Dante Fowler joins LA Rams, prepares for playoff rush

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams’ top defenders reacted with predictable glee when they heard about the addition of pass-rusher Dante Fowler through a trade with Jacksonville.

“I found out about it, and I was smiling ear to ear,” defensive tackle Aaron Donald said Wednesday.

The unbeaten Rams’ next opponents — the New Orleans Saints — also reacted as you might expect to LA’s big addition ahead of their NFC showdown at the Superdome.

“They couldn’t have waited a week?” quarterback Drew Brees asked lightheartedly. “He obviously adds some juice to that D-line that’s already really stout.”

Fowler passed his physical and went through the Rams’ typically light Wednesday workout at their training complex. In between cram sessions on the Rams’ defensive setup, he spent part of the afternoon in the locker room just talking with his new teammates.

“It’s a new chapter, that’s how I look at it,” Fowler said. “It’s a fresh start, just being able to start over and show guys who I really am.”

Fowler will play for the Rams as a linebacker, which he considers his “natural position.” He is hoping to be more of an every-down contributor than he was in Jacksonville, and he is eager to see what he can do on the rush when defenses must account for Donald, Ndamukong Suh and him on the same passing plays.

“(I want) to go in there, being the extra piece and just contributing to this great defense and to be a part of this special season,” Fowler said. “I’m ready to come in here and do what I’ve got to do to get us where we want to go. … (Donald is the) best defensive tackle in the league, and Ndamukong Suh is a dominant defensive tackle. Shouldn’t be no reason, when I do have my one-on-ones, I’ve just got to make the most out of them.”

The Rams want to go to the Super Bowl, and they’re expected to be a strong contender after the franchise’s first 8-0 start since 1969.

Fowler has a major advantage in playoff experience over most of his new teammates: The Jaguars reached the AFC championship game last season, winning two playoff games along the way before losing to New England. The Rams made the playoffs last season for the first time since the 2004 seasons, and they lost their only postseason game to Atlanta.

“I was on a really good team last year,” said Fowler, who had two sacks in the conference title game. “So it’s giving me a little drive, making me really excited, because I already know the way (to prepare) to be a championship team, and I’m ready for it.”

Fowler already has one friend on the Rams’ defense: Dominique Easley, LA’s injured veteran lineman and linebacker, was Fowler’s host at the University of Florida when he was choosing a college. Fowler called him “my big brother.”

Coach Sean McVay isn’t sure how much Fowler will play against the Saints (6-1), but the former first-round pick’s arrival added another dimension to an already solid defense.

“We anticipate him being able to be involved, and we’ll see how he’s able to adjust, how he’s able to absorb that information,” McVay said. “We wanted to get him in here, and (we’re) hopeful that he’s a contributor for us as soon as this weekend against a tough team.”


McVay still anticipates the return of WR Cooper Kupp from a two-game absence with a knee injury. Kupp was limited in practice Wednesday, but the Rams typically don’t do much physical work on Wednesdays. … LB Trevon Young was the only other Rams player on the injury report. He was limited with his back injury. … The Rams intend to lean on center Brian Allen and rookie Joseph Noteboom as their backup offensive linemen after the loss of Jamon Brown, who was released to make room for Fowler. “What a class act,” McVay said of Brown. “Couldn’t have been more impressed with just the way that he handled a tough, difficult discussion. There’s always the human element that I don’t think you’ll ever be OK with. That’s what’s tough for us, for me as a coach, is when you’ve got to look somebody in the eye who’s been nothing but a class act, a great teammate, instrumental in being able to win a division last year.”


AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.


More AP NFL: www.apnews.com/NFL and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

Brees, Saints offense, brace for unusual challenge vs. Rams

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints face an unusual challenge this weekend.

They’ll try to keep up with an offense every bit as potent as their own — and do so against one of the top-rated defenses in the NFL.

Saints coach Sean Payton said dealing with the Los Angeles Rams’ eighth-ranked defense will be a tall order in itself.

“It presents a ton of problems,” Payton said. “First off, the talent when you’re talking about some of the top tackles and ends in the business — that that in itself is difficult. And then when you put it with an outstanding scheme, then you really have a challenge.”

Brees said Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh comprise the best interior defensive line he’s faced since he was at Purdue and played a Georgia team fielding Marcus Stroud and Richard Seymour in the 2000 Outback Bowl (Georgia won, 28-25).

“At this level, it’s really unheard of to have Suh and Donald in there,” Brees said. “Those guys are unbelievable.”

Donald and Suh have combined for 13 sacks, with Donald getting 10.

The Saints so far have held up well against the pass rush. Brees has been sacked nine times and generally has had enough time to make accurate throws. He was intercepted for the first time Sunday night in Minnesota when an edge-rusher was unblocked and closing quickly on him.

Offensively, New Orleans ranks eighth in yards per game and second in points per game at 33.4. Brees’ passing numbers have gone down lately, but more because of New Orleans’ ability to run the ball more and control the clock with Mark Ingram returning from his four-game suspension.

The Saints are 3-0 since Ingram’s return and have won six straight overall after losing to Tampa Bay in the season opener.

But the unbeaten Rams rank second offensively in yards per game (442.6) and have averaged 33 points, which rank third.

Brees sees similarities between the Saints when he and Sean Payton first joined forces 13 seasons ago, and the Rams under 32-year-old offensive-minded head coach Sean McVay and 24-year-old Jared Goff, the 2016 top overall draft choice.

“We like to feel like over the last 13 years that we’ve kind of been at the forefront of offensive football … taking the personnel that you have and being able to utilize it in some really unique ways,” Brees said.

“You can’t help but turn on the film and be intrigued by the things that they’re doing. Obviously, I think Jared Goff is playing as well as anybody right now. He’s got a bunch of weapons there at the receiver position that are lighting it up, Todd Gurley, one of the best backs in the league.”

Brees said that while he doesn’t know McVay well, he said the Rams coach’s youthful energy, enthusiasm and offensive background remind him of Payton to some extent, starting with the fact they both played quarterback in college and had offensive backgrounds as NFL assistants before their first head coaching jobs.

“What I’ve seen from his offenses and what I hear about him is there’s a lot of those same traits, and it makes it really, really fun to play for a guy like that, because it makes it exciting and it gives you a ton of confidence,” Brees said.

Brees also said it is apparent that the pairing of McVay with Goff “was a great match.”

Saints defensive end Cam Jordan said his unit should be confident in its ability to slow Los Angeles if it plays largely mistake-free schematically and tackles well throughout, especially against Gurley.

“When we’re able to execute at a high level, I don’t think there’s anybody on the field that can stop us. We have to be able to do that for all 60 minutes though,” Jordan said.

Notes: Saints rookie defensive end Marcus Davenport missed practice because of a toe injury. He did not confirm reports that he would be out for about a month, saying he’s seeking multiple opinions and hasn’t ruled out playing against the Rams on Sunday. He played with the injury at Minnesota, where he had two sacks, giving him a total of four through his first seven NFL games. The injury occurred during his sack of the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins in the third quarter. Davenport said he had to play differently afterward, and tried to “not think about it and just go out there and try to ball and take as many chances as I could.”


More AP NFL: www.apnews.com/tags/NFL and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

Patriots secondary expecting challenge from Rodgers, Packers

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — It didn’t take Bill Belichick long to recall what Aaron Rodgers did against his defense the previous time that the Packers faced the Patriots.

“He killed us,” Belichick said of New England’s 26-21 loss in Green Bay in 2014. “He does everything well. … He’s one of the great quarterbacks in the National Football League. No question about it.”

Four years later, not a lot has changed about Belichick’s affinity for Rodgers or his abilities as the Patriots prepare to host Green Bay on Sunday night.

It presents the latest challenge for a New England defense that has had issues slowing teams down this season, particularly in the secondary.

Following the departure of defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to the Lions, the Patriots have struggled with consistency in 2018.

They currently rank in the bottom half of the NFL in both total defense (25th, 383 yards per game) and passing yards allowed (22nd, 227 yards per game).

Stopping the pass was a major issue in both of New England’s losses.

Blake Bortles threw for 376 yards and four touchdowns, including a 61-yarder to Dede Westbrook in the fourth quarter of the Jaguars’ 31-20 win in Week 2.

A week later, Matt Stafford had just nine incompletions and passed for 262 yards and two touchdowns in leading the Lions to a 26-10 victory.

And though the Patriots were able to pull out a 43-40 win against the Chiefs, it came despite Patrick Mahomes lighting up the defense for 352 yards and four TDs through the air.

The similarities in all those games were the ability of the three quarterbacks to create time and space with their legs.

Rodgers isn’t expected to be as mobile as he continues to be slowed by the knee injury he sustained in Green Bay’s season opener. But he’s still managed to complete 61 percent of his passes while throwing for 13 touchdowns and just one interception.

Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty was with the Titans in 2016 when they beat the Packers 47-25 in a game that saw Rodgers throw two interceptions.

But he said he isn’t counting on getting anything less than Rodgers’ best this time around.

“I really don’t want to compare anybody to Aaron Rodgers, so I won’t go that route,” McCourty said. “At the end of the day, however many football games you can play in preparation to help you get ready for this guy. … He’ll probably be the best quarterback we play against this year for sure.”

Likewise, Rodgers is expecting to see various defensive looks from Belichick to get him off his game.

“Bill is a phenomenal coach and he’s always going to have his guys ready to play,” he said. “They do a number of different things — they don’t just always major in one specific thing. They’re going to try to combat what you do best and take it away and get you off schedule and lock down the guys they want to take away and make you beat them with your third and fourth options.”

New England’s secondary has shown improvement during its five-game win streak. Part of the reason is the support it has gotten up front from the defensive line.

A week after giving up 31 points to Chicago, the Patriots responded by limiting Buffalo’s offense to just six points on a day in which Tom Brady and his offense struggled.

The defense had three sacks, including two from linebacker Kyle Van Noy. But the play of the game came from safety Devin McCourty, who picked off Buffalo quarterback Derek Anderson late in the fourth quarter and returned it 84 yards for a touchdown.

New England’s 11 interceptions are tied for the second-most in the league through eight weeks.

Defensive end Trey Flowers said helping the secondary find similar success against Rodgers will hinge on their ability to speed up Rodgers in the pocket.

“We definitely will need to try to contain him as much as we can,” Flowers said. “You flush him out the pocket and he’s still good. Keep him in the pocket and he’s still great. We just gotta continue to push and get him rattled up a little bit and do the best we can.”


More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Despite big-name losses, Seahawks defense again among best

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — The players the Seattle Seahawks lost off their defense over the past year became synonymous with being considered among the best at their position and creating an elite unit that was tough to have success against.

And yet, the current batch of Seahawks sit near the midseason point with a defense that statistically is back among the elite of the NFL.

“I’m not surprised at all. We knew coming into the season we had a great group of guys and we knew the outside was sleeping on the leadership we had in the building and the people that we had in the building. … We knew that people didn’t see that. They wouldn’t see that,” Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said.

“If you listened to us talk, we were very confident in what we were going to get accomplished and what we were going to be doing. What we are seeing is good, but I think there is a level where we can get better.”

Heading into Week 9, the Seahawks have the No. 5 total defense (327.3 yards per game), No. 4 in pass defense (219.0) and No. 4 in points allowed per game (18.7). Those numbers include six games playing without starting linebacker K.J. Wright because of knee surgery and three games without Earl Thomas after he suffered a broken leg in the Week 4 win over Arizona.

Wagner was around before the overhaul started. So was defensive end Frank Clark and defensive tackle Jarran Reed. But the rest of Seattle’s defense has been largely re-tooled over the past two seasons. And instead of Seattle taking a major step back, it has returned to being among the NFL’s best in less than half a season.

“The first few games, even up until now, we were still trying to learn how to play with one another, learn how to have fun with one another,” Wagner said. “Now, you’re seeing the product of that last game and I think it’s still room to get better.”

Seattle is coming off one of its better defensive performance of the season when it limited Detroit to 34 yards rushing in a 28-14 win over the Lions last week. Matthew Stafford still had a big day throwing the ball, but the Seahawks ability to make Detroit one-dimensional on offense was critical considering the Lions ability to run the ball in recent weeks.

It was the fourth time Seattle held an opponent under 100 yards rushing and the Seahawks forced three turnovers bringing their season total to 16.

The Seahawks were hopeful this kind of defense would develop but knew it could take some time with new players such as Tre Flowers, Shamar Stephen and Barkevious Mingo joining the lineup, and Tedric Thompson, Bradley McDougald and Shaquill Griffin stepping into more prominent roles.

“There is so much football that they don’t know you can’t be upset by what they’re doing. Because they’re working really hard, they’ve had success, they’ve had failure,” Seattle defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “They’ve learned from their successes and failures so it’s really fun to watch the development of the young players.”

The competition Seattle has faced should be noted and will get significantly tougher in the coming weeks, beginning with Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Three of Seattle’s wins have come against teams ranked in the bottom half of the league in total offense.

That changes this weekend. Led by Philip Rivers, the Chargers have the sixth-best offense in the NFL averaging 402.7 yards per game, and nearly 28 points. That’s followed by a matchup with the Los Angeles Rams and their second-ranked total offense; then back home to face Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers on a short week after that; and finally a trip to face Cam Newton and Carolina to close out November.

If there’s a concern that Seattle’s defense has yet to be truly tested, the examination will happen over the next four games.

“We all treating them the same and that’s the best quarterback we’ve played against,” Griffin said. “That’s the type of mentality we have to bring to that, no matter what quarterback we’re facing. We’re going to bring the same mentality and play our best ball. You name some great guys and I’m looking forward to playing against all of them.”

NOTES: Coach Pete Carroll said the release of veteran WR Brandon Marshall on Tuesday was mostly because of roster construction and the fact Seattle is passing the ball less. Marshall had only two snaps in the win over Detroit and Carroll said the roster spot was needed for additional special teams help. The Seahawks promoted WR Malik Turner from the practice squad on Wednesday to take Marshall’s spot. … Carroll said the team was hoping for a shorter suspension for LB Mychal Kendricks, who was suspended eight games, but looked forward to getting him back late in the season.


More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Hobbled Falcons shore up depth chart before facing Redskins

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Injuries have piled up at a staggering rate for the Atlanta Falcons.

They’ve lost both starting safeties and both starting guards for the season. Their best linebacker, Deion Jones, won’t return for another two weeks at the earliest.

Their top running back, Devonta Freeman, is out until December. Their placekicker and career franchise scoring leader, Matt Bryant, is iffy to return this week at Washington.

And starting cornerback Robert Alford was added to the injury report Wednesday after being held out with an ankle injury.

Despite so much hardship, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett likes that the front office decided to solve the issues in-house and let the NFL trade deadline pass without a move.

“You can see that we’re an organization that believes in our own players,” Jarrett said. “The next guy stepped up and guys that didn’t have much experience, now their play is going up. It’s been tough, but we haven’t complained about it. It’s not going to be an excuse, ever.”

Jarrett gave the Falcons a big lift nine days ago, returning from an ankle injury that sidelined him for two games and getting two sacks in a narrow win over the New York Giants. They’ll need more players to do something similar as Atlanta (3-4) returns from a bye week to visit the Redskins (5-2).

Ben Garland will make his first start at right guard after Brandon Fusco’s season ended against New York. Wes Schweitzer, who made an emergency start at center Oct. 14 against Tampa Bay, will make his fifth start at left guard.

Ninth-year veteran Zane Beadles, signed this week after getting no offers in free agency, is getting a crash course at backup tackle with right-side starter Ryan Schraeder struggling at times this year.

The Falcons have allowed 10 sacks and 27 additional hits on quarterback Matt Ryan while losing their first two road games. The refigured line could face a long afternoon in trying to stop Matt Ioannidis, Ryan Kerrigan and Jonathan Allen, who have combined for 14 sacks and 22 QB hits.

Ryan has thrown 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his past five games and likely won’t hand off the ball much against a defense that allows just 80 yards rushing per game. But Atlanta is finally healthy at receiver with Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley to complement star wideout Julio Jones.

“We have a lot of really good playmakers who can stretch the field,” center Alex Mack said. “It gives (opponents) a lot of ground to cover and it lets you move down the field fast and make it difficult for defenses.”

Deion Jones returned to the field Wednesday, but worked on the side with trainers as he recovers from a broken right foot sustained in the season-opening loss at Philadelphia. He can’t get back soon enough for a defense that ranks third-worst in scoring average and yards allowed per game.

If Alford can’t play, rookie Isaiah Oliver will take his place opposite left cornerback Desmond Trufant. Oliver, a second-round draft pick, has made one start and gave up the winning TD catch against Cincinnati, but has improved with experience.

Bryant was injured while kicking a go-ahead field goal against Tampa Bay and missed the Giants game. He was held out of practice Wednesday, so Giorgio Tavecchio could be in uniform again. He bailed out the team with three field goals, including two from 50 or more yards, against New York.

Coach Dan Quinn says Tavecchio’s performance is another example of how the Falcons have tried to hold the season together.

“We are really fired up about our locker room and the guys we have and how we’ll feature those players to do their best,” Quinn said. “As we’re approaching the second half of (the season), we’ll see improvement by a certain number of guys in specific areas.”


More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Chargers' WR Allen productive despite lack of touchdowns

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Keenan Allen is having another productive season for the Los Angeles Chargers with the exception of one area — touchdowns.

The wide receiver has the second-most receptions (41) and yards (506) through seven games in his six-year career, but he has only one touchdown.

Going into Sunday’s game at Seattle, it is the second straight year that Allen has mostly been kept out of the end zone the first half of the season. He also had only one TD in the Chargers’ first nine games last season.

“They will come. I just have to keep doing my job and make sure I am ready when the play comes,” Allen said.

Allen hasn’t had a touchdown since the opener against Kansas City. Last season he also had a TD in the opener and then went eight straight games before he scored another.

Allen did show some frustration over his lack of touchdowns in the Chargers’ last game against Tennessee on Oct. 21. Allen appeared to be wide open on a third-down play at the Titans 10, but Rivers threw an incomplete pass to Mike Williams, who was covered. Allen kicked one of the end zone pylons after the play and had a brief exchange with Rivers on the sideline.

Rivers said this might be the most playmakers he has had during his 15-year career and had no problems with Allen showing his frustration.

“I think having that competitiveness and that desire to want it and get it and throw it our way as a quarterback, you want them to all feel that, and we all understand and manage from an emotion standpoint,” Rivers said.

Despite having more receiving options, Rivers said he hasn’t seen teams cover Allen differently and that he is still drawing double teams. The double teams have helped Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams make plays downfield. Tyrell Williams has seven receptions for 236 yards and three touchdowns in his past two games.

“He’s obviously a huge part of what we’re doing, the third down plays against Tennessee were huge and he’s going to be a big factor and help those other guys have some favorable matchups,” Rivers said.

Allen is hoping that his hot stretch comes in November again. Last season he had three straight games where he had 10 or more catches as he had 33 receptions for 436 yards and four touchdowns.

“It will come. I just have to keep doing my job and make sure to be ready,” Allen said. “At the end of the day it is all about success.”

Allen will be going up against a Seattle defense that is fourth in the league with 10 interceptions. The Chargers (5-2) have won four straight games and have split the two games at CenturyLink Field since it opened in 2002.

The Seahawks (4-3) have won four of their past five, but a benefit for the Chargers is that Seattle’s defensive scheme is similar to their own. That is because Los Angeles defensive coordinator Gus Bradley had the same position in Seattle from 2009 to 2012.

“Our players see it every single day, but it’s still a personnel game, matchup game. They put their player in a position to make plays just like we do and we just have to execute,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said.

Notes: Running back Melvin Gordon, who missed the Tennessee game because of a hamstring injury, was working with his position group during individual drills, but Lynn was not ready to say Gordon was full-go for Sunday. … Lynn said the reason why they kept Caleb Sturgis as kicker was because of Sturgis’ ability the past three seasons to make clutch kicks. Sturgis, who has missed the past two games because of a quadriceps injury, has missed four extra points this season.


More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL


Follow Joe Reedy at www.twitter.com/joereedy

Jets rookie QB Darnold aims for improvement in next 8 games

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Flashes of brilliance. Spurts of inconsistency. Steady progress.

The first eight games of Sam Darnold’s NFL career have been marked by the ups and downs typical of a rookie quarterback playing his way through a crash course of a life as a pro.

Starting now, though, the face of the New York Jets franchise wants more.

“I’m always looking to improve,” Darnold said Wednesday. “I guess I’m happy with the way I’ve played. I feel like I’ve stayed poised, I’ve done my job every week, but at the same time, in that same breath, I think I can always do a better job protecting the football.”

Darnold is tied with Denver’s Case Keenum and Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston for the most interceptions in the NFL with 10. A week after throwing three against Minnesota, the No. 3 overall pick had none in New York’s loss at Chicago.

That’s progress, and something off which he can build.

“Ten picks, it’s not ideal,” Darnold said. “You obviously don’t want turnovers, but I thought I’ve been doing a good job lately of taking care of the football. If I can just do that, I think I’ll be all right.”

As far as the Jets are concerned, Darnold is better than just “all right.” They like the way he has handled himself during both the highs — a two-game winning streak during which he threw five touchdown passes — and the lows — a three-game skid and the team’s current two-game losing streak.

From the time Darnold was declared the starter for the season ahead of veterans Josh McCown and the since-traded Teddy Bridgewater, it has been all about letting him learn and grow.

“Just being able to find consistency,” Darnold said when asked what his biggest focus has been. “I think I’ve done a pretty good job of, first of all, finding the open guys, but also I think I can do a better job of, once the open guy is not there if the first and second guy is not there, know exactly where my check-down is and go to him. If he’s not there, go right to a scramble drill or look to find open room.

“If I feel the pocket closing down or everyone is closing in on me, just to be able to throw the ball away. Throw it at someone’s feet and live to see another down. I think that’s more of the growth that I see happening in the near future.”

Darnold is 21, but his approach is that of a more-seasoned player who has been through it all before. It has served him well, as has his refusal to repeat mistakes on the field.

“Just a natural progression each week,” coach Todd Bowles said when asked what he’s expecting over the next eight games. “Him getting out the huddle faster and making the audibles, understanding the game and the game slowing down for him, which he has done and will continue to do, and that’s what we look for.”

Darnold has 11 touchdown tosses, having thrown at least one in each game except for the distressing loss at Cleveland in Week 3.

There are other numbers, though, that look very much like they belong to a rookie. His 55.2 completion percentage — 138 of 250 passing — is the second lowest in the league among quarterbacks who have thrown at least 130 passes. Darnold’s 74.5 quarterback rating also ranks among the NFL’s worst.

The Jets rank 29th in overall offense, including 28th in the passing game. They’re also 28th in the league while averaging 200.4 total yards per game, and their 314.1 yards per game is better than just three teams: Tennessee, Buffalo and Arizona. The last two also have been led by rookie QBs.

The Jets’ struggles aren’t all on the rookie. Ankle injuries to Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson have left Darnold without his top two receivers, and there have been few options to step up in their place. Running back Bilal Powell, a versatile threat out of the backfield, is out for the rest of the season with a neck injury.

“Guys’ first year in the NFL is usually a tough one,” Darnold said. “I’m aware of that, but at the same time, we have certain standards here and expectations of winning. I don’t really use that as an excuse.”

Darnold will get a chance to start turning things around on the field and in the standings Sunday at Miami, the first opponent he’ll face for a second time. In Week 2, he had a season-best 334 yards passing, but also had two INTs in a 20-12 loss at home.

He knows none of this is easy, and didn’t expect it to be. Darnold just wants to be better.

“Sure it’s tough,” he said. “I mean, it’s NFL football. It’s tough defenses and they’re doing some different things that I’ve never seen before, but at the same time, credit to the coaches, and Josh and Davis (Webb). We’ve been preparing really well throughout the week, every single week. We’ve just got to continue to do that, continue to prepare really hard, and I think that’ll just continue to help me throughout the year.”

NOTES: WRs Quincy Enunwa (sprained ankle) and Robby Anderson (ankle), TE Neal Sterling (concussion), NT Steve McLendon (ankle), CBs Trumaine Johnson (quadriceps) and Morris Claiborne (excused absence), and LBs Frankie Luvu (neck) and Kevin Pierre-Louis (foot) did not practice. … C Spencer Long (knee/finger), S Marcus Maye (thumb), LT Kelvin Beachum (knee/ankle) and LB Jordan Jenkins (ankle) were limited.


More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Pack GM: Performance 1st, but all factors weighed in deals

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — In dealing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Ty Montgomery, the Green Bay Packers traded away two players who spoke in varying degrees in recent weeks about their respective futures with the team.

What happens on the field always comes first, general manager Brian Gutekunst said Wednesday, though other factors aren’t ignored either.

“So I think you take everything into consideration when you make these kinds of decisions,” Gutekunst said before practice. “But performance comes first. That’s always kind of the major factor in these decisions.

“But everything’s taken into account,” he added. “It’s never usually just one thing.”

Clinton-Dix, a starting safety, went to the Washington Redskins in exchange for a 2019 fourth-round pick. Playing under the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, Clinton-Dix is eligible for free agency this offseason.

Montgomery, a fourth-year running back, was traded to the Baltimore Ravens for a seventh-round pick in 2020. He moves on two days after fumbling a kickoff return with about two minutes left in a 29-27 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday after being told by coaches to take a touchback if the kick went into the end zone. The turnover cost the Packers a chance to drive for a potential winning score.

Montgomery seemed uncertain about his future on Monday. He lost snaps in the Rams game after Aaron Jones was elevated to starter.

“I don’t fully understand what my role is right now, what I’m supposed to be doing, how I’m supposed to help this team,” Montgomery said Monday.

Montgomery said that he made a “split-second decision” in taking the ball out on the kick return because he did not want to take a chance of putting the game in the hands of officials. He also spoke Monday about criticism from an anonymous player that came up in an NFL.com story , adding that he wanted that player to talk to him.

Now what had been a three-man backfield is down to Jones and Jamaal Williams. Jones is averaging 6.2 yards a carry.

“It’s not a personal slight or trying to create an angle here of negativity,” coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday. “This is part of the business but, more importantly, when opportunities arise, we’re more focused on the culture and the people in that culture taking advantage of this opportunity.”

McCarthy thanked Montgomery and Clinton-Dix for their contributions and wished them the best. He said that they represented the Packers “very well” during their tenures.

Clinton-Dix led the Packers with three interceptions, giving him 14 over 71 regular-season games in Green Bay, including 65 starts. Still, the safety position was mired by inconsistent play.

Clinton-Dix also talked about his future in an interview on Oct. 10 with the Wisconsin State-Journal .

“Right now, I’m playing each and every game like it’s my last. I don’t think I’m going to be here next year,” Clinton-Dix said then.

Gutekunst said that while he was aware of what players were saying, that “it’s not as concerning, to me it’s more about their play and their performance and things like that. Any time there’s comments that come out of our locker room, I pay attention to it.”

The moves didn’t signify the Packers were already looking ahead to next year, he added. At 3-3-1, the Packers are still firmly in the muddled NFC North race with a tough game at New England on Sunday night.

“I don’t necessarily think there’s a message it sends to the locker room,” Gutekunst said. “I think the decisions that we make are always in the best interest of our team, not only in the short term but the long term, as well.

“But I think our locker room knows where we’re headed,” he added. “I think we’re humming at the right time and I think there (are) a lot of positive things going forward.”

Receiver Davante Adams said the deals shouldn’t be taken personally in the locker room.

“It’s just a part of the game,” Adams said. “It’s going to be a lot of different factors that lead into people coming and going for many years to come. I wouldn’t take it as a warning for anybody or anything like that.”

NOTES: RB Tra Carson was added to the active roster from the practice squad, while RB Lavon Coleman was added to the practice squad. Carson was signed to the practice squad on Oct. 9 after being waived/injured by the Bengals in Week 2. The second-year player was signed by the Bengals as undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M in 2016.


https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Lions moving on without Tate after trade to Eagles

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions had a lot of possible factors to weigh before trading Golden Tate.

The Lions are in last place, but only a game out of first. Tate is on pace for a third straight season with 1,000 yards receiving, but he’s on an expiring contract.

“There are a lot of difficult decisions that are made in the NFL multiple times during the course of the year,” Detroit coach Matt Patricia said Wednesday.

The Lions dealt Tate to Philadelphia on Tuesday for a third-round draft pick, parting with the veteran receiver right before a pair of crucial divisional road games. Detroit faces Minnesota this weekend and then heads to Chicago, but the trade — which didn’t bring the Lions anyone who can help this season — was clearly a move made with the long-term future in mind.

“It’s a holistic picture of taking a look at what’s the best thing for us to do as a team,” Patricia said. “It’s not about one player. It’s about team. It’s about everybody. We have a lot of guys that are really good on this team that can produce and honestly, for me, we have confidence in everybody that’s on this team right now.”

General manager Bob Quinn released a statement Tuesday thanking Tate for his contributions, but it was left to Patricia to take questions about the organization’s thinking. Tate is in the final season of his contract, so from that standpoint the Lions got decent value for a player who may have ended up elsewhere anyway.

But it’s hard to say what this year’s team could have accomplished with Tate. Detroit fired coach Jim Caldwell after he went 9-7 last season, an indication the organization felt it was capable of more. Now the Lions have sent mixed signals about what they feel their potential is in 2018.

Before last weekend’s game, Detroit sent a draft pick to the New York Giants for defensive tackle Damon Harrison, a move that could help shore up the run defense. Then the Lions lost to Seattle last weekend and traded Tate.

So Detroit was both a buyer and a seller at the deadline.

“We have coaches, and I let those guys coach. We have managers, and I let those guys manage,” safety Glover Quin said. “We have players, and our job is to go out and play, so the guys who we have to go out and play with, that’s who we’ve got, and that’s all that we can control.”

In trading Tate, the Lions seemed to move away from their approach of the past few years. Detroit has used draft picks and free agent signings to try to surround quarterback Matthew Stafford with plenty of help. The Lions have tried to upgrade their offensive line, and this year they appear to have made real progress with their running game.

They also might have had more receiving targets than they needed. Marvin Jones is coming off his own 1,000-yard season, and second-year receiver Kenny Golladay looks like he could be a star.

“If everybody’s just going to sit around here and mope, that’s just not going to help the team,” Marvin Jones said. “We’re on to the Vikings.”

Still, Tate’s production won’t be easy to replace.

“He’s had 90-plus catches I think every year he’s been here, so that’s a lot of touches, a lot of targets for everyone to pick up,” receiver TJ Jones said. “We’re all going to collectively do it.”

NOTES: The Lions signed LB Kelvin Sheppard, signed DE Alex Barrett to the practice squad, and released TE Jerome Cunningham from the practice squad. … DE Ziggy Ansah (shoulder), T Taylor Decker (back), G T.J. Lang (hip) and RB Theo Riddick (knee) were limited at practice.


More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL


Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

Bills QB Peterman seeks to put turnover-prone past behind

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Just because he’s not active on social media doesn’t mean Nathan Peterman is oblivious to the punchlines made at the Buffalo Bills’ turnover-prone quarterback’s expense.

“Yeah, I know,” Peterman said with a laugh Wednesday, upon being advised to not search out his name on the internet.

The second-year player doesn’t need any reminders of his throwing nine interceptions on just 81 career passing attempts over seven regular-season appearances, none lasting more than three quarters. All Peterman knows is so long as the Bills allow him to keep pulling on a jersey each week, he’s going to keep believing better things are just around the corner.

“I’m still here,” Peterman said. “And every time you’re here, every time you step on the field, and you’re in this building, I’m always ready. I was ready last week. And I’m going to be ready again this week.”

He had better be, in what could be his latest — and perhaps last — chance to prove himself on Sunday, when the injury-depleted Bills (2-6) host the Chicago Bears (4-3).

Buffalo could be left with little choice but to start Peterman.

Rookie Josh Allen will miss his third straight game, having already been ruled out due to a sprained elbow on his right throwing arm. And veteran backup Derek Anderson is in the NFL’s concussion protocol after he was hurt in the final minutes of a 25-6 loss against New England on Monday.

Though coach Sean McDermott has yet to rule out Anderson entirely, the Bills did take the precautionary step of signing free-agent journeyman Matt Barkley on Wednesday in the event they need a backup to Peterman.

McDermott said he maintains confidence in Peterman, while at the same time acknowledging the second-year player’s rash of struggles.

“Yeah, I understand where you’re coming from on that,” McDermott said when asked if he has any concerns over Peterman’s self-confidence. He then segued into explaining how the team has resources to assist players and coaches with their confidence levels.

Peterman’s two-year tenure has been a rocky one since the Bills used a fifth-round pick to draft him out of Pittsburgh. He’s best remembered for throwing five interceptions in the first half of a 54-24 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers in what was Peterman’s first start.

His second season in Buffalo hasn’t gone much better.

Chosen the season-opening starter, ahead of Allen and after AJ McCarron was traded to Oakland, Peterman went 5 of 18 for 24 yards passing and threw two interceptions before being yanked two series into the third quarter of a 47-3 loss at Baltimore.

He hardly fared better in his next appearance, a 20-13 loss at Houston in which Peterman took over after Allen was hurt. After throwing a go-ahead touchdown pass to Zay Jones, Peterman melted down by throwing interceptions on Buffalo’s final two series, including one returned for the decisive score.

“Mistakes are in the past. I’ve learned from them. I’ve taken them to heart. I’ll never forget them,” Peterman said. “But at the same time, I’ll learn from them and move on.”

Peterman’s unwavering approach has earned the respect of his teammates.

“He doesn’t show a lot of emotion where things get to him. I know he’s heard all the outside stuff,” Jones said. “Hopefully, this is the week for him. And I whole-heartedly believe in him.”

Buffalo’s issues on offense go beyond quarterback no matter who’s started this season. It’s a patchwork unit that has scored 87 points overall, and only two touchdowns in its past five games.

The Bears are tied for second in the NFL with 11 interceptions and 17 takeaways.

Newly signed Bills receiver Terrelle Pryor said it’s on the entire offense to work as a unit rather than place the burden on Peterman.

“We’re going to help him be very successful,” said Pryor, who signed with Buffalo on Tuesday. “We’re going to make him look good this weekend. Period.”

No one, Peterman said, is perfect.

“Stuff happens in life, whether good or bad. How you react to it really is what makes you who you are,” Peterman said. “Everything I’ve been through in the past, that’s who I am standing in front of you today.”


More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL