Tag Archives: Cleveland Browns

Super Bowl 50 – Carolina Panthers Take It, Dang It

 

So we have the Denver Broncos going up against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

For me, it’s about as much fun as trying to pick the lesser of two evils for the Republican Party.

Neither team catches my interest…I’ve had a dislike for the Broncos ever since John Elway became part of the team. I think it comes from how he kept the Cleveland Browns from getting to the Super Bowl a few times back in the 1980’s.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a Detroit Lion fan but back then, the Cleveland Browns appealed to me. They were a good, hard-nosed football team with players such as Bernie Kosar, Ernest Byner, Kevin Mack, Clay Matthews and Webster Slaughter.

But John Elway and those Denver Broncos broke the hearts of Cleveland fans everywhere, not once but twice. 1986 Conference Championship when Elway connected with Mark Jackson for a 5-yard TD to tie the game and send it into overtime. Then he drove the Broncos into Browns territory for a game winning 33 yard field goal.

Then, in 1987, Elway engineered “The Drive” killing perhaps the best chance the Cleveland Browns getting into the Super Bowl to face the Washington Redskins. I truly believe the Browns would have put up a tougher battle than the Broncos did…but I was pretty happy when the Skins trounced them 42-10.

As for the Panthers, there are several reasons why I have an intense dislike for them. One is the fact they dispatched my second hometown team, the Seattle Seahawks, from the playoffs this year. Second is Cam Newton.

Look, you can point to all the statistical information you want regarding Cam. You can point to his size and speed and his ability to throw a solid deep ball. I won’t deny that he is a talented and special football player. I just don’t like the way the man plays the game.

His cockiness and attitude toward opposing teams is bush-league and every damn game, I hope that some huge defensive lineman pops him a good one and shuts him up. He is an attention whore and he looks for people to tell him how great he is. I will admit I don’t know the man but all outward appearances show him to garner attention and be a show-off.

I’m sure those in the Cam Newton camp will have their arguments…but do me a favor and save your breath. There will be nothing you can say that will bring me over to your side. Would I feel the same way if he was on the Detroit Lions or the Seattle Seahawks? Hard to say though I would still disapprove of the way he carries himself and how he calls himself “Superman.” The attention should be on his team, not him…and he certainly shouldn’t call himself out for praise.

Sure, there have been other quarterbacks that have done celebrations. Aaron Rodgers does his discount double-check routine, Tom Brady has his screams, Brett Favre, who enjoyed the game as much as anyone, would run down the field with his hand in the air to celebrate with whatever receiver caught the ball. But for the most part, these were spontaneous, not the premeditated celebration that Cam does. I’m sure he sets aside an hour a day to make sure he gets the celebration down pat.

I have always been a fan who disliked the planned celebrations…even as far back as the infamous Billy “White Shoes” Johnson with his weird little dance that he used to perform when he scored a TD. Hated the Washington Redskins “Fun Bunch” planned group celebrations after scoring. Thought the Icky Shuffle was idiotic. And the worst was my own Detroit Lions celebrations to the tune of “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen in the 1980’s.

All of those cases were a collective “look at me and what I did” celebrations. Selfish and self-absorbed. On the other hand, I don’t want to see robots on the field. Celebrations are the best when the person scoring looks for his teammates to high-five or chest bump and spike the football in warrior style conquest that gets the crowd into it as well as the rest of the team. I would say more so than any planned celebration…because it’s genuine.

But Cam will be Cam and I doubt anything I write will change anything. And before anyone accuses me of being racially biased, stop right there. I could give a damn if the man was white, black, green, purple or orange. If he acts like a jerk, looks like a jerk and smells like a jerk, then he’s just a jerk.

OK, enough of traveling down this road.

Who will be the winner of Super Bowl 50? As much as I hate to say it, I believe it will be the Carolina Panthers. They are just too much in a groove right now and I can’t see Peyton Manning getting the protection he will need to have any chance. And I won’t be surprised if Brock Osweiler comes in to relieve Manning.

Statistically, Carolina has the edge being ranked number 11 for 2015 scoring an average of 31.2 points per game over the 16th ranked Broncos coming in at 22.2 points per game. We need to take into consideration that Manning has not played the full season.

Below is the statistical information for the Denver QB vs. Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton:

Denver QB’s: Yards – 4,126, Avg. per Pass – 7.0, Completion % – 60.8%, TD’s – 19, INT – 23, Sack – 39

Newton: Yards – 3,837, Avg. per Pass – 7.8, Completion % – 59.6%, TD’s – 35, INT – 10, Sack – 33

We also need to take into account Newton’s threat to run…he has 10 running TD’s as opposed to 1 between Manning and Osweiler.

Edge: Panthers

Running Game:

Panthers are geared to run the ball first, pass second. They ranked first in the NFL with 32.9 rushing attempts per game, second with 2,282 yards gained, tied for first with 19 scores and ninth with an average of 4.3 yards gained per attempt. They don’t have a 1,000 yard rusher but between Jonathan Stewart leading the way with 989 yards and Cam Newton adding 636 yards, that’s a combined total of 1,625 yards.

Denver came in at the middle of the pack for most of the running stats. 17th with 22.2 rushing attempts per game, 17th with total yards gained, 12th with 13 scores, 11th coming in with 4.2 yards gained per attempt. Broncos failed to have a 1,000 rusher as well but the combination of Ronnie Hillman (863 yards) and C.J. Anderson (720 yards) put up 1,583 yards to go along with 12 TD’s

Edge: Panthers

Receiving:

If Denver is going to have any chance to win this game, this is where I think they can exploit the Panther secondary, provided their defense can hold the Panthers from starting out too quick.

Panthers are ranked 24th in the NFL in receiving, averaging 242.1 yards per game. Much of that is probably due to the fact they had huge leads and were just running out the clock. Panthers have some weapons so the Broncos need to be careful here. Their top receiver is tight end Greg Olson who finished the regular season with 1,104 and 7 TD’s. He is a clock killer and has a knack for getting open on critical 3rd downs and gains 14.3 yards per catch. Next up is Ted Ginn who is having a breakout year with the Panthers. He’s caught 44 passes for 739 yards and 10 TD’s to go along with his team leading 16.8 yards per catch. The next 3 receivers, Jerricho Cotchery, Devin Furness and Cory Brown have combined for 1,406 yards, 12 TD’s, and an average of just over 14 yards per catch.

Denver came in at 14th in receiving for 2015 with 263.5 yards per game. Leading the way is Demaryius Thomas with 105 catches for 1,304 yards and 6 TD’s to go along with 12.4 yards per catch. Emmanuel Sanders finished with 74 catches, 1,135 yards, 6 TD’s and 14.9 yards per catch. TE Owen Daniels pitched in with 46 catches, 517 yards, 3 TD’s with 11.2 yards per catch average. Vernon Davis, who was brought in to give the Broncos another weapon has virtually disappeared contributing only 20 catches, 201 yards, 0 TD’s and 10.0 yards per catch. If he can return to the player he was while with San Francisco, he could be a game changer for the Broncs.

Edge: Broncos

Defense:

Where ultimately I think the game will be decided.

Carolina has a pretty stout defense with a strong secondary though they will be playing with second string players at corner opposite Pro-Bowler Josh Norman. In addition to Norman, Panthers have several dangerous players the Broncos will need to account for such as Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Curt Coleman as well as Kawann Short who led the Panthers defense with 11 sacks in 2015.   Because of that rush, Panther ranked first in interceptions with 24 including 4 pick-sixes.

Panthers are going to go after Manning, and why wouldn’t you? He has a 4.8 40 yard time but that was way the hell back early on in his career. I’d be surprised if his 40 yard time isn’t somewhere in the lower sixes with him being 39 years old. He still has a quick release but he really isn’t a threat to go deep anymore. If there is a real advantage here it’s that Manning is so good at reading defenses and making adjustments. He will outthink the defense and get the ball out as fast as he can. He doesn’t take many sacks. In the 58 regular season games he has played for the Broncos, he was sacked a mere 72 times which breaks out to be about 1.24 times a game. The one area that has been an issue of late is his interception rate. From 2012 to 2014, he was intercepted 36 times over 48 games, less than once per game. In the 10 games he has appeared this season, he was intercepted 17 times in 10 games, a rate of 1.7 times. And some of the passes he’s thrown look dreadful. Look for the Panther D-line to get their hands up if they can’t get to him. They will need to force Manning to go deep where his passes will tend to lose velocity and be easy pickings for the Panther secondary.

Denver ranked first in team defense, the first time any Denver Bronco team accomplished that in their 55 year history. They limited offenses to an average of 283.1 yards per game, sacked the QB 52 times leading the league in both categories for 2015 and forced 22 fumbles, recovering 13 of them.

Denver’s defensive coordinator Wade Phillips put together a masterful plan forcing Brady to throw 56 times while limiting the Patriots rushing total to just 44 yards. And you know you are doing well when the leading rusher is Brady with 13 yards. The only rushing TD was by Steven Jackson from 1 yard out late in the first quarter.

Granted, Brady threw for 310 yards and 1 score but he was also intercepted twice, sacked 4 times and the Bronco defense harassed him all day. Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski 8 times for 144 yards and the one score but the rest of the 4 receivers collectively caught 19 passes for 166 yards and no TD’s.

Cam Newton presents a whole set of other issues for the Bronco defense. Granted he’s no Tom Brady when it comes to passing but he also has tools that Brady doesn’t have such as being mobile, huge (Newton is listed 6-5, 245 lbs. and has run a 4.59 40 yard dash time) and very difficult to bring down. He won’t be a sitting duck back there and if he gets flushed from the pocket, he has no issues becoming a rusher. He gained 636 yards to go along with 10 TD’s. When the Panthers get close to the goal or in need of a first down on third and short situations, Ron Rivera has no problem calling Cam’s number to get what’s needed.

Edge – Even

My heart wants the Bronco’s to beat the snot out of Carolina. But logic dictates to me that the Panthers have just too much for Denver to overcome.

Carolina Panthers 31, Denver Broncos 17.

NFL Crowns Detroit Lions as Champions – In 1957

FreePressLionsWin

Going into the 2016 season, it will be 59 years since the Detroit Lions have won an NFL championship.

To put things in perspective, and I know there are a lot of people in the same boat, I will be turning 58 in 2016 without ever seeing the Detroit Lions win a championship.

Want to know what the trophy looked like last time they won?  Here you go:

Ed Thorp Trophy

It was called the Ed Thorp Memorial trophy.  Who was Ed Thorp you might ask?  He was a referee, rules expert, sporting goods dealer and a good friend to the NFL owners during the early years.

You aren’t going to find this trophy in a case of any of the teams that won NFL championships from 1934 through 1969 because there was only one trophy.  It was passed each year to the teams that won, much like how the Stanley Cup is in the NHL.

There are replicas of the trophy but the original’s location is unknown.  The last recipient, the Minnesota Vikings in 1969 somehow lost it when the NFL went to the Lombardi Trophy in 1970.  It is also believed to have cursed the Vikings as they being the last winners…and they went on to appear in 4 Super Bowls and lost them all.

Since 1957, the Lions have not gotten back to the big dance.  To be honest, I’m not all sure as to why.  Yes, there were some bad general managers and presidents that ownership stayed loyal far longer than others would have.  However, the phrase “even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while” comes to mind.

I don’t write this to bash the Lions players or coaches.  I am fairly certain that each of them has a desire to win.  However, having a desire with little talent to do so, that’s something different.

Each of us Lions fans can count numerous coaches and players that while had a desire to win, had no business being in the NFL.  Marty Mornhinweg, Joey Harrington & Titus Young are just a few that come to mind.

Years ago, when I was writing for the Bleacher Report, I had speculated as to which team between the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns would get to the Super Bowl first.  Ironic that these two teams have waited in futility for decades, the Lions looking at 6 and the Browns  just a little over 5.

What holds true then and now is that these two teams are the oldest teams in the NFL to have never played in a Super Bowl.  Cleveland perhaps would have gotten there in the 1980’s were it not for the Denver Bronco’s and John Elway.

The Lions best opportunity to date was in 1991, the last year the Lions won a playoff game.  They were one game away from getting to the Super Bowl and after blowing out the Dallas Cowboys at the Pontiac Silverdome 38-6, they reverted to kittens the following week and were blown out by eventual Super Bowl winner, Washington.

No, there will be no re-hashing the ineptness of the front office for the past 5 decades, we all know what the issues are there.

What I do want to stress is that the Lions, as an organization, owe it to their fans, in Detroit and all over the world, to put together a team that must have one focus in mind…from the owner down to the ball boy, to get to the Super Bowl and win it.

The other professional teams in Detroit have done their best to mollify Detroit Sports fans, the Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons have all gone on to win World Series, Stanley Cup and NBA Championships numerous times since the Lions last won an NFL Championship:

Tigers – appeared in 4 World Series, winning 2 of them, 1968 and 1984.

Red Wings – Appeared in 9 Stanley Cups, winning 4 of them.

Detroit Pistons – Appeared in 5 NBA Championships, winning 3.

Is it too much to ask Lions ownership to get us one?  Don’t hand me that crap that the NFL is very competitive.  MLB, NHL & NBA has just as fierce of competition as the NFL does.

How do teams like New England, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Green Bay and Seattle consistently get into the playoffs and Super Bowls and win?

Detroit Lions have the same access to college players and free agents that these teams do, right?

I believe the issues is one of lack of vision…at the top.  Martha Ford may be the elixir to get the Lions pointed in the right direction.  She shook the team to the core by firing Millen left overs Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand.

She also made a smart decision by hiring Ernie Accorsi as a consultant to find a GM for the Lions.  The search won’t really begin in earnest until after the Super Bowl and there are plenty of candidates to approach.

But what will make the Lions attractive to the next general manager?  Will they have the power and authority to do what it will take to put together a Super Bowl team?

And what of the current status of players?  Will Calvin Johnson be used to accumulate draft picks?  Will Matthew Stafford be that QB that all of us hope he would be when drafted in 2009?  Will the Lions ever have a potent running attack?  An offensive line that will open holes and pass block?  Will they have a good defensive team and a good offensive team at the same time?

There are more questions than answers at this point.  And I can only watch from afar and continue to support my Lions as I have been for as long as I can remember.

Right now, I turn my attention to my second hometown team, the Seattle Seahawks and hope they can find the magic and get back to the Super Bowl for the third straight time.

Go Lions!  Go Hawks!

 

 

Seattle Seahawks – Team of Destiny? I’m In!

Seahawk Im In

From the few who’ve read articles I’ve written on Beer Thinker Sports, it’s a known fact that I am an unabashed Detroit Lions fan. And make no mistake, this article is me jumping on the Seahawk bandwagon…I admit it freely.

While most of my articles have been about the Lions, I’ve also written about my second hometown team, the Seahawks. Let me tell you that the Hawks recent success has buffered the pain and agony of being a Lions fan.

This season though, had me worried of being a fan of both teams. Lions started out the season 1-7 despite having success of an 11-5 season last year. Seahawks weren’t much better over the first 8 games going 4-4, including a game saving win by Kam Chancellor over the Lions in week 4.

If you look at both teams, on paper, one could say that they are pretty evenly matched. But the one distinct advantage the Hawks have over the Lions: Heart.

The 2015 Seahawks may be the most exciting team Pete Carroll and company have put together yet. He continues to stick to his guns and play rookies and undrafted free agents that have a quality that he looks for. Again, heart.

And just what is the definition in this respect? In my opinion, it’s the player that won’t give up, isn’t afraid to make a mistake but learns from them as to not repeat them and will give his all until the final second ticks off the clock.

Perfect example is that victory over the Lions in week 4. Lions had the perfect play drawn up against a tired Seahawk defense when Lions QB Matthew Stafford found Calvin Johnson at the 8-yard line with an open lane to the end zone with about 1:45 left on the clock.

Trust me here when I say I was on my feet yelling “Yes!” at the top of my lungs when the play developed. Johnson was hit at about the one but leaning forward over the goal line when it happened.

Kam Chancellor, in only his second week, clinging to Johnson punched the ball from his grasp…and sealed the victory for the Seahawks.

I was devastated. But had to admire Kam’s heart. He never gave up, never stopped and found a way to make a play.

I figured that if the Lions had scored on that play, they were going to win the game. After all, the Lions defense had harassed Russell Wilson all day and sacked him 6 times. And after giving up only a field goal in the second half, the defense was primed to give the Lions a rare West Coast road win.

But the collective heart of the Seahawks, as well as Kam’s ability to dig deep, denied the win.

Was it a turning point for the Hawks? I’m not sure. While the win evened their record at 2-2, they did lose the next two games to be at 2-4. There was the epic meltdown against the Bengals, blowing a 17 point lead in the fourth quarter as well as the 15 point lead against the Carolina Panthers at home.

The Seattle press wasn’t really lambasting the Seahawks but were beginning to question Pete Carroll’s coaching decisions. Allowing the offensive line to be in rebuild mode, with several players that were being defensive linemen converting to offensive line which resulted in an alarming rate of sacks on Russell Wilson. At one point, with the rate of sacks being allowed, the Seahawks were on target to give up over 65 sacks over the season.

Where I think the turning point for this season was the home loss against the Arizona Cardinals in week 10. The Cardinals came out hot in the first half, building a 22-7 lead. But the Seahawks made some adjustments and starting to peck away at the Cardinal lead. At the end of the third quarter, it was 25-17 as the Hawks gave up only a field goal in the third.

And in the fourth quarter, Marshawn Lynch scored on a 3 yard run and Bobby Wagner recovered a fumble and ran it back for another TD. Both 2 point conversions failed but the Hawks were right back in it, leading 29-25.

But Carson Palmer playing out of his mind this year, tossed a 4th quarter TD and Andre Ellington busted a 48 yard TD run to re-take control of the game.

But the heart of the team became evident in this game…and I think it brought them together to reel off 4 straight wins and all in pretty convincing fashion. Hawks averaged just over 35 points a game over the stretch of the 4 games and the defense allowed just 14 points a game.
The offensive line has finally come together and Wilson has only been sacked 10 times in that 4 game stretch. With the line playing as it is, it has allowed Wilson to show just how talented he is. He’s thrown for 16 TD’s and no interceptions over the last 4 games. That puts him with only 2 other quarterbacks in NFL history to accomplish that feat, those being Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Not bad company to be in.

He is the first Seahawk quarterback to have two 5 touchdown games in a season. He is also the first Seahawk QB to have at least three touchdown passes in four straight games. He is the only quarterback in NFL history to have four straight games with at least 3 touchdown passes, no interceptions and a 70% completion rating.

Wilson isn’t the only Seahawk to play at a historic pace. WR Doug Baldwin, an undrafted free-agent who came to the Seahawks in 2011, put up some fantastic numbers over the last 3 games: 17 catches for 321 yards and eight touchdowns. He is on pace to be the first 1,000 yard receiver for the Seahawks since Bobby Engram accomplished that feat in 2007.

And the defense, the Legion of Boom, is back. Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin are getting after QB’s. Along with rookie Frank Clark, the rest of this season is going to be very tough on opposing quarterbacks. Kam, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman and Deshawn Shead have brought back the attitude of the Legion, that nothing is going to get by them and no team is going to score on them. And if they do, they will pay for it.

And the dismantling of the Cleveland Browns on Sunday just clarifies each point. Russell Wilson added to historic pace with 3 more TD’s with Doug Baldwin catching two of them. Jermain Kearse made some very clutch catches and caught 7 passes for 110 yards.

And what about Christine Michael? Coming off the scrap heap for a second chance with the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2013 draft? Once a promising RB with comparisons to Adrian Peterson, he was traded to the Dallas Cowboys as the Seahawks felt, and rightly so, that Thomas Rawls beat him out as back-up to Marshawn Lynch.  He played sparingly with Dallas before being released in November. He signed with Washington as a practice squad player but was released November 17th, his career seemingly over at age 25.

The Seahawks and Pete Carroll are all about giving players another chance.  And Michael responded well to this opportunity, heeding safety Earl Thomas’ advice to reel it back and play without pointing fingers at himself for doing well. The result was 16 carries for 84 yards and a repentant Michael gave credit not to himself, but to the offensive line for his success.

Perhaps this will be the window of opportunity for Michael to have a successful career in the NFL.

Who knows, right? I don’t see Lynch coming back in 2016 as he is breaking down. I think the smart thing for him would be to retire now while most people can remember just what a remarkable running back he was.  With a tandem of Thomas Rawls and this version of Christine Michael, the running game would be in good hands.

The Hawks are 9-5 right now. If they can win out, that will put them at 11-5 which most likely will put them as the number 2 as a wild card. They will most likely travel to the NFC East division champion, most likely the team from Washington which I see them as winning.

Next up are the St. Louis Rams, a proverbial thorn in the Seahawks side if there ever was one…if they can win that game, I believe there will be a re-match with the Patriots and this time, the outcome will be very different.

I’m in!

GO HAWKS!

Lions, Browns – Wouldn’t That Be a Cool Super Bowl?

So after witnessing the Cleveland Browns over the Cincinnati Bengals and seeing the Detroit Lions playing meaningful games in November, I have to start wondering if this is the year that all current NFL teams will have made a Super Bowl.

Both teams have a lot of history being the two dominate teams in the 1950’s.  From 1952 to 1957, the Lions and Browns faced each other 4 times for the NFL Championship with the Lions winning 3 out 4.

Since then, the Lions have been snake-bit.  They haven’t been to a championship game in 56 years.  In those years, the Lions 11 playoff appearances winning only once.  That’s about all the re-hash I’m going to do since I am trying to only look forward with these guys.

Browns fared better since 1957…They appeared in 23 playoff games winning 7 of them including their last championship in 1964.

They also had a very dark period in their franchise when Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore and renamed them the Ravens.  For three long years, Cleveland was without a football team.

But the NFL did a real smart move in rewarding a franchise to Cleveland but unfortunately, while keeping all of the Browns history, they were nothing more than an expansion team for a few years.

So here we sit with the Lions at 6-3 in first place atop the NFC North and Cleveland, also with a 6-3 record, in 2nd place in the AFC North.

I don’t know about anyone else but right now, I am conflicted.  I want both teams to be in the Super Bowl but I don’t want the Lions to be the last ones in.  The perfect scenario would be to see them in this years Super Bowl…and while I would be rooting for the Lions to win it, it really wouldn’t break my heart if the Browns took it…provided the Lions went back the following year to get theirs.

But it would be the best of everything to finally see two long suffering teams finally get their chance at the golden ring.

Sorry Browns fans…Go Lions!