Danny Amendola scored one of the Patriots’ two fourth-quarter touchdowns that helped New England overcome a 25-point deficit


Elite Ben Zobrist Jersey The Falcons didn’t have much impact in the return game, but give them credit for awareness and the ability to recover a Patriots’ onside kick in the second half. The play would have been wiped out by a New England penalty, but it showed preparation on the biggest stage.

The New England Patriots erased a deficit of 28-3 and went on to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime in Super Bowl LI. Here’s a report card on the Falcons’ performance:
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This was a script that not even Hollywood could have come up with for believability, especially when considering the greatest Super Bowl comeback had previously been 10 points.

Danny Amendola scored one of the Patriots’ two fourth-quarter touchdowns that helped New England overcome a 25-point deficit.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower’s strip sack in the fourth quarter changed the momentum of the game, and receiver Julian Edelman’s 23-yard “how-did-he-do-that?” catch was the reverse David Tyree.

“That’s the best catch I’ve ever seen in person. That’s why they call him Julian Incredible-man,” marveled Hightower.

As for his strip sack, Hightower said, “It’s not a complicated blitz, just blitzing outside, and they had run the play once or twice the previous series. I guess [Devonta] Freeman didn’t see me outside and went to chip or release, and lost sight of me. I see Matt Ryan with the ball in his hands and I wanted it, so I went and took it.”

The grade isn’t for the total, necessarily — Atlanta had 102 yards rushing early in the fourth quarter — but they did damage early to set the tone. They found early room on the perimeter.

His ascent as a football general manager began with the Falcons in 2008 and there truly was nowhere to go but up.


Falcons owner Arthur Blank, right, watches practice next to general manager Thomas Dimitroff during their first training camp together in 2008. AP Photo/John Amis
Dimitroff said he has great admiration for many in the Patriots organization, where he first served as a national scout in 2002 before earning a promotion to director of college scouting the following year. Preparing to face the Patriots in the Super Bowl is a moment he always hoped he would have the opportunity to experience.
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“It’s that fantasy game that you have in your mind, the team playing one of your mentors,” he said of Bill Belichick. “I don’t want to go overboard, but I do believe Tom Brady is the best quarterback in the history of the game to date. I obviously learned a great deal from that organization and how they approached things.”

He credits the Patriots with teaching him things such as “indisputable role understanding” during his New England tenure. But when he left the Patriots he had quite the task ahead.

His ascent as a football general manager began with the Falcons in 2008 and there truly was nowhere to go but up. The Falcons were coming off a season in which head coach Bobby Petrino abruptly quit and quarterback Michael Vick was suspended after an admission of guilt in a dogfighting scheme. Dimitroff was hired to help clean up the mess.
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This was one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever, especially for those who took the over, as the Cardinals and Steelers combined for 16 points in the final three minutes. Pittsburgh led by 10 at halftime and by 13 entering the fourth quarter, but Arizona came back to take the lead with 2:37 left. However, Santonio Holmes’ game-winning touchdown with 35 seconds left gave the Steelers the victory and put the game over the total.

The QB sneak is a remarkably efficient play, and an excellent way to extend a drive


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Falcons: During Atlanta’s current six-game winning streak, its defense has made significant strides from the one that surrendered 27.9 points per game through the first 12 games of the regular season. Over this six-game stretch, the defense has allowed just 19.3 points per game. Playing the likes of the Rams and 49ers offered an opportunity to pad numbers, but it’s hard to argue with the Falcons holding their own in playoff matchups against Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. In the playoffs, the Falcons have forced four turnovers, building off the momentum from the end of the regular season. Quinn preaches “the ball” all the time, which is why the Falcons finished the regular season with a plus-11 turnover ratio, tied for fourth in the NFL.

Since the start of the 2001 season, the Patriots lead the league in QB sneaks, running 0.52 every game, which translates to one roughly every other week.1 For comparison, Kansas City, which is last in the league, runs about two QB sneaks per season. Most teams attempt about three or four sneaks in a season, with Jacksonville (0.5 per game or roughly eight per season) and Baltimore (roughly seven per season) the only other teams that approach New England’s frequency. During that period, the Patriots, led by Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, have won 14 of 16 AFC East titles and have been to the Super Bowl seven times, including Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.
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The QB sneak is a remarkably efficient play, and an excellent way to extend a drive. Leaguewide, the conversion rate2 from 2001 to 2015 on 3rd-and-1 or 4th-and-1 plays that are not QB sneaks is 65 percent — on sneaks, that success rate jumps to 84 percent.3 And there’s a similar story when teams have 2 yards to gain, with sneaks 20 percentage points more successful (75 percent versus 55 percent) relative to other runs or passes.

Vikings reportedly give Adrian Peterson $20 million guaranteed in restructured contract


The Minnesota Vikings and Adrian Peterson have agreed to a restructured contract, according to a news release from the team. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed by the team, but it covers the last three years of the seven-year, $96 million contract Peterson signed in 2011.

Sources told Pro Football Talk that Peterson will earn $20 million guaranteed, part of which is guaranteed only for injury. PFT suggests that Peterson’s $13 million due this season will be fully guaranteed, with the remaining $7 million due to Peterson at the commencement of the 2016 waiver period or league year, giving the Vikings the option of moving on from the running back before the start of free agency if need be.

Peterson’s last deal, which made him the highest paid running back in the NFL, came with $36 million guaranteed. The restructure is believed to add more guaranteed money while bringing down his annual base salaries and cap hit.

“I appreciate the Vikings for working together on this restructured contract, which provides additional security for me but also allows opportunities for me to further prove my value to the team and within the NFL,” Peterson said in a statement. “It was important for me to continue my career in Minnesota, and I cannot wait to get on the field in front of Vikings fans again.”

Peterson was due base salaries of $12.75 million this season, $14.75 million in 2016 and $16.75 million in 2017, the final year of his deal. His cap hit this season was sitting at a hefty $15.4 million. The cap charge for the final two years of the deal was $15 million and $17 million.

The Vikings described the restructuring as positive for both sides.

“This agreement is a win for both Adrian and the Vikings and is a positive step toward Adrian finishing his career as a Minnesota Viking,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said. “As we have consistently said, Adrian is a valuable part of the Vikings organization and we look forward to his return to the field.”

Crosby has made an NFL-record 23 consecutive postseason field goals and is 26-of-28 on postseason attempts in his career


“Especially after he hit the first one, it was just a matter of [when] he’s going to do it again,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s so consistent in just his personality, his work ethic, and I’m really happy for him too, to go back home and make that kick. That’s always fun.”

Crosby has made an NFL-record 23 consecutive postseason field goals and is 26-of-28 on postseason attempts in his career.

Usually when the Packers line up for a kick, defensive end Datone Jones, who is on the field goal protection team as a left wing, has the same message for Crosby.

“Right down the middle,” Jones says.

But he didn’t say anything on that last kick on Sunday.

“I didn’t want to get in his head right before that last kick, so I didn’t say anything,” Jones said. “I didn’t want to say anything to break his rhythm.”

Little did Jones know that Crosby had all the guidance he needed right there on his wrist.

“I didn’t know about that,” said Jones, whose locker at Lambeau Field is two stalls over from Crosby. “That’s huge for him and his family. He’s playing for a lot.”

Raul Zarraga, managing director of NBA Mexico, said Thursday that it’s time for the country to start developing NBA-caliber players and the league needs “to work more closely with local authorities to see how we can grow the basketball professionally to find new players that in the future can play in the NBA.” Silver agreed, saying the plan now is to start an NBA development academy in Mexico.

You know Nowitzki is feeling good when he launches a 3 from several feet behind the line, as he did during Dallas’ 11-0 run in the second half, drilling a 27-footer as the trailer. He mentioned he might not have taken that shot if he wasn’t coming off a couple of makes, but Nowitzki wouldn’t have even considered letting it fly if his legs didn’t feel much better than they have most of the season.

Aaron Rodgers improvised on the Packers’ play that set up the game-winning field goal


We’re all still shocked at the game we saw between the Packers and the Cowboys. After the Packers jumped out to a 21-3 lead, the Cowboys fought back, before the Packers went on one last drive to put themselves in position for the game-winning field goal.

On that drive, Aaron Rodgers hit Jared Cook with a perfectly placed pass that Cook turned into an even more spectacular catch.

After the game, Randall Cobb said that play wasn’t designed at all:

It’s things like drawing up plays randomly at the most crucial times that always make for the best stories, right?

“I placed my hands on Porter’s chest to prevent him from advancing back towards Neskow,” the officer wrote. “Porter grabbed both of my wrists, pushing them back towards me. Porter’s grasp was so strong and he was holding my wrists so tightly that I could not pull them away from him, no matter how hard I tried. Porter was extremely agitated and after my observations of him grabbing Neskow and now grabbing me, I believed that he was going to cause me serious injury.”

Porter was taken to the Allegheny County Jail and charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, resisting arrest, public drunkenness and terroristic threats, per the Pittsburgh Police Department. On Monday morning, he posted $25,000 bail and released.

There are two possible options here, and both of them are very plausible:

He knows social media platforms have a “Face” on the end or start of their names. He thinks it’s possible the face belongs to somebody.

Chris Johnson posts his gunshot wound on Instagram and NOPE


Chris Johnson will reportedly be a member of the Arizona Cardinals if everything goes well. It appears he wants to be as honest and transparent as possible before signing with a team. He may be disclosing more information than he should in his latest Instagram post, however.

Earlier this year, Johnson was shot in the shoulder in a drive-by shooting. He’s fine now, but he still has a nasty wound that he felt like sharing.

DISCLAIMER: If you’re squeamish, please don’t look at Chris Johnson’s wound.

Are you sure you want to see it? Just making sure. You can view his gunshot wound below using the slider:

This is a substantial blow to the Cardinals’ offensive line, as the club hoped to pair Iupati with tackle Jared Veldheer on the left side. In San Francisco, Iupati played alongside one of the best left tackles in the game, Joe Staley.

Arizona had one of the worst offensive lines in football last season, and the unit has already taken a couple of hits so far in training camp. Right tackle Bobby Massie was suspended for three games earlier this month for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Though Iupati had a bit of a down season in 2014 — he often struggled in pass coverage — the Cardinals were expecting him to play an integral role this year.

Arizona was decimated by injuries in 2014, and losing its starting left guard for at least the first six weeks of the regular season was almost certainly not how head coach Bruce Arians envisioned starting the preseason.

it will be forced stardom playing with the Kansas City Chiefs


For Marcus Peters, it will be forced stardom playing with the Kansas City Chiefs. The team’s first-round pick faces Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers in just the second and third games of his career. Compounding that pressure is the fact that Chiefs No. 1 corner Sean Smith is suspended for those games. When he comes back, Peters may actually be the best corner on Kansas City’s roster. Peters comes into the NFL possessing the size, speed, instincts and athleticism teams covet in a cornerback.

The Chargers taking running back Melvin Gordon in the first round of the draft was one of the more obvious choices this year, and justly so. San Diego needed a true lead running back, and Gordon was arguably the best one in the draft. A threat to score whenever he touches the ball in space, Gordon will help give San Diego’s offense balance.

Anderson is currently playing on a two-year, $2.6 million contract that he signed in March 2014. He is set to receive a base salary of $1.175 million this year and can earn up to $64,000 in gameday active roster bonuses plus a $25,000 workout bonus, per

The 2005 sixth-round pick out of Oregon State is considered one of the most dependable backups in the league. This is a smart decision by the Panthers to lock up Anderson now, giving them a reliable safety net in case Newton goes down again in the next two seasons.

The show requires a army of producers, editors, make-up artists, camera operators, fact checkers,and interns behind the scenes to make it go. The producton studio resembles a upgraded version of a NASA control room except there job is to launch stars back to earth and into the homes of millions.

Williams was the best player in this year’s draft, and has done well for himself in the preseason. The versatile Williams can play the run and will create disruption in the passing game.

Browns are hiring Gregg Williams as new defensive coordinator


After a miserable 1-15 season, the Cleveland Browns are making a change in their coaching ranks. Gone is defensive coordinator Ray Horton, and the Browns are hiring Gregg Williams to fill his place, the team announced. Williams spent the past three years with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams.

“We are thrilled that Gregg Williams is joining our staff as defensive coordinator,” Brown head coach Hue Jackson said. “Gregg has been an outstanding defensive coach in this league for a very long time. His defenses have frequently finished among the top 10 in the league. He adapts his scheme to maximize the strengths of his personnel and has always been able to get the most out of his players. We look forward to him coming in, helping our players improve and helping us become the winning team we are all working towards.”

The Steelers would recover the fumble, and were in great field position as a result. If the Dolphins are unable to turn things around soon, their season might not last much longer.

Cal even alluded to the severity of the situation in its statement, adding:

Our objective is long-term financial sustainability for our department. In order to do this, we understand that investing in football is critical. We believe that this change will reinvigorate the program, stimulate lagging ticket sales and renewals, and energize our donor base.

So Cal is hoping that by spending additional money now, it’ll get a better coach, sell more tickets, and raise the money needed to cover expensive debt service payments.
Thanks to that extension, it’ll need to pay even more money. Dykes reportedly will get a buyout of $5 million dollars. Telling a student-athlete that you might need to cut his or her sport, while turning around to give Dykes millions to not coach, sounds like a difficult conversation.

On The Relevance Of The Winter Classic


The NHL’s Winter Classic has been the league’s flagship event since 2008. Like much that the league does, there’s contention over the execution. It’s hard to argue that the first one, at Ralph Wilson Stadium, wasn’t a spectacle that was the start of something special. With over 71,000 people in attendance, goalies in toques (!), and Sidney Crosby doing Crosby things, it was a great inauguration to the concept of the outdoor game.

The 2009 Winter Classic was also a sight to behold at Wrigley. It was the first time that the Blackhawks and Red Wings were featured in an outdoor game, and it was again a major event. The Flyers and Bruins at Fenway continued the tradition of picturesque baseball stadiums and classic teams that are able to draw on deep history and natural rivalries to hold fan and media interest.

The Hawks have won at least 40 games in seven of the last eight seasons. They’ve been exceptionally steady despite a constantly rotating cast of contributors, without a single star carrying them through that stretch. Potentially making moves this season fits their usual practices.

This roster just isn’t working together like the Hawks had hoped. They’ve cratered since starting 9-2 this season. Dwight Howard has been superb in the front court, and Dennis Schroder is leading the team in scoring after replacing Jeff Teague, but Atlanta’s top-five defense hasn’t been enough to make up for a painfully average offense.