Google Question: Dan Marino’s Achilles Tendon

December 9, 2012

Once again, in a never-ending effort to keep up with my readers, I will answer a question that someone Googled to find this site:

In what game did Dan Marino’s Achilles tendon rupture?

Short answer:  1993 season, Week 6 @ Cleveland, the Dolphins won 24-14.

The Dolphins were coming off winning the AFC East and making an AFC Championship game appearance (they were defeated 29-10 at home by Buffalo), and were expected to make a Super Bowl run in 1993.  The Bills were getting older, the Jets and Patriots were rebuilding, and the Colts were oh so miserable.  The 1993 season was unique in that it was the only season in the modern NFL where each team had two bye weeks during the season.  The Dolphins had theirs in week three of that year, and were fortunate to have their other bye week after Dan Marino got injured at Cleveland.

Marino was obviously out for the season, and was replaced by a combination of Scott Mitchell and Steve DeBerg.  They actually did a pretty good job filling in for a while, winning five of their next six including Thanksgiving day against the Cowboys (courtesy of Leon Lett), placing them firmly in first place in the AFC East with a 9-2 record.

Then the bottom fell out.

The Dolphins lost their last five games of the season which included a brutal three-game stretch against the Giants, Steelers, and Bills.  The Dolphins finished the year 9-7 and missed the playoffs entirely.  Miami was plagued by turnovers, especially fumbles, during that stretch, and their team wasn’t good enough to overcome the turnover problem.  Their last game of the season ended up being the first big win of the career of Drew Bledsoe, who let the Patriots to a 33-27 overtime win against the Dolphins in the last week of the season.

Marino returned to lead the Dolphins to the playoffs in 1994, but eventually lost to the San Diego Chargers 22-21 in the Divisional round after taking a 21-6 lead in the second half.  San Diego would end up losing Super Bowl XXIX to the San Francisco 49ers, 49-26.


Just A Quick Public Service Announcement Regarding Today’s Army/Navy Game

December 8, 2012

Most football fans will count today as a day off from college football because the only game on is the 113th annual Army/Navy Game.  People say it’s bad football, or the players are smaller and slower, or you’ll never see any of them play in the NFL.  All of that may be true in certain instances, but there are a few excellent reasons to watch this game.

  1. Support your troops and armed forces.  They put themselves in danger to defend your freedoms.
  2. Watch a couple of quirky offenses face off against one another.  The Wishbone/Flexbone/Triple Option isn’t seen very much anymore, but these two teams have been running it for a very long time, and they are proficient at it.  It’s something that’s just a little different than what you see on a typical Saturday afternoon.
  3. This is the only college football game of the year in which every single student from both schools are in attendance, and even if they don’t like football they actually give a damn because these players have to go through the same Academy experience they do, and they represent their academies well.
  4. It’s a virtual guarantee that these players will never play another organized football game after their time at the academies is over, and they play like it is the last game they will ever play.
  5. Army and Navy are two of the last three teams (Air Force) where “student athlete” is true for every player on that roster.  They are earning their degree in the toughest way imaginable, and it is not a cupcake degree.  All of these players in uniform today are basically smart enough to be astronauts, where nowadays there are many scholarship athletes all around the country that would have a hard time finishing a Highlights magazine.

This Day In History (December 8, 1980)

December 8, 2012

Thirty-two years ago, on today’s date, the real world and sports collided in a rather strange way.

The New England Patriots were playing the Miami Dolphins in the Orange Bowl on Monday Night Football.  It was a tight game, tied at six going into the fourth quarter, and tied up again at thirteen-all with under a minute left in regulation.  Near the end of regulation in a game that was vital to the AFC playoff picture, ABC News informed Howard Cosell, Don Meredith, and Frank Gifford that former Beatle John Lennon had been shot in the back and killed outside of his apartment in New York City.

There’s something you have to remember here:  This was back in the days before internet, social media, cell phones, text messaging, E-mail, and just about every other form of instant communication that we have today with the exception of the telephone.  Cable TV was still in its infancy, and most Americans didn’t have access to a 24-hour news network like we have entirely too much of today.  Monday Night Football was the highest-rated show on at the time, and would get the news of Lennon’s death to the most amount of people.

An ABC reporter just happened to be at the hospital for a completely unrelated reason, and heard the words “John Lennon” and “shot” from down the hallway.  That’s how ABC got the story first, and the ABC truck informed the crew in the booth that they had to announce what happened on air.  After discussing the situation during a commercial, they decided that there was no good way to break the news, and just decided to come right out with it.  Patriots kicker John Smith was actually lining up for a potential game-winning field goal (which he ended up missing) when Howard Cosell told the world about what he called “an unspeakable tragedy”.

Chances are that a story like that will never be reported to the public in the same way again.


What Is So Wrong About Making A Great Block?

December 7, 2012

In last weekend’s incredibly entertaining Saturday of college football, there were two hits that received unbelievable and rather irrational reactions by fans and commentators alike.

The first was in the SEC Championship game between #3 Georgia and #2 Alabama.  Alabama had intercepted a pass from Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray.  Alabama defensive lineman Quinton Dial leveled Murray while blocking on the interception return.  No flag was thrown, and Alabama was able to kick a field goal before halftime and take a 10-7 lead into the locker room.

There were instant reactions from fans in the stadium, Twitter, and various blogs and opinion pieces calling for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on Alabama for the block.

I can’t understand why there was such an uproar calling for a personal foul.  Murray was less than five yards from where the tackle would be made, and he was at the proper pursuit angle to make a tackle if one was not made by another defender.  Once a turnover occurs, the offense becomes the defense.  Everyone is fair game.  The block did not happen forty yards from the play, and it was (or could have been) significant to the return.   Defenders are used to avoiding hitting the quarterback when they are pass-rushing and the ball has been thrown, but once an interception is thrown, the focus of the play changes.  Defenders block for the return and the quarterback can still tackle whoever intercepts him.  The quarterback is no longer in a defenseless position after an interception, and if he acts like he is, then there is a problem.  If Murray didn’t want to get hit, then he shouldn’t have been near the play.

There’s another thing:  look at the mechanics of the hit itself.  Everything about the hit was perfectly legal.   Dial led with a forearm and the shoulder, his knees were bent, his head was up, and his back was at around a 60° angle to the field.  Murray’s head snapped back from the hit, but it wasn’t a hit directly to his head.  Dial didn’t come out of nowhere; he was out in front of Murray.  Yes, the hit was violent, but football is a violent game.  According to the Alabama roster, Dial is 6”4’, and 304 pounds.  Murray is 6”1’, and 210 pounds.  Force equals mass times acceleration.  Murray was basically a VW Beetle in neutral getting in a head-on crash with Dial, who was a Ford F-350 going fifty miles per hour.  The truck is going to win every time, regardless of the angle of impact.  There are some who say that you can’t hit a quarterback like that, but in this case Aaron Murray wasn’t a quarterback; he was a defensive player who was a threat to make a tackle on a ball carrier.  End of story.

The second hit was penalized on the field, but unlike the Aaron Murray hit, it had no effect on the final outcome of the game.  In the Big 10 Championship game featuring Nebraska and Wisconsin, Nebraska was trailing 49-10 on the opening series of the 3rd quarter.  Nebraska completed a pass on a crossing route, receiver Jamal Turner turned and continued to run up the sideline, and receiver Kenny Bell de-cleated Wisconsin defensive back Devin Smith and enabled Turner to cut back and score on the play.  This was the kind of block that is usually seen on punt returns, not pass receptions.  A flag was thrown, and the play was called back.  Again, Nebraska was trailing by 39 points at this moment in the game, but you don’t know what may have transpired following the play if the touchdown hadn’t been called back.

In this case, the hit was square on the defender, and he was completely parallel with the ground.   Bell didn’t even put his full weight into the hit.  This wasn’t a case of a blocker launching his own body into a defender.  Bell hit him with a shoulder and a forearm, and his feet didn’t leave the ground.  The hit was square to the numbers, and the Smith wasn’t looking to avoid being blocked; he was focused on the receiver running up the sideline, but that’s not the fault of Bell or any blocker for that matter.  Defenders are taught to have their head on a swivel to avoid this very situation, and Smith didn’t.

____

One of the great things about football is that there are no rules about how hard you can hit someone.  There are plenty of rules about where, when, and how you can hit someone, but there is nothing about the force of the hit itself.  It really doesn’t really matter what position you play; there is no completely safe place on a football field, and it should stay that way.  You can’t start chipping away at what blockers are allowed to do and to whom they are allowed to do it.

You can’t legislate away all the risk out of the game of football.  As long as there are great athletes playing at full speed, there will be risk of injury in sports.  Let the players play.


This Can’t Be A Coincidence: People Associate “Notre Dame Football” With “Annoying”

November 27, 2012

Way back in April, I wrote a post called “The Most Annoying Traits of Football Fans” in which I described behaviors that make the rest of the football-watching world cringe when they see them because they make the rest of us look bad.  Some of the things I talked about in the post were:

  • Overuse of the phrase “Nobody gave us a chance”
  • Being disappointed or bragging about events that happened before you were born
  • Justifying a loss based on “We let them win” logic
  • The use of (insert fanbase or mascot)-nation
  • Being a team’s apologist
  • Not acknowledging any other team’s success
  • “Fire the coach” guy

And most of all:

  • Deifying or idolizing teams, players, coaches, GM’s, or owners

On Sunday (November 25th), I got more hits for that particular article than I ever had in a single day since it was posted.  This was the day after Notre Dame beat Southern Cal 22-13.

I find it very hard to believe that those two happenings are a coincidence.  Notre Dame Football falls into the same category as the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, and LA Lakers, Bill O’Reilly, and Howard Stern: everybody has an opinion about them.  This year’s BCS National Title game is a dream-scenario for the media in this country because both the fans and the dissenters are going to tune in to anything that has “Notre Dame” in the headline unlike if it were any other college football team in the country.

So Domers, just in case you were wondering, here is why the rest of the college football world may find you annoying.

Since 1993, the Irish fanbase has been quieted and humbled somewhat due to their inability to win a bowl game for thirteen years (1994-2006 seasons), a revolving door for the Head Coach position, losing to opponents at home that would not even be an afterthought during Notre Dame’s “glory days” (Syracuse, Navy, Tulsa, South Florida, Stanford, UConn, Pitt, Air Force, Purdue, Boston College, and Navy*) and the George O’Leary scandal.

For the next 43 days (and the entire offseason if Notre Dame wins), all of that will go out the window.  Anybody who even has the most tertiary connection to Notre Dame will claim to be a lifelong Fighting Irish fan.

At the root of it, I think that’s why people find the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to be annoying.  No other school in the country can call on that many people for support.  If Southern Cal goes to the BCS National Championship, the entire state of California is not rooting for them.  People who watch their favorite team or school for twelve to fourteen Saturdays a year can’t stand it when somebody who never talks about college football (or any other sport for that matter), starts watching and rooting for a team when they get close, or only when things are going well. That just reminds us of the worst behavior of politicians.

Other schools don’t get a special exemption from conference championship games.  If Texas were to leave the Big 12 for whatever reason and become an independent, do you think the BCS would make a special exception for them and invite Texas’ Athletic Director to the discussion just because they are Texas?  I highly doubt it.  Giving Notre Dame the privilege of being able to call the shots is like having the 106-year-old town founder approve any city ordinance.

Other schools don’t get movies made about their walk-ons.  At any other school, the story (or more truthfully, myth) would rise to “campus legend” status, but not get its own movie, and it shouldn’t.

That’s another thing that irks people about Notre Dame.  Their major contributions to college football were so far in the past that nobody alive today can remember them first-hand, but the rest of the football world is expected to bow to them just because they are Notre Dame.

Case in point: Who and when was the last Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner?  That one’s easy; Tim Brown in 1987.  What about before that?  John Huarte in 1964.  The Irish had two Heisman winners in the 50′s (Paul Hornung and Johnny Lattner), and three in the 40′s (Angelo Bertelli, Johnny Lujak, and Leon Hart).  So basically, any casual fan would have a hard time remembering or visualizing a single play that six of their seven Heisman Trophy winners made because it happened over fifty years ago, and in an era when only two to three games were televised a week (and less than that in the 40′s; that was still the era of the radio). Just think, in the 25 years since Notre Dame last won a Heisman Trophy, players from schools such as Houston, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Auburn, Wisconsin, BYU, and Colorado have all won one.  And none of those schools have the nationwide following Notre Dame does.

It’s not just the Heisman where Notre Dame is more legend that reality.  Think of all the stories of Notre Dame lore.  Win One For the Gipper was over eighty years ago and the term is now used sarcastically.  The Four Horsemen was a publicity stunt and a colorfully written newspaper article perpetuated by Grantland Rice.  Two of their most famous games, 1946 vs. Army and 1966 vs. Michigan State, were a scoreless tie and a 10-10 tie in which Notre Dame played most of the game not to lose (yes, I am aware that their starting quarterback was out of the game and had one game left against USC, but still no excuses).  If either of these games were re-played on ESPN Classic or some other venue today, they would be viewed as being on the same level of boring as last year’s LSU/Alabama regular season game.  Arguably their greatest win of the last thirty years (vs. Florida State in 1993, #1 vs. #2) was effectively nullified the next week at home by an inferior opponent.    You can’t live off of ghosts of the past forever, but Notre Dame certainly tries.

People don’t like it when you try to get special treatment, but can’t answer the question, “What have you done for me lately?”.

I’ve only scratched the surface of why people may find Notre Dame annoying.  I find it very interesting and not coincidental whatsoever that a blog post I wrote over six months ago racked up that many hits on that day.  Can we keep one thing in mind over the next six weeks?  Whoever has the better football team will win this year’s BCS National Championship; not the team with the more storied tradition.

*That isn’t a typo; It just feels really good to write that Notre dame has had a really hard time beating a service academy in recent years (yes, I’m aware that Notre Dame won “at” Navy this year).


Historical Matchup Of The Day: San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints

November 25, 2012

Thirty-two years ago, America saw its first glimpse of what the San Francisco 49ers were slated to become, and that is arguably the best single decade any team has ever had in modern NFL history.

On Pearl Harbor Day 1980, a young Joe Montana and the 49ers came back from being down 35-7 at halftime to the winless New Orleans Saints at Candlestick Park.  This is one of those games where about four million people will tell you either that they were there at the game, or that they watched the entire game on TV.  Ninety-nine percent of those people are lying.  This was not a nationally televised game, and both teams were in the last leg of miserable seasons.

San Francisco started the year with three straight wins, but then continued to drop their next eight.  The most embarrassing of those eight losses was a 59-14 shellacking by the Cowboys, a game in which San Francisco turned the ball over ten times.   The 49ers came into this game having won two in a row, but the 5-9 49ers were playing for pride in this game, not a playoff spot.

The 49ers’ problems were pretty moot by comparison to the Saints.  New Orleans came into the game with an 0-13 record, and things were getting pretty ugly.  There were two games in which the Saints did not gain 100 yards in offense.  In their 40-7 loss to the Saint Louis Cardinals, the Saints offense had the same amount of turnovers as first downs (3).

Something funny happened at the start of this game, though.  Archie Manning and the Saints came out like they were fighting for a playoff spot or home-field advantage in the playoffs, and the 49ers were flat.  Manning threw three first half touchdown passes, and the 49ers’ offense didn’t cross midfield.  The 49ers’ only touchdown came on a 57-yard punt return for a touchdown by Freddy Solomon.  New Orleans went in to halftime ahead 35-7, and looked well on their way to chalking up their first win of the season.

In the second half, the 49ers didn’t do anything they didn’t try in the first.  No gimmicks, tricks, or special plays.  Just execution.  They scored two touchdowns in the third, and two more in the fourth, all while holding New Orleans scoreless for the rest of the game.  Dwight Clark made what I believe to be the most athletic play of his career (yes, including The Catch) when he made a sideline-to-sideline 71-yard catch and run for a touchdown to put the 49ers within 14 points heading into the fourth quarter.  Once that play occurred, it seemed like the fourth quarter was nothing but a formality.  the 49ers were on a roll, and the Saints could do nothing to stop them.  The game ended up going to overtime, where Ray Wersching kicked a 36-yard field goal to win it, 38-35.  At the time, this was the greatest comeback to victory (by margin of deficit) in NFL history.

New Orleans would have to wait one more week for their first victory, 21-20 over the Jets (always the Jets).

Even though they didn’t win another game for the rest of the season, this one game gave the 49ers the confidence that they could win any game they were in, no matter the opponent or the situation.


Google Questions: Dallas Cowboys Playoff Victories Since Their Last Super Bowl

November 25, 2012

Once again, someone found this blog by googling a question.  In a relentless effort to keep up with what my readers want (both of you), I’ll answer the questions that people find this site by.  The question was:

How many playoff games have the Dallas Cowboys won since their last Super Bowl appearance?

Short answer: 2

The Dallas Cowboys won their last Super Bowl against the Steelers (remember Larry Brown’s ‘MVP’ performance?) following the 1995 season.  Since that point, they have made seven playoff appearances (1996, ’98, ’99, ’03, ’06, ’07, ’09), but have only advanced twice, and have never gotten past the Divisional Round.  The only first-round bye week the Cowboys have earned since that 1995 Super Bowl win was in 2007, and they were beaten at home by the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants 21-17.  Their playoff games over the last seventeen seasons are as follows:

1996

  • Minnesota Vikings 15 @ Dallas Cowboys 40
  • Dallas Cowboys 17 @ Carolina Panthers 26

1998

  • Arizona Cardinals 20 @ Dallas Cowboys 7

1999

  • Dallas Cowboys 10 @ Minnesota Vikings 27

2003

  • Dallas Cowboys 10 @ Carolina Panthers 29

2006

  • Dallas Cowboys 20 @ Seattle Seahawks 21

2007

  • New York Giants 21 @ Dallas Cowboys 17

2009

  • Philadelphia Eagles 14 @ Dallas Cowboys 34
  • Dallas Cowboys 3 @ Minnesota Vikings 34

I find it interesting that Dallas has made the playoffs less than half the time since 1995 (7 seasons out of 16 possible), won only two of their nine playoff games, lost all five of their road playoff games (while breaking even at home, 2-2), and has not competed in a championship game, but is still considered by most (especially the media) to be one of the toughest wins in the NFL.  Judging by the abundance of media coverage, one would think that the Cowboys are consistently a championship-caliber football team year-in and year-out, but clearly that is not the case.

 

 

 

 

 


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