The NFL has expanded plans to honor, empower and connect the nation's military service members, veterans and their families.
Since 2011, more than $44 million has been raised for military and veteran support organizations.
During November, all 32 teams are honoring the military community throughout with a series of events and virtual activations: on-field "Salute to Service" initiatives that include a mix of stencils, camouflage-themed game balls, helmet decals and gear that will be auctioned at NFL.com/Auction.
"Our nation's heroes are not immune to the significant perils brought on by this pandemic." says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "Many service members and their families are physically divided -- either because of COVID-19 or due to their military deployment. This Veterans Day, and throughout Salute to Service, we express our gratitude to veterans and active service members for helping to preserve our health and safety, and for protecting and defending our freedoms domestically and abroad. The NFL and our 32 clubs humbly salute and thank you for your service to our country."
Also taking part in ad campaigns will be Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith, Peyton Manning and Carson Wentz.
The military nonprofits who are partnering with the league are Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS); The Pat Tillman Foundation (PTF); Wounded Warrior Project (WWP); the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF); and the United Service Organizations (USO).
Lighting up scoreboards has been the norm in the NFL for many years. Not like this, though.
Through Week 9, teams combined to score 6,737 points, 778 total touchdowns and 745 offensive touchdowns (passing and rushing combined), all the most at this point in NFL history. There's been an average of 50.7 points scored per game, the most through Week 9 since 1970.
The defending champion Chiefs led the league with 286 points, while Seattle (274), Green Bay (253), Tampa Bay (250) and New Orleans (244) follow. What do they all have in common? Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, for one.
It's also been a season of rallies. At least one team has overcome a deficit of 13 or more points and won in each of the first nine weeks. There have been 37 games, 4.1 a week, in which a team has come back to win or tie after trailing in the fourth quarter. And 29 games have been won by a team that has trailed by at least 10 points; eight games by a team that trailed by at least 16 points; and seven won by a team that trailed by at least 17 points.
NO ORDINARY JOES
Joe Flacco topped his childhood idol in style.
The 35-year-old New York Jets quarterback, starting for the injured Sam Darnold, passed Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana for 20th on the NFL's career list for yards passing. And he did it with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman in the second quarter of a 30-27 loss to New England on Monday night.
"It is kind of crazy any time Joe Montana comes up," Flacco said. "Especially since I kind of always viewed him as my favorite quarterback."
Montana finished his 16-year career with 40,551 yards passing. Flacco, who threw for 262 yards against the Patriots, has 40,726 in 13 NFL seasons.
"It's pretty cool to be able to say, I'm 35 years old and I still look at myself as, you know, that 15-year-old kid, maybe even younger, that just grew up watching football, playing football," Flacco said. "And now all of a sudden, you get to do things like that, it definitely makes it pretty cool."
With Darnold's status uncertain because he's dealing with a shoulder injury, Flacco could get a chance to add to his total. Next up at No. 19 on the NFL's career list: Kerry Collins with 40,922.
NOT TO BE OVERLOOKED
Minnesota's Dalvin Cook has taken over the NFL rushing lead with monster games against Green Bay and Detroit the last two weeks. He is thriving behind Pro Bowl fullback C.J. Ham and an improving offensive line in the zone blocking scheme directed by offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and developed by offensive line coach Rick Dennison.
The importance of downfield blocking can't be discounted, though. During a screen pass that Cook took 50 yards for a touchdown against the Packers, the tight ends and wide receivers were racing down the field almost as fast as Cook himself to make sure the path was clear.
Wide receiver Justin Jefferson leads all rookies with 623 receiving yards, and he's proven his multi-dimensional capability by contributing to some of those long Cook runs. Jefferson credited his college offensive coordinator, Joe Brady at LSU, for instilling in him this importance.
"We always said that they block for us, so why not block for them? So I just take that to here and just try to carry that same mindset," Jefferson said. "I'm just trying to get more yards to the play, and if that helps with me blocking in the secondary and helping Dalvin score, then that's what I'm here to do."
1ST AND FUTURE
Continuing its search for innovation in athlete safety and performance, the NFL launched the 2021 1st and Future competition.
The event will feature two categories of competition, one for entrepreneurs and one for data analysts:
Its Innovations to Advance Player Health and Safety Competition invites submissions for product concepts designed to improve player health and safety. Up to four start-up businesses will be selected as finalists and will pitch their innovations to a panel of judges. The grand prize winner gets $50,000, and second place receives $25,000. All submissions will be managed by Duke University's Clinical and Translational Science Institute (Duke CTSI), which also manages the league's HeadHealthTECH Challenge series.
The NFL Computer Vision Competition will use access to NFL game data to model a computer vision system for detecting on-field helmet impacts during NFL plays. This challenge is part of the development of a digital athlete platform — a virtual representation of a composite NFL player that the league can use to model game scenarios. That wait, it can try to better predict and prevent player injury.
The top five performing models will win $25,000, $20,000, $15,000, $10,000 and $5,000, respectively.
This will be the sixth annual event. Already, 1st and Future has awarded innovators and data scientists $750,000.