ARLINGTON, Texas — Maybe Kyler Murray will lose a game on the home field of the Dallas Cowboys one of these days.
It wasn’t going to be on a night when the Arizona quarterback watched the star running back of his hometown team have another night of fumble-itis.
Murray accounted for three touchdowns in his first game back home as a pro, Ezekiel Elliott set up the visiting team’s first two TDs with fumbles and the Cardinals beat the Dallas Cowboys 38-10 on Monday night.
The speedy quarterback who won three high school championships and a Big 12 title at the home of the Cowboys improved to 7-0 as a starter at AT&T Stadium, throwing for two scores despite a rough start through the air and rushing for 74 yards and a TD.
“That’s not easy when that’s what everyone has been talking about all week,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “He’s probably had this one circled on his calendar since it came out. But I thought he handled himself well.”
It was the “Monday Night Football” debut for Murray, a star in high school football-obsessed Texas while playing in the Dallas suburbs, and Kingsbury, who also had a happy first trip to his native Texas as an NFL coach.
“It was fun, brought back a lot of memories,” Murray said. “Felt like I’ve been playing there every Sunday honestly. It’s comfortable, felt good.”
Fired after six seasons at Texas Tech in 2018 without any winning records in Big 12 games, Kingsbury was hired by Arizona soon after and has the Cardinals (4-2) tied for second place in the tough NFC West. Arizona is above .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2015, its most recent playoff year.
Andy Dalton had the rest of Dallas’ four turnovers with two interceptions in his first start for the Cowboys in place of injured star Dak Prescott, just down the road from where he had a standout career at TCU.
The nine-year starter in Cincinnati led a come-from-behind victory over the New York Giants in Week 5 after the gruesome-looking compound fracture of Prescott’s right ankle. There wasn’t anything resembling a rally this time.
While the Dallas offence didn’t look anything close to the NFL-leading unit it was with Prescott — and lost the fourth of its five projected starting offensive linemen in four-time All-Pro Zack Martin (first-quarter concussion) — Elliott’s miscues led to the fifth straight game in which the Cowboys have trailed by at least two touchdowns.
The Cowboys (2-4) overcame two of those deficits, which is why they were guaranteed to stay in first place in the woeful NFC East no matter what happened in the last of three straight home games — and a third straight road game for Arizona.
“The record, it is what it is right now, the division is what it is right now, but it’s still early,” Dalton said. “There’s a lot of football left to be played, and for us, we’ve got to improve as a football team.”
Elliott was benched briefly after the two-time rushing champion lost a second fumble in the same game for the first time in his career. He has five fumbles (four lost) already this season — one shy of his career high for an entire season as the NFL’s worst turnover margin dropped to minus-12 with four giveaways and no takeaways.
Murray was playing in the $1.2 billion stadium with the retractable roof and giant video board for the first time since leading Oklahoma over rival Texas there in the Big 12 championship game.
While the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner misfired on eight of his first 11 passes and finished 9 of 24 for 188 yards, Murray hit Christian Kirk in stride on an 80-yard touchdown for a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.
“It wasn’t as good as it should have been,” said Murray, who tied Jim Hart’s 1968 franchise season record for QBs with his sixth rushing TD. “Wasn’t as accurate as I should have been. Wasn’t up to par for my standards, so I’ve got to be better.”
Kirk opened the scoring on a 6-yard jet sweep that counted as a pass after the first fumble from Elliott. Kenyan Drake scored from the 1 after the second Elliott miscue, while Murray added a 1-yard TD run.
With the game out of hand in the final two minutes, Drake broke free for a 69-yard touchdown run, giving him 164 yards.
A former Texas A&M standout, Kirk came in with two 100-yard games and five touchdowns in three wins over Arkansas at the home of the Cowboys. Both of his catches in this game were for scores.
“When the bright lights come on, the cream of the crop rises,” Kirk said. “It’s something about big moments, the level of play always elevates. It’s just rising to the occasion.”
Martin was briefly injured and returned, then went out for good after taking a knee to the helmet. Second-year player Connor McGovern took his spot, leaving left guard Connor Williams as the only preseason starter still in the lineup.
The Cowboys have had fans at all four home games, with the biggest so far (barely) at 25,174 against the Cardinals. While it was the most coronavirus-friendly setting so far with the retractable roof open for the first time, TV shots showed plenty of fans without masks over their noses. Dallas is filling about 31% of the 80,000-seat stadium. The state allows up to 50%.
Cardinals: Seattle at home Sunday to start a stretch of three straight home games that is also scheduled to include the bye, meaning Arizona won’t be on the road for a month barring COVID-19 changes.
Cowboys: Washington on Sunday in the first of two consecutive road games against NFC East opponents.
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Every Monday during the season, theScore’s Justin Boone runs down the recommended waiver wire pickups.
Rostered percentages are based on Yahoo leagues. Free Agent Budget (FAB) amounts are set off a $100 salary cap. Only players rostered in less than 60% of leagues are considered.
Kirk Cousins, Vikings
Cousins has quietly emerged as a reliable fantasy starter – averaging the 12th most fantasy points since Week 3. He’s also thrown for two or more touchdowns in six of his last seven games.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars have been the third easiest matchup for opposing quarterbacks and have permitted multiple passing scores in five straight games, as well as eight of their last 10 outings.
Even without Adam Thielen, Cousins put up 307 yards and three touchdowns on the Panthers this week. Whether Thielen plays or not, Cousins is a quality streamer in Week 13.
Philip Rivers, Colts
Jacoby Brissett‘s newfound presence in goal-line packages is far from ideal for Rivers‘ fantasy value, but he’s regularly finished inside the top-13 quarterbacks since the Colts’ Week 7 bye.
Rivers’ weekly results over the last five weeks: QB5, QB28 (tough matchup with Ravens), QB13, QB10, and he’s the QB11 in Week 12 prior to the Monday nighter.
Though the Texans defense has recently put up better numbers, some of that success is attributed to a softer schedule. Rivers should have no problem spreading the ball around and putting up another solid fantasy performance.
Taysom Hill and Derek Carr are around the 60% rostered mark and would be the top options if they’re still available in your league.
Streamer options: Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. CIN (20% rostered), Mitch Trubisky vs. DET (4% rostered), Baker Mayfield at TEN (35% rostered), Sam Darnold vs. LV (8% rostered)
Injured streamer options (if healthy): Gardner Minshew at MIN (12% rostered)
Cam Akers, Rams
As much as we need to stay grounded and not overreact to one big run, it was great to see Akers pour in a career-high 84 yards with a touchdown this week.
The bad news is the rookie was third in the backfield in snaps with 17, behind Malcolm Brown (25) and Darrell Henderson (20). This performance could go a long way toward establishing Akers as the hot hand since Henderson has struggled following his midseason injury and Brown is an average talent.
Akers has another opportunity to showcase his abilities against the Cardinals this week before the Rams get two very winnable games against the Patriots and Jets in the first two weeks of the fantasy playoffs.
This may remain a three-headed committee, but you should want Akers on your roster in case the second-rounder continues to emerge down the stretch.
Benny Snell/Anthony McFarland Jr., Steelers
The Steelers are scheduled to take on the Ravens this Wednesday in a Week 12 game that’s been postponed several times already. If that contest is finally played, it’s possible my feelings about these backs could change based on performance or injury.
At the moment, James Conner is on the COVID-19 list after testing positive. As a cancer survivor, you can be sure the 25-year-old and team will be very cautious with his health.
That should set the stage for Snell to get at least two consecutive starts after head coach Mike Tomlin identified him as the lead back while Conner is sidelined.
That means Snell needs to be rostered as a low-end RB2 with upside for more if he can find the juice he displayed in the opener when he rushed for 113 yards on 19 carries.
McFarland can be rostered as a stash until we see how this situation plays out with Conner.
J.K. Dobbins, Myles Gaskin, Zack Moss, Jamaal Williams, Latavius Murray, andJames White are around the 60% rostered mark and should be rostered in almost all leagues.
High-upside backups Alexander Mattison (32% rostered), Boston Scott (28% rostered), Carlos Hyde (38% rostered), and Tony Pollard (19% rostered) should be rostered in most leagues.
Flex options: Frank Gore vs. LV (25% rostered), Ito Smith vs. No (1% rostered), Brian Hill vs. NO (46% rostered), Devontae Booker at NYJ (9% rostered)
Risky flex options: J.D. McKissic at PIT (59% rostered), Joshua Kelley vs. NE (19% rostered), Gus Edwards vs. DAL (54% rostered)
Other backups to roster: Adrian Peterson at CHI (46% rostered), Royce Freeman at KC (6% rostered), Sony Michel at LAC (20% rostered), D’Onta Foreman vs. CLE, Jordan Wilkins at HOU (17% rostered), Kerryon Johnson at CHI (15% rostered), Devine Ozigbo at MIN (1% rostered)
Deeper stashes: Peyton Barber at PIT (1% rostered), DeAndre Washington vs. CIN (1% rostered), Jeremy McNichols vs. CLE (1% rostered), Jeff Wilson Jr. vs. BUF (3% rostered)
Allen Lazard/Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Packers
Investing in the Packers’ passing attack is a wise decision, so acquiring one of these wideouts off waivers should be an obvious move.
Lazard reached the end zone again Sunday – the third time he’s done that in five games this year.
Valdes-Scantling was shut out in the boxscore this week after suffering a mild Achilles injury in practice, but he’s still taking the field for SNF. In the previous three games, MVS delivered stat lines of 2-53-2, 4-149-1, and 3-55-0.
Don’t overthink this. Scoop these guys up now and consider using them as WR3/flex plays during their favorable upcoming schedule, which features the Eagles, Lions, Panthers, and Titans over the final month.
Breshad Perriman/Denzel Mims, Jets
The Jets’ outside receivers remain available in the vast majority of leagues, but that shouldn’t be the case based on their recent play.
Consider their last three stat lines:
With Sam Darnold healthy and matchups with the Raiders and Seahawks on deck, Perriman and Mims are flex options with significant fantasy upside.
Deebo Samuel, Sterling Shepard,Curtis Samuel,Cole Beasley, Corey Davis, Michael Pittman Jr.,and Jakobi Meyers are around the 60% rostered mark and should be rostered in almost all leagues.
Flex options: Jalen Reagor at GB (29% rostered), TY Hilton at HOU (38% rostered), Sammy Watkins vs. DEN (44% rostered), Gabriel Davis at SF (3% rostered), Tim Patrick at KC (22% rostered), Keke Coutee vs. IND (1% rostered), Keelan Cole at MIN (27% rostered), Laviska Shenault at MIN (18% rostered), Henry Ruggs at NYJ (28% rostered), Nelson Agholor at NYJ (43% rostered), Emmanuel Sanders at ATL (46% rostered)
Risky flex options: Russell Gage vs. NO (8% rostered), Darnell Mooney vs. DET (7% rostered), Josh Reynolds at ARI (9% rostered), KJ Hamler at KC (4% rostered), Damiere Byrd at LAC (5% rostered)
Dart-throw flex options: Michael Gallup at BAL (42% rostered), Rashard Higgins at TEN (11% rostered), Hunter Renfrow at NYJ (17% rostered), Collin Johnson at MIN (0% rostered), David Moore vs. NYG (4% rostered), Olabisi Johnson vs. JAX (0% rostered), Chad Beebe vs. JAX (0% rostered)
Injury stashes: Julian Edelman vs. ARI (26% rostered)
Deep bench stashes: Isaiah Coulter vs. IND (0% rostered), Kenny Stills – free agent (1% rostered), Mohamed Sanu at CHI (1% rostered), Demarcus Robinson vs. DEN (1% rostered), Steven Mitchell Jr. vs. IND (0% rostered)
Trey Burton, Colts
Burton isn’t even playing the most snaps among the Colts’ tight ends, and yet he’s still the one we’re targeting.
That’s because the Colts have gone out of their way to get the ball in his hands in scoring position and it’s resulted in touchdowns in back-to-back weeks.
Now Indy has a three-game stretch against the Texans, Raiders, and Texans again. The Colts should find themselves in the red zone often against those defenses, and that means opportunities for Burton to come through as a fantasy streamer.
Jordan Akins, Texans
Akins had a quiet Week 12 with no catches on two targets, but the news of Will Fuller‘s six-game suspension means changes are coming for the Texans’ offense.
Akins is only one week removed from catching five passes for 83 yards and displaying the kind of yardage upside most tight ends don’t possess.
Since the receiving corps is limited behind Brandin Cooks, Akins might be the best option to see an expanded role in Fuller’s absence, making a worthwhile stash this week.
Robert Tonyan and Mike Gesicki are around the 60% rostered mark and would be the top options if they’re still available in your league.
Streamer options: Logan Thomas at PIT (41% rostered),Jordan Reed vs. BUF (25% rostered), Dalton Schultz at BAL (22% rostered), Kyle Rudolph vs. JAX (15% rostered)
Injury stashes: Irv Smith Jr. vs. JAX (6% rostered), Zach Ertz at GB (59% rostered)
Risky streamer options: Will Dissly vs. NYG (4% rostered), Jacob Hollister vs. NYG (2% rostered), Tyler Eifert at MIN (6% rostered), Darren Fells vs. IND (3% rostered)
Greg Vanney, who led Toronto FC to respectability and then helped fill its trophy case, is stepping down as the Major League Soccer club’s head coach and technical director.
The club made the announcement Tuesday, in the aftermath of last week’s playoff loss to Nashville SC.
Vanney’s departure was not expected although delays in sorting out a new contract had raised questions. His current deal expires at the end of the 2020 season.
An emotional Vanney thanked his players, staff and TFC’s ownership, saying it was the right time to move on.
“I’m a builder. I like to build things and I like projects and I like big things,” he told reporters. “And this club is in a really really good place. There’s not a lot of building to do. It is an incredible club that is positioned, from where we started to where we are, to be great.”
WATCH | Nashville ends Toronto FC’s season early:
Daniel Rios scored in the 108th minute as Nashville SC upset Toronto FC 1-0 in round one of the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs. 1:40
The father of four said his departure had nothing to do with money or other contract terms, calling it a “personal family decision.” He praised the club for its patience “while I worked through this entire process.”
Toronto says the search for Vanney’s replacement will begin immediately.
The 46-year-old Vanney, who also broke up in thanking the Toronto fans, said he had been mulling over his future for some time but especially after finally being able to spend some time with his family after the regular season.
He said he had not thought “a ton” about the future but wanted to spend time with his family and “regroup.” There are openings elsewhere, including the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Vanney is the longest tenured coach in TFC history, holding every coaching record, including games coached (250) and wins (112).
2017 MLS coach of the year
A finalist for coach of the year, Vanney led TFC to the second-best regular-season record at 13-5-5 in a difficult 2020 campaign. Forced to play all but four games away from BMO Field because of travel restrictions caused by the pandemic, injury-plagued Toronto limped into the playoffs losing three of its last four regular-season games.
The post-season ended quickly in a 1-0 extra-time loss to expansion Nashville.
Vanney originally joined TFC in December 2013 as the club’s assistant general manager and academy director. Named head coach in August 2014 after Ryan Nelsen was fired, Vanney inherited a 9-9-6 team that had never made the playoffs.
He turned [Toronto FC] into an MLS champion. More than that, he is of high character and a great family man.— Team president Bill Manning on Vanney
He took the club into the post-season in 2015 and went on to guide TFC to the MLS Cup final in 2016, 2017 and 2019, winning the title in 2017 on home soil.
Vanney also coached Toronto to the Supporters’ Shield and Canadian Championship in 2017, becoming the first MLS club to win a domestic treble. He was named MLS and CONCACAF coach of the year that season.
Toronto qualified for the playoffs under Vanney five of the past six seasons and captured three Canadian championships since 2016.
TFC president Bill Manning praised Vanney in a statement.
“I wish Greg nothing but the best in the future,” Manning said. “Back in 2014 he took over the head coach duties for a team that had never made the playoffs and turned them into an MLS champion. More than that, he is of high character and a great family man. I thank him for time well served for our club, his legacy here in Toronto is secure.”
Vanney had all three of his sons in TFC colours. His twins were part of the academy while his youngest boy was in the TFC Juniors program.
Greg Vanney has stepped down from his position of Toronto FC head coach and technical director, the club announced Tuesday.
Vanney led Toronto to a treble in 2017, winning MLS Cup, the Supporters’ Shield and Canadian Championship. He holds every coaching record in TFC history, including matches managed (250) and wins (112). He originally took charge during the 2014 season.
“I want to thank Mr. Tanenbaum, the board of directors and MLSE for their unwavering support for the past seven years. I recognize that I have been extremely fortunate to work for one of the best ownership groups in all of sports. I also want to thank Bill [Manning] and Ali [Curtis] for their support and leadership and most importantly the relationships we’ve developed over the years,” Vanney said in a club statement. “Thank you to all of the TFC staff and players for the incredible experiences we’ve shared together during this journey. I’m forever grateful to each of you. Lastly, to the TFC Fans. You’re truly amazing and the memories and emotions from our biggest nights together will be cherished.”
Toronto did not have the reputation they enjoy today prior to Vanney taking over as head coach. The club failed to make the playoffs in their first eight seasons in MLS, then broke that streak in Vanney’s first full season. On top of the treble in 2017, Vanney helped guide the club to two more Canadian Championship titles and two more trips to MLS Cup.
They also got to the Concacaf Champions League final in 2018, losing in penalties. No MLS club has ever won that competition.
“I wish Greg nothing but the best in the future,” said TFC president Bill Manning. “Back in 2014 he took over the head coach duties for a team that had never made the playoffs and turned them into an MLS champion. More than that, he is of high character and a great family man. I thank him for time well served for our club, his legacy here in Toronto is secure.”
Toronto will begin their search for a head coach immediately.
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