Broncos receivers hope to hold on against Pats


Broncos receivers hope to hold on against Pats

DENVER -- It hasn’t been an easy week for Broncos wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

They -- along with the rest of the pass catching crew -- developed a severe case of the dropsies Sunday in the Broncos' Divisional Round playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Seven or eight catchable passes hit the turn at Mile High, and both stars contributed to that “cause” if you will. Both have heard about it from the loyal fanbase here in Denver.

“Yeah, I got that question yesterday,” said Thomas, smiling. “I don’t say anything. I just say, ‘We’ll fix it. We’ll be fine.’ That’s all I say. I don’t really have any conversation with them because I get tired of hearing the questions about the drops. I got that same question yesterday. I give them an answer. I say, ‘We’re going to fix that as receivers.’ That’s basically it.”

“Yeah, but I don’t read it, though. I just read the positive,” said the upbeat Sanders. “Everybody is going to have an opinion. Everybody is going to try to voice their opinion, but here I am, a little small kid from Bellville, Texas, getting ready to play in my second AFC Championship game. It’s a blessing.”

Aww, isn’t that sweet? But despite his attempt to gloss over the issue with the public, Sanders admitted that his focus needs to be sharper on Sunday in the AFC title game.

“I think it’s concentration,” he said. “Obviously the easy ones, you think that you’ve just got it, and the tough ones, it’s go up and get it. It’s the big-time catch. That’s what it is, a lack of focus.”

Denver’s coaching staff has taken this receivers back to basics this week, utilizing some catch drills that date all the way back to OTAs. 

“It’s reinforcing eyes to the ball,” said Sanders. “It’s one of those things, when you have drops, you’ve got to go back into the lab and you’ve got to start over. You’ve got to take your eyes to the football, and that’s what [wide-receivers coach] Tyke [Tolbert] is trying to emphasize. Hopefully it pays off this Sunday.”

“I think as receivers, of course we’ve got to catch more passes after practice, before practice,” said Thomas, while also admitting that he hasn’t played his “best ball” this season. That was particularly true for the better part of the game against the Pats back in week 12, when Logan Ryan and safety made Thomas look like he wanted to be anywhere that night but on the field. Does he expect the same this weekend?

“I feel like it’s different every time,” he said. “I don’t know what to expect for this upcoming game, but I feel like it’s different every time. I remember one year they had (cornerback) Aqib [Talib] and kind of matched him up with me, but then last time we played them, they had (cornerback) Logan Ryan on me with kind of safety help. I really don’t know because they say he did a great job that I had one catch. I’ll look for anything. I think the main thing is just going out and competing as a whole group and figuring out what they’re doing quickly so we don’t have any turnovers.”

As for Sanders, he was pitted versus second-year corner Malcolm Butler for the entire evening. It was a spirited battle, which is what you get from two players that are as ultra-competitive as these two.

“It was definitely a long day,” confessed Sanders. “Malcolm Butler is a competitor. He’s a Pro Bowl player. He’s having a great season for them. I’ve definitely got my hands full again this week.”

He continued, “I know [Patriots coach Bill] Belichick is big on winning matchups, and he’s telling those guys, ‘Go out, compete and win your matchup,’ but I’m going in with the same mentality. I’ve got to win my matchup, so we’ll see who wins.”

To do that, Sanders, Thomas and the rest of the receivers will need to avoid the mistakes that nearly undid them a week ago, and do it with even more pressure, knowing they’re just one step away from playing for the Lombardi Trophy.

Panthers owner Richardson selling NFL team


Panthers owner Richardson selling NFL team

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Carolina Panthers have announced that owner Jerry Richardson is selling the NFL franchise amid an investigation by the league into allegations of sexual and racist misconduct by Richardson in the workplace.

The team announced on Twitter that Richardson is selling the team, linking to a five-paragraph letter by the franchise's only owner.

Richardson said in the open letter "I believe it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership. Therefore, I will put the team up for sale at the conclusion of the NFL season."

The NFL awarded Richardson an expansion franchise in 1993 and he has been the team's only owner.

The letter did not directly address the investigation.

Jimmy Garoppolo leads 49ers to third straight win


Jimmy Garoppolo leads 49ers to third straight win

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Jimmy Garoppolo led one final scoring drive in the closing seconds to cap a fantastic first home start, Robbie Gould kicked a game-winning 45-yard field goal as time expired, and the San Francisco 49ers topped the Tennessee Titans 25-23 on Sunday.

Garoppolo threw for a career-high 381 yards and a touchdown during a dominant day to give the 49ers (4-10) a three-game winning streak in a lost season. And Tom Brady's former backup showed he could do it at home as well as on the road - and against a playoff contender, no less - outdueling Marcus Mariota down the stretch as the teams traded field goals.

Gould kicked three of his six field goals over the final nine minutes: 50, 48 and 45 yards and has now gone 20 consecutive without a miss.

Gould put the Niners out front on a 48-yarder with 3:08 remaining. Mariota then drove the Titans (8-6) to a lead as Ryan Succop kicked a 50-yard field goal with 1:07 to play, then Garoppolo and the San Francisco offense got one last shot.

It took three tries this season, and first-year coach Kyle Shanahan finally found his reliable, playmaking quarterback after acquiring Garoppolo from New England at the October trade deadline. Garoppolo showed that in 67 seconds when forced into late action in a loss to Seattle three weeks ago at Levi's Stadium, then in back-to-back road games before shining again Sunday.

Marquise Goodwin made 10 catches for 114 yards and Garoppolo completed 31 of 43 passes to go over 300 yards passing for the second straight game after last week's win at Houston.

Mariota put Tennessee ahead on an 8-yard touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews early in the fourth as the Titans rallied back from an early 13-point deficit.

The 49ers were in good position the ensuing possession before Garoppolo was sacked by Wesley Woodyard for a 10-yard loss. Then, Gould converted a 50-yarder.

Tennessee came out of intermission a new team, totaling 22 offensive plays to San Francisco's five in the third quarter.

Garoppolo became the first 49ers quarterback since the merger in 1970 to win each of his first three starts and just the second QB to do so in franchise history. Y.A. Tittle did so spanning the 1951-52 seasons.

He threw a 5-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to tight end Garrett Celek - whose great play in recent weeks has earned the nickname of "Celek Time." Celek later had a 41-yard catch.

Garoppolo didn't even have Trent Brown to block for him after the right tackle went on injured reserve with a right shoulder injury that will require surgery. Mariota threw a 4-yard TD pass to former 49er Delanie Walker late in the first half to keep the Titans close.

Garoppolo was 5 of 6 passing on his opening possession as San Francisco mixed its play calls well to catch the stingy Titans defense off guard. Gould's 38-yarder capped the 12-play, 64-yard initial drive. Gould hit a 48-yarder late in the first and then kicked one from 28 yards just before halftime.

The Titans played a second straight road game against the NFC West after losing last week to the Cardinals and staying in Arizona for the week of practice.

Their first visit to Levi's Stadium - Tennessee last played the Niners on the road at Candlestick in November 2009 - began slowly, the team's second straight week playing a stadium for the initial time.

Mariota, in the midst of one of the worst stretches of his three-year career, threw for 241 yards completing 23 of 33 passes.


Tennessee's typically tough defense was a far cry from that dominant unit in the first half.

Garoppolo threw for 189 yards and the Niners outgained the Titans 219-136 in the first half. The 49ers didn't punt until more than midway through the third quarter.

Last week, the Titans allowed only four field goals, the second time this season they'd done so. From Week 5, Tennessee had been allowing only 295.1 yards per game.


Titans: CB Logan Ryan sustained an ankle injury in the second quarter.

49ers: WR Aldrick Robinson suffered a concussion in the first quarter. He went to the locker room with head and wrist injuries after he was hit hard by Titans cornerback Adoree' Jackson along the Tennessee sideline. Robinson was stretching out trying to make a catch when he got slammed and went down for several minutes with 5:24 to go in the opening quarter.


Titans: Host Rams next Sunday and home the final two weeks.

49ers: Host Jaguars next Sunday.