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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.

A Heck of a Coaching Job by Meyer Winning National Championship with Third String QB

13 Jan

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

The Ohio State Buckeyes are on the top of the college football world and they did it in unlikely fashion.

Playing in just his third game, Ohio State Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to its first national championship since 2001.

Playing in just his third game, Ohio State Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to its first national championship since 2001.

Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer will probably be remembered for pulling off one of the great coaching jobs not just college football history, perhaps in the history of the game.

The fact that the Buckeyes made it to the national championship game against Oregon with a third-string quarterback was a remarkable achievement. That Ohio State won it all is simply amazing.

Sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones, making just his third start, was a beast of a signal caller. He completed 16-of-23 for 242 yards and one touchdown. As a rusher, he gained 38 yards on 21 carries and one touchdown. Jones used his 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame to physically punish the Ducks on short-yardage situations.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer answers questions after his team's win over Oregon in the first College Football Playoff National Championship. Photo by USA Today.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer answers questions after his team’s win over Oregon in the first College Football Playoff National Championship. Photo by USA Today.

Meyer said Jones was actually the second string quarterback in the spring, but lost it to J.T. Barrett during August training camp. He said Jones of a study of what happens when you get a chance to redeem yourself.

“Everybody in life has a chance to push restart,” Meyer said. “Not many people on a grand stage like Cardale has and he has pushed restart and hit the right button and that’s called selfless approach and a serious approach to how he handles his business on and off the field.”

Jones credited Meyer for challenging him and his teammates to be better football players.

“He gets the best out of us in different waJones ys,” said. “Even in the same room as far as the quarterbacks, so the way he gets the best out of us is second to none and that’s why we’re here today.”

Speaking of getting physical, running back Ezekiel Elliot ran through the Oregon defense for 246 yards on 36 carries and scored four touchdowns. Ohio State as a team had 296 yards on the ground. In the second half, the offense was on the field 23 out of the 30 minutes.

Defensively, the Buckeyes slowed down Oregon’s fast-paced offense and kept them from scoring in the red zone including a critical fourth down stop in the second quarter. Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota passed for 333 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

Losing the starter for the season can devastate most teams and can ruin the most promising of seasons. Ohio State not only weathered the storm of losing its starting quarterback, it has experienced a season that I don’t think anyone saw coming when the Buckeyes lost their second string quarterback at the end of the regular season.

And somehow they won the national championship.

“That’s the essence of a good team,” Meyer said. “If you can hit the storm and come out the other end stronger, that’s a real, real, real team and how many of those are out there? I’ve done this 30 years and probably can count them on one hand.

“Some people think this is the luck of the draw. I think it’s leadership and training.”

First, the Buckeyes lost Heisman Trophy candidate and two-time Big 10 Player of the Year Braxton Miller to a season-ending shoulder injury 12 days before the season began.

That situation put the onus on backup J.T. Barrett who not only won 11-of-12 games, but became a Heisman Trophy candidate himself.

Barrett threw for 2,834 yards and 34 touchdown touchdowns passes. He also ran for 938 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns.

Just when things were looking rosy for the Buckeyes, Barrett suffered a broken ankle in the regular-season finale against Michigan and things looked bleak for Ohio State.

Jones made his first start in what was the biggest game of the season, the Big 10 Championship game against a hot Wisconsin squad and another Heisman candidate in running back Melvin Gordon.

In his first game as a starter against the Badger Jones completed 12-of-17 for 257 yards and three touchdowns. The Buckeyes came away with a resounding 59-0 win.

Coming into the Sugar Bowl, the College Football Playoff semifinals, all the experts said there was no way Jones and Ohio State was going to beat SEC power Alabama with a third-string quarterback.

Sho’ nuf, sho nuff … Jones led the Buckeyes to a 42-35 win to put them into the title game.

Jones came up huge against the Crimson Tide, completing 18-of-35 passes for 243 yards and one touchdown. He also had 43 yards rushing.

Not many coaches—pro or college—have made a run through the postseason without their starting quarterback. It’s rare you win anything when you’re down to your third quarterback. I can think of one that comes close.
In 1965, Baltimore Colts head coach Don Shula lost legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas to a season-ending knee injury and they lost their backup quarterback Gary Cuozzo to an injury that ended his season.

The Colts were down to their emergency quarterback, running back Tom Matte, who oddly enough was a collegiate quarterback at Ohio State, and faced the Green Bay Packers in the Western Conference playoff after the two teams finished the season tied for first place.

Matte and the Colts led Green Bay 10-7 for most of the game. Late in the fourth quarter, the Packers sent the game into overtime on a controversial 22-yard field goal that appeared to be wide right.  Green Bay eventually won it in sudden death.

Wearing a wristband with the Colts plays, Matte managed the Baltimore offense well, completing 5-of-12 passes for 40 yards and running for 57 yards on 17 carries. Matte’s wristband is on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Jones name will be inscribed on a national championship trophy thanks to his coach.

Keeping Maclin, McCoy, Improving Secondary a Priority for Kelly

12 Jan

Originally posted on The Chris Murray Report:

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

PHILADELPHIA—Now that Chip Kelly has assumed control of all the Eagles personnel decisions, the burden on him to win a championship has been increased exponentially.

Now the last time an Eagles head coach had that much control over the players he could bring in, do you remember the results?

Yes, it was four trips to the NFC title game including a Super Bowl appearance, a team that consistently stayed under the salary cap, a bizarre disregard for certain positions on defense and at the receiver position (except for one year with Terrell Owens) , a front-office power struggle, and a city without an NFL championship since 1960.

Under Andy Reid as head coach and head personnel guy, the Eagles were good, but were always a couple of pieces away from being a great team that could win…

View original 800 more words

Keeping Maclin, McCoy, Improving Secondary a Priority for Kelly

12 Jan

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

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly will lead the way in making personnel decisions for the Eagles. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly will lead the way in making personnel decisions for the Eagles. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Now that Chip Kelly has assumed control of all the Eagles personnel decisions, the burden on him to win a championship has been increased exponentially.

Now the last time an Eagles head coach had that much control over the players he could bring in, do you remember the results?

Yes, it was four trips to the NFC title game including a Super Bowl appearance, a team that consistently stayed under the salary cap, a bizarre disregard for certain positions on defense and at the receiver position (except for one year with Terrell Owens) , a front-office power struggle, and a city without an NFL championship since 1960.

Under Andy Reid as head coach and head personnel guy, the Eagles were good, but were always a couple of pieces away from being a great team that could win a Super Bowl.

First and foremost, Kelly is going to have to find a general manager or player personnel guy that can find the players that he can trust that’s going to fit the profile he wants for his team.
It’s the NFL’s equivalent of a guy in charge of recruiting at the collegiate level; something Kelly has experience with during his days at Oregon.

Kelly will be in charge of the draft, trades and bringing in free agents while Howie Roseman, who was promoted to vice president for football operations, will responsible for signing the checks.

Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie hopes that Kelly and Roseman can be on one accord unlike Reid and former team vice president Joe Banner. If there were a Salary Cap Bowl the Eagles would have been the greatest of all-time. On the field, the Eagles were a very good team, but couldn’t get over that championship hump.

The first priority for Kelly as “the man” will be to re-sign free agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and restructuring LeSean McCoy’s contract.

Since he is now in charge of personnel decisions, suffice it to say he will be involved in making sure those guys stay in Philly.

Kelly would like to accomplish what New England’s Bill Belichick has accomplished as the man in charge of personnel with three Super Bowls. Seattle’s Pete Carroll who also has say-so over the players he chooses, has the Lombardi trophy on his mantle as well.

Fans are hoping that Kelly, unlike his predecessor, will bring in guys who are going to make a real impact on the defensive side of the ball. In the draft and in free agency, defense should be a major priority.

Instead of bringing in projects like former Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith, Kelly needs to sign guys who are ready to make an impact now—whether it’s in the draft or free agency.

The Eagles need to get better in the secondary. Both cornerback Bradley Fletcher and Nate Allen are going to be free agents. I don’t think Kelly is going to move heaven and earth to get those guys back nor should he do so.

Not since Brian Dawkins or even Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown have the Eagles had a secondary that covered anybody and put a hard hit on an opposing receiver.

At the collegiate level , some of the highly –touted stars include Michigan State’s redshirt junior corner Trae Waynes who played a lot of press coverage in the Spartans highly-touted defense the last two seasons, especially playing alongside Darquez Dennard, who had a solid rookie season with the Cincinnati Bengals.

NFLDraftScout.com rated Waynes the No 1 cornerback in the country and is expected to be taken in the first round. If he’s available, the Eagles should draft him.

Before his season-ending knee injury, Oregon’s Ifo Ekpr-Olomu was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. Ekpr-Olomu was so proficient as a cover corner that opposing quarterbacks rarely threw in his area. He had nine passes defended and two interceptions.

Because of the injury, Ekpr-Olomu’s stock will probably fall, but don’t be surprised if ends up with the Eagles because of Kelly’s affinity for former Oregon players.

Florida State has two good prospects at the cornerback P.J. Williams (74 tackles, one interception) and Ron Darby, who didn’t have an interception this last year, but the scouts seemed to like his speed at the cornerback position.

Top collegiate possibilities at the safety position are Alabama’s Landon Collins (6-0, 222) who has a reputation for being a heady, but physical safety, something the Eagles haven’t had in quite some time and Louisville’s Gerod Hollimon, a playmaking safety, something else the Birds haven’t had in a while.

In 2014, Hollimon had 14 interceptions by himself, more than the entire Eagles secondary this past season.

But if you don’t like the college guys, the 2015 free agent class in the secondary. The pickings at the safety position are slim. On some lists, New England’s Devin McCourty, who is considered a playmaker and has played at the cornerback position before switching to safety.  He had a huge interception in last Saturday’s playoff against Baltimore and allowed just one pass for 17 yards. He had 68 tackles and two interceptions during the regular season.

At the cornerback position, New England’s Darelle Revis is the top cornerback out there. Seattle’s Byron Maxwell, who had 39 tackles and two interceptions playing along side Richard Sherman, will be in the free agent market.  The question is will it be worth it for the birds to spend a lot of money for that position?

Kelly, Roseman and Lurie will all have to be on the same page—Easier said than done if you believe all the rumors of an apparent between Roseman and Kelly.

Despite Bad Call, Lions Have Themselves to Blame in Loss to Cowboys

6 Jan

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

Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens collides with Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew on a controversial reversal of a pass interference call.

Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens collides with Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew on a controversial reversal of a pass interference call.

All the tumult and shouting from the Dallas Cowboys 24-20 win over the Detroit Lions in Sunday’s NFC Wildcard game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex. is not coming from Tony Romo’s game-winning eight-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams.

Fans on social media and on sports talking radio have been debating the controversial pass interference call or better yet non-call that happened midway through the fourth quarter.

Ahead 20-17, the Lions had a third and one at the Dallas 46 when quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a pass to tight end Brandon Pettigrew. A flag for pass interference was called against Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who appeared to be face guarding Pettigrew while also making contact with his shoulder while the ball was in the air.

Incredibly, referee Pete Morelli announced that the flag had been picked up without explanation. After the game, Morelli told pool reporter, ESPN’s Todd Archer that it was the head linesman who overruled the back judge who initially threw the flag. He also said that unlike the collegiate level, face guarding a receiver is not a penalty.

To be honest, it was bad officiating on that play in more ways than one, but it wasn’t the reason the Lions lost the game. I’ll get to that momentarily.

After that call, things began going South for the Lions. On fourth and one, the Lions intentionally took a delay of game penalty and then punted. But Sam Martin’s punt went just 10 yards. It took the Cowboys 11 plays and 59 yards to get what turned out to be the winning score.

On social media, the non-interference call was justifiably vilified by fans, especially those who hate the Cowboys. Some even pointed to a story that came out back in August that said Dean Blandino, the NFL’s Vice President of Officiating, was seen on a Cowboys-themed party bus hosted by Jerry Jones.
I guess they were implying that somehow Jones slipped Blandino a little something-something to instruct his guys to call things the Cowboys way during the season.

Enough of the conspiracy theories, let’s get down to the football end of all this.

For starters, the lack of an interference call was merely one thing the refs missed on the play involving Pettigrew and Hitchens.

As he was running his pattern, Pettigrew grabbed Hitchens face mask—a 15-yard penalty against the offense. But then Hitchens grabbed Pettigrew’s jersey, which should have been defensive holding or illegal contact.
And lest we forget the antics of Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, who came off the bench without his helmet and should have gotten a 15-yard penalty. On that one play the officials definitely got it wrong.

But at the end of the day, it wasn’t the reason the Lions were eliminated from the playoffs. The Lions have themselves to blame for losing this game.

After the controversial play, the Lions still had fourth and one at the Cowboys 46. If they go for it there and make it, we’re not talking about what happened on the previous down.

I’d like to think that if you have players like wide receiver Calvin Johnson or even Reggie Bush you can get one yard against an average Cowboys defense. Johnson, who caught five passes for 85 yards, constantly burned Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr. Running back Joique Bell, who had 43 yards rushing, should be able to get one yard against that defense.

But head coach Jim Caldwell played it conservative and punted, which was not a bad thing to do to pin the Cowboys deep into their own territory. Unfortunately, Martin shanked the punt and the ball traveled a mere 10 yards and put Dallas in good field position at the Cowboys 36—bad execution on the part of the Lions.

If you go back to the play on third and one, the reason there was a collision between Pettigrew and Hitchens. It was a poorly thrown ball by Stafford. If he gets some loft on that ball and puts it out there where Pettigrew can get it, it’s a big play for the Lions.

After Dallas scored the go-ahead touchdown, the Lions had the ball with 2:32 and two timeouts left. That’s plenty of time to march down the field and win the game. The Lions drove from their own 20 to the Dallas 42 and needed three yards to convert on fourth down.
Unfortunately for the Lions, Stafford not only gets sacked, but he fumbled the football. You can’t put that on that non pass interference call. The Lions had an excellent opportunity to win the game, but did not execute when it counted.
After scoring the game’s first two touchdowns in the first quarter, Detroit scored just six points over the next three quarters. The Lions rolled up 257 yards of offense in the first half and had 13 first downs. In the second half, Detroit had just 140 yards and just six first downs.

I know the emotion of Lions fans and those who just hate the Cowboys are going to harp on the non-interference call with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter as the main cause of Detroit’s demise. Yes, the officials screwed up royally on that one play.

However, the Lions did not make enough plays to advance to the next round, something Caldwell was quick to point out during his postgame press conference.

“I’m not going to sit up here and act like that was the play that made the difference in the game. We still had our chances,” Caldwell said.

 

The Associated  Press contributed to this report.

2014: A Year of Black Athletes and Social Justice-Stand Up and Protest Defeats Shut Up and Play

1 Jan

“Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights: it’s all wrong! Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild! God damn it, first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom! …Nostalgia…that’s we want….” Gil-Scot Heron.
By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Athletes from football and basketball are donning, "I Can't Breathe" Tee-Shirts to show support for protesters across. Photo by CBS Lov

Athletes from football and basketball are donning, “I Can’t Breathe” Tee-Shirts to show support for protesters across. Photo by CBS Lov

PHILADELPHIA—When I look back on 2014, I’ll remember it as a year where sports and social justice issues intersected and African American athletes refused to “just shut up and play.”

From challenging outdated stereotypes of sexual orientation to throwing a spotlight on issues such as police brutality, Black athletes decided that their membership in the Black Community was more important than endorsement deals or anything else designed to induce their silence.

“I Can’t Breathe…”

(from left to right):  Stedman  Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt expressed their solidarity with activists protesting against the no indictment ruling in favor of Ferguson police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown.  Photo by Huffington Post.

(from left to right): Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt expressed their solidarity with activists protesting against the no indictment ruling in favor of Ferguson police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. Photo by Huffington Post.

The failure of Grand Juries in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City to indict police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the deaths of Tamir Rice, John Crawford and Akai Gurley sparked protests against police brutality coast-to-coast.

Prominent African-American athletes like NBA stars LeBron James, Kobe Bryant joined Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush and Cleveland Browns cornerback Johnson Bademosi in sporting “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts to express their solidarity with the demonstrators.

But the athletes protest definitely did not come without pushback. When members of the St. Louis Rams came out for a game with their hands up days after the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson was announced, the police union in St. Louis demanded an apology (and suspensions from the NFL) from the players, a tactic also employed Cleveland’s police union for the “I Can’t Breathe” shirt worn by Bademosi and a shirt calling for justice for Tamir Rice  and John Crawford worn by Browns wide receiver Andrew Hankins. Rather than righteous indignation, the police union’s moves vilifying looked more like intimidation.

Of course, more than a few more sports talk pundits and conservative talk radio hosts came out in an unveiled assault of bigotry against the football players.

To their credit, the players and the League refused to bow to the demands of the police unions and loud-mouth conservative talking heads. Police officers, whose salaries are paid by our taxes, are not above the law.

Bryant reminded those who tried to shout the athletes down that they live in the United States of America:

“The beauty of our country lies in its democracy. I think if we ever lose the courage to be able to speak up for things that we believe in, I really think we really lose the value that our country stands for.”

Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Muhammad Ali and Vera Caslavska, the Czech gymnast who protested the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia by turning away from the Soviet flag during the medal ceremony—can definitely understand what today’s athletes are experiencing.

Michael Sam Comes Out.

After being picked in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, 2013 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Michael Sam shares a kiss with his lover, Vito Commisano on camera. The video caused a social firestorm.

After being picked in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, 2013 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Michael Sam shares a kiss with his lover, Vito Commisano on camera. The video caused a social firestorm.

It wasn’t so much that former University of Missouri star Michael Sam announced to the world that he was gay prior to the NFL Draft, it was the long kiss he gave to his lover Vito Commissano on hearing the news he was draft by the St. Louis Rams that threw the social media world into a frenzy.

Most of the vitriol centered on the perception that Sam was trying to impose his “gay lifestyle” upon us heterosexual folks. But while Sam ended up getting cut from the Rams and releases by the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, his presence reminded us that, in the words of gay rights activists, gay athletes are “here, they’re queer…”

And society needs to get used to it…because it’s difference that makes us stronger.

LA Clippers Protest Racist Remarks by Donald Sterling.

LA Clippers protest racist remarks by  thent team owner Donald Sterling. Photo by Indystar.com

LA Clippers protest racist remarks by thent team owner Donald Sterling. Photo by Indystar.com

The NBA was a hotbed of social justice action in 2014.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling found himself in hot water when a recording of a conversation he had with his bi-lfriend V. Stiviano hit the TMZ airwaves.

In this conversation Sterling, who was hit with a record-breaking fine by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for housing discrimination based on race, chastised Stiviano for bringing Black people to Clippers games and taking an Instagram photo with NBA Hall-of-Famer and owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Magic Johnson.

Once the tape hit the street, Clippers players including All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin held a 45 minute meeting to discuss a response prior to the team’s playoff game against the Golden State Warriors that night.

Although there was talk of the Clippers boycotting the game to get back at Sterling, the players opted to protest by removing their warm-up shirts and leaving them at center court and wearing black arm or wrist bands and black socks instead, something that players from the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trailblazers also did to show solidarity.

It was the first real test of new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s leadership. When he banned Sterling from the league for life and forced him to sell the team, everyone agreed Silver had passed it.

But Sterling got $2 billion out of the deal, so you’ll have to forgive me for thinking that in this case racism, like crime, paid.

When “You Throw Like a Girl” Became a Compliment

Mo'ne Davis' 70 mile-per-hour fast ball led the Taney Dragons of South Philadelphia to the Little League World Series.

Mo’ne Davis’ 70 mile-per-hour fast ball led the Taney Dragons of South Philadelphia to the Little League World Series.

Thanks to pitcher Mo’Ne Davis of South Philly’s Taney Dragons, 2014 became the year we all wanted to “throw like a girl”.

The 13-year-old with the 70-mile per hour fastball led the Dragons to the Little League World Series, a first for a Philadelphia team. Mo’Ne also became the first girl to pitch a shutout in a LLWS game, and scored the cover of Sports Illustrated, threw wiffle balls at Jimmy Fallon with battery mate Scott Bandura and met one of her idols, Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

Although the Dragons finished 2-2 during their trip to Williamsport, they, and the Jackie Robinson West team from Chicago that went on to become U.S. Champions, served notice that city-based baseball was back, that kids of color knew how to play…

And that unless you’re hurling a 70-mile-an-hour fastball, don’t tell us you “throw like a girl”…

 

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