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Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden of the Browns could do little but watch as Raiders’ rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper pulled in eight catches for 134 yards in Oakland’s 27-20 Week 3 win.

Luther Campbell wanted to make sure someone noticed the quiet kid, so he hit the field at Florida State talking.

There were blue-chip high school players everywhere at the summer football camp, so Campbell grabbed the reticent receiver he had brought from Miami and walked toward Seminoles defensive coordinator Mark Stoops.

“I like to talk trash,” the former 2 Live Crew rapper said, “and so does Stoops. So I told him I had this kid, this receiver who wasn’t even on the map yet, and Stoops should get his best five-star defensive back. And my guy would beat him two out of three.”

Stoops was up for the challenge, and picked out a cornerback to cover Amari Cooper.

“The five-star kid comes over, really cocky, and slaps Amari across the face,” Campbell said. “Amari didn’t retaliate, didn’t say anything, just looked at him. And then he beat the kid in the drill. One time, two times, three times …

“The fourth time, that poor DB really got burned … That was a great day.”

Campbell, who was an assistant coach on Cooper’s Northwestern High team, packs a bus and takes a bunch of high school players to football camps every summer. In 2011, he sandwiched the Florida State camp between one at Miami and one at Alabama.

“I wasn’t nervous,” Cooper said. “I just wanted to run routes and be the best route runner there.”

“The kid always carried himself as a pro, even as a kid,” Campbell said. “Quiet. Never said anything. But would always go the extra mile.”

By the time the bus went the extra miles to Alabama, Cooper was no longer the kid coming off a hip injury who didn’t have a lot of game video from his junior season.

“He was ‘That Guy,’” Campbell said. Alabama head coach Nick Saban “was all over him.”

Saban got his man, and so did the Raiders. After catching a national-best 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide last season, Cooper was the fourth pick in the NFL draft.

And he has been a blur, a silent difference-maker for Oakland.

Cooper has 24 catches for 339 yards and two touchdowns, and is third among wide receivers with 186 yards after the catch, according to Stats Inc. He joined DeSean Jackson as the only NFL rookies in the past 30 years to have two 100-yard receiving yards in their first three games.

And Cooper became the first Oakland receiver — rookie or otherwise — since Randy Moss in 2005 to have back-to-back 100-yard games.

“He’s caught some balls in the middle of the field for us,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said, “and made people miss or caught balls on the sideline and stopped, started and juked. It’s amazing stuff.”

Cooper humbled Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden of Cleveland pretty good in Week 3, catching eight passes for 134 yards.

“He’s going to be legit,” Haden said. “His stop and start is special.”

Cooper, who’s 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, says he has been working on his footwork since an early age. He is faster than his glide makes him look — he ran a 4.35 40-yard dash at the NFL combine — and he looks like Hall of Famer Lynn Swann at times with his body control.

“I believe I have some good routes,” Cooper said in his typically understated tone.

The Raiders have been using the passing game — especially Cooper’s ability to make defenders miss after short routes — to set up the running game.

“He’s a home run waiting to happen,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “He’s a nightmare for guys to cover because he is so athletic. He knows that he can only get better from here, and he’s not going to stop working.”

Cooper has had a drop in each of the first four games, and is neither satisfied nor particularly excited about any of his accomplishments in his early NFL career.

“I really don’t feel like I have done anything yet,” Cooper said.

Cooper first “wanted to be the best ever” in the second grade. That was after the local Pee Wee coach had made a recruiting visit to the fast kid’s house for a second straight year.

“I didn’t like the hitting when I first watched, but my mom told me to think about it,” Cooper said. “I gave it a try and I liked it. Everybody in my neighborhood was pretty good, and that pushed me to want to get better fast.”

Liberty City is a rough neighborhood in Miami, and Campbell credits it with making players like Cooper and former Indianapolis running back Edgerrin James stay focused.

“There are a lot of distractions on the street,” Campbell said. “You’re trying to practice football and there are some kids hanging over the fence counting their money. You have to have something inside of you to block that out and focus.”

Cooper credits his mom, Michelle Green, with his work ethic.

“I saw how hard she worked,” Cooper said. “She influenced me a lot.”

Green didn’t know how much until she heard Cooper say it moments before the Heisman Trophy ceremony last year. Cooper, who finished third, told ESPN about a mistake he made when he was 10.

His mom had come home from working two jobs and asked him to go with her on a 3-mile walk to the grocery store. Cooper said he was too tired, then felt terrible later when his mom came home with marks on her arms from having carried all the bags herself.

“She did everything for us,” Cooper said, noting that besides her three kids, Michelle also helped raise two nephews. “She sacrificed for us, and I was selfish that night. That stuck with me.”

So Cooper practices, watches game video, runs routes on his own and practices some more. And he often asks teammate Michael Crabtree for tips on how to use his hands better to get past cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage.

“I prepare as if I want to be a great player, and I believe anytime you do that, you will be successful,” Cooper said.

An early-season favorite for Rookie of the Year honors, Cooper has bigger goals in mind. But, surprise, he says he keeps those to himself.

“I will be very surprised if he is not a Hall of Fame player,” Campbell said. “He works very hard to be the best. A lot of kids like football, but Amari loves football. That’s his whole life. He has nothing else going on.

“I knew he was special right off the bat.”

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ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi held his weekly Patriots chat on (while mixing in some thoughts on the Seahawks and Dolphins), and one of the notable topics was how the team might fare against a strong running team.

Bruschi doesn’t see that as a major issue for New England, which is topical with the run-first Cowboys next on the schedule.

“The Cowboys have the best offensive line in football. They can run the ball with success against this defense; I just don’t know how long they can stick with it,” Bruschi said in his chat.

“So while the Cowboys’ goal might be to keep Brady off the field by controlling the clock and running the ball, what happens when the Patriots’ offense — one of the best in the league — puts up a quick 17 points? All of a sudden they’ll want you to run the ball and eat up the clock. I don’t know what teams are out there that have the defense, along with the running game, that is necessary.”

Other topics touched on by Bruschi in his chat include expected interest in Patriots coordinators Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia for head-coaching jobs after the season; coaches sticking with their system instead of evolving and changing at times; 16-0 thoughts; and Dion “Squirty” Lewis, among others.

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They have become the Murphy’s Law of the NFL.

Whatever bad can happen for the Philadelphia Eagles, will happen.

At least that was the rule during the latest implosion by the team that Chip Kelly built, as the Eagles stumbled through a 23-20 loss to Washington that left them in last place in the NFC East.

Never mind that the Eagles (1-3) sit just one game out of first place after the Dallas Cowboys’ overtime loss at New Orleans on Sunday night.

This glass is half-empty.

Do you realize how bad a team needs to be to claim last place in the NFC Least?

Look in the mirror, Eagles.

On Sunday, the defense gave up a game-winning, 90-yard touchdown drive that was not engineered by, say, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers.

The Eagles were struck down by Kirk Cousins, who until Sunday had never produced a fourth-quarter comeback victory in the NFL.

Before that meltdown, the lowlights included the Zach Ertz touchdown taken off the board just before halftime because rookie receiver Nelson Agholor lined up to create an illegal formation. Then they wound up with nothing, when new kicker Caleb Sturgis missed a 33-yard field goal to end their latest scoreless first half.

Another glaring sequence also involved Agholor. On the next snap after the rookie hauled in a 45-yard catch in the second quarter, the Eagles called for a reverse. It backfired. Agholor fumbled the exchange from Ryan Mathews.

Washington recovered.

The Eagles, though, will be hard-pressed to recover from this early-season funk.

Sure, there’s time. It’s a long season, and the NFC South was won last year by a team that couldn’t even produce a winning record.

But the Eagles look anything like a team to be trusted.

After Sunday’s debacle, Kelly, the coach who should question the essential general manager (himself) for the fallout from his questionable offseason moves, lamented the execution (again).

DeMarco Murray, meanwhile, lamented his lack of touches.

Murray – who was lured from Dallas with a five-year, $42 million contract, but didn’t start after missing the previous week’s victory at the New York Jets because of a hamstring injury – ripped off a 30-yard run on his first carry.

He gained 6 yards on his other 7 rushes in the game.

Fast fact: The Eagles are 0-3 in games with Murray this season, 1-0 in games without him.

Kelly’s creative offense? My, how it fizzles. So much for revolutionizing the NFL.

Now Kelly’s offense specializes in three-and-outs.

In 16 quarters this season, the Eagles have laid goose eggs in half of them. Until Sam Bradford hit Riley Cooper for a 62-yard touchdown early in the third quarter on Sunday, the Eagles had gone four quarters, dating to the previous week against the Jets, without scoring a single point.

Four quarters, as in a single game.

Hey, the blocking was spotty again, as Washington’s defensive line sacked Sam Bradford five times and hit him at least eight other times. He was sacked on back-to-back plays to pretty much sum up the last desperate drive in the final half-minute.

Then there are the injuries. They keep piling up. All-pro left tackle Jason Peters left with a quad injury and right tackle Lane Johnson suffered a knee sprain, casting doubt on their effectiveness in the near future, if not their immediate availability. The defense was undermanned on Sunday when cornerback Byron Maxwell (quadriceps) and linebacker Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) went down with injuries on the first drive. Then defensive end Brandon Bair was knocked out of the game, too, with a groin injury. And it’s still uncertain when big offseason acquisition Kiko Alonso (knee) will return to his inside linebacker post.

Tough times for a team that can’t get out of its own way.

But at least there’s plenty of blame to go around – which must be some other type of law.

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Five things we learned from the Falcons’ 48-21 victory against the Houston Texans before a crowd of 69,904 fans on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

“Once we put a full four quarters together, we are a problem for everybody as you can see,” Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant said. “We have talent. We have talent across the board. We are really coming together as a team.”

The Falcons, who are trying to rebound after two losing seasons, started the season 4-0 for the fourth time in franchise history. They were absolutely giddy after pummeling the Texans, who went 9-7 last season and had playoff aspirations(Nike Falcons #24 Devonta Freeman Red Team Color Men’s Stitched NFL Elite Jersey). The Texans dropped to 1-3.

“I felt we put everything together today,” linebacker Nate Stupar said. “Our offense was making plays. Our defense was making plays.”

1. Freeman is not a one-game flash. Falcons running back Devonta Freeman missed some practice time last week with a toe injury, but he was ready to go against the Texans. He amassed 149 yards from scrimmage and for the second consecutive game he rushed for three touchdowns.

“He just loves to battle,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said.

He had touchdown runs of 16, 23 and 6 yards. Also, running back Terron Ward added an 8-yard touchdown run.

Freeman rushed 14 times for 68 yards before Ward took over. Freeman also had five catches for 81 yards.

“Devonta, the last two weeks has done a great job in showcasing how good of a player he is,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “Our offensive line just played really well.”

2. Defense was fast and physical. The defense continued to play at a high level after shutting down Dallas in the second half of last week’s game. They came out and created two turnovers that led to 14 points and helped the Falcons build a 21-0 lead.

Paul Worrilow tipped a pass that was intercepted by defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux.

In the second quarter, Texans running back Arian Foster fumbled after running into his right tackle Derek Newton. Cornerback Desmond Trufant scooped the ball and easily scored on a 24-yard return.

Safety William Moore whacked Houston tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz and forced a fumble, but the offense couldn’t convert turnover into point.

3. Ryan to Jones held under control. The Texans used a lot of double-teams on Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who was averaging 11.3 catchers per game. He caught four passes for 38 yards and was not a major factory.

With Jones getting so much extra attention, Ryan moved the ball around to his other targets.

Ryan completed 19 of 27 passes for 256 yards and one touchdown through three quarters.

Leonard Hankerson caught six passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. Roddy White, who didn’t catch a pass over the past two games, finished with two catches for 8 yards.

4. Fast starters. The Falcons opened the season with a 4-0 mark for the fourth time in franchise history.

The Falcons also started 4-0 in 1986, 2004 and 2012. The 1986 team went on to post a 7-8-1 record. The 2004 and 2012 teams went on reach the NFC Championship game.

5. Special teams contributed. Punter Matt Bosher continued to boom the ball. He averaged 47.7 yards on six punts and hit a long of 55 yards. He also had a punt downed inside the 5.

Also, Eric Weems had a 29 yard kickoff return and an 18-yard punt return.

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The Browns responded to being humiliated by the Jets in the season opener by beating the Tennessee Titans, so they have that going for them in their upcoming game against the San Diego Chargers.

The Browns are coming off a 27-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders. The Chargers are still smarting from getting thumped on the road by the Minnesota Vikings, 31-14. Both teams are 1-2 and in danger of falling three games behind in their respective divisions with another loss(Browns #40 Peyton Hillis Black Shadow Stitched NFL Jersey).

If the pattern continues, the Browns should at least battle nobly on Oct. 4 when they meet the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Kickoff is 4:05 p.m.

“We don’t want to be the team that doesn’t play well and we bounce back and just kind of have that yo-yo type of week,” head coach Mike Pettine said. “We have to snap out of that and get to the point — we have set high standards and we have to play to that every week.

“I’d be surprised if we don’t go out there and play well. I think we had a good week of practice. We’re focused. We scaled some things back so we’re fresh and we feel like we’re prepared.”

Both teams are battling injuries. The Browns are without starting linebackers Scott Solomon and Craig Robertson because of ankle injuries. Defensive end Desmond Bryant is out with a shoulder injury, and defensive back K’Waun Williams will miss his second straight game with a concussion.

The Chargers could be minus three starters on the offensive line. Strong safety Jahleel Addae is out with an ankle injury.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has completed 74.5 percent of his passes — 76 of 102 — with five touchdowns. He has also thrown four interceptions and has been sacked 10 times.

The Chargers have only one sack, but they have 15 quarterback hits. They have five interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

“They’ve got guys hurt. We’ve got guys hurt,” Browns defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said. “It’s who can adjust and do the best on Sunday.

“I’m sure they’ll have a good plan in place to protect what’s going on there at the offensive line or simplify it. I would anticipate them probably running the ball more, getting the ball out quicker than maybe what they’ve been. Philip Rivers has been pretty good for a long time running the show and doing his thing back there, so I don’t see them changing too much.”

Rookie running back Melvin Gordon has rushed for 190 yards on 44 carries but hasn’t scored a touchdown. San Diego’s top receiver, Keenan Allen, has 29 catches for 315 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The game against San Diego begins what on paper looks like a difficult stretch for the Browns. They play in Baltimore on Oct. 11 and return to FirstEnergy Stadium a week later to face the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning in what will likely be his final game in Cleveland as a player.

Three of the four games after playing the Broncos are on the road. The Browns are at St. Louis on Oct. 25, host Arizona on Nov. 1 and then are at Cincinnati on Nov. 5, a Thursday. They play in Pittsburgh on Nov. 15 a week before their bye.

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Eagles’ running back DeMarco Murray, who missed Sunday’s game against the Jets with a hamstring injury, was back at practice Tuesday as the team began preparations for the Washington Redskins.

Murray ran with the offense and did drills in the limited amount of practice open to the media.

“He’ll be out there,” Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said before practice. “We’ll see how much he can do.”

Linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who also missed the Jets’ game with a hamstring injury, was also back at practice.

“We’re hopeful with Mychal,” Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis said.

Six players in all missed the Jets’ game with injuries and three more suffered injuries during the game. Two of those three, kicker Cody Parkey (groin) and guard Andrew Gardner (foot) have already been placed on season-ending injured reserve.

Here’s a look at the rest:

Defensive end Cedric Thornton (broken hand) was at practice, but may still be a week away.

Defensive end Taylor Hart (shoulder) is also trying to come back, according to Davis.

Linebacker Kiko Alonso (knee) got a second opinion on his “sprained” knee and was not at practice, Tuesday. He will most likely miss his second game.

Safety Chris Maragos (knee) was back at practice and is expected to play Sunday.

Wide receiver Josh Huff (hamstring) was also back at practice and expected to play Sunday.

Wide receiver Riley Cooper, who was not on the post-game injury report, was not at practice and had his leg wrapped.

Left tackle Jason Peters, who left Sunday’s game late was also back at practice.

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A 3-0 Cincinnati Bengals start isn’t unusual. The Bengals started 3-0 last year. Hot starts in Cincinnati are no longer a reason for heightened optimism because in each of the last four seasons, things have always ended the same way: a loss in a wild-card game. It’s been too predictable.

But I’ll go ahead and say it: This year, there is a different feel to the Bengals’ 3-0 start, because this is as good as they’ve been from a personnel standpoint. They are loaded at wide receiver, at tight end and in the backfield. On defense, defensive tackle Geno Atkins is back to dominating in the middle of the defense, and the secondary is deep. You could argue the Bengals have the most complete team in the AFC North, and that’s including the QB situation, because Andy Dalton is playing better. This version of the QB might finally be ready to become a factor in the playoffs.

“Every year, Andy improves a couple things in his game,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “This year, it’s his leadership and his ability to take control of the offense and the game.”

Dalton showed his growth in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 28-24 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Elvis Dumervil hit him with 6:49 left in the game, and the ball bounced to linebacker C.J. Mosley, who ran 41 yards for a touchdown; the Ravens jumped to a 17-14 lead. You could hear the muttering in the press box and back in Cincinnati: “There he goes again, giving away another big play in a fourth quarter.”

But Dalton bounced back in a way few expected. He came out on the next offensive play, sent A.J. Green down the left seam and rifled a bullet that landed perfectly between two Ravens defenders covering him in a rare zone look. Green fought off tacklers and went 80 yards for a touchdown that put the Bengals ahead.

Joe Flacco answered with a 79-yard touchdown drive, but again Dalton answered, completing four of five passes in an 80-yard game-winning drive.

“The last touchdown [a 7-yard touchdown pass to Green] was huge,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “The one where he had the fumble, he tried to hold on at the last second. He thought he had a play there. He’s always learning, and that’s the good thing about Andy Dalton. I’m just pleased for him today.”

Dalton will never be confused with the top handful of quarterbacks, but he is starting to make plays that the best QBs make. Sunday’s win over the Ravens marked three straight wins and four wins in the last five times he’s faced Flacco. Last year, he beat Matt Ryan, Flacco twice, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning.

Earlier in the week, Ravens coach John Harbaugh called the Bengals the most talented team in the league, and while that quote could have been as much about motivating his team as complimenting an opponent, the Bengals are playing like one of the best teams in the league. With the Ravens 0-3 and the Pittsburgh Steelers awaiting news on how long they will be without Roethlisberger, the Bengals can start to take control of the AFC North.

“I still remember last year,” Whitworth said. “We got off to a 3-0 start and we were playing a New England team that everyone was writing off because of their start. We get beat big [43-17]. But this is different than last year.”

Quietly, that difference is also tied to the ownership and how players feel in Cincinnati. For so many years, Bengals players wondered (and griped) about the frugal nature of ownership. Over the past few years, the Bengals have become one of the most active teams in the league in retaining (and paying) top talent.

Dalton got paid. Green got paid. Whitworth just got a new deal done. Welcome to a happy locker room.

Dalton is having a blast. Despite his playoff losses, his teammates believe in him. After the game, he joked with Green about a dropped pass early in the first quarter and how Dalton is going to throw him the first pass of the game so Green can come back and have a 227-yard day like he did Sunday. Last week, he yelled over a crowd of reporters around Giovani Bernard, encouraging him to give good answers.

“I’m not the only one out here making plays,” said Dalton, who finished with 383 yards. “We have players like Jeremy Hill, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Plus, we have two of the best tackles [Whitworth and Andre Smith] in the league.”

After three weeks, this Bengal team is for real. Perhaps this is the year we see it in the postseason.

Inside the Huddle

• The Ravens defense isn’t the same without Terrell Suggs. Dumervil remains a great pass-rusher, but he can now can be doubled or simply handled if facing a top tackle. Against the Bengals, the Ravens resorted to more blitzes and stayed in man coverage most of the game. Over the past two weeks, the Ravens have given up 65 points.

• The Big Ben injury comes at a bad time. Over the next six weeks, the Steelers face the Ravens (Thursday), Chargers, Cardinals, Chiefs, Bengals and Raiders. That’s a tough stretch that includes a quick turnaround.

• Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin rightfully put the embarrassing 41-14 home loss to Buffalo on himself. He said the accountability starts with him. With his team 1-2, Philbin is clearly on the coaching hot seat after a disastrous two-week stretch. His offense is averaging 17 points a game and his team has been outscored 57-20 in the first half of three games. The team heads to London next week to play the New York Jets.

• A couple backup quarterbacks put up great stats. Luke McCown completed 31 of 38 passes for 310 yards for the Saints in a 27-22 loss in Carolina. Brandon Weeden was 22-of-26 for 232 yards in a 39-28 loss to Atlanta. The problem was that neither backup had a touchdown pass. Ryan Mallett was efficient enough in the Houston Texans’ 19-9 win over Tampa Bay. Jimmy Clausen had no chance against the Seattle Seahawks in a 26-0 loss in Seattle. Overall, backups were 2-2 Sunday, 2-3 if you include Kirk Cousins in the Redskins’ loss on Thursday night. This Thursday, Michael Vick will get the start against Baltimore.

• Hitting the reset button on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick might have been a mistake. In making the offense simpler for Kaepernick, it made life easier for opposing defenses. “Their passing game has just simplified so much, it was easy for us to anticipate routes, gets some good breaks on the ball,” said Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu after a 47-7 blowout of the 49ers. Kaepernick completed 9 of 19 passes for 67 yards and four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

• Injuries clearly affected running backs in several games, but overall we saw an uptick in production. Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks was questionable with a calf injury. He had only five carries for 14 yards and left the game with a slight hamstring injury. Lamar Miller of the Miami Dolphins was also questionable, in his case because of an ankle injury. He had seven carries for 38 yards in the loss to the Bills. The Philadelphia Eagles finally got their running game going with 123 yards on 39 carries in the 24-17 win over the New York Jets, but they did it without DeMarco Murray, who was inactive with a hamstring injury. Overall, though, it was good week for backs, with eight 100-yard games so far in Week 3. The first two weeks had eight total.

• The Raiders won in Cleveland, 27-20, their first road win since 2013. Derek Carr threw for 314 yards and hit Amari Cooper on eight of 11 targets for 134 yards. With that win, the Raiders have become favorites next Sunday in Chicago. That’s also a first since 2013.

• Though scheduling can never be perfect, the league needs to look into some of the competitive disadvantages of having a good team wait until Week 3 to get its home opener. Five teams had their home opener this week, and none of those teams have winning records. The Lions and Ravens are 0-3. Seattle, Miami and Tennessee are 1-2. Scheduling 32 teams isn’t easy, but having playoff-caliber teams trying to dig out of slow starts isn’t ideal.

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The Cardinals defeated the 49ers 47-7 on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium. For a full recap, check out Kent Somers’ game story.


Chris Johnson not only has scored two rushing touchdowns today, he just went over 100 yards with a 14-yard run here midway through the fourth quarter.

Through 22 carries, he’s at 110 yards.

David Johnson likely will finish things up in the backfield. Looks like Carson Palmer isn’t coming out, either. He’s still in the game, but Arizona isn’t exposing him at all because Arians is calling nothing but running plays.


Colin Kaepernick scored on a 12-yard run to give the 49ers their first points of the game, but it might not have happened had Drew Butler made a better effort out of a punt that traveled only 34 yards.

Jarryd Hayne, the New Zealand rugby star who is new to American football, returned the punt 37 yards to put the 49ers in great field position.

Kaepernick’s keeper cut the Cardinals’ lead to 28-7, but Arizona will try for more points here as we near the end of the first half. I’ll get back to you in the third quarter.


Chris Johnson has scored each of the Cardinals’ last two touchdowns – one on a six-yard run and the other on a one-yard run. He’s rushed for 63 yards on 10 carries with 7:49 left to play.

Bruce Arians said he expected both Chris Johnson and David Johnson to get between 10-15 touches apiece today, so let’s see if David Johnson gets the brunt of the load in the second half. For now, it’s still Chris getting the majority of the work.


You rarely hear Jared Veldheer’s number called by the refs, but they’ve called it three times for penalties already today and that’s alarming.

His first two penalties negated a 42-yard reception by Michael Floyd and a 23-yarder by Larry Fitzgerald. He’s had one holding call and two false starts. I’ll be shocked if he’s flagged again, but it’s something to keep your eyes on the rest of the way.

We’ll certainly talk to Veldheer after the game to get his take on what happened.


It’s 14-0 Cardinals after a pair if pick-sixes by the Cardinals’ defense, but it won’t stay that way for long. The Cardinals will open the second quarter with a first and goal at the 49ers’ 11-yard line.

Plenty of options here for Bruce Arians.

By the way, coming off that huge game a week ago in Chicago, Larry Fitzgerald already has five receptions for 90 yards.


That’s now 12 defensive touchdowns scored by the Cardinals since the start of the 2013 season. It’s 12 thanks to Tyrann Mathieu’s pick of another Colin Kaepernick pass and returning it 33 yards for a score. It’s now 14-0 Cardinals and the 49ers looked shellshocked.

Mathieu tracked Kaepernick’s pass to Anquan Boldin and easily stepped in front of it to steal the pass and raced into the end zone with a little Deion Sanders-like flair.


Justin Bethel’s interception and return for a touchdown marks the 11th defensive touchdown scored by the Cardinals since the beginning of the 2013 season, which leads the NFL.

Here’s a look at the leaders in that statistic

NFL Team Leaders – Defensive TDs (2013-15)

Rank     Team    Touchdowns (Type)

1       Arizona 11 (9 INT, 2 Fumble)

t      Dallas  8 (4 INT, 4 Fumble)

2t      Kansas City     8 (7 INT, 1 Fumble)

4t      Carolina        7 (7 INT)

4t      Chicago 7 (6 INT, 1 Fumble)

4t      Cincinnati      7 (5 INT, 2 Fumble)

4t      Cleveland       7 (5 INT, 2 Fumble)

4t      Denver  7 (4 INT, 3 Fumble)

4t      Pittsburgh      7 (7 INT)

4t      St. Louis       7 (5 INT, 2 Fumble)

4t      Seattle 7 (5 INT, 2 Fumble)


Couldn’t squeeze this funny little conversation I had with 49ers coach Jim Tomsula into our Cardinals’ coverage this past week, so I’ll share it with you here.

We got Tomsula on a conference call and toward the end of the interview session, I wanted to ask him about the field conditions at Levi’s Stadium, site of Super Bowl 50 and where the turf had been so bad the team had to cancel practices during training camp and keep trying installing new turf.

Thanks to Evergreen Turf out of Chandler, the 49ers’ problem was solved.

Here’s how the exchange went down:

Me: “How’s the field holding up?”

Tomsula: “Up here? It’s fantastic. Where’d we get it? From down there?”

Me: “Yeah. … You’re welcome.”

Tomsula: “Was that from down there in Arizona?

Me: “It certainly was.”

Tomsula: “All right, well, I’ll tell you what. There you go. That was nice. Beautiful surface. We’ve got a great field, guys, up here too.

“I understand you guys got some new turf.”

Me: “We did?”

Tomsula: “I don’t know. That’s what I heard.”

Me: “Did we get it from you? I hope not.”

Tomsula: “You know, I think we had to go from one place in Arizona to another to get turf. … Nah, I’m just teasing. Our turf is fantastic. We’re in a great place with that.”

Fun guy, Tomsula. Looking forward to his next conference call later this season.


Running back Andre Ellington and left guard Mike Iupati were inactive for the Cardinals on Sunday for their game against the 49ers.

Ellington, bothered by a sprained posterial cruciate ligament, had been listed as doubtful and Iupati, recovering from surgery to repair damaged meniscus, was questionable.

Other inactives for the Cardinals were quarterback Matt Barkley, wide receiver J.J. Nelson, linebacker Shaq Riddick, tackle D.J. Humphries, and nose tackle Xavier Williams.

49ers running back Reggie Bush didn’t make the trip because of a calf strain he suffered in a Week 1 victory against the Vikings. Other San Francisco inactives were wide receiver Bruce Ellington, cornerback Shareece Wright, offensive lineman Ian Silberman, nose tackle Mike Purcell and  tight end Vance McDonald.

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Matt Cassel has had a well-traveled NFL career, but it appears his most recent destination could be his favorite.

The journeyman quarterback was traded to the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday from the Buffalo Bills, and he’s enthused with his new start in Dallas.

“I’m excited about a new start, obviously,” Cassel told the Star-Telegram.

Cassel’s opportunity in Dallas comes after he was the clear loser in the Bills’ quarterback competition over the summer — failing to beat out starter Tyrod Taylor and backup EJ Manuel.

While the 33-year-old veteran will be playing for his fifth team, he said the Cowboys hold a special place in his heart.

“It’s great to be wanted. It’s been a childhood dream of mine to be a Cowboy, honestly. My father grew up in West Texas, in Lubbock, and I’ve got family here, and I grew up a Dallas Cowboy fan all my life. So to actually have it come true finally and actually be here is a dream come true, and I’m really excited about it,” Cassel said.

Cassel will serve as Brandon Weeden’s backup, while starter Tony Romo recovers from a fractured left collarbone. He most likely will start Week 3 as the No. 3 QB behind Kellen Moore while Cassel familiarizes himself with the Dallas playbook.

Don’t be surprised if the newly acquired quarterback eventually takes the reigns as the Cowboys’ starter while Romo is on injured reserve/designated to return. The veteran has had an up-and-down career since he went 10-5 in 2008 as the Patriots’ starter when Tom Brady went down with a torn ACL. Will see if the fifth time is the charm for the journeyman QB.

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This is kind of … scratch that. It’s really ridiculous.

But ESPN Radio’s Jon (Stugotz) Weiner flat-out said on “The Dan Le Batard Show” that Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh is going to be the next coach of the Indianapolis Colts, where Chuck Pagano is in trouble after just two games(Tampa Bay Lightning #91 Steven Stamkos Black ).

You know, now that Harbaugh has U-M back on top, his work in Ann Arbor apparently is done.

“I pride myself on seeing things before others see it, and I’m telling you right now, he is going to break Michigan’s heart,” Stugotz said. “I’m telling you, Chuck Pagano is out at Indianapolis. There is no way Jim Harbaugh is going to pass up the chance to, a.) get back in the NFL, and b.) coach Andrew Luck in the NFL.

“Jim Harbaugh, next season, will be the Colts’ head coach.”

• Related: Follow Schrader’s sports oddities in the Ticker

Of course, it’s just radio chatter with no inside knowledge or basis in fact, and it was greeted with laughter in the studio, from Le Batard and the Miami Herald’s Greg Cote.

But it comes after started the ball rolling while the Colts were losing on “Monday Night Football,” tweeting: “Is there a dollar figure for which Jim Harbaugh would leave Michigan for the Colts after one year, and would Jim Irsay offer it?”

And rumors linking Harbaugh to NFL jobs aren’t going to go away as long as he’s at U-M. It’s like Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and the NBA, the difference being that Harbaugh has proved he can coach in the NFL.

“Yeah, it’s definitely possible, because if he continues to have success at the college game, which I anticipate is going to happen … he’s going to continue to get looks,” analyst Derek Rackley said of the Harbaugh-NFL infatuation at

“He’s always going to get looks because he had a ton of success when he was in the National Football League with the 49ers. … And he didn’t go out because he was coaching a bad football team. He went out because of differences between he and the front office.”

Yeah, Harbaugh had his problems with 49ers owner Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke. And David Fucillo of compares it to the Colts’ current dynamic with Pagano, Irsay and GM Ryan Grigson.

“It is not an apples-to-apples comparison because I think Jim Harbaugh is a better coach than Chuck Pagano, but it is certainly a thing at this point,” Fucillo writes. “… This Colts situation may bring us full circle on Harbaugh. This is just one tweet, but if the Colts struggles continue, you just know Harbaugh’s name is going to show up in the mix for the Colts job.”

The reason Harbaugh seems like a good fit for the Colts is that Harbaugh was their quarterback before Peyton Manning, back in 1994-97, and the QB he coached at Stanford, Luck, succeeded Manning.

So if Pagano is out, as expected, and owner Irsay wants a big-name replacement, as has been reported, Harbaugh fills the bill.

On the other hand, if Irsay wants to poach one of our guys, a “name” coach with Colts ties, what about the Detroit Lions’ Jim Caldwell, who took them to Super Bowl XLVIII?