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Mike McCarthy punted on Packers’ chance for ‘galvanizing moment’ – Green Bay Packers Blog


SEATTLE — It would have been bold — one of the most daring decisions of his 13-year coaching tenure — but Mike McCarthy stared the moment in the face, pondered it and then punted.

The Green Bay Packers coach decided to give the ball back to the Seattle Seahawks with four minutes and 20 seconds left on Thursday night at CenturyLink Field. In his mind, one timeout plus the two-minute warning with a depleted defense gave his team a better chance to win than going for it on fourth-and-2 from his own 33-yard line.

His reasoning: “We played the numbers.”

Those numbers came up: Seattle 27, Green Bay 24.

The scoreboard read the same when McCarthy’s quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, inexplicably threw the ball into the turf, well short of receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling on third-and-2. It was one of the worst throws Rodgers has ever made and he was under pressure often (he was sacked five times), but he did throw for 332 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-30 passing and had a hot receiver in Davante Adams (10 catches for 166 yards).

By now, everyone knows that the Packers’ defense — already without two starters in the secondary, Kevin King and Kentrell Brice, plus starting outside linebacker Nick Perry and ravaged by in-game injuries to Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, Bashaud Breeland and Raven Greene — allowed the Seahawks to run out those last 260 seconds to keep the Packers winless in five road games and 4-5-1 overall.

Afterward, Rodgers obligatorily said there’s still hope for this season but in the next breath said “it’s going to take one galvanizing moment” to turn it around.

A game-winning drive sparked by a bold fourth-down call could have been that moment.

“If we had gotten the first down,” Rodgers said. “If not, then it’s a short field, and we’ve got to hold them to three and we’re kind of in the same situation.”

Even Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he was “a little relieved” when McCarthy sent his punt team on the field at that moment.

“I really did like that they punted the ball back to us right there,” Carroll said.

Not long after Rodgers and McCarthy completed their post-game podium interviews, veteran defensive back Tramon Williams — the last player in the locker room — spoke of ways to save a sinking season.

Though the question to Williams made no mention of the fourth-down decision, it’s worth wondering if his answer spoke to the feeling in the locker room about McCarthy’s call.

“When we’re in games like this, we gotta go for it, man,” Williams said. “We play to win, you know? We play to win. We’ve got the best quarterback behind center. We played well throughout the game on the defensive side of the field. We’ve gotta play to win. We’ve been in too many close games and not come out on that side. That’s not a good feeling right now.”

When asked if punting with 4:20 left in a three-point game is playing to win, Williams said: “You tell me.”

To Williams, there’s only one way out of this, only one way to save their season.

“We’ve got to win; that’s the only thing,” he said.

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Mike McCarthy says Green Bay fought hard but it still has to figure out how to win on the road.

The question, however, is how?

“You’ve got to ask the people calling the shots,” Williams said. “We’re going out there, we’re playing hard, we’re just coming up short. Whatever that takes, we’ve got to get it done. We felt like we should’ve gotten it done tonight. Felt like we should’ve got it done in those other games. We just haven’t. So if we had that answer we would’ve won already.”

There’s time, of course. A win next Sunday night at Minnesota would be a solid start leading into five winnable games to close the season.

But even McCarthy stopped himself when he started to say there’s a lot of football left.

“There’s enough football,” he said.

This season, however, might not provide many moments that could have been more galvanizing than a game-winning drive fueled by a bold fourth-down call from an aggressive head coach.

“I think there’s been opportunities,” Rodgers said. “There can be galvanizing moments when you capitalize on them. We had some today. Jimmy [Graham] talked to us before the game and other guys were speaking up and talking. The first play of the game, we make a fumble and we go down there and [take an early lead]. We had many moments that could have been used as moments to gravitate toward, ‘This is what it looks like. This is what it feels like. This is what we should be doing. This is how we should be playing.’

“But when you lose, all of that gets wiped away because you’ve got to move on to the next situation and hope that something sticks with somebody that can bring us together moving in the right direction.”



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Mutual respect binds coaches Bill Belichick and Mike McCarthy – New England Patriots Blog


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — In his 19 years as New England Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick has had a small number of notable postgame handshakes. The one with Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy at Lambeau Field in 2014 is definitely among them.

His extended postgame chat and desire to share his thoughts with an opposing coach was a decisive show of his respect for McCarthy, which he later added context to when he said a few years later, “Mike’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever gone up against.”

Belichick truly seemed to appreciate the challenge that McCarthy presented at the highest level of competition, with McCarthy explaining that day that Belichick was “very gracious” in his remarks.

Now, for the first time since that game, the two coaches will square off again.

“Stating the obvious, he’s the best in football, for a number of reasons,” McCarthy said this week when asked about Belichick. “I think not only do they challenge you schematically week to week, [it’s] how their research and development and game-planning process is put together. They’re going to challenge [you].

“We like to feel we do the same, but the thing I’ve always admired is the consistency and the fundamentals, the techniques, and their discipline in situational football. You don’t ever see his teams beat themselves.”

Belichick is currently the NFL’s longest tenured head coach with the same team (now in his 19th season with the Patriots), while McCarthy is tied for the third-longest tenure, 13 years, along with the Saints’ Sean Payton. The Bengals’ Marvin Lewis is second, at 16 years.

“Coach McCarthy does a great job with this team, this organization,” Belichick said as the team’s preparations to face the Packers shifted into high gear. “It’s one of the great organizations in all of sports, certainly in the National Football League. I have a ton of respect for the way they’re run, what they do, how they do it, and how consistently they’ve done it.”

What made the 2014 game between Belichick’s Patriots and McCarthy’s Packers so unique was New England’s unconventional defensive approach. Intent on not allowing quarterback Aaron Rodgers to extend plays by breaking the pocket, Belichick had his defenders sink at the line of scrimmage and essentially mirror Rodgers.

That often gave Rodgers extended time to throw — during one play he held the ball for more than 10 seconds — and forced cornerbacks to cover longer by using a “plaster” technique of mirroring pass-catchers. Rodgers, who led the Packers to a 26-21 victory, noted that it was a different approach compared to what he usually saw.

What unique twist will both coaches come up Sunday night?

A Belichick-McCarthy matchup — bound by mutual respect — adds to the intrigue of one of the NFL’s most highly anticipated games of the season.



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Mike Maccagnan — New York Jets not sacrificing wins to develop Sam Darnold


FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — General manager Mike Maccagnan acknowledged Thursday the New York Jets‘ offense might be functioning better with an experienced quarterback, but refused to say the team is sacrificing wins to develop Sam Darnold.

“I don’t know if you go in with the mindset of, ‘Hey, we’re just going to write this one off,'” he said. “We’re like everybody else: We want to win football games. … It’s not enjoyable to go out and lose games every week.

“I think anybody who has gone through that, or is currently going through that, it’s not a great experience. That’s not what we get paid to do. But I do think that you’re going to have to go through that maturation process at some point in time with the quarterback.”

Shortly before his midseason sitdown with reporters, Maccagnan looked out his second-floor window at the team’s training facility and noticed the first player on the practice field was Darnold. Maccagnan later shared the anecdote, painting the rookie as having the intangibles of a future franchise quarterback.

The Jets (3-5), losers of two straight, are ranked 29th in total offense and 19th in scoring offense. Darnold is tied for the league lead in interceptions, but he also has displayed a lot of promise.

“When you look at him from kind of his approach to the game, his work ethic … it’s something we knew coming in, but obviously watching him kind of handle that situation, handle the locker room, how he approaches it, his passion to be good and his competitiveness, that’s been a really big positive for him,” said Maccagnan, who drafted Darnold third overall after trading up.

The Jets have veteran Josh McCown on the bench, but they decided to go into the season with Darnold as their starter. The former USC star has taken every snap. Like the rest of the team, he’s prone to bouts of inconsistency.

Maccagnan, known for his measured approach in public, lamented the team’s up-and-down nature, but he refused to say it would be a disappointment if they fail to make the playoffs.

The Jets haven’t reached the postseason since 2010 and they’re 3-5 for the third straight season — all under Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles. The Bowles-Maccagnan regime, installed in 2015, is 23-33. Both men received contract extensions after last season; they’re under contract through 2020.

The GM, noting the team will have a league-high $100 million in projected cap space in 2019, expressed hope that next season could be a breakthrough.

“Yeah, I think we have a lot of things in place,” Maccagnan said. “With a successful offseason, we can actually put ourselves in a position where I think — with the cap space, cash, free agency and draft picks — we could be in a position to really springboard this thing forward.”



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Arizona Cardinals fire offensive coordinator Mike McCoy


TEMPE, Ariz. — Mike McCoy was fired by the Arizona Cardinals on Friday morning, the second straight year he has been relieved of his duties as offensive coordinator in the middle of the season.

He will be replaced by quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich, the team announced Friday.

The Cardinals (1-6) made the move hours after losing 45-10 in prime time to the Denver Broncos, the team that fired McCoy after Week 11 in 2017.

Under McCoy’s direction, the Cardinals’ offense was among the worst in the NFL — and in some categories it was the worst. Arizona did not gain 300 yards in any of its seven games this season and did not boast a 100-yard rusher.

The offense was ranked last in 15 categories heading into Week 4 and has gotten slightly better. Heading into Week 7, the offense was last in yards per game, first downs per game, third-down conversions, third-down conversion percentage, red zone dives and time of possession; 31st in points, receiving yards per game, net yards per pass attempt and offensive efficiency; 30th in point margin; and 27th in interceptions per pass attempt and red zone touchdowns.



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Mike McCoy’s days as Cardinals OC likely numbered – Arizona Cardinals Blog


GLENDALE, Ariz. — Thursday night was supposed to be different for the Arizona Cardinals.

The plan was to speed up the offense, use more no-huddle.

Nothing changed. Nothing worked.

The Cardinals fell to 1-6 after an embarrassing 45-10 loss to the Denver Broncos in prime time.

And, the offense isn’t just bad. It’s abysmal. They had just 83 yards at halftime, and finished a sixth straight game with less than 300 yards (223).

That said, Mike McCoy’s time as Cardinals offensive coordinator should come to an end.

Consider:

  • Quarterback Josh Rosen threw two pick-sixes in the first quarter, becoming the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to accomplish the feat. He finished with five turnovers, with another interception and two fumbles.

  • The run game was almost nonexistent, in part because the Cardinals trailed 14-0 early. But also because McCoy’s playcalling has consistently showed a lack of creativity. Heading into Thursday, 48.7 percent of the Cardinals runs were up the middle.

  • The Cardinals are averaging 220.9 total yards per game this season, the fewest by any team through seven games since the 2009 Raiders, who also averaged 220.9 with JaMarcus Russell at quarterback.

At one point Sunday, the Cardinals were 0-for-7 on third down, extending their streak of third down failures to 18 straight, which dated back to the end of Arizona’s Week 5 win over the 49ers.

Firing McCoy has as much to do with the future than the Cardinals’ offensive ineptitude in the past.

There were times, in between the interceptions, that Josh Rosen showed flashes. There was his pass to Larry Fitzgerald in the first half that was thrown only where Fitzgerald could catch it. There was his 14-yard run on a broken play that moved the Cardinals into the red zone.

But Rosen needs grooming. That isn’t coming from McCoy, despite his success with the likes of Peyton Manning in Denver and Philip Rivers in San Diego.

The Cardinals have their quarterback of the future but if he continues to be coached by McCoy, his future is murky at best.

Heading into Week 7, the offense was ranked last in yards per game, first downs per game, third down conversions, third down conversion percentage, red zone dives and time of possession.

McCoy, who was fired by the Broncos after Week 11 last season, had the 31st ranked offensive efficiency last season and 31st this season, heading into Thursday night. In 2016, the Chargers were ranked 17th in offensive efficiency but McCoy was the head coach while Ken Whisenhunt called plays.



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Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin fined $25K for criticizing officials


Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was fined $25,000 by the NFL on Wednesday for criticizing the officiating after his team’s 41-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, a source confirmed to ESPN.

Tomlin, a member of the NFL’s competition committee, had said on Tuesday he did not expect to be fined.

Asked about linebacker Bud Dupree‘s two face mask penalties in Sunday’s game, Tomlin said the calls looked legitimate, then hinted many more were not.

“But some of the other stuff, man, is a joke,” Tomlin said. “We gotta get better as a National Football League. Man, these penalties are costing people games and jobs. We gotta get ’em correct. And so I’m pissed about it, to be quite honest with you. But that’s all I’m gonna say on it.”

Sunday’s contest featured 14 penalties. Steelers linebackers T.J. Watt and Jon Bostic received flags for trying to make plays on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

The news of Tomlin’s fine was first reported by USA Today Sports.



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Can Calvin Ridley, Mike Williams, Tyler Boyd keep this up? – NFL Nation


If you’ve been relying on the waiver wire to find receiver depth, you’ve been in luck this month with so many new fantasy options busting out.

Receivers Tyler Boyd and Calvin Ridley are the two most added players in ESPN leagues this week, joining a group of other recent revelations such as Kenny Golladay, Mike Williams, John Brown, Chris Godwin and Geronimo Allison.

But can you trust them in your starting lineups?

We asked our ESPN NFL Nation reporters just how much confidence they have in these guys to keep this up:

Boyd. Boyd’s six catches for 91 yards and a touchdown in Week 2 raised eyebrows. So what did he do for an encore? Six catches for 132 yards and a TD in Week 3.

ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter Katherine Terrell deserves credit for recommending the third-year pro ahead of the more hyped John Ross for fantasy purposes this summer, because she felt Boyd would be so heavily involved as a slot receiver. So she expects that involvement to continue, especially with Ross struggling.

“Boyd has become the second most reliable target on the team after A.J. Green,” Terrell said. “He’s a mainstay in the team’s three-receiver sets and plays both in the slot and outside. He’s earned the trust of the team after a difficult season last year and is now a key part of the offense.”

Ridley. Fantasy owners can’t expect the Atlanta Falcons rookie to approach 146 yards and three touchdowns on a weekly basis. His breakout performance in Week 3 had a lot to do with the New Orleans Saints‘ struggles in the secondary — and Matt Ryan‘s wise decision to relentlessly attack New Orleans’ No. 2 and 3 corners while the Saints focused so much on stopping Julio Jones.

However, ESPN Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure said defenses will always have to worry about Jones, not to mention physical receiver Mohamed Sanu and the dangerous running back tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. So Ridley should still see plenty of one-on-one matchups against No. 2 corners.

“Definitely fantasy owners should have confidence in Ridley, because he’s only going to get better with more seasoning, and the Falcons have too many weapons for defenses to key on one player,” said McClure, who wrote an in-depth story on Ridley’s emergence.

Said Ryan: “He creates unbelievable separation. His acceleration out of cuts is really good. His patience for a young receiver vs. man-to-man coverage, knowing how to win and the timing of the play, all of that stuff usually takes a lot of time to learn. And he just does it very naturally.”

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Matthew Berry breaks down his top five wide receivers, including Tyler Boyd and Calvin Ridley, to consider grabbing off the waiver wire in Week 4.

Williams. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has been living up to his potential as a go-to target in the end zone with three touchdowns over the past two weeks. And ESPN Los Angeles Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams pointed out that, according to NFL Next Gen stats, all three of Williams’ scores this season have been on tight-window throws (a yard or less of separation). A.J. Green, with two, is the only other player in the league with multiple tight-window receiving touchdowns.

“I think the best way to say it is Mike Williams has earned Philip Rivers‘ trust,” Eric D. Williams said. “Rivers knows he will be where he’s supposed to be on the field and can make a big play in a critical situation in the game. Because of that trust, Williams will be targeted more as the season progresses, particularly in the red zone.”

Rivers backed up that opinion. When asked about Williams, Rivers pointed his hand upward and said, “He’s going to continue to do this. … He’s going to continue to be more of a factor for us.”

Brown. ESPN fantasy analyst Field Yates worded it best in his weekly waiver-claim column: “It’s time for Brown to graduate from this list.”

I’m surprised the Baltimore Ravens‘ new receiver isn’t more widely owned after catching 12 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, Brown seems to have moved past the health and injury issues that plagued him in years past with the Arizona Cardinals.

Brown is still splitting time with receiver Michael Crabtree as the 1A and 1B options, though. And at some point, the Ravens’ offense is bound to slow down after making NFL history with 12 TDs in their first 12 trips into the red zone, as ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley wrote.

Antonio Callaway. The Cleveland Browns rookie — who caught a 47-yard TD pass in Week 2 — is an exciting player who got even more intriguing with the switch to fellow rookie Baker Mayfield at quarterback. However, ESPN Browns reporter Pat McManamon preached some caution with expectations for him.

“Callaway will get plenty of snaps, a fair amount of targets and the occasional big play,” McManamon said. “But with Mayfield in the lineup, I’d be a little wary. Jarvis Landry will be the Browns’ top target at receiver, and Mayfield and Rashard Higgins developed good chemistry in the offseason and preseason.”

Allison. A strong endorsement here from ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter Rob Demovsky for the third-year pro, who has 13 catches for 209 yards and two TDs: “It’s clear that Allison is going to keep climbing up the progression chart for Aaron Rodgers,” Demovsky said. “The quarterback trusts him, and Allison gets open. His two years studying behind Jordy Nelson have paid off. He’s shown already that the game isn’t too big for him.”

Golladay. And an even stronger endorsement from ESPN Detroit Lions reporter Michael Rothstein on Golladay — who is inching closer to 100 percent ownership after catching 19 passes for 256 yards and two TDs:

“You should be very, very high on Kenny Golladay right now,” Rothstein said. “He’s been consistently getting starter-level snaps at receiver and it’s clear Matthew Stafford trusts him. Even in a crowded receiver corps with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, Golladay has found ways to separate himself. As the season goes on, I could easily envision him becoming even more of a red zone option than he’s been to this point because of his height and catch radius. I would feel comfortable starting him in all but the shallowest leagues.”

Quick hits

Arizona Cardinals: Hopefully the switch to rookie Josh Rosen at quarterback can breathe some life into running back David Johnson and receiver Larry Fitzgerald. ESPN Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss said it may help Fitzgerald, in particular, because Rosen showed in just a few minutes last week he will be more of an aggressive passer than veteran Sam Bradford. However, Weinfuss wrote this week that offensive coordinator Mike McCoy appears to be the one who needs to make the biggest adjustments after this slow start follows a disturbing trend for him.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers, meanwhile, didn’t want to make a quarterback change. But they were forced to turn to backup C.J. Beathard after Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL. ESPN 49ers reporter Nick Wagoner wrote about the highs and lows from Beathard’s first turn as a rookie starter last year. One item of note: According to Pro Football Focus, Beathard targeted running backs on 32.1 percent of his passes, the most of any quarterback in the past decade.

That could be a bonus for running back Matt Breida. But Wagoner also said he would also keep an eye on fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who has essentially been used as a third-down back. On the flip side, speedy receiver Marquise Goodwin will probably see fewer targets and rely heavily on catching deep balls for fantasy production.

New England Patriots: The Patriots are notorious for having a crowded backfield. But that has changed rapidly, with veterans Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead going on injured reserve early this season. So, as ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss said in his video analysis, “Sony Michel, step right up, you’re now the lead guy alongside passing back James White.” Reiss did caution, however, that Michel still has a long way to go and still has some rust to knock off after a knee injury wiped out most of his preseason.

Meanwhile, Reiss wrote that the Patriots are keeping their impressions of new receiver Josh Gordon close to the vest. But offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said, “I’m not worried at all about Josh’s ability to pick up our system.”

Indianapolis Colts: Another coach who isn’t worried — Indy’s Frank Reich, who insisted that quarterback Andrew Luck‘s velocity isn’t a concern as he continues his return from a major shoulder injury. The Colts raised eyebrows by replacing Luck with backup Jacoby Brissett for a Hail Mary attempt last week. And ESPN Colts reporter Mike Wells pointed out that Luck’s average of 5.3 yards per completion is well below his normal output. But even Luck admitted that, “Jacoby has the stronger arm than I do.”

Carolina Panthers: ESPN Panthers reporter David Newton wrote that tight end Greg Olsen said he is “way ahead of the curve” in his recovery from a fractured right foot. So it might be a good time to pick him up if he’s still available.

Tennessee Titans: ESPN Titans reporter Turron Davenport made a good recommendation that receiver Taywan Taylor‘s role could increase after tight end Delanie Walker went on injured reserve in Week 2. Taylor led the Titans with five targets and four catches (for a modest 30 yards) last week, and his role should be even more secure now that veteran receiver Rishard Matthews has been granted his release.

Philadelphia Eagles: Running back Jay Ajayi plans to keep playing despite a small fracture in his back, wrote ESPN Eagles reporter Tim McManus.

New York Giants: Speaking of the Saints’ porous defense mentioned in the Ridley note, my advice as ESPN’s Saints reporter is that this could be a big week for Giants No. 2 receiver Sterling Shepard. As if the Saints’ pass defense wasn’t struggling enough, they just lost veteran nickel back Patrick Robinson to injured reserve with a broken ankle. Shepard does a lot of his damage in the slot, where Robinson would have matched up.

Kansas City Chiefs: Another fantasy recommendation from the opponent’s reporter: ESPN Denver Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold wrote about how much trouble the Broncos have had defending tight ends — with Kansas City’s Travis Kelce up next.

Another reason to like Kelce? He’s got “Showtime” Mahomes throwing to him. ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher wrote about how much fun the Chiefs are having with dynamic second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Pittsburgh Steelers: ESPN Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler wrote that receiver Antonio Brown is due for a signature “go-off game” soon. In the meantime, though, the Steelers’ offense has been humming because of a deep supporting cast, especially receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Oakland Raiders: Jordy Nelson’s breakout game was a nice surprise in Week 3. But ESPN Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez wrote about how unpredictable the Raiders’ offense can be after tight end Jared Cook went off in Week 1 and receiver Amari Cooper went off in Week 2.

Green Bay Packers: Running back Aaron Jones flashed with limited touches in his 2018 debut. And Demovsky wrote about how more of Jones can mean less stress on ailing QB Aaron Rodgers. Jones’ average of 5.6 yards per carry leads all NFL backs with at least 85 rushes since the start of the 2017 season.

Cincinnati Bengals: Boyd isn’t the only one emerging in Cincinnati’s passing game. Terrell also wrote about how tight end Tyler Eifert is being powered by his mullet (and his improved health).

Jacksonville Jaguars: “Mullet power” wasn’t the best headline of the week, though. That honor goes to ESPN Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco. So even though this story has nothing to do with fantasy, it earned a link: Doug Marrone’s love of bologna and cheese helps fight childhood cancer



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Mike Zimmer concerned about Minnesota Vikings’ struggling defense


LOS ANGELES — Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer struggled to wrap his head around how his defense was embarrassed for a second straight week following a 38-31 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

The Vikings let Los Angeles put up 556 yards of offense Thursday night, allowing Jared Goff to complete 26 of 33 passes for 465 yards and five touchdowns and post a perfect passer rating (158.3) in the process.

In five years in Minnesota, Zimmer has never seen his defense struggle so badly against the pass. The same issues continue to pop up each game with opposing receivers being left wide open, and Zimmer is at a loss for how to fix it.

“At this point, I don’t know,” Zimmer said. “Probably, anywhere I’ve ever been, I’ve never been this poor in pass coverage, so we’re going to have to look at everything we’re doing at get back to doing things correctly.”

Three Rams receivers — Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods — posted 100-yard receiving nights. Linebacker Anthony Barr became a pawn in L.A. coach Sean McVay’s game of beating the Vikings with clever play designs, drawing the short straw on mismatches that led to touchdowns three separate times.

First it was an 8-yard TD rocket to Todd Gurley where the reigning offensive player darted out of the backfield and left Barr flat footed. Then, when Goff dropped back for a play-action pass in the second quarter, Kupp ran a wheel route off the back side and went 70 yards into the end zone with Barr left in his dust. Woods’ 31-yard touchdown found Barr trailing another receiver in coverage yet again.

“Just a good scheme,” Barr said. “They caught us in some one-on-one coverage and were able to make a good throw and good catch.”

What’s troubling to Zimmer is that this is the same scheme the Vikings faced a year ago and held to seven points at U.S. Bank Stadium. Four of Goff’s five passing touchdowns came in the first half, a glaring figure for a defense that let QBs run rampant in the first half in back-to-back weeks. The defense also struggled to scheme around the bootleg game to pressure the third-year quarterback.

“We made some mistakes, we left a bunch of guys open and they have a good scheme,” Zimmer said. “They don’t give you too many drop-back passes were you can rush the quarterback. There’s a lot of play-actions where they’re blocking eight or nine guys, and it makes it difficult to get to him.”

The Rams averaged just over a first down per play and notched 13 yards per pass. The pride of Zimmer’s defense has been built upon limiting big plays, but the disintegration of the No. 2 pass defense from a year ago is a full-fledged liability. Minnesota has allowed a league-high 10 plays from scrimmage to go at least 30 yards or more through the first quarter of the season, with five of those gains having happened Thursday night.

“Yeah, I’m concerned,” Zimmer said. “I’ve been concerned all year long. We have not played well defensively.”



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Dungy’s legacy: Championing diverse coaches, including Mike Tomlin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers Blog


TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will induct Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy into the Buccaneers Ring of Honor during halftime of Monday Night Football (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Though he orchestrated a miraculous turnaround after the Bucs had suffered 13 consecutive losing seasons, Dungy’s greatest achievement went beyond the Tampa 2 defense and four playoff berths in six seasons.

Dungy’s greatest achievement as Buccaneers coach from 1996 to 2001 was paving the way for a number of highly successful African-American coaches. He helped kick-start many careers while championing diversity at a time when it wasn’t a topic of conversation — not just in the NFL, but in America.

It was his way of paying forward the opportunity he got to coach with the Steelers, and it continued when he left Tampa to coach the Indianapolis Colts.

“One of my proudest things of my career is Lovie Smith and Jim Caldwell and Mike Tomlin going to Super Bowls … and Herm Edwards and Leslie Frazier [becoming head coaches] — getting guys who weren’t household [names] opportunities,” Dungy said. “I thought that was important. Especially at the time.

“It wasn’t a matter of just giving African-American guys an opportunity — it was letting people know how good some of these guys were and giving them a chance to show what they could do. I’m very proud of that.”

When Dungy was hired by the Bucs in 1996, he became the fifth African-American head coach in NFL history. He recognized his opportunity to build a pipeline of other talented African-American coaches.

“He has been the blueprint for a generation of us. … He’s been a blueprint for me personally and professionally since the day I had an opportunity to meet him,” said Tomlin, head coach of the Steelers since 2007.

Dungy’s staff reflected his plan, but some felt he was prioritizing diversity over experience. Aside from Edwards, many of his assistants who were African-American had never coached in the NFL.

“I got a lot of criticism about that because people were looking for names and people they knew. I knew there were a lot of good coaches out there who weren’t well-known. I wasn’t well-known,” Dungy said.

“You could see that there was diversity on the staff,” said Charlie Williams, Dungy’s wide receivers coach for Tampa Bay. “But he chose guys that he felt were going to be good coaches, that would work hard and stick to the process … and [do] the right things.'”

Tomlin speaks highly of Dungy, who gave him his first job in the NFL as the defensive backs coach for the Bucs from 2001 to 2005: “It meant everything. Not in terms of the time he devoted to me and all of that — obviously that was special — but just to watch him do what he [did] in the manner in which he [did] it. To have a front-row seat for it every day was big for me.”

‘Faces of coaching all looked the same’

It was a much different league when Dungy and longtime friend Herm Edwards entered it as NFL players in 1977. There were only 10 African-American assistant coaches.

“The faces of coaching all looked the same,” said Edwards, Dungy’s defensive backs coach and assistant head coach from 1996 to 2000. “How could you crack the code unless you gave somebody an opportunity? There wasn’t a lot of opportunity there.”

It was even worse when John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1959.

“There was not a minority or a coach of color anywhere — front office or anywhere. The only people of color you saw that weren’t players were cleaning up the locker room,” Wooten said.

When Dungy was hired to coach the Steelers’ defensive backs in 1981, it was a huge victory for African-American coaches.

“[Tony] was a former player, but there were a lot of people with probably more experience,” Edwards said. “The [Steelers owners] Rooneys were all about setting a culture where you gave people an opportunity to compete.”

Dennis Green, who brought Dungy on as his defensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings in 1992, was also a champion of diversity. As the third African-American coach in NFL history, he was instrumental in developing Dungy, Caldwell, Tyrone Willingham, Sherman Lewis, Emmitt Thomas and Willie Shaw, in addition to Brian Billick and Monte Kiffin.

Going beyond his role as mentor, coach

Wooten felt the league needed someone like Dungy to shake things up.

“If you don’t bring these men on board when you get the opportunity, then [who will?]” Wooten said. “You’d be doing them an injustice, because you know they have the ability to coach in this league.”

Dungy began grooming members of his staff to become future head coaches.

“He would make a decision and I’d go, ‘Well why?’ He would actually tell me why he made that decision,” Edwards said. “He was a knowledge provider. Sometimes coaches make decisions and they never share with you why this was done.”

Dungy took Edwards to NFL owners meetings. He was the only assistant in attendance, serving on a panel discussion on player conduct, which earned him valuable face time with the league’s decision-makers.

Dungy allowed Caldwell, who served as quarterbacks coach in 2001 and followed him to Indianapolis, to sit in on draft meetings and adjust player schedules.

“Every single thing that a head coach was gonna be required to do — he allowed me to experience that,” Caldwell said. “Most people would be in fear of letting someone come in and watch, listen and take part in those activities. … That experience he gave me, without question, was invaluable.”

For Tomlin, learning from Dungy was a combination of being challenged and nurtured.

“I was a secondary coach for him. He was a secondary coach by trade, but he oftentimes didn’t give me the answer to whatever issues we faced. He guided me toward the answer and aided in my growth and development that way,” Tomlin said.

“It wasn’t a matter of just giving African-American guys an opportunity — it was letting people know how good some of these guys were and giving them a chance to show what they could do. I’m very proud of that.”

Tony Dungy, Pro Football Hall of Famer

“Wednesday nights were blitz nights for us, and from the secondary standpoint — there were issues covering people down and ruling things out from obscure formations … it was interesting to always watch him watch me find the right answers. [laughs] He had great patience.”

Williams, who is now the wide receivers coach at South Florida, says he received a lesson in how to deal with people from his time with Dungy.

“Treat [them] with respect,” Williams said. “Coach ’em hard, coach ’em tough, but treat ’em with respect, wrap your arms around ’em when you get into the locker room.”

Carrying the legacy

Since Dungy’s hiring in Tampa, 14 African-American NFL coaches have been hired and nine are part of his tree — Edwards, Smith, Tomlin, Frazier, Mike Singletary (via Frazier), Raheem Morris (via Edwards), Caldwell, Vance Joseph (via Frazier) and Steve Wilks (via Smith).

Dungy’s influence is seen all over the league today.

“He was a pioneer,” Wooten said. “I think everyone will say that — it’s a better league today because of those coaches. … It’s a better league than it was 30 and 40 years ago.”

Added Caldwell: “I doubt very seriously that I would have had an another opportunity, or that I would have liked to have coached in the National Football League had I not started with him.”

Edwards, now the head coach at Arizona State, still feels the weight of carrying on Dungy’s legacy.

“You feel the pressure of this — ‘I want to make sure I do a good job, because I want Tony to feel good about what he’s done for us,'” Edwards said. “I didn’t want to let him down. I said, ‘I’ve gotta do it right.’

“I feel like all of us were compelled to do it right. And to a man, we did everything in our power to make sure we did it right.”

Tomlin feels the same, especially since he will be coaching at Raymond James Stadium on Monday night.

“It’s really an honor to participate in a game in which he’s being honored,” Tomlin said. “It’s really an emotional thing for me, and I’m humbled to be a part of it.”



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Vikings’ Mike Zimmer stands by claim ref said NFL ‘just wants us to throw the flag’


EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is not backing down from an allegation that further confuses the NFL’s officiating approach this season.

On Zimmer’s Wednesday radio appearance on KFAN’s “X’s and O’s,” he was asked about roughing the passer calls and the perceived ambiguity about how those plays are officiated. Zimmer noted the difficulty the new rules create for defenders in making legal tackles and then pivoted to bring up a play in which safety Andrew Sendejo was flagged 15 yards for his hit on Packers receiver Davante Adams.

“It’s very difficult for a defender — really playing defense, nowadays. The official actually said to Sendejo on his hit,” Zimmer said on KFAN. “[Sendejo] said, ‘What could I have done different?’ [The official] said, ‘You did everything right. You couldn’t have done anything different. They just want us to throw the flag.'”

Zimmer did not question officials about the incident during the game because he said he was not made aware of the alleged interaction until a day later.

“Well, I couldn’t do anything at the time,” Zimmer said Thursday. “I didn’t find out until Monday.”

Zimmer said on KFAN that he called the league office for clarification. As of Thursday, the Vikings coach said he had not received a response from the NFL.

Michael Signora, the NFL’s vice president of football communications, told ESPN the league does not have a comment on the matter.

The play in question took place with 8 minutes, 4 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers launched a 16-yard pass that was caught by Adams, who was initially tackled by Xavier Rhodes. Adams appears to lower his head upon being brought down by the cornerback before being hit by Sendejo.

On video, it appears that Sendejo aimed to lead with his right shoulder but caught the side of Adams’ helmet with his own. The penalty called was in protection of a defenseless receiver, not the helmet rule that has come under fire this season.



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