Ugly tie: Browns coach: Taylor, offense must ‘play better’
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
Monday, September 10
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Don’t blame Ty for the tie.
Browns coach Hue Jackson defended starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor on Monday as Cleveland’s players, coaches and fans digested how a season opener that could have ended with the team’s first win since 2016 turned into a painful 21-21 draw against the Pittsburgh Steelers — the NFL’s first Week 1 tie in 47 years.
Of course, because this is Cleveland, where quarterback criticism is passed down through generations, much of the postgame blame was directed at Taylor, who completed just 15 of 40 passes, got sacked seven times and missed a few open receivers in his first start for the Browns.
But despite Taylor’s struggles, Jackson crushed any speculation he’s ready to turn his offense over to rookie Baker Mayfield anytime soon.
“He is the quarterback,” Jackson said of Taylor.
Jackson stiffened when he was asked what kind of leash he intends to have on Taylor, who was acquired in March from Buffalo and will start until the Browns feel the No. 1 overall pick Mayfield is ready.
“Leash?” Jackson said. “We are trying to win. His job is to get the offense to play the best that it can play, but it takes more than just him. I know the sentiment I am getting here is that it is him. It is not.
“It is the offensive unit as a whole. Got to play better. Whether that is newness or whatever it is, I do not want to get caught up in all of that.”
Taylor had moments of indecisiveness Sunday, but that may have had as much to do with Pittsburgh’s pass rush and an offense with several new faces, including rookie left tackle Desmond Harrison.
But while supporting his QB, Jackson acknowledged that Taylor underthrew receiver Josh Gordon on a potential big play and he needs to be more accurate.
“Improve, complete the ball,” Jackson said when asked what Taylor needs to do for the Browns to win on Sunday at New Orleans.
“Complete the ball. Complete the ball. I mean we have got to play better offensively, it is not just him. We have got to play better around him. He has to play better. We have to play better as an offensive unit.
“We did not play very well yesterday, let’s just be honest. We need to play better.”
It’s almost inconceivable the Browns didn’t win.
Coming off a 0-16 season, they became the first team not to win with a plus-5 turnover differential or better since Arizona was beaten at Atlanta in 2012. And, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams with a plus-5 turnover differential or better are 132-4-1 since 1999.
The beleaguered Browns have two of those losses and now the tie.
For now, Taylor has the team’s unwavering support. But it will be interesting to see if that commitment can withstand another subpar performance or two.
One of the knocks on Taylor in Buffalo was that he often missed throws he should have completed, and that he was afraid to attempt passes over the middle.
Jackson wouldn’t pinpoint Taylor’s problems in the opener — he led the team in rushing and ran for a TD — but made it clear the 28-year-old had better step up his game.
“Not good enough,” Jackson said. “What I am also saying in there is that it is not all him. Sometimes guys got to be in the right spot. Protection has to hold up for him. All of those things in a passing game make a difference. It is not just him. Does he have to do his job better? Yes. I think everyone around him has to do their job better, too.”
NOTES: Jackson said a “miscommunication” resulted in Gordon starting Sunday after the coach had vehemently expressed there would be consequences for the receiver missing three-plus weeks of training camp to address his sobriety. But on Cleveland’s first play, Gordon lined up wide in a three-tight end personnel package. “The game’s over with now, so to talk about it, what’s it going to do? Nothing,” said Jackson, who has turned play calling over to coordinator Todd Haley this season. “I’ve dealt with it. We move on.” Gordon played 68 snaps, but was only targeted three times. His only catch was a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter.
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Rams spoil Gruden’s return with 33-13 win over Raiders
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
Tuesday, September 11
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Once Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams offense got started after sitting out the entire preseason, they couldn’t be stopped.
Goff threw two touchdown passes, newcomer Marcus Peters returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown and the Rams used a dominant second half to spoil coach Jon Gruden’s much-anticipated return to the Oakland sideline by beating the Raiders 33-13 on Monday night.
“There was a little bit of feeling it out, seeing what they’re going to do, seeing what their scheme is,” Goff said. “I thought our defense did a great job of responding as well as our offense. I still don’t think we played up to our standards in the first half. Think the second half, we came out and we did.”
Goff and the rest of the offensive starters for the Rams (1-0) didn’t play at all in the preseason, and many of the top defensive players also got little time on the field in the exhibition games.
That might have contributed to the shaky start. The Raiders (0-1) moved the ball relatively easily and the Rams struggled to finish drives. But Los Angeles flipped the script in the second half, outscoring Oakland 23-0 and showing why this team is considered one of the favorites in the NFC after last year’s breakthrough season that ended with a division title.
“I think for us to be able to go through a little bit of adversity and have to come back from behind going into the half, that was a good test of your resolve as a football team,” coach Sean McVay said. “It was certainly a good job by those guys and I thought the offense responded.”
Gruden had his first game as coach of the Raiders (0-1) since the end of the 2001 season. He was traded to Tampa Bay after that season and beat the Raiders in the Super Bowl the following year. He has been announcing for ESPN for the past nine seasons before Oakland owner Mark Davis finally lured him back to the delight of Raiders fans.
But there were only boos by the end of the night after Peters iced the game with his touchdown return on Derek Carr’s third interception of the game.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Gruden said. “Obviously we did not take care of the ball and that was a critical part of that football game.”
Peters punctuated that with a celebratory dive into the end zone reminiscent of his close friend Marshawn Lynch.
“I did the Beast Mode,” Peters said. “That’s what I did.”
Gruden’s second stint started well with the Raiders taking the opening kick and driving 75 yards for a touchdown on a 10-yard run by Lynch. The Rams had Lynch stood up at the 3, but he powered his way into the end zone with help from a push by his offensive linemen.
Oakland managed just six points the rest of the way against a defense fortified by the offseason additions of former All-Pros Peters, Aqib Talib and Ndamukong Suh.
Carr threw an interception in the end zone to John Johnson in the second quarter and another in the fourth when he tried to pull back a pass at the last minute only to have the ball slip out and float right to linebacker Cory Littleton
“It was one of the dumbest plays you could have,” Carr said. “I knew what I should have done as soon as that play was over.”
The Rams matched the early score when Todd Gurley took a flip from Goff and raced 19 yards to the end zone . They took control in the second half.
Los Angeles tied it at 13 on a field goal by Greg Zuerlein on the opening drive of the third quarter and then took the lead for good on a 58-yard, four-play drive that featured two passes downfield to another offseason addition, Brandin Cooks, and then the 8-yard TD to Cooper Kupp.
The Raiders barely touched Goff all night just over a week after trading star pass rusher Khalil Mack to Chicago for a package that included two first-round picks. Bruce Irvin had the only sack when Goff held the ball too long and there were few other pressures.
Gruden’s defeat dropped the league’s new head coaches to 0-7 in Week 1.
The Raiders once again had issues with penalties, committing 10 for 145 yards in the first half alone thanks to two long pass interference calls against Rashaan Melvin (37 yards) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (50). That’s more yards in penalties than they had in any game during Gruden’s first four-year stint and the most in the first half for any team since at least 2000. The Raiders had one penalty for 10 yards in the second half.
Raiders long snapper Andrew DePaola injured his knee in the first quarter and didn’t return. TE Lee Smith filled in and provided accurate snaps on two field goals. He had a high snap on a punt but Johnny Townsend leaped and brought it down with no issues. It was a far cry from the 2012 season opener when Jon Condo got hurt for Oakland and Travis Goethel came in and botched three snaps in a loss to the Chargers.
“It was stressful, I can’t even lie to you guys,” Smith said. “I’m just glad they all got back there.”
Rams returner Pharoh Cooper left in the second half with an ankle injury.
Lynch sat once again during the national anthem. Lynch also sat for the anthem all of last season but never gave a reason for his decision.
Rams: Host Arizona on Sunday.
Raiders: Visit Denver on Sunday.
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Packers’ McCarthy says team awaiting more info on Rodgers
By GENARO C. ARMAS
AP Sports Writer
Tuesday, September 11
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy needs more information on the extent of Aaron Rodgers’ knee injury to determine the quarterback’s availability for next week’s game against Minnesota.
Rodgers was sore when the team returned to Lambeau Field on Monday, McCarthy said. The Packers reviewed the thrilling 24-23 win on Sunday night over the Chicago Bears, in which Rodgers threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter after returning from an injury.
The Packers return to the practice field on Wednesday, when the first injury report for Week 2 is due.
“We do have some information and no decision has been made. We’re still collecting all the information,” said McCarthy, who added he did not think it would take the whole week to determine Rodgers’ availability.
He did allow for a new morsel of information about the two-time NFL MVP. It was a short turnaround for everyone on the team after an emotional late-night victory.
“I don’t think anybody’s feeling great right now … But yeah (Rodgers) is sore. He’s walking around in a pair of shorts and tennis shoes and socks if that helps you with your story,” McCarthy joked. “I mean I don’t know what else to tell you.”
Rodgers left in the second quarter against the Bears on a cart after slipping to the turf during a sack and reaching back for the back of his left leg. Rodgers had ACL surgery on his left knee in college.
But he was cleared to return at halftime and came back out for the Packers’ first series of the third quarter.
Operating a no-huddle offense, but staying primarily in the pocket, Rodgers engineered a comeback from a 20-0 deficit early in the third quarter.
It was the first time in franchise history that the Packers won after trailing by 17 points or more entering the fourth quarter, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“It was going to have to take something really catastrophic injury-wise to keep me off the field in the second half,” Rodgers said after the game.
The Packers had to make a similar adjustment late in the 2014 season, when Rodgers was hobbled by a calf injury.
“But he seemed like he moved a little more than I remember back in ‘14,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said.
Rodgers said he would undergo more tests on Monday, but that he was planning to play next week against the Minnesota Vikings.
“No, I plan on playing. Yeah,” he said.
Backup DeShone Kizer took over behind center while Rodgers was being evaluated in the locker room in the second quarter. The second-year quarterback accounted for two turnovers to Khalil Mack , having been stripped of the ball by Mack on a sack, and throwing an interception returned 27 yards for a score by the star linebacker.
Kizer, who was acquired in the offseason in a trade with Cleveland, started 15 games last year for the winless Browns. It included a 33-16 loss to the Vikings on Oct. 29 in London. Kizer was 18 of 34 for 179 yards that day, while also rushing for 18 yards and a touchdown on five carries.
Kizer won the backup job in Green Bay after Brett Hundley was traded to the Seattle Seahawks after the preseason.
“You’ve got to prepare as if you’re the starter every week,” Kizer said Monday.
Asked if he planned to get Kizer more work this week, McCarthy said “Well I mean DeShone will work, I don’t think there’s any question about that. He’ll work a lot this week. Like I said, we’re not that far.”
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