MOBILE, Ala. – Most of the NFL world is in this coastal town for the week of Senior Bowl practices, and you might be surprised to learn that the Patriots’ football scandal is not exactly huge news.
That’s not to say people aren’t interested.
I talked with team power brokers—general managers, head coaches and coordinators—as well as position coaches and others about the situation, and I got a mixed bag of opinions.
“Of course it’s a big deal,” said a defensive coordinator. “You go try to throw a ball in wet conditions that is fully inflated, and then throw one that has less air. Of course you’re going to get a better grip. It’s a definite advantage. And look which team it is. Not a surprise.”
So excited for the 2015 Pro Bowl that you can hardly stand it? Well, pretend that you are for five minutes and check out the jerseys (some of) the NFL's best will be wearing in Sunday's all-star game.
Nike debuted its Elite 51 Pro Bowl Uniform yesterday, and there's a lot that looks familiar. The numbering looks a bit like Tampa Bay's new scheme (though a lot less digital), while the general vibe is very much Oregon Ducks (especially the gray unis). And then there's the fluorescent green — excuse me, Volt — which makes its kit resemble one of the NHL's recently-unveiled All-Star Game sweaters. (Fashion pro tip: Volt is so in this season!)
SEATTLE — Despite all their success, their Super Bowl victories and the host of awards, honors and accolades that have come their way, somehow Russell Wilson and Tom Brady have nurtured and maintained — almost religiously so — the chips on their shoulders that seems to both sustain and drive them.
You want the Super Bowl matchup that deserves our full attention two weeks from now in the Arizona desert, when the 49th edition of the NFL’s biggest game unfolds at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale? How about Wilson against Brady, in a youth versus experience showdown of quarterbacks who still burn with the same fire that was started on their respective draft weekends? Has there ever been two more glaring, more overlooked quarterback draft prospects than Brady, the poster child for such things, and Wilson, the most recent example of how badly the NFL can botch evaluations?
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – What was the highlight of the Patriots’ 45-7 AFC Championship win over the Colts Sunday? Was it when the Patriots didn’t need to onside kick at the end of the game? Or when they didn’t need the opposing coach to botch the game? Or when the star quarterback on the other side ran around, because he is perfectly healthy, and still couldn’t beat them?
Perhaps it happened Friday. Practice was over. Patriots owner Robert Kraft stumbled upon a ritual that has grown, week by week, since New England defensive lineman Sealver Siliga introduced it last year. Patriots players of Polynesian descent gather to drink a traditional ceremonial drink made from the kava root.
“There were like 18 of them in the corner,” Kraft said Sunday night, in a locker room atmosphere that felt like a prelude to the real celebration in Arizona in two weeks. “And it was late afternoon. They were just joshing around and having fun. It was really special. I remember saying to Bill [Belichick]: ‘I don’t remember guys just hanging out and doing that on a Friday afternoon,’ which is nice. They enjoy each other’s company and they trust each other...
“There is a special karma with this team that I felt in training camp. I mentioned it to friends.”
Yesterday's NFC and AFC Championship games were both historic — and not just because the Seahawks and Patriots earned a trip to Super Bowl XLIX.
In the first game, Seattle was down 16-0 to the Green Bay Packers at halftime. Going into the fourth quarter, the Packers were up 16-7 before tacking on a field goal to take a 19-7 lead. Seahawks quarterback had an abysmal day up that point, throwing three interceptions and putting up woeful numbers. He tossed another pick with less than six minutes left in the game, which should have sealed the win for Green Bay. But Seattle's D came up big, getting the ball back into the hands of Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch. They put together a 69-yard, 1:43-long touchdown drive to pull Seattle within five. And then on the ensuing onside kick, got the ball back, scored another touchdown, tacked on a two-point conversion, and took the lead, 22-19, with a 1:25 left in the game. The Seahawks scored 15 points in 44 seconds. Green Bay tied it with a field goal late, but in overtime Wilson was perfect and capped off his role reversal from goat to hero with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse. Seattle won, 28-22, and did it by making the biggest comeback in championship game history.
If the NFC title game was a nail-biter, the AFC Championship was a bloodbath. The Indianapolis Colts traveled to New England to face the Patriots, and after stopping the Pats on their first drive the Colts offense was set to take the field. But Josh Cribbs muffed it, losing the ball in the rain or the lights. New England recovered with great field position, and promptly scored. The Patriots added another touchdown before the end of the first quarter, the Colts answered with one of their own, before New England kicked a field goal and went into halftime up 17-7. And then the second half started. New England scored 21 points in the third and scored another TD in the fourth to decimate the Colts, 45-7. That's an impressive way to head into the Super Bowl, and, of course, quarterback Tom Brady was a huge part of it. He threw for 226 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. And while he earned a sixth trip to the dance, he left the AFC title game with another personal record: Most Postseason Passing Yards. Brady now has 7,017, breaking Peyton Manning's previous record of 6,800.
What does that all mean for the Super Bowl? Probably nothing! But both games were a great way appetizer for the main course: Super Bowl XLIX, which will be played in Arizona on February 8. Before we turn our attention to that game, though, let's look back at some of the best moments of the NFL's championship weekend!
There are only three games left in the 2014 NFL season: the AFC and NFC championships and Super Bowl XLIX. (OK, OK, four if you count the Pro Bowl.) The Patriots host the Colts in the AFC title game, while the Seahawks look to defeat the Packers for a repeat trip to the title game.
Who will punch their tickets to Arizona in Sunday's conference championship games? We think we know!
INDIANAPOLIS -- Vernon Davis is jumping up and down, his baseball-mitt-sized hands waving in the air. It’s 2009, and he’s just months from leading the NFL in receiving touchdowns en route to his first Pro Bowl. But in this moment, none of that matters; his brother Vontae, a cornerback four years his junior, has just been drafted, 25th overall by the Miami Dolphins. Vontae is calm. Vernon is going bananas.
“You’d have probably thought I was getting drafted,” the tight end recalls.
Growing up in Washington, D.C., Vontae was Vernon’s little brother in every sense of the word. As a lanky, 5-foot-11 teen, Vontae reconciled himself to the fact that he’d always be smaller; Vernon, at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, is “a freak of nature,” the younger Davis says. Then Vernon went off to Maryland, then to the 49ers as 2006’s No. 6 pick, and by the time Vontae headed to Illinois for his freshman season, football knew him as Vernon’s brother.
That changed last December, when Vontae’s phone pinged with a message. “Welcome,” it read. Vontae had just made his first Pro Bowl, and Vontae’s brother couldn’t have been prouder.