Prescott’s 3rd TD to Cooper lifts Cowboys over Eagles in OT
By SCHUYLER DIXON
AP Pro Football Writer
Monday, December 10
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Amari Cooper’s impact on Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott has been dramatic.
The new No. 1 receiver for the Cowboys shook up the NFC East race, too.
Prescott threw his third touchdown pass to Cooper on the first possession of overtime, and the Cowboys took a big step toward the division title with a 29-23 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
On third down, Rasul Douglas tipped the pass into the air by getting inside the slant route, and Cooper grabbed it and had a clear path to the end zone from the Philadelphia 7 for the 15-yard score. The Cowboys used almost all of the 10-minute overtime, scoring with 1:55 remaining.
“I knew I had the slant route there, but I knew he would sit on it,” Cooper said. “I tried to sell the fade. It didn’t really work, but I just stayed with the ball and there you have it.”
By winning the third overtime game in the past four seasons at A&T Stadium between these division rivals, the Cowboys (8-5) won their fifth straight game and took a two-game lead over the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles (6-7) and Washington with three games left.
Carson Wentz threw for three touchdowns, including a pair of tying scores in the fourth quarter. But he never got a chance in overtime because Prescott engineered a 13-play, 75-yard drive.
Prescott overcame two interceptions and a lost fumble to set career highs in completions (42), attempts (54) and yards passing (455).
“Helpless feeling,” Wentz said. “I’ve got a lot of lot of confidence in the defense. They were making plays today. We just didn’t do enough early offensively and that cost us.”
The Cowboys dominated almost from the start, but let the Eagles stay close to set up a wild fourth quarter. Dallas, which can clinch the NFC East title with a win at Indianapolis next Sunday, finished with 576 yards, the most since gaining 578 against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973.
Cooper finished with a career-high 217 yards receiving on 10 catches in his second game in the past three with at least 180 yards and two scores. All three of Cooper’s touchdowns — the others from 75 and 28 yards — were in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Acquired from Oakland for a 2019 first-round draft pick seven games into the season, Cooper leads the NFL with 642 yards receiving since Week 9, his first game with the Cowboys. He had nine catches for 190 yards after halftime.
The Cowboys went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Eagles 19 in overtime and got it with a 1-yard plunge from Ezekiel Elliott, who had 192 yards from scrimmage on 40 touches — 28 carries for 113 yards and 12 catches for 79.
Cooper converted a pair of third downs on the winning drive. The first one was big, too — a 12-yarder on third-and-9 from the Philadelphia 40.
“I was almost I guess I would say astonished that we were able to get that trade,” said Prescott, whose has seen a significant jump in completion percentage, yards per game and passer rating in six games with Cooper.
“So I guess if you say that, when we’re getting a trade, well, what’s wrong? And then to get him and see everything turning out and playing out the way it is, we’re very, very fortunate.”
Brett Maher set a Dallas franchise record with a 62-yard field goal on the final play of the first half and had three field goals.
The game went from a defensive struggle with missed Dallas opportunities that kept the Eagles close to a wild fourth-quarter shootout.
Wentz thought he had answered the 75-yard touchdown to Cooper with 3:01 remaining with a matching 75-yarder to tight end Dallas Goedert.
But Goedert was called for pass interference, apparently for pushing off against Jeff Heath before bouncing off a helmet-to-helmet hit from Xavier Woods that wasn’t called and running to the end zone from midfield.
Philadelphia scored anyway, with Wentz leading a more methodical march to his third touchdown pass, a 6-yarder to Darren Sproles for a 23-23 tie with 1:39 to go in regulation.
Douglas had the first interception of Prescott in the first half, but couldn’t get a second hand on the ball for the depleted Philadelphia secondary against Cooper with the game on the line.
“I played it perfectly,” he said. “I couldn’t get the other hand in there to get the pick. I tried to bat it down.”
Two years ago, the Cowboys won by the same score with a touchdown on the first possession of overtime. Prescott was on his way to NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, and Elliott went on to win the league rushing title as a rookie. The 12-play, 75-yard drive took 7:12 and was capped by Prescott’s 5-yard TD to now-retired tight end Jason Witten.
LOPSIDED STATS, CLOSE GAME
The Cowboys outgained the Eagles 576-256 and had twice as many first downs (32-16). Dallas ran 93 plays to 48 for Philadelphia and had the ball for 45:33 compared to 22:32 for the Eagles.
“Give them credit for fighting and scratching and clawing and doing the things necessary to stay in the ballgame,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.
Cowboys RG Zack Martin left in the second half with a knee injury. The four-time Pro Bowler has been battling a knee issue all season. … Philadelphia RB Corey Clement injured his right knee when he was stopped for a 4-yard loss late in the first quarter and didn’t return. … Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat left in the first half with an ankle injury and didn’t return.
Eagles: At LA Rams next Sunday.
Cowboys: At Indianapolis next Sunday.
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Raiders fire GM Reggie McKenzie
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
Tuesday, December 11
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — From the moment Jon Gruden was brought back for a second stint as coach of the Oakland Raiders with a 10-year contract, general manager Reggie McKenzie’s longevity in the position was in serious doubt.
That only eroded more with each departure of one of McKenzie’s prized former draft picks and ended when he was fired Monday, less than two years after he was named the NFL’s executive of the year.
With the Raiders unable to build off that breakthrough 12-win season in 2016 and McKenzie’s recent drafts failing to generate many impact players, the move to cut ties with McKenzie was made after Oakland beat Pittsburgh 24-21 for its third win of the season.
McKenzie’s influence with the Raiders had waned ever since the triumphant news conference to welcome Gruden back to Oakland in January. Gruden got rid of several of the players McKenzie had acquired, most notably edge rusher Khalil Mack and receiver Amari Cooper.
“I’m not going to sit up here today and talk about any disconnect,” Gruden said. “We were connected. We were very good friends and very connected. I’ll leave it at that.”
Gruden said owner Mark Davis informed McKenzie of the move and the Raiders only issued a brief statement thanking McKenzie for his time in Oakland and wishing him well.
“We won a game last night and I went home,” Gruden said. “Obviously, there was a meeting last night and changes have been made. I respect everything that this organization is about. I can’t exactly answer why the change was made last night, but changes were made, and we got to continue to fight and continue to build this team back and that’s what we are going to do.”
Director of college scouting Shawn Herock will handle the GM duties during the search process.
McKenzie was the first major hire made by Davis after he took over the team following the death of his father, Al, in 2011. McKenzie modernized the franchise, got the team out of salary cap purgatory, and built a roster that went 12-4 under coach Jack Del Rio in 2016, earning him honors as the league’s top executive.
But the Raiders slumped to a 6-10 record last season, leading Davis to fire Del Rio and get Gruden to take the hefty contract after years of courting.
Gruden set out to overhaul the roster, trading away and cutting many of McKenzie’s former draft picks. That accelerated a week before the start of the season when Mack was dealt to Chicago for a package including two first-round picks and then Cooper was dealt in October to Dallas for another first-round pick.
With those deals, only nine players drafted by McKenzie from 2012 to 2017 remain on the active roster.
Despite all that, McKenzie downplayed any rift in the relationship that dated back to the 1990s when both worked together in Green Bay.
“Gruden and I, we work together very well,” McKenzie said after the Cooper trade. “Let’s get no mistakes about him pushing me out. That’s not happening. Me not being able to work with Gruden? That’s furthest from the truth. OK?”
The highlight of McKenzie’s tenure came in the 2014 draft, when he put together the nucleus of Oakland’s only playoff team since going to the Super Bowl following the 2002 campaign.
He drafted Mack fourth overall and watched him develop into the 2016 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, got quarterback Derek Carr in the second round to end the more than decade-long revolving door at the position, and added several other key players, including guard Gabe Jackson and defensive tackle Justin Ellis later in the draft.
Those players, teamed with an offensive line fortified by free agent signings center Rodney Hudson, guard Kelechi Osemele and tackle Donald Penn, made the Raiders a contender in 2016 before Carr broke his leg in a Week 16 win over Indianapolis. Oakland lost the division the following week and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs against Houston.
Carr was given a $125 million, five-year extension the following summer but the team regressed and the inability to get a long-term deal done with Mack led to a holdout this past summer and his eventual trade.
The Raiders have struggled in Gruden’s first year back on the sideline since being fired by Tampa Bay following the 2008 season. Oakland started the season 1-8 before winning two of the past four games. The Raiders (3-10) are tied with San Francisco and Arizona for the worst record in the league.
With a likely top 10 pick of their own and two other first-rounders this year, along with two first-round picks next year, Gruden likely wanted his own people in place in the personnel department to make those moves.
“When you’re 3-10, I’m not surprised with anything that happens in this league,” Gruden said. “I’ve been fired. I’ve been traded. It’s a horrible part of this business and I’m very sensitive to it.”
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Drake Escape: Miami’s score on final play beats Pats 34-33
By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
Monday, December 10
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The celebratory mob scene in the corner of the end zone broke out far from Ryan Tannehill, leaving him in the open field, running and screaming as he waved his arms. Since he couldn’t find anyone to hug, he flopped to the grass on his back, the job done and the game won.
“I collapsed — just the emotion of the whole thing,” Tannehill said.
Sixteen seconds from defeat, Tannehill threw a short pass and then watched his teammates save the season with the “Drake Escape.”
Kenyan Drake ran the last 52 yards as the Dolphins scored on a pass and double lateral on the final play Sunday to beat the New England Patriots 34-33. With that, Miami lived up to its nickname — the Magic City.
“They just made one more play than we did,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
And what a play. The Patriots were on the verge of clinching their 10th consecutive AFC East title when the Dolphins lined up at their 31 after a kickoff return trailing 33-28.
“We had them right where we wanted,” Tannehill said dryly. “Not really surprised with how things turned out.”
He threw a 14-yard pass to Kenny Stills, who lateraled to DeVante Parker, who quickly lateraled to Drake along the sideline. He cut toward the middle and found a seam, helped by a block from guard Ted Larsen at the 30.
Drake beat two Patriots to the corner of the end zone — defensive back J.C. Jackson and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was on the field as part of New England’s prevent defense.
“Drake runs a 4.3, and Gronk probably runs a 4.6 or 4.7, so you feel good about that matchup,” Tannehill said.
Then came one last pass to punctuate the play — Drake reared back for a celebratory heave into the stands as the Dolphins’ bench emptied and teammates swarmed him.
“Football,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, “is a crazy game.”
The Dolphins call the play “Boise” because it was borrowed from the Boise State playbook, and they had been working on it all year.
“You rep it in practice over and over,” receiver Kenny Stills said. “Sometimes it’s like, ‘Why are we doing this?’ And now we know why.”
It brought to mind other NFL last-second stunners, including Roger Staubach’s “Hail Mary”, the “Miracle in the Meadowlands” and the “Immaculate Reception”. The play was the longest from scrimmage to win a game with no time remaining in the fourth quarter since the 1970 merger.
Brady threw for 358 yards and three scores, but the stunned Patriots (9-4) lost in Miami for the fifth time in their past six visits. The Dolphins (7-6) came from behind five times to help their slim wild-card chances.
“We’re playing one week at a time right now,” Miami coach Adam Gase said. “Any loss could be the end.”
The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point for the first time in 38 tries this season early in the game, and also missed a 42-yard field goal try. But his 32-yarder to cap a 55-yard drive put the Patriots ahead 30-28 with 6:45 left.
Belichick opted to have Gostkowski kick a 22-yarder in the closing seconds rather than pin the Dolphins near their goal line. Instead, Miami returned the ensuing kickoff to the 31 — and on the next play pulled off a miracle.
Brady broke the NFL record for career touchdown passes including postseason and now has 582, three more than Peyton Manning. His scores covered 2 yards to Julian Edelman, 37 to Cordarrelle Patterson and 16 to Gronkowski .
Tannehill missed two plays at the end of the first half after a teammate stepped on his right foot . He returned to start the second half, and his 23-yard touchdown pass to Brice Butler put the Dolphins ahead 28-27 late in the third quarter.
But they managed only three first downs and no points thereafter — until the final play.
The teams swapped touchdowns and the lead for five consecutive possessions in the second quarter over an entertaining span covering less than 11 minutes.
Miami’s fourth-string running back Brandon Bolden, who spent six years with the Patriots, scored untouched on a career-long 54-yard run up the middle, and added a 6-yard scoring run.
The Patriots squandered a scoring chance at the end of the first half. With 14 seconds left and no timeouts, Brady took the snap at the Miami 2, and when he was sacked by Robert Quinn the clock ran out, leaving the Patriots with a 27-21 lead.
Miami’s Frank Gore ran for 92 yards and had a 24-yard catch, giving him 18,530 career yards from scrimmage, surpassing LaDainian Tomlinson (18,456) for the fifth-most in NFL history. Next up for Gore are Hall of Famers Marshall Faulk (19,154), Walter Payton (21,264), Emmitt Smith (21,579) and Jerry Rice (23,540).
X-rays of Tannehill’s right ankle were negative, but he acknowledged it didn’t feel good after the game. “I rolled it pretty good,” he said. “Got X-rays and buttoned it up tight.”
Tannehill finished 14 for 19 for 265 yards, three scores and no turnovers. He has won nine consecutive home starts.
New England plays Sunday at Pittsburgh. The Patriots also traveled there in Week 15 last year, and won 27-24.
Miami plays Sunday at Minnesota.
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Butker’s OT field goal lifts Chiefs past Ravens, 27-24
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
Monday, December 10
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The fourth-down play was designed to go left, yet there was Patrick Mahomes scrambling to his right with a phalanx of Ravens in pursuit, his eyes trained on Tyreek Hill deep downfield.
Mahomes heaved an audacious throw. Hill made an incredible catch.
The Chiefs proceeded to score a tying touchdown on a pass to Damien Williams on another fourth-down play to force overtime. Then they watched as Harrison Butker booted a 36-yard field goal — atoning for a miss as time expired — and their maligned defense stuffed Baltimore to escape with a 27-24 victory Sunday.
“You always want to be in a position to go win a game,” said Mahomes, who threw for 377 yards and two scores as the Chiefs clinched a playoff berth. “These are the best wins when you have to battle, when you trade plays. These are the ones that you remember the most.”
The Ravens looked as if they might match Butker’s field goal, marching across midfield in overtime, but Ronnie Stanley’s holding penalty put them in a bind. Jackson was then sacked by Justin Houston and Dee Ford — and left with an ankle injury — before Robert Griffin III threw two incompletions to end it.
“We played a heck of a game. Just didn’t get it down,” said Jackson, who insisted after X-rays came back negative that he would be OK. “We’ve got to regroup next week and get ready for our next game.”
Tyreek Hill caught eight passes for 139 yards for Kansas City (11-2), including three in overtime to set up the eventual winning field goal. Travis Kelce had seven catches for 77 yards and another score, becoming the first tight end in league history with at least 80 receptions and 1,000 yards receiving in three consecutive seasons.
Jackson finished with 147 yards and two touchdowns for the Ravens, who had never lost in three trips to Arrowhead Stadium. Jackson also had 71 yards rushing in his fourth start in place of Joe Flacco .
“We didn’t come here for no moral victory,” Ravens pass rusher Terrell Suggs said. “We didn’t come here to ‘do well’ against a 10-2 team, now 11-2. No, we came to win.”
Both teams looked as if they had the game won in regulation.
The Ravens (7-6) took the lead with 4:04 to go when a long punt return gave them a short field, and Jackson threw a third-down touchdown pass to John Brown. But the NFL’s top-ranked defense twice allowed the league’s highest-scoring offense to convert on fourth down .
The first came on fourth-and-9 at the Chiefs 40, when Mahomes scrambled to his right and threw his absurd cross-body heave to a hobbled Hill for a 40-yard gain. The second came on fourth-and-3 at the Ravens 5, when Mahomes threw his dump-off to Williams for the tying touchdown.
“I mean, Pat makes unbelievable throws every game, it’s just the kind of player he is,” Kelce said. “You’re never dead on any play as a wide receiver, tight end or running back in the routes.”
As the Ravens tried to get into range for kicker Justin Tucker, Houston strip-sacked Jackson to give Kansas City the ball. Butker proceeded to miss his second field goal of the game to force overtime.
He made up for that miss a few minutes later.
“All I’m trying to do is make it through the uprights. That’s what I do every time,” he said. “I try to split up the kicks, so I’m not thinking about the past. Every kick is a new kick.”
The Chiefs at times had no problem slicing up the Ravens’ staunch defense, putting together a pair of long TD drives to take a 17-10 lead into the break. Williams capped the first with his short TD plunge and Kelce finished the other with a nice over-the-shoulder catch.
At other times, the Ravens got enough pressure on Mahomes to make him look like a rookie.
The Chiefs, whose own defense ranks near the bottom of the league, held their own much of the game. They allowed a 75-yard drive entirely on the ground in the first half, which Kenneth Dixon finished with a 3-yard run, but otherwise kept Jackson and Co. from making big plays.
“We played really well,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, “and they made some plays.”
Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said the organization was aware of three separate off-field incidents that led to the release of star running back Kareem Hunt nine days ago. That includes the alleged assault in a Cleveland hotel that was captured on a security camera. All three cases were reported to the NFL. “The NFL was investigating them,” Clark Hunt said in his first comments on the case. “The league has spent a lot of time and resources trying to build a department that can handle these types of situations. Obviously it is imperfect. I’m not sure you can ever reach perfection.”
Ravens FB-DL Patrick Ricard apologized after the game for racist and homophobic tweets that he made in high school and surfaced late Saturday, calling them “inappropriate and unacceptable.” The Ravens said in a statement before the game that they condemned the tweets. Ricard was a healthy scratch for the game.
Kansas City defensive lineman Chris Jones recorded a sack, giving him at least one in each of the Chiefs’ past nine games — the first player with a sack in at least nine consecutive games in a single season since the individual sack became an official statistic in 1982. He’s also the sixth player since 1982 to record at least one sack in nine consecutive games at any point.
Mahomes joined Pro Football Hall of Famers Dan Marino (1984) and Kurt Warner (1999) as the only first- or second-year quarterbacks in league history with at least 4,000 yards passing and 40 touchdown passes in a single season.
Ravens: Flacco (hip) and SS Tony Jefferson (ankle) were inactive for the game.
Chiefs: RB Spencer Ware left late in the first half after FS Eric Weddle forced him out of bounds and he landed hard on his right shoulder. He returned after halftime. … Hill (heel) also left late in the half before returning. … WR Sammy Watkins (foot) and SS Eric Berry (heel) were inactive.
Ravens: Return home to face the Buccaneers next Sunday.
Chiefs: Play the Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday night.
Henry runs into NFL record book as Titans rout Jaguars 30-9
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Pro Football Writer
Friday, December 7
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Under center at the 1-yard line, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota checked out of a quarterback sneak, and Derrick Henry did the rest — as much with his arms as his legs.
The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry sped and stiff-armed his way to a record-tying 99-yard touchdown run , and Tennessee routed the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-9 on Thursday night to stay in the playoff chase.
Henry matched Tony Dorsett’s 99-yarder on Jan. 3, 1983, for Dallas against Minnesota for the longest TD run in NFL history. Henry ran to his left and went up the sideline, stiff-arming cornerback A.J. Bouye, then rookie linebacker Leon Jacobs twice and finally shoving linebacker Myles Jack to finish off the second of his four TDs.
“Once I got in the open field on that 99-yard run, it was going to take all of them,” Henry said. “I definitely wasn’t going to go down easy, so I definitely wanted to use my stiff-arm to my advantage, and it worked.”
The Titans talked before the possession about going 99 yards, so left tackle Taylor Lewan was a bit surprised to hear the call for a quarterback sneak.
“I was like, ‘That ain’t going to get us 99 yards, boys,’” Lewan said. “But it was checked, so it was cool.”
The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner celebrated by striking the Heisman pose not once, but twice. Dorsett didn’t keep the ball from his run, but Henry said he’d definitely keep his.
“He’s a legend,” Henry said of his fellow Heisman winner. “It’s cool to be in that company with Tony Dorsett.”
Henry set a franchise record with 238 yards on 16 carries, topping the previous mark of 228 yards set by Chris Johnson in 2009 against, yes, the Jaguars.
Johnson called Henry’s 99-yarder “amazing” and congratulated Henry on the team record.
Henry tied Lorenzo White and Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell for most rushing TDs in a single game in franchise history. Henry also became the first player in the NFL with four rushing TDs in a game since Jonas Gray of the Patriots in Week 11 in 2014.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel called Henry’s night “very impressive.”
“He just ran out of guys to stiff-arm,” Vrabel said.
With the rout and second win in a row, the Titans (7-6) stayed in AFC playoff contention with their fourth straight victory over their oldest division rival. They’ve won six of their last seven against Jacksonville.
The Jaguars (4-9) have lost eight of their last nine, and coach Doug Marrone said he was “heavily disappointed.”
“Obviously, we had a difficult time on first, second and third (downs), and sometimes in the fourth tackling (Henry),” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. “He had, obviously, a career night.”
Mariota, wearing black tape on the back of his right hand, threw for 162 yards. The Titans outgained the Jaguars 426-255, and they also had four sacks.
Jacksonville came in with the league’s fifth-best scoring defense after shutting out Andrew Luck for the first time in the NFL. But Jacksonville has been susceptible against the run, ranked 16th by giving up 108.4 yards. Henry nearly matched that on his record-tying run.
“For the rest of his life, I’ll be on his highlights,” Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell said about Henry.
The record-tying TD capped a huge swing over two plays.
Titans rookie Cameron Batson muffed the punt at the Titans 7 before recovering at the 1 and being tackled in the end zone for a safety. The Jaguars took the ensuing free kick and drove downfield, where they picked up a fourth-and-1 at the Titans 5. Then the Titans stopped the Jaguars on the next four plays, the last with rookie linebacker Rashaan Evans tripping up Leonard Fournette.
On the very next play, Henry started toward the middle before turning left for a TD run where he simply couldn’t be stopped. Henry had 129 yards on six carries with two TDs by halftime to become the Titans’ first 100-yard rusher this season. Before his night ended, he added TD runs of 16 and 54 yards .
The Titans running back has three TDs of 70 yards or more rushing since 2017, the most in the NFL. Fournette, who has two such TDs, is the only other player with more than one in that span. According to the NFL, no player in the Super Bowl era had rushed for 200 or more yards and four or more TDs on 20 or fewer carries.
Lewan hurt his left arm or shoulder midway through the third quarter. When he got up, he yelled at the Jaguars’ sideline before going to the medical tent, but he returned. Titans tight end Jonnu Smith hurt a knee on Henry’s 99-yard TD run. He was down on the field for a few minutes before being helped off the field and straight to the locker room. He did not return. Receiver Tajae Sharpe hurt an ankle, and right tackle Jack Conklin hurt a knee did not return.
Jacobs hurt a quadriceps muscle and did not return. Jaguars defensive tackle Marcell Dareus left with an illness.
Jaguars: Host Washington in Jacksonville’s home finale.
Titans: Visit Giants on Dec. 16.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker