Dec 12, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arians to coach Sunday; more Buccaneers might return, too

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have their head coach back when they play the Jets in New York on Sunday, as the Bucs announced Saturday that Bruce Arians had cleared COVID-19 protocol.

Arians, as well as wide receivers coach Kevin Garver, had spent most of the week in isolation before being cleared to return Saturday.

The Buccaneers (11-4) also might see the return of cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting, as both players were activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and are listed as questionable for the game.

Fellow cornerback Richard Sherman is listed as doubtful with an Achilles tendon injury.

Four players were elevated from the practice squad: punter Sterling Hofrichter and outside linebacker Elijah Ponder (standard elevation), as well as running back Kenjon Barner and wide receiver Cyril Grayson (COVID-19 replacements).

For the Jets, cornerback Bryce Hall has been activated from the COVID list and will be eligible to return for a secondary that has struggled with youth this season.

The Jets (4-11) also elevated defensive end Ronnie Blair, tight end Dan Brown, wide receiver D.J. Montgomery and cornerback Lamar Jackson.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets cornerback Javelin Guidry (40) breaks up a pass intended for Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marvin Jones (11) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Jets’ young secondary faces tough test vs. Tom Brady, Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a wild-card team last postseason, never enjoying home-field advantage until they won Super Bowl LV at their home digs. This year, they already know their path to a repeat will be a bit easier.

The Buccaneers locked up the NFC South with their most recent win, and with two weeks to go, all that’s left is for them to jockey for the conference’s No. 1 overall playoff seed. That begins Sunday when they visit the rebuilding New York Jets.

“Having been through the playoffs last year, playing three road games leading up to the Super Bowl, kind of gives all of us confidence that we’re going to get things figured out,” tight end Cameron Brate said.

Tampa Bay (11-4) put its division away Sunday with its handy 32-6 win at the Carolina Panthers, a nice rebound from its 9-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints the week before. Tom Brady threw for 232 yards and a touchdown, Antonio Brown hauled in 10 catches for 101 yards and second-year running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn had a breakout game with 70 yards and a score on seven carries.

Now Brady gets to face a struggling team he’s historically picked on during his New England Patriots days. Brady is 29-7 all-time against the Jets (4-11), marking the second-most wins he has earned against a single opponent.

How New York’s inexperienced secondary handles the future Hall of Famer will go a long way in determining Sunday’s outcome. The Jets’ pass defense ranks 28th in the NFL at 250 yards per game. Every cornerback who has started at least one game for the Jets this season — including 2021 draft picks Michael Carter II, Jason Pinnock and Brandin Echols — is 22 to 24 years old.

“I think I was in the womb when (Brady) was in college or something like that,” Pinnock said. “But this is Tom Brady. It’s a tremendous opportunity. I’m a young guy, (going) against a wise old GOAT. Looking forward to it.”

Coaching figures to be an X-factor, too. The Jets did not have Robert Saleh on the sidelines for Sunday’s 26-21 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars while the first-year coach battled COVID-19. But Saleh and six players, most notably starting defensive linemen John Franklin-Myers and Folorunso Fatukasi, returned Wednesday from stints in COVID protocol.

On the flip side, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced this week that coach Bruce Arians tested positive for COVID-19. They also placed starting cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting on the reserve/COVID list.

Harold Goodwin, Tampa Bay’s assistant head coach and run game coordinator, is running the team in Arians’ absence, including if Arians is unable to return in time for Sunday.

“We’ve always said ‘next man up,’ so when one man goes down, another guy’s got to rise to the occasion,” Goodwin said. “And for a player, as a competitor, you want to do well. And so far so good — knock on wood — we’ve had those guys step in and do a nice job.”

The Bucs’ absences extend past the coronavirus. Linebacker Shaq Barrett landed on the injury report with a knee injury suffered in Sunday’s game. Barrett, fellow linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder), safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (foot) and defensive back Richard Sherman (Achilles) did not practice Wednesday. Brown (ankle) was limited.

For the Jets, receiver Jamison Crowder (calf) did not participate in practice. Defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins (knee) also sat out, but Saleh said it was a scheduled day off to rest his knee.

–Field Level Media

Dec 2, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill (7) against Dallas Cowboys defensive end Tarell Basham (93) during the first half at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Jets, Saints both hope ‘rough’ times are behind them

The New Orleans Saints have lost five games in a row and the New York Jets have lost four of five.

Both teams will try to snap out of their slumps when they meet Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.

But both the Saints (5-7) and the Jets (3-9) have been significantly hampered by a series of injuries to key players.

The Saints’ last win came on Halloween in a 36-27 victory against Tampa Bay in which quarterback Jameis Winston suffered a season-ending knee injury.

The first four losses of this streak came with Trevor Siemian starting in Winston’s place. Taysom Hill, who had been sidelined by a concussion and a foot injury, started the last game, suffered a ligament injury in the middle finger of his throwing hand and played through it in a 27-17 home loss to Dallas on Dec. 2.

Hill threw four interceptions, three of which came on successive fourth-quarter possessions. He also ran for a career-high 101 yards.

“All the positives were overshadowed by the turnovers,” said Hill, who was a full participant in practice Wednesday.

Head coach Sean Payton didn’t say that Hill will start against the Jets, but that seems likely.

“I was pretty comfortable making all of the throws today,” Hill said after practice. “I was encouraged, but it’s still a work in progress.”

So is the offense, as seven starters have been sidelined by injury. Left tackle Terron Armstead and star running back Alvin Kamara returned to practice on a full-time basis Wednesday. At the same time, backup running back Mark Ingram II was added to the reserve/COVID-19 list, where he joined defensive end Cameron Jordan.

“We had a tough stretch, (but) it’s behind us,” Payton said. “No one’s going to be upset or feel sorry for you. We have to be able to pick ourselves up here and get ready to play some good football in this last five-week stretch of the season.”

The Jets had eight players who did not participate in practice Wednesday — on top of wide receiver Corey Davis, who will miss the rest of the season after aggravating a core-muscle injury during a 33-18 loss to Philadelphia last week.

They have 15 players on injured reserve and eight veteran free agents they signed during the offseason are now out for the rest of the season.

“This organization has been through a rough time over the last 10 years,” first-year coach Robert Saleh said. “It’s not something that’s easy to fix. It’s not easy to change the narrative. It’s not easy to change the perception.”

New York ranks last in the NFL in scoring defense, total defense and passing defense in addition to being 30th in run defense.

“We have to change the narrative by our play,” defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi added. “Our level of play has to rise and continue to strive to do better.”

Saleh, who was hired after a successful four-year stint as San Francisco’s defensive coordinator, took responsibility for fixing the defense.

“I do look at coaches to get this fixed,” Saleh said.

The Jets allowed an average of 24.2 points during the first five games, but have allowed an average of 35.1 since, including games of 54, 45 and 45 points. In the last three games, though, the average has been 23.7.

“When you’re dealing with a young team,” Saleh said, “there are going to be some ebbs and flows, but we see guys getting better and taking the right steps.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) avoids a tackle by New York Jets outside linebacker Quincy Williams (56) during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Gardner Minshew II carries Eagles past Jets 33-18

Gardner Minshew II threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns in his first start for Philadelphia and Jake Elliott kicked four field goals as the Eagles defeated the New York Jets 33-18 at East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday.

Miles Sanders rushed for 120 yards on 24 carries for the Eagles (6-7), while tight end Dallas Goedert had six receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Elliott connected on field goals from 31, 32, 43 and 46 yards.

Minshew, who was 20-for-25 with no interceptions, was traded to the Eagles by Jacksonville in late August to make way for rookie Trevor Lawrence. He played in place of Jalen Hurts, who sprained his ankle last week.

Zach Wilson finished 23 of 38 for 226 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for the Jets (3-9) in his second game back after missing four games because of a knee injury.

The first six possessions of the game, three by each team, resulted in touchdowns. But the Eagles led 21-18 in the second quarter once that flurry ended after the Jets failed on all three conversions (two missed kicks, one pass failed).

New York wide receivers Ryan Griffin (ankle) and Corey Davis (groin) both left the game with injuries. Philadelphia center Jason Kelce (leg) left in the fourth quarter.

New York’s Braxton Berrios returned the opening kickoff 79 yards to the Eagles’ 21 to set up Wilson’s 3-yard scoring pass on a slant to Elijah Moore for a 6-0 lead.

Philadelphia answered as Minshew found a wide-open Goedert for a 36-yard score and a 7-6 advantage. The Jets responded with an 11-play, 68-yard drive, capped by Wilson’s 1-yard sneak. Alex Kessman’s second missed PAT left New York with a 12-7 lead with 3:18 remaining in the first quarter.

Minshew then went 5 of 5 for 64 yards on an eight-play, 69-yard drive that ended with another scoring pass to Goedert, this one for 25 yards, to put the Eagles up 14-12.

After Griffin’s touchdown restored the Jets’ lead, Kenneth Gainwell burst over left guard and scored on an 8-yard run to give Philadelphia a 21-18 advantage with 4:30 to go in the first half.

After the Jets went three-and-out, Philadelphia got a 31-yard field goal from Elliott with 19 seconds left to take a 24-18 lead into halftime. Elliott finished the scoring with three second-half field goals.

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Salvon Ahmed (26) runs with the football against the New York Giants during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Dolphins shut down injury-plagued Giants

Tua Tagovailoa passed for 244 yards and two touchdowns, leading the host Miami Dolphins to their fifth straight win, a 20-9 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon.

Rookie Jaelan Phillips had two of the three sacks by the Dolphins (6-7), who held an opponent without a touchdown for the second time in five weeks. The other such showing was a 17-9 win over the Houston Texans on Nov. 7. Miami has also held five straight opponents under 20 points.

Tagovailoa completed 30-of-41 passes with no interceptions. Dolphins rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle had nine catches for 90 yards before leaving the game early in the fourth quarter due to leg cramps.

Another Dolphins receiver, DeVante Parker, returned for the first time since Halloween, catching five passes on five targets for 62 yards. He had missed four straight games and seven of eight.

The Giants (4-8) struggled on offense without three injured standouts: quarterback Daniel Jones (neck) and wide receivers Kadarius Toney (oblique) and Sterling Shepard (quad).

Giants backup QB Mike Glennon completed 23-of-44 passes for 187 yards and one interception.

Giants running back Saquon Barkley rushed 11 times for 55 yards.

New York, though, led early, 3-0, on Graham Gano’s 39-yard field goal in the second quarter.

But Miami rallied to take a 10-3 into halftime as Jason Sanders booted a 48-yard field goal before Tagovailoa threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Mack Hollins, who made a juggling catch in the back-left corner of the end zone with just 26 seconds left before the break.

Tagovailoa went 11-of-12 on that drive and 21-of-25 for 137 yards for the first half.

On New York’s first possession of the second half, the Giants put together their best drive of the game, a 10-play, 69-yard drive that ended with Gano’s 34-yard field goal.

Miami responded in the fourth quarter with the most important drive of the game, a seven-play, 61-yard march that ended with Tagovailoa’s two-yard bullet TD pass to Isaiah Ford. That gave the Dolphins a 17-6 lead with 11:06 left in the fourth quarter.

After Miami’s Sanders missed a 52-yarder wide right, Gano booted a 51-yard field goal to cut New York’s deficit to 17-9 with 5:04 left.

But Miami clinched the win on Sanders’ 48-yarder with 1:11 left, giving the Dolphins a 20-9 lead.

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Braxton Berrios (10) dives as he is tackled by the Houston Texans in the second quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Jets beat Texans in Zach Wilson’s return from injury

The New York Jets held Houston scoreless in the second half and quarterback Zach Wilson rushed for the go-ahead touchdown in his return to the lineup as the Jets defeated the host Texans 21-14 on Sunday.

Wilson was 14-for-24 for 145 yards with no touchdown passes and one interception after missing four games with a sprained right knee. However, his 4-yard touchdown run in the third quarter put the Jets (3-8) ahead to stay as they broke a three-game skid. Wilson was sacked four times.

Wilson’s run was the only score of the half until Matt Ammendola kicked a 37-yard field goal with 3:34 left to give New York a 21-14 lead. Jets cornerback Bryce Hall broke up a fourth-down pass by Tyrod Taylor on Houston’s next possession.

After the Jets punted the ball back, Houston (2-9) got possession at its own 20 with 20 seconds left but could not move the ball enough.

Taylor finished 17-for-26 for 158 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

New York regained the lead by marching 75 yards in 11 plays after receiving the second-half kickoff. Wilson went 3-for-4 for 35 yards on the drive, which appeared to have ended with a tying 34-yard field goal by Ammendola.

However, Houston’s Ross Blacklock was assessed a leverage penalty for leaping onto the back of a teammate to try to block the kick. That gave the Jets a first down at the Houston 8.

After another penalty on Blacklock, this one for offsides, Wilson ran a read-option play and scored a 4-yard rushing touchdown for an 18-14 lead with 7:51 to go in the third quarter.

Houston went ahead 14-3 in the second quarter on two touchdown passes by Taylor.

The first one, a 13-yarder to Brevin Jordan, erased a 3-0 deficit. It occurred when Taylor beat a full blitz on third down and found a wide-open Jordan over the middle. On the second, Taylor threw deep for a 40-yard score to Brandin Cooks, who beat the Jets’ coverage as Hall was cited for pass interference on the play.

But Wilson and the Jets responded.

Despite having his helmet and trademark headband ripped from his head on one play by Houston’s Jaleel Johnson — good for a 15-yard penalty on the Texans — Wilson drove the Jets 70 yards in 10 plays to a 2-yard touchdown run by Austin Walter, just brought up from the practice squad.

Backup quarterback Josh Johnson’s two-point conversion run reduced the Texans’ lead to 14-11 with 1:13 to go in the first half.

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Philadelphia Eagles punter Arryn Siposs (8) is tackled by New York Giants free safety Xavier McKinney (29) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Giants take advantage of Eagles turnovers to prevail

Daniel Jones passed for 202 yards and a touchdown and the New York Giants forced four turnovers to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles 13-7 Sunday at East Rutherford, N.J.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts threw three interceptions, two of them in the red zone, and Boston Scott lost a fumble with 1:34 left as Philadelphia attempted to mount a game-winning drive.

The Eagles got one more chance with the ball in the final minute, but Jalen Reagor dropped a high pass at the goal line.

The Giants (4-7) won for the third time in their past five games and beat the Eagles (5-7) for the second straight time after Philadelphia had won eight in a row in the series.

In the Giants’ first game since firing offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, senior offensive assistant Freddie Kitchens assumed play-calling duties. The Giants gained 264 yards, 4.6 per play, as Daniel Jones completed 19 of 30 throws and added 30 rushing yards.

Hurts led an Eagles rushing attack that gained 208 yards. He led the team with 77 yards on the ground and threw for 129 on 14-of-31 passing.

Graham Gano got the Giants on the board first with a 35-yard field goal at the end of their second drive. Jones kept that drive going with a successful fourth-and-1 sneak.

Hurts drove Philadelphia to the Giants’ 20-yard line before floating a pass into traffic, which Darnay Holmes intercepted.

Late in the second quarter, the Eagles drove 92 yards to the New York 2. But on third and goal with eight seconds left in the half, Hurts threw a pick straight to Tae Crowder, ensuring the Giants would keep the 3-0 lead at intermission.

Jones found tight end Chris Myarick for a 1-yard touchdown on New York’s first possession of the second half. Diving to the ground, Myarick secured the ball between his knees for his first career reception.

Scott pushed his way in for a touchdown from a yard out on the first play of the fourth quarter, capping a 10-play Eagles drive. They forced a quick three-and-out to get the ball back, but Giants defenders Austin Johnson and Julian Love stuffed Hurts for a sack on third down near midfield.

The Giants chewed up 7:22 of game clock on a 12-play, 70-yard drive but only came away with a field goal Gano converted from 39 yards.

Down six, the Eagles pieced together a comeback drive, but on a carry, the ball popped out of Scott’s hands and right to Love for New York’s fourth takeaway. The Eagles burned their three timeouts to prevent the Giants from bleeding the rest of the clock.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2021; East Rutherford, N.J., USA; New York Jets wide receiver Elijah Moore (8) is stopped from hauling in a 1st half pass by Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones (24) at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Dolphins knock off Jets, 24-17

Tua Tagovailoa threw two touchdown passes, including a tie-breaking one to Myles Gaskin in the fourth quarter, as the Miami Dolphins outlasted the New York Jets 24-17 on Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.

Tagovailoa threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Gaskin, who had slipped out of the backfield on third-and-goal, to give Miami a 21-14 lead with 10:15 left. The drive had been kept alive by a roughing the passer call on New York’s John Franklin-Myers on an earlier third down.

New York’s Joe Flacco went 24-of-39 passing for 291 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He lost a fumble on a strip sack in the red zone and is 0-5 the last two seasons as a starter for the Jets.

Jason Sanders’ 24-yard field goal gave the Dolphins (4-7) a 24-14 lead with 1:57 left after a 12-play, 45-yard drive had stalled at the 1-yard line and Miami had taken a delay of game penalty. New York (2-8) got a 35-yard field goal from Matt Ammendola with 15 seconds left but Miami recovered the onsides kick.

Each team burned the other with a long touchdown pass in the third quarter. Tagovailoa, who was 27-of-33 passing for 273 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, hit Mack Hollins with a 65-yard pass down the left sideline. But the Jets answered later in the quarter when Flacco beat a blitz and threw to Elijah Moore for a 62-yard score to tie it at 14.

The Dolphins scored on their first drive, going 83 yards in 11 plays and scoring on Jaylen Waddle’s 1-yard run on a jet sweep to the left on a direct snap from Gaskin.

The score was set up when third-down back Patrick Laird avoided a tackle by linebacker C.J. Mosley for a 5-yard reception to the 1 to convert a third-and-4. Waddle scored on second down.

The Jets tied the score later in the quarter after second-year safety Ashtyn Davis recorded his first NFL interception, picking off Tagovailoa’s overthrown pass at the Miami 40. Michael Carter ran 39 yards off left tackle on the next play, but it took the Jets four plays to punch it in when Flacco threw to a wide-open Jamison Crowder for a 2-yard touchdown and a 7-7 tie. Carter later left with an ankle injury.

Ammendola missed two earlier attempts, from 55 and 40 yards. Sanders missed from 32 yards, hitting the right upright as time expired in the first half to send the game into intermission tied at 7.

–Field Level Media