Biggest Week 15 Storylines
News Flash: The Patriots Win
In facing their latest test, the defending Superbowl champion New England Patriots went into Heinz Field to face the Pittsburgh Steelers. With the “Killer B’s” in the form of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, wide receiver Antonio Brown and placekicker Chris Boswell, awaiting their arrival, this was supposed to be the passing, if not taking of the proverbial baton. The Steelers were coming off an intense, adrenaline-fueled victory against the archrival Baltimore Ravens. The game was in the Steel City. Injured Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier provided all the emotional inspiration needed by leaving his hospital bed to attend the game in person. Not to mention, the Patriots had just lost on Monday night to the Miami Dolphins. Everything was set up for the Steelers to vanquish the big bad wolf on their way to a championship of their own. Problem is, someone forgot to tell the Patriots. Yes, tight end Jesse James “touchdown that wasn’t” in the final seconds of the game will be debated for generations to come. Losing MVP candidate Brown in the first quarter cannot be ignored either. Nevertheless, the Patriots, as they always seem to do, found a way to win. Again. Be it the regular season or postseason (except when playing the Eli Manning led New York Giants in the Superbowl), they routinely find a way to win. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and company rise to the occasion when the odds are seemingly stacked against them. This past Sunday’s game was no exception. When walking off the field, we saw an all-too-familiar sight: a Tom Brady celebration, with another defeated foe leaving dejected. Perhaps the Steelers will have a chance for revenge in the playoffs. Only time will tell.
Antonio Brown Injury
Antonio Brown caught his 100th pass to place his name in NFL record books as the first wide receiver to catch 100 passes in five consecutive seasons. Brown was tied with former Indianapolis Colt/Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, with each having accomplished the feat in four consecutive seasons. Unfortunately, not long after achieving this milestone, he suffered an injury, diagnosed as a partially torn calf muscle. Brown has been mentioned as an MVP candidate, in spite of wide receivers not garnering much consideration for the award in the past. Other than on a running play, everyone in the stadium pretty much knows that Ben Roethlisberger is more than likely throwing the ball to Brown. Regardless of double coverage, he usually finds a way to get his hands on the ball to make the catch. While Brown has already been ruled out for this week, Steelers Nation is hopeful he will be able to return in time for their playoff run. Here’s to a speedy recovery.
The Return of Number 12
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said that he wasn’t “coming back to save the season” for the Packers. While this sounded like the right thing to say, the truth is, his teammates, and Packers fans everywhere were hoping that he would do just that. Rodgers led the Packers into Charlotte to face Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in a game with playoff implications written all over it. Basically, similar to his “run the table” proclamation a couple of seasons ago, Rodgers and the Packers needed to do just that to have a shot at postseason play. Despite missing the past eight weeks due to a broken collarbone suffered earlier this season when playing the Minnesota Vikings, Rodgers showed very little if any rust. Doing his best to rescue the Packers postseason hopes, Rodgers came up short. He threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns . . . along with three interceptions. With the playoffs no longer a reality, on Tuesday the Packers placed Rodgers back on injured reserve, officially bringing his season to an end.
First Down Via Index Card?
The Dallas Cowboys played the Oakland Raiders this past Sunday night in their final game before the return of running back Ezekiel Elliott from a six-game suspension. Doing their best to hold on during his absence, it was clear Elliott was sorely missed. While the running game had come to life in the past few weeks, thanks to the running back tandem of Rod Smith and Alfred Morris, Elliott’s return couldn’t come soon enough. In a hotly contested affair that was ultimately won by Dallas, late in the fourth quarter, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott ran for a first down on fourth down with one yard to go. The spot was so close that the chains were brought out to measure. Still uncertain as to whether Prescott had earned the first down, referee Gene Steratore placed an index card between the down marker and the football. To the ire of the Raiders, the Cowboys were deemed to have earned the first down, thus keeping their drive alive. I’ve seen many a football game, and dare I say that’s the first time I ever saw the index card/first down measuring method used before. While the Cowboys rejoiced, the Raiders seethed with anger at the outcome. Imagine, all this time I thought index cards were only good for taking notes!
Queen City Heartbreak
Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is held with high regard within NFL circles. Be it players, coaches, front office personnel or members of the media, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone that says something negative about him. Sadly, this past week we learned of the shocking allegations of sexual harassment and racially insensitive comments that were levied against Richardson. A few days after these accusations came to light, he announced he would sell the team at the end of the 2017 season. Similar to the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers by former owner Donald Sterling, Richardson’s sale won’t make the ugliness of the claims disappear. These stories have been far too frequent of late, as numerous persons in the entertainment, political and sports industries, have found themselves facing these types of charges. Let’s hope that these are the beginning of the end, if not the actual end to the news of such damaging and hurtful actions.
End of an Era
Word out of Cincinnati is that longtime Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and the team have agreed to mutually part ways at the end of the season. Lewis has not found postseason success, as he sports a 0-7 postseason record . While this conclusion may be the best for all parties involved, it is a bit sad that the end came for Lewis in this manner. He is seemingly one of the good guys and has the respect and admiration of peers and players alike. There are reports that Lewis has interest in pursuing options with a franchise in the front office. Maybe he is both suited and ready for this role after years on the sidelines as an assistant and/or head coach. Whatever he chooses to do, here’s hoping for the best for him going forward.