Cowboys’ late drive seals win over Giants

Winning ugly may be the 2018 Cowboys’ formula for success, but they and their fans will happily take any kind of win over the Giants, anytime. In addition, the victory was sealed with a 14-play, fourth-quarter drive that was an absolute thing of beauty, as far as Dallas was concerned.

Holding a tenuous, 13-3 lead, the Cowboys began the drive at their own 18-yard line. Eight minutes and 23 seconds later, Ezekiel Elliott ran six yards into the end zone, all but putting away New York, which at that point needed to score three times in just over four minutes.

Given how feeble the Giants’ passing attack had looked all game with quarterback Eli Manning, that appeared to be an impossible task. Sure enough, New York was able to finally score a touchdown and even recovered an onside kick that led to a field goal, but Dallas ultimately prevailed, 20-13.

Elliott continued to be the engine of the Cowboys’ offense, but with an underwhelming receiving corps, the pressure has been on quarterback Dak Prescott to make enough plays. He was up to the task during the pivotal drive, completing five of six passes for 34 yards while also running three times for 19 yards, including a two-yard effort on fourth-and-1.

We have a new Eli Manning Face

Eli Manning didn’t do much in terms of putting up numbers during the first half of Sunday night’s Giants-Cowboys game, but he did give us a new Eli Manning Face. The veteran quarterback had quite the look on his mug after getting tackled by Dallas defenders, and the Internet wasted no time in taking note.

Somehow, over the first two quarters Sunday, Manning managed to complete 16 passes, out of 20 attempts, for a mere 97 yards, with no touchdowns, interceptions — or points. That worked out to an anemic 4.9 yards per attempt, continuing a worrying trend for the 37-year-old quarterback, whose marks in that revealing category have dropped from a solid 7.2 in 2015, to 6.6 in 2016 and to 6.1 in both 2017 and in Week 1’s loss to the Jaguars.

Meanwhile, playing with a theoretically far worse receiving corps, Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott completed seven of 14 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. He also added 27 yards on three carries as Dallas went to halftime with a 10-0 lead.

Blake Bortles outplays Tom Brady in Jaguars’ win

It wasn’t necessarily a surprise to see the Jaguars take a lead over the Patriots into the locker room after two quarters — after all, the talented Jags gave New England all it could handle on the road last season in the AFC championship game and now were playing with the home-field advantage. But the size of the lead, 21-3, was an eye-opener, and that’s before getting to the fact that Tom Brady was thoroughly outplayed by … Blake Bortles?

That’s right, Jacksonville’s much-maligned quarterback had the far better half, completing 17 of 25 passes for 200 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Meanwhile, Brady could only muster 107 yards on 12-of-18 passing, with no touchdowns or interceptions.

Of course, there was plenty of game left, and Brady has been known to lead a late comeback or two. The five-time Super Bowl winner gave it a go, but Bortles and his teammates made enough plays late, including a 61-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown wide receiver Dede Westbrook, to seal a 30-21 victory.

Sure, the win didn’t make up completely for Jacksonville’s agonizingly close loss to New England in January, but it did send a message to the AFC that the Jags have every intention of building on their breakout 2017 season — and, this time, hosting the AFC championship game.

Bortles finished with four touchdowns and an interception on 29-of-45 passing for 377 yards, while Brady completed 23 of 35 passes for 23f yards, two scores and no picks.

Broncos get actual made field goal to beat Raiders

Hey, look at that, a successful field goal attempt! And better yet — at least for Broncos fans — it was a game-winner.

On a day when kickers had all sorts of issues, both in the clutch and on other occasions, Denver’s Brandon McManus calmly booted through a 36-yarder with six seconds left. A few moments later, his squad had a 20-19 win over Oakland.

The Broncos improved to 2-0, while the Raiders and Jon Gruden fell to 0-2. Don’t blame Oakland quarterback Derek Carr too much for the loss, though, as he completed a remarkable 29 of 32 passes for 288 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

Marquette King revels in Jon Gruden’s misfortune

Perhaps no one was happier to see Jon Gruden start his Raiders coaching career with two losses than Marquette King. Gruden stunned many NFL observers when he cut the accomplished, and also outspoken, punter in March, after which King happened to land with the Broncos.

On Denver win over Oakland later, and King was only too happy to release a short video poking fun both at Gruden’s “Chucky” nickname and his $10 million-per-year salary.

Bills’ Vontae Davis retires at halftime

Playing for the woebegone Bills may not have proved too much for Vontae Davis, but trying to do so with a body badly damaged over nine-plus NFL seasons apparently was. That’s what the veteran cornerback said after making the unusual decision to retire at halftime of Buffalo’s game against the Chargers.

“This isn’t how I pictured retiring from the NFL,” Davis said in a statement released by the NFL. “I’ve endured multiple surgeries and played through many different injuries throughout my career and, over the last few weeks, this was the latest physical challenge. But today on the field, reality hit me fast and hard: I shouldn’t be out there anymore.

“I meant no disrespect to may teammates and coaches,” Davis continued. “But I hold myself to a standard. … It’s more important for me and my family to walk away healthy than to willfully embrace the warrior mentality and limp away too late.”

“I’ve never been around that. Never heard anything like that,” the Bills’ Kyle Williams reportedly said of Davis decision to retire at halftime. “I think the only thing to say is he’s where he needs to be right now.”

LeGarrette Blount ejected after coming to Matthew Stafford’s defense

Lions running back LeGarrette Blount was ejected from Sunday’s game against the 49ers, but he might have earned some points in the locker room, particularly from Matthew Stafford. After the Detroit quarterback was hit hard just before running out of bounds, Blount came off the sideline to punish San Francisco linebacker Elijah Lee.

Before getting tossed midway though the fourth quarter, Blount ran for 38 yards on eight carries. The burly back is in his first season with the Lions, after helping the Eagles win the Super Bowl in February.

Derek Carr near perfect through three quarters

Remember how discombobulated the Raiders looked in the second half of Week 1? That overshadowed the effectiveness of Derek Carr in the first half of that loss to the Rams, and the Oakland quarterback was sharp again Sunday, except even further into the game.

Through three quarters at Denver, Carr had completed 24 of 26 passes for a stellar 92.3 completion percentage, plus 250 yards, a touchdown and, not surprisingly, no interceptions. That’s pretty good, folks, and it had plenty to do with the fact that the Raiders took a 19-10 lead into the fourth quarter.

A day to forget for Sam Bradford

On the flip side of Carr’s excellence? May we present Sam Bradford, who in the past has been one of the NFL’s all-time most accurate quarterbacks, but who seems to have fallen apart at the seams this season.

Granted, the Rams have one of the league’s best defenses, but heading into a junk-time drive with two minutes left and his Cardinals down 34-0, Bradford had completed 11 of 21 passes for a microscopic 64 yards, plus a pick. That awful outing, combined with an unimpressive Week 1 performance, had more than a few Arizona fans clamoring for the team to replace Bradford with rookie Josh Rosen, this year’s 10th overall pick.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s postgame attire was the real MVP

Hey, if you throw four touchdown passes for a second straight week, in a second straight unexpected win, you can wear whatever you like after the game, right? That certainly what Ryan Fitzpatrick seemed to be thinking.

Fitzpatrick is not only coming for Jameis Winston’s job, he also seemed to have his sights set on Cam Newton’s crown as the quarterbacking king of the questionable postgame attire. As it turned out, though, it was all a bit of a gag, with Fitzpatrick telling reporters he’d borrowed the look from teammate DeSean Jackson.

Another week of heart-stopping finishes

From Green Bay to Tampa to New Orleans, the second week of the NFL season picked up where the first left off, providing high-scoring affairs that went down to the wire. And for the first time in two years, a game ended in a tie in each of the first two weeks of the season.

If only Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins could kick

Aaron Rodgers was Aaron Rodgers, gimpy left leg and all, but he couldn’t prevent overtime.

A key call hurt the Packers late in regulation when Clay Matthews brought down Kirk Cousins and was flagged, taking a game-ending interception out of the Packers’ hands. Cousins drove the team down the field to tie the score at 29-29. Rodgers took them within field goal position and Mason Crosby’s 52-yard attempt was good. But wait! Mike Zimmer called a last-second time out and Crosby’s second attempt — the one that actually counted — was no good, sending the game into overtime.

The Vikings had a chance to win with time running out in overtime, but Daniel Carlson couldn’t convert, missing his third kick in the game and sending both teams off with an unsatisfying tie. But at least it was historic.

About that Rodgers Rule . . .

The new “Aaron Rodgers Rule” calls for defenders to be flagged for landing on a quarterback with all or most of their body weight as the quarterback sets up to throw. It continued to be an issue in Week 2, most visibly in the Packers-Vikings game, in which Eric Kendricks was called for roughing the passer even though he did not land on Rodgers with all his weight.

Defenders were flagged 15 times for roughing-the-passer penalties in Week 1. Citing numbers from Stats LLC, the Star-Tribune’s Ben Goessling reports that roughing-the-passer penalties made up 5.9 percent of the flags thrown in Week 1, nearly double the 3.1 percent figure from last year.

The rule was enacted after the Vikings’ Anthony Barr landed on Rodgers last fall with all his weight, breaking his collarbone and limiting him to one game the rest of the season.

Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Fitzpatrick are still on fire

Teams are going to score on the Kansas City Chiefs. We learned that in Week 1 and were reminded again in Week 2. But that doesn’t matter with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. The team’s replacement for Alex Smith continued his ridiculously hot start, passing for six touchdowns against the Steelers. Coupled with his four-touchdown performance last week, he is now the first NFL quarterback to pass for 10 touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season.

But the Steelers weren’t about to be stopped, either, with Ben Roethlisberger passing for 452 yards and three touchdowns despite an elbow bruise. But Mahomes finished with 326 yards passing as KC moved to 2-0 with the 42-37 victory.

For Tampa Bay, Ryan Fitzpatrick continued to stake his claim to the starting job with Jameis Winston suspended. He followed up on last week’s four-touchdown performance by passing for 402 yards and four touchdowns (two of 75 yards each) in a 27-21 victory over Philadelphia.

The Browns are gonna win one of these days. Right?

Last week, the Browns ended their losing streak in the most Browns-like way possible: fighting to a tie with the Steelers. This week, they almost won. Which means, they lost.

Like last week’s effort, this one came down to the wire and, well, there’s probably going to be an opening for a kicker in Cleveland because Zane Gonzalez came up empty again and the Browns fell 21-18 to the Saints.

The Titans handed the Texans, playing without Jadeveon Clowney, their eighth straight loss, with Ryan Succop hitting a 31-yard field goal with a minute left to secure a 20-17 victory.

Cam Newton takes a big hit in a loss

Cam Newton took a vicious hit by the Falcons’ Damontae Kazee, who was ejected for the dirty play in a 31-24 loss to Atlanta. Newton was hot about the helmet-to-helmet hit that occurred as he slid, but stayed in the game because it took so long for officials to determine the penalty and passed for a touchdown.

Elsewhere . . .

Not all the games were close. Miami dispatched the Jets 20-12, moving to 2-0 for the first time in five years; Indianapolis handled the Redskins 21-9; and the Los Angeles Chargers beat Buffalo 31-20.

A Saturday surprise about Josh Gordon

Josh Gordon, the Cleveland Browns’ talented wide receiver whose troubles with substance abuse often kept him off the field, wasn’t expected to play Sunday because of a hamstring injury, but the Browns announced Saturday evening that they would be releasing him Monday. Gordon, according to’s Mary Kay Cabot, was a late arrival at the Browns’ facility on Saturday and “was not himself,” which raised a red flag for a possible relapse within the organization. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that the issue stems from the hamstring injury, which was discovered Saturday after being a full participant in practice all week. ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the expectation is that the Browns will trade Gordon before Monday and that multiple teams have already made inquiries.

Gordon missed training camp this summer, saying he needed to focus on his mental health.

Wentz on track to return for Week 3

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who suffered a knee injury last season, reportedly will be cleared this week and could return next Sunday against Indianapolis, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.

Mychal Kendricks can play, for now

The Seattle Seahawks’ new linebacker, Mychal Kendricks, will be allowed to play while an appeal of his suspension is pending. Kendricks, who pleaded guilty to insider trading and was cut by the Browns, is expected to make his debut with the team Monday night against the Bears. Kendricks’s sentencing is set for January.

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Texans take a hit: Houston linebacker Jadeveon Clowney will miss the game against Tennessee because of a strained muscle in his side. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, whose ability to grip the ball is compromised by an elbow injury, is listed as active, but he may share time with Blaine Gabbert.

Olsen hurt: Panthers tight end Greg Olsen refractured his foot against the Cowboys last week and will be evaluated monthly.

Mixon has surgery: Bengals running back Joe Mixon will miss two-to-four weeks after having arthroscopic surgery for a knee injury he suffered Thursday night in a victory over Baltimore.