Raiders open Las Vegas stadium with win vs Saints

  • The Las Vegas Raiders kick off to the New Orleans Saints to start an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Jalen Richard #30 of the Las Vegas Raiders celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jeff Bottari)

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  • New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith (10) breaks a tackle from Las Vegas Raiders free safety Erik Harris during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • A screen shows the Las Vegas Raiders inaugural season logo during the NFL game against the New Orleans Saints, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jeff Bottari)

  • A screen shows Las Vegas Raiders win logo after defeating the New Orleans Saints in an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jeff Bottari)

  • A screen shows the game score after the Las Vegas Raiders defeated the New Orleans Saints 34-24 in an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jeff Bottari)

  • Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Zay Jones, left, catches a touchdown against New Orleans Saints free safety Marcus Williams (43) during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

  • New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) drops back to pass against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

  • Las Vegas Raiders linebacker Nicholas Morrow (50) celebrates after making an interception against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • Las Vegas Raiders play against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

  • New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) tackles Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller (83) during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders delivered a performance worthy of their fancy new home.

Too bad none of their fans were able to see it in person.

Carr threw three touchdown passes and the Raiders gave their new fans in Las Vegas plenty to celebrate even if they weren’t allowed in the stadium by beating the New Orleans Saints 34-24 on Monday night.

The new $2 billion stadium in the desert held its first event following the Raiders’ move from Oakland without any fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hopefully our fans, even though they couldn’t be here tonight, hopefully see something they like,” coach Jon Gruden said. “We can’t wait to get them back in this place. It’s such a great place to see a game.”

That was one of the few things that didn’t go right for the Raiders (2-0), who overcame an early 10-point deficit to the Saints (1-1) and opened the season with two straight wins for the fourth time in the past 25 seasons.

“This organization means everything to me,” Carr said. “They’ve stuck behind me through some hard times. Through some times our team, we struggled, there’s no doubt about it. But when you can get on the other side of things, be 2-0, as the Las Vegas Raiders, that’s a pretty cool thing.”

Carr was in control for most of the night, completing 28 of 38 passes for 282 yards. Darren Waller had 12 receptions for 103 yards as Carr’s most trusted option.

Carr engineered four straight scoring drives in the second and third quarters to turn a 10-0 deficit into a 24-17 lead.

“Derek Carr was awesome tonight,” Gruden said. “He made some some plays today that very few guys that I’ve coached could make. I tip my hat to him.”

Picking apart the New Orleans defense with short passes, the Raiders controlled the clock and kept Drew Brees and the Saints off the field. Las Vegas converted 10 of 17 third downs and also went for it successfully twice on fourth down.

The Raiders even survived a fumbled pitch by Jalen Richard by stopping the Saints and then scoring on the ensuing drive on a 20-yard run by Richard.

After being gashed on the ground early, the Raiders did a good job against Brees, who struggled without his injured No. 1 receiver Michael Thomas.

Brees went 26 for 38 for 312 yards with one touchdown and a key interception at the end of the first half that set up a field goal for the Raiders.

“If there’s one thing I wish I could take back from the game it would be that,” Brees said. “Otherwise, we had a lot of metal errors. I felt like we were not playing as fast and just as sure and confident.”

After the Saints cut the deficit to 31-24 on Alvin Kamara’s second TD run, the Raiders took advantage of a pass interference call against Janoris Jenkins and then iced the game with a 54-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson.

“We got to do a better job coaching,” coach Sean Payton said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a real pleasant film to watch — for some of our star players as well.”

AVERTING DISASTER

The Raiders almost had a big blunder on the opening drive of the third quarter when Carr fumbled a snap on third down from the 1. Alec Ingold recovered for Las Vegas and Carr threw a 1-yard TD to Waller on fourth down to give the Raiders their first lead of the game at 24-17.

TALE OF TWO QUARTERS

The Raiders first game in Las Vegas didn’t get off to a great start with the Saints driving for scores on their first two drives to take a 10-0 lead on Kamara’s first TD run. The Raiders punted on their first two drives before Carr and the offense got going in the second quarter.

Carr went 14 for 18 for 139 yards in the quarter, throwing a 3-yard TD pass to Ingold and a perfectly placed 15-yarder to Zay Jones. The TD was capped by Jones gathering his teammates and pretending to give them all hand sanitizer.

Nicholas Morrow then intercepted Brees late in the half, setting up Daniel Carlson’s 28-yard field goal that made it 17-17.

UNMASKED MEN

Both head coaches often did not wear masks on the sideline despite an edict earlier in the week to do so. A person with knowledge of the punishment told The Associated Press that at least three coaches have been fined $100,000 for violating the league’s rules that they wear face coverings on the sideline.

Gruden apologized while revealing for the first time that he had contracted the coronavirus.

“I’ve had the virus. I’m doing my best,” Gruden said. “I’m very sensitive about it. I’m calling the plays. I just want to communicate in these situations. I apologize. If I get fined, I will have to pay the fine.”

OPENING NIGHT

Al Davis’ widow Carol Davis got the honor to light the ceremonial torch in honor of her late husband before the game. Her son, Mark, who runs the team, didn’t attend the game as he has said he won’t come until fans are allowed at the new stadium.

 

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Chargers vs. Chiefs updates: AFC West matchup at SoFi Stadium

The Chargers host Kansas City Chiefs for the franchise’s first home game at SoFi Stadium at 1:25 pm Sunday on CBS.

A Twitter List by JHWreporter

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Rams vs. Cowboys live updates: Home opener at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood

Quarterback Jared Goff and the Rams open the 2020 season at SoFi Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys at 5:20 p.m., Sunday (NBC).


Follow Rams reporter Kevin Modesti throughout the NFL season for updates.


Rams coverage:

SoFi Stadium coverage:

New $5 billion home of the Rams debuts Sunday as revenue is limited and interest appears fleeting.

Live Updates:

A Twitter List by JHWreporter

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‘Hard Knocks’ episode 4 recap: George Stewart inspires Chargers to create change

Chargers special teams coordinator George Stewart shared the wise words “you gotta lose something to get something” during the team’s emotional conversation last week at SoFi Stadium regarding social justice and police brutality.

For episode four of “Hard Knocks: Los Angeles,” the cameras revealed the backstory of how the Chargers decided to cancel their scrimmage and used their NFL Network platform to raise awareness and how to create change.

“We are football players, we’re not politicians, but it’s up to us to speak our damn platforms,” Stewart told his players in the locker room.

Stewart reminded his players he’s 62 and how much racism and police brutality he’s seen since he was a 6-year-old boy growing up in Arkansas.

“I’m tired of it,” he said. “I know what it’s like to be oppressed … What can we do?”

The NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks initially forfeited their postseason game last week to demand justice for Jacob Blake, who was shot and paralyzed by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

That led to a domino effect of sporting events being postponed for a few days. The Bucks gave up something to regain the nation’s attention on many social issues like systemic racism.

But coaches were compelled to postpone games and practices because it seemed like the right thing to do instead of understanding why or how to build on the Bucks’ actions.

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn is about actions. Initially, he wasn’t going to cancel the scrimmage without a plan on how to create change. He thought handling business on the practice field and then speaking to reporters after about social justice was the best way to raise awareness and spur actions.

Lynn said a head coach called him to say he canceled practice because he didn’t know what to do.

“Get your ass out in the community and go do something with some people who can actually make change,” Lynn said he told the anonymous head coach.

He then reminded his players of all the actions they’ve done away from the field and how to expand on it.

“We’re working with Liberty Hill in L.A. right now to change policies to end systemic racism,” Lynn told his players on Zoom the night before gathering at SoFi Stadium.  “Get your ass out and vote to get the right people in the position that have the same viewpoints that you have. That’s one of the important things you can do.

“Best way to honor Jacob Blake, let’s talk about it to the media after we do our job.”

Lynn changed his mind and canceled practice after the emotional conversation in the locker room.

The players gave up their opportunities to earn playing time and roster spots in a valuable scrimmage to speak about social injustices for 60 minutes on national television. Stewart’s wise words and Lynn’s push for actions resonated with players.

Loved it. My respect for Anthony Lynn & this organization as a whole couldn’t be higher right now.

— Nick Horrigan (@NHorrigan30) September 2, 2020

STAR OF THE EPISODE

Nose tackle Breiden Fehoko got Lynn to say the words every undrafted rookie wants to hear.

“He just made the team,” Lynn said after watching Fehoko perform the ceremonial haka dance in front of teammates.

Lynn might have been joking, but he’s also been impressed with his play on the practice field.

Fehoko doesn’t have the ideal height for a defensive tackle — he jokingly blamed that on his mother — but his technique and drive to improve could keep him with the Chargers past Saturday’s cutdown day.

Two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Linval Joseph told Fehoko to show up on tape. He muttered those words to himself before a practice. He also got the attention of star defensive end Melvin Ingram with his confidence.

Fehoko also won the hearts of viewers with his underdog story. Many are rooting for him to perform more hakas for the Chargers.

Breiden Fehoko is so easy to root for pic.twitter.com/7O7Bv2jGuP

— ChargersMemes (@ChargersMemes) September 2, 2020

AVOID RAMSEY’S SIDE

Safety JuJu Hughes was dumbfounded as to why the Rams decided to throw in rookie wide receiver Van Jefferson’s direction while being defended by star cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

Ramsey won the round, but Jefferson has made many plays in camp. Perhaps it’s not the best idea to throw in Ramsey’s vicinity, but practice is about improving and the Rams likely wanted to see how good their 2020 second-round pick was.

Speaking of puzzling moves, why was coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead shaking hands with players after cutting them?

That’s like adding insult to injury. It’s 2020, Rams brass. Avoid high fives and handshakes. Shoulder bumps are acceptable, though.

#HardKnocks captures two of the highlights of #Rams training camp: Rookie WR Van Jefferson’s route-running any day. And CB Jalen Ramsey’s one-handed interception and length-of-the-field runback in practice on Aug. 25.

— Kevin Modesti (@KevinModesti) September 2, 2020

HERBERT’S UPS AND DOWNS

Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert was down on himself after a lackluster practice, but he showed growth with an impressive workout the following day.

This year’s No. 6 overall pick has been a mixed bag performance and personality wise.

He’s known for being quiet, but he showed personality when he did the “wassup” from the popular early 2000s Budweiser commercials. Herbert was born in 1998.

Rookie wide receiver K.J. Hill must have been so confused after he heard Herbert say that.

Herbert was also reminded by the Chargers’ defense he wasn’t facing Washington State. A subtle jab for the teams he faced in the Pac-12 while playing for Oregon.

The rookie said he obviously knew he wasn’t facing Washington State and then dropped a few impressive throws on the defense to prove it.

Yup. Will Herbert be able to have the game slow down. Cuz god given talent that boy has it.

— DH (@DH2185) September 2, 2020

TAYLOR’S LEADERSHIP

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is in an awkward situation with Herbert because he’ll likely replace him in the future.

Taylor is the current starter and wants to keep it that way for as long as possible, but that didn’t stop him from helping Herbert keep his confidence after throwing an interception.

“Brush it off,” Taylor told Herbert.

Taylor was also the one who gathered the team for the heart-to-heart conversation at SoFi Stadium.

It’s obvious the Chargers respect Taylor and want to hear from him as one of the leaders on the team.

Good leadership by Tyrod Taylor to tell Justin Herbert to “brush it off” after the rookie threw an interception. That’s why Lynn is a fan of Tyrod as a person and player #Chargers #HardKnocks

— Gilbert Manzano (@GManzano24) September 2, 2020

 

 

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Newsmakers Series: Join Rams and Chargers beat writers discuss the NFL’s future

Join columnists and beat writers from both Bay Area News Group and Southern California News Group as they discuss the future for the National Football League. This webinar series will highlight the plans of each league for opening, the 2020 seasons at large, and what fans can expect from it.

When:

Thursday, August 6, 10 a.m. in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Host: Todd Harmonson, Executive Editor

Guests:

SCNG– Kevin Modesti (Rams) and Gilbert Manzano (Chargers)

BANG– Cam Inman (49ers) and Jerry McDonald (Raiders)

JOIN: Sign up for your place in the webinar here

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Phyllis George, a female sportscasting pioneer as co-host of ‘The NFL Today,’ dies at 70

Phyllis George, the former Miss America who became a female sportscasting pioneer on CBS’ “The NFL Today” and served as the first lady of Kentucky, has died. She was 70.

A family spokeswoman said George died Thursday at a Lexington, Kentucky, hospital after a long fight with a blood disorder.

Her children, Lincoln Tyler George Brown and CNN White House correspondent Pamela Ashley Brown, released a joint statement, saying:

“For many, Mom was known by her incredible accomplishments as the pioneering female sportscaster, 50th Miss America and first lady. But this was all before we were born and never how we viewed Mom. To us, she was the most incredible mother we could ever ask for, and it is all of the defining qualities the public never saw, especially against the winds of adversity, that symbolize how extraordinary she is more than anything else. The beauty so many recognized on the outside was a mere fraction of her internal beauty, only to be outdone by an unwavering spirit that allowed her to persevere against all the odds.”

Miss America in 1971, George joined Brent Musburger and Irv Cross in 1975 on “The NFL Today.” Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder later was added to the cast.


In this photo from Jan. 21, 1980, Phyllis George is joined by, from left, Paul Hornung, Joe Namath and Carroll O’Connor at a TV show taping in Beverly Hills, Calif. George, a female sportscasting pioneer on CBS’ ‘The NFL Today‚’ died Thursday, May 14, 2020. She was 70. (AP Photo/File)

“Phyllis George was special. Her smile lit up millions of homes for the NFL Today,” Musburger tweeted. “Phyllis didn’t receive nearly enough credit for opening the sports broadcasting door for the dozens of talented women who took her lead and soared.”

George spent three seasons on the live pregame show, returned in 1980 and left in 1983, winning plaudits for her warmth of her interviews with star athletes. She also covered horse racing, hosted the entertainment show “People” and co-anchored the “CBS Morning News.”

George was briefly married to Hollywood producer Robert Evans in the mid-1970s and to John Y. Brown Jr. from 1979-98. Brown owned Kentucky Fried Chicken and the NBA’s Boston Celtics and served as the governor of Kentucky.

“Phyllis was a great asset to Kentucky,” Brown told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “We had a great partnership. I think we enjoyed every single day.”

From Denton, Texas, George attended the University of North Texas for three years, then went to Texas Christian University after earning a scholarship as Miss Texas in 1970.

In her 2002 memoir, George wrote that a male friend told her sportscasting wouldn’t work because it was a man’s job. George even acknowledged knowing nothing about the industry and having no experience nor another female mentor to follow.

None of it stopped her.

George was a friend of minister Norman Vincent Peale and a devout believer in his best-selling philosophy of positive thinking, George credits that approach for launching a defining career she didn’t expect — one that saw her range into an astonishing variety of ventures and roles, in media, the film industry, food and beauty products, and as the glamorous first lady of the bluegrass state.

“Saying yes to yourself opens up opportunities that can take you anywhere,” George wrote. “Having a mentor in your life who says yes to you is also key. Appreciate your mentors when you’re starting out. And later, always give credit to the people who were there with you at the beginning.”

ESPN sportscaster Hannah Storm remembered George as “the ultimate trailblazer” who inspired other women by showing that careers in sportscasting could be within their grasp.“A lot of times when you’re dreaming of something as a career option, you have to see it in order to believe it,” she said. “And someone has to be first, and that was Phyllis.”

Neal Pilson, a former president of CBS Sports, called George’s hiring as part of “The NFL Today” team a “groundbreaking decision” that “changed the face of sports television.”

“She had an openness and enthusiasm that made her a valuable contributor,” Pilson said. “She didn’t claim to know a tremendous amount about sports, but she knew about people, which is why her interviews resonated. She could do the best interviews with athletes and family members. She was a warm person and that came through on the set and in the interviews.”

George conducted one-on-one interviews with star athletes such as NFL greats Joe Namath and Roger Staubach.

“People were uncomfortable with the idea of seeing a woman on TV talking about sports in a prominent role,” Storm said. “But someone has to go first. I give her so much respect for truly her courage. She had to put herself out there. Phyllis George did something out of the norm. And I’m forever grateful for her leading the way.”

George wasn’t the first but made her entrance around the time that other women were getting their starts reporting on sports, too.

Jane Chastain was hired at CBS in 1974 and became the first female announcer on an NFL telecast that fall.

Lesley Visser became the first female NFL beat writer during a 14-year career at The Boston Globe that started in 1974. She later worked on “The NFL Today” as well as ABC and ESPN, becoming the first woman assigned to “Monday Night Football” in 1998.

Visser said George “always made you feel important and warm. I never heard her talk about anyone in a negative way. She made everything look so easy. She had a magnetic personality.”

The industry discovered George after she co-hosted “Candid Camera” and the Miss America pageant. She received a 13-week option from CBS in 1974 without a defined role. But a popular interview with reluctant Boston Celtics star Dave Cowens soon earned her a three-year deal and paved the way to her breakthrough role the next year on “The NFL Today.”

George moved on to co-host the “CBS Morning News” in 1985 but quit after less than eight months. Among the people she interviewed was former first lady Nancy Reagan. She later interviewed President Bill Clinton in 1994 as part of her own prime-time talk show.

As a businesswoman, George founded “Chicken By George,” an eight-item line of fresh, marinated chicken breast entrees, and sold it two years later to Geo. A. Hormel & Co. She created “Phyllis George Beauty” in 2003. The cosmetic and skincare product line was sold through a TV home shopping network.

She also wrote several other books and had roles in a pair of Hollywood comedy films.

“Phyllis is a pioneer. Her range is what impresses me the most,” former Kentucky and Louisville coach Rick Pitino, now at Iona, wrote in the foreward to her memoir, “Never Say Never: Ten lessons to turn you can’t into YES I CAN.”

“She entered a highly competitive pageant and emerged as Miss America,” Pitino wrote. “She became the first national female sports broadcaster. She flourished in the limelight as First Lady in the state of Kentucky. She’s been successful in business. And she is a respected humanitarian. Each step along the way, she embraced the mission at hand.”

– Schreiner reported from Louisville, Kentucky, and Raby from Charleston, West Virginia. AP Sports Writers John Nicholson, Joe Reedy and Gary Graves also contributed to this report.

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Chargers trade with Patriots to draft LB Kenneth Murray at No. 23

When Kenneth Murray received a phone call from an Indianapolis number, he had no idea he was headed to Los Angeles.

Chargers general manager Tom Telesco was on the other end of that surprising phone call for the former Oklahoma linebacker. That was one of many surprises the Chargers had Thursday for the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Telesco and the Chargers traded up to select Murray with the No. 23 overall pick, the team’s second first-round pick of the night. The Chargers drafted quarterback Justin Herbert with the No. 6 pick. The Chargers sent their second-round pick (37th overall) and a third-rounder (71) to the New England Patriots.

Murray filled a need for the Chargers, who didn’t receive much production from their linebackers in 2019. Murray is a versatile linebacker who played middle linebacker at Oklahoma, but was recruited to play outside linebacker and pass rusher.

“I was completely surprised,” Murray said about the Chargers drafting him. “I met with them at the combine. I put my best foot forward and I felt like we connected well.”

Murray will join a linebacker group that includes last year’s rookie sensation Drue Tranquill, Denzel Perryman, Uchenna Nwosu and Kyzir White.

The Chargers are stacked on defense with players such as former first-round picks Joey Bosa and Derwin James and offseason acquisition Chris Harris Jr., but the team was last in takeaways (14) and 28th in sacks (30) a year ago.

Telesco, who spent many years working in the Indianapolis Colts’ front office, referred to Murray as a violent tackler. That physicality could lead to more takeaways and sacks for the Chargers in 2020.

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NFL playoffs schedule: New England Patriots slip into wild-card weekend

NEW YORK — Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will be playing in the postseason a week earlier than usual this year. The Dallas Cowboys won’t be playing at all.

The Patriots, who defeated the Rams in last season’s Super Bowl, open the playoffs during wild-card weekend for the first time since 2009 after they lost 27-24 to Miami on Sunday and Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Chargers 31-21 to earn a first-round bye.

“We didn’t play the way we’re capable of playing and it ended up costing us,” Brady said. “Just too many bad mistakes.”

The Patriots (12-4) are the No. 3 overall seed in the AFC and will have to fix things in a hurry as they host Tennessee (9-7) next Saturday night (see full playoff schedule below).

“We’ve got a game next week, we’ve got to get ready to go,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. “Nobody should feel sorry for us, we shouldn’t feel sorry for ourselves. Our goal is to play in the playoffs. We got a shot next week at all of that.”

San Francisco earned the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs with a 26-21 victory at Seattle. Jimmy Garoppolo and the NFC West champion 49ers (13-3) held on and sent Russell Wilson and the Seahawks (11-5) on the road to open the playoffs in the wild-card round next Sunday at Philadelphia.

“It’s a good step in the right direction,” Garoppolo said. “We’ve got a long way to go, though.”

The Titans clinched their spot by beating Houston 35-14, eliminating both Pittsburgh and Oakland in the process. All three teams had a chance at the playoffs, but Tennessee had the easiest path by needing to win — and got it against a Texans squad that rested several starters, including quarterback Deshaun Watson.

“I think it’s great when you can determine whether you get to continue to play football,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “There was some great effort, but we’re going to have to improve and play better. Everything gets harder from here on out.”

The last time New England played on wild-card weekend, it lost at home to the Ravens. The Patriots have never made it to the Super Bowl with Brady and coach Bill Belichick while playing in the opening round.

“We’ve got to move forward and get ready to go or the end of our season will be next week if we don’t turn the page and play good football, way better than today,” McCourty said. “Nobody feels sorry for the Patriots not getting a first-round bye in the playoffs.”

Meanwhile, the Chiefs (12-4) are the No. 2 seed and will be able to watch the opening round, along with the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens (14-2).

“We’ll step back, the guys will come in tomorrow, we’ll have a team meeting, I’ll give them a schedule for what’s going on the next week here during the bye week,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “The main thing is we get work done, but we rest up and get ready for whoever we might play.”

Kansas City’s victory also locked Houston into the No. 4 seed, and the Texans (10-6) will host the Buffalo Bills (10-6) next Saturday.

Despite resting several starters, including quarterback Lamar Jackson, running back Mark Ingram, guard Marshal Yanda and safety Earl Thomas, Baltimore cruised past Pittsburgh 28-10 to ride into the playoffs on a 12-game winning streak.

“It’s the best team in football in the regular season this year, but that doesn’t count for anything in the next season,” coach John Harbaugh said. “In the next season, we have to obviously go to work this week and become a better football team.”

Green Bay earned a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs with a 23-20 victory at Detroit, the Packers’ fifth straight win.

“We’re hot,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “But you’ve got to start all over in the playoffs and it’s all great football teams now, so the margin of error is even smaller.”

Rodgers and the Packers (13-3) lost out on home-field advantage with San Francisco’s win, but have the No. 2 seed in the conference.

“The NFC is wide open,” Rodgers said.

New Orleans routed Carolina 42-10 to finish 13-3 in the regular season, but Drew Brees and Co. then had to wait for the result of the 49ers-Seahawks game to see what their playoff path would be.

The NFC South champions will be the No. 3 seed and will host Minnesota (10-6) in the wild-card round next Sunday.

Injury-ravaged Philadelphia (9-7) won the NFC East with a 34-17 win over the New York Giants, eliminating Dallas with the victory. The Eagles, with their second division title in three years, will host the loser of the 49ers-Seahawks showdown.

“This team, when it’s crunch time this time of year, we get it done,” Eagles defensive tackle Tim Jernigan said after his team finished the schedule with a four-game winning streak.


NFL WILD CARD PLAYOFFS

Saturday, January 4

AFC:    1:35 PM (PT) — Buffalo at Houston (ESPN, with simulcast on ABC)

AFC:    5:15 PM (PT) — Tennessee at New England (CBS)

Sunday, January 5

NFC:    10:05 AM (PT) —  Minnesota at New Orleans (FOX)

NFC:    1:40 PM (PT)  — Seattle at Philadelphia (NBC)

NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

Saturday, January 11

NFC: 1:35 PM (PT) — Philadelphia/Seattle/Minnesota at San Francisco (NBC)

AFC: 5:15 PM (PT)  — Houston/Buffalo/Tennessee at Baltimore (CBS)

Sunday, January 12

AFC: 12:05 PM (PT) — New England/Houston/Buffalo at Kansas City (CBS)

NFC: 3:40 PM (ET) — New Orleans/Philadelphia/Seattle at Green Bay (FOX)

The AFC (CBS, 12:05 PM ET) and NFC (FOX, 3:40 PM ET) Championship Games will be played on Sunday, January 19.

Super Bowl LIV will take place on Sunday, February 2 (FOX, 3:30 PM ET), at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

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Rams’ Dante Fowler praises Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, then buries him

LOS ANGELES — Dante Fowler said Russell Wilson was “in his own league” among pro football’s growing class of elusive quarterbacks.

If that’s true, the Rams might be ready for almost anyone the NFL can throw — and run — at them.

A few days after he heaped praise the Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Fowler jumped all over Wilson and played a huge role in the Rams’ latest strong defensive effort in a 28-12 victory Sunday night at the Coliseum.

The outside linebacker was credited with 1 1/2 of the Rams’ five sacks of Wilson, and three of their 11 hits on the quarterback. He celebrated his sacks with his trademark dance, featuring a theatrical bow and kick.

Fowler’s, Samson Ebukam’s (two sacks) and Clay Matthews’ work on the edges were a key to keeping Wilson from making plays out of the pocket.

“Just doing our jobs rushing in our lanes, trying to keep him in the pocket and trusting that our guys up front were going to clog it up in the middle (while) we were taking care of the edges,” Fowler said.

“Our guys on the back end did a really good job of covering and let us get to him tonight.”

The Rams have bottled up Arizona’s Kyler Murray and Seattle’s Wilson since giving up five touchdown passes and 95 yards rushing to Baltimore’s Jackson.

Fowler’s performance gave him the team lead in sacks with nine, one more than Matthews. Fowler’s 13 quarterback hits are second on the team to defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s 22.

The nine sacks and 13 quarterback hits this season are new highs for Fowler, who is in his fourth NFL season and first full season with the Rams after a 2018 trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

He already had career highs this season in tackles (now 44) and tackles for loss (13).

Quotable

Rams quarterback Jared Goff on Todd Gurley’s stiff-arm on his touchdown run: “He’s a bad man, that’s what I told him. He’s a bad dude and it was vintage Todd.”

Rams coach Sean McVay, asked if there was a playoff atmosphere at the Coliseum: “I thought that there was a buzz even just walking out. The players had that good feel again, very similar to last week (before the win over the Arizona Cardinals) and they came out from the jump.”

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the Rams “played great”: “Without question, early in the game they were controlling the tempo and … we just didn’t handle it as well as we would like. And it took us a while to get settled down, and then once we got settled down, then in the second half was a different game.”

Notable numbers

Tyler Higbee’s 107 and 116 yards receiving against Arizona and Seattle made him the first Rams tight end with 100 yards in consecutive weeks since Carroll Dale in 1962.

Todd Gurley’s 79 yards rushing and 34 on four receptions gave him 7,319 from scrimmage in his career, climbing over Dick Bass into eighth on the Rams’ all-time rushing list.

The Seahawks were held without a touchdown on offense for the first time since Week 1 of 2017.

Scoreboard watching

Needing a lot of help, the Rams didn’t get it in the earlier games Sunday that affected their chances of qualifying for the playoffs.

The San Francisco 49ers won on the road against the New Orleans Saints on a last-second field goal by Robbie Gould to improve to 11-2, temporarily moving back into first place over the Seahawks in the NFC West, meaning the Rams had to beat Seattle to avoid official elimination from the race for the division title.

The Minnesota Vikings, who began the week holding the second of the NFC’s two wildcards, won at home against the Detroit Lions. At 9-4, the Vikings probably would have to lose two of their three remaining games for the Rams to have a realistic chance of getting a wildcard on a tiebreaker with a 10-6 finish. The Vikings play the Chargers in Carson and the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears at home.

The Packers won at home against the Washington Redskins and are 10-3, staying ahead of the Vikings in the NFC North.

Sidelined

Tackle Rob Havenstein, whose injured knee presented the only mystery about a Rams player’s availability for Sunday’s game against the Steelers, was declared inactive along with six others 90 minutes before kickoff.

It’s the fourth game Havenstein has missed since getting hurt against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rookie Bobby Evans has filled in at right tackle.

It’s also the fourth straight game that the offensive line, shaken up by injuries, has started Whitworth, Austin Corbett, Austin Blythe, David Edwards and Evans from left to right.

‘My Cause’ cleats

When Todd Gurley laced up lavender cleats with the word “MADE” on the sides before the Sunday’s game, his feet were at the Coliseum but his heart was in his hometown of Tarboro, North Carolina.

The shoes were the running back’s contribution to the NFL’s one-week My Cause, My Cleats campaign, which allows players to promote a cause or charity with specially designed footwear.

Gurley’s promoted his MADE (Make a Difference Every Day) Sports Foundation, which he co-founded with hometown friend Jameon Willis.

The foundation sponsors football camps for kids, but Gurley hopes to expand it to other sports and projects with the goal of uniting people and inspiring young people through sports, he said this week.

“As I keep telling the kids each year, I’ve been in the league for five years, went to college (at Georgia) for three. Less than 10 years ago, I was in these kids’ shoes,” said Gurley, 25.

“I’m still learning myself, still figuring stuff out myself. Just trying to do the right thing, man. I was raised the right way and I’m trying to pass those things along to other people.”

Rams quarterback Jared Goff’s rainbow-colored cleats promoted California Strong, the charity he helped found after the 2018 Thousand Oaks shootings and state wildfires.

Among other causes promoted by Rams players with their choice of cleats involved various cancer charities (Josh Reynolds, Austin Blythe, Dante Fowler, Troy Hill, Troy Reeder), the Make a Wish Foundation (Robert Woods, Andrew Whitworth), the American Heart Association (Gerald Everett), the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (Cory Littleton), suicide prevention (Morgan Fox), the Special Olympics (Tyler Higbee), Down Syndrome (Tanzel Smart), underprivileged youth (Aaron Donald), the poor and vulnerable in Africa (Samson Ebukam), and opposition to the money bail system (JoJo Natson).

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Marcus Peters vs. Jalen Ramsey shouting match is better than Rams-Ravens

LOS ANGELES — The Rams’ and Baltimore Ravens’ star cornerbacks had avoided saying anything controversial in the week before their teams’ first meeting since Jalen Ramsey essentially replaced Marcus Peters in the L.A. secondary.

When the diplomacy ended, it ended loudly and profanely.

The Ravens’ Peters and the Rams’ Ramsey had to be separated and bundled up the tunnel to the locker rooms by big security guards after engaging in a shouting match on the Coliseum field in the minutes after Baltimore’s 45-6 victory Monday night.

It wasn’t clear what precipitated the altercation, other than Peters’ sense of vindication after intercepting a pass against the team that traded him and Ramsey’s frustration about the one-sided defeat. But Peters was heard chiding Ramsey about the Rams’ shrinking chances of making the playoffs. And Ramsey was heard insulting Peters in unprintable language.

“Get your a– out of the playoffs,” Peters shouted at Ramsey before entering the locker room.

Ramsey had earlier said in Peters’ direction: “They (the Ravens) got who they wanted, and he is a w—-,” as if to say Peters is a defensive back of ill repute.

Ramsey refused to discuss what happened when a reporter asked.

Marcus Peters barking at Jalen Ramsey after the gamepic.twitter.com/jnvlgvIWMZ

— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) November 26, 2019

“If y’all have some questions about the game, I’ll answer that. Other than that, I ain’t going to answer no, uh, BS,” he said.

Peters didn’t speak with reporters.

Peters was traded from the Rams to the Ravens in October for linebacker Kenny Young and a fifth-round draft pick in 2020. Ramsey was acquired by the Rams later the same day from the Jacksonville Jaguars in a deal for first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 and a fourth-round pick in 2021.

When Peters intercepted a Jared Goff pass in the fourth quarter, it was his third in five games for the Ravens.

No excuse

The Rams’ worst offensive showing since their Super Bowl loss to New England in February was all the more remarkable because they had receivers Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp and running back Todd Gurley on the field together, only the second time that has happened in the past six games.

The team was averaging 30.5 points this season in games when they those four offensive stars for most of the game, and 15 points when they didn’t.

So it was a relief for the Rams when Woods appeared at the Coliseum about three hours before kickoff, a week after he missed the Rams’ win over the Chicago Bears to take care of a family matter. It had been assumed that Woods would be available to play Monday. But coach Sean McVay had stopped short of saying for sure.

Cooks also returned to action after missing two games following his second concussion of the season.

Woods caught six passes for 97, Kupp six for 35 and Cooks two for 32, but almost all of that yardage came after that the Ravens had taken control of the game.

Woods, 27, from USC and Serra High in Gardena, has kept the nature of his family issue private. He has expressed gratitude to the Rams for supporting him as he deals with the family matter.

“I’m very thankful for the fans, family and just this team. Very supportive and a great family,” Woods said after the game.

Local hero

Marquise Brown, the wide receiver who caught the first two of Lamar Jackson’s five touchdown passes, played a season at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita before becoming All America at Oklahoma.

“It was very fun,” Brown said of Monday’s game after catching a team-high five passes for 42 yards. “I saw my coaches at College of the Canyons.

“I have family out here. They never get to see me play in person, so for them to see me in person today was pretty cool.”

About that field …

The grounds crew couldn’t quite get rid of markings from Saturday’s USC-UCLA game before Monday’s Rams-Ravens game. The Trojans logo peeked out from under the Rams helmet at midfield, the Pac-12 logos showed between the 20- and 30-yard lines, and the college yard numbers were visible next to the NFL yard numbers.

Honored

Members of the St. Louis Rams’ 1999 Super Bowl-winning were honored on the field during the first quarter, part of a two-day reunion that included Pro Football Hall Famers Marshall Faulk and Orlando Pace as well as Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Mike Jones.

Members of the Watts Rams youth football program stood with Rams players during the national anthem. Their appearance coincided with the launch of a short film, “What’s Watts — A Story of Transformation,” telling the story of the youth team.

Next

The Rams go to Glendale, Ariz., next Sunday to face the Arizona Cardinals (3-7-1). The Cardinals have lost four games in a row and are the only team without a winning record on the Rams’ remaining schedule. Arizona and L.A. will meet again at the Coliseum on Dec. 29, the final Sunday of the NFL regular season.

But the Cardinals could be dangerous if the Rams look past them to upcoming games against the Seahawks and on the road against the Cowboys and 49ers. Cardinals rookie Kyler Murray averages 6.2 yards per rushing attempt, second to the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson among quarterbacks who carry the ball at least five times per game. And Arizona will be coming off a bye week, while the Rams will have a short week of preparation after their Monday night game.

The Rams’ remaining opponents have a combined record of 31-22-2 (counting Arizona’s record twice).

The Rams plan to practice every day this week. Players won’t have their usual Tuesday off. A midday practice is scheduled for Thanksgiving day.

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