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Chargers stay in AFC playoff mix with 14-7 win over Jets

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers are still hanging around in the AFC playoff hunt.

They had to sweat out a 14-7 win against the New York Jets on Sunday, but they’ve been playing with little room for error all season after an 0-4 start. They’ll go into next week’s showdown against Oakland needing one more win – and a little more help elsewhere.

“That’s all we can ask for at this point, starting 0-and-4, digging the hole we dug, is to be alive in Week 17,” Rivers said. “All those games you are sick about at this point, but you’re excited to have a chance.”

Rivers threw a touchdown pass to Antonio Gates, and Melvin Gordon ran for a score for the Chargers (8-7), who entered the weekend needing to win both of their remaining games. Rivers & Co. held up their end of things, but just barely.

Los Angeles had a tough time getting much going consistently against a spirited effort by the defense of the Jets (5-10), but didn’t need much offense in this one. Rivers finished 22 of 40 for 290 yards.

Tennessee (8-7) lost 27-23 to the Rams, and Buffalo (8-7) fell to New England 37-16 – each helping the Chargers’ playoff hopes. The Titans are home against Jacksonville next week, while the Bills are at Miami. The Chargers would be in the postseason if they win, Baltimore (9-6) beats Cincinnati and Tennessee loses.

“We’ve put ourselves in a better position, even though we don’t control our own destiny,” cornerback Casey Hayward said. “We’re still in it. You’re never out until they say, `You don’t have a chance.”‘

Gordon had 81 yards on 19 carries, but left late with an ankle injury. He remained standing on the sideline as the Chargers tried to run out the clock, and coach Anthony Lynn was not immediately sure of the severity.

Bryce Petty, making his second start this season in place of the injured Josh McCown, struggled all game. He missed open receivers and repeatedly flexed his right hand, which he banged up early in the game. But he remained in and said his hand is fine, finishing 15 of 28 for 119 yards and an interception.

“It’s frustrating,” Petty said. “This team deserves better, this offense deserves better – and I know I can make those plays.”

Bilal Powell was the bright spot for the Jets’ offense, rushing for 145 yards, including a 57-yard TD, on 19 carries.

Los Angeles took a 7-0 lead with 8:55 left in the first half on Gates’ 3-yard touchdown catch, capping a 12-play, 71-yard drive.

The Chargers had a chance to increase their advantage early in the third quarter, but Nick Rose, signed earlier this week, was wide right on a 47-yard attempt.

New York took advantage of the miss to tie it on Powell’s long touchdown run.

Los Angeles regained the lead quickly, however, on Gordon’s 1-yard run. Gordon hit the hole and pushed over the goal line with a strong second and third effort.

The Jets had a chance to tie in the closing minutes, getting a roughing-the-passer call on Joey Bosa to help extend their drive. But on fourth-and-7 from the Chargers 17, Petty’s heave to Robby Anderson in the end zone with 3:07 left fell incomplete.

“We were off-key as an offense and in the passing game,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “We’ll go back and look at the film and build from there. We didn’t make enough plays.”

GOOD HANDS

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen intercepted Petty’s desperation toss to end the first half. It was the first career interception for Allen, who was tackled by Brandon Shell. The Jets right tackle suffered a concussion on the play and was replaced by Brent Qvale in the second half.

“We wanted to put a tall guy back there that can jump, and Keenan showed why he’s back there,” Lynn said of the 6-foot-2 Allen.

HOLD ON

Los Angeles’ Travis Benjamin returned a punt 91 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter – but it was nullified by a holding penalty on Nick Dzubnar. Instead, it went down as a 14-yard return for Benjamin.

NO MO

Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was inactive after being benched at New Orleans last Sunday for being late to a team meeting.

Wilkerson practiced with the team all week, and coach Todd Bowles insisted the veteran “served his sentence” when asked if further discipline might be used. Bowles said it was “a coach’s decision” for Wilkerson to not play.

The coach declined to say whether Wilkerson’s contract situation played a role. His $16.75 million salary for next season is fully guaranteed against a serious injury.

INJURIES

Chargers: Safety Adrian Phillips re-injured an ankle. Left tackle Russell Okung was inactive with a groin injury and replaced by rookie Sam Tevi.

Jets: Defensive end Leonard Williams left in the second half with a back injury and didn’t return. Jonotthan Harrison started at center for the Jets in place of Wesley Johnson, who was active but dealt with a hip ailment all week. Right guard Brian Winters was out with an abdominal injury and Dakota Dozier started in his place.

SURPRISE START

The Jets won the opening coin toss, but deferred – and then pulled off a successful onside kick to start the game.

New York became the second team this season to attempt an onside kick to open a game, joining Tennessee (Week 1). The Jets are also the first team to successfully recover on onside kick in the first 30 seconds since Philadelphia in Week 17 of the 2012 season, according to NFL Research.

The Jets came away without any points, though, as an offensive pass interference call on Anderson and a sack by Tenny Palepoi short-circuited New York’s drive.

UP NEXT:

Chargers: vs. Oakland next Sunday.

Jets: at New England next Sunday.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Josh Gordon shines in preseason debut for Browns

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Josh Gordon showed why the Cleveland Browns are so happy to have him back on the field.

The talented receiver with a history of suspensions for drug violations caught everything thrown his way in his preseason debut Friday night, scoring on a 43-yard reception and also hauling in another pass from Robert Griffin III for a 44-yard gain that led to a first quarter field goal in a 30-13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Jameis Winston threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns in one half of work for the Bucs, who achieved an objective of starting faster on offense than they did the previous two weeks.

Griffin completed 8 of 14 passes for 119 yards, one TD and no interceptions before being replaced by Josh McCown at the start of the third quarter. Gordon was only targeted twice and finished with 87 yards receiving, both his catches coming when he beat cornerback Brent Grimes, one of Tampa Bay’s key offseason acquisitions.

Gordon, whose preseason debut was delayed by a quadriceps injury, hadn’t played since December 2014. He was suspended all of last season for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse, and won’t be eligible for the first four games of this regular season.

A Pro Bowl selection in 2013 when he had 87 catches for 1,646 yards and nine TDs, Gordon has been the subject of trade speculation during training camp. Although the Browns have said they’re not interested in moving him, and Gordon has said he wants to remain in Cleveland, club executive Sashi Brown said Thursday that like any player, there is a price for the 25-year-old receiver, who has been suspended for 27 of the last 32 games.

The NFL Network reported Friday that price is a “second-rounder and more.”

BIG PLAY DUO

Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans had five receptions for 115 yards, including a 34-yard TD from Winston, who completed 16 of 25 passes in what likely was his final tuneup for the regular season.

ROOKIE WATCH

Browns: First-round draft pick WR Corey Coleman played after sitting out the first preseason games with a sore hamstring.

Buccaneers: Struggling K Roberto Aguayo rebounded from missing three kicks in the first two weeks of the preseason, booting field goals of 48, 21 and 27 yards and making all three of his extra points. The second-round draft pick missed an extra point at Philadelphia two weeks ago, then failed to convert a pair of field goals against Jacksonville. He had a rough week in practice, too, missing two field goals and getting booed by fans attending a Browns-Bucs joint practice.

POSITION BATTLES

Browns: CB Jamar Taylor, who has replaced Tramon Williams as a starter, got spun around in coverage on Evans’ TD catch.

Buccaneers: LG Josh Allen and RG Evan Smith filled in for starters Kevin Pamphile and Ali Marpet, who did not dress.

NEW LOOK

The Buccaneers unveiled six new video boards with a total display area of 28,416 square feet, which the team says is the third largest in the NFL. The Hall of Fame Club, a premium seating area located on the suite level of Raymond James Stadium, also made its debut.

INJURY UPDATE:

Browns: In addition to Gordon (quad) and Coleman, CB Joe Haden (ankle surgery) made his preseason debut; CB Tramon Williams (toe) did not dress; C Cameron Erving (ankle), played after being hurt during Wednesday’s joint practice; CB Justin Gilbert (concussion) and WR Marlon Moore (hip) left the game in the second quarter.

Buccaneers: WR Donteea Dye suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter and did not return; LB Daryl Smith, TE Luke Stocker, DT Clinton McDonald and reserve RB Mike James did not dress.

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Browns tired of quarterback Johnny Manziel’s antics

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CLEVELAND — The Browns are about to throw Johnny Football away.

The team issued a strong statement Tuesday, condemning quarterback Johnny Manziel‘s actions and pointing to his release in March, a move that has seemed inevitable for months.

The conduct by the 23-year-old player – rampant partying, two domestic incidents and a general lack of commitment – have been a major problem almost from the day Cleveland drafted the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner in the first round two years ago.

Last weekend, Manziel was involved in a disturbance with his ex-girlfriend in Dallas that is being investigated by police and the NFL.

“We’ve been clear about expectations for our players on and off the field,” said Sashi Brown, the team’s vice president of football operations. “Johnny’s continual involvement in incidents that run counter to those expectations undermines the hard work of his teammates and the reputation of our organization. His status with our team will be addressed when permitted by league rules.”

The Browns, who drafted Manziel with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2014 draft, can release him as early as Monday, the day after the Super Bowl. But salary-cap implications point to the move happening March 9, when the league’s new year begins.

The expected end to his run in Cleveland will conclude two turbulent seasons for the electrifying college star known as Johnny Football, whose arrival with the Browns prompted enthusiasm and a belief by some fans that he could bring the Browns back to respectability.

Instead of excitement, however, Manziel mostly delivered disappointment.

He spent most of his rookie season behind Brian Hoyer before getting his first career start late in the season against Cincinnati. Manziel played poorly in a 30-0 loss to the Bengals and the following week he injured his hamstring. Manziel was then fined when he didn’t show for the final walk-through practice before the finale at Baltimore.

Manziel said he regretted not working harder in his first season and vowed to change. That admission was followed by him checking into a drug and alcohol treatment center in Pennsylvania, where he spent 73 days.

Manziel returned for his second season eager to show he had learned his lessons. The Browns raved about his work ethic and it appeared he had turned the corner.

But once again, Manziel couldn’t stay out of trouble.

In October, Manziel was questioned by police in Avon, Ohio, after a witness reported a roadside confrontation. Manziel and then-girlfriend, Coleen Crowley acknowledged drinking alcohol before their argument. Crowley told police Manziel struck her and pushed her head into the car window.

Manziel was not arrested and he was later cleared of wrongdoing by the NFL, which investigated whether he had violated its personal-conduct policy.

Not long after, Manziel was stripped of his starting job by former coach Mike Pettine after the quarterback had promised he would not be a distraction during the team’s bye week. Manziel’s appearances on social media videos also bothered the Browns, who were caught between being supportive of him while also appearing to be letting him off easy.

Manziel got his job back after Josh McCown broke his collarbone, but he was ruled out of the season finale with a concussion. Manziel then failed to report to a scheduled medical treatment on Jan. 3 at the team’s training facility while his teammates played Pittsburgh. The Browns were not certain of Manziel’s location that day as a report surfaced he was in Las Vegas.

On Saturday, police were called an apartment complex where a woman identified as Manziel’s ex-girlfriend said she had been in a disturbance with Manziel, who was not at the scene. The woman said she was concerned about Manziel’s well-being. That prompted police to use a helicopter to find Manziel, who was deemed “safe and in no danger.”

Police in Fort Worth and Dallas are still trying to determine if Manziel assaulted his ex-girlfriend.

Before this latest matter, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said last week he believed the team’s strained relationship with him could still be fixed. But in light of yet another embarrassing episode, it appears the Browns will move on without him.

Manziel has lost to his own team.