Posts pertaining to the National Football League.

Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Cold and snow make for one cool MLS opener in Minnesota

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By Eric Nelson
March 15, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS -Sports Nuggets from the snowy Twin Cities…

Minnesota Loons MLS soccer team at TCF Stadium in Minneapolis

Minnesota Loons take the field

•Flakes and Loons: Minnesota United’s first-ever MLS game in the Twin Cities was a dud on the scoreboard. Atlanta United FC thumped Minn U 6-1 Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium. But in every other way the match was epic. The snowy day produced great visuals in the venue and on ESPN2. Snow and soccer are a rare combination, but thanks to the Minnesota elements, this historic match was a unique snapshot in time for Minnesota sports fans…

•Crowd Count: The attendance was an impressive 35,403 – the largest soccer turnout in the Land of Lakes since 1984 when the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Minnesota Strikers played before 52,621 at the Metrodome. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the temperature was 20 degrees, tying the 2013 MLS Cup in Kansas City for coldest game in league history…

MLS fans in the snow at the Loons home opener

Minnesota United fans at the home opener

•Slow Start: Minn U (0-2) has clearly struggled this season. In games against Portland and Atlanta the Loons have been outscored 11-2. Meanwhile, Atlanta – also an MLS expansion team – won its first-ever match. The snowy pitch did not deter F Josef Martinez who scored three goals for AUFC…

•Quality Opponent: It’s a good news, bad news scenario for the Minnesota basketball team. The good news is that the Gophers (24-9) are a 5th seed in the south region. The bad news is they face a solid opponent in 12th seed Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders are 30-4 and have won back-to-back CUSA titles. They are led by F Jacorey Williams (17.3 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game), F Reggie Upshaw (14.5 ppg and 6.8 rpg) and G Giddy Potts (15.8 ppg and 5.5 rpg)…

•Quick Trip: The game tips off at 3 pm CT Thursday at Bradley Center in Milwaukee. It’s only 337 miles from Minneapolis to Milwaukee on I-94, so Gopher Nation should be well represented in Wisconsin…

•Purple Defections: The NFL is a revolving door league as players are always coming and going. Minnesota lost a couple of former top draft choices to free agency as WR Cordarrelle Patterson (Oakland) and OT Matt Kalil (Carolina) signed with other teams. Kalil was the fourth choice in the 2012 NFL draft and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. However, that was his pinnacle moment for the Vikings. In four other seasons, Kalil’s productivity dropped off because of injuries and sub-par play. Patterson, meanwhile, was a first round selection in 2013 and played in two Pro Bowls. He was very good on kickoff returns and punt coverage, but below average at wideout…

•Publicity Hounds: Give the NFL credit – the Shield has a knack for staying in the news cycle year-round. March used to be dominated by NCAA hoops, the NBA, NHL and MLB spring training. But, thanks to free agency, the NFL garners plenty of attention, stealing headlines from those other sports…

•Tasty Golf: Twin Cities restaurant mogul Wayne Kostroski has come up with another creative way to aid those in need. Kostroski – who started taste of the NFL during Super Bowl week – is staging the first-ever Taste of the Master Chefs in April. Kostroski has lured some of the top chefs on the globe to Augusta, GA for the Masters golf tournament. It’s a charity event, with all of the proceeds going to the Salvation Army of Augusta. Tickets cost $150. For more info go to www.tasteofthemasterchefs.com

•Fab Four: The NCHC’s fourth annual Frozen Faceoff starts Friday at Target Center. Western Michigan plays 2nd ranked UM-Duluth at 4 pm followed by North Dakota and top-ranked Denver at 7:30 pm. The defending champion Fighting Hawks won the Frozen Four last season and their appearance means plenty of No Dak fans will invade the Twin Cities…

•Pioneer Spirit: Denver (28-6-4) has won 13 games in a row and is paced by D Will Butcher, who is one of 10 players up for the Hobey Baker Award…

•Puck Stopper: Bemidji State G Michael Bitzer is also a Hobey Baker finalist. Bitzer is the WCHA player of the year and led the Beavers to their first-ever conference title and MacNaughton Cup. Bitzer had a sparkling goals against average of 1.40, a WCHA record…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Chad Greenway’s trademark was consistent, solid production

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By Eric Nelson
March 8, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS -Sports Nuggets from the breezy Twin Cities.

•Solid Career: Minnesota Vikings, LB Chad Greenway was as dependable as a Maytag and as reliable as a sunrise. During his 11 seasons in Minnesota, Greenway played in two Pro Bowls, had 1,334 career tackles (4th most in Vikings history), 19 sacks and 11 interceptions. Greenway’s trademark was consistent, solid play. He wasn’t the flashiest player, just somebody you could count on each week. Greenway – who retired on Monday – grew up in South Dakota, played at Iowa and settled in Minnesota. He is the consummate Upper Midwest guy…

Chad Greenway sacks Cam Newton

Chad Greenway sacks Carolina’s Cam Newton -October 2013

•Coast to Coast: My favorite Greenway moment came in 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium against San Diego when he intercepted a Phillip Rivers, pass and huffed and puffed his way 91 yards for a touchdown. During the pick 6, Greenway had a convoy of Minnesota blockers who escorted him to the end zone…

•Good Fit: There is plenty of speculation about where former Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson might wind up. Just a hunch, but Seattle could be a good landing spot for AP. The Seahawks are one of the NFL’s top teams, but have not been the same since Marshawn Lynch retired in 2015. As good as QB Russell Wilson, and the Legion of Boom defense is, the Seahawks lost some swagger when Beast Mode left. AP might be able to give the Seattle running game a jolt…

•Classy Exit: Getting cut in the NFL can be a bitter and traumatic experience for some players. But not for WR Torrey Smith. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, when the 49ers cut Smith this week, he went on Twitter looking for an organization where he could donate his beds and tables. Smith also put up an Instagram post thanking everyone in the SF organization – including the 49ers front office, chefs, janitors PR department and equipment staff….

•Slippery Floor: I have been to three of the coldest games in NFL history, saw Minnesota and the LA Rams play in the Mud Bowl, was at a Raiders-Vikings pre-season game delayed by lightning, sat through a Super Bowl in a Miami monsoon, watched Minnesota and Iowa play in a Kinnick Stadium blizzard, and have seen the Twins play in rain, hail and snow. Now I have also been to an NBA game postponed because of weather. Monday night’s Portland-Minnesota match up was cancelled due to unsafe playing conditions. Because of mild temps, the ice under the court was melting and caused condensation on the floor. The game will be played in April…

•Cali Chaos: The NBA’s most dysfunctional team is the once powerful LA Lakers.  Jim and Johnny Buss were blocked last week in their coup d’é·tat attempt to remove sister Jeanie from her position as Lakers part-owner and president. Jeanie kicked Jim and GM Mitch Kupchak to the curb a couple weeks ago and replaced them with Magic Johnson

•Loss Angeles: This is bizarre stuff even for Hollywood. The Lakers have become a very public soap opera and lack the stability they had under Jerry Buss. The Lakers (19-45) are at the bottom of the Western Conference and have the second worst record in the Association…

•Ticket Update I: The Minnesota Twins are offering a new ticket option for the first two months of the 2017 season. The spring ballpark pass gives fans the ability to attend all games in April and May for just $99 – except for opening day. To purchase the new Spring Ballpark Pass go to www.twinsbaseball.com/springpass…

•Ticket Update II: According to StubHub, the cheapest ticket for Sunday’s first-ever MLS game in Minnesota is $19.98. Atlanta United plays Minnesota United at 4 pm at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis…

•Frozen Pitch: The forecast for Minneapolis on Sunday is 30 degrees with snow showers. We will see if the cold weather gives Minn U. an advantage over their fellow expansion team from Georgia…

•Popular in Portland: The Portland Timbers are one of the most successful franchises in all of MLS. The Timbers – who defeated Minnesota United 5-1 on Friday – have a passionate fan base. The Timbers season-ticket waiting list is 13,000 and the team is hoping to get approval for a $50 million expansion project at Providence Park. According to FOX Sports, the Timbers have sold out every regular-season and playoff home game since joining MLS, a streak of 108 games. Providence Park’s capacity is 21,144. The Timbers won the MLS Cup in 2015…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The Adrian Peterson-Minnesota Viking divorce was inevitable

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By Eric Nelson

February 28, 2017

GAMEDAY GOLD

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

• Business Decision: The Minnesota Vikings divorce from Adrian Peterson was as predictable as a Kim Kardashian break up. Everyone saw it coming and no one is surprised it happened. This was purely business for the Purple. No way the Vikings were going to fork out $18 million to a RB who will be 32 on March 21…

•AP’s Legacy: The decision means that Minnesota has cut ties with one of the greatest players in team history. In 10 years AP ran for 11,747 yards and 97 touchdowns. His pinnacle season was 2012 when he gained 2,097 yards, had 12 TD’s and was NFL MVP. Making those numbers even more impressive is that AP suffered a major knee injury late in the 2011 season…

•Potential Landing Spots: AP is now an NFL free agent and will be pursued by multiple teams. Houston, the NY Giants and Tampa Bay could court him. But don’t discount, Dallas, Green Bay, Seattle or even Minnesota…

•NFL Nightmare: The worst-case scenario for Viking fans would be AP playing for the Packers. How devastating would it be for the Purple Nation to watch him go to Green Bay and lead the Packers to Super Bowl LII at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis..?

•Change of Fortune:The Minnesota Gopher basketball team was historically bad last season. The Gophers finished 8-23 overall and 2-16 in the Big Ten. HC Richard Pitino appeared to be in over his skis and his future in Minnesota was foggy at best. But, something remarkable has happened in Dinkytown. The Gophers (22-7, 10-6) have won seven straight games and have morphed into a top tier Big Ten team. Believe it or not, Minnesota is almost assured of going to the NCAA Tournament – which didn’t seem possible when season started…

•Trending Up: Pitino will likely win the Big Ten coach of the year award, which is remarkable considering that he was on a scorching hot seat when the season started and there was speculation about his job status. Now Gopher fans are hoping Pitino isn’t lured away to another program because of his recent success…

•Instant Impact: Freshman Amir Coffey is already one of the top Gopher players. Coffey is averaging 12.2 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game…

•Crowning Wins: It was a Minnesota sweep Monday night against teams named the Kings. The Wild won over the Los Angeles Kings 5-4 in overtime at the Xcel Energy Center, while the Timberwolves knocked off the Sacramento Kings 102-88 in Northern California…

•Fantastic Finish: Mikael Granlund scored the game winning goal just 12 seconds into OT, when he knifed through two LA defenders and put the puck past Kings G Jonathan Quick. Granlund leads the Wild with 20 goals and 56 points this season…

•Global Game: The once all white, mostly Canadian NHL is much more diverse these days. According to the LA Times, there are 16 blacks and players from 20 different countries in the league this season…

•Playoff Chase: Despite being 12 games south of .500 the Timberwolves (24-36) are just 2 1/2 games behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the NBA Western Conference. Minnesota has not been in the postseason since 2004 when the Wolves lost to the LA Lakers in the conference finals…

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Thomas U. Tuttle

Hope Springs Eternal…

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by Thomas U. Tuttle

A Couple of Thoughts

Adrian Peterson took his last hand-off for the Minnesota Vikings last year, and it’s a sad goodbye that is being played out in the press and behind the scenes. AP is owed serious money ($18 million for 2017) that the Vikings are not going to pay and the story should reach a conclusion in the next week, or two weeks at the latest.

There’s a major cap-hit upcoming that the Vikings are unwilling to take, and that’s going to prompt this near-immediate action. One may recall that Peterson made his big money in 2014 despite being suspended for the severe paddling of his 4-year old son, an event whose repercussions cast the Purple in a bad light; and was perhaps made more grievous when AP’s response was that the league (and to a lesser extent, the team) was coming down on him unfairly.

Minnesota General Manager Rick Spielman spent much of his recent exclusive press conference saying things like “Adrian will always be a Viking” when he wasn’t talking about the plethora of quality running backs available in this years draft. Folks, that is what you call the handwriting on the wall of Peterson’s career in the Twin Towns, a tenure that was spectacular, if now sagging to the finish line.

The powerful running back doesn’t believe he’s done yet, and the great competitor in him is determined to finish his NFL run on a higher note. No doubt he would like to compete for a Super Bowl championship in the twilight of his grand career. New York’s football Giants could be a landing spot for Peterson (at less money), as they have created salary cap space with a couple of high-profile player releases. The Giants came close in 2016 and a healthy AP could seriously assist Eli Manning’s pocket survivability.

He’s going to be 32 the next time he “suits up and shows up” on the Gridiron. A lot of hits have been rained upon Peterson’s phenomenal physique (maybe the most athletic and pound-for-pound powerful build this journalist has ever seen in any locker room). But time waits for no man, and it won’t wait for AP. The big business of the National Football League spares no one. It will be interesting to see where Peterson plays this fall. One thing is certain – it won’t be in Minneapolis.

 

ON THE BASEBALL FRONT, the Minnesota Twins are into the exhibition season down in Fort Myers and looking for improvement just about everywhere – which should be the case regarding a team that lost 103 games. With the notable exception of Brian Dozier (who hit 42 home runs, played excellent defense, and may be the best second baseman in the game) this is a team that needs to get better ASAP in every department.

The good news is that I believe they will show solid growth this year, and will provide Twin Cities baseball fans with some exciting baseball along with an additional 15-20 wins. When you are at rock-bottom, the only direction one can look is up. And so it is with Minnesota and its cast of underachievers, a number of whom should be ready to break out.

I’m talking about the speedy Bryan Buxton finally playing up to his billing, like he did in September of last year (he hit 13 homers between AAA and the Bigs). What a catalyst he could be at the top of the line-up, setting the stage for Dozier, Miguel Sano and Joe Mauer et. al. Bux needs to cut down on his strikeouts and show more general discipline at the plate – which he should, with skipper Paul Molitor working with him daily this spring.

The Twins have brought a bunch of old-timers down to camp, including Torii Hunter, Mike Cuddyer, Dave Winfield (for several days, he resonated big-time with Buxton) and a few others. Jack Morris will be around for the pitchers, along with Bert Blyleven. After last year, its all hands on deck for 2017! Molly is encouraging these guys to communicate and contribute as they see fit, within his guidelines.

I say, great! Let’s get Sano rolling and playing a solid third-base with about 30 homers and 30 doubles…the man has good-buddy David Ortiz written all over him! Max Kepler is the best-hitting German in the world – and he can play Major League Baseball. Kennys Vargas will finally emerge, and Jorge Polanco will turn into a major league shortstop, and  Jason Castro will be the answer at catcher…

Hey, spring training is for dreamers! But the Twins do have some talent to work with. Ervin Santana needs a little more luck than last year to win a cool 20 games, and Kyle Gibson is ready to shed his youth and man-up on the mound. Phil Hughes should be on a short-leash but could succeed, and let’s see Jose Berrios finally live up to his potential.

I’m in Florida soon, and will report back after watching a few ballgames. As of this writing, the boys have dropped their first two spring training outings. Mauer and Dozier haven’t played yet and spring games don’t count any more than wedding cake at a divorce. Yet, believe me, Molitor is watching things like a hawk. That HOF’er and World Series MVP takes 103 losses personally, and it’s not going to happen ever again.

In fact, just like 2015 when Las Vegas had the Twins to win 70 games, plus or minus, and they won 83 – LV has Minnesota at 70 again, which would mean they would lose 90+ games. Head to the bank! Those suggested betting numbers are not going to happen, and my money is headed out west on Minny. They will be a .500 club at least. Without my upcoming visit to Florida in hand, I nonetheless see improvement at every defensive and offensive spot, as well as the mound.

Yeah, call me a dreamer… but I’m not the only one. Bottom line; I just don’t believe they are very far from being a decent-to-good MLB team. An updated report in a couple of weeks.

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NBA family takes on Donald Trump

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By Larry Fitzgerald
February 14, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

Times are changing and the NBA, as we approach the 66th All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, had taken a strong stand. The game was moved a year ago, remember, to New Orleans from Charlotte because of the controversial House Bill 2, the law known as the bathroom bill of North Carolina.

It’s no secret that the NBA game has seen a spectacular growth spurt. Eight different players — Jimmy Butler, Demarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Isiah Thomas, Klay Thompson, John Wall and Russell Westbrook — have already scored 50 points or more in games.

Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple double: 30.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.2 assists per game. If he succeeds he’ll be the second player (after Oscar Robertson) in NBA history to accomplish the rare feat. So far he has 62 career triple doubles. Golden State is on a 70-win clip again, and the Timberwolves are, well, the Timberwolves.

Photo by Steve Floyd

Somebody said politics and sports don’t mix. However, since Donald Trump moved into the Oval Office, the NBA coaches and players have let the White House have it. So many of the NBA players are born in different countries, and the game invites many cultures. It’s clear that the policies that Trump is pursuing have angered many. Top NBA coaches Greg Popovich, Stan Van Gundy, and Steve Kerr have all made it clear that Trump is bad news.

LeBron James and the NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers refused as a team to stay in the Trump Towers Hotel while visiting the New York Knicks. The Cleveland ownership traveling party booked the hotel, but the players put up a red flag saying no way.

Stephen Curry, the NBA’s two-time MVP and last year’s scoring champion, disagreed with the CEO of Under Armor apparel company. Curry is paid handsomely by them — $4 million per year on his endorsement shoe deal. After hearing that the Under Armor CEO said, “Donald Trump is an asset,” Curry responded, “If he drops the ‘et’ I’m okay with that.”

The NFL Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Head Coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady are friends with Trump. This puts many of their fans, particularly Black fans, in an uncomfortable position.
During Super Bowl LI in Houston, no mention of Trump appeared in any official NFL written distribution of interviews recorded by NFL personnel, by Super Bowl players or coaches from the daily media sessions. His name came up among the 5,000 accredited media in questions, but not on the record.

Trump apparently made a disparaging remark about Commissioner Roger Goodell in support of his buddy Brady after the four-game suspension related to the Deflategate controversy. Politics and policies and the mixing of billionaire owners and their comfort zones alienate millionaire players. Yes, they have put sports leagues and players on the front line.

With social media in the game, the world gets to keep score so to speak. Many Black players from the champion Patriots are letting it be known they will not visit the Trump White House.

 

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@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Patriots devour Falcons

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By Larry Fitzgerald
February 8, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

HOUSTON — I’m on such a high! I can’t tell you what it means being from Chicago to cover the Super Bowl and see your son, Larry Jr, share the greatest honor the NFL has, the 2016 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award shared with Eli Manning. They were in the same Draft class in 2004 — Manning was drafted by New York and Larry Jr. by Arizona.

This was my 36th Super Bowl. The City of Houston did a great job. It was a treat to see four young men from Minnesota play in Super Bowl LI: Michael Floyd with New England; RaShede Hageman, De’Vondre Campbell the ex-Gopher, and Tom Compton with Atlanta. My college coach at Indiana State University, Bobby Turner, is the running back coach for Atlanta.

The Falcons won the coin toss and deferred until the second half. After a scoreless first quarter, the Falcons’ defense forced the game’s first turnover. LaGarrette Blount fumbled and the Falcons recovered. The turnover sparked the Falcons to a quick-strike 21-0 lead. They played a near perfect game Sunday in building a huge 25 point 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI.

NFL 2016 MVP Matt Ryan was 3-0 in his career in Bowl games while starring at Boston College. It’s no secret that he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL with an 88-61 career record. All he needed was confirmation in the playoffs.

With weapons like Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, the Falcons were turning Super Bowl LI into a reality statement. Atlanta was 6-0 when they scored 40 points or more. It appeared the Patriots in the first half had no answer defensively for the high-flying Falcons’ speed.

This game was supposed to be about the Patriots’ Tom Brady and Bill Belichick proving again they were the best quarterback-head coach combo in Super Bowl history. Brady even made a critical early error, throwing an 82-yard interception to Robert Alford.

It appeared the Falcons were making a super statement — they were blowing the Patriots away 21-0.The team that had scored a defensive touchdown in the Super Bowl previously was 12-0. It was 21-3 Falcons at halftime. The 70,807 stadium fans were stunned.

After the long, 31-minute halftime concert featuring Lady Gaga, the Falcons built their lead in the third quarter to 28-3. Brady was able to move his team against the Falcons defense, but the Patriots would either drop a pass or Brady would miss an open receiver.

Late in the third quarter Brady finally got the Patriots a touchdown with a five-yard pass to James White. It was 28-9 after kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed the extra point. Time was running out on the Patriots, it appeared, with just 2.05 left late in the third quarter.

Brady and the Patriots drove for a field goal; it was 28-12 starting the fourth quarter. The Falcons took possession after the Patriots failed on an onside kick. But the proud Patriots, having made defensive adjustments, forced Ryan into a mistake. Hit by linebacker Dont’a Hightower when trying to pass, Ryan fumbled and it was recovered by Alan Branch of the Patriots at the Falcons’ 25-yard line.

Brady then threw his second touchdown pass six yards to Danny Amendola. The Patriots then converted the two-point play when White scored. Momentum was now clearly with the Patriots at 28-20 Falcons. After failing on an onside kick and missing an extra point, the Patriots kicked deep. Now it was on the Falcons starting at their own 10 to get first downs and drain the clock. Ryan drove the Falcons to the Patriots’ 22-yard line. A field goal and the Falcons were up 31-20.

Ryan hit Julio Jones on the sideline, who made a remarkable catch for 27 yards and a first down at the 22. Then the Patriots’ defense rose up and stuffed Freeman — he lost a yard. On second down and 11, Ryan tried to pass and was sacked — he lost 12 yards. On the next play the Falcons were called for holding — it’s third and 33 yards. After another incomplete pass, the Falcons punted from the Patriots 45 yard line.

After a fair catch the Patriots then started at the nine yard line trailing 28-20 with 3.30 left in regulation. Brady and the Patriots marched 91 yards in 10 plays. Julian Edelman made one of the greatest catches you will ever see against three defenders. He somehow grabbed a deflected Brady pass, falling down and keeping his concentration, and pulled it in for 23 yards.

Shortly after, White scored his second touchdown, 28-26. Brady then hit Amendola for a two-point conversion and Super Bowl LI is tied 28-28.

The Falcons had time, .57 seconds, to get in field goal range; however, the Patriots’ defense stopped the Falcons again. For the first time in Super Bowl history — overtime. The Patriots won the toss and Brady was money again.

Moving the Patriots right down the field, passing every down from shotgun formation, Brady, the MVP of Super Bowl LI, tried on first down at the 15 to hit tight end Martellus Bennett. Interference was called — first down at the two-yard line. White then ran two yards for his third touchdown of the game, and the Patriot’s win it 34-28 in sudden death.

The Patriots, with the mother of all comebacks, rallied 31-0 and captured their fifth Super Bowl. Thirty records were broken or set in Super Bowl LI.

For the fourth time, Brady was named MVP. He completed 43 of 62 passes for 466 yards and two touchdowns. Bill Belichick becomes the first head coach to win five Super Bowls. Brady becomes the first quarterback to win five Super Bowls.

And the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) debate is, is Brady the greatest quarterback of all-time? Absolutely — he’s now 208-61 when he starts regular season or playoffs. In the playoffs he’s 25-9; in the Super Bowl he’s 5-2.

New England had 546 yards total offense, the Falcons 344. The Patriots had 37 first downs, the Falcons 17. Time of possession: Patriots 40.31 Falcons 23.27. Third downs: Patriots 7-14 for 50 percent, Falcons 1-8 and just 13 percent. Penalties: Patriots 4-23, Falcons 9-65.

 

 

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@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Thomas U. Tuttle

The Greatest Super Bowl

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by Thomas U. Tuttle

Yes, The Greatest Super Bowl Yet…

 

New England 34, Atlanta 28 in overtime. The first Super Bowl overtime in 51 renditions of the mega-football games, and the largest point comeback in SB history. It was an amazing battle, I’m sure we all agree, an ultimate contest that did more than secure Tom Brady’s reputation for all time.

Could there be a “more fabulous” contest in the future? Maybe… In a way, that’s why you play the game. Things happen. But for now, even the guys who have seen a lot of Super Bowls, and know the history of all (including GDG’s Eric Nelson and Larry Fitzgerald, with over 60 between them), call this one the Epic of Epics.

There have been a lot of great Super Bowl’s, but this one had it all…

Several of my friends (and a stunned family member) actually went to bed before all heck broke loose in the second half of SB 51 (yes, LI, but I’ve long been burned out on the Roman Numeral thing). Hard to fault those who nodded off as history was made, because the game was over, for all intents and purposes, midway through the 3rd quarter.

28-3 Atlanta Falcons? Are you kidding? Your Patriots squad is all done against this formidable Georgia Army in Houston, Texas. They were at that moment washed up like a beached New England codfish, all done and ready for the final foldolo. My feeling was it might go to 38 to 10 or so and hold my over-under bet of +/- 49 points – not to mention my Atlanta and the points wager.

Not so fast… Don’t start counting your money just yet. Not against the Bill Belichick-led New England Patriots. Certainly not against the one-and-only Tom Brady, not versus stellar running back and awesomely-stubborn James White (who caught 14 passes, scored three TD’s and could/should have been MVP, if not for the incredible Brady) – and the man who will receive Brady’s MVP-awarded automobile from the QB in a token of grateful appreciation.

Not against the clutch, super quick Julian Adelman – Danny Amendola led receivers or the never-say-die defense, which had looked shaky at the start of the game but fought tooth and nail to the finish. And this was a fight to the finish of historic proportions.

This loss had to hurt Falcons fans at a level even beyond the devastated 1998-99 Vikings crowd that watched the Randy Moss-led home team blow an NFC title game lead against these same Dirty Birds.

And yes, this game cost a lot of people money, cash that was safely in the bank mid-3rd qtr. A sad but true confession – I was letting people know about my great wisdom in picking Atlanta beginning at half-time – until all heck broke loose and the Pats epic comeback put me in my humble place. I’m still in shock…

This one had it all – two great football teams, great quarterbacks and numerous storylines. How about Tom’s mom, Galynn, quite ill for well over a year, coming to this phenomenal match? And bringing some magic? Sure feels like it….

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Scott Taylor

Pats Win

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Scott Taylor

“The Coach”

Dr. Football

“Dr. Football”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brady Leads Patriots to Historic Comeback

By Scott Taylor

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The Atlanta Falcons allowed Tom Brady to hang around. In the end, he took Super Bowl LI right out of their hands.

In one of the most incredible comebacks in National Football League championship history, Brady led his New England Patriots to a stunning 34-28 overtime – come-from-way-way-behind – victory to claim the fifth Super Bowl championship of his remarkable career.

This was a game in which the Patriots were down and out. They trailed Atlanta 21-0 in the second quarter, 21-3 at halftime and 28-3 in the third quarter before Brady led his Pats to 31 consecutive, yes unanswered, points as the Pats beat Atlanta in an overtime thriller.

Not only was it a comeback for the ages, it put an exclamation point on a season in which Brady — suspended for four games for his part in the stupid (and it was really, truly stupid) Deflategate controversy — came back and led his Pats on a charge toward Super Bowl championship No. 5.

Not surprisingly, Brady told the Fox television audience that he and his teammates never felt out of the game. Of course, Brady finished the game with 43 completions on 62 pass attempts for 466 yards and two touchdowns. He also gave up a touchdown on a pick-six in the second quarter, but by the end of the overtime, nobody remembered.

“Everybody on this team, we all brought each other back,” he said. “We never felt out of it. It was a tough battle. They have a great team. I give them a lot of credit. We just made a few more plays than them.”

The Patriots went into the game as three-point favorites, but the Falcons came out of the gate and dominated the first 35 minutes of play. NFL MVP Matt Ryan, the Atlanta quarterback, and his marvelously gifted wide receiver Julio Jones, put on a show for the 71,000 inside Houston’s NRG Stadium. However, it was really the oft-maligned Falcons defense that gave Atlanta the early lead.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Falcons took over in the second. A fumble by the Pats LeGarrette Blount led to Atlanta’s first touchdown. The Falcons scored again and then with 2:36 left in the first-half, Robert Alford, picked off a Brady pass and literally trotted 82 yards into the end zone untouched.

That made it 21-0 and many of the bettors in the various Las Vegas Sports Books were about to tear up their Patriots tickets.

Before the half ended, Pats kicker Stephen Gostkowski booted a field goal to make it 21-3, but this one smelled like it was over. Lady Gaga’s brilliant halftime performance was significantly more exciting and productive than anything the Pats did in the first half. In fact, it appeared as if Gaga had come to play while the Pats had not.

Then, to start the third quarter, things got even worse for New England. Ryan led his team down the field — 85 yards in eight plays — at start of the third quarter, capping the drive with a six-yard pass to Tevin Coleman. At that point Ryan had completed 12 of his 14 pass attempts and the Falcons were ahead 28-3.

But when the going gets tough…

Brady led his team to a touchdown – Gostkowski missed the extra point – and then a field goal and with 9:44 remaining as the Patriots cut the Falcons lead to 28-12.

Then came the turning point. Ryan, under huge pressure from the Patriots D-line, fumbled before he could get his arm moving forward and the Pats had the ball on the Atlanta 25. A few plays later, Brady found Danny Amendola in the end zone and with a two-point conversion it was a one-score game — 28-20. There was still hope.

A holding penalty stopped the Falcons’ next drive, but a good punt left the Patriots on their own nine-yard line with 3:38 to play.

That’s when Brady put together a season-defining drive. Buoyed in no small way by a couple of key penalty calls and a truly miraculous catch by Julian Edelman, Brady moved the ball to the two and James White, with his second TD of the game, scored again to give the Pats a chance. It was 28-26 and all they needed was a two-point conversion to tie.

With that, Brady found Amendola with a short pass and the diminutive receiver did the rest. The game was tied and overtime beckoned – the first overtime in 51 years of Super Bowls.

“Unbelievable,” said Edelman, when interviewed by Fox after the game. “It’s the microcosm of our life, our season. Mental toughness, believe, do your job, work hard and we’d be champions in the championship game.”

Overtime ended when the Pats won the toss. The Falcons defense was spent. Brady had put up 19 unanswered in the fourth-quarter alone and there was this feeling, everywhere, that Brady was going to march the Pats down the field. A field goal meant that Atlanta would get the ball and have a chance to win or tie. A touchdown meant the game was over. It was clear early on that Brady was taking his team to the end zone.

He marched his team from his own 25 to the Atlanta two and from there, White scored his third touchdown of the game to win it.

“No doubt that was a tough one for us,” said Falcons head coach, Dan Quinn. “That’s a hard one in the locker room. I love (my players), they battled. Tonight we came up short.”

On Sunday night, the Patriots gave football fans a record-setting performance:

Brady completed 43-of-62 passes for 466 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and he was 12 of 16 for 150 yards on the tying and winning drives in the fourth quarter and overtime.

James White scored on a two-yard run in overtime to cap the greatest performance of his career. He had six carries for 29 yards and two touchdowns and a Super Bowl-record 14 receptions for 110 yards and another TD as a receiver.

Historically, Super Bowl games aren’t this exciting. Historically, teams don’t score 31 straight points to come back from 25 down in the second half to win. But this game was historic in itself. It was, perhaps, the greatest NFL championship game ever played.

 

(Our weekly prognosticators here at Game Day Gold, The Coach and Dr. Football, both picked the Super Bowl winner straight up and against the spread. Dr. Football went 1-0 (174-93) straight up and 1-0 (142-125) against the spread while The Coach went 1-0 straight up (177-90) and 1-0 (141-126) against the spread. It was, in terms of wagers and accumulated finances, a terrific season). 

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