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.
In case you were busy playing quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
In a Sunday-night battle of division leaders, the New Orleans Saints ran roughshod over the Dallas Cowboys in a 49-17 win. "It was always a tough matchup for us," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said with a deep sigh. "We lost Sean Lee, Austin is still out, Ware's at half speed, our GM and owner are the same crazy old man, and that's a good team we played." Garrett then paused, stared straight ahead unblinking, and added, "metaphorically speaking um, all of that was a metaphor."
In case you were busy regretting your attempt to introduce that exchange student living in your home to the joyful simplicity of America's pastime, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
A weird weekend in the World Series left the Cardinals and Red Sox knotted at two games apiece, after Saturday's game ended on an obstruction call that handed St. Louis a 5-4 victory, and Sunday's game closed with a Koji Uehara pickoff in Boston's 4-2 win. "What a weekend!" declared MLB rules aficionado Peter Greggsman. "The only way it could have been better is if one of these stadiums had been a dome, so we could get some catwalk interference in there." Greggsman's demeanor then darkened, before he added, "The real tragedy though is that the World Series can't end on an infield fly call. No game can." Greggsman then pounded his fist on his Hardball Times Baseball Annual and cried to the heavens, "Oh founders of baseball, you've cursed us with the possibility of perfection, yet made it as impossible to witness as a local game without digital cable! Damn you apocryphal Abner Doubleday! Damn you straight to the fictional hell you belong in!"
Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson amassed 329 receiving yards, the second-most in NFL history behind former Rams receiver Flipper Anderson, as Detroit came from behind late to stun the Dallas Cowboys 31-30. Meanwhile, back at his New Jersey home, Anderson cracked a bottle of champagne as the game ended. Not because his record was preserved; that would be incredibly tacky. Who would do that? No, he popped a bottle of champagne because it pairs well with the panko-crusted halibut he whipped up for his wife as a special Sunday treat.
As we near the halfway point of the 2013 NFL season, the teams and lineups we expected to see trotted out on the field this season are now shells of their former selves. The Falcons are already down seven starters from the guys they would have expected to be in the starting 22 in July. Of the 32 quarterbacks who were expected to start on the opening day of training camp, 12 have been benched or suffered an injury that has caused them or will cause them to miss time. If you can start the same guys who you were expecting to suit up over the summer, you're the exception, not the rule.
Every team has some veterans that they can plug in as competent backups, but every team also has a few spots where they're absolutely, positively screwed if their starter was to go down with an injury or suffer a dramatic decline in his performance. Others have found a diamond in the rough who has come out of nowhere to emerge as a viable starter at their position. In either scenario, there are now players on virtually every team who have risen out of professional obscurity to get meaningful NFL reps.
In case you were busy cheering Matt Schaub's ankle injury because that's the only way to fill the pit of sadness that lives in your chest, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
New England handed New Orleans its first loss of the season as Tom Brady's last-minute heroics gave the Patriots a stunning 30-27 comeback victory. "Well, that's the best comeback this city will see for a long time," Brady said after the game. "I mean, I hate to use the word untoppable, because I don't think it's a real word, but I'm positive this win will prove to be the most untoppable win this city has ever seen. Everyone might as well just take the rest of the day off from caring about Boston sports, because it cannot possibly get better than this — hold on, let me just flip over to the Sox game, and yeah, see? They're down four in the eighth inning. As I was saying, untop— whoa "
David Ortiz's eighth-inning grand slam set the table for another miraculous Sunday night comeback in Boston as the Red Sox evened up the ALCS at a game apiece with a 6-5 walk-off win over the Detroit Tigers. Ortiz's fifth go-ahead or game-tying hit in the final two innings of a playoff game tied him for third all time on the list with former teammate Manny Ramirez Jason Varitek Johnny Damon Kevin Millar Dave Roberts Kevin Youkilis? Who is it? Um Trot Nixon? No? Gosh. Dustin Pedroia is still on the team, so it can't be him. Oh, duh, Nomar. No? OK, long-shot guess: Curt Schilling? Obviously not. Well it can't be J.D. Oh, you have to be kidding me. Really? J.D.? No, I won't do it. I won't type his whole name. The only people ahead of him on this list are Bernie Williams and Pete Rose? It's too weird, though I guess he has an unfairly bad reputation given his contributions to the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Red Sox. Plus, it was such a big weekend for all three of those teams you know what, fine: J.D. Drew. Ortiz and J.D. Drew are now statistical equals when it comes to clutch postseason performances.
In case yinz were busy getting to Pittsburgh to wait, yinz? Who the hell are yinz? Anyway, here's what you may have missed in sports on Tuesday:
Oh my goodness, hockey's back? Hockey's back! And with it came a barrage of goals from defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago, which beat Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, 6-4, in its season opener. "Ten goals?" yelled 58-year-old Blackhawks fan Gary Habermeyer. "What the hell is this garbage? Polo? What happened to hockey?" When his son-in-law Dan Nielson tried to explain that there were a number of offseason rule changes put in place by the NHL to increase scoring, Habermeyer slammed down the legs of his Barcalounger and shoved a finger in Nielson's face. "I'll tell you what the problem is," Habermeyer shot back. "It's your generation. A bunch of showboaters. No one willing to do the hard work. No one willing to play defense. Patrick Kane? That's just a child wearing skates carrying around a big stick. When things get hard he'll just shut down the government. Not like Bobby Hull. Now there was a real man. Don't look at your phone when we're having a heart-to heart conversation!" But Nielson didn't look up from his phone, as he was texting his wife, Bridget, to say that she owed him more than one for spending the evening bonding with her father, and also to ask what Patrick Kane had to do with the government shutdown.
Pittsburgh's battery of Francisco Liriano and Russell Martin made sure the Pirates' first postseason trip in 21 years would not be a one-game affair, as they topped the Cincinnati Reds, 6-2, in the NL wild-card playoff. "I just keep thinking, What could I have done differently?" said Reds manager Dusty Baker after the game. Baker then took a moment to think back over the events of the game, during which he managed to use seven pitchers without deploying superstar closer Aroldis Chapman, before adding, "And the answer is nothing."
We live in the age of the sports apology. Thanks to Twitter, iPhone pics, and hidden mics, it’s easier than ever for an athlete to screw up in broad daylight.
But the apology itself — “I’m sorry if anyone was offended” — has also become a thing. It is unleashed after any act, from a harmless end zone dance to a legitimately awful 9/11 tribute. When the apologies became as entertaining as the screw-ups, we decided it was time to do the Month in Sports Apologies. (Hat tip to Adam Hanft.)
I’m Sorry My End Zone Dance Included Both "Show Me the Money" and a Throat Slash
“I want to apologize to everyone for my selfish actions on Saturday ... ” Crimson Tide running back T.J. Yeldon wrote. “That is not the way we do things at Alabama.”
On any given Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday), your NFL Run & Shootaround crew will be gathered around multiple televisions, making inappropriate jokes and generally regressing to the mean. Catch up on all the NFL action right here.
Robert Mays: Typically when I watch football, I try to watch the line. That isn’t an attempt at snobbery. It’s just what I enjoy. Watching massive men fight for three feet of space, all with a combination of brutality and a criminally understated amount of grace, is my favorite part of the game.
Last night presented its share of opportunities for that. The 49ers have probably the best — and definitely the most imposing — offensive line in football, and Seattle’s rotating group of pass-rushing, run-stopping terrors is one of the better tests that San Francisco group will get all year. And while I did see plenty of that, the best battle at the line of scrimmage yesterday didn’t involve any linemen.
I had an assignment Sunday afternoon: Go to the Coliseum in Oakland and watch three hours of the absolute worst product the NFL has to offer.
It was Jacksonville at Oakland. The team whose over-under Vegas set at 5 wins against the team whose over-under was set at 5.5. The guy starting instead of Blaine Gabbert (Chad Henne) against the guy starting instead of Matt Flynn (Terrelle Pryor). The future Los Angeles Jaguars against the past (and maybe future?) Los Angeles Raiders. All from the most maligned stadium in major American team sports.
In case you were busy building something with your hands, ensconced in the majesty of nature, allowing the last rays of summer sun to shine down upon your shirtless back, like a nerd, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
In a Sunday night NFC East battle, the Dallas Cowboys forced six turnovers en route to a 36-31 win over the New York Giants. Eli Manning was dejected after the game, saying, "I haven't had that many turnovers since Peyton was like, 'Eli, eat all of mom's turnovers before Archie gets back from work. He'll think it's so funny.'" Eli shook his head, and added sadly, "He didn't. Old man didn't even notice. No one ever notices Eli. No one'll ever care about Eli."
In the last scheduled meeting between two longtime rivals, Michigan outlasted the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, 41-30, in Ann Arbor. "I mean, I never like losing, but it's not like they're really our rival," said Notre Dame fan Ashley O'Connell through a tightly clenched jaw. "I mean it's not like USC, or, um, Stanford; how are the Wolverines possibly our rival?" O'Connell went on to ask as she unconsciously gnawed on her already mangled thumbnail. "Really though, we have no rivals, so any loss is meaningless." O'Connell, satisfied with this line of reasoning, allowed herself a smile for the first time in 24 hours, as blood streamed out of both her ears.
It's really easy to compare the training camps of the Jaguars and Ravens. It's more difficult to avoid letting your preconceived notions filter in.
If I asked you to compare the experience at each camp without actually having been there, you'd probably get most of the notes right. You would expect the Ravens to be more professional, having won last year's Super Bowl and serving as a model veteran franchise, and you would be correct. The Ravens executed their 90-minute session quietly and with efficiency, walking through red zone plays at three-quarters speed without serious blocking before installing some of their rushing offense at the same tempo.
In case you were out pretending like you've seen and have an opinion about Oscar nominee Amour, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
The Cleveland Browns have filled their vacant head coaching position, hiring Rob Chudzinski away from the Carolina Panthers. It has also been reported that Chudzinski is targeting former San Diego head coach Norv Turner to be his new offensive coordinator. "I can't imagine a more Cleveland set of hirings than Chud and Norv," said longtime Browns fan Milt Johnson. When asked to try harder and really push his imagination, Johnson let out an exasperated sigh, saying, "Fine, I guess that they could have hired like Chan Gailey and an old, overweight Golden Retriever named Honey, but I don't really know how having a dog as an offensive coordinator would work."