It’s Tebow Time!

Photo from Tim Tebow’s website.

By Terrance Turner

May 10, 2021

The Jacksonville Jaguars are expected to sign former quarterback Tim Tebow to a 1-year deal, according to NFL reporter Ian Rapoport. The new deal would have Tebow playing tight end, which is significant since the team just drafted No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence at quarterback last week.

The move is also significant because Tebow hasn’t played professional football in nearly a decade. According to FOX Sports, Tebow hasn’t played in the NFL in 3,053 days!!!

This is the latest development in what has been a storied career. Born in 1987 after a near-fatal gestation, Tebow was home-schooled by his parents. Despite having never enrolled, he was allowed to play at — and then scouted at — Allen D. Nease High School in Jacksonville, Florida. He went to the University of Florida, where he played quarterback.

Tebow’s stellar play made him the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. He broke the SEC record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season (with 20) in 2007. And he scored rushing TDs in 10 consecutive games — a record for the school. Tebow led the Florida Gators to 13-1 records in 2008 and 2009, breaking more records in the process. In his last college game (the Sugar Bowl, vs. Cincinnati) Tebow threw three touchdowns, ran for another, and racked up 533 total yards of offense — more than anyone in Bowl Championship Series history, according to ESPN.

Tebow signed an $11 million deal with the Denver Broncos in 2010. He began as a backup quarterback but started the last three games of the 2010 season. He rushed for 78 yards in a game versus the Oakland Raiders, including a 40-yard TD run — the longest touchdown run in history for a Broncos quarterback. His first career victory came the day after Christmas 2010. After being down 17-0 at halftime, Tebow rallied the Broncos to a 24-23 win over the Houston Texans.

While he started as a backup in the 2011 season, Tebow replaced Kyle Orton at halftime against the San Diego Chargers. He was later named the starting quarterback. The next week, versus the Miami Dolphins, Tebow was sacked six times but came back from a 15-0 deficit to help the Broncos win 18-15 in overtime. It was the start of a sensational season.

Tebow, a devout Christian, often knelt on the field in prayer before playing. The practice became known as “Tebowing” and drew significant media attention. But so did his play. With Tebow at quarterback, the Broncos won six straight games during the 2011 season. Four of them were dramatic come-from-behind victories in which they pulled off last-minute rallies. After beating the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, the Denver Broncos’ comeback win streak began.

In November 2011, Tebow helped his team to a surprise win on “Thursday Night Football”. According to ESPN, the Broncos had punted on eight straight possessions when they got the ball with six minutes to spare. Tebow had a 20-yard touchdown run with just 58 seconds left; the Broncos stunned the New York Jets, 17-13. The next week, Tebow ran the ball 22 times to win over the Chargers, 16-13. He notched his third straight comeback win versus the Minnesota Vikings, 35-32. And after being shut out for nearly the whole game, Tebow and the Broncos came back again to beat the Chicago Bears, 13-10.

The Broncos won their division (the AFC West) that year. Then, during the playoffs, the Broncos pulled off yet another dramatic win. After taking a 20-6 lead versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver had to contend with a game-tying surge by Pittsburgh. The game went to overtime, and Tebow launched a far-flung 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. The Broncos stunned the Steelers, 29-23, for their first playoff win since 2005.

Unfortunately, Tebow struggled during the 2012 season and was ultimately traded. The trade happened as part of a memorable quarterback swap: the Indianapolis Colts drafted Andrew Luck No. 1 and cut QB Peyton Manning. Manning went to the Denver Broncos, who then got rid of Tim Tebow. Tebow went to the New York Jets, where he was contending with QB Mark Sanchez and had little playing time. He was released at the end of the 2012 season.

Since then, Tebow has switched sports. In between brief stints of broadcasting, he became a minor-league baseball player. He played for the New York Mets’ minor-league beginning in 2016; around that time, sports outlets noticed an increase in size that could benefit him at the tight end position.

Tim Tebow works out for major league scouts at USC Tuesday, August 30, 2016. (Photo by David Crane Southern California News Group)

Photo from Pinterest.

Tebow retired from baseball in February 2021, according to CNN.

Now, with his first NFL job in nearly 10 years, can Tim Tebow pull off another miracle comeback?

UPDATE (MAY 11, 2021): As news of the deal continues to spread, many are questioning why Tebow is getting a second chance at playing football, but not Colin Kaepernick:

Aaron Rodgers Returns To Green Bay Packers, Addresses Issues With Team (UPDATED)

Photo from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

By Terrance Turner

April 28, 2021 (Updated July 28)

This story depicts a fluid situation and will be frequently updated.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers reportedly wants out of Green Bay.

NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported the bombshell development: “Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers is so disgruntled with the Green Bay Packers that he has told some within the organization that he does not want to return to the team, league and team sources told ESPN on Thursday.

The Packers are aware of his feelings, concerned about them and have had team president Mark Murphy, general manager Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur each fly out on separate trips to meet with Rodgers at various points this offseason, sources told ESPN.”

But the writing may already be on the proverbial wall. Former ESPN host Trey Wingo tweeted today that the two parties have been engaged in a “bleep show” for days. According to Wingo, Rodgers has already informed the team that he’s headed out the door:

Over the past week (and even before that), teams have been calling, ESPN says. “The San Francisco 49ers called the Packers on Wednesday night, a source told ESPN, and the Los Angeles Rams inquired about Rodgers in January before they traded for Matthew Stafford.The Packers quickly dismissed the Rams’ overtures, the source said.” (The 49ers part is especially interesting: Rodgers, who was born in California, had originally wanted to play for San Francisco when he began his career.)

But reporter Tom Pelissero put the brakes on these headlines, saying that there’s “zero” chance of the Packers trading Rodgers. While teams have inquired about Rodgers this offseason, no team has made a trade offer for the three-time MVP, a source told ESPN. The Packers have even offered to extend Rodgers’ contract, sources told ESPN. But veteran NFL reporter Ian Rapoport says that negotiations have broken down:

Why is Rodgers unhappy? Schefter says: “Rodgers is unhappy for a variety of reasons, with some of it dating to last year’s draft when the Packers didn’t inform him before trading up to draft a quarterback with their first-round pick. (The Packers selected Jordan Love.) Some took this as a sign that his days in Green Bay could be numbered.” But after Rodgers’ sensational performance in the 2020 season, today’s news comes as a shock.

No NFL player has ever been traded after winning the MVP award in the previous season. The only MVPs to not return to their team in the season after winning the award were Norm Van Brocklin (retired after winning in 1960) and Jim Brown (retired after winning in 1965), per ESPN. Rodgers won the NFL MVP Award in February, after a stellar season in which he threw 48 touchdowns.

During his acceptance speech, Rodgers casually mentioned that he’d gotten engaged. It was later revealed that his bride-to-be is actress Shailene Woodley, whom he’d been quietly dating for all of six months. The two visited Disney World in Florida weeks ago, while Rodgers was doing a guest hosting stint on the show “Jeopardy!” Rapoport adds:

UPDATE (May 1, 2021): Rodgers broke his silence today. In an off-camera conversation with Mike Tirico, Rodgers confirmed that he is discontented with the organization. The two spoke at the Kentucky Derby; Rodgers didn’t want to speak on camera. But Tirico relayed his sentiments via Twitter today, saying that Rodgers was “disappointed” about how the matter had become public.

UPDATE (MAY 6, 2021): When Adam Schefter “broke” the news about Aaron Rodgers wanting out of Green Bay — one week ago today — I went into a frenzy. I brought together data and alternate sources to form the bulk of my story, which was based partly on Schefter’s reporting. I quickly crafted this story (and took time away from packing for an upcoming trip) because I believed this to be a breaking story. It in fact was not.

Today, Schefter admitted that he had been sitting on the story for weeks, only releasing it on the day of the NFL Draft. In an interview with host Dan Patrick, Schefter conceded that he had written and released the story without new info. Schefter cited an interview Rodgers had given after the Packers lost the AFC Championship Game to the Buccaneers. That interview gave the impression that Rodgers had “unhappiness” or “uncertainty” about his future, Schefter said. Schefter eventually admitted that he had released the story with no new information. But that revelation came only after some direct questioning by Patrick.

“So you chose to release the news on Draft Day?” Patrick asked.

“That is absolutely accurate, yes,” Schefter replied.

“So it wasn’t something that you got information about…?” Patrick asked.

“No,” Schefter answered. “And it was nothing that morning that came in.”

Patrick noted that, according to Schefter, his information “didn’t come from Rodgers, didn’t come from the Packers, I was wondering: OK, you’re not gonna tell me your source–“

“Dan!” Schefter insisted. “There’s not a source.

Interesting. Schefter wrote in his article that “league and team sources told ESPN on Thursday.” But now he’s revealing that the story wasn’t based on anything that “came in” that Thursday morning. And that “there’s not a source”. Does that mean sources didn’t tell ESPN anything on Thursday? Or that there was no “source” at all? Because that would be a lie.

Schefter claimed that “it just happened to be draft day” when he released the story. Unclear how truthful that is. Updates will be made public as they become available.

UPDATE (MAY 26, 2021): While voluntary offseason workouts begin in Green Bay, Rodgers is in Hawaii with his fiancee. The two were photographed on vacation with Miles Teller and his wife Keleigh, who shared the photos on Instagram:

UPDATE (July 15, 2021): Last week, Rodgers took part in a round of golf with Tom Brady. While he was on a golf cart, broadcaster Brian Anderson (B.A.) asked Rodgers about his future with the Packers. Would he be QB in their game against the Chicago Bears on Oct. 17?

Yeah, I don’t know, BA. We’ll see,” Rodgers said.

Charles Barkley, supplying commentary from the Turner studios, pressed Rodgers. “Hey Aaron, we go way back. You can just tell me, I’ll keep it a secret. I promise I will not put it anywhere.”

Rodgers’ elegant non-answer referenced the annual American Century Championship celebrity tournament in Nevada. “Charles, I’ll tell you this week in Tahoe,” he said.

UPDATE (July 26, 2021): It appears that there may be progress on the Aaron Rodgers front. NFL Insider Ian Rapoport says that Rodgers has indicated to those close to him that he will return to Green Bay for the upcoming season:

UPDATE (3:28 PM): Rapoport is now saying that Rodgers and the Packers are now close to agreement on a reworked deal that would bring him back to Green Bay for this upcoming season.

Schefter is claiming that the deal includes a number of concessions:

Schefter is claiming that the deal involves some concessions:

  • The 2023 year in Rodgers’ contract — the last one in his current deal — would be voided, with no tags allowed in the future.
  • The Packers would agree to review Rodgers’ situation at the end of this season.
  • Rodgers’ contract would be adjusted with no loss of income to give the Packers more cap room now.
  • Mechanisms will be put in place to address Rodgers’ issues with the team.

UPDATE (July 28, 2021): Today, Rodgers reported to Packers training camp and practiced with the team. Then, in a surprisingly candid press conference, he opened up about his issues with the team. NFL reporter Tom Pelissero began the presser by asking directly: “What was all this about for you?”

“Well, that’s kind of a loaded question,” Rodgers answered. “I think it was a lot of things that transpired. This wasn’t a draft day thing. Started the conversation in February, after the season ended, and I just expressed my desire to be more involved in conversations that directly affected my job. Also, I wanted to help the organization maybe learn from some of the mistakes in the past — in my opinion — about the way some of the outgoing veterans were treated and just the fact that we didn’t retain a number of players that I feel were core players to our foundation, our locker room. High character guys.”

“I’m talking about Charles Woodson, Jordy Nelson, Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, James Jones,” Rodgers said. “Guys who were exceptional players for us, great locker room guys. High character guys. Many of them who weren’t offered a contract at all or were extremely low-balled or were maybe, in my opinion, not given the respect on the way out that guys of their status and stature and high character deserve.

And then it kind of progressed from there into a commitment for the 2021 season, and beyond, that really wasn’t given at any time. So, for me, I had to assess the situation — not necessarily wanting to be a lame duck quarterback especially after an MVP season, as I think you can understand. And then the other part in February was wanting to be a part of conversations involving free agents which has never happened in my career.”

J.J. Watt Leaving Texans

By Terrance Turner

Feb. 12, 2021

Defensive end J.J. Watt has asked for (and received) a release from the Houston Texans. Watt announced the news in a video posted to his Twitter account, explaining that he personally met with the McNair family to request a release from the team. “I have sat down with the McNair family, and I have asked them for my release, and we have mutually agreed to part ways.”

Watt reflected on his time in Houston, which was memorable on both professional and personal levels. “I can’t imagine my life without Texas in it,” he said. “The city of Houston’s been unbelievable to me; it’s where I met my wife. It’s where I’ve met lifelong friends, and my teammates. I’ve had incredible coaches and training staff, and equipment staff and cafeteria workers […] the connection is special, and I will never, ever take it for granted,” Watt said. “I just want you guys to now that I love you, I appreciate you, I appreciate the McNair family for drafting me and giving me my first opportunity in the NFL. Thank you, Houston. I love you.”

After ten tumultuous seasons, Watt’s time in Houston is over.

The release comes after a memorable career (so far). Watt is the Texans’ all-time leader in sacks, with 101. (Since 2011, only Broncos defender Von Miller has had more sacks, according to ESPN.. He won a Super Bowl with the Broncos in 2016). Watt is a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time Defensive Player of the Year. (Only Lawrence Taylor and Aaron Donald have achieved that.) He was also voted the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year, after raising over $37 million for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Watt’s time in Houston, though stellar, was marked by injuries — and in recent months by frustration with the franchise. After trading away its best receiver (DeAndre Hopkins), the Texans franchsie came under fire by pundits and fans. And after firing head coach Bill O’Brien (after a disastrous 1-4 start), the Texans lost. And lost. And lost some more.

Weeks ago, the Texans lost in a blowout: 36-7, to the Chicago Bears. That loss officially eliminated them from playoff contention. The week before, the Texans lost to the Indianapolis Colts. With less than 30 seconds left, Texans wide receiver Keke Coutee fumbled at the two-yard line. It was the second time this season the team has lost to Indianapolis after a goal-line fumble. The Texans lost to the Colts, 27-20.

Later, they lost again, to the Cincinnati Bengals. Quarterback Deshaun Watson had his shoulder grabbed by Bengal Sam Hubbard, causing a strip-sack with 1:28 left. Cincinnati sealed their historic road win with a field goal. Despite Watson’s three touchdowns, the Texans lost, 37-31. It was their fourth straight loss. They went 4-11.

Defensive end J.J. Watt was visibly frustrated after the loss. In a postgame press conference, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year delivered an angry, emotional rant peppered with curses. He expressed recognition of his privileged position and sympathy for Texans fans. But Watt also called out his teammates for a lack of professionalism.

“We’re professional athletes getting paid a whole lot of money,” Watt said. “If you can’t come in, put in work in the building, go out to the practice field, work hard, do your lifts and do what you’re supposed to do, you should not  be here. This is a job. We’re getting paid a whole lot of money. There are a whole lot of people that watch us and invest their time and money into buying our jerseys and buying a whole bunch of s–t. And they care about it; they care every single week. We’re in Week 16, and we’re 4-11, and there’s fans that watch this game, that show up to the stadium, that put in time and energy and effort and care about this. So if you can’t go out there and you can’t work out, you can’t show up on time, you can’t practice, you can’t want to go out there to win, you shouldn’t be here.

Because this is a privilege. It’s the greatest job in the world. You get to go out and play a game. If you can’t care enough, even when you’re in week 17 — even when you’re trash, when you’re 4-11 — if you can’t go out there and give it everything you have and try your hardest, that’s bulls–t,” he said. “There are people every week that still Tweet you, that still come up to you and say, ‘Hey, we’re still rooting for you, we’re still behind you.’ They have no reason whatsoever to. We stink. But they care, and they still want to win and they still want you to be great. That’s why. Those people aren’t getting paid. We’re being paid handsomely. That’s why. That’s who I feel the most bad for, are our fans, the people who care so deeply in this city, and love it and who truly want it to be great. And it’s not. And that sucks as a player, to know we’re not giving them what they deserve.”

UPDATE (March 2, 2021): J.J. Watt has signed a two-year, $31 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals. News of the signing broke yesterday, reported by outlets including ESPN and the NFL Network. This move reunites him with former teammate DeAndre Hopkins, who was a wide receiver for the Texans before a controversial trade last year. Today, in an introductory press conference, Watt was asked about Texans QB Deshaun Watson, who remains in a standoff with the team after informing them he no longer wants to play for them.

“”I love Deshaun. We speak often… He’s a special human being. The one thing I want for Deshaun Watson is for him to be happy,” Watt said. “He deserves it, and I want him to be happy. Whatever that looks like for him, that’s what I want for him.”

Bucs Best Saints in Divisional Game

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.

Image

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:

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.

Titans Blow 16-Point Lead, But Hold Off Texans For Incredible Win

Photo by the author.

By Terrance Turner

Today, the Tennessee Titans made the playoffs with a loss by Miami. They slugged it out with the Houston Texans today in an edge-of-your-seat match that went right down to the wire. Today’s match started off slow, with a field goal apiece by both teams. But at the start of the second quarter, the offense lit up. Titans running back Derrick Henry took off, breaking tackles — including one by defensive end J.J. Watt — to streak down the field for the touchdow. Henry scored the game’s first touchdown, putting the Titans ahead 10-3.

After another field goal by the Texans, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill found receiver A.J. Brown for the touchdown. That extended the Titans’ lead, making it 17-6. A touchdown on the Texans’ drive was overturned; receiver Brandin Cooks stepped just outside the lines as he caught the ball. The Texans settled for a field goal, which Fairbairn kicked through. It was 17-9 at halftime.

As the second half began, the Titans put together a drive that included a 29-yard catch-and-run by Brown (?) and a crucial catch by tight end Anthony Firkser. The Firkser catch took the team into the end zone. Then Tannehill handed the ball to Henry, who jogged untouched into the end zone for the touchdown. That made it 24-9.

But the Texans put together a winning drive of their own. Watson found Cooks for the TD. But kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed the extra point. That made it a nine-point game. Tennessee padded the lead again on their next drive. The key, again, was Henry, who broke three tackles and slammed into another Texans defender as he ran. Then, as a fifth Texans defender tried to tackle him, Henry spun and landed on the ground, near the five-yard line. Tannehill kept the ball and dashed into the end zone to make it 31-15.

Watson found Cooks for another TD. But the two-point conversion failed, making it 31-21. The Texans caught a break, however, on the Titans’ next drive. Henry fumbled the ball. The Texans recovered and rapidly made it to the goal line. David Johnson ran in for the touchdown. That made it a three-point game: 31-28.

A.J. Brown made a crucial catch for the first down. Texans’ Charles Omenihu hit Tannehill in the face just after he threw the ball. Omenihu was flagged for roughing the passer, which added 15 yards to the end of the play. Automatic first down. The Texans later scored. Pharoah Brown caught the touchdown, to give the Texans the lead. They led for the first time — 35-31 — after scoring 20 unanswered points.

With time ticking away, the Titans mounted a drive. A rushing touchdown by Henry was wiped out by a holding call from the refs — which even the announcers disagreed with. But no challenge flag was thrown. The clock ran down even further, hitting the two-minute warning.

As the clock ran under 2:00, Tannehill made a run for it, getting all the way to the half-yard line. The Texans defense kept him from crossing the goal line. Tannehill eventually scored. But the refs again took the touchdown away, alleging illegal formation by the Titans. But with just 1:42 left, Tannehill tried again. This time, it worked: running diagonally towards the sideline, Tannehill finally scored. That gave the Titans a tenuous 38-35 lead.

The Texans were flagged on the extra-point try (for illegal formation) and then again on their punt return (for holding). The latter penalty cost the Texans 10 yards. Then — in an eerie example of history repeating itself — Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler got another joint catch. In a play similar to that of the Titans-Colts game, Butler caught the ball at the same time as Cooks. The refs upheld the original call of a completed catch by Cooks. That gave the Texans a chance.

After a heart-stopping last-chance drive, the Texans were forced to kick a field goal. Ka’imi Fairbairn nailed a 51-yard field goal to tie the game!

With the game tied at 38, the Titans had 18 seconds to put together a drive. Just when he needed to, Tannehill reared back and hurled a 54-yard pass, which was caught by A.J. Brown. That incredible catch put the Titans in field-goal range; Henry ran a few more yards to put the Titans closer. With four seconds left, the Titans attempted a field goal. Their kicker Stephen Gostkowski was out; a rookie was taking his place.

Somehow, the rookie made good. Samuel Sloman’s 37-yard field goal was a showstopper: the ball veered to the right, bounced off the upright and somehow went through. The result shocked everyone, but Henry’s reaction was one for the books:

The Titans win, 41-38. With this win (their 11th), they have won the AFC South for the first time since 2008. Not only have they made the playoffs, they have won their division. As usual, their strong running game was a key to their success. (The Titans are now the only franchise to have TWO running backs both achieve over 2,000 yards in a season.) And as usual, the motor for their high-powered offense was Derrick Henry.

Henry has won the rushing title for the second straight year. Henry’s 2,027 yards are the fifth-most ever in one season, per NBC Sports. He is only the eighth player in NFL history to have 2,000 rushing yards in a single season. And according to Yahoo! Sports writer Frank Schwab, he’s the first to achieve that since Adrian Peterson in 2012. Henry, according to Fifth Quarter Stats, has now rushed for 200+ yards and multiple touchdowns for the 3rd time this season. He is the 1st player in NFL history to accomplish this feat.

But it was the climactic, heart-stopping field goal by Titans kicker Samuel Sloman that sealed the game. Players on both teams reacted with shock and awe. But for the Titans, that surprise quickly gave way to jubilation — and celebration.

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Titans celebrate their unforgettable win today. Photo from Twitter (@Titans).

J.J. Watt Delivers Epic Rant After Latest Texans Loss; Watson Seeks Trade (UPDATED)

By Terrance Turner

Dec. 27, 2020 (Updated Dec. 30, Jan. 7)

Photo from Getty Images.

The Texans lost. Again.

It’s not the first time that’s happened this season. Two weeks ago, the Texans lost in a blowout: 36-7, to the Chicago Bears. That loss officially eliminated them from playoff contention.

Last week, the Texans lost to the Indianapolis Colts. With less than 30 seconds left, Texans wide receiver Keke Coutee fumbled at the two-yard line. It was the second time this season the team has lost to Indianapolis after a goal-line fumble. The Texans lost to the Colts, 27-20.

Today, they lost again, to the Cincinnati Bengals. Quarterback Deshaun Watson had his shoulder grabbed by Bengal Sam Hubbard, causing a strip-sack with 1:28 left. Cincinnati sealed their historic road win with a field goal. Despite Watson’s three touchdowns, the Texans lost, 37-31.

It’s their fourth straight loss. After a season in which their coach was fired, their best receiver was traded, and their offense stifled, the Texans have lost 73% of their games. They are now 4-11.

Defensive end J.J. Watt was visibly frustrated after the loss. In a postgame press conference, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year delivered an angry, emotional rant peppered with curses. He expressed recognition of his privileged position and sympathy for Texans fans. But Watt also called out his teammates for a lack of professionalism.

“We’re professional athletes getting paid a whole lot of money,” Watt said. “If you can’t come in, put in work in the building, go out to the practice field, work hard, do your lifts and do what you’re supposed to do, you should not  be here. This is a job. We’re getting paid a whole lot of money. There are a whole lot of people that watch us and invest their time and money into buying our jerseys and buying a whole bunch of s–t. And they care about it; they care every single week. We’re in Week 16, and we’re 4-11, and there’s fans that watch this game, that show up to the stadium, that put in time and energy and effort and care about this. So if you can’t go out there and you can’t work out, you can’t show up on time, you can’t practice, you can’t want to go out there to win, you shouldn’t be here.

Because this is a privilege. It’s the greatest job in the world. You get to go out and play a game. If you can’t care enough, even when you’re in week 17 — even when you’re trash, when you’re 4-11 — if you can’t go out there and give it everything you have and try your hardest, that’s bulls–t,” he said. “There are people every week that still Tweet you, that still come up to you and say, ‘Hey, we’re still rooting for you, we’re still behind you.’ They have no reason whatsoever to. We stink. But they care, and they still want to win and they still want you to be great. That’s why. Those people aren’t getting paid. We’re being paid handsomely. That’s why. That’s who I feel the most bad for, are our fans, the people who care so deeply in this city, and love it and who truly want it to be great. And it’s not. And that sucks as a player, to know we’re not giving them what they deserve.”

Watch the now-viral moment below.

UPDATE (Dec. 30): The Texans have closed their facility today after two players (safety Eric Murray and linebacker Whitney Mercilus) tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. According to the Houston Chronicle, players were not allowed to enter the team facility. Instead, they did a walk-through on the practice field and then met virtually.

“Because we have had some positives, we are basically not letting the players into the facility,” Texans interim coach Romeo Crennel said on Zoom from NRG Stadium. “But we are having a walkthrough where we’ll work for about an hour and then they’ll leave. They are not using the facility. They come in. We walk through and they leave. We are hoping to cut down on the interaction with players when you’re not on the football field. Everybody is wearing masks and we’ll get some fundamental work done we need to get done.”

UPDATE: The Texans lost their final game of the season to the Tennessee Titans (who win the AFC South). After the Texans’ 41-38 loss on Sunday, Watt and quarterback Deshaun Watson shared a poignant moment. A video has surfaced of the two walking back to the locker room after the loss. “I’m sorry,” Watt tells Watson. “We wasted one of your years.”

UPDATE (Jan. 7, 2021): Rumors are swirling that Watson may be seeking a trade. NBC Sports’ ProFootballTalk intimates that “Watson has quietly broached with teammates the possibility of requesting a trade.” Trading him would result in a cap charge of $21.6 million. 

Veteran Houston Chronicle sportswriter John McClain seems convinced that Watson’s not going anywhere, and a KHOU sports reporter tonight snarkily remarked that the trade story “was written for some clicks on a website.” But just moments ago, NFL reporter Ian Rapoport revealed that Watson is unhappy with the Texans organization (who isn’t?) after being left out of crucial personnel decisions:

“Watson offered his input on potential general manager candidates, but the Texans neither considered nor consulted with those endorsed by their franchise quarterback, league sources told ESPN. “Additionally, the Texans did not inform Watson that they intended to hire Caserio, and he found out about the hire Tuesday on social media. That contributed to Watson taking to Twitter that night to post “some things never change….”

Albert Breer says that Watson advocated for Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to be head coach — but the Texans refused to even interview him, further irking Watson. Over the weekend, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Watson is still angry about the Texans’ “insensitivity to social justices, including hiring practices,” alluding to the team failing to interview Eric Bieniemy. (UPDATE: the Texans finally did request to interview Bieniemy today, Jan, 12. But the window to contact him has closed.)

Rapoport adds that Watson has not spoken to Texans brass in days — though they have tried to call him. This gives new grist to the rumor mill that Watson may be looking for greener pastures. At least one former Texans player is suggesting that some teams may be interested in Watson:

UPDATE: A Texans legend has weighed in on the situation. Legendary Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson set tongues wagging with a tweet today: “If I’m @deshaunwatson I will stand my ground,” Johnson wrote. “The Texans organization is known for wasting players careers. Since Jack Easterby has walk into the building nothing good has happened in/for the organization and for some reason someone can’t seem to see what’s going on. Pathetic!!!”

Johnson’s tweet took a shot at Texans VP of football operations Jack Easterby, which generated lots of online chatter. But former Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins backed Johnson up, quoting Johnson’s original tweet and adding: “When Dre speak listen.”

UPDATE: Former Texans tight end Joel Dreessen also backed Johnson. Asked for comment, Dreessen tweeted: “All I know is when Dre would speak, he was always worth listening to. I don’t know Easterby at all, but it pains me to see how badly the Texans have been put in reverse. Whether it was him or BOB [former head coach Bill O’Brien] who chased off players like Duane, Clowney, Hopkins…& gave up 1st round picks.”

UPDATE (Jan. 29, 2021): Deshaun Watson formally requested a trade from the Texans yesterday, just hours after the team announced they’d hired David Culley as the team’s new head coach. But when Culley was introduced as coach during a Zoom teleconference today, Texans general manager Nick Caserio was clear in his objection.

“I just want to reiterate our commitment to Deshaun Watson,” he said. “We have zero interest in trading the player. We have a great plan and vision for him. We look forward to spending more time with him.” Culley added: “The reason I’m in this position today is because I know he’s going to be a Houston Texan.”

UPDATE (Feb. 2): There are now reports swirling that multiple teams are interested in trading for Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Las Begas Review-Journal reporter Vincent Bonsignore is reporting that the Raiders may pursue Deshaun Watson in exchange for Carr: “Increased demand for his services, insiders say, could create a scenario in which a three-team trade allows the Raiders to acquire Watson.”

The Raiders’ moves are not clear yet. But a potential deal could involve the team receiving two first-round draft picks and then pairing them with their own 2021-22 draft picks. They could then present all these picks as a package for the Texans.

UPDATE (March 2, 2021): J.J. Watt has signed a two-year, $31 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals. News of the signing broke yesterday, reported by outlets including ESPN and the NFL Network. This move reunites him with former teammate DeAndre Hopkins, who was a wide receiver for the Texans before a controversial trade last year. Today, in an introductory press conference, Watt was asked about Texans QB Deshaun Watson, who remains in a standoff with the team after informing them he no longer wants to play for them.

“The one thing I want for Deshaun Watson is for him to be happy,” Watt said. “He deserves it, and I want him to be happy. Whatever that looks like for him, that’s what I want for him.”

Check back for more updates.

Alvin Kamara Explodes For SIX Touchdowns; Saints Beat Vikings In Shootout On Christmas

By Terrance Turner

Dec. 25, 2020

In an unusual move, the NFL gave football fans the gift of football this Christmas. It would prove to be a memorable matchup. One team was battling to win the NFC South; the other was merely fighting to stay alive and get to the playoffs. But only one team would prove victorious.

This afternoon, the New Orleans Saints battled the Minnesota Vikings in a NFC showdown. The Saints scored right out of the gate: running back Alvin Kamara ran right through the Minnesota defense to score a touchdown. His 40-yard TD run put the Saints ahead 7-0. (No wonder he’s been named to his fourth straight Pro Bowl.)

The Vikings answered back right away with a running play of their own. Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook raced into the end zone for a touchdown, tying the game. New Orleans quickly put together a drive of their own: Jared Cook made a big catch, and RB Latavius Murray’s subsequent catch made it 1st and goal. After a pass interference call on the Vikings, the ball was moved to the one-yard line. Kamara scored again, pulling past defenders to cross the goal line. It was 14-7.

After the Vikings went three-and-out, the Saints took over again. This time, the Vikings defense prevented them from scoring a touchdown. But New Orleans tacked on a field goal to add three points. #23 for Minnesota found the end zone, cutting the Saints’ lead. It was 17-14. But then, Alvin Kamara scored again, rushing to the end zone for his third touchdown of the game. That put the Saints ahead 24-14 at the half.

In the second half, the Saints weren’t as dominant. A costly interception by Brees led to paydirt for Minnesota. The Vikings cashed in on the turnover. Irvin Smith, Jr. caught a TD pass from Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. They missed the extra point kick, though. So it was 24-20 with about 9:40 left in the third quarter.

But then…

With 4:38 left in the third quarter, Alvin Kamara scored his fourth touchdown of the day (!!!). Alvin Kamara is the first Saints player EVER to have four rushing touchdowns in a game, according to Bleacher Report. His historic achievement gave the Saints a 31-20 lead. But the Vikings clapped back with another TD, adding seven points before the third quarter ended.

The fourth quarter commenced, and it was all Saints. New Orleans’ already-explosive offense combusted in the final quarter. Kamara having yet another rushing touchdown. Kamara celebrated in the end zone, holding up his white-gloved hand and counting on his fingers: one, two, three, four, five.

The Saints powered down the field, deftly employing running plays and hurtling towards another 1st and goal. A catch by Burton took New Orleans all the way to the one-yard line. Kamara could’ve run in for another score, but coach Sean Payton elected to keep him out, drawing boos from the crowd. It was Taysom Hill who ended up scoring, with a 1-yard TD rush that made it 45-27.

The Vikings wasted no time getting into the red zone. A series of successful plays took them to 1st and goal. But the Saints defense broke up three consecutive plays. On 4th and goal, the Vikings went for it. Adam Thielen caught the ball in the end zone for a touchdown, but a Saints defender pushed him out of bounds from behind. A shoving match broke out between the Saints and the Vikings, and referees had to physically separate the players. In the end, the ruling on the field was for a touchdown, and two of the Saints defenders were flagged for unnecessary roughness. Those rulings drew boos from the crowd.

The referee ordered a two-point conversion from the one-yard line, but Cousins’ throw to Justin Jefferson was unsuccessful. The score was 45-33…but not for long. Saints Adam Trautman had a dramatic catch-and-run, evading Vikings defenders to reach the one-yard line. And then….the unthinkable happened. Alvin Kamara pushed past defenders to (barely) break the plane, scoring his SIXTH rushing touchdown. In doing so, Kamara ties an all-time record: That is the most rushing touchdowns by an NFL player in one game since 1929.

The Saints won, 52-33. With this win, they clinch their division. Their 52 points are the most that the Minnesota Vikings have allowed since 1963. The Vikings are eliminated from playoff contention with this game. The Saints win the NFC South for the fourth season in a row. They improve to 11-4.

So what was the key to Kamara’s sensational performance? “The O-line, kudos to them. They get the game ball, for sure. They did everything they had to do,” Kamara told Erin Andrews after the game. When asked about that Taysom Hill TD that could’ve gone to him, Kamara smiled. “I wasn’t worried about it,” he said. “Taysom was like, ‘Man, my bad.’ I was like, ‘Nah, it’s all good. We can spread the wealth.” And spread the wealth they did, for a phenomenal win.

Dez Bryant Out for MNF, But Ravens Continue Wild Ride With Unforgettable Win

By Terrance Turner

Dec. 8, 2020 (first published Nov. 30; updated Dec. 14)

Tonight’s Ravens-Cowboys game started with high drama.

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Dez Bryant was pulled from pregame warmups before tonight’s game against the Dallas Cowboys (his former team). Bryant left practice in order to take a test for COVID-19. (NFL reporter Kevin Seifert says that Bryant had taken a test this morning that came back “inconclusive” after he took the field. That necessitated a follow-up test, which came back positive.)

Less than an hour before game time, Bryant tweeted that he had tested positive for coronavirus. This, of course, would prevent him from playing in tonight’s game. But according to Bryant, he may be out for the rest of the season:

This comes after a dramatic sequence of events for the Ravens. On Monday, November 23, multiple players tested positive for COVID-19 after the Ravens’ loss to the Tennessee Titans. (The players included running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins, who tested positive for coronavirus on Nov. 23. Both players were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, per the NFL Network. The Ravens shut down their facility, the NFL said.)

On Wednesday, Nov. 25, a scheduled game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed. The match had been scheduled for Thanksgiving night (Nov. 26). But the day before, NPR reported that the game was being postponed, after at least seven Ravens players tested positive for the coronavirus or were in close contact with someone who was infected. The news was confirmed by team releases.

On Thanksgiving night, word broke that four players — including Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson — had also tested positive for COVID-19. The next day, the NFL made a major decision. On Friday, Nov. 27, the Ravens-Steelers game was rescheduled to Tuesday, Dec. 1. That decision came after more positive tests by players within the organization. (As a result, the Cowboys-Ravens game was moved to tonight, from its original scheduling of Dec. 4.) On Saturday, six more players were added to the reserve/COVID-19 list, per ESPN. That gave Baltimore at total of 17 positive tests.

Ravens’ game versus the Steelers had been rescheduled for Tuesday night, Dec. 1. But additional positive tests mandated another change of plans. On Nov. 30th, the game was rescheduled for the third time, due to COVID-19. This was the first match this season to be rescheduled three times, according to ESPN. (By that point, at least one Ravens player had tested positive for nine straight days, prompting the decision.)

The game was set for Wednesday at 3:40 pm. It was the first Wednesday NFL game since 2012, ESPN says. The game kicked off at 3:40 p.m. because NBC, which is broadcasting the game, wanted to honor its commitment to broadcast a Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on Wednesday night, sources told ESPN reporter Adam Schefter. The Ravens lost to the Steelers on Wednesday afternoon, marking Pittsburgh’s 11th straight victory.

Players who test positive must quarantine for 10 days. Two other players were put on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list that week, which means they either contracted the coronavirus or came into close contact with someone who had it, according to the Ravens’ roster.

The Ravens officially placed three more starters, including two 2019 Pro Bowlers, on that list last Monday. Tight end Mark Andrews, outside linebacker Matthew Judon and wide receiver Willie Snead IV were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Monday. Andrews, who is also a Type-1 diabetic, has played every game this season and leads the Ravens in catches (38), receiving yards (454) and touchdown catches (six). Andrews and Judon are both 2019 Pro Bowlers, making it seven Pro Bowlers on the list for Baltimore. As of today (Nov. 30), 21 players have been placed on that list, per the Ravens organization.

Despite all this drama, the Ravens won! The team beat the Cowboys 34-17 in tonight’s game, racking up 294 yards on the ground. Quarterback Lamar Jackson rushed for a 37-yard touchdown, then threw another TD to wide receiver Marquise Brown. RB J.K. Dobbins (who also tested positive for COVID-19) ran in for a touchdown just before the two-minute warning.

Jackson threw for 107 yards and two touchdowns, in spite of his lingering COVID-19 symptoms. “I still can’t really taste or smell, but I’m good now,” he told reporters after the game. “I guess my taste or smell gon’ come back sooner or later…I wouldn’t wish that on nobody, though.”