Tag Archive | "New England Patriots"

Who's the "Face" of the NFL Lockout?

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Who’s the “Face” of the NFL Lockout?

Posted on 06 April 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Remember when Jerry Jones was a new and maverick owner, taken to task by the NFL for his creative approach to maximizing team revenues outside of the league’s oppressive and collective marketing practices? In a “Rip Van Winkle” kind of way it feels like I’ve suddenly woke up to find Jones’ maverick model now par for the NFL course, but also to find Jones himself looked to as part of the league’s “old guard”. As the league’s owners have elected to opt out of the previous collective bargaining agreement citing increased expenses associated with stadiums etc. it’s tough not to turn a suspicious eye toward Jones and the billion dollar monument to his ego recently constructed in Dallas.

Indeed, Jones along with Bob Kraft in New England and the joint venture between the Jets and Giants in New York have wasted no opportunity to remind us of the great expenses incurred by each of those teams in building their new stadiums. Now it seems that they are leading the charge to recoup some of the money they so generously fronted, and are attempting to do it at the players’ expense. This however seems to be an argument almost exclusive to the aforementioned teams, and maybe a handful of others.

 

It’s probably fair to guess that for every owner who has reached deep and spared no expense in building facilities, there are probably two more enjoying cushy downtown real estate along with naming rights to their stadiums under farcical leasing terms subsidized largely by taxpayers. Stadium expenses for those teams, if anything, likely amount to the payback of loans taken out against property largely gifted to the teams courtesy of their cities. How do we quantify their increased expenses for those teams in the face of exponential growth to the league’s revenue pool in an otherwise stagnant economy?

 

Maybe we simply concede that any time the teams who are already substantially out earning everyone else begin clamoring for ways to increase everyone’s margins and thereby close the gap between the league’s best and worst earning franchises, representatives of the latter would quite predictably jump aboard.

 

What’s even more fun to speculate about is how much of a role Jones (and his new building) has in the recently unearthed – and still unfolding – drama surrounding the Fiesta Bowl and the misappropriation of funds scandal. It should have been an easy guess that once that building was constructed, it would somehow find its way into the BCS picture. The drama now provided courtesy of the Fiesta Bowl investigation would seem to open the door for just such a happenstance.

 

As cynical sports fans, jaded by so many years of corruption and mismanagement in seemingly all sports, we might guess that the reason folks have found inequities around the Fiesta Bowl is simply because they bothered to look; and that if they bothered to look at the rest, they’d likely find a similar brand of misappropriation. For that matter, how many “fun” and “creative” bookkeeping practices would we find in the books of NFL owners if they were ever compelled to open them? Luckily for those in charge of the other BCS Bowls, Jones has only one building (and therefore one Bowl) to shop; and luckily for those in charge of the other NFL teams the maverick Jerry Jones is riding with them. They’ve seen what it’s like to oppose him too.

 

So as Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith take care of all of the dirty work in the proverbial trenches of NFL labor, and player after player, owner after owner and agent after agent offer ridiculous sound bytes and summations of the proceedings, is Jerry Jones (and a small faction of similar minded owners) the driving force behind it? Is Jones the face of the lockout? Given his notorious ego, I’m not altogether sure he’d be unhappy about being the face anything, as long as it came with exposure.

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Joe Namath

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One-hit wonders in sports

Posted on 18 February 2011 by Ryan Chell

This afternoon on…well…”The Afternoon Drive”, Rex Snider and I went over a list of our Top 5 “One-Hit Wonders” in sports. I had a list of ten…and actually more…to throw in there and I figured I might as well share it with you all.

I had a tough time putting them in order, so by all means this is no where close to any particular order. I tried my best but I figured if they’re a one-hit wonder, who cares where they’re ranked? Aren’t they all incredibly lucky?

1. Joe Namath, quarterback, New York Jets

Joe Namath

Broadway Joe. A guy we love to hate here in Baltimore. Why? Because of that lucky Super Bowl III victory, and his guarantee about it. He was the first quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in the then modern era in 1967, and just because of one guarantee over the Colts in Super Bowl III , he became the first ever media-loved quarterback and rides his way into the Hall of Fame.

But he Why is this guy in Canton? He owns a career 65.5 career passer rating, and he only threw 173 TDs to 220 INTs. After Super Bowl III, he spent nine more years in the league but only won 35 games. He took the Jets to one more repeat playoff appearance in 1969-and lost it.

Rex Snider put the 1968 New York Jets on the team on his list because as a team, the Jets only made the playoffs 6 times between 1969-1997-the year Bill Parcells took over at the helm-and began putting the pieces together.

2. 1969 New York Mets

In the movie, “Oh, God” starring George Burns and John Denver, Burns-playing the role of God, said that the last miracle he ever performed was the 1969 New York Mets.

And it continued the trend of the Baltimore losing to New York for another season.

The Mets-in only their eighth season in the league-finished with their first winning season and ultimately defeated the Orioles in five games, winning 4-1.

In fact, the biggest part of that team, Tom Seaver (25-7, 2.21 ERA, 208 K), only got there because the Mets had been that bad for that long.

That ’69 Orioles team was considered by many to be one of the best teams in baseball history, but the Mets completed the upset.

After that season though, the Mets necessarily didn’t return to the mediocrity they experienced before 1969, but they lost in 1973 in the World Series to the Oakland Athletics 4-3( on top of that they only finished 82-79 that season).

It would then take another 13 years for former Oriole Davey Johnson then brought the Miracle Mets back to the Promised Land in 1986, and the on the verge of being eliminated, something happened that gave them another World Series…

Bill Buckner

3. Buster Douglas

Buster Douglas

Buster Douglas went up against the then-undefeated Mike Tyson on February 11th, 1990 in Tokyo, Japan as the two fought for the outright Heavyweight Boxing Title of the World. Everyone expected Tyson-then at the time 37-0 with 33 knockouts-to wipe the floor with Douglas (29-4-1, 19 KO)-so much so that only one Vegas casino took odds for the fight.

And they had Douglas winning at 35-to-1 odds.

The match was designed to be a preliminary bout for Tyson before then facing off against fellow undefeated contender Evander Holyfield, who was in attendance for Tyson-Douglas to fight.

Douglas-who in the weeks leading up to the fight had lost his mother and sickness around his family, but that did not deter him in the fight. In fact, it probably motivated him. He came out aggressive in the match, and for the first time in his career, pushed Tyson to the ropes. Tyson’s own team didn’t even see it coming, as they didn’t bring along necessarily equipment to tend Tyson’s wounds between matches.

Tyson fought back and actually made Douglas hit the floor in the eighth round-ultimately reaching a count of nine before getting back up-and over the next two rounds, Douglas continued to beat down on a battered Tyson.

In the tenth round, in a famous scene, Douglas hit Tyson and sent him to the floor for the first time in Tyson’s boxing career. Tyson fumbled for his mouthpiece, and put it in with part of it hanging out of his mouth. He was in no condition to continue, and Buster Douglas was named heavyweight champion of the world.

He held the title for eight months before Holyfield finished him off in three rounds. Douglas retired after the fight.

4. David Tyree

David Tyree was sixth-round draft choice by the New York Giants in the 2003 NFL Draft out of Syracuse.

He did make the Pro Bowl in 2005 as a special teams player, but up until the 2007 season his career numbers were a whopping 54 catches, for 650 yards and 4 TDs.

But his touchdown-and maybe the greatest catch in the history of the Super Bowl-maybe even the NFL as a whole…made Tyree a legend.

David Tyree

His catch on a 3rd-and-5 on the Giants 44-yard line, with New York needing a first-down to extend the drive, was caught on his helmet with headhunter Rodney Harrison in tow.

His play kept the drive alive for the Giants, as Eli Manning eventually found Plaxico Burress for the winning touchdown, as New York upset the previously undefeated Patriots, 17-14.

Minus the fact that the Giants kept him around the following year just to repay him for his play in Super Bowl 42,  they immediately let him go after one season and that was it for Tyree.

He was with the Ravens during the 2009 season, appearing in 10 games for Baltimore but starting none.

And to think…if Mike Carey had blown the play dead, Tyree wouldn’t have made this list…and history…

5. 1980 United States hockey team

Do you believe in miracles?

Do you believe in miracles?

When most people remember this game between the Soviet Union and United States hockey teams, they think that this was the championship game. But it wasn’t. The eventual winner would be playing Finland for the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

The US squad consisted of mostly collegiate and amateur hockey players, but coach Herb Brooks and his squad fought through a match that almost didn’t happen due to the international Cold War happening between the two nations.

The Russians at the time were considered to be the best hockey team in the world.

Even the New York Times wrote:

“Unless the ice melts, or unless the United States team or another team performs a miracle, as did the American squad in 1960, the Russians are expected to easily win the Olympic gold medal for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments.”

But the United States did win. And then they beat Finland for the gold.

It made a career out of Al Michaels that’s for sure.

But they’re a one-hit wonder because the team didn’t even medal again in the Olympics until 2002.

Other considerations:

  • Brady Anderson (50 HRs in 1996 after never having more than 21 in a season, never had more than 24 after that season)
  • Brady Anderson

  • 1998 Atlanta Falcons (14-2 under Dan Reeves reaching Super Bowl XXXIII, losing to the Denver Broncos-team had only two seasons previous since 1996 with 10+ wins, never reached Super Bowl since)
  • Dirty Bird

  • 2000 Baltimore Ravens (Sorry Baltimore-had to put this one on there. Is this what the Ravens are on track for? I think the team will win another Super Bowl, but is it going to take a decade-plus in between them?)
  • Trent Dilfer

  • 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning (Won the Stanley Cup that year-a hockey team in sunny Florida? Haven’t won a playoff series since)
  • Tampa Bay Lightning

  • Don Larsen (pitched the only perfect game to occur in the World Series in Game 5 in 1956. Was the only such one in the playoffs until Roy Halladay’s no-hitter this past season versus Cincinnati. Why is that a one-hit wonder? Larsen’s career mark was 81-91 with a 3.78 ERA.
  • Don Larsen

  • Scott Mitchell (Had 32 TDs and 4,338 and a 92.3 passer rating for the Detroit Lions in 1995.  Never could repeat that success, including in Baltimore in 1999.
  • Scott Mitchell

  • Akili Smith (32 TDs, 11 INTs in only one season at Oregon, earning him the #3 pick in the draft by the Bengals. The rest is draft bust history.
    Akili Smith

  • John Paciorek (A ballplayer for the Houston Colt .45s in 1963-a late call up, he appeared in one game for Houston. On September 29th, 1963, Pacirorek went 3-for-3 at the plate hitting three singles, walking twice, and driving in three runs. He scored four times as well in the game. He never played again due to a back injury. Of the 20 major league baseball hitters with a 1.000 career batting average, he is the only one to have more than three at-bats.
  • John Paciorek

  • 1983 N.C. State basketball team (Not a bad team defeating both North Carolina-led by Michael Jordan and Ralph Sampson’s Virginia squad. But to then beat Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler’s Houston squad to win the National Championship-and on a last second broke play? And despite some success later on for the program under Jim Valvano and Herb Sendek, the Wolfpack have never been back on the national stage like they were in the late 70’s, early 80’s. Sidney Lowe-who now coaches the Wolfpack-was on this team and he could be fighting for his job down in Raleigh.

Got some more that I missed? Let I or Rex know below or on “The Afternoon Drive! 2-6PM, 410-481-1570!

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The NFL playoffs have a strange way of turning strengths into weaknesses and weaknesses into strengths.

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Perfection not a positive in the playoffs

Posted on 19 January 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

The NFL playoffs have a strange way of turning strengths into weaknesses and weaknesses into strengths.

 

The playoffs sure have a way of punishing perfection, or near perfection. I have relayed several times on air this week a conversation I had with a friend on the night before the Vikings played the Falcons in the 1998 playoffs. On that occasion, one of the sports news shows was touting Gary Anderson, who had been perfect to that point in the season, as automatic. To that, my friend opined that the 15-1 Vikings were sure to see their season end on a missed field goal. That it happened the next day, at the hands of the Falcons was still quite a surprise.

Last weekend saw Tom Brady enter the postseason on the NFL’s all-time streak of passes without an interception. An early interception set the stage for the Jets’ improbable win. Likewise, Ray Rice entered the post-season without a fumble all year. While his fumble on Saturday was hardly the pivotal moment in the Ravens’ season ending loss, it certainly contributed.

 

You could even throw in Brady’s ’07 Patriots who went unbeaten into the Super Bowl, while striking a fear in opponents that kept them reluctant to blitz. The Giants ended that run unceremoniously with constant pressure on Brady. We could also mention that last season’s Colts were perfect in the times that they were trying to win. They too failed to finish the deal.

 

If we apply that logic to the remaining match-ups, we might guess that the Jets would beat the Steelers by running right at them. While that doesn’t seem to be the textbook game plan for beating Pittsburgh, the Jets already rode that strategy to a degree of success in the regular season. Perhaps instead they’ll win by causing Ben Roethlisberger to melt down in the two-minute offense, as that seems to be the Steelers other inherent strength. If the Steelers hope to win, they might make it happen by attacking Darrelle Revis often, or by backing out of their stacked fronts and spreading the field defensively, by making the Jets run and move down the field methodically.

 

In the other match-up, the Packers might win by kicking to Devin Hester or by attacking Julius Peppers at the line of scrimmage. And the Bears’ best bet might be to stuff the box and stop the Packers improbably successful ground game, and put the game on Aaron Rodgers’ seemingly able shoulders.

 

If history has shown us anything, it may be that regular season trends are subject to change in a big way once the post-season rolls around. On the other side of the coin, the ’06 Colts found their only opportunity in the Manning era to hoist the Lombardi trophy only when their historically bad (even for Colts standards) run defense turned stout for their playoff run. Or what about the ’08 Cardinals who couldn’t seem to get out of their own way on the road in the regular season? They became road warriors in the playoffs.

 

From that perspective it may make a little more sense. That teams would try to beat the Colts by running at them was predictable, so the fact that they were ready for it should have been equally predictable. Once teams found themselves at a loss to do it however, they had no answer for Indy. Maybe the Jets strategy against the Patriots on Sunday only worked because it was so out of the realm of the typical Jets / Pats game plan. Maybe Brady struggled with the pressure in ’07 only because the copycat nature of the NFL had teams backing away from the pressure against New England from at least week 6 on. Once charged with dealing with it again, as late as in the Super Bowl, the Patriots simply weren’t ready. And perhaps teams in ’08 simply failed to take the Cardinals seriously, assuming travel alone would have taken a heavier toll on them than in did.

 

To that end, perhaps we should count ourselves lucky as fans that the Ravens with perhaps the NFL’s best ever defense in 2000, were still able to ride that defense through the post-season. To that I’ll offer this, I always found it curious that as dominant as that defense was, they never scored on their turnovers. In week 17, against the Jets, Chris McAllister had an interception return for a TD, and Jermaine Lewis returned 2 punts for TDs too. Those were (by my count) the only defensive or special teams TDs that the team scored all season. Of course once the playoffs began the defense made up for lost time, piling up TDs on their way to the title. Maybe that was their saving grace against a shift in trend.

 

This much I’d bet. These have been some of the most curious / interesting playoff games in recent memory. If you could hit the reset button and start back over from the beginning 10 times, you’d almost certainly get at least 6 different winners. As the conference title games get closer and closer, someone else’s luck (2 more in fact) is bound to change for the worst.

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Overcoming a trainwreck weekend and starting anew …..

Posted on 17 January 2011 by Rex Snider

I cannot recall the last time I greeted a Monday with such enthusiasm. Like nearly every other sane person, I usually kick and scream my way into accepting the reality of another work week.

But, today is quite different. I just want to get started – on putting this past weekend and its disastrous chain of moments and events behind me. Indeed, this is the official beginning of my NEW YEAR …..

It doesn’t mean I won’t agonize, at times, over the Ravens loss in Saturday’s divisional playoff game with the Steelers. Heck, I will never forget it. But, as Ray Lewis said “you can only get better, that’s all you can do”; so, I’m inspired not to dwell on this defeat, either.

We’re always going to complain about officiating. And, Saturday’s holding penalty that negated Lardarius Webb’s returned punt for a touchdown represents an official’s ability to impact a game with poor decisions. That said, every team suffers a fair share of questionable penalties.

The game wasn’t lost on the Webb play, nor Anquan Boldin’s dropped touchdown pass, or T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s failure to extend the Ravens final drive. All three of these plays could’ve led to a win, but they certainly don’t define the loss, itself.

Everybody knows how the game was lost – TURNOVERS.

Surrendering the ball inside your own 25 yard line, on three consecutive possessions will likely seal one’s fate, right? Well, it will at least surrender a two touchdown lead.

Good teams can and will make such mistakes. Great teams, however, usually capitalize upon such blunders. Today, that’s really the essence of how the most disappointing loss in Ravens history can be summed up. The Ravens cracked the door, and the Steelers kicked it in …..

Today is not just a new beginning for me. It also marks the first day of the next chapter for the Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots. All of these franchises can and will make changes – you can bet on that.

Here, in Baltimore, the popular consensus is Cam Cameron will be the greatest casualty of this past season’s fallout. Whether it’s the questionable play calling, sporadic offensive production or unrealized potentials, the artist of the offensive schemes is the rumored soul to be paying with his job.

However, I will offer up an additional “mitigating” reason for making a change at offensive coordinator. Perhaps, we’re confronting a potential crossroads with Joe Flacco and his command of an offense. With three seasons completely in the books, a fair argument exists with this quarterback …..

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Ravens LB Dannell Ellerbe steals former alma mater rivalry to describe Steelers-Ravens: “Good, Old-Fashioned Hate”

Posted on 14 January 2011 by Ryan Chell

The week of preparation is finally over and on Saturday, the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers will hit the field and put their long-standing AFC North and divisional rivalry to the test with a chance to advance to the conference championship on the line.

The Ravens (13-4)-entered the postseason as the five-seed in the AFC playoffs-defeated the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday 30-7 on the road in their opening wild card matchup, and now along with the Jets and Patriots facing off in the other Divisional game, the Ravens are determined to get over the hump known as the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Several Ravens players joined “The Morning Reaction” this week to discuss their eagerness to punish the hated Steelers, and making the AFC Championship by beating them would make it that much more worth it.

“I know the playoff atmosphere is going to be crazy,” linebacker Dannell Ellerbe told Drew Forrester of “The Morning Reaction” earlier this week, “because when we played Pittsburgh earlier this year it was a lot like a playoff game, and that was a regular season game.”

Ellerbe has played well in the recent weeks with the injury to linebacker Tavares Gooden, giving Ellerbe more of an opportunity to showcase his skills again to coach John Harbaugh in the attempt to get out of the dreaded “doghouse”.

Punter Sam Koch also joined Drew and Glenn Clark on Thursday and re-iterated the same point.

“We’re such a closer team this year from last,” Koch said. “And it’s just a vibe that were going to go out and we’re going to do it this year. A lot of people are excited, and we’re all ready to see where we are and where we’ll end up.”

And it would get even better for the Ravens to host the AFC Championship game should the cards play out for them on Sunday.

“It will be a lot of fun,” the Ravens punter said. “It would be even nicer if the Jets beat the Patriots.”

Both Koch and Ellerbe talked about the difficulty though of playing up in a hostile environment of Heinz Field, and with the stakes higher, it makes the challenge of having a solid game of football that much harder.

Koch and Ellerbe both challenged the Ravens fans to be present, active, and lively on Saturday on the road to make it that much harder for the Steelers to concentrate on their game plan.

“We’re going to need every fan we can get there,” Koch added.”Whenever you were going to Pittsburgh or they were coming here, everybody wanted to go to the game, and everybody is cheering you on. It’s just a great atmosphere and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Koch compared the Pittsburgh-Ravens rivalry to the rivalries his alma mater, Nebraska, has with Oklahoma and Colorado, but times ten.

Ellerbe meanwhile compared it to his college-the University of Georgia-and its rivalry with in-state foe Georgia Tech.

The name of that rivalry game?

Good, Old-Fashioned Hate.

And while Ellerbe said he feels the same way toward the Steelers, he did admit that the rivalry takes on a bigger result in the professional leagues of football as opposed to the amateur level of college football.

“It’s different now because we’re in the NFL and more is at stake right now,” Ellerbe said.

“It would be great to get this win and get the best out of three this year and move on in the playoffs.”

WNST has you covered for Saturday’s game versus Pittsburgh! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Blog & Tackle: A look at Ravens-Steelers PR game notes

Posted on 13 January 2011 by Chris Pika

Every game of the NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend is a regular-season rematch as both of the AFC games are between division opponents — the first time since 2000 that two games feature teams playing for a third time in a season.

The nastiest matchup of the weekend is the first on the docket: Baltimore at Pittsburgh. The teams have waged wars in the AFC North over the years, and 2010 was no exception. Each team scored 27 points total in the two games, and the games are as physical as any in the NFL over the previous decade.

The Ravens continued to have playoff success on the road as they beat Kansas City last Sunday 30-7 in New Arrowhead. It was the third straight season with at least one playoff victory for Baltimore, the only club in the NFL to do so over the period. QB Joe Flacco joined Bernie Kosar (1985-87) and Dan Marino (1983-85) to start a playoff game in each of their first three seasons in the league. The Ravens will try to advance to the AFC title game for the first time since the 2008 season.

Pittsburgh survived the loss of QB Ben Roethlisberger to a four-game suspension to get to a 3-1 start which included a home loss to the Ravens. The Steelers won six of their last seven games, including a road win at Baltimore for the division title. Roethlisberger Has thrown a personal-best 158 straight passes without an INT, the longest for the Steelers since QB Kordell Stewart had a streak of 159 consecutive pass attempts without an interception in 2001.

The teams split the regular season meetings, with the Ravens winning in Pittsburgh 17-14 in October, and the Steelers winning in Baltimore 13-10 in December.

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Matt Birk

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Ravens Center Matt Birk on upcoming game versus Steelers: “I’m sure it’s going to be a heck of an atmosphere and a heck of a game”

Posted on 10 January 2011 by Ryan Chell

Matt Birk

Ravens center Matt Birk was a huge part of the Ravens’ offensive workload on Sunday in the Ravens 30-3 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on the road in the Wild Card opening round,  and he joined Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” to diagnose what the key to victory was over the AFC West champs.

Birk did mention the fact that the Ravens took the momentum out of the game for the Chiefs in the third quarter ,when they forced three Chiefs turnovers, turning a 10-7 Ravens lead into a good, old-fashioned Baltimore beatdown, but ultimately Birk said the offense did its’ part in helping the defense by keeping them fresh.

The Ravens got 13 points in the quarter off Chiefs turnovers or changes of possession, and went into the fourth and final quarter with a little room to work with, up 23-7.

The Ravens offense held the ball for nearly 42 minutes on Sunday, beating the Chiefs at their own game and forcing Matt Cassel to try and beat them as opposed to Jamaal Charles, who was having a field day against the Ravens defense in the first half.

Birk said that was the key in stopping the Chiefs was getting them out of their rhythm, which ultimately forced them to make mistakes.

And on top of tiring out the Chiefs defense while keeping their own fresh, that was another added benefit.

“The longer you stay out there offensively,” Birk said, “the more you can wear a defense down. [We] chipped away, chipped away, and eventually took the crowd out of it and blew the game open in the fourth quarter.”

Eventually the Ravens were able to do one better and take the hostile crowd of Arrowhead Stadium out of the picture as well.

The play that did it in Birk’s mind? The play that emptied the seats at Arrowhead?

This one.

McGahee’s 25 yard touchdown run on 4th and 1 finished a drive where the Ravens ate up nearly ten and a half minutes of game clock and ultimately was the dagger that went in the Chiefs’ chest. It turned a two-possession game(with several two-point conversions) into a game well out of reach and punched the Ravens’ playoff tickets to Pittsburgh.

“When Willis broke that run, that was nice cause it was 4th and 1. We were trying to run the game down and run the clock down. Everybody knows the inconsistencies we have had in the running game this year and the lack of big runs.”

Birk-like his other fellow teammates, Ravens fans, and the media alike-all had a ton of credit to throw the way of Ravens tight end Todd Heap, who became the first-ever Ravens player to top 100-yard receiving in a playoff game.

“Todd’s a great player and Todd gets open a lot,” Birk said. “When you have multiple weapons, you have to see who the defense is going to take away from you and who they are going to gamble with. If they are gambling with Todd Heap, then I like our chances.”

The team now moves on to Heinz Field Saturday in the AFC Divisional matchup against their AFC North rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The two teams split their series this year with the Ravens winning 17-14 in Pittsburgh in Week 4 and the Steelers stealing a win in Baltimore, 13-10, in Week 13.

As linebacker Terrell Suggs said in his postgame press conference, this is how the whole world wanted it to be. The Steelers versus the Ravens, and the Jets versus the Patriots.

“This is a great rivalry,” Birk said of their hatred/respect for the Steelers, “probably the best one in the NFL right now considering what has happened the past few years.”

“I’m sure it’s going to be a heck of an atmosphere and a heck of a game.”

It’s Steeler week here in Baltimore and WNST has you covered! Continue to follow WNST this week as we track the Ravens as they prepare for Pittsburgh! We’re even going up there to watch the battle! Just go to www.wnst.net and click on the TRIPS tab and you can go up with us! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28: Michael Vick  of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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Did President Obama call Steve Bisciotti?

Posted on 30 December 2010 by Rex Snider

This weekend, the National Football League wraps up the regular season and enters the “elimination round” for determining the next Super Bowl Champion. Indeed, this is the most exciting time on many sports lover’s calendars.

Heck, we’ve already enjoyed a pretty entertaining and, at times, surprising slate of action across the NFL’s universe. All of us have been right, all of us have been wrong, and most of us have been simply shocked on more than a couple occasions …..

The Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears have served as the most recent examples of fortunes changing for the better in just one season …..

At the same time, the Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings have proven that NOTHING is ever guaranteed …..

And, to the chagrin of many observers, the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have proven, once again, that dismissing their reputation and stability as major factors in overcoming injuries and depth issues is a foolish proposition …..

Indeed, the upcoming postseason will be representative of surprising entries, as well as the most dependable late season finishers. But, this is a reality of every playoff picture, right?

In addition to team results, individual performances have also been a major part of the game’s lure, in this 2010 season …..

Once again, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have lived up to reputations of being the best players in the game. Donovan McNabb was predictably snake-bitten by the Redskins dysfunction. And, as expected, Ray Lewis rattled off another Pro-Bowl caliber effort.

As for surprises, who really expected a long haired Clay Matthews to join the ranks of the most feared players in the game? Did any of us really know much about Arian Foster, just six months ago? Alas, did we expect Michael Vick to ever contend for another MVP award?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28: Michael Vick  of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Pleasant surprise performances are always a nice way of wrapping up a season and looking ahead to the future. But, unfortunately, these same surprising players can and will be exploited for the gains of others.

We shouldn’t be surprised to be seeing entourages of hawkers latching onto the NFL’s hottest, new or “reborn” commodities. Yet, to see the President Of The United States doing it is pretty disappointing …..

A few days ago, the world learned that President Obama called Philadelphia Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie, and commended him for giving Michael Vick a fresh opportunity, because “so many people who serve time never get a fair second chance.”

Fair enough, I suppose …..

But, if expressing such a humanistic approach to helping others and recognizing compassion is a mission during this holiday season, I do wonder if President Obama also used his trusty Blackberry to give Baltimore Ravens owner, Steve Bisciotti, a phone call with the same spirited message?

After all, Mr. Bisciotti has provided the very same effort for Donte’ Stallworth, right? A year ago, Stallworth had no clear indications of how or where he might be able to make a living. The Ravens have afforded him a “second chance”

Better yet, did President Obama spread a little more goodwill by gracing Cincinnati Bengals owner, Mike Brown, with such a spirited “attaboy !!!!” phone conversation? God knows Mr. Brown and the Bengals have doled out more second and third chances than Carmella Soprano and any girlfriend of Alex Rodriguez, combined.

Let’s not stop with football and current players, either …..

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ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Donovan McNabb  of the Washington Redskins on the sidelines against play against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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The “Most Disappointing Performers” of 2010 …..

Posted on 22 December 2010 by Rex Snider

A week ago, I introduced my first LIST chronicling sports and events, in 2010. At the time, I guaranteed variations of such rankings, including the GOOD, BAD and downright PATHETIC. For some odd reason, developing this year’s lists has not been an easy endeavor. Hence, the delay in posting …..

Today’s list regards the “MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMERS OF 2010”. The criteria are simple; the list applies exclusively to professional athletes and the 2010 year. As always, I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions …..
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10) Donovan McNabb – while he certainly maintains a healthy core of supporters, it’s pretty difficult to blindly overlook McNabb’s tumultuous, yet brief stint in the nation’s capital. He’s grinding thru a tough season that has yielded the fewest touchdown passes (14) and most interceptions (15) of his 10 seasons as a starting quarterback.

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Donovan McNabb  of the Washington Redskins on the sidelines against play against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It’s become quite obvious that McNabb and Mike Shanahan are not on the same page, as two benchings would certainly indicate. The Redskins are mired in another losing season, and regardless of a potential Hall of Fame career, McNabb must accept a great deal of accountability for a lackluster offensive attack.

Hmmm …. do you think they’re smiling up in Philly?
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9) Alex Rodriguez – I never thought this name would appear on such a list; well, not in 2010, anyway. However, I think it’s pretty fair to say A’Rod easily suffered through the worst season of his career as a starting 3rd baseman/shortstop.

Aug. 11, 2010 - Arlington, Texas, USA - August 11, 2010. Yankees third baseman ALEX RODRIGUEZ in the dugout as The New York Yankees played the Texas Rangers in a Major League Baseball game at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.

While the Orioles (and a few other teams) would gladly receive a 3rd baseman who hits for a .270 clip, with 30 homers and 125 RBI, the New York Yankees expect much more production. And, when they’re paying that player an annual salary of $33 million, I’d say such demands are warranted.

The 2010 season was a downer for A’Rod, as he’s still counted as a true five-tool player. At 34, his best days are assuredly in the rear view mirror …. but, I’m sure the Steinbrenner’s still expect a batting average in the vicinity of .300, with 35 homers, 30 doubles, 10 steals and 125 RBI.

And, for the money they’re spending …. I don’t blame them.
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#8) Chris Johnson – I think everybody remembers Johnson’s season of domination, in 2009, right? He became the sixth player to rush for 2,000+ yards, in NFL history. He basked in the spotlight and became the top pick in most 2010 Fantasy Football Drafts.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 18: Running back Chris Johnson  of the Tennessee Titans warms up prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on October 18, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Of course, Johnson fed the adoration and suspense by predicting he would rush for 2,500 yards, in this 2010 season. It was a ludicrous goal to set and an even crazier hope for a growing collection of fans. With a couple games remaining, Johnson finds himself with 1,267 rushing yards.

Not a bad year, huh? By most accounts, it wouldn’t be a disappointing season …. but, even Johnson expected and guaranteed more.
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7) A.J. Burnett – here’s the one guy who justifies Andy MacPhail’s reluctance to overpay free agents, huh? Just a couple years ago, A.J. Burnett shared prospective shopping lists with Mark Teixeira. As we know, the Orioles made token offers and both players ended up in pinstripes.

New York Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett throws a pitch in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium in New York City on April 17, 2010.  UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

While Teixeira has produced at an expected level, Burnett has struggled to achieve the lofty statistics that rendered him one of the most coveted pitchers in the 2008 shopping market. And, 2010 was simply a season to forget, as Burnett produced a 5.26 ERA and 1.51 WHIP, while finding a way to lose more games than he won.

Perhaps, A.J. Burnett is on the shortest leash, heading into 2011. The Yankees are a team that can withstand bad contracts, and unless he recaptures some dominance, Burnett might find himself pitching in Kansas City or Baltimore …. sooner rather than later.
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6) Dale Earnhardt Jr. – I have never maintained the belief that Earnhardt was among the very best talents in NASCAR, let alone comparable to the legend of his father. However, I also never foresaw him performing this badly, either.

CONCORD, NC - OCTOBER 14: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the  AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 14, 2010 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

We’re approaching three years since Earnhardt won his last race, and he’s finished outside the Top-20 in season standings for two straight years. On a weekly basis, he’s being viewed as just part of the field, rather than a threat win any particular race.

Still, Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains NASCAR’S most popular competitor and he easily earns more money than any fellow driver (and most ballplayers) on an annual basis. Only in America, huh? What’s the incentive to win? Perhaps, Earnhardt’s popularity really is undermining any hunger to win …..
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5) Greg Oden – as he’s shelved in his fourth season as a pro basketball player, Oden stands to potentially become one of the biggest BUSTS in NBA history. To date, the former #1 overall pick has earned almost $20 million, while playing in just 82 career games.

ATLANTA - MARCH 30:  Greg Oden #20 of the Ohio State Buckeyes warms up during practice for the NCAA Men's Final Four at the Georgia Dome on March 30, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Hmmm …. my calculator says that’s about $230,000, per game. Not bad for a night’s work, huh? In 2010, the figures are even uglier – Oden hasn’t played a single game, this year. But, he’s being paid $4.3 million for such services.

To suggest Greg Oden has been a disappointment, in 2010, is an absolute understatement. Then, again, maybe the Trailblazers don’t expect anything from him – which is exactly what he’s giving them.
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4) Randy Moss – how about a standing ovation and resounding applause for the first dude who makes both of my BAD lists, in 2010. As the 2010 season winds down, Randy Moss finds himself making no real contribution to the Tennessee Titans offense.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 11: Randy Moss  of the Minnesota Vikings looks on against the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 11, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won 29-20. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Ironically, the same can pretty much be said for his brief stint, in Minnesota, as well. That’s right, it’s been a couple months since Moss forced his way out of New England – where they’re readying to seize the top seed in the AFC playoff picture.

He entered the 2010 season as one of the most legitimate receivers in the NFL. Yet, thru 14 games, Moss has just 5 touchdowns and 27 receptions. Of the 5 scores, he has only two over the last couple months. Is he disappointment? Yes, very much so …..
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3) Lebron James – you can call him King James, All Star or Chosen One …. just don’t call him a WINNER. While his 2010 has been the tale of two cities and teams, Lebron James has failed to establish himself as the driving force behind a corps capable of winning BIG GAMES.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James stands on the court during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls in game 3 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at the United Center in Chicago on April 22, 2010. The Bulls won 108-106 and trail the Cavliers 2-1 in the best of seven series.  UPI/Brian Kersey Photo via Newscom

He packed it in against the Celtics, back in May. He chose to flee a team he commanded for a team where he’s surrounded. Leaders don’t need such security – just see Jordan, Magic or Bird.

The story of the 2010-2011 Miami Heat has not been written. They’re winning regular season contests, but will they win the postseason games, where leadership is a MUST? Based on his past, it’s pretty safe to assume Lebron cannot be counted upon when it matters most – and such a reality defines disappointment.
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2) Brett Favre – if he just had a crystal ball, huh? In some distinct ways, I feel badly for Favre. He obviously plays the game with a sheer love for the competition, and a legend of his stature should not walk away in such a beaten state.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 05: Brett Favre  of the Minnesota Vikings leaves the field after defeating the Buffalo Bills at the Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on December 5, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

But, Brett Favre gambled on one season too many. Buoyed by last January’s NFC Championship Game …. and near miss, he caved to pressure from the Vikings and returned for another season and shot at the Super Bowl.

It has proven to be a mistake. Favre wasn’t healthy when the season began and he should’ve been smart enough to realize and accept it. Of course, America’s favorite bimbo, Jenn Sterger, has only added to the dysfunction of this disastrous season.

In the words of the great Clint Eastwood, “a man must know his limitations.” Unfortunately, Brett Favre did not recognize his limitations, as 2010 became his worst season, ever.
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#1) Tiger Woods – well, could it really be anyone else? As the entire world knows, Tiger’s life unraveled into a sordid, corrupt mess, in 2010. From adulterous affairs, to domestic discord and lost sponsorships, Tiger lost an awful lot …..

Tiger Woods waits to hit off of the 11th tee box during the first round of the Quail Hollow Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 29, 2010.  UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

The losing also carried onto the golf course. He played the worst golf of his professional career and looked totally lost, at times. From the hecklers speckled in the galleries, to the gaudy airplane banners soaring overhead, Tiger’s presence at a golf tournament became very “tabloid-ish”.

However, I think Tiger Woods is the MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMER of 2010, because we expect such greatness from him. He is easily the most dominant athlete of the last decade. And, to see his game struggle due to something other than the natural progressions of age or injury is very sad, indeed.

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Oct 16, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lane Kiffin gestures during the game against the California Golden Bears at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated California 48-14. Photo via Newscom

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The “Controversial Sports Personalities” of 2010 …..

Posted on 16 December 2010 by Rex Snider

As we make our way into mid-December and the final weeks of the year, excitement starts to build with many people, young and old. From the anticipation (or stresses) of the holidays, to the culmination of another NFL season, many of us look forward to this part of our annual calendar.

In my own way, I look forward to this time of year, because I’m a “list” kinda guy …..

Be it BEST OF, WORST OF, MOST INTRIGUING, MOST OVERRATED, MOST POPULAR, MOST HATED and just about any related combination, I like compiling lists of my personal rankings regarding people and events of any given year.

Of course, my lists revolve around sports, in one context or another. From the famous to the infamous, and the champions to the chokers, I’ll give you the spin on how 2010 shakes out in my conflicted mind.

Today, we’ll begin with the “TEN MOST CONTROVERSIAL SPORTS PERSONALITIES OF THE YEAR” …..
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10) Lane Kiffin – The ultimate coaching mercenary, huh? Many of us were snookered into believing Kiffin was the sympathetic figure depicted in his dysfunctional ride with Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders. Little did we know his loyalties would tend to run as deep, or shallow, as his former boss …..

Oct 16, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lane Kiffin gestures during the game against the California Golden Bears at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated California 48-14. Photo via Newscom

Earlier this year, Lane Kiffin deserted the University of Tennessee – the institution that gave him a second chance – on a whim to return to his coaching roots, at the University of Southern California. Kiffin garnered a lot of rightful criticism for switching jobs, midstream, while so many people, in Tennessee, depended on him.
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9) Cam Newton – Well, we all know this name, huh? Yet, a year ago at this time, only the hardcore college football fans really knew anything about Newton. Only in America …. can a sports personality rise from anonymity to celebrity, in the span of a few months.

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 11: 2010 Heisman Trophy candidate Cam Newton of the Auburn University Tigers speaks at a press conference at The New York Marriott Marquis on December 11, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

I suppose we should really be recognizing Cam’s father, Cecil, for being the “straw that stirred this combustible cocktail.” He obviously lobbied for money in exchange for his son’s services, and regardless of what the NCAA might be saying, most of us don’t really believe young Cam is blameless.

Hmmm …. how long will it take for him to surrender that trophy?

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