The Devils Faced The Perfect Storm In Tampa Bay, And Skated Away With Their Tails Between Their Legs
Prior to the third period, I probably would have told you that the score at the time wasn't entirely indicative of the competitiveness of the game to that point. After the first 40 minutes, I may have argued that just about all the issues the Devils have largely gotten away with failing to correct, due in large part to both Keith Kinkaid and an excellent PK, got exposed by a better team playing within the friendly confines of their own building. That might seem like a stretch, considering their quick 2-0 lead got counterpunched with fistful of answered goals. However, between starting the second period in a mindless malaise (goal 3) and looking as though they were intentionally testing the depth of their own penalty kill by refusing to stay out of the box (goals 4 and 5), the Lightning were more opportunistic than they were discouragingly dominant.
Unfortunately, the third period happened, and from the first drop of the puck it looked like just about every player in the Devils' lineup was wishing it didn't have to. Credit to the top notch talent up and down Tampa's roster for capitalizing, but - as evidenced by the pass Damon Severson ripped so hard off Pavel Zacha's skate that you'd swear it was wearing a stick costume (goal 7) - New Jersey didn't even force them to approach the door before tossing away pucks like they were Halloween candy. Hell, they might as well have slapped a sign on their bench that said "Take One", because the bell was simply not something they were interested in answering throughout the final frame.
Unsurprisingly, one was not taken, as the same team that ended their season in unceremonious fashion put up three during a period for which the Devils appeared to prepare by going on a 'Trick or Tequila' run. Everyone, from Brian Boyle and Kevin Rooney (goal 6) to Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri (goal 8), was left falling all over themselves in a way that was all too fitting of what was essentially a 20 minute face-plant.
Every regulation loss counts for the same amount of points, whether you lose by two or you lose by five, so this could easily be seen as a "scrap the tape"-type wake-up call for a team that really shouldn't need it this early in the season. Hopefully it is in theory but not in execution, as there are a lot of persistent problem areas that were finally picked apart. Every season has its stinkers, but how the Devils respond to this particular one will say a lot about a team that has yet to prove capable of putting forth a winning effort on the road. Kind of important to make that statement a positive one as, even after this road trip, they won't be spending too much time at home this month. Though, I guess the good news is that their next appearance can't possibly be more negative than one in which they looked like they forgot how to hockey during the final intermission.
Maryland Reinstated DJ Durkin After The Irresponsible Death Of One Of His Players Because They Hate Winning, Recruiting, And - Most Notably - What's Right
I'm not going to pretend I have first-hand knowledge of the investigation into what certainly reads like a toxic environment engulfing the University of Maryland football program. I'm not going to act like I'm fully aware of which links were the most faulty in a chain of command that ultimately couldn't keep 19 year old Jordan McNair from tragically suffering a certain death.
That's partially because it would be irresponsible of me to assume I know everything that factored in to the decision to reinstate DJ Durkin, but it's mostly because people far more in tune with what took place at College Park on that fateful summer day have indirectly told me all I need to know in determining that it wasn't just a wrong decision, but an inexplicable one...
We're not just talking about the chaotic culture of college football prioritizing winning while proving counterproductive in shaping the morals of boys instead of turning them into men. Sadly, thanks in large part to Urban Meyer, that conversation is hardly even worth the wasted breath at this point. Rather, we're talking about a fatal culture in college football ignoring losing while proving deaf to the existing morals of boys that are already bigger men than the person that's somehow still entrusted with their safety.
Simply put, no matter the motivation, it makes no sense to keep DJ Durkin. Whether it be winning on the field, winning on the recruiting trail, or winning in the game of life, Maryland just actively chose to remain losers and they did it all to retain a Head Coach whose team has inarguably been better in his absence. Put aside his negligence leading to more teenage deaths than his supervision has led to encouraging seasons, because - regardless of the ethical implications - he's undoubtedly lost trust amongst the Terrapins' mediocre present and the ear of what could have the Terrapins' brighter future. There should be no coming back from having a kid die on your watch, and - though it shouldn't matter - that's especially true when your timepiece is both ineffective and easily replaceable. Never mind finding a good reason to reinstate to DJ Durkin, because - judging by the reaction of those who should matter a hell of a lot more than he does - the University of Maryland (whose Board of Regents apparently understands the fatality of death about as well as a classroom of 3 year olds) would be hard pressed to come up with a bad one that doesn't have a dollar sign attached.
The Coming Out Party Is Postponed, As Marcus Davenport Has Reportedly Been Sidelined For The Next Month By A Toe Injury
I don't know that a Saints' team, that is currently on a 6-game winning streak, needed a reminder that a football season is just as long as its schedule is short. Judging from the sights and sounds of the locker room following their vindictively decisive victory in Minnesota, they are a group that's riding high on confidence ahead of this Sunday's clash with a fellow NFC titan in the Rams...
Cocky isn't a word I would use to describe a locker room that's been increasingly playing up to both it's personality and potential as a Super Bowl contender, but if their heads were somehow at risk of overinflation with an undefeated team coming to town and a thankless slate of games to follow, this news should serve as the pin in un-pumping their tires.
There's just no way around it, Marcus Davenport's injury coming on the heels of the whole damn pass-rush's coming out party, albeit one that was basically thrown by the Vikings doing more to protect the Saints' secondary than their own overpaid quarterback, makes it even more disappointing.
A kid who has flashed freakish athleticism with more and more frequency (as highlighted both here and below) as his rookie season has wore on can use all the reps he can get in trying to develop consistency in a technique that's still understandably one long stride behind his genetics. Unfortunately, he damn sure ain't going to get them while hobbling around the sidelines during a month that could very well help to define the Saints' season.
Of course, injuries are par for the unforgiving course of an NFL schedule, and one that keeps a part-time player off the field for four or five games isn't the type that should have you in need of a room that's as dark as the warm bottle of liquor in your hand. Still, if emasculating Minnesota happened to have them feeling a bit full of hot air, the temporary absence of a first round pick who - at 6'6, 270 - has literally played a large part in helping the defensive line exceed expectations in a way that's helped cover for a secondary that's done the exact opposite should strap the Saints down to Earth.
Having presumably not yet put together a peak performance as of yet, this news makes it unlikely that they'll do so until at least December. That's how impactful Marcus Davenport, at his absolute best, can be. Hopefully, it's also how impactful he will be in returning to a lineup that could very well be on the verge of big things if they stay on the track they've looked to have taken to playing their best, most complete football when it matters most.
Alex Cora Let All The Red Sox Non-Believers, Of Which There May Have Been A Couple Dozen Tops, Know They Can "Suck On It"
The beauty of winning a championship is that it allows you to look back on even the most inoffensive of perceived slights as if it were a gutless attack on the character of your team. To the victors go the spoils, as they say, and Alex Cora is really spoiling himself by acting as if there was even a semi-significant amount of people that thought Boston was anything other than far and away the best team in baseball all season. Again, the narrative is yours for the crafting when you're the last man standing, but I think we can all agree that the Red Sox didn't exactly dig themselves out a 3-game hole to exorcise an 86 year old demon in beating a Yankees' team to which they were superior.
That said, there's something so unadulterated and pure about a baseball manager telling all his detractors to "SUCK ON IT". After 162 games plus a full postseason , the amount of times that someone like Alex Cora has had to hold his tongue while working amongst the most haphazardly hysterical of media markets is almost infinite. If you ask me, a coinciding crotch chop would have been well-deserved considering how many executive decisions he's has questioned along the way. The Red Sox didn't exactly beat the odds as much as they beat everyone they were supposed to beat, but don't you dare tell their manager that while he's taking advantage of the autonomy he earned in making a run in which the Red Sox lost all of three playoff games sound like more of an underdog story than it actually was.
I Can't Even Blame The Cops For Showing Up As Things Got Predictably Testy Between Russell Westbrook And Patrick Beverley Last Night
I'm of the opinion that the Rajon Rondo Vs. CP3 spat, pun intended, was a one-off fight between two guys who have spend their entire careers more or less circling each other just waiting for one drop of bad blood to hit the water (or tainted saliva to hit the face), as opposed to some sign that the NBA needs a full-time police presence so as to not devolve into a combat sport. For that reason, in most cases, I'd consider the cops coming on to the court an overreaction to some good old fashioned competitive jaw jacking.
Unfortunately, the following case, and all that preceded it, is not one of them...
If there are two (more) players whose long-standing feud calls for security supervision they are Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley, and if there was a situation in which said security supervision should have felt called into action it was after a play that was eerie reminiscent of the reckless run-in the two had that cost the Thunder star the remainder of what was a promising postseason in 2013...
To put it far too mildly, the mood between the two has been about as copacetic as oil and water since...
So, mix in the pettiness of two grown men, with an absurd amount of pride, spending a half of professional basketball going back and forth implying that they are each other's daddy as they (almost literally?) milked each basket for all the emasculatory mimicry it was worth, and last night was a recipe for a rivalry to become a riot.
I don't particularly think either player would have rung the proverbial bell by throwing the first punch, but that hate definitely runs deep enough for some surface level security detail to be placed on high alert. You could start wars with the amount of love lost between two high strung players that basically serve as each's other's arrogant equivalent as cutthroat competitors at opposite ends of the court, so - if the postgame was any indication - keeping some professional peacemakers present was probably the best idea.
Mychal Kendricks' Indefinite Suspension For Insider Trading Has Been Given A Definitive Time Frame, As The NFL Still Can't Help But Butcher Any And All Legal Matters
It's actually incredible the the NFL has somehow managed to piss me off with their handling of the Mychal Kendricks' situation, because I never really cared whether or not he was allowed to play his way up to what could be a lengthy prison sentence for the victimless crime of insider trading. If a dude who is potentially going away for a long, long time wants to waste his last few months as a free man locked in on the gridiron then all the power to him, but I also feel as though the NFL was well within their rights to take away that privilege, even if it was only to create some relatively positive PR for once.
What I don't understand is having his indefinite suspension end prior to a court appearance that could put him behind bars for a quarter century. Like, is this some sort of reward for good behavior? As far as I know, all Mychal Kendricks has done since receiving his punishment was sit on his ass and await sentencing for being the most conspicuous white collar criminal in the history of fraudulently bolstered bank accounts. Not sure that quite warrants a change of heart that would go into effect just in time for Seattle's late season playoff push.
Again, I can't even pretend to care about the status of Mychal Kendricks' availability, but that doesn't mean I can't criticize a league that has the uncanny ability of injecting new life into their own negative news stories. Insider trading is either a bad enough crime to cost you your NFL career or it's not, but to watch him get cut, then signed by another team, then play for that other team, then hand him an "indefinite suspension" that's soon given a definitive conclusion all while the long arm of the law is still patiently waiting to administer the type of spanking that will help prep him for prison is just asinine.
There Are Plenty Of People That Can Vouch For LeBron's Claim That You Don't Want To Be Around When He Loses His Patience
For what it's worth, I'm not sure truer words have ever been spoken. Seems like an aggressive reminder to offer, albeit when prompted, seven games into a long-term contract he signed with a young team that was guaranteed to have some growing pains, but it's most certainly not a pre-threat that's to be treated as empty.
Love him or hate him, if there is a player who lays it on extra thick when his patience wears thin then it's 'The King' of both passive aggressiveness and aggressive passiveness. If Kevin Love's career as the Cavaliers' pet scapegoat doesn't serve as evidence of the overbearing byproducts of LeBron's irritability then the fact that he signed off on damn near his entire team being traded at last year's deadline is a pretty undeniable example of what happens when the most insatiable superstar in the sport is underwhelmed by his surroundings. Whether it's on the court (particularly at the defensive end) or off the court (particularly on social media), you absolutely, positively do not want to be around LeBron James when he's cranky.
Hopefully the Lakers start figuring out the tire fire of personalities they intentionally assembled for some godforsaken reason that's fortuitous only to fun-loving fans, because it's a cast of characters that will more than likely undergo a massive overhaul if its lead gets cranky sooner rather than later. You don't want to be around LeBron when his patience runs out, because there's probably about a 50/50 shot of you being run out as a result. There's no shortage of nice things that can be said about LeBron James as a player, but calling him a tolerant leader is not one of them. Credit to him for kinda, sorta admitting as much.
I don't want to give any sort of pass to the nut job who started throwing friendly fire at his own cornerman out of pure frustration, but I really only find it shocking in the sense that it's the first time we've seen such a thing. Levan Shonia appears to be the combustable combination of a sore loser and a loosely-screwed lunatic, but no more than I'd expect from literally anyone that's devoted their life to the sweet science of competitive face-punching. I don't condone throwing haymakers at your trainer for trying to help you out of precarious situation, but I'd imagine there's only so much criticism a coach can give to a fighter before said fighter quite literally shows him how much easier it's said than done. Mix in the disappointment of taking a presumably unexpected loss that he prepped months in advance in hopes of avoiding, and a cranky combatant being prone to causing some collateral damage to a person who grabs him from behind just doesn't exactly seem all that off-brand.
Michael Scott? MICHAEL SCOTT?!? Of all the comparisons to make in the aftermath of Hue Jackson belatedly getting booted for leading the Browns to a winning percentage that compares favorably to a blind person's batting average, this anonymous player had to go with the most beloved of boss-type buffoons? Having witnessed his inept attempts to get everyone to like him while being shockingly unaware of both his occupational norms and his responsibilities as an authority figure on Hard Knocks, I can definitely see the similarities. It's just that they make him seem worthy of so, so, so much more sympathy than he actually deserves. Michael Scott was offensively bad at his job, but you won't find one loyal viewer whose heart didn't momentarily break when he eventually left The Office.
In all sincerity, it's not the Browns' well-deserved dismissal of their Michael Scott that makes this hard to accept, but rather their decision to promote their very own Dwight Schrute into his relieved role. Giving Gregg Williams, a man who was once suspended indefinitely by the league, executive autonomy is equally as frightening as leaving your company in the hands of someone who keeps loaded weapons hidden around the workplace, and if you think I'm exaggerating then be my guest and explain the difference between bounty dollars and Schrute bucks. We're talking about two dudes who are woefully incapable of getting along with others, but only one of them is a fictional and comedic representation of a petulant, power-hungry co-worker. The other is quite literally a lunatic who went from the NFL equivalent of the Assistant to the Regional Manager to having free reign over an entire roster of players that are about to find out that working for an unmitigated idiot is much more tolerable than working for a complete asshole of an insane person.
Salty In The Wound: The Red Sox Adopted 'New York, New York' During Their World Series Celebration, And Yankees Fans Are None Too Pleased
On the most basic of surface levels, I get the frustration. I understand the joke, which is that Aaron Judge essentially choked on his own gavel by choosing the most antagonistic of time and place to play 'New York, New York' before failing to hold any sort of court. Still, I must admit that it was a little weird to hear the sweet, soulful vocals of Frank Sinatra belting out the perks of living in New York City from inside the champagne-soaked locker room of one of the best Boston Red Sox teams of all-time.
Unfortunately for Yankees fans, that weirdness is easily topped by their reaction to getting trolled in return, which tells you all you need to know about whether the stunt was worth pulling. Simply put, it's never a bad time to elicit pure saltiness by taking a swipe at your most hated rivals, and - even if there was - it wouldn't be after a successful championship run in which you completely bulldozed said hated rivals.
For Yankees' fans clamoring that this is a sign that they are somehow in Boston's head...as they ironically study the sights and sounds of the Red Sox World Series' celebration. I think it might be to remove the pinstriped glasses and take a look in the mirror. What they might see is something that looks vaguely familiar to an jilted woman hiding in a bush, looking in on a party she wasn't invited to while stalking her ex-boyfriend who she's convinced is still obsessed with her because he's wearing the shirt she bought him while flirting with her potential replacements. In a word, that reflection is probably going to return a hypocrite. Not just the base-level hypocrite that inherently exists within all die-hard fans, but the type of hypocrite that can't even begin to process how much of a hypocrite they are being.
The Yankees got bullish after winning one battle, so why wouldn't the Red Sox return the favor after conquering all fronts? To be in a rivalry is to take a disproportional amount of satisfaction in beating the team with which you hold a grudge so that you can incessantly rub it in their face. That hasn't all the sudden changed just because the most spoiled fanbase in professional sports happens to be on the wrong side of it for a change.
Josh Gordon Will Be Taking A Timeout To Start Tonight's Game, As He Still Has A Problem With Being Prompt
You know, on a day in which the Cleveland Browns cleaned house, but - instead of exterminating the rat - decided to promote the most poisonous entity in professional sports to head rodent in charge, I can't help but feel like their fans are in need of some good news...
It might not be as comforting as "the long-time lunatic that learned very little from being suspended indefinitely by the NFL has lost his job", but hearing that the All-World talent they traded to a perennial Super Bowl contender for a mid-round pick was tainted beyond the toxicity of the team's culture has to be a bit of a relief. There are certainly some that, either fairly or unfairly, figured Josh Gordon's issues heavily stemmed from being engulfed in the furthest possible thing from a work environment that was conductive to removing his personal warts, but - as it turns out - not even Bill Belichick can get him to set an alarm! I don't know if that news, in and of itself, will inspire the Cleveland faithful to put down the proverbial bottle, but here's to hopes it serves as motivation to mix in a metaphorical water as they pray that the potential of Baker Mayfield prevails over the final remaining flame inside a dumpster fire of a franchise.
Ryan Fitzpatrick Has Been Named The Buccaneers' Starter Next Sunday, And So Circles Back The Most Counterproductive Of Quarterback Carousels
I'd first like to offer the disclaimer that, as a Saints' fan, I am both entirely biased as well as emotionally invested in the exact opposite of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' organizational well-being. With that being said, I think I need the most cyclical and carnival-ish of quarterback carousels to keep on spinning past this circus of a season, and it's only partially due to the fact that it would render a quarter of the NFC South irrelevant.
I'm well aware that Tampa Bay can, and probably will, move on from either one or both of Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick in the offseason, but - in a highly entertaining way that entirely undermines any sort of success - they are basically the personification of each other's paradox.
The journeyman quarterback with the endearing nickname (FitzMagic) whose Ivy League background definitely hasn't hurt the amount of opportunities he's gotten to show that he's only consistent in being unsustainably good in relief? The first overall pick whose infamously ironic nickname (Famous Jameis) hasn't helped people forget that he's more consistent as a sexual assailant/problem child than he is as a starting quarterback who is impossibly bad at random in a way that often calls for said relief? The former being a player who has repeatedly proven to have reached his potential as a bi-polar passer, and the latter being a player whose potential is theoretically much higher than the bi-polar passer he's merely proven to be thus far?!?
It's almost as if the football gods jokingly put these two wrongs together to test the stubbornness of the opinions of those who are in the business of being right. The sky is the limit for Jameis Winston and the limit is the sky for Ryan Fitzpatrick, and yet they are as oddly similar in that whether their performance will be touchdown or turnover heavy can basically be decided by a flip of a coin.
I feel for Dirk Koetter, because there is truly no "good" choice that isn't at a high risk of being proven brutally bad by next Sunday. Unfortunately, I also have a sadistic appreciation for watching the "Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me" narrative play out in a league that stigmatizes those that don't stick to their guns, even if said "guns" are essentially pointed at the feet of the person tasked with pulling the trigger.
John Tortorella Thinks That Hockey Has Become A "Hugfest", Which Is The Least Surprising Thing You'll Read Today
The truth of this particular matter is that John Tortorella has, time and time again, made it evident that his personality is best described as "emotionally constipated". Therefore, a stick appearing lodged up his ass in regards to the occasional smile making an appearance during the heat of a professional hockey game is nothing if not unsurprising. The only way that condemnation of competitive cordiality could have been more on-brand would be if he had delivered it in about 100x the decibel level with a "fuck" or two forced in, so I'm not going to overreact in response to John Tortorella's feelings about the state of a sport that's not nearly as repressed as it used to be.
What I will say is that his point, if you want to call it that, should be taken as any insult by the players whose on-ice personalities he's pissing and moaning about. To imply that professional athletes, that have beat the absolute shit out of the odds to make it to the highest level of hockey, can't simultaneously deliver a joke and maintain the singular focus of outmatching an opponent with which they might harbor an off-ice relationship is nothing short of ridiculous. To assume that one must literally flash his fangs for 2.5 straight hours to play with some snarl is stupidity at its most old-school. I understand that the NHL being as much of a community as it's ever been might frighten those that would rather watch a 5-on-5 sword fight than admit their favorite sport has anything even remotely in common with the NBA (the fastest growing league in the world, mind you), but that doesn't make that line of thinking any less asinine.
Having watched plenty of puck in the early going, the only way I can justify labeling hockey a "hugfest" is if headlocks, face-washes, and other acts of irritability are included in that definition. I imagine the type of affection that the Blue Jackets' Head Coach shows compares favorably to an awkward tug-a-war between his hyper-masculinity and his insecure vulnerability, so - when you consider the source - the take does make some sense. Still, from what I can tell, there's certainly been no lack of pushing, shoving, or exchange of other "pleasantries" post-whistle (which, by the way, seems entirely unnecessary at times).
To put it simply, if the "problem" is that the NHL is no longer employs 20 to 30-something year olds whose ill-humored mannerisms are that of people who desperately need to get laid then you won't find me looking for a solution to anything other than John Tortorella's emotional anal blockage. Hockey is still played with plenty of hate, it's just not exclusively (and archaically) expressed in physical face punches and conversational dick-measuring contests anymore.
A College Professor Choosing The Seminoles' Stadium As His Reading Room Is A Sign That Florida State Has Hit Rock Bottom
Backstory aside, the type of "fan" that's willing to go topless in public also having some literature handy just in case a stadium that's five years removed from housing a National Champion was turned a library-level of silent is a terrible, awful, no good, very bad look. Never mind the score at the time, because a grown man treating the bleachers like a private beach is almost...almost...a bigger indictment of the current state of Florida State football than a 49-point shellacking at the hands of a team that's annually replaced them atop the ACC.
That said, the context somehow makes it an even worse look...
We're talking about a college professor here. The type of person who is occupationally inclined to best know where to go to escape the half-drunk hustle and belligerent bustle of barely legal boozehounds at a prominent party school, and he rightfully chose the one place that no one would ever reasonably expect to get some reading done. Presumably the smartest person in the stadium just showed up, book in hand, and patiently waited for the Clemson Tigers to inevitably claw the life out of both the home team and it's fanbase before popping off the top and losing himself in the written word. I think we can all agree that picture is absolutely preposterous in how perfect a representation it is of Seminoles' football, and yet it doesn't even tell the whole story of a molder of intoxicated minds thinking one step ahead of them in promising himself some peace and quiet.
The Minneapolis Mauling: The Saints Proved That This Season Is Different In Matter-Of-Factly SKOL'ding The Vikings
You know, for a vengeful road victory in the building in which their hearts were 9 months removed from being ripped out in the type of traumatizing fashion that's undoubtedly been replayed in their head as often as it's been replayed on seemingly every league-wide commercial, last night's Saints' win didn't require anywhere near as much suspense as expected. "Get a win and get the hell out" was probably nothing more than the latest of Drew Brees' contagiously competitive rallying cries, but I'll be damned if it didn't look as though it was their mission statement in matter-of-factly manhandling Minnesota for the majority of the game.
Of course, the first couple drives didn't exactly serve as the grandest of opening in them taking care of business. The Vikings, somewhat predictably, took advantage of a secondary that had its question marks even before injuries forced them to insert their brand new addition of Eli Apple into the starting lineup. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs did what Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs all-too-familiarly do in making plays all over the field, and a focus in failing to stop them allowed Latavius Murray to gash a defense that momentarily took for granted their dominance in stopping the run this season.
âThat, however, all changed with a fumble that was forced by the player that probably needed it the most. During a game in which redemption was undoubtedly on their mind, P.J. Williams' performance encapsulated the Saints' vindictive victory as his early struggles were all but forgotten with the forcing of one timely fumble. His pick-6 later in the second half added an exclamation point to the most unexpected of exonerations...
...but the strip that ultimately sent the Saints soaring into the second half with the lead was unquestionably the turning point that tilted the field in their favor and allowed for what, at times, has been a disgraced defense to redeem itself.
Cam Jordan was his incredibly commanding self, Sheldon Rankins showed out, and Marcus Davenport once again flashed his freakish athleticism as the pass rush feasted on an underwhelming offensive line that proved no match when forced to play from behind. Simply put, shades of the inspired and opportunistic defense that helped turn around a sluggish start last season were on full display.
There's a reason that were five paragraphs into a write-up about a double-digit win over a formidable opponent in an unforgiving environment and the name Drew Brees is only now being mentioned. That reason is that the Saints may have turned in the most statistically encouraging performance of the Sean Payton era. By that, I don't mean that their future HOF quarterback made a mockery of yet another pass defense, but rather that he put up relatively paltry numbers because that's all that was required of him. New Orleans not only cruised to a comfortable win, but they let their largely overworked leader take a backseat as a passenger to a complete pounding. 120 yards and as many interceptions (his 1st of the season, mind you) as touchdowns is the type of box score that, without context, would Saints' fans brooding, and yet it's the one that Drew Brees posted in his team's tumultuous transfusion of the baddest of blood. Sean Payton gave us a reminder that he's slowly but surely painting his masterpiece this season with a three quarterback set that followed a Taysom Hill bomb to Michael Thomas, but - other than that - nothing crazy was needed from an offense that was simply methodical in eating minutes to ice the game.
Regardless of the cliched answers they gave prior, last night's win meant more than most to a young, prideful team who took it's most embarrassing gut punch from the hands of the Vikings. That was made as clear as it was already obvious when the postgame rolled around and the PC act finally got dropped...
More so than they have all season, the winners of six straight are starting to feel themselves, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. This Saints' team was surfing on swag following the type of team win that solidified their spot near the top of the conference, and with their biggest competition for said spot in an undefeated Rams team coming to town next Sunday there's no better time for them to be riding that wave of collective confidence.
Last night wasn't just about sticking it to the Minnesota Vikings and a fanbase that's had far too many laughs at the Saints' expense since their sour end to last season. It was also about continuing to go grow and improve as a versatile and very real threat to the rest of the league. They did just that (with no miracles necessary), but - though they waved a powerful goodbye to a team they not-so-secretly had circled on the schedule - the following wise words shouldn't be left unspoken...
Only One Team's Killer Instinct Prevailed, As The Devils Had Their Chances To Put Down The Predators
The truth is that a back-and-forth game that, from a Devils perspective, probably saw a bit too many chances going each way when considering the skill level of their opponent can't be dumbed down to a highlight or two. However, in the interest of keeping things succinct, I can say that the following saves tell the short-form version of last night's story...
In case you have a problem taking a hint and instead need it spoon-fed to you, the point is that the Devils had their chances to put away a team that became more and more bound to tie things up with each failed opportunity. Of course, by absolutely crushing one off the tee and into the top corner of the net, Filip Forsberg did just that...
It's tough to be too upset, as New Jersey went toe-to-toe and tit-for-tat with one of the most complete rosters in the NHL, but taking one on the chin after whiffing on multiple knockout punches was a reminder of how opportunistic they need to keep pace when they aren't the more talented team. Outside of an anomaly of a first goal, Keith Kinkaid continued to give the Devils more than enough margin for error. That was especially true during an early going in which the rest of the lineup was late to get going in turning over multiple pucks at their blue-line, but even as the game worn on he was visually swerving through to traffic to gobble up pucks. Unfortunately, Juuse Saros was equal to the task in doing the same to a Devils team whose effort was of the winning variety but whose execution fell short in the one aspect that literally counts the most.
Injuries are a bullshit thing to bitch about, as everybody has them, but they are definitely felt more sharply when you're playing a team with as many weapons as the Nashville Predators. Marcus Johansson would never say as much, but he began to miss his fellow countryman in Jesper Bratt more and more with each passing 2-on-1 in which Jean-Sebastien put forth a Dea-grade attempt to score. Eric Gryba, as much as it's his role to play things a 1976-style of safe, gave the Ben Lovejoy haters a good look at what a slow, plodding defenseman with limited puck skills really looks like in being a noticeable downgrade next to Will Butcher.
All in all, despite losing in a coin flip of an extra period, there were quite a few positives throughout a game in which they Devils played their way to a point with something much closer to the brand of hockey they displayed in jumping out to a 4-0 start.
Nico Hischier looking like a wide receiver in outwitting and outworking P.K. Subban to the front of the net for his second goal on a night in which he unsurprisingly looked every bit of a #1 center was definitely one of them...
...as was Damon Severson somewhat quietly continuing his growth into the trustworthy player the Devils have been praying on the potential of by padding his stats...
I can probably think of about a dozen or so, but that's already two more than the Devils put forth in Philadelphia, so the important thing is that they are once again headed in the right direction. Hopefully that direction leads to the win column tomorrow afternoon, as another season of streaks is not something my heart (or likely John Hynes' voice box) can handle.
Why Anyone Would Think Teddy Bridgewater Is Available For Anything Less Than An Unreasonable Return Is Beyond My Comprehension
At least on the surface, I understand the scuttlebutt. There are a lot of otherwise competitive teams who are a quarterback away from actually being able to compete. With the Saints presumably having an additional one that's more than capable of starting just standing idly on their sidelines for the rest of the season, it would make sense for a needy team like the Jaguars to reach out in desperation before Blake Bortles is getting dressed in his own locker room after taking out a restraining order on Jalen Ramsey.
Unfortunately, the main problem with presuming in professional sports is the same one responsible for lacing up Teddy Bridgewater in black & gold in the first place. As tends to happen in a copycat league, Sean Payton acted on watching an insurance policy raise a Super Bowl MVP trophy last season, and literally nothing that has happened since that trade would, could, or should make him reconsider that coverage.
In fact, if anything, the opposite is true. Without Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill becomes the de facto clipboard holder, as opposed to the backstabbing bushel of thorns in the side of every opposing coordinator. Without Teddy Bridgwater, the 5-1 Saints are left with even further to fall if what shall remain an unspoken nightmare were to "Freddy Krueger" it's way onto the field. Without Teddy Bridgewater, the idea that there's been one sole motivation behind every single move they've made since the conclusion of last season no longer holds true.
Never mind a foggy future in which Teddy Bridgewater could conceivably take over an offense whose play calling and personnel is suited perfectly to his strengths, because this season is the one that matters. It was the season that mattered when they traded two first round picks to fill a sizable hole opposite Cam Jordan on the defensive line. It was the season that mattered when they traded a third round pick for a backup quarterback hoping he would merely sniff the field. It was the season that mattered when they addressed their questionable cornerback play across from Marshon Lattimore by trading a fourth round pick for Eli Apple. And, you guessed it, it's the season that will still matter as the trade deadline comes and goes with their best bargaining chip remaining in their back pocket so as to not have their championship aspirations made bankrupt by the worst case scenario.
The only question that really remains is whether Sean Payton will have to wear a visor that reads "ALL IN" before people actually believe him. The Saints aren't worried about replenishing a stock of draft picks that they've actively dwindled, because...::checks calendar::...draft picks aren't selected until after the Super Bowl. There may be but a slight chance that New Orleans require the services of Teddy Bridgewater en route to getting there, but so long as there is any chance whatsoever he'll remain on a roster that's made a hell of a lot deeper by his presence alone.
Joe Flacco Bought A Mattress Off Sean Payton's Brother At The Jersey Shore During The Offseason, Which Is...Certainly A Story.
You know what, I'm just going to go ahead and say it. Never has there ever been a random anecdote that better encapsulated the career of Joe Flacco. Like, that story should be both interesting and unbelievable on so many levels, and yet my initial reaction to hearing it was nothing more than the look you give someone when you're either trying really hard to listen or trying really hard to make it look like you're listening.
Don't get me wrong, the "small world" aspect to it is cool, but I just feel as though there's not much left to elaborate on. It's funny that one man's experience buying a bed is fitting of how easy it is to sleep on him as a...::double-checks out of sheer disbelief::...Super Bowl MVP who lays claim to a perfect (11 TD's, no INT's) NFL postseason. Like, here I am smirking less at Sean Payton's brother slinging mattresses near the Jersey Shore and more at Joe Flacco being one of the most Average...well...Joe's of all highly accomplished athletes ever.
Also, can we get Sean Payton's sibling(s) a made-up role(s) within the Saints' front office? I feel like all family and friends should be around to experience what's shaping up to be a special season in New Orleans.
The Timberwolves Are Holding (Stupidly?) Strong On The Jimmy Butler Front, Despite Being Offered 4 First Round Picks By The Rockets
I understand that four first round picks sounds like a much better haul than it actually is. I understand that the Houston Rockets, with the addition of Jimmy Butler, would be built to push those picks well into the later stages of each respective draft. I understand that the resulting powder keg of personalities would have to explode in a way that you'd only expect from a middling team like, well, the Timberwolves for the Rockets to implode in a way that gave the Timberwolves a shot at anything close to a can't-miss prospect in return for a top 15 player in the NBA. I understand that two contracts that belong to injured players don't exactly act as a short squeeze of lemon in sweetening the deal.
What I don't understand is why Minnesota's front office thinks they are gaining leverage on the rest of the league by holding on to a pissed off player whose presence, in large part due to Karl-Anthony Towns having the compete level of the cowardly lion, is forcing the franchise player for the foreseeable future to backpedal the wrong way down the yellow brick road.
It's not really a secret why Tom Thibodeau is overvaluing Jimmy Butler. In an alternate universe in which mirrors display a man's psychotically competitive spirit as opposed to his oversized schnoz, his reflection basically is that of Jimmy Butler. Still, assuming that the brain of their 22 year old, endlessly talented 7-footer is something they don't want broken, I can't see how this current situation helps them long-term.
If I can't see it, surely neither can any GM, most notably those they are negotiating with (Pat Riley, Daryl Morey), throughout a league in which getting equal value for a star player in a trade is next to impossible. Much like every person tasked with running the Timberwolves' organization, I have no idea what direction they are trying to head in while moving on from Jimmy Butler. That said, I'd probably choose a path pretty damn quickly, if only to do some damage control by removing the dude that appears to have already crumbled the confidence of their cornerstone.
While I can't speak for the validity of the offsetting offensive pass interference penalty that called back a freakish snag that would only feel as familiar for one other player in the entire league (Odell Beckham Jr.), I can without a doubt say that's the most effortless display of an athlete using one hand to secure the ball on his taint that these eyes have ever seen. At this point, calling him an alien is something that's been overdone, but - fittingly given his flowing dreadlocks - he certainly makes for a hell of a pass catching Predator that both can and will stop at nothing to expose the weakness of even the most well-positioned of defensive back. Biologically he's more than likely human, but trying to defend him as such is a fool's errand with how he's able to contort a body that occasionally appears to be moving in six different directions at the same damn time.
Off the top of my head, I can't even tell you what DeAndre Hopkins sounds like or what his celebration of choice might be, and yet - if only because his play speaks at deafening decibels - he still might be one of the outspoken players at a position in which his peers have a tendency to talk themselves up. Quietly, he's one of the loudest athletes in the league, as plays that would have him break out in flames on NFL Street or have those in attendance react as though the building broke out in flames on the And 1 Mixtape Tour are almost matter-of-factly a part of his repertoire. If he were judging based off of body language afterwards, you'd have thought he reeled in a 3-yard out on 1st and 10, and yet what he did do was cross his primary defender up mid-catch in a way that would have had a lesser man in need of 3-6 bones being popped back into their sockets. DeAndre Hopkins didn't even catch that all, in my opinion. He somehow absorbed it into his body as if it were a detachable appendage, and he did so in a way that accounted for an infinite amount of style points relative to the 0 yards it actually gained. Although, that's just another explosive day in the life of 'Nuk'...