The NFL’s suspension of Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett on Friday dealt a severe blow to the team’s playoff hopes but they are determined not to let the incident define their season.
Cleveland kept their hopes alive with a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday but lost Garrett, one the game’s top defenders, for at least the rest of the 2019 season after he used a helmet to attack another player.
Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens, who is trying to steer the team to their first playoff berth since 2002, said losing a player of Garrett’s calibre makes things tougher but that he feels his players are ready for the challenge.
“There has been adversity hit it seems like all year so these guys have answered the call of adversity, and I expect them to do the same moving forward,” Kitchens said on a conference call.
“There will not be any excuses. We will have 11 out on the field, and those 11 will be expected to do their job.”
With their victory over the visiting Steelers, the Browns improved to 4-6 on the season and remain very much alive in the playoff picture, but will have to keep their focus on the task at hand. “Sometimes in the biggest storm, that is when people come together the closest,” Browns guard Joel Bitonio said on the conference call.
“We have a decision to make as a team. It is not one day everybody is saying, ‘Yeah, we are in it together,’ but it is your actions through the week of practice, through games that we have to make that collective choice.”
Garrett, a former first overall draft pick who on Friday apologised for his actions, is tied for fourth in the NFL with 10 sacks through 10 games this season and could have been Defensive Player of the Year candidate if not for the ban.
“He is a guy that gets after the quarterback, plays the run well. He is a great player. It is tough,” said Bitonio.
“Anytime you lose a guy to injury, to suspension or to anything of that nature, it is something that you have to try and fill that spot.... It is tough when you lose your best defender.”
The Browns will resume their playoff push at home against Miami on Nov 24 before heading to Pittsburgh the following week for what could be a hotly-contested rematch.
Foles, Brissett to return as Jaguars battle Colts
Welcome back, Nick Foles. You too, Jacoby Brissett. The return of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ and Indianapolis Colts’ starting quarterbacks injects extra juice into Sunday’s AFC South battle at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Foles will make his first start since Week 1, when he sustained a broken clavicle while throwing a touchdown pass in the first quarter of a loss to Kansas City. Brissett is back after missing last week’s 16-12 home loss to Miami with a knee injury suffered during a 28-26 defeat Nov. 3 in Pittsburgh.Without Foles, Jacksonville (4-5) at least managed to tread water. Rookie Gardner Minshew threw 13 touchdown passes and just four interceptions after Foles’ injury, establishing himself as a viable option for the long run, whether that’s in north Florida or somewhere else.
While the Jaguars are occupants of the division cellar, they still possess playoff hopes. And no one knows better than Foles the meaning of having a chance. After all, he did take Philadelphia on a surprise Super Bowl run after Carson Wentz’s season-ending injury two years ago, and helped rally the Eagles by going 5-1 down the stretch in 2018 and won a wild-card game last year at Chicago. “To be back in a situation where we have an opportunity to make a run, that’s all we can ever ask. I’m grateful and happy to be back with those guys,” Foles said. Besides getting its veteran starter back under center, Jacksonville has had a week off to get healthy after enduring a 26-3 beating from Houston on Nov. 3 in London. The addition of Foles gives a team with a powerful running back in Leonard Fournette, as well as developing young receivers, a veteran who knows about winning big games.
“More is on the line,” Foles said of playing in November and December. “Offenses and teams and cultures have been developed. Each year a team develops a culture. That’s the biggest challenge of stepping back in there and just playing football.”
By that standard, Brissett should have an easier time finding a rhythm. All he’s missed is a game and a half. But that was enough time for the Colts to fall behind Houston in the division race. Last week’s defeat to Miami was one of the most puzzling results of the year in the NFL. Even with backup Brian Hoyer under centre, Indianapolis (5-4) was a double-digit favourite. But Hoyer’s first start in two years was an unmitigated disaster, as he was just 18 of 39 for 204 yards with three crushing interceptions.
Through eight games, Brissett has completed a career-best 64.8 percent of his passes for 1,649 yards with a 14-3 touchdown-interception ratio. Coach Frank Reich said Friday that Brissett “was full go (in practice) the whole week” and ready to play. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, the team’s leading pass catcher with 32 receptions, won’t play, Reich said Friday. Hilton (calf) has missed the past two games and wasn’t able to practice on Wednesday.
This is the teams’ first meeting of the year. They will play again in the season finale at Jacksonville.
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