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Steelers' Conner scores 2 TDs, Hodges wins first start

1571031394
By JOE REEDY
AP Sports Writer

Players: Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, James Conner, Hunter Henry, Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges, Chase McLaughlin, Benny Snell Jr.

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, left, and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges greet each other after an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)


Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton, right, catches intercepts a pass intended for Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)


Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry celebrates a touchdown catch during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)


Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden celebrates after breaking up a pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)


Los Angeles Chargers defensive back Rayshawn Jenkins, right, trips as he runs the ball past Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Terrell Edmunds, left, and free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)


Los Angeles Chargers defensive back Rayshawn Jenkins, center, trips as he runs the ball past Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton, left, and lfree safety Minkah Fitzpatrick during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)


Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner, left, gets by Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Jatavis Brown as he runs for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)


Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner, left, holds by Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Thomas Davis as he runs the ball during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)


Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree, second from right, celebrates a tackle with linebacker Devin Bush, left, inside linebacker Vince Williams, second from right, and defensive end Cameron Heyward during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)


CARSON, Calif. (AP) Pittsburgh's Devlin Hodges walked into the stadium properly attired for his first NFL start. He was wearing a T-shirt with a duck on it that read ''I'm The Boss,'' befitting his nickname and quiet confidence.

The rookie quarterback directed the Steelers offense like a boss and not a third-string rookie as he led Pittsburgh to a 24-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night.

''I liked his effort. We knew we couldn't give him a lot of exposure to that defense, so we did some things in other areas,'' said coach Mike Tomlin, who nicknamed Hodges ''Duck Dynasty'' during offseason workouts.

Hodges, who was elevated into the starting spot after Mason Rudolph suffered a concussion last week against Baltimore completed 15 of 20 passes for 132 yards with a touchdown and interception. He benefited from a strong running game and a defense that scored the game's first touchdown and forced three turnovers.

''It's nice to get a win in my first start. It's something I have always dreamed about,'' said Hodges, who got the shirt for $5 in Venice Beach on Saturday. ''I've always had a belief in myself and it's just amazing.''

It is only the fifth time in 26 games in franchise history that the Steelers have won a road game with a quarterback making his first start.

James Conner had his first game with both a rushing and receiving touchdown and accounted for 119 scrimmage yards (41 rushing, 78 receiving). He suffered a quad injury during the third quarter and did not return.

On defense, Devin Bush recovered a pair of turnovers, including returning a fumble for his first NFL touchdown.

''It was a big win for us on the road in a very fragile state,'' Tomlin said. ''I think we had a lot of quality efforts tonight from a lot of people.''

The Chargers (2-4) trailed 24-0 after three quarters but rallied to get within seven on a Chase McLaughlin field goal and two TD passes from Philip Rivers to Hunter Henry.

''We dug ourselves in a hole. I still believe in this football team. We dug ourselves in a hole and I believe we'll dig our way out,'' coach Anthony Lynn said.

After Henry's 11-yard TD catch made it 24-17, Los Angeles tried an onside kick with 1:28 remaining, but it was recovered by Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton. The Chargers forced a three-and-out and got the ball at the 1 after a punt, but Rivers was picked off by Sutton to preserve the Steelers' win and improve to 2-4.

''It's pretty tough. I don't know if we've been down by three touchdowns, but we've had a comeback like this before,'' said Rivers, who was 26 of 44 for 300 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. ''It's tough but our guys believed. You saw we gave ourselves a chance. They pin you down there on the 1 and have to go 99 yards with no timeouts, that's about as rough as it gets.''

Bush scooped up a backward pass from Rivers that Melvin Gordon was unable to handle and went 9 yards to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead

The rookie got his second turnover four plays later when he intercepted a Rivers' pass that was deflected by defensive end Tyson Alualu at the line of scrimmage. That would lead to Conner's first TD, a 12-yard run around left end with 4:39 remaining in the first quarter.

Conner put Pittsburgh up by three touchdowns with 6:34 remaining in the second when he caught a short pass from Hodges and went 26 yards up the right sideline after Chargers linebacker Jatavis Brown was unable to tackle the third-year running back at the 25.

Los Angeles didn't get on the board until one minute into the fourth quarter on McLaughlin's 38-yard field goal. Rivers ended the offense's seven-quarter drought without a touchdown when he found Henry in the back of the end zone from 5 yards out with 7:13 remaining.

HEINZ FIELD WEST?

It felt like a home game for the Steelers as the stadium was dominated by Pittsburgh fans. Hodges said he joked in the huddle on the first drive that he might have to motion for the crowd to quiet down.

The Chargers' game staff did troll the Steelers fans during the fourth quarter when it started playing Styx's ''Renegade'' only to go into a Rickroll with Rick Astley's ''Never Gonna Give You Up.''

''That was amazing until they made it a joke. It was cool,'' Bush said.

STAT OF NOTE

Pittsburgh came into the game converting only 28.3% of its third downs (15 of 53), but was 8 of 13 on Sunday night.

''We were on schedule. More than anything, we were in manageable third downs,'' Tomlin said. ''We've been working hard to be in manageable third downs and haven't necessarily done what we did tonight.''

IMMEDIATE FORCE

Bush has been involved in six of the 14 turnovers the Steelers have forced. He has had an interception two straight weeks and leads the NFL with four fumble recoveries. He is the first Steelers' linebacker to return a fumble for a touchdown since L.J. Fort last season against Atlanta.

STILL IN NEUTRAL

Los Angeles' running game struggled again as Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler were held to 13 carries for 32 yards.

''The run game is tough right now. Austin and I can't get things rolling,'' said Gordon, who is averaging 2.5 yards per carry in the two games since he ended his holdout. ''How it's looking right now, the pass is going to have to open up the run.''

STRONG RETURN

Henry, who missed the past four games due to a knee injury, set career highs in receptions (eight) and yards (100).

''Going into the game I wasn't planning on playing probably 50-60 snaps,'' Henry said. ''I was feeling really good, so it's just kind of how it went.''

INJURIES

Steelers: LB Stephon Tuitt (pectoral), LB T.J. Watt (oblique) and CB Joe Haden (groin) were also injured during the game and did not return.

UP NEXT

Steelers have their bye week before hosting Miami in a Monday night game on Oct. 28.

Chargers travel to Tennessee next Sunday to start a stretch of three of their next four on the road.

Player Notes
Todd Gurley Oct 14 9:23am ET

Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley (quadriceps) has a chance to return in Week 7, and the team hasn't ruled him out. However, the injury is on the same leg as his troublesome knee, which doesn't allow for a lot of stability.

Fantasy Spin: The Atlanta Falcons have been good against the run, and Gurley would be a high-end RB2 if he's fit to go. Malcolm Brown would be a flex option in either event.

From TheHuddle

Amari Cooper Oct 14 8:53am ET

Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper (thigh) was diagnosed with a thigh bruise, which can be painful, but isn't considered serious.

Fantasy Spin: Cooper was knocked out of the game after just one catch for three yards. He'll have a superb matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, and he'll return to WR1 status.

From TheHuddle

Mohamed Sanu Oct 14 3:03am ET

Atlanta Falcons WR Mohamed Sanu caught three of his four targets for 29 scoreless yards in Week 6 versus the Arizona Cardinals.

Fantasy Spin: Sanu had established himself a nice fantasy WR3 floor over the previous three weeks, so owners counting on him for another five or six catches and about 60 yards came away disappointed. Making matters worse is Matt Ryan threw for 356 yards. Nevertheless, Sanu makes for a decent floor play in the flex in Week 7 against the Los Angeles Rams.

From TheHuddle

Ito Smith Oct 14 2:53am ET

Atlanta Falcons RB Ito Smith managed only six yards on three carries and was not targeted in the passing game in Week 6 against the Arizona Cardinals.

Fantasy Spin: Smith had been a bit of a nuisance to fantasy owners of Devonta Freeman in recent weeks, but that was not the case versus the Cardinals. The fact Smith was hardly involved in this contest likely had to do with the fact Freeman was playing well (88 yards rushing and 30 yards receiving). Smith figures to make for a weak flex option in Week 8 versus the Los Angeles Rams.

From TheHuddle

Eric Kendricks Oct 14 2:43am ET

Minnesota Vikings LB Eric Kendricks logged 10 tackles (eight solo), a tackle for loss, a half-sack and two passes defended in Week 6 versus the Philadelphia Eagles.

From TheHuddle

Anthony Barr Oct 14 2:43am ET

Minnesota Vikings LB Anthony Barr logged 10 tackles (eight solo), a tackle for loss and one pass defended in Week 6 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

From TheHuddle

Chase McLaughlin Oct 14 2:40am ET

Los Angeles Chargers backup kicker Chase McLaughlin did about as well as could be expected on Sunday as he was able to knock through one of the two field goal tries he was given. His other attempt glanced off the left upright, skittering across the end zone. McLaughlin shouldn't be expected to have much of a future with LA, but with primary kicker Michael Badgley still considered week-to-week with a groin injury, he may have a little play. Unfortunately, LA's offense has struggled mightily as of late, so even if McLaughlin does get the job for a while, he's probably not interesting to the vast majority of the fantasy community.

From RotoBaller

Josh Rosen Oct 14 2:40am ET

Coming off of a bye and facing one of the league's most generous defenses, the stars seemed to be aligned for Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen to show his true talent in Week 6. Rosen was instead benched to start the fourth quarter after throwing for just 85 yards on 15-of-25 passing, leading Miami to only three points before departing with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. While head coach Brian Flores did confirm after the game that Rosen is still the starter, the second-year quarterback on his second team just simply isn't viable in any format. Rosen should be left on the waiver wire again next week, as he and the Dolphins have a tough matchup against a stingy Buffalo defense.

From RotoBaller

Joe Flacco Oct 14 2:33am ET

Denver Broncos QB Joe Flacco completed 18 of 28 passes for 177 yards, no touchdowns and an interception in a Week 6 win over the Tennessee Titans.

Fantasy Spin: Flacco has thrown for less than 200 yards in each of the last two games, but Denver has won both so you can bet they won't willingly shy away from that formula. The veteran isn't worth owning in most leagues.

From TheHuddle

Keenan Allen Oct 14 2:30am ET

For the third straight week, Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen was effectively neutralized. Allen caught just three passes for 33 yards as Pittsburgh basically removed him from the action. This now makes three straight games in which Allen has been held under 50 yards receiving, and LA has gone on to lose two of those matchups. It appears opposing defenses are starting to key in on Allen as a catalyst for the offense, and the Chargers haven't been able to make them pay in the process. Allen got off to a quick start this season and looked like he'd be in the running for the top wideout in the league, but now it's just up in the air whether he's worthy of starting week in and week out.

From RotoBaller

Rayshawn Jenkins Oct 14 2:30am ET

Los Angeles Chargers safety Rayshawn Jenkins was able to provide a moment of happiness for Chargers fans on Sunday when he made a beautiful diving stab to snatch an interception away on a deep pass. Jenkins' play helped act as a catalyst to allow LA to get back into the game when they were down by three touchdowns, and the offense was able to turn the change in possession into a touchdown a few minutes later. Jenkins and the rest of the Chargers Defense played a decent game against Pittsburgh and their third-string quarterback getting his first ever start, but they still struggled to generate any pressure on the quarterback. After a second straight loss, they'll need to step it up over the next few weeks if they want to stop the slide.

From RotoBaller

Rashaan Evans Oct 14 2:23am ET

Tennessee Titans LB Rashaan Evans was credited with 10 tackles (six solo) against the Denver Broncos in Week 6.

From TheHuddle

Josh Rosen Oct 14 2:23am ET

Miami Dolphins QB Josh Rosen was benched at the start of the fourth quarter in Week 6 against the Washington Redskins after going 15-of-25 for 85 yards and two interceptions.

Fantasy Spin: On a positive note, head coach Brian Flores told reporters Rosen will remain the starter and that Ryan Fitzpatrick's entrance into the game was merely to spark the offense. Nevertheless, fantasy owners have seen this will be enough times to know this probably won't be the only occasion in which the Miami offense needs a spark. Outside of truly desperate owners in two-quarterback leagues, neither player should see much time in fantasy lineups.

From TheHuddle

Mike Williams Oct 14 2:20am ET

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams was Philip Rivers' favorite target on Sunday night, but he was only able to haul in half the throws. Rivers struggled mightily from the pocket, but Williams worked well as an outlet while No. 1 wideout Keenan Allen seemed to be focused on by the defense. Williams finished with 72 yards receiving, and while he didn't find the end zone, he came up just short on multiple occasions. The return of Hunter Henry will only further cut into Williams' targets in most games, but now that teams have seen LA's offense struggle two weeks in a row when Allen was neutralized, Williams may see an uptick as a way to try to counteract how teams scheme for the Chargers.

From RotoBaller

Denver Broncos Oct 14 2:10am ET

The Denver Broncos Defense had their best game of the season so far, as they blanked the Tennessee Titans in a shutout win. The Broncos were all over the field, forcing seven sacks and three interceptions while holding the Titans to just over 200 yards. This is has been the most impressive performance from the Denver Defense this year, but they have no easy task ahead of them as they face the lethal Patrick Mahomes led Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7.

From RotoBaller

Austin Ekeler Oct 14 2:10am ET

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler was already expected to see a drop in usage due to the full return of Melvin Gordon, but he was further buried when the team was suddenly down 14 points before the end of the first quarter. While Ekeler has the ability to be a star, and he showed that ability in the first few games of the season, he's held down by the situation he's in. Gordon will see the majority of carries, and Ekeler will easily become a victim of circumstances. This game isn't enough to predict his entire future since the whole team played terribly, but anyone still holding on to Ekeler should be very concerned about what lies ahead.

From RotoBaller

Hunter Henry Oct 14 2:10am ET

Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry was everything people thought he would be and more. Henry was basically the only bright spot for the Chargers on Sunday night as he snagged eight of the nine passes sent in his direction and tallied 100 yards and two touchdowns. Henry showed off some incredible awareness on his first touchdown catch, getting his second foot down just centimeters from the back line of the end zone. His second was a bit easier, mostly because Pittsburgh went into a very soft defense since LA was down by two touchdowns with less than 90 seconds left in the game. It's highly unlikely Henry can put up these kinds of numbers every week, but Philip Rivers has wonderful history with his tight ends. Henry is a good target for fantasy owners.

From RotoBaller

Emmanuel Sanders Oct 14 2:10am ET

Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders had his game shortened this afternoon as he exited with a knee injury. Before leaving the contest, Sanders only managed to haul in one catch for zero yards. It is not believed that the veteran receiver's injury is serious, and despite having a short week ahead of him there is a chance that Sanders returns to action next week against the Kansas City Chiefs.

From RotoBaller

Philip Rivers Oct 14 2:00am ET

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers played poorly on Sunday as the Chargers lost to the Steelers. Rivers was responsible for turnovers on back-to-back drives in the first quarter when he overthrew Melvin Gordon on a backwards pass that was recovered and returned for a touchdown and had a tipped pass intercepted four plays later. With the Chargers in a 14-0 hole before the end of the first quarter, Rivers settled down and racked up a ton of yards through the air, finishing with 320. Unfortunately, the team wouldn't actually get on the board until the end of the third quarter, and Rivers would float a desperation pass at the end of the fourth quarter that would be intercepted to end the comeback. Rivers did tally a pair of passing touchdowns on the day, but his poor play was a major reason why LA lost on Sunday.

From RotoBaller

Melvin Gordon Oct 14 2:00am ET

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon was a bit of an afterthought in Sunday's game against the Steelers. He was likely a major part of the original gameplan, but before the offense could run their 11th play from scrimmage, they had already turned the ball over twice and were down 14 points. At that point, the gameplan changed and Philip Rivers was tapped to air it out. Gordon would only touch the ball seven more times for the rest of the game. To compound his uselessness, Gordon wasn't very productive in his limited touches, but it's hard to figure out who to pin the blame on when the offensive line is a mix of bad players and backups who are in because of injuries and the running back is still getting his sea legs under him. Don't be surprised if there are more growing pains ahead.

From RotoBaller