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Weekend gambling recap – Big bets on Army, sportsbooks win on Brock Osweiler’s Dolphins


Notable bets is a regular Monday roundup of wagers — some sharper than others — made recently at sportsbooks across the nation.

On an NFL Sunday highlighted by a primetime showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots, the biggest decision for several Las Vegas sportsbooks, of course, came down to the arm of Brock Osweiler.

Osweiler’s performance, the back-and-forth thriller in New England and some more wild bets on the Golden State Warriors — see: $20,000 to win $4,444 on a preseason game — all make appearances in this week’s edition of the notable bets.


NFL

Bears-Dolphins

• Multiple six-figure bets on the Chicago Bears, both on the point spread and on the moneyline, came in midweek at MGM sportsbooks. “There wasn’t much money on the Dolphins at all,” said MGM sportsbook director Jeff Stoneback said.

• At William Hill’s U.S. sportsbooks, Bears-Dolphins was the most-heavily bet of the early kickoffs Sunday, attracting nearly twice the amount of money wagered as any other game at that point in the day. Eighty-five percent of the money wagered was on the Bears. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the lopsided action on Chicago included a $100,000 bet on the Bears and a $100,000 two-team parlay on the Bears and Los Angeles Rams.

• The Bears entered the week as 3-point favorites. The line began to grow, after Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill was listed on the injury report on Wednesday and Thursday as a full participant in practice. It grew to Chicago -3.5 on Thursday, and, after Tannehill was limited in Friday’s practice, climbed to -4.5 heading into Sunday. Speculation that Tannehill may be out was bubbling Sunday morning, and the Dolphins did not officially rule him out until just hours prior to kickoff. Backup quarterback Brock Osweiler started in place on Tannehill, and the betting public piled on the Bears, who closed as 7-point favorites. Osweiler passed for 380 yards and three touchdowns, and the Dolphins beat the Bears 31-28 in overtime.

• “Big key to the day was the Dolphins winning,” South Point sportsbook manager Tim Fitzgerald wrote in an email.

• “Dolphins, Cowboys and that back door that swung open for the Broncos definitely helped and were the best games for the book,” Station Casino sportsbook director Chuck Esposito wrote in an email. “The players did extremely well on the Steelers and Falcons.”

The Cowboys routed the favored Jacksonville Jaguars 40-7. The Broncos, who were 7-point underdogs, scored a touchdown with 1:22 left in the fourth quarter to cover the spread in a 23-20 loss to the Rams.

• “Basically, our whole morning came down to the last 30 seconds of the Bucs-Falcons game and the Steelers-Bengals game,” Salmons said late Sunday afternoon. “We needed the Bengals and the Falcons.”

The Steelers scored the go-ahead touchdown with 10 seconds to play to cover the spread in a 28-21 win over the Bengals. The Falcons, who were 3-point favorites, were leading Tampa Bay by two with 1:10 left. Facing a fourth-and-2 at the Buccaneers’ 39-yard line, Atlanta coach Dan Quinn elected to let kicker Matt Bryant attempt a 57-yard field goal. Bryant was true, and the Falcons held on to cover the spread in a 34-29 win. “[The Falcons] kicking a 57-yard field goal screwed us so bad. So we’re down a little,” Salmons added.

• Sunday morning direct message from Caesars Palace bookmaker: “According to bettors at Caesars Entertainment, the Colts have won this game [against the Jets] 63-0.” Bettors were loading up Indianapolis; the Jets beat the Colts 42-34. “The Jets ended up being our biggest single game win,” the bookmaker said in an email Sunday night. “The day went quite well.”

• The Golden Nugget sportsbook in Atlantic City said the NFL accounted for 62 percent of its betting handle on football over the weekend, with college football representing 38 percent of the amount wagered.

Chiefs-Patriots

• The sportsbooks at MGM, South Point, Station Casinos and the Westgate SuperBook each reported needing the Chiefs to cover the 4-point spread against the Patriots in the night game.

• Chiefs-Patriots was “by far” the most-heavily bet game of the day for the SuperBook. “There’s just so much two-way action on it,” SuperBook head football oddsmaker Ed Salmons said. “At one point, we were going to need the Patriots for a decent amount; then, we had one of our house guys (a VIP hotel guest) make a big bet on New England, and kind washed that out.”

• New England quarterback Tom Brady was favored in his 56th consecutive start, a record for a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl era, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

• The money wagered on the Chiefs and the Patriots at Caesars Palace books was “essentially dead even.” “We need the under,” a Caesars bookmaker wrote in an email.

• The over/under on Chiefs-Patriots closed at 59.5, making it third-highest total since 1986, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Patriots won 43-40.


College football

• A bettor, nicknamed the “Duffel Bag Bettor” by Las Vegas media for his knack of carrying around cash in a duffel bag, has been placing big bets at sportsbooks on college football throughout the season. He was in play again Saturday.

William Hill U.S. director of trading Nick Bogdanovich told Covers.com that he took a $100,000 bet on Army -15 over San Jose State from the bettor. MGM and South Point also reported taking large bets on Army from the bettor. In total, Vegas Stats and Information Network personality Pauly Howard tweeted that the Duffel Bag Bettor had $240,000 riding on Army. The Black Knights won 52-3. “He won on Army,” said Stoneback of the MGM, “but he also threw some parlays at us, some three- and four-team parlays. So he gave back about half of what he won on Army.”

• “[Saturday] was a really good day for us,” Stoneback said. “We won all our big decisions, and it was probably our best Saturday that we’ve had for the season, probably one of the best we’ve had for several seasons.”

• Memphis covering the spread in a 31-30 loss to undefeated Central Florida produced the biggest win on Saturday for MGM and the Westgate SuperBook.

• Saturday was a big day for under bettors. Thirty-four of the 49 games with over/under totals stayed under.

• Notable opening lines at Caesars Palace:

Michigan -7 at Michigan State
Mississippi State at LSU -6.5
Alabama NL at Tennessee
NC State at Clemson -17

• In an early line, Alabama is a 13-point road favorite in the Crimson Tide’s Nov. 3 showdown at LSU at Caesars sportsbooks.

• Four teams remain unbeaten against the spread: Washington State (6-0 ATS), Utah State (6-0 ATS), Florida International (5-0 ATS) and Appalachian State (4-0 ATS).

• Nebraska fell to 0-6 with Saturday’s overtime loss at Northwestern, clinching the under for season-win total bets at the South Point, where the Huskers were listed at 6.5 wins.

• Updated odds to win the national championship at the SuperBook:

Alabama -200
Clemson +400
Ohio State +500
Georgia +800
Notre Dame +800
Michigan 25-1
LSU 40-1
Oklahoma 40-1
Texas 50-1
UCF 60-1


Odds and ends

• NBA: The SuperBook took a $20,000 money-line wager on the Warriors at -450 odds in Friday’s preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers. The bet would have won just over $4,444, but the Lakers won 119-105.

• NBA: The most popular NBA futures bet other than the odds to win the championship at BetStars sportsbook is a prop wager on Golden State going 82-0 at odds of +100,000 (1,000-1).

• MLB: Mattress Mack, a Houston icon who uses Las Vegas sportsbooks to hedge some of his promotions on the Astros at his furniture store, was back in action last week. He placed a $150,000 bet on the Astros to win the World Series at 9-5 odds with the South Point sportsbook, among other wagers around town.

• NHL: The Westgate SuperBook took a $100,000 bet on the Vegas Golden Knights to win the Pacific Division at 6-1 odds. The same bettor also placed a $12,000 bet on the Knights to win the Stanley Cup at 20-1.

• UFC: The SuperBook posted odds on the Jon Jones return to the octagon. Jones opened as a -280 favorite over Alexander Gustafsson in a rematch slated for UFC 232 on Dec. 29.

• MMA: Two bettors at the SuperBook placed five-figure wagers on Kevin Ferguson Jr., the son of the late Kimbo Slice, at odds of -1,000 and higher in Friday’s Bellator event. Ferguson was knocked out in the second round.

• Golf: A bettor placed a $1,500 wager at 25-1 that Tiger Woods will finish with over 18.5 major championships. Woods will enter next season with 14 major titles.

• New Jersey sports betting: New Jersey’s regulated sportsbooks took $183.9 million in bets in September, the state’s first football month with legal sports betting. In comparison, New Jersey books handled $95.6 million in bets in August.



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Patriots show championship mettle in wild win over Chiefs – New England Patriots Blog


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots would have liked to finish more decisively what they started in Sunday night’s 43-40 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs — a game they won at the final gun with a 28-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal.

But the end result was still pretty sweet, as these are the types of games — with just one punt between the teams and a tense finish in which clutch plays needed to be made down the stretch — that can build championship mettle.

“I think we’ve got a lot of clutch players. I think we have no problem grinding it out,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “That’s what the football season’s all about.”

Even better for the Patriots: By improving to 4-2, and dropping the Chiefs to 5-1, it keeps them out of what could have been too deep of a hole from which to recover for possible home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

Of course, that’s a long way away.

The Patriots next visit the Chicago Bears, who were one of the surprise stories of the NFL after their 3-1 start but came off their bye Sunday and fell to quarterback Brock Osweiler and the Miami Dolphins, 31-28 in overtime.

The Patriots head to Chicago having learned a lot about their team.

Coach Bill Belichick has said that two of the most important characteristics of his best squads are mental toughness and the ability to rise up in the crucial situations to make winning plays. The 2018 Patriots showed Sunday night they are capable of that.

“That was a great job by our players and coaching staff. Just battling for 60 minutes. We talked about that all week,” Belichick said. “In the end, we were able to just do a little bit more, do enough. I’m really proud of the way we competed all the way through — from the opening kickoff to the final kick. It’s a great effort. I thought we went out and played hard. I think we deserved it.”

The Patriots led 24-9 at halftime, which at their home stadium is one of the most ironclad locks in professional sports. Since Brady took over as the starter in 2001, the Patriots are 95-1 in the regular season at home when leading at the half.

The lone loss came to the Chiefs (in the 2017 season opener), and in a stunning second-half turnaround Sunday night, it looked as if the Chiefs were ready to do it again.

A Patriots defense that forced two turnovers in the first half suddenly became vulnerable to the big play after halftime. Uncharacteristic decision-making from Brady led to a strip sack that Kansas City quickly turned into a third-quarter touchdown.

“I don’t think we’ve seen our best. We can all play a lot better,” Brady said. “And that’s what we plan to do.”

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Tom Brady floats the ball deep to Rob Gronkowski for a 39-yard gain, setting up Stephen Gostkowski for a 28-yard field goal to win the game.

But the Patriots showed fortitude in overcoming the slippage — a clutch play with the game on the line as old reliable Rob Gronkowski reeled in a 39-yard catch to set up the winning field goal as time expired — in what was a playoff-type environment.

“I’ll keep throwing to him in the biggest moments,” Brady said of Gronkowski, whose big catch was the 500th of his career. “We talked about competing for 60 minutes, and that’s what it took — right down to the last three seconds.”

In doing so, the Patriots improved to 94-2 at home with Brady as a starter when they get a double-digit lead.

“A lot of us had been expecting that all week, knowing that’s a high-powered offense,” Patriots receiver Josh Gordon said. “We had one of our own, so we were expecting to take it the full length of the game.”



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Josh Norman responds to critics by making big plays in Redskins win – Washington Redskins Blog


LANDOVER, MD – The critics long have pounced on Washington Redskins corner Josh Norman, picking apart his contract and whether he’s worth that sort of cash. He’s used to that. But there was something different this past week.

Norman was more under fire than ever. He was benched for a series vs. New Orleans when a situation grew heated with coach Jay Gruden. Then former teammate DeAngelo Hall said he was more focused on being a celebrity, shoving what had been a whisper around Redskins Park into the open. The scabs of Norman’s game were picked apart. In some ways, his week mirrored the franchise as all facets get picked apart.

Here’s how Norman responded: By making the plays Washington long has needed him to make. And he did it against the team that let him walk – and against good buddy Cam Newton.

Norman wasn’t the only reason Washington beat Carolina, 23-17, Sunday. Far from it. Running back Adrian Peterson rushed 17 times for 97 yards and no statistic has mattered more to Washington this season than his yardage totals. In the Redskins’ three wins, Peterson has surpassed 90 yards each time. He allows them to stay in positive down and distance situations and avoid many third and longs.

But Norman was the one under fire this week. He allowed a long touchdown catch vs. New Orleans thanks to a blown coverage. Then he was benched after halftime after Gruden pulled Norman’s headphones off while a coach was trying to talk, according to multiple reports.

Norman handled his week well, addressing the media on Wednesday. There was no residual effect of the tiff with Gruden; the two had a pleasant exchange later in the week. Gruden even admitted he needed to calm down as well after the halftime situation.

Norman, though, counts more against the cap than any other corner and has since signing with Washington after the 2015 offseason. But his play hasn’t matched the salary, something a number of people inside Redskins Park have stated privately.

But in the second quarter Norman intercepted his first pass since Christmas Even in 2016, grabbing an errant deep ball by Newton – his offseason basketball competitor. It didn’t lead to any points, but it did end one narrative. On the next series, Norman punched a ball out from receiver D.J. Moore for a Redskins takeaway that led to a field goal and 17-0 lead. The Redskins held on, with Carolina failing on fourth down at the Redskins’ 16-yard line. So Norman’s strong first half could have resulted in a disappointing finish. Instead, it ended with him in smiles hugging former teammates after the win.

At times Norman’s play has been solid. But the Redskins paid for more than that; they wanted game-changing plays and, finally, received some.



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Why this is Drew Brees’ best shot to win another Super Bowl – New Orleans Saints Blog


NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees didn’t just break the NFL passing yardage record Monday night. He did it with his foot slammed down on the gas pedal.

Sure, the New Orleans Saints‘ 39-year-old quarterback relished every moment of his record-breaking night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, eyes welling up with tears as he shared the love with teammates, family members and the home fans.

And sure, his football immortality is now intact — as if it wasn’t already. Forget “first-ballot” Hall of Famer. They should just hand Brees his gold jacket and bronze bust the day he retires and skip the five-year waiting period.

But Brees wants more than that. He wants a second Super Bowl win. And this season might be his best shot.

Here are the three biggest reasons why:

He’s surrounded by cheap talent

The way the Saints (4-1) are built right now is kind of the opposite of how the Philadelphia Eagles were built with quarterback Carson Wentz on his rookie contract last year, or how the Seattle Seahawks were built when they had Russell Wilson on the cheap.

Brees is making $25 million per year, but he is surrounded by lower-priced, Pro Bowl-caliber talent throughout the roster, thanks to some outstanding draft selections in recent years. And that won’t last forever.

Running back Mark Ingram becomes a free agent after this season. A year later, receiver Michael Thomas and offensive linemen Max Unger and Andrus Peat are all scheduled to hit the open market (as will Brees).

In 2021, running back Alvin Kamara, DE Cameron Jordan, safety Marcus Williams and Pro Bowl guard Larry Warford will be free agents, while CB Marshon Lattimore and OT Ryan Ramczyk are due for big raises with fifth-year option bonuses.

They probably can’t afford to keep everyone on that list. And on top of all that, the Saints have already traded away their first- and third-round draft picks for next year.

In other words, this is probably as loaded as this roster is ever gonna be around Brees. So this window of the next one to three years probably represents the Saints’ best opportunity to win a Super Bowl.

The NFC is off to a rough start

This could change quickly, but for now, the NFC standings are stacking up in New Orleans’ favor. The Saints are one of only four NFC teams with a winning record (Los Angeles Rams at 5-0, Carolina Panthers at 3-1 and Chicago Bears at 3-1).

Other expected contenders such as the Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers have gotten off to much slower starts. And the Saints need to take advantage.

On the flip side, back in 2011, the Saints might have had their best team ever — arguably even better than the 2009 Super Bowl championship team. That was the season they set the NFL record with 7,474 yards. But somehow they wound up as the No. 3 seed despite a 13-3 record, and they lost on the road at San Francisco in an epic 36-32 divisional-round playoff game.

And oh, by the way, the Saints are playing their best football heading into a Week 6 bye. The pass defense got off to a dreadful start in the first three weeks, but it has tightened up quite a bit over the past two weeks — even after losing Lattimore to a concussion in the first quarter of Monday night’s 43-19 rout of the Washington Redskins.

Brees might not play forever

This is the obvious one. Brees turns 40 in January, and at some point the skill level or desire is bound to drop off, right?

Right???

Brees has talked often about believing he can still thrive at age 45. And I’m not going to be the one to doubt him after he just completed 23 of 26 passes for a career-best 89.7 completion percentage on Monday night, with 363 yards and three touchdowns.

He has the highest passer rating in the NFL this season at 122.3, with 331.6 yards per game, 11 TD passes and zero interceptions.

Sure, Brees doesn’t hit the deep ball with quite as much zip as he did in that 2009 to 2011 prime. But arm strength was never his greatest asset. And he obviously finds ways to manage the game just as effectively. He just set the NFL record for completion percentage for the third time last season at 72.0. And he’s on pace to break it again this year at a whopping 77.9 percent.

But in theory, some of those numbers are bound to start declining at some point. Maybe.

When I asked Brees on Monday night if he feels like he’s playing as well as ever, Brees joked about how his youngest son, Callen, always tells him he’s not throwing the ball in the right place when they try to make diving one-handed catches on the sofa at home.

“So they’re my toughest critics,” Brees said. “They keep me honest.”

Brees has also said that having his four children growing older and getting to appreciate the experience of being around him for all these special moments is one of the things that keeps driving him. So maybe he will play until he’s 45.

But as long as he’s got that foot on the gas pedal the way he does now, he might as well try to drive straight on through to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta just to be safe.



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Win over Packers keeps Lions in thick of NFC North – Detroit Lions Blog


DETROIT — Da’Shawn Hand chased Aaron Rodgers in the backfield, the rookie from Alabama stalking after the Green Bay Packers quarterback trying to make a play. He hit him clean, knocked the ball out and recovered it himself.

It was the epitome of what the Lions had been able to do in the first half — a continuation of the positive vibes Detroit had the last time it played in its home building, a surprising win over the Patriots that gave Matt Patricia his first win as a head coach.

This, though, was different. Sunday’s 31-23 win over Green Bay was not as thorough a victory as the win over New England, but it might have carried similar significance.

A loss to New England back in September would have put Detroit’s season in a perilous scenario before the season’s first month ended. In many ways, the Lions were in a similar spot again Sunday against the Packers. Divisional opponent. Detroit’s biggest tormentor over the past decade, Rodgers on the other sideline. And the Lions, again, needing a win to keep their season’s hopes realistically afloat.

Which is why what Detroit did in the first half was so impressive, and what it did in the second half — when it scored only one touchdown and allowed three — was so concerning. In some reality, had it not been for Mason Crosby’s horrific day (four missed field goals, one made field goal and a missed extra point), the Lions might have lost.

But they didn’t.

Beating Green Bay on its own won’t save Detroit’s season. Not considering how much of it is still left to play, and that as good as the Lions looked against the Packers and Patriots, they looked equally bad in games against the Jets and 49ers.

But beating the Packers extends the Lions’ window of relevance in 2018 — a window that would have been close to shut had Detroit lost. That’s just the reality for many 1-4 teams. Now, Detroit’s schedule gets easier. The Lions have a week off. Then they go to suddenly vulnerable Miami before playing Seattle at home before back-to-back road division games at Minnesota and Chicago.

So it gives the Lions a chance. And considering how Detroit started the season, with a blowout loss to the Jets and an uninspiring defeat at San Francisco, that it enters the bye at 2-3 is a reasonable place for Detroit to be.

The Lions appear to have found an offensive rhythm, with three receivers (Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay) capable of going for 100 yards in any game. And before injuring his ankle, Kerryon Johnson was again averaging over 5 yards a carry (12 attempts, 70 yards). And Matthew Stafford again had good protection from an improving offensive line.

The defense, though, had some issues. The cornerback depth is troublesome, particularly with Teez Tabor and Jamal Agnew leaving with injuries Sunday. The front seven was able to create a pass rush but again had issues against the run. It’s an area Patricia has to focus on during the bye.

But the Lions can feel good enough about where they sit heading into the open week — two games back in the division — considering where they started and what they still have to go. Beating the Packers for the third straight time offered them that.



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Patrick Mahomes sparks Chiefs comeback in win over Broncos


DENVER — The one thing missing from Patrick Mahomes‘ résumé entering Monday night’s game was a comeback victory.

He checked that box against the Denver Broncos. Mahomes guided the Chiefs to two fourth-quarter touchdowns, bringing Kansas City back from what had been a 10-point deficit.

Mahomes threw a 2-yard scoring pass to Travis Kelce midway through the final period, and Kareem Hunt then ran for a 4-yard TD with 1 minute, 39 seconds left to give the Chiefs a 27-23 victory.

Mahomes was 13-of-16 for 151 yards in the fourth quarter.

Mahomes led the Chiefs on a game-winning field goal drive in his only start last season, also against the Broncos in Denver. But that wasn’t a do-or-die situation. The game had been tied at the time.

The Broncos had harassed Mahomes and the Chiefs into their worst half of the season in the first 30 minutes. Mahomes, under almost constant pressure, was just 7-of-15 for 65 yards.

The 4-0 Chiefs have a two-game lead in the AFC West race over the Broncos and the Chargers.

The Chiefs extended their winning streak to six games against the Broncos. They have won 18 of their past 19 games against divisional opponents.



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Couple to let Chargers’ win over 49ers decide baby’s fandom


There was more on the line than pride for a Chargers fan and a 49ers fan on Sunday afternoon. It was a winner-take-all: the rights to their unborn son’s fandom.

A 29-27 victory by the Chargers means that the son of Saul and Lisete Gomez of Compton, California, will be brought into the world in blue and gold.

“We wanted to do something different to announce that we would be having a baby boy,” Saul told ESPN on Sunday night. “So we figured with me being a lifelong 49ers fan and her being a lifelong Chargers fan, that this would be the perfect way to do it.”

So on Sunday morning, Lisete posted a picture on Instagram. She was wearing a Chargers jersey, her husband of seven years a 49ers jersey.

The sign in the photo said, “We have a lot riding on this game. Future fan of ?” The board then teased the impending arrival of their son, who is due March 26.

The deal was worked out a couple weeks ago, before 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a season-ending injury. And Saul didn’t ask for the points, as the 49ers came into Sunday’s game as 10-point underdogs.

The 49ers jumped out to a 14-0 lead, giving Saul some confidence.

“I was already picking out baby 49ers jerseys in my head,” he said.

But the Chargers knotted the score at 17 at the half and held on to win.

“I’m happy for her,” Saul Gomez said. “She’s kind of a sore loser, so I was worried about winning.”

Said Lisete: “Looks like, ‘happy wife, happy life.'”





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Home of Los Angeles Rams’ Robert Woods burglarized during win


LOS ANGELES — The Woodland Hills home of Rams receiver Robert Woods was burglarized Thursday night during his big performance in Los Angeles’ win over the Minnesota Vikings in a prime-time game at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.



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Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers put drama to bed with win in Tampa – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog


TAMPA, Fla. — Winning overshadows all drama. The Steelers said it all week, then proved it to be true — barely — with a performance that, at least temporarily, quells swirling concern in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers (1-1-1) have played their first three games without running back Le’Veon Bell, who didn’t report after the franchise tag was placed on him and is now the subject of trade rumors. Then, Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown became upset with the coaching staff during Sunday’s Week 2 defeat and failed to show up for meetings on Monday. He then tweeted “trade me” when criticized by a former Steelers employee on social media.

In spite of it all, Ben Roethlisberger was brilliant in a 30-27 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. The quarterback’s best road performance in years was buoyed by a defense that forced four turnovers, including a pick-six.

Drama handled, with a shrug.

“We’re used to it,” said Roethlisberger with a laugh after the game.

Instead of panicking about their their winless start, the Steelers — winners of six straight on Monday Night Football — hunkered down and stuck to their plan.

Roethlisberger said during the week he would try to set a tone, and 353 yards later, the Steelers’ offense can imagine the possibilities. Decisive and aggressive, Roethlisberger completed 26 of his first 31 passes and 30-of-38 overall, including a sidearm, falling-down dime to JuJu Smith-Schuster in the final minutes to seal the game.

Roethlisberger starts a season with back-to-back-to-back games of 300 or more yards for the first time in his career, thanks in part to a masterful two-minute drill to end the first half. With 1 minute, 17 seconds left, Roethlisberger smoothly completed 8 of 9 passes for 75 yards and a 1-yard touchdown to Ryan Switzer.

The Steelers knew only playmaking could redirect the storyline from chaos in Pittsburgh to winning in Tampa.

“The biggest issue was outside the locker room, people perceiving different things,” Roethlisberger said. “Not saying we don’t have issues — all teams have issues, different things going on — but I think it was a little bigger than it really is.”

Without much of a running game, Roethlisberger and the passing offense has more than 800 yards over two weeks.

The offensive lineup is coming into focus with Vance McDonald as the lead tight end and a four-receiver lineup of Antonio Brown, Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Switzer. The running game was averaging 2.3 yards per carry before James Conner broke off runs of 27 and 9 yards to set up a game-winning score.

Imagine if Bell was in the mix.

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Vance McDonald reacts to his massive stiff arm he used to shake off Chris Conte on his 75-yard score in the first half.

The offense wanted to utilize McDonald’s speed to offset Tampa’s speedy linebackers. McDonald used that speed after he trucked safety Chris Conte with an open-field stiff arm on his way to a 75-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

“Punish him,” said McDonald about his plan when squaring up Conte. “Inflict as much force on him as possible.”

On defense, cornerbacks wanted to keep Tampa Bay playmakers in front of them, avoiding the chunk gains and reducing mental errors. The defense is at its best when rushing the passer and creating turnovers. Sacking Fitzpatrick three times and creating four turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble) offset Fitzpatrick’s big yardage day.

“It wasn’t a good-looking win at all, they made a lot of plays on us,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “But toward the end, when we had to make our stops, that was a big stop for us.”

Poor discipline led to 115 penalty yards in the first half, the franchise’s most in a half over the past 15 years. Too many Bucs were running free late, including Mike Evans going untouched for a 24-yard touchdown with 4:23 left. And Darrius Heyward-Bey‘s illegal shift on a punt that the Steelers downed at the Bucs’ 1 was inexcusable.

But the resiliency that won the Steelers 13 games last season was on display Monday on the road. It’s a start.

“We just pull each other closer,” said Smith-Schuster, who led the team with 116 yards on nine catches. “When stuff gets hard and it gets tough, we take losses and we come together closer, we play better.”



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