New England Patriots: The final play of the game Sunday that sealed the win for the Dolphins is being called the Miami Miracle. It could be called the Foxborough Failure, too, head coach Bill Belichick implied on Monday. He addressed the decision to put tight end Rob Gronkowski in for safety Devin McCourty on the play, an improbable 69-yard touchdown. “It starts with me. We have to play better situational football. We’ll work to try to achieve that,” Belichick said Monday in his conference call. He said the line of scrimmage was too far for a Hail Mary, and that Gronkowski would have been well suited to catch the “deep, long throw” that was expected. That play wasn’t the only reason for the 34-33 loss, he said. “I think there were a lot of things that could have been better in the entire game. I think the game was a lot more than that play, but certainly that play wasn’t a good one for us.”
Buffalo Bills: In Bills’ history, just four players have rushed for 95 yards in three consecutive games: Fred Jackson, Hall of Famers Thurman Thomas and O.J. Simpson, and now rookie quarterback Josh Allen, according to The Buffalo News. He’s also the leading rusher on the team this season with 490 after missing a month of the season. And head coach Sean McDermott said that isn’t ideal. “We’ve got to be able to protect the quarterback and run the football,” McDermott said Sunday. “I know when your quarterback is your leading rusher week in, and week out, it’s not a healthy thing.”
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins (7-6) are in a four-way tie with Baltimore, Indianapolis and Tennessee for the final AFC wild-card berth, and the oddsmakers have chimed in on their chances. The Dolphins’ three remaining games are against Jacksonville at home and on the road against Minnesota and Buffalo. According to the Sun Sentinel, the website FiveThirtyEight put the chance at 20 percent for the Dolphins. The sports betting site Action Network said its simulations show a 13 percent chance. Before beating New England on Sunday, the chances were in the single digits. They still aren’t mathematically eliminated from winning the AFC East: the sites put their chances at 1 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively.
New York Jets: The Jets are 4-9 and tied for last place in the AFC East. The Houston Texans are 9-4 and atop the AFC South. But Texans coach Bill O’Brien has a ton of respect for the Jets, their opponent Saturday. “I would say that Jamal Adams is one of the best players we’ve played against all year,” O’Brien told the New York Post on Monday of the safety. “I’ve been watching him now all morning and started watching him last week. He’s a great football player.” And he also had kind words for rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. “I really like Sam. I liked him coming out in the draft. I think he’s got good poise. He’s got a really good arm. He’s accurate. He’s smart. I think he can extend plays. I think he’s an excellent young quarterback. I think the young quarterbacks in the league right now, it’s really an exciting time. Sam’s definitely a part of that.”
Baltimore Ravens: Quarterback Lamar Jackson said Sunday his ankle was fine and X-rays showed no structural damage, and head coach John Harbaugh said the same on Monday morning. Harbaugh said Jackson “should be fine. Looks like he’s OK. I think he’s going to be OK,” without seeing Jackson at the facility on Monday. Harbaugh added that quarterback Joe Flacco would be “part of the game plan” this week if Flacco is ready to go. He was inactive on Sunday at Kansas City. The Ravens are also optimistic cornerback Marlon Humphrey will be ready for play Sunday with a groin injury Harbaugh described as being “annoying.”Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis said the key for starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, standing in for injured Andy Dalton, in the final three games of the season will be proving he can take care of the football. “That’s the thing. We’re constantly talking about (going) to the next down, continue to play within yourself and we’ll rate his progressions as we go,” Lewis said. “There were some where he was a little quick, and he had opportunity — even on the two-point play — he had the play, and he went away from it. So, those are things that over time he will do better, and he’s got to understand that. Again, he’s doing everything he can. This is great for him and his career. This is career-changing for him to continue to play the way he’s playing.”
Cleveland Browns: Interim head coach Gregg Williams has seen too many rookies fail to make an impact, but it was obvious to him early that No. 1 pick quarterback Baker Mayfield would not be one of them. “Everything that we saw in college on him and the things that we did all of the background searches and all of the background studying that we did on him, it does not shock me (to see his impact this season),” Williams said. “He has worked extremely hard for his success. It is not something that has just happened by happenstance. The amount of work that he puts in does not shock us that he also takes it to the ball game because he works extremely hard to have an overall understanding of every aspect of the game. That does not come easy.”
Pittsburgh Steelers: Unbridled support has ceased for kicker Chris Boswell from head coach Mike Tomlin, who opened his press conference following Sunday’s loss at Oakland with things the team must do better to win, including “make kicks.” Boswell, a 2017 Pro Bowler who signed a four-year extension in August, has missed an NFL-worst six field goals and five extra points this season, and Tomlin sounded as if he might be near a tipping point with his kicking situation following a third consecutive loss. “It’s disappointing here today,” Tomlin said. “That’s all I’m going to say on it.” Boswell, who slipped and had a potential game-tying field goal blocked Sunday, senses the urgency to turn things around. “He’s not the only one disappointed,” Boswell said. “I mean this is a business. You’re evaluated by results and I’m not getting it done right now so whatever happens from here happens.”
Houston Texans: The team’s nine-game winning streak is over and veteran cornerback Johnathan Joseph didn’t necessarily see it as a bad development. “I hate to lose, but probably was the best thing for this team to lose that game,” Joseph said of Sunday’s 24-21 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. The way Joseph sees it, a long string of victories makes players forget the pain and torture of losing. “I think it’s a learning experience,” Joseph said. “Sometimes you think that winning is easy. I’m not saying that. That’s what we were doing as a team, what I think, to go on a nine-game winning streak to make history. Sometimes you get that little lapse going on.”
Indianapolis Colts: Star receiver T.Y. Hilton had a season-best 199 receiving yards against the Texans to post his club-record 11th game of 150 or more receiving yards, snapping a tie with Hall of Fame member Marvin Harrison. Hilton made five first-down catches and caught nine of the 12 passes in which he was targeted by quarterback Andrew Luck. “T.Y. does some things very special. He does some things that not many other people can do,” Luck told reporters. “So we saw some opportunities through film that we thought we could take advantage of. Once we got that first one, it was like ‘Ok, yeah, here we go, let’s get it.'” Hilton is 14 yards away from his fifth career 1,000-yard receiving season.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette’s underwhelming season continued in last Thursday’s 30-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans when he had just 36 rushing yards on 14 carries — his long gain was 7 — and caught two passes for 5 yards. Fournette has just 350 yards in six games this season while twice injuring a hamstring and also missing a game due to suspension for an incident in a game against the Buffalo Bills. A TMZ-released video displayed Fournette yelling at a fan during the loss to the Titans and coach Doug Marrone said he asked Fournette about it and was told the fan used a racial slur. Fellow running back T.J. Yeldon said he heard the use of the slur.
Tennessee Titans: One game has changed the outlook of Derrick Henry’s season. The stellar contest against the Jaguars in which Henry gained a franchise-record 238 yards and scored four touchdowns — including tying Tony Dorsett’s NFL mark with a 99-yard scamper — is overshadowing the fact he didn’t even reach 60 yards in any of the first 12 games or have a run longer than 16 yards. “I just had to look myself in the mirror and overcome it,” Henry said. “Continue to work, continue to get better. I never made an excuse for myself, but just had to keep chopping down wood.” Titans coach Mike Vrabel indicated Henry (712 yards) can expect a lot of carries in the cold December weather.
Denver Broncos: After a crushing loss to the 49ers on Sunday, head coach Vance Joseph was critical of quarterback Case Keenum for not attacking downfield more often against San Francisco’s zone-heavy defense. “Yesterday he was a little cautious with the ball,” Joseph said. The bottom line is we got three weeks to play and he’s got to make more plays, and sometimes taking some chances allows you to make more plays. …I want Case to be more aggressive, especially down the seams over those Cover-3 defenses. That’s where the soft spots are, so he’s got to be aggressive down the seams and not worry about making mistakes.”
Kansas City Chiefs: After watching the film, head coach Andy Reid sounded even more impressed by Patrick Mahomes’ no-look pass that had the NFL world buzzing on Sunday. “I’ve worked real hard with him on that,” a deadpan Reid began before cracking a smile. “We build that right into the offense.” Jokes aside, Reid praised Mahomes, noting he froze Ravens safety Chuck Clark with the look-off. “It’s something to do in a practice, but then you start throwing it in a game, and a game against the No. 1 defense in the National Football League, that’s a little different,” Reid said. “You gotta have tremendous confidence in what you’re doing there. … I haven’t seen a lotta guys do that. I was around (Brett) Favre, he did some amazing things that way, Donovan (McNabb) and those guys, but no… that umm… No, not quite like that.”
Los Angeles Chargers: Three days before a showdown at Kansas City, the Chargers’ running back situation is in limbo. Head coach Anthony Lynn told reporters Melvin Gordon is “getting better” but will work off to the side of practice this week as the Chargers are unlikely to go full-speed on a short week. Austin Ekeler, meanwhile, sustained a stinger Sunday but avoided concussion protocol, though his availability for Thursday remains unclear. “He’s a tough kid and he’s been working through these stingers for a while,” Lynn said. “If he can play, he’ll play, but right now I don’t really know.” Seventh-round rookie Justin Jackson is next in line for carries. He had 15 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown in Weeks 12-13 but was held to just 12 yards on seven carries Sunday.
Oakland Raiders: Head coach Jon Gruden distanced himself from the firing of general manager Reggie McKenzie on Monday, despite previous reports that Gruden had taken over personnel decisions from McKenzie and planned to bring in his own front-office leader after the season. Gruden said he does not know yet whether he’ll be involved in the team’s search for a new general manager. “I know (owner) Mark (Davis) is going to accumulate a list of names and candidates, and I’m sure we’ll discuss those people later this week, but right now I don’t have any idea,” Gruden said. He added that he’d like to have influence in personnel matters moving forward. “I think any coach wants input, let’s be honest,” he said. “I’ve had input here. I had input on the draft picks we made when I was here with Al Davis. I had some input on the draft this year. … I would like to be involved for obvious reasons.”
Dallas Cowboys: National reports Sunday said the Cowboys had tried to lure tight end-turned-broadcaster Jason Witten out of the “Monday Night Football” booth and back to the field at AT&T Stadium. On Monday, Witten said he’s happy what he’s doing and also that the Cowboys just don’t need him. “There’s nothing there,” Witten told The Dallas Morning News. “Look, I’m enjoying where I’m at. Those guys are red-hot. They don’t need to change a thing with the way they’re playing and the way that defense is playing. They’re in good shape and so am I.” Head coach Jason Garrett denied the report Monday, saying, “There is no truth to that story.” Witten retired in April to become the MNF analyst, following Jon Gruden’s return to the NFL.
New York Giants: As the Giants struggled to a 1-7 start this season, there were calls for the team to move on from Eli Manning as the starting quarterback and replace him with rookie Kyle Lauletta. The resurgent Giants, now 5-8, have enjoyed success with Manning the past few weeks, but in a blowout victory over Washington on Sunday, fans got a glimpse at Lauletta when he replaced Manning. He entered the game in the fourth quarter, threw an interception and finished the game 0-for-5 passing. What did head coach Pat Shurmur think? “I don’t think there was enough there to evaluate how he did,” Shurmur told reporters. “Would have liked to see him get a couple more completions and not throw that interception, certainly.” Shurmur added: “I fielded enough questions regarding Kyle Lauletta, that those of you that were interested in seeing him, hopefully you got a chance to see what you were looking for.”
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles are 5-for-5 on two-point-conversion attempts this season, so why did they kick the extra point to tie rather than go for two and a chance at a regulation-time win against the Cowboys Sunday night? “I got a report on this,” head coach Doug Pederson said in his news conference Monday. “I can’t off the top of my head think of exactly the numbers, but everything was in favor of going for one. And with Dallas having a minute and 39 seconds I think left with two timeouts, it changes.” When prodded by a reporter to further explain his decision in the 29-23 loss that put his team two games behind Dallas in the NFC East, Pederson defended the choice. “I understand what you’re saying,” he said. “Again, with two timeouts and all four downs and we hadn’t really stopped them — we can spin this thing a hundred different ways. I mean, I don’t know. I still stand by my decision.”
Washington Redskins: Don’t tell Josh Johnson — now Washington’s fourth starting quarterback of the season — that nothing good can come from playing video games. According to reports Monday, just eight days ago he was playing in a charity basketball game in Oakland, Calif., when the Redskins called him about assuming the backup duties to Mark Sanchez. As a 32-year-old journeyman quarterback who hadn’t been on an NFL roster since 2014, he didn’t exactly know all he should about his new team. So how did he learn all of their names in a crash course? By playing “Madden” of course. Johnson has this week to get to know them even better. He’ll take the first-team reps after outplaying a benched Sanchez in Sunday’s 40-16 loss to the Giants.
Chicago Bears: Still only months into their coach-QB relationship, Matt Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky are finding their way through rough patches by learning to identify the same solution to gray areas that emerge during the game. “We talk about things being black, white or gray. When things are gray, making sure our eyes go to the same spots. That’s part of molding our identity into this offense. We’re getting there. There’s so many different variables that go into each play.” Nagy said the play of the defense Sunday night against the Rams showing Trubisky it will have his back if he makes a mistake could be a turning point. “On both sides, when you’re playing well or not playing well … next play,” Nagy said.
Detroit Lions: No update was provided by coach Matt Patricia on Monday’s conference call regarding the status of defensive end Ziggy Ansah. Ansah, who battled shoulder issues all season, left Sunday’s win at Arizona with a recurrence of the injury. Patricia has not been keen on releasing information about injuries, especially as it relates to Ansah, and fell back on his canned reply that there will be an update if Ansah is in position to help the team. It’s likely, if not probable, than Ansah could have played his final snap for the Lions on Sunday. He’ll be a free agent again and after the Lions invested $17.143 million in Ansah with middling results — seven games, 12 tackles, 4.0 sacks — a split is a strong possibility.
Green Bay Packers: Interim coach Joe Philbin won his debut on Sunday but there were a few memorable defeats along the way. In the first 1:04 of the game, Philbin tossed challenge flags on two plays — and lost them both, leaving him without a challenge for the rest of the first half. That opening drive ended with Atlanta scoring a touchdown, and leading to a temporarily deflated Philbin. “We’ll do some challenge education during the course of this week,” Philbin said. “Certainly looks like I need it.” In reality, Philbin had a good record using challenges as head coach of the Dolphins, save for a memorable moment in preseason 2015 when he challenged hoping officials would declare a rushing touchdown. Instead, the replay offered the opportunity to see Miami running back Damien Williams fumbled the ball out of the endzone for a touchback.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings were in action at Seattle on Monday.
Atlanta Falcons: Coach Dan Quinn isn’t hiding from the fact that the Falcons (4-9) are one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL. “As we’re sitting here at Week 15, we have four wins,” Quinn told reporters. “So you’d better believe we’re evaluating everything and doing anything to get it right.” Atlanta has dropped its past five games. Early-season injuries began the team’s derailment, but mistakes and inconsistent play have continued the decline. “As we’re going through it, from players to staff to everything, we want to make sure we look at the body of work and get clear, concise evaluations on everybody,” Quinn said. “When you’re standing where we’re at, it’s not what you want to do, but that’s part of it and what we’re looking at for sure. If you’re clearly at four wins during this time, then we have not met expectations.”
Carolina Panthers: A once-promising campaign has disintegrated with five consecutive setbacks. Carolina has gone from battling the New Orleans Saints for the NFC West lead to being an outsider in the NFC wild-card chase. “Things happen,” veteran defensive end Julius Peppers said. “Your plans don’t always work out how you want them to.” That is certainly true with the Panthers, but Peppers said the team still has a positive vibe. “To be honest with you, I don’t feel like there is a loss of confidence or anything,” Peppers said. “We’re just not putting a good product on the field.” Meanwhile, widedout Devin Funchess, who is slated for free agency after the season, played in just 32 of 72 snaps Sunday in Carolina’s loss to the Cleveland Browns and has just three catches over the past three games. Rookie DJ Moore played 66 snaps vs. the Browns and second-year pro Curtis Samuel played 58.
New Orleans Saints: The offense came to life by scoring 25 points over the final 19-plus minutes Sunday in the Saints’ 28-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a slump of more than 6 1/2 quarters. New Orleans scored just 13 points during its funk — a stunning development for a team that averaged 41 points over its previous five games while scoring at least 30 in each. “A lot of people expect us to come out and be perfect, but that’s just not reality,” Saints running back Alvin Kamara told reporters. “You know, people make mistakes. We may start slow sometimes. But it’s not when adversity hits, it’s how you respond to it. And I think this team responds well to adversity.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Receiver Mike Evans is on pace to break the club’s single-season receiving yardage mark that was set in 1989. Evans has 1,207 yards and needs to average just 72 yards over the final three games to surpass the record set by Mark Carrier (1,422). Evans has three of the team’s nine 1,200-yard campaigns, including his career best of 1,321 yards in 2016. Earlier this season, Evans broke Carrier’s franchise record for most career receiving yards. Carrier had 5,018. Evans, 25, is now at 5,786. Despite Evans’ strong campaign, Tampa Bay has lost eight of its past 11 games after a 2-0 start.
Arizona Cardinals: Despite a completely devastated offensive line and others going down with injuries right and left, the Cardinals do not intend to sit quarterback Josh Rosen. To the contrary, they want him to get as many reps as possible. “To sit him, I don’t think it’d be advantageous to do that,” head coach Steve Wilks said, adding that he doesn’t see Rosen developing bad habits. “(Playing) is an opportunity for him to continue to grow.” Wilks remains optimistic about what he’s seen from the rookie. “You can see the potential and the things he is capable of doing,” he said. “…He has the qualities and the skillset. The inconsistency is there, but a lot of it is not just him, it’s the personnel and that falls back on us as coaches to put those guys in position to be successful.”
Los Angeles Rams: L.A.’s defense wasn’t the problem in a 15-6 loss at Chicago on Sunday night, but NFL sack leader Aaron Donald was kept awfully quiet by the Bears. Donald had just one QB hit (his fewest in a game since Week 6) and went sackless for just the second time since Week 3. According to ESPN Analytics, Donald won on just 18 percent of his pass-rush snaps after entering the week having won on a league-high 43 percent of rushes this season. Despite the quiet night, though, Donald still leads the league in sacks (16.5) by three, tackles for loss (20) by three and quarterback hits (33) by six.
San Francisco 49ers: The much maligned 49ers’ defense shined in Sunday’s win over the Broncos, holding Denver to 3.9 yards per play and stopping the Broncos on 13 of 15 third downs. But San Francisco’s turnover luck remains missing, as the 49ers failed to recover any of the Broncos’ four fumbles. Through 13 games, the Niners still have just five takeaways, five fewer than any other NFL team and a figure that seven teams have totaled in a single game this season. The fewest turnovers forced in NFL history is 11 by the 1982 Baltimore Colts, who played only nine games in a strike-shortened campaign. The 2006 Washington Redskins have the fewest takeaways (12) in a 16-game season.
Seattle Seahawks: Seattle plays host to the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.
–Field Level Media