Sunday, September 24, 2017

NFL: Keep Your Head in the Game

I am thankful for my job. Sometimes I forget that, and do things that maybe I shouldn't. But nothing like some of the things I'm seeing on NFL fields today.

Trump continues to speak his mind, something the Constitution gives him the right to do. Not that it's the best thing to do. He's making more and more people mad. This results in more protests. Which people have the right to do. But watching highlights of today's games, perhaps the players should spend less time protesting and more time concentrating on the game.
Several instances of a lack of hustle by handsomely-paid players, by a Bengal and Bear Marcus Cooper in particular. Cooper made a great play, running a blocked kickoff back. But as he neared the goal line he slowed to celebrate - and a Steeler prevented the touchdown by knocking the ball out of his hands. A shameful lack of effort.  
Lots of people picking Tampa as a playoff team. But if Winston keeps throwing interceptions, the Falcons won't have much to worry about.

Carolina's Cam Newton also threw several interceptions in the Panthers loss to division rival New Orleans. Then Newton showed up at the postgame press conference in a mad hatter outfit and sunglasses. perhaps not the best time to put on a show - he should've done that on the field. These days more and more media members are jumping off the Cam tram.

To comment on Trump's tweet downing NFL players, thoughtful Seahawks DB Richard Sherman re-tweeted a Trump tweet from months ago. Perhaps one of the best protests I saw all day.
Then Sherman went out and got called for three penalties - on one play. Later he was called for hitting Titans QB Marcus Mariota out of bounds (below). The Seahawks lost.
Rookie QB Deshone Kizer threw three interceptions in Cleveland's loss to the Colts, dropping the Browns to 0-3. Some questioned how much of the playbook he had mastered. In the postgame press conference Kizer (below)was asked about the protests, and his response had to be bleeped out.  
The Broncos' Von Miller drove Bills QB Tyrod Taylor into the ground, then was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for extending his hand to help up Taylor - before pulling it away at the last second. Tyrod laughed at the linebacker's joke, but the official didn't think it funny. Perhaps a little extreme.
In Washington DC the up-and-coming Oakland Raiders wanted to stay in the locker room during the anthem but couldn't, so many players sat on the bench with locked arms. QB Derek Carr's first pass was intercepted, and the Redskins promptly drove downfield to take the lead - on a botched defensive play by Oakland. In the second quarter a Kirk Cousins to Vernon Davis pass extended Washington's lead to 14-0, and the Skins went on to win the game.

One of the league's highest-paid wide receivers is Odell Beckham. Today the LSU product showed his worth, catching two touchdown passes from Eli Manning. After his first TD, Beckham voiced his displeasure test by shamefully acting like a dog taking a whizz "cuz I'm a dog" reasoned Beckham (he should've used the goalpost like a tree).
His second touchdown celebration evoked Olympian John Carlos' protest in Mexico City.
But the Eagles had the last laugh: their rookie kicker Jake Elliott nailed a 61-yard game-winning field goal to beat Beckham and New York.
Contrastingly, a Chiefs rookie raced for a long touchdown. Instead of celebrating he turned and pointed to his teammates, for without their key blocks he wouldn't have scored. Similarly, the Falcons Taylor Gabriel also skipped his TD celebration to credit teammates.
The good: players and owners and coaches joined together in unity against the president's unjustified comments. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin had perhaps the most impassioned postgame speech, reminding us winning teams are made up of players of different races, backgrounds, and religions coming together to overcome adversity, like Trump's slurs and the anthem protests. Tomlin said his team would not be divided. In Chicago his Steelers were one of three teams who stayed in the locker room during the anthem - with the exception of one player: a decorated Army Ranger veteran.  
As usual, NBC's Football Night in America's crack crew covered the issues of the day with clarity and precision. Tony Dungy may be the conscious of the NFL, and he did not disappoint. But unlike many of the players, Dungy did not go overboard with his disapproval, nor did he lower himself to Trump's level. As usual, Dungy's strong words were a model for us all: players and fans, liberals and conservatives: "My father always asked me how I would make the situation better." 

Old "over-the-hill" Tom Brady threw five TD passes. His fifth came with the clock ticking down, overcoming several poor plays to drive down for the winning TD pass. The Texans tried to come back, but rookie Deshaun Watson's final Hail Mary pass was intercepted in the end zone - one of two picks thrown by the former Clemson standout.
The Falcons, including owner Arthur Blank, locked arms for the anthem. Matt Ryan threw his first interception since week 13 of last year. His second pick wasn't his fault, but it was almost a game-changer: instead of putting the game out of reach, the pick gave the Lions a chance to move down the field for a last-second game-winning touchdown. But in an incredible ending, Matt Stafford's touchdown pass with eight seconds remaining was overturned by replay - taking victory away from Detroit and handing it back to Atlanta.

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