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Dave Hyde: What a dramatic, historic and utterly depressing weekend for Dolphins fans

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Dave Hyde: What a dramatic, historic and utterly depressing weekend for Dolphins fans

Sunday’s loser threw four touchdowns. Sunday’s loser had a pristine 136 quarterback rating. Sunday’s loser led his team on two, 75-yard touchdown drives in the final two minutes to give Buffalo the late lead twice.

Sunday’s winner answered with his own passing miracles. Sunday’s winner got the ball with 13 seconds left and made two deep throws for a miraculous tying field goal. Sunday’s winner won the coin flip in overtime and then won the game for Kansas City in a 42-36 thriller.

Have you ever watched a more disheartening game?

Ever heard everyone use words like “dramatic” and “historic” but could not get past the local, “depressing?”

The most immediate thought, and the most distressing and, yes, depressing one in watching that playoff game, is the Miami Dolphins are lost in the wilderness for another football generation. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes is 26? Buffalo’s Josh Allen is 25?

Yes, you’ll find the Dolphins in the outback, eating birch bark and sleeping on pine needles for years to come.

For most of the previous two decades, the Dolphins faced what was a simple question by comparison: Can you go to New England and win against quarterback Tom Brady?

As Sunday again showed the question has multiplied. Can you go to Buffalo and win against Alllen? And then go to Kansas City and win against Mahomes?

If you can’t project that, what is even being accomplished here? What has changed in decades?

That’s not even getting into who’s going to Kansas City this weekend. Joe Burrow has picked up a sad-sack Cincinnati franchise and lifted it to the AFC Championship game. That’s what elite quarterbacks do, even in their second year.

(Nor out of courtesy will there by any mention of Justin Herbert, the quarterback the Dolphins passed on. He’s in a bad Los Angeles Chargers organization — a defensive coach with the 30th-ranked defense — but would be the first player NFL types like Jimmy Johnson would pick if starting a franchise.)

Four teams remain in the playoffs and it’s clear the model the Dolphins have chosen. Three of the surviving teams — Kansas City, Cincinnati and the Los Angeles Rams — have an elite-level quarterback who lifts everyone like a rising tide.

The fourth is San Francisco and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s good many games. He can be great on occasion. But there’s no pretending that his game can do more than accompany a well-built team to a championship.

That’s what the Dolphins have decided in going all-in on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. It’s not like there were many options by this point. They shut down the one owner Steve Ross and general manager Chris Grier were open for at midseason of trading for Houston’s embattled quarterback Deshaun Watson (and his 22 sexual-misconduct allegations).

The organizational idea for Tagovailoa is now what it was for seven years of Ryan Tannehill: He’s good enough if everyone around him is good enough. Tannehill has been fine in Tennessee, going to the AFC Championship game two years ago and getting the top seed this year.

Well, he was fine until Saturday’s three-interception game cost Tennessee its season. It happens. And now, a decade into his career, people still wonder who Tannehill is.

Back to Tua and the Dolphins: The defense looks fine. But is anything else good enough? Anything at all?

Enter the San Francisco model. It has a defensive line that wins games. It has some good offensive weapons like receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle. It also had superior special teams that blocked a Green Bay field goal and blocked a punt for a touchdown in its win.

The 49ers get some winning plays from Garoppolo and that’s it. They’re in the NFC Championship game under him — just as they were in the Super Bowl a few years back.

There’s the Dolphins’ model. That’s what they’ve told media, what they’re telling coaching candidates, what they’ve told the full Dolphins roster. And, let’s face it, what’s the option? It’s not like Aaron Rodgers is walking through the door this offseason. Or Russell Wilson.

Take another flyer on another young quarterback in the draft? Sure. Why not? Grier can keep throwing darts.

Sunday night’s fireworks by Allen and Mahomes were distressing for any Dolphins fan. Now comes Burrow and Mahomes. It’s depressing to watch, sitting here, eating birch bark and sleeping on pine needles.

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Gleyber Torres still owns the Orioles even after wall at Camden Yards is pushed back 26.5 feet

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Gleyber Torres still owns the Orioles even after wall at Camden Yards is pushed back 26.5 feet

BALTIMORE — The Orioles moved their left-field fence back 26.5 feet before this season, maybe hoping to contain Gleyber Torres. It may be more difficult to go over that fence now, but Torres is still tormenting the Orioles. Monday night, he reached base a career-high tying four times as the Yankees beat the Birds.

It’s not just the Orioles anymore, though, as Torres has been putting up good numbers for the last week before coming into Camden Yards to see his favorite victims. Heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Orioles, Torres was hitting  .412/.500/.588 with three runs scored and a home run in his previous five games.

“I think first of all, he’s hit better than his number suggests. He’s done well, he’s hit some balls out of the ballpark. Obviously, he’s got a number of big hits. . . but I feel like his quality and contact has absolutely been there throughout,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “And that dates back to spring training. I felt like he was from the get go, kind of having good at-bats, getting in strong hitting positions, getting good swings off. I think that’s continued.

“He’s playing well on the field. (Monday) night, he did a little bit of everything,” Boone continued.  “I thought his base running was really good. Obviously a huge play in the field and good at-bats. So I think it’s just a talented player, a maturing player, a young player that’s already been through a lot of experiences at the big league level. And to his credit, he’s learning and growing from all those.”

Torres is coming off two miserable years in which he struggled defensively as the starting shortstop, and that seemed to carry over to his offense. The Yankees finally gave up on that experiment last September and moved him back to second base, where Torres is obviously more comfortable. He made a very heads-up double-play that cut short an Orioles’ threat in Monday night’s first inning.

Torres also took the last two seasons to heart, heading immediately to the Yankees complex after last season to work with hitting coaches to find his swing from 2019.

“I think it is a motivator.  I think it’s taking advantage of experience,” Boone said. “He’s a young player that’s been through a lot already for a young man in this game at this level. He’s been an All Star a couple times. He’s had a lot of success. He’s had playoff success. He’s struggled some and he’s hit bumps in the road. How do you respond to that? How do you learn from that? How do you grow from that? And I think this year, we’ve seen him take a big step forward in that regard and I’m just proud of where he’s at.”

And nothing gets Torres going like a trip to Camden Yards or seeing the Orioles across the field. Torres has hit .328/.409/.642 with 14 doubles, one triple, 16 home runs and 44 RB in 59 career games against the Orioles.

STOLE ONE

On Monday, Giancarlo Stanton hit one of the longest balls of the game, a line drive 387 feet that came off the bat at 114 miles per hour. Normally that would put a run on the board for the Yankees, but not in the new Camden Yards. Stanton hit it to left-center field where the Orioles had moved the fences back 26.5 feet and put up a 13-foot wall.

“When he hit it, I didn’t think so. And then going back and looking I do think so,” Boone said. “So minus one for us.”

The wall also presents a challenge for left-fielders, creating new, strange angles. Joey Gallo said it’s now one of the hardest left fields to play in the majors.

“Now there’s angles, different angles everywhere. There’s a 90-degree angle that definitely makes for an interesting and like, not normal, left field,” Gallo said.

DAY OFF

Aaron Hicks was the odd man out of the lineup Tuesday. The center-fielder went 1-for-4 with a single in the fourth inning in Monday night’s win.

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Trevor Williams sets the tone as Mets pick up Game 1 win in doubleheader vs. Cards

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Trevor Williams sets the tone as Mets pick up Game 1 win in doubleheader vs. Cards

The Mets offense did its part, knocking in a few runs early, and it was up to the spot starter in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader to keep the Cardinals off the board.

Trevor Williams, tasked with the job of filling in for Tylor Megill (right biceps tendinitis), established the tone in his second start of the year for the Mets. Williams struck out six, including two against Yadier Molina and another with Nolan Arendado in the box, in what seemed like an effortless outing against a St. Louis team that believes it can be a playoff contender.

“Learning this new role has been a fun challenge for me,” said Williams, who was a regular starter for the Pirates and Cubs before he joined the Mets at last year’s trade deadline.

Williams fired four shutout innings and allowed four hits across 65 pitches to help the Mets beat the Cardinals, 3-1, in the series opener on Tuesday. The right-hander, typically the innings-eater out of the bullpen, picked up where he left off in his most recent relief outing, when he posted 3.2 scoreless innings against the Nationals last Wednesday. On five days’ rest, Williams’ smooth and steady performance against the Cards was just what the Mets were looking for.

The righty credited backup catcher Patrick Mazeika, who is enjoying his promotion from Syracuse while James McCann (left hamate surgery) is on the shelf, for calling a good game.

“To come in as the third catcher and get thrown into it right away, it’s just a testament to the type of player he is and we were really on the same page all game,” said Williams of his backstop.

The Mets (24-13) on Tuesday began a stretch of 10 games in nine days, which meant manager Buck Showalter was forced to be a little creative with his bullpen use in the opener of the doubleheader. After Williams impressed with his four shutout innings, Showalter called on reliever Jake Reed as the first man out of the bullpen.

Reed, making his season debut, had an adventurous fifth inning as he walked two of his first three batters. Mazeika called for a quick mound visit, as Reed’s teammates encouraged him to brush off the nerves and attack the hitters. Perhaps that mound visit was the quick breather he needed. Reed bounced back to strike out Paul Goldschmidt and retire Arenado to end the inning. Reed took the mound again for the sixth, shutting down the side to complete his two scoreless innings. He was optioned to Syracuse between games.

After Reed, Showalter went to his circle of trusted relievers – bringing out Seth Lugo, Drew Smith, then Edwin Diaz to silence the Cardinals. While Smith gave up a home run to Goldschmidt, Diaz in particular was electric. The Mets closer picked up his ninth save of the year. Diaz has struck out 30 of the 60 batters he’s faced this season.

“You ride it when it’s hot,” Showalter said of Diaz’s confidence and results to begin the season. “These are really good hitters. He keeps grinding, he keeps working. It doesn’t go unnoticed. Edwin has been instrumental in what we’ve been able to do early on.”

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Vikings’ Danielle Hunter happy to be healthy and to have developed ‘bond’ with Za’Darius Smith

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Vikings’ Danielle Hunter happy to be healthy and to have developed ‘bond’ with Za’Darius Smith

Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith are new teammates, but they’re already like old buddies.

The two Vikings edge rushers first struck up a friendship at the Pro Bowl in Orlando, Fla., in January 2020, when Hunter was with Minnesota and Smith with Green Bay. Smith signed with the Vikings as a free agent in March, and he has been hanging out with Hunter plenty since offseason drills began in April.

On Tuesday’s second day of organized team activities, the two jokingly threw passes back and forth for several minutes at the start before they settled down to more serious business.

“The first time I met him (at the Pro Bowl), he was a cool, young, good overall character and all that stuff,’ Hunter said. “He came here, I was excited about it. He texted me saying he was coming here, and we started developing a bond.”

Smith said it’s “wonderful” to now be Smith’s teammate. And the two hope to recreate the old motto of the Purple People Eaters to “meet at the quarterback.”

“I say one of the best in the NFL,’’ Smith said of the pass-rushing duo the Vikings now have. “But you know, it’s too early. We’re just gonna keep working and getting better at our craft, and you’ll see the results here in the season.”

Hunter had 14½ sacks in both 2018 and 2019 before playing in just seven games over the past two seasons due to injuries. Smith had 13½ sacks for the Packers in 2019 and 12½ in 2020 before playing in just one regular-season game and one playoff game last season due to a back injury.

Smith talked about his health after he signed, saying he’s fully recovered. But Hunter didn’t discuss his latest injury until Tuesday, when he spoke to the media for the first time since Sept. 29.

Hunter missed all of 2020 due to a neck injury. He didn’t play in the final 10 games last season because of surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle suffered Oct. 31 against Dallas.

“I feel pretty good,’’ said Hunter, entering his eighth season. “Last year’s injury wasn’t as significant as the year before, but it was a three-month recovery. Had we made it to the playoffs, iI’s possibly would have been able to come back. … It’s just good to be back with the guys. …It kind of hurts just watching people play.’’

Hunter said it was “around February or March” when he returned to his regular workout routine.

“The biggest thing was having like the right people around me, just motivating me and keeping me in the right mindset,’’ he said of his recovery.

Coming off the injury, there was seemingly some uncertainty on what the Vikings might do when they had until March 19 to decide whether to pick up an $18 million roster bonus on Hunter’s contract. They did pick it up, and converted it into a signing bonus over four years, lowering Hunter’s cap number from $25.838 million to $12.338 million for 2021.

“I wasn’t really worried about (the bonus),’’ said Hunter, who said new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah reached out to him right after he was hired in January and new head coach Kevin O’Connell reached out right after his February hiring. “My biggest thing was getting through my rehab and coming back playing football.’’

Hunter said he let his agent, Zeke Sandhu, take care of discussions about the bonus. And Hunter, whose contract runs through 2023, plans to do the same regarding extension talks.

For now, Hunter’s role will change in new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell’s 3-4 scheme. After being a defensive end in the 4-3, he said he’ll play both defensive end and outside linebacker but will stand up much more than before.

“I used to stand up when I first got here (in 2015),’’ said Hunter, who noted that the Vikings played some 3-4 alignments in Week 2 last year at Arizona. “So I know how to do that. Basically, just integrating my rush angles and my eyes and all that stuff.”

Hunter figures to be more of an outside linebacker since, when he attends position meetings, he goes to one for outside linebackers. He joins his buddy Smith in those meetings, where he said their close relationship results in a good vibe.

“Everybody has a smile on their face every time they come in,’’ Hunter said.

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