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Offense, Offense And More Offense: NFL Division Weekend Storylines 1

Posted on January 15, 2013 by Andy Larmand

Does it have to be over? That was one of the best weekends of sports we have ever seen. The only bad thing about the Super Bowl getting closer is less football games over the weekend.

If it looked familiar to you, there’s good reason for that. The four AFC teams in the divisional round this past weekend were the same final four as last season and it was the first time that phenomenon has ever happened. Defense was certainly hard to come by on both Saturday and Sunday. We have a lot to cover, so let’s get to it.

Obi-WON-Jacoby: Joe Flacco's 70-yard TD pass to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left in regulation sent the game to overtime, where the Ravens eventually shocked the Broncos.

Obi-WON-Jacoby: Joe Flacco’s 70-yard TD pass to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left in regulation sent the game to overtime, where the Ravens eventually shocked the Broncos.

What. A. Game. The Ravens and the Broncos opened the weekend in one of the best postseason games we have seen in a while. Despite two return touchdowns from Trindon Holliday, Denver fell to the underdog Ravens, 38-35, in the first double-overtime game in the NFL since the Panthers beat the Rams in another divisional playoff game on Jan. 10, 2004 – they ended up making it to the Super Bowl that year. Joe Flacco hit Jacoby Jones with a 70-yard pass to tie the game at 35 with 31 seconds left in regulation and tied Eli Manning for the most road playoff wins with his fifth. If you missed it, start kicking yourself. Peyton Manning, who had won nine straight starts against the Ravens coming into the game, tied Brett Favre for the most playoff losses by a quarterback in NFL history. In 12 playoff appearances, which are tied for the most ever, he is now 9-11, including eight seasons of one-and-done performances. In what has become his typical fashion, he threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles. The Ravens got 17 points off of those turnovers, including the game-winning field goal with 13:18 left in the second overtime period following Corey Graham‘s second pick of the night.

The game featured three return touchdowns, including two in the first 5:11 and also saw a 42-second stretch in which the Ravens scored two touchdowns to take a 14-7 lead. Holliday’s 90-yard punt return was the first ever in Denver postseason history and the longest by any player ever in the playoffs. His 104-yard kick return for a touchdown was also the longest return TD in playoff history and he became the only player to ever return both a kick and a punt for touchdowns in the same playoff game. Finally, Holliday became the first player to ever score two touchdowns of any kind of 90 or more yards in a playoff game. Baltimore lost one fumble on the day and have now lost three in their first two playoff games this year after losing just five in the regular season. The 28 combined points in the first quarter of the game were more than the four games combined for in the first quarter last weekend. It was only the third time in the Super Bowl era that both teams scored 14 or more points in the first quarter of a playoff game. It was also the first ever playoff game with an offensive (Torrey Smith, Brandon Stokley), defensive (Graham) and special teams touchdown (Holliday) in the first quarter.

The 35 points are the most the Ravens have ever allowed in their playoff history. The Broncos lost their first overtime playoff contest as they had been 2-0 in such games entering this one, including the victory over the Steelers last year. Baltimore improved to 1-0 in overtime playoff games. Graham became the sixth player in the last five postseasons to pick off multiple passes in a playoff game. Three of them are Ravens. The combination of Flacco and John Harbaugh is going to its third AFC Championship game in their five seasons together (0-2). Justin Tucker‘s 47-yard field goal to win the game was his only one of the night, the fourth-longest overtime field goal in playoff history and the longest ever by a rookie. Ray Lewis made an astounding 17 tackles and will live to play another week. The game lasted 76 minutes, 42 seconds. It was the fourth-longest playoff game in NFL history and the longest since 1986. Manning fell to 0-4 in his career in the postseason when the temperature was lower than 40 degrees and his 21 career postseason interceptions are the fourth-most ever. Denver committed 10 penalties in the game for 87 yards. Smith’s 59-yard TD reception just before the half was the second-longest in Baltimore postseason history. Manning took a knee with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter, still possessing two timeouts.

Well, that was a good start. The Ravens will travel to Foxboro for a rematch of their Week 3 game with New England on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

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Win Or Go Home: NFL Wild Card Weekend Storylines 0

Posted on January 08, 2013 by Andy Larmand

There were only four football games on TV this weekend – two on Saturday and two on Sunday. But, thats okay. It’s the playoffs! Someone really should have told Andy Dalton, though as some unfortunate quarterback play stole the spotlight on Saturday.

PLAYOFFS?! Jim Mora, made famous for his rant at a press conference in 2001, is getting gained on by Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis as the coaches the two with the most playoff losses without any wins (Mora: 0-6, Lewis: 0-4).

The Bengals and Texans kicked off Wild Card Weekend for the second straight year on Saturday afternoon in a rematch of last year’s Wild Card game and the first playoff game of  Matt Schaub‘s career (was injured last season). Houston won last year’s game and they won this one too, though it was ugly, 19-13. The game was the fourth rematch in the Wild Card round from the previous year in history and all four times the team that had won the first one has won the second one. In an ugly first half, the only touchdown that was scored was a Leon Hall interception return for Cincinnati, but they trailed 9-7 at the end of two thanks to some very sloppy play. The Bengals were the first team with negative passing yards in the first half of a playoff game since 2006. Dalton had -6 yards through the air in the half. It was the fourth consecutive game with a defensive TD for the Bengals and their first interception return for a touchdown in the postseason since 1973. A.J. Green had no catches or targets in the first two quarters of the game. Cincinnati has not won a playoff game since 1990 and also fell to 0-6 on the road all-time in the postseason. Dalton finished with just 127 yards on 14-of-30 passing.

Both Owen Daniels and Arian Foster were huge for the Texans, who have now won a playoff game in consecutive seasons. Daniels finished the game with nine receptions for 91 yards and Foster finished with 140 yards and the team’s only touchdown as he became the first running back to ever rush for 100 yards in each of his first three career playoff games. His 425 rushing yards in those games are also good for the most by a player in his first three career postseason appearances. Shayne Graham made all four of his field goal attempts in the game. Houston still has a chance to become only the second team to win the Super Bowl after finishing the regular season 1-3 or worse. Schaub nearly doubled Dalton’s passer rating (83.4 to 44.7) as the veteran came out on top in this one. Jermaine Gresham caught just two passes for seven yards and had two drops bounce off his hands. The Texans will head to New England to take on the Patriots in a rematch of their Week 14 game on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Houston lost the contest 42-14.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton struggled hearing the play calls in noisy Reliant Stadium and struggled even more in executing them as Cincinnati's season is done.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton struggled hearing the play calls in noisy Reliant Stadium and struggled even more in executing them as Cincinnati’s season is done.

A couple hours before kickoff, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder determined his injured elbow was not going to allow him to play in the game against the Packers. Joe Webb, who hadn’t thrown a pass this season, got the start and became the first quarterback in NFL history to start a postseason game after not attempting a pass in the regular season. He was the first QB to start a playoff game with only one career win on his resume since Kelly Holcomb in 2003. With all that going against them, it was never really close after the Packers scored 24 unanswered points to win, 24-10, and earn a rematch with the 49ers next week. Dalton may have felt a little better as Webb threw for just six yards in the first half of this game. Adrian Peterson ran for just 99 yards in the game on 22 carries and failed to become just the second 2,000-yard rusher to win a playoff game in the same season. No rushing champion has run for 100 yards in a playoff game since Edgerrin James did in 2000.

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Peterson Comes Up Just Short, Cowboys Miss Playoffs: Week 17 Storylines 0

Posted on January 01, 2013 by Andy Larmand

The final week of the 2012 NFL season was just as good as the first 16 were. With 16 division matchups on the schedule, it had it all: shutouts, blowouts, third-string quarterbacks, elimination games, records being chased and of course another opportunity for Tony Romo to choke. (He did). For the last time in 2012, your storylines from the week that was in pro football.

Eight would have been great: Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson came up eight yards shy of tying the single-season rushing record, but his Vikings are heading to the playoffs.

Eight would have been great: Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson came up eight yards shy of tying the single-season rushing record, but his Vikings are heading to the playoffs.

Adrian Peterson came within eight yards of tying and nine of breaking the NFL single-season rushing record, but with time running out in the game, Blair Walsh kicked a 29-yard field goal to break the tie  and send the Vikings to the playoffs, ending Peterson’s regular season. Minnesota defeated the Packers, 37-34, for their first win against their division rivals since 2009. The loss also ended Green Bay’s 12-game division winning streak. Peterson did become just the seventh running back to ever rush for 2,000 yards in a season as he concluded the regular season with 2,097 yards on the ground. The Packers had won nine straight regular season finales before the loss. Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdowns in a game for the fourth time this year, including two to Greg Jennings. Walsh added to his NFL record with his 10th field goal of 50-plus yards on the season. Peterson finished the season with seven 150-plus rushing games, tying the NFL record. Minnesota has made the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Packers, who finished the regular season at 11-5 and the Vikings, who finished 10-6, will play each other on Saturday in the Wild Card round.

The good news: the Colts won their regular season finale. The great news: Chuck Pagano was back on the sidelines to coach it. J.J. Watt failed to get any sacks and finished two shy of the NFL single-season record as the Texans lost to the Colts to fall all the way to the third seed in the AFC, missing the bye they had been in position for all season long. Watt finished with 20.5 sacks on the year. Houston has never won at Indianapolis – now 0-11 all-time with the 28-16 loss on Sunday. A career-long 70-yard TD pass from Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton on 3rd & 23 all but sealed the win for the Colts. Deji Karim returned a second-half kickoff 101 yards for Indy, their longest return since 1973. Andre Johnson tied the career record of 10-reception games set by Wes Welker last week with the 18th of his career. Reggie Wayne now has at least three catches in 64 straight games, extending his NFL record. The Colts became the seventh team to improve by nine wins in just one year, going from 2-14 in 2011 to 11-5 in 2012. Houston finished 12-4 after losing three of its last four games and will host the Bengals in the Wild Card round, while the Colts will travel to Baltimore.

The Chicago Bears have made a little history of their own as they became just the second team since 1990 to miss the playoffs after starting the season with a 7-1 record despite beating the Lions, 26-24, in Detroit and finishing with a 10-6 record. They have now missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons. Matt Forte did rush for 1,000 yards for the third time in his career. The Lions finished a disappointing 4-12, but Matthew Stafford shattered the previous record of 691 pass attempts in a season and finished with 727. Calvin Johnson caught five balls for 72 yards and came up 36 yards short of the first ever 2,000-yard receiving season. It broke his streak of eight straight 100-yard receiving games and four straight 10-catch games, which were both NFL records. He finished the season with an NFL record 1,964 receiving yards. Chicago fired head coach Lovie Smith on Monday after a 3-5 end to the year and that has apparently prompted kick returner Devin Hester to consider retirement.

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Peterson Keeps Running, Seattle Keeps Scoring: Week 15 NFL Storylines 0

Posted on December 20, 2012 by Andy Larmand

This week of NFL football was one of the best ever according to pregame statistics. Six out of the 16 games featured teams with .500 records or better facing off in the third week of December. It really was fun to watch.

Philadelphia couldn't get out of its own way Thursday night as punter Mat McBriar (1) kicked the ball into the back of his own teammate.

Flight risk: The Eagles couldn’t get out of their own way Thursday night as punter Mat McBriar (1) kicked the ball into the back of his own teammate.

Week 14 kicked off with the Eagles losing for the ninth time in 10 games and falling to 4-10 in an embarrassing 34-13 defeat at the hands of the Bengals in which they turned the ball over five times for the second time this year. BenJarvus Green-Ellis became a 1,000-yard rusher for the second time in his career as he opened the game with a 29-yard run for Cincinnati, who improved to 8-6 and is in position to grab the final wild card spot. The carry led to a touchdown – the Bengals’ seventh opening drive TD of the year – which is most in the NFL. They also haven’t allowed a 1st quarter touchdown in 11 games. Cincy improved to 8-3-1 all time against the Eagles – the highest win percentage of any team against Philly. The last time the Eagles lost 10 games in a season was 2005. This year, they have led just once following the 1st quarter and have been outscored 82-24 in the opening frame. Cincinnati improved to 13-1 in the regular season since 2001 when leading by 10-plus points after the 1st quarter. With his 11th touchdown, A.J. Green became just the third Bengal to ever catch that many in a season. Jeremy Maclin is now the all-time leader in receptions in a player’s first four years in Eagles’ history with 246. The Eagles turned the ball over three times on four offensive plays in the 3rd quarter at a time when they were very much in the game. They also forced their first turnover in five weeks.

Clay Matthews returned for the NFC North-leading Packers in their crucial tilt against the Bears and contributed six tackles, including four for a loss, as well as two sacks as Green Bay improved to 10-5 and clinched the division for the second straight year. Aaron Rodgers reached 30 TD passes for the third time in his career and became just the third QB to ever record three such seasons before the age of 30. James Jones caught all three of the touchdowns for his fourth multiple-TD game this year – the most of any player in the league. Green Bay has won 12 straight division games and also won eight of nine, while Chicago has now lost five of six. They are in danger of becoming just the second team since 1990 to miss the playoffs following a 7-1 start as they now have a record of 8-6.

Fellow rookie Kirk Cousins led the Redskins against the Browns as they looked to jump into a first place tie in the NFC East with the Giants in the absence of Robert Griffin III. A 54-yard pass from Cousins to Leonard Hankerson gave Washington seven touchdown passes this season longer than 50 yards – they had six from 2007-2011 combined. Trent Richardson rushed for two more touchdowns and now is the Browns all-time leader in rushing touchdowns by a rookie with nine. He has six TD’s in his last four games. Washington has won five straight and sit at 8-6 as they ended Cleveland’s three-game winning streak and dropped them to 5-9. Rookie Alfred Morris tied the Redskins rookie record for rushing touchdowns with his eighth of the season. Cousins’ 329 yards are six more than Griffin has thrown for in any game this season. Washington now controls its own destiny in the three-way tie atop the NFC East.

Matt Ryan began the game 8-8, hitting six different receivers and throwing a touchdown as his Falcons got out to a 14-0 1st quarter lead over the defending champion Giants. They would go on to win 34-0 and improve to 12-2 in the worst shutout loss by a defending Super Bowl champion ever. It was the third time that New York, who fell to 8-6, has trailed 14-0 in the 1st quarter this year. With a 12-yard touchdown catch in the 1st, Tony Gonzalez recorded at least one reception in 193 straight games, the second-longest streak ever. Julio Jones went over 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career and also caught his first TD at home this season, finishing with six catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns. Though they out-gained the Falcons by 64 yards in the 1st half, the Giants trailed 17-0 at the break due to a missed field goal and two failed 4th down attempts. Atlanta hasn’t lost back-to-back games since 2009. Ryan beat a defending Super Bowl champion at home for the first time in his career. The last time the Giants had been shut out was Dec. 1, 1996 – 257 games ago. The 34-point defeat was the largest for New York since a 37-point loss to the Vikings in 2009. The Falcons beat the Giants at home for the first time since 1978.

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Sanchez Finally Benched: Week 13 NFL Storylines 0

Posted on December 05, 2012 by Andy Larmand

Mark Sanchez may have pulled off a miracle by remaining in the New York lineup for 12 weeks, but it appears his reign as starter may be over after being replaced in the 2nd half of Sunday’s game. Surprisingly, without “butt fumble” in there, the Jets got a win. So did 15 other teams.

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez may have finally found something he’s good at: holding the clipboard and keeping Tim Tebow (left) company on the New York bench.

The Saints traveled to Atlanta to take on the division-leading Falcons on Thursday night in a game that they had to have to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Drew Brees, however, threw FIVE interceptions and saw his NFL-record streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass end at 54 in a row. This was the first time since Oct. 4, 2009 that Brees did not throw a touchdown pass in a game and the first time he, or any Saints quarterback, has ever thrown five picks. Roddy White had no catches in the 1st half for the first time in his last 78 games. His first catch came with less than two minutes left in the 3rd quarter.  With four on the night, tight end Tony Gonzalez now has at least 70 receptions in 10 straight seasons, tying the NFL record, and 13th season overall, tying that record as well. Matt Bryant made a 55-yard field goal in the 4th quarter and has now been good on his last seven kicks of 50 yards or more. Atlanta improved to 11-1 with the 23-13 win and has won 46 of 47 games when holding a lead at any point in the 4th quarter. The Falcons converted on just one 3rd down in the game (1-11). With the Tampa Bay loss to Denver, the Falcons clinched the NFC South for the second time in three seasons.

Stevan Ridley scored a rushing touchdown in his fifth straight game as the Patriots improved to 9-3 and won the AFC East, beating the Dolphins 23-16 in South Florida. Tom Brady did throw his first interception in his last 202 passing attempts in the 1st quarter – that had been the longest active streak in the NFL. He also threw a touchdown pass in his 44th straight game – the longest active streak in the NFL since Brees’ was snapped on Thursday night. With a second quarter reception, Wes Welker went over 1,00 yards receiving for the fifth time in his career, extending his Patriots record and he tied Jerry Rice‘s all-time record with 17 10-reception games. He had 10 catches for 89 yards…in the 1st half! If that wasn’t enough his 12 catches for 103 yards got him to the 10-catch, 100-yard mark for the 16th time in his illustrious career – the most all-time. Ridley became the 12th Patriot to run for 1,000 yards in a season. The Patriots clinched the AFC East for the fourth straight year and have won 20 straight games in the second half of the season. Brady became the first QB in NFL history to win 10 division titles. Finally, the Pats have won 12 straight regular season December games, dating back to 2009 and are currently on a six-game winning streak.

Something had to give in the Meadowlands as the 4-7 Jets hosted the 4-7 Cardinals – losers of seven straight following their undefeated start. It certainly was not a pretty thing to watch. Sanchez gave Brees a run for his money, throwing three interceptions in a game that ended 7-6 in their favor. He was finally pulled by Rex Ryan, but not for Tim Tebow – for Greg McElroy, who promptly threw a TD pass. Tebow was inactive for the game with a rib injury. The Cardinals have lost eight straight following this ugly game. New York improved to 4-111 in their history when scoring seven points or less in a game. Arizona did not convert on a 3rd down the entire day (0-15). The Jets improved to 1-6 all-time in games that Sanchez has thrown three or more interceptions. The two teams combined for more punts (16) than points.

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An Exciting Thanksgiving Highlights Week 12 NFL Storylines 0

Posted on November 28, 2012 by Andy Larmand

Golden drumstick: Tom Brady earned Player of the Game honors for his Thanksgiving Night performance in New England’s win over the Jets.

If Thanksgiving isn’t the greatest holiday in the world, then I don’t know what is? What could be better than incredible food cooked by a mother or grandmother, family and friends and getting to watch football all day? Happy Thanksgiving.

The Lions kicked off Week 12 on Thursday afternoon in their 68th straight annual Thanksgiving Day game. They hosted the AFC-leading Texans, fresh off of their 43-point performance against the Jaguars just four days earlier. It was Detroit, however, who got out to a fast start at home as Mikel Leshoure scored a rushing touchdown on their first drive. It was the first 1st quarter rushing TD for the Lions since 2010 and just their second offensive touchdown in the 1st quarter this year. It was also the first rushing touchdown the Texans had allowed all season and the first time Detroit scored an opening-drive TD all year. So they had that to be thankful for.

The lead would not remain, however, and the Lions lost their ninth straight Thanksgiving Day game, 34-31, in overtime. That is good for the longest losing streak on Thanksgiving all-time. Entering the game, teams playing four days after an overtime game since 1987 were 4-13, but the Texans won anyway. Calvin Johnson became the seventh player in NFL history with 7,000 receiving yards in his first six seasons. With a Joique Bell touchdown run in the 4th quarter, the Lions now lead the league with 16 offensive 4th quarter touchdowns this season. With wins in their last two, the Texans improved to 3-7 all-time in overtime games after starting 1-7 in their short history. With 188 yards on Thursday, Andre Johnson now has 461 in his past two contests, the most in consecutive games in NFL history, according to Elias. The overtime period featured two turnovers and two missed field goals before Houston won it. The winning field goal was the first time they led all day. The Texans became the first team ever to win two overtime games in a five-day span.

The other yearly participant, the Cowboys hosted the Redskins in their annual Thanksgiving Day game. Like the Lions, Dallas dropped their annual contest to the Redskins 38-31. They did, however, come back from down 35-13 in the 4th quarter to make it close. With the loss, Dallas fell to 0-14 in their history when trailing by 25 points or more at the half. It was Tony Romo‘s first career home loss in the month of November (14-1) and his first ever loss on Thanksgiving (5-1). Washington was victorious on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since 1973 and won their first ever game against their division rivals on Turkey Day. Robert Griffin III threw four touchdowns in his first career Thanksgiving Day game.

On Thanksgiving Night, the Jets hosted the Patriots and were thankful when it ended as their division rivals hammered them 49-19. Julian Edelman scored two more touchdowns to bring his total to four in his past two games, which equals his total in his first 45 career games. He became the fourth player in NFL history with a receiving TD, punt return TD and fumble return TD in the same season. In the 2nd quarter, New England scored three touchdowns in 53 seconds, becoming the third team since 1970 to accomplish that, according to Elias. In their past two games, the Patriots have combined for 108 points, which is good for the third-highest two-game stretch in history. Also, the win guaranteed that the 8-3 Pats would be the only team to finish .500 or better in each of the last 12 seasons. Tom Brady threw three TD passes, extending his streak to 43 straight games with at least one.

With a chance to win their sixth straight, the Bucs took on the NFC-leading Falcons at home. Despite three Connor Barth field goals and two Atlanta turnovers, Tampa fell to their NFC South rivals, 24-23. The Bucs had a chance to win six straight games for the first time since their championship season in 2002. In the loss, rookie running back Doug Martin became the first Buccaneers player with 1,000 rushing yards and 9+ rushing touchdowns since 1995. Though they are 9-1, seven of those wins for Atlanta have come by seven points or less.

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      Cuba is known for producing great baseball talent and there has arguably been no one from the island better than the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month.

      Before injuries cut short his Hall of Fame worthy career, Tony Oliva was one of the best hitters in baseball and combined with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmen Killebrew to make the Minnesota Twins a perennial American League contender during the late 1960s.

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