Enough Wheeling and Dealing, the Sixers need to Start Showing Progress

26 Feb
Former Sixers point guard Michael Carter-Williams takes the ball to the bucket against new 76ers point Isaiah Canaan. Photo from Spin.com

Former Sixers and new Milwaukee Bucks point guard Michael Carter-Williams takes the ball to the bucket against new 76ers point guard Isaiah Canaan in the Sixers Wednesday night loss to the Bucks . Photo from Spin.com

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—Now that the Philadelphia 76ers have traded 2014 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, what’s next?

If you look at it from the viewpoint of Sixers management,Williams struggled with his outside shooting, clashed with head coach Brett Brown and wasn’t part of the Sixers’ grand vision of success.

More importantly, the Sixers got a possible top-five lottery pick from the Los Angeles Lakers in the dealConsidering the fact that the 76ers are in constant rebuilding mode, this is a good thing. Right now, the Sixers are 12-44 and will have someone hanging out in Secaucus, N.J. and looking for a magic NBA Lottery ping-pong ball.

While being in a position to land high-end draft pick is a good thing, it’s also a huge risk. For every Kobe Bryant, there’s someone who turned out to be a wasted pick. Moving forward, the Sixers and general manager Sam Hinkie had better hope that their next pick is the real deal, is ready to play upon arrival, and that there’s light at the end of this rebuilding tunnel because there’s only so much more rebuilding the fans can take.

I remember people telling me two years ago that it was necessary for the 76ers to unload point guard Jrue Holiday, who was coming off an All-Star year in 2013, by the way, to get some younger impact player.

The Sixers came away with Nerlens Noel, who didn’t play last year because of an ACL injury, and Carter-Williams, who was the 11th player taken out of Syracuse. At the time, we all gushed over Carter-Williams’ athleticism and his upside as a 6-6 point-guard.

While we all knew that Carter-Williams was a poor shooter, he played well enough to be the league’s best rookie. He averaged 15 points and 6.3 assists per game, shot at 40 percent from the floor and 26 percent from three-point range.

Before he was traded to Milwaukee, Carter-Williams shooting percentage fell to 38 percent and he was averaging just 25 percent from behind the three-point line. Yet, he was still averaging 15 points and seven assists per game.

The Sixers pulling the trigger on Carter-Williams is an example of how the 76ers and its brain trust, a title I use loosely, might not know what they’re doing. While they got rid of Carter-Williams, who could have been worked with, their two most recent lottery picksNerlens Noel and Joel Embiid were drafted when they had both had leg problems. The big question for these guys is will they eventually be good enough to make the Sixers a consistent winner.

So far, the reviews on Noel’s rookie year have been predictably mixed. The 6-foot-11 is one heck of a defensive player who really needs to develop his offensive game. He is averaging 8.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

Noel’s defensive skills landed him a spot in the NBA Rookie game during All-Star Weekend.  He is averaging 1.8 blocks and 1.6 steals per game. According to Basketball Reference.com, the last rookie to accomplish that was Hall-of-Famer David Robinson.

Offensively, Noel needs work, lots of work.  He needs to develop some moves in the low post and he also needs to put on a few pounds, especially if he’s going to float between playing the power forward and center spots.

Meanwhile, at this year’s trade deadline, Hinkie was reportedly willing to part ways with Embiid, who has yet to put on a Sixers uniform and has supposedly put on a few pounds.  

For all of his reliance on basketball’s version of sabermetrics and his endless search for the bigger and better deal, Hinkie is going to have to put a team on the floor that’s going to develop into a consistent winner.

Before investing their dollars for season tickets, fans at the very least have to see some tangible progress. If you play for the lottery too many times, you’re not winning…and you wind up being the East Coast version of the Los Angeles Clippers of the Donald Sterling years

And besides, if fans want fantasy basketball, they can get that anywhere on the Internet.

Spring Training 2015: Phils Begin the Painful Process of Rebuilding

20 Feb
Cole Hamels had a career best 2.46 ERA, but didn't get enough run support in 2014 and now wants out of Philadelphia.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Cole Hamels had a career best 2.46 ERA, but didn’t get enough run support in 2014 and now wants out of Philadelphia. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is hoping to be at full strength after struggling last years. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is hoping to be at full strength after struggling last year.
Photo by Webster Riddick.

 Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—With pitchers and catchers reporting to the Phillies spring training headquarters in Clearwater, Florida this week, fans would like to believe that there would be some hope onthe horizon.

But, the Phillies are a team facing more uncertainty now than they did at the end of last season’s 73-89 finish.
Don’t get too attached to the Phillies current 40-man roster because it’ll probably change by the July 31st trade deadline or when the season ends. Heck, it may not be the same when the Phillies open the season against the Boston Red Sox on April 6 at Citizens Bank Park.

During the offseason, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. tried to move veterans like Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard.

But the offers weren’t there. So guys, along with second baseman Chase Utley and his un-waved no-trade clause, remain on the roster.
While most of those guys will be gone eventually, Hamels is already looking at moving companies. The team’s ace pitcher told USA Today: “I want to go to a place where I can win again. I know it’s not going to happen here.”

On the other hand, that’s not to say Amaro didn’t make any moves this off season. He managed to jettison the team’s all-time hits leader, shortstop Jimmy Rollins (Los Angeles Dodgers), rightfielder Marlon Byrd (Cincinnati) and starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (Colorado Rockies).

The most notable addition of the Phillies offseason was former Los Angeles Dodgers Chad Billingsley, who hasn’t pitched in nearly two years because of elbow surgery. He missed all of last season and a good chunk of the 2013.

That one was a bit of a head scratcher. I guess that Amaro is hoping Billingsley will be healthy enough to be a functioning part of the rotation or better yet be good enough to be a tradable commodity. From 2006 to 2013, Billingsley has an 81-61 record with a 3.65 earned run average.

Health is also concern for lefthander Cliff Lee, who is scheduled to make $25 million this season. Lee ended the 2014 season on the disabled list with an injured left elbow, something that scared off potential trading partners. Amaro is hoping Lee can give teams the illusion that he’s still good enough to get some young prospects for him.

Speaking of possible pieces to trade, a big question is will Ryan Howard be healthy enough to be the slugger that struck fear in the hearts of pitchers from 2006 to 2011. If Howard has a hot start in the spring and summer, Amaro might find some willing trade partners, especially in the American League where he could help a team as a designated hitter.

But the team that does it is going to have to swallow the last two years—and $60 million—of Howard’s contract.

Rebuilding is obviously the Phillies ultimate goal. Amaro and manager Ryne Sandberg want to know if guys like Freddy Galvis, Ben Revere, David Buchanan, Cody Asche, Domonic Brown, Maikel Franco and Darin Ruf are ready and good enough to eventually become perennially contenders in the National League East.

The next few seasons will probably tell Phillies fans whether or not the light at the end of this rebuilding tunnel is attached to an oncoming train.

Don’t Punish the Kids: Jackie Robinson West’s Forfeit of U.S. Little League Title is a Case of Adults Behaving Badly

13 Feb
In what was a happier moment, the kids from Chicago's Jackie Robinson West Little League squad celebrate winning the U.S. Championship in the Little League World Series. The title was recently stripped from Jackie Robinson West because of rules violations.  Photo by Huffington Post.

In what was a happier moment, the kids from Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West Little League squad celebrate winning the U.S. Championship in the Little League World Series. The title was recently stripped from Jackie Robinson West because of rules violations. Photo by Huffington Post.

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

The story of Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball team being stripped of their U.S. Little League World Series title is the sad tale of an epic fail on the part of the adults.

Little League International stripped the squad of its championship because team officials violated the rules for expanding the boundaries from where they can get players without asking permission of the neighboring districts.

From all I’ve read and heard about this situation, I can’t help but feel that the only visible heroes here are the kids on the team itself who performed excellently on the field.

All of the adults—the team’s coaches and administrators, Evergreen Park Little League Vice President Chris Janes, the so-called “whistleblower” who may have played fast and loose with the rules himself, and the Little League International organization—have acquitted themselves badly.

From the start, the coaches and organizers of Jackie Robinson West, should have talked with Little League about the team’s boundaries JRW coach Darold Butler should have realized that this whole thing was going to come out at some point, especially with all the national publicity the team received. Winning should never come at the expense of integrity.

But the coach wasn’t alone in his bad behavior. The administrator for Illinois District 4 and Little League Baseball International’s should have had a better system of making sure each team is in compliance.

But that said, there will be no medals given to Janes of Evergreen Park either. After his squad got thumped 43-2 in four innings by JRW, he turned into Little League’s version of Inspector Javert in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, determined to go after this group of kids in the same way Javert went after Jean Valjean.

Janes sent an email to Little League Baseball that appeared in DNAinfo.com, the website that broke the story. This email implied that he would take legal action if Little League Baseball didn’t look into the allegations against Jackie Robinson West.

I guess watching his kids get mollywhopped by a group of inner city Black kids that didn’t play the so-called “traditional” way caused something to snap.

Adult entitlement is a helluva drug.

The vigor with which Janes went after this team of kids, and let’s be honest here and admit that snatching an achievement from a group of kids is what this is all about, smacks of racism to many in Chicago.

But while many were too polite to say it, Venisa Green, mother of JRW player Brandon Green, wasn’t. When you go after someone’s child, the gloves, in this case baseball gloves, tend to come off.

“It is amazing to me that whenever African-Americans exceed the expectations, that there is going to be fault that is going to be found in what it is we do,” Green said to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Now would Janes have made these allegations if JRW not beaten his team so badly or had they not won the U.S. Championship? If Evergreen Park had beaten JRW, would Janes have gone through the pains complaining about the team’s boundaries?

No, he probably wouldn’t have, said the Rev. Michael Phleger, pastor of Chicago’s St. Sabina Church. He took part in a rally in support of the team organized by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

“Are you telling me that the same kind of obsession of stalking, going over this month, would have happened-would have been done—if the Las Vegas team had won?” Phleger said. “I’m sorry. I live in America. And I believe that racism is in the midst of this thing.”

In yet another example of how the adults screwed this thing up, ABC-7 TV in Chicago interviewed an African-American mother whose son played in the Evergreen Park Little League despite not living within it’s boundaries. Renee Cannon-Young said her son’s paperwork was all filled out for her to sign, complete with a falsified residence.

“I was told that although he was not a resident of Evergreen Park, they were going to fix that so that he could play,” Cannon-Young said.

The ABC-7 report also said it was common practice for Little League teams to recruit from beyond their designated boundaries.
Little League Baseball is supposed to be that field of dreams where it’s all about the kids and the pure joy associated with the love of the game. Instead, it has become a microcosm of all that is wrong in the world of adults.

If it has any semblance of understanding and compassion, Little League International should restore the U.S. Title to the kids of Jackie Robinson West because they did nothing wrong but play well in the game they love.

It was the grownups that broke the rules and acted like petulant children.

It’s too bad that the players of Jackie Robinson West, the kids who did everything right, are the ones made to pay for their sins.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Serena Williams’ Drive to Immortality in Women’s Tennis

2 Feb Serena Williams holds the 2015 Australia Open Trophy. Photo by Yahoo.com

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Serena Williams holds the 2015 Australia Open Trophy. Photo by Yahoo.com

Serena Williams holds the 2015 Australia Open Trophy. Photo by Yahoo.com.

As the rest of the world was sleeping with visions of Seahawks and Patriots dancing in their heads, Serena Williams was in Melbourne, Australia moving closer and closer to tennis immortality with yet another dominant performance in a Grand-Slam event.

In a sport where you’re considered elderly in your late 20s, the 33-year-old Williams became the oldest female tennis player to win the Australian Open with her victory over an overmatched, but game Maria Sharapova in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6.

Williams won her 19th Grand-Slam singles title, the second most in the Open-era behind Steffi Graf who won 22. She moved past Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, who both have 18. If she keeps playing at this high level, the she could do it this year—which means Williams would win the tennis Grand-Slam, something that hasn’t happened since Graf did it in 1988. Since turning 30, Williams has won six Grand-Slam singles titles.

Williams said while the goal to catch Graf is within reach, she’s just focused on winning her next Grand-Slam event, which doesn’t take place until May at the French Open.

“I would love to get to 22. I mean 19 was very difficult to get to,” said Williams, who won her first major single title in 1999 when she was 17. “But I have to get to 20 first and then I have to get to 21. It will be a very big task.”

Serena Williams and her sister Venus (seven Grand-Slam singles titles) have dominated the tennis scene so much over the last 15 years that you expect to see one of them in a Grand-Slam singles final whether it’s the French Open, the U.S Open  or Wimbledon. The sisters are considered to be one of the greatest doubles-tandems ever with 13 titles. They have never lost in a major final.

After the match, ESPN tennis analyst Pam Shriver said Williams is the greatest women’s tennis player of all-time when you consider those 13 doubles titles she won playing with Venus.

“It’s the complete package of an all-time great tennis player,” Shriver said.

But wouldn’t it be great to see Williams catch up with Graf and win the Grand Slam in the process? To be sure, it’s going to be tough given her age and the youth of her competition. I’d like to see her go after it and become the greatest women’s test player ever in spectacular fashion.

As long as Williams stays healthy and keeps that blistering serve, she has a good shot at running the table with wins in the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S Open.

From what I saw in Williams match against Sharapova on Saturday, it could definitely happen. Fighting through the match with a respiratory illness, Williams powerful serve kept Sharapova off balance throughout the match.

Williams had 18 aces in the match, including 15 in a tough, second- set tiebreaker in which both she and Sharapova held serve. Williams ended the match with a powerful ace to put her name in the record books.

If she were to retire today, Serena Williams with her 19 singles titles and 13 doubles crowns would definitely go down as one of the all-time greats in tennis or arguably the best ever. Not bad for a young woman who first learned her tennis, not in some stuffy, rich country club, but on the public courts in the poor Los Angeles suburb of Compton.

I don’t know how much Williams has left in the tank in her quest to catch up to and eventually pass Graf, but I would tell you to take every opportunity to see her try with her blistering serves and overall power because athletes like Williams don’t come along too often.

WTF:Bad Play Call Dooms Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX

2 Feb

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

New England's Vince Butler makes the game-saving interception for the Patriots in their 28-24 win over Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX.

New England’s Malcolm Butler makes the game-saving interception for the Patriots in their 28-24 win over Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX.

I have been an observer of pro football since I was six-year-old kid growing up in Baltimore back in 1968 and I like to say that I’ve seen it all.

But the minute you start thinking that something else happens to boggle your mind and make you say, “Huh?”

With under 30 seconds left in Super Bowl XLIX, the Seattle Seahawks had the football at the New England Patriots one-yard line on second down after a four-yard run by Marshawn Lynch. Two plays earlier, an improbable juggling catch by wide receiver Jermaine Kearse put the Seahawks at the Patriots five-yard line.

With the score 28-24, most of America is expecting another run by Lynch to put the game away for Seattle.

Instead the unthinkable, the unfathomable happens.  Russell Wilson passes the ball on a slant to Ricardo Lockette, but Patriots rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler jumped the route and made the game-ending interception. Game over, the Patriots win their fourth Super Bowl in an unforgettable football game.

“The last play we had a formation where we could throw it on them,” Wilson said after the game. “Lockette was coming underneath and the guy made a great play. That’s what it really comes down to—the guy just made a great play.”

The Patriots are the Super Bowl Champions and looking forward to their parade in Boston while Seattle fans at home and at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. were no doubt uttering the phrase, “What the f…..?!”

Let me get this straight, you have one of the league’s most powerful running backs, you’re one yard from pay dirt with one timeout left and you call a risky pass in that situation?

It was a dumb call.

“There’s really nobody to blame, but me and I told them that clearly,” said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll.  “A very, very hard lesson. I hate to learn the hard way, but there’s no other way to look at it right now.”

Granted, it wasn’t the only thing that beat the Seahawks. You have to take your hat off to Brady and the Patriots for overcoming a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit against the league’s best defense. The Seahawks offense didn’t take advantage of chances to increase their lead and let the Pats hang around.

All that said, you don’t pass at the one-yard line with one time out when you have Lynch, who gained 102 yards on 24 carries and was averaging 4.1 yards running through the Patriots defense. Carroll tried to rationalize the call when he spoke with reporters after the game.

“It’s just because of the matchups,” Carroll said. “At this time, it seems like overthinking, but they have goal line guys on. We have three wide receivers, a tight end and one back in that situation; they’ve got extra guys at the line of scrimmage. So we don’t want to waste a running play at that.

“Yeah, I just told them ‘Make sure, let’s throw it here.’ We’ll run on third or fourth down.’ “

Third down, along with their second straight Super Bowl victory never came for the Seahawks, who will be second-guessed ad infinitum all winter until minicamp and organized team activities in the spring. In the lore of NFL history, the fans will talk about this game for a long time.

But when you get beyond what was an extraordinary moment in an exciting, well-played Super Bowl, there were some other moments that determined the outcome of this game.

As much as folks may not like Brady, he made the big plays when it counted. He rallied the Patriots from a 10-point deficit with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns passes. For the game, he was 37-of-50 for 328 yards and four touchdowns.  It was not surprising that he was named the game’s most valuable player.

“(Brady) is so calm and collected. He’s the best,” said Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola. “He gets everybody to play at a higher level. He’s our leader emotionally. … He’s the best quarterback we all love playing for him.”

After taking a 10-point lead in the third quarter, the Seahawks offense failed to extend their advantage. On their third possession of the third quarter, the Seahawks had a third and two at the New England 47.  Wilson found Kearse streaking down the sideline.

Kearse had the ball in his hands but dropped it deep in New England territory. Seattle was forced to punt.  The Seahawks went three and out on their next two possessions before that fateful final drive.

“They busted their tales and did everything they needed to do to put us in position to win and unfortunately, it didn’t work out,” Carroll said. “(Seahawks) were on the precipice of winning another championship and unfortunately the play goes the other way.”

 

 

Carrying the Ball and Their Own Baggage: Marshawn Lynch and LeGarrette Blount

29 Jan

Super Bowl XLIX Will Be A Matchup of Two Complex Running Backs  Who Have Issues with Authority 
By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When Marshawn Lynch has the ball, he can do a lot of damage. He hopes to do that against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. Photo by Webster Ridddick.

When Marshawn Lynch has the ball, he can do a lot of damage. He hopes to do that against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. Photo by Webster Ridddick.

If you’ve had enough of the hot air surrounding the “Deflate-Gate scandal, but still have a taste for the quirky and bizarre of Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale,look no further than Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch and his fellow ball carrier LeGarrette Blount of the New England Patriots.

While Lynch and Blount will be key components in the game plans of their respective teams on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium, a lot of focus has been placed not on their ability to carry the ball, but on the baggage—Lynch’s refusal to talk to the media and Blount’s unceremonious kick to the curb from the Pittsburgh Steelers– they drag with them as they do it.

Not since Dallas Cowboys running Duane Thomas’ gave his famous “What time is it” line to reporters in the buildup to Super Bowl VI in 1972 has a running back’s words made the kind of headlines that Lynch’s “I’m here so I won’t get fined” did.

During the Seahawks Media Day session on Tuesday, Lynch kept repeating that line over and over again during a strange, yet amusing three and a half-minute confab with more than 200 reporters.

According to the NFL Network, Lynch chanted the sentence 29 times. Lynch’s aversion to press availabilities and how it manifests itself has become the stuff of legend.

From the one-liners he delivered during the regular season that cost him $50,000 in fines to the complaints filed by the Pro Football Writers Association for his refusal to talk to reporters during last year’s Super Bowl Media Day, Lynch has figuratively grabbed his crotch when it comes to the League’s mandated press conferences.

And speaking of crotch grabs, the NFL has warned the Seahawks that if Lynch decides to do that after scoring a touchdown, the former Cal star’s antics would cost them 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct each time. It’s already cost Lynch a grand total of $31,050 ($20,000 for doing it during the NFC title game and $11,050 for a regular season game in December.)

Lynch’s Seahawks teammates say that Lynch should be able to handle his media duties his own way, but several prominent members of the media have chided Lynch for not following the league rules and not promoting the game that pays him. That’s a good point.

Oddly enough, Lynch’s Media Day Theatre of the Absurd might have done more to promote the game, something that the NFL probably doesn’t want to admit. No one wants to admit that anti-heroes and knuckleheads make the game as intriguing as the game’s superstars, especially in a year where the League has endured a lot of bad press.

For all his public misbehavior, Lynch’s teammates and coaches benefit from the damage he does on the field when he’s in “Beast Mode.”

During the regular season, he gained 1,306 yards with 13 touchdowns. He also gained 157 yards on 25 carries in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers and scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the four quarter. He’s also a leader in the locker room.

“Obviously, he’s a little different with us than he is out in public, but he’s a great guy,” said Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. “He works hard in the meeting room in the meeting room with those guys (running backs) to help prepare them.” ​​

LeGarrette Blount came up huge for the Patriots in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.  He scored three touchdowns.

LeGarrette Blount came up huge for the Patriots in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. He scored three touchdowns.

But while Lynch’s shenanigans tend to anger Seahawks beat writers, Blount’s angered Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

Blount expected to be a bigger part of the Steelers offense, but with the emergence of Le’Veon Bell, his playing time was reduced. Blount had just 266 yards rushing in 11 games.

A few minutes before the end of the Steelers win over the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 17, Blount decided he had enough of being Bell’s backup and walked off the field before the game was over. By the time the rest of the team got to the locker room, Blount was headed for the team bus.

Twelve hours later, the Steelers gave Blount his walking papers.
Head coach Bill Belichick, remembering how well Blount played for the team in 2013, took him back immediately after he cleared waivers.

While most coaches might have shied away from him because of how his time in Pittsburgh ended, it didn’t matter to him, he said.

“Yeah, I don’t know anything about Pittsburgh, you’d have to ask Pittsburgh about Pittsburgh,” Belichick said. “I think he’s been a good addition to our team, very popular guy in the locker room. He’s good for our team and he’s a good player, so it worked out well.”

Blount has paid dividends. In five games for the Pats in 2014, he gained 281 yards. In the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts, Blount gained 148 yards on 30 carries and scored three touchdowns.

Blount’s return to the Patriots energized his teammates.

“I felt like it was almost like he never left once we got going,” said Patriot running back Shane Vereen.

And in the end, leaving the Steelers was a good thing for him, Blount said.

“Things didn’t work out as planned, so we had to part ways and I ended up here,” he said. “And now I’m about to play in the Super Bowl.”

Belichick has a knack for finding talented players with baggage and Blount is no exception. He was suspended much of his senior year at Oregon for punching a Boise State player after his Ducks lost their 2009 season-opener. In his first training camp with the Steelers, he and, ironically enough, Bell, were arrested on possession of marijuana charges. Blount will be in a Pittsburgh courtroom on Feb. 4, hoping to have those charges dismissed.

Lynch and Blount may have their share of personal issues with authority, but they help their teams win. During Media Day, Blount said Lynch shouldn’t change a thing about himself.

“Whatever he’s doing, I recommend him to keep doing it because he’s been successful in this league at it,” Blount said.

Wilson Overcomes Early Struggles With Fantastic Finish!

19 Jan

“If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too. … If you can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds’ worth of distance run…Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and which is more, You’ll be a man, my son.“-Rudyard Kipling.

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Russell Wilson launching his game-winning overtime touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse to send the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl. Photo courtesy of the StarTribune.com

Russell Wilson launching his game-winning overtime touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse to send the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl. Photo courtesy of the StarTribune.com

As the confetti flew all over Seattle’s Century Link Stadium, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had tears of joy streaming down his eyes as his teammates gathered around him. His touchdown pass in overtime had just put his team in the Super Bowl.

Thanks to his game-winning 35-yard touchdown pass to teammate Jermaine Kearse, Wilson pulled off the improbable mother of all comebacks in the NFC Championship with a 28-22 overtime victory over the Green Bay Packers.

“(Wilson) did a remarkable job with the finish of this game,” said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll. “It took so long for the good stuff to happen. It was a long, hard day for him. We were throwing for nothing. I think 10 yards at halftime. It was a crazy game. But with the game on the line, this is what (Wilson) has totally believed would happen and he never thought that it wouldn’t.”

Seattle will head to Super Bowl XLIX take on the New England Patriots at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Pats punched their ticket to the Super Bowl with an easy 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game.

Wilson’s happy tears were perilously close to being somber and sad ones. He had been sacked five times, threw four interceptions including what looked to be a game-clinching pick for the Packers with 5:13 left. But out of the ashes of what was a terrible game for him, Wilson found a way to win.

“It was just staying the course, trusting the protection, trusting the routes, trusting the timing, trusting the preparation, trusting the film study…That’s where I went to, going back to the fundamentals of the game,” Wilson said. “The ball didn’t bounce our way the whole game but it bounced our way at the right time.”

Wilson fought through his mistakes and was great he needed to be, especially in the last 3:52 of regulation and in overtime. What was most impressive was the fearlessness Wilson displayed down the stretch. He wasn’t afraid to make a mistake after four picks and he kept firing until he got it right.

“If we’re going to down, I’m going to go down swinging, that’s for sure,” Wilson said.

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin said Wilson’s performance reflected the heart and resilience of the team.

“Indicative of this team,” Baldwin said. “He never counted himself out. We never counted him out. We always believe in the guy in the next to us no matter what the situation is, no matter what he’s going through. He had a rough first half, we all did.

“But when you make a throw like that in the fourth quarter and when Jermaine (Kearse) comes through, I think he had two drops in the first half and I told him don’t worry about that, you’re going to have your opportunity and he comes and makes that crucial touchdown catch. That’s what this team is made of.”

Not only did Wilson believe in himself, he still had faith in his teammates, especially Kearse. Two of Wilson’s interceptions came off catchable balls that caromed off Kearse’s hands. Wilson never wavered in his belief that Kearse would come through with a big catch.

“Because I’ve seen him make so many plays before,” Wilson said. “That’s the first thing I told Kearse after that last interception. We’re going to win this game and I’m going to keep coming back to you, we’re going to find a way to win the game. …When I found a chance to hit Jermaine one-on-one on that deep post, we went for it and we hit it.”

During those times that Wilson and the offense struggled, it was the defense that kept the Packers from turning the game into a rout in the first half. Green Bay had the ball inside the red zone four times in the first quarter and came away with just one touchdown and three field goals to take a 16-0 lead.

The special teams came up with a pair of huge big plays for the Seahawks and put them in position to win the game. Seattle got their first score of the game in the third quarter on a fake field goal. Punter Jon Ryan threw a 19-yard to pass to tight end turned offensive tackle Garry Gilliam.

After a Wilson touchdown one-yard brought the Seahawks to within 19-14, reserve wide receiver Chris Matthews recovered Steve Hauschka’s onside kick that led to a spectacular 24-yard run by Marshawn Lynch that gave Seattle its first lead of the game.

Speaking of “Beast Mode,” Lynch gained 157 yards on 25 carries and that spectacular run for his touchdown.

After Lynch’s score, Wilson made another improbable play on the two-point conversion when he sprinted to his right and floated a ball up for grabs to his left that was miraculously caught by tight end Luke Willson to give Seattle a 22-19 lead.

That play was important because Green Bay would tie the game and send it into overtime on a 48-yard field by Mason Crosby.

Once the Seahawks won the coin toss, Wilson knew he had the Packers right where he wanted them.

“I told (offensive coordinator) Darrell Bevell on the sideline after that coin toss, I’m going to hit Kearse with a touchdown on a check,” Wilson said.

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