NFL Nation: 2013 Week 4 NFL Buzz

NEW ORLEANS -- Observed in the locker room after the New Orleans Saints' 38-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins:

Don’t eat the cheese: One of Sean Payton’s favorite mantras was heard often from players this week: “Don’t eat the cheese.” In other words, don’t fall into the trap of overconfidence. Clearly, it still applies -- at least with Drew Brees, who wasn’t satisfied with his performance. Brees said the Saints' offense still missed too many opportunities and hasn’t played its best game yet.

Jersey swap: A cool moment postgame when Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis and Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace swapped their game jerseys on the field as souvenirs. It was the first time these two lifelong friends from New Orleans played against each other as opponents.

Injury watch: Lewis was in and out of the game with a leg strain but insisted it’s nothing major. Meanwhile, receiver Lance Moore admitted it was tough to miss out on the offensive fireworks with a hand injury. He didn’t specify how long he’ll be out but said it just needs time to heal and hopes it’s sooner rather than later.

Galette unimpressed: The Saints torched Miami’s offensive line with four second-half sacks. Then the onslaught continued postgame, with Saints linebacker Junior Galette's harsh words. “I wish we could play them again so I could tee off on them again,” said the always-animated Galette, who said he was fired up because the Dolphins’ linemen were talking trash even while they were down big. “I didn’t think that team was as good as everybody was saying. ... I think we know who the real 3-0 team was.”

Locker Room Buzz: Miami Dolphins

October, 1, 2013
NEW ORLEANS -- Observed in the locker room after the Miami Dolphins' 38-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints:

Somber room: It was the first loss for Miami (3-1), so this was as quiet as the locker room has been all season. This game wasn’t a fluke. The Dolphins knew afterward they were beaten by a better team. Miami players and coaches admitted they were outplayed for four quarters.

Protection issues: Miami’s pass protection -- or lack thereof -- was a major topic during the postgame news conference and locker room interviews. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked four times. He continues to take a beating and is the most sacked quarterback in the NFL after four weeks with 18. Tannehill needs to stay upright and healthy if the Dolphins want to have a successful season. “We have to be better,” Dolphins right tackle Tyson Clabo said. “Obviously, [Tannehill’s] health is of the utmost importance to us.”

Looking ahead: Several players in the locker room said they’re already looking ahead to the next game. Coming off a short week, the Dolphins will host the Baltimore Ravens (2-2) at Sun Life Stadium. Miami’s character will be tested after suffering a blowout loss. Can the Dolphins bounce back from defeat? “We can’t dwell on what happened,” Miami cornerback Brent Grimes said. “Nobody is happy with it, from the players, down to the coaches. You just have to move on to the next game.”

Locker Room Buzz: New England Patriots

September, 30, 2013
ATLANTA -- Observed in the locker room after the New England Patriots' 30-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome:

Physical football the key: The final player to conduct interviews in the locker room was running back LeGarrette Blount, and, to a degree, the bruising 250-pound running back epitomized the team's offensive approach. "We wanted to be physical," he said of the Patriots' power running game. Blount said coach Bill Belichick had stressed that message to players early in the week. In a cramped locker room, it was Blount, fellow running back Stevan Ridley and several offensive linemen who drew big media crowds.

Mostly positive despite near-collapse: While quarterback Tom Brady didn't seem overly enthused, perhaps because of the way the offense couldn't close things out, one player said it was mostly a positive message from Belichick to the players. "Hey, we're 4-0. And we had a lot of doubters out there," one Patriot said, pointing out that the author in this space was one of them. In his postgame news conference, Belichick said: "I'm really proud of the way our team played. They made a good example of what it takes to win in this league, and that's 60 minutes of good football."

Talib's play draws raves: The first player whom media members swarmed was cornerback Aqib Talib, whose pass breakup in the end zone on fourth down sealed the win. Belichick raved about his performance, saying Talib has played well going all the way back to spring camps.

Wilfork's status a natural concern: Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork's wife, Bianca, attends almost every road game, and Belichick was seen speaking with her after the game. Naturally, the Patriots are concerned after Wilfork was carted to the locker room in the first quarter. Wilfork was later spotted with a protective boot over his right foot.

Locker Room Buzz: Atlanta Falcons

September, 30, 2013
ATLANTA -- Observed in the locker room after the Atlanta Falcons' 30-23 loss to the New England Patriots:

Ryan remains optimistic: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is not used to seeing a 1-3 record. As down as he was about Sunday's loss to the Patriots, Ryan tried to keep a positive outlook. "We all understand where we're at," Ryan said. "Obviously, it's not where we want to be. We certainly would like to be sitting in a different position, but we are where we are. We know we've got a long haul in front of us. Twelve more games to go. A lot can happen during that time, but our mindset has to be on next week."

Questionable call: Safety William Moore wasn't the least bit pleased with being flagged for a hit to the head on Patriots receiver Kenbrell Thompkins in the fourth quarter. It helped set up a Patriots touchdown. "I totally don't agree with it," Moore said. "Just playing [the] ball. It's going to be a huge fine, them saying he was defenseless. I was just playing football, man." Moore was asked if he felt he hit Thompkins' head. "Not at all," Moore said. "I actually tried my best to not hit a defenseless player and make it as legal as I could."

Red zone woes: Once again, the Falcons struggled in the red zone. They were 1-for-6 in terms of red zone efficiency. The lone touchdown was Tony Gonzalez's 11-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. "You've got to be able to put up points, and we should," said Gonzalez, who finished with 149 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Quite a fight: Julio Jones complained to the officials during the game about the physical play of Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib, who talked trash to Jones the entire game. Talib got the last word in helping limit Jones to six catches despite being targeted 13 times. "I've just got to go out there and play football," Jones said of the battle with Talib. "It could have been some calls, but they didn't call them. It is what it is."
SAN DIEGO -- Observed in the locker room after the San Diego Chargers' 30-21 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Fast-talking McCoy: Still wired from the win, San Diego coach Mike McCoy did not take too many breaths in between words at the podium after this one.

So does McCoy always talk that fast?

“My wife tells me, 'yes,' ” McCoy joked. “But I’m a little excited, too, so it’s a good reason to talk fast. ... There’s nothing like winning, so I’ll probably talk fast all night.”

A team-defining win: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers said Sunday’s win over the Cowboys is the type of victory that can help create an identity for his team. “These are the kind of wins that kind of define your character, your personality, your identity,” he said.

Redemption for Butler: Reserve cornerback Crezdon Butler gave up the winning score against Tennessee last week, a 34-yard touchdown reception by Titans rookie receiver Justin Hunter. Butler redeemed himself on Sunday, forcing Dallas rookie receiver Terrance Williams to cough up the ball at the goal line late in the game to help preserve a win. Butler’s teammate Richard Marshall recovered the fumble.

“It feels good,” Butler said. “Last week was tough, and I had to move on from that. Being a defensive back you have to have a short-term memory, and it was time to move on. I’m glad I made that play today.”

A strong finish: After giving up two fourth-quarter leads in the first three games, the Chargers finally finished strong, scoring 20 unanswered points to put the game away. San Diego linebacker Reggie Walker said his team can build on Sunday’s effort.

“It’s a thing that was kind of being held over our heads, not finishing,” Walker said. “And then we went in there and finally finished a game, which is awesome.”

Locker Room Buzz: New York Jets

September, 29, 2013
NASHVILLE -- Observed in the locker room after the New York Jets' 38-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans:

Steamed Rex: Rex Ryan was furious, and he didn't mince words. He began his postgame news conference by saying they were beaten in every phase, including coaching. He added, "It shocked me. I never expected that the game would turn out like this. Shocked. I don't know what else to say." He wasn't overly critical of rookie quarterback Geno Smith, instead spreading the blame everywhere.

Growing pains: Before the media was allowed in the locker room, Smith approached individual players and, according to linebacker Antwan Barnes, told each one, "It won't happen again." Minutes later, Smith faced reporters, calling his four-turnover day a "piss-poor" performance. Later, Smith was seen walking to the team bus, limping noticeably on his still-tender right ankle. He was staring at his smartphone as he walked through the bowels of the stadium.

Silent treatment: Santonio Holmes and Calvin Pace, two of the so-called leaders on the team, left the locker room without talking to reporters. Holmes, who injured his right hamstring, was limping. Pace wasn't injured; he just put on his headphones and bolted past reporters, none too eager to discuss an awful defensive performance. You expect veteran players to face the music after a humiliating loss.

Locker Room Buzz: Dallas Cowboys

September, 29, 2013
SAN DIEGO -- Observed in the locker room after the Dallas Cowboys' 30-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Momentum lost: The Cowboys felt like they were ready to turn a corner after last week’s win against St. Louis, but they were unable to come up with back-to-back wins when they could have kept separation in an NFC East that is there for the taking.

“It’s frustrating,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “We want to be a consistent team that wins week in and week out, and we haven’t been for two years. And right now we’re not. We’re an average football team. Until we start winning consistently that’s what we’re going to be.”

Missing an option: Rookie Terrance Williams took over Miles Austin’s role as the No. 2 receiver and finished with seven catches for 71 yards, surpassing what had been his season totals in catches and yards, but he had a drop in the first quarter and a fumble at the goal line in the fourth quarter.

Austin did not play because of a hamstring injury, and it’s not known when he will be back, even though Jason Garrett said the injury was not as severe as some of the strains Austin has suffered in the past.

“Miles is a great football player,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “Whenever you don’t have him, it’s always going to be tougher. Saying that, it’s a part of the game. Miles knows that. Same thing when I got hurt. You’ve got to be able to find a way to win football games.”

Another injury for Ware: DeMarcus Ware has been bothered by stingers through the early part of the season, but that wasn’t an issue for him Sunday. A back strain was.

Ware said he pulled a muscle in his back in the first series of the game, and was in and out of the lineup for most of the game. He was held without a sack despite an inexperienced defensive line. He said he would not need an MRI for the injury.

“A little bit,” Ware said when asked how much it affected his play, “but if you get out there, you’ve got to play and do what you’ve got to do.”

Locker Room Buzz: Denver Broncos

September, 29, 2013
DENVER -- Observed in the locker room after the Denver Broncos' 52-20 win against the Philadelphia Eagles:

Catch their breath: Because of Trindon Holliday's 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the Broncos' defense actually found themselves on the field for 25 consecutive plays from scrimmage against the Eagles' fast-break offense, and the Eagles came away with just two field goals on the two drives. It was a section of the game that might have turned the tide. “Our guys went through a tough stretch there and answered the bell,’’ Broncos coach John Fox said.

Regular week: The Broncos opened the season on a Thursday night, then faced the Eagles just six days after a Monday night win over Oakland. This week will be the first “normal’’ game week of the season. “And I think that could be a good thing to get settled in some,’’ cornerback Champ Bailey said.

Williams a no-go: For the first time this season, Broncos’ first-round pick Sylvester Williams was a game-day inactive on Sunday. Williams had played just eight snaps on defense against the Raiders on Monday night. But Fox said the decision was "no offense,'' that the team wanted more defensive backs in the lineup against the Eagles' three-wide look and kept 10 active for the game.

Close not enough: Cornerback Champ Bailey (left foot) was inactive for the fourth time this season -- the first time he’s missed four consecutive games since the ’08 season. Bailey continues to say he’s close. He said Sunday the team’s winning ways have made it slightly, just slightly, easier to take. “When I’m ready to play, I’ll play. Winning makes everything easier. I’m still really focused on what’s good for my body, but yeah through the process I’m glad we’re winning.’’

Locker Room Buzz: Washington Redskins

September, 29, 2013

OAKLAND -- Seen and heard in the locker room after the Washington Redskins' 24-14 victory against the Oakland Raiders:

Relief: The Redskins were upbeat, but they did not go overboard with giddiness after winning their first game of the season. There were plenty of smiles, but the emphasis was the same as it was when they had success last year: It’s just one (needed) win. But perhaps what summed everything up was the fierce spike by receiver Pierre Garcon after his go-ahead touchdown. “That was three weeks of frustration,” Garcon said.

Pain: Redskins running back Alfred Morris left the game in the second half with a rib contusion, but coach Mike Shanahan said Morris did not suffer any breaks. Morris dressed slowly and was unable to talk afterward; he was on medication. Morris finished with 71 yards on 16 carries. Also, tight end Logan Paulsen left the locker room wearing a brace on his left knee.

Family affair: Running back Roy Helu picked a good time to have his best game of the season. Helu grew up in Danville, Calif., and had 50 family members and friends in attendance. Helu was not on the hook for all those tickets, though he did buy a handful. Helu gave them a highlight when he hurdled a Raiders defender after a catch. “I just went for it,” Helu said.

Big time: David Amerson's 45-yard interception return for a touchdown cut the deficit to 14-10 and was a game-changing play. It was his first career interception. “It was like a dream come true,” Amerson said. “To get your first interception in the league and have it be a pick-six, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Locker Room Buzz: Philadelphia Eagles

September, 29, 2013
DENVER -- Seen and heard in the Philadelphia Eagles' locker room immediately after their 52-20 loss to the Denver Broncos:

Breathless: LeSean McCoy didn’t have the wind knocked out of him in the first half. He just didn’t have any wind to begin with. “I couldn’t breathe,” McCoy said. “I needed the oxygen mask. I didn’t adapt to the weather until the second half. I couldn’t breathe at all.” So much for the Eagles’ pregame belief that the altitude wouldn’t affect them.

Response time: Chip Kelly doesn’t know how his players will react to a 32-point embarrassment, their third loss in a row. “I’ll really be able to answer that question Tuesday when we get back on the practice field,” Kelly said. “If we’re hanging our heads and feeling sorry for ourselves, I’ll say we didn’t have any progress.”

Peyton Manning is really good: That is obvious from the 37-year-old quarterback’s record-breaking start. But the Eagles spent about three hours discovering firsthand just how good, how smart and how accurate Manning is. “There’s no question you’re frustrated,” cornerback Cary Williams said. “Four teams have tried to stop them,” Kelly said. “They haven’t yet.”

The NFC East looks like home: After three losses to AFC West teams, the Eagles get their NFC East rivals, the New York Giants, next week. "It's a must-win game," Williams said.

Locker Room Buzz: Tennessee Titans

September, 29, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Tennessee Titans' 38-13 victory against the New York Jets at LP Field:

Somber: The Titans were thrilled with the victory but scared at the prospect of a serious injury for Jake Locker, who injured his right hip in the third quarter, was carted off the field and eventually went to the hospital. According to offensive coordinator Dowel Loggains, Locker’s father, Scott, was at the game and went with him to St. Thomas Hospital, where he had an MRI.

Milestone: Nate Washington was an undrafted free agent out of tiny Tiffin University when he came into the NFL as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now he has more than 5,000 receiving yards. He said it meant a great deal to him. He caught touchdown passes from both Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick and said he intended to give one ball to his mom and keep one for his trophy case. Check out my Instagram feed for a picture of them sitting behind him in his locker.

Better injury news: Tight end Delanie Walker was a game-time decision with a bum toe. He played and caught the first of Locker's three touchdown passes. Later, Walker took a shot to the ribs that was a concern. Team doctor Burton Elrod approached Walker after the game and told him he had six broken ribs through a giant smile that gave away he was joking and Walker had checked out fine.

Locker Room Buzz: Buffalo Bills

September, 29, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Observed in the locker room after the Buffalo Bills' 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens:

Explaining late-game tension: With 57 seconds remaining, the Bills opted to take a knee three times to burn Baltimore's three timeouts. Ravens defenders, still playing with an edge, broke through the line and tried to disrupt the kneel-downs, resulting in a Courtney Upshaw penalty on the third play. Bills coach Doug Marrone said EJ Manuel was trying to take extra time off the clock by not kneeling right away, something that Ravens coach John Harbaugh said should have been done more quickly. Harbaugh said he was disappointed that Terrell Suggs didn't cause a fumble and that he "did the right thing." Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who was on the sideline for the series, said that Manuel was "clearly" taking a knee and that he should be treated as a defenseless player.

Spiller, Jackson hobbled: The status of both members of the Bills' two-headed rushing attack may be up in the air for Thursday in Cleveland. C.J. Spiller, who only ran twice after returning from an ankle injury, was limping around the locker room after the game. He said X-rays revealed no structural damage to his ankle and that he believes it is just a sprain. Meanwhile, Fred Jackson said he sprained his MCL, the same injury he had last season, but that it is "less significant" and he expects to play Thursday.

Easley limping: The Bills can't afford more injuries, but receiver Marcus Easley also was limping around the locker room after the game. Like the pair of running backs, Easley came back into the game after being hurt, but on a limited basis. The short week may put his status against the Browns in jeopardy. Easley has emerged as a special-teams presence and has filled in at kick returner in Marquise Goodwin's absence.

Locker Room Buzz: Baltimore Ravens

September, 29, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Observed in the locker room after the Baltimore Ravens' 23-20 loss at the Buffalo Bills:

Taking accountability: Coach John Harbaugh was the first of many to shoulder the blame for the upset loss. "We didn't play well. We didn't play well at all," Harbaugh said. "I will take responsibility for that. It was a poor performance." But Harbaugh added this: "The team we’re going to be two months from now is not the team we are right now." He was shocked by the team's play, especially after a good week of practice.

Taking accountability, Part II: Joe Flacco also put much of the loss on him after he threw a career-worst five interceptions. He was visibly disappointed in his play but he wasn't beating himself up over the mistakes. "We're definitely going to get better but a lot of that falls on me today ... just throwing the ball to the wrong team," he said. "If we don't do that, this game looks a little different."

Abandoning the run: The Ravens only ran the ball twice in the second half despite never trailing by more than two scores. But there was no one griping about the pass-heavy game plan. "We got behind," said running back Ray Rice, who indicated he came out of the game healthy. "When you get behind, you can't pound the rock. You can't do it. We had to find a way to score quick."

Injury report: Cornerback Lardarius Webb (thigh) left in the second quarter and didn't return. Already without two receivers -- Jacoby Jones (knee) and Brandon Stokley (groin) -- the Ravens had two more get banged up. Marlon Brown has a thigh injury and Deonte Thompson has a concussion.

Locker Room Buzz: Houston Texans

September, 29, 2013
HOUSTON -- Observed in the locker room after the Houston Texans' 23-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Watt angry: J.J. Watt had bruises on his face, six stitches across the bridge of his nose, dried blood on his hands and pants and a fixed glare staring at nothing as he addressed reporters. Never one to dodge the media like a few Texans did, Watt wanted to get his interview out of the way before showering. "I can't freaking stand losing," Watt said, looking furious at a game that slipped away late. "... Nobody likes to lose, especially like this in your own building." After the questions stopped, Watt turned into his locker and threw something down with an emphatic thud.

Jackson confused: For the second straight home game, cornerback Kareem Jackson bemoaned a penalty called on him in overtime when the official called him for unnecessary roughness, picking a player up before taking him down. "Horrible, horrible, horrible," Jackson said. Jackson said he didn't know what the flag was for and his intention was to just stop the receiver.

Support for Schaub: Texans defensive end Antonio Smith, Jackson, running back Arian Foster and receiver Andre Johnson all expressed support for Matt Schaub, who has thrown interceptions returned for touchdowns in the past three games.

Locker Room Buzz: Minnesota Vikings

September, 29, 2013
LONDON -- Observed in the locker room following the Minnesota Vikings' 34-27 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers:

Frazier relieved: The relief on typically even-keeled Vikings coach Leslie Frazier's face was obvious after Minnesota avoided its third last-minute collapse in as many weeks. "I think I'll always have a special place in my heart for Wembley Stadium, along with London," Frazier said. "This has been a great week for our football team. And then to finish it with a win, I'm just so proud of our football team. So thank you, London." Frazier said the noise at Wembley -- helped both by 83,518 fans and the stadium's thumping sound system -- felt at times like a Vikings home game in Minnesota, and as big a believer as the coach is in experiences like this to help a team grow closer, he was clearly riding the energy of finishing the week with a win. "There's a sense of relief, for sure," Frazier said. "We've had some tough losses. For whatever reason it didn't work out for us. So to come away with a win in the fashion that we did, that many miles from home, I'm just so proud of our coaches to get these guys prepared."

Smith baffled by penalty: Safety Harrison Smith was flagged for unnecessary roughness after he hit Steelers tight end Heath Miller with his helmet in the second quarter, but Smith said he wasn't sure where else he could have hit Miller, knowing the veteran missed all but one game last year because of a knee injury. "As a player, as a fan, I know that," Smith said. "I don't want to hit him in the knee. I want to hit him in a good area. I tried to keep my head out of it. I didn't launch. I don't really know what else to do. There was a play later where I hit him lower, and I didn't want to do it, but I had to. I'm trying to win the game. I don't really know what else to do in that situation." It appeared Miller lowered his head on the collision, which left Smith with little area to work. "They've told us, 'Even if they lower their head, and you make contact with the helmet, that's a fine.' But that's pretty unreasonable, in my opinion."

High on Wembley: The Vikings were bound to feel better about their London experience after leaving with a win, but players were gushing about their experience at the massive stadium before leaving it on Sunday night. "I thought it was going to be split, maybe some NFL fans that came kind of for the show," Smith said. "But it really felt like a home game out there. There was a great crowd interaction and getting loud on third down, getting excited for us. It was quite a sight out there."

Receivers running after the catch: Matt Cassel threw for 248 yards in his debut with the Vikings, but he was helped by his receivers' ability to gain yards after the catch; Jerome Simpson turned a pass over the middle into a 51-yard gain, and Greg Jennings' first touchdown came on a 5-yard throw the receiver took 65 more for a score. "That's probably the best play in football for the quarterback," Cassel said. "It makes your job a lot easier. We preach on that, being strong with the ball, run after the catch and they did a great job."