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20.09.2018 04:13
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kirk Cousins took the third-and-5 shotgun snap with 3 minutes left and Minnesota holding an eight-point lead.

He decided to run for it.

The San Francisco defense converged as Cousins crossed his 40-yard line K.J. Wright Jersey , so the most expensive player in Vikings history lowered his head as he tried to power his way past the first-down marker.

Cousins took a shoulder to the back from 49ers linebacker Elijah Lee as he tumbled to the turf and came up just short, a dangerous way for a franchise quarterback to try to move the chains, but his determination to experience victory in his Vikings debut on Sunday afternoon was not to be reasoned with.

“Hey, when the game’s on the line, we’re trying to get the first down. Go for it,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “I’m all in.”

Cousins passed for two touchdowns and the Vikings forced four turnovers, fueling a 24-16 win over the 49ers in the season opener that stuck Jimmy Garoppolo with his first loss in eight games as an NFL starting quarterback .

The Vikings actually kept that late drive alive by a 49ers neutral zone infraction penalty on fourth-and-1, before punting four plays later. Harrison Smith’s interception, the third by the Vikings against Garoppolo in the second half, sealed the game with 1:35 remaining.

Asked afterward about that head-first hustle, Cousins acknowledged the risk of such a play and said he might have been better served with a stutter-step or some kind of move to try to make Lee miss.

“We had played too hard at that point to just slide early and give up on that,” Cousins said.

Cousins completed 20 of 36 passes for 244 yards without a turnover. He faced plenty of pressure, highlighted by DeForest Buckner and his 2½ sacks, and there were a handful of awkward-looking plays produced by the Vikings. Cousins was right on target at just the right times , though, delivering several clutch throws in traffic including the scoring passes to Stefon Diggs in the second quarter and Kyle Rudolph in the third quarter.

“That’s NFL football. I think that if you’re not really accurate and you don’t have that confidence to let it rip, you’re going to be holding the ball and getting sacked, you’re going to be spraying it everywhere,” Cousins said. “If you’re waiting for guys to be open, you’re going to be waiting a long time.”

Cousins, who signed a three-year Rodney Hudson Jersey , $84 million, fully guaranteed contract with the Vikings this spring, clearly savored his first regular season contest at U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Vikings are 15-3, including the playoffs since it opened. The last player to emerge from the tunnel during pregame introductions, Cousins said the honor was undeserved and should have been reserved for Diggs, wide receiver Adam Thielen, left tackle Riley Reiff or running back Dalvin Cook.

“It’s just an example of the team welcoming me with open arms, and I’m so grateful for this opportunity that I’ve been given,” Cousins said, “and I just want to make good on it with every chance I get.”

Here are some other key angles that emerged from the game:

GETTING TO GAROPPOLO: Garoppolo finished 15 for 33 for 261 yards and a touchdown pass to rookie Dante Pettis late in the third quarter, but the Vikings sacked him three times. Mike Hughes returned the first pick 28 yards for a score.

“There’s not one word to put on it. We went against a very good defense, and we all didn’t play as good as we could,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Lots of quarterbacks struggle against that defense. Jimmy did some good things, but by no means was he perfect.”

COMEBACK COMPLETE: Cook had 16 carries for 40 yards and six catches for 55 yards, a productive return to live action after tearing the ACL in his left knee about 11 months earlier. He lost a fumble at the San Francisco 29 after spinning and muscling his way through a crowd of defenders for a 15-yard gain.

Cook declared his knee and body fit for a full season, but his mind was also on his family. His uncle and childhood confidant, Anthony Jones, a running back for Florida International University, was wounded in a drive-by shooting in Miami on Thursday. Cook’s grandmother raised him and Jones, her son.

“Just going out there Mohamed Sanu Jersey , competing, playing my heart out, that’s what he wanted,” Cook said.

KITTLE’S DROP: Garoppolo and the 49ers had their hands full against the league’s leading defense of 2017, losing wide receiver Marquise Goodwin to a first-quarter quadriceps injury and two right guards to foot injuries. They had success rolling Garoppolo out on misdirection plays, and tight end George Kittle was the biggest beneficiary with five catches for 90 yards.

The one he didn’t make stood out. Wide open up the seam, Kittle had what would’ve been a 30-yard completion fall off his fingers at midfield. The third-down interception by Hughes came on the next play to give the Vikings a 17-3 lead.

“It didn’t end the way we wanted,” Kittle said, “but I feel like we definitely had some momentum going and if we can do that we’ll be a pretty good offense.”

DEFENSE DIGS IN: The 49ers gave Garoppolo an opportunity with three straight three-and-out possessions by the Vikings in the fourth quarter. Rookie Fred Warner, starting at middle linebacker with Reuben Foster suspended, led the team with 12 tackles, including one for loss. He also had one quarterback hurry, one pass breakup and the forced fumble on Cook.

“Middle linebacker is one of the toughest positions to come in as a rookie and play and be effective,” said cornerback Richard Sherman, who made his 49ers debut. “I think he d

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski sent New England fans into a panic this offseason when they hinted at retiring rather than returning to the Patriots in 2018.

On Sunday, it was the rest of the NFL watching in fear.

Brady threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns, hitting Gronkowski for 123 yards and a score to lead the defending AFC champions to a 27-20 victory over the Houston Texans. The reigning NFL MVP found Gronkowski seven times, including a 21-yard touchdown three plays after Deshaun Watson fumbled a handoff at the Texans 19 on Houston’s first offensive play .

“It’s very important that they came out and played the way they did. They’re our leaders,” said Phillip Dorsett, who had seven catches Lawrence Guy Jersey , including a touchdown. “When they play well, they give an adrenaline boost to the rest of the team.”

Brady, 41, clashed with the team he’s led to five Super Bowl titles in the past year over the treatment of his personal fitness guru and the plans to elevate backup Jimmy Garoppolo to starter. In February, after throwing for 500 yards in a Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Brady was coy about returning this season.

The Patriots dangled Gronkowski as trade bait this summer before agreeing instead to sweeten his contract with $4.3 million in reachable incentives. Gronkowski reportedly threatened to retire if traded.

“I’m just glad to be here, glad to be part of this team, glad to be part of this organization,” he said. “All that talk, all that stuff, I would love to put it in the past.”

Brady also found James White for a touchdown, completing 26 of 39 passes in all; he also had an interception on a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. It was Gronkowski’s 31st career regular-season or playoff game of 100 yards or more, tying Tony Gonzalez’s NFL record.

“We’ve been playing together for a long time,” Brady said. “I know his body language. I know his ability to run and what routes. He can do it. He can do really all the routes. It’s just a matter of giving him a chance, and it came with a big touchdown today.”

Watson, who missed the final nine games last season with a torn right ACL, completed 17 of 35 passes for 176 yards, one score and one interception. He struggled to move the team in the first 40 minutes, managing just a pair of field-goal drives before Alfred Blue ran it in from 1 yard to make it 24-13 in the last two minutes of the third period.

A muffed punt by New England’s Riley McCarron with under five minutes left set up Watson’s 5-yard TD pass to Bruce Ellington and cut the deficit to 27-20. But after getting the ball back at their 1 with 43 seconds left, the Texans failed to reach midfield.

“I think it was terrible, on my part Tony Jefferson Jersey ,” Watson said. “I just feel like you can put the ‘L’ on me.”

With Julian Edelman serving a four-game suspension, Dorsett caught seven passes for 66 yards, including a 4-yard TD pass in the closing seconds of the first half to make it 21-6. White had four receptions for 38 yards, including a 12-yard score.

Lamar Miller ran 20 times for 98 yards for Houston, which welcomed Watson, defensive lineman J.J. Watt and linebacker Whitney Mercilus back from injuries. Watt had two quarterback hurries, but D.J. Reader had the only two sacks of Brady, both late.

“It’s good to play a full game to know it lasts, to know it holds up,” said Watt, a three-time defensive player of the year. “I didn’t think about it once. So, that’s all you can ask for.”

It was Watson who felt the pressure the rest of the game.

The second-year quarterback, who threw for 301 yards in a 36-33 loss to New England last year in his second NFL start, botched a handoff with Miller in the first quarter, setting up the Patriots up for their first touchdown. In the second quarter, Watson inexplicably chucked the ball into the end zone for a double-covered Vyncint Smith on a second-and-3 from the New England 42.

Stephon Gilmore brought it down for the interception.

BALL CONTROL

The Patriots also had trouble with turnovers.

Brady had an interception in the first quarter on a throw tipped by defensive lineman Angelo Blackson and brought in by Tyrann Mathieu at the Patriots 17. The Texans went backward 7 yards before Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 42-yard field goal made it 7-3.

Gronkowski also fumbled in the third quarter after a 25-yard reception across the middle. Mathieu recovered, but after advancing to the New England 17, the Texans gave the ball back on downs. The muffed punt by McCarron gave the Texans one last chance.

INJURIES

Texans: DE Christian Covington injured his thigh in the first quarter. T Seantrel Henderson left after getting his left ankle rolled a few plays later. Kevin Johnson left with what the team said was a concussion and did not return.

Patriots: RB Jeremy Hill left with a right knee injury on the Gronkowski fumble in the third quarter.

LATE SERIES

After the Texans forced New England to punt in the final minute, Ryan Allen landed the ball inside the 5-yard line and Jonathan Jones downed it at the 1. Houston advanced to the 16 on a penalty for leading with the helmet and Watson found DeAndre Hopkins for 14 yards before scrambling for 13 more.

From his 43 with 5 seconds left, Watson chucked the ball as far as the 10 but it was knocked away.

UP NEXT

Texans: visit Tennessee Sunday for an early AFC South showdown.

Patriots: visit Jacksonville Sunday in a rematch of the Jan. 21 AFC championship game New England won 24-20 to reach the Super Bowl for the third time in four years.
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