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  • Saints' owner issues statement on controversial loss
    By Field Level Media / Monday, January 21, 2019

    A day after her New Orleans Saints lost the NFC Championship Game due, in part, to a missed call by the officials, team owner Gayle Benson issued a strong statement of disapproval on Monday.

    • "I am thoroughly disappointed by the events that led to the outcome of yesterday's game," the statement said, in part. "Getting to the Super Bowl is incredibly difficult to do and takes such an unbelievable commitment from a team and support from its fans. No team should ever be denied the opportunity to reach the title game (or simply win a game) based on the actions, or inactions, of those charged with creating a fair and equitable playing field. As is clear to all who watched the game, it is undeniable that our team and fans were unfairly deprived of that opportunity yesterday.

      "I have been in touch with the NFL regarding yesterday's events and will aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies to ensure no team and fan base is ever put in a similar position again. It is a disservice to our coaches, players, employees and, most importantly, the fans who make our game possible. The NFL must always commit to providing the most basic of expectations -- fairness and integrity."

      Officials declined to throw a flag after Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman clearly hit Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis before the ball arrived on a third-and-10 pass. Had a penalty been called, the Saints would have been able to run the clock down before kicking a 31-yard field goal as time expired, which would have won the game and sent them to the Super Bowl.

      Instead, they were forced to kick a field goal with 1:41 remaining, leaving time for the Rams to tie and force overtime, where the Saints went on to lose.

      Saints head coach Sean Payton told reporters after the game he spoke with Alberto Riveron, the NFL's senior vice president of officiating, who confirmed the incorrect non-call.

      Robey-Coleman admitted afterward he made contact before Lewis had a chance to catch the pass.

      "Yes, I got there too early," he said. "I was beat, and I was trying to save the touchdown."

      Referee Bill Vinovich briefly addressed the play during a postgame interview with a pool reporter.

      "It was a judgment call by the covering official," Vinovich said. "I personally have not seen the play. ... It is not a reviewable play."

      The Washington Post reported Monday that the NFL will consider making pass interference a reviewable play this offseason.

      "It will be discussed at length along with additional fouls that coaches feel should be subject to review," a person familiar with the NFL's inner workings told the Post.

      Replay is not an option for pass interference and other "judgment calls" but was discussed as recently as March.

      To implement a rule allowing for pass interference to be validated by replay or expose this and other judgment calls to a coach's challenge, at least three-quarters of the 32 owners must vote to approve it.

      --Field Level Media

  • Former NFL RB McFadden arrested for DWI
    By Field Level Media / Monday, January 21, 2019

    Former NFL running back Darren McFadden was arrested early Monday in Texas on charges of driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest.

    • TMZ reported that the 31-year-old McFadden fell asleep in his SUV outside the drive-thru window of a Whataburger fast-food restaurant in suburban Dallas.

      According to TMZ, McFadden resisted officers and that the driver's side and passenger windows in his vehicle were both smashed.

      McFadden was released on his own recognizance from Collin County jail a short time later, according to the Dallas Morning News.

      McFadden played 10 seasons in the NFL after an All-American career at Arkansas. He rushed for 4,247 yards in 83 games with the Oakland Raiders (2008-14) and ran for 1,174 yards in 20 games with the Dallas Cowboys (2015-17).

      McFadden rushed for 1,157 yards with the Raiders in 2010 and for 1,089 yards with the Cowboys in 2015.

      --Field Level Media

  • Film Study: Belichick's plan mostly tamed Mahomes
    By Field Level Media / Monday, January 21, 2019

    Bill Belichick will be enshrined in Canton one day, but one of his defensive game plans -- for the New York Giants against the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV -- is famously already there.

    • Eleven years after containing the Bills' K-Gun attack, Belichick crafted another game plan that became part of Super Bowl lore, mashing Marshall Faulk at every available chance as the New England Patriots kick-started a dynasty by beating the then-St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.

      Sunday's plan against Andy Reid's Kansas City Chiefs might not earn that legacy -- and with a different bounce or two, it wouldn't have been enough -- but it managed to flummox the best offense in football for three quarters, a tremendous feat.

      Belichick's intentions were clearly defined from the outset.

      The Patriots planned a ball-control offensive approach to bleed time and keep the ball out of Patrick Mahomes' hands. That couldn't have gone better, as Mahomes didn't touch the ball until the 6:50 mark of the first quarter and had just three possessions before halftime (besides one snap 21 seconds before the break). The Chiefs finished with just 47 plays, exactly half of the Pats' total.

      Next, Belichick sought to stop Tyreek Hill at all costs, even at the expense of doubling Travis Kelce.

      New England played almost all man coverage -- emphasizing physicality without worrying about drawing a flag or two -- mostly out of dime personnel, with four cornerbacks and two safeties instead of their usual three of each. Top corner Stephon Gilmore took Sammy Watkins, while impressive rookie corner J.C. Jackson matched Kelce (until Gilmore and Jackson swapped assignments late), with Jason McCourty on the Chiefs' third receiver. The fourth corner -- Jonathan Jones and Keion Crossen alternated, perhaps to stay fresh against the speedster -- tracked Hill underneath while free safety Devin McCourty bracketed him over the top, essentially leaving Cover-0 everywhere else.

      With more two-high safety looks, the Patriots could have doubled Kelce and/or Watkins selectively, but that didn't fit Belichick's plan up front. He found it more important to use four- and (mostly) five-man rushes with a slew of blitzers, stunts and twists to flush Mahomes with one rusher into the arms of another.

      New England incorporated edge rushers, inside linebackers and safety Patrick Chung (while one such player covered the running back), stunting them relentlessly to break down the Chiefs' normally trustworthy protection. When only four rushed, the fifth was a lurker/spy, taking away inside routes and chasing down Mahomes if he fled the pocket. These designs shined early, producing four sacks for 46 yards lost.

      Altogether, the plan was starkly different from the teams' Week 6 meeting. Belichick used plenty of stunts and twists in that game, but not to the degree he did Sunday. Meanwhile, the coverage plan was completely overhauled. After keying heavily on Kelce -- often doubling after a third defender jammed him at the line -- in Foxborough, Belichick sold out to stop Hill at Arrowhead, ditching zone coverage almost entirely to do so. Hill managed one 42-yard catch, a far cry from his Week 6 output (seven catches, 142 yards, three scores). Kelce beat Jackson for a 12-yard touchdown and a 13-yard pass-interference call but finished with just three catches for 23 yards.

      One of the few common threads between the plans was the use of Cover-0 double lurk -- which we detailed in Thursday's preview -- though the Patriots called it only twice all game. The first was undermined by Mahomes' sidearm throw (while getting crushed by Adrian Clayborn), converting a third-and-3 late in the third. The second forced a deep incompletion to Hill as Devin McCourty hit Mahomes on third-and-8 midway through the fourth.

      As effective as Belichick's strategy was, it couldn't pin Mahomes down forever. The gunslinger escaped and hit Watkins for 54 yards off-schedule to set up the first touchdown. Starting late in the third, Mahomes was finally able to beat man coverage, with the help of a few pick plays from Reid.

      Reid actually had several terrific designs, but many fell by the wayside amid the offense's struggles. Hill's 42-yarder was catered perfectly to beating double coverage, as the slow-developing post-corner forced McCourty to turn his hips the wrong way before Hill broke out. On the next snap, Reid called one of the Patriots' favorite plays, a wheel route with legal offensive pass interference (within 1 yard of the line of scrimmage) by the tight end. Williams came wide open, only for Mahomes to air-mail a would-be 23-yard touchdown.

      Reid featured Williams in several other ways. Late in the third, he used star motion to send Williams on a wheel up the sideline as Hill picked man-coverage mark Kyle Van Noy, creating a 33-yard gain. One play later, Williams zipped by Dont'a Hightower on a corner route from the backfield -- a very uncommon route -- but Mahomes overthrew him again. (The Chiefs scored two plays later.)

      Williams' 23-yard TD was also genius from Reid, a screen off outside-zone play-action that perfectly complemented a first-quarter design. In the first, Mahomes hit Kelce as he leaked out opposite the zone run fake; the second time around, Reid used Kelce's route as misdirection to free Williams on the screen.

      As we wondered in Thursday's preview, Reid even broke out the halfback seam, a concept he used in Foxborough in the 2017 season opener (for Kareem Hunt's 78-yard TD) and in Week 6 (Mahomes missed Hunt for a wide-open 26-yard TD). Late in the third, Reid sent Williams from the backfield up the left seam, where he ran away from John Simon as McCourty shaded heavily to Hill's route out wide. But pressure intervened, as Van Noy blitzed around the edge (helped by a crafty hold from Malcom Brown) and forced Mahomes to move and run for 9 yards. Reid called another variant of the concept midway through the fourth, but the Patriots happened to be in a rare Cover-2 zone, and Elandon Roberts read the play and broke it up.

      What will haunt K.C. most -- besides Dee Ford lining up offsides on the would-be game-clinching interception -- are the designs that worked but weren't executed. The missed throw on Williams' wheel route cost the Chiefs seven points (not just four) after a sack put them out of field-goal range. If Mahomes had time, the first HB seam might have been a 75-yard TD.

      But Belichick's plan was critical in shrinking the Chiefs' margin for error.

      Pressure from stunts and twists were responsible for K.C.'s biggest missed opportunities. Two men on Hill and a cornerback on Kelce limited the Chiefs' best weapons to four total touches for 65 yards. And of course, the offense's control of possession (43:59 of the game's 64:52) limited Mahomes & Co. just 47 plays.

      The Patriots needed every bit of those edges to survive, a credit to the coach who finds his team more tiny advantages than perhaps any coach in NFL history.

      -Resourceful Rams' offense found a way

      Sean McVay's staple offensive concepts weren't working.

      The New Orleans Saints' defense gobbled up the Rams' bread and butter for most of Sunday's NFC Championship Game, forcing L.A. to find success in less familiar ways. Had a certain flag been thrown on the other side of the ball, it wouldn't have been enough, but given a break, the Rams' offense took advantage by doing just enough to reach Super Bowl LIII.

      For all of its brilliance, McVay's scheme isn't especially complicated. It's built on a zone running game -- which operates almost entirely from under center -- and heavy downfield play-action off of those runs, all while using the same personnel on almost every snap.

      For whatever reason, McVay changed up personnel Sunday more than he has almost all year, using two tight ends (instead of three wide receivers) on 17 snaps and favoring C.J. Anderson over Todd Gurley.

      Gurley's shrunken role was particularly shocking, as he received just four carries despite two of them going for 6 yards (and one for a touchdown). McVay suggested afterward he preferred Anderson's grinding style, but Gurley is certainly capable of getting tough yards. Some have theorized McVay used Anderson to run inside instead Gurley's preferred perimeter runs, but the Rams still ran plenty of outside zone with Anderson.

      dRegardless, neither back was particularly successful. The Saints' front seven squashed the run game by ignoring the bells and whistles (i.e. jet-sweep action), olding the pair to 54 yards on 20 carries (2.7 average).

      Meanwhile, trusting that the run could be stopped without safety help, New Orleans employed a steady diet of zones -- mostly Cover-2, sometimes with late rotations to get there -- that diligently keyed on downfield routes. The deeper play-action concepts that the Rams feasted on in the teams' Week 9 meeting simply weren't there. Jared Goff routinely turned around from his play-fake and scanned the field to find no open targets, forcing him to hold the ball, check it down or throw it away.

      Many of these plays were hopeless -- one turned into the Saints' only sack -- but Goff scratched out a profit. Early on, he took what was available in the flat, throwing for pickups of 7, 6 and 4 yards and scrambling for 7 -- modest but useful gains, considering L.A. had done little besides Johnny Hekker's fake punt.

      After halftime, the Rams adapted and attacked the flat off play-action by design, knowing they had to eat around the edges as the Saints' zones keyed on deeper routes. Late in the third quarter, McVay sprung Brandin Cooks for 25 yards by having him cross the formation behind the line after the snap (called a "hide boot"), creating an easy dump-off and room to run after Robert Woods cleared out coverage. L.A. capped that drive with a play-action flat route to Tyler Higbee for a 1-yard touchdown. Then, twice in a three-play span in overtime, the Rams ran bootlegs with Higbee releasing into the flat. Goff found him despite getting clobbered on both, producing gains of 12 and 6 yards to get Greg Zuerlein in range for the game-winner.

      Perhaps more impressive was how resourceful Goff was on straight dropbacks, an area in which he struggled mightily late in the year. After missing (with vision or accuracy) a few open targets on early third downs, Goff began attacking voids in zones with precision, moving the ball despite a few drops

      During a two-minute touchdown drive to cap the first half, he delivered back-to-back dimes to Cooks for 17 yards (on a deep curl in a zone void) and 36 yards (on a slot fade against man coverage).

      With everyone blanketed initially on third-and-3 early in the fourth, Goff bought time to his right and roped a throw to Gerald Everett, who came open late and collected 21 yards after the catch to gain 39. That kick-started a game-tying 85-yard drive.

      Goff was sharp again when forced to throw in the final two minutes of regulation with the Rams down three. On eight straight dropbacks without play-action, he connected on five passes for 45 yards (despite a drop), including a laser 19-yarder to Josh Reynolds. Despite the deafening crowd, Goff orchestrated protections effectively during both two-minute drills, as the Rams were sharp picking up several Saints blitzes.

      Of course, McVay did his part, too. With the run game struggling, he called a rare reverse -- playing off jet-sweep tendencies by sending jet motion one way and the reverse the other -- in the third quarter. The design, which kept offensive linemen blocking play-side and got Higbee out front as a lead blocker, was terrific, and Reynolds picked up 16.

      McVay also sprung Reynolds on the only play-action deep shot that worked all game, a design that was simply too tricky for the Saints to cover. After New Orleans blanketed a throwback concept midway through the second, McVay called a similar play midway through the fourth. This time, McVay had Woods run a jet sweep to the left, flaring out to occupy the flat defender (safety Vonn Bell), while Cooks released vertically and broke inside on a dig to remove Marshon Lattimore's coverage. Reynolds ran and out-and-up into Lattimore's Cover-3 void, and with Bell eyeing Woods, only linebacker Demario Davis could cover Reynolds. The result was a 33-yard gain, which would have been a 40-yard TD with a better throw.

      The sledding was tough, and the Saints made the Rams earn every inch. But L.A. ultimately managed just enough to earn a Super Bowl trip, despite a horrid start (including an interception deep in its own end), a career-worst outing for Gurley and the core of McVay's offense getting stymied.

      Perhaps it was good practice, considering Belichick is known for taking away what his opponent does best.

      --David DeChant, Field Level Media

  • Super Bowl food will be a super bargain in Atlanta
    By Field Level Media / Monday, January 21, 2019

    The fan-friendly menu prices at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium will remain intact for the Super Bowl.

    • A ticket to the game might cost more than a monthly mortgage payment, but fans watching the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII next month can save some money by eating $2 hot dogs and $3 nachos and washing it down with some $5 beer.

      The Atlanta Falcons instituted "Fan First Menu Pricing" when they moved into the new stadium in 2017, and team president and CEO Rich McKay told ESPN the prices of the 12 items on the menu will stay as is for the game, just as they have for other big events there.

      "We said this in our negotiations with the SEC, the college football championship, the Super Bowl, and the Final Four ... what we basically said is every customer that comes through that door is our customer," McKay said.

      McKay said the menu has been a hit since Arthur Blank, the Falcons' billionaire owner, introduced the idea and the team implemented it. Between the final season the Falcons played at the Georgia Dome, and their first season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, per-customer spending rose 16 percent even though prices dropped 55 percent, according to ESPN.

      "So that just shows you the amount of volume that took place,'' McKay said, adding other teams are starting to follow the Falcons' model.

      Other prices? A refillable soda, popcorn, pretzel or bottle of water costs $2. Waffle fries and a pizza slice are $3, and cheeseburgers sell for $5. For those who want to splurge, a basket of chicken fingers and fries goes for $6.

      --Field Level Media

  • Titans promote tight ends coach Smith to OC
    By Field Level Media / Monday, January 21, 2019

    The Tennessee Titans have promoted tight ends coach Arthur Smith to offensive coordinator, the team announced Monday.

    • Smith joined the Titans' staff in 2011 and has coached the tight ends since midway through the 2015 campaign.

      Smith replaces Matt LaFleur, who was named head coach of the Green Bay Packers earlier this month.

      "I am excited for Arthur and for our team to be able to elevate a deserving coach," said Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. "I was impressed throughout the season in gameplan meetings with his ideas, in-game with his understanding of situations and the ability to get the most out of his position group.

      "We spent a good bit of time last week talking about this opportunity. He has a great deal of familiarity with our players and the continuity of the offense will allow our players to continue to develop and improve."

      Smith's success and reputation have kept him on the Tennessee payroll under four different head coaches: Vrabel, Mike Munchak, Ken Whisenhunt and Mike Mularkey.

      Under Smith, Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker made three straight Pro Bowls (2015-17). After Walker went down with a season-ending injury in the 2018 opener, second-year tight end Jonnu Smith stepped up with 20 catches for 258 yards and three touchdowns.

      The biggest challenge facing Smith after his big promotion is getting the most out of quarterback Marcus Mariota. Smith will be Mariota's fifth OC in five seasons.

      --Field Level Media

  • Brady sought out Mahomes for postgame chat
    By Field Level Media / Monday, January 21, 2019

    Shortly after the New England Patriots won Sunday's AFC championship game, and after quarterback Tom Brady had finished his obligatory meetings with the media, he had one thing he wanted to do.

    • The 18-year veteran left his teammates and wandered to the home locker room at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, seeking a few moments with the Chiefs' second-year quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, according to multiple reports.

      "Tom Brady just quietly approached a security guard waiting outside the Chiefs' locker room - and asked if he could see Patrick Mahomes," ESPN's Jeff Darlington tweeted. "Brady was escorted into a room where he spoke briefly with him. A very clear display of respect from one incredible quarterback to another."

      The Patriots defeated the Chiefs 37-31 in overtime and are headed to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta on Feb. 3. This will be Brady's ninth appearance in the game, which his Patriots have won five times.

      Of the gesture, Brady told Peter King of Football Morning In America: "I just went and saw him. I mean, he's feeling like you think he'd feel when you lose a game like this. It hurts. He's a hell of a ... I mean, what a great young player. So impressed with his poise, his leadership. He is spectacular."

      Mahomes led a furious fourth-quarter comeback as the Chiefs scored 24 points to send the game to overtime. New England won the coin toss and never relinquished the ball, scoring a touchdown to win.

      Mahomes was 16-of-31 passing for 295 yards and three touchdowns. Brady completed 30 of 46 passes for 348 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

      --Field Level Media

  • Trubisky, Watson to replace Goff, Brady in Pro Bowl
    By Field Level Media / Monday, January 21, 2019

    Jared Goff and Tom Brady have plans, opening Pro Bowl roster spots for Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and Houston's Deshaun Watson to participate in the all-star game in Florida this weekend.

    • Goff and the Los Angeles Rams are bound for Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, winning the NFC Championship game on Sunday in New Orleans. Brady and the New England Patriots are making the familiar trip for the AFC after a victory in Kansas City.

      Trubisky, whose Bears won the NFC North, guided Chicago to a win over Goff's Rams in December.

      Watson and the Texans lost to Brady's Patriots in Week 3.

      It is the first Pro Bowl for both quarterbacks, who were drafted in the first round in 2017.

      One teammate Watson won't reunite with this week is defensive lineman J.J. Watt. Watt was replaced Monday by Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell.

      Pro Bowl practice begins Wednesday and the game will be played Sunday in Orlando, Fla.

      In 2018, Watson became the first player with 4,000 passing yards, 25 passing touchdowns, 500 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in a single season in NFL history.

      Trubisky is the first Bears quarterback to make the Pro Bowl since Jim McMahon in 1986. He passed for 3,223 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 421 yards and three scores.

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: NFL puts PI on review to-do list
    By Field Level Media / Monday, January 21, 2019

    Pass interference soon could be a reviewable play in the NFL, according to sources cited by The Washington Post on Monday.

    • That's not soon enough from the perspective of the New Orleans Saints, who would have been in position to put the NFC championship game on ice late in the fourth quarter Sunday had a collision prior to the ball arriving -- textbook pass interference in the NFL rulebook -- not been a non-call.

      Saints head coach Sean Payton erupted on the sideline and appeared to scold game officials for blowing "a Super Bowl call."

      Payton said after the game the missed call is something New Orleans will "probably never get over."

      "It will be discussed at length along with additional fouls that coaches feel should be subject to review," a person familiar with the NFL's inner workings told The Washington Post on Monday.

      Replay is not an option for pass interference and other "judgment calls" but was discussed as recently as March.

      To implement a rule allowing for pass interference to be validated by replay or expose this and other judgment calls to a coach's challenge, at least three-quarters of the 32 owners must vote to approve it.

      "They blew the call," Payton said Sunday night. "It's a game-changing call - third down with 1:45 left. A tough one to swallow. My problem with it is, if we're playing pickup football in the backyard, it was as obvious a call. How two guys can look at that and come up with their decision - we'll probably never get over it. The truth is, some of these losses ... one like that, it's too bad."

      Rams nickel cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman blasted Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis and admitted after the game he wasn't concerned about the penalty -- he thought is was a certainty -- but was focused solely on not allowing a game-ending touchdown.

      "Hell yeah," Robey-Coleman said Sunday. "That was PI."

      No penalty was called. Instead, the Saints attempted and made a go-ahead field goal with 1:41 on the clock.

      The Rams tied the game with their own field goal and then won it on a 57-yarder in overtime.

      --Field Level Media

  • Eagles defend QB Wentz from anonymous critics
    By Field Level Media / Monday, January 21, 2019

    Philadelphia players rallied to Carson Wentz's defense Monday after unnamed teammates reportedly called the Eagles quarterback "selfish" and "egotistical."

    • A report criticizing Wentz by PhillyVoice.com cited "more than a half dozen" players who requested to remain anonymous, "fearing repercussions."

      Among the claims in the report were that Wentz "bullied" offensive coordinator Mike Groh, played "favorites" by over-targeting Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz, and generally acted "like he's won 10 Super Bowls."

      Wentz, 26, received immediate support on social media from All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, offensive linemen Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks, and Ertz.

      "None of that is true," Cox wrote on Twitter. "We are all behind him 100 percent."

      "Don't believe everything you read!!!" Ertz tweeted. "Carson has been nothing but a GREAT person, GREAT teammate and GREAT leader since Day 1."

      Johnson tweeted that "whoever wrote that article needs to check their 'sources.'"

      The No. 2 overall draft pick in 2016, Wentz is 23-17 in three seasons as the starter in Philadelphia. His last two regular seasons have ended with injuries, but head coach Doug Pederson confirmed last month that Wentz is "our guy" heading into 2019.

      --Field Level Media

  • Reports: Dolphins hiring Packers' Graham as DC
    By Field Level Media / Monday, January 21, 2019

    The Miami Dolphins are expected to name Green Bay assistant coach Patrick Graham as their new defensive coordinator, according to multiple reports Monday.

    • ESPN's Adam Schefter and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport both reported that the Packers' defensive run-game coordinator and inside linebackers coach will join the staff of future Dolphins head coach Brian Flores.

      Miami has to wait until after Super Bowl LIII to officially hire Flores, the New England defensive coordinator whose Patriots will face the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta on Feb. 3.

      Graham, 39, has been an NFL assistant for 10 seasons. He worked for Bill Belichick and the Patriots from 2009-15, climbing the ladder from defensive assistant to linebackers coach to defensive line coach. He coached the defensive line of the New York Giants from 2016-17 before joining the Packers in 2018.

      --Field Level Media

  • Chiefs-Chargers, Bengals-Rams highlight International Series
    By Field Level Media / Monday, January 21, 2019

    The Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers will play one of three divisional games on international soil next season when the AFC West rivals face off in Mexico City.

    • The Chiefs and Patriots were scheduled to play in Mexico City last season, but the game was played in the United States due to field conditions.

      Jacksonville is playing a home game in London for the seventh consecutive season. The Jaguars will play the Houston Texans in an AFC South matchup.

      Dates, kickoff times and venues for each game are to be announced when the NFL releases its full schedule in April.

      The NFL announced all five international series games on Monday:

      Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London

      Chicago Bears at Oakland Raiders in London

      Cincinnati Bengals at Los Angeles Rams in London

      Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars in London

      Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers in Mexico City

      --Field Level Media

  • Bettors quickly make Patriots slight favorite to beat Rams
    By Field Level Media / Monday, January 21, 2019

    The New England Patriots opened as a slight underdog to the Los Angeles Rams at some Las Vegas sports books, but it didn't take long -- mere minutes, actually -- for bettors to make them the favorite.

    • The Patriots, who defeated the host Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC title on Sunday evening, opened as a slight favorite at some books and as a tossup or slight underdog at others. New England settled as a 1 1/2-point favorite around Las Vegas late Sunday.

      The Rams advanced to the Super Bowl, set for Feb. 3 in Atlanta, by knocking off the host New Orleans Saints 26-23, also in overtime, earlier Sunday.

      The over/under for total points scored hovered at 58-59. If it stays there, it would be the highest total for a Super Bowl, according to an ESPN report.

      While both teams were underdogs entering Sunday's games, neither team was considered a surprise to make the Super Bowl before the season.

      Bettors made the Patriots the consensus favorite to win their fifth NFL title, and the Rams were among other top contenders, aided by their strong showing a season ago and also no doubt by Las Vegas' proximity to Los Angeles.

      The Patriots will be making their 11th appearance in the Super Bowl, and the Rams will be making their fourth.

      New England will be playing in the Super Bowl for the third straight year, having beaten the Atlanta Falcons two years ago and lost to the Philadelphia Eagles last year.

      The Patriots are 5-5 in past Super Bowl appearances, including a win over the then-St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI in February 2002.

      The Rams won their only NFL title by defeating the Tennessee Titans in January 2000 in Super Bowl XXXIV.

      --Field Level Media

  • Saints QB Brees confirms he will return next season
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, January 20, 2019

    Drew Brees has some unfinished business he would like to address.

    • The New Orleans Saints' veteran quarterback confirmed Sunday that he plans to return for his 19th NFL season in the fall. The 40-year-old addressed questions about his future shortly after the Saints were eliminated by the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game.

      "I plan on being here next season and making another run at it," said Brees, who had previously voiced plans to play at least another season or two.

      Brees, whose 40th birthday was Tuesday, already is No. 1 on the all-time list with 74,437 career passing yards. He needs 563 more yards to become the first signal-caller in league history to reach the 75,000-yard milestone.

      The Purdue product figures to climb other charts, as well. He is No. 2 on the all-time list for passing touchdowns with 520 -- only 19 scores behind the Peyton Manning (539) for the top spot.

      Brees passed for 3,992 yards, 32 touchdowns and five interceptions in 15 games this season, setting a single-season record by completing 74.4 percent of his passes. He is under contract through 2019, as he'll make $23 million between base salary and a roster bonus next year, while counting $33.5 million against the cap.

      --Field Level Media

  • Broncos CB Harris will replace Gilmore in Pro Bowl
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, January 20, 2019

    Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. is headed to the Pro Bowl to replace New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, according to a report Sunday night from KUSA-TV in Denver.

    • Gilmore has a good reason to miss the game in Orlando: He will be preparing for the Patriots' Super Bowl LIII showdown against the Los Angeles Rams.

      Harris, named a first alternate for the game, said earlier this week that he would be ready to play if called upon. He broke his fibula and missed the final four games of the regular season, but he told KUSA-TV that he would be able to play in the Pro Bowl if asked, which would be his fourth such selection.

      "I'm cleared, I'm ready to roll," Harris said. "I've been training and everything."

      In 12 games, all starts, Harris finished this season with 49 tackles to go along with three interceptions (one returned for at touchdown), 10 pass break-ups, one sack. He has 19 interceptions in eight seasons with Denver, earning Pro Bowl honors from 2014-16.

      --Field Level Media

  • Saints coach Payton: NFL admitted blown non-call
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, January 20, 2019

    New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said the NFL admitted that its officials missed a critical pass interference call late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's NFC Championship Game.

    • The Los Angeles Rams capitalized on the lack of a flag, which forced the Saints to settle for a field goal and a 23-20 lead with 1:41 remaining, rather than running the clock down before kicking what would have been the game winner as time expired. With the extra time, the Rams forced overtime with a 48-yard field goal and won the game in the extra session to advance to the Super Bowl.

      "The explanation ... it was simple," said Payton, who said he spoke with Alberto Riveron, the NFL's senior vice president of officiating, on the phone shortly after the game. "They blew the call. Not only was it (pass) interference, but it was helmet-to-helmet (contact). That was the first thing Al said.

      "...I don't know if there was ever a more obvious pass interference call. That's a tough one to swallow."

      On third-and-10 with 1:49 remaining, quarterback Drew Brees lofted a pass for wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman had his back turned to the ball and ran helmet-first into Lewis, clearly before the ball arrived. Lewis was knocked to the ground, away from the ball.

      Robey-Coleman admitted that he made contact before Lewis had a chance to catch the pass.

      "Yes, I got there too early," he said. "I was beat, and I was trying to save the touchdown."

      Referee Bill Vinovich briefly addressed the play during a postgame interview with a pool reporter.

      "It was a judgment call by the covering official," Vinovich said. "I personally have not seen the play. ...It is not a reviewable play."

      Considering the prominence of the non-call, Brees suggested it could lead to rules changes about reviewable plays in the future.

      "I'm sure that because of this, as a result of this, there's going to be a lot of talk about (reviewing) game-changing plays within two minutes," he said. "Maybe that's something that will happen."

      But Brees and others said that one play did not define the entire game. The Saints failed to score touchdowns on a pair of early red-zone drives, instead settling for field goals, and the Rams picked off a pass in overtime to set up the win.

      For his part, Rams coach Sean McVay said he could understand the non-call.

      "I just thought it was a bang-bang type play," he said. "One of the things I respected about the refs is that they let the guys play. I thought it was a competitive-type play. I'm certainly not going to complain about the way the play was officiated."

      The NFL might want to move on from the controversial call as quickly as possible, but Rams running back Todd Gurley has other ideas. He posted a doctored photo on his Instagram account after the game that depicted him exchanging jerseys with Vinovich.

      Gurley, who has 1.4 million Instagram followers, accompanied the photo with three skull emojis and four laughing emojis.

      The photo appeared to be edited from an original photo following a 2016 game, in which Gurley and Saints running back Mark Ingram were swapping jerseys on the field at the Superdome.

      Meanwhile, an electronic sign over the Pontchartrain Causeway near New Orleans offered a different message shortly after the game. Drivers who looked up at the sign saw three simple words in all-caps: "WE WERE ROBBED."

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: Kitna to become Cowboys QB coach
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, January 20, 2019

    Former NFL quarterback Jon Kitna is in line to become the new quarterbacks coach of the Dallas Cowboys, ESPN reported Sunday.

    • Kitna is currently the offensive coordinator for the San Diego Fleet in the Alliance of American Football, a league that begins play next month.

      Current Cowboys quarterbacks coach Kellen Moore is the leading candidate to become the Cowboys' offensive coordinator, according to ESPN.

      Dallas recently parted ways with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan after four seasons in that role. Linehan spent five seasons as the primary play caller.

      There is a possibility that Cowboys coach Jason Garrett will call plays in 2019.

      Kitna spent seven seasons as a high school football coach before agreeing to join the Fleet, who are coached by former NFL head coach Mike Martz.

      Kitna, 46, played 14 NFL seasons, including two with the Cowboys in 2010-11. He also came out of retirement to be on the roster for one game in 2013. He passed for 29,745 yards, 169 touchdowns and 165 interceptions with the Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions and Cowboys.

      The 2018 season was Moore's first as quarterbacks coach after retiring as a player.

      Moore, 29, played in three NFL games for Dallas in 2015 and passed for 779 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions in 104 passing attempts.

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: Mahomes could sign $200M deal
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, January 20, 2019

    Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is in just his second year in the NFL, but the talk already has started that he could become the league's first $200 million man.

    • ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday that the Chiefs are expected to extend Mahomes' rookie contract after the 2019 season and that the deal could break league records. He said it likely would eclipse Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers' contract, which has an annual average payout of $33.5 million.

      After next season, Mahomes will have two years left on his contract, including the fifth-year team option.

      And regardless of whether the Chiefs beat the New England Patriots in Sunday's AFC championship game to earn a berth in the Super Bowl, Mahomes will be more visible this offseason. His agent, Leigh Steinberg, wanted him to stay in the background until he'd proved himself on the field, Schefter said. In his rookie year, he backed up Alex Smith.

      "He's a fresh face," Steinberg told ESPN this weekend. "By holding him back, we haven't overexposed him."

      Steinberg said Mahomes will be seen more in the offseason with new television commercials and marketing deals.

      The 23-year-old Mahomes is an MVP candidate. He led the Chiefs to a 12-4 record and threw for 5,097 yards. His 50 touchdown passes led the league, and only Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (5,129) threw for more yards.

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: Berry to play, but surgery likely after season
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, January 20, 2019

    Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry is expected to play in Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots, but he'll likely need surgery to repair a lingering heel injury after the season, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Sunday.

    • Rapoport said the heel will be examined further whenever the Chiefs' season ends, and that corrective surgery is the likely outcome.

      Berry was removed from the injury report following Friday's practice, his third straight day as a full participant.

      "I feel pretty good," Berry told reporters after the practice.

      The five-time Pro Bowl selection missed the preseason and the first 13 regular-season games because of the heel injury. He played in two regular-season games in December before missing the finale after reinjuring it, and he also missed last weekend's divisional-round victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

      "I wanted to go in that game," Berry told reporters of the Colts' game. "Just a lot of complications that I can't really explain. Hopefully this weekend it will be different.

      "Right now, I just know it's moving in the right direction and I want to get on the field on Sunday."

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: NFL to wrap up Hunt investigation by March
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, January 20, 2019

    The NFL is expected to finish its investigation into three different off-field incidents involving running back Kareem Hunt and decide on a final punishment before free agency opens in March, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

    • Rapoport reported Sunday that Hunt is expected to face a suspension of six-plus games but is likely to be back on the field at some point in the 2019 season.

      The former Kansas City Chiefs running back was released by the team in November after TMZ released a video showing Hunt pushing and kicking then-19-year-old Abigail Ottinger from Berea, Ohio, in Cleveland last February.

      Hunt also allegedly was involved in an altercation at a restaurant last June, an incident the NFL was aware of and questioned the running back about. However, TMZ also reported that Hunt was involved in a violent incident last January at a nightclub in Kansas City, an altercation the NFL did not previously know about, according to ESPN.

      In that incident, TMZ reported that Hunt and others -- including then-Chiefs running back George Atkinson -- beat a man to the point of unconsciousness at a nightclub in Kansas City on Jan. 11.

      The NFL placed Hunt, the 2017 rushing leader, on the commissioner's exempt list while it investigates all three incidents, meaning Hunt is unable to play for any team that might sign him.

      Hunt went unclaimed on waivers and is officially a free agent.

      ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday morning that several teams are interested in signing him. He quoted a source who said it looks as if Hunt will be with a team "sooner rather than later."

      Hunt also has been undergoing anger-management counseling on a daily basis, Schefter said.

      Hunt, 23, is from the Cleveland suburb of Willoughby and spends a significant part of his offseason in the area. He played college football at Toledo and burst onto the scene as a third-round draft pick in 2017.

      Hunt rushed for an NFL-best 1,327 yards as a rookie. He had 824 yards through 11 games this season.

      --Field Level Media

  • NFL notebook: Ravens, Harbaugh reportedly near extension
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, January 19, 2019

    The Baltimore Ravens are finalizing an extension with head coach John Harbaugh, according to multiple reports Saturday, a month after the team announced its plans to retain him and work on a new deal.

    • Harbaugh was set to enter the final year of his contract, but the Ravens announced Dec. 21 that they planned to keep him and begin discussing an extension. Prior to that announcement, many had speculated about Harbaugh's job security, and some had speculated in the weeks since that another team might pursue him via trade.

      Harbaugh, 56, has spent 11 seasons with the Ravens, making him the fourth-longest-tenured head coach in the NFL behind Bill Belichick (19 years), Mike Tomlin and Sean Payton (12 each).

      After winning a playoff game in each of his first five seasons at the helm -- culminating in a Super Bowl XLVII victory -- Harbaugh and the Ravens had missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, including three straight years, before winning the AFC North in 2018. They were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Chargers.

      --Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles fell four snaps shy of earning a $1 million bonus this season, but the Eagles reportedly paid him anyway in a good faith gesture.

      Playing for injured starter Carson Wentz, Foles went 4-1 in five regular-season starts and finished with 357 snaps -- 32.69 percent of the team's 2018 total. He needed to play 33 percent of the snaps to earn the $1 million incentive, leaving him four snaps short.

      ESPN's Field Yates reported Philadelphia opted to pay the Super Bowl LII MVP despite the shortfall.

      --The Arizona Cardinals will hire former Green Bay Packers assistant Tom Clements as their passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach, NFL Network reported.

      The network also reported the Cardinals are not expected to hire an offensive coordinator, despite interviewing a number of candidates.

      New head coach Kliff Kingsbury will run his own offense and call plays, but he said at his introductory press conference he hoped to hired a veteran coordinator with NFL experience. Clements, who was the Packers' OC from 2012-2014 and led the Buffalo Bills' offense from 2004-05, brings experience to the staff, without the coordinator title.

      --Pittsburgh Steelers safety Morgan Burnett told NFL Network he would like the team to release him before free agency.

      Per Rapoport, Burnett wants to join a team that will use him in a pure safety role, after he played what he believes was out of position at dime linebacker in Pittsburgh.

      Burnett, who turned 30 last Sunday, joined the Steelers on a three-year, $14.4 million deal as a free agent last March, but he started just two of 11 games this season as the third safety.

      --The Houston Texans have signed right tackle Seantrel Henderson to a one-year contract extension, the team announced.

      NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the deal was worth a maximum value of $4.5 million.

      Henderson started the Texans' 2018 season opener at New England, but suffered a broken left ankle in the first quarter and missed the rest of the season.

      --The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed safety Jarrod Wilson to a three-year contract extension, the team announced.

      Wilson, who turns 25 next month, was set to become a restricted free agent in March.

      --The NFL has fined Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Denico Autry and Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters for separate incidents in last weekend's divisional playoffs, NFL Network reported.

      Autry was fined $13,369 for his hip-swiveling celebratory dance after sacking Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the third quarter of the Colts' 31-13 loss, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.

      Peters was fined $10,026 for unnecessary roughness during the Rams' 30-22 win against the Dallas Cowboys, according to Rapoport.

      --Field Level Media

  • NFL fines Colts DL Autry, Rams CB Peters
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, January 19, 2019

    The NFL has fined Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Denico Autry and Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters for separate incidents in last weekend's divisional playoffs, NFL Network reported Saturday.

    • Autry was fined $13,369 for his hip-swiveling celebratory dance after sacking Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the third quarter of the Colts' 31-13 loss, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.

      Autry, whose performed his celebration directly in front of an official, was also penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.

      Peters was fined $10,026 for unnecessary roughness during the Rams' 30-22 win against the Dallas Cowboys, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

      Peters drew a 15-yard flag after shoving receiver Amari Cooper out of bounds after a fourth-down run by Ezekiel Elliott.

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: Cardinals hire Clements, won't have OC
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, January 19, 2019

    The Arizona Cardinals will hire former Green Bay Packers assistant Tom Clements as their passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach, NFL Network reported Saturday.

    • The network also reported the Cardinals are not expected to hire an offensive coordinator, despite interviewing a number of candidates.

      New head coach Kliff Kingsbury will run his own offense and call plays, but he said at his introductory press conference he hoped to hired a veteran coordinator with NFL experience. Clements, who was the Packers' OC from 2012-2014 and led the Buffalo Bills' offense from 2004-05, brings experience to the staff, without the coordinator title.

      Clements, 65, helped groom Aaron Rodgers while serving as the Packers' quarterbacks coach from 2006-11 before his promotion to coordinator, and he was the team's assistant head coach from 2015-16. Clements will now be charged with developing 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen, a friend of Rodgers' who struggled behind a poor offensive line as a rookie.

      According to various reports, the Cardinals interviewed at least five other former offensive coordinators before hiring Clements:

      --Jim Bob Cooter, ex-Detroit coordinator, whose contract was not renewed by the Lions.

      --John DeFilippo, fired by Minnesota late in the season but hired by Jacksonville to be OC.

      --Steve Sarkisian, ex-Atlanta coordinator who reportedly turned down the Cardinals' job to return to Alabama.

      --Ben McAdoo, former coordinator and head coach with New York Giants.

      --Hue Jackson, former Cleveland head coach and Cincinnati coordinator.

      Jackson reportedly interviewed for the job on Friday. He spent the second half of the 2018 season with the Bengals after being fired in October by the Browns, ending a tenure of two-plus years in which he went 3-36-1.

      --Field Level Media

  • Jaguars sign S Wilson to 3-year extension
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, January 19, 2019

    The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed safety Jarrod Wilson to a three-year contract extension, the team announced Saturday.

    • Wilson, who turns 25 next month, was set to become a restricted free agent in March.

      Originally signed by the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in May 2016, Wilson has appeared in 47 games and has 26 tackles, two passes defensed, two tackles for loss and one forced fumble in his career.

      Wilson played all 16 games in 2018, starting the last two. He played 222 snaps on defense and 262 snaps on special teams, after logging 592 of his 673 snaps from 2016-17 on special teams.

      --Field Level Media

  • S Burnett seeking release from Steelers
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, January 19, 2019

    Pittsburgh Steelers safety Morgan Burnett told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport on Saturday he would like the team to release him before free agency.

    • Per Rapoport, Burnett wants to join a team that will use him in a pure safety role, after he played what he believes was out of position at dime linebacker in Pittsburgh.

      Burnett, who turned 30 last Sunday, joined the Steelers on a three-year, $14.4 million deal as a free agent last March, but he started just two of 11 games this season as the third safety. Sean Davis primarily played free safety, with rookie first-rounder Terrell Edmunds at strong safety and Burnett playing in sub packages, logging 55.7 percent of the defensive snaps.

      Burnett is set to cost just under $6.5 million against the cap in 2019. His release would save Pittsburgh about $3.6 million in cap space, while bringing a $2.8 million dead-money hit.

      After eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Burnett registered 30 tackles and six passes defensed in his first season with the Steelers in 2018. In 113 career games (104 starts), he has 747 tackles, 50 passes defensed and nine interceptions.

      --Field Level Media

  • Texans sign RT Henderson to 1-year extension
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, January 19, 2019

    The Houston Texans have signed right tackle Seantrel Henderson to a one-year contract extension, the team announced Saturday.

    • NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the deal was worth a maximum value of $4.5 million.

      Henderson started the Texans' 2018 season opener at New England, but suffered a broken left ankle in the first quarter and missed the rest of the season.

      Henderson, who turns 27 on Monday, played the previous four seasons with Buffalo. A seventh-round pick out of Miami in 2014, he appeared in 34 games for the Bills with 27 starts from 2014-17.

      --Field Level Media