Category Archives: Going for 2

SportsZone’s NFL Segment

New head coach spells end for Manziel in Cleveland

The Cleveland Browns have made yet another coaching change, hiring Hue Jackson to be their 6th head coach since 2008. Jackson replaces Mike Pettine, who was fired immediately following the Browns’ final game of the season.

Jackson had previously been the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals. His last head coaching job was in 2011 when he went 8-8 in his only season with the Oakland Raiders.

Jackson has just been introduced as the new head coach, but reports are already out about Johnny Manziel’s status with the team. The first reports out of Cleveland is that during his interview and meeting with team ownership, Jackson requested that the team “move on” from the troubled quarterback.

For all his success at Texas A&M, Manziel hasn’t quite found a way to translate that to the professional game. He has lost training camp quarterback competitions twice, once to Brian Hoyer and once Josh McCown. He did get some chances to play due to injuries and while he had moments of the Manziel we saw at A&M, overall the success hasn’t been there at the professional level. He is 2-6 as a starter in his two year career with 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.

But beyond the mediocrity on the field, Manziel has had off the field troubles as well. He is often seen out partying either during bye weeks or just regularly during the season. This past year he notably was late for his concussion tests because of a late night, wore a disguise to go to a party towards the end of the season and was benched after a video appeared on Instagram of him at a party back in Texas.

Prior to the season, Manziel voluntarily checked himself into rehab in an attempt to curb some of his risky behavior.

There is no word on how this transaction may take place, but whether he is released or traded, Cleveland has likely seen the last of Johnny Football.

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NFL Owners Approve Move to Los Angeles

THE NFL IS BACK IN LOS ANGELES!

In a meeting in Houston, Texas today, NFL Owners agreed to approve the proposed plans for the St. Louis Rams to return back to Los Angeles, starting in 2016. Owners voted overwhelmingly to accept the relocation proposals of the Rams and the San Diego Chargers to move back to Los Angeles, voting 30-2 in favor of the franchises. The Rams would be returning back to Los Angeles, home to the second biggest media market, for the first time since 1994-95 when they played as the Los Angeles Rams.

The Los Angeles Rams played in Southern California from 1936-1995, with a brief gap in 1943, when operations were suspended. They are best remembered for bring the city 21 playoff appearances in the 48 year history culminating in the highest honor in 1951 with an NFL Championship. There were also plenty of Hall of Fame players who graced Los Angeles with their presence over the years, such as Eric Dickerson, Norm Van Brocklin, Deacon Jones, and Jack Youngblood. The LA Rams were a powerhouse of a franchise that certainly gave off the idea that football in Southern California would be a mainstay for the NFL, though it was not meant to be. In 1994-95, the Rams had lost their fanbase and had failed to make the playoffs since 1989. The stadium situation as well as the fact that they were being overshadowed by the more successful Dodgers and Lakers teams of the late 80s resulted in loss of viewership and a plummeting franchise. It wasn’t until 1995, that the Rams were able to relocate to St. Louis, Missouri where they would play out the next 20 years (winning Super Bowl XXXIV in 1999).

Other teams that initially pursued relocation from their respective cities following the 2015 Regular Season were the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers. Oakland played in Los Angeles from 1982-1994, where they won Super Bowls XI (1976) and XV (1980) before relocating to their current home. They withdrew their request on January 12, 2016. The San Diego Chargers called Los Angeles home when the franchise first started out, residing in the City of Angels solely in their inaugural season, 1960 but winning the division that year.

With the Rams approved to move back to LA, they will play out their next few seasons from 2016-2019 most likely in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before the new facility, proposed by owner Stan Kroenke, is completed in Inglewood, CA in 2019. The Chargers have until January 16, 2017 to decide if they will join the Rams in moving to Los Angeles, though all indications seem to point to the move being a certainty. Incentive to both the Raiders and Chargers to stay in their current cities will include $100 million to go towards stadium renovation costs, as per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.

With what is surely both shocking, yet expected news, it will be interesting to further gauge the response by fans and cities of NFL teams, mainly those that have struggled in past seasons, to the news of the Rams, and possibly the Chargers playing in LA once again. But for now, let us all take in this news as more information unfolds while remaining optimistic that the uniforms of old will return along with the team in 2016.

Road Teams Sweep Wild Card Weekend

For the first time in NFL history, four road teams all won in one weekend of the NFL Playoffs. Beginning with the AFC leg on Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs went to Houston and shut out the Texans, while the Steelers edged one out in Cincinnati against the Bengals.

Be sure to check out SportsZone’s analysis of Game 1 and Game 2.

Moving on to the NFC leg on Sunday, once again it was the road teams who got the job done. In the early game, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks began their attempt at reaching a third straight Super Bowl and used a strong 4th quarter and a little luck to knock off the Minnesota Vikings 10-9. In the night-cap, the Green Bay Packers turned in the best offensive performance of the weekend to defeat the Washington Redskins 35-18.

What this weekend shows is that age and experience may be more important than straight up talent when it comes to the playoffs. Despite being the higher seeds, all 4 home teams had quarterbacks making their first ever playoff start: Brian Hoyer, AJ McCarron, Teddy Bridgewater and Kirk Cousins.

Bridgewater and Cousins are certainly considered to be the franchise quarterbacks for the Vikings and Redskins respectively and may well go on to have great careers, but this weekend they played second fiddle to Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, two of the best in the game.

Hoyer has been a journeyman for much of his career and struggled to stay on the field this season. However, when he was on the field, he helped the Texans win games along with their stout defense and the breakout season of DeAndre Hopkins.

McCarron served as the backup to Andy Dalton and made 4 starts after Dalton broke his thumb. He handled his new role quite well, going 2-2 and helping the Bengals to earn a #3 seed. That said, if he remains with the Bengals he should return to a backup role.

On the winning side of the weekend are quarterbacks and teams that have much more playoff experience. Alex Smith and the Chiefs last made the playoffs two season ago when they blew a huge lead to Andrew Luck and the Colts in the first round. Smith showed that the Chiefs learned from that experience and earned his second career playoff win in 4 starts.

The other three winning quarterbacks have a combined 4 Super Bowl wins. Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers each have made the playoffs 8 different times and Russell Wilson has made three straight playoffs and been to the Super Bowl twice.

Something else to take from this historic weekend is that playoff seeding may be a flawed system. Both the Texans and Redskins had higher seeds despite having worse records than the teams the played against. Houston and Washington both finished at 9-7, enough to win the two weakest divisions in football this year, and played Wild Card teams, Kansas City and Green Bay, with 11 and 10 wins respectively. Additionally, the New York Jets, who finished at 10-6, the same record as the Steelers and Packers, missed out on the playoffs entirely despite finishing with better numbers than 2 playoff teams.

Next week’s match-ups will be the Steelers facing the Broncos, the Chiefs at the Patriots, the Packers at the Cardinals and the Seahawks facing the Panthers.

Bengals Beat Themselves

 

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Martavis Bryant scoring style points with this touchdown catch.

Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

Continuing their postseason trend, the Cincinnati Bengals were eliminated from the playoffs after the Wild Card Round, falling 18-16 to their division rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is now the fifth year in a row Marvin Lewis’ Bengals have been one and done in the playoffs.

Despite nothing exciting really happening for two and a half quarters, the game delivered its fair share of narrative changes, drama, and boneheaded miscues that befit a primetime wild card game, especially one featuring division rivals with lots of bad blood between them.

For most of the evening, it looked as if the Bengals were headed towards their next quick exit from the playoffs. Sans their MVP-caliber quarterback, the Bengals offense failed to effectively move the ball down the field and was shut out for three quarters. However, after a well-timed pass interference penalty, some good runs, and a fantastic AJ Green catch, the Bengals established a lead over the Steelers by one point with less than two minutes left.

With their own starting quarterback being held to the sideline after being checked out for a shoulder injury, the Steelers also had to rely on their own backup, Landry Jones, to win the game.

He responded by throwing an interception.

The win was all but wrapped up for the Bengals. They had the ball with only a minute and a half to go, they were in Steelers territory and easily could build upon their lead with a touchdown or even a field goal.

That’s when the boneheadedness began (yes, it even deserves a made up word to describe it).

The Bengals fumble the ball right back to the Steelers, giving them one last sliver of hope. Perfectly encapsulating the “if you want something down, do it yourself” mentality, the Steelers starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger came back into the game to try and lead his offense to the game winning field goal.

With seconds left on the play clock and twenty yards to go to get to field goal range, Roethlisberger delivered a strike to Antonio Brown which fell incomplete; but, the Bengals were flagged for unnecessary roughness and fifteen yards were gifted to the Steelers. To cap off the utter meltdown, a scrum ensued after the play which led to another penalty on the Bengals. The Steelers kicker converted the kick and the Steelers won the game, capping off one of the ugliest meltdowns in playoff history.

Giving the ball away and committing unnecessary penalties doomed the Bengals. They were in prime position to pull it off and change a four year narrative, but for some reason couldn’t find it in them to deliver. The headlines will read that the Steelers beat the Bengals, but it feels more like the Bengals beat themselves.
Now the Steelers will go on to face the Denver Broncos next Sunday the 17th, while the Kansas City Chiefs, winners of their game earlier in the day, will go on to face the New England Patriots on Saturday the 16th.

On a separate note, Steelers wide receiver, Martavis Bryant, treated us with possibly the catch of the season, catching a pass with both his hands, then corralling it with one hand and the back of his leg, then getting both feet down for a touchdown… and then finishing it off with a front flip to hold onto the ball. The play was a great show of athleticism and is truly a “you gotta see it to believe it” catch.

Chiefs snap playoff winless streak

In what was certainly the least exciting of the 2 AFC Wild Card Playoff Games of the 2015-2016 postseason, the Kansas City Chiefs shut out the Houston Texans 30-0.

Houston is the first team to get shut out in the playoffs since 2005.

Kansas City earns their first postseason win since Joe Montana was the quarterback way back in 1994. They had lost 8 straight in the playoffs until their win Saturday.

Everything came up the Chiefs’ way from the opening kickoff when Knile Davis went 106 yards to the house for a 7-0 lead. From there, KC’s vaunted defense took over the game. Brian Hoyer turned the ball over 5 times, with 4 interceptions and a fumble lost, and was sacked 3 times. He ended the game with a 1.7 passer QBR out of a possible 100.

2014 NFL Pro Bowl
Alex Smith continued his stellar postseason play (10 TD, 1 INT in 4 games) as the Chiefs earn their first postseason win in over 2 decades.(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg)

Kansas City’s offense was far from perfect but it was certainly more than enough. Alex Smith threw for just 190 yards but added a touchdown strike to rookie Chris Conley, while Spencer Ware added 67 yards and touchdown on the ground. Much of the damage came in the second half with both offensive touchdowns coming in the second half hour of the game.

One major loss for the Chiefs in a day when all else had gone nearly perfectly was a knee injury to Jeremy Maclin. Maclin was promptly ruled out for the remainder of the game and will have MRIs as early as Sunday. The team fears that Maclin suffered a significant ACL injury in his right knee, the same knee which he had injured twice previously. In Maclin’s absence, tight end Travis Kelce had himself a day racking up 128 yards on 8 catches.

On Houston’s side of the ball, J.J. Watt was made into a non-factor by Kansas City’s scheme and then left the game in the third quarter with a groin injury and did not return. He also got his first career rushing attempt out of the Wildcat formation deep in KC territory and lost one yard. Hoyer was intercepted the following play. Alfred Blue rushed for 99 yards in the loss, though 49 came on one play, and DeAndre Hopkins had more receiving yards (69) than the rest of his teammates (67). Whitney Mercilus had all 3 of the Texans’ sacks on the day.

Kansas City will head to New England to play the Patriots to put their 11 game winning streak on the line against Tom Brady and company.

Chip Kelly “Let go” by Philadelphia

It’s the beginning of an era! One without Chip Kelly at the helm of the Philadelphia Eagles. The head coach and GM (just don’t tell Chip) was fired Tuesday, December 29th after the Eagles fell to 6-9 on the season with a loss against the NFC East Champion Washington Redskins. This was only Chip’s third year as the head coach of the Birds, coming over from Oregon in 2013 following the departure of long-time coach, Andy Reid.

Right from the start of the season, rumors were already swirling that Chip Kelly had lost his team and allegedly was, as former Eagles CB Brandon Boykin put it to CSN Philly’s Derrick Gunn, “uncomfortable around grown men of our culture”. What does this mean? Was Chip Kelly a racist? Did he have an issue with those who were verbal in the locker room? Maybe he just didn’t like how they fit into his scheme. While the third reason seems to be the one that many just settled on, I find that simply put, Chip Kelly has an alpha-male complex, or in more historic terms, a Napoleon complex (just look around, he isn’t exactly the tallest guy around).

Chip was able to turn the organization around in his first year going 10-6 and winning the NFC East, but the following year, despite having the same record, the Eagles missed out on the playoffs. He only made it 15 games this season before getting the boot after a 6-9 season, finishing with an overall record of 26-21 (.553). The most telling part of this entire saga was that despite literally EVERYONE knowing that Chip was both Head Coach and GM, with former GM Howie Roseman now being the “Executive Vice-President of Football Operations” for the organization, Chip refused to take the blame for it all. He pointed fingers, underscored his responsibility for, yes, trading or releasing the best offensive players on the team (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, even Nick Foles), he just would not accept that it was his fault. Couple all of this with the fact that he was very contentious with the media (but let’s face it, which coach isn’t? i.e. Jim Mora and “Playoffs?!”), and Chip Kelly had pretty much worn out his welcome in Philadelphia.

Now let me jump to the defense of both my fellow Philadelphians and Mr. Kelly as well. We are a restless bunch. The 2015-16 season is Super Bowl 50! The Eagles haven’t won a Championship since 1960, let alone a Super Bowl. Chip was the “savior”, and if I’m gonna be honest here, he did revolutionize the pace of the game and showed the rest of the league what an up-tempo offense was. His pace was so quick that the NFL actually started having the referees stand in the way of the lines to slow down Kelly’s offense and actually mandated that the refs run a certain time on a 40-yd dash, but don’t quote me on that! I think I’m right, and it sounds cool! So here we are..the end of Chip Kelly is upon us.

Notes:

-Interim Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator, Pat Shurmur led the Eagles to a 35-30 win over the New York Giants to close out the season 7-9.

-Long-time Giants Head Coach, Tom Coughlin will resign. He led the G-Men to 2 Super Bowl wins over the New England Patriots

-The Eagles played 4 quarters of football for the first time this year

-Walter Thurmond III notched his 4th interception of the season, taking it back for a pick-six; he led the team in INTs

-With Coughlin resigning, the streak of 12 years ends between Eli Manning and Coughlin being together on the team (only Brady and Belichick have a longer tenure)