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Real Patriotism Stands and Kneels in Solidarity with Malcolm Jenkins and Colin Kaepernick

23 Sep
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(From right to left) Steven Means, Malcolm Jenkins and Ron Brooks raise their fists during the national anthem in protest of unarmed killings of Black people by the Police prior to Monday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

By Chris Murray 

For the Chris Murray Report and Philadelphia Sunday Sun 

This was supposed to be a column on Monday night’s Philadelphia Eagles/Chicago Bears game.

I was going to talk about how the Eagles’ defense shut down a Bears offense that has a whole host of problems. I was going to talk about how well rookie quarterback Carson Wentz had done against another below average team.

I had planned on making this column totally and completely about football.

But, I saw the video of Terrence Crutcher getting shot in cold blood for the crime of asking for help when his car broke down by a Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer as he stood, hands raised.

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Colin Kaepernick and teammate Eric Reid (left) take a kneel during the national anthem to protest the unarmed killings of Black people by the police.

I saw residents of Charlotte, North Carolina take to the streets in protest due to the murder of Keith Lamont Scott by police as he sat in his car, mistaken for the subject of a fugitive warrant.

So, while it is important to note that the Eagles defeated the Bears on Monday night, giving the team a 2-0 record, I’m going to devote this column to something more important than football.

I’m going to write about how it might be time for everyone who’s tired of seeing more and more of the nation’s athletes join San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in National Anthem protests to stop complaining about how “disrespectful” you think these protests are, and start listening to the message they send because whether you like it or not, they’re not going away.

In fact, I hope they grow.

On Monday night, safety Malcolm Jenkins, corner back Ron Brooks, and defensive end Steven Means raised their gloved fists during the National Anthem. Aggrieved fans in serious need of a visit to the National Constitution Center on 5th and Market took to social media to complain about the protest and accused the trio of attention seeking.

If that was the message you got from the trio’s raised fists, you’ve missed the point, Jenkins said.

“We’re not doing this made-up thing to get attention,” Jenkins said. “Real lives are being lost. Real communities are being affected. The negativity comes from people’s unwillingness to digest the hard truth.”

What he said.

As a 50-something Black man who occasionally finds himself walking down the street, changing a tire on my car, or any of the myriad of things that seem to get Black men killed by police these days, I agree with Jenkins, Kaepernick and all of the other athletes who are protesting because, quite frankly, this persistent pattern of state-sanctioned violence against unarmed Black men has to stop.  Not only does it have to stop, the perpetrators in uniform and hiding behind their badges need to be punished for their crimes.

And despite what The Clash may have told you in the song “Know Your Rights”, murder is a crime, even if it’s done by a policeman or an aristocrat.

But until that happens, athletes in all sports and people of good conscience shouldn’t stand for the National Anthem.

And all of the people who want to get mad about that to the point of questioning people’s pattrriotism need to instead understand why so many African-Americans might feel that their life could in danger because of a routine traffic stop or because your vehicle stalls on some lonely highway.

I applaud Brooks, Jenkins and Means for raising their fists during the national anthem because they play in a city where African-American athletes are expected to just shut up and play. If they raise their fists during this Sunday’s game at Lincoln Financial field, they are going to hear a crescendo of boos and U-S-A chants.

That’s not how a true patriot would react. True patriots would recognize that we have a Constitutional amendment that governs freedom of speech.

True patriots would empathize with their fellow Americans who are having their rights violated through police brutality.

True American patriotism means that you embody the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  It also requires that you understand that the flag and the National Anthem might mean something different to those battling oppression than it does to you.

Whether it’s the right to bear arms or voicing displeasure at the police shooting unarmed African-Americans, it seems sometimes like the Constitution doesn’t necessarily apply to people of color in the minds of some of you.  It’s really easy to tell an athlete with a fat contract to “shut up and play!” when they want to protest police brutality, but it also negates the fact that being an athlete probably hasn’t been spared the indignity of being pulled over by police for Driving While Black.

But they’re not supposed to talk about that. They’re “the entertainment”.

Here’s the thing, if you truly consider yourself a “patriot” and you truly believe in principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, you’d do more for your community if you put on a Black glove, stretched out your arm, and raised your fist at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday in solidarity with Brooks, Jenkins, and Means because, in the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King,  “Injustice Anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Today, the injustice of police brutality is being visited upon African Americans, Latinos and other people of color.

Tomorrow, it could be you.

Think about that.

Freedom of Speech For Some, But Not for Black Athletes

30 Aug

 

 

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick explains to reporters why he refused to stand for the national anthem during last Friday’s preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.

San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the latest Black athlete to learn that to certain sports fans, he lost his First Amendment rights when he picked up a football.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem during the Niners preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, he was harshly criticized on social media, especially Twitter, for being unpatriotic.

Even worse, Kaepernick’s Twitter mentions were filled with the kind of invective that always seems to come up when a Black athlete dares to speak out on a social issue involving the African American community such as the N-word,“go back to Africa,” or my personal favorite, “shut up and play”..

Some of the visceral hatred such as the videotaped burning of Kaepernick’s jersey, kind of made his point regarding the racism that still exists in America and why people tend to lose their minds when anyone, especially millionaire athletes like himself speaks out against it.

When African-American athletes dare to show solidarity with groups like Black Lives Matter, they’re often criticized for their participation because it is seen as being ungrateful. You’re making more than I’ll ever see at my factory job by playing a game. How dare you talk about racism, police brutality and inequality?!

Now the fallacy in this line of thinking is that it overlooks the fact that  Kaepernick, like other Black athletes, have friends and relatives who look like Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and know that something could happen to them or their children at the hands of police. They know that doesn’t insulate you from racism.

It’s something that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out in his famous, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.

When you go back to listen or read what Kaepernick was saying, it definitely runs counter to the charges of being unpatriotic and unAmerican.  If anything, Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem is in keeping with the principles of freedom and justice outlined in the Constitution.

“I have family, friends who have fought for this country that have gone and fought for this country and they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice for everyone,” Kaepernick said. “And that’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain as far as giving freedom and justice and Liberty to everybody. It’s something that’s not happening.”

What’s un-American about that? Seems like it’s in keeping with the Founding Fathers and how they felt about tyranny and oppression to me.

In fact, the Declaration of Independence says: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”

Being critical of your government doesn’t make you un-American. The ability to dissent is perhaps the most American thing you can do. Kaepernick, like others before him, wants his country to live up to the promise of justice for all.

The backlash Kaepernick has received from white fans using racial slurs further illustrates the idea that Black athletes in particular and Black men, in general, are to be seen and not heard, especially when they strike at the heart of white privilege.

While White gun rights advocates are seen as patriotic when they brandish their pistols and assault rifles in the name of standing up for the right to bear arms, Black men, especially athletes, are seen as ingrates when they challenge police brutality and the all too American tradition of systemic racism in America.

If nothing else, the hateful messages on Kaepernick’s Twitter feed are proof positive that the phrase “the land of the free and the home of the brave” only applies to certain people.

It appears that Black athletes like Colin Kaepernick aren’t included in that group.

 

 

Eagles Rookie Jordan Matthews Hopes to Make his Own Mark

17 May

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

PHILADELPHIA—New Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews came into his first rookie minicamp press conference Friday humble and saying all the right things about the work he has ahead of him.

Rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews taking questions from reporters during a rookie camp press conference.   Photo by Chris Murray.

Rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews taking questions from reporters during a rookie camp press conference. Photo by Chris Murray.

Considering how some highly-touted college hotshots have come into the NFL with delusions of grandeur and over-hyped bravado, Matthews is definitely a breath of fresh air, especially when he was asked about dealing with the burden of having to replace former Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson.

“I don’t think there’s any pressure,” said Matthews, the Eagles second-round draft pick. “Like I’ve said, I’m a totally different player than DeSean Jackson. I don’t know where any of those comparisons are coming from. He’s a great player and I wish him all the best in Washington. At the same time, I’ve got to best player that I can be … There’s not pressure for a guy when you’ve got LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and Nick Foles … I just gotta go in there and do my job.”

Okay, that’s fair.

But let’s keep it real here. Eagles fans are expecting. or more accurately, hoping Matthews will have a spectacular enough rookie season to replace Jackson’s 82 catches, 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns from last season. There are still more than a few Birds fans that were upset that the team unloaded Jackson without getting anything in return.

Realistically, it may take a season or two to know what the Eagles really have in the six-foot-three inch, 209-pound Matthews. That said, there’ a lot to like about this kid who seems to have a lot of upside when you look at him on paper and what he did at Vanderbilt.
Matthews is the Southeastern Conference’s all-time leading receiver. During his senior year, Matthews caught 112 passes for 1,477 yard and seven touchdowns. He had five games in which caught 10 or more passes in one of the most physical defensive conferences in the nation.
“I think here saw more man coverage than a lot of other guys. Because I think in that conference, the defensive backs match up,” said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “The one thing he does is catch the ball in traffic. He made an unbelievable amount of contested catches. You know, he’s got such a wing span and will go up and get it, and can play both inside and outside.”
I saw Matthews in Vanderbilt’s season-opener against Mississippi and he was lights out in the Commodores 39-35 loss. He caught 10 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. He runs good routes and has good hands. He runs a 4.46 40-yard dash.

If there is one thing that you can’t measure in Matthew’s college statistics, you have to take a look at this guy’s heart. This was a kid who came out of high school in Madison, Ala with no major college offers and became the best receiver in the SEC. In fact, the only reason he got a scholarship was because another recruit backed out.

That only served to fuel his motivation during his years at Vanderbilt and that’s why being picked in the second round in the 2014 didn’t faze him.

“I think that edge was already with me coming out of high school. I think that was really the point where that chip really got on my shoulders. It wasn’t like I was being overlooked by some teams, I wasn’t wanted by anybody,” Matthews said. “I ended up where I needed to be.”

Matthews was also successful in the classroom at Vanderbilt.  He graduated with a degree in economics in three and half years.

Oddly enough, Matthews is the third cousin of Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice, who definitely knows something about being a long shot coming from a small school like Mississippi Valley State University. He said he’s learned a lot from the former San Francisco 49ers legend.

“He was definitely influential,” Matthews said. “I think one of the most influential things was watching him as a young child and growing up and being able to study his game and trying to apply some of those things to my game. He has given me some advice and I really appreciate that.”

 

Game Plan Foundation Helps former NFL’ers Get Much Needed Help

20 Feb

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

As a player, Leonard Marshall led the New York Giants to Super Bowl titles.  In retirement,  Marshall is helping his retired brethren to enjoy life after football. Photo submitted by Angela Crockett Enterprises, Inc.

As a player, Leonard Marshall led the New York Giants to Super Bowl titles. In retirement, Marshall is helping his retired brethren to enjoy life after football. Photo submitted by Angela Crockett Enterprises, Inc.

During his playing days with the New York Giants, New York Jets and Washington Redskins, Leonard Marshall was one of the NFL’s best defensive lineman with a career that included a pair of Super Bowl rings and 83 sacks.

But when he hung up his jersey after 11 years in the game in 1994, Marshall began to notice that all was not well with some of his fellow ex-NFL players. Some were dealing with malingering pain from old injuries that led to addiction to painkillers. Others didn’t have jobs with the health insurance needed to help with their problems. Still others were dealing with serious short-term memory loss.

“Some of the players were divorced and didn’t have the education or skills to earn money,” Marshall said. “They found themselves in a situation where they couldn’t figure out ‘What’s my next step?”

As he talked with more players, this pattern of injury, addiction and memory loss became clearer, Marshall said.

But it was the  tragic death by suicide of former Philadelphia Eagles safety Andre Waters in 2006 that made Marshall take action. He and Waters had faced off more than once when he played with both the Giants and the Redskins, so the news hit close to home.

“That situation was terrible. That’s what grabbed my attention,” Marshall said. “It was a wake-up call.”

It was then that Marshall decided that it might be time for him to help his fellow retired brethren of the gridiron put together a Game Plan.

In 2008, Marshall formed the Game Plan Foundation to help former NFL’ers connect with the treatment they need. So far, the organization has raised $50,000 and has established partnerships with the medical facilities such as the Laser Spine Institute in Tampa, Fla., and Clifton, N.J.-based P.A.S.T (Pain Alternatives, Solutions Treatment), a medical group that treats former athletes.

Those  facilities provide former players without health insurance or savings the care they need for the physical and mental ailments brought on by the game free of charge.

“About 60 or 70 percent of former players aren’t employed and don’t have the skill set or the ability to function in a job or have a partner that has a job with health benefits,” Marshall said. “I want them to have options for their healthcare.”

The most prevalent ailment among retired players is the issue of chronic traumatic encephalopathy—or CTE. CTE is a degenerative brain condition caused by an abnormal build up of the protein tau, which strangles the brain cells in the areas that control memory, emotions and other functions. CTE, which doctors say is the result of head trauma, has been linked to dementia and depression.

CTE, which was first discovered by forensic pathologist Dr. Bennett Omalu when he did an autopsy of Pittsburgh Steelers Hall-of-Fame center Mike Webster. The suicides of San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau and former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, have been connected to CTE.

Marshall was diagnosed, along with former Dallas Cowboys Hall-of-Fame running back Tony Dorsett and offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure, with CTE last November after having a test done at UCLA.

This makes the struggle to help the NFL’s retirees  a personal one for Marshall.

“I deal with the signs associated with CTE every day,” Marshall said. “I would get in the car, knew where I was going before I left and then forget where I was going or why I was going and then go back home.”

Marshall said he copes with it by taking supplements, exercise and getting additional therapy with controlling his behavior from P.A.S.T., some of which involve him going through therapy that involves getting oxygen to his brain.

“I have to deal with making good decisions, but I’m still talking and writing. Trying to make things work for Leonard,” he said. “It’s a challenge.”

The reality of CTE is also a concern to current NFL players as well. San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said players are worried about the blows to the head that aren’t diagnosed as concussions.

“You have guys that are worried about the helmets they’re wearing or they’re thinking of the players who are suffering from brain injuries now,” Davis said. “It’s getting better, but guys are still worried about it.  …The thing I think about is do we get concussions even though we don’t have symptoms? How will that affect our health? We’re playing this contact sport and we’re getting concussions, but we’re not having the symptoms.”

Unlike now, where players that get their “bells rung” have to go through a concussion protocol before even thinking of returning to the field, head injuries were the last thing on the league’s mind when Marshall was in his prime, he said.

“They did not educate us on head trauma,” Marshall said. “It wasn’t a part of your annual physical. I never got one as a Jet, Giant or Redskin. That was not a part of the exam.”

During his annual press conference at the Super Bowl, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked by Davis if the league would be willing to give the players free health care for retired players.

This issue made the news recently when a federal judge held up a $765 million settlement of a class action lawsuit filed by more than 4,800 retired players against the NFL. The $765 million wasn’t enough money to help all of the players involved with their needs, Judge Anita Brody said.

Goodell said the league is always looking for ways to improve the health care for its former players. In 2007, the NFL instituted its 88-Plan, which provides retired players suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and ALS with $100,000 annually for long-term care and $88,000 for care at home.

But the NFL can’t make things safer alone. So in an attempt to minimize head trauma, the Game Plan Foundation is also teaching youngsters how to employ tackling techniques that don’t involve using the head.

“We’re trying to come up with new ways of training kids how to play tackle football-blocking and tackling,” Marshall said. “We also want to involve parents in the process of teaching kids how to play.”

The Other Quarterback in Super Bowl XLVIII: Don’t Sleep on Russell Wilson

1 Feb

Today’s  Super Bowl XLVIII Report is powered by the Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society 

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By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson fields questions from reporters and a few fans during Super Bowl Media Day. Photo by Chris Murray.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson fields questions from reporters and a few fans during Super Bowl Media Day. Photo by Chris Murray.

JERSEY CITY, N.J.—Lost in all the back and forth trash talk about ducks between precocious Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is the other quarterback in Super Bowl XLVIII, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

In the midst of all the noise of Sherman comparing Manning’s passes to ducks along with the rancor of Marshawn Lynch’s stubborn refusal to play nice with the media all week, Wilson has been as quiet and unassuming in his preparation for Sunday’s game.

“I think the thing that I’ve been able to do is go through my check list and understand what I need to look at all the third down pressures, all the red zone pressures, all the two-minute situations, four-minute situations, backed up situations and really understanding those moments and making sure I’m prepared for those things,” Wilson said.

“When it happens in the game, I’ve already visualized it, I’ve already seen and I’ve already practiced it over and over inside my head.”

Conventional wisdom coming into Sunday’s game says if you stop Lynch in the running game, then you’ll force the Seahawks passing game with their receivers to beat you. Wilson said that’s an opportunity he relishes.

“Most teams try to throw the box at us because of Marshawn and our offensive line and what they can do,” Wilson said. “I look forward to do that if that’s the case.”

Late in the regular season and throughout the playoffs, Wilson wasn’t necessarily putting up the numbers that would have stat geeks jumping for joy. In wins over the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers, Wilson never panicked when he was struggling and always made that one big play to put his team over top.

“Even when the numbers weren’t there, which everybody focused on, we were still winning and he was doing his part to win the game,” said head coach Pete Carroll.  “He didn’t force things he stayed with the game plan, he stayed with the formula we wanted to win with and managed the game in great fashion in the championship game.”

Wilson is more than just a game manager if you look at the numbers. During the regular season, he completed 63 percent of his passes, threw for 3,357 yards with 26 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.

In the win over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game, Wilson made plays to get his team going. With Seattle down 10-0 in the second quarter and the offense struggling, Wilson did a Fran Tarkenton-like scramble around the pocket for what seemed to be an eternity and found Doug Baldwin for a huge 51-yard gain that got the Seahawks offense going and eventually led to field goal.

“I think (Wilson’s running) is a great advantage for us because not only can he make plays running the ball, but when he gets forced out of the pocket, he looks down field to makes plays in the passing game and that gives us huge opportunities as receivers to make plays down the field and get open,” Baldwin said.

Early in the fourth quarter, with his team facing a fourth and seven from the 49ers 35, Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for the touchdown to put the Seahawks on top for good. For the game, Wilson was 16-of-25 for 215 yards and that one touchdown.

“(Wilson) is an incredible competitor in every way. In preparation, in game day, he’s the epitome of what you want in your competitor. He’s got tremendous work habits,” Carroll said.

“He’s got a general all-around savvy that allows him to make great decisions under pressure. He’s extremely confident too, so no matter what is going on, he’s not going to waver in his focus and ability to handle things.”

If fans and the sports media are underestimating what Wilson can do in the passing game, the Broncos secondary won’t because of his ability to create plays with his feet.

“He extends plays,” said Denver safety Mike Adams. “If you have his receivers locked down, he can create something that’s what makes Russell Wilson unique. One thing he does do, he keeps his eyes down field and if he has to run, he going to run. We’ve got to contain that.”

With all the focus on Manning and the Broncos offense, Wilson said he’s ready for the challenge of matching throws with a legend.

“To compete against Peyton Manning is an honor and a privilege … It should be a great game,” Wilson said. “He’s been consistent on a regular basis and that’s where I want to be.”

NFC Championship: 49ers Receivers Will Be The Difference

19 Jan

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

With a healthy Michael Crabtree along with tight end Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin, 49ers might have it what it takes to win against a tough Seattle squad.  Photo by the Bleacherreport.com.

With a healthy Michael Crabtree along with tight end Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin, 49ers might have it what it takes to win against a tough Seattle squad. Photo by the Bleacherreport.com.

When you look at the raw numbers for Sunday’s NFC Championship game, everything seems to come up roses for the Seattle Seahawks chances to get to Super Bowl XLVIII.

Over the last two years, the Seahawks are 16-1 at Century Link Field including two wins over the San Francisco 49ers—their opponents in Sunday’s NFC title tilt. They have the No. 1-ranked defense in the NFL overall — No. 1 in scoring defense and against the pass. On offense, they have quarterback Russell Wilson and a force at running back in Marshawn Lynch.

But I wouldn’t completely count the Niners out of this one.

I think the 49ers have a good shot of going up there and beating the Seahawks, even in that noisy cauldron of a stadium. It won’t be easy, but I think they can pull it off because of their weapons on offense and how they have been playing coming into this game.

The Niners three main receivers are better than any of Seattle’s wideouts. Since Michael Crabtree joined tight end Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin back in week 11, quarterback Colin Kaepernick has completed 64 percent of his passes.

In the Niners win over the Green Bay Packers, it was Crabtree who came up huge with eight receptions for 127 yards.  In the win over the Carolina Panthers, Boldin caught eight passes for 136 yards.  Davis had a touchdown pass that put the 49ers ahead to stay late in the first half.

“It’s Boldin and [WR Michael Crabtree] Crab both. They’re doing a great job getting open. [Quinton’s [Patton] making plays, Vernon’s making plays, there is a lot of people getting open on our team,” Kaepernick said earlier this week.

 If the 49ers can get running back Frank Gore going, it could be a long day for the Seahawks. The last time San Francisco and Seattle met on the Niners’ homefield, Gore gained 104 yards rushing on 17 carries including a big 51-yard run.

“I think the hardest part is because since he’s a smaller guy he gets real low, and he’s downhill. He runs downhill and behind his big tackles and guards,” said Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor.

 “It’s just a matter of being gap sound because as a defense if you’re not gap sound good running backs like Frank Gore will find that hole. So we just have to be gap sound on defense and learn from the mistakes that we’ve had in the past.”

Perhaps the biggest reason that I can give the 49ers a chance to win is the struggles of the Seattle offense, especially the passing game.  Over the last five games, the Seahawks have averaged just 144 yards in the passing game.

In last Sunday’s win over the New Orleans Saints, Wilson was 9-of-18 for just 103 yards. But the Seahawks say they’re not all that worried about their issues in the passing game.

“I’ve said numerous times that we’ve played some terrific teams,” said Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. “They’ve done a nice job on us and we haven’t been able to take advantage of some of the opportunities that we have. But all in all, when we take care of the football and we run the ball really well and manage the game like we have been, that gives us a great chance to win.”

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks passing game has struggle over the last five weeks. Photo by USAToday.com.

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks passing game has struggle over the last five weeks. Photo by USAToday.com.

Meanwhile, Wilson said there’s nothing overly complicated other than he just has to put the ball in his receiver’s hands.

“I think the biggest thing is to  be more accurate on a couple throws I normally make,” Wilson said. “That’s what it comes down to. It’s nothing I need to search deep down for or go study a whole bunch for. It’s just put the ball on the money right where you need to be.”

When you have Lynch in your backfield, Wilson may not need to do as much in the passing game. Lynch gained 140 yards on 28 carries in the win over the Saints including a game-clinching 31-yard touchdown run.

This game will no doubt be a physical game because both defenses are capable shutting the other team down. Seattle opened the playoffs last week by keeping the explosive Saints offense off the scoreboard until late in the game despite allowing over 400 yards of total offense. The Seahawks held highly-touted Saints tight end Jimmy Graham to just one catch.

In their battles against the 49ers in Seattle, the Seahawks defense have shutdown Kaepernick and the Niners’ offense.  The last time San Francisco played at Century Link Field, the Seahawks intercepted the former Nevada star three times and sacked him three times.

“Just playing ourselves, playing discipline, sound football. If you’re playing man-to-man, you’ve got your man,” said outspoken Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. “Guys just playing discipline, sound football and not allowing them to scramble. That’s on our front four and front seven. Scheming it up, making sure he stays in the pocket.”

Meanwhile, the 49ers had two interceptions of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and sacked him five times while shutting down the Carolina running game.

 The last time San Francisco saw Lynch they held him to under 100 yards on the ground. Niners linebacker Patrick Willis said his team has to focus on shutting down the Seattle offense whether it’s Lynch on the ground or Wilson running to buy time in the passing game.

“[Lynch] is just a tough guy to bring down. There’s no question about that,” Willis said. “Russell Wilson, he’s able to scramble and able to throw the ball as well. So, we just have to play a complete game.”

It’s hard to pick against the Seahawks in their house with that defense and Lynch on offense, but I think the 49ers receivers will be the difference in this one. Look for the Niners to spring the upset, 27-23.

Brown and Lee Propel Phils to Win Despite Shaky Bullpen

2 Jun

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Domonic Brown has homered in seven of  his last eight games. Photo by WebsterRiddick.

Domonic Brown has homered in seven of his last eight games. Photo by WebsterRiddick.

PHILADELPHIA—With injuries to players like Roy Halladay, Carlos Ruiz, and Chase Utley coupled with an inconsistent offense and a suspect bullpen, you have to wonder how really bad things would be if the Philllies didn’t have Cliff Lee and Domonic Brown.

So far this year, Lee and Brown have both carried an aging, injury-riddled team that would like to believe it still has fighting chance to be a contender. They have been the most consistent element for an otherwise inconsistent team.

The Phillies ended a three-game losing streak thanks to another outstanding effort by Brown and a stellar performance by Lee and came away with a 7-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in front of 40, 613 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Of course, the Phillies, especially the bullpen, did not get this win without drama. Lee (7-2) was pitching shutout baseball for seven and two-thirds innings. But in the eighth, Lee said he felt cramps in his legs, hips and his arms. Before departing the game, he gave up an RBI single to Norichika Aoki that scored Rickie Weeks, who singled to begin the inning.

“I guess I was a little dehydrated. I don’t know what the deal was,” Lee said. “It happened in Texas. Obviously, the heat is part of it. I tried to do everything I could to stay hydrated between yesterday and today. It didn’t seem to matter. It just happened.”

Meanwhile, things got even more crucial for the Phillies much-maligned bullpen when catcher Jonathan Lucroy hit what looked to be a grand-slam home run off Phils reliever Justin De Fratus to turn a 7-1 game into a 7-5 game. The ball bounced off the second railing of the left-field wall and rolled on the warning track.

Third base umpire Tom Hallion initially ruled the play a homerun, but after the umpires reviewed the play on videotape at Charlie Manuel’s request, they ruled the play a triple, allowing three runs to score. It was a 7-4 game  after the ruling.

“It hit the top of that wire fence and kicked hard to the right and back into play,” Hallion said. “So once we realized it was not a home run, we each put together where the ball went to, who picked it up and then we just placed the runners where they should be.”

With closer Jonathan Papelbon not available to pitch because of illness, Antonio Bastardo closed out the game, but allowed one run and got the final out with the bases loaded when pinch-hitter Mark Maldonado.

Between Bastardo and De Fratus, there were three walks and that seemed to bother Manuel more than anything else.

“The walks in a game like today and late like that gives them a chance to win and brings them back in the game,” Manuel said. “Yeah that bothered me.”

 The Phillies jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first two innings thanks to Brown, who has been out- of-this- world hot. He was 3-for-3 with a home run, a triple a single. He was a double short of the cycle. He drove in four runs. In the first inning, Brown hit a three-run homer off Brewers starter Mike Fiers. In the second, he had a run-scoring triple.

To his credit, Brown said he wasn’t really thinking about the cycle until he heard fans buzzing about it. In his fourth at bat of the day in the seventh, Brown walked.

“I thought about it, but if had a chance to go for three and a ball was in the gap, I’m going for three for sure,” Brown said.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Brown has been tearing the cover off the ball via the home run route. He has homered in eight of his last nine games. He leads the majors in home runs with 16.

“I’m just trying to keep it going and just trying to continue to improve,” Brown said. “Just trying to keep my stroke small and not try to do too much. I think I’ll be fine.”

For seven and two-thirds innings, Lee struck out 11 Brewers and seemed to be on cruise control until cramps settled in along with some anxiety with the Phils shaky bullpen. He allowed three runs on seven hits.

“It was a little bit frustrating, but what can you do,” Lee said. “I’d rather be in control every game from the first inning to the last inning.”