COVID Deaths Top 400,000 on Trump’s Last Day in Office

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Vice President-Elect Joe Biden, his wife Dr. Jill Biden,

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 19, 2021

On his last full day in office, President Donald Trump is leaving the White House with his legacy stained by a global pandemic. In February, he said it would “disappear, like a miracle” from our shores. Now, nearly a year later, COVID-19 is still spreading across the country. More than 24 million cases have been reported in America; today there are more than 400,000 deaths.

As CNN noted today, that’s more than the number of Americans who died in World War I, Vietnam War and the Korean War combined. It’s nearly as many Americans who died in World War II. That death toll of 400,000 is far higher than any other country’s COVID-19 death toll.

Today, a memorial service for the victims took place in the District of Columbia. According to USA Today, the brief service was kicked off by an invocation from Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington. It was capped by a performance from Houston-born gospel singer Yolanda Adams, who sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” 

Tonight, the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is lined with 400 lights, representing those 400,000 lives lost. In a visual memorial for the victims, the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool featured 400 lights illuminating on its north and south sides, in striking contrast with the rest of the National Mall dark. It is the first-ever lighting around the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool. President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris joined their spouses in front of that display tonight, observing a moment of silence to remember those we have lost.

“Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights in the darkness along this sacred pool of reflection and remember all who we lost,” Biden said today.

“It’s hard sometimes to remember,” the president-elect said at the memorial service, held at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. “But that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation. That’s why we’re here.”

Tonight, Mr. Biden and his family are staying at the Blair House, the official guesthouse of the White House. The Blair House is merely two minutes from the White House, which is also illuminated. Surprisingly, the White House flag remains at full-staff.

Bucs Best Saints in Divisional Game

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By Terrance Turner

Jan. 17, 2021

In what may be Drew Brees’ final game, his New Orleans Saints battled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the New Orleans Superdome. The Buccaneers cashed in on four turnovers to win out over the Saints, 30-20.

There wasn’t a ton of offense early on. Saints kicker Wil Lutz kicked two field goals for New Orleans. Bucs kicker Ryan Succop made a field goal to make it 6-3. After the field goal, Brees was intercepted by Bucs’ Murphy-Bunting. Murphy-Bunting returned the pick for 36 yards. That set up a touchdown pass from Brady to wide receiver Mike Evans. That gave Tampa Bay a 10-6 lead.

Taysom Hill tossed the ball to Saints quarterback Jameis Winston, who threw deep across the field to wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith. That 56-yard touchdown made it 13-10. The Bucs got the ball back and settled for a field goal after a would-be touchdown by Chris Godwin got overturned. Succop nailed the field goal to tie the game. It was 13-13 at the half.

In the second half, turnovers made the difference. Brees found Tre’Quan Smith for the touchdown. The Saints had a 20-13 lead, but it was all downhill from there. On the Bucs’ drive, Ronald Jones too off; the Saints defense surrounded him, but he still pushed forward for the first down. Then Bucs running back Leonard Fournette ran in for the touchdown. The game was again tied, at 20-20.

The Saints went three-and-out. But the Buccaneers had a socring drive. An incredible 15-yard catch by Tyler Johnson wowed observers, and Scotty Miller had a big catch after that. A 29-yard completion on 3rd and 5 helped set up another Succop field goal. That made it 23-20.

On the Saints’ next drive, Brees was picked by Devin White. That was his third turnover of the game, and Tampa Bay cashed in. Tight end Rob Gronkowski caught a pass from Brady — his first catch of the postseason. Gronk’s 13-yard catch put the Buccaneers at 1st and goal. Then Brady scored with a 1-yard touchdown run! That extended the Bucs’ lead.

With the fourth quarter ticking away, the Saints had little time to mount a comeback. But Brees got picked off again — the fourth turnover by the Saints. The Bucs held on to the ball just long enough to last past the two-minute warning. They won, 30-20. Brady is now on his way to his 14th conference championship. The Buccaneers will play the Green Bay Packers in next week’s NFC Championship Game.

During the game, word broke that this will be the last game Drew Brees plays at the Superdome. NFL analyst Jay Glazer reported today that Brees will retire after the season concludes. Brees will retire as the all-time leader in passing yards and completions. He helped bring New Orleans a Super Bowl title after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. And as he left the Superdome, Brees turned back, giving his home stadium of nearly 20 years one last look.

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UPDATE: NFL reporter James Palmer shared a video of Brady and Brees chatting on the field after tonight’s game. The two quarterbacks were joined on the field by their kids. Brady even played catch with one of Brees’ sons. After he caught the ball in the end zone, Brady remarked: “We could’ve used you tonight!” Palmer captured a sweet moment:

Chiefs Beat Browns In Dramatic Finish

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By Terrance Turner

Jan. 17, 2021

The Kansas City Chiefs played the Cleveland Browns today in Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City Missouri. The Chiefs (14-1) are seeking a second consecutive Super Bowl berth; Cleveland is in the playoffs for the first tine since 2002. It was high drama in Arrowhead today, but Kansas City somehow pulled off yet another close-call, heart-stopping win.

On their opening drive, Kansas City had 5 runs and four passes before the climactic scoring plays. On 3rd and 2, wide receiver Tyreek Hill got a first-down catch. On 1st and goal, Williams was just short. Then quarterback Patrick Mahomes ran into the end zone for a touchdown. Kicker Harrison Butker missed the extra-point kick, but Mahomes’ 1-yard run put the team ahead 6-0.

The Browns mounted a drive in spite of an injury to their left tackle. At 3rd and 21, they barely evaded a delay of game. On 4th and 17, a 46-yard field goal was good. That made it 6-3. The Chiefs took back over. Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman had a 41-yard run, then picked up nine more on the next play for a first down. Byron Pringle also achieved a first-down to end the first quarter.

The second quarter began with a near-catastrophe. After a disastrous snap, Mahomes managed to snap the ball to Hill. Mahomes ran near the two-yard line, but a holding penalty on Austin Reiter wiped out the gain. On 2nd and 17, tight end Travis Kelce had a 20-yard touchdown reception. This time, the extra point was good. That made it 13-3.

The Browns had worse luck. WR Jarvis Landry had a great catch negated by a holding penalty. Running back Bradley Chubb dropped two passes. Then, on 3rd and 20, the ball was batted back and sonehow caught by QB Baker Mayfield. But the team still lost eight yards on the play.

The Chiefs’ drive saw two penalties on the offense, and Mahomes struggled with a foot injury sustained earlier. Though he ran 13 yards for a first down, Mahomes was gimpy. He walked gingerly after each successive play. The Chiefs were stopped on 3rd down by Browns defensive end Adrian Clayborn, setting up a field goal. Kicker Harrison Butker drilled a 50-yard field goal to make it 16-3.

The Browns got the ball back, embarking on a promising drive. They managed a 26-yard play at the two-minute warning. Wide receiver Tee Higgins had 23 yards and got the ball on the next play. Higgins was this close to scoring. But as he dived towards the end zone with the ball, he collided with Chiefs defender Daniel Sorensen. The ball was knocked free and bounced in the end zone. The result was a touchback, resulting in a first down for Kansas City. They cashed in on the turnover. Butker nailed a 28-yard field goal attempt to make it 19-3 at the half.

In the second half, the momentum switched wildly. Safety Tyrann Mathieu had a huge interception — the first in 10 games by Baker Mayfield. But the Chiefs did nothing with it. Butker missed a 33-yard field goal. That miss would be costly: the Browns scored on their next possession to make it 19-10. Then Mahomes got hurt on the Chiefs’ next drive: what looked like a big shoulder-to-shoulder hit took him to the ground. Mahomes needed help getting up and looked woozy as he went to the sideline. He would soon jog to the locker room, where he was evaluated. Mahomes has a concussion. He was ruled out for the rest of the game.

Backup QB Chad Henne came in. On 4th and inches, Chiefs running back Darrel Williams took off for a first down. Then he gained 17 yards. But the Browns stopped the Chiefs on 3rd down. On 4th down, Kansas City elected to go for a field goal. This time, Butker came through, making a 33-yard field goal to extend the lead. The Chiefs led, 22-10.

The Browns ran all over the Chiefs defense, converting two fourth downs. The eight-minute drive was successful; running back Kareem Hunt ran in for the touchdown. (Hunt formerly played for Kansas City.) That made it 22-17.

A promising Chiefs drive ended horribly. Tyreek Hill made an incredible catch in contested coverage, pinning the ball to his thigh. (Cleveland challenged the play, to no avail.) Then Travis Kelce made a great catch. But it was wiped out by a late flag; a “chopback block” cost them 15 yards. Then Henne threw an interception.

The Browns took over. But the Chiefs defense stepped up. They managed to shut down the Browns offense, forcing Mayfield to throw the ball away and then tackling Kareem Hunt. That gave the Chiefs the ball back. And as the fourth quarter ran under five minutes, the pressure on the Kansas City Chiefs was immense. They had the lead, and the ball. But could they hold on?

Yes! On a heart-stopping final drive, the Chiefs moved down the field. On 3rd and 14, Henne ran 13 yards and dove head-first towards a Browns defender, sacrificing his body to make the play. He came just inches from the first down marker and was ruled just short. On 4th and inches, Chiefs coach Andy Reid made a gamble. But it paid off big: Henne threw to Hill for a first down, ending the game. The Chiefs won, 22-17. They will face the Bills in the AFC Championship Game.

After the game, Chiefs coach Andy Reid provided background on Mahomes’ injury and condition: “He got hit in the back of the head, and it kind of knocked the wind out of him,” Reid said, “so we took him out. He’s doing great right now, which is a real positive as we looked at this.” Reid added: “He’s actually doing really well. I just talked to him and he’s doing good. We’ll see how he is tomorrow.”

UPDATE (Jan. 18, 2021): Today, Coach Reid said that Mahomes is still in concussion protocol: “He’s in the protocol, and we’ll just follow that and see how he does here in the next couple days,” Reid said Monday, per Matt McMullen. But Reid admitted: “I can’t tell you from a medical standpoint where he’s at. I don’t know that.”

He added: “There’s a day-to-day plan on that and how they go about it. Especially if a player staggers right there, they’ve got to go through some things. That ends up being important.” It is unclear if Mahomes will be able to play in next week’s AFC Championship Game.

Meanwhile, Mahomes’ backup Chad Henne drew praise for his performance at the end of the game. Tight end Travis Kelce praised Henne for his “gutsy play”, saying: “Everybody knew that he had that in him to be able to put his body on the line for the team, and we love him for it.” Kelce lauded Henne for his professionalism and work ethic: “First of all, he’s a professional. He comes to work every single day, knowing that he’s just a snap away from calling the plays and leading us to victory. Second of all, he’s a competitor, man. That guy — no matter what it is — he’s ready and he’s fired up and ready to go, and we love him for it.”

Lamar Jackson Suffers Injury in Playoff Loss To Bills

Photo courtesy of Twitter.

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 16, 2021

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson enjoyed his first playoff victory last Sunday, as the Ravens beat the Tennessee Titans. But Jackson appears to have suffered a head injury in tonight’s match versus the Buffalo Bills. After being tackled in the end zone, Jackson’s head hit the turf as he fell backward.

Jackson has left the field and headed to the locker room, according to sports/pop culture site The Ringer. He would remain their for the rest of the night. NFL reporter Ian Rapoport says Jackson is now in concussion protocol; he was ruled out and did not return.

The injury comes after what appeared to have been a rough game: neither offense achieved much in the first half, with usually-reliable Ravens kicker Justin Tucker missing two field goals. The score was 3-3 at halftime. Since then, the Buffalo Bills have surged, scoring twice. The Ravens lost to the Bills, 17-3.

Bow Wow Performs at Packed Houston Club As COVID Cases Spike

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 16, 2021

Last night, rapper Bow Wow performed at (and hosted) an event at Cle Nightclub in Houston. Cle, located downtown at 2301 Main St, was packed. Hundreds of people hit the club, in the middle of a pandemic, to see Bow Wow — for what reason, we don’t know. What we do know is that videos on social media show him rapping maskless in front of a largely maskless crowd.

The news comes amid a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases. Harris County, which contains the city of Houston, reported more than 3,000 new cases of COVID-19 today. As of today, there are 281,422 total confirmed cases of coronavirus in Harris County and 2,763 deaths, according to the Harris County Public Health Department. The positivity rate is 20.3%. It has climbed every day since January 11.

Harris County has reported 36,557 new cases in just the past 14 days, according to the Texas Tribune. During the first week of January, Houston set hospitalization records every day for seven straight days. For a week straight, more than 15% of patients in local hospitals were being treated for coronavirus. That should’ve triggered mandatory rollbacks laid out in an order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Under that order, Houston bars must close indoor service, and Houston restaurants must reduce capacity to 50%.

Mayor Turner said today that clubs are masquerading as restaurants, and he’s calling on TABC to start crackdowns. “I’m still getting some disturbing pictures of people hanging out in clubs that have been recategorized as restaurants,” he said. “And let me tell you, they are not restaurants.” KTRK reported that he and his staff will be reviewing those restaurants tonight. “When you look at these pictures, there’s no food on the table,” Turner said. “That is crazy. I am calling on the state to review their policies.”

Harris County consistently leads the state in case counts and deaths. But the statewide tale is even more grim. Statewide, 26,334 new cases were reported today, along with 400 deaths. (A record-high 426 deaths reported on Thursday.) There are now 13,953 patients with COVID-19 in Texas hospitals, per the Dallas Morning News. Texas now has a total of 2,072,903 coronavirus cases. That’s the most for any state besides California, according to Complex. During the first week of January, the state reached record highs for both case counts and deaths.

But Bow Wow appears to not know any of that. After waking up at around 2 pm today….

…the rapper defended himself on Twitter. He insisted that he’d worn a mask in the club:

“Man Texas is open. ATL is open. I can’t help I live in a city where we been open since last spring,” Bow Wow claimed in a series of now-deleted tweets. And then he had the audacity to claim “COVID fatigue”:

The backlash was swift and strong:

UPDATE: Cle is among three Houston clubs that got there liquor licenses suspended. According to ABC 13, “Three Houston businesses have had their liquor permits suspended following Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission investigations, which found violations of state requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The nightclubs involved are Grooves at 2300 Pierce St., Cle at 2301 Main St. and Spire at 1720 Main St. (Spire had its liquor license suspended in July 2020 and then again in October, per the Houston Chronicle.) In a press release, the TABC said the suspensions are the result of inspections by their agents conducted over the weekend.

“All three businesses are accused of violating Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-32, which requires businesses which sell alcohol for on-premise consumption to comply with capacity limits as well as social distancing and facial covering requirements,” the release stated.

NRA Files for Bankruptcy

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 15, 2021

The National Rifle Association has filed for bankruptcy.

The NRA filed Chapter 11 papers today in a Dallas federal court. It will seek to re-incorporate in Texas instead of New York, according to the Associated Press. The move “will enable long-term, sustainable growth and ensure the NRA’s continued success as the nation’s leading advocate for constitutional freedom,” the NRA said in a statement.

The bankruptcy will come as no surprise to close observers; the NRA had been in financial trouble for quite some time. In September 2020, former executive Joshua Powell exposed cash flow problems in a tell-all book, Inside the NRA. “The finances of the NRA are in shambles,” Powell wrote, portraying the 148-year-old gun rights group as part of “the grifter culture of Conservative Inc.”

He accused NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, his former boss and mentor, of “robbing every $45-dues-paying member to cover the costs of his own extravagance and his shameful mismanagement.” Powell is not alone. In August, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the NRA, alleging wrongdoing by LaPierre. Mr. LaPierre was accused of using N.R.A. funds to fund an extravagant lifestyle, even though he was already paid millions in direct compensation by the organization.

James’s lawsuit (against LaPierre and three others, including Powell) made damning allegations of corruption and misappropriated funds. “Among the numerous alleged violations laid out by Ms. James’s office, some were related to false reporting of annual filings both to the state and the I.R.S.,” said The New York Times. “Her office also cited ‘improper expense documentation, improper wage reporting, improper income tax withholding’ and failing to make required excise tax reporting and payment, among other issues.”

“Over six and a half years, the suit said, a personal travel consultant for Mr. LaPierre was paid $13.5 million, largely on no-bid contracts. Private flights were chartered for Mr. LaPierre’s wife and his niece. He took frequent trips to the Bahamas on the N.R.A.’s dime, often decamping to a 108-foot yacht called “Illusions” that was owned by an N.R.A. contractor and included a chef and four staterooms. He lavished gifts from Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman on his inner circle, and once put his niece up at a Four Seasons hotel for eight nights at a cost of more than $12,000, according to the complaint.”

The lawsuit charged that N.R.A. and its executives were “violating numerous state and federal laws” by enriching themselves, as well as their friends, families and allies, and taking improper actions that cost the organization $64 million over three years.

That was in addition to the millions the organization spent on lobbying and campaigning. In 2016, the NRA spent more than $30 million on behalf of the Trump campaign, according to Federal Election Commission data. Now, as President Trump prepares to leave office, the group that spent millions to elect him is filing for bankruptcy.

House Votes to Impeach Trump (Again)

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By Terrance Turner

Jan. 13, 2021

Speaker Nancy Pelosi presides over the impeachment vote. Photo from the AP.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have cast votes to impeach President Trump again in a historic first, according to CNN. The final vote was 232-197. “On this vote, the ayes are 232; the nays are 197. The resolution is adopted,” said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, banging her gavel. The impeachment resolution charges Trump with a single article, “incitement of insurrection,” for his role in last week’s deadly Capitol riot.

In the end, 232 House members voted to impeach the President, including 10 (!) Republicans. They are: Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Rep. John Katko (N.Y.), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Rep. Peter Meijer (Mich.), Rep. Dan Newhouse (Wash.), Rep. Tom Rice (S.C.), Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.), and Rep. David Valadao (Calif.). “This is the most bipartisan impeachment vote in the history of the United States,” said CNN reporter Phil Mattingly.

The next step is a trial. But the soonest Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell would start an impeachment trial is next Tuesday, the day before Trump is set to leave the White House, McConnell’s office told the Associated Press. Though Trump won’t be convicted before his term is up, impeachment is also intended to prevent Trump from ever running for office again. (If convicted, Trump would lose funding for traveling and office staff, according to lawyer and View co-host Sunny Hostin. Trump would also lose the presidential pension: $200,000 a year, for life.)

McConnell believes Trump committed impeachable offenses, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press on Wednesday. McConnell told major donors over the weekend that he was through with Trump, said the strategist. But in a note to colleagues Wednesday, McConnell said he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote.”

As soon as the gavel came down, Trump became the only President in history to be impeached twice. The vote took place after hours of vigorous and often heated debate.

At around 11:15 am, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi opened debate with a poignant seven-minute speech. In her remarks, Pelosi noted that “in his annual address to our predecessors in Congress in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln spoke of the duty of the Patriot, in an hour of decisive crisis for the American people. ‘Fellow citizens,’ he said, ‘we cannot escape history. We will be remembered in spite of ourselves; no personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We, even we here,’ he said, ‘hold the power and bear the responsibility.’ In the Bible St. Paul wrote, ‘Think on these things.’ We must think on what Lincoln told us,” Pelosi said.

“We, even here — even us, here — hold the power and bear the responsibility. We, you and I, hold and trust the power that derives most directly from the people of the United States, and we bear the responsibility to fulfill that oath that we all swear before God and before one another: that oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help us God.

We know that we face enemies of the Constitution; we know that we experienced the insurrection that violated the sanctity of the people’s Capitol and attempted to overturn the duly recorded will of the American people. And we know that the president of the United States incited this insurrection, this armed rebellion against our common country. He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

Pelosi continued: “Since the presidential election in November — an election the president lost — he has repeatedly lied about the outcome, sowed self-serving doubt about democracy, and unconstitutionally sought to influence state officials to repeal reality. And then came that day of fire we all experienced.

The president must be impeached, and I believe the president must be convicted by the Senate, a constitutional remedy that will ensure that the Republic will be safe from this man who was so resolutely determined to tear down the things that we hold dear, and that hold us together.

It gives me no pleasure to say this. It breaks my heart. It should break your heart. It should break all of our hearts, for your presence in this hallowed chamber is testament to your love for our country, for America, and to your faith in the work of our founders to create a more perfect union.

Those insurrectionists were not patriots. They were not part of a political base to be catered to and managed. They were domestic terrorists, and justice must prevail. But they did not appear out of a vacuum. They were sent here by the president with words such as a cry to ‘Fight like hell.’ Words matter. Truth matters. Accountability matters. In his public exhortations to them, the president saw the insurrectionists, not as the foes of freedom, as they are, but as the means to a terrible goal, the goal of his personally clinging to power, the goal of thwarting the will of the people,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi asked her colleagues: “I ask you to search your souls and answer these questions. Is the president’s war on democracy in keeping with the Constitution? Were his words and insurrectionary mob a high crime and misdemeanor? Do we not have the duty to our oath to do all we constitutionally can do to protect our nation and our democracy from the appetites and ambitions of a man who has self-evidently demonstrated that he is a vital threat to liberty, to self-government, and to the rule of law?”

Rep. Jim Jordan answered none of those questions. Instead, he talked about a four-year-old article in a local paper. “On Jan. 20, 2017, 19 minutes into President Trump’s administration, at 12:19 p.m., The Washington Post’s headline was ‘Campaign to impeach President Trump has begun.’ Now, with just one week left, they are still trying.” Jordan argued that the impeachment was an example of “cancel culture”, that Democrats were trying to cancel the president.

Jordan offered little commentary about the riot itself. Instead, he threw out false equivalence between the Capitol riots and the Black Lives Matter protests this summer: “Riots are OK for some,” he claimed. “Democrats can raise bail for rioters and looters this summer. But somehow when Republicans condemn all the violence, the violence this summer, the violence last week, somehow we’re wrong.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: 93% of Black Lives Matter protests this summer were peaceful. Yet black protesters were met with chemical dispersants, rubber bullets and hand-to-hand combat from police. More than 14,000 arrests were made, per the Associated Press. But when pro-Trump white people stormed the Capitol — swarming steps, climbing walls, smashing windows, breaking glass, throwing fire extinguishers, acting like BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD — police welcomed them through barricades and in some cases took selfies with them. Barely more than a few dozen arrests. Members of a wild mob were escorted from the premises, some not even in handcuffs. But Rep. Jordan didn’t mention that.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy was more measured. He not only condemned the riots but held Trump accountable for them. “Madam Speaker, let me be clear: last week’s violent attack on the Capitol was undemocratic, un-American and criminal. Violence is never a legitimate form of protest. Freedom of speech and assembly under the constitution is rooted in non-violence. Yet the violent mob that descended upon this body was neither peaceful nor democratic. It acted to disrupt Congress’s constitutional responsibility.” He, too, quoted Lincoln:  “A young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln famously said, ‘There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.’ Yet for several hours last week, mob law tried to interfere with constitutional law.”

McCarthy added: “The President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” But he added: “I believe impeaching the President in such a short timeframe would be a mistake.” That line was echoed by Republicans throughout the day.

Bears Battle Saints in Playoff Wild Card Match — on Nickelodeon

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 10, 2021

Today, the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears faced off in an NFL Wild Card Playoff game. The game will air live on CBS, with analysts Jim Nantz and Tony Romo. But for the first time ever, the game will be simulcast on Nickelodeon. CBS has partnered with the kid-centered network for the broadcast. According to CBS Sports, the Nickelodeon broadcast will feature original, on-field, Nick-themed and even slime-filled graphics.

The broadcast on Nickelodeon was anchored by NFL Network’s Nate Burleson and Clippers play-by-play announcer Noah Eagle. They were joined by a special guest: Gabrielle Neveah Green, who stars on Nickelodeon’s “All That”. Green, 15, co-stars on “All That” with actor Lex Lumpkin, who will provide sideline reporting.

“Our game plan is to make sure the NFL Wild Card Game on Nickelodeon definitely lives up to its name by infusing the telecast with Nick’s sensibility of surprise and fun at almost every turn,” said Brian Robbins, President of ViacomCBS Kids & Family Entertainment. “We’re incredibly proud to team up with CBS Sports and the NFL to elevate the thrill of this game for kids and families to enjoy together.”

Broadcasts typically introduce players to fans; this time they’ll be introduced by favorite food and hobbies instead of college and season statistics. More than 15 players per team filled out questionnaires to ensure that was possible, CBS Sports coordinating producer Shawn Robbins told USA TODAY. Green says that can engage new viewers: “Football can be kind of confusing,” Green told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s kind of hard to remember all those terms but if we can say, ‘Hey that’s the guy who loves chocolate ice cream and he just ran all the way down the field,’ that’s a win for us to get new football fans engaged.”

Saints’ De’Onte Harris got off to a fast start with a first down. Then, after a neutral zone infraction by the Bears defense, running back Alvin Kamara barreled down the field for a first down. Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas caught a pass from quarterback Drew Brees for the touchdown! As Thomas crossed into the end zone, two animated “slime cannons” sprayed a fountain over the end zone, drawing praise from viewers:

The game was 7-0. The Bears took over. WR Javon Wims had an amazing sideline catch — but then dropped what could’ve been a game-tying touchdown. The Bears scored no points, but they soon got a turnover: backup QB Taysom Hill had the ball knocked out of his hands mid-pass. The Bears recovered and drove down the field. They were nearing a score before Bears tight end Cole Kmet was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Chicago did manage to score a field goal, making it 7-3.

Throughout the broadcast, the analysts described certain aspects of the game for the young viewers. They also answered quirky questions that children might ask. Green, 15, asked: “What happens if you have to go to the bathroom during a game?” Burleson and Eagle answered: you either hold it or go into one of the on-field tents — “kind of like a Port-a-Potty,” Burleson said. Burleson and Eagle also explained technical terms: “red zone” is the area from the 20-yard line to the end zone. If a team reaches that area, they have a good chance of scoring.

Burleson, Eagle, and Green worked admirably to make the game accessible young children. Unfortunately, one player seemed to have forgotten that kids were watching. Bears player Cordarrelle Patterson was caught on a hot mic, cursing after dual penalty flags were thrown by the ref. The moment was broadcast live for all the kids to hear:

In the second half, the Saints got a hard-fought scoring play. Tight end Jared Cook made a crucial catch on 3rd down, bringing the Saints near the red zone. The Saints were prepared to go for it on fourth down. On 4th and 2, the Bears were flagged for a neutral zone infraction (also known as “offsides”). As “Young Sheldon” explained, “offsides is when a defender jumps across the line of scrimmage and can’t get back in time”.

That explanation was rapidly followed by a touchdown. Under duress, Brees escaped Khalil Mack by throwing to RB Latavius Murray. After the catch, Murray raced into the end zone; the “slime cannons” formed another waterfall over the goal line. An extra-point kick made it 14-3, with 4:10 left in the third quarter.

Jordan Humphrey had a big play on 3rd and 11, driving the Saints to 1st and goal. On 2nd and goal, the Bears defense (#22) was flagged for holding. That penalty gave an automatic first down to the Saints. Taysom Hill rushed near the one-yard line, and Kamara ran in for the touchdown. New Orleans jumped ahead to a 21-3 lead.

After another scoreless drive for the Bears, the Saints took back over. Kamara had two big first-down plays, and another flag for offsides (on Chicago) made it 1st and goal for New Orleans. But the Saints came away scoreless after four stops by the Chicago defense. On 4th and goal, the Saints decided to go for it instead of kicking a field goal. Brees tried to dive across the goal line. But the ball didn’t cross the plane. That made it a turnover on downs, giving the Bears the ball.

The Bears scored a touchdown (finally!) when Trubisky found tight end Jimmy Graham. After an incredible one-handed grab in the end zone, Graham fell to the ground. He then got up and left the field, running straight to the locker room as the fourth quarter ended.

The Saints won, 21-9. It proved to be a fitting birthday present for Drew Brees. He turns 42 this week, and now he’s on his way to the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs. (The Saints face Tampa Bay next Sunday.) Brees threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns, while Kamara ran for 99 yards and a TD.

Lamar Jackson Earns Playoff Win (Finally) as Ravens Top Titans

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 10, 2021

Today, the Baltimore Ravens battled the Tennessee Titans in the NFL playoffs. It’s the second day of a two-day tripleheader. It was a tale of two defenses. Baltimore’s defense contained Derrick Henry, holding him to 40 yards, and Tennessee’s defense utterly failed to stop Lamar Jackson. The Ravens quarterback rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown as the Ravens defeated the Titans, 20-13.

Both teams went three-and-out on their opening drives. Tennessee rebounded with a scoring drive that featured two first-down catches by Titans receiver A.J. Brown. Tight end Anthony Firkser made a crucial first-down catch. That was followed by a one-handed grab by Brown for the touchdown. That made it 7-0.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson got intercepted by Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler. (That’s Butler’s second postseason pick, after the one he made for the Patriots during a Super Bowl.) Tennessee soon launched another drive. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill hit Firkser for 35 yards. That set up a 45-yard field goal by Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski. 10-0.

In the second quarter, Jackson took the Ravens to the red zone. They have struggled in this area against Tennessee, and this time was no exception. Jackson was sacked in the end zone (this time by Brooks Reed, former Texans linebacker). Tannehill, too, was sacked on the Titans drive.

Jackson led his team to take the lead. On 3rd and 9, Jackson took off, running into the end zone for the touchdown. That tied the game. It was 10-10 as the Titans’ next drive began. It went nowhere, and the Ravens’ next drive ended disastrously. WR Dez Bryant got tangled up with CB Malcolm Butler and got flagged for a late-hit after he knocked Butler over. That 15-yard penalty came near the end of the first half. It was tied 10-10 at the half.

In the second half, Baltimore took the lead. Running back J.K. Dobbins had a 4-yard rushing touchdown to give the Ravens the lead. They were ahead 17-10. The Titans were stymied on their next drive, and the Ravens too had problems when Jackson suffered his fourth sack of the day. The Titans eventually found their footing, driving down to the red zone. But after reaching 1st and goal, the Titans struggled. Tannehill was tackled on 3rd and goal, forcing a field goal. Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 25-yard attempt to make it 17-13.

The Ravens attempted a field goal at the end of their drive, too. But kicker Justin Tucker’s 52-yard attempt was no good. Despite getting flagged for offensive pass interference on a subsequent drive, the Ravens made it within field-goal range. Tucker kicked a field goal to make it 20-13. That’s how it ended. With under two minutes left, Tannehill was intercepted by cornerback Marcus Peters. Baltimore players rushed onto the Titans’ logo, drawing a flag for taunting. But the Ravens ran downfield to nab a first-down and seal their win. They triumphed, 20-13.

Tampa Bay Edges Washington for First Playoff Win Since 2003

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 9, 2021

Tonight, the last game in a Saturday tripleheader kicked off on NBC. The Washington Football Team took on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a stadium just 10 miles from the U.S. Capitol — the site of a deadly riot on Wednesday. Inside the (mostly empty) stadium, the game unfolded. Somehow, an 11-5 Buccaneers team had trouble competing with a 7-9 Washington team. But Tampa Bay held on, cementing its first playoff win in over 17 years,

Tampa Bay scored first with a field goal. Washington QB Taylor Heinicke started for the team; QB Alex Smith was out with a calf injury. Heinicke performed gamely, drawing several compliments from announcers Al Michaels and Tony Dungy. But he was intercepted by Bucs defender Murphy-Bunting.

Tampa Bay took over. Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady quickly made a first-down throw to Scotty Miller. Within minutes, Brady found WR Antonio Brown for the touchdown. The extra-point kick was blocked, but Tampa Bay still led, 9-0.

Washington ran right through the Tampa Bay defense, racking up yards on the ground and through the air. That drive culminated in a touchdown by Washington running back J.D. McKissic. It was 9-7 when the Bucs began their next drive. Tampa Bay had a 22-yard catch by Brown and another first down from running back Leonard Fournette before a touchdown by WR Chris Godwin. The two-point conversion attempt was no good. So it remained 15-7.

On their next drive, Tampa Bay made it to 1st and goal, but couldn’t score. They settled for a field goal, which kicker Ryan Succop drilled. Washington embarked on a race-against-time drive, but couldn’t convert before time ran out. That made it 18-10 at the half.

In the second half, Tampa Bay’s defense utterly failed to contain runs or passes. On what should’ve been a sack — Heinicke was surrounded by the Bucs defense — the QB somehow managed to break free and dive across the end zone for the touchdown. Tampa Bay’s subpar defense — and Heinicke’s deft escape — made it 18-16.

A touchdown by Bucs tight end Cameron Brate was overturned. But Fournette dashed into the end zone for the TD. That put the Bucs up 25-16. Heinicke suffered a shoulder injury on Washington’s next drive; he was seen running off the field. But after a brief spell in the locker room he returned to the field of play. He rallied his team to another score, lobbing a TD pass to Steven Sims. It was 28-23.

With their lead slimmed down, the Bucs put together another scoring drive. WR Mike Evans had a 40-yard catch, followed by a Fournette first down. The drive culminated in a 37-yard field goal by Succop. That gave Tampa Bay a 31-23 lead. Though Heinicke valiantly tried to lead Washington to victory, a questionable fumble by a receiver and a sack by the Bucs defense stymied him. Escaping pressure from the defense with under two minutes left, Heinicke heaved the ball on fourth down. But the pass was incomplete. That sealed the win for Tampa Bay. They won, 31-23, for their first playoff win since 2003.