SPORTS NUGGETS: Purple Production Coming from Many Sources

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By Eric Nelson
October 3, 2012
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the home of Wheaties…

  • The Minnesota Vikings apparently have been eating their Wheaties this season. The Vikings are 3-1 and trending up. There are plenty of Purple positives, including Percy Harvin, Adrian Peterson, Christian Ponder, Blair Walsh, a revitalized defense, and coach Leslie Frazier
  • Oh yeah, Minnesota is also drama-free. The vanilla Vikings are no longer a team garnering headlines for all the wrong reasons. The days of Brett Favre waffling, Favre sexting Jen Sterger, Randy Moss battling Brad Childress, and the Metrodome roof collapsing in a blizzard, are gone. There is tranquility in “Sota” and that is good news for Viking fans…
  • The more drama a team has, the less it can focus on playing football. These Vikings are laser-focused and looking good…
  • Btw, Ponder (Florida State) and Harvin (Florida) are proof that a Seminole and a Gator can not only co-exist, but even thrive. Ponder and Harvin have become a prolific pitch and catch tandem. Harvin has 30 receptions – third most in the NFL…
  • By NFL standards Harvin is woefully underpaid. According to NFL.com, Harvin is in the fourth year of a five-year rookie contract that has a core value of $11.05 million, with the possibility of it escalating to $14.25 million with incentives. Harvin’s next contract should be far more lucrative…
  • Jerry’s Secret: According to Randy Galloway of the Ft. Worth Star Telegram, women’s panties are now being sold at Dallas Cowboys Stadium. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones apparently is trying to compete with Victoria’s Secret…
  • As badly as Dallas played in Monday night’s 34-18 loss to Chicago, the Cowboy cheerleaders might have to dress in racy thongs to keep Metroplex fans coming to the Dallas Palace. Tony Romo (five interceptions) and Dez Bryant (two drops and a bad route that resulted in a pick six) melted in the MNF spotlight…
  • Despite quarterbacking the Bears to a 3-1 record and a share of the NFC North lead with Minnesota, quarterback Jay Cutler is a Chicago lightning rod. Cutler could walk across Lake Michigan and get criticized. Cutler’s every move is micro-analyzed by Chicago fans and media. The guy gets no love in Chi-town…
  • The Immaculate Deception turned in to a mega-bucks payday in Canada. When Seattle’s Golden Tate caught his phantom touchdown pass against Green Bay, Ontario’s Gino DiFelice pocketed $725,274 on a $5 bet. The Seahawks win made DiFelice a perfect 15-for-15 on his sports betting ticket, thus winning him the cash. Gotta feeling DiFelice isn’t banging on the replacement refs….
  • Back-to-back last place finishes in the mediocre AL Central means the Minnesota Twins can ill afford to stand pat this off-season. The Twins need pitching, pitching and more pitching. That said, if OF Torii Hunter is available, Minnesota should jump at the chance to bring him back. Hunter can still produce (16 HR, 92 RBI, .314 BA), is a strong presence in the clubhouse, and connects with media and fans. There is a good chance Torii does not return to the LA Angels, who were colossal underachievers this season…
  • Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker continues to prove he can push the right buttons. Baker has the Reds in the NL playoffs for the second time in three years. Cincy is the third team Baker has taken to the playoffs – San Francisco and the Chicago Cubs are the others. Baker returned to the Reds dugout on Monday after suffering a mini-stroke…
  • Baker and the Cubs were one win away from getting to that elusive World Series in the 2003 NLCS against Florida, but had an epic meltdown. Steve Bartman unfairly gets the blame for that fiasco, and it has resulted in bad karma for Chicago. Until the Flubs invite Bartman back to Wrigley, and publicly apologize for turning him into a pariah, they don’t deserve to win a World Series…
  • If you are keeping score at home, the Flubs have now gone 104 years without winning a World Series. This year’s Chicago team lost over 100 games and was almost as bad as Houston…
  • However, Flubs Nation does not seem to care. Chicago averaged over 35,000 fans per game in 2012, 10th highest in MLB. One would think all that losing would dull their senses, but apparently not…
  • Of course, if you cheer for the Flubs do you have any sense..?
  • On the flip side, winning does not always equate into fan support – just ask the Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays. The White Sox (24th in MLB attendance) were in the AL Central race until the final week, the A’s (27th) made the playoffs and the Rays (30th) have an exciting, young team that is always competitive…
  • Oakland and Tampa Bay desperately need new stadiums, but have made little traction getting new venues…
  • Hard to believe, but there is a possibility of a Beltway World Series between Baltimore and Washington. If the O’s and Nats meet in the Fall Classic, President Obama and Mitt Romney could do some last minute stumping at Camden Yards and Nationals Park – which is just a long home run from the White House…
  • Another regional World Series possibility is Oakland and San Francisco. If the A’s and Giants play for the title, it would be a rematch of their 1989 Bay Bridge series which was upstaged by an earthquake…

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SPORTS NUGGETS: Purple Progress is Impressive

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By Eric Nelson
September 30, 2012
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the rain-starved Upper Midwest…

  • The Minnesota Vikings have completed the first quadrant of their 16-game regular season. After Sunday’s 20-13 win at Detroit, the Vikings are 3-1, and on top of the NFC North. The Purple’s progress this year has been impressive…
  • Before the calendar was flipped to October, Minnesota had already equaled last season’s win total, and there has been no carry over from the 3-13 debacle of 2011. The Vikings win in downtown Motown snapped their 11-game NFC North losing streak, and qualifies them as one of the NFL’s surprise teams…
  • In this election year, the early returns are in and it is clear – getting a 105-yard kickoff return td from Percy Harvin and a 77-yard punt return td from Marcus Sherels – were key plays in the win…
  • Meanwhile the glow is off the Lions – a 2011 playoff team. Detroit slipped to 1-3 and is at the bottom of the NFC North…
  • There are just three perfect teams left in the NFL – Arizona, Atlanta and Houston. They are each 4-0. The Cardinals and Falcons won squeakers in week 4, while the Texans won convincingly…
  • In their four wins, the Texans have outscored the opposition 126-56. The Texans are as good as the Astros are bad…
  • Bounty-gate has exacted a huge toll on New Orleans. After a 28-27 loss at Green Bay, the Saints are 0-4. New Orleans hopes of playing in Super Bowl XLVII at the Superdome are all but dashed…
  • San Francisco spent the past week practicing at Youngstown State in Ohio in between road games at Minnesota and the NY Jets. 49ers wide receiver Mario Manningham grew up in nearby Warren, OH. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Manningham invited the Warren-Harding H.S. football team to the 49ers’ final practice at Youngstown State. Manningham played at Harding and bought cleats for every player on the team in August…
  • Btw, the 49ers crushed the Jets 34-0, making coach Jim Harbaugh’s decision to spend the week in Ohio a good one…
  • Ralph Wilson does not own the Buffalo Bills, the New England Patriots do. NE battered Buffalo 52-28, and is 22-2 against the Bills since Y2K. The Patriots erupted for 45 second half points in the win…
  • Philadelphia has a knack for winning squeakers. The Eagles knocked off the NY Giants 19-17, and their three wins have been by 1, 1 and 2 points. Philly has been outscored 83-66 this season, yet is on top of the NFC East…
  • Sports Nuggets favorite NFL Network reporter is Michelle Beisner. The former Denver Broncos cheerleader combines stunning good looks with a high NFL IQ. Beisner is the total package…
  • That loud thud you heard was the Gopher football team crashing back to Earth in Iowa City after getting thumped by the Hawkeyes 31-13. Minnesota was dominated by Iowa, and lost a rivalry game and the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy in the process…
  • Whoever designed those gaudy throwback uniforms for Wisconsin and Nebraska better not quit their day job. The new duds were a dud – especially the Cornhuskers red jerseys and pants. Nebraska players looked like giant ketchup bottles running around the Memorial Stadium floor…
  • However, it was the Badgers who were seeing red at game’s end. No. 20 Nebraska erased a 17 point Wisconsin lead to win 30-27 – the second greatest comeback in Huskers history…
  • Cartoon-like numbers were put up by No. 25 Baylor and 9th ranked West Virginia on Saturday in Morgantown. Quarterback Geno Smith threw for 656 yards and tied a Big 12 record with eight touchdown passes in the Mountaineers 70-63 win. Baylor and WV might not score that many points when they play basketball…
  • There was pre-season heat on Mack Brown and Texas because of two losing seasons in the Big 12. But the 10th ranked Longhorns are out of the gate at 4-0 and won their conference opener against Oklahoma State 41-36. Longhorns quarterback David Ash threw three td passes in the win…

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Gameday Gold’s NFL Top 10

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Suddenly NFL fans like Zebras
By Eric Nelson
September 28, 2012
GAMEDAY GOLD

1. The real refs – The lockout is history and the real refs are back. The stubborn NFL looks foolish for how it handled this fiasco. Upon further review, the NFL blew it. Because the poser refs were in over their skis, the real zebras are now riding a wave of popularity that will last until they blow a call in a crucial game…

2. Atlanta Falcons (3-0) – If the Falcons keep winning, TE Tony Gonzalez could get his first career playoff win. Gonzalez is playing in his 16th season and is a lock to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. However, the post-season has been kryptonite for Gonzalez who suffered through plenty of playoff heartache in Kansas City. This year Gonzalez has 21 receptions and three touchdowns, and is one of Matt Ryan’s favorite targets…

3. Houston Texans (3-0) – Quarterback Matt Schaub went into Peyton’s place last week and got a 31-25 win against Peyton Manning and Denver. This week the Texans host the team that left Houston – the Tennessee Titans. It is always emotional when the old Oilers play at Reliant…

4. Arizona Cardinals (3-0) – The Cardinals are trending up. Arizona finished strong in 2011 and is off to its best since 1974 when the franchise was located in St. Louis. The Cardinals do it with a stifling defense – they have allowed an NFL-low 13.3 points per game…

5. New York Giants (2-1) – While brother Peyton is off to a slow start in Colorado, Eli Manning is off to a fast start. Manning has thrown for 1,011 yards and 5 touchdowns. Next up for the Giants is a Sunday night game at the Linc, where Philadelphia will try to slow down the Manning express in a key NFC East game…

6. Baltimore Ravens (3-1) – The Ravens played four games in 18 days. That is a grueling stretch by NFL standards and Baltimore coach John Harbaugh should be ecstatic that his team won three games. Now the Ravens get some downtime, and Ravens Nation can focus on the Orioles playoff chase for a few days…

7. San Francisco 49ers (2-1) – San Francisco is eating humble pie after a 24-13 loss at Minnesota last week. The 49ers did not return to SF after the defeat – instead they traveled to Ohio and practiced all week at Youngstown State, before going to New Jersey for this week’s game against the New York Jets…

8. New England Patriots (1-2) – The Patriots have lost two straight and are swimming in uncharted waters. According to Sports Network – NE is below .500 for the first time since Week 1 of the 2003 season. However, the Patriots won 16 of their final 17 that year and capped it off by winning Super Bowl XXXVIII. NE’s NFL record run of 145 straight games at .500 or better is now history…

9. Buffalo Bills (2-1) – Buffalo hosts New England Sunday, and this is a golden opportunity for the Bills to put some cushion between themselves and the Patriots. However, NE has dominated Buffalo recently, winning 16 of the last 17 games…

10. Seattle Seahawks (2-1) – Okay, without the Immaculate Deception, Seattle would not be in this week’s top 10. But, Golden Tate’s phantom touchdown catch counted, and the Seahawks were able to squeak into the rankings. Let’s see if the real refs give Seattle any breaks…

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Ponder This: Vikings Shock 49ers 24-13

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By Larry Fitzgerald
September 26, 2012
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

MINNEAPOLIS – For the first time in the 2012 season, the Vikings played an NFC opponent. Last year the 49ers, a playoff team and one of the best teams in the league, and Vikings were mirror opposites: 49ers 13-3 to Vikings 3-13. It was the first time the Vikings would play an NFC team after starting with AFC teams Jacksonville and Indianapolis.

History said Sunday’s game would be competitive even if on paper it did not look that way. The 49ers were 2-0 with wins over Green Bay and Detroit; both were playoff teams in 2011. The 49ers have not had success in Minnesota lately. Who can forget the incredible 27-24 win by the Vikings vs. 49ers in 2009?

Mike Singletary was head coach of the 49ers that year; now he’s with the Vikings as special assistant to Head Coach Leslie Frazier. He coaches linebackers, and his inside knowledge of the 49ers personnel gave the Vikings a big advantage.

Quarterback Brett Favre hit Greg Lewis for a touchdown with just .02 seconds left; the Vikings went on to play in the NFC title game. Sunday, the Vikings made a statement to the NFL: When you beat the 49ers, you have established that you are a good football team. For Coach Leslie Frazier, with a career record of 8-17, this is his biggest win as a head coach by far, 24-13. His team took the opening kickoff and drove right down the field and converted on a fourth and one for a touchdown.

Quarterback Christian Ponder came into Sunday’s game number one in the NFL in completion percentage at 75.8. Ponder was outstanding; he had command. The second-year quarterback threw two TD passes to tight end Kyle Randolph and ran for a third on a 23-yard sprint.

Ponder was 21-35 for 198 yards. The Vikings were more physical than the 49ers; they ran for 146 yards and they had great balance offensively with 198 yards passing. They seized the moment and got the crowd in the game — they did what good football teams do.

Ponder may be the NFC offensive player of the week. He is playing well, making wise decisions with the football and leading — he also has not thrown an interception this season.

The Vikings controlled the clock for 33.28 and ran more plays (76-58); the Vikings led the entire game. This was no fluke; they played better and really showed they learned as a team from last week’s mistakes in the loss at Indianapolis, when they had 11 penalties for 105 yards and lost a tough, close game 23-20 on the road.

Sunday, the Vikings had just one penalty for 10 yards, so they showed improvement from one week to the next by not beating themselves. They also had 25 first downs. Adrian Peterson had some tough runs on 25 carries for 86 yards. It was the fifth straight win by the Vikings vs. the 49ers at home.

In the month of September, the Vikings own the 49ers and are now 8-3-1 all-time versus the 49ers and have squared the series at 22-22-1. This win puts the Vikings in first place with Chicago in the NFC North at 2-1. Green Bay plays at Seattle on Monday night. Last year the Vikings were just 1-7 at home, so they have already doubled their home win total at 2-0. This week, the Vikings travel to Detroit.

The Lions were a playoff team last year and swept the Vikings in 2011. However, they lost 44-41 Sunday at Tennessee in overtime. It’s a great chance for the Vikings to win on the road and end this embarrassing 11-game losing streak to NFC North teams.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@lar ry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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SPORTS NUGGETS: Immaculate Deception taints the NFL

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By Eric Nelson
September 26, 2012
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the home of the Pillsbury Doughboy…

  • The NFL has tried to spin Monday night’s Immaculate Deception in Seattle. But it’s not working. There is a smudge on the shield because a blown call cost Green Bay a win. You know it. I know it. All of NFL Nation knows it. Golden Tate’s phantom catch is the TD that never should have happened. The NFL better hope that the Packers don’t miss the playoffs by one game. Or that the Seahawks get into the post-season by one game…
  • That is a worst-case scenario and would further taint the NFL product. Going with replacement refs has been a colossal mistake for the NFL. The fiasco in Seattle was embarrassing – and preventable…
  • However, don’t be surprised that the arrogant and stubborn NFL dug a line in the sand with the real refs and replaced them with posers. In 1987 there was a players strike and the league used replacement players in weeks 4, 5 and 6. The scab games counted in the standings and made the NFL product bogus for three weeks…
  • Stanford coach David Shaw is the son of former Vikings assistant coach Willie Shaw. David Shaw played at Stanford from 1991-94 and his coaches were Dennis Green and Bill Walsh. Shaw apparently soaked up everything he heard from Green, Walsh and his father. The Cardinal are 3-0 and ranked No. 8 in the AP Top 25 and No. 9 in the USA Today poll…
  • From Broken Bow to Ogallala, Nebraska fans are bummed out. The legendary Tom Osborne is retiring as the Cornhuskers AD on January 1. Osborne had a 25-year run as the Huskers football coach and logged a 255-49-3 record. Three of his last four Nebraska teams won national titles…
  • Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love threw out the first pitch before the New York Yankees-Minnesota game on Wednesday at Target Field. Love did not bounce the ball to the plate, thus qualifying him to be part of the pitching-starved Twins rotation…
  • Btw, Love was a former high school baseball pitcher in Oregon. There is no truth to the rumor that Love tried to convince 6 foot 7 inch, 290 pound Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia to play power forward for the Timberwolves in the off-season…
  • The Yankees swim in a fishbowl. A total of 10 beat writers follow New York on the road..
  • To some the Yankees are the “Evil Empire,” a deep pocketed team that throws around money like confetti. However, the Yankees are a class group. Their players – including the superstars – are used to the media spotlight and rarely duck the press. They know it is part of the job description when playing in NYC….
  • Before the season if someone predicted the AL MVP race would be between an LA Angel and a Detroit Tiger, the obvious assumption is that it would be Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. But no, the two mega-bucks free agents are playing in the shadows of Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera
  • You gotta believe the 14 AL teams are drooling at the prospect of Houston joining the league next season. The Dis-Astros are 50-105 and 43 1/2 games behind Cincinnati in the NL Central. Houston’s run differential is a minus 222. The Astros are baad, but not as baaaad as the 1962 New York Mets who wound up 40-120 and could not see first place with a telescope as they finished 60 1/2 games out…

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SPORTS NUGGETS: Purple Power – Minnesota gets a signature win

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By Eric Nelson
September 23, 2012
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from a pumped up Purple Nation…

  • The NFL is a week-to-week league. What happened last week has no bearing on this week, yet that doesn’t stop most of us from jumping to conclusions on a weekly basis. This season everyone anointed San Francisco as a Super Bowl team after wins over Green Bay and Detroit. However, champions aren’t crowned in September and this week that was proven again…
  • Minnesota – fresh off a loss to lowly Indianapolis – bounced back with a seismic shocker, knocking off San Francisco 24-13 at Mall of America Field. For one week at least, the 49ers Super Bowl express has been derailed. “I think outside of the locker room, nobody thought we were going to win,” said Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams. “We were telling the guys all week, ‘let’s go out and be physical and we can beat these guys.’ For the most part it got done…”
  • Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder teamed up with TE Kyle Rudolph for a pair of touchdown passes. Ponder finished with 198 yards and no interceptions and also scrambled 23 yards for a TD in the second quarter. Rudolph’s second TD catch was Cris Carter-esque as he made a one-hand back-of-the-end zone grab in tight coverage. The fourth quarter score turned out to be a key play. “Once he touches it, he usually sucks it in,” Williams said of Rudolph. “He’s been a tremendous target for Christian…”
  • So let’s see: QB Alex Smith outplayed Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford in SF’s first two games, then was outplayed by Ponder in week 3. With Jay Cutler’s stock dropping, does that make Ponder the NFC North’s top quarterback..?
  • Ok, Jk. But, all kidding aside, Ponder easily played the best game of his young NFL career and it came against a 49er defense with plenty of swagger. Ponder has no interceptions this season and is showing growth…
  • Next week Christian gets thrown to the Lions, as Minnesota plays at Detroit…
  • For Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier it was a signature win. Remember SF was 13-3 last season and played in the NFC Championship Game. Minnesota was 3-13 and out of the playoff picture before the holidays…
  • Victory was out of reach for WR Randy Moss and the 49ers in Minnesota

    The win had to be be sweet for ex-49ers coach Mike Singletary, who is now a Vikings assistant…
  • The loss had to be sour for ex-Vikings wideout Randy Moss, who now plays for the 49ers. Moss caught three passes for 27 yards and received more cheers than boos in pre-game introductions…
  • Despite the 49ers pedigree, attendance at the Metrodome was just 57,288, far short of the 64,111 capacity…
  • Maybe this game should have been dubbed the venue bowl. Both the 49ers and Vikings are getting long-awaited new stadiums…
  • The city of Minneapolis debuted Railgating before the game. There were 13 food trucks parked next to the light rail tracks near the Metrodome giving fans a chance to eat a variety of different foods…
  • Atlanta had a productive few days. Last Monday night in Georgia, the Falcons defeated Denver in a game that actually finished on Tuesday morning. Then five days and three time zones later, Atlanta traveled to San Diego and showed no signs of grogginess in a convincing 27-3 over the Chargers. Matt Ryan threw three TD passes in the win and has eight this season…
  • Arizona is a perfect 3-0 after a 27-6 win over Philadelphia. Kevin Kolb threw two TD’s for the Cardinals – one to Minneapolis’s Larry Fitzgerald and the other to St. Paul’s Michael Floyd. When Floyd and Fitzgerald line up on the same side of the field it should be called, Twin Cites right or left…
  • The vibe was energetic at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday night as Minnesota knocked off Syracuse 17-10. The Gophers’ swarming defense caused four turnovers, including an interception by Aaron Hill. The Orange had a first and goal at the Minnesota 1 in the third quarter, but Hill’s third down pick punctuated an impressive goal line stand…
  • A capacity crowd of 50,805 kept the decibel levels high all game on a cool, crisp night in Minneapolis. It was the kind of win that might bring fans back to the Bank. With the Big Ten down this season, the Gophers could potentially move up the conference totem pole. It’s all about changing the culture of losing and coach Jerry Kill appears to be slowly doing that. However, it is a process – crawl, walk, run sprint. The Gophers finally might be past the crawling stage…
  • Believe it or not, the Gophers (4-0) are just two wins from becoming bowl eligible. Minnesota travels to Iowa (2-2) this week with a chance to win the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy for the third straight year…
  • Forget about the presidential debates, the most pressing debate these days is who is going to win the AL MVP and manager of the year honors?. Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera and LA Angels rookie Mike Trout are having monster seasons and it should be a close MVP vote. The voting should also be tight between Baltimore’s Buck Showalter, Robin Ventura of the Chicago White Sox, and Oakland’s Bob Melvin for top skipper…
  • If you looked into your crystal baseball in March and predicted that Cincinnati and Washington (92 wins each) would lead MLB in victories, then go straight to Las Vegas, or buy a Powerball ticket…

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Arizona beats New England on their home turf

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By Larry Fitzgerald
September 21, 2012
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

FOXBOROUGH, MA — The New England Patriots since 2002 are 67-13, the best home record in the NFL. Against NFC teams, the Patriots were 18-2 in all games; including playoffs, the Patriots are 76-15 — a winning percentage of .835. It’s clear the New England Patriots since 1994 when Robert Kraft, owner of the Gillette razor company, became owner of the team.

The Patriots have won more Super Bowls (three), conference championships (six), and division titles (11) than any other team in the NFL. In 2009, the last time the Cardinals visited New England, the Patriots were sharp, whipping the Cardinals 47-7. But as they say, that’s why they play the games. The 13.5-point underdog Arizona Cardinals pulled off the upset of the weekend, beating the Patriots 20-18 at Gillette Stadium. The Cardinals intercepted Tom Brady’s first pass of the game and sacked him four times. The Cardinals built a 20-9 lead and held on to improve to 2-0.

Brady has the best winning record of all active quarterbacks in the NFL, 125-36.

Sunday’s win by the Cardinals has them among six teams (Atlanta, San Diego, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Houston) that have started the season 2-0. Arizona is doing it with defense; if you hold Brady and the Patriots under 20 points, you have a great chance of winning. That’s what the New York Giants did in winning Super Bowl XLII 17-14 and Super Bowl XLVII 21-17 over the Patriots.

Bill Belichick in year 13 as head coach of the Patriots has won more games (137) over a 10-year period (2002-2011) than any coach in NFL history. He has delivered three Super Bowl titles, five conference championships, nine division crowns and 16 playoff wins with a record of 155-60.

That’s what the Cardinals did Sunday; it took a missed 42-yard field goal by kicker Stephen Gostkowski in the final seconds for the Cardinals to prevail. Belichick, said Arizona star Larry Fitzgerald, Jr., “May be the best ever” receiver in the NFL before he’s done.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@lar ry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Gameday Gold’s NFL Top 10

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Friday, September 21, 2012 
San Francisco’s compass points North
By Eric Nelson
GAMEDAY GOLD

1. San Francisco 49ers (2-0) – The dominant and powerful 49ers continue their march through the NFC North this week when they play at Minnesota. So far SF has been impressive against North teams, with wins against Green Bay and Detroit. TE Vernon Davis is tied for the NFL lead in touchdown receptions with three and is Alex Smith’s go-to guy. Former 49ers coach Mike Singletary – now an assistant in Minnesota – did Davis a favor in 2008 when he ripped him for being selfish. The YouTube moment was a wake-up call for the talented Davis, who is now the consummate team player.

2. Houston Texans (2-0) – Houston has been an early season juggernaut, outscoring opponents 57-17. This week for the Texans it is football with an altitude, as they go to Mile High and play Denver. Houston is hoping for another off-game from Peyton Manning, who did not look good in a Monday night loss in Atlanta.

3. New York Giants (2-1) – What a difference five days makes. Last Sunday against Tampa Bay, the Giants looked like a team ready to exit the Gameday Gold top 10. The Bucs had a huge third quarter lead and there was gloom in the Meadowlands. However, Elite Manning (510 yards passing, three touchdowns) and the Giants erupted for 25 fourth quarter points to win 41-34. Then, on Thursday night, the injury-riddled Super Bowl champs went into Charlotte and crushed Carolina 36-7. LB Michael Boley already has thee interceptions this season, and the two wins in five days proves New York still has some Super Bowl mojo.

4. Atlanta Falcons (2-0) – Matt Ryan won his prime-time duel against Peyton Manning on Monday night in Georgia. Matty Ice has an NFL-high five TD tosses this season and no interceptions. This week the Falcons fly west to Southern California for a game against San Diego where Ryan will try to out-pitch Philip Rivers .

5. Arizona Cardinals (2-0) – Arizona won a seismic shocker last week in Foxboro, stunning New England 20-18. The Cardinals defense has given up just 34 points this season and is led by talented CB Patrick Peterson. Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb will face Philadelphia – his old team – on Sunday In Glendale.

6. New England Patriots (1-1) – The standings in the AFC East look like a picket fence, as every team has a 1-1 record. New England has no time to mope after a flat effort against Arizona. The Patriots play at Baltimore on Sunday night and the Ravens will be looking to atone for last season’s devastating AFC Championship Game loss to NE.

7. Green Bay Packers (1-1) – Wisconsin fans are grateful for the fabulous play they saw from QB Russell Wilson last season as he led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl. However this Monday night, Wilson is the enemy. Green Bay battles Wilson and Seattle at Century Link Field. The Seahawks will be pumped up, as they show off their new uniforms on national TV. Green Bay will try and ruin the fashion show. Packers LB Clay Matthews is the NFL sack leader with six.

8. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) – Philadelphia QB Michael Vick has six interceptions, and the Eagles have won two games by a combined two points. However, the NFL is a bottom-line league and teams are judged solely on their record. Give the Eagles credit for winning without looking good. This week Philadelphia plays in the Arizona desert. We will find out if the Eagles are a mirage, or if they actually are a good team.

9. Baltimore Ravens (1-1) – Baltimore was the home of legendary poet Edgar Allen Poe, and Boston is where Poe was born. Maybe this week’s New England-Baltimore game should be the Poe Bowl. Whatever, you dub it, the Ravens will be looking for some football poetry against the Patriots, who denied them a trip to the Super Bowl in January.

10. San Diego Chargers (2-0) – The Chargers usually sputter at the start of a season, but in 2012 they are perfect out of the gate. San Diego has wins against Oakland and Tennessee. Philip Rivers has thrown for 515 yards and four touchdowns in 2012.

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SPORTS NUGGETS: Steve Sabol – an NFL Giant

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By Eric Nelson
September 19, 2012
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets salutes a legend…

  • The NFL Nation is in mourning. The loss of NFL Films giant Steve Sabol is being felt from Foxboro to San Diego, from Miami to Seattle – and everywhere else on the NFL map…
  • When Carly Simon sang, nobody does it better, she could have been referring to Sabol and his galaxy of stars at NFL Films. Those folks have always been better with their cutting edge, ahead of the curve style. Their ability to combine creative text, sensational sound tracks, booming voices and fabulous photography, has made NFL Films legendary. Sabol was the leader of the pack…
  • NFL Films had humble beginnings. The company started in Philadelphia, above a dry cleaning business. Today, NFL Films is located across the Ben Franklin Bridge in the Philly suburb of Mt. Laurel, NJ. The state-of-the-art facility is where their 107 Emmy Awards are displayed in the building’s lobby. Sabol won over 40 of those Emmy’s…
  • In 2002, when I wrote my book, Slices of the NFL, I toured NFL Films. It was an incredible experience. My brother Gary (the Slices photog) and I got a royal tour. We saw the NFL Films vault where the yellow and blue film canisters are stored in a climate-controlled 45 degree setting with one-foot thick concrete walls that are almost fire-proof. We saw a yellowed telegram from the NFL offices awarding NFL Films (then known as Blair Motion Pictures) the rights to film the 1963 and ’64 NFL title games. The telegram was signed by then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. We also had a sit-down interview with Sabol…
  • Sabol looked fit and trim that day in October of ’02, dressed in all black and sporting wire rim glasses. He welcomed us into his spacious office which had a huge glass window. Sabol immediately spun tales about his forte – the NFL. We, of course, were captivated by his every word, sentence and paragraph. It was like getting 20 minutes with the Pope
  • Sabol told us about John Facenda, the iconic voice of NFL Films. A man who made such phrases as Frozen Tundra and Doomsday, part of the NFL lexicon…
  • Said Sabol: “John Facenda was a newscaster here in Philadelphia. He was like the Walter Cronkite of Philadelphia. He would do the 11:00 news every night and he had this great oaken voice, this real dramatic voice…When we started NFL Films, one of the things I wanted to change was the scripts. Before NFL Films the scripts were written like: ‘Milt Plum throws a peach of a pass to become the apple of coach George Wilson’s eye.’ It was sort of clever, but I wanted to do it in a more dramatic way – in a documentary way, and I wanted to write less script. So my feeling was if you wrote less script, the voice that you would use to read those scripts – the fewer lines – would have to be really dramatic. We wanted to make it so if you heard that voice, right away you thought of pro football. Facenda was the perfect voice for that. I used to say that if the Last Supper ever had an after dinner speaker, that’s the guy who would have been perfect for it because he had this arresting, compelling voice…”
  • Sabol said that early in Facenda’s career, NFL owners were not thrilled with his style. Some begged Sabol to get Lindsey Nelson or Curt Gowdy for highlight voice overs. But Sabol pushed for Facenda and the rest is NFL Films history…
  • Sabol called Dick Butkus the “toughest” player he ever saw, Jerry Rice the “greatest” NFL player ever, and was a photographer at the legendary Ice Bowl game between Dallas and Green Bay in 1967…
  • Sabol was an NFL encyclopedia and had a way of connecting with players, coaches and owners in interviews. They opened up to him…
  • Sabol also could spin a yarn. After our NFL Films tour, we told him we were going to the Monday Night game that evening at the Vet between the New York Giants and Philadelphia. Sabol quickly informed us it was the 30-year anniversary of Howard Cosell throwing up in Don Meredith’s cowboy boots on Monday Night Football…
  • “He’d take them off for a broadcast and put them right next to him,” Sabol said of Meredith. “Cosell actually threw up in the shoes and Don didn’t know it until after Cosell left. He went to put his boots on and saw all this vomit in his boots…”
  • While writing “Slices” I went to two training camps, 20 cities in 17 weeks and Super Bowl XXXVII. I have countless mental snapshots from the those trips – but none tops the visit to NFL Films…
  • The NFL is a monster these days. More popular than ever. Give Sabol credit for being a creative genius. If there was an NFL Mt. Rushmore, Sabol would be on it. Millions of fans were hooked early by the sensational video, cool music and voices like Facenda, Pat Summerall, Ray Scott and Harry Kalas describing the action…
  • Ed Sabol, Steve’s father, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011. The honor was long overdue. Steve Sabol should be in the HOF too. His bust belongs in the Canton, OH shrine…
  • So you NFL junkies out there, who are captivated by the game, look to the heavens and give thanks for Steve Sabol. The guy left a Sasquatch-like footprint on the sport. Sabol and NFL Films are a huge reason why the shield is on top of the pro sports mountain…
  • Yes, Carly, Nobody did it better than Sabol. NFL Nation has suffered a huge loss…

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SPORTS NUGGETS: For one week Luck escapes the Manning eclipse

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By Eric Nelson
September 16, 2012
GAMEDAY GOLD

INDIANAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from a topless Lucas Oil Stadium…

  • Shadows and sunlight were part of the equation Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium as the retractable roof was open on a sun-soaked 71 degree day in Central Indiana. The downtown Indianapolis facility even has a window on the north side, which was also open – providing a skyline view and adding to the natural setting…
  • The Luke’s ability to go topless is exactly what the Vikings should mimic when they build their new purple playpen. Retractable is clearly the way to go. Had the roof been shut, this game would have been just another match-up in a sterile dome. Instead, fans had a chance to soak up some rays and watch Indianapolis squeak out a 23-20 win over Minnesota on Adam Vinatieri’s 53-yard field goal with :08 left in the game…
  • Speaking of shadows, the game was Andrew Luck’s Lucas Oil debut, and Luck did a good job escaping the giant shadow cast by the Indy icon – Peyton Manning. Luck was impressive and played like the NFL’s top draft choice, throwing for 224 yards and two touchdowns…
  • So much for being eclipsed by Manning. This is a new era in Indy and Luck is already making an impact with savvy pocket-presence, mobility and smart decision-making. “He’s a good quarterback,” said Vikings cornerback Chris Cook. “He can make all the throws. He has a strong arm. He’s very confident and he doesn’t really act like a rookie when he’s out there on the field. He’s having fun with it. He’s interacting with his team. He’s out there talking to us. He’s just having fun with the game. You can tell he studies the game a lot…”
  • Luck’s first-ever Lucas Oil TD toss came at 1:28 p.m. EDT – a three-yard dart to tight end Dwayne Allen in the opening quarter. After the historic throw, confetti fell from the Luke’s rafters, and the crowd of 63,912 roared its approval…
  • Then at 2:22 p.m. EDT Luck connected with Reggie Wayne for a 30-yard score down the seam with :07 to go in the second quarter. After the TD, more confetti fell and the fans chanted, Reggie, Reggie, Reggie…
  • It was a good weekend for Luck. On Saturday night his former school, No. 21 Stanford, upset No. 2 USC 21-14 in Palo Alto, CA…
  • Luck is now 1-1 as an NFL starter and needs just two more wins to equal Manning’s 3-13 season in his rookie year of 1998. The next season, however, the Manning express got rolling, as Indy did a flip flop and finished 13-3…
  • For the record, Manning replaced Jim Harbaugh when he took over at quarterback. That is the same Harbaugh who now coaches San Francisco – Minnesota’s opponent next week in Minneapolis…
  • Oh yeah, Harbaugh coached Luck for three seasons at Stanford. In football, everything does comes full circle…
  • Of course, the Colts gotta give props to Vinatieri, who is the NFL’s ultimate money ball kicker. Need a clutch kick in crunch time and Vinatieri is your guy – after all he has two game-winning Super Bowl kicks on his resume…
  • Vinatieri has a total of 24 game-winning field goals in his career. Said Colts coach Chuck Pagano: “Hats off to the protection unit, the snap, the hold, and certainly the kick by Adam. Hall of Famer, future Hall of Famer, just comes through again in the clutch for us…”
  • Flying into Indy you can’t miss the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The legendary track has a giant footprint and is clearly visible when landing at the airport. This is a great sports city where auto racing, basketball and football take center stage…
  • Go figure. One of the early season surprises in the NFL is Arizona, which is 2-0 after stunning New England 20-18 in Foxboro, MA. Quarterback Kevin Kolb – beaten out by John Skelton in the pre-season – came in for the injured Skelton last week and led a comeback win against Seattle, and orchestrated the seismic shocker against the Patriots…
  • The NY Giants erupted for 25 fourth quarter points and rallied to knock off Tampa Bay 41-34. Eli Manning put up cartoon-like numbers – finishing with 510 yards passing, three TD’s and three interceptions. A loss would have been the second straight Meadowlands defeat for the Super Bowl champs…
  • New Orleans is in an early season rut. The Saints are 0-2 after losing 35-27 at Carolina this week. The NFL doled out harsh bounty-gate penalties to the Saints who are struggling to regain their mojo…
  • Oakland is also 0-2 after getting run over by Reggie Bush in Miami. Bush ran for 172 yards and two touchdowns in the Dolphins 35-13 win. It is the first time Miami has won a home opener since 2005. Bush was so good he conjured up memories of his USC days when the Trojans were a dominant team…

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