Monday, February 8, 2016

Super Bowl 50

Peyton Manning: "I'll take some time to reflect. I got a couple priorities first. I'm going to go kiss my wife and kids. I want to hug my family. I'm going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight."

With his second Super Bowl ring, Manning...
  • became the first quarterback to win 200 games (regular season and playoffs), breaking a tie with Brett Favre.
  • became the first starting quarterback to lead two different teams to a Super Bowl win.
  • raised his career postseason record to 14-13, which would give him the third most playoff wins of all time (he'd be tied with Terry Bradshaw and John Elway)
  • became the fourth quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different head coaches (also: Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, and Ben Roethlisberger).
  • became the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, passing his boss John Elway, who won at age 38.

Denver Broncos 24 : 10 Carolina Panthers
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Von Miller forced two fumbles to set up Denver's two touchdowns and the Broncos defense frustrated Cam Newton all game to carry Peyton Manning to his second Super Bowl title with a 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Manning threw for just 141 yards and committed two turnovers in one of the least productive games of his brilliant career that could be coming to an end. But with Miller leading a defense that recorded a Super Bowl record-tying seven sacks and forced four turnovers for the Broncos (15-4), Manning ended an up-and-down, injury-riddled season with another title to go with the one he won with Indianapolis nine years ago. Newton's MVP season ended in disappointment for the Panthers (17-2). He lost two fumbles, threw an interception and failed to produce a touchdown for the only time this season.

"Denver led the NFL in fewest yards allowed and pass the eye test. And they are led by Wade Phillips, one of the best defensive coordinators in NFL history. The Panthers, meanwhile, were the league's top-scoring team. Led by Cam Newton's MVP-caliber season, they have successfully made the transition to an explosive offensive team. No running game has more "base" running plays that look similar but have nearly infinite variations.

We are more convinced than ever that this will be Manning's last season. Common sense says no, but Manning has left plenty of signs. His decision to soak up the afterglow Sunday with his entire family on the field in Denver was telling. His son Marshall joined him at the podium after the win over the Patriots. Even Archie Manning believes this is it for Peyton, although he insists his son hasn't said a word.

This has been Cam Newton's season. He's going to win the MVP and the Panthers are one tough loss to the Falcons away from being undefeated entering this game. This feels like Newton's championship season. But feelings before the Super Bowl are overrated. Just ask the 2001 Rams or the 2007 Patriots. It's up to Newton to earn his coronation."

  • In case you missed it: This will be the only time in NFL history that the game’s two starting quarterbacks were the No. 1 picks in their respective drafts.. The 2011 draft is also the first draft to have its No. 1 (Cam) and No. 2 picks (Von Miller) face off in the Super Bowl. It's also the third straight year that the NFL's top-seeded playoff teams have reached the Super Bowl. It's good to be chalk!
  • Newton is 26. Manning is 39. The quarterback age gap in this game is greater than any matchup in Super Bowl history.
  • Ronald Reagan was president -- and Cam Newton wasn't yet born -- the last time a Heisman-winning signal caller played in the Super Bowl. It was January 1984 and Jim Plunkett was competing in Super Bowl XVIII. 
  • Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is currently tied in first with Brett Favre for career quarterback wins (199). If this ends up being Manning’s final year in the NFL, a Super Bowl win would just put him over the top. Eighteen-year vet Manning is also the first signal caller ever to lead multiple franchises to the ’ship multiple times.
  • Assuming that he does indeed start next month, Peyton Manning will have had the bleakest regular-season TD/INT ratio (nine touchdowns, 17 interceptions) of any starting signal caller since the 1970’s. Vince Ferragamo of Super Bowl XIV beat him out, having tallied just five touchdowns to his 10 interceptions back in 1979.
  • This is Demarcus Ware's first Super Bowl in a potential Hall of Fame career. Thomas Davis, coming off a broken arm, is one of the most inspirational figures from the last decade in the NFL. Von Miller is building an all-time great career and is coming off an all-time great performance. Miller was otherworldly, slashing past Patriots right tackle Marcus Cannon for a gameplan-crushing 2.5 sacks, which set a single-game playoff record for the Super Bowl-bound Broncos. Miller also set up Denver's second touchdown with an athletic interception of Brady, who absorbed a whopping 19 hits, the most on a quarterback in a single game since 2006, when Cleveland's Charlie Frye was hit 20 times by the Ravens.
  • Broncos general manager John Elway looked at his team after they lost Super Bowl XLVIII to Seattle and vowed to become tougher. He wanted a team that looked more like the defense and running heavy squads he won the Super Bowl with in the late 1990s. Just two years later, his vision has been realized. The defense is loaded with Elway draft picks, not to mention free agent signings like DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib. 
  • Both the Panthers’ Ron Rivera and the Broncos’ Gary Kubiak dethroned the same guy -- John Fox -- to earn their respective head coaching positions.
  • While Carolina went 15-1 in the regular season, just two of the six past clubs that notched at least 15 pre-playoffs victories went on to win the title: the 1984 San Francisco 49ers and the 1985 Chicago Bears (which Panthers coach Ron Rivera just happened to be on).
  • When the team steps on the field in February, Carolina will be the first NFC South franchise ever to play in more than one Super Bowl. 
  • If we include the postseason, the Panthers currently have a .500 all-time record (175-175-1). If they do manage to win it all this year, the Santa Clara victory would bump the franchise up to a winning record for the first time since 1998.
  • If the MVP race goes as expected and the Panthers claim the title, Newton will become the first signal caller in history to have brought home the Heisman, National Championship, NFL MVP and Super Bowl trophies.

More information:
» "Seven big storylines heading into Super Bowl 50"
» Huffington Post: "17 Fun Tidbits About the Super Bowl 50 That Will Get You Hyped"
» Maurice Jones-Drew and Ike Taylor: "Why Cam Newton's Panthers won't win Super Bowl 50"
» CBS Sports: "11 stats to arm yourself with for Panthers-Broncos title game"
» Deadspin: "Nobody Much Likes Losing"

Sunday, January 31, 2016

2015: The Year South Park Finally Got Old

In online-adjacent spaces, Tumblr often stands in as a rhetorical punching-bag for everyone from outright hate-groups (think the “GamerGate” harassment campaign, or the various arms of Breitbart and Stormfront) to more reasoned blowback from aging Boomer and Gen-X comedians like Jerry Seinfeld (or Chris Rock) bracing at criticism about offensive jokes from “politically correct” Millennial audiences. PC Principal, of course, is a blunt personification of the former, a literal “PC bully” inflicting aggressive punishment on anyone who dares speak or think out of step with an ever-changing ideological purity; what innumerable hand-wringing thinkpieces have dubbed the “outrage culture.”

All of this, especially the spinning of inbound-criticism into a caricatured villain, is the stuff classic South Park has previously been made of, but this time there’s a palpable lack of actual connective tissue between the disparate elements (a late-arriving moral about politically-correct speech being “gentrification, but for language” lands with a bizarre, impotent thud in the finale) which is, quite frankly, shocking coming from creators who once turned their rivalry with Family Guy into an occasion to examine freedom of expression vis-a-vi religious parody in the post-9/11 era. Parker and Stone are hardly bulletproof and Park has stumbled plenty before, but the spectacle of a series that rewrote the book on staying evergreen and engaged with the culture it satirized seemingly devoting an entire season to scoffing at the concerns of the rising generation without any accompanying self-appraisal was utterly puzzling – particularly since the self-defense was still there, with PC Principal’s first scene being a monologue about how the town’s (read: the series’) behavior was “stuck in a time warp.”

That’s not to say that South Park (or any other series) has some kind of obligation to keep current with the generational or political winds. Indeed, the show (and its creators’) eagerness to prod the left and right with equal vigor has always been part of its signature. It’s easy to forget, but when the series landed right in the midst of the Clinton 90s (the decade where “political correctness” first became a mainstream phrase) seeing a comedy show with actual youth-culture street cred fire volleys at environmentalism, the “tolerance” push and other progressive-perennials Gen-Xers had been receiving as default-positives from Sesame Street right up through Friends was part of what made it feel exciting and different. It’s also what won the series a (then) unlikely following on the right-wing, with columnist Andrew Sullivan dubbing circa-2001 young conservatives “South Park Republicans” to the chagrin of the creators; who steadfastly insisted that they (and the show) had staked their claim squarely in the middle: on the South Park moral spectrum, the military/industrial right and the do-gooder left are equal antagonists of the “little guy” who was likely doing just fine until they started bothering him.

Of all the personal fixations and grievances that Parker and Stone contributed to South Park’s foundational DNA, that particular outlook is perhaps the most quintessentially demonstrative of their upbringing in the American Midwest, a region given to seeing itself as caught between the battles of clashing cultural-behemoths; be it the Republican South versus Democrat coasts or merely New York verus Los Angeles as economic power-centers. But it’s also a universally-comforting notion, since almost everyone would like to think of themselves as the normal, sensible person beset on all fronts by absurd extremes – and who, after all, doesn’t prefer stability (their own, at least) to chaos and upheaval? When a protest-march shuts down a city block, South Park’s first instinct is to look past the activists and their enemy to cast sympathy with the folks who didn’t ask to be involved but are now late for work all the same.

But the absolute middle is as much a fantasy as the existence of “pure” good or evil, and the problem with “leave me alone” as a philosophical ideal (whether for a cartoon show or a human life) is that you can’t resist upheaval without also upholding the status-quo. And in an era where “change” itself (changes in demographics, changes in society, changes in acceptable language, etc) is often at the forefront of our most divisive discussions, being reflexively anti-upheaval (regardless of the reason) is very much taking a side no matter how much one insists otherwise. This is tricky terrain for any work of satire where immediacy is part of the brand: It gets increasingly hard to be a rock star when you’re the one asking for the music to be turned down.

That’s precisely the predicament where Parker, Stone and South Park have now found themselves, in my estimation: It took a while, but they seem to have crossed the point where their dual central-sympathies – their own self-righteousness and the righteousness of put-upon “little guys” – are no longer one and the same. South Park is The Establishment at this point, and the little guys in perpetual danger of being trampled increasingly look less like the middle-age Generation-Xers who created it and more like the aggrieved rainbow of dissidents making noise on the likes of Tumblr (or out in the streets, for that matter.) And Season 19, by the end, felt like nothing so much as the creators gnashing their teeth at ascendant Millennials moments after the realization of this finally smacked them in the face. “Hmph! You kids today with your hula-hoops and your social justice!”

On the one hand, there’s no rule that says edgy humor is the sole province of the under-30 set: witness the aforementioned Jon Stewart’s career-defining metamorphosis from snarky MTV fixture to the sarcastic gray-haired political conscience of a nation for proof of that. But while it’s entirely possible for comedy (and comedians) to survive or even thrive as in the form of an ever-aging grownup grousing about “kids today,” it’s unclear exactly how South Park would do so. Unlike The Simpsons, which gradually pivoted focus from Bart to Homer in transition from trendy-troublemaker to cultural-landmark stature, Park feels permanently wed to the Main Four as central figures. Family Guy navigated similar longevity-pains (your mileage may vary on their success at such) by allowing creator Seth McFarlane’s self-insert character, Brian, to shift organically from being the moral-center of the series to a narcissistic, out-of-touch grump that nobody likes; but “You’re Getting Old” already took Park’s version of that kind of character-shift to the logical extreme and back again.

On the other hand, not every act stays potent in advancing age. Once upon a time, Dennis Miller was political comedy’s pre-Jon Stewart icon; a human-thesaurus motormouth whose snarky takes on current-events made his HBO series a kind of proto-Daily Show. But the march of time (and a self-admitted life-altering reaction to 9/11) took his comedy in an angrier, more conservative direction; and to the degree that he’s known at all today it’s for a right-wing talk radio show (recently concluded) and a recurring guest spot on The O’Reilly Factor – a fate far-removed from what the fans who once regarded him as the “thinking man’s” stand-up hero. Granted, it’s unlikely anything so extreme awaits the maestros of South Park (for one thing, they’ve already established a second mega-successful career as blockbuster Broadway musical creators,) but the gap between Miller’s full-throated embrace of Bush-era neoconservativism to the bafflement of his Gen-X fanbase and Parker and Stone’s grumpy cynicism about “Tumblr Generation”-embraced causes like transgender issues feels less and less vast every day; and the spectre of Miller’s fall hangs over every comic who wakes up one day to find themselves as the Old Man when just yesterday they were still the children he’s about to order off the lawn.

The final irony, though, and the one which makes South Park’s Season 19 pivot feel all the more askew, is the particularities of just what about Millennial social-consciousness, Tumblr-activism, “outrage culture” and the rest seems to bother Parker and Stone so much. The grievances bubbling under the season’s narrative-surface are familiar to anyone whose endured a wave or three of Internet blowback against “SJWs” (“Social Justice Warriors”): They’re too angry. They’re never satisfied. They “shoot” first and ask questions later. They demand ideological purity. They don’t respect procedure, or tenure, or institutions. They rant and rave and rage, treat pop-culture alternately like a toybox or target-range and won’t take “that’s not how it’s done” for an answer. They, effectively, act like indignant, infuriated adolescents too charged up at discovering a new power to shape the cultural conversation to bother wielding it any measure of responsibility.

That reminds me of somebody I used to know. Somebody who reacted to worries about how to tell jokes post-9/11 with “Watch us.” Somebody who wasn’t simply unafraid but eager to “call out” everyone from Michael Moore to Christopher Reeve to Tom Cruise. Somebody who’s response to professional-betrayal by a colleague was an eye-poppingly combative “Fine, go – but we’re gonna turn your character into a brainwashed child-molester and then kill him.” Somebody who saw the value in being loud, angry and tactless where it concerned getting one’s point across, and who didn’t merely invite the condescension and hand-wringing of the older generation but actually reveled in it. Sound like anyone you used to know, Stan? Or you, Kyle?

There’s no such thing, as Trey Parker and Matt Stone have always been all too eager to remind us, as an unacceptable target when it comes to satire. But choice and timing of targets can reveal a lot about those picking them, and in turning the full measure of its guns (an entire season of television) on perceived cornerstones of Millennial culture and, implicitly, on Millennials as a generational-class themselves, South Park would appear to have completed its transition from rebellious “angry kid” firebrand raging at every hint of authority to established, dug-in angry old man shaking a fist at the generation rising up behind it. And while South Park has endured and made fools of its critics before, it’s hard to imagine how you pull out of this particular trajectory when your “brand” has always been blunt-honesty at all costs.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Coldplay - "Hymn for the Weekend"

According to lead singer Chris Martin, the original kernel was that he was listening to Flo Rida or something, and he thought, it's such a shame that Coldplay could never have one of those late-night club songs, like "Turn Down for What". "I thought I’d like to have a song called 'Drinks on Me' where you sit on the side of a club and buy everyone drinks because you're so fucking cool," Martin recalled. "I was chuckling about that, when this melody came, 'drinks on me, drinks on me', then the rest of the song came out. I presented it to the rest of the band and they said, 'We love this song, but there's no way you can sing "drinks on me."' So that changed into 'drink from me' and the idea of having an angelic person in your life. Then that turned into asking BeyoncĂ© to sing on it."

Sunday, January 24, 2016

NFL Playoffs: Championship Round

One week after all four home teams won in the Divisional Round, both No. 1 seeds advanced to the Super Bowl for the third straight season.

Brady vs. Manning XVII

The Broncos have been doing a lot of talking ahead of Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Patriots. Defensive end Antonio Smith said he doesn't disagree that Tom Brady is a crybaby, but conceded "he's not going to rattle just because you hit him hard. I've tried over the years." DE Malik Jackson said Brady is a "whiner" who "definitely throws temper tantrums." Then there's linebacker Brandon Marshall, who has a very simple explanation for why Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is always open: "Because he pushes off" and "he gets away with it about 98 percent of the time."

"I hate everything about them," said DE Derek Wolfe, via the Denver Post. "They're always in my way. They're always in my way to get what I want. I've got a ton of respect for the whole organization. They've got great players -- Tom Brady's a great player. Bill Belichick's a great coach. I've got a ton of respect for them. I just hate them."

Denver outside linebacker Von Miller was informed this week that, on average, Brady got the ball out of his hands in about two seconds during a divisional victory over Kansas City. "You said two seconds?" Miller said. "Sometimes I only need like one."

The matchup between the league leader in touchdown passes and the league's top-ranked passing defense was already an enticing one. Throw in the fact that Peyton Manning might be taking on Brady for one final time and the game is clearly in a position to go down as an all-time classic.

"I have felt very fortunate to play 18 years like I have, and I know how hard I've worked to play this long. When I look across at the New England Patriots and see Tom Brady is their quarterback, I just know how hard he's worked, as well," Manning said.

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos
Cornerback Bradley Roby saved the game by picking off Tom Brady's pass on a 2-point try with 12 seconds left to preserve a 20-18 victory for the Broncos over the Patriots Sunday in the AFC title game. New England had to go for 2 after Brady's 4-yard touchdown to Rob Gronkowski because Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point in the first quarter, snapping a string of 523 straight makes. Manning threw two touchdowns but the 39-year-old QB's best play may have very well been his 12-yard scramble on third down in the third quarter - his longest playoff run since he was a rookie. Manning will become the first quarterback in NFL history to play in multiple Super Bowls for two different teams. Denver (14-4) will face Carolina for the title on Feb. 7.

More information:
» CBS Sports: Inside the NFL on Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady
» Denver Post: Broncos vs. Patriots, By the Numbers
» "2016 AFC championship game could be last dance for two of NFL's greatest QBs"

Carolina was the most dominant team throughout the regular season, earning the No. 1 seed in the final week of the season. They got out to a quick 17-0 first quarter lead on Sunday and the Cardinals never recovered. It was a day-long celebration in Charlotte, a fitting capper to what has felt like a season-long celebration of all things Cam Newton at home this year. The best player on the best team is going to the biggest game. It's up to the Broncos to prevent Super Bowl 50 from feeling like a coronation.

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton threw for two touchdowns and ran for two others, and Carolina's big-play defense stifled Arizona's top-ranked offense in a 49-15 romp Sunday for the NFC championship. The NFL's new top man at quarterback - Newton is an All-Pro this season - will lead the Panthers against five-time MVP Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl in two weeks. It will be the first Super Bowl for Newton and the second trip to the big game for the Panthers (17-1), who lost to New England 12 years ago. Denver, of course, has made a habit of going to Super Bowls, reaching it for a record-tying eighth time. Carolina's D was destructive. It forced six turnovers by Carson Palmer - special teams got one - as the Cardinals (13-4) allowed their most points this season.

More information:
» Yahoo Sports: Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best postseason receivers ever
» "10 things we learned from Championship Sunday"

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Spotlight: Cam Newton

"The Panthers will reevaluate Monday the fractured foot of defensive end Jared Allen, but it appears the NFL's active sack leader (136) will miss the rest of the playoffs. That means the Panthers will have to adjust, likely moving Kony Ealy to the starting right end spot and signing Wes Horton off the practice squad. Horton started 15 games at the end last season but is considered more of a run-stopper. This could mean using Ryan Delaire in pass-rushing situations."
"I want it to be known that his mother and I are staunch Christian proponents of marriage and all things pertaining to legitimacy," Cecil says. "I have three sons and one woman, and I have been a living example all his life of what a man should be in a family. Cam is 26 years old, not 18 or 19. He has a heightened consciousness of who he is as a man, and I always tell him the decisions you make you have to live with short and long term. I don't style it as a mistake; I style it as something that can be a gift for him and the young lady. We're going to support them in every aspect -- physically, emotionally and spiritually."

Against Atlanta, after Chosen was born but before the world knew, Newton scored and incorporated a baby-rocking move into his celebration. After the loss, and after he had spent nearly an hour in silence at his locker, he was asked what the gesture meant. He dismissed the question with a wave of his hand and a shake of his head, making it clear it was a private message in a public moment.

The next week, after the season-ending win over the Bucs, which gave the Panthers the NFC's No. 1 seed, Newton walked into the interview room wearing a three-quarter-length sports coat, blue slacks, the swirly black-and-white shoes and no foxtail.

As the news conference wound down, Newton was asked what he will remember from the 2015 regular season. It was a softball, light and fluffy and lobbed over the heart of the plate.

Newton paused, and his smile vanished.

"We shouldn't have lost," he said, his voice trailing. "We shouldn't have lost."

That's it? After 15 wins and 35 touchdown passes and countless dances and all those unnamed Euro-step/jump shots, he will remember the loss? The one loss? It seems the NFL's resident big kid -- has the NFL considered a Big Kid Laureate program? -- would cite a particularly memorable dance move, or a little boy who was especially moved after being handed a ball after a touchdown, or an open-field juke that inflicted exceptional and long-lasting embarrassment on a linebacker.

But no. The one loss -- not the NFL-best four game-winning drives, not the 14 straight wins to start the season, not the records, not the ascension to the illustrious pantheon of the most fetishized gods in sport. No. The loss. The mood in the room shifts. The interview is over, and as Cam Newton walks away from the podium he leaves behind a lingering sense of that rarest of emotions: surprise.

And while Warren Moon dislikes the celebrations -- "I like that he gives the ball to a kid," he says, "but I think the quarterback gets enough attention already" -- Cecil Newton says, "People go so far as to time his celebrations. They're timing him. They'll say, '4.1 seconds is the norm, and he took it to 8.3.' If you're that scientifically concerned with a celebration, you have bigger problems than whatever he's doing."

During an interview with a team psychologist of an AFC North team at the combine, Newton was asked whether he sees himself more as a cat or a dog. When he suggested that the question was not relevant and that he saw himself more as a human being, he was immediately asked whether he had a problem with authority.

"African-American quarterbacks get analyzed in ways that others don't," Moon says. "We've dispelled a lot of those myths, but not all."

More information:
» ESPN: "The reason Cam Newton named his son Chosen"
» ESPN: "The joy of Cam Newton: How a polarizing QB made (great) football fun"

NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning rescued the butter-fingered Broncos with a late touchdown drive and Denver advanced to the AFC championship game with a 23-16 win over Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. The Broncos (13-4) will host Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (13-4) next weekend. Manning vs. Brady XVII. With Denver down 13-12 with less than 10 minutes left, cornerback Bradley Roby punched the ball from Fitzgerald Toussaint's arms and teammate DeMarcus Ware recovered at the Denver 35-yard line. Then, Manning went to work, driving Denver to its only touchdown. Ware's sack ended Pittsburgh's next drive and Brandon McManus kicked his fifth field goal, tying the NFL playoff record. Chris Boswell made a 47-yarder with 19 seconds left, but C.J. Anderson recovered the onside kick.

Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers built a 31-point halftime lead before barely holding off Seattle's relentless comeback, beating the Seahawks 31-24 on Sunday to advance to the NFC championship game. Carolina (16-1) will host Arizona (14-3) next week for a trip to the Super Bowl. Jonathan Stewart, returning from a foot injury, scored two touchdowns after jumpstarting the Panthers with a 59-yard sprint on their first play. Cam Newton threw for a touchdown and fellow All-Pro Luke Kuechly ran in an early interception for a score as Carolina built a 31-0 advantage. Seattle (11-7), showing its pedigree as two-time NFC champs, climbed back within seven points as Russell Wilson threw for three touchdowns, two to Jermaine Kearse. An onside kick with 1:11 remaining was covered by All-Pro linebacker Thomas Davis - and Charlotte could begin breathing again.

Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals, the NFC's No. 2 seed, thought they had won until Aaron Rodgers, in a play reminiscent of Green Bay's win over Detroit this season, took the snap with 5 seconds to play, scrambled and threw a 41-yard desperation pass to the end zone. The 6-foot-3 Jeff Janis, a backup receiver, outjumped defenders Patrick Peterson and Rashad Johnson for the ball to send the game to an extra period.

But Larry Fitzgerald turned a short pass into a 75-yard gain on the first play of overtime and scored the winning touchdown, taking a 5-yard shovel pass from Carson Palmer that lifted Arizona past Green Bay 26-20. Fitzgerald caught eight passes for 176 yards.

"In NFL history, only Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin have more than five 100-yard postseason games; Rice had eight and Irvin had six. And when Larry Fitzgerald subsequently scored the game-winning touchdown against the Packers, it was his 10th career receiving touchdown in the postseason. Only Rice and John Stallworth have more than 10 postseason receiving touchdowns; Stallworth had 12 and Rice had 22, a record that may never be broken. Fitzgerald has done all that while playing in just eight career postseason games. Rice played in 29 career postseason games, Stallworth played in 18 and Irvin played in 16. Fitzgerald hasn’t always been on good teams, but when he gets to the playoffs, he always delivers."

More information:
» "Larry Fitzgerald adds another chapter to legendary career"
» "Aaron Rodgers unhappy about coin flip gaffe"

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots
Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski with two touchdown passes and reached over the goal line for another score Saturday to lead the New England Patriots into the AFC championship game with a 27-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. It's the fifth straight trip to the conference title game for the defending Super Bowl champions. The Patriots (13-4) will meet the winner of Sunday's game between Pittsburgh and Denver for a spot in Super Bowl 50 as they try to become the first repeat NFL champs since they did it in 2003-04. After spending the last two weeks recovering from knee and back injuries, Gronkowski had touchdown catches from 8 and 16 yards The All-Pro tight end had seven receptions for 82 yards. Kansas City (12-6) had won a franchise-record 11 consecutive games, including 30-0 at Houston last week in the wild-card round.

In the regular season, Brady led the league with 36 touchdown passes and guided the Patriots to 12 wins despite losing a multitude of offensive players at various points. In 15 regular season games, Gronkowski recorded 72 receptions for 1,176 yards, and 11 touchdowns. On Saturday, he opened up the Patriots' playoff run with two touchdowns against the Chiefs, setting an NFL record with his eighth career postseason score. Dave Casper and Vernon Davis held the tight end record with seven playoff touchdowns. Now, that record belongs to Gronkowski, who's still just 26 years old.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Ovi Becomes Fifth-Fastest Player to Reach 500 Career Goals

"Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom and goaltender Braden Holtby will join Alex Ovechkin at the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game. This is the first time the Caps have had three All-Star participants since 1984-85. This season, the Capitals have the best record in the league while scoring the second-most goals and giving up the least. Their special teams are also special: second-best power play and fourth on the penalty kill. In 1984-85, Washington had four players — Bob Carpenter, Mike Gartner, Rod Langway, Scott Stevens — in the NHL All-Star Game in Calgary. The 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game will be 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31 in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. NBCSN will broadcast the game."
WASHINGTON - Alex Ovechkin scored his 500th goal Sunday night, becoming the 43rd player in NHL history to reach the milestone.

Ovechkin reached the mark in vintage fashion, scoring from just beyond the left hash marks during a second-period power play to give the Washington Capitals a 5-1 lead over the Ottawa Senators.

Ovechkin got an extended standing ovation and took a skate around the rink, acknowledging the cheering crowd that included his parents. He later drew another roar while waving to fans from the bench.

He added No. 501 midway through third, beating a defender with a sweeping deke at the top of the zone before smacking a shot past goalie Andrew Hammond for a 7-1 lead.

At 801 games, the Russian winger is the fifth-fastest player to 500 goals, trailing only Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky (575 games), Mario Lemieux (605), Mike Bossy (647) and Brett Hull (693).

"He is one of a kind," Hull told the AP in a phone interview last week. "I admire what he does because he's a pure goal scorer."

Ovechkin has filled the net more often than anyone since he entered the league in 2005, scoring 149 more goals than the next closest player, Jarome Iginla.

Ovechkin was the first overall pick in the 2004 draft by Washington. He's been named an All-Star in each of his 11 seasons and was voted a captain for this year's All-Star game. He's won three straight Richard Trophies as the league's leading goal scorer and five overall. He's also won three Hart Trophies as league MVP.

The 30-year-old Ovechkin is the NHL leader in career goals by a Russian-born player.

Ovechkin has 26 goals this season, including five over his past three games.

More information:
» "Analytics say Ovechkin one of top goal-scorers ever"
» "Alex Ovechkin adds 500th goal to career timeline"
» "Capitals' Holtby on way to winning first Vezina Trophy"
» "Capitals captain Ovechkin buys Powerball tickets"