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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.”

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.

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.

Can Andy Reid rewrite the book on ‘Playoff Andy’?

Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs won a very important football game here Saturday night. Their 31-13 victory over the Colts was the franchise’s first home playoff win in 25 years — since Joe Montana was their quarterback. It came one year and six days after the Chiefs coughed up an 18-point halftime lead and lost a home playoff game to the Titans. Saturday’s win came at the expense of the same quarterback — Andrew Luck — who engineered a 28-point second-half comeback to beat them in a playoff game five years ago, in Reid’s first season as Chiefs coach. This was a demon-exorcising victory, and Reid knew it.

“I’m into history; I love history if it makes you better,” Reid said. “That was the important thing for our guys — don’t get caught up on all the stuff that happened in the past. They’re out in the community. I’m not. I’m locked down in my office, so I don’t hear all that stuff, but they’re actually out there. So just keep it positive and move forward.”china nike nfl jerseys cheap

But the moving forward matters when you’re talking about the Chiefs in January — and when you’re talking about Andy Reid in January. There have been too many collapses, too many near misses, too many teams that were too good to go home as early as they did, for that not to be a part of these twin stories. The Chiefs always blow it in the playoffs. Reid always blows it in the playoffs. Death, taxes and those two things.5

So the fact that Reid’s Chiefs won Saturday matters, because it means they host the AFC Championship Game next week. Win one home game, Andy Reid, and you go to the Super Bowl for the second time in your otherwise brilliant 20-year head-coaching career. Win one home game, Chiefs, and you go to the Super Bowl for the first time in 49 years. Decades of frigid frustration sit 60 good minutes away from erasure.

“This is a new era, new team, new mindset,” Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones insisted. “We’re changing the culture around here.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

They might be. Spending the week before the game in this town, I expected to find Chiefs fans gnawing their fingernails to the nubs with memories of last year, five years ago, all those playoff disappointments. But fans felt pretty good about this game, and as lifelong Chiefs fan Allen Roberson told me Wednesday night, “Mahomes is the difference.”

That would be young Patrick Mahomes, the 23-year-old superstar quarterback to whom Reid turned over his playoff team a year ago without any guarantees that he could handle it. The Chiefs made last year’s playoffs with Alex Smith at quarterback, and even after Smith’s career year, they traded him to Washington the week of the Super Bowl, anointing Mahomes the starter after a rookie year spent sitting on the bench.

Despite loss, Nets can finally point toward a brighter future

For the past five years, any mention of the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets immediately brought up one thing: the blockbuster, draft-night trade in 2013 that altered the course of both franchises and inextricably linked them for years to come.

A move the Nets thought would elevate them to championship contention instead helped them win a single playoff series — and served as the firepower behind Boston’s execution of one of the most efficient rebuilds in NBA history, thanks to Brooklyn’s descent to the bottom of the standings.nfl cheap jerseys nike

As the Nets remained there, the trade — and its seemingly never-ending draft obligations — served as a constant reminder of how all of that losing would not translate into any of the one currency losing teams always can hang onto: hope.

That was the case, at least, everywhere outside of Brooklyn. Inside the team — and, specifically, the offices of general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson — there was simply too much work to be done to spend time worrying about the situation they inherited.5

“I’ll give Sean a lot of credit: We just kind of put it in a box, and we never really talk about it,” Atkinson said before his Nets lost 116-95 to the Celtics on Monday at TD Garden. “But I do love the fact that it’s Brooklyn and Boston, and this is what the NBA’s all about. I hope we can improve enough where these games become more and more meaningful as we go down the line.”nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

While no one would mistake the Nets for being in the same class as the Celtics quite yet, the Nets do have something cooking in Brooklyn, despite the restrictions both Marks and Atkinson have spent the past two-plus seasons working under. Even after losing Monday night, the Nets have won 12 of their past 16 games, a stretch that has allowed them to surge into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Given the dearth of quality teams in the East outside the top five, there’s no reason to think the Nets can’t stay there.

That the Nets are even in the conversation for a playoff spot is a credit to the plan Marks and Atkinson have put in place since they arrived with the organization in 2016. That plan required them to get creative to create assets when the franchise otherwise didn’t have any. The assets the organization should’ve had wound up in Boston, as first-round picks in 2014 (James Young), 2016 (Jaylen Brown) and 2017 (Jayson Tatum) gave the Celtics a pair of young wings to build around. The 2018 Nets pick that became Collin Sexton was the key piece of the trade that brought Kyrie Irving to Boston in the summer of 2017.