In case you were busy snickering uncontrollably upon hearing that Johnson and Fister got traded on the same day, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Tim Duncan was in vintage form, collecting 21 rebounds and scoring 23 points including a game-winning jumper with 0.4 seconds remaining in the Spurs' 102-100 win over the Atlanta Hawks. Later, Duncan celebrated his heroic outing by giving himself time to consider whether or not Jonathan Franzen's impact on American literature is overrated, before deciding that any such critique was inherently premature.
Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks established themselves as the class of the NFC with a 34-7 dismantling of the New Orleans Saints. "AHHHH YES! PETE CARROLL PETE CARROLL PETE CARROLL!" Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll yelled after the game as he ran laps around the assembled media, "THAT WAS ONE OF THE BEST PETE CARROLL NIGHTS EVER!" When asked if it was Russell Wilson or the team's defensive effort to whom he owed his good mood, Carroll shook his head and replied, "NEITHER! PETE CARROLL HEARD ED HOCHULI TALK ABOUT HIS BALLS! THAT WAS HILARIOUS!" Unfortunately for Carroll, once he started shaking his head, he couldn't figure out a way to stop moving his neck for more than an hour.
In case you were busy really thinking about Michael Jordan's trademark celebration; he was just sticking his tongue out, right? How did he make that cool? That's kinda just gross, yes? Yeah, anyway, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Despite being held to three second-half points, the New Orleans Saints did enough to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 17-13, to keep in pace in the race for the top seed in the NFC. "I almost wish we'd let them win that, but the damn Seahawks " Saints quarterback Drew Brees said while shaking his head. When asked why he would possibly want to lose a divisional battle in the heat of the playoff race, Brees suddenly clammed up, but the wind whispered, "Clowney," as a shudder ran down his spine.
A late 3-point barrage from guard Nate Robinson and forward Jordan Hamilton was the difference as the Denver Nuggets pulled away from the Chicago Bulls in a 97-87 home victory. "Hamilton and Nate, you say?" said Robinson after the game, as he arched an eyebrow. "That sounds like a great idea for a buddy cop drama starring me, Nate Robinson. I call it Nate and Hamilton. I'm a young bad boy, and Hamilton's a grizzled veteran. And he's all like, 'Gimme your badge, Nate,' and I'm all like, 'Gimme one more chance, Hamilton,' and he's all like, 'You're a loose cannon, Nate,' and I'm all like, 'This whole city's a loose cannon, Hamilton.'" Hamilton then piped up to ask who would play Hamilton, because it sounded like a juicy part, and he wondered if Robinson had anyone in mind. Robinson considered for a second, before pointing at Hamilton and saying, "Carl Weathers."
Forrest Gump’s mother has clearly never played fantasy football, because the only way life is like a box of chocolates for a fantasy player is if that box exclusively contains torn ACLs and first-round busts. I mean, even the good chocolates eventually succumb to fractured ankles, or something. The fantasy pitfalls can sometimes seem endless, which is why you need a comprehensive blog post to steer your team through the dangers that lie ahead. Luckily, that's exactly what you happen to be reading!
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.
You're Going to Hear Them Roar
Chris Ryan What's the elevator pitch on the Chiefs? How do you sell someone who isn't already a fan on Alex Smith and Andy Reid? What's a signature win they've had this season you could talk about in detail? I'll wait … except no I won't, I'm getting off the elevator and I'm going to put together the new movie Star Wars vs. Jason Bourne because I make deals, and you are going back to the mailroom with Dexter McCluster on your fantasy team.
OK, the Broncos. You must be able to sell the Broncos. You must be able to sell such a mouth-watering offense as the Broncos, right? Ah, but it feels like a remake, right? We already knew this story going into the season; they are who we thought they were.
No, we've been patiently waiting for a breakout team this season. And on Sunday, we finally got one. We've been waiting for Cam Newton to stamp this breakout season with a signature win, and on Sunday he put one to his name — maybe not with numbers (169 yards in the air, one pick), but with "they will fear you" bullets to Steve Smith. He made the kind of throws only he could make, in San Francisco, on national television.
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."
Happy Halloween! While you’re out trick-or-treating, I’ll be inside watching Bengals-Dolphins, mourning Giovani Bernard’s sad failure to launch. I thought we’d be talking about him as a fantasy stud by now, but Marvin Lewis remains stubbornly committed to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Lewis, bless his heart, probably still uses the Zune he bought in 2006. Some flowers were never meant to bloom, I guess. To cheer you up, here is a picture of Bill Belichick and his wife:
Anyway, there's a lot to cover this week, and I can’t bear to think about Bernard’s untapped potential any longer, so let’s dive right into the Week 9 preview. Oh, and pray for Bill’s wife while you’re at it.
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.
The NFL should really be more specific in naming its awards. When I decided to look into who’s eligible to win Coach of the Year, my hope was that “Coach of the Year” meant just that — historically, it’s gone to head coaches, but theoretically, any coach could win. Well, no such luck. Only head coaches are in the running, and I say that if there’s a time to push for a change, it’s this year.
Right now, the likely Coach of the Year winner is Andy Reid, the man in charge of a 5-0 Chiefs team that finished last season tied for the worst record in the league. Reid and Alex Smith have helped arm Kansas City with a passable offense, but the real reason the Chiefs are still undefeated is that they boast the best defense in football. If you’re looking for who’s been the best coach on Kansas City’s staff, it’s probably been defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.
In case you were busy watching Senator Ted Cruz do his best Eli Manning impression, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The New Orleans Saints outclassed the previously unbeaten Miami Dolphins in a 38-17 win, sending a message to the rest of the NFL that they are prepared, after a down year, to return to the ranks of the league's elite. Fortunately we here at ALN got an exclusive leaked copy of the text of that message; here it is in its entirety:
Dear Denver, Seattle, New England, and San Francisco, um, Kansas City? Sure, why not. Kansas City,
Hey, guys, it's the Saints. How are you? We feel like we really lost touch with ya'll last year. And that's our fault. We hate to lay blame or make excuses, but in this case we really feel we must. So much was going on with us, and our coach, and Roger. It's always hard when you get hurt by the ones you love, especially when they aren't being paid to hurt you. But we've moved on, and we'd like to think you guys have too. I heard some of you are even still friends with Roger. That's fine. Seriously, it's fine. That's fine. It's all just fine. Fine. Whatever. You are the company you keep, is what we say down in New Orleans, but do what you must.
Welcome to your new Thank You for Not Coaching Day. After finishing off the Monday-morning columns each week with TYFNC, it became popular enough that I'm moving it to Tuesdays and giving it some space to stretch out. Hopefully, that will mean more opportunities for insight and some examination of coaching strategies that actually worked. Thank You for Coaching, even. Thanks to those of you who sent in TYFNC scenarios this week, which you can do by tweeting at me with the hashtag #TYFNC.
So, last night was pretty cool, huh? I'll have a lot more to say about the Chip Kelly experience tomorrow, but let's start with that Eagles game and one of the many ways that Kelly put his offense in a position to succeed.
Steve Smith is a fighter. It's just that he has spent 12 years in Carolina, playing pro football in college basketball country, on the maddeningly mediocre Panthers, so not too many people keep up with his battles. Hell, just the other day, he fired a shot across the bow of his ex–offensive coordinator, current Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski:
When Barnwell and I decided to start this project — going team by team for our NFL preview — we knew there would be a few spots that got a little rough. This might be hard to believe, but neither of us is too high on the Raiders. But among all 32 NFL teams, I don’t think there’s one that we’re collectively higher on than the Bucs. From the return of last year’s pair of injured star guards (18:54), my never-ending love for the Tampa Bay run defense (22:50), and our joint love for the Darrelle Revis trade (26:00), it's safe to say we like the 2013 Bucs.
Before we get there, though, we spend the first 15 minutes or so on the Saints, touching on everything from their historically bad pass defense (1:47), Sean Payton’s actual value (3:00), the switch to a 3-4 defense (3:57), the terribleness of Mark Ingram (6:54), and Drew Brees’s effect on the team’s (well-developed) offensive line (8:58).
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.
Last year’s New Orleans Saints finished the season third in the league in points scored. By Football Outsiders’ DVOA, they were the ninth-best offense in football. Drew Brees once again threw for more than 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns. For most teams, it would be a season worth raving about. For the Saints, it was a step back.
The previous season, New Orleans had been second in both points per game and DVOA, and Brees’s 5,476 yards was the highest single-season total in league history. Those 13-3 Saints were just the latest example of a head coach–quarterback combination that belonged in any argument about the league’s best. The Saints’ 7-9 2012 season wasn’t the fault of its offense (it was the fault of a historically bad — as in “most passing yards ever surrendered in a single season” bad — defense), but missing out on one half of that quarterback-coach combo certainly didn’t help matters.
The penalties from the Saints bounty scandal will likely be remembered even by those outside of New Orleans as a debacle, in which Roger Goodell seriously overstepped his bounds and will forever deserve to be disparaged for doing so, but for the people who care about the actual football, all they did was deprive us of an entire season of Drew Brees–Sean Payton magic. Even if we don’t consider that both men arrived in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and were instrumental in reviving a downtrodden franchise that would go on to provide at least some refuge for a devastated city (to be clear, we should consider that), what Brees and Payton have done on the field since 2006 is staggering. Starting in their first season, the Saints’ finishes in offensive DVOA with both Brees and Payton:
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 month and a half providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
In the NFL, it’s understood that first-round picks are the players most likely to be afforded second chances. It only takes one team to believe it’s their environment that can revive the talent that once seemed so obvious, and that line of thinking is what keeps the Jason Smiths of the world employed. When a former first-round pick catches on with a new team, we’re likely to pay attention, no matter how poorly he played in his first (or second) stint.
For most players, though, the life span of the intrigue is finite. Enough time goes by, and we realize their potential to be impactful no longer exists. We give up on them. In Reggie Bush’s case, that should’ve already happened. It hasn’t.
Much of the talk this offseason has been about stopping the read-option, but in Sean Payton's year away from the NFL, he had trouble with a much different offensive attack: the single wing.
During his Roger Goodell–mandated suspension from the Saints, Payton spent his time coaching his son's sixth-grade pee wee football team, the Liberty Christian Warriors, who eventually went to the league championship game. The Warriors lost just two games all season, but both of those losses came against the same team, the Springtown Orange Porcupines.
For those familiar with Sean Payton, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he took this seriously (well, at least mostly seriously). After losing to the Porcupines 38-6 in the regular season, Payton enlisted the help of some rather noteworthy former NFL coaches to help devise a plan that could slow down Springtown Orange's offense. It didn't work: Payton's Warriors lost 58-18.