy said Thursday. "I’m going to be going up against those guys rather than Tom himself, but definitely still awesome to have Tom Brady come and play on the same field and compete against our team. I think it’s awesome, so really excited about it.”

    Purdy will be the seventh quarterback to make his first career NFL start against Brady, joining Luke McCown, Matt Flynn, Tyler Palko, Jake Locker, EJ Manuel and Luke Falk.

    While those other six all lost, Purdy could have the best chance thanks to a loaded roster that features the league's top-ranked defense and an offense with playmakers like Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk.

    He also has a fearlessness that attracted coach Kyle Shanahan to him in the first place.

    “He’s very aggressive in what he does,” Shanahan said. "Sometimes that can keep both teams in the game, so that’s stuff that you have to work on as you play more, but that’s where you want to start with it. When a guy can make some plays like he does, he gives you a chance to win, but we have to figure out what’s the best way to win with him.”

    Purdy's journey to starting quarterback has been a rapid once since he got the moniker “Mr. Irrelevant” for being the last pick in the draft in the spring.

    Purdy got only a handful of practice reps in the offseason program but impressed his coaches and teammates during training camp and the preseason to beat out Nate Sudfeld for a roster spot as a backup behind Trey Lance and Garoppolo.

    “I’ve always believed that I don’t care what slot, what round, what pick that I get picked or if I was undrafted, my whole thing was, man, I just want to go out and, and prove to myself that I can play at this level,” Purdy said. “That’s always been my mentality. Even though I was the last pick, that’s just where I happened to fall in the draft.”

    The early returns have been positive as Purdy came in after Garoppolo got hurt on Sunday and threw for 210 yards and two TDs in a 33-17 win over Miami.

    More important was the poise he displayed in his first extensive game action that was similar to the confidence he showed each day in practice competing on the scout team against the NFL's top defense.

    “He’s savvy for being a rookie," linebacker Fred Warner said. “You see him doing the no-look passes and putting the ball where it’s supposed to be. I feel like he’s way advanced in terms of like where he is at for being a rookie. So that’s really impressive to see every week.”

    NOTES: DE Nick Bosa (hamstring) missed his second straight practice but defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said Bosa is “working his way back in. He’s doing good.” ... DB Tarvarius Moore (knee) and DL Hassan Ridgeway (pectoral) also missed practice. ... McCaffrey (knee), Samuel (quadriceps), DL Arik Armstead (foot, ankle) and OL Spencer Burford (ankle) were all limited.

    ___

    AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

    Baker cooks: Newcomer Mayfield rallies Rams past Vegas 17-16
    By GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer | 
    12/8/22

    INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Baker Mayfield was waived by Carolina on Monday and claimed by the Los Angeles Rams on Tuesday. After a cross-country flight, he got one short practice with his new team on Wednesday.

    And on Thursday night, Mayfield led the Rams to two late fourth-quarter touchdowns and a stunning 17-16 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders, capped by a 23-yard scoring pass to Van Jefferson with 10 seconds left.

    Mayfield could only wonder what Friday will bring in this wild week of his life, but the former No. 1 overall pick knows it probably won't be more fun than one of the most amazing moments of his bumpy NFL journey.

    “I don’t know if you could write it any better than that," Mayfield said. “Obviously, we’d like to be a little bit more stress-free, but it’s a pretty damn good story, I’ll be honest with you.”

    Just two days after the Rams (4-9) claimed him, Mayfield went 22 of 35 for 230 yards — and eventually snapped the defending Super Bowl champions' six-game losing streak in dramatic style.

    “What a quick study,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “He just got here five minutes ago and figured out a way to be able to do some special things tonight.”

    The Rams went on a 75-yard TD drive moments before the winning drive, the latter of which ended with Mayfield finding Jefferson behind rookie Sam Webb in the end zone. The 98-yard march was the longest go-ahead TD drive in the final 2 minutes of a game over the past 45 NFL seasons.

    Los Angeles trailed 16-3 after Daniel Carlson's third field goal with 12:20 to play, but Mayfield got the Rams moving and Cam Akers made a short TD run with 3:19 left, one play after he fought for a first down at the Vegas 1 on a gritty fourth-down catch.

    The Rams' defense stopped Derek Carr and the Raiders at the 2-minute warning, but AJ Cole dropped a 64-yard punt at the Rams 2.

    Undaunted and with no timeouts, Mayfield led the Rams downfield again — with ample help from an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Raiders' Jerry Tillery for knocking the ball out of the quarterback's hands after a play. The drive included a contested 32-yard reception by Ben Skowronek, who finished with career highs of seven catches for 89 yards.

    “Man, you forget what winning is like, and it sure is fun,” McVay said after the Rams’ first victory since Oct. 16.

    Josh Jacobs rushed for 99 yards and the only touchdown for the Raiders (5-8), whose three-game winning streak ended in humiliating fashion. Less than four weeks after Las Vegas lost in former ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday's NFL coaching debut with Indianapolis, the Raiders lost to a quarterback who joined his new team less than 48 hours before the game and had just one brief walkthrough practice.

    “We’ve played against (Mayfield) before and know he’s a really good competitor," Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said. “He made some critical throws for them. We prepared for all three quarterbacks, not necessarily knowing who we were going to get and on a short week, so give them credit. He made enough plays.”

    Carr passed for 137 yards with no TDs and two interceptions. Davante Adams made two jaw-dropping catchesin the first half, but had none in the second half while Las Vegas' offense managed only 67 yards.

    “We left some plays and points out there," Carr said. “And then at the end of the game, I just didn’t think we finished it how we could have finished it to win the game. You know, not even having to put the defense out there or anything like that. We just didn’t execute.”

    John Wolford ran the opening series for the Rams' offense, but McVay then turned it over to Mayfield, a player he has long admired. Mayfield was having a terrible season for the Panthers, but he improbably injected a spark into the Rams with a handful of big plays and decent drives despite minimal knowledge of the playbook.

    “There was kind of a shortened list of plays that I was really, really studying,” Mayfield said. “I will say we dipped out of that little list and got into some other things.”

    With McVay apparently giving detailed instructions into his helmet before each huddle, Mayfield immediately got the Rams moving. Akers short-circuited Mayfield's solid second drive with a fumble in the red zone, but Rams linebacker Ernest Jones made an end-zone interception late in the first half.

    Mayfield completed 15 of his 20 passes in the fourth quarter, flawlessly directing his new teammates downfield for two scores.

    “I love to compete,” Mayfield said. “I love this game.”

    INJURIES

    Jacobs injured his hand early in the second half and briefly went to the locker room, but kept playing. ... Aaron Donald (high ankle sprain) missed his second game due to injury in his nine-year NFL career. ... Raiders RG Alex Bars injured his knee on the opening drive and didn't return. ... Rams WR Jacob Harris injured his shoulder playing special teams in the second half.

    UP NEXT

    Raiders: Host New England on Sunday, Dec. 18.

    Rams: At Green Bay on Monday, Dec. 19.

    ___

    AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

    L.A. Rams 17, Las Vegas 16
    12/8/22

    Las Vegas

    10

    3

    0

    3

    16

    L.A. Rams

    3

    0

    0

    14

    17

    First Quarter

    Las_Jacobs 1 run (Carlson kick), 9:13. Drive: 13 plays, 75 yards, 5:47. Key Plays: Carr 32 pass to Adams on 3rd-and-5; Carr 13 pass to Abdullah on 3rd-and-9; Jacobs 11 run on 3rd-and-5. Las Vegas 7, L.A. Rams 0.

    Las_FG Carlson 52, 2:22. Drive: 8 plays, 46 yards, 4:41. Key Plays: Hollins 17 run; Carr 15 pass to Hollins; Jacobs 1 run on 3rd-and-5. Las Vegas 10, L.A. Rams 0.

    LAR_FG Gay 55, :06. Drive: 6 plays, 29 yards, 2:16. Key Plays: Powell kick return to L.A. Rams 34; Mayfield 21 pass to Jefferson. Las Vegas 10, L.A. Rams 3.

    Second Quarter

    Las_FG Carlson 31, 9:40. Drive: 11 plays, 56 yards, 5:26. Key Plays: Abdullah kick return to Las Vegas 31; Hollins 16 run; Carr 11 pass to K.Cole. Las Vegas 13, L.A. Rams 3.

    Fourth Quarter

    Las_FG Carlson 36, 12:20. Drive: 11 plays, 31 yards, 5:22. Key Plays: Jacobs 4 run on 3rd-and-2; Jacobs 1 run on 3rd-and-2; Carr 3 run on 4th-and-1; Carr 4 pass to Abdullah on 3rd-and-7. Las Vegas 16, L.A. Rams 3.

    LAR_Akers 1 run (Gay kick), 3:19. Drive: 18 plays, 75 yards, 9:01. Key Plays: Mayfield 10 pass to K.Williams; Mayfield 14 pass to Skowronek; Mayfield 13 pass to Atwell on 3rd-and-10; Mayfield 3 pass to M.Brown on 3rd-and-4; Mayfield 1 pass to Akers on 4th-and-1. Las Vegas 16, L.A. Rams 10.

    LAR_Jefferson 23 pass from Mayfield (Gay kick), :09. Drive: 8 plays, 98 yards, 1:35. Key Plays: Harmon 0 interception return to L.A. Rams 22; Mayfield 32 pass to Skowronek. L.A. Rams 17, Las Vegas 16.

    A_74,738.

    ___

    Las

    LAR

    FIRST DOWNS

    17

    20

    Rushing

    8

    3

    Passing

    6

    12

    Penalty

    3

    5

    THIRD DOWN EFF

    5-13

    4-12

    FOURTH DOWN EFF

    1-1

    1-1

    TOTAL NET YARDS

    302

    282

    Total Plays

    58

    61

    Avg Gain

    5.2

    4.6

    NET YARDS RUSHING

    165

    71

    Rushes

    38

    22

    Avg per rush

    4.342

    3.227

    NET YARDS PASSING

    137

    211

    Sacked-Yds lost

    0-0

    4-19

    Gross-Yds passing

    137

    230

    Completed-Att.

    11-20

    22-35

    Had Intercepted

    2

    0

    Yards-Pass Play

    6.85

    5.41

    KICKOFFS-EndZone-TB

    5-1-1

    4-3-3

    PUNTS-Avg.

    3-49.333

    3-52.0

    Punts blocked

    0

    0

    FGs-PATs blocked

    0-0

    0-0

    TOTAL RETURN YARDAGE

    15

    73

    Punt Returns

    0-0

    1-0

    Kickoff Returns

    1-15

    4-73

    Interceptions

    0-0

    2-0

    PENALTIES-Yds

    7-94

    7-60

    FUMBLES-Lost

    0-0

    1-1

    TIME OF POSSESSION

    30:21

    29:39

    ___

    INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

    RUSHING_Las Vegas, Jacobs 27-99, Hollins 3-40, Carr 4-11, White 3-9, D.Turner 1-6. L.A. Rams, Akers 12-42, K.Williams 3-19, Mayfield 4-10, M.Brown 1-5, Atwell 2-(minus 5).

    PASSING_Las Vegas, Carr 11-20-2-137. L.A. Rams, Mayfield 22-35-0-230.

    RECEIVING_Las Vegas, Adams 3-71, Hollins 2-22, Abdullah 2-17, Jacobs 2-15, K.Cole 1-11, Johnson 1-1. L.A. Rams, Skowronek 7-89, Atwell 5-50, Jefferson 2-44, M.Brown 2-12, Higbee 2-11, K.Williams 1-10, Hopkins 1-8, Trammell 1-5, Akers 1-1.

    PUNT RETURNS_Las Vegas, None. L.A. Rams, Powell 1-0.

    KICKOFF RETURNS_Las Vegas, Abdullah 1-15. L.A. Rams, Powell 4-73.

    TACKLES-ASSISTS-SACKS_Las Vegas, Hobbs 8-1-0, Perryman 3-4-0, Webb 3-3-0, Robertson 3-0-1, Masterson 3-0-0, Crosby 2-2-1, Ferrell 2-1-0, Hall 2-1-0, Harmon 2-0-0, Moehrig 2-0-0, Tillery 2-0-0, C.Jones 1-2-1, Farrell 1-2-0, Nichols 1-0-1, Adams 1-0-0, S.Jones 1-0-0, Peko 1-0-0, Pola-Mao 0-2-0. L.A. Rams, Hill 7-2-0, Wagner 6-8-0, Ramsey 4-2-0, Scott 4-0-0, Gaines 3-3-0, Hoecht 3-2-0, Jones 1-4-0, Copeland 1-3-0, Rapp 1-2-0, B.Brown 1-0-0, K.Thomas 1-0-0, J.Williams 1-0-0, Yeast 1-0-0, E.Brown 0-2-0, Floyd 0-2-0, Durant 0-1-0, Hardy 0-1-0.

    INTERCEPTIONS_Las Vegas, None. L.A. Rams, Jones 1-0, Rapp 1-0.

    MISSED FIELD GOALS_L.A. Rams, Gay 61.

    ___

    OFFICIALS_Referee Brad Rogers, Ump Carl Paganelli, HL Kent Payne, LJ Tom Eaton, FJ Aaron Santi, SJ Anthony Jeffries, BJ Greg Steed, Replay Bob Hubbell.

    L.A. Rams 17, Las Vegas 16
    12/8/22

    Las Vegas

    10

    3

    0

    3

    16

    L.A. Rams

    3

    0

    0

    14

    17

    First Quarter

    Las_Jacobs 1 run (Carlson kick), 9:13.

    Las_FG Carlson 52, 2:22.

    LAR_FG Gay 55, :06.

    Second Quarter

    Las_FG Carlson 31, 9:40.

    Fourth Quarter

    Las_FG Carlson 36, 12:20.

    LAR_Akers 1 run (Gay kick), 3:19.

    LAR_Jefferson 23 pass from Mayfield (Gay kick), :09.

    A_74,738.

    ___

    Las

    LAR

    First downs

    17

    20

    Total Net Yards

    302

    282

    Rushes-yards

    38-165

    22-71

    Passing

    137

    211

    Punt Returns

    0-0

    1-0

    Kickoff Returns

    1-15

    4-73

    Interceptions Ret.

    0-0

    2-0

    Comp-Att-Int

    11-20-2

    22-35-0

    Sacked-Yards Lost

    0-0

    4-19

    Punts

    3-49.333

    3-52.0

    Fumbles-Lost

    0-0

    1-1

    Penalties-Yards

    7-94

    7-60

    Time of Possession

    30:21

    29:39

    ___

    INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

    RUSHING_Las Vegas, Jacobs 27-99, Hollins 3-40, Carr 4-11, White 3-9, D.Turner 1-6. L.A. Rams, Akers 12-42, K.Williams 3-19, Mayfield 4-10, M.Brown 1-5, Atwell 2-(minus 5).

    PASSING_Las Vegas, Carr 11-20-2-137. L.A. Rams, Mayfield 22-35-0-230.

    RECEIVING_Las Vegas, Adams 3-71, Hollins 2-22, Abdullah 2-17, Jacobs 2-15, K.Cole 1-11, Johnson 1-1. L.A. Rams, Skowronek 7-89, Atwell 5-50, Jefferson 2-44, M.Brown 2-12, Higbee 2-11, K.Williams 1-10, Hopkins 1-8, Trammell 1-5, Akers 1-1.

    MISSED FIELD GOALS_L.A. Rams, Gay 61.

    Raiders blow 4th double-digit halftime lead in latest loss
    By JOE REEDY, AP Sports Writer | 
    12/8/22

    INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — A season of painful defeats for the Las Vegas Raiders just got worse.

    Last month, they lost to a team whose coach was an ESPN analyst six days earlier. And on Thursday night, they allowed the opposing quarterback to direct two touchdown drives in the final four minutes after being picked up on waivers two days before the game.

    Las Vegas' 17-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams made the Raiders the first team to blow four double-digit halftime leads in a season, according to SportRadar, whose records go back to 1930. Seven teams had squandered three halftime leads of 10 points or more, most recently the 2020 Los Angeles Chargers.

    While Indianapolis' 25-20 victory on Nov. 13 in Jeff Saturday's coaching debut was shocking, Baker Mayfield leading an eight play, 98-yard drive, including a 23-yard touchdown pass to Van Jefferson with 10 seconds remaining, was just as stupefying.

    According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the longest go-ahead TD drive that began in the final two minutes over the last 45 seasons.

    “It's tough. There’s really cool stories and cool moments for some guys. I'm sure Baker will have that moment for the rest of his life,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “It’s frustrating, but it’s not something that we are talking about like, ‘Hey, this is a big opportunity,’ because of this.”

    The Raiders scored on their first three drives and gained 177 yards to take a 13-3 lead before things went south. On its final six possessions, Las Vegas mustered only a field goal, turned the ball over twice and went three-and-out three times.

    Las Vegas was driving for a score late in the first half before Carr was picked off by Ernest Jones in the end zone.

    “I don't know if I got tripped, but something happened,” Carr said. “Mack (Hollins) was open in the back of the end zone and I was trying to get him the ball. That's a tough feeling because we were close to having a touchdown, and everyone's feeling better about today.”

    Carr was 11 of 20 for 137 yards and two interceptions. His 36.9 passer rating was the lowest of his nine-year career.

    Davante Adams — who had eight receptions for 177 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-20 win over the Chargers four days earlier — had only three catches for 71 yards against the Rams, with none coming in the second half.

    The offense wasn't the only thing that self-destructed. Clelin Ferrell lined up offside on a Rams punt to give LA a first down and new life. The Rams took advantage as Cam Akers scored a 1-yard touchdown 14 plays later to get them within 16-10.

    On the Rams' game-winning drive, defensive tackle Jerry Tillery was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after Mayfield was sacked at the Los Angeles 13 on first-and-10. On the next play, Mayfield hit Ben Skowronek for a 32-yard gain to reach Raiders territory with under a minute remaining.

    “We didn’t finish the game. The bottom line is, until we figure out how to stop losing games with mistakes that we do to ourselves, then it makes it very difficult to win,” coach Josh McDaniels said. “You can’t really win until you stop from losing. Penalties and turnovers contribute to that.”

    The Raiders entered with a three-game winning streak, but at 5-8 their chances of making the playoffs aren't very good even if they win out. After a brief reprieve, the second-guessing of McDaniels is sure to ramp up after another morale-sapping loss.

    “This isn't an offense, defense or special teams thing. It’s a team thing,” McDaniels said. “We can not let our foot off the gas. I’m trying to play the same way we were playing when the game starts. Obviously, I haven’t done a good enough job of being able to get us to do that.”

    ___

    AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

    Analysis: Dominant Eagles' o-line worthy of MVP talk
    By ROB MAADDI, AP Pro Football Writer | 
    12/8/22

    If a unit could win the Most Valuable Player award, the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive line would be the frontrunner.

    Jalen Hurts is among the top candidates for AP NFL MVP mainly due to a dominant line that protects him and paves the way for one of the league’s best rushing attacks. The Eagles are 11-1 for the fourth time in franchise history thanks to a dynamic offense and stingy defense.

    The success on offense starts up front.

    Four-time All-Pro center Jason Kelce anchors the offensive line. Kelce is the heart and soul of the team and the city. He’s joined by three-time Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson, left tackle Jordan Mailata, right guard Isaac Seumalo and left guard Landon Dickerson.

    “This is an unbelievable offensive line,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said.

    That’s an understatement.

    The Eagles ran for 363 yards in a 40-33 victory over Green Bay in Week 12. Hurts led the way with 157 yards and Miles Sanders ran for 143. They followed that performance up with 386 yards in the air in a 35-10 rout over Tennessee last week. The 1987 Los Angeles Raiders were the last team to have more than 350 yards passing in a game a week after rushing for more than 350.

    “The guys up front are something special,” Sanders said.

    They’re not looking for accolades, either.

    “The five guys, we’re all comfortable,” Mailata said. “If we can look at each other and know that we had each other’s backs and we gave it everything while everyone else gets the credit, we’re cool with that, we’re happy with that.”

    Mailata was a rugby star in Australia who had never played organized football until the Eagles drafted him in the seventh round in 2018. He’s developed into one of the best in the business. The credit goes to offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.

    “He taught me everything from how to sit in a classroom to stand on the sideline,” Mailata said.

    Mailata introduced himself on Sunday Night Football game by saying he was from “Jeff Stoutland University.” Kelce and others have worn Stoutland University T-shirts.

    “We’re all members of Stoutland University,” Kelce said after the victory over the Packers. “I’ve been fortunate to be with this guy for over a decade. ... I know Philadelphia doesn’t take him for granted. He’s been a mainstay with the Eagles organization for a long time. There’s a reason for that. He’s unbelievable at his job.”

    Stoutland joined the Eagles in 2013 after two seasons at Alabama. The 60-year-old from Staten Island prefers others get the attention but players and coaches are often quick to give him praise.

    “He’s demanding,” Sirianni said. “He tries to put the players in the best possible position. ... He just leaves no stone unturned. He’s very detailed. He gets the best out of those guys, again, because he’s demanding on them. I just love the way he coaches, and the guys clearly respond to that and play well for him. He just does so many things the right way.”

    Patrick Mahomes, Hurts and Joe Burrow are currently the top three contenders for NFL MVP. There are several non-quarterbacks worthy of consideration, including linebacker Micah Parsons and wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Justin Jefferson.

    The AP’s updated voting system for all the NFL Awards will allow more players to get recognition. Voters will rank their top five picks for MVP and top three picks for other awards instead of selecting one player for each. Each spot will be weighted to determine winners, second-place finishers and so on.

    An offensive lineman isn’t going to win MVP but now there’s a better possibility to earn a vote.

    “I would go so far as to say that a guy like Jason Kelce should be considered for MVP himself,” former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III, the NFL’s 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year, said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. “That offensive line, the best in football, 100%. They can do it both ways whether it’s in the ground game, getting to the next level like Kelce does better than anybody else or in the passing game giving Jalen Hurts time to go and make plays. They have been phenomenal and they’ve done it being a little bit banged-up. So once they get back to full health, look out. The Eagles are going to be coming for everybody.”

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    Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter at https://twitter.com/robmaaddi

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    Seahawks backfield depth getting tested entering stretch run
    By TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer | 
    12/7/22

    RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Pete Carroll right away gave an honest assessment of where the running back room stands with the Seattle Seahawks.

    “Well, we got a little walkthrough done so far and Tony Jones (Jr.) looks really good,” Carroll said on Wednesday.

    As for the rest of Seattle’s running backs? Well, that remains a major unknown ahead of Sunday’s game against Carolina.

    Carroll had only vague updates about the status of starter Kenneth Walker III, and backups Deejay Dallas and Travis Homer after injuries left Seattle’s backfield thin in the second half of last week’s win over the Los Angeles Rams.

    Walker jammed his ankle late in the first half against the Rams. Carroll said Monday it’s not a traditional ankle sprain, but there is inflamed tissue in the area. Whether he’s able to get back on the field this week remains unknown.

    “He’s doing everything he can. He’s rehabbing all day long, every day and doing everything that he can do to get right,” Carroll said.

    Dallas suffered a more traditional sprained ankle and played through the injury in the second half, while Homer wasn’t even active while dealing with a knee issue.

    Carroll said Homer was practicing on Wednesday while Dallas didn’t do any work in the early walkthrough.

    “(Dallas) was kind of bouncing around today. He didn’t take any snaps in walkthrough but his attitude is exactly what you want. He’s determined to get back. So we’ll see what happens,” Carroll said.

    The injury situation last week left Jones suddenly getting his first action as a ball carrier with the Seahawks since being claimed off waivers in October. His numbers were rather meager, rushing for 14 yards on seven carries, but the need was significant after Walker became unavailable and Dallas could be used only sparingly.

    “Those type of situations, those types of things just see if you were really prepared for the week,” Jones said. “I think I did pretty decent. I mean, obviously I think I could do better than what I did. But I just got to build from it this week.”

    Seattle signed veteran Wayne Gallman to the practice squad to add a little depth, but the entire position is filled with uncertainty ahead of the visit from the Panthers. Exasperating the situation more so for Seattle is the quick turnaround to next week when the Seahawks host the 49ers in a Thursday night game with major implications in the NFC West.

    Walker would clearly be the preferred choice, but the rookie has struggled in recent weeks. He was averaging 12 yards per carry on his three rushes before getting hurt against the Rams, although 30 of that came on one run.

    Walker was held to 17 yards rushing in Seattle’s loss to Tampa Bay and had just 26 yards on 14 carries in its overtime loss to Las Vegas two weeks ago.

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    Panthers owner settles tax fight over failed practice space
    By JEFFREY COLLINS, Associated Press | 
    12/7/22

    COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina county where Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper started building and then abandoned a new practice facility has reached a settlement over $21 million in sales tax money given to the NFL team.

    Tepper will pay back the money, and York County agreed its dispute was totally resolved with both Tepper and his real estate company that handled the failed $800 million project, according to a statement Wednesday night from the county.

    The settlement came a week after the York County Sheriff's Office and local prosecutor announced that Tepper and his company were under criminal investigation if the public money was misused.

    Sheriff Kevin Tolson and Solicitor Kevin Brackett had no additional comment on whether the settlement changed the status of the investigation. But the statement from York County officials left little doubt they felt the matter was resolved.

    The county withdraws any suggestions Tepper and his GT Real Estate company violated the rules on spending the sales tax money, the settlement “is a full and satisfactory resolution of the county’s disputes,” and Tepper and his company “have acted in good faith,” the statement said.

    “The county considers all matters related to the county payment closed and believes that no action of any kind with respect to the county payment is warranted,” the statement said.

    GT Real Estate officials had no comment on the settlement Thursday, which must be approved by a federal judge overseeing the company's bankruptcy case resulting from the abandoned practice facility project.

    The sheriff and prosecutor last week were careful to say that the investigation does not mean that any crime happened.

    “An investigation is simply an inquiry and should not create any inference that wrongdoing has been committed by any party,” their statement said.

    Tepper, a hedge fund manager who is one of the NFL’s wealthiest owners, and the Panthers announced plans for an $800 million practice facility, team offices, sports medicine complex, hotels and entertainment near Rock Hill in 2019.

    Both local and South Carolina leaders cheered the investment, offering incentives and relishing getting a piece of the NFL team away from North Carolina and Charlotte, where the team plays its games about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away.

    But after less than two years, Tepper’s company abruptly stopped work on the facility before its steel superstructure was finished, and declared bankruptcy. Work continues on an interstate interchange promised by the state, and Tepper’s company is trying to sell the land in the busy, growing region.

    Tepper’s company blamed Rock Hill for failing to issue bonds and said the city and other governments failed to come through with funding and other promises.

    Rock Hill, York County and contractors and other suppliers are all working on deals with Tepper's company in federal bankruptcy court.

    Chargers' Derwin James questionable with quadriceps injury
    By JOE REEDY, AP Sports Writer | 
    12/7/22

    Add Derwin James to the extensive list of Los Angeles Chargers players whose status for Sunday night’s game against the Miami Dolphins is questionable.

    The Chargers said the fifth-year safety didn't participate in practice Wednesday because of a lingering quadriceps injury. Coach Brandon Staley conducted a walkthrough instead of a full practice, so the team's report is an estimate of what players' participation would have been.

    James first suffered the injury during the Nov. 27 game at Arizona. He played all 61 defensive snaps in last Sunday’s 27-20 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

    When asked how concerned he was about James’ injury, Staley said, “we’ll see. He’s going to be day-to-day.”

    James leads NFL defensive backs with 106 tackles. He is also one of five players in the last three decades to have at least 100 tackles, four sacks, multiple forced fumbles, and an interception through the first 12 games of a season.

    James’ absence would leave a significant void as the Chargers prepare to face a Dolphins passing attack that has thrived under first-year coach Mike McDaniel. Tua Tagovailoa is the league’s highest-rated passer (112.0), Tyreek Hill leads the league with 1,379 receiving yards, and Jaylen Waddle is fifth with 972.

    Los Angeles (6-6) has struggled the past three weeks in matchups against the league’s top receivers and tight ends. Davante Adams of the Raiders had eight receptions for 177 yards and two touchdowns last week, while Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins (four catches, 87 yards and a TD) and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce (six receptions, 114 yards, three TDs) also had big games.

    Cornerback Bryce Callahan is battling a groin injury and was listed as limited on Wednesday.

    Staley got some better news about some offensive starters. Wide receiver Mike Williams will practice this week after missing four of the last five games with a high right ankle sprain. Staley said center Corey Linsley is “progressing through the (concussion) protocol” after he missed the Raiders game. Right tackle Trey Pipkins continues to have a knee issue and is unlikely to practice.

    Miami (8-4) currently occupies the sixth playoff spot in the AFC, while the Chargers and New England are one behind the New York Jets for the final spot.

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