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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.”

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.

Sony Michel’s big day bodes well for Patriots against Chiefs

New England Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel had earned a reputation for performing on the biggest stage at the University of Georgia. And in the biggest moment of the Patriots’ season, he delivered a standout performance in a 41-28 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in an AFC divisional-round playoff game.

Michel’s emergence couldn’t have come at a more important time, and the Patriots will need it again in next Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium (6:40 p.m. ET, CBS).cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Keeping the ball away from Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be critical, and Michel — who was supported by bone-crunching fullback James Develin, unsung blocking from tight end Rob Gronkowski and an offensive line determined to impose its will — showed he can be relied upon to be a go-to guy in a playoff game.6

“He had a great game, and he’s just had a great year. He’s just battled and fought hard,” said quarterback Tom Brady. “I really love Sony as a person and his commitment to the team. He’s just been a lot of fun to be out there with, made a lot of hard yards. It’s great to see.”

The 31st overall pick in the draft, Michel finished with 129 yards on 24 carries and three touchdowns. He became just the third player in the past 25 postseasons with three rushing touchdowns in the first half of a playoff game, joining Ricky Watters (1993) and LeGarrette Blount (2013).cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Michel also became the only player in the past 25 postseasons with 100 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns in the first half of a playoff game. In 2018, only one player had 100 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a single half — Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who was voted second-team All-Pro

Fans who followed Michel at Georgia won’t be surprised, as the humble, soft-spoken 23-year-old was the offensive star of the Bulldogs’ double-overtime win over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl last year. He had 11 carries for 181 yards with three touchdowns in that game, along with four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown.

Asian Cup: Qatar, Japan, Uzbekistan win opening games

Qatar and Japan won their opening games at the Asian Cup on Wednesday, but for both teams it’s all about 2022. Quite literally for Qatar, who are hosting the next World Cup that year and scored their first goal at 8:22 p.m. — or 2022 — Qatar time.

Japan’s quest for a record fifth title started with a 3-2 victory over Turkmenistan, while Qatar earned a 2-0 win over Lebanon amid political tension with the host nation.

After giving up an early goal, Japan — who have a young squad that’s been rebuilt with an eye on the next World Cup — scored three in quick succession to turn the game around.

Yuya Osako scored in the 56th and 60th minutes, the latter following a goalkeeping error, and Ritsu Doan made it 3-1 in the 71st.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Arslanmurat Amanov scored with a long-range shot to give Turkmenistan — the Asian Cup’s second-lowest-ranked team — the lead in the 26th minute. Ahmet Atayev converted a penalty toward the end after a foul by Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda.6

After losing to Belgium in the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup, Japan are trying to rebuild. Coach Hajime Moriyasu left some experienced players off the team for the Asian Cup, including midfielder Shinji Kagawa and forward Shinji Okazaki. He is instead giving more prominence to players like Gonda, whose last competitive international game was in 2013.

Japan are unbeaten in six games since the World Cup, five of those victories.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

In the other Group F match, Uzbekistan beat Oman 2-1. Eldor Shomurodov scored the winning goal in the 85th minute.

Uzbekistan finished the match with 10 men after defender Egor Krimets was sent off in stoppage time for fouling an opposing player who was through on goal.

Qatar dominated possession but lacked a cutting edge against Lebanon before Iraqi-born Bassam Al-Rawi curled in a free kick in the 65th. Almoez Ali made it 2-0 from a rebound 14 minutes later.

Earlier, Lebanon thought they had scored their first major-tournament goal since 2000 through Ali Hamam from a corner, but it was ruled out for a foul away from the ball.