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.


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Steelers looking to get aggressive at Baltimore

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers were bullied the last time they faced the Baltimore Ravens. In a rivalry mostly defined by physicality, that might be the worst that could be said about either side following a game.

When the Steelers travel to Baltimore for their second matchup on Sunday they want to re-establish an aggressive approach on their way to what would be a third straight win against AFC North opponents.

“This Pittsburgh-Ravens matchup, they have some hard guys up front. We do, too,” guard Ramon Foster said. “We have to be on top of our job. … Get away from the run early and it could be a long day for us. Unless Ben (Roethlisberger) is just airing it out and pushing everybody’s fantasy points up.”

In their 26-14 home loss to Baltimore in Week 4, Pittsburgh was limited to 19 yards rushing on 11 carries. It has averaged 137 yards on the ground in three straight wins since, including 168 yards in a 33-18 victory against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday.

Those three wins have the Steelers atop the AFC North at 4-2-1, ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals (5-3). The Ravens have lost three of four games since defeating the Steelers, leaving them at 4-4.

Foster said Baltimore’s recent slump has surprised him, but he expects the Ravens to “do everything they can not to stay that way.”

“We have to be on our game,” Foster said. “It’s shocking, but me knowing them, they’re going to give us their all.”

Part of being on their game would include the Steelers converting first downs, limiting the Ravens’ possessions and establishing an early lead. That’s a recipe they didn’t follow last time.

Pittsburgh fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter before tying it before halftime. Because of their lack of success early, the Steelers turned away from the run and relied almost exclusively on Roethlisberger.

After that seemingly worked, Pittsburgh stuck with the pass in the second half, when it was outscored 12-0. Six second-half drives ended with one interception, four punts and one turnover on downs.

“We can’t have three three-and-outs and let them score 14 points,” Foster said. “That falls on us. Mainly the offense because we had some terrible plays. We can’t have that.”

The fix is simple, at least according to center Maurkice Pouncey.

“We just have to play better, block guys better, get better fits on guys,” Pouncey said, “and make sure the running back has lanes to run into.”

That running back will be James Conner more often than not. He’s averaged 85.6 rushing yards in seven games during his second NFL season, but had a season-low 2.11 yards per rush against Baltimore.

Pouncey credited the Ravens for their defensive success in the first game. He also knows they can make it difficult again Sunday.

“They have the core guys that they have. They like to bring in the guys that fit their system,” Pouncey said. “They have a great coaching staff, a great organization. So it speaks a lot about them. They’re always really good.”

But the Steelers think they are, too. On Sunday, they want to take another step toward proving it.

“Everybody’s desperate this time of year,” Foster said. “Especially when you have, for us, three back-to-back division games. I don’t think it’s a make-or-break (game), but they want to win it just as bad as we do.”


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Rhodes returns for Vikes after decent fill-in by rookie Hill

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — With another dangerous quarterback opposing the Minnesota Vikings this week, the helmet on cornerback Xavier Rhodes in practice Wednesday was a welcomed sight.

The performance by his replacement in the last game against New Orleans was equally encouraging.

While Rhodes watched the Vikings lose to the Saints in sweats from the sideline with a foot injury, rookie Holton Hill took over at right cornerback and helped hold Drew Brees to 120 passing yards, his lowest total in a full game since arriving in New Orleans in 2006.

Granted, Brees completed 18 of 23 attempts. The Saints put up 30 points. Their three-score lead in the fourth quarter dictated a run-heavy strategy down the stretch. Still, had the savvy 39-year-old Brees seen more of a vulnerability in Hill, it’s a given he would have attacked him more than he did.

“Holton played great,” Rhodes said.

Hill was credited with five solo tackles and one pass breakup.

“Things have slowed down like quite a bit,” said Hill, who was undrafted out of Texas due to character concerns following a suspension for violating team rules that cut short his final season with the Longhorns. He later told NFL Network he sought treatment for marijuana use.

The Vikings pursued Hill aggressively after the draft despite their then-solid depth at cornerback, giving out one of the biggest signing bonuses in the league to a rookie free agent. That decision has proved prescient following the retirement of Terence Newman and then the recent injury to Rhodes.

“I don’t take that for granted. I cherish every rep, every second I’m out there,” Hill said.

Hill praised Rhodes for advising him on technique and noting wide receiver splits from the sideline throughout the game against the Saints, but the most important message he received from his mentor was to simply play with confidence.

“Once you have that, there’s like no stopping you,” Hill said. “Basically the only person that can stop you is you.”

Rhodes, who was listed as a limited participant in practice Wednesday, was bummed about missing a prime-time game against the Saints.

“I’m here to play football, and not being out there to play football is pretty frustrating,” Rhodes said.

With continued improvement this week, Rhodes ought to be able to return Sunday to face Detroit. Matthew Stafford and the Lions have beaten the Vikings in six of the 10 matchups since Rhodes arrived as a rookie in 2013.

“You never can count him out,” Rhodes said. “He’s accurate with his throws. He trusts and believes in his receivers. He throws the ball up and lets them get it. He scrambles. If the receiver’s not open, he finds a way to gain yards instead of lose yards. He’s just a good all-around quarterback.”


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Saddened Broncos move on from Demaryius Thomas

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Emmanuel Sanders kept glancing at the empty locker next to his cubicle on Wednesday, the first time in 3,115 days that Demaryius Thomas wasn’t a member of the Denver Broncos.

“It’s weird, man,” Sanders said a day after the Broncos traded away the five-time Pro Bowler who had excelled for five head coaches and seven starting quarterbacks in his nine seasons in Denver.

“I’ve got mad love for him, so it’s hard to see him go.”

And it’ll be a strange sight Sunday to see Thomas suited up for the Houston Texas (5-3) when they visit the Broncos (3-5).

“That’s weird, too,” Sanders said. “I know it’s going to be weird for him.”

The Broncos talked about moving on without their former captain, but they just couldn’t avoid the void that was evident in the locker room and on the football field where his friendship, leadership and mentorship made his a profound presence.

“I was sad,” quarterback Case Keenum said. “He’s going to be one of those guys I’m going to tell my kids and hopefully my grandkids that I got to play with that guy. I got to throw the football to that guy.

“Special. Special player. Special person. I wish him the best.”

General manager John Elway said it was tough trading the team’s longest-tenured player, but it freed up room both under the cap — $14 million in 2019 — and on the field for rookie receiver Courtland Sutton , the second-round draft pick who’s already shown big play ability.

“We think he’s ready to go,” Elway said. “Hopefully this accelerates his maturity.”

The trade comes with some risks for a team whose season is at a crossroads:

—Gone is the talented teacher who was doling daily tips to Sutton on tactics and technique.

“I was definitely sad to see him go,” Sutton said, but he kept turning back to a piece of advice he received from Thomas: do your job lest you cost somebody his.

“So, being put into this position, I have to make sure I’m producing every day in practice, film-wise and then of course every time we have a game,” Sutton said.

—Sanders’ new role as the No. 1 receiver comes with double teams and facing No. 1 cornerbacks.

“He’s going to take it in stride,” Keenum said. “He has been a pro this year. He has worked his tail off every day. He’s shown up ready to go. I’ve been impressed just how he comes to work every day, the type of guy he is and how bad he wants it.”

—Sutton faces a tougher task, too, as a starter.

“It’s going to be harder than coming off the bench,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “It’s way harder being a starter than coming in on nickel (downs). He just has to adjust. He might see double teams now, you never know. He might get different coverages.

“But the guy, I don’t know how he didn’t go top 10 in the draft. His talent is unreal. He can make all the catches. I’m excited to see him step up in this role.”

—A locker room that’s been lacking in the leadership department since the retirements of Peyton Manning and DeMarcus Ware also lost one of its most respected voices in the soft-spoken Thomas.

“I can’t believe this is real!” Von Miller wrote in an Instagram tribute . “These last 8 years have been incredible. I love you bro. I’m hurt, no doubt. I can’t be too hurt because every chance I got to tell you I love you, did just that.”

Elway said he expects Sanders to fill the leadership vacuum with the young receivers “now that Emmanuel is the alpha in that room.”

Harris credited Thomas with helping the “No Fly Zone” secondary the unit that helped lead Denver to two Super Bowls and one championship.

“He helped make me a lot better, going up against a bigger receiver,” Harris said. “So, I’ll always appreciate D.T.”

Elway insisted his trade of Thomas doesn’t mean he’s giving up on the season. He said with more discipline, the Broncos can salvage 2018 and make a playoff push.

“Win,” Elway said when asked what would constitute a turnaround in his view. “We’ve lost four out of the last five, right?”

Actually, five of six.

Sanders hung out with Thomas, who has 36 catches for 402 yards and three TDs this season, on Monday night as trade talk, centered around the Patriots and Eagles, swirled around them.

“His vibe was like, ‘I really don’t want to leave, but I’m trying to see the positives of it,'” Sanders said. “And I felt for him. He wanted to stay. He wanted to retire a Bronco. He didn’t want to go.”

His ex-teammates didn’t want to see him leave.

“Now, we just wish D.T. the best,” Harris said. “Except for this weekend.”


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Mayfield ready to lead Browns through midseason turbulence

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Baker Mayfield’s baptism with the Browns is complete.

Some coaching chaos made it official.

Cleveland’s rookie quarterback admitted Wednesday he was stunned by the firings of coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who were dismissed within an hour of each other on Monday. Owner Jimmy Haslam cited “internal discord” as the primary reason behind the team’s latest reboot.

“It was just surprising to me,” Mayfield said before practice as the Browns began preparing for their game Sunday against quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the high-scoring Kansas City Chiefs. “I have never gone through anything like that. That is my ‘welcome to the business moment,’ I think.”

Sadly, coaching swaps and front-office purges are a rite of passage for any Browns player over the past 20 years.

“This is my third head coach in five years,” said linebacker Christian Kirksey. “I am used to it, being able to adjust and stuff.”

It’s mostly new to Mayfield, who went through something similar at Oklahoma when Bob Stoops retired and was replaced by Lincoln Riley.

“It was different. It was new to us. We used that to come together,” he said. “I expect the guys in here to be grown men, to be experienced football players and to handle it that way and keep that same mindset of that we have the same goal. We need to reach that and work with each other.

“With all the distractions, we will see what kind of men we have in this room. Not what kind of team that we have but what kind of men can handle a distraction the right way, can come together and focus on doing their job and doing it at a high level against a great team come Sunday,” Mayfield said.

As the No. 1 overall pick and fresh face of Cleveland’s franchise, Mayfield knows he has to be the one to guide the Browns through more turbulence.

“Bring it on,” he said.

The Browns (2-5-1) practiced Wednesday for the first time under the guidance of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Buffalo’s former coach who will serve as the team’s interim coach while general manager John Dorsey takes the initial steps in finding Cleveland’s ninth coach since 1999.

Rain forced the team inside its facility and the tone was noticeably serious during the portion of the workout open to media members. Williams barked out praise to a few players during position drills.

Following practice, Williams said that like Mayfield, he was shocked by the firings and admitted to having reservations about taking over.

“The hesitancy was, ‘Uh, not again,’ and I stepped away,” he said. “I stepped back, but then, it came back to this. I can’t spell quit, let alone do quit. I’m not going to quit on these players. I’m not going to quit on this organization. I’m not going to do whatever. That’s just how I had to feel, and when we went through the process, we went through the process, and now, let’s get on to Kansas City. I blinked a little bit.

The brash and boastful Williams didn’t announce his candidacy for the job, and he refused to address his role in the New Orleans “Bountygate” scandal.

The NFL suspended Williams for the 2012 season after ruling that while the Saints defensive coordinator he orchestrated a program by which players were paid for knocking opponents from a game.

“That thing was a long time ago,” Williams said when asked if he ever imagined being a head coach again. “That’s nothing that we’re talking about now.”

The Browns are trying to stay in the present, and that’s the challenge.

As the losses mount, this season is beginning to feel like so many others. But left guard Joel Bitonio doesn’t feel the same sense of dread as in previous years.

“I don’t think we’re giving up,” he said. “This is a step to try to improve the team. We made a decision early in the season, but we have half the season left. We’re a few plays here and there from being 5-2-1 or 4-3-1.

“We’re not far away, and I don’t think this is a step where they’re tearing everything down. We’re just moving in a different direction. We have eight games to prove this team can go out, compete and try to find some wins out there.”

NOTES: Because of his connection to Mayfield, Riley has been mentioned as a potential candidate for Cleveland’s coaching job. Mayfield feels his former coach would adapt easily to the pro game. “I think his style would work, but that is just because of who he is,” Mayfield said. “He is smart. He gets his guys to believe in him.” … With RBs coach Freddie Kitchens taking over for Haley, the Browns hired former NFL back Ryan Lindley to their staff. Lindley played for Kitchens with Arizona.


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Old coaching colleagues meet as rivals in Battle of the Bay

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — When Kyle Shanahan was looking to get into the NFL as an assistant coach more than a decade ago, his father, Mike, called Jon Gruden and asked him to hire his son for an entry-level job in Tampa.

Shanahan joined the Buccaneers as a quality control coach in 2004 on Gruden’s staff and got his introduction to pro football on a staff that featured five assistants who have gone on to get head coaching jobs in the NFL.

“It was such a good place for me to go to because Jon was doing everything,” Shanahan said. “It wasn’t just his stuff. He was always on top of it with the film, which everyone is now because of the computers and everything, but he was one of the first guys doing that stuff, probably being a little bit younger than most guys at that time and just introduced me to pretty much every play known to man.”

Now 14 years later, Shanahan gets his first chance to coach against his old boss when the San Francisco 49ers (1-7) host Gruden and the Oakland Raiders (1-6) on Thursday night.

Gruden said he took great pride in that staff that featured Mike Tomlin, Rod Marinelli, Jay Gruden and Raheem Morris during Shanahan’s two seasons there in 2004-05. The Bucs won just five games the first season before winning the NFC South with an 11-5 record in 2005.

“We had a lot of fun back in those days. The woodshed, I called it,” Gruden said. “People are going to take me to the woodshed here pretty soon, if we don’t get this thing going.”

Both the Raiders and 49ers are struggling heading into this matchup, with Oakland losing three straight and San Francisco on a six-game skid.

Shanahan has struggled without starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, while Gruden’s return to the NFL has been rocky after nine seasons as a broadcaster at ESPN.

But Shanahan believes Gruden will turn the Raiders around if given time and sees no signs that the game has passed him by.

“Jon lives and dies football,” Shanahan said. “He never got away from it. He probably had even more time to sit and look at everything, and not get so caught up in his own team. The whole league’s evolved since then. It evolves year to year. But, you watch his system, he has a foundation of what he used to do and things like that, but he’s kept up with everything.”

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The 49ers could be forced to go with their third-string quarterback this week. Garoppolo went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 3 and backup C.J. Beathard is questionable this week with an injured right wrist. The next man up is Nick Mullens, who has never taken a snap in the NFL. Mullens spent last season on the practice squad and was promoted after Garoppolo’s injury this year. He has impressed his teammates with strong play in the preseason and practice.

“He’s a baller,” running back Matt Breida said. “He doesn’t let the game get too big for him. I think he’ll do a great job if he has to play this week.”


Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is coming off perhaps his best game of the season, throwing for three touchdowns and running for a fourth score in last week’s loss to the Colts. Carr completed 17 straight passes at one point and thrived in his first game after leading rusher Marshawn Lynch went down with a groin injury and No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper was traded to Dallas. Receiver Brandon LaFell, who wasn’t targeted at all in his previous two games for Oakland, had three catches for 39 yards and a TD after getting the start in place of Cooper.

“He’s friendly to the quarterback,” Carr said. “He always runs friendly routes. He can play with anybody. I’m glad that we had some time to work and all those things, but he’s the kind of guy that you can just throw him in and just play.”


The Niners go into this game thin at safety. Starting free safety Adrian Colbert is on injured reserve with an ankle injury and San Francisco could be without its top two strong safeties as well. Starter Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder) and backup Antone Exum (concussion) are out this week. Jimmie Ward fared well last week at free safety after moving over from cornerback. San Francisco is thinner at strong safety with Tyvis Powell, who has never started a game, and rookie Marcell Harris, who could be activated from IR to make his debut, the main options.


This will be the final scheduled meeting between these Bay Area rivals before the Raiders move to Las Vegas in 2020. The teams have rarely been successful in their 36 seasons as NFL neighbors here with both making the playoffs in the same year only four times in that span (1970, ’72, 2001, ’02). The teams have combined for a winning record just once in 2003 and are on pace for the worst record for a two-team market since the 1970 merger.


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Battle of Bay Area is more like skirmish for high draft pick

The Battle of the Bay Area in prime time is more like a skirmish for a high pick in next April’s draft, perhaps even the first overall selection.

Yep, that’s how bad the Raiders and 49ers have been so far. When they meet in Santa Clara, California, on Thursday night, how much of the nation will show interest is problematic. How much the folks by the bay and its environs would care is debatable.

The 49ers (1-7) are ranked 31st in the AP Pro32, ahead of only the Raiders (1-6). San Francisco is a 3-point favorite over its neighbor.

“We’re looking for more consistency. We’re looking for somebody to step up, not only on game day but during the week,” says Raiders coach Jon Gruden, whose return to his dream job has turned very sour.

“We’re still working through who are the best corners, who is the best combination for us in every situation. Hopefully we can settle on it soon.”

The Niners would settle for any sort of victory. My goodness, they’ve been swept by Arizona, which hasn’t beaten anyone else.

At least they have been close in many of their defeats.

“It’s something we’ve got to do to get better and get over that hump,” coach Kyle Shanahan says. “It comes down to, you can do a lot of things throughout a game, but when it comes down to the end when we need to close people out and we need some closers to do that. We’ve had some opportunities to do it.”

Opportunity knocks this week for …

RAIDERS, 20-13

KNOCKOUT POOL: KANSAS CITY made it a little closer than we expected, but survived. Next up: how about CHICAGO?

No. 5 Los Angeles Chargers (plus 1 1-2) at No. 11 Seattle

Seahawks getting physical, remain resourceful, should handle this one at home.


No. 7 Pittsburgh (plus 3) at No. 16 Baltimore

Steelers hitting their stride in time for NFL’s best rivalry renewal.


No. 1 Los Angeles Rams (plus 2) at No. 4 New Orleans

Saints will put the Big Hurt on unbeaten Rams in the Big Easy.

SAINTS, 36-32

No. 17 Atlanta (plus 2) at No. 8 Washington

Strange line; Redskins should be bigger favorite. What does Las Vegas know?


No. 10 Houston (plus 2 1-2) at No. 23 Denver

Another strange line; Texans are far better, but altitude a factor here.

TEXANS, 28-22

No. 25 Tampa Bay (plus 7) at No. 6 Carolina

Panthers coming off two impressive victories.


No. 15 Chicago (minus 8 1-2) at No. 28 Buffalo

Wonder if Bills will be favored again this season.

BEARS, 22-6

No. 2 Kansas City (minus 8 1-2) at No. 27 Cleveland

KC’s not exactly the team for any new coach to make debut against.

CHIEFS, 30-24

No. 12 Green Bay (plus 6) at No. 3 New England

Packers aren’t scared of anyone. Neither are Patriots.


No. 19 Detroit (plus 4) at No. 9 Minnesota

First of three straight division tests for Vikings. They’ll barely pass this one.

VIKINGS, 27-24

No. 21 Tennessee (plus 6 1-2) at No. 18 Dallas, Monday night

Man, has Tennessee been a disappointment.

COWBOYS, 20-19

No. 26 New York Jets (plus 3) at No. 20 Miami

As usual, New England’s patsies are sinking in AFC East.



2018 RECORD:

Last Week: Against spread (8-6). Straight up (12-2)

Season Totals: Against spread (56-58-4). Straight up: (81-38-2)

Best Bet: 3-5 against spread, 7-1 straight up

Upset special: 5-3 against spread, 4-3-1 straight up


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Former Seattle Seahawks coach Jack Patera dies at 85

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Jack Patera, the first head coach in the history of the Seattle Seahawks, has died at age 85.

Patera died on Wednesday, the team said. The cause of death was not clear, but Patera had been battling pancreatic cancer.

Patera was Seattle’s head coach for parts of seven seasons, beginning with the team’s inaugural season in 1976. Patera’s best seasons came in 1978-79 when the Seahawks went 9-7 in consecutive years, but failed to make the playoffs. Patera was named the NFL coach of the year in 1978 when the Seahawks missed the playoffs by one game.

Seattle never reached the postseason until 1983. Patera was fired after starting the 1982 season 0-2 and finished his career as a head coach with a 35-59 record.

Before joining the Seahawks, Patera was an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings. Patera also had a seven-year playing career with the Baltimore Colts, Chicago Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys between 1955-61.


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Injury-plagued Dolphins seek lift from underachieving Parker

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — DeVante Parker was 15 yards beyond intended receiver Jakeem Grant when things got weird.

A defender’s hit redirected the pass, which was dislodged from Grant’s arms as he gathered it in. The ball sailed directly to Parker, who alertly made the catch for a bizarre 46-yard gain .

“It shocked me,” Parker said. “I was just in the right spot at the right time.”

That’s a refreshing change for the Miami Dolphins receiver, and perhaps a sign of changing fortunes. Parker has been an unlucky underachiever since he was drafted with the 14th overall pick in 2015.

This season the injury-prone Parker has missed five games because of finger and quadriceps issues, and he hopes to play two weeks in a row for the first time Sunday against the New York Jets .

He’s coming off one of his best games yet. Parker was a rare bright spot in Miami’s 42-23 loss at Houston last week, catching six passes for a career-high 134 yards — including the reception that ranked among the NFL’s goofiest grabs this year.

“It felt good to be out there contributing,” he said.

The Dolphins hope Parker can continue to give their injury-plagued offense a lift. They’ll be without quarterback Ryan Tannehill (throwing shoulder) for the fourth game in a row Sunday, and at Houston, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Parker made backup QB Brock Osweiler look good.

“DeVante is an extremely talented receiver,” Osweiler said. “He’s a big target, he’s physical, he plays hard. He did some great things for us against Houston, and I expect him to do some great things for us against New York. In fact, I expect him to play even better. I think DeVante is just getting rolling.”

Parker’s statistics against the Texans could have been even more impressive, but Osweiler overthrew him in the open on a deep route. They worked on the pattern half a dozen times in practice Wednesday, and Osweiler found his target.

“It was much better,” Osweiler said with a chuckle. “Hopefully we got that one cleaned up.”

Although Parker’s an inviting target, he has yet to have a 750-yard receiving season, and has made only one touchdown catch in the past two years.

Now the opportunity is there for him to do more. Receiver Kenny Stills (groin) didn’t practice Wednesday and might miss his second game in a row. And receiver Albert Wilson (hip) is out for the season.

Because of those injuries, the Dolphins decided against parting with Parker at this week’s trade deadline, despite rumors he was on the market. Complicating the situation was an outburst by Parker’s agent, Jimmy Gould, who questioned Gase’s competence and complained about his client not playing.

Gase said there was never a problem between him and Parker, and put the issue in the past.

“We move on quick, man,” Gase said. “If DeVante had something to say to me, he’d say it. He’s not afraid to tell me stuff.”

Gase, in his third season at Miami, said Parker has been unlucky with injuries.

“In my time he has tried to do everything possible to make sure he is ready to go,” Gase said. “And he has done a good job of staying engaged when he wasn’t playing.”

Despite long stretches of idleness, Parker had a good grasp of his assignments against Houston, Gase said. And it showed.

“He was playing fast,” Gase said. “Hopefully we just keep getting better every week and keep expanding his role.”


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Titans need young receivers to mature, hang on to passes

Titans need young receivers to mature, hang on to passes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans are doing their best to help their young group of wide receivers grow up.

General manager Jon Robinson’s biggest personnel move before Tuesday’s trade deadline was adding a fullback, not bolstering a receiving corps that includes a couple second-year players (Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor) and another (Tajae Sharpe) essentially in his second season after sitting out 2017 on injured reserve.

Tight end Jonnu Smith also is in his second season after being drafted in the third round last year.

Their youth is even more apparent after three-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker broke his right ankle in the season opener followed by veteran receiver Rishard Matthews being released at his request in September.

Coach Mike Vrabel said the Titans are trying to help those receivers improve as quickly as possible.

“That’s why you draft them is to play them and get them better,” Vrabel said. “And so we just got to keep heading down that path of improving and making sure these guys understand where they fit in the scheme and how they can help us on third down.”

With the Titans at 3-4 and mired in a three-game skid, receivers need to start hanging on to more balls.

The Titans have dropped 10 passes this season, according to Stats .com. That’s 14th in the NFL but count much more in an offense 31st with only 126 total catches. Tennessee, which visits Dallas (3-4) on Monday night, is 30th in the league in passing offense.

One drop on a would-be touchdown pass late Oct. 7 in Buffalo led to a 13-12 loss and cost Nick Williams his job. A couple more dropped passes came in their last game, a 20-19 loss to the Chargers in London. Receivers coach Rob Moore said they won’t use youth as an excuse and have been working on technique, hand placement and getting the head around better to correct the problem.

“I believe that we have the guys in our room to get that done, and we just have to demonstrate that from week to week,” Moore said during the bye week.

Davis, the fifth overall pick in 2017, leads the Titans with 30 catches for 395 yards receiving. He had his best game with nine catches for 161 yards and a touchdown in Tennessee’s overtime win over Philadelphia on Sept. 30. He’s been held to a total of eight catches over the past three games.

Sharpe was the first pick of the fifth round in 2016 and started 10 games as a rookie. He has started six games this season, and the 6-foot-2 receiver is coming off his best game yet after a career-high 101 yards receiving catching seven of nine passes thrown to him. Each catch earned the Titans a first down, and five of Sharpe’s catches came on third down.

“He’s found ways to kind of get open,” Mariota said. “At the same time, he understands his routes. He understands the concepts. If we can find ways to kind of get everybody on the same page, just as Tajae is figuring it out, I think we can be even better on third down. I give credit to Tajae. I think he’s done a great job of understanding his role and finding zones or beating his man on third down.”


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