Thu Oct 24 9:42pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield celebrates a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) celebrates with teammates Kyle Van Noy (53) and Stephon Gilmore (24) after intercepting a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield walks off the field after the Seattle Seahawks defeated his team in an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) At one point during the Patriots' 33-0 shutout over the Jets last week, second-year quarterback Sam Darnold said he felt as if he was ''seeing ghosts.''
New England's defenses have had that effect on young quarterbacks during coach Bill Belichick's tenure.
The Patriots have won 20 straight games against first- or second-year signal callers, the longest such streak in NFL history.
Five of those victories have come this season, with New England's top-ranked defense limiting the Jets' Darnold and Luke Falk, Dolphins' Josh Rosen, Bills' Josh Allen and Giants' Daniel Jones to a combined 44 percent completion rate and 595 yards, while coming away with 12 interceptions. Jones had the lone passing touchdown among the group.
The next to try to break the streak is Cleveland Browns second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield , who is coming off a three-interception performance in a loss to Seattle and leads the league with 11 picks.
''They try to get you to give the perfect look or perfect protection and they mix stuff up,'' Mayfield said of New England's defense. ''They pressure you. They hit you up. If you are a young quarterback, you can see that.''
But knowing how the Patriots defense attacks is just part of it. New England has also been masters at taking away opposing offenses' top options.
Browns receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. knows that means that Belichick will be trying to take him out of the game plan and capitalize of any miscues.
''You can't beat them by making mistakes. They do not make many mistakes,'' Beckham said. ''They have few penalties. They play perfect.''
Or at least very close to it.
New England enters Week 8 leading the NFL in several defensive categories including fewest points allowed (48), fewest total yards allowed per game (223.1), fewest yards per play (4.0) and fewest net passing yards per play (4.3).
The Patriots also are holding teams to a league-low 14.3 percent success rate on third down and lead the NFL with 18 interceptions.
Safety Devin McCourty said despite Cleveland's recent struggles, they are aware of the big-play potential the Browns possess.
''The way Baker Mayfield plays, he's able to escape the pocket, (and) still throw the ball on the money,'' said McCourty, who leads the NFL with five interceptions. ''So, it's an offense that you have to be ready to go (against).''
GOING FOR 300
Belichick could experience a bit of symmetry on Sunday.
Belichick earned his first NFL victory as Browns coach in 1991 against the Patriots. But with a win over the Browns on Sunday he would earn his 300th victory (including playoffs) as an NFL head coach.
He sits behind only Hall of Famers Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324) on the NFL's win list.
Tom Brady's receiving group will undergo another adjustment this week after the Patriots placed receiver Josh Gordon on injured reserve with a knee injury .
The Patriots will now be leaning even more on veteran Mohamed Sanu, acquired in a trade with Atlanta on Tuesday, to provide stability to an offense that leads the league in scoring at nearly 32 points a game.
The 30-year-old Sanu has 33 receptions for 313 yards, but only one touchdown this season.
Beckham said that playing for Belichick and with Brady was on his bucket list.
When Beckham was with the New York Giants, there were rumors that he was going to be traded to New England. The deal never materialized, but Beckham said he would have welcomed a chance to play for the NFL's gold standard.
''I was willing and ready to go over there,'' he said. ''That was always a dream of mine to play for Tom Brady and Belichick.''
Beckham would love to see the Browns follow Belichick's championship blueprint.
''It's about winning, but it's about the way they go about it,'' he said. ''How everything is precise and everything is just perfect. It feels good to win.''
The Browns may look different up front on Sunday.
Coach Freddie Kitchens and his staff spent the bye week mulling possible lineup changes, and it's possible there will be one - and perhaps two - switches on Cleveland's offensive line. Left tackle Greg Robinson, who made a huge impact when he was promoted to a starter midway through last season, could be replaced by Justin McCray.
Robinson has committed some drive-killing penalties and hasn't played as well as the Browns hoped - or needed.
A year ago, the Browns subbed Robinson for Desmond Harrison, and Mayfield was only sacked five times over the final eight games.
Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett's bye week began oddly - with a fan punching him in the face. Stopped in traffic, Garrett took the unexpected blow from a man who initially asked him for a photo before lashing out.
Garrett downplayed the incident this week.
''Nothing really happened,'' he said. ''It was a what, 10-minute thing? I went on with the rest of my day and the rest of my week. It's in the past.''
Garrett has a great rapport with fans and doesn't think the matter will make him more cautious in public.
''Hesitant to open my window,'' he said. ''That's about it.''
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Deebo Samuel combined for just three catches for 65 yards in the NFC Championship victory against the Green Bay Packers. Samuel added two rushes for 43 yards. The Niners opened up the game with a dominant running attack and a 27-0 lead, resulting in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo attempting just eight passes. While the stat sheet was underwhelming, both aerial playmakers made the most of their opportunities, picking up chunk gains on each touch. With the vaunted Kansas City Chiefs offense on deck, the Niners will conceivably need to throw the ball more in the Super Bowl.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders failed to record a catch in the NFC Championship blowout win against the Green Bay Packers. With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo attempting just eight passes, Sanders saw only a single target. The clear third option in a low-volume passing game behind standout rookie wideout Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle, Sanders has just two catches in the playoffs. Hell likely be tasked with more work in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs.
San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert exploded for 220 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship. He also caught two passes for six yards. Mostert was unstoppable on Sunday, converting three rushing scores of 36, nine and 18 in the first half. He capped his evening with a 22-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The fifth-year breakout player was the star in the Niners easy 37-20 victory and will again lead the backfield into the Super Bowl in two weeks against the Kansas City Chiefs.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed just six of eight passes for 77 yards and no scores in the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Garoppolo had little to do but watch running back Raheem Mostert annihilate the Packers rush defense for 220 yards and four scores. With two consecutive easy victories in the playoffs, Jimmy G has attempted just 27 passes this postseason. Sledding will surely get tougher in the Super Bowl against the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs.
San Francisco 49ers S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) aggravated his injured ribs during the NFC Championship game but should be available for Super Bowl LIV.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that running back Tevin Coleman (shoulder) suffered a dislocated right shoulder in the NFC Championship win over the Packers on Sunday. Coleman had his shoulder popped back into place and Shanahan thinks that Coleman has a chance to play in the Super Bowl in two weeks. Only time will tell if the 26-year-old will be able to play against Kansas City. He ran the ball six times for 21 yards before his injury and had a season-high 22 totes for 105 yards and two touchdowns in the Divisional win over the Vikings. Even if Coleman plays, he'll be second fiddle to Raheem Mostert, who ran for over 200 yards and four scores against Green Bay. Matt Breida would spell Mostert in the backfield if Coleman doesn't gain clearance.
Updating a previous report, San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) suffered a dislocated shoulder during the NFC Championship game but had it popped back into place, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan. The team is still waiting on the results from Coleman's MRI.
Fantasy Spin: Coleman could be a game-time decision for the game, so fantasy players should keep an eye on his status over the next few weeks. He could be a starting fantasy option if he plays.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) has undergone an MRI on his injured shoulder, but the team is waiting for the results, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan said Coleman has a chance to play in Super Bowl LIV.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to keep an eye on Coleman's practice participation over the new few weeks to see if he has a chance to play against the Kansas City Chiefs. He will be part of a committee at running back if he plays and could be a starting fantasy option.
Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (rib) suffered a broken rib during the Divisional Round playoff game but continued to play in the game.
Fantasy Spin: Hopkins could miss some offseason workouts but will be fine for the 2020 season. He is one of the top receivers in the NFL and will be an early round pick in fantasy drafts.
Tennessee Titans impending free-agent CB Logan Ryan said he would be interested in re-signing with the Titans this offseason but does not know what will happen in free agency.
Green Bay Packers impending free-agent TE Marcedes Lewis said he wants to continue his playing career and hopes to re-sign with the Packers this offseason because he felt comfortable with his role in head coach Matt LaFleur's offense.
Los Angeles Chargers QB Philip Rivers is set to become a free agent at the end of the league year and recently moved from San Diego to Florida in order to be closer to his family in Alabama. The combination of the two is fueling 'a lot of buzz' that Rivers may be a potential target for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora.
There has been buzz that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a possible landing spot for Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who will become a free agent in March. After his worst season since 2007, the aging gunslinger is unlikely to re-sign with the Bolts, and he recently moved his family from San Diego to Florida to be closer to his extended family in Alabama. The 38-year-old might have a year or two left of football in him if he continues to play, but the 2019 season showed that he's near the end of the line. Rivers would only be an option for Tampa if they choose not to bring Jameis Winston back for at least another season after he led all of football in passing yards last season.
Houston Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has been fired, and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver has been promoted in his place, according to league sources. Houston's defense was a liability for most of the year, especially their leaky secondary. The Texans allowed 51 points and seven straight touchdown drives to the Chiefs in the Divisional Round loss. During the 2019 season, Houston's defense allowed 388.3 yards per game (fifth worst), 267.3 passing yards per game (fourth worst), 121.1 rushing yards a game and 24.1 points per game. Getting J.J. Watt back healthy for a full season will be a start to the Texans rebounding on defense under Weaver.
The Carolina Panthers hired former Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Snow as their new defensive coordinator on Monday. Snow oversaw the defenses for Matt Rhule at both Baylor and Temple. He has 37 years of college coaching experience and has also served as a defensive coordinator at UCLA, Washington, Arizona State and Boise State. Snow coached four seasons in the NFL with the Lions from 2005 to 2008 when he worked with the team's linebackers. Snow will lead a Carolina defense in 2020 that will be without All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly, who recently announced his retirement from football.
Houston Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is not expected back in 2020. Defensive line coach Anthony Weaver is the top candidate to replace him.
Updating a previous report, San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) has a 'good chance' to be available for the Super Bowl, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Updating a previous report, Green Bay Packers CB Jaire Alexander (thumb) suffered a broken thumb during the team's NFC Championship Game loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Alexander is hopeful he won't need to undergo surgery.
The Green Bay Packers Defense recorded one sack and allowed 37 points in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers steamrolled past Green Bay's unit for 285 rushing yards and four rushing scores. To make matters worse, they couldn't generate much pressure or any turnovers. Despite the disappointing end, the Packers defense was much improved from last year, ranking 15th in sacks with 41 as well as third in interceptions with 17. They may not be among the top defenses drafted in 2020, though they should be on every fantasy managers' radar.
Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham caught four of five targets for 59 yards in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Graham was a big disappointment this season in a year filled with disappointing tight ends. The 33-year-old put up the lowest numbers since his rookie season and never really put together a good stretch of play until very recently. Graham has one year left on his contract worth about 7.5 million dollars. Given how much of a bust he was, perhaps Green Bay cuts ties with him and goes younger at the position in 2020.