Patriots

Giardi: Elusive 2015 version of Dion Lewis has returned

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Giardi: Elusive 2015 version of Dion Lewis has returned

Dion Lewis has adopted a mantra this year, “I’m small but I’m not little.” If you’ve been paying attention over the past couple of weeks, the Patriots’ running back has spit that line back at reporters, usually doing it with a confident smile. 

His point is that people might be confused by his lack of height and think Lewis is a scatback-type. Hardly. That 5-7  (maybe…) body packs more power pound for pound then even backs 15 to 20 pounds bigger.

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“Yeah, I mean I agree with that,” said Bill Belichick on a conference call Tuesday. “I think there are a lot of backs that fit into that category, that are short but not small guys. They have good lower body strength, can take contact and run through arm tackles and can run through contact. I would definitely put him [Lewis] in that category. He’s got good balance, good lower body strength and good vision but when guys get a shot at him he’s able to maintain his balance and get through a lot of those hits. I think that’s a credit to his strength, power and balance. He’s short but he’s not a little guy. I agree with that.”
 
“Dion is not thin. That’s for sure,” noted offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “He’s got power, he’s got quickness, he’s got speed. He does a lot of things well and sometimes he can be difficult to find back there from the defense’s perspective.”
 
Sunday was the most recent example of good things coming in small but powerful packages with Lewis. He had 18 touches against Oakland and forced 10 missed tackles by my count. 10. That’s exactly what Lewis did when he burst onto the scene at the start of the 2015 season, becoming one of the league’s biggest surprises before blowing out his knee. His performance this season - starting in Week 5 in Tampa - shows that he’s back to being that same player.
 
“I don’t know where he’s at relative to what he was,” said McDaniels. “That’s really no one’s concern. He’s playing well and he’s got a good solid role on our team and does whatever we ask him to do to help us win each week.”
 
Lewis was ready to run long before the Pats made him the focal point of their backfield. His carries backed that feeling up. Yet his snap count was on the low end. Perhaps the Pats wanted to give Mike Gillislee first crack. Or maybe they wanted to see how Lewis’ knee responded to a long training camp during which he got so many touches and snaps some wondered if he was being shopped or in danger of being cut. Privately, the Pats insisted that wasn’t the case, that they were still bullish on the 27-year old’s ability. That faith is now being rewarded.

“He did a lot of good things for us in training camp,” said Belichick. “We gave him a significant amount of playing time in the preseason games, including kickoff returns, and so I think he’s done a good job all year. How he feels he can answer that better than I can, how it feels as compared to some other point in time. But he’s out there, he’s doing everything, I think he’s done well.”
 
The better he performs, the more it’s clear he’s the best option the Pats have at that position. Lewis can change a game and do it in a variety of ways.
 
“This guy is just a unique player with a unique skill set that we enjoy having around here,” said McDaniels. “I think Dion has proven over time he can do and contribute in a lot of different areas. We’ve seen him do it as a kickoff returner, as running back getting the ball handed to him, we’ve seen him do it as a blitz pick-up guy on third downs, we’ve seen him do it as a back catching the ball out of the backfield like he did the other day and we’ve seen him extend from the formation. He’s smart and he’s tough and he cares about playing hard...He’s a guy we’re fortunate to have.”
 

Panthers owner Richardson selling NFL team

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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

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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.

DEFENSIVE FLOP

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.

INJURIES

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.

UP NEXT

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

49ers: Host Jaguars next Sunday.