Kareem Hunt’s multiple and many touchdowns matches mark from 1961

LOS ANGELES — Kareem Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs became the first player to have at least seven rushing touchdowns and seven receiving touchdowns in his team’s first 11 games since 1961.

Hall of Famer Lenny Moore was the last player to do it, and he did so 57 years ago, for the Baltimore Colts.

Hunt scored on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes in the first half of Monday night’s game against the Los Angeles Rams.

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Steelers, Panthers set record by scoring three touchdowns in 23 seconds

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers in the first quarter of Thursday night’s game did something no two teams had done in the Super Bowl era.

They combined for three touchdowns in 23 seconds, a record for the shortest span, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

The previous record for three touchdowns was 26 seconds by the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders in 2008.

The Panthers used 4:31 on their opening possession, scoring on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to running back Christian McCaffrey at the 10:29 mark.

On Pittsburgh’s first play after a touchback on the kickoff, Ben Roethlisberger connected with wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 75-yard touchdown that took 11 seconds.

And on Carolina’s next play from scrimmage, Newton was intercepted by linebacker Vince Williams, who returned the pick 17 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-7 with 10:05 left in the first quarter.

Pittsburgh led 31-14 at halftime, tying for the most points the Panthers have given up in a half in team history.

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No touchdowns yet for Julio Jones, but he prefers wins instead – Atlanta Falcons Blog

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank shook his head about the commotion created by top wide receiver Julio Jones not catching a touchdown pass through the first four games.

“Julio doesn’t care about stuff like that,” Blank told ESPN. “Julio is a very selfless player. He cares about the team.”

Blank pointed to the last play of last week’s 37-36 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals as evidence of what type of mentality Jones plays with on a weekly basis.

“If you watch the replay on that, that was a [45]-yard pass, he caught it at the [10]-yard line, and he almost dragged three guys,” Blank said. “He just doesn’t give up. I mean, he’s blocking all over the field, too. That’s the kind of role model you want for a young player like Calvin Ridley. And Calvin’s an anxious learner.”

Jones’ lack of touchdown production might frustrate fantasy football owners, but he doesn’t care. He often talks about how statistics are meaningless to him, especially if the team isn’t winning. And the Falcons are 1-3 right now going into Sunday’s crucial road game against the 1-2-1 Pittsburgh Steelers (1 p.m. ET, Fox).

Jones leads the NFL with 502 receiving yards on 29 catches, and his 125.5 receiving yards per game puts him on pace to become the first player in NFL history to reach 2,000 receiving yards. However, the focus from the outside always appears to shift to why Jones hasn’t scored a touchdown, particularly coming off three total touchdowns last season. In 2017, he didn’t score his first touchdown until Oct. 22 against the Patriots.

“His production is through the roof,” quarterback Matt Ryan said in defense of Jones. “I think he’s leading the league in yards. … He’s going to find the end zone. People are accounting for him and are continuing to account for him, even with the production of other guys. So he stays unselfish when he gets his opportunities and makes plays. Nobody plays harder than him. We’d love for him to get in the end zone, but we have to find ways to get into the end zone, whoever [it] is. And he’s 100 percent on board with that, too.”

The Falcons are 12-of-18 in the red zone this season with Ryan throwing eight touchdowns, four to the rookie Ridley, who leads the NFL with six touchdown receptions. Jones has been targeted three times on 25 routes in the red zone and has no catches to show for it. All three targets were in a season-opening loss at Philadelphia, and the last one could have been a game winner had it been placed where Ryan wanted to throw it.

In taking a look back at Ryan’s eight red zone touchdown passes, each went to the side opposite of where Jones was lined up. Last week against the Bengals, Jones was bracketed out of the slot to the right when Ryan found Ridley for an 11-yard touchdown off a slant to the left. And Ryan found tight end Logan Paulsen for a touchdown on the right side as Jones and Mohamed Sanu aligned left with three defenders, with the safety ready to double either one.

“Going into a game, D-coordinators, they’re usually going to take me away, and I’m completely fine with that,” Jones said. “We’ve got guys to make them pay. As you see, Calvin’s been taking advantage of his opportunities, and that’s why we drafted him here, to do those things. Mohamed is another guy. Austin Hooper is another one. I mean, it goes on. A lot of guys are stepping up and making plays when they get their one-on-one matchups.”

Former NFL coach Bruce Arians, now an analyst for CBS, was impressed with Jones’ selfless approach when he sat down with the Falcons star last week.

“Julio just wants to win,” Arians said. “In talking to Julio, he’s so happy for Calvin, and that’s what it takes. You need a leader in the room that is unselfish and just wants to win, and they have that.”

Maybe Jones will find the end zone Sunday in Pittsburgh. Besides, the Steelers have allowed 12 touchdown passes to opponents, the second most in the league behind Tampa Bay (13). But for Jones, a win is much more important than breaking his personal scoreless streak.

Right now the Falcons need the offense to carry the load with so many injuries on defense, and Jones firmly believes the offense hasn’t played a complete game yet.

“It’s all about my teammates and being successful, at the end of the day,” Jones said. “I’ve had a lot of success by myself, but it’s not good when you can’t go and accomplish things as a team and have success as a team.”

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Where are the touchdowns for Odell Beckham Jr.? – New York Giants Blog

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — That celebration Odell Beckham Jr. had planned for his first score of the season has been put on ice. He is waiting, a bit longer than expected, for that elusive touchdown.

It’s approaching unchartered territory heading into Week 5. Beckham has never gone more than four consecutive games in a single season without reaching the end zone. This will be a career-worst stretch if he fails to score a touchdown for the fifth straight game Sunday when the Giants play the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte.

Beckham didn’t score a touchdown the first four games of the 2016 season. He finally reached the end zone in Week 5 against the Green Bay Packers that year, then twice the following week against the Baltimore Ravens. It was also that game against the Ravens when he had over 200 yards receiving in the second half and saved the Giants’ season with a 75-yard touchdown on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter.

Boy, could the Giants use some sort of repeat performance. They finished that season 11-5. Beckham ended with 10 touchdown receptions.

History says the celebrations are coming for the Giants and their star wide receiver. This is a player who scored the game-winning touchdown in his first career game and came into this season averaging an NFL-best .81 touchdown grabs per game since entering the league in 2014.

Is this the week when order is restored?

“I don’t know,” Beckham said on Thursday. “You seem more concerned about the end zone than me.”

His touchdown drought is a product of the offense, its lack of success and opportunities. Beckham has one catch for minus-2 yards on four red zone targets in four games. That puts him well behind his red zone pace from 2014-16, when he averaged 23 targets, 13 catches and seven touchdowns on plays inside the opposition’s 2-yard line.

Quarterback Eli Manning hasn’t been able to get the ball to Beckham near or in the end zone. He missed Beckham on a play deep down the seam in the opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He missed him on a pair of plays in Sunday’s loss to the New Orleans Saints that could’ve gone for substantial gains.

The Giants’ inability to get the ball downfield this season — not just to Beckham — has been a problem. Manning has hit on only 3 of 12 passes of 20-plus yards. Two of those three were to Beckham in the opener. They haven’t connected since.

It is becoming harder and harder for Beckham to produce those trademark flashes of brilliance that littered the previous four seasons. His average depth of target is 9.98 yards this season, the lowest of his career according to ESPN Stats & Information.

There are still plays to be made downfield. There have been times Beckham has been open or in one-on-one matchups, but for reasons that also stretch beyond the quarterback — whether it be pressure allowed by the offensive line or situation — those plays are being left on the field.

“They’re there, they’re not there, it’s just a matter of doing it,” Beckham said. “There’s only so much … they’re there, they’re not there. I don’t know how to answer that. There’s opportunities, there’s not opportunities. It’s just about taking advantage of the opportunities that are there.”

Beckham and the Giants have done an admirable job of staying positive despite failing to reach 20 points in three of their four games. Beckham laughed Wednesday when the word “frustration” was used in multiple questions. He didn’t think that was the appropriate choice of words.

The three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver still leads the Giants with 31 receptions for 331 yards. His 45 targets are eighth-most in the NFL.

But Manning and the Giants aren’t going to force it to him downfield or in the end zone. This much is clear by their early-season actions and rhetoric.

“I think [the touchdown] just comes in a natural play of the game. I don’t think if we try to start forcing the ball to get anybody touchdowns, I think you run into some risky business, so to speak,” offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. “I think that he’s very talented. He’s going to get the ball. He’s going to get us in the end zone. He’s going to get in the end zone.”

Beckham’s touchdown totals his first three years were 12-13-10. He had three in four games last season.

It was never easy. He was always the center of attention for the opposing defense. Beckham has done it through constant double-teams and against zone defenses protecting against him from making big plays.

“I do see where people most certainly are paying attention to where Odell Beckham is lined up, that’s for doggone sure,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “That makes a lot of sense to me.”

This is nothing new, though. Beckham has been seeing this since midway through his rookie season. It never affected his ability to get in the end zone before, and shouldn’t affect it now.

Soon enough he’ll be dancing in the end zone.

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Baltimore Ravens set mark with touchdowns on first 12 red zone trips

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens are more than just the only perfect team in the red zone this season.

The Ravens are also NFL record-setters when it comes to reaching the end zone inside the 20-yard line. Baltimore became the first team in league history to score touchdowns on its first 12 red zone trips, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Quarterback Joe Flacco said the reason why the Ravens have become automatic in the red zone is because teams can’t predict what they’ll do.

“We’ve had a good mix,” Flacco said. “I think we’ve probably thrown the ball in six times and run the ball in six times. If you can do both of those things, especially when you get down tight inside the 5-yard line … that helps a lot. It takes a lot of pressure off your offense. We’ve got good playmakers, and we put a lot of pressure on the defense with the guys that we have out there.”

Flacco is correct. Through the first three games, Alex Collins, Buck Allen and Kennth Dixon have combined for six touchdown runs, and John Brown, Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, Mark Andrews and Allen have totaled six touchdown catches.

In Sunday’s 27-14 win over the Denver Broncos, Baltimore was 3-for-3 in the red zone. Collins scored a 6-yard touchdown run, and Allen crossed the goal line twice (a 12-yard catch and a 1-yard run).

Only three teams are currently converting over 85 percent of the time in the red zone this season: the Kansas City Chiefs (11-of-12), the Cincinnati Bengals (7-of-8) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-of-7).

It was only a few years ago when the Ravens had been one of the worst teams inside the 20. From 2013 to 2016, Baltimore scored touchdowns 50 percent of the time in the red zone (104-of-208), which ranked No. 30 in the NFL.

The change in the Ravens’ red zone fortune dates back to last season. In the past eight games (including three in 2018), Baltimore has scored 26 touchdowns on 32 red zone trips (81 percent).

“Without short-changing the players in any way, I thought some of the plays have been really brilliant,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ve had some play-action plays, where some guys have been wide-open, some easy throws, stuff like that.”

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