From 4-12 to Super Bowl LIII: This Rams’ turnaround is on Sean McVay

The Rams, to that point, did not have a first down in the game. The Saints had seven and were rolling. The Superdome crowd was so loud, the building was shaking. Rams quarterback Jared Goff put tape over the earholes on his helmet to give him a chance to hear anything. His coach, Sean McVay, sent the punting unit out onto the field with instructions not to punt.new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap

“It goes back to the confidence in the players,” McVay said later. “At that point, I felt like we needed a little bit of momentum.”

Punter Johnny Hekker completed a 12-yard pass to cornerback Sam Shields (no typos there, that’s what actually happened), and something in the game shifted. The Rams would pick up three more first downs on that drive, which ultimately resulted in a field goal and L.A.’s first points of the game.6

“He’s a coach that knows his team,” Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth said in Sunday’s 26-23 overtime win. “He knew we needed to do something to get things going our way, and he believed his team could get it done. That sounds simple, but it’s actually huge.”

A coach can’t coach if he doesn’t know his team, and McVay knows his. Two years into a head-coaching career that began at the inconceivable age of 30, McVay is completely in tune with the roster he already has coached to 26 wins and a conference title. In his short time there, he has helped transform the Rams from a 4-12 mess to a juggernaut. While all of these teams are out here trying to find the “next Sean McVay,” the actual Sean McVay is going to the Super Bowl.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

“Certainly, when we hired him, getting to this part of the mountaintop this soon, that wasn’t something you could imagine,” Rams GM Les Snead said after the game. “The idea was for him to come in and help us create a winning environment, and to create an environment for Jared to succeed. There’s a lot more than goes into a being a head coach than just being a quarterback guru, and obviously we believed he had those qualities.”

Saints, Drew Brees suffer Super disappointment in NFC title game

The top-seeded New Orleans Saints lost their first home playoff game in the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era on Sunday with a 26-23 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game, ending the coach and quarterback’s shot at a second Super Bowl together. Here’s a recap of the season and what’s next:

Season grade: Near perfection. The Saints came oh-so-close to their second Super Bowl trip in franchise history — a long nine years after Payton and Brees first hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy. But the Saints ultimately couldn’t hang on Sunday after jumping to a 13-0 lead — thanks in large part to a controversial no-call by the officials on New Orleans’ final drive of regulation. And it was a call Payton said he and the Saints will “probably never get over.”

The Saints made a great run at it, earning the NFC’s No. 1 seed with a 13-3 record, and the age-defying Brees posted the best passer rating of his career this season before turning 40 on Tuesday. But Brees’ interception on the opening drive of overtime set up the Rams’ game-winning field goal. Said Payton: “Man, I was proud of these guys. It’s been a great season, it’s a great group of guys that’s worked extremely hard. To come off a tough loss like we did last year and put ourselves in this position — right there in a position inside the 10-yard line to go to the Super Bowl — I’m proud of every one of ’em.“cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Season in review: The end was stunning after the Saints felt destined to reach the Super Bowl for most of the season — and for most of Sunday’s game. But now the 2018 season will always be remembered for the officials’ decision to not call pass interference on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman against Tommylee Lewis in the final minutes of regulation and for Brees’ throwing just his third interception in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome all season when he was hit as he threw on the opening drive of overtime.5

Brees acknowledged the loss was even harder to take, knowing he might not get many more chances like this. But he said, “I plan on being here next year and making another run it.”

Brees’ 18th season was one of his best, as he finished the regular season with an NFL-record completion percentage of 74.4 and career-high passer rating of 115.7. He threw for 249 yards with two TDs and the interception on Sunday. At his hottest point, in the middle of the season, he threw a total of 15 TD passes during a four-game stretch in which the Saints averaged 44 points per game. But it wasn’t just “all Brees, all the time” for one of Payton’s most balanced teams yet. The Saints had five players named either first- or second-team All-Pro for the first time in franchise history — including first-team wide receiver Michael Thomas, who set team records with 125 catches and 1,405 yards. And their run defense finished second in the NFL, led by defensive end Cameron Jordan, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins and linebacker new nike nfl jerseys for sale cheap Demario Davis, among others. The Saints relied on their defense to win several games down the stretch as the offense struggled a bit because of depth issues at receiver and injury issues on the offensive line. The highlight of that defensive surge came when cornerback Marshon Lattimore intercepted two passes in the divisional-round playoff win against Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, that defense couldn’t quite hang on enough after an outstanding start to Sunday’s game. Former Saints receiver Brandin Cooks helped the Rams catch up with two big plays in the second and third quarters. Then, the Rams quickly marched downfield for a game-tying field goal attempt late in regulation and kicked the 57-yard winner in overtime.

Should Broncos’ veterans be worried?

“When you don’t go to the playoffs here, they’re not going to sit around and just stay the same,” is how cornerback Chris Harris Jr. put it at season’s end. “We haven’t been to the playoffs in three years, I think they might think they gave this group a chance. They’re going to go young, that’s what I think. They’re going to go young. … I’ve said it before, everybody who won the Super Bowl is on a non-guaranteed contract, we’ll probably have two or three vets on this team and that’s it.“nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

The 2018 Broncos were already a fairly fresh-faced bunch. With nine picks already in hand for the 2019 draft, they likely have their collective eye on another roster youth movement.

The Broncos had 12 rookies on their Week 17 roster, and 11 of those were in uniform for the regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Chargers. In all, 13 rookies played in a game for the Broncos this past season, and the aim is to build on that class with another solid group in 2019.6

It’s why many of the Broncos’ veterans adjourned with plenty of uncertainty tucked away in their luggage.

The season-ending roster, not including those players who had been moved to injured reserve at some point in 2018, included just 18 players with four or more years of experience. The injured players included Harris, who just finished his eighth season, and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who just finished his ninth.

Among the unrestricted free agents expected to move on are linebacker Shane Ray and cornerback Bradley Roby; both are former first-round picks by the Broncos. Ray said the fact he had been a game-day inactive over the season’s final three weeks made it clear to him he will play elsewhere in 2019.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Nose tackle Domata Peko, who just finished his 13th NFL season, is also among the Broncos’ impending free agents, as are tackle Jared Veldheer, cornerback Tramaine Brock, center Matt Paradis, guard Billy Turner, guard Max Garcia and defensive end Zach Kerr. Of that group, Paradis, who finished the season on injured reserve, and Garcia are former Broncos draft picks.

Colts enter offseason drama-free for first time since 2014

Former coach Chuck Pagano and former general manager Ryan Grigson’s fractured relationship hurt the franchise, and there was three years of nonstop talk about quarterback Andrew Luck’s right shoulder. All those issues factored into three straight seasons of missing the playoffs.nfl cheap jerseys nike

It was evident the Colts didn’t have to worry about those things this season because they had a new head coach, a general manger with a clear vision and a healthy quarterback.

The result?5

Their best record — 10-6 — since, well, the Colts didn’t have any distractions when they finished 11-5 and reached the AFC Championship Game in 2014.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

“It’s going to be the first normal — if there is such thing as a normal — offseason,” general manager Chris Ballard said. “But it is going to be nice to just be able to dial in, ‘All right, here’s the things we need to get better at.'”

The only coaching change Frank Reich and Ballard have to worry about is finding a new offensive line coach, as Dave DeGuglielmo was fired and assistant offensive line coach Bobby Johnson is headed to the Buffalo Bills.

One of the biggest factors that helps Ballard is that there are no longer any lingering doubts about Luck’s health. It took 25 minutes until Ballard was asked his first question about his quarterback during his 48-minute season-ending news conference this week.

The Colts will have more than $120 million in salary-cap space as they attempt to go from “good” to “great” next season. Ballard was steadfast in saying they will look to sign free agents, but he’ll do it judiciously because he wants to “stay the course” in his desire to build through the draft.

Premier League will lose its most unique player when Mousa Dembele leaves Tottenham

Promising young footballers are regularly compared to a current or former great and it’s usually based upon a couple of attributes: the new Thierry Henry, the new Lionel Messi, the new Ronaldo. They rarely live up to the billing, but it’s a useful shortcut for describing their style. It’s difficult, though, to imagine anyone being an accurate “new Mousa Dembele” — not because the Belgian was so magnificent that no one could possibly come close, but because Dembele is unlike anyone else before or since.
Rewind to summer 2010, when Dembele joined Fulham. They’d just been defeated in the Europa League final, had lost Roy Hodgson to Liverpool and appointed Mark Hughes as their new manager. Dembele was a promising signing, having won the Eredivisie with Louis van Gaal’s AZ, but he was regarded as a forward. The Guardian’s report described him as “the Belgium striker” while noting that “he can also play on the wing.” Hughes said he was “strong and quick, and will add another dimension to our attacking options.”nfl cheap jerseys nike

Dembele came off the bench against Manchester United and then made his full debut at Blackpool, where he played just off Bobby Zamora and assisted both goals in a 2-2 draw. The next weekend he was again Zamora’s strike partner in a home clash with Wolves. Zamora suffered a broken leg in the first half but Dembele came to Fulham’s rescue with two goals, securing a dramatic 2-1 win.

“We hope Moussa can get the goals — there’s a big onus on him now that Bobby’s out,” said Hughes. That made sense: he’d managed two goals in two starts. Yet despite playing the remainder of the season up front, Dembele didn’t manage another goal until his final game of the season, a 5-2 home defeat to Liverpool. In fact, he was so lacking as a goal-scoring threat that his position changed entirely.6

The crucial change came in a home contest against Stoke the following February. When one journalist dared to tweet (presumably having been tipped off by a dressing room source) that Dembele would be starting alongside Danny Murphy in the engine room, he was widely mocked. This was a forward and a relentless dribbler; Fulham played two aggressive wingers. How would Martin Jol, who had replaced Hughes, be brave enough to use him in a midfield duo? But, sure enough, that’s what happened. With new signing Pavel Pogrebnyak playing up front and scoring on debut, Dembele was now a deep central midfielder.

“Dembele was playing in a deeper role than usual and the Belgian was clearly enjoying being able to dictate the play,” read the match report on Fulham’s website.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“Dembele was impressing for the hosts despite playing in an unusual role alongside Danny Murphy in central midfield,” read the Daily Express. “The Belgium international was leading the Stoke defenders a merry dance.”

That set the tone for the rest of Dembele’s Premier League career: opponents found themselves unable to get close. This was 2012, a period when Barcelona still dominated European football and Spain were about to complete their hat-trick of international successes, a period when midfielders were essentially all about passing. But Dembele, while very reliable in possession, was largely about dribbling. It’s difficult to think of another central midfielder so adept at turning away from pressure, at slaloming past opponents to launch a quick break.

India must turn ‘Sorrow of Sharjah’ at Asian Cup into fuel for fire

Japan’s J League started in 1993. At the same time, the national team was doing well in qualification for the 1994 World Cup and what would be a first appearance on the global stage. Going into the final game against Iraq in Qatar, the Samurai Blue just had to win to book their ticket. The goal was duly scored, and at halftime the team’s Dutch coach, Hans Ooft, wrote “45 minutes to the World Cup” on the whiteboard in the dressing room. Iraq equalised soon after the break, but Japan restored their lead and were in front with just seconds to go.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Then it happened. Jaffar Osman Salman rose in the area and his header looped ever so slowly, ever so painfully, over the head of the goalkeeper. Suddenly it was 2-2, Japanese players were sinking to their knees and South Korea, who had already won their game and were lying down on the turf thinking it was all over, were celebrating instead.5

Years later, Ooft theorised that the heartbreak of 1993 had been an important turning point in the history of Japanese football. To have something so valuable in your hands, only to have it snatched away in the cruelest way possible, had two effects.

Qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup was a fine achievement, but that was nothing to thrashing Thailand in the opening game. Thailand have been the dominant team in Southeast Asia, a stronger region than South Asia, for much of this decade. They expected to win comfortably against India with three of their players in the J League, but they lost 4-1. India then went on to face the host United Arab Emirates, the third-placed team from 2015, a team that wasn’t that far from qualifying for last summer’s World Cup and a team a couple of levels above India in Asian terms. The U.A.E., led by former Serie A and Asian Cup-winning coach Alberto Zaccheroni, won 2-0, but India impressed once again and had they been more clinical and the crossbar a little thinner then a deserved point would have come their way.nfl cheap jerseys nike

It left the Blue Tigers needing a point against Bahrain in the final game. When you only need a draw, it can make for a difficult situation. Do you attack, defend or do a bit of both? India defended and did so too deeply. It very nearly worked, but a careless tackle from captain Pronay Halder in the dying seconds prompted the referee to point to the spot.

Champion Red Sox to visit White House during spring training

The World Series champion Boston Red Sox are scheduled to visit the White House on Feb. 15, team president Sam Kennedy told the Boston Globe.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Kennedy said he expects “a healthy representation of ownership, executives, coaches and players” to attend the ceremony, but it is not mandatory.8

Red Sox pitchers and catchers report Feb. 12, with position players due in camp five days later. Kennedy told the Globe that the current plan is for the team to travel as a group from Fort Myers, Florida, to Washington, where it will also visit the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

“We thought an earlier visit rather than waiting until later in the year made the most sense,” Kennedy told the Globe.

Kennedy had said in December that the Red Sox had accepted an invite from the White House, which typically celebrates national championships by having teams come to Washington.

Manager Alex Cora, who has been critical of President Donald Trump’s comments on his native Puerto Rico, has said he will attend.

Sources: Jed Lowrie agrees to two-year, $20M deal with Mets

The New York Mets have reached a two-year, $20 million deal with free-agent infielder Jed Lowrie, league sources told ESPN on Thursday, adding a versatile veteran to an overhauled team that hopes to compete in the loaded National League East this season.

The 34-year-old Lowrie is coming off the best year of his career, setting highs with 23 home runs, 99 RBIs and 78 walks as the surprising Oakland A’s made the postseason.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

He’ll join an infield that already includes the newly acquired Robinson Cano at second base, Todd Frazier at third base and Jeff McNeil in a utility role — the same sort of move-around-the-diamond spot Lowrie will likewise fill, according to sources.

The deal reconnects Lowrie with Brodie Van Wagenen, his former agent who was hired this winter as Mets general manager and has made a number of splashes in hopes of reinvigorating the moribund Mets. The trade for Cano and closer Edwin Diaz, which cost the Mets prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn, was the biggest.5

New York also has signed reliever Jeurys Familia, catcher Wilson Ramos and traded for center fielder Keon Broxton and utilityman J.D. Davis.

Before he played 157 games last season, Lowrie reached 100-plus games just twice — in 2013 and 2014 with the A’s — in his 10-year career. In 2018, Lowrie, who has settled in as a second baseman the past three years, again went into spring training free of any injuries after coming off one of his best seasons in 2017, and he delivered in having a durable, consistent campaign.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

How the Mets fit in Lowrie and spread plate appearances with a crowded infield will be part of the challenge manager Mickey Callaway faces following a 77-85 season. Lowrie’s patient approach and ability to switch hit make him a likely part of the Mets’ everyday lineup.

Lowrie helped the A’s make the playoffs three times in his tenure, hitting .271/.341/.413 with 60 homers and 320 RBIs in 687 games. His career line is .262/.335/.414 with 104 homers and 509 RBIs in 1,109 games.

Oklahoma City Thunder get a lift from the bench against San Antonio Spurs

After a scoreless first half against the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, looking out of sorts and showing signs of frustration, he was trying to find some spark, something to ignite him. He’s an emotional, temperamental player, and it wasn’t just the first half against the Spurs. It was the past few games, in which he wasn’t shooting well, wasn’t finishing at the rim and, in his mind, wasn’t helping his team.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

Schroder scored 19 points in the Thunder’s 122-112 win over the Spurs — all in the second half — and did so in the kind of flurry that takes over a game and swings it dramatically in one direction.

His first bucket came with 2:47 left in the third, a patented stutter-step floater in the paint over a leaping Spurs big. A minute later, he pulled confidently from the wing, splashing a 3. A minute after that, he knifed to the rim, took some contact and finished a tough layup. He slapped the floor in frustration, said something to the official and was dinged with a technical. It was just collateral damage to keep the motor running hot. He capped the quarter with a driving layup at the buzzer, helping turn a nine-point halftime deficit to a six-point lead heading to the fourth.6

“I think a lot of times players can lose confidence,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “He doesn’t — at all. He almost gets irritated, he gets upset, he gets mad … in a good way.”

Schroder has been a revelation this season coming off the bench, restoring some order to a tried-and-true Thunder method of having a dynamic second-unit scorer and creator to complement Westbrook. But the past few games were rough, with him hitting just 11-of-32 in a three-game losing streak and 19-of-73 (26 percent) in the previous six games. Schroder’s 3-point percentage had been slipping, his shot selection had been growing more questionable, and not coincidentally, his scoring had been down. He felt like he was letting the team down.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

“He wasn’t letting nobody down,” Westbrook said. “He’d missed shots — that’s normal, that’s a part of the game. Tonight he played well, aggressive, made some shots and was big for us.”

Schroder often plays the part of complementing the main course, but he has the ability to feature. He sets the table for the entire second unit, which, as a collective, produced on Saturday. Abdel Nader scored 15 on 6-of-6 shooting, and Patrick Patterson added 13, hitting 3-of-3 from 3.

Life without LeBron in Los Angeles and Cleveland looks about the same

LeBron James’ second stint in Cleveland — the four NBA Finals appearances, the first championship in franchise history that snapped a 52-year title-less drought for the city — was an unabashed success.

And on Sunday, before his former team beat Los Angeles 101-95 at Staples Center in a game against the LeBron-less Lakers, a member of the Cavaliers told ESPN he thought last season “took a lot out of” the now 34-year-old James.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

It stands to reason that James’ mileage was the motivating factor behind Lakers president Magic Johnson telling SiriusXM NBA Radio back in November, “We are trying to make sure that we watch his minutes but also that we don’t run everything through him because now it is Cleveland all over again.”5

In one sense, Johnson already has assured that James’ time in L.A. will be nothing like it was with the Cavs. The Lakers constructed their roster around the four-time MVP in 2018 much differently than the Cavs who surrounded him in 2014. That Cleveland team was built on a star system — James, flanked by Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love — and then filled out with 3-point specialists who could feast off James’ ability to create.

These Lakers have James surrounded by a handful of hopeful stars — Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball — and a supporting cast full of players who can theoretically play both ways while also providing some playmaking.

Johnson continued his interview by saying, “We want to get up and down.”cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

And to his credit, the past couple of months have proved Johnson to be right on those two points. James’ 34.6 minutes per game are indeed a career low for him in this his 16th season. And the Lakers are playing the brand of basketball Johnson wanted to see: They rank third in the league in pace at 104 possessions per game.

Here’s the thing, though. There’s one undeniable way in which the Lakers are eerily identical to those recent Cavs teams: They stink without James.

In James’ last four seasons in Cleveland, the Cavs went 4-23 in games in which he missed because of rest or injury. And that number probably would have been worse had James not played every single one of Cleveland’s 82 games in 2017-18.