By JOSH DUBOW, DENNIS WASZAK JR, HOWARD FENDRICH, ARNIE STAPLETON, SCHUYLER DIXON AND TERESA M. WALKER N
The Associated Press
Saturday, October 13, 2018
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. LANDOVER, MD. DENVER ARLINGTON, TEX. NASHVILLE -- Indianapolis aims to get back into the win column when they take on the Jets; Washington cornerback Josh Norman aims to shut down his former Carolina teammates; Denver will struggle to find a way past its old coach's stout defence; Jacksonville hopes to get back on track against Dallas; while coaching friends face off in the Baltimore-Tennessee match, The Associated Press reports
SEAHAWKS VS. RAIDERS IN LONDON Marshawn Lynch and Bruce Irvin helped win a Super Bowl in Seattle before becoming stalwarts in Oakland.
Sebastian Janikowski rewrote the record book for the Raiders before booming long kicks for the Seahawks.
Seattle defensive co-ordinator Ken Norton Jr. and Oakland offensive line coach Tom Cable spent the past few seasons doing the same job with the other team.
When the Seahawks and Raiders kick off in London on Sunday, it will be a reunion of sorts - even though the game will be played several thousand miles from home.
"I've always enjoyed the most playing against the people I like the most. There's guys on the club, coaches and all kinds of connections," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "There's just connections across the board. It just makes it fun if you're competitive and you like competing against the best and your friends. I do. I just look forward to it."
Both teams have more pressing issues than seeing old friends. The Seahawks (2-3) are already three games back in the NFC West and the Raiders (1-4) have struggled all season in the first year of Jon Gruden's second stint as coach.
"I just don't like to lose," Gruden said. "I think we have work to do. There's not enough time in the day to do it. I'm depressed. I'm tired. I want to win. I want to do better."
The Seahawks will finally get a chance to tackle Lynch, who starred for the team from 2010-15 and helped Seattle win a Super Bowl. Lynch was mostly off-limits at practice, although linebacker Bobby Wagner recalls getting scolded by Lynch for hitting him as a rookie and dislocating Lynch's finger while trying to punch the ball out.
There will be no limits on contact on Sunday.
"Never got the chance to tackle Marshawn," Wagner said. "Talked a lot of trash. We finally get to go against each other. So it's going to be fun." COLTS AT JETS Broadway Joe will be in the building. So will the rest of the 1968 New York Jets, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the squad that won the franchise's only Super Bowl.
Nostalgia will be all around MetLife Stadium on Sunday, with rookie Sam Darnold and this year's Jets team trying to set a much more modest goal against the Indianapolis Colts - not coincidentally, the franchise New York beat for that 1969 title while the former was in Baltimore.
Coming off an impressive 34-16 victory over Denver last Sunday and with the likes of Joe Namath and Don Maynard watching, New York will look to win consecutive games for the first time since taking three straight in weeks 3 through 5 last season - over a year ago.
"We've got a good team," Darnold said. "It's just about putting together the pieces. Obviously, we put some together this past Sunday. We've just got to build off of it and, for me personally, I've just got to stay consistent."
The Jets (2-3) have struggled with that. They opened the season with a 48-17 romp at Denver and then had clunkers against Miami, Cleveland and Jacksonville before getting back in the win column last weekend.
"We have to grow up and find a way to string games together and get on winning streaks," left tackle Kelvin Beachum said, "instead of losing streaks."
That's what Andrew Luck and the struggling Colts (1-4) will be looking to stop when they take the field.
Indianapolis has lost three in a row, is missing some key players such as wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle to injuries and could see its season really spiral with another defeat. The Colts, however, aren't thinking about that right now.
"I love that this team has no quit," tight end Eric Ebron said. "I love the story that we'll have, and I say that because we're very young, we're all beat up, and what people don't tend to realize is that you don't stay beat up forever. You get healthy, you get guys back and then you start to establish a dominance." PANTHERS AT WASHINGTON What a week for Washington cornerback Josh Norman.
There was a benching during a 24-point loss. Criticism from a former teammate. Biting Twitter barbs from an opposing receiver.
What better way to cap it all off than with a matchup for Washington (2-2) on Sunday against Cam Newton and the visiting Carolina Panthers (3-1), the club that abruptly parted with Norman about 2½ years ago.
"Old friends. They're coming to town, and I get to see them and go at each other. They know how I am.
Trust me. I know how they are. So it's going to be quite an exciting time," Norman said. "I'm looking forward to them. I know [Newton's] got something special cooked up for us."
Norman was coming off an all-pro season and a Super Bowl appearance when the Panthers put the franchise tag on him in March, 2016, a move many figured was a precursor to a long-term deal. Fast-forward six weeks, though, and Carolina rescinded the tag offer, allowing Norman to become an unrestricted free agent.
Within a couple of days, he signed a US$75-million, five-year contract with Washington. For whatever the reason - and there are various theories out there - things have not gone all that well for Norman, who turns 31 in December and is currently up to 19 games in a row without an interception.
The downswing culminated in Washington coach Jay Gruden's decision to play a rookie Norman's place coming out of halftime during a 43-19 loss at New Orleans on Monday night.
Then came all sorts of theories about what might be wrong with Norman, from his age (courtesy of Saints receiver Michael Thomas) to his interest in becoming a celebrity (brought up by ex-Washington defensive back DeAngelo Hall) to the shift from Carolina's zone coverage to Washington's man-toman principles (referenced by Panthers coach Ron Rivera).
RAMS AT BRONCOS Wade Phillips returns to Denver this weekend and several Broncos can't wait to hug it out with their former defensive co-ordinator.
Phillips was the Broncos' beloved bandmaster when they were riding firetrucks in a downtown parade and Von Miller was showing off the Super Bowl trophy 21/2 years ago.
"Coach Phillips is football royalty," a man for whom "the moments were never too big and the moments were never too small," said Miller, who recalled Phillips depressurizing his defence before Super Bowl 50 by declaring: "All the mistakes are on me and you can just go out there and play."
"It just shows you what type of coach that he is," Miller said. "He's dope."
Now 71, Phillips is leading a revitalized Rams defence for 32-year-old Los Angeles head coach Sean McVay, who brings a 5-0 team to Denver on Sunday to face the reeling Broncos (2-3).
This game was supposed to mark Aqib Talib's return, too. But the star cornerback is sidelined with an ankle injury, which bums out Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr.
Harris is certainly embracing Phillips, win or lose.
"Wade, he just gave you so much confidence in yourself. I'll never forget, I had one bad game, and he's just, 'You're the best. You're going to get it next week. I'm ready for you next week. I've got a big game plan for you to make plays next week,' " Harris recounted. He just knows how to lift you up and brings your potential out of you."
The Broncos didn't renew Phillips's contract after the 2016 season, and McVay was thrilled to hire him shortly after becoming the youngest head coach in modern NFL history.
"You're probably going to have a tough time finding anyone that doesn't really like him and enjoy being around Wade," McVay said.
Denver's defenders still talk glowingly about their time with Phillips.
"He's an old guy, but he acts young," Harris said.
"He tries to be hip with everything and he just loves the game. It's not hard to play for a coach that really loves the game, really wants to win." JAGUARS AT COWBOYS With Blake Bortles piling up passing numbers as never before in his career, Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone wants to get the Jaguars back to running.
Dak Prescott, Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys have the opposite issue heading into a Sunday matchup with familiar faces on both sidelines.
Bortles has a chance to be just the fifth NFL quarterback with at least 375 yards passing in three straight games after establishing a career high in consecutive weeks. He also had a career-high four interceptions last week, which helped explain a 3014 loss to undefeated Kansas City.
There was something else that bothered Marrone against the Chiefs: a season-low 17 rushing attempts to go with Bortles's personal high of 61 throws. The only other game this season with fewer than 20 carries? The other loss for Jacksonville (3-2), against Tennessee.
"That's not the way we want to play," Marrone said. "I probably should have done a better job of that. I just felt like we were pressing and trying to make plays. I just think, over all, I have to do a better job of managing that."
Of course, the Jaguars have some pretty good reasons to tilt toward the pass. Running back Leonard Fournette will be out for the fourth time in six games with a hamstring injury. Jacksonville is on its third left tackle in Josh Walker.
The Jaguars signed two-time all-pro running back Jamaal Charles this week and expect him to contribute behind T.J. Yeldon against the Cowboys (2-3).
"I think we were pretty fortunate last year as far as staying healthy," Bortles said. "This year we haven't been quite as lucky. These next three weeks, not looking ahead or anything, but to get to the bye week are important with the amount of guys we have down."
The Cowboys aren't looking for 375 yards passing from Prescott because they have the NFL rushing leader in Ezekiel Elliott. But inefficiency throwing is the biggest reason Dallas has a losing record and questions inside and outside the locker room about play-calling.
RAVENS AT TITANS Dean Pees's retirement from his old job as defensive co-ordinator with the Baltimore Ravens sure didn't last very long. Not with Mike Vrabel pouncing on the chance to lure his former coach to work with him in Tennessee.
Now the NFL schedule is giving the defensive coordinator a chance to try and slow down his old team on Sunday.
"At some point in time, when I do conclude my career," Pees said, "it will be to me a unique situation and a unique opportunity I was given to work for two guys that are great coaches and were great players for me, and for me then to kind of give back and the fact that I kind of know them so well. We're on the same page as far as how you do things and that kind of stuff, it all kind of came from the same school."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who played for Pees at Miami (Ohio), hired his former defensive coordinator in 2010 as a linebackers coach before turning over the defence to Pees in 2012 - the year Baltimore last won the Super Bowl. Pees held that job through last season before retiring after 45 years as a coach.
Vrabel, who played for Pees in New England, called Harbaugh and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome for permission to talk to the retired Pees once hired as the Titans head coach.
Safety Eric Weddle said it was tough to see Pees join the Titans.
"We were all happy for him, because we know how much he loves coaching," Weddle said. "But he's with them now. We appreciate what he did here, but we're doing our thing now, and he's doing his."
The Ravens replaced Pees, 69, by promoting Don (Wink) Martindale. Vrabel hired Pees to replace Dick LeBeau in Tennessee.
"Replacing Dick LeBeau anywhere is not an easy thing to do, and I was very aware of that, but I felt like we needed a change," Vrabel said. "And Dean has been everything that I had hoped for."
Photos by The Associated Press, Getty Images and USA Today
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck
Washington cornerback Josh Norman
L.A. Rams defensive co-ordinator Wade Phillips
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh