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    The Sports Xchange
      Raiders' McDaniels looks for balance with rushing game
      By W.G. RAMIREZ, Associated Press | 
      9/30/22

      HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — The balanced offense that Josh McDaniels was supposed to bring to Las Vegas when he took over the Raiders hasn't materialized.

      While much of the focus has been on how involved Davante Adams has been each week in the passing game, the Raiders have barely run the ball at all in a somewhat surprising development.

      The Raiders are one of two teams in the NFL to run on fewer than 30% of their offensive plays with their 29.1% rush rate second only to the New York Jets (25.7%), who have run only one offensive play all season while leading a game.

      The 53 total attempts are the fewest for the Raiders through three games since 2003 when they had a franchise-low 43. The only other season with fewer was in 1963 when they had 52.

      “I’ve tried to fight the fight of maintaining balance when you’re behind by two scores,” McDaniels said. “I tried to do it (Sunday) at the beginning of the third quarter (in Tennessee), and we had some success with it. There gets to a point every game where that becomes a lot harder to do because you have multiple scores you need, and the time becomes a factor.”

      The Raiders (0-3) haven't run the ball much no matter the situation, running the ball less than one-third of the time when winning and when losing.

      But getting out to an early lead could help as the Raiders have played from behind in two of their games.

      Collectively in its first-half possessions, Las Vegas has punted four times, kicked four field goals, scored three touchdowns, thrown an interception and had a drive end at halftime.

      “We got to maintain more balance in the game, and I have to do a better job of trying to get us to start faster as a football team,” McDaniels said.

      The Raiders have five running backs and one fullback on the active roster in a sign they want to be a run-heavy team, but Josh Jacobs is the only back to get much work early in the season.

      Jacobs has 42 carries for 192 yards, while the other running backs have combined for seven carries for 26 yards. Brandon Bolden is the only other back to run it more than once so far this season with six carries for 24 yards.

      “I leave a lot of games feeling like I did a lot of conditioning,” Jacobs said. “I don’t really be too banged up. I had a couple of games where I didn’t even leave with cuts or anything. ... Really, I just try to do what I do when it’s my turn. Kind of give them a little confidence in what I do.

      “I’m not a selfish player at all. I believe there’s enough plays to be made by any guy in this room and we have the talent to give it to any guy in this room.”

      During McDaniels’ coaching career — as an offensive coordinator or head coach — his offenses have never rushed fewer than 71 times through the first three games of a campaign.

      The Patriots ranked 11th in run rate in the first three games of the season during the past decade when McDaniels was calling plays there.

      The Raiders haven't even run the ball much near the goal line with 27 of their 37 plays from the red zone being passes. They have struggled finishing drives, converting 6 of 13 of red zone trips into touchdowns for the seventh worst rate in the league.

      They face a Denver defense on Sunday that has allowed only one touchdown on four red zone trips.

      “I look at a couple opportunities in the running game we had to potentially put it into the running game before it got to a third down and goal, or those kinds of situations,” McDaniels said. “We were very close a couple of times to getting it in, in the run game. ... We have to do a good job of executing down there, got to have a good plan, give the players an opportunity to be successful."

      NOTES: TE Foster Moreau (knee) and WR Hunter Renfrow (concussion) are out for Sunday’s game. ... CBs Rock Ya-Sin (knee) and Sam Webb (hamstring) are listed as questionable. ... CB Nate Hobbs, who left last week's game with a concussion, is slated to play. ... C Andre James (concussion), S Tre’von Moehrig (hip), and LB Denzel Perryman (ankle) are also expected back after missing time.

      ___

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

      Rams' Donald knows what's coming from familiar 49ers offense
      By DAN GREENSPAN, Associated Press | 
      9/30/22

      THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — As the Los Angeles Rams prepare to play the San Francisco 49ers for the fourth time in less than a year, it might be easy to think there is nothing left for defensive tackle Aaron Donald to learn about his team's Bay Area nemesis.

      “Well, it’s different this year ’cause they got pretty much a new offensive line, so it’s a lot more studying for me, trying to see how they play,” Donald said Friday.

      While the faces lined up across from Donald on Monday night will look different because of roster turnover and injuries, the game plan they will try to execute will be all too familiar.

      The Rams (2-1) allowed 291 yards rushing on 75 carries last year in two regular-season losses to the 49ers (1-2), giving quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo opportunities to spread the ball around to his receivers.

      But Los Angeles shut down that formula in the NFC championship game, limiting San Francisco to 50 yards on 20 attempts and turning up the pressure on Garoppolo, who was 16 of 30 passing for 232 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

      Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris believes the two defeats were “learning lessons” that helped build the approach needed for the Rams to secure a spot in the Super Bowl.

      “I thought it was a different level for all of us,” Morris said of the 20-17 win.

      There were other indicators that showed how well the defense performed. The Rams held the 49ers to 3 of 9 (33%) on third down, and the pass rush consistently made things difficult for Garoppolo despite not sacking him.

      Donald said keeping Garoppolo from getting into a rhythm is critical to picking up where the Rams left off in January.

      “Our job is just to find a way to get him down or affect him, make him uncomfortable. Try to make him have a bad day. That’s why we out there,” Donald said. “We don’t want him to be able to step up in the pocket. We want him to be antsy, uncomfortable, and if we do that we can have a good day.”

      Los Angeles showed signs of being that caliber of defense again in its 20-12 win at Arizona on Sunday, keeping the Cardinals out of the end zone and holding Kyler Murray to 5.4 yards per pass attempt. That performance came with rookie cornerback Deion Kendrick making his first career start and other inexperienced players getting extensive snaps in the secondary.

      If the defensive backs can continue playing well, especially against the screens and short throws intended to prevent Donald and the front from creating pressure, it should tilt the balance in favor of the pass rush.

      “For us as far as a defense, everybody playing together, secondary, linebackers, us up front, for us to have success we need them guys on the back end to have success. And for us to do what we need to do and affect the play, that’ll help guys on the back end, so they work hand in hand,” Donald said.

      Donald did his part against Arizona, getting his 100th career sack to join a small group of interior linemen to reach the mark. He has picked up 3 1/2 sacks against Garoppolo, but none have come in the past three meetings.

      San Francisco has won six straight regular-season games in the series, and that is the streak Donald feels more urgency to end.

      “Obviously it’s a blessing to accomplish great things, but just playing the game and just doing my job and I’m trying to find ways to be successful and help my team to win,” he said.

      NOTES: S Jordan Fuller (hamstring) returned to practice on a limited basis Friday. ... G David Edwards (illness) did not participate.

      ___

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

      Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa stretchered off with head injury
      By MITCH STACY, AP Sports Writer | 
      9/29/22

      CINCINNATI (AP) — Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa sustained neck and head injuries after being slammed to the ground Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals and was stretchered from the field.

      The Dolphins said Tagovailoa was conscious, had movement in all his extremities and was taken to University of Cincinnati Medical Center for further evaluation. The Dolphins said after their 27-15 loss to the Bengals that Tagovailoa was expected to be released from the hospital and fly home with the team.

      Tagovailoa was chased down and sacked by 6-foot-3, 340-pound Josh Tupou with about six minutes left in the first half. He was spun around and thrown to the turf. While on the ground, his hands froze in front of his face. He remained down for more than seven minutes before being loaded on a backboard, stabilized and strapped to a stretcher after his facemask was removed.

      Dolphins players gathered around as Tagovailoa was rolled off the field and the crowd chanted “Tua! Tua!”

      Miami coach Mike McDaniel said Tagovailoa called for him when he went down.

      “I could tell it wasn’t the same guy that I was used to seeing," McDaniel said. “It was a scary moment. He was evaluated for a concussion. He’s in the concussion protocol, but he’s being discharged.

      "It’s an emotional moment. It’s not a part of the deal you sign up for. His teammates and myself were very concerned, but he got checked out and it’s nothing more serious than a concussion.”

      Teddy Bridgewater, who replaced the injured Tagovailoa, said the Miami sideline went quiet when the starting QB was on the turf.

      “Complete silence," Bridgewater said. "He’s one of us. At the end of the day, it’s only a football game. In that moment, you saw how we feel about Tua. He’s our captain. He’s our leader. It was great to see the doctors handling the situation.”

      Bengals coach Zac Taylor had an emotional reaction to Tagovailoa going down, saying: “It’s a heavy moment. You hate to see that happen. It’s a tough moment for everybody.”

      Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow hoped Tagovailoa makes a quick return.

      “It’s always scary when somebody goes out like that," Burrow said. "It’s a dangerous game and something like that can happen at any time, but it’s always scary when it does. ... Hopefully, he has a speedy recovery. I’m gonna text him after a bit and see how he’s doing.”

      Reaction came swiftly from around the NFL. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Broncos QB Russell Wilson promptly tweeted with concern for Tagovailoa’s well-being.

      “Praying for you Tua,” Wilson wrote.

      The 24-year-old Tagovailoa was suffering from a sore back and was listed as questionable for most of the week ahead of the game.

      Tagovailoa briefly left Sunday’s 21-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills after appearing to be disoriented by what the team originally said was a head injury after taking a hard hit from Bills linebacker Matt Milano late in the first half. He missed just three snaps and returned after halftime, a decision that prompted a joint review by the NFL and National Football League Players Association of what went into the decision to allow him to return to the game.

      The team and Tagovailoa said after Sunday's game the quarterback had a back injury that caused his awkward stumble and fall after he was slammed into the turf in the second quarter. The team said Monday that Tagovailoa was not in concussion protocol.

      He said he “hyper-extended” his back after getting his legs caught under someone on a quarterback sneak.

      McDaniel said Thursday that he didn't think an injury from last week made him fall the same way this week.

      After Tagovailoa's injury Thursday, the NFLPA tweeted: “Player health and safety is at the core of the union’s mission. Our concern tonight is for Tua and we hope for a full and speedy recovery. Our investigation into the potential protocol violation is ongoing.”

      Some criticized the decision to play Tagovailoa so soon after his injuries in Sunday's game.

      Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe tweeted: "That’s a serious injury . Tua shouldn’t have been out there with Sunday Thursday turn around. Sometimes players need protecting from themselves. Dolphins failed Tua."

      Before leaving Thursday's game, Tagovailoa was 8 for 14 for 100 yards and an interception. Bridgewater threw a touchdown pass to Chase Edmonds with 15 seconds left in the half.

      The play of Tagovailoa, who won a national championship at Alabama, has been key for the 3-0 Dolphins. He came into the game second in the NFL with 925 passing yards.

      ___

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

      Cincinnati 27, Miami 15
      9/29/22

      Miami

      3

      9

      3

      0

      15

      Cincinnati

      7

      7

      0

      13

      27

      First Quarter

      Cin_Mixon 5 run (McPherson kick), 10:19. Drive: 10 plays, 75 yards, 4:41. Key Plays: Burrow 19 pass to Hurst on 3rd-and-1; Burrow 10 pass to Higgins. Cincinnati 7, Miami 0.

      Mia_FG J.Sanders 23, 6:05. Drive: 10 plays, 70 yards, 4:14. Key Plays: Tagovailoa 26 pass to Ty.Hill; Tagovailoa 20 pass to Waddle; Tagovailoa 11 pass to Sherfield. Cincinnati 7, Miami 3.

      Second Quarter

      Mia_FG J.Sanders 48, 7:31. Drive: 8 plays, 46 yards, 3:08. Key Play: Tagovailoa 17 pass to Ty.Hill. Cincinnati 7, Miami 6.

      Cin_Higgins 59 pass from Burrow (McPherson kick), 2:50. Drive: 3 plays, 58 yards, 1:32. Cincinnati 14, Miami 6.

      Mia_Edmonds 7 pass from Bridgewater (kick failed), :09. Drive: 10 plays, 75 yards, 2:41. Key Plays: Bridgewater 19 pass to Waddle; Bridgewater 11 pass to Ty.Hill; Bridgewater 12 pass to Sherfield on 3rd-and-5. Cincinnati 14, Miami 12.

      Third Quarter

      Mia_FG J.Sanders 20, 2:40. Drive: 7 plays, 88 yards, 3:38. Key Plays: Bridgewater 16 pass to Sherfield; Bridgewater 64 pass to Ty.Hill. Miami 15, Cincinnati 14.

      Fourth Quarter

      Cin_FG McPherson 19, 12:00. Drive: 10 plays, 74 yards, 5:40. Key Plays: Boyd 23 pass to Chase on 3rd-and-11; Burrow 43 pass to Boyd. Cincinnati 17, Miami 15.

      Cin_FG McPherson 57, 6:13. Drive: 8 plays, 33 yards, 3:36. Key Plays: Burrow 22 pass to Higgins; Burrow 14 pass to Chase. Cincinnati 20, Miami 15.

      Cin_Hurst 2 pass from Burrow (McPherson kick), 1:52. Drive: 5 plays, 45 yards, 1:13. Key Plays: Bell 46 interception return to Miami 45; Burrow 36 pass to Chase. Cincinnati 27, Miami 15.

      A_67,260.

      ___

      Mia

      Cin

      FIRST DOWNS

      20

      16

      Rushing

      3

      4

      Passing

      13

      11

      Penalty

      4

      1

      THIRD DOWN EFF

      2-10

      8-15

      FOURTH DOWN EFF

      0-1

      0-1

      TOTAL NET YARDS

      378

      371

      Total Plays

      60

      63

      Avg Gain

      6.3

      5.9

      NET YARDS RUSHING

      85

      67

      Rushes

      22

      30

      Avg per rush

      3.864

      2.233

      NET YARDS PASSING

      293

      304

      Sacked-Yds lost

      1-10

      1-6

      Gross-Yds passing

      303

      310

      Completed-Att.

      22-37

      21-32

      Had Intercepted

      2

      0

      Yards-Pass Play

      7.711

      9.212

      KICKOFFS-EndZone-TB

      5-5-5

      6-5-4

      PUNTS-Avg.

      3-50.0

      4-39.75

      Punts blocked

      0

      0

      FGs-PATs blocked

      1-0

      0-0

      TOTAL RETURN YARDAGE

      48

      69

      Punt Returns

      1-6

      1-23

      Kickoff Returns

      2-42

      0-0

      Interceptions

      0-0

      2-46

      PENALTIES-Yds

      6-41

      6-74

      FUMBLES-Lost

      0-0

      0-0

      TIME OF POSSESSION

      28:25

      31:35

      ___

      INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

      RUSHING_Miami, Mostert 15-69, Bridgewater 1-11, Edmonds 5-6, Hill 1-(minus 1). Cincinnati, Mixon 24-61, Burrow 5-6, Perine 1-0.

      PASSING_Miami, Bridgewater 14-23-1-193, Tagovailoa 8-14-1-110. Cincinnati, Burrow 20-31-0-287, Boyd 1-1-0-23.

      RECEIVING_Miami, Hill 10-160, Sherfield 4-55, Waddle 2-39, Gesicki 2-23, Edmonds 2-14, Mostert 2-12. Cincinnati, Higgins 7-124, Chase 4-81, Mixon 4-13, Hurst 3-27, Boyd 2-47, Wilcox 1-18.

      PUNT RETURNS_Miami, Holland 1-6. Cincinnati, Taylor 1-23.

      KICKOFF RETURNS_Miami, Mostert 2-42. Cincinnati, None.

      TACKLES-ASSISTS-SACKS_Miami, Kohou 6-0-0, Baker 5-2-0, Riley 3-2-0, Rowe 3-1-0, Holland 2-3-0, Crossen 2-1-0, Davis 2-1-0, Br.Jones 2-1-0, Jenkins 2-0-0, Sieler 2-0-0, Wilkins 1-4-0, Roberts 1-3-0, Phillips 1-1-1, Howard 1-1-0, Cracraft 1-0-0, Hill 1-0-0, Ingram 1-0-0, Van Ginkel 1-0-0, Needham 0-2-0, Flowers 0-1-0. Cincinnati, Pratt 6-3-0, Bates 6-0-0, L.Wilson 4-3-0, Awuzie 4-0-0, Bell 4-0-0, Hilton 3-1-0, Hubbard 3-1-0, Tupou 3-0-1, Apple 1-1-0, Davis-Gaither 1-0-0, Flowers 1-0-0, C.Sample 1-0-0, B.Hill 0-5-0, Carter 0-1-0, Ossai 0-1-0.

      INTERCEPTIONS_Miami, None. Cincinnati, Bell 2-46.

      MISSED FIELD GOALS_Miami, J.Sanders 52.

      ___

      OFFICIALS_Referee Tra Blake, Ump Tony Michalek, HL Patrick Turner, LJ Mark Stewart, FJ Tom Hill, SJ Don Willard, BJ Todd Prukop, Replay Andrew Lambert.

      Cincinnati 27, Miami 15
      9/29/22

      Miami

      3

      9

      3

      0

      15

      Cincinnati

      7

      7

      0

      13

      27

      First Quarter

      Cin_Mixon 5 run (McPherson kick), 10:19.

      Mia_FG J.Sanders 23, 6:05.

      Second Quarter

      Mia_FG J.Sanders 48, 7:31.

      Cin_Higgins 59 pass from Burrow (McPherson kick), 2:50.

      Mia_Edmonds 7 pass from Bridgewater (kick failed), :09.

      Third Quarter

      Mia_FG J.Sanders 20, 2:40.

      Fourth Quarter

      Cin_FG McPherson 19, 12:00.

      Cin_FG McPherson 57, 6:13.

      Cin_Hurst 2 pass from Burrow (McPherson kick), 1:52.

      A_67,260.

      ___

      Mia

      Cin

      First downs

      20

      16

      Total Net Yards

      378

      371

      Rushes-yards

      22-85

      30-67

      Passing

      293

      304

      Punt Returns

      1-6

      1-23

      Kickoff Returns

      2-42

      0-0

      Interceptions Ret.

      0-0

      2-46

      Comp-Att-Int

      22-37-2

      21-32-0

      Sacked-Yards Lost

      1-10

      1-6

      Punts

      3-50.0

      4-39.75

      Fumbles-Lost

      0-0

      0-0

      Penalties-Yards

      6-41

      6-74

      Time of Possession

      28:25

      31:35

      ___

      INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

      RUSHING_Miami, Mostert 15-69, Bridgewater 1-11, Edmonds 5-6, Hill 1-(minus 1). Cincinnati, Mixon 24-61, Burrow 5-6, Perine 1-0.

      PASSING_Miami, Bridgewater 14-23-1-193, Tagovailoa 8-14-1-110. Cincinnati, Burrow 20-31-0-287, Boyd 1-1-0-23.

      RECEIVING_Miami, Hill 10-160, Sherfield 4-55, Waddle 2-39, Gesicki 2-23, Edmonds 2-14, Mostert 2-12. Cincinnati, Higgins 7-124, Chase 4-81, Mixon 4-13, Hurst 3-27, Boyd 2-47, Wilcox 1-18.

      MISSED FIELD GOALS_Miami, J.Sanders 52.

      Bengals top Miami 27-15 after injured Tagovailoa carted off
      By MITCH STACY, AP Sports Writer | 
      9/29/22

      CINCINNATI (AP) — Behind an overhauled offensive line coalescing in front of quarterback Joe Burrow and a defense forcing turnovers, the Cincinnati Bengals are looking more like the defending AFC champions.

      After losing their first two games, the Bengals have reeled off two wins in a span of five days.

      They beat the New York Jets on Sunday, then turned around and took down Miami 27-15 in a Thursday night game marred by the horrific sight of Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa being taken off the field on a stretcher.

      Tagovailoa was taken to a hospital, but was expected to be released and fly home with the team. Coach Mike McDaniel said the QB sustained a concussion.

      Burrow tossed a late a 2-yard touchdown pass to Hayden Hurst to seal the win after Cincinnati safety Vonn Bell picked off Miami backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with three minutes left in the game.

      “All day the protection was awesome,” said Burrow, who was 20 for 31 for 287 yards and two touchdowns. “I had all the time I needed in the pocket to find the guys I needed.”

      Tee Higgins caught seven passes for 124 yards and a TD for Cincinnati (2-2)

      Evan McPherson kicked two fourth-quarter field goals — including a 57-yarder — when the Bengals' drives stalled.

      “Joe was lights out,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “You had to beat man coverage. We had the guys to do it and the protection to match it and the quarterback who, that’s what he wants to see.”

      Bridgewater threw an incomplete pass on Miami’s final drive to turn the ball over on downs with 57 seconds left.

      Tagovailoa was 8 for 14 for 110 yards and an interception before his injury. Bridgewater finished 14 for 23 for 193 yards, a touchdown and an interception in relief.

      “It’s a tough loss," Bridgewater said. "It’s tough walking away, especially under the circumstances.”

      Tyreek Hill paced the Dolphins with 10 catches for 160 yards. Jason Sanders kicked three field goals and had one blocked. He also missed a point-after attempt.

      “You’re going to lose games to very good teams if you lose the turnover battle and you’re kicking field goals instead of trying for touchdowns," Miami coach Mike McDaniel said. "We had been executing. We didn’t today. You don’t get free passes against good teams.”

      ‘SCARY MOMENT’

      The Bengals handed Miami its first loss of the season. The Dolphins departed Cincinnati with uncertainty surrounding the future of their starting quarterback.

      Tagovailoa was chased down and thrown to the turf by Cincinnati’s Josh Tupou with about six minutes left in the first half. He remained down for more than seven minutes before being taken to a hospital with reported head and neck injuries.

      His teammates gathered around as they worked on him.

      “Very scary moment,” McDaniel said. “He was evaluated for a concussion. He’s in the concussion protocol, but he’s being discharged. It’s an emotional moment. It’s not a part of the deal you sign up for.”

      The 24-year-old Tagovailoa was suffering from a sore back and was listed as questionable for most of the week ahead of the game.

      Tagovailoa briefly left Sunday’s 21-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills after appearing to be disoriented by what the team originally said was a head injury after taking a hard hit from Bills linebacker Matt Milano late in the first half. He missed just three snaps and returned after halftime.

      The team and Tagovailoa said after Sunday’s game the quarterback had a back injury that caused his awkward stumble and fall after he was slammed into the turf in the second quarter. The team said Monday that Tagovailoa was not in concussion protocol. He said he “hyper-extended” his back after getting his legs caught under someone on a quarterback sneak.

      CHEERS

      At halftime, the Bengals added two players to their fledgling Ring of Honor at Paycor Stadium.

      Isaac Curtis is regarded as one the team's all-time great receivers. The four-time Pro-Bowler played in Cincinnati in 1973-84 and still holds the Bengals record for average yards per reception (17.07).

      Tackle Willie Anderson was considered one of the best offensive linemen of his era. Anderson played in 182 games (regular and postseason) for Cincinnati in 1996-2007 and went to the Pro Bowl four times.

      They join last year's Ring of Honor inaugural class: team founder/coach Paul Brown, quarterback Ken Anderson, tackle Anthony Munoz and cornerback Ken Riley.

      INJURIES

      Dolphins: CB Xavien Howard left in the second half after suffering a groin injury.

      Bengals: TE Devin Asiasi left in the second half with an ankle injury.

      UP NEXT

      Dolphins: At New York Jets on Sunday, Oct. 9.

      Bengals: At Baltimore on Sunday, Oct. 9.

      ___

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

      Explainer: Tua Tagovailoa, fencing response and NFL protocol
      By ROB MAADDI, AP Pro Football Writer | 
      9/29/22

      Tua Tagovailoa stumbled to the ground, his legs wobbly and unable to walk to the huddle after banging his head Sunday. And then Thursday night, he was carried off the field by stretcher after another hit caused his head to violently slam against the turf and his hands to freeze up.

      The Dolphins said the third-year quarterback was conscious and had movement in all his extremities. He was taken to University of Cincinnati Medical Center but was released and expected to return to Miami with the team.

      “It was a scary moment. He was evaluated for a concussion and he’s in the concussion protocol,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said.

      Some who watched the scary injury want to know why Tagovailoa was playing just four days after his quick return Sunday prompted a joint review by the NFL and NFL Players Association.

      Many former players were critical of the decision to allow Tagovailoa to return against Buffalo and start against Cincinnati.

      “Player health and safety is at the core of the union’s mission,” the NFLPA wrote on Twitter. “Our concern tonight is for Tua and we hope for a full and speedy recovery. Our investigation into the potential protocol violation is ongoing.”

      NFL executive vice president Jeff Miller said the review usually takes a week or two.

      “Every indication from our perspective is that it was,” Miller said about the team and its doctors following concussion protocol on Sunday. “I know the player, the coach and others have spoken to this. And we are engaged in that review now. So we’ll come back with a formal answer to that question, something that we want to engage in.”

      Before the game, Chris Nowinski, a founder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation who played football at Harvard, wrote on Twitter: “If Tua takes the field tonight, it’s a massive step back for concussion care in the NFL. If he has a 2nd concussion that destroys his season or career, everyone involved will be sued and should lose their jobs, coaches included. We all saw it, even they must know this isn’t right.”

      HOW WAS TAGOVAILOA CLEARED TO RETURN SUNDAY?

      Tagovailoa appeared to be disoriented by what the team originally said was a head injury after taking a hard hit from Bills linebacker Matt Milano late in the first half. He missed just three snaps and returned after halftime. Tagovailoa and the team said a back injury was the reason for his instability after the hit and he wasn’t in concussion protocol. He was questionable to play on Thursday but started the game.

      WHAT IS THE NFL’S CONCUSSION PROTOCOL?

      A player who exhibits or reports symptoms or signs suggestive of a concussion or stinger enters protocol.

      During each game, independent certified athletic trainers (ATC spotters) monitor the players on the field. If they see an impact to the head, they call a timeout and the player must be removed from the game, examined and evaluated. Team trainers, coaches or physicians, teammates, NFL game officials, sideline unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants (UNC) or booth ATCs also can initiate the protocol.

      Any player in concussion protocol undergoes a six-step evaluation by a team physician and UNC to determine the severity of the injury and whether or not they’re fit to return to the field. The final step is a neurological evaluation featuring a cervical spine exam, including range of motion/pain, evaluation of speech, observation of gait, eye movements and pupillary exam.

      If any elements are positive, inconclusive or suspicious of concussion, the player is escorted to locker room.

      In the locker room, a team physician and UNC conducts a full neurological exam and complete NFL Standardized Concussion Assessment Tool.

      If abnormal, the player doesn’t return to play, undergoes periodic evaluation by a medical team and has a follow-up neurological exam.

      The league instituted the system in 2011 after Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy took a helmet-to-helmet hit in a game and returned without being tested for a concussion. The Browns said that the team’s trainers didn’t see the hit because they were tending to other players and that no one told them about it. After the game, McCoy was diagnosed with a concussion.

      WHAT IS FENCING RESPONSE?

      According to healthline.com, “when a person experiences an impact that’s strong enough to cause traumatic brain injury, such as a concussion, their arms often go into an unnatural position."

      Tagovailoa appeared to take that position, his fingers flexed awkwardly in front of his facemask for several seconds as he laid on the turf.

      “The fencing response is often seen when a player is knocked down or knocked out during full-contact athletic competitions such as football, martial arts, boxing, rugby, and hockey,” per healthline.com.

      It happened to Los Angeles Chargers tight end Donald Parham during a Thursday night game against Kansas City last Dec. 17. Parham was removed on a stretcher and stayed overnight at a hospital for observation after being diagnosed with a concussion.

      WHAT’S NEXT FOR TAGOVAILOA?

      The severity of Tagovailoa’s concussion is not known, but it's seemingly encouraging he was allowed to fly with the team. He must undergo a five-step process before being allowed to take the field again. The fifth phase is a full practice followed by clearance from the team physician. After that, he must be examined by an independent neurological consultant.

      ___

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

      ___

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

      Hines Ward's path to becoming NFL head coach starts in XFL
      By ROB MAADDI, AP Pro Football Writer | 
      9/29/22

      Hines Ward sees some Pittsburgh in San Antonio.

      Ward, who played his entire 14-year career with the Steelers and was MVP of their Super Bowl win over Seattle in 2006, is getting his first opportunity to be a head coach with San Antonio in the new XFL. The league relaunches in February 2023.

      “It’s definitely been a humbling experience for me,” Ward said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. “I see a lot of similarity in the city of San Antonio as I do with Pittsburgh — passionate fan base, small market, as far as not being a big city. I know they’re passionate for football and they’re super excited to have a professional team come to their city.”

      Ward got a taste of Texas fandom when he went to the UTSA-Houston game on Sept. 3. The Cougars won in triple overtime, 37-35.

      “It definitely felt like Pittsburgh part two,” he said. “There were some passionate fans and they were extremely happy for me to be down there. So to have that support and see how the Alamodome was rocking during the college game, man, I just want to build on that and create that culture that the city of Pittsburgh has with their football team. That’s what I’m trying to create down in San Antonio.”

      The 46-year-old Ward had 1,000 catches for 12,083 yards and 85 touchdowns for the Steelers. He made four Pro Bowls and was part of two Super Bowl championship teams.

      Ward began his coaching career in 2017 as an offensive intern with the Steelers, working with their wide receivers. He spent two seasons as an offensive assistant with the New York Jets from 2019-20.

      “It was kind of like The Twilight Zone,” Ward said. “You wake up and in a weird room or something. For me, I just never donned any other color than the black and gold. It was a great learning experience for me to be a part of another organization to see how they did things and I learned a lot. Even though we didn’t have success record-wise, it was so valuable for me to experience going to another organization and seeing how they do things. It helped me in my development and growth as a coach to understand because I had never gone through a losing season like that where you haven’t won a game and it’s late in the year and you’re 0-13 and the players are looking at the coaches and seeing how you guys respond, so I learned a lot. I’m very fortunate for Adam Gase to give me an opportunity to get in there and I worked with some great coaches.”

      Ward aspires to be a head coach in the NFL. Despite his limited experience, he got an interview with the Houston Texans before they hired Lovie Smith earlier this year.

      “Helping young men achieve their goals, that’s why I enjoy coaching,” he said.

      Ward also wants to help men lose weight. He’s serving as an ambassador for the NFL Alumni Association’s Huddle Up: Let’s Talk Obesity campaign. His personal battle with weight gain inspired him to join the cause.

      “I’ve put on some weight and enough is enough, man,” he said. “I went to the doctor, luckily, and during my physical, you start talking about high cholesterol and being pre-diabetic. And that’s something that hit home to me because I’ve lost some family and friends to diabetes. It was an eye opener, a wake-up call for me to make a life change as far as eating right, exercising more and understanding that obesity is a medical condition, not a character flaw. I think for a lot of people, they’re just scared to go to the doctor because they don’t want to hear the negative things. But luckily for me, I did. I want to make sure I invest in myself so I can live as long as I possibly can. And, I just think it’s cool that people can hear my story.”

      ___

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

      ___

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

      Winston doubtful, Dalton ready for Saints against Vikings
      By KEN MAGUIRE, AP Sports Writer | 
      9/29/22

      LONDON (AP) — Saints backup quarterback Andy Dalton is preparing to square off with Kirk Cousins again in London.

      Dalton is expected to start after Jameis Winston was listed as doubtful for New Orleans’ game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

      Dalton took first-team snaps again Friday with Winston missing a third consecutive practice because of a back injury.

      “I'll be ready if my number is called," Dalton said. “I've been in this situation before where you're the backup and have to step in and play."

      The team's injury report listed Winston (back/ankle) as doubtful for the NFL’s first international game of the season, while wide receiver Michael Thomas (foot), offensive guard Andrus Peat (concussion) and safety Marcus Maye (rib) were all ruled out.

      Saints first-year coach Dennis Allen said they'll wait until the last minute, but he doubts Winston will play.

      “Our plan right now is to have Andy ready to go,” Allen said. “He's performed at a high level in our league and that's really one of the big reasons why we brought him here is in case he's called upon, we feel highly confident that he can go in and do the job.”

      Dalton has played twice before in London as the starter for the Cincinnati Bengals. They lost 24-10 to the Los Angeles Rams in 2019, three years after a 27-27 tie against Washington, then led by Cousins.

      “They're used to all the ties in soccer, so they didn't think anything of it,” he said of the nearly 85,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.

      Winston had been playing through a back injury but was held out of practice all week.

      “I don’t think his body responded quite the way we anticipated over the first couple of days,” Allen said.

      Earlier in the week, Winston said he was preparing to play against the Vikings.

      Winston has thrown for 858 yards with four TD passes and five interceptions in three games. He has completed 63.5% of his passes.

      Dalton stepped in to start nine games for the Cowboys in 2020 after Dallas starter Dak Prescott’s season-ending ankle injury in Week 5. Dalton completed 64.9% of his passes that season, throwing for 2,170 yards with 14 TDs and eight interceptions.

      Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell said his defense is ready to face Dalton.

      “When he’s played that much football, you don’t expect there to be any kind of nerves,” O’Connell said Friday. “We want to get off to a fast start defensively.”

      The Saints are Dalton’s fourth team in as many years after he spent his first nine seasons as a starter for the Bengals.

      Last year, Dalton appeared in eight games and made six starts for Chicago, completing 63.1% of his passes for 1,515 yards with eight touchdowns and nine interceptions.

      Running back Mark Ingram gave Dalton a shout-out Friday during the quarterback's news conference.

      Wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith said Dalton “looks comfortable ... so everything looks good from my point of view.”

      ___

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

      Indianapolis Colts
      9/29/22

      Statistics after 3 games

      COMP

      AVG

      TD

      INT

      PASSING

      ATT.

      COM

      PCT

      YARDS

      GAIN

      TD

      PCT

      INT

      PCT

      LONG

      RATE

      Ryan

      117

      75

      64.1

      769

      6.57

      3

      2.6

      4

      3.4

      39

      77.2

      TEAM

      117

      75

      64.1

      681

      6.57

      3

      2.6

      4

      3.4

      39

      77.2

      OPPONENTS

      103

      68

      66.0

      714

      7.16

      5

      4.9

      1

      1.0

      53

      99.0

      RUSHING

      ATT.

      YARDS

      AVG

      LONG

      TD

      Taylor

      61

      286

      4.7

      21

      1

      Ryan

      7

      16

      2.3

      10

      0

      Hines

      7

      11

      1.6

      7

      0

      Dulin

      1

      3

      3.0

      3

      0

      Jackson

      2

      -3

      -1.5

      1

      0

      TEAM

      78

      313

      4.0

      21

      1

      OPPONENTS

      88

      231

      2.6

      37t

      2

      RECEIVING

      NO.

      YARDS

      AVG

      LONG

      TD

      Pittman

      17

      193

      11.4

      28

      1

      Hines

      15

      110

      7.3

      19

      0

      Dulin

      9

      132

      14.7

      39

      0

      Taylor

      8

      43

      5.4

      9

      0

      Granson

      7

      43

      6.1

      12

      0

      Campbell

      5

      47

      9.4

      20

      0

      Alie-Cox

      4

      44

      11.0

      13

      0

      Pierce

      3

      61

      20.3

      30

      0

      Strachan

      3

      59

      19.7

      23

      0

      Patmon

      2

      24

      12.0

      17

      0

      Woods

      2

      13

      6.5

      12t

      2

      TEAM

      75

      769

      10.3

      39

      3

      OPPONENTS

      68

      737

      10.8

      53

      5

      INTERCEPTIONS

      NO.

      YARDS

      AVG

      LONG

      TD

      McLeod

      1

      0

      0.0

      0

      0

      TEAM

      1

      0

      0.0

      0

      0

      OPPONENTS

      4

      38

      9.5

      14

      0

      SACKS

      NO.

      Paye

      2.0

      Ngakoue

      1.0

      Speed

      1.0

      TEAM

      4.0

      OPPONENTS

      12.0

      GROSS

      NET

      IN

      PUNTING

      NO.

      YARDS

      AVG

      AVG

      20

      LONG

      BLK

      Haack

      12

      560

      46.7

      45.1

      8

      70

      0

      TEAM

      12

      560

      46.7

      45.1

      8

      70

      0

      OPPONENTS

      15

      716

      47.7

      41.9

      6

      65

      0

      PUNT RETURNS

      NO.

      FC

      YARDS

      AVG

      LONG

      TD

      Hines

      6

      0

      44

      7.3

      11

      0

      Coutee

      3

      0

      19

      6.3

      11

      0

      TEAM

      9

      0

      63

      7.0

      11

      0

      OPPONENTS

      4

      0

      19

      4.8

      12

      0

      KICKOFF RETURNS

      NO.

      YARDS

      AVG

      LONG

      TD

      Rodgers

      4

      100

      25.0

      31

      0

      Granson

      1

      15

      15.0

      15

      0

      TEAM

      5

      115

      23.0

      31

      0

      OPPONENTS

      5

      94

      18.8

      29

      0

      OFF.

      DEF.

      FUMBLES/RECOVERIES

      FUM

      REC.

      REC.

      Buckner

      0

      0

      1

      Coutee

      1

      0

      0

      Granson

      0

      0

      1

      Hines

      1

      1

      0

      Rodgers

      0

      1

      0

      Ryan

      7

      2

      0

      Smith

      0

      1

      0

      Taylor

      0

      1

      0

      TEAM

      9

      6

      2

      OPPONENTS

      3

      1

      2

      SCORE BY QUARTERS

      1

      2

      3

      4

      OT

      TOT

      TEAM

      10

      3

      3

      24

      0

      40

      OPPONENTS

      13

      28

      20

      0

      0

      61

      TOUCHDOWNS

      LONG

      SCORING

      TOT

      RUS

      REC

      RET

      XP

      XPA

      FG

      FGA

      FG

      SAF

      TOT

      Woods

      2

      0

      2

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      12

      Blankenship

      0

      0

      0

      0

      2

      2

      2

      3

      45

      0

      8

      McLaughlin

      0

      0

      0

      0

      2

      2

      2

      2

      51

      0

      8

      Pittman

      1

      0

      1

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      6

      Taylor

      1

      1

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      6

      TEAM

      4

      1

      3

      0

      4

      4

      4

      5

      51

      0

      36

      OPPONENTS

      7

      2

      5

      0

      5

      6

      4

      5

      52

      0

      54

      FIELD GOALS

      1-19

      20-29

      30-39

      40-49

      50+

      McLaughlin

      0/

      0

      0/

      0

      0/

      0

      1/

      1

      1/

      1

      Blankenship

      0/

      0

      1/

      1

      0/

      0

      1/

      2

      0/

      0

      TEAM

      0/

      0

      1/

      1

      0/

      0

      2/

      3

      1/

      1

      OPPONENTS

      0/

      0

      1/

      1

      0/

      1

      2/

      2

      1/

      1

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