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The Rundown: October 9, 2007

A Wild Monday Night

Cowboys QB Tony Romo won his fifth straight game, despite committing six total turnovers.

Tony Romo was at his worst on Monday night. But, in the game’s final moments, rookie kicker Nick Folk was at his best.

In what can only be considered an instant classic, in the most exciting, pulse-pounding game of the season so far, the Dallas Cowboys went into a hostile Ralph Wilson Stadium, and came out with a last-second victory, 25-24. After throwing for two touchdowns and committing six total turnovers, Dallas QB Tony Romo was saved by critical offensive and special teams plays in the final minutes, to pull out the improbable victory.

Considered one of the best quarterbacks in the league after the first month of the season, Romo looked pedestrian, committing turnover after turnover. It was almost a comical performance by the Dallas quarterback, throwing for four interceptions in the first half, alone – one was even returned for a Buffalo touchdown. TD passes to TE Jason Witten and WR Patrick Crayton, however, kept the Cowboys in the game, and their perfect season alive.

With less than four minutes remaining, and the Cowboys down by 8, Romo needed to have a few plays go his way, and fast. A last-minute drive by the offense ended in a touchdown pass to Crayton with less than 30 seconds to play. With a failed two-point conversion attempt literally ripped out of the hands of Terrell Owens, it left the Cowboys down by two. With a desperation onside kick left as their only option, the ball bounced their way – a miracle recovery by Tony Curtis at the Bills’ 47-yard line kept their hopes for a win intact.

After two plays moved the ball to the 35-yard line with :02 remaining, the game rested solely on the foot of rookie kicker Nick Folk. Having kicked a career-high 47-yard field goal earlier in the game, he was asked to, not only pull out a victory from the jaws of defeat, but save Romo from the worst QB performance of his career.

Cowboys K Nick Folk kicked four field goals in their win over the Bills, including a wild game-winner.

With the game on the line, Folk kicked the field goal squarely through the uprights … but, to no avail.

For the third time in four weeks, a timeout was called before the ball was snapped. Bills head coach Dick Jauron was intent on freezing Folk, at least, for this one attempt. The ploy worked in Denver in week 2; it was again used successfully in Oakland in week 3. Would it work on rookie Nick Folk in Buffalo?

Folk stepped back onto the field, lined up to kick … and won it on another 53-yard field goal, to end a roller-coaster of a game.

Despite a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Buffalo KR Terrence McGee, and solid play from RB Marshawn Lynch and rookie QB Trent Edwards, the Bills lost an 11-point fourth-quarter lead with 12 unanswered points by Dallas, led by Folk’s two clutch field goals. With the Cowboys undefeated at 5-0, and looking forward to a showdown with the 5-0 New England Patriots next week, Dallas considers themselves blessed to come out of Buffalo with a win.

And, with the victory, some would say that a Folk hero was born on Monday night.


Yankees Lose Series, and (Possibly) Manager

With one futile swing by Jorge Posada, the New York Yankees were out of the 2007 MLB Playoffs. And, unfortunately, it just might cost a good manager his job.

Joe Torre may have managed his last game in his illustrious New York Yankee career.

The Yankees were in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. They used an offensive explosion, in tandem with decent pitching performances, to rally from a 21-29 start, and a 14 ½-game deficit. Ultimately, the Yankees came within a half-game of the Red Sox for the division title, and, eventually, earned a wild card spot in the playoffs. With the best record in the league over the last four months of the season, the Yankees were looked at as a team to be reckoned with in the playoffs, heading into October.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, their biggest weakness came back to haunt them. In their Divisional playoff series against the Cleveland Indians, their starting pitchers gave up big runs at critical moments, losing in 4 games. Their ace pitcher, Chien-Ming Wang, couldn’t withstand the Indians’ offensive onslaught in Game 1, allowing 8 runs on just 4 and two-thirds innings pitched. Relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain faltered in the eighth inning of Game 2, giving up the tying run on a passed ball. The game ended in the eleventh, after Luis Vizcaino gave up the game-winning single to Travis Hafner with the bases loaded. Game 4 saw Wang, once again, struggle on 4 runs on less than two innings pitched.

With the season officially over for New York, manager Joe Torre looks to be the sacrificial lamb, in the eyes of New York fans, as well as owner George Steinbrenner. His job security began to look shaky well before this year – under Torre, the Yankees hadn’t won the World Series since 2000, and hadn’t reached the World Series since 2001, losing to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 7 games. With the vast expectations of a $200 million payroll, as well as the gaudy expectations of the New York media, Torre has had the unattractive task of managing a team expected to win a World Series title every single year.

With a mixed legacy of World Series prosperity in the late nineties, followed by an era of playoff mediocrity at the turn of the century, Torre has built up the kind of resume that many managers would die to have. Many pundits have implied that, with the impeding firing of Joe Torre, the Yankees can move forward in a new direction for the franchise. Whether that will be a positive or a negative remains to be seen – either way, Torre will no longer be a part of a team he helped win four World Series titles.

In the ultimate scheme of things, is it fair to release such a prosperous manager because of a seven-year title drought? Compared to other franchises around the league, it really doesn’t – dozens of teams have suffered much worse title droughts in the course of league history. On the other hand, those franchises didn’t have a $200 mil payroll. Then again, it isn’t Torre’s fault that his pitching staff is either aging or inexperienced.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner (left) may sacrifice Torre, in order to improve his team.

Perhaps the reputation Joe Torre had established for himself, ironically enough, had actually come back to haunt him. He had won four World Series titles in five years – after that, he had won none. He had managed teams that lost playoff series on inexplicable turns of events. Losing a Game 7, 9th-inning lead with the greatest closer of all time on the mound? Losing the ALCS in 7 games after leading 3 games to none, to, of all opponents, the Boston Red Sox? Losing to the Detroit Tigers in 2006, with A-Rod playing his best baseball? They are all things to consider when deciding whether or not to retain his services.

In the end, it is a combination of these factors – Torre’s reputation, as well New York expectations – that have doomed Joe Torre. What this will mean for the Yankees in the future – in prosperity or in ruin – only time will tell.


Trent Green & Travis Johnson

Trent Green’s career is in jeopardy, due to a move that could have put another player’s career in jeopardy.

It was reported today that Miami Dolphins QB Trent Green, with his level-three concussion (considered medically most severe of concussions), could threaten his return to the field. While he will be held out of Sunday’s game at Cleveland, the severity of his concussion may potentially keep him sidelined indefinitely. The injury is similar to the one that forced 49ers QB Steve Young into retirement in 1999. Green suffered the injury on Sunday, while trying to chop-block Houston Texans defensive tackle Travis Johnson, which Johnson took offense to, on and off the field.

After the play, Johnson was seen taunting a motionless Green, looking incensed. After Green was taken off the field, Johnson looked like a fool, receiving a taunting penalty. After the game, Johnson was still incensed, and made himself look like more of a fool.

“It was a malicious hit,” Johnson said. “It was uncalled for. He’s like the scarecrow. He wants to get courage while I wasn’t looking and hit me in my knee instead of trying to hit me in my head.”

Travis Johnson was in the wrong for his reaction, but, because of the brutality of the game, can’t be condemned for it.

In the heat of the moment, Johnson lashed out at an unconscious man, after his own career flashed before his eyes. After the game, he kicked the man while he was down – but only in a figurative sense. Thank God he apologized the next day, or he would have caught a negative media storm. Besides all of this, there is one thing that must be examined – were his actions on Sunday justifiable? That’s the question many pundits are asking today.

At the face of the incident, Johnson was completely out of line. Green was lying motionless on the ground, unconscious, and Johnson has the gall to taunt him, as if Green deserved what happened to him. It was an unnecessary, disgusting act, no matter how you looked at it. He was clearly in the wrong – especially immediately after the game, when he refused to relent. Honestly, though, we shouldn’t even know who the guy is – at the very least, we shouldn’t have to know him for this.

But, delving deeper into the incident, Johnson has many justifications for his reaction. In one sense, we need to consider the fact that professional football is a brutal sport. Football players are modern-day gladiators, and put their livelihoods on the line every Sunday. They must be at their meanest when taking the field, and do what must be done to 1) achieve victory, and 2) survive on the field.

Don’t accept that excuse? Alright, but consider this: as bad as he looks today, we can sit in our ivory towers and condemn a man for his actions on the field. But, we have no idea how we would react, in the heat of the moment, in a situation like that. He saw the chop block Green laid on him as malicious, and uncalled for. In Johnson’s mind, Green gave him an unnecessary cheap shot. If I were him, I’d be angry, too.

Something else we have to remember – chop blocks have either ended or shortened many defensive players’ careers. Johnson had that in mind when Green cut him off at the knees. It was no wonder Johnson’s career flashed before his eyes as he flew through the air, after getting blocked. Because of that, he had every right to be angry. After all, this was Johnson’s livelihood – and, in his mind, Green was trying to take his livelihood away from him.

Now, while the incident was an ugly one, Johnson could at least walk away from it. And, while I still think what he did was wrong, I can’t necessarily blame him completely for his actions, considering the stakes he works with.

Perhaps Chris Rock said it best: “I’m not saying it’s right … but I understand.”

A Wild Monday Night

Tony Romo was at his worst on Monday night. But, in the game’s final moments, rookie kicker Nick Folk was at his best.In what can only be considered an instant classic, in the most exciting, pulse-pounding game of the season so far, the Dallas Cowboys went into a hostile Ralph Wilson Stadium, and came out with a last-second victory, 25-24. After throwing for two touchdowns and committing six total turnovers, Dallas QB Tony Romo was saved by critical offensive and special teams plays in the final minutes, to pull out the improbable victory.Considered one of the best quarterbacks in the league after the first month of the season, Romo looked pedestrian, committing turnover after turnover. It was almost a comical performance by the Dallas quarterback, throwing for four interceptions in the first half, alone – one was even returned for a Buffalo touchdown. TD passes to TE Jason Witten and WR Patrick Crayton, however, kept the Cowboys in the game, and their perfect season alive.With less than four minutes remaining, and the Cowboys down by 8, Romo needed to have a few plays go his way, and fast. A last-minute drive by the offense ended in a touchdown pass to Crayton with less than 30 seconds to play. With a failed two-point conversion attempt literally ripped out of the hands of Terrell Owens, it left the Cowboys down by two. With a desperation onside kick left as their only option, the ball bounced their way – a miracle recovery by Tony Curtis at the Bills’ 47-yard line kept their hopes for a win intact.After two plays moved the ball to the 35-yard line with :02 remaining, the game rested solely on the foot of rookie kicker Nick Folk. Having kicked a career-high 47-yard field goal earlier in the game, he was asked to, not only pull out a victory from the jaws of defeat, but save Romo from the worst QB performance of his career.

With the game on the line, Folk kicked the field goal squarely through the uprights … but, to no avail.

For the third time in four weeks, a timeout was called before the ball was snapped. Bills head coach Dick Jauron was intent on freezing Folk, at least, for this one attempt. The ploy worked in Denver in week 2; it was again used successfully in Oakland in week 3. Would it work on rookie Nick Folk in Buffalo?

Folk stepped back onto the field, lined up to kick … and won it on another 53-yard field goal, to end a roller-coaster of a game.

Despite a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Buffalo KR Terrence McGee, and solid play from RB Marshawn Lynch and rookie QB Trent Edwards, the Bills lost an 11-point fourth-quarter lead with 12 unanswered points by Dallas, led by Folk’s two clutch field goals. With the Cowboys undefeated at 5-0, and looking forward to a showdown with the 5-0 New England Patriots next week, Dallas considers themselves blessed to come out of Buffalo with a win.

And, with the victory, some would say that a Folk hero was born on Monday night.

Yankees Lose Series, and (Possibly) Manager

With one futile swing by Jorge Posada, the New York Yankees were out of the 2007 MLB Playoffs. And, unfortunately, it just might cost a good manager his job.

The Yankees were in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. They used an offensive explosion, in tandem with decent pitching performances, to rally from a 21-29 start, and a 14 ½-game deficit. Ultimately, the Yankees came within a half-game of the Red Sox for the division title, and, eventually, earned a wild card spot in the playoffs. With the best record in the league over the last four months of the season, the Yankees were looked at as a team to be reckoned with in the playoffs, heading into October.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, their biggest weakness came back to haunt them. In their Divisional playoff series against the Cleveland Indians, their starting pitchers gave up big runs at critical moments, losing in 4 games. Their ace pitcher, Chien-Ming Wang, couldn’t withstand the Indians’ offensive onslaught in Game 1, allowing 8 runs on just 4 and two-thirds innings pitched. Relief pitcher Jamba Chamberlain faltered in the eighth inning of Game 2, giving up the tying run on a passed ball. The game ended in the eleventh, after Luis Vizcaino gave up the game-winning single to Travis Hafner with the bases loaded. Game 4 saw Wang, once again, struggle on 4 runs on less than two innings pitched.

With the season officially over for New York, manager Joe Torre looks to be the sacrificial lamb, in the eyes of New York fans, as well as owner George Steinbrenner. His job security began to look shaky well before this year – under Torre, the Yankees hadn’t won the World Series since 2000, and hadn’t reached the World Series since 2001, losing to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 7 games. With the vast expectations of a $200 million payroll, as well as the gaudy expectations of the New York media, Torre has had the unattractive task of managing a team expected to win a World Series title every single year.

With a mixed legacy of World Series prosperity in the late nineties, followed by an era of playoff mediocrity at the turn of the century, Torre has built up the kind of resume that many managers would die to have. Many pundits have implied that, with the impeding firing of Joe Torre, the Yankees can move forward in a new direction for the franchise. Whether that will be a positive or a negative remains to be seen – either way, Torre will no longer be a part of a team he helped win four World Series titles.

In the ultimate scheme of things, is it fair to release such a prosperous manager because of a seven-year title drought? Compared to other franchises around the league, it really doesn’t – dozens of teams have suffered much worse title droughts in the course of league history. On the other hand, those franchises didn’t have a $200 mil payroll. Then again, it isn’t Torre’s fault that his pitching staff is either aging or inexperienced.

Perhaps the reputation Joe Torre had established for himself, ironically enough, had actually come back to haunt him. He had won four World Series titles in five years – after that, he had won none. He had managed teams that lost playoff series on inexplicable turns of events. Losing a Game 7, 9th-inning lead with the greatest closer of all time on the mound? Losing the ALCS in 7 games after leading 3 games to none, to, of all opponents, the Boston Red Sox? Losing to the Detroit Tigers in 2006, with A-Rod playing his best baseball? They are all things to consider when deciding whether or not to retain his services.

In the end, it is a combination of these factors – Torre’s reputation, as well New York expectations – that have doomed Joe Torre. What this will mean for the Yankees in the future – in prosperity or in ruin – only time will tell.

Trent Green & Travis Johnson

Trent Green’s career is in jeopardy, due to a move that could have put another player’s career in jeopardy.

It was reported today that Miami Dolphins QB Trent Green, with his level-three concussion (considered medically most severe of concussions), could threaten his return to the field. While he will be held out of Sunday’s game at Cleveland, the severity of his concussion may potentially keep him sidelined indefinitely. The injury is similar to the one that forced 49ers QB Steve Young into retirement in 1999. Green suffered the injury on Sunday, while trying to chop-block Houston Texas defensive tackle Travis Johnson, which Johnson took offense to, on and off the field.

After the play, Johnson was seen taunting a motionless Green, looking incensed. After Green was taken off the field, Johnson looked like a fool, receiving a taunting penalty. After the game, Johnson was still incensed, and made himself look like more of a fool.

“It was a malicious hit,” Johnson said. “It was uncalled for. He’s like the scarecrow. He wants to get courage while I wasn’t looking and hit me in my knee instead of trying to hit me in my head.”

In the heat of the moment, Johnson lashed out at an unconscious man, after his own career flashed before his eyes. After the game, he kicked the man while he was down – but only in a figurative sense. Thank God he apologized the next day, or he would have caught a negative media storm. Besides all of this, there is one thing that must be examined – were his actions on Sunday justifiable? That’s the question many pundits are asking today.

At the face of the incident, Johnson was completely out of line. Green was lying motionless on the ground, unconscious, and Johnson has the gall to taunt him, as if Green deserved what happened to him. It was an unnecessary, disgusting act, no matter how you looked at it. He was clearly in the wrong – especially immediately after the game, when he refused to relent. Honestly, though, we shouldn’t even know who the guy is – at the very least, we shouldn’t have to know him for this.

But, delving deeper into the incident, Johnson has many justifications for his reaction. In one sense, we need to consider the fact that professional football is a brutal sport. Football players are modern-day gladiators, and put their livelihoods on the line every Sunday. They must be at their meanest when taking the field, and do what must be done to 1) achieve victory, and 2) survive on the field.

Don’t accept that excuse? Alright, but consider this: as bad as he looks today, we can sit in our ivory towers and condemn a man for his actions on the field. But, we have no idea how we would react, in the heat of the moment, in a situation like that. He saw the chop block Green laid on him as malicious, and uncalled for. In Johnson’s mind, Green gave him an unnecessary cheap shot. If I were him, I’d be angry, too.

Something else we have to remember – chop blocks have either ended or shortened many defensive players’ careers. Johnson had that in mind when Green cut him off at the knees. It was no wonder Johnson’s career flashed before his eyes as he flew through the air, after getting blocked. Because of that, he had every right to be angry. After all, this was Johnson’s livelihood – and, in his mind, Green was trying to take his livelihood away from him.

Now, while the incident was an ugly one, Johnson could at least walk away from it. And, while I still think what he did was wrong, I can’t necessarily blame him completely for his actions, considering the stakes he works with.

Perhaps Chris Rock said it best: “I’m not saying it’s right … but I understand.”

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