Tue Jan 19 2:48am ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) lies on the ground after being injured during the second half of an NFL divisional round football game against the Buffalo Bills Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Jackson left the game after his injury. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) works in the pocket against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Chad Henne scrambles up field during the second half of an NFL divisional round football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) is helped off the field by teammate Mike Remmers, right, after getting injured during the second half of an NFL divisional round football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Backup quarterbacks did more than just hold clipboards in the NFL's divisional playoff round.
Jameis Winston threw a 56-yard trick-play touchdown pass to Tre'Quan Smith on his first playoff action after 76 regular-season games over six seasons.
Chad Henne, the Chiefs' 35-year-old backup, also got his first taste of the playoffs Sunday when he was pressed into duty after former MVP Patrick Mahomes suffered a concussion midway through the third quarter against Cleveland.
In his 72nd NFL game, Henne atoned for an end zone interception with two huge plays to allow the Chiefs to escape with a 22-17 win over the Browns.
A day earlier, another ex-MVP, Lamar Jackson, was knocked out of Baltimore's 17-3 loss at Buffalo and was replaced by Tyler Huntley, an undrafted rookie from Utah who ascended to QB2 status last month when Robert Griffin III (hamstring) and Trace McSorely (knee) ended up on IR.
The only game that both quarterbacks took all the snaps was the Packers' 32-18 win over the Rams, when MVP favorite Aaron Rodgers threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns and Jared Goff was an efficient 21 of 27 a week after he was pressed into duty just 12 days post-surgery on his broken right thumb.
Rodgers and Tom Brady, making his 14th conference championship appearance in 21 seasons, square off next week at Lambeau Field. Mahomes will have to clear concussion protocol to face the Bills and Josh Allen, who has completed 68.1% of his playoff passes after completing 69.2% of his throws in his breakout 2020 regular season.
WINSTON WINGING IT
Winston's long touchdown throw was his only pass, leaving him with a perfect passer rating of 158.3. His TD gave the Saints a 13-10 lead over the Bucs in the second quarter. But he didn't get another snap in New Orleans' 30-20 loss that many believe was Drew Brees' final game after 20 NFL seasons in which he threw for 85,724 yards, including the playoffs.
That's more than 16 miles worth of completions.
If this was it, Brees went out with a whimper: 134 yards passing and three interceptions in the worst playoff game of his career.
Brees broke 11 ribs in 2020 and missed four games, so it's easy to say he should have retired a year ago.
''No complaints. No regrets,'' said Brees, who tossed the football around with his kids and Brady long after the game ended. ''I've always tried to play this game with great respect and a great reverence for it, and I appreciate all that this game has given to me.
''There are obviously so many incredible memories, so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing in this game, and you found out so much about yourself, and you fight through so much when you play this game,'' Brees said.
''And I would say this season I probably had to fight through more than I've ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff to just crazy circumstances, and it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely.''
PRACTICE SQUAD JUMP
Jackson was forced out of the game two plays after Taron Johnson tied an NFL record with a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave the Bills a 17-3 lead.
Facing second-and-10 at Baltimore's 25, center Patrick Mekari snapped the ball over Jackson's head. The quarterback turned and chased the bouncing ball down inside the 5, turned and quickly threw it away as Tremaine Edmunds had him by the legs and Trent Murphy fell on top of him.
Jackson's concussion left Huntley, who had been promoted from the practice squad, to finish the game and he completed 6 of 13 passes for 60 yards, not nearly enough for a comeback.
''We'll hold our head high walking out of here and into the offseason,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
Henne played a major role in Kansas City squeaking past Cleveland to earn a third consecutive AFC championship game at home.
The 35-year-old veteran of 11 NFL seasons in Miami, Jacksonville and K.C. completed the Chiefs' field goal drive after Mahomes was thrown down hard by Browns linebacker Mack Wilson. But with Kansas City clinging to a five-point lead following a TD run by former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, Henne was intercepted in the end zone by Karl Joseph with eight minutes remaining.
The Chiefs forced a punt and Henne got the ball back with just over four minutes left. Cleveland couldn't stop Henne from scrambling for 13 yards on third-and-14 or from completing a short pass on fourth-and-inches to Tyreek Hill with 74 seconds left to seal the Chiefs' 10th win this season by six points or less.
The Browns' biggest regret was wide receiver Rashard Higgins' fumble near the goal line in the closing minutes of the first half.
Higgins hauled in a 25-yard pass from Baker Mayfield while stumbling near the Chiefs' 5-yard line and launched himself toward the corner pylon.
Just as Higgins extended his arms, he was blasted by Chiefs linebacker Daniels Sorenson, who dislodged the ball, which bounced out of the end zone for a touchback.
Lost in the commotion was Sorenson's helmet-to-helmet hit that should have negated the turnover.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski wasn't blaming the officials or the rule book like so many announcers and fans did.
''I will never ever doubt Rashard Higgins' effort or our guys' effort,'' Stefanski said. ''Our rule there is not to reach the ball out when it is first-and-goal, and he knows that. Again, appreciate his effort. He battled like he always does, but we have to fight that urge because it is such a big loss if it does end up being a touchback.''
Interview with a Champ
The Baltimore Ravens will release veteran running back Mark Ingram II on Tuesday, according to league sources. The move will save the Ravens $5 million against the 2021 salary cap and will allow Ingram to get an early jump on free agency. Ingram was a healthy scratch in five of the team's final six games to close out the season, but he insists that he's healthy and has plenty to offer a team in 2021. The 31-year-old was a first-round pick out of Alabama back in 2011, but he's unlikely to be anything more than a backup if he lands with another team on the open market this offseason. J.K. Dobbins took over as Baltimore's lead back in the second half of the 2020 season, and Gus Edwards should continue spelling him next season. Ingram, a three-time Pro Bowler, had 72 carries for 299 yards (4.2 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns in 11 games (nine starts) in his second year in Baltimore.
The Baltimore Ravens waived quarterback Robert Griffin III, defensive back Davontae Harris, wide receiver De'Anthony Harris and defensive back Tramon Williams on Monday. Griffin played in four games in his third season with the Ravens and made a start in place of Lamar Jackson after he contracted COVID-19 in the Week 12 loss to the Steelers. RG3 went just 7-for-12 for 33 yards and an interception in that start, also running the ball seven times for an additional 20 yards. The No. 2 overall pick might've played in his last NFL game, but he could also return to the Ravens if he goes unclaimed on waiver. The 30-year-old started just two games in three years for Baltimore and declined after he was named a Pro Bowler in his rookie season with Washington.
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said that the team will be careful with rookie running back A.J. Dillon (undisclosed), but he is hopeful that Dillon can play on Sunday against the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship game. Dillon left the fourth quarter of the win over the Rams in the Divisional Round on Saturday with an undisclosed injury. The 22-year-old ran the ball six times for 27 yards in the win over the Rams. Keep a close eye on his practice status throughout the week. If he's inactive against Tampa Bay, Jamaal Williams would be a much more attractive DFS sleeper behind Aaron Jones. Dillon dealt with injury and was on the COVID-19 list in his rookie season, but he could have a substantial role in Green Bay's backfield in 2021 if Jones leaves in free agency.
Former Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney is meeting with members of the Washington Football Team brass on Monday, including head coach Ron Rivera, according to sources. Hurney has become the top candidate to be Washington's next general manager, a hire that could become official this week. Hurney spent several years working with Rivera in Carolina, so they have plenty of familiarity. The 65-year-old was the Panthers general manager from 2002 to 2012 and again from 2017 to 2020. Rivera was the head coach of Carolina from 2011 to 2019. Martin Mayhew and Ryan Cowden have also been linked to the GM opening in Washington.
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay said that quarterback Jared Goff is "the quarterback right now" after their Divisional Round loss to the Packers on Saturday, but he didn't sound as convincing when asked about it the following day. "The people I've spoken to said basically at this moment the relationship with Goff and McVay: not great. They need marriage counseling is what one person said to me," NFL.com's Steve Wyche said. Goff battled through a surgically repaired broken thumb in the postseason and posted 3,952 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 13 interceptions a 67 completion percentage and a 90 passer rating, but he was way too inconsistent on a regular basis. McVay plans to meet with Goff to get on the same page moving into the 2021 season, but don't be surprised if LA brings in another veteran QB to push Goff moving forward. He'll be a midrange QB2 if he has the starting gig next season.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said that quarterback Patrick Mahomes (concussion) remains in the league's concussion protocol after leaving the Divisional Round win over the Browns on Sunday in the third quarter. "He's in the protocol, and we'll just follow that and see how he does here in the next couple days," Reid said. Mahomes must clear the NFL's protocol before he's eligible to play in the AFC Championship against the Bills this Sunday. More will be known on Mahomes' status throughout the week, so keep a close eye on his progress. He was also bothered by a toe injury on Sunday, but Reid thinks he'll "be alright." If Mahomes doesn't get cleared from the league's protocol in time to play against Buffalo, veteran Chad Henne would get the nod. It would be a big downgrade for the rest of KC's offensive skill position players in fantasy against a strong defense.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are designating defensive tackle Vita Vea (ankle) for return from Injured Reserve on Monday. He will begin practicing with the team on Wednesday and could be activated in time for the NFC Championship on Sunday against the Packers. Vea fractured his ankle against the Bears in Week 5 back in October. Tampa has a 21-day window to return Vea to their active roster, but he could be available this weekend if he shows enough in practice this week. If the Bucs decide that the 25-year-old is not ready to return this weekend, Rakeem Nunez-Roches will continue to handle nose-tackle duties for the Buccaneers Defense. Vea's return, though, would make Tampa even more dangerous at Lambeau Field against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is not happy with the team after they did not include him in the search for new general manager Nick Caserio. As a result, teams have started calling the Texans to find out if Watson is available in a trade. Owner Cal McNair and the front office haven't said that they are looking to trade Watson, and Watson himself has not asked for a trade. There is plenty of speculation out there as to where Watson might land if he is traded, with the Jaguars, Jets and Dolphins as potential landing spots. The Panthers could also be another team in the mix if Watson actually becomes available. Right now it's all speculation, but it's interesting to imagine the 25-year-old dual-threat QB playing elsewhere. If Watson really wants to leave, he also has a no-trade clause, so he could dictate where he goes next. A trade could increase Watson's outlook heading into the 2021 season, but he'll likely remain a top-five fantasy QB regardless.
The San Francisco 49ers are officially promoting run-game coordinator Mike McDaniel to offensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans to defensive coordinator, according to a source. McDaniel will replace Mike LaFleur, while Ryans will be replacing Robert Saleh, who has become the New York Jets head coach. Saleh took LaFleur and offensive line coach John Benton with him to New York. The 37-year-old McDaniel has been part of head coach Kyle Shanahan's staff at every stop since he joined Washington in 2011. Ryans was a former NFL linebacker and has risen through the ranks since joining Shanahan's staff in 2017 as a quality control coach. Chris Foerster will replace Benton as offensive line coach, while former Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello will return as quarterbacks coach.
The Los Angeles Chargers hired Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley as their next head coach on Sunday, according to sources. The 38-year-old spent just one year with the Rams after leading the league's No. 1 defense in scoring, total defense and pass defense in the 2020 regular season. Rams defenders had career-best seasons in sacks under Staley, including Leonard Floyd (10.5), Morgan Cox (six) and Troy Reeder (three), with Michael Brockers recording the second-most sacks in his career. Staley spent three seasons as the linebackers coach in Denver and Chicago before joining the Rams as their defensive coordinator. Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell could follow Staley to the Bolts in the same role, but Rams head coach Sean McVay would have to let O'Connell out of his contract.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (knee) is undergoing an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of a knee injury he suffered during Sunday's playoff victory. Brown suffered the ailment sometime in the first half and was seen on the sidelines, though he was never officially ruled out of the game. Provided there is no structural damage to the knee, Brown's activity levels in this week's practice will be worth watching ahead of an NFC Championship clash with the Packers. If he's unable to play, fellow wideouts Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller would be in line to see more work in the passing game.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense put together a strong performance in a 30-20 playoff win over the New Orleans Saints. Tampa Bay allowed 20 points and failed to register a sack, though they generated four turnovers. The secondary delivered a strong performance on tape, surrendering just 190 passing yards and picking off Drew Brees three times. Linebacker Devin White, a rising star, was arguably the player of the game, as he was all over the field with 11 tackles and an interception, which he returned for 28 yards. Tampa Bay will travel to Lambeau Field to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the NFC title game. They hammered Rodgers and the Green Bay offense for four sacks and two interceptions in a 38-10 regular season drubbing.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski caught one of five targets for 14 receiving yards in a 30-20 win over New Orleans. Gronkowski had yet another quiet outing as a pass-catcher, though he was far more involved in the gameplan this time. Tom Brady looked his way in the red zone, so the usage was pretty promising for fantasy purposes. The problem is, Gronkowski has been out-produced by fellow tight end Cameron Brate, who has 130 yards over the last two games. Still, Gronkowski should remain a part of the offense next week against the Packers, who surrendered a 5-78-1 line to him in their regular-season meeting.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate led the team in receiving yards in a playoff win over the Saints. Brate hauled in four of five targets for 50 receiving yards, as he once again showed some good chemistry with Tom Brady down the field. The veteran tight end has produced eight catches for 130 yards in two playoff games, while fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski has just one reception. Clearly, Brady will continue to look Gronkowski's way in the red zone, though Brate has carved out a role for himself as a pass-catcher between the 20s. He'll get ready to take on the Packers at Lambeau Field next week with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown caught just one pass for 10 receiving yards in Sunday's 30-20 divisional-round win over New Orleans. Brown was held in check for much of the game, though it should be noted that he was tending to a knee issue. It occurred sometime in the first half, with Brown requiring some attention from the team trainer- though the team didn't offer much more information on his status. This game snapped a streak of four straight contests with a touchdown reception for Brown, whose practice reps will be worth monitoring ahead of a huge title game clash with Green Bay.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin hauled in four of seven targets for 34 receiving yards in Sunday's victory over New Orleans. Godwin did lead the team in targets, though it could have been a far more productive day had he hauled in a long pass from Tom Brady in the end zone. The drops have certainly been an issue for the fourth-year pro- he has six in two playoff games- though he remains one of Brady's favorite pass-catchers on the roster. Godwin has seen at least six targets in 12 of 14 games, a role that makes him enticing to turn to for fantasy purposes. He'll look to be more productive with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line next week against Green Bay.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans caught one of three targets for a three-yard touchdown in a 30-20 win over the Saints. Evans was held in check for most of the day by Saints' corner Marshon Lattimore- though he was able to beat him in the end zone for a score. That's his 14th touchdown of the year, including the regular season and playoffs, as he continues to be one of Tom Brady's favorite red-zone targets. Evans will look to be more of a factor between the 20s in an NFC Championship game matchup against the Packers.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook finished with five receptions for 28 yards on seven targets in Sunday's loss to Tampa. The tight end also lost a crucial fumble which swayed the outcome of the game. Cook finishes 2020 with 37 receptions for 504 yards and seven touchdowns. The tight end will be a free agent this offseason and will turn 34 in a few months. His fantasy value remains low heading into 2021 considering his age and the uncertainty about the size of his role on a potentially new team next season.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith grabbed three receptions for 85 yards and two scores on three targets in Sunday's divisional-round loss to Tampa. Smith paced the team in yards and had a fantastic showing in the team's last game of the season. The WR finished 2020 with 34 receptions for 448 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games. Because of his inconsistency and smaller role on this offense, Smith should be considered a deeper-league flex at best heading into 2021.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II carried the ball 13 times for 62 rushing yards in a playoff victory over New Orleans. Jones averaged 4.8 yards per carry and showed some good burst in his first game back from a quad injury. He ripped off a long run that was called back due to a holding penalty and appeared to grimace after the play, though he was never taken out. Jones was out-touched by Fournette 22-13, though he may eat into those carries a bit if he can put in a full practice ahead of next week's NFC title game against Green Bay.