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October 31
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if tiger returns to form, who melts down the worst?


Tiger Woods is going to play competitive golf again.

I'm not sure what number comeback this is, but I'd say it's probably number three. Woods announced yesterday that he'll compete in the Hero World Challenge that starts on November 30 in the Bahamas.

Tiger 3.0 will be met with lots of scrutiny and even more doubt, as he'll be closing in on his 42nd birthday and will be teeing it up in a golf tournament for the first time since February of 2017.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't think Woods can ever get healthy enough to compete again.

Tiger has gone through this ceremony four times in his career. What would happen to the likes of Fowler, Reed, and McIlroy if they faced Tiger down the stretch next April in Augusta?

But what if he can?

That's the question for today here at #DMD.

I got this idea from a comment in yesterday's edition, where "Jeff" asked which PGA Tour players would melt if Woods can somehow become a force again and compete at the highest level.

Below, you'll see the chart for the Tiger Fear Factor -- or TFF -- as we'll call it here during the summaries you'll read below.

This is where I'll remind you to check your Tiger hate and venom at the door. This isn't really a topic about whether or not Woods will ever be able to compete on the TOUR again. As I wrote above, my guess is he can't get healthy enough to be "the old Tiger" again.

Instead, for this exercise, we're going to assume Woods does, in fact, get healthy and stays healthy and becomes an elite player again. We're going to play along and picture what would happen if Woods gets healthy, stays healthy, and is once again a major contender in golf.

If he rises to prominence in early 2018, what players on TOUR right now would melt down the quickest if they found themselves locked up with Woods in a head-to-head battle at The Masters next April?

Or at the U.S. Open next June. Or the British Open. Or the PGA Championship.

In other words, who could handle a one-on-one major championship dual with Woods and who couldn't?

We've never really seen Woods go toe-to-toe with the likes of Spieth, Thomas, Reed, Koepka, et al.

At age 42, it might be asking too much for vintage-Tiger-Woods to try and compete with Fowler, D.J., Rahm, etc., but it sure would be fun to see him try.

I went mostly with the world golf ranking top 12 in compiling the list, plus I threw Phil Mickelson in there since he'll be around in 2018 and always seems to make a push at a major or two these days.

Only 19 points separate the guy with the least chance for a collapse from the guy with the most chance for a collapse. Why? Well, all 13 players listed are world class players. They have the ability to shoot 64 at the drop of a hat. But this exercise, specifically, is about identifying who would be most likely to fall apart if they were matched up with Woods in the final round of a major in 2018.

Some of that, mind you, is connected to their career achievements thus far. Spieth, with three majors, is much more comfortable on Sunday than is, say, Reed. Or Fowler. Or Matsuyama.

Below is the chart. Following that, the summaries. The TFF is rated from 1 (lowest) to 100 (highest). Example: If player "A" was guaranteed to collapse under the weight of a Sunday major-title-showdown with Woods, he'd receive a score of 100.



Jordan Spieth, TFF (64) -- He's the most likely of everyone to get involved with Woods in a Sunday showdown and not blink. Why? Because he has the two things Woods had in his heyday -- a great short game and a magical putter. It also helps that Spieth has one of the best caddies on TOUR. And Spieth, like Woods was circa 2000, is a slow player by nature. He wouldn't get caught up in the moment, lose his rhythm, and get out of sorts. Of everyone in the world of golf, Spieth would have the best chance to stare Tiger down -- even now -- and beat him on a Sunday.

Phil Mickelson, TFF (65) -- There was a time when Tiger owned Phil, but then again, Tiger owned every player in the world from 2000 to 2008. Mickelson's TFF is relatively low because, like Tiger, whatever the lefthander accomplishes now is career-icing-on-the-cake. All that's left for him to do is win a U.S. Open and it's likely he won't be able to do that now, in his late 40's. But if Woods and Mickelson do get paired together in a major tournament in 2018, Phil has just as much of a chance of beating Tiger than vice versa. Mickelson is a grinder, like Woods. He'll hang around and fight.

Justin Thomas, TFF (70) -- Unlike Spieth, who actually was playing on TOUR when Tiger was still competing, Justin Thomas hasn't ever really seen Woods at his zenith. Not live, anyway. Thomas scores high on the TFF for that reason and because of the way he's won so much recently. Thomas has won as a first round leader, he's surged from the middle of the pack to take over the tournament on the weekend, and he's blown past the field on a Sunday to win as well. This kid might actually finish his career with more majors than Spieth.

Brooks Koepka, TFF (71) -- He's cut a little bit from the same cloth as Dustin Johnson. We're still not quite sure if Koepka's a true "star" in the making or if he's just another guy with a lot of power who caught lightning in a bottle last June at Erin Hills in the U.S. Open. I suspect he'd be one of the young guns who just might be able to handle the heat of a final round pairing with Woods.

Hardened by superb play in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, Patrick Reed might be one of the young guns who would stare Tiger down in a major championship in 2018.

Patrick Reed, TFF (73) -- He's still without a major title, but his performance at the 2016 Ryder Cup was "major worthy", particularly the way he went head-to-head against Rory McIlroy and dusted him at Hazeltine. And Reed isn't "one of the guys" on the TOUR. He keeps to himself, runs in close circles, and doesn't do a whole lot of self promoting on social media. This guy really wants to win. Badly. Making money is fine, but he wants trophies. If he could meet up with Tiger, the moment might not be too big for him.

Justin Rose, TFF (75) -- I could see Rose taking Tiger head on and going toe-to-toe with him. Rose is tough, for starters, and his play in the Ryder Cup has sharpened him quite a bit over the years. Plus, he and Woods know each other quite well from their days living in the Orlando area together. Rose wouldn't be intimidated by Tiger. Not in the least.

Jason Day, TFF (77) -- When he's on he's solid, when he's not, he's just another player. Drives it great, but under the gun his putting and short game have always held him back. And when the nerves are frayed, those two things -- putting and chipping -- are the first to go. Day's TFF is pretty high for a guy who was #1 in the world recently. The "old Tiger" would have chewed Day up and spit him out. I'm not sure we wouldn't see the same result in 2018, frankly.

Jon Rahm, TFF (78) -- He's another young player with no real knowledge of just how good Woods used to be. He was 6 years old when Tiger was beating everyone on TOUR with one arm tied behind his back. But his well-known temper and lack of patience would be on full display if he earned a head-to-head match-up with Woods in a major championship. The pressure would be too much for him. He'd fold up like a cheap suit from Two Guys in Glen Burnie circa 1973.

Henrik Stenson, TFF (79) -- He melts down when he hits two bad shots in a row. Imagine what the Swede would be like if he starts out with a 2-shot lead over Woods on Sunday at Augusta and Tiger has caught him by the time they reach the 6th tee. Stenson's TFF level is really high. The potential for a major meltdown exists if Stenson and Tiger are ever paired together in a major. Think Colin Montgomerie...

Dustin Johnson, TFF (80) -- He's the most interesting guy on the PGA Tour. Without question, he has the most natural, athletic ability of anyone. It's not even close. But there's something missing. Maybe he has all the money he needs, who knows? But, like we saw in China last weekend, he can get his wires crossed overnight and go from shooting 68-68-68 to posting a score like 77 -- on the same course, with the same clubs, same ball, etc. In some ways, his plodding, all-to-himself style might bode well if he ever gets matched up with Woods. But on the other hand, his career meltdowns are well chronicled and none of those involved Woods. Imagine what would happen next April if all that stands in the way of D.J. and a green jacket is the 4-time champion himself?

Rory McIlroy, TFF (81) -- What happened to this guy's career? At least Tiger has an excuse. McIlroy was once the heir apparent to Woods, but he's been stuck on four majors for three years now and has dropped off dramatically over the last 18 months or so. Could he go head-to-head with a healthy Woods and stare him down? I doubt it. Like Fowler, McIlroy remembers what it's like to compete with Tiger, albeit in his younger years, and he knows there's no match for Woods when Sunday rolls around and the title is on the line.

Hideki Matsuyama, TFF (82) -- Not only will that golf swing and putting stroke not hold up to major championship pressure (it hasn't yet, at least), but Matsuyama would certainly buckle under the gun if he ever got matched up with Woods in a major championship setting. Too much pressure on his game, for starters, and then sprinkle in the TFF and it would be lights out for the Japanese star.

Rickie Fowler, TFF (83) -- His golf swing is much better than it was a decade ago when he came out on TOUR, so I wouldn't expect that part of his game to fold under the pressure of a battle with Woods. But Rickie's never made a putt in major championship golf that mattered. He's come close, but he's never stared at 10-footer with a chance to claim a major. He'd feel the same kind of pressure if he had to stare at Woods for 18 holes on a Sunday. And when Tiger started birdie-birdie, Rickie would turn into a spectator for the rest of the day. He's old enough to know what Tiger once was...and he'd be the guy who would melt down the most.

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BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.


With two games at most remaining in the World Series, the focus of the baseball world will soon be turning to the Hot Stove season and the early work of building new contenders for the 2018 season.

In Baltimore, the assumption has been that this will mean a focus on rebuilding a rotation that ranked last in MLB in ERA in 2017, and is losing three incumbents to free agency. However, a couple of stories have come out recently to throw cold water on the notion that the Orioles will aggressively pursue a bevy of new starters over the winter.

On Monday it was reported that the Orioles had discussed the 2018 season with both Chris Tillman and Wade Miley, two of the teams departing free agents.

Now, there's a couple of caveats to keep in mind here. The first is that there were no details provided concerning how serious the talks were. Tillman is a "homegrown" guy who's been the team's number one starter for years, and Miley had a team option declined by the O's. Perfunctory talks with them at this point could just be a form of professional courtesy and nothing more.

Secondly, there's a big difference between Miley and Tillman as free agents.

Coming off a terrible 2017 campaign that included a pre-season bout with a shoulder injury, Chris Tillman might be a smart short-term investment for the Orioles in 2018.

Miley was terrible in the year and a half he was in Baltimore and there's no reason to think he has anything at all to offer for 2018, but Tillman is a different story. Yes he was bad in 2017. So bad that calling his season awful doesn't even rise to the level of being an understatement, in fact.

But as recently as 2016, Tillman pitched to a 3.77 ERA over 172 innings and started the A.L. Wild Card game for the Orioles. Plus, he battled a shoulder injury before last season even began, so it's entirely possible that he'll have a strong bounceback season next year if that heals and he gets a regular offseason schedule. If Tillman will agree to a sufficiently team friendly contract, he's a perfectly good option to try out as a 4th/5th starter.

In other news, Roch Kubatko "opined" that Alex Cobb, a free agent often cited as a potential target by hopeful fans, is likely to be too expensive for the Orioles' tastes.

That wasn't presented as anything more than Roch's own suspicion, but his position as a reporter for the Orioles' owned television network means just about everything he says is probably based on talks with someone in The Warehouse. In any case, this possibility didn't make Orioles' fans very happy either and there was much hand-wringing about the team not making a serious effort to get better from fans and commentators.

But truth be told, I can't say I think the Orioles are in the wrong here. In fact, getting beyond the issue of costs and how much Peter Angelos and/or Dan Duquette are willing to spend on pitchers, I'm not even sure there are any targets I honestly think will be good in 2018.

That most free agent pitching contracts work out poorly is a fact that everyone seems to forget this time of year.

You would think that the Ubaldo Jimenez and Yovani Gallardo debacles would have challenged Baltimore's collective faith that a free agent starter or two will fix everything and lead the O's to the promised land, yet here we are today with forceful demands for Dan Duquette to sign such superstars as...Alex Cobb?! Jason Vargas? I'm pretty sure these guys aren't showing up on very many Cy Young ballots before they file for free agency next week.

In fact, assuming that the team isn't going to land Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta (who seems unlikely to have any desire to return to an Orioles team he's spoken openly about being happy he was traded away from), I don't see ANY pitchers I'm confident in projecting to excel in Baltimore next season.

Take Cobb, who is easily the name thrown around most by Orioles' fans, ad the red flags are both numerous and obvious. He pitched pitched in just 5 games in 2016 after missing all of 2015, and though he stayed healthy this season he posted a 4.72 ERA away from the controlled climate of Tropicana Field.

That split wasn't a fluke either: He allowed a .287 opponent batting average on the road compared to .211 at home, and his strikeout to walk ratio was nearly twice as high at home. Simply put, he just wasn't very good outside of St. Petersburg, and there's good reason to be concerned he'd struggle playing his home games at Camden Yards.

You can find similar flags for everyone else in the "second tier" of starting pitchers. Texas' Andrew Cashner has drawn some attention, but his 3.64 ERA is backed by a much less attractive 4.61 FIP. The latter number isn't too far down from the 4.84 FIP he posted in 2016 when his ERA was over 5.00, and in 2015 (his last season in San Diego) his ERA away from spacious PETCO Park was 4.74. Drilling down from the acronyms, Cashner's peripherals last season were five alarm fire levels of bell ringing: His K-BB% was an atrociously low 3.1%, and his low ERA was buoyed by a HR/FB% almost 2% lower than his career average in a year where MLB easily set a new record in that mark.

In other words, Cashner almost certainly can't repeat his sub-4.00 ERA with a similar underlying performance.

Likewise, Kansas City's Jason Vargas and St. Louis' Lance Lynn, two more targets often cited on O's fans' wishlists, had FIPs of 4.67 and 4.82, respectively.

A free agent heading into next season, would C.C. Sabathia make sense in Baltimore?

Additionally, Lynn returned after not pitching in the big leagues at all in 2017 with a career low K/9 of 7.39, more than one full strikeout lower than his career average. None of this proves that these guys will stink next year, but it's plenty of reason to think that they wouldn't be good in Baltimore, and the bigger problem is that some team is almost certainly going to bet on a best case scenario and pay each of these guys accordingly. You're not going to find a bargain chasing the hot commodity pitchers in December.

The bigger concern for the Orioles is opportunity cost.

Yes, the Birds have a lot of money coming off of the books this winter, but they also theoretically want to keep Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop in town for the long term. And while conventional wisdom says Machado will certainly end up out of the team's price range, the glut of third base talent may make it more likely than previously thought that Manny stays in Charm City.

The Cubs, Red Sox, and Yankees all have long term options at both third base and shortstop in house already, as do the Dodgers if they stick with possible-MVP Justin Turner at third.

The Angels could use him at third base, but they already have $62 million committed to just Albert Pujols and Mike Trout for the 2020 season...at which point they'll need to give Trout a new contract.

That's a lot of big money franchises who just aren't likely to be involved in the sweepstakes, and while Machado's age means that you can't assume a team like Philadelphia, the White Sox, etc. won't sign him just because they don't look like contenders right away, it also means there's a decent chance the market won't get away from the Orioles.

They definitely don't want to be unable to capitalize on an unexpectedly bearish market because they loaded up with multiple long term commitments to mid-rotation starters this year, and pinching cash flow to the point of writing Machado off while ending up with a 2018 rotation that is both bad and expensive would be the absolute worst case scenario.

But even assuming that Machado will be somewhere else in 2019, the prospect of spending a lot of money to be saddled with bad starting pitchers for multiple seasons should be a very big concern for whomever is going to be running the franchise in the long term. After years of having a lowly rated farm system, the team is actually poised to bring up a new core of talented young hitters.

Austin Hays and Chance Cisco are already slated into prominent roles for next season and showed flashes of big league talent last month.

Tim Beckham is under control at shortstop for the next three seasons.

Anthony Santander and Ryan Mountcastle are making strong showings in the Arizona Fall League, with the latter handling a transition to third base quite admirably. There's a promising core of players to build around 2-3 years from now with or without Machado, and saddling those teams with multiple new versions of the Ubaldo contract would be a disaster.

This isn't to say that the team shouldn't be looking for new pitchers obviously, but they'd do much better for themselves to scour a deep list of "third tier" starters to find options that may or may not pitch well, but should only require one or two year guarantees to sign.

Guys like C.C. Sabathia, Matt Garza, Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, and so on don't actually have that many more red flags than Cobb/Vargas/Lynn/Cashner, but they shouldn't require 3-5 year contracts to sign.

That's not what a lot of fans in Baltimore want to hear, but they should also remember how much praise the Orioles got in 2014 for signing Ubaldo for the "bargain" price of $12.5 million a year, and what cold comfort the happiness at Angelos finally signing a big free agent starter proved to be when Ubaldo stunk up the Inner Harbor for four seasons.

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TUESDAYS
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Todd Schoenberger promises to deliver provocative commentary on the world of Baltimore sports. His no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners style of writing is certain to leave readers debating and disputing, but always thinking. Be sure to follow Tuesdays with Todd!

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It’s Halloween, and the NCAA is scared. No, scared may be too delicate of a word. The Association is frightened beyond belief. Spooked. Petrified. Terrified.

Terror-stricken!

Yesterday, the NCAA released its quarterly “how are we perceived?” poll and, according to several internal sources, the group tasked with the responsibility of overseeing college athletics is startled to find out most people think they are a bunch of buffoons, and the primary reason for the dysfunctional relationship between the University and Athlete.

The FBI investigation into widespread criminal activity in men’s basketball is the main reason why people feel this way. And, it makes sense. Just like Hollywood keeping its worse kept secrets under wraps, it seems the NCAA prefers to keep its head-in-the-sand approach on major infractions, but go balls-to-the-wall when it comes to so-called “broken window” cases.

The situation at Louisville involving Rick Pitino and his program is perhaps the scandal that tipped the iceberg for the FBI in their investigation of the NCAA.

For instance, when the matter of academic fraud came up at the University of North Carolina, the NCAA simply said in Detective Frank Drebin fashion “nothing to see here, folks.” However, when Florida Atlantic University head football coach, Lane Kiffin, posted two innocent Twitter messages directed to last year’s Heisman Winner, Lamar Jackson, it has been all hands on deck.

So, what’s considered egregious and what should be seen as a ‘slight’ error in judgment?

Believe it or not, the answer is really quite simple. Recruiting violations are a DEFCON 1 matter for the NCAA; and even though the Association should be more cognizant of all issues regarding student-athletes, the impropriety action of trying to get a kid to sign a letter of intent is the vilest of them all.

We all know an infraction is defined as "a rule that is broken".

Oddly enough, though, according to the NCAA Enforcement site, colleges are relatively clean and rarely step out of bounds. As of 2005, there have only been 57 infractions for Division 1 schools, with 52 originated from some sort of recruiting violation. And considering, many of these penalties are assessed against non-revenue (Olympic) sports, the public typically never hears about them.

The case against Penn State’s football program following the Sandusky case was remarkably unique for the NCAA. For them to enforce penalties based off of criminal misconduct by a coach, rather than direct violations by the actual team, was an exotic move for a group best suited to handle recruiting violations.

The rapid forgiveness in scholarship offerings helps explain Penn State’s meteoric rise back to the peak as one of the country’s finest football programs. There’s a valid argument, however, supporting the thesis Penn State would be nowhere close to where they are had the NCAA nailed them for issues pertaining to recruits.

In other words, in the eyes of the NCAA paying off a stud high school player is much worse than performing obscene acts with others.

This also explains why, in 1986, the NCAA chose to sit on its hands while it seemed the entire world knew the University of Maryland basketball program was a coke haven that could rival the best South America could offer. Rather, the Association kept the matter in their top drawer and leaned on it when they found out Terps head coach, Bob Wade, gave Rudy Archer an unauthorized car ride home.

The innocent ride opened the door for the NCAA to do a full investigation, which ultimately led to a near-death penalty phase due to…you guessed it…recruiting violations.

Per the Washington Post, the sanctions were Maryland’s punishment for violations that included providing recruits with free clothing, providing a car for a student-athlete and the sale of complimentary ACC Tournament tickets.

Never mind that Len Bias was known to have all-night coke binges, including staying awake for 48 straight hours before pumping a career-high 41 against Duke in Durham. The NCAA figured it was out of its jurisdiction.

The perception by the public is not sitting well with NCAA President, Mark Emmert. He, like that other dysfunctional organization called the NFL, remains delusional about how others are beginning to dissolve their emotional connection to a league that seems hell-bent on making money than ever promoting the student-athlete to the real world.

For example, the quarterly survey press release details how 79 percent of those polled believe “big schools put money ahead of student-athletes.”

Ummm…ya think?!!?

Emmert and his cronies must believe the kid wearing the Terps sweatshirt while walking down Route 1 is doing it for the Journalism School. And that, my friends, isn’t just scary. It’s irresponsible oversight.

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Monday
October 30
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i don't care who or what is "juiced", that was amazing theater


Around 7 pm last night, I started looking for the World Series game on FOX.

I caught the tail end of the Redskins loss to Dallas, which had a little bit of excitement brewing until Kirk Cousins threw the ball to the wrong team in the final minute to seal the Cowboys' 33-19 victory.

Six hours later, I turned off the TV.

In between, I watched perhaps the most exciting -- and bizarre -- sports event in my life, as the Astros beat the Dodgers in World Series game five, 13-12, in ten innings.

And with this...Houston won Sunday night's epic 5th game of the World Series, 13-12 in 10 innings.

I was concerned that I might miss something important in the NFL with my self-imposed "sabbatical" yesterday.

I didn't.

A bunch of goofs with the Houston Texans took a knee in protest out in Seattle and then lost the game. That's karma at work there, I suppose.

New England won again.

The Browns and 49'ers both lost to fall to 0-8 on the season. Halfway home to a "perfect" campaign, they are.

And the Steelers got the benefit of a late flag (imagine that) to beat the Lions in Detroit, who did their best Ravens-impersonation by failing to get in the end zone in a 20-15 loss to Pittsburgh.

Just another day in the NFL...

But that baseball game! Holy freakin' cow.

The sub-story in this World Series is "BallGate", with numerous players on both sides claiming that the baseballs being used are "slicker" than the ones from the regular season and thus, pitchers can't spin it as tightly on sliders and breaking balls. That lack of spin flattens the pitch out and keeps it straighter and easier for hitters to pick up -- and they're clobbering it all over the field in this edition of the World Series.

Major League Baseball has rejected that notion, of course.

Who do you trust in this one? The pitchers, who handle baseballs for living and go out of their way to "prepare" the ball to their liking to allow for maximum efficiency? Or the stuffed suits who run baseball?

I'm with you. I trust the pitchers.

The baseball was apparently "juiced" during the recent regular season, with home runs flying out of ballparks in record fashion from April through September. Somehow, though, that wasn't good enough.

It's one thing to try and make regular season games more exciting, but that Major League Baseball apparently altered the condition of the baseballs in this year's post-season is utterly amazing. I'm sure once the World Series is over someone in the national media is going to sink their teeth into that story and we'll discover the real truth. Somehow, for reasons they'll have to explain, baseball officials decided to change the condition of the ball and thought pitchers (and others) wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

I don't care one way or the other, though, because the theater these two teams have created in five games thus far is remarkable. I don't even care about the curious nature of someone like Jose Altuve going from a grand total of 7 home runs in 2014 to 24 home runs in both 2016 and 2017, plus another SEVEN in 16 post-season games thus far this October.

I've never bought into the fact that baseball players are out-and-out "clean" these days. I just assume they've figured out a way to beat the testing system better than they did circa 2005 or so.

But whether it's "slick baseballs", performance enhanced players or just top-of-the-world athletic ability, last night's game was utterly amazing.

In case you didn't catch it, here's the quick 20-second summary.

The Dodgers went up 3-0 in the first inning and eventually led 4-0 before the Astros tied it at 4-4.

L.A. went back ahead 7-4 but Altuve hit a 3-run homer to knot the score at 7-7.

The Dodgers picked up a run to lead 8-7, only to see the Astros score four times to finally grab the lead at 11-7.

L.A. made it 11-9, but Houston tacked on an insurance run -- or so we thought -- to lead 12-9 heading to the top of the 9th.

Yep -- the Dodgers rallied for three in the 9th to tie it.

And Houston won it in the bottom of the 10th on a single by Alex Bregman.

If you like a pitcher's duel with your baseball game, last night wasn't for you.

But if you like seeing a group of athletes never give up, stare adversity in the face, and get off the mat time and time again -- then last night was your cup of tea.

I saw someone on Twitter during the 9th inning say, "Now this is great baseball!"

I don't know that it was "great" baseball. There wasn't a pitcher on either team from the fifth inning on who could get anyone out. It looked more like an All-Star Game Home Run Derby than a game between the two best baseball teams in the world.

But it sure as hell was "exciting" baseball, I'll give you that. I've seen some wild, wild finishes in my day, but that one last night in Houston is among the most memorable -- in any sport.

I couldn't help but think of the dichotomy between Houston-based football and baseball last night while watching the Astros celebrate that epic win.

The headline story on Sunday in the NFL came out of Seattle, where 40 or so players on the Texans took a knee in protest of something their owner said on Friday. He apologized to the team twice, tried his best to clarify the intentions of his phrasing, and went out of his way to try and soothe those that he offended.

It still wasn't good enough for the Houston football team. They refused to accept his apology, apparently, and sought to publicly embarrass him on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Houston baseball players dug in for a five hour marathon and played their hearts out, refusing to quit or allowing anything to get in the way of their quest to win a critical game.

Oddly enough, I felt a sense of happiness with both results on Sunday.

I'm glad the Texans lost.

And to counter the football team's silly publicity stunt on Sunday, the Astros won perhaps the most exciting baseball game you'll ever see in your life.

Those sports gods sure do work wonders.

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PGA Tour star Dustin Johnson spends every golf season trying to do things Tiger Woods was never able to do. Yesterday in China, D.J. managed to accomplish something Woods never did during the meat of his illustrious career.

Johnson coughed up a 6-shot lead on Sunday and lost the World Golf Championships event to Justin Rose, who finished at 14-under par.

Justin Rose was the benefactor of Sunday's collapse by Dustin Johnson, as Rose won the World Golf Championships event in China with a final round 69.

D.J. fired a smooth 77 on Sunday, becoming only the third player in TOUR history to kick away a six shot lead on the final day of a tournament.

It's not a career-defining moment for Johnson, who is still the top ranked player in the world. But it's a small slice of reality for a guy like him who, despite his immense talent, still can't brush up against Tiger's greatness when the chips are down.

Johnson has one major title.

Tiger won 14 majors before age 33.

And on Sunday in China, Johnson did something Woods would have never done -- and never did. He gift-wrapped a tournament to the field and said, "Here you go, I don't want to win today."


The MIAA A-Conference boys' soccer playoffs begin today with a pair of intriguing match-ups, as two teams will move on this afternoon to face the top seeds in Thursday's semi-finals.

#6 seed Calvert Hall is at #3 Mount Saint Joseph (3:30 pm) in one of the quarterfinal games. The Gaels beat the Cardinals in both regular season encounters, but Calvert Hall can cling to the memory of last year's semi-final visit to MSJ, where they won, 1-0, to set up a memorable championship victory over Curley.

Saint Joe was clearly the third best team in the conference this year and handed Curley one of their two regular season losses along the way. The Gaels will be a tough out if they can get past Rich Zinkand's Calvert Hall team today.

In the other quarterfinal game this afternoon, Loyola Blakefield hosts Gilman (3:30 pm), a team they lost to twice during the regular season. Gilman was perhaps the upstart in the conference this year en route to their #5 seed. They finished the campaign by beating Loyola and tying St. Paul's on the road to move past Calvert Hall and into that 5th spot, ensuring them a return trip to Blakefield for today's game.

If Calvert Hall beats Saint Joe, the Cardinals will face top seed McDonogh on Thursday. If the Gaels win, they'll face Curley on the road this Thursday.

The Loyola-Gilman winner will have to see what happens with the Calvert Hall-MSJ game before knowing where they'll play on Thursday.

The championship game is Sunday night, November 5, at Anne Arundel Community College.


The Capitals continue to sputter offensively, as they scored just one goal in last night's 2-1 defeat in Calgary.

With that loss to the Flames, Washington went 1-2 on their Western Canada swing, beating Edmonton on Saturday (5-2) but losing in Vancouver on Thursday night (6-2).

The Caps (5-6-1) have played 12 games now and have scored two goals or less in half of them. They're 19th in the NHL in goals-scored-per game at 2.9.

After his torrid start with 7 goals in the team's first two games, Alex Ovechkin has settled back into his usual regular season role, with just three goals in the ten games since.

Ovi still leads the team in goals (10), but little-used Jakob Vrana now has as many goals (3) as Ovechkin does over the last seven games.

The Caps lost Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams in the off-season and those two moves might be related to the Caps' early-season offensive struggles. Johansson had three goals in nine games with the New Jersey Devils before suffering an injury and Williams has one goal thus far with the Carolina Hurricanes -- but no matter what they're doing with their current teams, both had integral roles with the Caps during their days in D.C.

Have no fear, though, market correction will come around soon.

The Caps will go on their annual December-January tear, those rat-fink Flyers will go on a tailspin right after the New Year and then Ovechkin and Company will bow out to an unexpected club in the playoffs next April.

Those three things you can count on when it comes to the Caps and the NHL.

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show me the money


Leave it to the Cincinnati Bengals to screw me up.

I knew it.

In a classic case of outsmarting yourself (something Flyers fans have never done, admittedly), I *knew* the Colts were going to cover yesterday, but went ahead and did the dumb thing and went with the Bengals anyway, who were giving Indy 10.5 points in Cincinnati on Sunday.

The Bengals were lucky to win the game outright, 24-23, but Indy easily covered because -- well -- the Bengals are the Bengals.

I did hit on the Bills (-2.5) in their win over Oakland and I also had the Jets covering (+6.5) against the Falcons, but I wound up 2-3 on the day when the 49'ers got blasted in Philly and the stinky Redskins lost to the Cowboys by fourteen points down in D.C.

That puts me at 16-24 on the year through eight weeks. There's a lot football left, but I need to get going here pretty soon and start making up some ground.

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Sunday
October 29
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issue 29
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like the ravens, i need sunday “off”


OK, so I’m taking today off from the world of sports.

As you can see, I'm not taking the day off from my responsibilities here at #DMD. I'm not getting a "real" day off. I haven't actually taken one of those since the website started back on August 25, 2014.

But I need a break. Not a big one, mind you. I just need to get away from the TV and the internet for a while today.

Note: I’m such a sucker for the World Series that I’m sure I’ll be back for tonight’s Game 5 in Houston.

But this much I know: I’m not watching the NFL today. No hoops. No hockey. No golf, even. Sunday Night Football? I'll pass.

I’m getting away from it for a little while.

Just one of the many stories of the 2017 NFL season that has left a large number of sports fans tired and aggravated...and it's only October 29.

It’s not one thing in particular that’s done it to me, but the three big stories from Saturday pushed me to the breaking point. The news that Major League Baseball suspended Houston’s Yuri Gurriel for five games next season for his “racist gesture” during Friday night’s World Series game was the finishing blow.

The NFL “player’s coalition” scheduling yet another meeting for this Monday – where they’ve invited Bob McNair, Roger Goodell and Colin Kaepernick to attend – was the initial news story that had me shaking my head yesterday.

And more fallout from Bob McNair’s ill-advised comments in a national magazine article, where he used the words “inmates” and “prison” to describe either the players (their version) or the conflict between owners and the league office (his version).

All three are such massive overreactions, but in this day and age, our country -- and the media -- specializes in making more out of something than is necessary.

What Gurriel did was wrong on Friday night. No one really thinks otherwise.

But suspending him for FIVE games? Really? Pitchers get pissed off when a hitter flips his bat the wrong way and then throw at his head the next time he’s up to the plate. Now THAT, in my opinion, is suspension worthy.

The league should have fined Gurriel and arranged for him to attend a sensitivity class or course in the off-season so he can fully grasp the impact of his actions on Friday night.

End of story.

I don’t know Gurriel at all, but I suspect he’s a decent guy who is thrilled to be living the dream in the U.S. after fleeing Cuba. He made a mistake on Friday night. I can’t imagine you’ll see him do that again next May when he hits a home run off of a different Asian pitcher.

If he does, then suspend him for 20 games if you want.

But I don’t get the reaction from Rob Manfred, except for the fact that he doesn’t want the heat that comes with something logical like a fine and a sensitivity course.

Hence – the OVER reaction from baseball’s Commissioner.

As for NFL players organizing a meeting for this Monday, I sure wish someone would have the guts to remind them that they are FOOTBALL PLAYERS and that this is currently THE FOOTBALL SEASON and some of us are getting tired of hearing these weekly whinings from them.

I'm sure the owners are getting tired of it, they just can't say so publicly.

The fans are getting tired of seeing crappy football week-in and week-out.

I think, right now, we're all just tired. And it's basically the halfway point of the season, by the way. And yet, the NFL is exhausting us.

I might be in the minority on this one, admittedly. Maybe I’m part of a small group that’s aggravated with it all and the rest of the country wants to see the players stir the pot and make the league, teams and owners uncomfortable while the games are being played and the season is on-going.

Here’s where I’d suggest that perhaps those empty seats you’re seeing in various NFL cities, aligned with the drop-off in TV ratings this season, is a fairly good indication that more people than a “small group” have grown tired of the NFL’s off-field “issues” in 2017.

But the players aren't interested in hearing about the ramifications of kneeling and protesting and meetings and badgering teams around the league to sign Colin Kaepernick. They don't want to hear about the business end of things. They just want action.

As for McNair, I believe he wasn’t intentionally trying to disparage the players. I still contend had he simply said, “we can’t let the inmates run the asylum”, the reaction from that statement wouldn’t have been nearly as volatile as it was when he said, “we can’t let the inmates run the prison”.

What would compel Bob McNair to intentionally poke at the players given the current relationship struggles between the employees (players) and the company (owners)?

I don’t think he’s that dumb.

I think he said the wrong thing. He mixed up two words. Others around the country think it was an awful thing for him to say and that it shows the inner workings of an "old, wealthy white guy" who places no value on his employees, many of whom are African American.

As soon as that story hit on Friday, it was time to OVER react to it.

I’m willing to admit I’m “NFL’d out” at this point. Kneeling, anthem protests, unhappy players, crappy football, head hunting linebackers, players scoring touchdowns and simulating a dog peeing – I don’t know, maybe I’m just getting old and easily aggravated.

But, if I am in the minority, so be it. I’ll just take my little “break” by myself today and I’ll be back tomorrow morning ready to talk NFL again.

I can at least think clearly enough to say this might just be me and perhaps the rest of the country doesn’t see things the way I see them.

I need a day off.

I’m taking one today.

And you kids – stay off my lawn.

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from the desk of
brien jackson

BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.



sunday morning quarterback from thursday's thrashing of miami


There wasn't a lot of excitement for Thursday night football in Baltimore after back to back bad losses dropped the team to 3-4, but a visit from the Ravens' wholly owned subsidiary from Miami was exactly what the doctor ordered.

And yet somehow even a 40-0 thrashing couldn't make for an all-positive storyline coming out of the game, as the biggest story was the brutal concussion suffered by Joe Flacco.

Still, the Dolphins might not be very good, and definitely not as good as their 4-2 record coming in might have suggested, but you rarely see any professional team get dominated that thoroughly. This was absolutely a statement game from the Ravens, particularly the defense. To the particulars!

Loser: Player safety

Might as well address the major topic of the game right at the beginning, right? Miami linebacker Kiko Alonso's hit to the head of a sliding Joe Flacco is one of the nastiest images you'll ever see in a sporting event.

I'm not sure it was the most violent or even dirtiest hit ever, but the overall visual impact of it, with Flacco's helmet flying off, ear bloodied, and the obviously dazed expression broadcast in crystal clear HD to a national TV audience, is exactly the image that the NFL doesn't want representing the game of football in this era.

And yet, the instant reaction from the studio commentators on CBS and the NFL Network were unanimous in coming to Alonso's defense, and blaming Flacco for sliding late.

Flacco slid late, they said, and anyone who thought Alonso should be ejected was trying to make it possible for defensive players to play football!

It was hogwash, of course, as it almost always is. Kiko Alonso is a world class athlete and one of the best linebackers in the NFL. His entire livelihood is predicated on the fact that he has the ability to recognize and react to developing football plays at a speed that seems impossible to us mere mortals. The notion that he didn't have enough time to pull up just enough to avoid delivering a vicious shoulder directly to the side of a sliding quarterback's head is just absurd on its face, even if you ignore the visual evidence that Alonso was clearly aiming for Joe's head.

The NFL keeps telling everyone that they desperately want the game to be as safe as possible, but the sheer number of analysts defending Alonso shows you that there's still a powerful culture within the game that worries more about a player "unfairly" taking a 15 yard penalty than someone suffering a traumatic brain injury.

Winner: Alex Collins

Collins has been steadily getting better week to week since arriving in Baltimore, and Thursday night might as well have been his official coming out party.

Collins racked up 113 yards and 6.3 yards per carry in leading a Ravens' offensive attack that accumulated a total of 174 rushing yards against a Dolphins' defense that entered the game ranked fifth against the run. Collins showed off his "Irish jig" footwork in making multiple tacklers miss with ease, and at other times simply exploded through holes created by the Ravens' creative blocking plays.

He also avoided fumbling yet again, and seems to have genuinely improved his ball handling after some early hiccups. Buck Allen played well again as well, but Collins solidified himself as The Man in the Ravens' rushing game.

Winner: Jeremy Maclin

Tallied 53 yards on 3 catches, including an impressive 34 yard touchdown strike from Joe Flacco in the first quarter. His numbers trailed off, mostly because the Ravens leaned heavily on the running game after Flacco's injury. For all of the talk about the Ravens lacking offensive playmakers, Maclin has actually been pretty effective when he's been able to play through the first 8 games.

Winner: The run defense

The Ravens have been shockingly inept at stopping the run for weeks, particularly on the edges, and that seemed particularly ominous with Jay Ajayi coming to town. Sure enough, Ajayi's first run was a 21 yard scamper off the right side around an out of position Carl Davis, and it looked like it was going to be more of the same and a long night for the defense.

The unit was simply dominant from that point on, however, with Ajayi visibly giving up in the second half and finishing the night with 23 yards on 13 carries. And again, his very first carry gained 21 yards.

Winner: Jimmy Smith

Played 57 snaps after battling an injury for a few weeks, and not only got himself another return touchdown, but only allowed 2 catches for 12 yards on the 7 times he was targeted. And while the Dolphins' offense might be worse than the Ravens', they've got some talented guys at wide receiver, led by Jarvis Landry. It's hard to play the cornerback position much better than Smith did Thursday night.

Winner: Marlon Humphrey

Continues to get more time on the field, getting 37 snaps in this game, with Brandon Carr shifting inside several times to allow Humphrey and Smith to play outside. The Dolphins predictably picked on him in those situations, but the rookie more than held his own and that combination was absolutely stifling. The Ravens got themselves a good one in Humphrey, and if Smith stays healthy these two are going to be the league's best cornerback duo very soon.

Winner: C.J. Mosley

Like Smith, Mosley not only had a pick-six but played an otherwise excellent game. The middle linebacker was a force when called on to blitz, and tallied an impressive amount of brutal (but clean!) hits throughout the game. Easily the best Mosley has looked since Week One in Cincinnati, and one of the best games of his career.

Winner: The coaches

The entire coaching staff was just about as embattled as they've ever been in John Harbaugh's tenure, but things couldn't have gone much better for them Thursday night.

The players came out motivated and ready to play for Harbaugh in a spot where a lot of teams in their position would have folded, and both coordinators called a fantastic game full of aggressive and creative plays. And don't look now, but at 4-4 the Ravens are tied with their AFC Wild Card competitors in the win column heading in to Sunday's action.

Winner: Ryan Mallett

It would be a stretch to say he excelled when pressed into action by Flacco's injury, though he did throw a touchdown pass on a nicely executed goal line play to put Baltimore up 20-0. But Mallett gets on the list simply for getting in the face of Ndamukong Suh when Suh gratuitously shoved him after jumping offsides in the second half.

I'd like to think Mallett expressed the feelings of all of us about the way Suh's team handled themselves throughout the game. Ryan Jensen gets an honorable mention here too for being the only guy to waffle Alonso after the hit that concussed Flacco.

Loser: Breshad Perriman

Finished with no catches and had one embarrassingly weak attempt at a catch. This is almost obligatory at this point.

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show me the money


We tried going to the bullpen last Sunday and that didn't work out so well, as guest prognosticator "Ghost of JRob" flubbed his golden opportunity for stardom by posting a losing 2-3 mark.

So, we'll go back to the expert again today and I'll hop into the frying pan to try my luck at predicting the outcomes of these crazy games we're sure to see this afternoon.

At 12-18 on the year, it's not time to panic. Yet. But we need a couple of good weeks sometime soon to get ourselves back to near .500 for the stretch run, where we excelled a year ago in finishing the campaign with a winning overall mark.

So here we go with today's five winners. Bet big, friends. Bet. Big.

RAIDERS AT BILLS (-2.5) -- I do this every year. And I regret it. I buy into those creeps up in Buffalo and they always wind up vomiting all over themselves. But I'm gonna do it again and take the Bills and lay the 2.5 points against a Raiders team that doesn't travel East very well. Bills win 27-20.


COLTS AT BENGALS (-10.5) -- This one smells fishy to me. I just have to figure out which angle to play. Vegas is dying for you to take the Colts, right? Cincy giving ANYONE 10.5 points is a major risk because they're the Bengals and they always figure out a way to screw up a good thing. So because they're dying for you to take the Colts, you should really take the Bengals, right? But isn't that what Vegas wants? They want you to think about taking the Colts, but actually take the Bengals. And then the Colts cover. So that means I'm taking Cincy and giving Indy 10.5 points as the Bengals blow them out, 33-13.


FALCONS (-6.5) AT JETS -- The Jets aren't for real, right? Of course not. Atlanta has lost all three games to AFC East teams this season. They're not going 0-for-4 are they? Nope. Atlanta's going to win this one but I'm taking the Jets to cover in a barnburner that goes down to the wire, with the Falcons scoring late to win 24-22.


49'ERS AT EAGLES (-11.5) -- Here's another one where they're just dying for you to take the Eagles. Philly should win this one 33-10, right? Of course. Have you seen Carson Wentz play this season? He's ON FIRE. San Francisco coming East. On the road. With an 0-7 record. They have NO chance of winning. But I'll take San Fran to cover, actually, as Wentz has a rare off day and the 49'ers hang around in a 23-13 Philadelphia win.


COWBOYS (-1.5) AT REDSKINS -- I have no idea. None. I don't think either of these teams are particularly good, but Dallas seems like the logical pick here, even though they're giving up 1.5 points on the road. So, true to this week's formula, I'm going with the Redskins plus the 1.5 as they win a squeaker, 20-19.


BEST BET OF THE DAY: -- Let's take the Bengals plus the 10.5 at home against the Colts for "Best Bet" purposes.


SEASON RECORD TO DATE: 14-21

LAST WEEK'S RECORD: 2-3

BEST BET OF THE DAY: 4-3

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Saturday
October 28
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thanks a lot bob mcnair


Just when we thought maybe, just maybe, the national anthem protest commotion was starting to die down and we were actually going to get back to normalcy in the NFL.

Along comes Bob McNair.

And now, Richard Sherman.

And we're on to yet another saga in the NFL -- "InmateGate"

I swear, if I didn't know better, I'm starting to think the owners and the players are trying to wreck the league.

In case you missed it yesterday, a magazine article detailing a recent NFL owner's meeting in New York had McNair, the owner of the Houston Texans, using this quote to describe the league's efforts to navigate the murky waters of the anthem protest issue: "We can't let the inmates run the prison."

"Some of these owners are now starting to show their true colors." - Richard Sherman on Friday.

That explosion you heard yesterday around noon? Heads blowing off in every NFL locker room in America as the players caught wind of McNair's words and went ballistic.

The Texans actually had players not bother showing up for practice or needing a few minutes to themselves once they were in the building to determine if, in fact, they were actually going to "work" on Friday.

Sherman, the polarizing defensive back for the Seattle Seahawks, lit into McNair late yesterday, mentioning confederate flags and "Southern heritage" in an effort to highlight the seriousness of the owner's phrasing in the magazine article.

Richard Sherman is a smart man. He is a degree holder from Stanford and one of the league's most thought provoking players.

In this case, specifically, Sherman overreacted. Big time.

So has everyone else, including the freakin' media.

What Bob McNair meant to say, of course, was this phrase: "We can't have the inmates running the asylum." It's an oft-used expression, found in lots of businesses all over America when discussing employee-ownership relations. I used it my own house a month ago when our two children were running around at mach-12 speed on chocolate bars and warm Pepsi and both wanted to attend an event that our schedules simply didn't allow for.

It's what's called "an expression".

I'm not sure why McNair said "prison" instead of "asylum", but I'm as sure as I can be that Bob McNair, a wildly successful businessman, wouldn't be stupid enough in a national magazine article to equate his football players to incarcerated prisoners.

We all know why the term "prison" ignited everyone around the league yesterday. Racial tension in the NFL is apparently (I'm not in the locker room, but I read and hear a lot of stuff...) at an all-time high. Caucasian football team owners employing, among others, young African-American males has morphed into a conversation about slavery and "ownership" and the like.

Back in August, there was an idiot girlfriend of a presently unemployed football player posting pictures of a slave owner from a popular movie and equating that same relationship to football players in the NFL.

It's out of control.

All of it.

I completely understand that McNair fouled up with the word "prison". He knows that. He apologized.

Sherman, per his standards, then took a chunk out of McNair for apologizing, call it the "PC thing to do." Yet, had McNair not apologized, you can bet Sherman would have ripped into him for "not even having the guts to apologize to us."

I'm telling you: Sometimes I think the league wants to put itself out of business.

And I'm really starting to wonder about the thin-skinned nature of these NFL players. Seriously. I thought they were tougher than this, but maybe I had it wrong.

Interestingly enough, had McNair's quote been the one we all know so well -- "We can't let the inmates run the asylum" -- I'm not sure anyone would have cared. Sure, the players might have taken umbrage with his stance, in general, which essentially suggests that they shouldn't be involved in the running of the NFL. But I doubt we'd be seeing front page newspaper and website articles today if McNair would have used the word "asylum" instead of "prison".

McNair screwed up. He said the wrong thing. He apologized. Are we really going to make this League Crisis #14 for the 2017 NFL season?

The players, the owners, the Commissioner, the league -- it's starting to resemble a cartoon, really. It's almost comical now how it's no longer about FOOTBALL in the National "Football" League.

Oh, and for the record, McNair was right. You can't have the inmates run the asylum.

At least that's what I've been hearing for 50 years or so.

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if your stomach can take it...


I'm not a homer. Never have been.

Borrowing from that familiar phrase I heard so many times back in the 1980's from Charley Eckman, I call 'em like I see 'em.

I've never been afraid to say it: "Roethlisberger's a much better quarterback than Flacco", "Ovechkin isn't a winner", "I wouldn't give Manny $35 million a year".

Throughout yesterday, I saw people on social media and in web-story comments somehow conclude that what happened on Thursday night in Baltimore was either, A) Not a "flagrant" hit by Kiko Alonso, or, B) Joe Flacco's fault for sliding too late, or, C) Not worthy of a suspension for Alonso.

If you authored any of those quotes in the aftermath of that hit on Thursday night, you're a buffoon.

And I'm not saying that because I'm a Ravens fan and a longtime supporter of Joe Flacco.

If Terrell Suggs would have done that to a quarterback in the NFL, I'd be blasting him, too.

Here's the truth: Joe Flacco could have "seriously" been injured on Thursday night. That's not to diminish the concussion he received in any way. That's simply to point out that Flacco was probably lucky that a concussion was all he got out of the deal.

That's one of the worst hits in the history of the NFL.

I do understand the word "flagrant" is a touchy subject. By definition, among other things, it means: blatant, obvious, brazen or obviously offensive.

In sports, we use the word "flagrant" to mean, basically, "intentional".

We then add on to the word intentional with, "intentionally trying to injure". And there, we have "flagrant".

It's hard to prove that Alonso was "intentionally trying to injure" Joe Flacco on Thursday night.

But it was wreckless and negligent -- and that's the soft way of putting it -- and completely uncalled for given the rules of the game.

Alonso, as the video below clearly shows, knew exactly what he was doing. He saw the opportunity for a "free lick" on an unprotected quarterback. And he gave it to him.

I said it from the start and I'll say it again today: However many games Flacco misses should be how many games Alonso misses via his league-imposed suspension.

The video of the hit -- from various angles and in slow motion -- is below. As a friend said yesterday when he saw it. "It's a little hard to watch if you're civilized."




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Friday
October 27
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ravens bash heartless dolphins but lots of folks passed on seeing it


Until the nasty hit on Joe Flacco that left him bloodied and dazed -- and out of action for who knows how long -- the biggest story of Thursday night in Baltimore was going to be the number of empty seats in the stadium.

The Ravens won't ever announce a "drop count" (actual number of bodies that passed through the turnstiles) but even the most favorable assessment would say there were at least 15,000 no-shows last night.

They missed a 40-0 thrashing of the Dolphins, who rolled over and played dead about 25 minutes into the game and were completely uninterested throughout the entire second half.

Maybe it was just the Thursday night game that kept folks away. I had a handful of offers to go as late as yesterday at 5:00 pm and had zero interest myself, so I get it. But whatever the case, the crowd was a bubbling sidebar to the game itself right up until Flacco got his head taken off late in the second quarter with the Ravens already ahead 13-0.

It was, by any account, a nasty, nasty hit.

"Flagrant" is a very difficult word to throw around because it bumps up against another delicate idea -- "intent to injure". I have no way of knowing if Kiko Alonso was trying to intentionally injure Flacco on the play. But whether you want to call it flagrant or not, there's no disputing it's one of the worst hits you'll ever see a player take on the football field.

We'll quickly point out here that after the game, Alonso brushed aside questions about "flagrant" and "dirty". "It was a bang-bang play," Alonso said. "I hope Joe's OK."

Of course that's what Alonso is going to say. His only defense when the league office calls today is just that. It was a bang-bang play. That much is true. But Alonso certainly isn't going to face the media afterwards and say, "Yeah, I lined him up pretty good on that one, huh? Wanted to knock him out of the game and got that job done. Next question?"

Alonso said what you would expect him to say to try and create his alibi to the powers-that-be.

No matter what he says, though, it was a terrible, terrible hit and there's no telling how long Flacco will be out of action.

In an odd kind of way, it's tough to judge last night's game because Miami was so pitiful and the Ravens were gladly willing to take advantage of their lack of both quality and fortitude to pitch their second shutout of the 2017 campaign.

I mean, a 40-0 win is much, much better than a 16-13 squeaker. No doubt about that. But Miami was so awful, so out of sorts and so -- well, gutless, really -- that you just don't know if the Ravens played "up" that well or the Dolphins stunk it up that much.

That said, a win is a win and the Ravens hit the season's halfway mark at 4-4, now likely needing to go 6-2 in the second half to somehow sniff out a playoff spot in a jumbled up AFC post-season chase.

But can the Ravens win without Flacco if he's on the sidelines in Nashville on November 5? The team's bye looms after that game with the Titans, so Baltimore plays just one football game between now and November 18. It stands to reason that Ryan Mallett might actually only play in one game if things work out and Flacco can return on November 19 in Green Bay.

At this point, not knowing anything about Joe's prognosis (other than he suffered a concussion last night), I'm sure John Harbaugh, the entire organization, and Flacco himself, would all take their starting quarterback missing just that one game in Nashville as a result of what happened last night in Baltimore.

To me, Alonso should sit out as many games as Flacco misses. That's how I'd handle the punishment for the train-wreck collision on Thursday night. But I don't run the league, obviously.

Back to the attendance for a minute: The Ravens are CLEARLY concerned about their issues in the stands. I was told earlier this week that team President Dick Cass personally called season ticket holders to "check in" and get their temperature for the season (I could be wrong on this, but I don't ever remember that happening before) and another ticket holder told me he received an e-mail from the team surveying him on a number of topics, including how many games he plans on attending over what remains of the 2017 home schedule.

In the aftermath of "Kneelgate" in London, Steve Bisciotti personally called Ravens suite owners and corporate sponsors to talk about the team's position on the "anthem protest" and to lightly touch on the subject of their attendance and support at future home games in 2017.

If for any reason the Ravens organization didn't think the city was distancing themselves from their football team, they saw the stands last night and they now know the truth: They have a problem.

Last night could have been an outlier, sure. Thursday night football is an awful idea, no matter if you're the home team or the visitor. It wasn't a marquee opponent, the Ravens themselves aren't very good and, well, nothing about last night's contest compelled you to make that extra effort to layer-up and sit in the stands for three hours on a 48 degree night and watch two bad teams go at it.

But there were empty seats for the Pittsburgh and Chicago home games, too. Not nearly as many as last night, granted, but there were still plenty of unused tickets for those two games.

Fortunately for the Ravens -- or, rather, unfortunately as it turns out -- the big story of the night went from 15,000 no-shows to the team's starting quarterback getting head-hunted by Kiko Alonso.

That's what we'll remember most about last night's game five years from now.

It was the worst hit I've seen in my memory. My biggest hope right now is that Flacco's able to play again this season. Yes...it was that bad.

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my take on the penn state situation


I had no intention at all to chime in on the continuing Penn State story here at #DMD, one that was prompted earlier this week by a piece written by David Rosenfeld.

But a few people reached out to me via e-mail asking me to address it, which is only fair. I get it, the website is called "Drew's" Morning Dish, so there's often a natural push for me to weigh in on anything that generates a buzz here.

And, if you read the comments below, David's Penn State piece and the inevitable "taking sides" that goes with a highly-charged story like the one involving Penn State five years ago has created quite a buzz.

Let me first say this, since one of the issues stems from a commenter, "Kenny", contacting me and requesting that all of his contributions be deleted and that he be "removed from the conversation".

Both of these men are no longer involved in Penn State football. Should fans, students and alumni now be allowed to "move on" and embrace their school's football program once again?

I deleted his comments, because he asked me to, but I didn't see anything in the discourse that I thought to be vile or out the ordinary. It's a delicate, polarizing story. People are passionate on both sides of the fence. I went back last night during the Ravens game and read through everything that was posted, by everyone. There was nothing to see there, other than a few of you who continue to make these comments far more personal than they should be.

But that's just my opinion. And, like I said above, I didn't see anything that I found to be objectionable enough to warrant deleting.

Personally, I thought the comparisons to Penn State and the Catholic church were silly. I understand what people try to do when they're hammering home a point. They're looking for a comparison, a "gotcha moment", where they can point to your support of "one thing" while you criticize "the other thing."

To me, college football is to Penn State what "the church" is to your own individual place of worship. In other words, it's entirely possible to enjoy, admire and appreciate college football and yet still condemn what Penn State did in the Jerry Sandusky crime-saga. It's also entirely possible to enjoy, admire and appreciate your own place of worship and yet still condemn past transgressions of those involved with the Catholic church.

More importantly, I guess, is the ability for people to now enjoy, admire and appreciate Penn State and Penn State football in the wake of what happened with Sandusky and Joe Paterno.

That's the "slippery slope".

I don't have the recordings of my radio shows back then to prove this, but I can remember quite well what my opinion was of Penn State football when the Sandusky story came to light and he was charged and found guilty of his child abuse crimes.

I thought the NCAA should have shut down the football program for three years.

There were other tentacles to it, yes, and some folks needed to lose their jobs and such, but the main piece for me, was punishing the football program. I suggested that Penn State go without football for three years. That's how I would have punished "the school" for their negligence.

Now, in 2017, we're (still) debating about whether people should "enjoy, admire and appreciate" Penn State football given the heinous nature of the crimes committed by Sandusky and the role that Joe Paterno played in it all, whatever that might have been.

David Rosenfeld's personal assessment that Penn State will never be forgiven is a strong one. That's his opinion. He's entitled to it, obviously.

I don't subscribe to that same level of thinking.

Frankly, I'm not very passionate about this topic. I think college sports at the "big time level" stinks to the high heavens. There are lots and lots and lots of things for us to get pissed off about when it comes football and basketball. The Sandusky story was awful, no two ways about it. But to say Penn State fans shouldn't be allowed to enjoy their college football team anymore because of crimes committed by two men who are no longer associated with the program is probably a tad over the top.

I don't think Joe Paterno needs to be glorified. There's very little question that Paterno knew what was going on. He did. In fact, he knew so much that he reported Sandusky to his superior.

But when Sandusky showed up for work a few days later, office key still in hand, 12-year old boy seated next to him on the plane, Paterno most certainly should have said to a higher-up at Penn State, "Ummm, just curious here...why is that guy still employed by the school after the information I shared with you last week?"

The only logical conclusion to make -- particularly given Paterno's "walk on water" status at PSU -- is that Sandusky was still employed because Paterno wanted him to still be employed.

And if Joe Paterno employed a known pedophile because he wanted to win the Rose Bowl, that most certainly tarnishes Paterno's legacy as the grand master of all things Penn State football. That's just my opinion, of course.

But the more pressing question here that has been bounced around by our readers is this: Should people like "Kenny" and other recent Penn State grads -- and current students -- be "allowed" to support their school and root for the football team now, in 2017, without backlash from those on the outside?

And, to David's point in his piece on Tuesday, should ESPN's College GameDay be comfortable going back to Penn State now and broadcasting from that venue without feeling pressure to address the white elephant in the room? Which, of course, is the tarnished legacy of the Penn State football program.

I think so, yes. On both points.

I won't sit here and preach "forgiveness" to anyone. We've all asked for it, needed it and, hopefully, given it during our lifetime. Penn State football won't ever live down the Jerry Sandusky story. That much is definitely true. It's their scarlet letter.

Whether or not you ever forgive "the school" for the Sandusky crime(s) is your choice.

But there's nothing at all wrong with supporters of the university cheering for their football team in 2017 and beyond.

It doesn't make them bad people.

It just makes them good football fans.

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this weekend in
english soccer


Contributed by #DMD's English Premier League Reporter
MATTHEW CARROLL


With a quarter of the season now officially in the books, Matchday 10 of the English Premier League will kick off with a doozy of a matchup bright and early Saturday morning. So be sure to set that alarm and catch all of the action live on the NBC family of networks or online at NBC Live Extra.

Saturday, October 28 (all times eastern)

7:30am – Tottenham @ Manchester United – Old Trafford, NBC Sports Network

Harry Kane, who currently sits atop the league goal scoring charts with 8, will be a game time decision for the massive clash with Manchester United on Saturday as he hopes to overcome a lingering hamstring injury.

Heading into last weekend, the sides from Manchester were threatening to turn the title fight in to a two-horse race, but it looks like we can now add a third team to the mix as Tottenham capitalized on two mistakes from a Liverpool defense that remains in shambles to cruise to a 4-1 victory. They will travel to Old Trafford to kick off the weekend against Manchester United, who saw their eight-game unbeaten run to start the campaign come to an end when they were unable to overturn a two-goal deficit and fell for the first time in 65 years to Huddersfield Town 2-1.

It was a historic victory for the newly promoted Terriers, and moved United five points back of Manchester City and level with their weekend opponent on twenty points. Both sides will be wary of falling further behind the scintillating City but it should be United the more confident bunch heading in, with the Red Devils dropping only four of their last thirty-six meetings across all competitions with Tottenham (W24 L8 D4), which included an unbeaten run that stretched a remarkable twenty-six games, and winning twenty of their last twenty-five against Spurs at Old Trafford (L2 D3).

10am – West Ham United @ Crystal Palace – Selhurst Park, NBC Live Extra

While the fight at the top of the table is in full swing, a battle is brewing at the bottom with cellar dwellers Crystal Palace unable to follow up their victory over Chelsea the week before although having more than their fair chances before ultimately paying the price four minutes from time in a 1-0 defeat to Newcastle United. They will return home to welcome West Ham United to Selhurst Park for a London Derby, with the pressure increasing by the day on manager Slaven Bilic after his side slumped to defeat and down to 16th in the table after falling to the newly promoted Brighton and Hove Albion 3-0.

The visit across town will give the embattled Croatian one last chance to save his job, although his side took a step in the right direction in the midweek when they fought back from a two goal halftime deficit with three goals in a fifteen minute span to book their place in the quarterfinals of the Carabou Cup at the expense of the mighty Tottenham, and will be confident of taking another step at the weekend after going unbeaten in their last four London Derbies with Crystal Palace under Bilic, coming out winners in three of those affairs and in their last three trips to Selhurst Park.

Sunday, October 29 (all times eastern)

12pm – Everton @ Leicester City – King Power Stadium, NBC Sports Extra

Ronald Koeman found himself in a similar position to Bilic just last week however the Dutchmen was unable to avoid the firing line with a 5-2 loss to Arsenal, which was the Toffees seventh in eleven matches and left the Merseysiders in the bottom three of the table with just eight points from nine games, his last game in charge after his dismissal on Monday morning. A caretaker manager will be on the touchline Sunday afternoon when they travel to the King Power Stadium to take on Leicester City, who won for the first time in their last six league games (L3 D3) with a 2-1 win over Swansea City.

The Foxes were likewise in a similar position to Everton, with the dismissal of Craig Shakespeare only days before leaving them searching for their third manager in the span of eight months and a caretaker manager in charge for the victory over the Swans. They will hope the appointment this week of former Southampton manager Claude Puel will be the start of their climb out of the bottom half of the table, with Leicester dropping only two of their last eight meetings with Everton across all competitions and just one of the last eight times they have entertained the Toffees at the King Power Stadium (W2 D5).

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#DMD GAME DAY
Week 8


Thursday — October 26, 2017
Volume XXXIX — Issue 26

Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens

8:25 PM EDT

M&T Bank Stadium
Baltimore, Maryland

Spread: Ravens -3


it's "go time" for the ravens tonight


Since John Harbaugh took over the Ravens in 2008, the franchise has never once lost three straight home games.

Let's hope they don't accomplish that feat tonight when the Dolphins visit Baltimore for a Thursday night encounter with Harbaugh's team.

It could happen, though. Baltimore's injury report is three pages long. Five of the team's seven wide receivers are either questionable or doubtful. And while "confidence" isn't something a team lists on Wednesday, it's fair to say the team's faith in itself is probably at season-low level.

Oddly, Miami comes in as a bit of a wild card themselves.

Despite having one of the league's most powerful running backs in Jay Ajayi, the Dolphins have yet to record a rushing touchdown this season.

They're 4-2 on the year and come into tonight's game on the heels of two miraculous fourth quarter comebacks; they trailed the Jets by 14 points last week and came back to win, and were 17-0 down in Atlanta two Sundays ago and somehow managed to steal that one from the Falcons, 20-17.

Earlier in the season, they were blanked by the Saints in London, 20-0, and lost the week before at New York to the Jets, 20-6.

And despite having a quality running back in Jay Ajayi, guess how many rushing touchdowns the Dolphins have scored this season? None.

Like I said above, they're a bit of a wild card, these Dolphins.

They'll be going with Matt Moore at quarterback tonight. Their erstwhile starter, Jay Cutler, was injured in last Sunday's stirring win over the Jets and Moore was the man-behind-center who led the comeback. Who knows...he might actually be an upgrade over Cutler.

The Ravens, meanwhile, are still licking their wounds over the 24-16 loss at Minnesota that saw the team's futile offense continue to sputter. Joe Flacco didn't get the team into the end zone until the final play of the game and tonight, depending on pre-game concussion testing, his wide receiver options might be Griff Whalen, Chris Moore, Breshad Perriman and --- and --- and, well, that could be it.

Perriman was a full participant in practice on Wednesday so it stands to reason he'll be ready to go tonight, but starters Mike Wallace (concussion) and Jeremy Maclin (shoulder) are both questionable for the game.

You know what else is questionable?

How many fans will be there?

One look at your social media timeline should tell you that lots of people are trying to unload their tickets for tonight's game. Some -- this should get a giggle out of you -- are still trying to get face value for their seats. Meanwhile, secondary online ticket sources have seats available for as low as $20 tonight.

It's probably not fair to judge the city's temperature for the Ravens on tonight's game alone. It is, after all, a Thursday night game, which immediately makes it one you'd have no trouble passing up under virtually any circumstance.

Why the league continues this dumb idea is beyond me, but each team plays one, and this year, the Ravens even get the "privilege" of hosting a Thursday night encounter. Yeah, it's not actually a "privilege", as the empty seats tonight will show.

So, while it's tough to say how many of the no-shows tonight are in response to the team's poor play thus far, there's no question the city is "cool" on the Ravens right now. Whether that's still the lingering fallout from "Kneelgate" in London, the team's 3-4 record, or the lackluster offensive display from Flacco and Company, there's no arguing that the town's energy level is dipping with each passing game (loss).

A win tonight would help things, on a variety of levels.

If the Ravens harbor any hopes of making the playoffs, it's much easier to reach that goal at 4-4 instead of 3-5. The schedule in the second half of the season isn't overly imposing, particularly now that Green Bay is beatable with Aaron Rodgers on the shelf. There are still games with Pittsburgh (away), Cincy (home) and Cleveland (away), plus Detroit, Houston and Indianapolis all come to Baltimore and the Ravens visit Nashville next Sunday to take on the Titans.

Far be it for me to suggest that the Ravens could win five of those eight, but, again, the actual games on paper aren't all that concerning, particularly the home portion of the schedule.

But first things first -- the Ravens have to beat the Dolphins tonight.

Baltimore's offense is ranked 31st in the league.

Miami's worse, believe it or not, as they're ranked #32.

I hope the respective field goal kickers ate their Wheaties this morning.

The standing joke at last night's Calvert Hall-Curley soccer game was the betting total for tonight's contest.

"What's the over-under, twenty four and a half?" someone quipped.

No, no, no. It's not that bad," another spectator said. "It's twenty eight and a half."

For the record, the total for tonight is set at 37. Only two games in the league this week aren't in the 40's (Cleveland and Minnesota in London is the other) and tonight's game is one of them.

37 points doesn't seem unreasonable, right? It's a 20-17 game. These two teams can combine for 37 points, can't they?

Yeah, you're right. We should take the under.

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keys to tonight's game


For the Ravens --

The Ravens need a mistake-free game from quarterback Joe Flacco tonight. And a touchdown or two would help, too.

1. No big plays from Miami -- Miami's offense is as sad-sack as the Ravens', but the Dolphins do have the ability to come up with a big play or two, particularly in the backfield with Jay Ajayi lugging the football. Two weeks ago, Dean Pees stressed that his defense wasn't playing poorly overall, they had just allowed a few too many "big plays". Well, tonight's the night for Pees and his defense to put a lid on those big plays. Miami likely can't get in the end zone without the aid of a few of them.

2. Field position will matter-- It won't make for a highligh-film game, but field position will likely matter tonight. That means Sam Koch has to have one of his stellar nights punting the ball and the special teams units will play a key role in pinning the Dolphins deep in their own territory. All it takes is "flipping the field" once or twice and you score points off of those opportunities.

3. No big mistakes from Flacco -- It stands to reason that Joe Flacco won't have many weapons at his disposal tonight. Going in, then, Joe should be focused on not making any kind of critical mistake that could turn the momentum in Miami's favor. The game certainly doesn't rest on Flacco's shoulders, but a bad throw or two might put the spotlight on him. With points at a premium, "gunslinger Joe" needs to take a backseat to "game manager Joe" tonight.


For the Dolphins --

1. Put eight in the box, dare Joe to beat you -- This will hold true in particular if Maclin and Wallace are unable to play. If it's just Moore, Whalen and Perriman operating as the team's wide outs tonight, the Dolphins should simply put eight guys in the defensive "box" and play one-on-one secondary coverage against those three Baltimore receivers. In other words, Miami should dare the Ravens to throw the ball. It's a bit different if Wallace or Maclin plays, but even then, putting eight in the box challenges Baltimore to throw the ball, which they'd probably rather not do.

2. Run, Jay, Run -- If the Dolphins have paid attention to game film at all, they've seen a Ravens team has been dreadfully inept against the run in recent weeks. Tonight's not the night to shake things up. If Miami's smart, they let Jay Ajayi sleep in this morning and prep him for a 25-carry game tonight in Baltimore. Run, run, run...

3. Keep it close -- As the Dolphins have displayed over the last two weeks, they're fully capable of mounting late game comebacks. But at some point, that well runs dry. Tonight, they'd be best served to play serve and volley with the Ravens. No crazy 4th down gambles. Take the points when they're there. Run the ball and shorten the game. In other words -- Miami's best bet for a win is to keep the score close and steal one at the end.

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how drew sees tonight's game


This is a game the Ravens could easily lose tonight.

I think we all know the formula. The Baltimore offense stinks it up, the defense holds its own, a penalty flag comes out at the wrong time, and the Dolphins score a late "freebie" touchdown to win 13-9.

That might be the formula we expect -- but it won't be the one we see.

The Ravens have owned the Dolphins over the years.

Expect Justin Tucker to get plenty of action tonight when the Ravens host the Dolphins.

I'm not sure why that is, but no matter where the game, particularly in the Harbaugh era, Baltimore always seems to punch Miami in the mouth.

The Ravens are 6-1 against Miami since 2008 and they've scored 26 or more points in all six of those wins. And Miami had a couple of decent teams in those years, too.

Now, granted, Baltimore's offense was never as suspect and injury plagued as the one we'll see on the field tonight, but this has just not been a good match-up for Miami over the years.

Expect that trend to continue tonight.

While the Thursday night "balance chart" has swung a little more in favor of the road team over the last few years, it's still a tough assignment to be the visiting team for these encounters. You play on Sunday, rest Monday, practice Tuesday, get on a plane Wednesday...it's not easy work, especially in mid-season.

That fact, coupled with the match-up, makes it easy for me to call a Baltimore win tonight.

It won't be pretty, because it never is.

The Ravens might actually reach the 20's in scoring, but Miami won't.

Flacco throws a touchdown pass to Buck Allen in the first quarter and Justin Tucker adds two field goals to give the Ravens a 13-7 halftime lead.

Miami cuts it to 13-10 in the third quarter, but Alex Collins runs one in early in the fourth to make it 20-10.

A late Tucker field goal ices the game. And the Ravens win 23-10.

Playoff tickets go on sale Friday morning, in case you're wondering.

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miaa boys' soccer playoffs set; mcdonogh snags top seed


The MIAA A Conference soccer regular season came to a close on Wednesday and all of the seeds were locked in place.

In fact, it took a road tie by Gilman and a home loss by Calvert Hall to settle the 5th and 6th seeds.

Top-ranked McDonogh, which closed with a 2-0 win at Archbishop Spalding, captured the first seed. The Eagles and No. 2 Archbishop Curley actually finished in a tie for first, each with 14-2 conference records. They also split their head-to-head meetings, but the Eagles gained the tie-break because they swept third-place Mount St. Joseph, with whom Curley split.

The Friars closed their regular season on Wednesday with a 5-0 win at Calvert Hall. Both McDonogh and Curley will have first round byes before hosting semifinal games on Nov. 2.

St. Joe, which completed its league schedule last Friday, finished 11-4-1 in the conference and will be the third seed. The Gaels will host defending champion Calvert Hall (6-9-1), the sixth seed

Loyola (9-7), which defeated John Carroll, 5-0, in its finale, is the fourth seed. The Dons will host Gilman, which took the fifth seed with its 2-2 tie with St. Paul’s, on Wednesday. The Greyhounds beat Loyola twice this season.

In the semifinals, McDonogh will host the Loyola/Gilman winner and Curley will entertain the Mount St. Joe/Calvert Hall survivor. The semifinal victors will meet in the league championship game on Sunday, Nov. 5 at Anne Arundel Community College.

Jacob Steinberg and Kyle Brown scored for McDonogh in its victory over Spalding on Wednesday.

In Curley’s win, senior Ben Stitz scored two goals raising his season total to 31, breaking the previous school record of 29 shared by Tre Pulliam (’16) and Giuliana Celenza (’97), who was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame last weekend. Adrian Avelleneda and Tommy Sidleck also scored for the Friars.

John Peterson scored twice and Alex Reid had three assists to lead Loyola in its victory over John Carroll. Matt Lala, Biggie Ruzzi and Julia Schmugge also scored for the Dons.

This contribution was provided to #DMD by Varsity Sports Network, the area's leader in high school athletics coverage. For comprehensive coverage of all high school sports in the state of Maryland, visit www.varsitysportsnetwork.com.



Wednesday
October 25
r logo#DMDfacebook logovolume xxxix
issue 25
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kaepernick remains unemployed and i couldn't care less


This might be a character flaw of mine. If so, I'm guilty as charged.

Colin Kaepernick doesn't have a job in the NFL and it doesn't bother me one bit.

Not a bit. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

And I'm not going to rally behind the "he made his bed" stance that many of his detractors cling to while they laugh at his continued unemployment.

Still without a job in the NFL.

He did make his bed, of course. That much is true. But to pile on him now is kind of silly. It would be, well, piling on. And that's not pretty.

I'm not anti-Kaepernick, per se. I always thought he was a decent quarterback. At one point, he looked like he might be on the fast track to stardom in the NFL. I roundly criticized the 49'ers in the aftermath of the Super Bowl in New Orleans for not just letting him run the ball himself four times from the five yard in the final minutes of their loss to the Ravens.

He was an effective tool for the 49'ers circa 2012. But as S.E. Hinton once wrote: "That was then, this is now."

It's easy these days to point at some of the scrubs who are starting for various NFL teams and say, "Kaepernick's better than those guys!". He might be, actually. But those scrubs don't cost teams sponsors, PSL holders and ticket buyers.

No one burned their Vikings jersey on Sunday morning when they found out Case Keenum was starting against the Ravens.

The team that does decide to sign Kaepernick knows there's very little that can go right and lots more that can go wrong by bringing him on board.

In other words, the aggravation has outweighed the production and he hasn't even taken a snap with his new team.

If you sign Kaepernick, you have to play him. If you don't play him, it was all a "publicity stunt". That's what they'll say.

If you sign him and he's ineffective after a game or two and you're forced to replace him, that, too, will be met with criticism. "You'd give other quarterbacks a lot longer to prove themselves", they'll say.

If you sign him and eventually feel the need to terminate him and go with someone else, you'll get blistered for that, as well.

That's not to say teams shouldn't sign Kaepernick if they feel he can help. But teams should know going in -- and I'm sure they do -- that this will always end poorly. It's akin to robbing a bank, I'd say. You have a great plan, a getaway car and a willing accomplice to help you pull it off. But in the back of your mind, you know it's probably not going to end well.

You can sign Colin Kaepernick if you so choose. He might even help your team. But no matter what, the end will be ugly.

It won't end ugly because of something Kaepernick does. By now, he's learned his lesson, one would assume. It will end ugly because the people on his side will make it end ugly.

Oh, and here's another thing. There's no guarantee at all that Kaepernick will come in and be a good soldier. He might say all the right things once he's signed, but there's no way of knowing if he's going to come in and blend with the other 52 guys on the roster or be a s**t-stirrer if things don't go his way.

See Martavis Bryant in Pittsburgh as Example A. Misses an entire season because he couldn't stop smoking weed. Inconveniences his team. Costs them, perhaps, a Super Bowl appearance in 2016. Shows up this year and immediately wants 15 balls thrown his way every game. What has he become now? That's right. A distraction.

Kaepernick could be cut from the same cloth as Bryant. Or not. No one really knows. The first time he perceives misguided treatment from his new employer, Kaepernick might pout and take to Twitter and unleash the fury. Who knows? I sure don't.

It's a story that's no longer worth following if you ask me.

I think we all know the whole saga is destined to end up in court. That's where every disgruntled employee or hopeful employee ultimately wants their grievance to be heard. Kaepernick's people will either get him on the football field or into a court room. You can make book on that.

I don't care that he remains unsigned.

I'm not applauding the fact that he's jobless. But I'm not crying over it, either.

In the end, Kaepernick's getting what he wanted from the very outset of his "protest". He's drawing attention to himself for the sake of others.

Good for him, I say.

Just please stop trying to convince me I should care.

I don't.

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calvert hall, curley meet tonight in soccer


It's high school soccer's version of "The Turkey Bowl", only we're a month away from Thanksgiving and the game isn't played in a massive football stadium.

But tonight's game between Calvert Hall and Curley is still a big deal.

Rich Zinkand (left) and his Calvert Hall Cardinals could play the spoiler role tonight against Barry Stitz (right) and his Curley Friars.

The two teams meet tonight for the second and final time in the regular season, with the Cardinals hosting the showdown looking to solidify their spot in next week's MIAA playoffs and rebound from a 5-1 loss to the Friars at Curley earlier this month.

Calvert Hall comes into tonight's game at 6-8-1 in the conference, tied for 5th with Gilman, who play their regular season finale at St. Paul's this afternoon. If both Calvert Hall and Gilman win today/tonight, the Cardinals will secure the 5th seed in the playoffs based on their head-to-head record vs. Gilman this season.

If Curley beats Calvert Hall tonight and Gilman wins or ties St. Paul's, Gilman gets the #5 spot and Calvert Hall finishes as the #6 team in the upcoming playoff format.

The #3 seed Mount Saint Joseph Gaels will face the #6 seed, while #4 Loyola Blakefield will host the #5 team next week.

Curley remains tied with McDonogh for the top spot in the MIAA at 13-2-0.

Kick-off tonight at Calvert Hall is set for 6 pm.

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thursday sports with David Rosenfeld

DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.


Note: This column typically originates on Thursday, but with the Ravens game tomorrow night and corresponding game-day coverage here at #DMD, it will run on Wednesday this week.

This past Saturday, for the sixth time since the show starting “going on the road” back in 1993, ESPN’s College GameDay visited the Penn State campus. Notably, it was the first GameDay live broadcast in State College since 2009, a long time for a school and a team with Penn State’s history.

Even more notably, that last visit came two years before the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke, and this visit came six years after.

If you watched the broadcast, it seemed like nothing had happened in those eight years. Penn State once again has a great team with potential NFL stars, as it has many times in the past. They packed more than 110,000 fans into Beaver Stadium later in the day, almost all of them dressed all in white, and they sure had a good time watching a blowout victory over Michigan.

ESPN, it seems, was itching to get back to Happy Valley. “I think we all anticipated and were hopeful that this would be the site this week,” host Rece Davis told philly.com. PSU was equally as hopeful; in a press release, athletic director Sandy Barbour said that a small group from her department had been meeting regularly about GameDay all season so that they’d be ready for the call from ESPN.

Meanwhile, my Facebook feed swelled with Penn State pride; it’s always been a pride that had more than just a history of on-field success behind it. Many of us used to be a little jealous of that, I guess.

Now, it’s just pitiful.

And yet, Davis, in explaining why his show was keen on returning to University Park after so many years, told philly.com that “when you hear the name Penn State, there’s a recognition and a reaction to that.”

ESPN can take its weekly show where it wants, and millions will watch. The show, after all, is never just about the team or the game at its location. The broadcast has won seven sports Emmys, and it is the best “studio” show in the history of sports television, bar none.

But if Davis wants to talk about recognition and reaction, let’s do that. Because they sure forgot to talk about that on Saturday.

People recognize that Penn State -- specifically its legendary coach, other athletic department employees and the University president -- were involved in a cover-up of epic proportions. For years, they did nothing about Sandusky, and as the Freeh report said, “showed a total disregard for the safety and welfare of his child victims” and “empowered” him to continue his abuse.

People recognize that Joe Paterno wanted to protect his brand and his program way more than he wanted to protect anyone that really needed it, and they now recognize that using him as a source of pride is terribly misguided, at the very least.

People recognize that Penn State, thanks to a rescinding of NCAA sanctions in 2014, seems to be the same place it always was, a place where good football trumps all. A place where, with no pun intended toward Saturday’s crowd, an entire disgrace can be completely whitewashed.

That’s what we recognize about Penn State, isn’t it? That, and we also remember that the program was close to receiving the “death penalty” from the NCAA for a period of four years. They wouldn’t be even close to where they are now, and maybe they would have deserved it.

Davis and the PSU athletic department and alums and a few others? They’d rather we recognize the program’s “tradition.” They’d actually like us to be happy for Penn State, having risen from a team that couldn’t beat Maryland in James Franklin’s first year to a national title contender in 2017. They want us to celebrate the Nittany Lions being back where they belong.

Stick to sports, I guess. And if we do, I suppose we should give Penn State plenty of credit. They hired the right guy in Franklin after Bill O’Brien went to the NFL, and they clearly are recruiting as well as they did before they temporarily lost scholarships.

And, do Franklin, or Saquon Barkley, or an anonymous backup outside linebacker, or any of the 110,000 fans in the stadium, have anything to do with what Jerry Sandusky did? Certainly not. Nor do they have anything to do with Paterno, who died when this year’s freshmen were still in middle school. Actually, his supporters would say, they do have a very positive connection with him, since his name still stands on one of the school’s libraries.

Considering he helped raise more than $13 million toward the library’s expansion in 1997, I doubt that one’s changing.

As part of its coverage on Saturday, GameDay ran a seven-minute piece on the origin of “We Are…Penn State” the Penn State stadium cheer where half the crowd responds with the latter after the other half chants the former.

The piece, narrated by actor Keegan-Michael Key, explores the origin of the phrase, tracing it back to the 1946 season, when Penn State refused to travel to a game at Miami because the Hurricanes were not willing to participate in the game if PSU brought its two black players. The PSU captain, Steve Suhey, is said to have declared that “We are Penn State”; either the whole team was coming, or nobody would come.

The Penn State Class of 2013, still reeling from the Sandusky scandal, hired a sculptor to create a class gift. Spurred by the story of the 1946 team, the sculpture says “We Are,” and it stands not far from Beaver Stadium. It’s designed as a show of campus unity, a nod both to that long-ago moment and to a more recent moment that threatened to tear the institution apart.

They tore down a campus sculpture, the one of Paterno himself, back in 2012. Unlike with that one, there was no controversy over the 2013 class gift. It is, after all, an allusion to a prouder day in Penn State football history.

But Penn State will never be redeemed for this. Whatever sacrifices the school and the football program have made, and whatever contributions they might be making around the issue of child sexual abuse, and whatever sculptures are built or torn down, they will never be delivered from sin here. And we shouldn’t forget that even if College GameDay wants us to.

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Tuesday
October 24
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firing a coach is the toughest thing to do


In my six years running the Spirit (nee Blast) indoor soccer team in Baltimore, I fired a lot of people.

Most of them were soccer players.

A couple of those, I regretted.

I fired front-office staffers, too. Some of those I second- and third-guessed before pulling the trigger.

It's never easy to fire anyone.

I also fired a head coach. Once. It was the hardest thing I ever did during my tenure.

Some of the scores and minutiae are no longer crystal clear, but the circumstances around the firing of Dave MacWilliams are still there for me, in high-definition. I liked Dave, both as a coach and a friend. And why wouldn't I? I hired him.

MacWilliams got the job after Kenny Cooper abruptly "resigned" in April of 1994, but Cooper, of course, didn't actually leave on his own. He was essentially forced out, a clash between Coops and the owner that was largely prompted by the fact that we couldn't get past the Harrisburg Heat in the playoffs both in 1993 and 1994.

Harrisburg was a truck-stop off of I-83.

Baltimore was a big-time sports city, still without football at that point, but "big league" nonetheless.

I firmly believe, still to this day, that if our consecutive playoff losses would have been to, say, Cleveland, or Buffalo, that Cooper wouldn't have lost his job. But losing to "Harrisburg" was just unacceptable.

We were flying to most of our away games, Harrisburg took a "luxury motor coach" on their road trips.

We spent roughly $500,000 on player salaries back then, the Heat probably came in at half that amount.

Their building was a smelly, state-fair-host that was more fit for cows and pigs than indoor soccer.

Our arena in Baltimore, while antiquated and wart-covered as well, was miles better than the one in Harrisburg.

There was nothing about Harrisburg that was better than Baltimore, except their indoor soccer team.

So Cooper was sent packing. We were told to create a fancy press release to navigate our way through what we knew would be a tough sell to the soccer people in Baltimore. "Cooper was offered a front office position upon his resignation and turned it down" was the slight fib we published to the media.

And with that, it was time to hire a new head coach.

The job was a premium one, obviously. Cooper and the Blast/Spirit franchise had carved quite a niche in the world of indoor soccer. Resumès and cover letters came in from all over the country.

I thought it important to stay local. The owner didn't disagree, but he had one qualification for me as I embarked upon the task of finding a new coach: "He must be offensive minded..."

We interviewed a couple of former Blast players right out of the gate. One was a former goalkeeper with the team. I liked him. So, too, did the owner. But he didn't fit the "offensive minded" qualifier. We never really considered him.

The guy I secretly wanted was UMBC coach Pete Caringi. He had been a terrific player himself, a goal-scorer all his life, and the outdoor teams he coached -- both professionally and collegiately -- were always putting up big offensive numbers.

I'll spare the details of what happened, but on a Tuesday night in early June, I left a deli/carry-out in White Marsh thinking I had just hired Pete Caringi.

"I'll call you in the morning and we'll figure out the plan to announce it," I said to Pete as we got in our respective vehicles.

The next day, Pete told me he couldn't take the job. "I'm staying at UMBC," he said. "I can't leave this place."

So, back to the drawing board I went.

One of the first guys we had interviewed was MacWilliams, who at the time was coaching a professional outdoor team in the Philadelphia area and had reached out to us right away when the coaching vacancy became official.

He interviewed well. Dave was a fiery competitor in his playing days and maintained that blue-collar mentality as a coach. But we didn't initially hire him because the interview list was long and there were local people we wanted to consider, including Frank Olszewski, then the men's soccer coach at Towson University.

With Caringi out of the picture, and only a few more "serious" candidates on our list, I suggested we bring MacWilliams back in for a second meeting. The owner loved that idea. MacWilliams fit his profile of an offensive minded coach and the blend from hard-nosed-player to blue-collar-coach would be an easier sell to our ticket holders.

After that second meeting, we had our guy.

Dave MacWilliams would become the second head coach in Blast history in July of 1994.

That first season was bumpy. MacWilliams was much different than Cooper in a lot of ways and we lost one of our better forwards, Goran Hunjak, to a silly dispute between the two rival indoor leagues. A "trade" was worked out that brought us another talented player from Kansas City, Jon Parry, but losing Hunjak was a big blow and unfair to MacWilliams, in particular, since Parry wasn't exactly "his type of player".

A star player for the Blast during the franchise's early 1980's heyday, Dave MacWilliams is now in his 17th season as the men's soccer coach at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Along the way, we acquired a controversial forward named Franklin McIntosh, who was part of the two Harrisburg teams that defeated us in the '93 and '94 playoffs. He was wildly unpopular with our fans, but MacWilliams was stressing over the team's lack of offense, so we brought McIntosh in sometime in December of 1994.

As the soccer gods would have it, we lost again to Harrisburg in the 1994-95 playoffs, but we managed to win Game 2 in their building up there before dropping the third and deciding game the following night in Harrisburg.

Still, for his first season as an indoor coach and with a roster of players that were half his and half holdovers from the Cooper regime, MacWilliams performed admirably. I would occasionally hear whispers and grumblings that the players didn't like some of his practice tactics, but that, I assumed, would have come along with just about any new coach.

We made a couple of off-season trades in the summer of 1995 and by the time the '95-96 campaign started, we were quietly building a confident team. MacWilliams was spending most of his time in Baltimore, but would venture back to Philadelphia one or two nights a week to see his family and attend to some of his business matters that were still alive in his hometown.

Once the players caught wind of that, they started using it as an excuse. One veteran player approached me early in the season and said, "He's busting our tails every day about being 100% dedicated to the cause and he comes in five minutes before practice starts because he was in Philadelphia last night and left there this morning."

I tried to nip that in the bud right away. MacWilliams and I met and I told him the players were a little suspect of his own level of dedication. He snarled and said, "They should worry about themselves and I'll worry about me."

I didn't bring it up again, but that was an unsettling moment. Looking back, that was the first crack in the concrete, so to speak. The players had started their revolt.

The team was running hot and cold through the end of December. We'd win two, lose two, blow someone out, get blown out, and nothing seemed to be taking hold. A couple of other players discreetly sought me out on a road trip and bent my ear about the coach.

I didn't particularly want to be their sounding board, but they didn't really have anywhere else to turn. Plus, they probably figured, I had hired the guy.

In January, the team didn't "look right". I often say this right now, in 2017, about the Ravens. They just don't "look right". When you're around a team every day like I was back then, the team literally takes on a personality. They "look" a certain way, whether in practice or during a game.

The players could sense the tension. I wasn't saying anything to them, nor making any public comments, but I probably had a "look" as well. I was concerned.

In late January, with our record at 13-9, we played the worst team in the league, Chicago, at home on a Friday, then faced a decent Wichita team on the road on Saturday.

We lost the home game to Chicago, 9-8. It was a dreadful performance. We had no "spirit" (pun intended), no energy and the performance showed me once and for all that the guys had stopped playing for MacWilliams. Whether that was a collective decision or just coincidence, it was apparent to me that he was struggling to keep the team's faith in him.

We flew to Wichita the next morning, played hard that night, but again came up short, losing by a couple of goals to fall to 13-11 on the year.

That night, MacWilliams and I sat up until the wee hours of the morning in the hotel lobby, having a drink or three by the fireplace and talking about the team.

At one point, with genuine sadness in his voice, the coach said: "Maybe it's me, Drew. Maybe they're done playing for me. I'm not sure anymore."

I didn't need to say anything at that point. I was eager to just listen. With every word between sips of beer, MacWilliams was confirming what I already knew.

Sunday afternoon, I called the owner. "We should meet for coffee somewhere," I said. "We need to talk about Davey."

We met at the Hunt Valley Golf Course, upstairs, by ourselves. "I think we need to make a coaching change," I told the owner. "This team won't respond to him any longer."

The owner suggested I sleep on it and call him the next day. "If you still feel this way tomorrow, make the change," he said. I had a replacement coach already in mind. Out of respect for the owner's suggestion, I waited until the next morning to call Mike Stankovic and ask him if he'd be willing to take over the team for the rest of the season.

On Monday morning, I called MacWilliams. "I have some bad news," I said.

"You're letting me go, aren't you?" he replied without hesitation.

A few seconds of dead air passed.

"I'm afraid so, Dave. I wish it didn't end this way," I said.

We chatted for several minutes about the particulars. His contract, health insurance, the apartment he was in...we covered it all. The owner fulfilled his entire obligation to MacWilliams, right down to the last penny he would have made, even for some summer camps that were part of Dave's deal.

The worst feeling a boss can have is firing someone whose success was largely determined by other people. In this case, I was firing MacWilliams because the players were underperforming. Whether they were underperforming because they weren't talented enough or because they no longer wanted to play for him was the question...and since you can't fire all 20 players, there's only one other thing to do.

It's that much worse when you hired the guy in the first place, like I did with MacWilliams. He was my guy, with a gentle nudge from the owner who approved of his hiring, as all sports owners do when a coaching change is made.

The first thing you consider at a moment like that is this: "F***-it...I'll fire the whole team and we'll start over fresh, me and the guy I hired. The guy I believed in. We'll start from scratch with no players and build a whole new team."

But you realize that's foolish. And impractical. You can't fire all the players. It doesn't work that way. Some you want to keep, for starters. Others you wouldn't mind getting rid of, but you probably couldn't get much for them anyway.

Fire twenty players or fire one head coach? The math makes the decision for you.

It turned out that a new coach was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Spirit that season. We went 12-4 under Stankovic, finally eliminated the pesky Harrisburg team in a playoff series sweep, and gave eventual league champion Cleveland all they could handle before bowing out in the conference finals.

Firing the coach was the right move. It just hurt to do it.

The Ravens face their own dilemma these days.

Their roster has been gutted by injuries. With salary cap obligations limiting their ability to field a "depth-heavy" roster, they're stuck with what they have. And what they have, today, clearly isn't good enough.

The drafting of college players is hit or miss no matter the city, but Baltimore looks like they're mired in a slump when it comes to scouting and selecting. We've taken a lot of guys over the last decade who turned out to be duds. That's not a low blow. It's just a fact.

If Ozzie Newsome could actually just "fire" Flacco and Suggs and Webb and Weddle, he probably would. Not because they're bad football players. But because they're costing the organization gobs and gobs of money and they're not helping the team win.

But those four can't be fired without enormous backroom consequences. Plus, as we all know, those four guys aren't the only reason why the team has a 3-4 record.

The Ravens are 3-4 because the roster they envisioned playing with has been shredded. They're a Triple-A baseball team with a handful of ex-major leaguers and fifteen other players who probably should be playing in Single-A.

That said, they've now lost two weeks in a row to teams with the same sort of roster nuances. The Bears have a rookie quarterback who just this past Sunday was trusted to throw the ball all of SEVEN times in their win over Carolina. Yet, somehow, that same guy beat the Ravens in Baltimore. The Vikings' current QB is a career journeyman, a bartender during the week and a quarterback on the weekends, essentially. Somehow, the Vikings overcame his shortcomings this past Sunday.

The Ravens have enough decent players to win games in the NFL, but they're not doing it.

The Ravens have enough decent coaches to win games in the NFL, but they're not doing it.

Eventually, one of those facets of the organization is going to be held accountable more than the other facet.

Someone's going to have to pay the price for this latest turn of Ravens misfortune.

In their last 76 games, the Ravens are 35-41. Their current 3-4 mark isn't a blip on the radar screen. They've been a mediocre team for the better part of five seasons now.

No one's to blame. And yet, everyone's to blame.

The players have zero enthusiasm, starting with the quarterback. Flacco has the energy level of a paper clip. But he's not the only one. There are plenty of others who look out of it.

To say they've given up would be patently unfair. But it's not unfair to say they don't look all that concerned with losing.

The coaches -- across the board -- are probably operating on fumes at this point. Sleep is secondary to figuring out a way to win. Yet, the longer the candle burns, the more the losses pile up.

At some point, unless you're just content with losing, changes have to be made.

It's a really, really tough phone call to make.

Trust me on that...

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BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.



Last week I said the loss to the Bears was one of the worst in Ravens' franchise history.

This week the Ravens collectively responded with "hold my beer," and lost a game in which it felt like a 9-6 Vikings' lead was an insurmountable deficit.

Nothing went well, including special teams, and if it wasn't for the fact that they have to turn around and play the Dolphins on Thursday night we might well have seen someone lose their job for the debacle. There's nothing else to say, except to run down the worst offenders:

Loser: John Harbaugh

If only his team showed this much anger when they were losing...

The Ravens have been pretty lackluster since winning Super Bowl 47, but despite missing the playoffs 3 times in 4 years I've never actually thought Harbaugh's job was seriously in jeopardy.

After Sunday, I'm pretty sure we're seeing Harbaugh's last season in Baltimore.

The biggest factor in that? The team (or at least the offense) quit before the final drive of the game.

That's the only way to characterize a drive in which, down by two scores, the team methodically moved the ball downfield rather than pressing for a big play and keeping open the possibility of another possession and a chance at winning the game. Maybe someone decided that scoring their first offensive touchdown since the first half of the Oakland game was important psychologically...but that's just another way of saying that they gave up on trying to actually win the game.

And in related news, at the end of the first half the Ravens showed the same total lack of urgency we've see from them over and over again, ultimately failing to spike the ball after calling a running play with seven seconds on the clock and no timeouts. I can't recall another "effort" like that in the Harbaugh era off-hand, and that's the kind of thing that gets coaches fired even if they end up winning 8 or 9 games in a season.

Loser: Joe Flacco

Here's a play that encapsulates a lot of the problems the Ravens' offense has right now. The Vikings brought an overload blitz, rushing four men over the left side of the Ravens' line. Buck Allen misread the look and doubled outside with Ronnie Stanley rather than picking up an inside rusher, but even if he'd blocked the right guy that's still four Vikings' for Allen, Stanley, and James Hurst to block. It's pretty easy to figure out how that works.

There's only one way to beat this kind of blitz: the quarterback has to read it before the snap (or at least immediately afterwards) and act quickly to work around it.

Ideally you'd throw quickly to a hot receiver, but at the least you'd hope the QB rolls to the right of the pocket to buy a second or two more to get rid of the ball. But Joe Flacco doesn't do pre-snap reads, he never saw the defense developing, and he went down easily without barely moving.

Twitter filled up with fans blaming the line for not giving him time to throw, but in reality this was emblematic of the way that Flacco's deficiencies are making it easy for opposing defenses to attack a line that's actually playing pretty well right now.

Anyone can call a blitz that involves simply sending more rushers than there are blockers, but the risk is that the quarterback will catch you at a disadvantage and burn you for being so aggressive. The Vikings, whose head coach Mike Zimmer routinely stymied Flacco when he was the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati, played the entire game like they had no fear of Flacco beating them, and that bet paid off.

I'm not saying that Flacco is the Ravens only problem by any means, but as I said to Drew on Twitter Sunday afternoon: Trying to "fix" the Ravens without addressing the dreadful play of their quarterback is like putting new tires on a car with no transmission. You simply can't succeed in the NFL when your quarterback is playing as poorly as Flacco.

Minnesota was missing its top wide receiver and starting running back, and yet Case Keenum still thoroughly outplayed $120 million Joe. That's just not acceptable.

Winner: James Hurst

Hurst was the Ravens' highest graded offensive player according to Pro Football Focus, and for the second straight week didn't allow a quarterback pressure. The oft-maligned Hurst is settling in quite nicely at guard, and along with Stanley and center Ryan Jensen is quietly putting up a good season for a line that's taking a lot of criticism because of their quarterback, despite playing pretty well in isolation.

Loser: Run defense

Brandon Williams returning was supposed to turn things around, but instead the Vikings still ran for 169 yards, 113 of them by Latavius Murray. The fact that the Ravens' offense didn't put any kind of pressure on them to take chances in the passing game didn't help them any, but for the most part the same weaknesses that have been on display all season showed up again, and the Vikings exploited them efficiently.

This defense just can't defend the run on the edges consistently because, as mentioned last week, they have a bunch of mismatched personnel for that task. There's a lot of talented pass rushers here, but they're too weak against the run to neutralize that aspect.

Loser: Matt Judon

No one exemplifies that problem more than Judon, who looks completely lost most of the time. That's not entirely his fault either. After all he's a 5th round pick from a year ago who came out of a college as a prospect who specialized in rushing the passer with his hand in the dirt, and less than halfway into his second season he's being tasked with playing the Jarrett Johnson role. It's not working though, and Judon is getting blocked out of the play more often than not.

Winner: Brandon Carr

Came up with a big interception on the first defensive possession, and allowed just three completions for minimal yardage through the game. This is one offseason acquisition that worked out as planned.

Losers: Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson

On the other hand, Jefferson continues to be a total bust at safety. He's consistently failed in coverage through the first seven games, and Sunday he badly missed a tackle on Murray's touchdown run. On the same play, Weddle inexplicably decided to engage a Vikings' blocker just as Murray went running past him rather than make an effort at a tackle. The safety duo has been beyond disappointing this season, and they're only getting worse.

Loser: Brandon Williams

Williams didn't play poorly on Sunday by any means, but he wasn't a difference maker either. In isolation, he wasn't a marked improvement on the play the Ravens got from Michael Pierce and Willie Henry in his absence either. And don't look now, but Rick Wagner is PFF's highest rated tackle in football right now.

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Twitter: @TMSchoenberger


don't worry, baltimore


The 2017 Baltimore Ravens may be a colossal disappointment for its fans, however that may not be such a bad thing this year. If there were ever a sensible time to lay an egg and play for picks, this is the season to do it.

The NFL is currently swirling in a death spiral. Talking heads like to point out the insulting National Anthem protests and Colin Kaepernick's saga as the reasons for fan apathy. But, in reality, those are just excuses manufactured by the liberal leftists in America.

The real reason why fans have had enough is, quite frankly, because football is boring. The quality of play is horrific, and the coaching is mediocre, at best. Watching Justin Tucker kick 57-yard field goals is entertaining, but Ravens fans are watching football, not soccer.

Overzealous refs throwing penalty flags like confetti wears the common fan down. It’s bad enough when all the star players are hurt, but now NFL viewers spend more time watching guys in stripes caucus about overwhelming rules and replays.

An all too familiar scene at a NFL game these days. Too many calls, too many delays, too many games decided by the zebras.

Fans have had enough. They stepped away when men making $10 million a year took a knee and they haven’t returned. The amount of empty seats throughout the league on Sunday was telling. The die-hards may still be interested, but the casual fan is obviously not.

The NFL is an overregulated industry, which we are already aware. In 2017, the league imposed 20 changes and/or additions to its rule book. Last year, there were 15.

As a matter of fact, since 2009, the NFL has averaged 28 rule changes/additions -- per year!

It took 17 seasons, between 1992 and 2008, for the league to total this many changes/additions. Just like the refs, fans are confused and have started moving on.

All of these new rules are beginning to cause the outcome of the games to be completely arbitrary. It’s no longer simply black and white. Fans now spend more time yelling at their televisions about poor officiating than inadequate play, although that is definitely part of the equation, as well.

But arguing about the human element of the game means items other than touchdowns and field goals are involved in the final decision.

In other words, the NFL is now un-American.

Soccer has a similar attribute, and it’s the reason why the sport will never be popular in this country. Nevermind how soccer is relatively easy to play considering the goal is the size of Montana, but most matches end in a no-decision tie.

In addition, the referee can add “extra” time to the end of the game if they so wish. There’s no science to it. No X’s and O’s. The ref can just say “play another five minutes.” I wonder how many soccer games are changed by this sudden referee ‘adjustment.’

Americans favor sports won and lost between competitors, not officials determining the outcome.

And guess which demographic has the patience of a hungry bulldog when it comes to watching humdrum NFL games? That’s right: Kids under 18.

The NFL may not believe it, but there are diminishing returns when it comes to showing too many football games on primetime. Younger fans don’t have the scheduling flexibility to unwind during the evening and cheer on their team. School and activities take priority, which causes a younger generation to miss a game and lose interest.

Don’t believe me?

Well, according to Sports Business Journal, the average age of an NFL fan in 2000 was 44. By 2006, the average age increased to 46. And by 2016, the average age popped to 50.

And those kids, you ask? Only 9 percent of the average NFL audience is 18 years old or younger.

You can blame devices, ADHD, or lack of Adderall, but the NFL is graying…and fast. The lack of younger fans is also having an impact in youth football participation rates.

According to Aspen Institute data from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, participation in tackle football is down 19 percent from 2011 to 2016. Broken down further, the drop is greater (25.6 percent) for ages 13-17 than ages 6-12 (6.4 percent).

A drop in supply of players will equate to a lower quality product on the field. For instance, when the Ravens say “next man up” after one its players goes down with another injury, the pipeline of talent is limited.

There really is no other way to say it except football is at a crossroads. The rules are strangling the life out of the game, while the competitive youth of America looks to other sports to play.

Sticking with its current strategy will mean the death of the NFL in a decade.

Evolve or die.

JERRY'S
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October 23
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are the ravens in need of a complete rebuilding job?


I have a feeling this is going to get worse -- potentially a lot worse -- before it gets better.

I'm sure that's not what you want to hear, but it's looking like the Ravens are in the beginning stages of a massive downward spiral after yesterday's 24-16 loss to the Vikings.

It's ugly right now.

And I don't see much help on the way.

"I know we don't have much for you, Joe, but try and make something out of it, will ya?"

The roster you see now is what you're going to see for the rest of the season, give or take a journeyman or three the Ravens sign from here to the finish line. Injuries have stripped the organization of any quality they had back in early September -- and even then, they were already somewhat shorthanded.

I love how people say, "You can't use injuries as an excuse." If you're a mail carrier and you break your ankle, are you walking the route the following Monday? Someone else is, of course, and it remains to be seen whether or not that fill-in mail carrier is as efficient as you.

Griff Whalen might be a nice guy, but he's not as adept at being a NFL wide receiver as is Mike Wallace. That's just a fact.

But the Ravens and their downward spiral aren't just about injuries, either.

Injuries have decimated the team, that's true. But there's more going on and plenty of other reasons why the team stinks right now.

The defense got pushed and shoved all over the field yesterday in Minnesota. If the Vikings had any offensive playmakers themselves, that game would have resembled the September 24th thrashing in London. Kai Forbath kicked six field goals. If the Vikings convert just three of those into touchdowns, it's a 45-16 romp.

Baltimore's offense was terrible, again, but you can almost expect that given who they had out there on the field. And Minnesota's defense is solid, don't forget.

It was a glorious mismatch. The Ravens, with hardly anything "special" on offense, going up against a Vikings defense that was foaming-at-the-mouth all afternoon.

The Ravens were lucky to score one offensive touchdown, truth be told.

But this swoon is more than just injuries and inexperience and player personnel mismatches.

The defense has nearly all of their talent available. Why are they struggling? And please don't channel your inner Dean Pees and start huffing and puffing about how the Vikings only kicked six field goals and scored one touchdown on Sunday. You'll just embarrass yourself with that stance.

The Vikings, with a bum at quarterback, their best wide receiver out, and a limited offense at best, went up and down the field on the Ravens. Like most teams with quality issues, though, they couldn't finish the job and get the ball in the end zone. Sounds familiar, huh?

No one on defense made a play yesterday. Not one that mattered, anyway. What's happened to Terrell Suggs? C.J. Mosely? Mattew Judon? Eric Weddle? Even Brandon Williams, who returned yesterday after a 4-game absence...he had some hopeful moments in Minneapolis, but for the most part he was a non-factor.

We can understand why the offense stinks. The quarterback is definitely rattled. The line is a potpouri of second and third stringers. The wide receivers are better suited for James Madison of the CAA. And the running backs are just guys who carry the ball. It adds up to mediocrity, and that's being kind.

But the defense? They should be better. That's my humble opinion, of course. You might see it differently.

The other pressing issue centers on the coaching staff.

Would a change at either coordinator position spark a resurgence on that side of the ball?

It's hard to say.

There's no one out there on the open market you could possibly bring in mid-season that would make an impact. Things -- you'll get a chuckle here -- would actually get worse if the Ravens plucked someone from their living room and gave them a coaching gig right now.

But something has to give, soon, particularly on offense, where the Ravens continue to lack any kind of imagination or creativity on a week-to-week basis.

I'm not a big fan of "fire for effect", but keeping Marty Mornhingweg around seems kind of pointless at this juncture of the campaign. He can't possibly be retained in 2018, no matter if John Harbaugh is still the coach (50/50 at best at this point) or someone else is in the top seat next season.

The only natural move right now would be to give Greg Roman the interim offensive coordinator position. Given my options, that's probably what I'd do today if I'm John Harbaugh. It's not Mornhinweg's fault, per se, but something has to kick-start the Baltimore offense -- soon -- or Harbaugh's staring at a 7-9 record.

There's no question the injury bug has crushed the Ravens. But there's a lot more to it than just those injuries. The roster is depleted. There's no depth. They invested a lot of money in the quarterback after the 2012 Super Bowl win and have slowly but surely reduced the amount of quality they've surrounded him with.

This is starting to look like the beginning stages of a complete rebuilding process.

An aging, veteran quarterback, a severe lack of high quality skill position players, and an overall lack of depth -- that's the recipe for a franchise that needs a re-boot.

The fans won't like it. And let's self-scout ourselves for a minute and be honest. We're not the most patient bunch in the world. We want our wins and we want them now.

So, while a rebuild is probably the best option for the Ravens, I'm not 100% certain it can be sold that way to the fan base and sponsors. People like to use the fancy term "re-tool" instead of "re-build" as a way of softening the blow, but the reality is the Ravens have been "re-tooling" for a few years now and it's not working out for them.

This is all going to likely cost John Harbaugh his job. That's too bad, because he's been a good soldier in Baltimore. But if they finish 6-10 or 7-9, which right now you'd have to say is their expected final record, retaining Harbaugh is going to be a tough sell for Steve Bisciotti.

And while John has been an excellent head coach, his coaching staff selections haven't always panned out. If he's forced to send Mornhinweg packing sometime soon, that's yet another scarlet letter for Harbs, who not only kept Mornhinweg after the 2016 campaign but has continously supported him this season while the offense struggles and the losses pile up.

It's going to get (more) ugly before it gets better. The Ravens might squeak out a Thursday night home win over Miami, but that won't change the dynamic of this season. This is a franchise with significant problems at every level; scouting, drafting, coaching and playing.

That's the truth. It hurts.

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maybe next april you'll listen to me!


I know of at least one of you out there (DJ) who took advantage of my wisdom and cashed in on Saturday night when the Astros beat the Yankees and advanced to the World Series.

"Put $500 each on the Dodgers and Astros when your picks came out last spring," DJ wrote to me on Sunday. "We'll be having a nice Christmas thanks to you!"

After three Cy Young awards (and likely a 4th this year), Clayton Kershaw finally gets to pitch in a World Series.

That's what I'm here for, friends.

Yes, I gave you Dodgers-Astros on a silver platter last April here at #DMD, predicting that World Series match-up and a 4-2 Dodgers win in the 2017 Fall Classic.

Oh, and don't forget that Sergio Garcia-wins-the-Masters selection I also handed out last April. Wow...April was a really good month for me, come to think of it.

Truth be told, now that I've seen it all unfold, I think the Astros are going to win this series against Los Angeles. They have too much hitting and more than enough pitching to get the job done. I know their bullpen isn't all that great, but as we saw on Saturday night when Houston tag-teamed New York with Morton and McCullers, there are more than enough arms available to work short stints in the post-season, particularly if the series goes to six or seven games.

I'm excited for this series, though. I think it's going to be a good one.

Maybe one of these days we'll even get to see the Orioles play in a World Series again.

And even though they've been extinguished, finally, I think it's fair for all of us to be nervous about what the future has in store for the Yankees. Not only is their current roster filled with quality young players, but they have 4-6 guys "down on the farm" who are a year or two away from making their presence felt in the big leagues. Uggghhhh...

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The Pottsville Maroons
1925 NFL Champions



Pottsville, Pennsylvania lies 135 miles northeast of Baltimore. To visit, take I-83 North as far as it goes. Just after crossing the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg, transition left onto I-81 North. Proceed about 50 miles and take Exit 119 for Pottsville, which you'll come to after a ten-minute drive along a semi-charming country road. Or you could take the train!

If you happen to be in an adventuresome state of mind and have an hour to kill, first take a detour and ride through the town of Centralia, a nearby near ghost-town under which a vein of coal has been burning since 1963. The town had at that time over a thousand people. Now you can count the number of residents on two hands, even if you've had three fingers amputated. The smell of smoke permeates the air, and you can see smoke percolating up through the ground in some places. The surface land looks like a moonscape. It's downright eerie. In 1992 the governor invoked eminent domain and condemned all the buildings in the town. In 2002, in an act that feels strangely odd to describe in writing, the U. S. Postal service revoked Centralia's zip code.

The Henry Clay Monument in Pottsville was built in 1852 and renovated in 1985. The 15-foot tall marble statue of Clay stands atop a 40-foot Doric column made of iron.

When you roll into Pottsville, I respectfully suggest you do two things. First, take a ride up near the apex of S. Second St., to where you can see the Henry Clay Monument up reasonably close. Because Clay was a politician who represented the state of Kentucky, first in the U. S. House of Representatives and later for two terms in the Senate, the reason for the statue must be explained. In the early nineteenth century, coal was discovered in and around Pottsville. And not just any coal, but what ultimately turned out to be a two-mile by 10-mile vein of the purest anthracite coal ever found on earth. Henry Clay was a strong supporter of protective tariffs on subsidized foreign coal. These tariffs made Pottsville's coal competitive in the American marketplace. Fortunes were made by the coal barons and colliery jobs were plentiful. Pottsville and the whole of Pennsylvania returned Clay's favor by supporting him in his three unsuccessful runs for the presidency (in 1824, 1832, and 1844) and in two other unsuccessful runs he made for his party's nomination for president (in 1840 and 1848). Soon after Clay died in 1852, Pottsville built the memorial to him.

Tommy O'Reilly's Club 18

The second thing to do is navigate to W. Market St. at N 18th St., where you'll find a very red building housing the Club 18. Go in, belly up to the bar, order a 45-cent Yuengling draft, and ask for Mr. Tommy O'Reilly, the proprietor of the establishment. When he presents, introduce yourself and inform him of the purpose of your visit to Pottsville.

On entering the club you might at first think it to be nothing more than a small-town dive. Discard that first impression from your mind. Club 18 is one of the political nerve centers of both the town of Pottsville and of Schuylkill County [pronounced Skoó-Kull - hence the term for locals, Skooks, which rhymes with 'dukes.']. Because I'm not a name dropper, I can't drop names, but over the course of almost 50 years of intermittent patronage of the Club I have seen therein the coach of a highly regarded Division I basketball team, several PGA Tour players, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, more than a few famous rockers and country musicians, a Nobel Prize laureate, and I'm told that a disproportionate number of New York studio musicians, both jazz and classical, hail from Schuylkill Country and often visit the club when returning home. And you will find, after no more than 10 minutes of pleasant conversation with Tommy O'Reilly, that you are chatting with one of the intellectual giants of our time.

And what the hell – I will drop a name. The purpose of this seeming digression is actually a buildup to the story of the Maroons, and I hope it will serve to illustrate just how very interesting the town of Pottsville is, and how un-impossible it is for a town of 18,000 people [one-fourth the population of Green Bay] to be the city that hosted and supported an NFL champion.

Some years ago, I ventured to Pottsville to visit my mom. Before going to her home, I observed protocol and stopped at Club 18 to pay my respects to Tommy. He seemed not interested in talking – unusual for him, as he was always interested in news of Baltimore – and instead pointed out Wilford Brimley, who was seated at the bar.

"Go say 'hi' to him," Tommy says. I decline, not wanting to disturb or intrude on Tommy's patron. Tommy insisted and I again demurred. Tommy then took my arm and led me over to him.

"This is George," Tommy says. "He's from Baltimore. He loves golf." Then Tommy walks away.

I tell him I don't mean to intrude, but that Tommy had insisted. He says "That's OK," and we chat pleasantly for a time. Then after a while I just can't resist telling him that he was scary good in Absence of Malice.

A bemused look comes over his face, and he asks, "Who do you think I am?"

"You're Wilford Brimley," I say.

"Nope," he says, "I'm Mike Cowan." (Note: Cowan was the one-time caddie for Tiger Woods and later worked for Jim Furyk.)

Ten or 15 years later I was working as a shrimp fisherman on an island in the Gulf of Mexico, a great place to fish. We'd catch the shrimp from 3:00 am to 5:00 am on a boat that made Forrest Gump's craft seem like a luxury yacht, then transport them to the shop for sale as bait, starting at 6:00 am. One morning after grading and sorting the shrimp, I was cleaning the holding tanks. The shop owner, a golf fan like me, came in and said, "Guess who's sitting in the parking lot waiting for us to open? It's Fluff Cowan."

"Really!" I say. "I met him once. I'll open up early so he doesn't have to wait."

I walk out to his Jeep to tell him he can score his shrimp before we officially open. He thanks me. Then I tell him we met a long time ago, at the Club 18 in Pottsville.

He looks at me carefully in the dim morning light, then says, "I've been in Club 18 a few times over the years, but I'm sorry, I don't remember meeting you there."

It was a long time ago, I tell him. And then sheepishly, to possibly jog his memory, I say, "I'm the moron who thought you were Wilford Brimley."

"Fascinating," he says, shaking his head, "damn fascinating. I am Wilford Brimley."

The Yuengling tunnel into Sharp Mountain. Here no on-duty Prohibition-era revenuer or law-enforcement officer ever trod.

You can, if you like, visit the Yuengling Brewery. It's at 420 Mahantongo Street, across from the boyhood home of Pottsville's most honored man of letters, short-story author and novelist John O'Hara. It's sort of a touristy thing to do, although they do serve fresh lager on the house and – if you're not claustrophobic – you can walk the tunnel into the mountain – dug by thirsty coal miners – to where beer was brewed during Prohibition. This secure and nearly impossible to find setup allowed Yuengling Brewery to remain in operation during that time of national insanity while other breweries closed for the duration, and allows Yuengling to claim the title of America's Oldest Brewery.

The Pottsville Eleven was an independent professional football team that played its home games at Minersville Park, a high-school field with a capacity of 15,000 fans. The team was composed of local coal miners and firefighters, former college football players, and some former NFL players who could earn more playing for the Eleven than for the premier professional league at the time. In 1924, the team changed its name to the Maroons, because, so the story goes, when new uniforms were ordered, they were delivered with bright maroon jerseys. In the same year, the team was purchased for $1,500 by local surgeon John "Doc" Streigel. Streigel joined with owners of football teams in northeastern Pennsylvania coals towns Gilberton, Edwardsville, and Coaldale, and they formed the Anthracite League.

The Pottsville Maroons won the 1924 Anthracite League championship. Their level of dominance was high – so high that Doc Streigel challenged the best teams in the NFL to play exhibition games at the end of the season. No team accepted. Later that year, the Maroons were invited to join the NFL for the 1925 season. Streigel accepted.

In the NFL of the 1920s, the team with the best record was named the league champion. In the last week of the 1925 regular season [meaning scheduled games, and before post-season exhibitions were booked], the winner of the Pottsville Maroons / Chicago Cardinals game would hold the NFL's best record. The game was scheduled for late November at Chicago's home field.

About that game, The Chicago Tribune's football correspondent wrote, "In the face of a driving attack by the Eastern eleven, the Cardinals curled up and were smeared in the snow on the gridiron at Comiskey Park yesterday, 21 to 7."

Thus, the Pottsville Maroons became the 1925 NFL Champions.

At this point, things begin to get political – that is, murky and dirty – so buckle up and we'll detail them as succinctly as we can.

In this era, the raging and paramount question among sports scholars was: Which had the better football teams, colleges or the NFL? Doc Streigel intended to answer this question.

In 1924, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, coached by Knute Rockne, went undefeated in the regular season. This team was led by its backfield, described in exquisitely beautiful and probably immortal prose by New York Herald Tribune sportswriter Grantland Rice in a column on Notre Dame's win over the powerful Army team:

"Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again.

"In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below."

(click to enlarge)

Notre Dame then smashed Stanford in the Rose Bowl, 27-10. There was no doubt the Irish were the collegiate national champions, and many if not most rated them the best team of all time in any league.

The Four Horsemen graduated in June of 1925, ending their collegiate football careers. The Notre Dame team of 1925 finished with seven wins, but were shut out by both Army and Nebraska, and they played Penn State to a 0-0 tie.

Doc Streigel contacted one of the Horsemen, former quarterback Harry Stuhldreher. Together they hatched the idea of creating a team to be called The Notre Dame All-Stars, and which would consist of most of the 1925 Notre Dame team, and would also include former stars, foremost among them the Four Horsemen. The game was deemed an exhibition game, which allowed the college players to earn some money, for a delightful change, over the table. The Four Horsemen signed on to play, but demanded appearance money that could not be met from ticket sales from the Maroons' small park, which could hold only 15,000 fans [some reports peg the capacity at only 6,000]. For increased capacity, Doc Streigel leased Shibe Park [renamed Connie Mack Stadium in 1953] in Philadelphia, about 90 miles from Pottsville, and which for football games could hold slighly more than 30,000.

Shibe Park main entrance on Opening Day, 1909. Shibe Park stands in the 1913 World Series.

In 1925, the National Football League consisted of 20 teams. The scores of Pottsville's games are shown within the table ["W" means the Maroons won; bold blue text signifies the league-championship game.]:

Akron Pros
W 21-0
Buffalo Bisons
W 28-0
Canton Bulldogs
W 28-0
Chicago Bears
Chicago Cardinals
W 21-7
Cleveland Bulldogs
W 24-6
Columbus Tigers
W 20-0
Dayton Triangles
Detroit Panthers Duluth Kelleys Frankford Yellow Jackets
L-20-0; W 49-0
Green Bay Packers
W 31-0
Hammond Pros Kansas City Cowboys Milwaukee Badgers New York Giants
Pottsville Maroons Providence Steam Roller
L 6-0: W 34-0
Rochester Jeffersons
W 14-6
Rock Island Independents

Each team was granted a franchise for a prescribed geographic area, and was guaranteed that no other NFL team would be granted a franchise to play its home games within that area.

Shibe Park was located in North Philadelphia within what was indisputably the franchise territory of the Frankford Yellow Jackets. When the Maroons / Notre Dame All-Stars game was announced, the owner of the Yellow Jackets told Doc Streigel that he wanted a piece of the action because the game was to be played on his turf. Streigel refused. A protest was made to the Roger Goodell of the day [one Joe Carr], who, he later remembered, told Streigel that if the game were played, the Maroons would be suspended from the league. Streigel's account differed — he remembered being given league permission to play this one special game on the Yellow Jackets' territory.

The game was played on December 12th. Knute Rockne did not bother to come to Philly, believing the game would be a walkover. Horseman Harry Stuhldreher coached the team and played quarterback. Heavily-favored Notre Dame jumped out to an early 7-0 lead. At halftime, Doc Streigel got a telegram from Commissioner Carr, informing that the team was fined $500 and suspended from the league. Perhaps planting in Coach Rockne's mind the idea for his 1928 "Win One for the Gipper" speech, Streigel read the telegram to his team, which, suitably inflamed, held the Irish All-Stars scoreless in the second half while scoring six in the third period and kicking a field goal with 35 seconds remaining in the game to win, 9-7.

Now the plot really thickens. With Pottsville on the ropes, players on the Chicago Cardinals thought there was a chance Pottsville would also be stripped of the league title, which would then be awarded to them. But first it was necessary to prop up their won-loss record. A game against the Milwaukee Badgers was quickly scheduled, even though the team had all but disbanded for the season. Undeterred, Chicago fullback Art Folz hired a bunch of high-school players who attended his alma mater to play for the Badgers, telling them that the game was a "practice game," and one that would not affect their amateur statuses.

The Cardinals mashed this ersatz team, 58-0. But the plot soon unraveled. Commissioner Carr ruled that the game would not count and would be strickern from NFL records. However, it never was stricken, and remains on the books to this day. Carr banned the Cardinals' Art Folz for life. This lifetime ban lasted only a few months before being lifted, in hopes of persuading Folz not to sign with the upstart American Football League, which was recruiting available players. Cardinals owner Chris O'Brien was fined $1,000 by the league. This fine was later rescinded when O'Brien sent a letter to Carr, informing him that he was shocked that Folz had hired a bunch of high schoolers to play for the Badgers, and that the fine was "an inconvenience."

The league soon stripped the Maroons of the 1925 title. What better way to show gratitude to the team whose victory over the greatest college team of all time gave the struggling NFL much needed credibility and even some measure of prestige? The game did not elevate pro football to the level of pro baseball [that would come with the Baltimore Colts' overtime victory over the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL Championship Game, styled The Greatest Game Ever Played], but did put most of the NFL teams on solid financial footing by guaranteeing good attendance at games.

Doc Streigel had a trophy made for his team. It is the size of an official football, carved from a solid block of Pottsville Anthracite coal. The surviving members of the Maroons presented the trophy to the NFL in 1964, and it is now on display in the Hall of Fame in Canton. (click to enlarge).

Chicago Cardinals owner Chris O'Brien was informed that his team, by virtue of finishing with the league's second-best record and in apparent disregard of Chicago's shenanigans in the Badgers scandal, had been declared the 1925 league champion, and was asked to make arrangements to pick up the trophy so signifying. To his credit, he said to the assembled owners [I'm probaby paraphrasing here], "Dudes, they came to our house, Comiskey Park, and stomped us, 21-7, in a game the entire football-watching world knew damn well was for the championship. Ain't no way on God's green earth I'm ever laying a finger on that trophy!"

What class they had back in the day! And incidentally, astute observers might note that NFL Commissioner Carr's series of decisions regarding the Maroons and Cardinals set the precedent for the continuing flurry of bonehead decisions that issue from the commissioner's office even to this day.

The NFL suspension of the Maroons was lifted in time for the 1926 season, most likely because of NFL fear that the best team in the country might join the American Football League, an upstart enterprise founded to showcase the talents of All-Americans Red Grange and George "Wildcat" Walker. The Maroons, unfortunately, could not match their excellence of 1925 in the next several seasons, and attendance flagged. The team moved to Boston in 1929 and folded at the close of the season.

In 1933 the Chicago Cardinals franchise was purchased by Charles Bidwell. Bidwell thought that he could boost the reputation of his team by claiming the 1925 NFL title, and advertised the team as former league champions. Descendants of Charles Bidwell still own the Cardinals today. [The team was moved first to St. Louis, and in 1988 to Arizona, which it now calls home.] Because of this blatant treachery, the good people of Pottsville have placed a curse on the Cardinals [including, unofficially of course, Catholic, Muslim, Presbyterian, and Jewish citizens, as well as taxicab drivers and even my own mother, who was otherwise skeptical of the supernatural], and were not at all surprised when in 2009 their neighbors from Pittsburgh came from behind to score a touchdown with less than a minute remaining to insure the Cardinals remained Super Bowl-free.

In 1963, in response to the town of Pottsville's request to reconsider the Maroons' case, the NFL appointed a special commission to investigate. The committee voted 12–2 in favor of continuing to recognize the Cardinals as 1925 champions. The lone dissenters were Art Rooney and George Halas, the then-owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Bears, respectively. In 2003, the issue was brought up again during the league's October owners meeting. However, the NFL voted 30–2 not to reopen the case, with the lone Maroons supporters being the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles, the league's two Pennsylvania teams. After the vote in favor of keeping the 1925 title with the Cardinals, Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell wrote an angry letter to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, in it calling the owners a group of “cowardly barons.” Rendell berated the National Football League and declared he would have no more communication with league officials until they grant the Pottsville Maroons the 1925 title. The governor ended the letter saying, “I am closing with the wish that every NFL franchise except for the Eagles and the Steelers lose large quantities of money.”

On June 30, 2003 Joseph Cyril "Joe" Marhefka died at the age of 101. In addition to being Lafayette College's oldest alumnus, he was the last surviving member of the 1925 National Football League Champions, the Pottsville Maroons.

This piece was contributed to #DMD by Pottsville native George McDowell, our right hand man and world traveler who still thinks Tiger Woods has a chance to win the 2018 Masters.


Fleming, David. Breaker Boys: The NFL's Greatest Team and the Stolen 1925 Championship (New York: ESPN Books; 2007). Amazon.com

Genovese, Vincent. The Pottsville Maroons and the NFL's Stolen Championship of 1925 (Baltimore: PublishAmerica; 2008). Amazon.com

The clip at the beginning of the piece was lifted from Berth Marks, a 1929 film directed by Lewis Foster and starring Laurel and Hardy. It chronicles the misdventures of Stan and Ollie as they work their way to Pottsville, where they have a gig as vaudeville musicians.

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#DMD GAME DAY
Week 7


Sunday — October 22, 2017
Volume XXXIX — Issue 22

Baltimore Ravens at Minnesota Vikings

1:00 PM EDT

U.S. Bank Stadium
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Spread: Vikings -4½


the purple team is winning today


Late October is far too early for a "must win" game on the calendar and you know how much I object to that phrase unless the game truly is, "win or go home", but this one today in Minnesota is pretty important for the Baltimore Ravens.

Yes, I'm aware that NFC games (when you're an AFC team, that is) are probably the least important of all the games, since they hardly ever factor into a tie-breaker situation, but if you're trying to win 10 or 11 games and make the playoffs, the four you play against the NFL are still important in the quest for those win totals.

Make no mistake about it, this is an important game today for John Harbaugh and his Ravens.

Will we see this look on Joe's face at the end of today's game in Minnesota? #DMD thinks so.

The good news? Minnesota's not all that good. Sure, they're 4-2, which is a tick better than the Ravens' record, but they're 3-1 at home and two of their four wins were gifts; at Chicago and home vs. an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay team. (Yes, I know the Ravens lost to the Bears -- but Chicago stinks. You know that...)

And they don't have Stefon Diggs today. And Case Keenum is their starting quarterback. In other words: Minnesota is ripe for the picking.

So, too, are the Ravens, I'm afraid.

Their offense is far more cold than hot.

Their defense is capable of giving up a big play at the wrong time.

And, in all, the Ravens just have problems putting it all together for the same three hours.

They're as ripe for the picking as are the Vikings, I guess.

But something tells me the Ravens are due for some market correction today.

This one might look a lot like that game in Oakland did a couple of weeks ago, you know, when Joe Flacco opened the game with a 40-yard heave to Mike Wallace and it was 14-0 before you made your first visit to the Red Zone channel.

I don't think the Ravens are losing to Case Keenum.

Then again, I didn't suspect they'd lose to Mitch Trubisky, either. And they did.

But Case Keenum? With no Stefon Diggs at his disposal? That's an uphill climb. Too uphill, if you ask me.

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keys to today's game


For the Ravens --

Terrell Suggs has been relatively quiet since a bang-up first two games of the season. Today would be a good day for "the old Suggs" to show up and pester Vikings QB Case Keenum.

Capitalize on 3rd down -- The Vikings' defense is #1 in the league in third down situations at 25.0% (18 allowed 1st downs in 72 attempts). Since "avoiding" third downs isn't really practical, the next best thing is to try and capitalize as often as possible on 3rd down situations. For the Ravens today, something in the 35%-40% range would be outstanding, and would keep multiple drives alive instead of turning the ball back over to Keenum and the Minnesota offense.

Don't give up on the run early -- Minnesota's run defense is 6th in the NFL, allowing 3.2 yards per-carry and 78 yards on the ground per-game. They look like a formidable bunch, but that doesn't mean the Ravens should abandon the run and try to wear out Flacco's arm with one of those 40-throw afternoons. Joe's career record when he throws more than 35 times isn't all that good, remember. The Ravens need to produce a nice mix of run and pass today and would be well served to give Collins and Allen at least 15 carries each. If the Ravens can crack the 100-yard mark in rushing, they have a good chance to win.

Pressure Keenum -- -- There's no reason to believe Case Keenum can beat the Ravens today, but if they can't put pressure on him, like any NFL quarterback, the journeyman can make some quality throws. The Ravens need to create pressure off the edges and force Keenum to move around in the pocket. Making his job tougher will make the Ravens' job much easier. Get. To. The. Quarterback. Four or more sacks should be the target number for the Ravens today.


For the Vikings --

Make Flacco uncomfortable -- I'm sure the Vikings have seen the evidence on game tape this week. When Flacco has time to throw, he can still make big-league completions, a la the Raiders game on October 8. When Flacco is pressured, his game goes in the tank. Pretty simple. But the Vikings have to take that strategy from the film room to the field today. If they can pressure Flacco, the results are very predictable. Lots of check-downs, plenty of short passes, an interception or two -- and a long day for the Baltimore offense.

Trick plays work -- The Ravens were burned by a trick play last week against the Bears, the Jaguars pulled off a fake punt against them earlier this year -- that's two in just six games. If I'm the Vikings, I dial up a trick play or two today and pull one of them out when the time is right. The Ravens defense is particularly susceptible to a play out-of-the-ordinary.

Test Brandon Williams early and often -- If Brandon Williams plays today, the Ravens will likely be better against the run then they've been in the past few weeks. But Williams hasn't played in four weeks, so Minnesota would be well served to go at him early and often and see how much gas he has in the tank. With Keenum at quarterback, running the ball is probably a better game plan for Minnesota anyway. Testing Williams should be part of the Vikings game plan.

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how drew sees today's game


This is what the Ravens do.

They beat Oakland.

They lose at home to Chicago.

And just when you think they're about to crash, they rebound and win in Minnesota.

In a game similar to the one we saw two weeks ago vs. the Raiders, the Ravens jump out to a surprising 10-0 lead on an early Flacco-to-Ben-Watson TD throw and a field goal from Justin Tucker after an inteception by Eric Weddle.

Baltimore eventually leads 13-3 at the half, largely controlling the clock and running the ball effectively against the Vikings defense.

Minnesota scores a 3rd quarter TD to make it 13-10, but the Ravens counter with a Buck Allen TD catch-and-run from 9 yards out early in the 4th quarter to extend the lead back to ten points at 20-10.

The Vikings kick two 4th quarter field goals to make it 20-16, but that's how it ends in Minnesota today, as the Ravens pull out a much-needed victory.

Flacco finishes the afternoon going 17-for-31 with 219 yards. Alex Collins carries the ball 14 times for 67 yards and Buck Allen lugs it 13 times for 41 yards.

Glory
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show me the money


After a 3-2 Sunday last week, #DMD is slowly climbing back to the .500 mark. And with all of that money in my pocket from correctly predicting the Dodgers and Astros in the World Series back in April (more on that tomorrow), I figure we can take an out-of-the-ordinary gamble this week.

Last Monday, a reader suggested a contest between #DMD and reader "Ghost of JRob". I reached out to "Ghost" and exchanged an idea, which was part of the game plan until yesterday, when I decided to change it up a bit.

A week ago, "the coin" went 3-2.

Like any good manager in baseball, you have to know when the time is right to go to the bullpen.

I'm a good manager.

So, today, I'm going with the Ghost of JRob's picks and offering them as #DMD's official selections. We're in this thing together...

Next week, I might let my 10-year old son make the picks. Start 'em young, I say.

Here are Ghost's picks for today's games. Wager large, friends. I have a feeling he's going to come in and strike out the side.

Oh, and the commentary and win/lose predictions are all mine.


TITANS (-6.0) at BROWNS -- Cleveland isn't going 0-16, right? At some point, the other teams chakras aren't in line or the Browns get a visit from the football gods. Right? I'm not sure if "Ghost" thinks they're winning today, but I don't. I see Tennessee winning a tight one, but we're going with the Browns and the six points they're getting as the Titans prevail 22-20.


SAINTS (-4.0) AT PACKERS -- "Ghost" likes this one today in Green Bay and I would have as well. While I see the Packers struggling overall without Aaron Rodgers, it might still be a tall task for the Saints to come to Green Bay and win. Don't be surprised if the Packers win this one this afternoon. We're going with the Packers plus four points in this one.


JAGUARS (-3.0) AT COLTS -- My how the times have changed. Jacksonville is GIVING the Colts three points in Indianapolis. But the Colts stink, so I guess it makes sense. Still, at home, getting three...that was enough to get "Ghost" to side with the Colts on this one, so let's take Indy and those three points as they surprise J'Ville with a 23-19 win.


CARDINALS AT RAMS (-3.0) -- You think the Ravens and Jaguars were tired flying from the East Coast to London? What about Phoenix and Los Angeles teams doing it? Holy cow. In a game that is shaping up as an NFC West "showdown", the Rams are three-point favorites in Twickenham (England) today. "Ghost" likes Los Angeles in this one, so we'll take the Rams and give up three points to the Cardinals as L.A. continues their surprising run with a 31-25 win.


SEAHAWKS (-4.0) AT GIANTS -- That's asking a lot of the Seahawks, isn't it? Flying across country (granted, the 4 pm start helps) and having to give four points to the Giants, who are coming off of their first win of the season last week. "Ghost" likes the home team here, so let's take the Giants and those four points and while we're at it, let's call an upset, too, as New York somehow wins another game, 23-20.


BEST BET OF THE DAY -- Let's go with the Rams (-3.0) in the U.K., giving three to the Cardinals.


RECORD TO DATE: 12-18

LAST WEEK'S RECORD: 3-2

BEST BET OF THE DAY: 3-3



Saturday
October 21
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issue 21
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could orioles be watching a 2018 starting pitcher tonight?


Never in a million years did I think the Orioles could land C.C. Sabathia.

But they should consider trying to bring him to Baltimore.

That's right. C.C. Sabathia in Baltimore.

A potential Hall of Famer someday, C.C. Sabathia could have another year or two left in him and the Orioles are in need of improved starting pitching in 2018. C.C. in Baltimore, perhaps?

He's a helluva lot better than Wade Miley, no matter what happens tonight in Game 7 in Houston where the Yankees face the Astros for the right to play in the World Series.

First, the negatives.

He's 37 years old.

He's had his tires rotated more than once, obviously. Sabathia has logged 3100-plus innings in his career.

There was a spell there a few years back where he looked finished. He lost a bunch of weight, tried to get "fit", and wound up looking nothing like the a former Cy Young award winner.

But over the last two years, Sabathia has come back to life. In 2017, He threw 148 innings with a 3.69 ERA. In 2016, he produced a 3.90 ERA in 30 starts.

In his last 57 big league starts -- all in the American League East, remember -- Sabathia (roughly) has a 3.80 ERA and a WHIP of roughly 1.300.

The Orioles wish they had a starter with those numbers in 2016-2017 combined.

Sure, he'll command a decent salary next season. You probably will have to give him a bonus year to get him out of New York, and there's always a chance he wants to stay a Yankee and takes whatever fair offer they give him.

Who would you rather give 2 years/$25 million to -- Ubaldo Jimenez or C.C. Sabathia?

There are other free agent pitchers set to hit the market in 2018. Most are younger, of course. None have Sabathia's career pedigree, which carries with it a decent price tag. He's not going to command $23 million annually anymore, but he won't pitch for $5.2 million next season, either.

Andrew Cashner's a free agent. He'd be worth considering.

So, too, would Derek Holland. And he's "only" 31 years old.

Lance Lynn will be available, too. He's not bad.

Those guys are all younger than Sabathia. By a lot. But they don't know how to pitch like he does.

I have no idea what it would cost to pry him away from the Yankees, and that's assuming, A) he wants to pitch next season, B) he would be willing to leave N.Y. and, C) the Yankees aren't interested in him for 2018 and beyond.

There are lots of moving parts, but if I'm the Orioles I put Sabathia on my holiday wish list and try to get him for one year, knowing I might have to give him two years to make the deal happen.

Or we could just bring back Wade Miley and keep losing...

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this, that and the other


I don't know about you, but baseball playoff Game 7's are about the best things in sports, and we get treated to one tonight in Houston when the Astros host the Yankees.

Houston won last night's affair, 7-1, behind yet another masterful performance from Justin Verlander. He's now 4-0 in this post-season and was just what the doctor ordered for the Astros last night, as he quelled a New York offense that had gained a lot of steam in their three wins in New York earlier in the week.

And how good is this Jose Altuve kid? Obviously the easy answer is "very good", as he's likely to win the MVP award in the American League, but this is the most I've watched him up-close-and-with-attention and I have to admit he is one special player.

Yes, the Yankees have their "Judge" and all, and that kid is good, too, but Altuve is a legit franchise player.

If he went to the Braves tomorrow, Atlanta would throw a scare into the Nationals next season. That's how good he is, I think.

Alex Ovechkin has cooled off since scoring 7 goals in his first two games, but The Great Eight got the game-winner for the Caps last night in their 4-3 OT win at Detroit.

The Caps picked up a nice win in Detroit last night, 4-3 in overtime, with Alex Ovechkin scoring the game-winner on a power play in the extra session.

Beating the Red Wings in Detroit isn't quite as meaningful now as it was, say, a decade or so ago, but anytime you go up there and win, it's a plus. The Caps needed that one after getting lit up by those bums in Philadelphia last Saturday and then losing 2-0 at home to Toronto on Tuesday night.

It's fairly early in the NHL season, granted, but I'm not at all sold on the Capitals defense. Losing Karl Alzner was always going to hurt, there's no denying that, but I see their defensive corps holding them back in 2016-2017. I like Orlov, although he's not a game-changing kind of defensive player. And when he's healthy, Niskanen is fine. Carlson is always solid back there. And that's about it. The new kid, Christian Djoos, is showing signs of promise, but he's just learning the NHL game. And Brooks Orpik stinks.

There's your defensive round-up. There's not a lot of "meat" there.

They'll make the playoffs, of course, but I don't think the Caps can do any April-May-June damage with this defensive group. Then again, they've had decent-to-solid defenses in the past and haven't done anything of note in the playoffs. So...who knows?

We're two games into the NBA season and I'm already "LaVar Ball'd out", as the father of Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball gets more airtime than the kid himself following every Lakers game.

The player -- the one we should be focused on -- scored 29 points last night in a Lakers win at Phoenix.

He was much more impressive than on opening night (Thursday) in L.A. when Lonzo managed just three points in a loss to the Clippers.

After both games, Dad held court with the obliging media, and on both occasions, he proclaimed his son to be the "winner" of the night.

Thursday: "Yep, he only had three points. But guess who you're talking about? That's right, my son, Lonzo."

Friday: "Did you see what my son did tonight? 29 points. He couldn't be stopped. I told you..."

Either way, LaVar gets the spotlight.

I said back in the summer this guy is the worst kind of sports father there is. The more I see of him, the more I know I was right.

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Friday
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ravens offense in a "weird spot"


Yes, I know. That headline is no-brainer-of-the-day material, right?

Of course the Baltimore offense is in a "weird spot" this Sunday in Minnesota. They're coming off of a game where they failed to reach the end zone, unless you count that 2-point conversion late in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's overtime loss to the Bears.

So, what to do this Sunday?

Minnesota's defense is legit. The Ravens are going to need another performance like the one they produced in Oakland a couple of weeks ago, and logic plus the stats indicate the Vikings' defense is much more capable than were the Raiders back on October 8.

Fumbling has plagued Alex Collins in his NFL career, but when he holds on to the ball he's an offensive weapon for the Ravens.

On my weekly appearance on Glenn Clark Radio yesterday (I'm normally in on Friday, but circumstances this week warranted a Thursday visit), Glenn questioned me on how I thought the Ravens should attack the Vikings this Sunday.

The answer was easy. Accomplishing it might not be, though.

Having now watched John Harbaugh's team for six weeks, this is my general conclusion: For a bunch of different reasons, the Ravens can't throw the ball well. They've had spurts, yes, where they've looked like they know what they're doing, but in general, their passing game is woeful. But -- they can run the ball when they dedicate themselves to it.

Yes, just like in the passing game, there have been moments where the running attack has sputtered, but anyone who has watched the team play this season would agree they can run the ball as a unit much more effectively than they can pass the ball as a unit.

For starters, run blocking is an easier assignment for an offensive lineman.

Pass blocking requires a different set of tools. Some linemen can do both equally well, while others excel at run blocking but struggle protecting the passer.

The Ravens, I believe, are a much better run blocking unit.

Granted, we don't have Barry Sanders or Walter Payton back there running the ball for us. Our three mainstays are basically middle-of-the-road guys, but each of them has a skill set that makes them useful, if only for 10-15 rushes per-game.

Alex Collins is by far the back with the most to offer running the ball. He's shifty, more powerful than you might first think, and looks like he doesn't mind taking a hit or two.

Yes, his fumbling woes are a concern, but he can't get rid of them if he's not allowed to run and show that he's improved.

Buck Allen is the team's best pass catching option out of the backfield, so he's more of dual threat than is Collins. He's particularly valuable on 3rd-and-short, as you can hand the ball to him or dump it off (insert your "Flacco loves the dump off" joke here).

The combination of Bobby Rainey and Terrance West offers the same basic package. Nothing special, but occasionally useful.

This Sunday, the game plan in Minnesota should be simple. Run the ball.

I get it, you can't just run the ball every single play on offense. But let's work on the theory of "better the devil you know than the devil you don't."

The Baltimore offense isn't that good at throwing the ball.

The Baltimore offense is pretty decent at running the ball.

Let's run it.

Yes, I'm well aware that might ruffle Flacco's feathers. Remember in week one in Cincinnati when he only threw the ball 17 times in a 20-0 win over the Bengals? He politely and playfully griped about it after the game. Oh, by the way, the Ravens ran for 157 yards in that season opening win in Cincy.

I'd run the ball like a demon again this week in Minnesota and if Joe gripes, it would be more than fair for Harbaugh to say: "Yeah, well, if Joe would complete some more passes to our players, maybe we wouldn't have to dedicate ourselves to the run like that."

Alas, the coach would never be that mean publicly, but you know what I'm saying. Joe should worry about one thing: winning.

I'm also aware that a team that sells itself to running the ball isn't playing the game in a vacuum. The other team is going to figure that out and game-plan accordingly. I get it. "Well, we'll do what we do best and you try to stop us." That's what I'd say, anyway.

And it's not like by running the ball 35 times you're completely eschewing the option of throwing the ball. Flacco is still going to get the chance to air it out on occasion. Heck, if nothing else, it might actually help the Ravens offense that teams are slacking on Flacco and beefing up for a running game plan.

Here's what I know: In their three wins this season, the Ravens have rushed for yardage totals of 157, 136 and 143.

You've seen them try to throw the ball in their three losses, right?

You tell me what they should do this Sunday in Minnesota.

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pees gets testy about his defense


I like Dean Pees' spirit, truth be told.

I'm not sure he's actually right, mind you, but I like the fact that he stood up for his defense yesterday.

Whether this was a long-brewing blow-up or a reaction to something he heard or read from the media (that's my guess, by the way) in the wake of last week's loss to Chicago, Pees launched into a bit of a tirade yesterday.

Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees got testy with the media (and the fans) on Thursday afternoon in Owings Mills.

“Our problem is we gave up a big play in overtime," the defensive coordinator said. "That’s what happened. We gave up a big play. It’s not doom and gloom. It’s not the sky is falling. We’ve got to quit giving up the big plays. That’s it, bottom line. We missed a tackle and gave up a big play, and really not only Eric (Weddle). We had some other guys that should have been right around the ball, and we weren’t. So that’s our fault. We’ve got to get everybody to the ball. But whenever you win, you look at all of the negatives, and whenever you lose, sometimes you look at what is positive."

Fair enough on that point, I'd say. He's right about how coaches tend to look at wins (picking out the negative stuff to improve upon) and losses (figuring out what you did well and trying to maintain that level of success).

But then, Pees got really testy and started pointing at the empty stands at Ravens stadium.

“I’m tired of the sky falling around here. I really am,” Pees continued. “I’m really sick of it. You know, our defense last week on a third down-and-1, was that a third-and-critical-1? If they get that first down, is the game over? They’re taking a knee. What did we do? We stopped them. The Bears kicked the ball, got the ball forced. Half of the stands are gone, right? Everybody’s going home, and we run a punt back for a touchdown and tie the game up. So that’s a hell of a play, and I’m proud of the defense for doing that. When we went into overtime, what did we do on the first series? They got the ball, and what did we do? Stopped them. We just can’t give up a big play. Still, the bottom line, I’m still not trying to excuse that. I’m just saying I’m not doom and gloom. I’m not going to buy into that crap. We’re a pretty damn good defense, and if we quit giving up big plays, we’ll be damn good statistically. Enough said.”

Pees isn't happy.

Sounds like he's had enough of reading and hearing that his defense isn't all that great and he's definitely not pleased that fans left the stadium early and didn't give "his" defense a chance to keep the Ravens in the game, which, at the end anyway, they did.

But Pees also needs to understand this: At some point, you need to stop saying, "We need to do this..." and you need to -- here it comes -- "do this".

Pees keeps hammering on the fact that the Ravens have to "stop giving up the big play".

Well, then, sir, please get your defense to stop giving up the big play.

No one out there enjoys seeing the Ravens defense get shredded for a 57 yard run in overtime that sets up the other team's game-winning-field-goal. We'd much prefer you not all that to happen.

But when it does happen, like it did last Sunday against the Bears, Pees has to expect the questions and criticisms to follow.

He's a big boy. He's been around a long, long time. It's awfully hard to throw a "perfect game" in football. If you win 31-30, the offense did their part and the defense didn't. If you win 17-10, the defense did their part and the offense kept the other team in it too long.

Pees and his defense pitched a shut-out in week one at Cincinnati. He was thrilled with that performance, as he should have been.

Pees and his defense got lit up in their three losses to date. He shouldn't be happy with that. And, really, that's all he needs to say.

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this weekend in
english soccer


Contributed by #DMD's English Premier League Reporter
MATTHEW CARROLL


Matchday 9 of the English Premier League will move us past the quarter pole of the season when it kicks off later today and it may be time to ask the question, can anyone catch either of the Manchester sides? With both having yet to lose while leading the league in goals scored and goals allowed, they are threatening to make it a two-horse race and leave the rest of the league in their wake. Tune in to catch both this weekend and all the action live on the NBC family of networks and online at NBC Live Extra.

Saturday, October 21 (all times eastern)

7:30am – Watford @ Chelsea – Stamford Bridge, NBC Sports Network

Chelsea were dealt the shock of the weekend, with Crystal Palace scoring their first league goal in five months to end a scoreless drought of 731 minutes and improbably pick up their first three points of the campaign against the defending league champions and move the holders nine points behind current leaders Manchester City. Needing to right the ship after back to back losses, they will welcome Watford to Stamford Bridge to open the weekend, with the Hornets jumping the Blues in the table when they overturned a first half deficit with an injury time winner getting them past Arsenal 2-1.

After they were dismantled by the above-mentioned City only weeks ago, the win was a statement game for Watford as Marco Silva has the fourth-place Hornets looking like the surprise side of the year. They will be put to the test again early Saturday morning against Chelsea who, after losing only five games in the whole of last season, have dropped three in just eight this year but have lost just one of their eight all time Premier League meetings with the Hornets, winning five of the last seven (D2) and six of their last seven at Stamford Bridge (D1).

Sunday, October 22 (all times eastern)

Everton's Ronald Koeman could be looking for work soon, particularly if his squad can't beat Arsenal at home this Sunday.

8:30am – Arsenal @ Everton – Goodison Park, NBC Sports Network

While Arsenal were ultimately doomed by an injury time strike at Watford, it was Everton who used the games dying seconds to their advantage with a 90th minute penalty from Wayne Rooney rescuing a point against Premier League new boys Brighton and Hove Albion in a 1-1 draw. The result, which dropped the Toffees down to 16th in the table, is likely to do little to ease the growing pressure on manager Ronald Koeman’s sputtering side still searching for some sort of continuity in the final third when they return home to Goodison Park and welcome the Gunners to kick off the Sunday slate.

It will be tough to expect any sort of reprieve against the Gunners this weekend in front of their home faithful, who are likely to grow restless and turn on the Dutchmen at the first sign of setback following anther defeat in the Europa League yesterday and where, despite holding their own at Goodison Park as of late and walking away empty handed in only one of their last five meetings in the league (W2 D2) after failing to win any of the previous six, they have lost four of the last five with Arsenal and managed to take all three points in only two of their last twenty meetings in the league (L12 D6).

11am – Liverpool @ Tottenham - Wembley Stadium, NBC Sports Network

Tottenham won for the third week in a row to remain unbeaten in the league since their Matchday 2 defeat to Chelsea and consolidated their hold on third place in the table just below the Manchester sides, with Christian Eriksen’s strike early in the second half enough to see them past Bournemouth 1-0. The win was their first in the Premier League at their temporary home for the season and they will look to make it two in a row when they welcome Liverpool to Wembley Stadium in the penultimate matchup of the weekend, after the Reds drew with Manchester United in a goalless affair.

The draw was the third in their last four games as they were unable to find a way past a United defense that “parked the bus” in classic Jose Mourinho style and that I missed. Liverpool are unbeaten in their last ten meetings with Tottenham across all competitions, taking all three points in seven of those encounters and, after dropping their previous six visits to London, have not lost in their last four trips to the capital (W2 D2), with a similar result on Sunday allowing them to narrow the gap in the table with Spurs to only a single point and moving them back within sight of both Manchester sides.

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Thursday
October 19
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tiger's new swing creates optimism if nothing else


Hank Haney looked at the swing video Tiger Woods published earlier this week and made a startling statement: "He could win again with that golf swing," Haney said.

Those words shouldn't be brushed aside as a former teacher just being nice to his one-time student. Haney has been critical of Woods in the past, so there's no reason to think he's now suddenly gone soft and mushy on the guy who paid him a lot of money and won six major titles under his tutelage.

The big question, of course, isn't whether Tiger can actually win again on the PGA Tour. That's a secondary topic. The biggest issue is this: Can he stay healthy enough to win again?

With the release of a swing video earlier this week that shows Tiger Woods healthy and hitting golf balls again, could 2018 mark a successful return to the PGA Tour for the 14-time major champion?

And the answer to that might be in the golf swing that we're going to see in the video below, which Woods released earlier this week. It's a much "safer" swing than he's made in years past, with far less body movement through the ball and, presumably, less stress and torque on his back and neck.

In order for Woods to get -- and remain -- healthy, he has to figure out a way to not have his golf swing contribute to his body's breakdown.

It would appear he's worked hard to do that based on the video we'll see.

I've provided a voice-over throughout the video that quickly addresses some of the key elements of each swing from 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2017.

The swings are different, mainly because Tiger's body position in each is different. In some cases, it's dramatically different.

Tiger has used a variety of golf swings in his career. In his "youth", if you will, Butch Harmon had Tiger in a much more upright position -- akin to what he's doing now, really -- and had his club and hands more up in the air at the top of the backswing.

Under Haney, Tiger flattened out his swing, was able to play the ball much lower when called upon, and his hands were more involved in squaring the clubface than they would have been under Harmon.

In 2011, Tiger's work with Sean Foley had him in a much more pronounced "athletic posture" at address and Tiger was trying to "use the ground" at impact, which was a major teaching theory of Foley's back then -- and still is, today.

In the swing he just released, Woods is more upright, probably turning a bit less than in the past, and really using his arms and hands to take the club into the hitting area, with his body looking more "rounded" at impact and with less "down and up" movement associated with striking the ball.

The biggest thing, as I mention several times in the video, is Tiger's stance, which is now more open to the target line than in the past. He's trying to play a more simple shot, I'd say, and not worry so much about power. The more your feet are open to the target line, the better your chances for a square strike. You might lose a little bit of distance, but accuracy prevails.

And with Woods, my guess is that anything new he incorporates in his swing is done to benefit his back and neck.

There's nothing he would implement that could or would risk his health. Not at age 42 (in December).

I'm not as bullish on Tiger's potential return to the TOUR as some are in the industry. While there's no doubt he still knows how to play golf at a high level, I remain unconvinced that his body will take the punishment that's necessary to prepare, compete and -- a longshot here -- win again.

Remember, you can't just pull up to Magnolia Lane on April 2, 2018 and announce that you're on the property and that the locker room attendant should get another green jacket pressed and ready for the Butler Cabin ceremony. It would take, in my opinion, at least four or five tournaments leading up to the Masters for Woods to see if his body can handle the workload, for starters. Then, we'd actually get to see if his golf game has improved at all.

I'm still a naysayer when it comes to Tiger because of his health. But if he can get healthy and stay healthy -- and that's a huge, massive "IF" -- Woods could compete again out there.

Take a look at the video below if you're interested in seeing Tiger's swing since 2011 and how it's evolved over time.




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BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.



As the Ravens "boast" a disappointing 3-3 record to start 2017 and we settle in to what appears to be another season of dreadful offense in Baltimore, the annual routine of apportioning blame for the lackluster results is already in full swing.

There's been a lot of focus on quarterback Joe Flacco, and I must have read 3 dozen different articles demanding a new offensive coordinator already this season.

And more people seem to be laying the blame at head coach John Harbaugh's feet. After all, there have been 5 different coordinators in his tenure, and with the exception of one year under Gary Kubiak the results have been basically the same for all of them, despite differing systems, experience levels, and previous successes.

But I submit the biggest problem for the Ravens' offense is the guy putting the team together in the first place: General Manager Ozzie Newsome.

The architect of a number of "good" Ravens teams and also the guy who picked the players for the "bad" teams of late.

After all, the logic that identifies Harbaugh as the constant in the offense's struggles certainly applies to Newsome right? If anything it's even worse: The Ravens have seldom had a good offense throughout their entire existence, a time period that predates Harbaugh's reign but for which Ozzie has been around the entire time. And considering what we all know to be true about Ozzie's flaws, this shouldn't be that surprising to anyone.

The defining truth about Ozzie and, by extension, the Ravens' offense is that he absolutely can not evaluate wide receivers. You sometimes hear people say that Newsome doesn't value receivers or the passing game, but that's clearly not true.

Ozzie's spent multiple picks in the first two rounds on receivers like Travis Taylor, Michael Clayton, etc....it's just that none of them have produced, let alone developed into a "go-to" receiver. That's another issue for the team: They have no receivers who can reliably come down with contested balls or otherwise be counted on to make a play with defenders on them.

To be fair to Flacco, this probably plays a role in why he seems to hold onto the ball so long; other quarterbacks put up "get it" balls, where Joe has no reason to believe his guys will get it. It's a minor point compared to his poor reads and inaccurate passes, but it's still there.

Most distressingly, the Ravens haven't had one receiver who was a reliable goal line target in Flacco's entire tenure, and it's not clear that the front office even realizes how much of a role that plays in the team's consistently poor red zone offenses.

Furthermore, Ozzie isn't particularly good at picking tight ends either, which is strange given that he's a Hall of Famer at the position. I'm not trying to knock Todd Heap or anything, who was a fine pro, but two Pro Bowl appearances is not exactly what you want to see out of a first round pick.

Maxx Williams and Ed Dickson were busts picked in the first three rounds, and while Dennis Pitta delivered for a fourth round pick he was never the kind of playmaker who could take over a game or make the crucial play when the entire world knew he was getting the ball.

The fact is that you need guys like that in the modern NFL, unless you find a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers caliber quarterback anyway, and after two decades it's clear that Ozzie is absolutely not the guy who's going to find them in the draft.

Ozzie's deficiencies manifest themselves on the defensive side of the ball as well. The most glaring example is the safety position. He drafted Ed Reed, but otherwise it's been a rotating cast of bums at the position.

Reed himself was routinely saddled with deadweight like Dawan Landry, Haruki Nakumara, and Tom Zbikowski as his sidekicks. Then he got Bernard Pollard who accounted for roughly 150 yards allowed per game between bad coverage and personal foul penalties.

High draft picks Matt Elam and Terrance Brooks were busts, and new high dollar free agent Tony Jefferson looks like another example of Ozzie grabbing safeties who hit hard but struggle to remember their assignment in coverage. I'll give him a pass on Eric Weddle because Weddle's days as one of the better safeties in the game were clearly behind him when he left San Diego, and he's been about as good as could have reasonably been expected.

But even in the defensive front, which Ravens' fans like to think the franchise is known for excelling in, Ozzie has constructed a team with some pretty clear flaws.

In hindsight it shouldn't even be that surprising that the defense has struggled to defend the run on the edges. The defensive line, though definitely Ozzie's strength as an evaluator, is loaded with 300 pound interior tackles and is noticeably thin on what you might call "pure" defensive end type players.

With Brent Urban out for the season, Bronson Kafusi is the only guy on the roster I'd classify that way. Meanwhile the outside linebackers, with the exception of Terrell Suggs, are typically pass rush specialists who are in many ways playing out of position.

Tim Williams and Matthew Judon, in particular, are first and second year players who came into the NFL as hand in the dirt explosive rushers and are now being tasked with learning to play from the upright position, set the edge against the run, play more coverages, etc. Which would be fine, if the defense had a few more ends like Urban instead of 5 or 6 nose tackles.

Now it would be easy to take all of this and say that "the game has passed Ozzie by" and the Ravens need someone new. But it's never that simple, and you don't get to be as universally respected in the industry as Ozzie is if you aren't on to a thing or two. And Ozzie definitely has a number of things he does REALLY well.

As mentioned before, there's probably no one else in the game who's better at finding quality defensive linemen seemingly out of nowhere. He's pretty darn good at evaluating offensive linemen as well, though there's some more noticeable misses on that side of the trench. And he's actually quite good at finding cornerbacks, which is kind of odd considering how he struggles with wide receivers and safeties AND how much that position has been hurting the Ravens since 2014.

But Chris McAlister and Duane Starks were hits, Lardarius Webb was outstanding before his knee injuries, Jimmy Smith has been among the league's best when healthy, and the early returns on Marlon Humphrey are fantastic. And while I think Ozzie's reputation is inflating the "experts'" grades for his drafts in real time, he's still got a better handle on the board and value in the draft than just about anyone.

That said, Baltimore has been focusing on Ozzie's strengths for a long time, and now we've reached the point where Steve Bisciotti can't afford to look past his weaknesses anymore. Ideally you'd like to figure out a way to reorganize the decision making process to mitigate what Ozzie is NOT good at while recognizing that he still has a lot of strengths, but I'm not sure how possible that is.

Someone has to be the guy in charge making the ultimate call, and as everyone in Owings Mills makes clear, for the Baltimore Ravens that's Ozzie Newsome.

And after two decades of mostly bad offenses, for better or worse that's where the buck needs to stop.

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DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.


We’re here at the intersection of games that matter in baseball, football, basketball and hockey, a four-way collision that happens only for a few weeks every October. (1)

In recent years, we’ve had a lot to get stressed about, in a good way, when the leaves change. The Orioles have played 14 postseason games since 2012, with pretty much all of them being four hours of gut-wrenching hell. Meanwhile, every win or loss for the Ravens by mid-October was an important one for a team that we knew could be a factor by season’s end.

Right now, though, even considering the Ravens’ playoff possibilities in a watered-down NFL, it feels like we’re on the outside looking in. And frankly, it really stinks.

The thing is…we only have two chances. And when it gets to be this time of year, and there’s not a lot of hope for the present or the near future, I always get a little jealous of those cities that are represented in all four major American professional leagues.

Yes, even Philadelphia, in seemingly its tenth straight year of “trusting the process.” (2)

The city of Cleveland finally got a title in 2016 when the Cavaliers won the NBA crown, but Indians fans have been suffering for a long, long time, including just last week when the Tribe squandered a 2-0 lead in their playoff series with the Yankees.

Certainly, the percentages aren’t in our favor.

The New York metro area has nine of the 123 teams that play major professional sports in this country.

With the addition of the Chargers, the Los Angeles area now has eight.

The Bay Area of Northern California has six of its own.

Add the five teams from Chicago, and that means almost 25 percent of our major pro teams come from just four areas.

Sure, you could count Baltimore-Washington as one area, in which case we’d immediately jump from two teams to six teams, but I don’t. (3)

We’re just two different cities, in so many ways.

We’re better off than some, for sure. NBA expansion and team movement has taken the league to Orlando, Memphis, Sacramento and Oklahoma City, among others, cities that have grown in many ways but not enough to support a second major pro team. Columbus and Raleigh are NHL cities, but their ties to big-time college sports likely hold them back from any more professional expansion.

For now, I’ll leave out Canadian hockey fans (can you be Canadian and not be a hockey fan?) in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, who probably don’t want anything to do with the other American pro sports.

Montreal, on the other hand? I’m sure there’s a big group who’d like to bring back Major League Baseball tomorrow.

And it still stinks that Paul Tagliabue gave Jacksonville a football team, still its only major pro team, as it does that San Diego’s football team took the money and ran, leaving the Padres alone in town.

By my count, Baltimore is in a group of 10 cities that have teams in just two of the four major sports. (4)

We join three other cities — Kansas City, Seattle and Cincinnati — with teams in football and baseball. Two cities — Buffalo and Nashville— have football and hockey teams, while Charlotte, Indianapolis and New Orleans have football and basketball teams.

With the Rams’ move prior to the 2016 season, St. Louis (baseball and hockey) is now the only two-sport city without football.

Thanks to the typical parity of the NFL, the football teams in that group have had the most success in recent years. Seattle, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Baltimore have all been Super Bowl champions in the last 11 seasons, and Carolina got there two seasons ago. Kansas City and even Cincinnati have been decent recently, though the Chiefs last got to the Super Bowl in 1970 and the Bengals haven't been there since 1989.

Strangely, it’s been Buffalo and Nashville, from the hockey/football cities, that have struggled the most in recent years.

The Sabres, Predators and St. Louis Blues are the three hockey teams in the group, and none of them have ever won the Stanley Cup, though Nashville got close last season. The Predators have an excuse, since they’ve only been the league since 1998, as opposed to the Sabres (1970) and the Blues, who were part of the first NHL expansion (from six teams to 12) in 1967. (5)

As for the basketball teams, I’m not sure much can be said for the Hornets/Bobcats/Pelicans, whose name changes and movements still confuse 95% of the American public. The Pacers have had their moments (6), but they’ve never won the NBA championship since joining the league in 1976 from the ABA.

In baseball, the opposite of the NFL in terms of revenue sharing, all five of the teams in the group play in what are now considered “small markets.” The Cardinals have been a consistent winner on the field and in the stands, but the same can’t be said about the other four, even with the Royals’ World Series title in 2015.

As for the Orioles, Mariners and Reds, the last team to win it all from that trio was Cincinnati’s 1990 team.

Taking away football, it just hasn’t been easy for the cities with one or two major pro teams to be at the top of their leagues very often. In the NBA, San Antonio has bucked the trend for sure, as did Utah during the Malone/Stockton days. Sometimes, having a focus on just one team creates a rabid fan base, which is never a bad thing.

I’m glad we’re no longer a one-sport city, like we were from 1984-1995 (7). But it’s still an uphill battle, and sometimes I wish we had another team to root for, if only to make our percentages just a little bit better.

Notes

(1) - If the World Series goes the full seven games, the final game will be played on November 1, hopefully in Houston or Los Angeles for weather reasons.

(2) - For those who don’t know…the brainchild of former 76ers GM Sam Hinkie, who basically decided to trade everything away and lose on purpose in the hope of getting as many high draft picks as possible.

(3) - Yes, I am aware that there are many Washington Capitals fans that read this page. I hope they have a good season for your sake.

(4) - I consider Milwaukee to have three teams, with the Green Bay Packers being the third team. Green Bay is an outlier among American pro sports cities, and for many years the Packers played two of their eight regular-season home games in Milwaukee.

(5) - Did you know that St. Louis beat out Baltimore for that final NHL expansion spot in 1967? Apparently, the ownership of the Black Hawks was influential in convincing the commissioner that the league needed a team close to Chicago.

(6) - One of the most notable, unfortunately, being the “Malice at the Palace,” the famous brawl between Indiana and Detroit in 2004.

(7) - During the Orioles’ time as the only team in town, 12 seasons, the team’s overall record was 900-973 with no playoff appearances.

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what's going on at college park?


I'm self employed, obviously, so this little stunt wouldn't work for me, but why don't you try it with your boss today and see how it goes.

"Hi, boss. I'd like to take a six-month paid leave of absence to go on a sabbatical of sorts where I do some awesome work within my community and use that broad outreach to give me better insight into what's going on out there in the 'real world'. Cool?"

Try it. I want to see if anyone else signs off on that kind of thing besides the University of Maryland.

In case you missed it, Maryland's athletic director, Kevin Anderson, is doing just that.

He's taking a 6-month "sabbatical" and will turn over the full-time A.D. position to Damon Evans, effective immediately.

Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson will step away from his day-to-day duties and turn them over to assistant Damon Evans.

Anderson hasn't really been around much in the last three weeks anyway. He wasn't seen at any of Maryland's most recent three home football games and staffers reportedly don't remember him being in the office from roughly the third week of September.

Sounds like the sabbatical started a while back. On a side note, I love that word: sabbatical. It's the fancy way of saying "Going off to do something else I'd rather do without actually telling you that."

Something's not right down in College Park.

Since when does the full-time athletic director, arguably the most important position in the school's athletic department, just up and leave in the middle of football season?

Yes, I'm aware that Damon Evans is well thought of down there and likely capable of handling Anderson's duties while he's off saving the world. But, really, when is it "normal" for the A.D. to do something like this at the beginning of the athletic year?

You could almost understand it if Anderson made this announcement, say, last April or May. He goes away for the summer, essentially, and returns around this time, early-mid October, and carries on with his duties.

But now? With football season just underway, basketball season right around the corner and the blossoming men's and women's lacrosse campaign kicking off in February.

This whole thing stinks like a section of the lower concourse of a Flyers home game in Philadelphia.

It's just not adding up.

You're allowing your athletic director to leave his position in mid-October and return "sometime" in 2018?

There were rumors that Anderson had been relieved of his duties late last week, but that story was squashed by both the school and Anderson, who published the "sabbatical" story on Monday with the release of an e-mail he distributed within the department.

One other thing to throw in there: Nothing happens with Maryland athletics that doesn't at least get a thumbs-up or thumbs-down from the folks at Under Armour. There are stories that Kevin Plank is a big Anderson supporter. If true, perhaps this whole "sabbatical" idea is a P.R. save that somehow got orchestrated by Plank or one of the big guns at Under Armour.

Whatever the case, it's indeed odd timing to see this story bubbling over in mid-October.

It wouldn't have anything to do with Anderson flirting with the University of California back in September, would it? The San Franciso native apparently showed interest in the vacant athletic director position there and Maryland President Wallace D. Loh reportedly didn't appreciate Anderson doing so.

There's also the issue of money down in College Park. The effort to refurbish Cole Field House into an indoor training facility and sports medicine center cost the school roughly $196 million, a significant jump from the initial figure of $155 million. Of that $41 million increase, the athletic department will have to fork over $19 million.

That's a lot of basketball and lacrosse tickets to sell.

Anderson has been involved in several spotlight-grabbing decisions while at College Park. His first order of business was to fire Ralph Friedgen, then in 2015 he terminated his own football hire, Randy Edsall, and replaced him with D.J. Durkin.

He also hired Mark Turgeon after Gary Williams resigned.

And Maryland's move to the Big Ten was seamless -- in part because of the work done by Anderson and his staff.

But something's not adding up, now.

Maybe it really is just a 62-year old man in the November of his career who suddenly got devoted to student issues and decided now was the best time to dive more deeply in those outreach efforts he has involved himself in over the last few years.

He's still getting paid his $587,000 salary by Maryland while he's away from the desk, so the bills will still get paid at home.

Who wouldn't do it, right?

But what school -- particularly one striving for greatness like Maryland -- allows their athletic director to take a 6-month leave of absence like this?

My guess? The school that does that sort of thing is doing it because they're not going to miss him while he's gone.

And he likely won't return, either.

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this, that and the other


They've played six post-season games thus far and the Los Angeles Dodgers have yet to lose one of them, as L.A. beat the Cubs last night, 6-1, to take a 3-0 lead in the NLCS.

I know the Cubs were the master of the comeback last October, but it looks like their goose is cooked this time around.

Game 4 is set for tonight in Chicago. If the Cubs can somehow scratch out a win, they'll likely see Clayton Kershaw in Game 5. Sure, Kershaw hasn't exactly been lights-out in his post-season career, but if you're going to face him, better to do so on your home turf than back in Los Angeles.

If the Cubs can somehow squeeze out a win tonight in Game 4 of the NLCS, Clayton Kershaw will be waiting for them on Thursday in Game 5.

Los Angeles beat the Diamondbacks in three straight in the NLDS and now they've taken the first three of the NLCS. I can't see them going 11-0 and winning the World Series without losing a game, but that would be quite an accomplishment if they could pull it off.

The Cubs, meanwhile, look like a team that's ready for the golf course. It was so bad last night that in the 6th inning, relief pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. walked pitcher Yu Darvis with the bases loaded. Chicago made two more errors in the game and hardly broke a sweat in dropping their third straight in the series.

Meanwhile, the American League Championship Series is really starting to heat up now, with the Yankees owning all of the momentum after a 6-4 win yesterday that evened their ALCS match-up with Houston at 2-games apiece.

Houston's much discussed and fairly-maligned bullpen squandered a 4-0 lead, as the Yankees erupted for four runs in the bottom of the 8th inning, punctuated by Aaron Judge's game-tying double off the left field wall and Gary Sanchez's big hit to right center field moments later that gave the Bronx Bombers a 6-4 lead.

I'm not liking what I'm seeing in New York, I have to tell you. With another decent starting pitcher or two, they're going to be very good up there for quite a while. They'll eventually need a new centerfielder (Adam Jones becomes a free agent after the 2018 season...) and there's speculation they might try and move Aaron Judge to left field if they're able to sign Bryce Harper. Pitching, though, is what they're going to need within another season or two and if they get that ----- watch out.

But Houston's far from "done" in this series and still figures to be the favorite, despite their bullpen's collapse on Tuesday.

They'll send Dallas Keuchel to the mound today in New York and they have Justin Verlander locked and loaded for Game 6 back in Houston. The Astros, like the Yankees, can hit the snot out of the ball.

The Verlander acquisition -- while costly -- will potentially be their season-saver, no matter what happens today in Game 5. They know they'll get one more start out of him and while it's unlikely he can be as dominating as he was in Game 2, they're counting on a "W" when he steps on the mound this Friday.

There might only be six teams worth watching in the NBA this season, but this might be the most captivating NBA campaign in a long, long time. The presumed best four teams in the league kicked things off last night, with Cleveland beating Boston and Houston winning at Golden State. The other two good teams, Oklahoma City and Washington, get their campaigns started tonight.

Boston's chances of unseating Cleveland took a huge hit in the first quarter last night when Gordon Hayward suffered an awful ankle injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season. If you haven't seen the video of it, my advice is --- don't see it. It's really bad. Stomach turning...

The Celtics will still be good, though, even with Hayward now sidelined.

And the Cavaliers, despite a lot of inner turmoil and friction, will still be the team to beat if you want to make a trip to the Finals next June.

In Golden State last night, the Rockets trailed the Warriors by 13 points heading into the fourth quarter, but pulled off a 122-121 win in the debut of the dazzling backcourt duo of Chris Paul and James Harden.

I can't imagine the Warriors are running scared now after that one-point defeat to their new rivals in the West, but you can bet it meant something to Houston to go into Golden State and win on opening night.

The NBA is really struggling from a parity standpoint these days. Any game not involving one of the six aforementioned teams is likely to be a snoozer. I guess the Lakers will draw some interest with the Ball kid playing, but he'll get hurt by December and be an afterthought. San Antonio will be decent and their crazy coach will say something dumb -- either about basketball or the President of the United States -- every week or two to keep us interested in him/the Spurs.

But really, if it's not Golden State, Cleveland, OKC, Houston, Washington or Boston, there's not much to see in the NBA in 2017-2018.

That said, games involving those six teams will definitely be worth watching. And the playoffs next May and June will likely be "must watch" sports.

And we'll cover this a little more in-depth tomorrow here at #DMD with some video of his new swing, but Tiger Woods is hitting full shots again and appears to be on his way to yet another comeback.

Woods has been given the go-ahead by his surgeon/doctor to resume "full golf activities" and he even posted a video of himself hitting a driver, by far the most demanding club in his bag to hit given the nature of his back injury/surgery earlier this year.

It's one thing for Woods to hit little pitch shots and 60-yard "chippees" as he likes to call them. It's another thing entirely to go after a driver and hit a 300-yarder down the fairway.

There's also a big, big difference between Woods hitting practice shots on the range and playing 72 holes of competitive golf.

But it would appear like the 41 year old is setting the stage for yet another attempt at competing on the PGA Tour. Even Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk was encouraged yesterday during a visit to France to promote next September's big event. "I saw the swing on video," Furyk said. "He looked good. I have no idea what his playing schedule will look like and how much he plans on competing, but there's always a spot available for him on this team, either in an advisory role, as a co-captain or.....well, you never know with Tiger, maybe he'll play his way on to the team."

I don't see that -- Woods playing in the Ryder Cup -- happening. But it would be good to see Tiger get healthy again and try to compete.

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join me for a great day of golf on nov. 13


The great Ben Hogan once said "putting should only count for a half-stroke."

I'm excited to announce that on November 13, I'll be playing in a golf outing where NO ONE WILL PUTT!!

At least not until we get to the post-event putting contest, anyway.

On November 13, I'll be playing in the Maryland Fellowship of Christian Athletes "Flag Tournament" at Eagle's Nest Country Club. The video below will briefly explain the details of the event, but it's pretty easy to sum up right here: You and your playing partner are trying to hit your ball within the length of the flag on every hole. That's it.

This gives you the chance to literally go "flag hunting" on every shot! If you don't hit it within the flag, pick up your ball and move to the next hole.

I love it!

You'll play three rounds of golf that day. Yes, THREE rounds of golf. There are great prizes -- including a trip for two to the 2018 Masters -- and loads of give-aways, freebies and food and drink.

The goal for the day is to raise money for Maryland's FCA chapter and help them continue to run their amazing sports and faith-based programs here in the state of Maryland.

My friend Brian Hubbard of Kelly Payroll is running the event, so it's guaranteed to be a first-class day all the way around!

I'd love for you to join me, either by bringing your own two-person team and competing against me and the others or by simply sponsoring me and my team as we try to play three rounds of golf in one day and shoot the best score.

You can support my personal efforts by going here. I'm trying to raise $1,500 for Maryland FCA (note: I'm not eligible for any prizes or awards).

If you'd like to register to play, simply watch the video below for details or just go here.

Oh, one more thing. The first team to register today and e-mail me (drew@drewsmorningdish.com) will play in my foursome with my partner and I.

I hope you can make it on November 13th. It's going to be a great day of golf, fun and fellowship.

Here's the video that explains what you need to know about the "Flag Tournament".



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Tuesday
October 17
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everyone together now:
"we need more playmakers!"


It's mostly the offense.

That's what you indicated yesterday in our #DMD readers' poll, as "lack of playmakers" narrowly beat out Joe Flacco and his inefficient play in our "what's wrong with the Ravens?" poll question.

The defense hasn't been all that great lately, either, but there's no doubt the team has been stymied by the injury to defensive tackle Brandon Williams. I'm not saying the Ravens would have defeated either Pittsburgh or Chicago with Williams in the lineup, but neither of those offenses would have been able to dedicate their scheme to running the ball with Williams suited up and playing.

He really is that important.

Alas, the readers' poll shows most of you believe it's the offense and injuries that have held the Ravens back thus far.

"Lack of playmakers" picked up 32% of the vote, while Joe Flacco grabbed 28% of the vote.

"Key injuries" also ran hot, as 20% of you cited that issue as the main problem with the team's inconsistent play thus far.

Injuries to key players, including Brandon Williams, have cripped the Ravens thus far in 2017, but #DMD readers say "lack of playmakers" is the biggest reason the team is 3-3.

John Harbaugh garnered 14% of the vote and "Offensive and Defensive schemes" picked up 6%.

Me?

While I think Flacco's play has most certainly regressed over the last few years, I don't think I can cite him as the single biggest reason why the Baltimore offense continues to spit and sputter.

I, too, voted for "Lack of playmakers" as the number one reason why the team continues to struggle.

I'm trying to hold Flacco accountable, too, but this receiving corps he's been handed is really woeful.

And that offensive line? It's...well...ummmm..."offensive".

Flacco doesn't really have anything working in his favor, truth be told. The line is inadequate, his receivers stink, and his own play, while occasionally productive, is also suspect more times than not.

The injuries haven't helped, either.

In fact, going back to last week's "pizza theory", you now see how easy it is to hand out slices to all of those involved.

It's a little bit of everything, isn't it?

Flacco showed two weeks ago in Oakland that he's able to make big throws if the line protects him and the receivers beat their man and get open.

The receivers showed some flashes of quality in Oakland that we hadn't seen all season. But that, apparently, was more about the Raiders than it was the Ravens.

John Harbaugh isn't blameless, either. The schemes could be -- and should be -- questioned, too.

But in the end, this team's biggest issues are on offense. "Playmakers" can also connect with the team's running game, too, although it's much less impactful in today's pass-happy NFL. But when your backfield consists of Buck Allen, Terrance West and Alex Collins, you're just as liable to put up 87 yards on the ground as you are to put up 130 yards.

The Ravens' offense will go as far as Joe Flacco takes them, yes, but he has to have people to throw the ball to that have some quality in their body of work.

The Baltimore receivers just aren't good enough.

You could be a dummy from Old Mill High School or even a Flyers fan and figure that one out. Actually, I'm not 100% sure about a Flyers fan being able to figure it out, but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt on this one. I'm feeling charitable today.

And the Ravens are now in a situation where they head to Minnesota to face a Vikings team with a pretty decent defense.

They're offensively challenged, like the Ravens, but the Vikings can get after it on defense. Flacco and his receivers will have to put in a solid day at the office next Sunday to overcome Minnesota in their own building.

If not -- the Ravens will be 3-4 and need a win over Miami next Thursday night to climb back to .500 at the halfway mark.

There's still lots of football left, it's true. The Ravens are not out of anything playoff-related. Not by a long shot.

But the pressure is starting to build at 1 Winning Drive. The early results aren't good. And the quarterback and receivers have the bulk of the heat on them this week in Minnesota.

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BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.



After one of the worst losses in franchise history, you know there's going to be more losers than winners. I have to say though, I really didn't appreciate how hard I'd have to scrape to find nice things to say about people. Let's get on with it then.

Loser: Ozzie Newsome

A lot of effort goes in to trying to distribute blame between John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco, supporting cast members, coordinators etc., but the truth is that the problems with this team stem from the way it's built and most of the blame should go to the guy who built it.

The thing that stands out the most about Sunday's game was how terrible the pass catchers were across the board, and specifically the way in which they're terrible.

There's just no one on this team who can win one on one battles or come down with contested balls consistently. Worse still there's absolutely no go-to receiver to be targeted on the goal line, and that's been consistent for the duration of the Harbaugh-Flacco era.

At some point it has to be conceded that the closest things to an impact playmaker Ozzie has drafted in his entire tenure here are Todd Heap and Dennis Pitta, and some sort of major change in the front office situation has to take place. Even the defense is suffering now because of predictable flaws in team building, but I'll save that for later in the week.

Ozzie Newsome selected Breshad Perriman with the Ravens' first pick in 2015. Three seasons later, is it time to officially label the wide receiver a draft "bust"?

Loser: John Harbaugh

Much like Ozzie, Harbaugh has some incredibly glaring weaknesses that are getting harder and harder to let go. The worst of these is the way the team casually wastes time and out each and every single week with no sign of correction.

This week they had to use a second half timeout to set up a field goal, and as a result didn't have it at the end of the game when it might have allowed them to kick a potentially game winning field goal. I've said that the coaching staff needs to demand that Joe Flacco fix his mechanical issues, and the same goes for Harbaugh.

The time management issues are chronic and correctable, and regardless of winning and losing the front office needs to deliver Harbaugh a clear edict to fix them or else.

Losers: Veteran safeties

Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson were expected to form the league's best safety tandem coming into the year, and to say they haven't been that would be a gross understatement.

Jefferson was burned for the Bears' two touchdown passes, and while one of them was a trick play on a running back pass, the other saw Jefferson simply blow his assignment in man coverage. That's happened more than once this year.

The prized free agent acquisition just isn't playing up to his billing through 6 games, and frankly looks like another example of a safety who can play the run and lay some hits but struggles to defend the pass.

For his part, Weddle's having a heck of a time tackling these days, and by trying to strip the ball rather than secure the runner allowed the big run that set up Chicago's game winning field goal. The defense's disappointing efforts can be traced directly to their disappointing safety combo.

Losers: The interior offensive line

Ronnie Stanley and Austin Howard were okay on the edges, but the middle of the line was just flat out embarrassed Sunday. Chicago's big defensive tackles were absolutely manhandling them from start to finish, blowing up interior runs and consistently collapsing the pocket on Joe Flacco.

This was really the first game where Marshall Yanda's absence clearly made a difference, and boy was it a big one.

Winners: Special teams

Two return touchdowns says it all. Bobby Rainey's touchdown after being upended by his own teammate might have been mostly good luck, but Michael Campanaro's punt return was a perfectly executed thing of beauty all around.

Loser: Joe Flacco

I kind of have to include him here under the circumstances, but my heart's not really in it this week.

With his line holding up about as well as an unmanned barricade and his receivers offering no help whatsoever, there weren't many opportunities for Flacco to make things happen.

Still, Bad Joe showed up for a while in the second half with Flacco's mechanics falling apart, and his field awareness was just dreadful for a good stretch of time. The most glaring example was throwing the ball when the entire world knew he was a solid two yards beyond the line of scrimmage (and maybe it was just me, but it sure looked like Flacco looked at the chains before the throw), but there was another example earlier on a 3rd and 10 checkdown.

That play saw the Bears bring pressure that Flacco eluded, got out of the pocket and had plenty of room to reset his feet and look downfield. Instead he flipped a short pass to Ben Watson and more or less gave up on the drive. If you can find one thing that draws a consistent thread through Flacco's struggles this year, it's the amount of times he seems to just have no idea at all what's going on around him.

They say that when you're playing well the game "slows down" for you? Flacco looks like someone who sees the game moving at Indy 500 speeds.

Winner: Terrell Suggs

Didn't get many chances to pin the ears back and rush the passer, but made some tremendous plays against the run. The Ravens desperately need to see that, because...

Losers: Everyone else on the defensive perimeter

Again I'll elaborate on this later but, as good as they can be at their best, this defense has an obvious weakness defending runs to the edges, and it's personnel based. Even Cincinnati and Cleveland saw some success when they were able to attack the edges, and Chicago just killed the Ravens with simple stretch runs.

Loser: Breshad Perriman

Left the game with a concussion. There's no longer a debate: He's a B-U-S-T.

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TUESDAYS
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Todd Schoenberger promises to deliver provocative commentary on the world of Baltimore sports. His no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners style of writing is certain to leave readers debating and disputing, but always thinking. Be sure to follow Tuesdays with Todd!

Twitter: @TMSchoenberger


after cleveland chooses, the ravens should pick a new head coach


The headline leading into Sunday’s game at M&T Bank Stadium wasn’t about protests, or injuries, or even sinking television ratings. It was all about John Harbaugh’s epic record against rookie quarterbacks.

The Harbaugh-coached Ravens proudly boasted about their undefeated home record against teams starting an NFL newcomer under center. As a matter-of-fact, the Ravens were 9-and-0 heading into the Bears game, including 3-and-0 when facing a rookie QB in the playoffs.

Taking it a step further, the Ravens had dominated these winless rookies allowing just three touchdown passes against 13 interceptions during the Harbaugh era.

I’m not a gambler, but betting on the Ravens in this situation seems like a lock to me.

Well, we all know what happened. Harbaugh’s streak ended on Sunday when a rookie-led Chicago Bears team arrived in Baltimore with a 1-and-4 record and destroyed the hopes and dreams of Ravens Nation.

I, for one, am prepared to announce the 2017 Ravens season as officially over. With only ten games remaining in the campaign, the team will have to play .600 ball (at a minimum), which includes winning on the road in Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Green Bay.

The only so-called gimme win is the December 17th matchup against Cleveland, and even that one may be a toss-up if the Ravens continue spiraling out of control.

It’s time to be realistic and understand the task before this team is simply impossible. Now is the time to bench the starters and play for picks.

The most loyal members of Ravens Nation will likely determine my suggestion as being premature. And, perhaps they are correct.

However…

Maybe there are other issues Baltimore fans need to consider.

For one, what happened to the infamous home field advantage at M&T? A primary reason for the Ravens’ success against new quarterbacks is “the bank” tends to be a difficult place to play for opponents. We not only have loud and boisterous fans, but our football-IQ is arguably one of the highest in the NFL.

These days, the stadium feels more like a church social at times.

In prior seasons, Ravens Nation manufactured an intimidating environment for visiting teams. Now, fans seem reluctant to stand and cheer, as if they may upset the onslaught of the wine-and-cheese (aka, Oriole fans) sitting behind them. Yelling and cursing are two other critical items missing from the crowd in attendance at games these days.

In other words, there is no passion and way too much PC.

Purple Fridays are now black-and-blue Fridays as the city continues to publish meteoric crime statistics. And those protests, you ask? I was told to detour around a “kneel-in” taking place on the stadium plaza as the National Anthem was played so I could enter the stadium.

(At first glance, I thought it was a bunch of fans protesting the inept offense. Boy, was I wrong. Maybe at next week’s Dolphins game we’ll see some protestors picketing outside the stadium requesting changes at the QB, RB, WR, OL positions!)

Bottom line, is this: Following the Super Bowl Championship, John Harbaugh was quick to remove a number of key personnel from the books in an effort to “clean-up” the team’s reputation. His intention was to coach a kindler-and-gentler squad, rather than a group of hard-hitting troublemakers.

Well, here we are. The Ravens play like altar boys and the fan base has transitioned into a pile of snowflakes. My guess is we can all thank Coach John Harbaugh for creating this soft, paper bag culture in Baltimore. The toughness is gone, and so are the wins.

It’s time for Harbs to go.

JERRY'S
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Monday
October 16
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too early to hit the panic button?


The Ravens lost to the Bears.

In Baltimore, no less.

I know it's a crazy league and all -- just ask the Broncos this morning -- but when you lose at home to the one-win Chicago Bears, there's more to it than "it's a crazy league".

The Ravens and their offense, in particular, are on notice.

The 2017 season is starting to crumble right in front of them.

Joe Flacco failed to get the offense into the end zone one time on Sunday -- that is, unless you count the two-point conversion in the 4th quarter -- and the Baltimore run defense was gouged by Chicago's running attack. Those were the two main storylines from one of the top five worst home losses in the Harbaugh-Flacco era.

There was also the unnecessary use of a time out in the 4th quarter prior to a Justin Tucker field goal, a bizarre decision from Flacco on the final play in regulation, and Eric Weddle's ill-advised attempt at swiping the ball away instead of tackling Chicago running back Jordan Howard deep in Bears' territory on the first play in overtime.

There were a few bad bounces along the way, too. Both Chicago interceptions were deflected off of Ravens' receivers and one was returned for a 90-yard touchdown.

That's how you lose to the Bears in Baltimore. Bad coaching, poor technique, no offense, weird bounces -- and you lose.

It's closing in on panic-button time, I'd say.

The Ravens are in trouble.

Yes, the loss of Brandon Williams has significantly crippled the defense. There's no shame in admitting that. With him, the Ravens have a totally different quality on the defensive interior. Without him, they're getting shredded by the ground game.

But Williams doesn't play offense. And that's where the Ravens are struggling the most -- and have been for most of the season, truth be told.

The natives are not only getting restless, they're apparently finding other things to do.

Thousands of empty seats were visible at kick-off on Sunday in Baltimore, a nod perhaps to an afternoon that could otherwise be used for golfing, hiking or yard work. Or perhaps it was an indication that folks in Charm City are tired of protests, kneeling, bad offense and poorly coached football games.

Whatever the case, the crowd might simply be responding to the level of quality they're seeing on the field.

They're trying, yes. I don't see the Ravens giving any less effort out there, a fact Harbs likes to always point out after a loss.

But giving effort and trying hard are praise-worthy at the high school level. Performance quality is what matters most at the professional level.

And right now, the quality the Ravens are showing is sub-standard.

Will the return of Brandon Williams make a difference? Sure, you'd think so.

The offense didn't have Jeremy Maclin available yesterday. Would he have helped? Maybe.

But injuries are part of the game. "Next man up" the Ravens are always proud to say whenever someone goes down.

"Next man up" hasn't worked this season, or at least not thus far, anyway.

And speaking of "next man up", is there a change at offensive coordinator in the offing? It wouldn't be the first in-season coordinator change in Harbaugh's history. Are Marty Mornhinweg's days in Baltimore numbered?

The offense continues to sputter and spit up like a 1977 Pinto. Flacco was 24-for-41 on Sunday, for 180 yards. That's 7.5 yards-per-reception for those Flyers fans out there who are arithmetic-challenged.

And, yes, that's not very good.

The Ravens ran the ball for 125 yards on the day but they couldn't get the ball in the end zone.

It doesn't matter how much or how little you throw the ball or run the ball...you have to get in the end zone in the NFL, somehow. Special teams accounted for both Baltimore TD's yesterday. The offense was dismal.

There's also the long term stability of the Harbaugh-Flacco era that's now entering the crosshairs as well.

How much more of this will Steve Bisciotti tolerate?

And what of Ozzie Newsome? You know, the guy who drafted all of those defensive players last spring and didn't bother upgrading the offense in the least.

There's still a lot of football left, yes.

Things change in a heartbeat in the NFL. Just ask Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

But what we've seen from the Ravens recently isn't a bad run of luck. It's a trend of sorts. The team's offense is not good. Not good at all. And the defense, so promising in the first two weeks of the season, is getting lit up like a doobie at a Dave Matthews Band show.

Empty seats at the stadium.

Listless offense.

Questionable coaching.

Those used to be Orioles trademarks, circa 2010.

Now it's the other team in town that's been bitten by the mediocrity bug.

Something's going to have to give pretty soon...the pressure's really starting to build on Harbaugh and Flacco.

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#dmd readers poll


So, what's the main problem with the Ravens at the 3-3 mark of the season?

I mean, the one issue at the top of the list.

Is it Joe Flacco, plain and simple? Is his ineffective play the the reason they're 3-3?

What about lack of playmakers? Ozzie Newsome added Jeremy Maclin in the off-season and that was about it.

The injuries have been brutal. Yanda, Brandon Williams, Pitta, -- just to name three.

How much are Mornhinweg and Pees to blame? Neither of their units have been consistently good week in and week out.

Is it Harbaugh? Has his message gone stale? In-game decisions still hurting the team?

The #DMD readers poll below gives you the opportunity to cast your vote. I'll give you my answer tomorrow morning.


 Drew's Morning Dish

#DMD Poll

Question: What is the Ravens biggest problem thus far in 2017?
Flacco and his QB play
Lack of receivers and playmakers
Key injuries
Offensive and defensive schemes
Harbaugh and his coaching
Name
Email address

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around the nfl in 95 seconds


Dolphins 20 - Falcons 17 -- You think we're panicking in Baltimore? Atlanta has just lost back-to-back home games to Buffalo and Miami. Yuck...

Viking 23 - Packers 10 -- Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone in this one. That's the end of the season for the Packers.

Saints 52 - Lions 38 -- Hey, at least the Ravens haven't given up 52 points yet this season. Notice the word "yet".

The biggest story from October 15 was the injury to Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay's hopes for a Super Bowl ended yesterday.

Patriots 24 - Jets 17 -- Yes, that was a terrible call against the Jets on that touchdown run. Shocker: New England gets a key call.

Redskins 26 - 49'ers 24 -- The 49'ers are much better than their 0-6 record indicates. Really, they are.

Texans 33 - Browns 17 -- The Browns are far worse than their 0-6 record indicates. Really, they are.

Cardinals 38 - Buccaneers 33 -- Lots of offense in Arizona yesterday. What's in the water out there and can we get some shipped to Baltimore?

Rams 27 - Jaguars 17 -- Don't look now, but the Rams might actually be pretty good. They're 4-2 now.

Chargers 17 - Raiders 16 -- Not sure if this one says more about the Chargers or Raiders.

Steelers 19 - Chiefs 13 -- Pittsburgh has KC's number, no two ways about it. In fairness, though, the Steelers' offense is looking Ravens-like recently.

Giants 23 - Broncos 10 -- That automatic win the Broncos were getting last night turned into a loss. The NFL is a crazy, crazy league...

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join me for a great day of golf on nov. 13


The great Ben Hogan once said "putting should only count for a half-stroke."

I'm excited to announce that on November 13, I'll be playing in a golf outing where NO ONE WILL PUTT!!

At least not until we get to the post-event putting contest, anyway.

On November 13, I'll be playing in the Maryland Fellowship of Christian Athletes "Flag Tournament" at Eagle's Nest Country Club. The video below will briefly explain the details of the event, but it's pretty easy to sum up right here: You and your playing partner are trying to hit your ball within the length of the flag on every hole. That's it.

This gives you the chance to literally go "flag hunting" on every shot! If you don't hit it within the flag, pick up your ball and move to the next hole.

I love it!

You'll play three rounds of golf that day. Yes, THREE rounds of golf. There are great prizes -- including a trip for two to the 2018 Masters -- and loads of give-aways, freebies and food and drink.

The goal for the day is to raise money for Maryland's FCA chapter and help them continue to run their amazing sports and faith-based programs here in the state of Maryland.

My friend Brian Hubbard of Kelly Payroll is running the event, so it's guaranteed to be a first-class day all the way around!

I'd love for you to join me, either by bringing your own two-person team and competing against me and the others or by simply sponsoring me and my team as we try to play three rounds of golf in one day and shoot the best score.

You can support my personal efforts by going here. I'm trying to raise $1,500 for Maryland FCA (note: I'm not eligible for any prizes or awards).

If you'd like to register to play, simply watch the video below for details or just go here.

Oh, one more thing. The first team to register today and e-mail me (drew@drewsmorningdish.com) will play in my foursome with my partner and I.

I hope you can make it on November 13th. It's going to be a great day of golf, fun and fellowship.

Here's the video that explains what you need to know about the "Flag Tournament".



#DMD HD-TV



breakfast bytes

College football: Terps hang tough in Lansing, but fall to Michigan State, 17-7.

College hoops: Maryland rebounds from 15-point halftime deficit to nip visiting Bucknell, 80-78.

Ovechkin returns after puck to the face, Caps hang on to beat Minnesota in D.C., 3-1.

PGA Tour: Austin Cook opens up 3-shot lead in search of first TOUR win at RSM Classic in Georgia.