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FFL: Offseason | NFL: Championship

Saints chasing NFC's top seed rally to beat Titans 38-28

Sun Dec 22 4:40pm ET
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Pro Football Writer

Players: Drew Brees, Jared Cook, Ryan Tannehill, Taysom Hill, Michael Thomas, Tajae Sharpe, Corey Davis, Derrick Henry, Jonnu Smith, Alvin Kamara, A.J. Brown

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) is sacked by New Orleans Saints outside linebacker A.J. Klein (53) in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)


Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) is congratulated by running back Derrick Henry, right, after Brown scored a touchdown on a 49-yard run against the New Orleans Saints in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)


Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith (81) gets past New Orleans Saints free safety Marcus Williams (43) in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)


New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) scores a touchdown on a 1-yard run against the Tennessee Titans in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)


New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook (87) breaks a tackle by Tennessee Titans cornerback LeShaun Sims (36) as Cook scores a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)


New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) calls a play against the Tennessee Titans in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)


New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) celebrates with running back Latavius Murray (28) after Kamara scored a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)


Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) is sacked for a 10-yard loss by New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Demario Davis (56) in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Drew Brees threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns and Alvin Kamara ran for two TDs as the New Orleans Saints kept their chase of the NFC's No. 1 seed alive by rallying from a 14-point deficit to beat the Tennessee Titans 38-28 Sunday.

The Saints (12-3) had to win after San Francisco beat the Rams 34-31 on Saturday night. They scored 24 straight points to keep alive their chance at one of the NFC's top two seeds and a first-round playoff bye going into their regular-season finale at Carolina.

Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael Thomas also set the NFL record for most catches in a season. The Saints receiver needed 10 to tie Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison's mark of 143 catches in 2002. Thomas finished with 12 catches for 136 yards, his last reception a 2-yard TD with 2:10 left for a 38-28 lead.

The Titans (8-7) still have a shot at the AFC's final playoff berth after Houston won the AFC South title beating Tampa Bay on Saturday. The Jets beating Pittsburgh 16-10 means the Titans must beat the Texans in Houston in the finale to earn their second playoff berth in three seasons.

Tennessee had the ball with 4:24 left and down 31-28. The Saints turned over the ball after lining up for a punt and snapping the ball short to Taysom Hill. He threw to a wide-open Justin Hardee Sr., who dropped the ball.

On the next play, Ryan Tannehill threw to Kalif Raymond to the New Orleans 40. Saints rookie safety C.J Gardner-Johnson hit Raymond, knocking the ball loose. Gardner-Johnson picked it up and ran 38 yards to the Titans 25.

Tennessee had one last chance. Tannehill threw incomplete to Tajae Sharpe in the end zone with 1:44 left to turn it over on downs.

The Titans sat Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry to rest the left hamstring that has limited him the past two weeks. Even without the NFL's second-leading rusher with 1,329 yards, the Titans jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

Tannehill hit Jonnu Smith for a 41-yard touchdown. Then the Titans got creative, handing off to rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown, who ran 49 yards for another TD and the 14-0 lead.

Then the Saints got going on offense, defense and special teams. New Orleans sacked Tannehill four times by halftime and finished with five.

Wil Lutz kicked a 47-yard field goal in the second quarter, his 32nd of the season and a franchise record. Brees threw to Jared Cook who ran to finish off a 61-yard TD for the Saints' longest play from scrimmage this season, pulling New Orleans within 14-10 by halftime.

Alvin Kamara scored his first touchdown since Week 3, ending the longest scoring drought of his career at nine games with a 40-yard run. He added a 1-yard TD run.

Tannehill threw two TD passes to Sharpe, the last with 7:27 left pulling them within 31-28. The Titans outgained the Saints 397-377.

INJURIES

Saints cornerback Eli Apple hurt an ankle late in the first quarter, and safety Marcus Williams hurt a groin. That forced New Orleans to move cornerback P.J. Williams to safety.

Titans wide receiver Corey Davis was being evaluated for a concussion in the fourth quarter.

UP NEXT

Saints: wrap up the regular season visiting Carolina.

Titans: head to Houston trying to squeeze into the postseason.

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Player Notes
Patrick Mahomes Jan 22 2:30pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (concussion) said that he has been cleared from the league's concussion protocol, which makes him good to go for the AFC Championship against the Bills on Sunday. He was on the practice field on Friday, and head coach Andy Reid said that Mahomes took all of the snaps in Wednesday's practice and most of them on Thursday. The All-Pro signal-caller didn't actually suffer a blow to the head when he was forced to leave the Divisional Round against the Browns, so it was expected all along that he'd be available this weekend. The 25-year-old might be a tad bit more risky given his high DFS price against Buffalo, but Mahomes should be all systems go and has as much upside as any QB this weekend among Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Josh Allen.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jan 22 1:30pm ET

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are officially activating defensive tackle Vita Vea (leg) from Injured Reserve on Friday, and he will be eligible to play in the NFC Championship game against the Packers on Sunday, according to a source. Vea has been out of action since fracturing his leg in Week 5, but he'll be in the trenches for Tampa's strong defensive front in an effort to slow down quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense. Rakeem Nunez-Roches has been holding down the fort at defensive tackle with Vea out this year. We wouldn't be surprised if Vea is limited in how many snaps he can play in his first game back, though, so don't be surprised if Nunez-Roches continues to play a big role. Either way, it's a slight upgrade for a Buccaneers Defense that has a tall task ahead of them at Lambeau Field.

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Antonio Brown Jan 22 12:40pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (knee) has been ruled out for the NFC Championship game against the Packers. Brown's knee injury that he suffered in the divisional round win over the Saints wasn't deemed serious- though he was unable to take the practice field on Wednesday and Thursday. While head coach Bruce Arians said that his star wideout wouldn't need to practice to play, he also noted this morning that the knee would swell from the team's flight to Green Bay, so playing him wouldn't make much sense. Fellow wideouts Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller will take on a larger role in the offense. Miller makes for a potential value DFS play, as he and Tom Brady showcased the ability to make big plays down the field earlier this season.

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Vance McDonald Jan 22 11:50am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald announced his retirement from the NFL on Friday. McDonald was a second-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2013. He spent four years with the Niners before being traded to Pittsburgh shortly before the 2017 season. McDonald played in 101 career games (77 starts) and finished with 181 catches for 2,036 yards and 15 touchdowns. In his four years with the Steelers, McDonald reeled in 117 passes for 1,170 yards and eight touchdowns in 53 games (47 starts). His best season came in 2018, when he caught 50 passes for 610 yards (12.2 yards per catch) and four touchdowns. The 30-year-old dealt with his fair share of injuries in eight seasons. His retirement will save the team $5.2 million in salary cap space heading into the 2021 season.

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Drew Brees Jan 22 11:50am ET

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees' (foot, shoulder) wife Brittany revealed that the 42-year-old signal-caller was playing through a torn rotator cuff and a torn fascia in his foot. "He's as courageous and as tough a player as I've ever been around," head coach Sean Payton said, via The New Orleans Times-Picayune. Brees' injuries likely played a part in his struggles pushing the ball downfield, and he threw three interceptions in what will be the final game of his storied career in the Divisional Round loss to the Buccaneers. He has yet to make his retirement official, but it's expected to come eventually, especially after playing through other injuries that we didn't know about. If this is the end, Brees will go down in NFL history as one of the greatest to ever play the position.

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Davante Adams Jan 21 11:03pm ET

Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams led the NFL with 23 red zone receptions and 14 red zone touchdowns in 2020, and his 46 red zone touchdowns since 2016 are 17 more than any other player.

Fantasy Spin: Adams led the NFL with 18 receiving touchdowns, tied for second with 115 receptions and finished in a tie for fifth in receiving yards. His status as the unquestioned go-to target for Aaron Rodgers should continue to make him one of the safest fantasy options at any position for the foreseeable future.

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Derrick Henry Jan 21 10:23pm ET

Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry led all running backs with 75 forced missed tackles this season, and his 1,490 rushing yards after contact were the most in the league.

Fantasy Spin: Henry has been a fantasy monster since Ryan Tannehill took over as the Tennessee quarterback. His massive workload will likely take a toll at some point, but there is no reason he shouldn't deliver another RB1 campaign in 2021.

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Aaron Rodgers Jan 21 9:53pm ET

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers led the NFL with 1,242 yards on passes thrown more than 20 yards downfield during the 2020 season.

Fantasy Spin: Rodgers also led the league in touchdown passes in a season that could net him MVP honors for the third time and a second Super Bowl ring. After seeing his numbers dip a bit the last couple of years, he is back in the mix of top-five fantasy options at the quarterback position heading into next season.

From TheHuddle

Patrick Mahomes Jan 21 9:30pm ET

Things are trending in the right direction for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (concussion) to play in the AFC Championship against the Bills on Sunday. Mahomes was limited in practice for the second straight day on Thursday and took the majority of the snaps on offense, a good sign that he didn't suffer a setback after practicing on Wednesday. The hope is that he's a full participant in practice on Friday, which means he'd likely be on his way toward being cleared from the league's protocol before Sunday. The 25-year-old former MVP will be a tad more risky at his elevated DFS price against Buffalo coming off a head injury that knocked him out of the Divisional Round game against the Browns, but Mahomes should put up numbers in what could be a high-scoring affair this weekend as long as he doesn't suffer another head injury.

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Trevor Lawrence Jan 21 9:20pm ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars are expected to hire Darrell Bevell as their new offensive coordinator, according to sources. Several teams were trying to hire Bevell after he finished the 2020 season as the Detroit Lions interim head coach. The 51-year-old was the offensive coordinator in Detroit the last two years, with the team averaging 22.5 points per game and 348.5 total yards per game in his two seasons at the helm. Bevell became the Seahawks offensive coordinator in 2011, 11 seasons after breaking into the NFL as an assistant quarterbacks coach with Green Bay. He made back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl with Seattle in 2013-14 and won one championship. His biggest task will be working with a likely rookie quarterback -- expected to be Clemson's Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall selection in the draft -- to mold Jacksonville's offense to the young signal-caller's strengths.

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Chris Godwin Jan 21 6:53pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (quadriceps) was limited during practice Thursday, Jan. 21.

Fantasy Spin: Godwin should be ready for the NFC Championship game as long as he does not suffer a setback. He will see plenty of targets against the Green Bay Packers and can be a starting option in all fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Mike Evans Jan 21 6:53pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (knee) was limited during practice Thursday, Jan. 21.

Fantasy Spin: Evans continues to be one of the main options in the passing game when healthy and is a must-start option in all fantasy leagues if active.

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Ronald Jones II Jan 21 6:43pm ET

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Fantasy Spin: Jones shared playing time with Leonard Fournette in the last game but may see a few more touches this week. He can be a starting option in most fantasy leagues.

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Jamaal Williams Jan 21 6:33pm ET

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Fantasy Spin: Williams received 12 carries in the Divisional Round playoff game and probably will receive a similar workload against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He can be a possible flex option in some leagues but is not a must-start option.

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Vita Vea Jan 21 6:13pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Vita Vea (ankle) participated in practice Thursday, Jan. 21, and 'looked fit and didn't appear to be having any challenges getting in and out of stance.' according to ESPN's Jenna Laine. 'Vita moved around pretty good today when it was full speed,' head coach Bruce Arians said.

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Antonio Brown Jan 21 6:03pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown (knee) did not practice for a second consecutive day Thursday, Jan. 21, and is expected to be a game-time decision for the NFC Championship game versus the Green Bay Packers, according to head coach Bruce Arians.

Fantasy Spin: As Arians told reporters, Brown is "veteran enough" to handle his business Sunday without getting in any practice this week if it comes to that. Either way, a limited Brown is enough of a reason to back off of him in all fantasy formats, especially because the Buccaneers are deep at receiver. Scott Miller and Tyler Johnson would likely split snaps if he is unable to go.

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Chris Godwin Jan 21 6:00pm ET

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Fantasy Spin: There has been no indication as of yet from Buffalo's beat writers that Beasley had a setback Thursday, but his name was a curious omission from the injury report on Wednesday considering he is far from 100 percent. Friday's practice report will be telling in terms of what fantasy owners and DFS players should expect, but the likely absence of rookie Gabriel Davis may help Beasley bounce back from his bagel against the Baltimore Ravens in a big way.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans will likely face off with Packers' star corner Jaire Alexander in the NFC title game. This is fresh off of being held to one catch by Marshon Lattimore- though his lone reception was a touchdown. Evans and Alexander went toe-to-toe in Week 6, with Alexander following him on 76 percent of the routes, holding him to zero catches, per Pro Football Focus. Evans is talented enough to beat any corner, but this is legitimately a matchup to fear. He should be faded in DFS tournaments this weekend.

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