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PHILADELPHIA — The shadows had just about overtaken Lincoln Financial Field Sunday afternoon as the Eagles’ offense trotted onto the field late in the third quarter. There was just a sliver of sunlight left, and Nick Foles, positioned in shotgun formation, was standing right in it. The visual effect was that his silhouette stretched for more than 10 yards, beyond the Houston Texans’ defensive front. Larger than life.

Foles took the snap, stepped up in the pocket and threw it as far as he was physically able. Nelson Agholor plucked it out of the sky in stride and raced into the end zone unchallenged, finishing the 83-yard go-ahead score with a backward plunge a la DeSean Jackson against Dallas back in 2010.

The dazzling impression Foles made on the Lincoln Financial Field crowd Sunday in a dramatic 32-30 win over Houston was likely his last. There is a real chance he has played his final home game in an Eagles uniform. It was not lost on Foles, who got choked up talking about it afterward.

He’s recaptured some of the magic he found while leading the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title last season, but Nick Foles knows he’s probably played his last home game as a member of the Eagles. James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
“It’s emotional,” he said, his voice catching. “I knew there was a chance this could be it. I don’t think about the future, but I am aware of that because this city means a lot to me, this team means a lot to me, wearing that jersey means a lot to me.”

Foles’ performance only enhanced his legend. He established a franchise record with 471 passing yards and became the first Eagles QB with 400 pass yards and four touchdowns in a single game since … well, Nick Foles, who turned the trick in 2013 when he went for 406 yards and seven TDs in Oakland.

The moment most likely to stick permanently with fans and teammates was one that started with a scare. Foles was drilled in the chest by Jadeveon Clowney late in the game and lay on his back in the end zone for several minutes. Chants of “Foles!” began echoing through the stadium, encouraging him to get up. Eventually he did, and the crowd went nuts. Nate Sudfeld went in to replace him, and thought it might be a long-term gig.

“I thought he was out. He was laying there forever,” Sudfeld said. “I didn’t know if he was out for forever or freaking one day. You have no idea.”

It was one play. Foles got right back into the lineup and led the Eagles down the field, setting up Jake Elliott’s game-winning 35-yard field goal as time expired.

The Eagles have won two in a row since Foles replaced the injured Carson Wentz in the lineup, both coming against first-place teams in the Los Angeles Rams and Texans. The offense scored 30-plus points in both wins after hitting that mark just once over the first 13 games.

“We get confused sometimes because he’s a backup quarterback; he just happens to be Carson Wentz’s backup,” said safety Malcolm Jenkins. “He’s a player. He’s a Super Bowl MVP for a reason. Obviously, he’s pumped life back into this team, the offense, playing phenomenal right when we need it. But that’s Nick. He’s no different. It’s not like he rose to the occasion. This is what he’s made for.”

The debate in Philly regarding the city’s two gifted QBs, Wentz and Foles, will pick up this week. Are the Eagles, who named Foles the starter for Sunday’s game against Washington, definitely going to let the Super Bowl MVP walk, even if his hot hand continues into the postseason?

For all of the oxygen that will be spent on this topic, the reality is that this is, and should be, Wentz’s team for the long haul. Foles will most likely will be in a different city next year with a chance to cement himself as a franchise QB.

He has helped his chances with his performance over the past two weeks, while stirring the imagination of the Eagles’ fan base one last time.

“I’m very grateful for every opportunity to play here, to play in front of our fans, to wear that jersey no matter what,” Foles said. “No one can take that away from me.

“This was a special one tonight. I don’t know what the future holds. I’m not going to worry about it. I’m just going to focus on now, enjoy just being in Philadelphia, enjoy the people, enjoy wearing this jersey because it’s some of the most special moments of my life.”

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Brandon Marshall’s playoff drought likely will continue this season.

Marshall, who has played 178 regular-season games without having appeared in the playoffs during his 13-season career, was waived by the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday, the team announced.

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Marshall’s playoff drought, the ninth-longest in NFL history, appeared likely to end this season with New Orleans (11-2) having clinched the NFC South title.

The veteran wide receiver, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, didn’t appear in a game with the Saints. He signed with the team last month after Dez Bryant suffered a season-ending Achilles injury.

The Saints apparently didn’t see enough from Marshall to activate him, despite the lack of production they have been getting from their receiving corps behind standout Michael Thomas. Rookies Tre’Quan Smith and Keith Kirkwood, second-year pro Austin Carr and third-year pro Tommylee Lewis have combined for a total of seven catches over the past three games.

It’s possible the Saints could get veteran receiver Ted Ginn Jr. back from injured reserve in time for the playoffs. Coach Sean Payton said this week that Ginn’s rehab from a knee injury has been going well.

Marshall began this season with the Seattle Seahawks, appearing in six games and catching 11 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown before he was released Nov. 1.

The Saints were Marshall’s fourth team in three years and the seventh of his career. The 34-year-old veteran is 16th on the all-time list with 970 receptions and 22nd in receiving yards with 12,351. He also has 83 career touchdown catches and his six seasons of 100-plus receptions are the most in NFL history.

To replace Marshall on the roster, the Saints claimed tight end Erik Swoope off waivers after he was released by the Indianapolis Colts. Swoope, 26, had eight catches for 87 yards and three touchdowns in seven games played this year.

Swoope (6-foot-5, 257 pounds) was a basketball player at the University of Miami (Florida) before switching to football — just like former Saints great Jimmy Graham. Swoope joined the Colts as an undrafted rookie in 2014, but he didn’t catch his first NFL pass until 2016.

ESPN’s Mike Triplett contributed to this report.

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BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens has Baker Mayfield’s back.

In a big way.

Kitchens said Thursday he has no problem with any of Mayfield’s recent statements about former coach Hue Jackson, including an Instagram response when Mayfield called Jackson “fake.”

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“I promise you this: Baker’s not going to blow smoke up anybody’s ass,” Kitchens said Thursday as the Browns prepared to face the Texans in Houston on Sunday. “So if he said it, that’s what he feels. And I’m standing behind Baker Mayfield.”

Mayfield did not detail what he meant except to say there were things that happened in the building that led him to use the word.

Kitchens was just as adamant about Mayfield’s postgame comments in Cincinnati when Mayfield said he did not appreciate his former coach taking a job with a rival so soon after being fired by Cleveland.

“I don’t have a problem with Baker saying anything like that,” Kitchens said. “The guy spoke what he felt to be true. I don’t know when it became big news to speak the truth, OK? And if that’s what he feels then he should voice it.

“Hard Knocks is in here and everybody is looking for a story. Well, he’s giving you a story. He’s telling you the truth. Everybody wants an inside look and the truth. Well hell, that’s the truth.

“We go down to Cincinnati and one of the biggest wins … I know there’s people in that locker room that have never gotten on a plane to come back here on a road game with a victory. So they didn’t know that feeling until then.

“Suddenly it’s big news if we don’t want to turn it into a Kumbaya after the game and turn it into fist bumps and hugs. I don’t think Baker disrespected anybody in what he said. He spoke what he felt.”

Kitchens said he can see the Browns coming together, and that words are irrelevant.

“At some point, everybody’s going to realize it doesn’t matter what anybody else says,” Kitchens said. “It doesn’t matter what anybody says in Cincinnati, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, nowhere. It’s about what’s said in here. And more importantly it’s about our fans, our organization and our locker room most important.

“It’s about what those guys in there feel, and when they start believing that, which they do, then you have something.”

Mayfield’s teammates did not want to be drawn into a discussion about Mayfield’s words. To Kitchens, it’s fundamental.
“Ultimately it’s about winning,” Kitchens said. “When you start winning people want to find other stories. I’ve told you guys this in the spring: Players chase stats and media chases controversy, because both of them equal money. It’s about how many hits you get on the internet; it’s about how many viewers you have.

“Ultimately if we can stay together in the locker room or not let anything like (stats) divide us or any Instagrams or anything like that divide us, we’re going to be fine.”

Kitchens also said that he told running back Nick Chubb he could call the plays in Houston if Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC championship game. Chubb played at Georgia, Kitchens at Alabama, and Wednesday Chubb told the NFL Network about the fun arrangement.

“That’s because he (Kitchens) has no belief we’ll win,” Chubb said.

“I changed a play today to Roll Tide; he wouldn’t even run the play, so I don’t know,” Kitchens said of Chubb. “I had to come up with something; he wouldn’t even bet me anything.”

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BALTIMORE — Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and the rest of the team seemed confident this week that they could turn the season around against the Ravens.

So far, the results are inconclusive.

The Bengals gave up 117 yards rushing to Lamar Jackson. Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY Sports
It wasn’t a total disaster, like the outings against the Chiefs and Saints, and that’s probably why the Bengals’ defensive players weren’t hanging their heads in the locker room after the game. The mood certainly was lighter than it had been in the weeks prior to defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s ouster.

“I thought they played their tails off,” Lewis said.

But at the end of the day, a 24-21 loss to the Ravens counts the same as a 51-14 loss to the Saints.

That isn’t to say the Bengals shouldn’t take any moral victories out of a close loss to a division rival on the road. If they can learn from it, they have six games left in the season to show that they’re better for it.

Lewis certainly seemed to think that could be the case.

“We have to learn something,” Lewis said. “Today, I thought they learned something about themselves. We had opportunities, but we didn’t take full advantage of them. We’ve got to take full advantage, but we learn. … But for them, they’ve got to be excited. We know where we are, and now it’s a race to the finish. And they are in the same position we are.”

In some ways, the Bengals appeared to play better with Lewis calling the plays. They settled down after a 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game and forced three straight punts. Shawn Williams picked off rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson to set up the Bengals to get points in the second half, and they held the Ravens to a field goal in the fourth quarter.

The offense had two chances to tie or take the lead late, but those drives resulted in a missed 52-yard field goal and an incomplete pass on fourth down to Cody Core, who appeared to drop Dalton’s pass after getting two hands on it.

The offense managed only 255 total yards, the second-worst total this season, and punted five times in the first half. Without A.J. Green, the Bengals simply couldn’t come up with the plays at the end of the game, like they did against the Falcons, Buccaneers and Dolphins.

That’s almost as concerning as the lack of playmakers on the defensive side.

There’s definitely blame to go around. However, defensively, it was clear that changing the playcaller isn’t going to be some magic bandage to fix the unit. They still gave up 403 yards and remain on pace to break the record for yards allowed in a season set by the 2012 Saints.

Not only did rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson become the first quarterback since Colin Kaepernick in 2016 to rush for more than 100 yards in a game, but he also recorded 265 total rushing yards. Jackson’s 117 rushing yards were the second-most by a rookie quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger.

The Ravens didn’t attempt a pass on the 11-play opening drive but were still able to convert two third downs by using Jackson’s feet. That happened even though the Bengals knew the Ravens would be running the ball instead of passing.

“He can’t throw the ball,” Burfict said after the game in the direction of Vincent Rey, who was talking to reporters at an adjacent locker.

If the Bengals are encouraged, it’s because the bar was set pretty low after a series of declining performances. There was nowhere to go but up, and the Bengals think they’re starting to make that climb back.

“It was a great step in the right direction. We just didn’t get the results we needed,” defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. “There are some positives. It was clear and evident we looked like a different defense out there.”

If that is the case, all is certainly not lost. Getting healthy would help. The situation at linebacker has become almost dire, with Nick Vigil and Preston Brown out and Vontaze Burfict, who is dealing with a hip injury, clearly still hobbled. Green could come back as early as next week, and the Bengals have the Browns, Broncos and Raiders on the schedule. It’s more manageable than facing the Chiefs or the Saints with an injured cast of characters.

“You just have to keep fighting and playing until the game is over,” Lewis said he told the team. “So let’s make plays. We know that we can do that, and we have guys who can do that. We’ll get some guys back and healthy, and that will make us better. And that will lift us up. But right now, everybody that’s getting the opportunity to play now, just keep playing better.”

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Week nine was mostly about the quarterbacks, as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers faced off, and Drew Brees captured some Rams, but it wasn’t all down to the slingers.

Brees’ headline act, stellar as it was, would have been less impressive if not for a hat-trick from our favourite Liberian running back.

Player of the Week

Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints – Running Back #41)

He had solid competition for player of the week honors, but after balling out for the Saints on Sunday and helping to end the Los Angeles Rams unbeaten run, POTW has to go to Alvin Kamara.

The Liberian-American had three touchdowns on Sunday, a first half hat-trick of touchdowns, with two receiving and one rushing. AK41 became the only player in the NFL this season with a receiving and a rushing touchdown in the first quarter of a game, as he ran for 82 yards on 19 carries.

Add in the four receptions on five targets for 34 yards, and an impressive shoulder shake to get past the Rams defender while running an option route, and the Saints got an important W with a 45-35 win.

Notable Performances
Miami’s Brock Osweiler came off second best against Jeremiah Attaochu in week nine. Mark Brown/Getty Images
Jeremiah Attaochu (New York Jets – Outside Linebacker #55)

After signing with the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets prior to the start of the season (after being cut from the San Francisco 49ers), Attaochu has fit in nicely in New York so far.

After providing good performances in prior weeks, the Nigeria-born linebacker had two tackles, one sack and three quarterback hits in the Jets’ 13-6 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Despite the poor showing by the offense, Attaochu and the defense were a bright spot for the Jets to look to build on in the second half of the season.

Tevin Coleman (Atlanta Falcons – Running Back #26)

With lead running back Devonta Freeman on IR, Coleman had himself an outing on Sunday as he helped lead the Falcons to a 38-14 win over the Washington Redskins.

Rushing for 88 yards on 13 carries, and playing an equally important role in the passing game with five receptions for 68 yards and two touchdowns, Coleman reminded teams that he will be available in the off-season for a potentially lucrative second contract.

Foye Oluokun (Atlanta Falcons – Linebacker #54)
Foye Oluokun has been a solid presence for the Falcons this season. Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Rookie linebacker Oluokun continued to impress as he played a big role in limiting the Washington running backs to 57 yards total on Sunday. The Nigerian-American had six tackles, one QB hit, and a tackle for a loss.

The Yale grad has shown an ability to defend the run nicely and also provide capable coverage on passing downs for the 4-4 Falcons.

Jahleel Addae (Los Angeles Chargers – Safety #37)

Ghanaian-American safety Addae was in great form on Sunday as he made several key plays to help the 6-2 Chargers win their fifth game in a row. Addae notched 10 tackles, one sack and QB hit and one extremely important pass breakup.

With the Chargers up 25-17 in the waning seconds of the game, the Seahawks were given an untimed down while on the six yard line and with the clock at 0.00. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson sought to provide the home fans with his usual magic from behind center as he evaded the Chargers pass rush and flung a pass to receiver David Moore in the end zone.

Unknown to Moore, Addae was making a break in the opposite direction and flung his right arm out and with a fingertip (or fingernail, according to Addae) broke up the pass and sealed the win for the Chargers.

Players to Watch in Week 10

Arizona Cardinals Cornerback Bene Benwikere celebrates a second half interception against the San Francisco 49ers. Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Bene Benwikere (Arizona Cardinals Defensive back)

The Cardinals are still trying to find stable footing this season and week 10 sees them take on the 8-1 Chiefs and the talented QB Pat Mahomes, running back Kareem Hunt, and receiver Tyreek Hill. Benwikere has played his part at cornerback and safety over the past few weeks and will need to be at the top of his game to combat the Chiefs offensive weaponry and schemes.

Kelechi Osemele (Oakland Raiders Offensive Tackle)

The Oakland Raiders are a disaster this season and Osemele has missed three games with a knee injury so far, but when he has been on the field he has provided the Raiders with a dependable presence at left guard. Osemele will be even more important in week 10 against the Chargers if left tackle Kolton Miller is unable to play through his own knee injury.

Brian Orakpo (Tennessee Titans Defensive End)

Orakpo and the Titans beat the Dallas Cowboys 28-14 on Monday Night Football and the Nigerian-American defensive end had one of the five Tennessee sacks on the night. In order for the Titans to beat the Patriots in week 10, Orakpo and the Tennessee defense will need to make a mess of the Patriots offensive line and pocket protection for Tom Brady.

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LANDOVER, Md. – Seven seasons later, late-game management remains one of Jason Garrett’s bigger issues.

In 2011, his first full year as the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach, he became known as the coach who iced his kicker. Dan Bailey made the initial try as Garrett signaled for the timeout but missed the 49-yard redo against the Arizona Cardinals and the Cowboys lost in overtime.

On Sunday, the Cowboys valiantly fought their way back into a game that appeared to be a sure loss to the Washington Redskins after Preston Smith recovered a Dak Prescott fumble for a touchdown with 4:55 to play. But the comeback fell short when Brett Maher’s 52-yard field goal try — which was pushed back 5 yards because of a snap infraction — hit the left upright.

But it’s what happened before the penalty that had many scratching their heads, among them former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who was calling the game for CBS.

With 52 seconds left, Dak Prescott found Cole Beasley for an 18-yard pickup to the Washington 46.

With a timeout in their pocket, the Cowboys had endless possibilities. Or so it seemed.

They could work the edges and get out of bounds. They could work the middle of the field and use their timeouts. They could take a shot to win the game with a deep ball.
Being second-guessed on clock management comes with the job, and Jason Garrett is no stranger to that dynamic. Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Instead, they ran three more plays – completions in the middle of the field to Beasley for 9 and 6 yards, and a 3-yard run by Ezekiel Elliott – to get the ball to the Washington 31.

“The biggest thing after we got ourselves into field goal range was to try to get up there and clock the ball, preserve that last timeout and then give us the freedom,” Garrett said. “I think we were trying to get the clock down to 12 seconds. So once we got down to that point, the biggest thing that we wanted to do was maximize the field goal opportunity and run the ball, make some yards, use the timeout and then kick the game-tying field goal.”

Garrett opted for the safe route, playing for overtime. Prescott was OK with the move.

“I mean, that’s where you’re crossing your fingers and hoping at that point,” the quarterback said. “We’re just getting the run, getting the time down, then putting ourselves in position for a makeable field goal.”

In overtime two weeks ago against the Houston Texans, Garrett opted for the safe route in not going for it on fourth-and-1 from the opponent’s 42 and punted. The Cowboys did not get the ball back and lost 19-16.
In playing it safe against Washington, Garrett saw the issues the line had for much of the game in protecting Prescott, who was sacked four times and had to buy time on a few other occasions. While the Cowboys’ receivers had 15 catches, led by Beasley’s seven, there were times earlier in the game they did not help Prescott. The running game was of little help, too, with Ezekiel Elliott limited to 34 yards on 15 carries, the second-worst outing of his career.
Had Garrett gone for it against Houston and failed, would he have taken as much grief? Had he been aggressive against Washington and saw a chance for a tying field goal disappear with a sack or turnover, would he have taken as much grief as he is for playing it safe?

After the Houston loss, owner and general manager Jerry Jones lamented the lack of risk-taking from Garrett. He opted not to offer thoughts on the late-game scenario against Washington before leaving out a side door.

“I think the playcalling, we did exactly what we needed to do there,” Prescott said. “We make that field goal and we’re not talking about this right now.”

But the Cowboys did not make the field goal, and they missed a chance to potentially win a game they had little business winning, especially after Preston’s touchdown.

And Garrett’s late-game management remains as much of a work in progress as it was in 2011.

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Rob Gronkowski deflected any comparisons to fellow tight end Travis Kelce leading into Sunday night’s AFC showdown between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, but he praised Kelce as a “great player.”

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“The rankings, the comparisons and all that, I’ll just leave that up to you guys [in the media], whatever you say,” Gronkowski said Wednesday. “I just try to do my best. I think he’s a great player, and I’ve just got to worry about what I can do to help out the team.”

New England’s Gronkowski remains limited in practice with an ankle injury, but he said that his body feels good and he will “be ready to play Sunday night,” which sets up the inevitable comparisons with Kansas City’s Kelce, as they are two of the best tight ends in the NFL.

“He’s quick, he’s shifty, which is very crucial to have,” Gronkowski said of Kelce. “He knows how to get separation and get away from the defender. I like watching him play when I get a chance.”

Gronkowski was amused to learn that both he and Kelce are 29 years old, even though Gronkowski has been playing in the NFL since 2010, while Kelce entered the league in 2013. Gronkowski said the two have met a few times, mostly at NFL events such as the Super Bowl, but they don’t have much of a connection beyond that.

This season, Kelce has the edge on the stat sheet, having caught 28 passes for 407 yards, with three touchdowns. Gronkowski has 23 receptions for 308 yards and one touchdown, as he has been kept out of the end zone in each of the past four games.

“I’ve got to pick it up. I’ve got to start scoring,” Gronkowski said, after noting that he’s happy as long as the Patriots are winning.

Because some view the 6-foot-6, 268-pound Gronkowski as more of a combination tight end (equally effective as a pass-catcher and a blocker) and the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Kelce as more of a bigger wide receiver who is less likely to be an in-line blocker, Gronkowski was asked if he even considers them playing the same position.
“You can look for yourself. I think he’s a great player and [you] can definitely learn from guys like that. Just his shiftiness is nice,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gronkowski took a moment to acknowledge the Boston Red Sox advancing to the American League Championship Series, relaying that he has watched “a couple innings here and there” and has been impressed with how they came together as a team.

Sunday night’s Patriots-Chiefs game in Foxborough is scheduled to kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET, which is about an hour after the start of Game 2 of the ALCS, as the Red Sox host the Houston Astros at Fenway Park.

Gronkowski had some fun with the scheduling.

“That’s pretty nuts. But you know Boston sports fans, they’re going to have two TVs — the Red Sox game right there and the Patriots game right there,” he said. “Probably halftime of our game, the Red Sox game will be [finishing] up or something. New England fans, they’re die-hard fans — not just for football, but for every sport around here. So you know they’ll find a way to watch both.”

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Even in defeat, the Chicago Bears emerged from their heartbreaking 24-23 loss Sunday to the Green Bay Packers as a possible future force to be reckoned in the NFC.

For years, the Bears were simply an afterthought, finishing dead last in the NFC North from 2014-17.

But the Bears unveiled a creativity and explosiveness on offense not seen since the Marc Trestman honeymoon period in early 2013.

The brief Trestman era turned out to be an abject failure, but these Bears appear to have staying power with a young core of talented skill-position players, many of whom are signed to lucrative, longer-term contracts.

In the NFL, it all starts and ends with the quarterback.

Second-year Bears signal-caller Mitchell Trubisky resembled the All-Pro in Sunday’s opening half, not Aaron Rodgers, who left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury but returned triumphantly after halftime. Trubisky looked in complete control of Matt Nagy’s offense, completing 8 of 9 pass attempts for 99 yards (112.5 quarterback rating) and rushing for a 2-yard touchdown as the Bears built a 17-0 halftime lead.

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Everywhere you looked, the Bears had playmakers at Trubisky’s disposal: Tarik Cohen, Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel and Jordan Howard all made their presence known.

Of course, Trubisky’s play — like the rest of the team’s — declined in the second half, but he showed promise in a brand-new system.

Is Trubisky on the same level as Rodgers? Of course not. But very few, if any, quarterbacks in the NFL are.

For his part, Nagy called plays that kept Green Bay’s defense off balance during the first 20 minutes. However, the first-year head coach was probably a little too conservative in the final two quarters as the Bears unsuccessfully attempted to stave off the feisty Packers.

Remember, though, the Bears had one of the league’s worst and most predictable offenses under former head coach John Fox. On Sunday night, Nagy used creative packages such as three running backs in the backfield and a trips formation that featured left tackle Charles Leno split out to the right as a slot receiver.

On defense, the Bears frustrated the Packers offense until the final quarter, led by new arrival Khalil Mack, who earned every penny of the massive six-year, $141 million contract he recently signed. Mack, who was inexplicably traded to the Bears by the Oakland Raiders, dominated Green Bay’s offense, recording a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery — all on the same play — and a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown prior to halftime.

The rest of Chicago’s defense did its part, too, until its end-of-game collapse.

Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks looked unstoppable at times. Defensive backs Bryce Callahan and Eddie Jackson both made key stops to stifle Green Bay drives.

Even eighth overall pick Roquan Smith, who did not start the game, registered a sack on his first NFL snap.

For a while, almost everything the Bears touched turned to gold in front of a prime-time audience that was probably confused.

Wait, the Bears are for real?!

Yes. The franchise that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2010 let one slip away, but these aren’t the same old Bears.

Far from it.

Overlook Chicago at your own peril.

Green Bay’s late rally proved the Bears are still vulnerable, but the NFC North just got a whole lot more interesting.

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RENTON, Wash. — The Shaquem Griffin story is about to reach another level of remarkable.

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters Wednesday that Griffin, a rookie linebacker, will start Sunday’s opener against the Broncos in Denver, confirming what has been assumed with K.J. Wright recovering from knee surgery that is expected to keep him out at least another week.

Griffin has been working as Wright’s backup at weakside linebacker since Seattle chose him in the fifth round of April’s draft, making him the first player with one hand to be drafted in the NFL’s modern era.

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Griffin will start alongside Bobby Wagner and Barkevious Mingo at linebacker as well as twin brother Shaquill Griffin at left cornerback.

“He’s been surrounded by some really good players, Bobby and K.J. and Mingo, guys that have been in the league for a while,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “So he’s kind of taken a backseat and really learned at a rookie’s pace, and now that he’s been able to play a little bit in the preseason, he sees the game speeds up a little bit.

“But he’s been amazing. It’s been fun to coach him. It’s been fun to watch his growth. The questions that he’s asked over the days and weeks have been improving and getting better. It’s just amazing to watch his development. As coaches, watching young players develop, that’s what it’s all about. So watching him grow and develop and run and hit and do the things that we expected him to do when we drafted him, it’s really good to see.”

Carroll said Wright, an eighth-year veteran and a Pro Bowler in 2016, felt something in his knee after the team’s third preseason game. He had arthroscopic surgery on Aug. 27. Carroll indicated two days later that he’d be out at least a couple of weeks.

Carroll said Wednesday that Wright looks surprisingly good for being only nine days removed from surgery. He said the team is “holding high hopes” that he could be back next week, “but we’ll see.”

Shaquem Griffin led the Seahawks with 24 tackles in the preseason, including a game-high nine in the opener against the Indianapolis Colts. But Carroll said he was “lost” and “all over the place” the following week, adding that Griffin’s “head was spinning” from all the information he was trying to take in.

“You could see the newness just kind of affect him, and I don’t know what it was that got to him,” Carroll said. “He’s been diligent in the preparation and the process all the way throughout. But not until he came back Week 3, everybody was working with him, trying to get his feet on the ground [and] make sure he was just relaxing through the process. … He was over-tight, he was trying too hard, he wanted it too much. It was so obvious that it made sense, and he really just turned the corner. That happened Week 3, and Week 4 he played really good both of those weeks. So he really had one down week. But I do think with all that has followed him, we have to stay with him, and we’ve got to monitor him. It’s almost too much for anybody in some regards.”

Carroll called it invaluable for Griffin to have his twin brother by his side. The two are roommates and, as twins tend to be, inseparable.
“They ground off of each other, they fit off of each other so well, and they own up to each other really well,” he said. “Shaquill will just tell him flat-out what he needs to tell him. They don’t mince any words at all. I think with that, he has as much support as he’s going to need. I think he’ll be able to handle it.”

Wagner and Wright have started alongside each other since Wagner was a rookie in 2012, which was Wright’s second season. Wagner identified on-field communication as the biggest challenge in having Griffin and several other new players starting on defense. He said they’ll have to over-communicate and assume that Griffin won’t know what he’s thinking the way Wright would.

“I think at the end of the day, you just don’t want to make him think too much,” Wagner said. “So anything that I can do to take off of his plate so he doesn’t have to think so much and [allow him to] just fly around and make plays, that’s what I’m going to do. That’ll probably be the toughest thing, just the communication. It’s going to be the first time on the road, so just being calm and understanding this is no different than any other game. You’re just playing against the guys you see on TV.”

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Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said Tuesday that he has “no hard feelings” toward the Miami Dolphins after he made an Instagram comment poking fun at their run defense.

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Suh mocks Fins’ run D in Instagram comment
Now that Ndamukong Suh is with another team, he finds the Miami Dolphins’ soft run defense funny.

“I got an opportunity to comment like any other person on Instagram,” Suh said. “Really made an observation any blind man could see.”

The play that caught Suh’s attention was a 71-yard touchdown run by the Carolina Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey in a preseason game against the Dolphins that was posted to the NFL’s Instagram account.

“Right up the Gut lol,” Suh wrote in the comments.
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The Dolphins released Suh, a five-time Pro Bowler, in March and less than two weeks later he signed a one-year deal worth $14 million with the Rams.

Suh said Tuesday that he recently spoke with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

“It’s a business,” Suh said. “And how I look at it is they had to move on from me and I’m happy where I’m at right now.”

Suh is expected to see his first preseason action with the Rams on Saturday when they play the Houston Texans.