Chiefs' Tyrann Mathieu tests positive for COVID-19, could return for Week 1
Mathieu is fully vaccinated, which means he could return to team activities without completing an isolation period of at least 10 days if he produces two negative virus tests taken 24 hours apart. McDowell added Mathieu was asymptomatic as of Wednesday afternoon. In a corresponding roster move, Kansas City re-signed wide receiver Marcus Kemp. For now, Mathieu is on track to be available for the regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns held at Arrowhead Stadium on Sept. 12.
Kansas City Chiefs three-time First-Team All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu has been on the NFL's reserve/COVID-19 list since Sept. 1 after he reportedly tested positive for the virus and hasn't practiced ahead of Sunday's regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns at Arrowhead Stadium. © Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports Kansas City Chiefs free safety Tyrann Mathieu
Per Myles Simmons of Pro Football Talk, Mathieu was once again not spotted at practice Friday. This implies the 29-year-old is, at best, questionable for Sunday's home matchup against what is perceived to be a fellow playoff contender.
Union urges NFL to adopt daily COVID-19 testing for vaccinated players
There’s a decent chance that the COVID-19 pandemic will play more of a role during the 2021 NFL season than last year. We’re seeing relaxed protocols from the league as it relates to fully vaccinated players with Week 1 of the campaign slated to get going Thursday evening. It has already led to some COVID-related issues for teams. That includes star guard Zack Martin and the Dallas Cowboys with their opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers mere days away. Despite being fully vaccinated, Martin tested positive for the virus and will miss the game.NFLPA president JC Tretter of the Cleveland Browns touched on this recently.
Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo suggested Thursday he has a "plan A" and "plan B" depending on Mathieu's status by Sunday afternoon. Multiple previous reports said Mathieu is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, so he can be cleared to return to team activities if he produces two negative virus tests 24 hours apart and isn't dealing with any symptoms.
Daniel Sorensen, Armani Watts and Juan Thornhill will be asked to handle additional duties if Mathieu can't play against a high-powered offense that includes quarterback Baker Mayfield, star running back Nick Chubb and a plethora of impressive pass-catching options.
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Related slideshow: Which NFL teams have allowed the fewest points in the 16-game era? (Provided by Yardbarker)
Which NFL teams have allowed the fewest points in the 16-game era?
Many Super Bowl celebrations have occurred after the assembly of a dominant defense. Even when elite defenses did not produce a title, they have often defined an era for a franchise. Here are the best scoring defenses of the past 42 years. For consistency purposes, we're limiting this to the 16-game season era (1978-present).
Bonus: 1977 Atlanta Falcons
But first, due respect for a 14-game superpower. Atlanta's "Grits Blitz" defense held opponents to 9.2 points per game in 1977. That tops any team's effort in the past 60 years. Operating before the 1978 offense-favoring rule changes aided Atlanta, but these Falcons are a forgotten force. They snared 26 interceptions and allowed just nine touchdown passes. Cornerback Rolland Lawrence picked off seven throws. The Falcons threw relentless pressure at opposing QBs, recovering 41 fumbles, providing a precursor to the Bears' 46 defense. They are forgotten because this offensively limited team only produced a 7-7 record. A fascinating NFL footnote nonetheless.
T-24. 1980 Philadelphia Eagles
The early-'80s Eagles possessed stellar defenses; this one elevated the franchise to its first Super Bowl. The Eagles relied on their top-ranked defense (13.9 points allowed per game) to reach Super Bowl XV. Pro Bowl linebacker Bill Bergey, in his final season, joined Hall of Fame defensive end Claude Humphrey -- a Falcons trade get who had 12.5 sacks in 1980 -- and All-Pro nose tackle Charlie Johnson in leading this 3-4 defense. (Herm Edwards was also a starting corner.) Philly (12-4) allowed seven or fewer points six times and beat both its NFC playoff opponents (Minnesota and Dallas) by at least two scores.
T-24. 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers
Featuring future Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu and Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison, these Steelers led the league in both yards and points (13.9 per game) allowed. This defense carried a 20th-ranked offense to Super Bowl XLIII, and Harrison's 100-yard INT return in the win over the Cardinals remains an all-time NFL sequence. Polamalu's signature play may have also occurred in 2008; the safety's cross-field pick-6 iced the Ravens in a physical AFC championship game. Outside linebackers Harrison and LaMarr Woodley combined for 27.5 sacks for likely the franchise's best post-Steel Curtain defense.
T-21. 1996 Carolina Panthers
The 1996 season brought two historic get-rich-quick stories. Second-year franchises Carolina and Jacksonville voyaged to the conference championship round. The Panthers rode their No. 2-ranked defense, which gave up 13.6 PPG. GM Bill Polian's free-agency blueprint brought 1996 All-Pros Sam Mills and Kevin Greene (14.5 sacks) to Carolina, with fellow veteran adds in linebacker Lamar Lathon (13.5 sacks) and cornerback Eric Davis going to the Pro Bowl. Dom Capers and Vic Fangio's defense keyed a 12-4 march. The Panthers swept the 49ers and beat the defending champion Cowboys in Round 2.
T-21. 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars
The best team in the Jaguars' 25-year history, the '99 squad went 14-2 and led the NFL in permitting just 13.6 PPG. Jacksonville won 11 straight games to secure home-field advantage in the AFC, doing so with key contributions from Pro Bowlers Kevin Hardy, Tony Brackens and Carnell Lake. A hybrid linebacker-pass rusher, Hardy managed 98 tackles and 10.5 sacks -- a combination only four players have hit in the past 20 years. The Jags forced four Dan Marino turnovers in a 62-7 divisional-round demolition, Marino's final game, but their 0-3 record against the Titans that year cost the team a Super Bowl berth.
20. 1988 Chicago Bears
Jim McMahon's injuries led to the Bears' offense going south by 1988, but Chicago still had elite defensive capabilities. Middle linebacker Mike Singletary claimed his second Defensive Player of the Year honor and had the Bears No. 1 in defense for a third time in four years. Chicago (12-4) allowed 13.4 PPG, dragging its No. 18 offense to the NFC's No. 1 seed. During a five-game early-season win streak, Chicago held each opponent to single-digit points. Steve McMichael and Hall of Famers Richard Dent and Dan Hampton combined for 31.5 sacks. The 49ers, however, routed the Bears 28-3 in the NFC title game.
19. 2001 Pittsburgh Steelers
Holding foes to 13.3 PPG, the No. 3 defense in 2001 checks in here. This is a forgotten Steeler defense, likely because it could not come out on top against Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe in that year's AFC championship game. But this unit housed two Pro Bowl linebackers -- All-Pro Jason Gildon and Defensive Rookie of the Year Kendrell Bell -- and saw five players post at least eight sacks, led by Gildon's 12. Bell made 23 tackles for loss -- the most by a 21st-century rookie -- and cornerback Chad Scott posted 204 interception return yards and two pick-6s. Just one of the Pats' three TDs in that title game came on offense.
T-17. 1991 New Orleans Saints
An all-time NFL position group, the Saints' Dome Patrol linebacking quartet spearheaded the franchise's first NFC West title. The second level of New Orleans' 3-4 look -- Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, Sam Mills and Vaughan Johnson -- helped the team unseat the 49ers in the NFC West, doing so while allowing an NFL-least 13.2 PPG. The Vic Fangio-coached LBs had Swilling win Defensive Player of the Year with a 17-sack season, and Mills -- a 5-foot-9 inside 'backer -- joined him in Hawaii. Safety Gene Atkins, father of Bengals D-tackle Geno Atkins, also notched five INTs and 198 return yards. Jim Mora's team finished 11-5.
16. 1996 Green Bay Packers
Reggie White's fourth Green Bay season produced the first Packers championship in 29 years. Green Bay led the NFL in offense and defense (13.1 points allowed per game) in 1996 and cruised to the Super Bowl XXXI title, with its left defensive end sacking Drew Bledsoe three times in the second half. The Packers held nine regular-season opponents to 10 or fewer points. Although no Packer posted double-digit sacks, safeties Leroy Butler, Eugene Robinson and cornerback Doug Evans each picked off five-plus passes for DC Fritz Shurmur's unit.
T-14. 1978 Dallas Cowboys
One of the latter Doomsday editions, this Cowboys defense outproduced its 1977 Super Bowl consolidation -- despite the offense-favored rule changes of '78 -- by holding teams to 13.0 points per game. These Cowboys beat just one playoff team during the regular season, but the defending champions shut out the Rams 28-0 in the NFC title game. Safeties Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters, along with linebacker Hollywood Henderson and Super Bowl XII co-MVP Harvey Martin, a D-lineman, received Pro Bowl invitations. But the Steelers dropped 35 points on this defense in Super Bowl XIII.
T-14. 2001 Philadelphia Eagles
The first of the early-aughts Eagles' four consecutive NFC championship game cameos featured the league's No. 2 defense (13.0 PPG) backing Donovan McNabb and Co. Seven future head coaches worked on this Andy Reid staff, with defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's group including linebackers coach Ron Rivera and both Steve Spagnuolo and Leslie Frazier helming the DBs. Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins joined Pro Bowler Troy Vincent in the secondary, which intercepted Brad Johnson four times in the wild-card round and held the Bears to under 100 passing yards in a road Round 2 win a week later.
T-12. 1994 Cleveland Browns
Bill Belichick left the Giants for the Browns' head-coaching job in 1991. The coaching icon was 1-for-5 in postseason berths in Cleveland, but his '94 team went 11-5 and allowed a league-low 12.8 PPG. Ex-Belichick Giants linebackers Carl Banks and Pepper Johnson started, as did 2001 Patriot defensive end starter Anthony Pleasant. Not unlike recent Patriots defenses, this unit did not have a superstar -- though All-Pro safety Eric Turner (nine INTs, 105 tackles) was close at the time -- but it helped the Browns win their only playoff game in the past 29 years. The then-Ravens fired Belichick in 1996.
T-12. 1993 New York Giants
Lawrence Taylor's final season produced one of the more underappreciated defenses in modern NFL history. A Week 18 overtime loss to the Cowboys cost the Giants home-field advantage, but Mike Nolan's defense led the league in ceding 12.8 PPG. Using a mix of Super Bowl XXV holdovers and young players who'd become members of New York's Super Bowl XXXV squad (Michael Strahan, linebacker Jessie Armstead, defensive tackle Keith Hamilton), these Giants provided a last stand of sorts for a great era. But no Pro Bowlers resided on this defense. And the 49ers ended said era with a 44-3 Round 2 demolition.
T-8. 2006 Baltimore Ravens
In a stacked AFC season, the Ravens earned a higher seed than both the Patriots and Super Bowl champion Colts. Rex Ryan's defense allowed 12.6 PPG and held the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers to seven points in the rivals' two games. Six Raven defenders -- Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Bart Scott, Adalius Thomas and Chris McAllister -- made the Pro Bowl, and Trevor Pryce added a team-best 13 sacks. This group was nearly as talented as the famed 2000 unit, and it limited the Colts to five field goals in the teams' playoff meeting. But Indianapolis won 15-6.
T-8. 2005 Chicago Bears
A reloaded Bears team returned to the playoffs with an even less balanced roster. This marks one of the league's most impressive defensive efforts, with Lovie Smith's team going 11-5 despite fourth-round rookie Kyle Orton piloting the NFL's No. 26 offense. The Bears' 12.6 points allowed per game was nearly three better than second place that year; Chicago held nine nine teams to 10 or fewer points. An apex Urlacher season produced Defensive Player of the Year acclaim, and Mike Brown, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs and defensive tackle Tommie Harris were Pro Bowlers. Steve Smith torched the Bears in a Round 2 upset, however.
T-8. 1992 New Orleans Saints
Before the adjusted Pro Bowl schedule, alternates were not as frequently summoned. That makes the 1992 Saints' feat more impressive. All four of its Dome Patrol linebackers made that year's Pro Bowl, occupying four of the NFC's eight LB slots. D-coordinator Steve Sidwell's group held opponents to a league-low 12.6 PPG. In addition to the linebackers' excellence, defensive end Wayne Martin recorded 15.5 sacks, cornerback Toi Cook snared six INTs and D-tackle Robert Goff returned two fumbles for TDs. The Eagles scored 36 points in a wild-card comeback, however, effectively ending a promising Saints era.
T-6. 1985 Chicago Bears
Statistically, the most revered defense in NFL history checks in here. But the 12.4 points per game Buddy Ryan's 46 defense allowed pales in comparison to the panic its relentless pressure caused. The Bears recorded a league-leading 64 sacks, had six defensive Pro Bowlers -- with Steve McMichael, Richard Dent and Defensive Player of the Year Mike Singletary earning All-Pro acclaim -- and allowed just 10 playoff points in probably the best defensive run in modern postseason history. After shutting out the Giants and Rams, the Bears held the Patriots to seven rushing yards and led 44-3 at one point in Super Bowl XX.
T-6. 1978 Denver Broncos
Factoring in the 1978 rule changes, this defense probably outworked the renowned 1977 Orange Crush group that led Denver to its first Super Bowl. The '78 team allowed 12.4 PPG (behind the '77 team's 10.6) but was freakishly consistent. Only three teams scored 20 points on Joe Collier's 3-4 defense. Tom Jackson and Hall of Fame candidate Randy Gradishar represented the linebacking corps in the Pro Bowl, with shutdown corner Louis Wright and polarizing D-lineman Lyle Alzado joining them. The Steelers, though, avenged their 1977 Denver elimination in the playoffs with a 33-10 win.
5. 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stacked on all three levels, the Bucs' Super Bowl champion defense helped the team overcome recent playoff shortcomings. Monte Kiffin's group allowed just 12.3 PPG. The Derrick Brooks- and Warren Sapp-led defense limited Michael Vick's Falcons to 16 combined points and held NFC playoff opposition to 16 -- including a 27-10 win over the Eagles, who eliminated the previous two Buccaneer editions. Standout D-end Simeon Rice (15.5 sacks) joined Brooks and Sapp as an All-Pro. The Bucs intercepted five Rich Gannon passes in Super Bowl XXXVII. Corner Dwight Smith somehow missed MVP acclaim after a two-pick-6 night.
4. 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers
This Mt. Rushmore NFL squad did not even have the best Steel Curtain version; that'd be 1976's. But this Steelers defense still led the league, and Pittsburgh's offense caught up. Despite the illegal-contact provision Mel Blount Rule designed to restrict defenses, Pittsburgh allowed three touchdowns in a game only twice in 1978. Defensive coordinator Bud Carson left after 1977, but George Perles' unit allowed 12.2 PPG and sent six players to the Pro Bowl. En route to a Super Bowl XIII shootout win over the Cowboys, the Steelers outscored the Broncos and Oilers 67-15 in the AFC playoffs.
3. 2000 Tennessee Titans
The AFC Central clash in the 2000 divisional round does not receive sufficient attention; it pitted two of the best three scoring defenses of the past 40 years against each other. The Titans earned the AFC's top seed behind 2000's second-ranked defense (11.9 PPG). Gregg Williams' group bettered the Ravens against the pass. Cornerback Samari Rolle snared seven INTs in an All-Pro slate; Houston Oiler holdover Blaine Bishop was a Pro Bowler. Jevon Kearse again recorded double-digit sacks. This defense only allowed 10 points against the Ravens, but Baltimore's two non-offensive TDs in a 24-10 Round 2 clash were the difference.
2. 1986 Chicago Bears
Were it not for a preposterously dirty hit in a Packers-Bears 1986 game, this Chicago team may be remembered much differently. The Bears followed up their 15-1 season with a 14-2 record, and its defense -- without departed coordinator Buddy Ryan -- outproduced its legendary predecessor. The Vince Tobin-coordinated corps allowed 11.7 PPG, recording 62 sacks and 31 INTs. DBs Mike Richardson and Dave Duerson, and then-all-world outside linebacker Wilbur Marshall, combined for 18. The same defensive cast, however, couldn't overcome Jim McMahon's season-ending injury, losing to Washington in its playoff opener.
1. 2000 Baltimore Ravens
These Ravens won a Super Bowl despite going five straight games without scoring an offensive touchdown. They allowed one offensive TD in 16 playoff quarters; the Giants did not score an offensive point in Super Bowl XXXV. Overseen by DC Marvin Lewis, Baltimore's defense may be the best ever. The Ravens (12-4) ceded 10.3 points per game and in 20 games allowed only five teams to surpass 10 points. Ray Lewis earned Defensive Player of the Year acclaim and Super Bowl MVP honors, and his Peter Boulware-Jamie Sharper linebacker mates joined Rod Woodson and a host of locked-in role players to produce all-time defensive dominance.
Bills' Dion Dawkins 'not close' to full strength after COVID-19 hospitalization .
Dion Dawkins was hospitalized for four days after developing severe COVID-19 symptoms. Dawkins lost 16 pounds and might have an uphill battle to be ready by the time the Bills begin their season. “He’s not close to where he needs to be to play and help us,” McDermott said. “So he’s got a long road here. … He’s going to control what he can control, and so are we. He’s got to continue to work hard to get himself back to where he’s — I mean, this is what, going on Week 4 of training camp at this point, so he’s missed a lot of time.