Connect with us

News

Mets legend Mike Piazza wants you to buy his vodka…because it’s Italian – The Denver Post

Avatar Of Rajesh Khanna

Published

on

Mets Legend Mike Piazza Wants You To Buy His Vodka…Because It'S Italian – The Denver Post
google news

“We have to start in Italian because it’s Italian vodka.”

Mike Piazza expressed his gratitude in Italian, unprompted, tossing out a four-time “grazie a tutti” at a Friday night event promoting True Vodka, his latest business venture.

“The Italian side is something we’re very proud of,” said Piazza, who recently bought an Italian soccer team only to plunge it into bankruptcy.

True Vodka, according to their own marketing material, is for the rich. They identified their target demographic as people between the ages of 30 and 50 with household incomes ranging from $125,000 to $350,000, living in “ambitious urban locations and neighborhoods.” As one of the faces of the Mets, a team that has always represented the city’s working class, Piazza delivers a message that seems much more aligned with the yuppie Yankees.

But, let’s not forget, True Vodka is extremely Italian. It’s not something that Pennsylvania native Piazza takes lightly. When asked how important it was to be involved in a pursuit with such strong Italian roots, he was ready.

“It’s an honor, no doubt,” Piazza said, admitting he was skeptical of the idea at first. “Then I tasted it and researched the history of spirits. Obviously, in northern Italy there is a tradition of fine spirits. Grappa, moscato, other products made there.

Yes, every syllable of grappa and moscato came out too Italian.

“Look, I mean everyone knows about Italian cars, Italian suits, Italian wine, Italian food, everything,” Piazza said. “We feel they put the same passion, emotion and quality into the vodka. I think it shows.

What showed Friday night, when Piazza was selling vodka from its namesake Piazza 31 Club at Citi Field, with the full blessing of the Mets, is that this business is mostly a vibe and not a whole lot of business acumen. In addition to Piazza’s past history of, in his own words, ‘dissolving’ a beloved Italian soccer institution, he also recently lent his support to a California gubernatorial candidate who had already accepted defeat. and blamed voter fraud for the loss before the election was over. .

Everything about the True Vodka experience smacks of Tom Haverford, the “Parks and Recreation” character who tossed around big idea after big idea with no plan or knowledge of how to follow them. Piazza had Vinny Cotona sitting next to him on Friday, a very well-dressed, tanned man who spearheaded this “family project.” It is unclear whether Cotona and Piazza are actually related or are simply a family in the Italian sense.

Piazza and Cotona may want a younger family member to take over the company’s online presence. True Vodka highlighted, very vaguely, the concept of social media as one of their main strategies for building the brand. On the company’s website, clicking the Twitter icon at the bottom of their “About” page links to an account that does not exist. As the Hall of Fame receiver touted the momentum the company was building, his Instagram page notes that True Vodka can be ordered through something called the GrapeStars app.

GrapeStars appears to be a service that allows celebrities ranging from Dan Marino to Christie Brinkley to offer their own alcohol. It also does not appear to be available in the Apple App Store. GrapeStars has a website, but typing its name in the App Store returns a bold “No results”.

If Piazza has anything, it has its quirky attachment to the old country and the Mets. Real vodka is apparently distilled seven times in Friuli, Italy, and made from Tuscan spring water, which may explain why he thinks it’s not for low-income families and their palates. unsophisticated. Still, the 427 homer is unquestionably a Mets legend, and the team is welcoming him back for Alumni Day on Aug. 27.

“I was at the gym this morning and my daughter was like, ‘Daddy, you better stretch.’ I realized I wasn’t very flexible,” Piazza said. “It’s just one game. I’ll probably be in the tub afterwards because I’ll be in real pain.

Between finding new ways to invest the millions he’s earned playing baseball and planning events where he mostly wants to show off his Italian accent, Piazza has apparently found time to watch the Mets this year.

“It’s a very good baseball club and they do a lot of things right,” he said. “But, look, the playoffs are another season, and it’s tough. What you’re doing is trying to build momentum through the end of the year.

Only time will tell if True Vodka’s momentum will continue through the end of the year as well. Otherwise, he may have to close a second Italian company.

()

denverpost sports

google news
Advertisement

News

Dave Hyde: Hallelujah, Miami Dolphins show in 21-19 win over Bills they’re a contender

Avatar Of Rajesh Khanna

Published

on

Dave Hyde: Hallelujah, Miami Dolphins Show In 21-19 Win Over Bills They’re A Contender
google news

“Can I get an, ‘Amen?’ “

Christian Wilkins was preaching late Sunday afternoon, brothers and sisters, but before he talked about this nastiest Miami Dolphins win, before he addressed the grittiest little goal-line stand or the glory of this 3-0 start, he asked something himself.

“Come on, can I get an, ‘Amen!’” the Dolphins defensive tackle asked again.

“Amen!” the assembled media said.

“Thank you,” Wilkins said.

Sunday’s 21-19 win over Buffalo, where the Dolphins practiced what they preached, probably deserves something more, too. Hallelujah? Lord have mercy?

For the first time in years — or decades depending how you frame — the Dolphins won the kind of game in the kind of scheduling stretch that says they belong in the conversation of contenders. That’s it. That’s the hallelujah moment.

They’ve now beaten New England, Baltimore and top-of-the-heap Buffalo in their first three games, and that’s as good a line-up as any team has put down thus far. They weren’t electric Sunday. They were just good enough against their most important measuring stick right now.

Buffalo had drives longer than some television mini-series. Fourteen plays. Twenty plays. And then the most important of all, a 17-play series late in the fourth quarter, where they had first-and-goal at the Miami 2-yard line and trailing 21-17.

“We made four plays,”’ Wilkins said.

Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen then got the ball again with 1:33 left and just needing a field goal thanks to a Dolphins punt that ricocheted off a Dolphins player into a safety. Most teams don’t survive Allen getting two cracks like that. Defensive coordinator Josh Boyer’s defense did.

“It was exhilarating, man,” safety Jevon Holland said.

So something has changed. This defense has grown up from the team that got dragged around the field at the end of last season in Tennessee. This team has changed, too, after losing seven straight games to Buffalo.

“It was special for everyone involved in that regard, as special as a Week 3 regular-season game can be,” first-year coach Mike McDaniel said. “I will say that much, but we know that we’re going to see them again. If they at all took us lightly at all, I promise you they won’t again, so we’re going to get their best shot. That’s a really, really, really good football team.”

Don’t kid yourself. Buffalo put up winning numbers Sunday: 90 plays to the Dolphins’ 39 plays; 497 total yards to the Dolphins’ 212 yards; 40 minutes and 40 seconds time of possession to the Dolphins’ 19:20. You’d take those numbers every Sunday and win most every game.

The Dolphins won Sunday. They made just enough big plays to take the day. Holland blitzing Allen into a fumble and Melvin Ingram recovering at the Buffalo 6-yard line to set up a touchdown? Tua Tagovailoa returning from injury for a 45-yard throw to Jaylen Waddle on third-and-22 to set up another touchdown?

“I was wishing and hoping I was open,” Waddle said.

Players were dropping especially on the Buffalo side, mostly from the heat. Buffalo lost 13 players from the start of the game, reinforcing that a Dolphins home game in September is the biggest home-field advantage in sports. Buffalo already had their entire secondary out with injuries, too.

The Dolphins lost players, too, and the day turned nasty as it went on. Allen was flagged for a personal foul late in the game. What happened?

“Just football stuff,” he said.

That was the entire day. Just football stuff. Allen is a beast, passing for 400 yards, running for 46 more and getting two chances in the final minutes to win the game — and not winning. There’s little doubt he’ll be waiting at the end of October when the Dolphins go to Orchard Park. And that’s good. It means this rivalry can mean something again.

“This is one game,” Allen said. “We’ll learn from this one tomorrow, take it on the chin and again prepare for next week.”

The Dolphins will learn, too. They’re believers. But then most Dolphins teams have been believers over the last couple of decades until results show them otherwise. This start suggests something different is happening.

They beat heavyweight Buffalo.

“A good win,” Tagovailoa said.

They’re 3-0.

“Three-and-oh is not our goal,” Wilkins said.

They’re first place in the AFC East.

“You don’t want to do yourself a disservice and fall short of your potential,” McDaniel said.

Yes, it’s September and there’s a long way to go. But when’s the last time you could say the Dolphins had to be mentioned among the contenders for anything but the No. 1 pick in the draft? When’s the last year you looked ahead at the good possibilities?

Can I get an, “Amen?”

“AMEN!”

Thank you.

()

google news
Continue Reading

News

NFLPA investigating Dolphins’ handling of Tagovailoa’s return vs. Bills; Tua says it was back injury

Avatar Of Rajesh Khanna

Published

on

Nflpa Investigating Dolphins’ Handling Of Tagovailoa’s Return Vs. Bills; Tua Says It Was Back Injury
google news

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa momentarily left the team’s 21-19 win over the Buffalo Bills late in the first half on Sunday before returning for the second half, and now the NFL Players Association is reportedly investigating if the team properly handled a concussion check.

The NFLPA initiated the investigation shortly after the Dolphins’ thriller against the Bills at Hard Rock Stadium went final, according to NFL Network.

The Dolphins declined to comment, but Tagovailoa and coach Mike McDaniel, after the game, said it was actually a back injury that caused the third-year signal-caller to miss the end of the first half. The team initially called it a head injury.

Tagovailoa was pushed by Bills linebacker Matt Milano after a pass he completed on the final play before the first half’s two-minute warning. Milano was flagged for roughing the passer.

The back of Tagovailoa’s head banged against the ground in a whiplash effect. Appearing woozy after getting up, Tagovailoa was walked off the field and into the locker room, under his own power, with trainers alongside him.

“I’m feeling good,” Tagovaila said. “Feels a lot better after a win.”

Tagovailoa said he got his legs stuck under someone on an earlier quarterback sneak and, amid the pushing, he felt his back was hyperextended. He said he stumbled after the Milano hit because his back locked up on him as he was getting up.

Said McDaniel: “When he hit his head on the ground, I assumed it was a head injury, but his legs got wobbly because his lower back was completely loose and, as he described it, he said his lower back was like Gumby or something.”

Tagovailoa added he did have to pass concussion protocol before he came out to the field for the second half. Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater entered for Miami’s starting signal-caller to finish off the final series of the first half.

Tagovailoa’s best throw in his return was a 45-yard connection to Jaylen Waddle deep over the middle on third-and-22 that led to the go-ahead Chase Edmonds touchdown run.

“They ran quarters coverage, and they played really deep, so I tried to hold the field safety to Tyreek’s side,” said Tagovailoa, who finished 13 of 18 for 186 yards and a touchdown pass to River Cracraft, “and then I came back to Waddle, trusting that Waddle would beat his guys, which he did.

“It was uncomfortable going in. I guess you could say it was the adrenaline that was keeping me going with the throwing.”

Added McDaniel: “That’s a big play that I think Tua will always remember, that a lot of his teammates will because he was battling through, and that’s really hard.”

It’s the third consecutive time Tagovailoa has gotten hurt in a game against the Bills. In last year’s Week 2 meeting in Miami Gardens, an A.J. Epenesa hit sidelined Tagovailoa with fractured ribs and put him on short-term injured reserve to miss the ensuing three weeks. In the 2021 Oct. 31 game in Orchard Park, Tagovailoa finished the game but came away with a finger injury on his throwing hand that cost him the next one and a half games.

Tagovailoa’s availability will be a hot topic throughout the short week before a Thursday night game at the Cincinnati Bengals.

Armstead, Howard play

The Dolphins had left tackle Terron Armstead and cornerback Xavien Howard, who have six Pro Bowls between them, start in Sunday’s game after both entered questionable.

Meanwhile, the already-ailing Bills added safety Jordan Poyer to their inactives. Buffalo’s entire starting secondary of Poyer, fellow Pro Bowl safety Micah Hyde and cornerbacks Tre’Davious White (reserve/PUP) and Dane Jackson were out against the Dolphins.

The Bills had rookie cornerbacks Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam and backup safeties Jaquan Johnson and Damar Hamlin start.

Armstead played and made it through Sunday, holding up against All-Pro Bills edge rusher Von Miller despite missing the week of practice nursing a toe injury.

Howard, who was limited with a groin injury at Thursday and Friday practices after missing Wednesday’s session, largely drew the assignment of limiting Buffalo star receiver Stefon Diggs. Howard had six tackles and two pass deflections. Diggs finished with seven receptions for 74 yards.

Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. (ribs) was available for Miami after going in questionable, but he didn’t record a catch. The other Dolphin that entered questionable, defensive tackle Raekwon Davis (knee), was out Sunday. Miami started with a three-man defensive front that included Christian Wilkins, Zach Sieler and Emmanuel Ogbah. Cornerback Kader Kohou also got a start along with Nik Needham in the nickel formation.

Miami already had tight ends Hunter Long (ankle) and Cethan Carter (concussion protocol) listed as out entering Sunday.

Other Dolphins inactives were running back Myles Gaskin, quarterback Skylar Thompson and wide receiver Erik Ezukanma. The rookie signal-caller and wideout are healthy scratches for the third time in three weeks.

The Bils also had defensive tackles Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips and center Mitch Morse among inactives. Wide receiver Gabe Davis and tight end Dawson Knox, who entered questionable, played.

Little injured; players deal with heat

Greg Little, who has been playing right tackle for the injured Austin Jackson, twice made exits with a finger injury but returned both times.

Little first came off the field late in the first half, and Larnel Coleman entered for him at right tackle. Little tried to return early in the second half, but quickly exited again. That time, right guard Robert Hunt slid out to right tackle, with Robert Jones inserted at guard until Little went back in again.

A number of players were affected by the South Florida heat and humidity, especially in the second half, as the official game-day weather was 89 degrees with 63 percent humidity.

Howard was seen running into the locker room in the third quarter, dealing with cramps. Diggs, Bills tight end Dawson Knox and wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie were also dealing with heat issues in the second half.

Buffalo right tackle Spencer Brown was out due to heat illness as the Bills were already dealing with Morse, their starting center, out. His backup, Greg Van Roten, exited at one point, and right guard Ryan Bates left to be evaluated for a head injury in the third quarter.

Dolphins linebacker Elandon Roberts suffered a quadriceps injury. Bills wide receiver Jake Kumerow exited Sunday’s game with an ankle injury.

()

google news
Continue Reading

News

With the Chicago Bears passing game malfunctioning, Roquan Smith and the defense take things into their own hands

Avatar Of Rajesh Khanna

Published

on

With The Chicago Bears Passing Game Malfunctioning, Roquan Smith And The Defense Take Things Into Their Own Hands
google news

An argument can be made that the most impressive throw by a Chicago Bears player Sunday came with 1 minute, 5 seconds remaining, a 40-yard bomb launched near Soldier Field’s south end zone.

The throw came from a linebacker — why not? — during a stoppage of play immediately after the game’s biggest moment.

With his adrenaline pumping after a clutch interception, Roquan Smith wound up and heaved the football deep into the seats, aware that his Bears were moments away from defeating the Houston Texans 23-20 on a walk-off, chip-shot field goal.

“I tried to stop him,” safety Eddie Jackson said. “That’s a game-winning pick. You’ve got to keep that!”

Smith, though, didn’t need the football as much as he needed an emotional release. So he let it fly.

“To all my supporters,” he said with a big smile. “I threw that to all of them. And (I was) saying ‘F you’ to all that don’t.”

Yes, Chicago, your majorly flawed but still feisty Bears are 2-1, outlasting the winless Texans in such a Bears-like way, with Smith and the defense nudging the struggling offense to the side and offering a “We’ve got this” reprieve in the fourth quarter.

The Bears’ game-winning “drive”: four plays, zero yards.

It was basically a three-snap sideways shuffle to set up Cairo Santos’ game-winning 30-yard kick as time expired. That came thanks to Smith’s interception of Davis Mills and an 18-yard return.

And Smith’s third-down pick came in part because defensive tackle Angelo Blackson did his job up front, getting his right hand on Mills’ pass to Rex Burkhead and allowing Smith to snatch the fluttering ball at the Texans 30.

“If you can’t get to the quarterback, get your hands up,” Blackson said. “It was an opportune time. Just perfect, man.”

Added Smith: If I had had a little more juice in me, I could have cribbed it. But I was just thankful to be able to get it and then let the fans enjoy the ball.”

We could talk until we’re blue in the face about how little meaning Sunday’s victory carries for the Bears’ big-picture aspirations. This was an ordinary home win over a bottom-tier opponent and loaded with troubling sloppiness, particularly as it relates to the feeble passing attack and ongoing struggles of second-year quarterback Justin Fields.

Fields threw two more interceptions and, for the third consecutive game, failed to reach 10 completions or 125 passing yards.

“I played like trash,” Fields said. “I played terrible.”

But on defense the Bears are convinced they are making valuable strides and establishing an identity as a unit capable of seizing big moments and winning games.

Smith’s pick was the Bears’ second takeaway, the other coming in the first half when Jackson snagged a Mills pass to Brandin Cooks in the end zone. That throw was deflected by cornerback Kindle Vildor and corralled by Jackson near the end line.

“It’s just flying around,” Jackson said. “That’s what happens. When you hustle and play with intensity, good things start to happen.”

Just as Smith’s interception set up the Bears for free points, Jackson’s thwarted a prime Texans scoring opportunity on a drive that started inside Bears territory after Fields’ first interception.

Equally significant, after Fields threw his second pick on the first play of the fourth quarter to set up the Texans inside the Bears 40 in a tie game, the defense quickly extinguished that threat.

Defensive tackle Justin Jones came up with an 8-yard sack of Mills on second down. Linebacker Nick Morrow followed by burying Pharaoh Brown for a loss of 5 on a tight end screen on the next snap.

The Texans punted.

“That was a huge moment,” Smith said. “We preach about that, about being able to bow our necks and earn our checks.”

Added Jones: “We’re jelling together right now, becoming one close-knit unit. We’re well on our way to playing in midseason form.”

Smith’s play was nothing short of energizing. After missing practice the entire week with a hip injury, he recorded a game-high 16 tackles, including two for a loss.

“I was focused all week on giving myself a shot to play in this game,” he said. “I still wasn’t all the way there. But, hey, halfway (there) is better than no way.”

Hard to argue.

After Smith’s play in a 27-10 Week 2 loss to the Green Bay Packers was justifiably scrutinized — even he acknowledged it was subpar — the veteran linebacker arose Sunday and spearheaded a strong defensive effort.

Late in the third quarter, on third-and-1 from the Bears 2, Smith shot into the Texans backfield to bury running back Dameon Pierce for a 3-yard loss. That was a pivotal stop. The Texans settled for a tying field goal instead of surging ahead.

Naturally, as Smith works toward earning his next contract and regroups after his tension-filled training camp “hold-in,” all of his contributions this season will be assessed in part with an eye on how they might affect his future and his bid to be paid as one of the league’s best defenders.

Sunday’s game-winning interception was the kind of game-changing contribution many want to see more consistently as Smith tries to establish himself as an elite linebacker.

“I just try to play the best ball that I can play,” Smith said. “That’s my goal each and every week. And if I make big plays, I make them. But I’m not going out there wishing for things. I play my game and if good things happen, they happen.”

More importantly, as the Bears continue working through a patience-testing troubleshooting process to awaken their passing offense, they are finding other ways to succeed and leaning on areas of strength. On Sunday, that meant a reliance on a bruising running attack led by Khalil Herbert, who stepped up in a big way after David Montgomery left the game with a right knee/ankle injury.

Herbert turned 20 carries into 157 yards and two touchdowns. Overall, the Bears churned out 281 rushing yards, their highest single-game total since 1984.

Then late in the game, the Bears again turned to their defense, relying on the unit’s best player to come through in a major way. Smith responded with that pick and his celebratory bomb into the seats.

“That was pretty sweet,” he said. “I wish I could have thrown it out of the stadium.”

It was an impressive toss nonetheless — and a fitting punctuation on the afternoon.

()

google news
Continue Reading

News

Khalil Herbert — with David Montgomery injured and Justin Fields playing like self-proclaimed ‘trash’ — steps up big for Chicago Bears

Avatar Of Rajesh Khanna

Published

on

Khalil Herbert — With David Montgomery Injured And Justin Fields Playing Like Self-Proclaimed ‘Trash’ — Steps Up Big For Chicago Bears
google news

Khalil Herbert stood at his Soldier Field locker about a half an hour after the Chicago Bears squeaked out a 23-20 win over the Houston Texans and gave a one-word answer for how he felt.

“Sore,” he said with a smile.

But sore in the best way.

The second-year Bears running back rushed for a career-high 157 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries as the Bears piled up 281 yards on the ground. It was the Bears’ best rushing performance since 1984, according to the team, and a much-needed lift for an offense as the passing game continues to struggle under quarterback Justin Fields.

Herbert spent the first two games of the season as the second option to running back David Montgomery and totaled 13 carries for 83 yards. But on the Bears’ second drive, Montgomery’s right leg was caught awkwardly under a Texans defender, and he was out the remainder of the game with what the Bears announced as knee and ankle injuries.

Herbert didn’t miss a beat.

On the next play, Herbert rushed for eight yards. Two plays later, he broke for 11 yards. And one play after that, he scored on an 11-yard touchdown run, breaking to the left sideline before popping back in through a hole to speed to the end zone for a 10-0 Bears lead in the first quarter.

“What he did is special,” Bears right guard Lucas Patrick said. “Any back to run for that is special, but then to step up when one of our offensive leaders goes down, and to do that and say, ‘Don’t worry, I got us,’ it invigorates all of us. It inspires all of us to keep going, keep pushing. Even at the end, for him to get that huge run at the end, it’s like, ‘We’re going to get this.’”

Bears coach Matt Eberflus said the news is positive on Montgomery, whom he said is “day to day.” Herbert and Fields both said they talked to or texted with Montgomery, and the running back was doing well.

Herbert, who was a 2021 sixth-round pick out of Virginia Tech, filled in for Montgomery over a four-game stretch last year and had 78 carries for 344 yards. So he has experience stepping up when needed.

“It’s really just making the most of my opportunities,” Herbert said. “I come in with that mindset every week, whether it’s one carry, 20 carries. Just try to make the most of that and make a play with what I get.”

On Sunday, Herbert’s performance included a 52-yard run to open the Bears’ first drive of the third quarter. Herbert credited the offensive line and fullback Khari Blasingame for opening a massive hole he darted through before fighting off cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. to get to the Texans’ 23-yard line.

“We were looking at the pictures on the sidelines — we could have drove a bus through there,” Herbert said. “It was a really big hole. It was my job to make the safety miss and I was able to do that.”

Four plays later, the Bears went ahead 20-17 on Herbert’s one-yard touchdown run, and the Bears went on to win on Cairo Santos’ 30-yard field goal as time expired.

Fields said Herbert’s performance wasn’t a surprise to his teammates, who know the work he puts in and the type of player he can be.

Fields contributed to the Bears’ big day on the ground with eight carries for 47 yards. Equanimeous St. Brown had two carries for 43 yards and rookie Trestan Ebner added seven carries for 23 yards. Montgomery had three carries for 11 yards before leaving.

The run game, two timely interceptions from the Bears defense and Santos’ three field goals helped the Bears keep pace with the Texans despite Fields completing just 8 of 17 passes for 106 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He was sacked five times for a loss of 24 yards. It was a poor follow-up to a week in which Bears coaches faced many questions about their lack of production in the passing game.

“Straight up I just played like — I want to say the A word, but I’m not going to do that,” Fields said. “But I just played like trash. I played terrible and really just got to be better.”

The development of Fields is widely considered Objective A in this season of reconstruction under new general manager Ryan Poles. So the Week 3 performance was obviously disappointing, with Fields pointing to the two interceptions to Texans safety Jalen Pitre as things that bothered him most.

But the effectiveness of Herbert and the run game — and the win — should help soften the edge as Fields addresses his mistakes this week in practice.

“When you’re working with a young quarterback in a new offense, the people around him have to be solid and have to be good,” Eberflus said. “The protection has to be good, the run game has to be good, the defense has to be really good, and special teams we’ve got to be awesome. You support that quarterback while he’s growing and while he’s going through this. There’s going to be good, and there’s going to be things he has to improve on. But that’s the whole football team.”

Herbert was happy to do his part.

“I told 32 (Montgomery) that was for him today,” Herbert said. “We held it down and did good today.”

()

google news
Continue Reading

News

Playing ‘Lamar football,’ Jackson dazzles again, defense steps up late to lead Ravens over Patriots, 37-26

Avatar Of Rajesh Khanna

Published

on

Playing ‘Lamar Football,’ Jackson Dazzles Again, Defense Steps Up Late To Lead Ravens Over Patriots, 37-26
google news

John Harbaugh has lived a very specific football life enough times by now to know what is possible with The Lamar Jackson Experience. Before every game, there are critics. During the game, there are generational performances, things that only the Ravens’ star quarterback can do. After the game, there are questions about the dissonance between what is said and what is seen.

“Every time we have a press conference, I basically say the same thing because it’s true every week,” the Ravens’ coach said after Jackson’s historic afternoon had lifted their team to a 37-26 win Sunday over the New England Patriots. “Yeah, if there’s people out there that doubt that at this point in time, I don’t know what to say to them. I don’t think we can help them at this point.”

Harbaugh did not throw up his hands because, well, he’s the one with Jackson, who accounted for five touchdowns. The Patriots (1-2) on Sunday had more yards, better injury luck, home-field advantage at Gillette Stadium, a game plan crafted by Hall of Fame coach Bill Belichick. Still they lost.

There was only so much they could do to stop what Jackson later called “Lamar football,” his unique brand of dual-threat excellence, the kind that rewrites history as it chugs along. In finishing 18-for-29 for 218 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, along with 11 carries for a game-high 107 yards and a score, Jackson became the first player in NFL history to record back-to-back games with at least three touchdown passes and 100 rushing yards, according to Elias Sports.

A week earlier, a fourth-quarter collapse in Baltimore had spoiled Jackson’s superlative afternoon in a last-minute loss to the Miami Dolphins. On Sunday, against a team they’d never defeated in a regular-season road game, the Ravens (2-1) got Jackson’s near-expected excellence on offense and some late-arriving help on defense. Only then, after eight total touchdowns and six total turnovers, was order imposed on a game that had teetered wildly for much of the afternoon.

“We were locked in on the Patriots,” Jackson said. “We didn’t dwell on that loss [to Miami]. Probably Monday, we dwelled on it. Tuesday, we dwelled on it. After that, it was on to the Patriots. I feel like we showed that today.”

In some ways, it was vintage Jackson. He followed his NFL record-breaking 11th career 100-yard game with his 12th. He had a 38-yard keeper in the third quarter on a touchdown drive that helped the Ravens start to separate, then put the game away for good with a 9-yard score with just over three minutes remaining.

There were also flashes of a Jackson rarely glimpsed before this season, a quarterback happily trusting of even covered receivers. At times, a defender with his head turned to the play was all the green light Jackson needed.

On his 16-yard touchdown pass to Mark Andrews in the second quarter, he asked his All-Pro tight end to win a jump ball over safety Devin McCourty. On his 4-yard touchdown pass to Devin Duvernay that extended the Ravens’ third-quarter lead to 28-20, Jackson trusted the emerging wide receiver to get both feet in in the corner of the end zone. On his 13-yard pass that Rashod Bateman turned into a 35-yard catch-and-run on the Ravens’ put-away drive, Jackson gave the wide receiver who’d just fumbled in the open field the chance to do something in space.

Andrews did, Duvernay did and Bateman did.

“He’s just elite, man,” Andrews (eight catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns) said of Jackson. “Just everything that he does for this program, the way he plays on and off the field, he’s in an elite division, for sure.”

Said cornerback Marlon Humphrey: “I’m going to enjoy watching him. Hopefully, we’re wearing the same jersey forever. What the guy does day in and day out, I think nobody can duplicate it in the league.”

The win was all the more remarkable because of whom the Ravens had lost along the way to the finish line. First it was Patrick Mekari (sprained ankle), the Ravens’ second starting left tackle to leave a game in the first three weeks. Then it was Justin Houston (strained groin), one of just two Ravens outside linebackers on the team’s 53-man roster. Finally it was defensive tackle Michael Pierce, who was carted off with an arm injury; his long-term prognosis is unknown.

With Mekari out, the Ravens turned to rookie Daniel Faalele, who played exclusively on the right side at Minnesota. After some early struggles in pass protection — Jackson was sacked four times, all in the first half — Faalele and the line stabilized, paving the way for a breakthrough running performance.

Over the first two weeks, the Ravens’ renowned ground game had amassed just 218 yards on 46 carries, much of them coming on Jackson’s 75-yard sprint against Miami. On Sunday, bolstered by the emergence of running back Justice Hill (six carries for 60 yards) and the season debut of running back J.K. Dobbins (seven carries for 23 yards), they had 26 carries for 188 yards (7.2 per carry).

“Everybody was locked in,” Jackson said. “They were determined as well. … Shoutout to my linemen.”

With the Ravens’ outside pass rush minimized and their defensive line pushed around by New England’s offensive line (145 yards rushing), the secondary saved its best for last. It wasn’t a high bar to clear, not after Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa passed for 469 yards and six touchdowns in the Ravens’ home opener, not after New England’s Mac Jones went 10-for-13 for 142 yards in the first half despite missing top wide receiver Jakobi Meyers.

After the Patriots opened the second half with a go-ahead touchdown run, the Ravens forced a turnover or punt on five of New England’s final six possessions. Inside linebacker Josh Bynes’ interception helped set up the Ravens for a 31-20 lead late in the third quarter. Humphrey’s red-zone interception and rookie safety Kyle Hamilton’s come-from-behind punch-out preserved the Ravens’ five-point margin in the fourth quarter. And cornerback Marcus Peters’ interception — his second turnover in his second game back, having already fallen on Hamilton’s forced fumble — sent Jackson out onto the field in victory formation.

“Every game stands on its own two feet,” said Harbaugh, who later unfurled a paper stashed away in his back pocket and read from it. “‘There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss contains its own seed, its lesson on how to improve your performance next time.’ That’s Malcolm X. That’s the lesson to me.”

The Ravens will have to be better in Week 4, when they welcome the 2-1 Buffalo Bills, a Super Bowl favorite, to Baltimore. Jones (321 passing yards) was the third quarterback in as many games to pass for at least 300 yards against the defense, and the Patriots were the third rushing offense to average at least 4.8 yards per carry, a near-unimaginable figure for a defense that had boasted of its line-of-scrimmage dominance.

Some injury luck would help. So would the arrival of free-agent edge rusher Jason Pierre Paul, whose one-year deal is expected to be finalized soon. Another week of self-study for an inconsistent defense couldn’t hurt.

But as long as the Ravens have their quarterback, they will take their chances. There’s only one team in the NFL that can play “Lamar football.” There’s only one player who makes it possible.

“I’m amazed every time,” defensive lineman Calais Campbell said. “It’s a front-row seat. You’re watching greatness. That guy is very special. He’s fun to watch. I’m glad I don’t have to play against him.”

Week 4

[email protected]

Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

()

google news
Continue Reading

News

Despite just three catches for 14 yards, Justin Jefferson’s presence was felt in win over Detroit

Avatar Of Rajesh Khanna

Published

on

Despite Just Three Catches For 14 Yards, Justin Jefferson’s Presence Was Felt In Win Over Detroit
google news

Late in the Vikings’ 28-24 victory over Detroit on Sunday, head coach Kevin O’Connell and star wide receiver Justin Jefferson had a talk on the sidelines. It had been a difficult game for Jefferson, and would remain so.

But don’t believe the stats, O’Connell said after the Vikings rallied to win on Kirk Cousins’ 28-yard touchdown pass to K.J. Osborn with 50 seconds remaining at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“Justin had a huge impact on this game, it just didn’t show up on the stat sheet,” O’Connell said.

The Lions crowded, shoved and grabbed Jefferson — who had 196 catches for 3,016 yards and 17 touchdowns in his first two seasons — all day. He finished with three catches for a career-low 14 yards. And he was bummed.

“It’s frustrating, for sure,” he said afterward. “But I asked for it.”

Indeed. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound receiver out of LSU will be the focus of most, if not all opposing defenses for the rest of the season. He’s just that good. With Jefferson taken out of the offense, Adam Thielen (six catches, 61 yards and a touchdown) and Osborn (5-73-1) got the lion’s share of Cousins’ targets, which was enough to beat the Lions on Sunday.

Still, that’s not good enough, O’Connell said.

Jefferson’s presence may dictate the way a defense attacks Minnesota, and lead to success for teammates, but the Vikings need Jefferson doing what he does. In a season-opening victory over Green Bay, he caught nine passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns, averaging more than 20 yards a catch.

You don’t waste that as a decoy.

“I’ve got to do a better job getting Justin aspects of lining up in different spots and personnel groupings — whatever I need to do to help,” O’Connell said. “Because he’s an ultra-competitor, and we’ll get him going.”

“I have a lot of respect,” the coach added, “for how Justin handled today.”

It wasn’t easy.

“It’s definitely difficult to keep my cool during that moment,” Jefferson said. “Of course I want the ball. Of course I want to be a playmaker, do stuff for my team. But when that stuff comes, I can’t really do too much about it. I mean, just listening to the play calls, doing what I’m told, and K.J. and Adam getting wide open because they’re getting those one-on-one coverages.

“So it’s definitely good to see them winning their battles, and we’re going to keep doing this throughout the season.”

Osborn’s numbers were season-highs, and he broke free for a potential touchdown in the first half only to be overthrown by Cousins, who heaved his pass just before being leveled by a Lions defender. He has caught more than five passes just twice in a game in three pro seasons, the last time six receptions — including the winning touchdown — in a 34-27 victory at Carolina on Oct. 17, 2021.

Being targeted eight times on Sunday, he said, “felt amazing, man.”

“I read a book called ‘Chop Wood, Carry Water,’ ” Osborn added. Each play, keep chopping, keep chopping, play the next play and the ups and downs, keep fighting. I came out on top, we came out on top, and it feels good.”

Jefferson was one of the first players to greet Osborn after his touchdown.

“All of us are playmakers. All of us have that talent to really win in this league,” Jefferson said. “So, when I seen him open, it was a no-brainer. I expected that, and I’m definitely happy for him.”

google news
Continue Reading

Trending