In case you were busy watching Frasier with Jay Z, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Break up the Jaguars, winners of three straight after they topped the Houston Texans 27-20 in Jacksonville. According to the Internet, that three-game winning streak is the longest active streak in the AFC. However, common sense would suggest that is likely not true, but simply an indicator that the machines controlling the Internet have evolved, become sentient, and progressed psychologically to the point where they can derive pleasure from trolling.
In a titanic battle of teams easily likened to the Titanic, the Knicks proved unsinkable, beating the Nets 113-83 in Brooklyn. "So does that make me the iceberg?" asked Nets head coach Jason Kidd after the game. But the awkward silence made it clear to Kidd that he was not the iceberg at all, just a man holding on to some flotsam, waiting for the icy grip of death to take hold.
Every season, Thanksgiving is about when we start figuring things out, and this year is no exception. Several teams made their playoff case last week, with the Saints, Panthers, Colts, and Eagles all gaining ground in either a division or wild-card race. But it’s also the time of year when teams finally come to the sad realization that it’s time to close up shop. Last week, with losses to a one-win Bucs team and a Matt McGloin–led Raiders team, respectively, those teams were the Falcons and Texans — two teams that came into this season with back-to-back trips to the playoffs.
Including Atlanta and Houston, there are currently eight teams down at least two games in the loss column for a playoff spot, and we know that for those fans, the holidays can be a cold, lonely stretch. So with Black Friday just around the corner, we wanted to give those teams a little something to keep them warm by putting together a holiday wish list for that one gift each needs as it looks forward to next year.
This is an unsettling thing: Once, when I was in college, I went to a park near the campus to play pickup soccer with a few people. While I was sitting in the front seat of my car putting on my cleats, I saw a dog get run over by a single-cab truck. The dog, a tiny yellow thing, had bounced away from his or her owner and ran out into the road and GROSS.
I remember the guy that the dog belonged to shouting, "Oh no! OH NOOOOOO!" to nobody at all. Up until that point, it was the saddest I'd ever heard anyone sound. It was devastating. And gruesome. The dog looked like how the toothpaste tube looks when it's halfway empty. The guy kneeled next to the dog and just cried and looked around and then cried some more. Nobody knew what to do, because everyone knew there was really nothing that could be done. The dog was dead, even though it stayed alive for a few minutes after the accident.
Hand to God, this was the first thing I thought about after the Texans lost again on Sunday.
The writing has been on the wall for the 2-7 Houston Texans for a while now. On Tuesday, the organization waved the white flag. The Texans placed star running back Arian Foster on injured reserve with an undisclosed back injury that will require surgery. On the other side of the ball, they released offseason pickup Ed Reed after just seven games in Houston, with the future Hall of Famer having fallen out of the starting lineup after the team's bye week. He played just 12 snaps on defense in Houston's loss to Arizona last Sunday. Combined with the benching of Matt Schaub for Case Keenum, it's safe to say that the Texans are playing for 2014.
What's so surprising is how quickly things fell apart in Houston. Sure, it was reasonable to expect that the Texans wouldn't go 12-4 again; they were 5-0 in games decided by one touchdown or less last year, and they're 2-4 this year. The talent level here was supposed to be immune to a season this bad. As recently as the 2011 playoffs, the Texans roster might very well have been the envy of the league, full of talented young players on team-friendly rookie contracts, thanks to the drafting acumen of general manager Rick Smith.
It’s pretty clear now that you cannot win a Super Bowl with Matt Schaub as your quarterback. Schaub just lacks that extra gear that sets him apart from the likes of Brady and Manning. The flip side, of course, is that he lacked the extra gear to inspire any real animus. Or so we thought. ntil proven otherwise, he would softly let you down, not break your heart. Schaub certainly wouldn’t cause the ostensibly sensible and grateful Texans fans to burn his uniform in the Reliant Stadium parking lot. Or confront the man at his home. Or cheer when he left a hopeless game against the Rams with a bum ankle. Oh, by the way, Eagles fans are off the hook now — at least they cheer when the other team’s guys get hurt.
If there really is salvation for Schaub, it’s not going to come in Houston. Not right now, at least, not when Case Keenum is living the broken dreams of Colt Brennan, Timmy Chang, Trevor Vittatoe, Graham Harrell, and every other gunslinging system quarterback by getting the big promotion from the practice squad for the hometown team. Plus, how would you feel if Willie D was going at your ass on Twitter with his best material since "We Can’t Be Stopped"?
In case you were busy pouring one out for the Dawgfather, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
After a controversial unsportsmanlike conduct penalty call went against New England, Jets kicker Nick Folk hit a 42-yard field goal in overtime to give New York a come-from-behind 30-27 win. Jets head coach Rex Ryan defended the officials when asked about the penalty after the game, saying, "Look, it was a new rule, and besides, we all got to see some more kicking out there as a result. So how is that not a win for everybody? I know I just love the kicking game; it's absolutely at the core of why I love football. Gotta love the kicking of the football." Ryan then adjusted himself and added, "Now if ya'll excuse me, I have to contrive a reason to leave right now."
Who's That Guy is an orientation tool we've been using to navigate college football's vast landscape. This week we're sticking a foot out of bounds to highlight a former NCAA great making his NFL debut. WTG is filmed in front of a live studio audience.
Who Is He? Houston quarterback Case Keenum. Houston Cougars or Houston Texans? Both!
Where Is He From? Abilene, Texas. We Probably Could Have Guessed That, Seeing As How His Name Is "Case Keenum." Did you know his middle name is "Austin"? Bullshit. Totally true.
Years Played: Keenum played four college seasons, plus three games in an injury-shortened season for which he later received a medical redshirt; he has yet to see regular-season NFL action.
Follow the Bouncing Ball: Keenum's collegiate career saw him set NCAA records for career total offense, passing yards, completions, and touchdown passes, and become the NCAA's first player with three 5,000-yard passing seasons. In his time as a Cougar, he recorded 1,546 completed passes for 19,217 yards and 155 touchdowns, as well as 300 rushes for 897 yards and 23 scores. Keenum signed with the Texans as an undrafted free agent and spent the 2012 season on the practice squad. He entered 2013 behind Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates on the roster; following an injury to Schaub and a brief but unpromising stint with Yates at the helm, the Texans announced that Keenum would start in Week 7 at Kansas City.
A good rule of thumb for gambling is that anytime Vegas sets a "record" point spread, you should take the underdog. No matter how great one team is and how horrible the other is, the laws of the universe almost always keep it close somehow. That's what happened in Denver on Sunday.
It didn't matter that Peyton Manning said this last week: “We’re playing a good NFL football team. I don’t look at anything besides what I see on the tape on defense, and I see a team that’s stingy in the red zone, I see some offenses that have made some really good plays against them, that have been hard to defend. Certainly, you know, it’s a team with a lot of pride.”
Afterward, he was saying this: "Sometimes, you score a lot of points and people take it for granted. Even people in your own building can take it for granted. It's not easy to win football games. I learned a long time ago, don't take winning for granted."
It was always going to be that way. The hidden bonus in all this?
In case you were busy stridently fighting off accusations of having brought the weather with you, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Adam Wainwright guided the Cardinals into the NLCS, throwing a complete game as St. Louis eliminated the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 6-1 win, because of course he did. David Freese hit a clutch home run in an elimination game, because of course he did. Yadier Molina was a rock both behind the plate and in the lineup all series long, because of course he was. Two of St. Louis's three Matts — Holliday and Adams — picked up the third, a slumping Carpenter, because of course they did. And the St. Louis Cardinals will now move on to the NLCS, where they will have home-field advantage against the Los Angeles Dodgers, because of course they will. In the NLCS the Cardinals will play a hard-fought, professional series, where win or lose the players will be able to leave with their heads held high, because the St. Louis Cardinals are the St. Louis Cardinals and will always be the St. Louis Cardinals.
The St. Louis Blues, meanwhile, continue to back up their preseason hype, getting a goal from Alexander Steen with 21 seconds left in regulation to edge the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, 3-2, and maintain their perfect start to the NHL season. Looking forward, the Blues will somehow contrive to both win their division by 12 points and get swept out of the Western Conference finals by inferior opposition, leaving them unable to hold their heads up high, because the St. Louis Blues are the St. Louis Blues and will always be the St. Louis Blues.
We're keeping it quick with BQBL this week, and we begin in Houston. It's damn near impossible for a bad quarterback to top a game in which he was beating the best team in the league only to have the lead slowly slip away, putting an exclamation point on it all with a pick-six to finally give away the game. But Matt Schaub did it against the 49ers. There was only one option for the encore, and he pulled it off.
HE CRACKED TRIPLE DIGITS.
Thirty five points for getting benched in the second half, 35 points for three interceptions and a pick-six, and 38 more bonus points for some other miscellaneous achievements in awful.
His total of 108 may not be topped the rest of the year.
In case you were busy arguing that Lane Kiffin really hasn't gotten a fair chance to prove himself as a head coach with a particularly stubborn stop sign, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Tom Brady finally synced up with his young receiving corps, as the New England Patriots built an early lead and held on late, beating the Atlanta Falcons 30-23. "It's tough to beat them when Brady is back on track, but we gave it our all, and I'm impressed with my team," said a gray-haired man claiming to be Atlanta's head coach. "Wait, seriously, I'm Mike Smith," the man said, giving a clearly fake name, before adding, "You've heard of Dan Reeves? Well, I'm the most successful coach this franchise has ever had. We were in the NFC title game last year." The man, likely a deluded extra who wandered off the set of Boardwalk Empire, then added, "No, I'm not the mayor from Boardwalk Empire. For chrissake, come on, are you messing with me?"
The Major League Baseball regular season ended, but there's yet more to be decided as the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers finished the season tied for the second AL wild-card slot, and will play a one-game playoff. That game will determine which team will face the Cleveland Indians in another one-game playoff, which will determine who will be the AL wild-card representative in the postseason. This will be followed by a series of three-inning "mini-games" to determine home-field advantage in each round, which will be followed by a series of three-out home run derbies to determine which manager will be forced to turn in his lineup card first. Then, naturally, will come the dizzy bat competition, which will be just for fun, followed by a three-legged race, which will supplant this year's World Series, and for which, naturally, the Boston Red Sox are the favorites to win what with their flashy red socks likely to be advantageous for maintaining a three-legged race rhythm.
In case you were busy squeezing in one last fantasy draft so that you could ironically take Mark Sanchez in the second round, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Jon Lester outdueled Max Scherzer, as the Red Sox beat the Tigers 2-1, denying Scherzer his 20th win. "I failed myself, I failed my family, and I failed my teammates," Scherzer said after the game, in which he held the best offense in baseball to two runs in seven innings while striking out eight. "Why didn't I pitch to the game score! I never would have allowed that two-RBI single had I just been pitching situationally!"
Serena Williams entered the semifinals of the U.S. Open in dominant form, after routing 18th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-0, 6-0. When asked if anyone in the field could even take a set off of her, a humble Serena responded, "On any day any of these women could beat me over three sets." When asked if any of them could beat her on a specific day, Williams shrugged and said, "Well, no. Maybe if the psychological impact of a really moving David Foster Wallace profile hit me? But he's dead, so, um, no."
In case you were busy looking at pictures of Russell Wilson doing yoga for a long, long while, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
New York Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki amassed his 4,000th career professional hit in traditional Ichiro fashion, slapping a single into left field during the Yankees' 4-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. In honor of Ichiro's accomplishment let us all just say that we're lucky to have had the opportunity to watch Ichiro play baseball, and if we ever saw ourselves saying that we weren't lucky to have watched Ichiro play baseball, we'd punch ourselves in the face because we'd be lying.
Braves third baseman Chris Johnson hit a three-run game-winning home run in the 10th inning to give Atlanta a 4-1 win over the New York Mets. However, the big story coming out of Citi Field was the broken jaw of Jason Heyward, who will likely miss four to six weeks after being hit with a pitch by Jonathon Niese. When asked if he hit Heyward because of the psychological impact of years of pent-up rage caused by people misspelling his first name, Niese responded, "What? No! Oh my god, no, it was an accident. What the hell kind of accusotion is that?"
In case you were busy arguing about the correct definition of "blue moon," here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Red Sox superprospect Xander Bogaerts went 0-for-3 in his major league debut, and Marco Scutaro drew a walk-off RBI walk to give San Francisco a strange 3-2 win over Boston. "We're disappointed with the loss, but we think we have something good here with Bogaerts," said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington over a cacophony of ringing phones. "Hold on, let me just get this. Yeah, hello, this is Cherington. No Billy. No. No. It's just one game Billy. No. No deal. How stupid do you think I am Billy? That stupid? Really? Wow. I've literally never said anything like that to another man's face in my life. No. No. Still no. Yes, I understand that phones aren't faces. No. I'm hanging up now, Billy. Bye. Bye. No. Bye."
Los Angeles phenom Yasiel Puig was benched and fined for being late to the ballpark in Miami, but still found a way to be his team's hero, blasting the decisive home run in the eighth inning of the Dodgers' 6-4 win over the Marlins. "Rules are rules," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, "and I'm going to enforce them until its strategically untenable to continue to do so. Literally nothing but a moment in which I will gain a strategic advantage as a baseball tactician will stop me from enforcing them. Or if I forget about the rule I'm in the middle of enforcing. Or if I think the person who broke the rule is really sorry. Those are the only three ways I'll let anyone on my team get away with anything."
What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NFL season? Well, you're in luck! We here at the Triangle are set to spend the next few weeks providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
There are two ways to think about the news that J.J. Watt has been lobbying Gary Kubiak to play offense for the Texans. The first is to lament the 22 days until the NFL kicks off, to curse the steady stream of meaningless stories sure to populate the few short weeks before actual football begins. The second, the one I’m choosing to go with, is that this would be the greatest thing that’s ever happened.
“I’ve been lobbying since day one,” Watt said, according to Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. “It hasn’t worked yet, so I don’t think it’s going to work anytime soon. But it’s (Kubiak’s) team.” Kubiak said later yesterday afternoon that he’s considered using Watt as part of a goal-line package, but not much has come of it quite yet — and it’s unlikely anything will.
My Watt feelings have been made clear, so I’m in favor of whatever puts him on the field for more plays. And c’mon, it’s not like the Texans offense has been flush with receiving options in the past. Watt is 6-foot-5, has a 37-inch vertical leap, great timing, and excellent feet. Is it that hard to imagine him making a few big plays if used sparingly on offense? I’m only half-kidding about this!