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NFL Takes Center Stage
[Posted Sunday PM]
NFL Quiz: The AP has handed out the definitive NFL Most Valuable Player Award since 1957, Jim Brown winning the first two. But in all the years since, name the only two defensive players to take the honors. Answer below.
--The Giants took on the Redskins in Landover, Md., sans Odell Beckham Jr., which was a shock, considering Beckham practiced some on Friday, with coach Pat Shurmur saying then, “He’s playing. He’s got a quad bruise. It’s been lingering. Remember the last play of the game against Philly, where he got his leg whipped?”
Then Saturday, suddenly Beckham’s status changed...he wouldn’t play, and didn’t accompany the team to Washington.
Understand that Beckham practiced as a full participant on Wednesday and Thursday, and in speaking to the media before Thursday’s practice gave little indication that he was hurting.
“I’m excited about Washington. Another opportunity to go out there Sunday and do what we do,” Beckham said Thursday.
Nothing but drama surrounding this guy.
But no matter...the Giants got off to a 34-0 halftime lead, Saquon Barkley with 159 yards on 10 carries, including a 78-yarder for a touchdown (he finished with 170 on 14), and New York (5-8) cruised, 40-16, over the Redskins (6-7), as Washington was reduced to its fourth quarterback in just three weeks, journeyman Josh Johnson, after starter Mark Sanchez was removed for going 6/14, 38, 0-2, 10.7.
But I watched a lot of the first half and poor Sanchez was the victim of countless drops when it could have made a difference, early, and it just wasn’t fair.
For the Giants, Eli Manning had another good game as New York won its fourth in five, 14/22, 197, 3-0, 132.0. The bad part about this is Eli, it would seem, will definitely be back next year, because statistically he’s had a solid season....but it’s not what the team needs long term!
I also never said Kyle Lauletta was the future, but the Richmond dude got his first NFL action and he was, shall we say, putrid,...0/5, an INT, and a passer rating of 0.0.
So Lauletta is now officially in football-reference.com for all eternity, just like some baseball player who has gone 0-for-1 in a September call-up. He’s hoping he gets a chance to improve on the record thus far.
[What an awful story concerning Washington quarterback Alex Smith, who suffered a Joe Theismann-like season-ending leg injury the other week. After multiple surgeries, Smith is dealing with an infection and remains hospitalized. Running back Adrian Peterson, one of many players who visited Smith this week, said, “I’ll continue to pray for him....That’s all we can do.” This is very serious.]
--My Jets snapped a six-game losing streak to move to 4-9, a 27-23 comeback win over Buffalo (also 4-9) on the road.
What was significant is that Sam Darnold returned after being on the sidelines for four games due to injury and he shook off the rust to play well in the second half, finishing 16/24, 170, 1-1, 83.7, including a terrific game-winning drive.
Buffalo rookie Josh Allen showed he is a raw talent, 18/36, 0-2, 44.4, but 101 yards rushing on nine carries and a TD.
The Bills have a future. The Jets? Darnold will be fine. It’s the rest of the team you worry about. It’s also about who will be the new coach after Todd Bowles is fired.
--The big game today, in terms of shocking finish, was New England at Miami, the Dolphins moving to 7-6 with a stupendous 69-yard double-lateral touchdown as time expired, the last 52 yards from Kenyan Drake, for a dramatic 34-33 win, the Pats falling to 9-4.
Stephen Gostkowski missed a critical extra point, and a field goal, and that’s all she wrote.
--Kansas City is 11-2 after a 27-24 overtime win over Baltimore (7-6), as Patrick Mahomes had two more touchdown passes to raise his season total to 43.
--The Texans’ nine-game winning streak ended as the surprising Colts are now 7-6, 24-21 winners in Houston (9-4).
--New Orleans fell behind Tampa Bay 14-3 at the half, and the studio folks were talkin’ about the Saints peaking too soon...only to see Drew Brees and Co. roar back for a 28-14 win to move to 11-2, the Bucs a desultory 5-8.
--Way back on 11/1/2010, I wrote the following:
“My high school alma mater, Summit, ran its football winning streak to 20, but I have to give the kicker a little ink. Mike Badgley, a sophomore, kicked a school-record 49-yarder this weekend in a 17-13 win. Due to my travel schedule, I have been able to attend only one game this year but was bowled over by this kid’s leg and it’s cool to think he has a real shot at a Division I scholarship down the road, not to rush Mike’s career along.”
As Ronald Reagan would have said, ‘Not bad, not bad at all,’ re your editor’s comment.
Because the same Mike (Michael) Badgley is the reason the Chargers are now 10-3, after he was 4-of-4 on field goals, including a 59-yarder, and successful on his two PATs, Los Angeles defeating Cincinnati (5-8) 26-21.
Badgley is now 14/15 on FGs in his NFL career.
--Green Bay (5-7-1) won its first under interim coach Joe Philbin, 34-20, over mysteriously bad Atlanta (4-9).
--Cleveland (5-7-1) had a nice 26-20 win at home over slumping Carolina (6-7...five losses in a row) as No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield was a cool 18/22, 238, 1-0, 126.9.
--The Raiders (3-10) had their biggest win of the season under Chuckie, 24-21 over the Steelers, who are suddenly just 7-5-1 after losing three in a row. Chris Boswell missed two field goals for Pittsburgh.
--In Arizona’s game against Detroit, Larry Fitzgerald, with five catches for 55 yards, set an NFL record for most receptions with one team, the 15-year vet and future presidential candidate (I’m pushing it) breaking Jerry Rice’s record of 1,281, Fitzgerald now with 1,286.
But the Cardinals are 3-10 after losing to the Lions (5-8) 17-3.
--On Thursday night, Tennessee stayed relevant in the wild-card race at 7-6 with a 30-9 win over shockingly bad Jacksonville (4-9), your, err, cough cough, Bar Chat “Pick to Click” to win it all this year. Hack hack. Cough.
For the Titans, Derrick Henry had an all-world game in rushing for 238 yards and four touchdowns on just 17 carries. I was playing golf Friday with a friend who said he had Henry in a fantasy lineup and picked up some decent coin...as did a lot of others.
Because Henry piled up 47.8 fantasy points, when he had averaged 7.3 points per week this season, not having rushed for more than 58 yards in a game. He nearly doubled that total in one carry – a 99-yard touchdown jaunt that tied the NFL record. He then ripped off a 54-yarder later.
As the Wall Street Journal’s Michael Salfino wrote, this was probably the biggest Week 14 fantasy shocker since Artose Pinner, who had scored just 4.9 points all year, but somehow rolled for 34 in Week 14 for the Vikings in 2006.
College Football Review
--Army beat Navy for a third consecutive year (after Navy had taken 14 in a row), 17-10, in a game that certainly didn’t lack in intensity, Navy done in by some awful play from senior quarterback Zach Abey. I know it’s hard to criticize someone who is about to serve our country, but facts are facts...Abey was 0-5, with two interceptions and a lost fumble.
Army, No. 22 in the AP but inexplicably not ranked in the CFP, is now 10-2 as it heads to its bowl contest with Houston; the third straight bowl game for coach Jeff Monken and the Black Knights.
But Navy, which finishes a highly-disappointing 3-10, can still claim a 60-52-7 edge in this historic rivalry.
I also can’t help but add, those were two very cool uniforms on display yesterday.
--In the Division I-AA, FCS quarterfinals:
Colgate traveled to Fargo to take on No. 1 North Dakota State, and the Bison showed why they have ruled FCS play the last eight seasons, six titles in the last seven, and certainly headed to the title game you would think this year after a 35-0 dismantling of the Raiders, who finish 10-2, their only other loss to Army.
NDSU outgained Colgate 443-157.
In other games....
South Dakota State beat Kennesaw State 27-17, a mild upset.
Ditto Maine beating Weber State on the road, 23-18.
And Eastern Washington had a dramatic 34-29 win over UC Davis; Sam McPherson with a 35-yard touchdown run with 26 seconds left. This came just 47 seconds after UC Davis had taken the lead on Ulonzo Gilliam’s third touchdown, the Aggies then converting the two-point play for a 29-28 lead. Wish I had seen this one.
--Kyler Murray became the second straight Oklahoma Sooners quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy, edging out Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins a distant third.
Murray captured 517 first-place votes, 2,167 points overall, while Tagovailoa had 299 first-place ballots and 1,871 points. Haskins had 46 and 783.
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier finished fourth, with four first-place votes, Gardner Minshew of Washington State was fifth (6) and McKenzie Milton (4) of Central Florida was sixth; though after Haskins there is a massive drop-off in points.
Murray is the first junior to win the Heisman since Alabama running back Derrick Henry did so in 2015.
Among the other award winners, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back; Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver; Kentucky’s Josh Allen won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player; and Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman.
--Speaking of Will Grier, I was very disappointed to see him announce he will skip the Mountaineers’ bowl game with Syracuse to begin preparing for the NFL draft.
This sucks. To me, on paper this is the best non-Big Six game. West Virginia is now going to turn to Miami transfer Jack Allison who had all of 10 passes this season.
--Georgia Tech hired Temple coach Geoff Collins on Friday, replacing Paul Johnson.
Collins, 47, is a former Florida and Mississippi State defensive coordinator, who was also once a Georgia Tech graduate assistant and tight ends coach. He was 15-10 in two seasons at Temple.
--I’m ready for the CFP Playoffs, Dec. 29; Murray vs. Tua in one, Clemson and Notre Dame the other. Don’t bother me that day.
--What a dramatic, terrific win for Seton Hall (6-3) at No. 9 Kentucky (7-2) on Saturday, 84-83 in overtime.
In as exciting a finish as you’ll ever see for a quality matchup, with 1.1 seconds to play in regulation, Myles Powell made a super step-back, double-clutch jumper from the left side that went through, giving The Hall a 70-67 lead. But officials ruled there was 1.5 seconds left, which proved critical, as the Wildcats’ Keldon Johnson made a half-court heave to tie it at 70-70, sending the game into OT. What a sequence.
So then in overtime, Seton Hall’s Myles Cale (just 4 of 18 from the field for the game) hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 9.5 seconds left, Kentucky’s Johnson then having a three-point attempt for the win blocked by Quincy McKnight.
What a super win for Pirates coach Kevin Willard and his squad. I mean this is a team that lost four key seniors, Powell the lone returning major contributor. All he did was score 25 of his 28 after halftime.
Admittedly, it’s also not your father’s Kentucky team this season.
--In other important contests since I last posted, Wednesday night, No. 1 Gonzaga survived a scare from in-state rival Washington, 81-79, on Rui Hachimura’s short jumper with half a second left.
Friday, No. 6 Nevada had a nice road win at No. 20 Arizona State (7-1) 72-66.
Saturday, No. 2 Kansas (8-0) edged New Mexico State (7-2) 63-60. Marquette (8-2) upset 12 Wisconsin (8-2) 74-69. And 17 Buffalo remained undefeated at 9-0 with an 80-62 win over St. Bonaventure (4-6).
But Rutgers’ problems continued, that is the athletic program overall, as the hoops team lost to Fordham (7-2) 78-70 yesterday, the Scarlet Knights dropping to 5-4, but the kind of game it must win. In other words, very Wake Forest-like.
Actually, the Deacs had a nice 80-56 win over Charlotte on Thursday, the Deacs 5-3.
Then today, Gonzaga took on 7 Tennessee and the Vols handed the Zags their first loss of the season, 76-73, at the Air Force Reserve Jerry Colangelo Classic in Phoenix, Admiral Schofield with a career-high 30 points. I watched the final 10 minutes...terrific action.
I wrote last year how much I liked this Rick Barnes coached Tennessee team, Barnes able to hold onto his veterans, like Grant Williams, who could have gone to the NBA.
So it’s a veteran squad that is Final Four primed, given all the breaks one needs to get that far.
In the second game of this event at the Talking Stick Resort Arena, 6 Nevada defeated Grand Canyon 74-66, the now 10-0 Wolf Pack your Bar Chat “Pick to Click” to win it all this season.
--Arizona traded slugging All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals in exchange for catcher Carson Kelly (.154 batting average in 117 big-league at-bats), pitcher Luke Weaver (4.79 ERA in 233 innings) and former UN Ambassador Andrew Young, 86....
...I was just informed this is minor-leaguer Andrew Young, not the former diplomat.
In other words, as Arizona native Shu exclaimed, ‘What the [heck] are the Diamondbacks doing?’
Goldschmidt is still just 31 and is coming off a season in which he hit .290 with 33 home runs and 83 RBIs; a .297 career hitter with 209 homers and 710 ribbies in eight seasons, all with Arizona. He’s been an All-Star each of the last six seasons with three Gold Gloves.
Now it’s true that Goldschmidt can become a free agent after the 2019 season and the Diamondbacks were unable to reach an agreement with him, but wouldn’t Arizona get more in a midseason trade? I just don’t get this...at all.
--For years I’ve written that if I were a general manager (or team owner), I’d encourage my Venezuelan players not to go home, hard as that is to tell someone. It’s just way too dangerous, and you’ve made an investment in a player.
So the other day, 11-year veteran Luis Valbuena and former major league infielder Jose Castillo were killed when their car overturned while trying to avoid a boulder placed in their path, a booby trap placed by bandits, El Nuevo Herald reported. Two of their teammates on a local winter league team were also injured, in what was a highway robbery gone wrong.
The thieves then stripped the athletes of their belongings. Four people were later arrested while allegedly holding the loot, officials said.
Placing rocks in the road to force motorists to stop is a common trick used by bandits.
Valbuena was released in August by the Angels and had not latched onto another team as yet. He hit a career-high 25 homers for the Astros in 2015.
Castillo played five years in the majors for Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Houston.
--What a last five days, going back to midweek matches, when last Wednesday, Wolverhampton upset Chelsea 2-1, while Manchester United and Arsenal played to a 2-2 draw, Liverpool whipped Burnley 3-1, and Tottenham beat Southampton by the same score.
Then Saturday, kind of out of nowhere, Chelsea shut out the presumed 2018-19 champion, Manchester City, 2-0, handing City its first loss of the season.
Liverpool earlier shutout Bournemouth 4-0 and thus moved into first place, remaining unbeaten, equaling a club-record streak of 17 matches, their best-ever start to a league campaign. Mohamed Salah, the “Egyptian king,” tallied a hat trick.
Liverpool’s PL run without defeat includes a 4-0 win over Brighton to conclude last season.
Tottenham had a nice 2-0 win at Leicester City Saturday, Arsenal edged Huddersfield 1-0, and Manchester United whipped Fulham 4-1, once again saving Jose Mourinho’s job for another week.
So after 16 matches of 38...W-D-L...points...[ties broken by goal differential]
1. Liverpool 13-3-0...42
2. Man City 13-2-1...41
3. Tottenham 12-0-4...36
4. Chelsea 10-4-2...34
5. Arsenal 10-4-2...34
6. Man U 7-5-4...26
So the Big Six are right back where they always are, which isn’t good for the sport, but it is what it is.
In the battle to avoid relegation....
16. Crystal Palace 3-3-10...12
17. Burnley 3-3-10...12
18. Huddersfield 2-4-10...10
19. Southampton 1-6-9...9
20. Fulham 2-3-11...9
--I caught the last 15 minutes or so of the MLS championship game between Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers, Atlanta prevailing 2-0 for the title in just their second season! What was great to see was 73,019 packing Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Good show, guys.
AU’s championship is also the first for the city of Atlanta since the Braves won the 1995 World Series.
Someday I’ll get into the MLS. I mean I’ve got the Red Bulls all of 40 minutes away.
--In the NCAA Men’s Division I soccer championship, in Friday’s semifinals, Akron, which had eliminated 1-seed Wake Forest, annihilated Michigan State 5-1, while Maryland beat 2-seed Indiana 2-0.
So Maryland, an 11-seed, and Akron, unseeded, face off tonight for the championship; pretty remarkable.
Alpine Ski World Cup
--Mikaela Shiffrin did it again, winning a super-G Saturday at St. Moritz, confirming the slalom great’s arrival as an all-round threat. She had gotten her first career super-G win last weekend. Saturday’s was just her tenth career super-G start. I mean think about that. Her win at Lake Louise last weekend was her first podium finish in the discipline, and now she has two wins in a row. That’s a quick study, as we say.
Shiffrin’s career victory total is up to 47, with her fourth victory overall in just eight races this season.
Folks, it’s not supposed to be this easy. It’s as good as a golfer winning four of eight, which is basically Tiger at his prime.
But wait...there’s more! Shiffrin just won a parallel slalom event today...make that five of nine...and No. 48!!! Holy Toledo!
On the men’s side, there have been seven races thus far and no American podium finishes. Bleh.
--Johnny Mac passed along the following from Phillip Walter Wellman of Stars and Stripes:
“A U.S. military working dog was killed during a recent clash in Afghanistan in which an American soldier also died, military officials confirmed Tuesday after the dog’s unofficial biography began circulating on social media.
“The dog, named Maiko, and Sgt. Leandro A.S. Jasso – who was assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment’s 2nd battalion and whose death was previously reported – were fatally wounded during a raid against al-Qaeda militants in southern Nimruz province on Nov. 24, military officials said.
“The 7-year-old dog was leading Rangers into a compound when at least one militant fired at him, revealing the militant’s position, which the Rangers then targeted, according to a biography of the dog.
“ ‘The actions of Maiko directly saved the life of his handler...and other Rangers involved during the clearance,’ the biography said.
“A spokesman for the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga., said they were still trying to determine who released the unauthorized biography for the multi-purpose canine, but said it was accurate....
“Jasso, who was not Maiko’s handler, died from injuries sustained during the same operation. Preliminary reports indicated his death was caused by Afghan forces who accidently shot him during a close-quarter firefight against ‘one of multiple barricaded al-Qaeda shooters,’ the military said in a statement last week.
“Like many of his human counterparts, Maiko had served multiple tours in Afghanistan – six in total – and conducted over 50 Ranger-led raids, the biography said. He had the most training and combat experience of any dog with the battalion at the time of his death.
“ ‘Rest assured, Maiko never backed down from a fight with the enemy, training or combat,’ the biography said. ‘He embodied what it means to be a Ranger.’”
About 1,600 dogs are currently either in the field in Afghanistan or helping veterans, the military has said.
Maiko had been trained in patrolling, tracking, bomb detection and apprehension functions and had used these skills on several occasions, including clearing buildings.
His biography read: “It is an empty kennel, husbands coming home to their wives, kids getting to see their fathers once more, and Rangers getting to live to fight another day.”
--When I was in Charleston this weekend, I saw a street named for country music star, and frontman for Hootie & the Blowfish, Darius Rucker. Then I get home and see an interview with him in Golf Digest, Rucker being quite a fanatic.
As Rucker explains:
“Oh, yeah, I play a lot. I’m playing Augusta National tomorrow. I’m playing at St. Andrews in a few days, as we’re heading over to Europe. That’s the coolest thing about being a golf guy. When I go to a town, a lot of people want me to play their course. I play four or five days a week. I’ll do a show and get in my bus, and when I wake up, I’m in the parking lot of a golf course. That’s one of my tour manager’s jobs – to make sure there’s golf wherever we go.”
When asked what his strengths and weaknesses are, I think some of us can relate to the following:
“I can get off the tee. I can usually put it in the fairway. But goodness, my chipping and my sand game are awful. Absolutely awful. I have a short-game practice area in my front yard, but I suck.”
--So for the eighth time in the last 10 years, I was down in Kiawah for the marathon/half-marathon, only I was in no shape to run and thus didn’t. But as we always do, Dr. Whit and I played the Ocean Course on Friday, in what turned out to be a spectacular weather day, including no wind, which helps immensely on this layout.
I love the course (site of the 2021 PGA Championship...as well as prior major events, including the Ryder Cup). The problem is I always use rentals and it takes a while getting used to ‘em.
Oh, I sucked, but I did birdie No. 14, which I consider the hardest par-3, almost holing out the tee shot, while Dr. Whit played generally super.
But going back to Rutgers, our caddie told a funny story.
One of his compatriots was assigned to this group, where one of the golfers had a bag with a big “Rutgers” on it. The caddie was a bit snarky and made a comment on the sad state of Rutgers athletics. Turns out it was the athletic director! He supposedly handled it well.
--The private treasures of Frank Sinatra and his wife, Barbara, sold for $9.2 million at auction Friday, as reported by Sotheby’s, far more than pre-sale estimates.
We’re talking the couple’s entertainment memorabilia, art, jewelry, books and other personal items.
Nine paintings by Sinatra went for more than $850,000, against a high estimate of $120,000. Now this I can see.
The 20-carat diamond engagement ring Sinatra presented to his fiancée in a glass of champagne fetched nearly $1.7 million.
Some of the proceeds will benefit the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center in Rancho Mirage, California.
--I watched “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” probably for the last time Saturday night as I was doing some work. I mean talk about disingenuous, Clarisse goes early on, “Any doe would consider herself lucky to be with you,” in talking to Rudolph. I don’t buy that.
I also forgot how much Burl Ives was lip-synching.
And Donder is a real jerk.
Actually, the only likeable character is Mrs. Claus, who is kind of a cross between Barbara and Laura Bush. I think Santa is money-laundering. I mean where did he get the dough to build that mansion?
[I did just see the SNL Rudolph skit on tape...pretty funny if you didn’t catch it.]
Top 3 songs for the week 12/10/77: #1 “You Light Up My Life” (Debby Boone) #2 “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” (Crystal Gayle) #3 “How Deep Is Your Love” (Bee Gees)...and...#4 “Blue Bayou” (Linda Ronstadt) #5 “It’s So Easy” (Linda Ronstadt) #6 “Heaven On The 7th Floor” (Paul Nicholas...just shoot me...) #7 “We’re All Alone” (Rita Coolidge) #8 “(Every Time I Turn Around) Back In Love Again” (L.T.D.) #9 “Baby, What A Big Surprise” (Chicago) #10 “You Make Loving Fun” (Fleetwood Mac...overall, a really crappy week...I was also finishing up the fall semester of my sophomore year at Wake...one of the worst in recorded academic history...)
NFL Quiz Answer: The only two defensive players to win the AP Most Valuable Player Award are Alan Page (1971) and Lawrence Taylor (1986). Will the Rams’ Aaron Donald become the third? True, quarterbacks Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes are the frontrunners, but Donald entered the week with 16 ½ sacks and a real shot at Michael Strahan’s NFL-record 22 ½ sacks from 2001, a mark aided by a Brett Favre flop in the waning stages of the finale.
No other Ram has more than four sacks, and Donald’s destruction comes from the interior, making it even more remarkable.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.