FMIA Week 2: Mike McDaniel’s ‘F- You’ Play Powers Dolphins’ Comeback and How 49ers Adjust Without Trey Lance – ProFootballTalk

Saturday night, Marriott Hotel, suburban Baltimore. Last Dolphins team meeting before facing the Ravens. “I want to see us respond when we don’t have the lead,” Miami coach Mike McDaniel said. “This is the National Football League. It happens. And believe me, fellas, there’s nothing as good as silencing a crowd on the road when the clock hits zero.”

Sunday afternoon, halftime, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore. Ravens 28, Dolphins 7. A pall over the locker room. McDaniel told his players to forget the scoreboard and just play, and whatever happens, happens, and he had faith in them to play great in the second half. Afterward, he told me he was concerned with what he saw in his players as major adversity struck. “I thought our guys were defeated, and I understood why,” McDaniel told me. “They had high hopes for the game, and it wasn’t starting out that way.”

Then the “F-it” play happened.

This is a family website, and so McDaniel will have to leave a small bit to the imagination here. But the big play of Miami’s ridiculous comeback, honestly, was called the “F— it” play.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Miami was still down 14, and sputtering, Tua Tagovailoa going incomplete-incomplete, with the clock under eight minutes now, with a third-and-10 at the Baltimore 48-yard line.

“So we had a play ready, in case things weren’t going right, or in case there were various frustrations,” McDaniel said, an hour after the game, just outside the team bus waiting to take the team to the airport. “We installed that play with the expletives, that the quarterbacks knew as the “F— it” play. Tua loved the play. If we really needed to make something happen, that was the play we’d call.”

Well, f—. What the quarterback wants, the quarterback gets…especially when the quarterback is in the midst of the biggest hot streak of his young NFL life.

Week Two…in the league where they play…for pay.

Trey Lance out, Jimmy Garoppolo in. “We lost our starting quarterback in the first quarter of Week Two,” Kyle Shanahan told me on his drive home Sunday night. “Incredibly sad for Trey, but the stars aligned for us to get Jimmy back, and now we need him.”

Still want to enforce the study habits of Kyler Murray, Cards?

The brightest new non-QB star in football plays for the Dee-troit Lions. I’ll tell you why Amon-Ra St. Brown will have a champion-chip on his shoulder for as long as he plays football.

Should we really be surprised that Matt Ryan and the Colts still can’t win in Jacksonville? I don’t think so.

The Giants and Daniel Jones are 2-0. The Bengals and Joe Burrow are 0-2. Just like we thought.

Who will be the first to report exclusively that Nathaniel Hackett will enroll in Coaching Mechanics 101 at Colorado-Boulder this week? That is one messed-up sideline, and the Broncos are lucky to be 1-1. (Eighteen drives in two weeks, two touchdowns.)

Bucs-Saints. Mike EvansMarshon Lattimore…Ravens-Steelers. Ray Lewis-Hines Ward.

Rams scrape by Falcons. Need a panicky late safety to ensure it. Sean McVay, whatever he says to the press, has to be thinking, “I never could have imagined this.”

Joe Flacco for governor of New Jersey.

Nervous: Jacoby Brissett, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Russell Wilson, Ron Rivera.

Very nervous: Matt Rhule, Frank Reich, Jameis Winston, Bengals offensive line.

Happy: The Dolphins, who don’t often score 35 points in a half.

“At halftime,” McDaniel said to me, “I was focused on guys finishing the game the right way and to our standard. I wasn’t thinking about anything but let’s score on our next possession.”

Finally, early in the fourth quarter, some luck: the Ravens went for it up 35-21 with nine minutes to go, fourth-and-one at the Miami 40-. Two former Patriots, Elandon Roberts and Trey Flowers, stoned Lamar Jackson on a run, and Miami got it back at its 41-yard line.

On third-and-10, McDaniel decided to go for it. F— it. What did they have to lose? The design: Three receivers left, Hill alone on the right, hoping Hill could get two steps on the corner. The cornerback, as it turned out, was an old pro, Marcus Peters. “We had talked the night before at the quarterback meeting,” McDaniel said. “Tua knew he liked the opportunity there. He goes, ‘Yeah, third-and-12, third-and-long, I really like the F-it play.’”

Why? Because who wouldn’t like Hill singled (with sort of passive safety help late, as it turned out) against any corner?

“In practice,” McDaniel said, “we didn’t really execute it well. But give credit to Tua: He didn’t blink.”

Interesting fourth quarter for the Dolphins — duh, of course it would be, scoring 28 on a good team on the road. But there was another reason: The football world wondered if Tagovailoa would be cool connecting with a speed receiver deep downfield. On that play, Tagovailoa threw it 46 yards beyond the line of scrimmage — “air yards,” in modern football lingo — and that would be a trend in this quarter. For the first three quarters, Tagovailoa averaged 5.6 air yards per attempt, per Next Gen Stats. Fourth quarter: 11.1 yards.

Tua wasn’t done. Hill wasn’t done. Next series: third-and-six at the Miami 40-yard line. Were the Ravens feeling the heat of being on the field so much, running so much? Could this be a case of load management catching up with Baltimore, while the Dolphins, after practicing in the oppressive south Florida heat, still had something left? Again, an interesting perspective from Next Gen Stats: Baltimore’s DBs ran a total of 6,131 yards in this game. That’s the most yards any secondary has run in a game since the start of the 2021 season.

And on this play, with Hill singled on the left side against rookie cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis, he blew past Armour-Davis, who looked like he thought he should have safety help. But no safety help was coming. “I knew there was a potential there that they’d go zero [zero coverage, or blitzing and leaving the receivers all singled], so I wasn’t totally surprised because the corner was playing flat-footed, thinking his rush was going to get home.”

Nope. The 60-yard TD to Hill tied it at 35. From there, Baltimore went ahead on a 51-yard field goal from Justin Tucker, and Miami took over at its 32- with 2:12 to go. Who would be surprised that the Dolphins would finish a 547-yard day with a Tua-to-Jaylen Waddle seven-yard TD with 14 seconds left?

Typically in the NFL, you have to learn hard lessons the bad way,” McDaniel said. “I was proud they were able to learn a lesson of mental fortitude in a game where it got out of hand super quickly. Just play the four quarters and figure it out later.”

But this game was bigger than just that lesson. The outside noise in 2022 football is impossible to ignore, and Tagovailoa has been benched, booed, and questioned in his 29 months in Miami. He had to listen to the Deshaun Watson rumors last year, knowing his coach wanted to take a shot on Watson. Then he had to get used to a new coach who stressed with him over and over that he was the future. And now, after the first two weeks of this season, after going to 4-0 against New England and strafing Baltimore with a six-touchdown game, maybe the world (and Tua himself) will finally believe the quarterback of the future in Miami is the quarterback of the present.

“What’d you say to Tua after the game?” I said to McDaniel.

“I said, ‘The weight should be lifted off your shoulders, man. All you did was do exactly what we talked about. Hopefully at least for a week you can shut up all the people that you’re trying not to listen to.’ I’m hoping Sundays feel different to him now. You need kind of a shock and awe moment for that to happen.”

Throwing four touchdown passes against the Baltimore Ravens in 13 minutes…if that’s not shock and awe, what is? The Tua Era is here.

In a cruel bit of I-told-you-so fate, Kyle Shanahan can feel good about the controversial decision to backstop Trey Lance with Jimmy Garoppolo three weeks ago. Because Lance’s first season as a starter lasted exactly 73 minutes, and now, again, this franchise will go as far as Garoppolo will take it.

Lance will undergo surgery to repair a broken ankle and possible further damage to his right leg today in California. It’s highly likely he’ll be out till the 2023 offseason.

“I’m sorry,” is about all Shanahan could figure to say by the time he got to the injured Lance late in the first quarter against Seattle in Santa Clara. “You were playing your ass off.”

Ninety minutes after the game, Shanahan, driving home, tried to be pragmatic about the constant in the 49ers’ world since Shanahan and GM John Lynch took over in 2017. “Four of our six years here we’ve lost the starting quarterback to injury,” he said. “I mean, you just deal with it. You’ve got to. Our team really loves Trey. But these guys, they plan on winning games regardless of the obstacles.

“We’ll be somber Monday morning, but this league doesn’t wait for anybody. It’s unbelievable, really, what’s happened here. We’ve only played two years without a major quarterback injury. But really, this is the first time we’ve had a really good Plan B. It’s a long time since this franchise had a quarterback situation like this one, with two guys we know can win — probably back to Joe Montana and Steve Young. I’m not comparing these guys to Joe and Steve, but I’m talking about going into games now knowing we’ve still got a great chance.”

As much as Shanahan didn’t want to just move on, he knows he’s got to. Garoppolo, playing for the first time since January and since spring shoulder surgery, was an effective 13 of 21 for 154 yards, with a TD and no turnovers. The Niners entered the day 3-17 against Seattle in their last 20 meetings; Garoppolo piloted the team to a 24-7 edge over Seattle in his 47 minutes of play. He started five of five for 80 yards, including a zipped 38-yard TD to tight end Ross Dwelley. Garoppolo’s a metronome: You know exactly what you’re getting with him, and if the Niners can stay relatively healthy on defense, they should be able to be strong playoff contenders again — even after the crushing news of Sunday.

At 1-1, San Francisco has a chance to gain ground on the division in the next month. They’re at Denver, home to the mysterious Rams, at 0-2 Carolina, at 0-2 Atlanta. Then the schedule gets tough.

As for Lance, the reversal of fortune is shocking, after an offseason of debate about whether he’s ready to be The Man for a playoff team. And he’ll enter 2023 mostly the same way he entered 2022: with tremendous uncertainty. After starting one college season (at the mid-major level, at North Dakota State), he’ll have made four NFL starts in two seasons. Shanahan will profess confidence in him, and it’s likely he’ll believe it. But Lance will still be a major question mark, and as for who will backstop him then…that’s too far in the future to matter this morning. What matters now is a road trip this week to Denver, when another team won’t care about San Francisco’s woes. In the NFL, that’s cruel reality. Next man up. Veteran man up, in this case.

Huge influencers on Sunday football:

Cornerback Jamel Dean, in Tampa’s bitterly fought 20-10 win in New Orleans, changed the game. While the Bucs get up to speed offensively — no sideline Tablet is safe until the Bucs start averaging more than the 19.5 points a game they’ve put up in the first two weeks — they’ll have to survive with a defense that’s started red-hot. Sunday’s hero was Dean, the fourth-year corner whose two fourth-quarter interceptions led to 10 Tampa Bay points and broke open a 3-3 game.

This was a slugfest, as usual, between two teams that hate each other the way the Steelers used to hate the Ravens back in the day. “Oh my God,” Dean said from the Bucs’ locker room, “this is always a heavyweight fight.” It really was a fight in the fourth quarter, when three plays before Dean’s first pick, Tom Brady started jawing with Saints corner Marshon Lattimore, shoving ensued, and Bucs receiver Mike Evans flew into the fray and blasted Lattimore.

The outcome — not of the fight, but of the game — might have been bigger than just one game. Credit Jameis Winston for playing with four fractured back vertebrae, per Jay Glazer, but his play late isn’t going to give the Saints the kind of confidence they’d like to have to dethrone Tampa in the NFC South. His two picks in the fourth quarter both came on the Bucs’ side of midfield. “That first one,” said Dean of his end-zone pick, “I knew I had to get it. If I don’t, that could be a touchdown. I’d rather not give up a touchdown.” Understandable. Winston’s got to avoid the turnovers if the Saints have a shot to play deep into January, and that’s always been a challenge for him. For the Bucs, turnovers by Brady aren’t the issue. The leaky offensive line is, and the schedule. Next for Tampa: Green Bay and Kansas City, both at home.

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who led the Jags’ stunning 24-0 shutout of Indianapolis, wasn’t really the national story Sunday; the Colts’ continuing and confounding incompetence in north Florida was. But Jacksonville, depending on the outcome of 0-1 Tennessee’s game in Buffalo tonight, will exit week two either alone or tied for first in the AFC South. And the continuing development of Lawrence (25 of 30, 235 yards, two TDs, no turnovers) was a big reason why.

“What’s the throw you’re most proud of today?” I asked him Sunday evening.

He thought for a moment and said, “It was a simple one. I think it was just a three- or four-yard gain. But I chucked it out to James Robinson, maybe made it second-and-six or whatever.”

Actually, it came on the first series of the third quarter. On second-and-12 from midfield, he dumped it to Robinson for a gain of four. Then he threw an incompletion, and Jacksonville punted.

That was a highlight play?

“Our plan was to take what the defense gave us, whether that’s five, seven yards a throw, whatever it was,” he said. “Really, we were able to do that the whole game and run the ball effectively and control the clock. I think that’s just a good lesson in general for us moving forward — instead of trying to force a ball in a tight window that wasn’t really there and keeping my eyes downfield for too long and throwing it away, make the play that’s there. That’s the next step I’ve been trying to take is just being really smart with the ball, knowing where my outlets are.”

Lawrence seems happier with coach Doug Pederson than he was with the Urban Meyer regime. “I think we’re really similar personality-wise,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know him and then on the football field he’s a really smart coach. His approach is great and it’s been awesome for our team.” Add in two strong edge players, Josh Allen and first overall pick Travon Walker, and Lawrence can afford to play patient and smart. He knows he won’t have to score in the thirties to win most weeks.

Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, with 116 yards receiving and 68 yards rushing, continued to make a huge mark on the NFL in Detroit’s 36-27 win over Washington. A smooth route-runner with excellent hands, St. Brown has the Justin Jefferson-like ability to find a way to be open enough; even when the defense knows he’s going to be targeted 10 or 12 times every game, he finds enough space to make play after play. In the last eight Lions’ games, Detroit’s a surprising 4-4, and look at the production St. Brown has in catches in those eight games: 10, 8, 8, 9, 8, 8, 8 and 9 receptions.

Talking to St. Brown, what I found interesting was how big a factor in his life the 2021 draft was. He’s from Anaheim and went to USC, and he expected (and was told by NFL people) he’d likely be a day-two pick. So he had a party with family and friends on Friday of draft weekend; the NFL had a camera there. But the day came and went, and St. Brown wasn’t picked till round four, on Saturday.

“Even today, talking to you, I still get really emotional just thinking about it, talking about it,” St. Brown said from the Lions’ locker room. “It was a day I’ll never forget. I was furious. But it changed who I am, the way I work, the way I see things. When I get tired in a workout, I won’t quit — I’ll do extra. When I think about that day, that flips the switch for me, and it makes me work harder and longer.

“On the way home that Friday night, I was crying. I got on the Jugs machine late that night, Friday night in California. I got on the machine till I was exhausted, then I went to bed. At that point it was go time for me. I didn’t care who picked me. I was just going to prove myself from that day on.”

Nineteen games and 107 catches into his NFL career, he’s off to a great start.

A screed now, on instant replay. I’ve always been a huge proponent of being able to correct obvious, clear and indisputable mistakes by officials on the field. But I’m really bothered by the current system of replay, because correcting obvious, clear and indisputable mistakes is not what the system does now.

I think instant replay overreaches. If you have NFL+, you can judge two plays early in the season for yourself. That’s how I looked at a catch by Detroit tight end T.J. Hockenson that was confirmed after review in Week One and an interception by Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr., that was overturned in Week Two after review. The two plays:

Hockenson, in the Philadelphia-Detroit game, dove for a Jared Goff pass on the last play of the third quarter against Philadelphia. Replay showed the ball completely out of his hands as he fell earthward, and then he grabbed it and attempted to secure it as he hit the ground. The nose of the ball hit the turf, Hockenson hit the turf, his hands appeared to move down the football as he secured it on the ground. Coach Nick Sirianni challenged. The catch was confirmed by Walt Anderson in the New York officiating command center.

Samuel, in the Chargers-Kansas City game Thursday night, bobbled and lost and re-caught an interception as he fell to the ground in the third quarter. It was ruled an interception on the field. Replay showed the ball in Samuel’s grasp as both the player and ball hit the ground, and it appeared the ball may have hit the ground and was not totally secure as it did so. “Appeared” being the operative word there. It did not look conclusive to me. The call was overturned by Anderson.

I do not know how the Hockenson play stands and the Samuel play does not. That’s the problem that I see: These two plays were tremendously similar — in each case, they’re so close and could have been ruled either way on the field. In each case, I believe, each should have been upheld because they didn’t pass the “clear and obvious” standard to be overturned. If you had 100 non-partisan people watch the two plays, there’s no way either would have been 100-0 to keep or overturn, and there’s no way it would have been 90-10, and probably not even 80-20 either way.

The NFL has lost its way on replay. As former vice president of officiating Mike Pereira, now a FOX rules analyst, told me: “We’ve been micromanaging replay for years, and this is what’s resulted. We’re reviewing and reversing plays where half the viewers would reverse and half wouldn’t. We all knew that technology improved and clarity of the video improved that we would overuse the system. So I’m not a fan of where we are on replay.”

Nor am I. I still favor replay, used correctly, because we don’t want games decided on egregiously incorrect calls. The league needs to re-familiarize itself—Anderson in particular—with the definition of clear, obvious and indisputable, before it’s too late and owners and coaches get fed up with a system that all too often is capricious.

Hello, Next Gen!


This season, FMIA has partnered with Next Gen Stats, the league’s new generation of advanced metrics and statistic, with data collected from 250 tracking devices per game on players, officials, pylons and footballs. Each week, I’ll use NGS to help tell a deeper story or stories about the games that week.

Today: How Patrick Mahomes is adjusting without Tyreek Hill.

Pretty well, so far. There is no disputing how dominant Hill can be and has been in the first two weeks for Miami. But Kansas City has been borderline explosive without him. Mahomes is a league-best plus-seven in TD-to-interception ratio (7-0). He also is the early league leader — and ahead of his career bests — in passer rating (127.9) and yards-per-attempt (9.9), with 73 percent accuracy.

With the speedy Hill last year, KC receivers averaged 11.0 yards per catch. Without Hill and with a cadre of four new receivers this year, KC receivers are averaging 11.0 yards per catch.

Next Gen Stats make Mahomes’ first two weeks even more impressive, particularly when you consider he’s getting pressured far more this season so far.

Mahomes is throwing quicker than last year, getting blitzed at a much higher rate, and is more accurate. It’s almost like he likes being rushed—in part, of course, because with fewer bodies in coverage, he has a better chance to find a receiver quicker.

Look at the air yards numbers. Air yards is how far past the line of scrimmage each Mahomes pass travels, on average. It’s actually slightly further this year, per NGS, than last year when Hill was stretching defenses for Mahomes.

What’s most impressive about this chart? Mahomes has had to get familiar with four new receivers to the team this year — JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson and Skyy Moore. Those four receivers have averaged nine catches for 112 yards in the two games so far.

Watson’s 41-yard touchdown that got KC back in the game Thursday night was an outlier, but a classic football play. Mahomes had what for him was an otherworldly time to throw — 3.84 seconds. The Chargers blitzed, sending linebacker Drue Tranquill up the A gap (over the center, essentially) and running back Jerick McKinnon stone Tranquill—giving Mahomes the extra second to find, throw and lead Watson for the touchdown.

Next Gen Stats has one more gem about Mahomes, and one more reason why the blitz is simply not a smart move when playing defense on him. Since 2018, when Mahomes became Kansas City’s full-time starter, he’s faced the lowest blitz rate of the 49 quarterbacks with at least 500 attempts since then — just 19.0 percent of his pass attempts.

The compelling part, per Next Gen: Mahomes, since opening day 2018, has thrown three interceptions versus the blitz. But when rushed by four or fewer defenders, he has thrown 33 interceptions. When defensive coordinators who love to send pressure face Kansas City, they’d be wise to dial back their gameplans and keep seven men back. If not, chances are Mahomes will shred them.

Mahomes wears a band on one arm with a built-in fitness tracker from the company WHOOP that monitors his daily sleep, recovery, effort, strain and heart performance. The readings have changed how he works and helped him understand the impact of sleep and diet on his fitness and preparedness.

Last season, during the grueling playoff games against Buffalo, WHOOP found that Mahomes’ heart rate late in the game was higher when watching Josh Allen bring the Bills back to take a late lead (about 170 beats per minute) than it was when he was in the game bringing Kansas City back to tie in the final 13 seconds (156-159 bpm).

That both seems incongruous and telling about Mahomes. His trainer said it was about Mahomes being in a “flow” state — when a person is immersed in an activity he’s an expert in, even an activity with high stress like an NFL playoff game, his heart rate is more under control.

“When you’re playing, you’re focused,” Mahomes told me. “You’re not really worried about what’s going on outside. You’re trying to do your job and win the football game. For me, you go back to your routine. You go back to doing what you’ve done every single drive, every single play of your career. I think that’s why you saw my heart rate kinda lower when I played than when I was watching, when I didn’t have control of the game watching from the sidelines. There was nothing I could do.”

Another interesting note: Mahomes’ sleep performance in training camp this year wasn’t as efficient as either in camp last year or during the ’21 season. That could be — and probably is — because his hours were long this summer. He and his offensive mates had to work harder than in normal years because Mahomes was getting four new wide receivers in gear to hit the ground running to start the season. The work has paid off so far, obviously, with a 2-0 record and two impressive offensive games.

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, on the physical test of playing Thursday night football on the road after playing on Sunday.

I talked to Ekeler last Tuesday night, exactly 48 hours before he’d take the field in Kansas City.

“The body definitely hurts. We all have different hardships that we have to go through in our lives. For us in the NFL season, injury, just trying to stay healthy, is a trial. As of now, I’m sitting here, my shoulders are still sore. My hip is still sore. My quads are still sore from getting hit. Usually takes three or four days to actually heal up and I can get a good lift and I can feel like ‘OK, I’m ready to play again.’ Then we have a little bit more time after that. But this week, right as soon as the [Sunday] game ends, after the game immediately we bring all of our dry needling, all of our massage, all of the cold tub, hot tub, trainers, we’re already starting treatment immediately when the game ends. Coach passed out some game balls in the locker room. Then straight to treatment because we’re trying to get a jump start. But one thing that we can’t obviously make up is the time that it takes.

“So I get in the shower, then I’m going straight to the recovery room. I’ll go put these NormaTec [compression] pants on my legs. They’re squeezing blood out of my legs right so I can get new flush in there. Just trying to keep down inflammation and let new blood come in there, nutrients and things like that. Also jumping in the ice bath as well to continue to keep this blood circulating.

“Monday morning, I started to feel my shoulders. I didn’t know my shoulders were this sore after the game. My hip didn’t hurt after the game either until I got home and then it started stiffening up on me. Then the next morning, I wake up like, ‘OK, yeah, that’s definitely sore.’”

How ready will you be to play a football game Thursday night?

“You’ll see 100 percent of what I got left. I’ll definitely have some sore spots. See what’s going on with this hip. Just right on the bone. That’ll probably still be sore. That might even still be sore for a whole week. It’s a violent game we play. But yeah, I would say pretty close to 100 percent because we’re still just in week two.

“Amazon wanted us for their first primetime game, so we’ll go out and give ‘em a show.”

Ekeler led all Chargers with 23 touches from scrimmage for 94 yards in the 27-24 Kansas City win.

“Division opponent, crowd all jacked up, the adrenalin, I felt 100 percent at the start of the game,” Ekeler said Saturday. “What I’ve found is the adrenalin makes you not feel any pain in a place like that. At the end of the game and the next day, I felt it. My neck is sore. My lower back is sore — took a helmet to the back. Quads are sore. But it’s normal soreness for this game. A normal person might be saying, ‘Whoa, this hurts.’ But I’m a football player. I actually feel pretty good.”

Offensive players of the week

Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback, Miami. In a performance that would make Dan Marino jealous, Tagovailoa threw four touchdown passes in the last 13 minutes in Baltimore — not against a JV defense — to lift Miami to a shocking 42-38 comeback victory over the Ravens. He completed 72 percent of his throws for 469 yards, six TDs and two picks in one of the greatest performances in the history of a proud franchise.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, wide receiver, Detroit. If the first two weeks of the season have catapulted one player to stardom above any other, it’s St. Brown, the 112th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He caught nine balls for 116 yards and two touchdowns in the win against Washington and added 58- and 10-yard runs for a 184-yard day. These are not your father’s, uncle’s or grandfather’s Lions. They’ve scored 71 points in two games, and as St. Brown told me postgame, “We will compete like no other team in the league.”

Kyler Murray, quarterback, Arizona. I clocked it: Murray scrambled/ran/survived for 20.87 seconds on a two-point conversion run in the fourth quarter to keep the Cardinals in the game and trailing 23-15. That’s one of the most amazing plays I’ve ever seen a quarterback make. Then, over the last 4:43 of the game, he led Arizona on an 18-play, 73-yard drive, finishing with a three-yard TD run and a two-point conversion pass to force overtime. And the Cards won in overtime on the Byron Murphy scoop and score. After three quarters, Arizona trailed 23-7 and it looked like the mega-heat would be on Kliff Kingsbury and Murray this week for an 0-2 start. But all is right with the world. The Cardinals are a frenetic 1-1 with some hope.

Joe Flacco, quarterback, New York Jets. The football world, and Jets’ fandom, rolled eyes at the 37-year-old Flacco starting in place of Zach Wilson till the kid’s ready to return from a knee injury. And when he couldn’t escape Myles Garrett for most of Sunday, the negativity intensified. Then Flacco led two road TD drives in the last two minutes, making the Jets the first team to overcome a 13-point deficit inside the two-minute warning of the fourth quarter to win an NFL game since 2001. Good for the steely Flacco, who never blinked down the stretch of a game no one gave the Jets a chance to win.

 

Defensive players of the week

Jamel Dean, cornerback, Tampa Bay. His two fourth-quarter interceptions won the game for Tampa Bay, breaking a four-game regular-season losing streak against the Saints. Dean picked off Jameis Winston with 12 minutes left in a 3-3 game, leading to the go-ahead touchdown, and he picked off Winston again with seven minutes left, leading to an insurance field goal. On a day when the Tampa offense sputtered for the second straight week, the defense, and Dean, picked the Bucs up.

Jaylen Watson, cornerback, Kansas City. Imagine being a rookie, the 243rd pick in the draft, the 36th corner picked in the draft, in your second game in the NFL, and veteran defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has you on the field with 11 minutes to go, 17-17 game, Justin Herbert with the ball at the KC three-, and he takes the snap, and he’s staring your way. That’s what Watson was faced with Thursday night, game on the line. Turns out tight end Gerald Everett was supposed to come back for the ball on a short curl route, but either he was too exhausted to do so or just ran the wrong route. Either way, Watson jumped the route at the KC one-yard line and returned it for the touchdown that turned the tide in the game. Not bad for a guy who had to work at Wendy’s during the 2019 football season, out of college because of academic trouble and rekindled his career at Washington State in 2020 and ’21.

Aidan Hutchinson, defensive end, Detroit. After a quiet first week, Hutchinson made his presence felt early in the win over Washington. On Washington’s first, fifth and seventh possessions, all in the first half, he had a sack that either forced a punt or soon led to a punt. When a foe has 13 drives (except one kneel-down drive) and one player terminates three of them, that’s a very good day for the player.

Micah Parsons, edge rusher, Dallas. Two sacks, five hits of Joe Burrow, and a commanding presence in a game the Dak Prescott-less Cowboys desperately needed, and got. Parsons is the kind of player who affects the game the way Lawrence Taylor once did.

Special teams player of the week

Devin Duvernay, kick-returner, Baltimore. His 103-yard kickoff return for touchdown on the first play of the Dolphins-Ravens game was remarkable for its speed and for the hopelessness of the Miami defenders. They never had a chance. Not bad for Duvernay, the 92nd pick in the 2020 draft who has far outplayed his draft slot.

Coach of the week

Mike McDaniel, head coach, Miami. Lots of candidates in this crazy, crazy week. But McDaniel told his team at halftime he loved having adversity, and he loved coaching these players, and they should love the game even when adversity strikes. And, yes, it does help to have Tua Tagovailoa throwing to Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill. But he has built in short order a rapport with the quarterback and the team that allows them to think it’s not over when they’re down by three touchdowns with 12 minutes to go. And it wasn’t.

Goats of the week

Gunner Olszewski, punt-returner, Pittsburgh. The former Patriot said to New England media the other day: “Playing the old team, the team that didn’t want you, sure I want to go out there and show what I can do.” Late in the third quarter at Heinz Field, with the Patriots holding a 10-6 lead, Olszewski did. The Patriots’ punt hit Olszewski in the facemask, New England recovered, and scored to go up 17-6. That was a huge play in New England’s 17-14 win.

Cade York, kicker, Cleveland. Hero in his first NFL game last week (58-yard winning field goal at Carolina), goat in his second. The rookie from LSU got a clean snap and clean hold on a PAT with 1:55 left — and pushed it right. The kick kept the Cleveland lead at 13 points, and the Jets rallied to win, 31-30.

The Colts. They just aren’t that good. Of all the games of the Ballard-Reich Era, Sunday’s 24-0 loss at Jacksonville is the most embarrassing.  

 

Hidden person of the week

Patrick Ricard, fullback/defensive lineman, Baltimore. One of the game’s unique players made one of the plays of the early season. On a first-half Lamar Jackson scramble, Ricard, a blocking back anytime the Ravens get near the goal line, erased linebacker Elandon Roberts, then got further downfield to block Eric Rowe on the same Jackson run. Pretty amazing play by Ricard — even if it came in a shocking loss like Sunday’s 42-38 Miami defeat.

 

The Jason Jenkins Award

A weekly award honoring the late Miami Dolphins community relations executive for his selfless service to the south Florida community. Send nominations to peterkingfmia@gmail.com.

Terry McLaurin, wide receiver, Washington. He founded the Terry McLaurin Foundation last week, hosting scores of underserved children from the District of Columbia and children and mentors from Big Brothers Big Sisters at FedEx Field. Each child got a pair of shoes, while foster parents and Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors got grocery gift cards from the foundation.

I

It’s a haunting moment for anyone on the football field.

— 49ers tackle Mike McGlinchey, on the severe ankle injury to QB Trey Lance that will end his season.

 

II

Sorry for breaking that tablet. I think that’s gonna be another Twitter meme.

— Tom Brady, after the win in New Orleans and after the Tablet destruction on the sidelines of the Superdome, on Instagram.

 

III

It’s a long season. We’ll take our medicine for the pathetic performance today, coaches and players.

— Colts coach Frank Reich, after the 24-0 loss in Jacksonville.

 

IV

Obviously that’s an emotional one, and we’re freaking out.

— Jets QB Joe Flacco, to Aditi Kinkhabwala of CBS on the field after the Jets beat Cleveland 31-30.     

 

V

The Colts have entered the fourth quarter of [their two games this year] trailing by a combined 44-3.

— Zak Keefer of The Athletic.

Jacksonville is 5-30 since the start of the 2020 season…0-17 on the road.

Highlights (or, in the case of the Colts, lowlights) in that 35-game Jaguars span:

  • While the Jags are 5-30 since opening day 2020, Indy is 20-14-1.
  • Since opening day 2020, Jags are 3-2 against Indianapolis, 2-28 against everyone else.
  • Jags QBs (Minshew, Lawrence) in the three wins over the Colts: seven TD passes, zero interceptions, 127.2 rating.
  • Colts QBs (Rivers, Wentz, Ryan) in the three losses: two touchdown passes, six interceptions, 68.9 rating.
  • On the day of the last Colts’ victory over the Jaguars in Jacksonville, Odell Beckham Jr., made the catch of his life, the one-hander in the end zone on Sunday Night Football for the Giants that made him famous.

I

Since opening day 2021, Dak Prescott is 11-7 with a 99.5 passer rating, and Cooper Rush is 2-0 with a 93.63 rating.

I’m just saying.

II

Tackle David Bakhtiari, 30, signed a four-year extension worth $92 million late in the 2020 season. Of the Packers’ last 20 games, Bakhtiari has missed 19 with a knee injury.

I

Domonique Foxworth, an ESPN analyst, once played for the Ravens, so he should know.

II

Michael David Smith is the managing editor of ProFootballTalk.

III

Stephen Holder, Tweeting in the first half of another Indy meltdown in Jacksonville, covers the Colts for ESPN.com.

IV

Longtime Colts beat writer, now a college prof, as the Colts were trailing 24-0 in the fourth quarter to their nemesis of all nemeses, Jacksonville.

V

Brad Spielberger is Pro Football Focus’ salary cap analyst.

That is not just a fun fact. It’s a grotesque fact.

VI

Ken Olin is an actor, producer and director.

VII

Julian Edelman, Tweeting as Justin Herbert played hurt Thursday night, is the former New England Super Bowl champion.

Reach me at peterkingfmia@gmail.com, or on Twitter @peter_king.

The Russell Wilson treatment.From Jean Hermlin, of Paris: “Re Russell Wilson: It’s pretty obvious there is a lot of animosity from guys who were former leaders on the team towards him. Why do you think that is the case and have you ever seen anything like it? Mike Sando of The Athletic detailed how several players who had been staying away from the team (Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch) are now more actively involved, and now we have this quote of Pete Carroll saying, ‘As much as anything, it was representing the guys that played before, it meant a lot to those guys.’

Obviously, I don’t know the dynamics behind the scenes on other teams (or this one, really), but I’ve never had the feeling anything remotely close was happening with the Bradys, Mannings, Breeses of the world.”

The reaction of the fans in Seattle shocked me, Jean. I understand booing a guy through the course of the game; no venue in sports today is as influential as Seattle’s home field, and the fans showed that for four quarterbacks. But I do not understand booing the quarterback of the team for the most glorious decade in franchise history during the pregame as well. As I wrote last week, the Seahawks in the 10 years before Wilson arrived made the playoffs three times and were a combined two games over .500; the Seahawks in Wilson’s 10 years made the playoffs eight times and were 51 games over .500. True — many veterans, particularly on defense, found Wilson to be a little bit of a goody-two-shoes whose fame overshadowed a great defense. Maybe it’s because I’m older now, and I wish so often that fans would be classier, and it’s possible to be classy and intensely loyal at the same time. But I didn’t like the whole of what I saw last Monday.

Easy for me to say Chicago should have a dome — I don’t have to sit in bad weather. From Anthony Elms, of Omaha: “You wrote, ‘Imagine the moments in Bears history we’d have missed with a stupid dome.’ And how many of those five moments were you sitting out in that horrendous weather for? I love it when someone who won’t be personally affected advocates for someone else to deal with more hardship.”

“Hardship?” I was in the Soldier Field press box the day of the Sean Landeta whiffed punt in 1985, with the Bears on the way to winning the Super Bowl, and I doubt you’d find many in the stands that day complaining about sitting in the cold. I was in the stands for none of the games I mentioned. The point is, though, what do Bears fans think? I’d be curious to see a poll of long-time Bears’ season-ticket holders on the topic. In fact, I ask Bears’ ticket-holders right here and now: If a new stadium is built for the Bears, would you prefer:

1. Open-air stadium.

2. Stadium with a retractable roof.

3. Stadium with a permanent dome.

Send votes/responses to me at peterkingfmia@gmail.com this week. Put “Bears dome” in the subject line. Thanks. And thanks for your note, Anthony. Maybe a vast majority of Bears’ fans would like it to be 72 degrees and condition-less for every game. I doubt it, but we’ll see.

On my story about a loud F-you guy at Yankee Stadium. From Jonathan Manz, of Portland, Ore.: “Love your column. You’re right, comments like the one you heard at the Yankees-Twins game have no room in sports. To send the right message, I would like to see more professional athletes high five or shake the hands of their opponents after games – just like we were taught in Little League. That would help at least send the right message to the fans.”

That’s a great idea, actually. Thanks, Jonathan.

People have a lot of opinions about the Hall of Fame. From Jaxon Ombach: “Your comment that ‘Voters for the Hall of Fame should not be in the morals-judging business, they should be in the football-judging business’ has really not sat well with me. Career stats should play heavily into the decision making of whether someone is Hall of Fame-worthy player. I think it is important to judge their character at the same time. In the world we live in today, it is not enough for anyone to just be good at a sport, or a job, but to be a good person as well.”

You’ve got a lot of backing from other fans and emailers, Jaxon. But the Hall of Fame would have to change the longstanding bylaws of the election process for that to happen. Per the bylaws: “The only criteria for election to the Hall of Fame are a nominee’s achievements and contributions (positive or negative) as a player, coach or contributors to professional football in the United States of America.” The reason I don’t want to get involved in the personality/citizenship side of this is that I don’t want to judge how much morals or off-the-field life should mean to a football person’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame. It’s not the way Hall selections have been made for the first 59 years of the place.

Take a stand, King. From Eric Wojsik: “Hiding behind the Hall of Fame rules to only consider what a player does on the field is cowardly, if not hypocritical. As you asked, should a player or coach be disqualified for domestic abuse? I don’t know; I’m not a HOF voter, but I do know such behavior must at least be considered along with every other nuance of a candidate’s career, peers, and era. If you chose to, Mr. King, you could take a stand to show such abhorrent behavior does not get a free pass for one of the highest honors in the game simply because one is a spectacular player, coach, or owner.”

I agree with the bylaws; I don’t want to be the morality police. Do you want 49 sportswriters/sportscasters/retired players sitting in judgment of all aspects of the lives of players and coaches and owners? If the Hall wants to change the bylaws after six decades of voting on football factors only, that’s the right of the institution, but I’ve never once, in 30 years on the committee, heard a voter or Hall executive say or imply, “We should include every aspect of a person’s life — citizenship, public service, possible military service, criminal record — when we discuss Hall of Fame candidacies.” If that makes me a coward in your eyes, so be it.

Educate thyself on Monarchy funding. From Jason Williams, of London: “I just wanted to inform you that the Royal Family gets what’s called a sovereign grant each year that is voted on in parliament. The grant last year was 86 million pounds, which equates to £1.29 per person in the country. The last report I could find stated that in 2017 the Royal Family uplifted the economy by £1.7 billion due to tourists, visitors etc.”

Good information. Thanks, Jason.

1. I think that gigantic elf at midfield of the Browns stadium looks downright bizarre and, quite frankly, idiotic.

2. I think I listen to a lot of Andrew Siciliano and Scott Hanson on the two NFL red zone channels (except yesterday with Siciliano, because the DirecTV was out in my house and on my laptop), and I can tell you on all the Sundays I’ve ever listened to either, I heard the strangest sentence on Sunday. This was the explanation from Hanson about why there is a 40-foot-by-30-foot Brownie the Elf logo on the field: “Per Scottish folklore, from hundreds of years ago, apparently the elf pops up in your home and helps you do chores.”

3. I think there will be a chorus of “it’s way too early for that,” and I understand that sentiment. But is Kenny Pickett warming up in the bullpen yet? The Trubisky-led offense has put up 30 points in nine offensive quarters (almost nine; there was an OT last week in Cincinnati), and 255 offensive yards per game won’t cut it long-term.

4. I think I’ll have more to say about my Amazon experience next week (I wanted to give the pregame and game crews a couple of weeks before saying much), but I was impressed with the picture quality on both my laptop and smartphone. I know some TV users had buffering issues, but none of that with the smaller screens, at least for me. This week, I’m going to take some time watching the alternate ‘cast.

5. I think I thought I was a Jimmy-Johnsonologist and knew pretty much everything about his NFL life. But as part of an NFL Icons series on EPIX, there’s a Jimmy Johnson documentary airing Saturday at 10 p.m. ET, with a fresh interview plus lots of stuff from the hallowed archives of NFL Films. It’s hosted by Rich Eisen. Great line in there from Johnson about great franchises: “The downfall of every organization is you start fighting over who gets the credit.” And there’s this nugget that I never heard:

Johnson: “A lot of people look at our franchise and they say, ‘Well, the Herschel Walker trade made this franchise.’ Well, people don’t understand that we had fifty-one trades in the five-year period there. Fifty-one trades, that was more than the entire rest of the league put together.”

(It wasn’t, but 51 is a lot of trades.)

Eisen: “Johnson nearly had fifty-two trades. In 1992, he tried to negotiate a deal with his former offensive coordinator David Shula, who had just been named head coach of the Bengals.”

Johnson: “We had a defensive back that was a decent player, but we were going to release him, and I didn’t want him to go to one of our opponents. And so David Shula was at Cincinnati. I said, ‘David,’ I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a defensive back, pretty good player can help you if you want to make a trade.’ He said, ‘Well, what do you want for him?’ I said, ‘You know, you can give me a case of beer.’ He said, ‘What?’ And I said, ‘Hey, you don’t even have to give me a case of beer. You can buy me a drink at the convention or something.’ So he called back, and he says, ‘Uh, Jimmy, I’m sorry, we can’t make the trade.’ I said, ‘What!’ Everybody was skeptical of me after the Herschel Walker trade. They thought I was trying to pull the wool over their eyes.”

6. I think it’s downright weird to see the Bucs 2-0 and Tom Brady with 402 passing yards.

7. I think it’s never a good sign anytime you ask someone this question about a business deal: “Is there anyway [sic] the media can find out where it came from and how much?”

The excellent reporting of Mississippi Today’s Anna Wolfe unearthed that text message — it’s what Brett Favre asked the head of an agency that collected and allocated millions of dollars in state welfare funds, as he was allegedly angling to get money from the state to help Southern Miss build a volleyball facility. (Favre’s daughter, Breleigh, played volleyball there.)

Now, Mississippi is the poorest state in the country, with per capita income of about $22,000 per adult. World Population Review said earlier this year that 18.8 percent of state residents live in poverty, with an alarming 27.9 percent of children below the poverty line. So anyone knowingly using state welfare funds for a pet project like this volleyball facility would be subject to prosecution — never mind that Favre made $141 million in his NFL career. He claims he did not know the funds he was seeking came from state welfare coffers. In time, we’ll learn whether that is true, because a civil lawsuit in Mississippi seeks to plumb the depths into the murky state welfare agencies. The governor at the time, Phil Bryant, and others including Favre are under fire for channeling $5 million in state welfare funds toward the volleyball project.

Wolfe’s reporting makes Bryant sound like a Favre fanboy. Imagine the athletic director of Southern Miss pushing for upwards of $5 million for a standalone volleyball facility in a state that’s so poor. Hard to believe Bryant would have spent so much time and energy on such a project unless Favre, the greatest athlete in state history, was pushing it. Mississippi Today asked Favre in 2020 if he’d discussed the volleyball facility with the governor and he said, “No.” This, despite the uncovering of evidence by Wolfe of multiple meetings of Favre and Bryant discussing the facility—and the governor even advising Favre on how to word a proposal to get the money so funding for the facility could pass muster through the state.

It looks bad for the former governor and for Favre. Morally, Favre already looks very bad. Legally, if it’s proven that Favre knowingly used a very poor system to bankroll a pet project, it’s going to be much worse for him, and justifiably so.

8. I think this is now ancient history, but here’s the overriding point about Nathaniel Hackett choosing to try a 64-yard field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-five from the Seattle 46-yard line last Monday: I hope Hackett has learned from this, but I’m not so sure he has. Although he said a day later, “We definitely should have gone for it,” he also reiterated that the team “had a plan” to get to the 46- and then try the field goal. “We said 46-yard-line was where we wanted to be,” he said. To still be saying that a day after is just crazy to me. Who wants to get in position to kick a 64-yard field goal in anything other than absolute desperation with zero other alternatives? This is the NFL’s 103rd season, and there have been two field goals that long in history — from 64 and 66, and Brandon McManus’ long was 61. I’d be concerned if I were the new Denver owners or GM George Paton that the coach is still talking about the logic of it the next day.

9. I think this was a masterful piece by Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated on the return of Tyrann Mathieu to the hometown that could have killed him. Writes Bishop:

Maybe this is a fairytale after all. Enigma to adversary to hero. Maybe, he thinks, it could be perfect. Storybook. Roll credits. The End.

The thought is forceful but fleeting, like the thunderclaps in the distance. Look closely. Notice the ink on his right leg, row after row of nearly identical crosses that explain why his relationship with his hometown is as much thorns as flowers.

The tattoos represent his torture and his torment, the friends and family members Mathieu lost during childhood alone. He added all 22 at once, over two sessions, one for each cross and one for the initials denoting each individual who died.

Fairy tale? Please. Tyrann Mathieu has a graveyard on his leg.


It’s different, this homecoming. It’s glorious. It’s terrifying. He left New Orleans as a young adult soon to lose his way and returns as a father of three. He departed disgruntled and comes back enlightened. He left fearful and returns not with the resolve of someone who had conquered their fears but one who learned to navigate them.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. How great is “Abbott Elementary?”

b. My wife and I have been watching the show about a struggling inner-city Philadelphia grade school with a disastrous principal and wonderfully hopeful star teacher, and it’s sad and funny and cynical and great. I can see why so many people are hooked on it—it appeals to all ages. The star, Quinta Brunson, is also the writer, and she won an Emmy for her writing last week. As she told Vanity Fair, “When someone will come up to me on the street, or even on social media, and say that they’ve been watching it with their eight-year-old child, or their 70-year-old grandmother, that’s, like, almost too humbling to function.”

c. Inside Football Story of the Week: Kalyn Kahler of Defector with a gem on how NFL teams scout officials. Great stat in here: Ref Bill Vinovich’s crew has been last in called penalties for each of the last four years. That’s why networks like Vinovich on the primetime games. They’re liable to go faster with Vinovich.

d. Writes Kahler:

Every year at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, the analytics company Pro Football Focus meets with their clients and prospective clients to hear feedback on their product. And over the last five or six years, PFF analyst Steve Palazzolo says teams kept bringing up officiating. Specifically, they wanted PFF to track penalties by the individual official who threw the flag. The league only provides teams with data on penalties by crew, which isn’t granular enough for NFL coaches, who want to know which side or field judges call the most PI, or which line judge calls the most false starts. (The answer? “Jeff Bergman,” says a third game management coach. “If you have him, he calls it tight.”)

“Almost every team said, Hey, yeah, we do this on our own, if you guys could do this, it would be really helpful,” Palazzolo says. “There was need, and demand was high.”

So this year, for the first time, PFF has added this stat to its NFL product. Teams can search by official, by penalty, or by position, like back judge or side judge. And within that database, each penalty is linked to the film.

“The refs aren’t too happy about it,” Palazzolo says.

e. Fat Leonard is on the lam. Kristina Davis and Greg Moran on an escapee, Leonard Glenn Francis, who swindled the U.S. Navy out of at least $35 million

f. Interesting, too, to read this Newsweek column about the tentacles of the Fat Leonard scandal

g. Podcast segment of the Week: Melissa Harris-Perry, with producer Katerina Barton, of The Takeaway, the public radio podcast, with a question we’re all asking, all over the country: What’s going on with the teacher shortage?

h. Listen to the teacher from New York City, a middle-school math teacher (I should say, a former middle-school math teacher) about why he left the profession after six years:

“Our job is difficult and I was like, ‘Over the last six years I’ve put in 12-hour days than most of my friends that make two, three, four times what I make.’ I lost belief in how big of an impact I can make or what my impact was. By the end of the day, I was exhausted. Emotionally, physically, psychologically, I was just done … I think when I realized that I couldn’t be entirely emotionally invested as I feel that I should, I was just like, “I got to step away, because otherwise, I’m not going to be the best service to our kids.”

i. This is serious. Really serious. We’ve got to be sure we support the teachers in this country. We cannot fight them on every little curriculum thing so many teachers and librarians are fighting about these days. Support teachers. Support them.

j. Someone had to tell the Queen’s bees, and the queen bee, that the Queen died, per Daniel Victor of the New York Times.

k. The Daily Mail had an exclusive on the subject, which prompted the New York Times’. And which was so positively British. Re the Mail: “The Royal Beekeeper has informed the Queen’s bees that the Queen has died.”

l. Victor found Stephen Fleming, a beekeeper for 25 years and co-editor of British beekeeping magazine BeeCraft (THERE IS A BRITISH MAGAZINE FOR BEEKEEPERS). After a beekeeper friend of his died, Fleming said he went to the friend’s property and gave the bees the bad news. Wrote Victor:

John Chapple, the beekeeper at Buckingham Palace, declined to comment. The Daily Mail reported that he had placed black ribbons tied into bows on the hives before telling them in hushed tones that the queen had died and that they would have a new master.

Mr. Fleming said most beekeepers would most likely be aware of the tradition, but not as many would practice it.

“It’s generally thought to be a good and nice thing to do,” he said.

m. I have three baseball observations.

n. Schedulenerdness: MLB scheduled the A’s to play three series in nine weeks in Houston, all in mid-month, in three straight months. You can look it up: July 15 to 17, Aug. 12 to 14, Sept. 15 to 18. In the span of 31 home games, 10 were against Oakland. I bet that was easy marketing for execs in Houston, selling 10 games in the middle of the pennant race against a team with zero recognizable names. Well, they do have Tony Kemp.

o. One question for those excited about the prospect of Jacob deGrom on the free agency market this offseason, which I guess will be the case. Since opening day this season, Miami’s Sandy Alcantara has started 30 games and pitched 212.2 innings. Since opening day 2020, deGrom has started 36 games and pitched 214.1 innings. It’s impossible to not love deGrom as a player, of course, and of course, the 2020 season was shortened because of Covid. But pick some standout pitchers under the age of 35. Since the start of 2020, Alcantara has pitched 460.1 innings, Gerrit Cole 436.2, Julio Urias 393.1, Zack Wheeler 422.1, Corbin Burnes 405.2. Some team is going to drill way, way down on the risk of paying deGrom at or near the top of the market and do it, I’m sure. But even in the risky business of pitching, that’s a dangerous contract.

p. Aaron Judge is just so fabulous — at-bat, in the field, in the clubhouse, as a teammate — that even for a person who had two Yankee-loving brothers but could never bring myself to do anything but truly dislike that team…I find myself drawn to his at-bats like a mosquito to a light bulb. Much respect to the tall guy.

q. This is one amazing story: The founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, gave away the company because he loves the planet and fears for it.

r. Patagonia is worth $3 billion. Chouinard gave it away.

s. Wrote David Gelles of the Times:

Rather than selling the company or taking it public, Mr. Chouinard, his wife and two adult children have transferred their ownership of Patagonia, valued at about $3 billion, to a specially designed set of trusts and nonprofit organizations. They were created to preserve the company’s independence and ensure that all of its profits — some $100 million a year — are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe.

“Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people,” Mr. Chouinard, 83, said in an exclusive interview. “We are going to give away the maximum amount of money to people who are actively working on saving this planet.”


As a pioneering rock climber in California’s Yosemite Valley in the 1960s, Mr. Chouinard lived out of his car and ate damaged cans of cat food that he bought for five cents apiece.

Even today, he wears raggedy old clothes, drives a beat-up Subaru and splits his time between modest homes in Ventura and Jackson, Wyo. Mr. Chouinard does not own a computer or a cellphone.

“I was in Forbes magazine listed as a billionaire, which really, really pissed me off,” he said. “I don’t have $1 billion in the bank. I don’t drive Lexuses.”

t. Long live Yvon Chouinard.

u. Happy 58th, Bob Papa! Happy 59th, Trey Wingo. And happy 60th, Ken Rosenthal. None of you look a day over 57.

v. And happy trails, Roger Federer. I’m no tennis buff, but winning 20 majors and being number one in the world for 237 consecutive weeks is worth a tip of all of our caps. Best to you, sir.

The NFL is experimenting with a staggered-start doubleheader tonight in primetime: Tennessee-Buffalo on ESPN at 7:15 p.m., Minnesota-Philadelphia on ABC at 8:30 p.m. Starting at the beginning of the second half of Titans-Bills, ESPN and ABC will periodically show double-box action on both channels, and there will be a small scorebox on-screen from the other game during each game.

The NFL is doing this, essentially, to extend what would be a three-hour, 15-minute window of football in prime time to four hours, 30 minutes…and to blanket the Disney channels — ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, ESPN+ — with 75 more minutes of football on Monday night than usual, and to ensure that if the Bills are up 27-6 at the half that the audience will move to the other game and watch more football instead of cruising Netflix.

Next season, ESPN will have three such Monday night twinbills. No decision has been made on the times of games, or which weeks the doubleheaders will fall. But starting games before say 8:45 p.m. means the NFL can put Eastern Time Zone franchises in the late window; if the NFL were to choose, say, a 10 p.m. or 10:15 p.m. start, that would eliminate 17 of the 32 NFL teams that exist in Eastern Time from playing in those games. I have heard reliably that it’s very unlikely the NFL will return to 10 ET or 10:15 ET starts for games again.

Buffalo 33, Tennessee 20. Compare and contrast:

1. In their last three games (two playoff, one regular-season), the Bills have scored 16 touchdowns and punted four times — including zero last week in Los Angeles against the Rams. Remember when punter Matt Araiza was a brilliant draft pick to plug one of the few holes the Bills had on the roster?

2. In their last three games (two regular-season, one playoff), the Titans have been outscored 65-64 by the Texans, Bengals and Giants. That’s embarrassing. That includes scoring 43 points in their last 10 quarters played, dating back to Jan. 9. I don’t know how they keep up with the Bills in emotionally charged Orchard Park tonight.

Minnesota 28, Philadelphia 25. Should be a great game — Jefferson/Thielen/Osborn at Brown/Smith/Goedert (and maybe, eventually, Quez Watkins) — with two quarterbacks out to prove they’re better than the public thinks. I like the Vikes. Kirk Cousins is 2-0 with 79-percent completions with the Vikings against Philly, including 1-0 at the Linc. He’s bonded well with Kevin O’Connell. You’ll be up late tonight. This is going to be a fun, competitive game, and could be the kind of statement game Minnesota needs. Wins over the Packers and Eagles in the first two games would validate the Vikings as serious threats to Green Bay in the NFC North.

Buffalo at Miami, Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS. Early indicator whether there will be any sort of race in the AFC East this year. Tagovailoa just might make it possible.

Green Bay at Tampa Bay, Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FOX. Since turning 41, Tom Brady is 3-0 head-to-head against Aaron Rodgers, and Brady’s team has put up 31, 38 and 31 points in those wins. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: We could be seeing the last Rodgers-Brady duel here.

San Francisco at Denver, Sunday, 8:20 p.m., NBC. A Shanahan as head coach roams the sidelines in Denver for the first time since 2013, when Washington coach Mike Shanahan got shelled by the Peyton Manning Broncos, 45-21; Denver scored the last 38 points of the game. This will be cool, and probably a bit emotional, for young Kyle, who was at his dad’s side for lots of his Denver coaching tenure.

It’s darn hard to fit

Tagovailoa in a

regular haiku.



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