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Age is just a number
The Associated Press

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Saturday, October 20, 2018 – Page S11

MIAMI; EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J; BALTIMORE; LANDOVER, MD.; SANTA CLARA, CALIF.; ATLANTA -- Veteran Gore and the Dolphins play host to the Lions; Cousins and the Vikings pay a visit to a team the QB spurrned; a tight Ravens defence takes on a fierce Saints offence; the Cowboys and Washington resume an uninspired rivalry; old friends Shanahan, McVay square off; and the faltering Giants look to take advantage of the injury-plagued Falcons, The Associated Press reports DOLPHINS AT LIONS It was New Year's Day 2006 when Frank Gore first became a 100-yard rusher. And he still is one, which could spell trouble Sunday for the Detroit Lions.

The ageless 35-year-old Gore had his most productive day of the season last week when he ran for 101 yards to help the Miami Dolphins beat the Chicago Bears in overtime. Now the Lions must tackle the challenge of facing the NFL's leading active rusher.

Detroit has a leaky run defence, and Miami will again be without quarterback Ryan Tannehill , which could mean another busy day for Gore.

"He's definitely a guy they can kind of rally behind," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "Frank has done an unbelievable job of taking care of his body and executing at a high level for a long time. He has an edge about him that has been able to carry him all the way through his career. He's always proving everybody wrong."

While the Dolphins (4-2) will try to beat an NFC North team for the second week in a row, the Lions (2-3) are coming off a bye and three games into a stretch of 10 consecutive games against opponents now at .500 or better.

Gore was a 22-year-old rookie when he first ran for 100 yards for San Francisco in the final game of the 2005 season, and last week he did it for the 46th time. That made him the fifth player since the AFLNFL merger in 1970 to have a 100-yard rushing game past age 34, joining Emmitt Smith, Marcus Allen, John Riggins and MacArthur Lane.

"I told him I wish I could have played with him 10 years ago," teammate Ja'Wuan James said, "just to see how that would have been."

By one measure Gore is actually better now. Sharing carries with Kenyan Drake, he has an average of 4.9 yards per carry this season, his best since 2009.

"You can't think about age," Gore said. "You've got to continue like you're a young man out there."

He might be able to do that against the Lions, who gave up 152 yards rushing to Ezekiel Elliott, 138 to Matt Breida, and 102 to Isaiah Crowell. Patricia's defence ranks third worst in yards rushing allowed per carry and per game.

JETS AT VIKINGS Kirk Cousins is coming to MetLife Stadium as a villain in purple and gold.

The Vikings quarterback was hotly pursued by the Jets in the off-season, with New York offering a massive three-year, US$90-million deal to be the man to lead the struggling franchise. Instead, Cousins chose to go to Minnesota, which actually signed him to a deal worth US$6-million less.

The details of his free agency journey after six years in Washington were captured in a documentary series recently posted by the Vikings. It led to some harsh takes by New York-area media for using the Jets as leverage, and will undoubtedly result in plenty of boos from scorned fans when Cousins takes the field Sunday. And, the veteran quarterback is ready for it all.

"Criticism is going to be a part, especially when you're going into an opposing team's media climate," Cousins said. "They're going to find ways to criticize."

Oh, and fittingly, New York is holding a Marvelsponsored promotion Sunday with a Hulk (the Jets, of course) versus Thor (the Vikings, of course) theme. As everything turned out, though, Jets fans can't be too disappointed by the snub.

After being turned down by Cousins, New York focused fully on the draft. The Jets swung a stunning deal with Indianapolis to move up to No. 3 overall and ended up grabbing Sam Darnold.

"Either you get him or you don't," coach Todd Bowles said. "We didn't have him and we are happy with Sam. I'm sure they are happy with Kirk."

Cousins has the Vikings off to a 3-2-1 start , and has thrown 12 touchdown passes and three interceptions. His 185 completions rank second in the NFL, one behind Indianapolis' Andrew Luck.

The Jets know, in the back of their minds, that Cousins could've been doing that for them. Still, they insist there are no hard feelings or a sense for delivering some revenge.

"I don't pay any attention to that," linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. "The guy's a competitor. He came from a position that he didn't really like and made the most of it. I don't hold anything against him." RAVENS AT SAINTS The challenge of facing one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history and the league's highest-scoring offence is precisely why 36-year-old Terrell Suggs still gets a kick out of playing football.

Suggs and the Baltimore Ravens' top-ranked defence take on Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in an intriguing matchup of firstplace teams.

"They're the kind of explosive offence that gives you nightmares," Suggs said. "We get to play football against one of the premier quarterbacks. It's going to be a good, fun game."

Suggs had one of Baltimore's 11 sacks last week in a 21-0 rout of Tennessee. The Ravens (4-2) are allowing an NFL-low 12.8 points and 270.8 yards a game and have given up only 12 second-half points.

"There's really no weakness," Brees said. "They do so many things well."

The Saints (4-1) come off a bye with a four-game winning streak. New Orleans is averaging an NFLbest 36 points a game behind Brees, the league's career leader in yards passing with 72,103 yards .

"It's definitely going to be a task there, but we're up for it," said Suggs, a seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker. "We like this game. We get the chance to compete against as good a team as there is."

The prospect of facing the Saints and the 39year-old Brees is enough to make Suggs feel young again.

"He's been here longer than me, so I won't be the old guy," Suggs said with a smile. "But definitely, I mean that just goes to his experience. He's mastered his craft. He's not showing age; he's just one of those ferocious, deadly quarterbacks in our league."

Brees is 0-4 lifetime against the Ravens. When the teams last played, in November, 2014, Suggs had six tackles and a sack in Baltimore's 34-27 victory.

"He's the ageless wonder," Brees said of Suggs.

"He's still playing at such a high level deep in his career, and man, he's been doing it so well for so long. I'm obviously aware of that they are the only team that I haven't beaten, but they've always had a great team." WASHINGTON AT COWBOYS Jason Garrett's Dallas Cowboys and Jay Gruden's Washington team have been the very definition of mediocre as the NFC East teams resume their rivalry.

The Cowboys are 3-3, while Washington heads into Sunday's home game leading the so-so NFC East at 3-2 and with an 18-18-1 mark since the start of the 2016 season.

Neither team has managed to win two games in a row in 2018. Neither has dropped two in a row, either.

They just keep alternating wins and losses.

Something has to give, because both are coming off victories.

"It's been a minute since I've had back-to-back wins," Washington left tackle Trent Williams said.

"It's very important for this team, for the confidence of this team."

The Cowboys look at it the same way, and they are well aware of the disparity between how they perform when at home (3-0) and away (0-3).

Garrett and Gruden have been criticized for various flaws, but both might have earned some breathing room with what happened in Week 6 against opponents who entered with winning records and strengths that would seem to be trouble for the weaknesses exhibited by Dallas and Washington.

Having been embarrassed by Drew Brees just six days earlier, then forced to deal with Cam Newton and a Carolina offence coming off a pair of 30-point outings, Washington relied on its defence to beat the Panthers 23-17.

Up against a talented Jacksonville Jaguars defence, and coming off a 16-point effort, Dak Prescott led the offensively challenged Cowboys to a surprising 40-7 triumph.

"I've said it before," said running back Ezekiel Elliott, who is second in the NFL in rushing with 586 yards. "If we don't build on it, everything we did last week really means nothing."

Washington does not play a team the rest of the way that currently has a record above .500. Its opponents' combined mark, including Dallas, is 27-38, a .415 winning percentage. Dallas' slate is not much tougher, although it does have to play New Orleans, which is 4-1.

49ERS AT RAMS Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan arrived as head coaches in the NFC West together last year as longtime friends and colleagues tasked with revitalizing struggling franchises.

McVay has done a much quicker job overhauling the Los Angeles Rams than Shanahan has with the San Francisco 49ers. The teams headed in opposite directions meet for the first time this season on Sunday when the Rams (6-0) hope to remain the NFL's only unbeaten team when they visit the struggling 49ers (1-5).

McVay credits Shanahan for his success, pointing to his four years as an assistant in Washington when Shanahan was offensive co-ordinator for much of his development.

"I wouldn't really say it was a give and take," McVay said. "It was more me taking information from him, and him a lot of giving. I think more than anything, just being committed to an identity. The way he prepared was so impressive. The way that he saw the game. His ability to make things look the same and attack defensive structures and rules and manipulate those. He's a great coach. I learned so much from him."

That knowledge has helped McVay build one of the NFL's top teams with a dynamic offence led by quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley that ranks third in scoring (32.7 points a game) and second in yards per play (7.16) after winning the NFC West last season.

The Niners haven't had nearly as much success, winning just six games last year and struggling mightily this year after quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 3.

San Francisco showed glimpses of becoming what Shanahan envisioned with five straight wins to end last season with Garoppolo at quarterback, but the team has a 1-13 record under Shanahan when either Brian Hoyer or C.J. Beathard starts.

Beathard has shown improvement in his second year, leading San Francisco to back-to-back 400yard games, but his seven turnovers in three starts contributed to the losses.

FALCONS AT GIANTS Pat Shurmur isn't about to express sympathy for the Atlanta Falcons' ever-growing list of key players on injured reserve.

The New York Giants' coach has his own problems.

The Giants (1-5) will try to end their three-game losing streak when they face the Falcons (2-4) in Monday night's matchup of last-place teams. Atlanta snapped its own three-game skid with last week's win over Tampa Bay.

The Falcons will lean on Tevin Coleman as their new starting running back after placing Devonta Freeman on injured reserve this week with a groin injury.

Freeman already missed three games with a bruised knee and last week's game with the groin injury, so it was easy for Shurmur to study Falcons film with Coleman and rookie Ito Smith sharing all the snaps at running back.

"I've always been impressed with the way they move the ball and the way they score points," Shurmur said. "They find a way to score points no matter who is running the ball."

The Giants' offensive woes continued in a 34-13 loss to the Eagles to extend their losing streak.

Freeman joins offensive guard Andy Levitre as offensive starters on IR.

Overall, the Falcons have lost five starters to IR, including safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen and linebacker Deion Jones.

Also, top defensive tackle Grady Jarrett has missed two straight games with an ankle injury.

The Falcons hope Freeman and Allen can return this season, but each must miss at least eight games. Freeman wouldn't be eligible to return until the next-to-last game of the regular season.

"It's heartbreaking to see my guy go down," Coleman said of Freeman.

Coleman said he has to fill the void so defences can't focus on Matt Ryan and Atlanta's passing game.

Associated Graphic

Photos by The Associated Press, Getty Images and USA Today

Miami Dolphins running back Frank Gore

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott

Rams coach Sean McVay, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan

Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman

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