The New England Patriots, after thumping the Houston Texans 27-0, were themselves the victims of being shut out by the Rex Ryan led Buffalo Bills 16-0. As the score indicates, it was an ugly, uneven game in which the Bills dominated for almost its entirety. There were flashes of hope here and there but almost all were negated by a penalty or a miscue that saw the Patriots shut out at home for the first time ever within the confines of Gillette Stadium the first home shutout loss suffered by the Patriots since 1993 (!).
Well, first things first, the Patriots are now 2-0 after beating the Miami Dolphins at home 31-24. Now, for the second thing;
The victory ended up coming at a potentially steep price as the Patriots backup-become-starter Jimmy Garopollo ended up leaving the game in the second quarter after a stellar first half which had most of New England getting ready to call a doctor after four hours. In an emotional roller coaster that would’ve had the most stalwart of thrill seekers turning green, Garopollo was taken down by Dolphins LB Kiko Alonso and landed hard on his throwing shoulder. Clearly shaken up, Garopollo struggled to get off the field but ended up going down onto one knee as trainers examined him on the field and Patriots fans everywhere opted out of their next beer for something a bit stronger.
In a week filled with more one point games than any other in NFL history the New England Patriots, sans Brady, sans Gronk, sans Ninkovich, sans Solder, sans Dion Lewis, and sans Vollmer went into the desert on Sunday Night Football and defeated the Arizona Cardinals. In a game most had tacitly accepted as an ‘L’ for the 2016 Patriots, the squad from New England was able to buckle down and hold on to a 23-21 victory thanks to a missed FG by Chandler Catanzaro in the waning seconds of the 4th quarter.
The time is almost upon us. That long, dark period from the first Sunday of February until September 8th is almost over and the sport America loves most is due to make its triumphant return. Obviously, the NFL has not been far from the minds of sports fans across the country but probably hasn’t haunted any one fan base as much as the Foxboro faithful. With Tom Brady’s suspension appeal denied and the GOAT forced to sit out the first four weeks of the season the Patriots are basically giving the AFC a 4 game handicap. Whatever. I’m not expecting any sympathy from the rest of the league towards a team that has been on an unprecedented run of success in the modern era. It’s going to make it that much sweeter when the Patriots hoist their 5th(!!!!!) Lombardi trophy right in that autocratic, soulless, NFLPA crushing robot named Roger Goodell’s face. The real question is how will they get there?
While still in the honeymoon phase with the season 6 finale of Game of Thrones, “Winds of Winter”, I think its safe to say the best season of the series closed out on Sunday night. Rebirths, revenge, reunions, season 6 strung together a collection of television episodes that, at this point, cannot be rivaled and somehow a show that has dazzled for six years is just now reaching its peak.
Great. Now that all of the platitudes are out of the way a lot has happened in Westeros and beyond this season with plenty of implications for the future. With no book guideline to follow (hurry up GRRM) this GoT offseason again allows our imaginations to run rampant with what will happen in the world of ice and fire. (I mean, Spoilers left and right ahead)
On the heels of Antwaan Randel El, yet another former pro coming forward disclosing health issues and regretting his playing days for the shield, it is becoming more and more evident that the NFL has to change. The way it is currently constructed, with Roger Goddell at its head, simply cannot stand the onslaught of public relations hits that they are taking. Granted, the NFL has proven seemingly invincible to the slew of revelations, realizations, testimonies, and events all of which have pointed to football being not only dangerous but calling into question the NFL’s handling of player health and care.
It goes much deeper than that though. Somewhere along the way the NFL went from a budding, beloved, and celebrated league representing, perhaps, the finest sport humanity has created and has become a shadow organization. A place where facts are hidden or distorted to control the message. Where responsibility is shirked with a check and an avalanche of non-disclosure agreements. Where families are told what to say and when to say it even when they are memorializing their own husband and father. Somewhere along the way, the NFL became evil.
14 years ago today, on a snowy, cold night in Foxboro, Massachusetts the New England Patriots defeated the Oakland Raiders 16-13 in the AFC Divisional Round. The game would go down in infamy as “The Tuck Rule Game” where referee Walt Coleman reversed the ruling of a fumble on the field due to a little known technicality at the time. Charles Woodson’s sack on Tom Brady was not really a sack, the supposed fumble recovered by Greg Bierkert not a fumble, and a game that looked to be won by the Oakland Raiders was once again up for grabs. With the drive alive the Patriots were able to get within FG range allowing for the heroics of Adam Vinatieri to put the game into overtime and then win the game for the Patriots.
This was more than a simple playoff victory for New England, though it didn’t seem like it at the time. Sure, it may go down in Patriot lore like the Snow Plow game vs Shula’s Dolphins, but it became so much more than that. It heralded an age of unparalleled success for the Patriots franchise as it was the first postseason game started by then 2nd year QB Brady. It was the final game played at Foxboro Stadium, nee Sullivan Stadium, the only home the Patriots had called their own as an NFL franchise. A building that had housed a frustrated fan base and largely irrelevant franchise ended up, on the final scene of its swan song, playing host to one of the most significant plays in, one could argue, NFL history before its demise. In the process, it gave birth to what has become the most successful NFL franchise in the 21st century.
More than all that though, January 19, 2002 was the birth of a fan.
In a matchup between 1 and 2 seeds the Patriots will be traveling to Denver this weekend to take on the Broncos in what could very well be the finishing touches on one, if not two, legacies. Brady vs Manning (17th edition) is a bit diminished this time around though despite the stakes above and beyond simply the AFC Championship title.
This is a game about reputations. About legacies. Really all of the Brady v. Manning matchups in the past have culminated in this final contest. Will this be a continuation of the overall trend we have seen since Brady’s ascendancy in 2001? Of the unheralded 6th round pick reaping the rewards of what seemed like Manning’s 1st overall pick birthright? Or will this be a final grand stand of an aging great? A man who can thwart the advancement of age to win in a big game where he has so often failed? A crowning achievement to cap off a tremendous career? None know now but by 7 PM on the east coast all will.
After a nearly 24 year hiatus the Rams are back in LA. Beating out the Chargers and Raiders who also applied to relocate to the City of Angels the Rams are leaving the Cardinal red confines of St. Louis and returning to the California sun where the franchise originated in 1946. With an aging stadium and lackluster fan base I’m not shocked that the Rams were the team the NFL chose to move back to their original home. There is a history there that eager fans can tap into and LA has been a market black hole in the NFL’s empire since the twin departures of the Raiders and Rams after the ’94 season.
Even more exciting than football returning to that sprawling, dirty epicenter of the shallow and superficial though is which celebrity will become the head honk of the new LA Rams? Its a tremendous opportunity and in a town where being seen is paramount I don’t think there will be any shortage of candidates who run out (read: dispatch a personal servant/minion/assistant) to grab some blue and gold merch and pretend to know what college Todd Gurley attended to get those coveted invites to the sideline and have those ESPN producers come a knockin if Jeff Fisher manages to win more than 8 games and get into the playoffs. So, without further ado, lets handicap the top 5 candidates to be the new LA Rams pep rally leader.
The first slate of games in the NFL’s 2015 postseason could not have been more opposite if they tried. On the one hand you had the massacre of the Houston Texans (and Brian Hoyer’s career as a starting QB) at the hands of the Chiefs and, on the other, the gutter war that was the Cincinnati and Pittsburgh contest. If you watched any of the game last night or watch any sports coverage this morning you know what a circus that was.
Now, despite the fact that I called both outcomes, the results of both games and the way they went down have me questioning my outlook. I’ll stick to my guns though and hope that the injuries the Steelers suffered in their game are not as serious as they appear and that they can still challenge, and beat, Denver with Noodle-Arm McGee back starting. Before we get to the Steelers and yesterday’s game that everyone will be talking about let’s go over JJ Watt’s season ending first.