Thu Dec 5 6:14pm ET
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson (27) greets fans after an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. The Rams won 34-7. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, right, reacts with cornerback Akeem King (36) after the Minnesota Vikings failed to convert on a fourth-down play during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 37-30. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, left, talks with quarterback Russell Wilson during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
LOS ANGELES (AP) Greg Zuerlein has made plenty of tougher field goals than the 44-yarder he pushed barely wide right through the Seattle night air two months ago.
The Rams' normally reliable kicker could have sent Los Angeles to a narrow win over the Seahawks. Instead, his miss with 11 seconds left in Seattle's 30-29 win might have changed the trajectories of two seasons that intersect again Sunday night at the Coliseum.
The Seahawks (10-2) have won eight of nine during a roll that began one week before that surprising reprieve from Zuerlein, and they've surged into first place in the NFC West with five straight victories. Seattle can already clinch a postseason berth with a win in LA.
That loss by the Rams (7-5) extended to the first three-game losing streak of Sean McVay's coaching career. After going 4-5 in their last nine, the defending NFC champions are one game out of the second wild card playoff spot, needing a big December surge to get in.
The stakes are huge when the Seahawks and Rams get together again in what's likely the final NFL night game in the history of the 96-year-old Coliseum. McVay knows there's only one likelihood in the latest chapter of this entertaining divisional rivalry.
''There's always been a good competitive balance between these two teams,'' McVay said. ''This will be the sixth time we've played them (with the Rams' current coaching staff), and the first five have been tough challenges every single time. The ones last year came down to one possession. The last three have been closely contested. That's a great football team.''
The Seahawks got a bit lucky in their last meeting with the Rams, but their tenacity has shown throughout the season. Seattle is an incredible 8-1 in games decided by seven points or fewer, and Carroll anticipates another test in his return to the Coliseum.
''As we go against them, we're just going to try to hold it together and play good football and take care of the ball,'' Carroll said. ''See if we can come out on top somehow at the end.''
Here are more things to know about the NFC West showdown:
In all likelihood, this will be Carroll's last trip to the Coliseum as a head coach with the Rams set to move into their new palace in Inglewood next season.
There were a lot of memories for Carroll from his time at USC when the Seahawks made their first visit back to the Coliseum in 2016 - a forgettable 9-3 loss for Seattle. Since then, the nostalgia has worn off. Carroll said it was different anyway being the visiting team in that venue.
''It's really fun to go to the Coliseum. For me, honestly, it is, but it's not the same thing. You're not coaching the Trojans. That's a whole different experience. I can't even relate it to you,'' Carroll said.
McVay's inexplicable season-long reluctance to use Todd Gurley could be ending, which could be bad news for opponents. The Rams' $60 million running back got 19 carries last week at Arizona, and he had 25 two weeks earlier against Chicago. McVay attributes the uptick in Gurley's workload to ''me not being an idiot.'' The coach continues to insist he wasn't resting Gurley for the stretch run, yet the star running back is rested and ready for a big finish.
No surprise, the Seahawks are really good at running the football. The difference the past two weeks is it's not being done by just one player. The duo of Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny has run through two of the better run defenses in the league in the past two weeks. They combined for 155 yards in the win over Philadelphia with Penny rushing for a career-best 129 yards. Last week against Minnesota, the Seahawks rushed for a season-high 218 yards as a team, which included 102 from Carson and 74 from Penny. It was the third time in Carroll's tenure the Seahawks had two running backs rush for at least 74 yards in the same game.
Seattle had 167 yards rushing in the first meeting with the Rams.
The Rams will present Wilson with a thoroughly revamped secondary. Starting cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib played nearly every snap of the early-season game in Seattle, but both veterans are gone and starting safety John Johnson is on injured reserve. Star cornerback Jalen Ramsey gets his first look at Tyler Lockett and Wilson since 2017, when he made an interception in a win for the Jaguars. Wilson might be more focused on the other side of the defense, where Troy Hill likely will try to hang in against rookie D.K. Metcalf.
Johnson has been replaced by a familiar face in Seattle: rookie Taylor Rapp, who grew up in Bellingham and starred at the University of Washington.
Seattle's secondary also has gone through a facelift since the last time it played the Rams. Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers are still the starting cornerbacks, but the addition of Quandre Diggs at safety has changed some of the defenses Seattle has played. The addition of Diggs playing in concert with Bradley McDougald has allowed Griffin and Flowers to be more aggressive on the outside. It's part of the reason Seattle has forced 11 turnovers in the past three games, including four interceptions.
Kansas City Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy, who hasn't had a touch since Week 15 and who was inactive for the AFC Championship against the Titans, said he's not ready to retire after this season. "Nah, I'm not ready to retire, yet," McCoy said. "I still can play. So, I'm not going to retire yet, but that day is coming. That day is definitely coming." The 31-year-old has taken a back seat to running backs Damien Williams and rookie Darwin Thompson down the stretch, and he's unlikely to have much of a role, if any, in the Super Bowl against the 49ers. Shady has become more of a mentor in the running back room than an on-field performer for fantasy owners.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (shoulder) said that he's been playing through a torn labrum in his right shoulder since the start of the 2018 season. "So I dislocated my shoulder last year," Kittle said Sunday on the Pardon My Take podcast, "and my labrum is completely torn. So I don't get surgery on it -- [The protective sleeve] basically helps me, so it doesn't hurt all the time." He didn't miss any games in 2018 and set the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377. Kittle said there's "no chance" he has surgery in the future. The 26-year-old has been quiet in the postseason with four catches for 35 yards in two games, but the Niners haven't really needed him with their ground game humming. That could change in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs on Feb. 2.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt, who will be a free agent in March, emotionally admitted that he would fail a drug test to a police officer during a traffic stop recently. This was caught on video of the police officer's dash cam during the traffic stop. Hunt also admitted that the small amounts of marijuana found in the car were his, but the officer let Hunt off with just the speeding ticket. It remains to be seen if the NFL will consider a suspension for the 24-year-old from this incident. Hunt was released by the Chiefs during the 2018 season due to a domestic-violence incident, and he served a suspension before making his Browns debut in 2019. If he signs with another team this offseason and is given bell-cow duties in the backfield, Hunt could have RB1 upside.
The Los Angeles Chargers have "moved on from Philip Rivers," according to FOX Sports' Jay Glazer. Rivers is set to become a free agent in March, and the writing was on the wall when he recently moved his entire family from San Diego to Florida. Rivers will end a 16-year run with the Chargers, but it remains to be seen where he'll land on the free-agent market this offseason. The Buccaneers are a popular expected destination, but that'll only be if they move on from Jameis Winston. Rivers completed 66 percent of his passes for 4,615 yards, 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 2019 for a QB rating of 88.5. He might have a few more seasons left in him, but at 38 years old his arm strength is clearly deteriorating, and he'll probably be more of a QB2 in 2020, depending on where he winds up.
Baltimore Ravens defensive end Matthew Judon is a candidate to receive the team's franchise tag and could also be traded, according to league sources. The Ravens would like to bring Judon back in 2020, but they are also likely to listen to trade offers if another team shows interest. The Niners dealt a second-round pick to the Chiefs last year for defensive end Dee Ford, who then signed a five-year deal worth up to $87.5 million last March. The Chiefs also traded first- and third-round picks to the Seahawks last April for defensive end Frank Clark, who then signed a five-year, $105.5 million deal. Judon has emerged as a high-end pass rusher with at least seven sacks in each of the last three years. The 27-year-old had a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2019 and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
Philadelphia Eagles DT Fletcher Cox was credited with a 61-yard interception return for touchdown at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Indianapolis Colts TE Jack Doyle posted three catches for 63 yards and a touchdown on four targets for the AFC at the Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26.
Pittsburgh Steelers DE T.J. Watt posted an 82-yard fumble return for touchdown in the fourth quarter for the AFC at the Pro Bowl in Orlando on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews ended up with a game-high nine receptions for an AFC-best 73 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR DJ Chark Jr. registered two grabs for 67 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown in the third quarter, for the AFC at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams ended up with a team-high six receptions for 61 yards and two touchdowns on seven targets for the NFC at the Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26.
Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper finished with three grabs for 24 yards and a touchdown on seven targets for the NFC at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.
Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins completed 13-of-22 passes for 181 yards, two touchdowns and one interception at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26
New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas hauled in five receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown with a team-high eight targets at the Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26.
Jacksonville Jaguars DE Calais Campbell had a solo tackle, a sack and a quarterback hit in the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26, winning the Defensive Most Valuable Player award.
Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson completed 16-of-23 passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the AFC in the Pro Bowl, winning Offensive Most Valuable Player. He also ran twice for six yards in the 38-33 win.
Houston Texans impending free-agent TE Darren Fells is a player the Texans will try to re-sign this offseason, but he probably will receive interest from multiple teams in free agency.
Houston Texans impending free-agent QB AJ McCarron is a candidate to be re-signed this offseason, in the opinion of ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop.
New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley (groin), who is six weeks removed from groin/abdominal surgery, said he is jogging "a little bit" and is on track to take part in "spring football." Mosley has also started a vegan diet after playing in just two games last season because of his injury in his first year in New York. The 27-year-old should be ready for a full training camp heading into the 2020 season, and he should give Gang Green a steadying presence in the middle of the field next season. Mosley recorded 100-plus tackles in four of his five seasons in Baltimore before signing with the Jets in free agency last offseason.
Former Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who did not play at all in 2019, plans to play in 2020 after intentionally taking the season off to rest his body and mind. Berry was cut by the Chiefs in 2018 and has only played in three games since 2016 due to injuries and a bout with cancer. The former first-round pick in 2010 has 14 career interceptions and five touchdowns and could provide a team with a veteran presence in the secondary in 2020. However, it remains to be seen if any team will take a chance on the veteran moving forward. Berry is unlikely to be an asset in IDP leagues if he gets picked up by a team.