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Pat Shurmur of New York Giants — No regrets for 2-point attempt in loss


ATLANTA — New York Giants coach Pat Shurmur had no regrets about his decision to go for a two-point conversion down eight points late in Monday night’s 23-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons or two straight failed quarterback sneak calls that cost them valuable seconds in the final minute.

The decision to go for two was a situation Shurmur said they discussed internally prior to the game. He went with the same approach used by Doug Pederson and the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago against the Minnesota Vikings.

“I just felt like, we’d discussed internally the math on that,” Shurmur said. “I felt like we had a good play, and I liked our two-point play selections, and we just didn’t quite get it done.”

Shurmur came into his postgame news conference ready to defend his decision. Pederson was also criticized after the Eagles lost to the Vikings but said the decision was backed by analytics.

The math backs up Pat Shurmur’s decision to go for two down eight points with less than five minutes to go. Going for it then gives Shurmur an informational advantage. If the Giants convert, then on their next touchdown they know they only need to kick a PAT to take the lead (assuming no other scores). If they fail, which they did, they have an opportunity to go for it again to tie. The long and short of it: converting once is much more likely than failing twice.

Seth Walder, ESPN Analytics5h ago

The Giants ended up failing on the first two-point conversation attempt and converting the second. It proved irrelevant because the Falcons kicked a field goal in between.

“I think it’s an aggressive approach,” Shurmur said. “I’m going to take myself back to the one game where we didn’t use timeouts before the halftime. I told you I’d never do that again and I think from a head coaching perspective I want to be aggressive for our guys.”

That’s what the players seemed to like. They had no problem with the decision.

Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dropped the difficult two-point conversion catch with 4:52 remaining.

“I like the call. I love being aggressive,” Beckham said. “I don’t know if I can be a coach because I’m going for it on fourth. We’re going for two. That’s why I’m not a coach. I like the call. I’m always going to ride with him. Wish I could’ve came up with it.”

There are analytics that backed up Shurmur’s decision.

“You increase your chances by 50 percent if you go for it and make it there, so that’s what you do,” Shurmur said. “Because then if you score a touchdown, we just kick the extra point and win. I felt good about the two-point play. You guys saw that, I think we got the ball in there, right? And we just didn’t connect on it.”

Maybe the more costly late-game decisions came with less than a minute left to play. Down 23-12, they had the ball at the Atlanta 1-yard line with 45 seconds remaining. That’s when Eli Manning ran a quarterback sneak and was stuffed on first down. Second down was a repeat as valuable time ticked off the clock.

The Giants were finally forced to throw on third down, when Manning connected with Odell Beckham for a touchdown with five seconds remaining. They converted the two-point conversion to make it 23-20, but without much time left.

“We got to get them in, right? We got to sneak it from the 1,” Shurmur said. “I don’t … again I just saw a mush pile there, so I don’t know why it didn’t work. But from the 1-yard line there, we got to get it in.”

Shurmur wouldn’t have preferred a pass in that situation to protect from getting stuffed and the clock ticking.

“No, that’s a defeatist deal,” he said. “You should be able to convert on a sneak. We’ve all seen him do that, and for whatever reasons we didn’t get it done.”

After years of not being asked to do quarterback sneaks under Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo, that has been a staple of the Giants’ offense this season. And they have been generally successful.

Manning was on board with the calls.

“We’ve been pretty good with the sneaks all year and, in that scenario just try to surprise them and just get that one yard with the sneak,” he said. “Obviously we just didn’t have success with it.”

The Giants (1-6) lost their fourth straight game and remain tied with the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals for the worst record in the NFL.



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Josh Rosen hurt late in Arizona Cardinals’ blowout loss, awaits evaluation


GLENDALE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Josh Rosen said his left toe injury is “fine” and that he was “just being soft” when he went down holding his left foot in the fourth quarter of the team’s 45-10 loss to the Denver Broncos on Thursday night.

Despite Rosen’s assurance that he’ll be OK, head coach Steve Wilks said he will wait to get the team trainer’s evaluation.

“He thinks he’s fine, but I’m not going to sit here and say that that may be the case,” Wilks said.

Wilks said that Rosen “probably” should not have been on the field so late in the blowout loss, but said he wanted Rosen to get certain defensive looks to help him “grow and mature within the offense.”

However, Wilks acknowledged that, looking back at the situation and with the game already lopsided, Rosen shouldn’t have been playing. But Rosen said any attempt to take him out would’ve been met with some resistance because he saw the same benefit to playing as Wilks did.

“If [Wilks] would’ve tried to pull me out, we would’ve definitely had to have a conversation about that one,” Rosen said.

Rosen threw three interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns in the first quarter. He became the first rookie in NFL history to throw two pick-sixes in the first quarter, according to Elias. He also fumbled the ball away twice on a rough night that began badly for him and never got better. He limped off the field after he was sacked for the sixth time, on a fourth-and-16 play near the end of the game.

“It wasn’t great,” Rosen said. “I’ll tell you that. I mean, we’ve got a lot to work on. A lot to work on. I mean, it’s a team game and I know my brothers have my back. I obviously didn’t play up to my standard or even close to it but that’s why you play another one next week.”

Rosen was open about trying to make plays when they might not have been there.

“I think it’s kind of like an old saying I got in college form one of my coaches: Don’t turn a car crash into a fatality,” Rosen said. “I think sometimes you just got to make the smart play and I can’t just toss it up there or, I even got lucky on some of the fumbles that weren’t fumbles and some that were.

“I just got to take care of the ball for the most part and I think that wat he biggest lesson I can take from the game.”

Rosen said the team has “a lot to learn, especially when we check out the tape.”

Wilks said the Cardinals’ effort in the game was “definitely embarrassing,” but he said it was “premature” to talk about changes either to the coaching staff or to the roster.

“Everybody’s going to be evaluated across the board,” Wilks said.

“When we were talking about changes, it could be personnel, it could players, whatever it may be. It could be scheme. When I say it could be premature, it’s premature to talk about that at this particular time without going through the evaluation.”

The Cardinals (1-6), down 35-3 at the half, fell to 0-4 at home for the first time since 1979.



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Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs take first loss in Mahomes’ 7 starts


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Patrick Mahomes played his worst half of the season in the first 30 minutes on Sunday night against the New England Patriots by throwing two interceptions that put the Kansas City Chiefs far behind.

He didn’t get rattled. He instead turned the game into a classic duel in his first showdown with New England’s Tom Brady.

“When you have the guys I have on this team with the weapons that I have,” Mahomes said, “I have to keep slinging it.”

That’s what Mahomes did. He threw four second-half touchdown passes, three to Tyreek Hill, in leading the Chiefs back from their 15-point halftime deficit.

Brady beat Mahomes in the end. The Patriots kicked a walk-off field goal to win 43-40.

Finally, Mahomes came across an opponent he couldn’t outscore. Brady and the Patriots got it done, though Mahomes made them work for it.

“He made a lot of big (throws),” Brady said. “Tough to slow those guys down. They’re going to be pretty tough to stop. So glad we had our last shot and glad we took advantage of it.

Mahomes and the Chiefs are 5-1 this season.They are 6-1 when Mahomes is their starting quarterback, counting the final regular season game against the Denver Broncos last year. In that game, Mahomes led the Chiefs to a walkoff field goal and a 27-24 victory.

The game didn’t start off well for Mahomes. He put the Chiefs in bad spots in the first half for the first time with his two interceptions. One put the Patriots on the Kansas City 4 and they took advantage of the favorable field position for a touchdown.

The other, in the red zone near the end of the second quarter, cost the Chiefs at least three points.

I missed some throws,” Mahomes said. “That happens in this league. But whenever you’re playing good football teams you can’t miss those throws. We left some points out there.”

But he kept firing and was rewarded with the four touchdown passes, including one of 67 yards to Kareem Hunt and another of 75 yards to Hill.

“We just starting hitting on throws that I was missing earlier,” Hunt said. “I feel like we moved the ball well the entire night. We just have to find ways to score in the red zone. The last two weeks it just seems like we can’t punch it in there and I feel like in the second half we finally started getting it in the end zone.”

Brady and Mahomes wished each other well at midfield after Stephen Gostkowski‘s 28-yard field goal decided the game. The game might have only been the opening chapter of their rivalry.

“He gave me congrats on playing a good game and of course I did the same to him,” Mahomes said. “I just kind of told him good luck for the rest of this season. We’re going to go out there and hopefully we can keep playing and hopefully we might be able to see him again.”



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Jaguars reeling after second consecutive blowout loss – Jacksonville Jaguars Blog


ARLINGTON, Texas – Two weeks ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars looked every bit a championship contender.

They won on the road to open the season and sandwiched blowout victories over the Patriots and Jets around a home loss to the Titans. They did most of that without their best offensive player and got big-time performances from their quarterback.

That has all fallen apart the last two games – the latest being Sunday’s 40-7 loss to Dallas at AT&T Stadium — and now a team that many thought would play in the Super Bowl may find itself on the outside of the AFC South race if things don’t turn around quickly.

“The only thing we can do is bounce back,” defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. “It’s the NFL. It’s hard to win here. At the end of the day, if we want to be where we want to be in January or February – hell, December – we need to start working now, just get it together.”

The Jaguars were in this situation last year, too. They also had a 3-3 record after six games but this feels … worse. Much, much worse.

Maybe it’s because there were no expectations on this team last season, and there was no sense in October that the Jaguars would be 10 minutes away from the Super Bowl three months later. After what the franchise had put on the field the past decade, being .500 that deep into the season felt like progress.

That was an optimistic 3-3. This year’s 3-3 feels like a disaster, especially since Sunday’s dud followed a 30-14 loss to Kansas City last week.

That’s definitely what it was on Sunday against the Cowboys. On both sides of the ball.

The offense had just 204 yards and 10 first downs, gave up three sacks, turned the ball over twice (an interception by Blake Bortles and a fumble by Keelan Cole), and never made a trip into the red zone. The defense gave up 206 yards rushing (Ezekiel Elliott had 106 and a touchdown) and QB Dak Prescott pretty much did whatever he wanted (82 yards and a TD rushing and 183 yards and two TDs passing).

Cole Beasley – Cole Beasley! — decimated the Jaguars secondary. He tied a career high with nine catches and his 101 yards receiving marked just the second time in his 93-game career that he surpassed 100 yards.

Even the special teams had problems. The Jaguars had a 12-men-on-the-field penalty that wiped out a Cowboys punt. It extended a drive that ended up lasting 16 plays and ended with Beasley’s second touchdown catch late in the first half.

Yet despite the second consecutive poor performance – the Jaguars were beaten 30-14 in Kansas City last weekend – there doesn’t seem to be any panic or desperation in the Jaguars locker room. The season might be starting to slip through their fingers but nobody is worried.

“I said that at the beginning of the season when you believe so much in this room and the group of guys that you’re around … we’ll let y’all have the doubt,” linebacker Telvin Smith said. “We’ll let y’all have the doubt. We’re fine. We’re fine.

That is either putting on a brave face, whistling in the dark, or flat out denial, because the Jaguars are NOT fine.

The offense is borderline dysfunctional. Injuries have a lot to do with it: Leonard Fournette (hamstring), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (core muscle) and Corey Grant (foot) are players that would certainly help. Being on their third-string left tackle (Josh Walker) because the first two are on IR isn’t ideal, either.

It seems like everything has to go perfectly for a play to work. It’s not just one area that breaks down, either. Bortles is erratic, makes the wrong read, forces a pass, and/or gets intercepted. The run- and pass-blocking is poor and guys miss assignments. Receivers aren’t getting open. Drops. Fumbles. The play-calling is at times puzzling (an end-around to tight end Niles Paul on second-and-4?).

Some combination of all that seems to be happening on every play.

There are numerous communication breakdowns in the secondary, which shouldn’t be happening since it’s the same group of players and same coordinator from last season’s elite unit. The Jaguars sacked Prescott three times but didn’t get consistent pressure and he did major damage outside the pocket all afternoon.

They didn’t force a single turnover against the Cowboys and have forced just five this season. Sacks and turnovers were what fueled the defense in 2017 and made it one of the NFL’s best.

“We ain’t playing like it,” cornerback Jalen Ramsey said.

The Jaguars aren’t doing much well right now. That has to change or they won’t remain in the AFC South race much longer.



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Odell Beckham walks into locker room before halftime in Giants’ loss


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. walked off the field and into the locker room before the final play of the first half in a 34-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night. He did not return to the sideline until after the opening kickoff of the second half.

The Giants and Beckham said he needed an IV for the second time in three games.

“I was cramping, so I was trying to get an IV,” Beckham said. “The halftime break is really only five or 10 minutes. If I can use a couple of extra seconds to go and get an IV and come out, that’s really all it was.”

There were two seconds left in the first half and the Giants were trailing 24-6 when Beckham strutted into the tunnel. He didn’t appear happy. The Giants ran one final play before halftime with their offense on the field.

Beckham was nowhere to be seen when Sterling Shepard caught a desperation 20-yard pass on the final play of the half. Two weeks ago, Beckham left early in a loss to the New Orleans Saints to get an IV. He returned in that game for the start of the second half.

“He had an IV. Just dehydrated again,” coach Pat Shurmur said.

When asked if he could’ve stayed on the field, Shurmur only added: “He went back to the locker room.”

It all seems to be spiraling out of control once again for Beckham and the Giants, who at 1-5 own the worst record in the NFL.

ESPN confirmed a Fox Sports report Thursday that the team fined Beckham for comments he made in an interview last week with ESPN’s Josina Anderson and Lil Wayne.

Shurmur wasn’t happy that his star receiver spoke candidly about being unsure if the Giants’ offensive problems were related to quarterback Eli Manning and that he didn’t feel as if the Giants were using him in a way that maximized his abilities.

Beckham later said that he didn’t regret his comments, saying that he felt his words helped the Giants “come together as a team” in last week’s loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Beckham had two catches on four targets for 12 yards in the first half Thursday night, as the Giants’ offense was a discombobulated mess. Quarterback Eli Manning was 10-of-23 passing for 163 yards with an interception as the Giants managed only two field goals in the opening 30 minutes.

But Manning was just 1-of-10 on passes of three or more air yards in the first half, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He had at least five passes that came close to being intercepted before halftime.

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Odell Beckham Jr. continues to express his frustrations on the sidelines as he head-butts a cooling fan.

The Giants were clearly frustrated, from their quarterback to their receivers to their coach. Manning at one point showed a rare display of emotion when he yelled at running back Wayne Gallman after a miscommunication between the two on a second-quarter play.

Shurmur was even caught on camera in the second quarter appearing to say, “Throw the ball!” after Manning dumped a second-and-long pass to Cody Latimer in the flat. Manning then dumped a third-and-long pass well short of the first-down marker before the Giants punted.

The frustration spilled into the second half, when Beckham banged his head and threw light jabs at a fan on the sideline. He needed to be calmed by rookie running back Saquon Barkley, who had just run for a 50-yard touchdown to make it 31-13 in favor of the Eagles.

“I was trying to get myself going,” Beckham said. “I feel like some of those plays right after I was getting myself going was some of my best stuff. I was trying to get myself fired up. I did that, and it helped me. There was a lot of things that had me fired up. Like I said, it helped me bring out the energy — I don’t know a way around it but to get myself going.”

Barkley, who finished with 130 yards rushing and 99 receiving, was the Giants’ lone positive from the disappointing effort. He had two 40-plus-yard runs and 229 total yards. The Giants had only two 40-plus-yard runs from 2015 to ’17.

Beckham had six catches on 10 targets for 44 yards.

There was optimism with the Giants’ offense heading into Thursday night’s game. It had scored 30 points for the first time since the final week of the 2015 season Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

Beckham said earlier in the week this was their opportunity to “reshape the season.” No NFC East team is above .500.

But instead of reshaping it into a positive, it only got worse for the Giants.



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After ugly loss to Saints, Washington Redskins face crucial week ahead – Washington Redskins Blog


NEW ORLEANS — The Washington Redskins went into their Monday night game against the New Orleans Saints with good vibes and an upbeat attitude. There was a quiet confidence.

They exited the 43-19 loss to New Orleans in silence, with a much different vibe, one that suggests this week and their next game against Carolina has turned into a crucial one for the franchise.

“Our whole team played poorly,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “That’s a reflection of myself. I think everybody in that locker room, hopefully, will say that they have to play better. I absolutely understand that coaches on this staff have to coach better.”

It’s not just about winning and contending in an NFC East that doesn’t look quite as tough as everyone thought it would be this season. At 2-2, the Redskins are in first place in the division, but with 12 games left, that’s meaningless. It’s about letting everyone know what’s acceptable. And their showing was anything but, coming off a bye, this is what they produced. It’s about continuing patterns for way too long for a starved fan base. Win games, get hopes up, suffer ugly loss.

It’s hard to imagine or remember a worse loss in the coach Jay Gruden era; not just by margin of victory, but for the team’s utter incompetence. They botched coverages — this continues a trend that shows no signs of ending — that led to two pass plays of at least 46 yards. They didn’t even throw to their best target, tight end Jordan Reed, until 5 minutes, 27 seconds remained in the third quarter. They committed dumb penalties — safety Montae Nicholson shoved a Saints player after a Ryan Kerrigan sack that would have forced a punt. Instead, it extended a drive that resulted in a touchdown.

After the drive, second-year defensive end Jonathan Allen was apparently getting on his teammates, letting him know their play was unacceptable. It’s great that a second-year guy did this; there needs to be a lot more of it from everyone in the organization, from coaches on down. If there aren’t enough players and coaches tired of the inconsistency, the breakdowns and losses will continue.

Quarterback Alex Smith was shaky all night, getting hit too often and not looking comfortable when he wasn’t being pressured. He missed open targets; he threw short of others. The coaching clearly wasn’t good enough, either. On a night when Drew Brees set the all-time record for passing yards, the Redskins were outclassed in every respect.

It doesn’t help the Redskins fan base that former quarterback Kirk Cousins has played well for Minnesota and former offensive coordinator Sean McVay is 5-0 with the Los Angeles Rams.

Meanwhile, cornerback Josh Norman — the highest paid player at his position — was benched to open the second half. Norman allowed a touchdown pass of 62 yards late in the first half when he appeared to be playing Cover 2 while the other defensive backs were in Cover 3, which would have had him covering deep. Two weeks ago against Green Bay, Norman did not play a quarters coverage properly, leading to another long score.

Monday, Norman was on the bench for the first series — only to watch rookie replacement Greg Stroman allow a 35-yard touchdown pass.

“There was an issue there,” Gruden said of Norman’s play late in the first half. “That’s one of the issues we’re talking about and that’s something that we have to get corrected. That can’t happen in pro football. You don’t see that happen in pro football. We’re together too long. We run the same coverage for too many times. We’ve got to coach that better. We’ve got to make sure that never happens again. That’s an absolute embarrassment.”

Norman said, “Coverage, man. We was blowing it all night. … As a fiery competitor you never want to come off, but whatever. I’ll roll with that because that’s the chain of command. He’s in charge. … End of the day I respect the head man and I’ve got to honor that and truly buy into what he wants.”

The Redskins finished the first quarter of the season with a 2-2 record. In this league, what looks true one week doesn’t always play out that way the next. The Redskins lost 44-16 in 2015 to Carolina only to win the following week — and eventually capture the NFC East. But it’ll be hard to shake the stink from this one; it’s probably good the Redskins have a short week.

The Redskins are 14-6-1 after a loss under Gruden. Washington has been resilient under him and that trait must reveal itself once more.

“It’s on to the next,” Redskins running back Adrian Peterson said. “This game doesn’t define our season. We just completed our first quarter of the season 2-2. It’s not bad at all. We’ll lick our wounds. … This is part of the NFL. It’s all about how you bounce back from adversity.”



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Jay Ajayi questions Eagles’ lack of running game in loss


PHILADELPHIA — Eagles running back Jay Ajayi was puzzled by the decision to not lean on the ground game, particularly early, in Sunday’s 23-21 loss to the Minnesota Vikings which dropped the defending champs to 2-3 on the season.

“Obviously we want to be able to run the ball early and start that rhythm early in the beginning of the game. If I remember correctly we had maybe three carries at the end of the first quarter,” he told reporters afterwards.

“With the offensive line we have on this team, running the ball like that, that doesn’t make sense to me.”

Ajayi, who is playing with a transverse fracture in his back, didn’t receive his first carry until the second quarter, and the Eagles called just four meaningful runs over the first half while falling behind 17-3.

Coach Doug Pederson ended up calling 35 pass plays to 17 runs despite the backs averaging close to five yards per carry on the ground.

It was a similar story last week, with the Eagles dialing up 50 passes to 22 rushes (5.3 yards per attempt) in a 26-23 loss to the Titans. The Eagles have been short-handed at the running back position with both Darren Sproles (hamstring) and Corey Clement (quad) hampered by injuries.

Quarterback Carson Wentz has been averaging 41 dropbacks per game since returning from multi-ligament knee surgery in Week 3, and has taken his share of punishment. He has been sacked 12 times and absorbed 27 QB hits in three games of work this season.

The offensive line has not been as reliable as expected in pass protection, and there are times when Wentz is holding the ball too long.

“Obviously, you want to eliminate as many as you can, reduce the number of hits,” Pederson said. “Active quarterback, you know he’s going to move and made some great plays [Sunday] with his legs and found some holes to run and to throw out of.”

The Eagles went run-heavy to start the second half against Minnesota and found immediate success, but Ajayi fumbled at the Vikings five-yard line to squander the opportunity.

“I can’t do that,” Ajayi said. “I pride myself on being elite. I want to be elite. I want to be the best. You can’t do that when your team is counting on you.”



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Denver Broncos say referees acknowledged key missed play-clock call in loss


DENVER — The Denver Broncos believe time ran out on the Kansas City Chiefs on a pivotal play in Kansas City’s game-winning drive Monday night.

“It definitely was at zero, the replay showed that,” Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall said. “The ref told us that the ref that was supposed to be watching it just missed it. … He told us that, the ref told us the guy that was supposed to be watching the clock just missed it.

“So maybe he got caught up in watching the game because it was a good game, but you’ve got to do your job. Come on, that was huge. That was big.”

The Chiefs overcame a 10-point Broncos lead in the fourth quarter with back-to-back touchdown drives in the final 12 minutes, 46 seconds in a 27-23 victory. Kansas City scored the game-winning touchdown on a 4-yard run by Kareem Hunt with 1:43 to play.

However, four plays before the scoring run, the Broncos say the play clock ran out on the Chiefs on what was a 35-yard completion from Patrick Mahomes to tight end Demetrius Harris on a third-and-7. The play moved the ball from the Broncos’ 46-yard line to the 11-yard line just before the two-minute warning.

Replays, including those shown on the stadium’s video boards, seemed to show the play clock was at zero before the ball had been snapped.

“My opinion, the clock was on zero,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “But that’s not my job. … And he said he looked up and it was zero and the ball was gone. I disagree. I disagree.”

Marshall said he and several other Broncos players, including several of the team’s defensive linemen, were told by referee Craig Worlstad that officials had missed the play.

Asked again if it was the referee — Worlstad — who told the players that, Marshall said “he told us. There are several guys that will vouch for that. … We all heard him, that was the explanation, that he just missed it. Come on.”

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said that was the explanation he received as well. Harris added that he asked the officials to review the play with replay and was told it was not a reviewable play under the current rules.

“That was crazy, man,” Harris said. “It was zero seconds on the clock, forever. … [You] can’t review it, I asked everything. If a ref messed up on a call, you should be able to fix it. Dude, look how long the clock was on zero. That’s not why we lost the game — but that was a huge, huge, no-call.”



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Ben Roethlisberger takes blame in Pittsburgh Steelers loss


PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger was blunt about his struggles in Sunday night’s 26-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

“I’m not on the same page with anybody right now,” the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said when asked whether he’s on the same page with star receiver Antonio Brown.

Roethlisberger finished with 274 yards on 27-of-47 passing with one touchdown and an interception, but 50 of those yards came in the second half as the Ravens pulled away.

The Steelers (1-2-1) were 2-of-12 on third downs. Roethlisberger targeted Brown (5 catches, 62 yards, 1 TD) on four of those attempts in the second half, but the duo couldn’t connect. The low moment came with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter, when Roethlisberger, throwing off his back foot, tossed into double coverage for an interception.

“I’m not playing well enough,” he said. “I need to play better. Today was just a bad day at the office. I promise I’ll be back to play better.”

Roethlisberger’s 1,140 yards through Pittsburgh’s first three games were the most of his career to start a season. But with a struggling running game without Le’Veon Bell, Roethlisberger’s arm must carry the offense. Fourth receiver Ryan Switzer had a team-high seven catches vs. Baltimore.

Brown was brief with reporters on his way out of the locker room, noting the Steelers must find a way to stay on the field. The offense held the ball for 2 minutes, 40 seconds in the fourth quarter.

“We gotta make it happen,” Brown said.

Roethlisberger pointed the blame directly at himself for that, repeating at least four times that he had to be better.

“I let the guys down,” he said.



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Pittsburgh Steelers in near panic mode after loss to Baltimore Ravens – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog


PITTSBURGH — Not even prime time can save these Pittsburgh Steelers, though Sunday’s loss cuts deeper than some meaningless stat.

The Steelers, previously winners of 10 straight night games before the Baltimore Ravens26-14 pounding, are a team without much of an identity beyond a few good drives here or there.

They can’t get enough stops, they can’t run the ball consistently enough and the flair of the past few years is hidden somewhere in the Heinz Field turf.

What exactly is this team about? That’s hard to know when the answers are sporadic from week to week.

Players offered well-worn themes such as lack of execution and inability to finish before departing the locker room. Meanwhile, the Steelers triumvirate — coach Mike Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert, president Art Rooney II — huddled for several minutes to process the aftermath.

“We have to be honest about what we’re doing,” defensive end and team captain Cameron Heyward said. “That’s the only way this ship is going to right itself.”

The Steelers’ disastrous starts at home are becoming more standard than aberration.

These numbers are numbing: In the past three home games, the Steelers have spotted opponents a combined 56-0 lead.

The Steelers largely played the Ravens to a draw for much of the game, but that doesn’t matter when it’s 14-0 seven minutes in.

To no surprise, the Steelers have lost three consecutive home games for the first time since 2012.

The defense has been shaky enough to the point that forcing the Ravens into four punts over 60 minutes was a mild surprise. A goal-line forced fumble by Sean Davis was a bright spot, and the team put together a few third-down stops.

But so many plays were emblematic of a unit that can’t rediscover its glorified past. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Steelers had the Ravens first-and-18 at midfield and gave up a first down on two simple dump-offs and a sea of missed tackles.

These are crippling plays that will plague them all year unless something — namely, an uptick in sacks and turnovers — changes.

“We need more splash plays,” linebacker Vince Williams said.

The reality is the Steelers’ offense is starting to miss Le’Veon Bell. James Conner has done some nice things but was averaging 3.9 yards per carry before his 19 yards on nine carries Sunday night lowered that figure further.

That forces Ben Roethlisberger (27-of-46, 274 yards, one touchdown, one interception) to keep defenses honest almost entirely with his arm, which works sometimes but probably isn’t sustainable.

Roethlisberger’s throw off his back foot with 2:22 left into the area of two Ravens defenders fell gently into the hands of Ravens corner Anthony Levine because it had no juice behind it.

The Steelers’ early offensive strategy was a sound one: Use Antonio Brown on deeper routes to draw the safety and loosen up the middle. That explains why fourth receiver Ryan Switzer caught seven passes and tight end Vance McDonald added 62 yards.

But when the Steelers needed big third-down plays in the second half, Roethlisberger and Brown were clearly off on their timing despite having a few opportunities to thread the ball. Usually, that deep out route to the sideline is money for them. Not right now.

The Steelers failed to convert 10 of 12 third downs compared to the Ravens hovering around 50 percent in that area for much of the game. In the fourth quarter, the Steelers held the ball for two minutes, 40 seconds. Oof.

“It’s bad for our fans,” guard David DeCastro said. “To come out and have us play like that, it sucks.”

Couple all that with coach Mike Tomlin’s botched challenge over a Ravens third-down conversion and McDonald’s costly first-quarter fumble, and that’s how games are lost.

A third straight AFC North title is starting to slip away. The Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns are all better.

The season might be salvageable, but not the way the Steelers are currently playing — especially with Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons coming to Pittsburgh in Week 5.

Heyward challenged his team to win the next four divisional games. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger tried to provide perspective.

“We are only a quarter of the way through the season,” Roethlisberger said. “We have a long way to go.”



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