Wednesday
October 31
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issue 31
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maryland making chris davis look like rod carew


Talk about a colossal whiff by the University of Maryland yesterday. Holy canoli...

They couldn't have botched that whole thing any worse.

I tend not to get wildly upset at things that don't surprise me. I've always been that way. Perhaps it's an odd character trait.

So I felt curiously empty yesterday when I heard the news that DJ Durkin was being reinstated to coach Maryland's football team. I wasn't outraged, like many in the local media seemed to be.

I wasn't surprised, either.

If Maryland really wanted to show how serious they were about the death of Jordan McNair last May, they would have cleaned house in mid-August when the first "toxic culture" report came out via ESPN.

Everyone would have been let go in August. Every coach, trainer, and administrator affiliated with the football team would have been shown the door right away.

And let's not confuse what "needed to be done" with "what people deserved".

Maryland football gets their coach back, which seems to be an unpopular move with most everyone involved. Except the folks at Maryland.

I got into a brief back-and-forth with someone on Twitter yesterday. He said Durkin "killed a kid". I said he didn't. He claims Durkin's negligence means he killed Jordan McNair. I don't agree with that thought. I think Durkin was woefully inept at overseeing the safety of his football players, but calling him a "killer" is inaccurate.

But he still needed to go. Because it needed to be done.

Keeping anyone on Durkin's staff was a mistake. And I realize that might have effectively put an end to Maryland's 2018 football season. So be it.

This was, is and will continue to be all about money, naturally. Firing people with contracts isn't easy to do. It can be very costly. And Maryland did everything they could to avoid shelling out a bunch of money in the wake of the McNair tragedy.

The only person who lost his job over this whole tragedy was strength and conditioning coach Rick Court. He deserved to be terminated, and was. Oh, and they gave him $315,000 to go away quietly, plus a severance package.

Maryland would have fired Durkin immediately had it not potentially cost them millions and millions of dollars. They weren't willing to gamble on a win in court, so they held on to him.

The whole ordeal was money first, football second, McNair third.

And that's a shame.

But it's not surprising.

Anyone who says they're surprised at the events of Tuesday isn't in touch with the way college athletics function. Or you were just hoping-beyond-hope that this time, with our school, things would be different.

The University of Maryland wouldn't allow themselves to be a laughingstock, would they? No. Not our Maryland.

We pointed the finger at Penn State and said "How could they?" during the Sandusky saga.

Now, Maryland's the "they" and people all over the place are saying "How could they?"

Money, that's how.

They're lost at sea down at College Park. Morally corrupt. Structurally fractured.

Maryland athletics is done.

They'll still get their Big Ten money and all, but the athletic department at College Park will never be the same.

Sure, the basketball program will chug along for a while, but it won't be long before the long arm of the law comes down on them, too. That is, unless you don't believe that story from a couple of weeks ago where the Terps were handing out $60,000 checks to recruits.

The crumbling of Maryland athletics has started.

Surprising?

Not to me.

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your hopes have changed


What a difference one month makes.

After the Ravens bolted out of the gate at 3-1 and whacked the Steelers in Pittsburgh on September 30, #DMD readers were sky-high with enthusiasm.

Not so much anymore.

3-1 without Jimmy Smith and 1-3 since his return. Coincidence? Maybe. Or not.

Our reader's poll from yesterday revealed a not-so-surprising change of heart from those who responded. We had a split about the team's final record, but both predicted results probably wouldn't garner John Harbaugh's team a playoff spot.

38% of you who participated say the Ravens will finish the season at 9-7.

That likely won't win the division but could sneak the Ravens in as the #6 seed in the AFC playoffs. It's happened before that way, of course. Or 9-7 gets you watching at home, like it did last season.

35% of you think the team's going to finish .500 at 8-8. After a 3-1 start, falling to 8-8 would almost certainly cost Harbaugh his job.

12% of you say the Ravens will go 7-9. Uggghhhh. Let's hope not. That would be an awful stretch of football to end the season. Didn't we just endure enough misery with the baseball team?

9% think the Ravens will be OK and finish 10-6. That would mean the Ravens would have to go 6-2 in the second half of the season, a tall order for sure.

And 6% of you -- I assume you likely haven't watched the games -- think the Ravens are going to go 7-1 in the second half and end the campaign with an impressive record of 11-5.

BTW, I said before the season started the Ravens would finish with that 11-5 mark. Yesterday, I voted for 9-7.

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ravens get running back help


I have no idea if Ty Montgomery will help the Ravens, but at least we know they're watching game tape and seeing what virtually all the other armchair quarterbacks are seeing.

They need help running the football.

So yesterday the Ravens snagged Montgomery from the Packers for a 7th round pick in 2019. He might help. He's pretty good on 3rd down, which never hurts. But he's certainly not a game-breaking type who might change the team's fortunes over the last half of the season. But, in fairness to the Ravens, only one of those kind of backs was available yesterday -- Le'Veon Bell -- and they weren't bringing him to Baltimore no matter the offer.

Was another fumble by Alex Collins last Sunday the catalyst behind yesterday's acquisition of Ty Montgomery?

Whether Montgomery's arrival spells less time for Alex Collins or Buck Allen is anyone's guess. It cost veteran linebacker Albert McClellan his job yesterday, as the Ravens cut him to make room for the former Green Bay ball carrier. Most likely, it's Allen's time that will be reduced.

The truth of the matter is the Ravens need help in a lot of areas, including, yes, running the football.

They need better quarterback play.

They need better offensive line play.

They need better wide receiver play.

See a trend?

They definitely need to improve at stopping the run.

And it wouldn't hurt to get better at chasing the quarterback, either. The Ravens have 27 sacks this season. 22 of them came in three games (Buffalo (5), Cleveland (6), Tennessee (11)). They have five total sacks in the other five games they've played. You can't win sacking the other team's quarterback five times in five games.

Oh, and defending the pass would also be an area of suggested improvement.

Wait --

Special teams hasn't been red hot, either. Punts blocked, field goals blocked and -- shockingly -- extra points missed. New Orleans also kept a drive alive with a fake punt and the Ravens botched a potentially game-changing drive with a penalty on a well executed fake punt of their own.

And...there's also coaching. John Harbaugh scuffed the final 1:08 of the loss in Cincinnati, remember. Marty Mornhinweg has been either great or terrible, which is probably the lifestyle most coordinators enjoy (or not) in the NFL. And for all the talk about Wink Martindale, his defense faltered in the last two weeks when it was needed most.

But, hey, maybe Ty Montgomery was the best the Ravens could do. And he definitely fits a need right now.

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Tuesday
October 30
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issue 30
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the morning after the morning after


I have to spell all of this out for everyone to make sure it's interpreted correctly.

I'm going to use words like "consider", "maybe" and "if". I'll put on my Ravens GM hat for a minute and make some fairly serious decisions for the team, which is a lot easier to do when you're not actually the one who potentially might be impacted by those decisions.

First and most importantly, what I am about to present has nothing at all to do with Lamar Jackson's touchdown throw to Hayden Hurst in mop-up time yesterday in Charlotte. That accomplishment was akin to throwing a TD in game three of the NFL pre-season. The Panthers were barely trying on the play.

And what you'll read shortly has very little to do with Joe Flacco, really.

It has more to do with the inevitable tick of the clock, the turning of the page, and the ebb and flow of both a NFL season and NFL career.

Here goes...

If the Ravens don't beat the Steelers next Sunday in Baltimore, John Harbaugh should consider turning the team over to Lamar Jackson for the final seven games of the regular season.

No, I don't believe Jackson can lead the Ravens to the playoffs. Not in the least. In fact, I'd bet having Jackson in there would almost guarantee that we'd be seeing a fourth consecutive season of non-playoff football in Baltimore.

But a loss to the Steelers next Sunday would drop the Ravens to 4-5 and would almost necessitate a miracle to finish up at 10-6 or 9-7. Their second half schedule includes games with the Bengals, Raiders, Falcons, Chiefs, Buccaneers, Chargers and Browns. If you can find six wins in there, you're a true optimist.

Sure, I'm pinning an awful lot of stuff on one game. That's because next Sunday is as close to a must-win regular season game (that isn't one) as you'll find on the schedule.

And with a bye week after the Steelers game to give Jackson time to get more familiar with things, why not make the move if Pittsburgh drops the Ravens to 4-5 next Sunday?

Would it be considered "throwing in the towel"? Maybe. But getting Jackson seven games of real experience this season would be invaluable next September when he -- presumably -- takes over the team full-time.

With or without Joe Flacco, I don't see the Ravens winning 6 of their last 7. And if they lose next Sunday, they'll likely need to do that in order to have a chance to win the division. Would 9-7 get them in the post-season? Perhaps. But let's be honest: Even going 5-2 in their last seven games would be a hike up Oregon Ridge for this Ravens team.

This is not a "Flacco benching", even though it would obviously be painted that way by the media. Would it create a stir? Sure. Would it potentially manufacture a significant division in the locker room? Maybe.

But Lamar Jackson was drafted in the first round last April in an obvious move to eventually unseat Flacco as the team's starting quarterback.

Answer this: Would you prefer that Jackson takes over the team on day one next season with little or no regular season "game experience" from the 2018 campaign?

Or would you rather have Jackson start the 2019 schedule with half-a-season of game snaps, experience, good moments, bad moments and learning moments?

As nuts as it sounds, I think I'd want Jackson playing half of this season before taking the reigns next season.

Oh, and I'm not even all that certain Lamar Jackson is going to be a contributing, long term feature at quarterback for the Ravens. I didn't particularly care for the pick last April and I've yet to see anything that tells me he's going to be a franchise quarterback.

But I didn't pick him in the draft. The Ravens did. And they did so because they think he can be a starting quarterback.

But remember: This is all about the Pittsburgh game. If Flacco and the offense wake up and the defense does their job and the Ravens beat the Steelers, just keep on keeping on with Joe and everyone else.

A win next Sunday, a win over the Bengals on November 18 and suddenly you have the layup game with the Raiders on November 25 and -- BAMMMM! -- you're 7-4 and in the driver's seat.

That's a lot of "ifs", I know. But that's the way it plays out.

If the Ravens and Flacco win next Sunday, you keep rolling with what you have.

But if the Ravens and Flacco lose next Sunday, you might as well go ahead and hasten the inevitable move from Joe to Jackson. The bye week is the perfect time to do it.

Unless you believe in miracles...

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now what do you think?


We were an optimistic bunch back in late September when the Ravens polished off the Steelers in Pittsburgh and finished the first quarter of the season at 3-1.

One month later and the tide has turned.

The Ravens sit at 4-4 and in third place in the AFC North, trailing both Pittsburgh (4-2-1) and Cincinnati (5-3).

So...what do you think happens in the second half of the season?

Can the Ravens take advantage of their schedule (5 home, 3 away) and finish 10-6 and in the playoff hunt? Can they somehow go 7-1 in the second half and go 11-5, which probably earns them a division title?

Or is 4-4 a forecast for things to come? Will the Ravens continue to slink along on their win one/lose one journey and end up at 8-8 and out of the playoffs once again?

I'm anxious to see what you think now that we're eight games in.


 Drew's Morning Dish

#DMD Poll

Question: What happens with the Ravens over their last seven games?
6-1, finish 10-6
5-2, finish 9-7
4-3, finish 8-8
3-4, finish 7-9
2-5, finish 6-10
Name
Email address
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the grinder beats the showboat

For one glorious week, the baseball gods got it right.

I can't begin to tell you how much it warmed my heart to see the World Series turn out the way it did, with one player -- a steel-worker kind of guy with dirt under his nails and cuts on his knuckles -- standing above all the others, including a loafing, self-treasured legend-in-his-own-mind.

Was there anything better than Steve Pearce winning the MVP of the World Series on the very same night Manny Machado went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, including the series-ending whiff on a pitch down by his shoelaces?

A World Series chump and a World Series champ.

Years from now, heck, decades from now, even, when people go to YouTube to watch that final out, there will be no removing Machado from that final moment. No photoshop process will gloss over the fact that Chris Sale gave the Red Sox the 2018 World Series championship by striking out Machado to end the game.

And nothing will change the fact that the MVP of the series was a grinder of the highest magnitude, a guy who could have quit the game five years ago, but didn't.

12 years in the big leagues. 7 different clubs. A forgettable player if ever there was one. Jack of all trades, master of none.

But Steve Pearce is a world champion. And a MVP.

And Manny Machado isn't.

Machado might get there someday. If he does, though, it likely will be as a result of others doing the heavy lifting. Manny, of course, is the piano player, not the piano mover.

In fact, if the two were in a band, it would be Pearce wearing the tattered jeans and ratty sweatshirt, moving the equipment off the truck at midnight so Machado could strut his stuff on stage later that night for his adoring fans. Pearce would be the roadie and Machado would be the star.

Truth of the matter, David Price could have easily been awarded the MVP award for his performance in the Fall Classic. He was sensational, to say the least.

But the baseball gods didn't want it that way, perhaps because they wanted the grinder who makes a paltry six million a year to reign supreme over all of the others who reel in fifteen, twenty and thirty million a year.

There's no telling how much Machado will make next season. He's shopping himself right now, in fact, hoping to hoodwink some team into coughing up $30 or $35 million a year for his services.

If those teams watched Manny play in the recent post-season, they're likely re-entering some numbers into their salary calculator. He'll get rich, no doubt. But the contract he signs this winter won't be as much as it would have been if he would have hit .390 in the post-season with 8 home runs and 18 RBI or something like that.

Machado cost himself money in October. Not enough to matter, mind you. He might "only" get $274 million instead of $300 million. But his post-season act was so off-putting, so lazy and so predictable that no one around baseball can be blamed for being a smidgen weary of signing Manny to a long-term deal.

Meanwhile, Steve Pearce is the World Series MVP.

He'll never make $30 million a year playing baseball, but he sure did play like he's worth it against the Dodgers.

That, I guess, is the biggest irony of the whole story. The guy making $6 million a year played like the guy who wants $30 million a year. And the budding superstar who fancies himself a $30 million a year player couldn't tie the shoes of the $6 million man during the five games of the World Series.

And therein lies the lesson to pass along to our children and young adults.

Sometimes, hustle and hard work do matter and they are noticed. And sometimes, when you have all the talent in the world but don't feel like pushing yourself to do more, the other guy beats you simply because he has a lot more heart.

I can't imagine Machado lost any sleep on Saturday night after Pearce and the Red Sox eliminated them in Los Angeles. He made it pretty clear during that interview with Ken Rosenthal during the NLCS that he works just hard enough to satisfy himself.

Manny was a hired gun, brought in awkwardly in late July to try and put the Dodgers over the top. Even then, he couldn't do that right, jogging around the bases, grabbing his crotch on national television while getting jeered by fans in Milwaukee, and starting a bench-clearing jaw session with the Brewers with a bush league move while "running" across first base.

We saw that stuff in Baltimore and laughed. "That's just Manny being Manny" we said to ourselves, all of us having seen countless baserunning blunders and showboat moments from Machado over the last six years.

Others saw Machado's post-season act and were shocked. "And this guy wants $40 million a year?" people asked.

He sure does. And, oddly enough, some crazy team out there might fork over a salary in that range for him this winter.

But they can give Machado all the money in the world and it won't change the fact that in his first World Series appearance, he embarrassed himself.

And the piano mover got one over on the piano mover.

For one night, at least, Steve Pearce was the star of the show and Machado was pushed off the stage.

The baseball gods got it right.

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Monday
October 29
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issue 29
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you win some, you lose some -- and then you're .500


We've been here before.

Two losses away from a collapse.

Two wins away from printing playoff tickets.

The Ravens of 2018 are just like the Ravens of 2016 and 2017. They're 4-4 at the halfway mark and, depending on your point of view, going nowhere fast or primed to make a major run in the season's second half.

I don't know what to make of this Ravens team. As I wrote yesterday here at #DMD, you never know which version of John Harbaugh's team you're going to see on any given Sunday.

I can easily paint both pictures, though.

The Ravens are a catch and a kick from possibly being 6-2. If Crabtree holds on to that ball in Cleveland and if Tucker makes the extra point last Sunday, Baltimore could be two games better than their current mark of 4-4.

But neither of them were successful...and instead of 6-2, they're 4-4.

On the flip side, the .500 record we see now could easily be the real Ravens. Of their four wins, one came against a credible team -- the Steelers -- and the other three were laughers against league doormats.

We know how you feel, Coach. We know how you feel...

Sunday's loss in Charlotte was a thumping, yes, but it was made that way by virtually every "little thing" going against the Ravens. That's not an excuse, mind you. It's just a fact. Almost all of the breaks went to the Panthers.

After Lamar Jackson botched an easy throw on 3rd and 1 that would have given the Ravens a big first down, Jerry Rosburg and John Harbaugh opted for a shocking fake punt deep in their own territory. And it worked! But an illegal shift penalty negated the play and the Ravens were forced to punt.

Let's stick with that scenario for a second, because it matters.

After a Panthers punt pinned the Ravens on their own one yard line, Flacco completed a pass for five yards and Alex Collins ran for four. Why on 3rd and 1 would the Ravens not just give Flacco a quarterback-sneak playcall, get the first down, and keep chugging along?

Flacco and the offensive line have been very good at the QB sneak this season. They needed one yard, on their own ten yard line, to help give themselves some breathing room. That moment was not the time to bring in Lamar Jackson and have him get involved. Marty Mornhinweg needs to study the K.I.S.S. formula for moments like that.

Yes, I'm well aware that Jackson's throw was awful. "The playcall wasn't terrible," people remarked on Twitter. Correct, it wasn't an awful playcall. But it was an unnecessary one given the moment. 3rd and 1 on your own 10 yard line. Sneak it, get the first down, and carry on.

Leaving it up to Jackson to deliver there was too risky. That he failed was on him, yes, but it was also on a dumb decision by the coaching staff.

But then it all got erased by the perfect fake-punt execution. Except the Ravens somehow got called for an illegal shift. This is either coaches not coaching or players not listening when they're coached. It can't be anything else.

If you're going to try and pull off a fake punt, you simply must get the alignment and pre-snap movements down correctly. If the defense sniffs out the move and you fail to get the first down, so be it. Those things happen. But having a successful trick-play get negated because of something like an "illegal shift" is how people get fired.

Back to the game...

On the same series in the second quarter, within minutes of each other, the Panthers received two glorious bounces of the ball. On the first, Cam Newton pitched to D.J. Moore, who promptly lost control of the ball and had it bounce at his feet. The ball could have gone anywhere, but it bounced perfectly back up to his hands, in stride, no less, and Moore scampered 37 yards down to the Baltimore 17.

Two plays later, Newton's throw into the end zone was batted into the air at the line of scrimmage, but Christian McCaffrey somehow jumped up and over C.J. Mosley to snag the ball out of mid-air for an improbable touchdown. A Ravens interception there and it's still 14-7 and the momentum shifts to the visitors. Instead, the Panthers went up 21-7 and that was pretty much all she wrote.

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale had his moment in the sun later in the second period, and his scheme on the next-to-last play of the first half resulted in a Carolina field goal at the buzzer.

With six seconds left in the half, the Panthers brought in big-armed backup QB Taylor Heinicke, giving off the impression they were simply going to throw a hail mary and take their chances on a miracle on the final play of the opening thirty minutes. Martindale sent the farm on the play, trying to pressure Heinicke and keep him from setting his feet for the hail mary throw. But the Panthers and Heinicke sniffed it out and he dumped a short pass off to a completely wide-open Greg Olsen for 13 yards, who quickly ran out of bounds to set up a 54-yard field goal by Graham Gano at the buzzer.

That three points didn't really matter by game's end, but it told a lot about the Ravens on Sunday. Out-schemed, out-coached, out-executed and out-played.

Then came the second half.

As I tweeted at halftime, the third and fourth quarters of Sunday's game would be very telling for Harbaugh and his team. Sure, 24-7 is a pretty hefty deficit to face, but make a couple of things happen, get a turnover somewhere, and the next thing you know it's 24-21 and you're back in the game.

The Ravens needed to show some heart in the second half on Sunday.

Instead, they cruised around like it was the fourth pre-season game and it was August 28th, not October 28th.

The defense got torched.

The offense plodded along like they were walking to church.

And no one seemed particularly troubled by it all.

The final score was 36-21, but it probably wasn't that close, really.

If the Ravens couldn't stop rookie wide receiver D.J. Moore in Charlotte yesterday, what's going to happen this Sunday when this guy comes to town?

So the season's first half is in the books and the Ravens are 4-4. If you subscribe to the "you are what your record says you are" theme, you probably feel like the Ravens are an average team.

If you're of the mindset that the Marlon Humphrey injury has been particularly crushing the last two weeks, you probably feel like Baltimore's fortunes might change in the next few weeks if he's able to return in time for the three-game homestand that awaits Harbaugh's team.

What do I think?

Honestly, I have no idea.

The Ravens are 4-4 because they're a good team one week and a bad team the next week.

Yes, I do think the Humphrey injury has hurt them. I do. But teams have to deal with injuries all the time. The Ravens, sadly, haven't been able to overcome Humphrey's absence.

They also weren't able to overcome a stinky performance from Joe Flacco on Sunday. While his receivers and their bad hands betrayed him on several occasions, particularly in the second quarter, Flacco's two interceptions both came at bad times in the game and were momentum-turning events. We often talk about "good Joe" and "bad Joe". Sunday was exhibit A of "bad Joe".

Here's the good news, though, for those who seek it.

The Ravens can take a huge step towards the post-season by beating the Steelers next week. A win in Baltimore on November 4th would give the Ravens the season series with the Steelers, meaning Pittsburgh would have to finish ahead of the Ravens in the division race.

After a bye, it's Cincinnati and Oakland in Baltimore.

If the Ravens go win, win, win and get to 7-4, they're in great shape.

That's three "ifs", obviously. But that's the way the schedule plays out. They get three straight home games to make things right. If they win them, they're in prime position for the post-season. If they go 2-1, they're still alive. If they go 1-2, they're in trouble.

If you've watched the Ravens over the last six seasons -- since winning Super Bowl 47 -- none of this can possibly surprise you.

They're now 44-44 since that magical night in New Orleans.

They are, by almost every definition, a .500 football team.

It has been that way for 88 games now.

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"The Keen Eye" of 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 Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.


world series edition


Who?

Steve Pearce

If you weren’t interested in rooting for Manny Machado (I’m not even sure any Dodger fans are, to be honest), maybe you switched your allegiance to former Oriole (and Blue Jay, and Yankee, and Ray) Steve Pearce.

He was the MVP of the World Series, you might have heard, after he homered twice last night in the 5-1 series-clinching victory in Los Angeles.

Pearce also had himself a night for the Sawx at Dodger Stadium in Game 4 on Saturday. He had himself plenty of nights since heading to Boston, actually; his OPS was better than .900 in 50 regular-season games for the Red Sox.

In the eighth inning of Game 4, facing Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen for the first time, the 35-year-old Pearce did what he often does: go hacking at the first pitch. He got enough of a cutter to deposit it over the left-centerfield fence at tie the game at 4-4.

In the ninth, after Rafael Devers gave the Sox a 5-4 lead with an opposite field base hit, Pearce then broke the game open with his own opposite field double that cleared the bases. Game over, no matter how shaky Boston closer Craig Kimbrel is these days.

It’s easy to forget that, with the possible exception of Nelson Cruz, Pearce was basically the Orioles’ best hitter during their 2014 AL East title run. He also turned into an excellent first baseman, and had to play there a lot when Chris Davis went out on suspension.

Pearce is only the second player to wear the uniform of all five current AL East teams. The other is Kelly Johnson, who briefly played with Pearce on that 2014 Orioles team.


What?

Four-run leads

Entering Saturday night’s game, the Dodgers had a 54-0 record in 2018 when, at any point in the game, they held a lead of four runs or greater.

It’s easy to see why that would be the case. First of all, Los Angeles has the power hitting to take big leads. Then, with guys like Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, they have starting pitchers to keep those leads. Finally they have Jansen, who had 82 strikeouts in 71 innings.

It’d be easy to blame this first-for-the-year loss on the machinations of Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, who went to the mound to get Hill with one out in the seventh inning, despite the fact that his pitcher had allowed just one hit, had seven strikeouts and now had a four-run lead.

Enter veteran righty Ryan Madson who, after getting Jackie Bradley to pop out, faced pinch hitter Mitch Moreland. Madson’s changeup was a nothing but a meatball, and one swing changed the game from 4-0 to 4-3.

By taking Hill out of the game, Roberts didn’t do anything different than most MLB managers would do these days. Alex Cora on the other bench would likely have done the same thing in the same situation with the same stud starter on the mound.

That’s sports. Occasionally something happens that hasn’t happened before. In this case, maybe the 2018 Red Sox are the only team that’s good enough to do those things to the 2018 Dodgers.


Where?

Not Los Angeles?

Rumors out of L.A. say the Dodgers aren't interested in keeping Manny Machado long term. What's next for Manny? Chicago? Philly? New York?

Are these the final games of Manny Machado’s storied career with the Los Angeles Dodgers? I would think so, and it doesn’t have much to do with his penchant for jogging out balls that he thinks are going to be home runs.

Inasmuch as any team wouldn’t want a player of Manny’s talent on their team, there’s a difference between want and need. And the Dodgers don’t need him.

All-Star Corey Seager will likely be back at shortstop for the Dodgers by Opening Day 2019 after Tommy John surgery back in May and arthroscopic surgery on his hip in early August. Even if his return is delayed, it’s not going to be delayed long enough to make signing Machado to a long, expensive contract the right thing to do.

Unless, of course, the Dodgers think that a guy who’s had shoulder surgery at age 24 would be better off playing second base in the future. That would open up a spot for Manny at his preferred spot, wouldn’t it?

Fact is, though Manny might not end up back in Los Angeles, the Dodgers are still one of the few teams that will be able to afford the contract that he’s going to get.

Would Manny head to the Yankees even if that meant playing third base? Maybe. Another guy who wore No. 13 did that. In any case, I still think New York is the odds-on spot for Manny’s services, because signing guys like Manny is what the Yankees do.


When?

3:30 am ET

Game 3 of the World Series ended when the Dodgers’ Max Muncy hit a home run in the bottom of the 18th inning. The time on the clock was 12:30 Pacific, 3:30 Eastern, 11:30 Alaska. The only place in the United States where people weren’t falling asleep, or already asleep, was Hawaii.

When Walker Buehler threw the first pitch of the game, it was twilight in Los Angeles: 5:10 p.m.

I was honestly surprised, by reading through my Facebook feed and other things, at how many folks here on the East Coast were awake for the entire seven hours and 20 minutes. For some people, the World Series is the World Series. Maybe others joined the game late, after coming home from a night out, and got to see the second nine innings.

Here’s a side note. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger told ESPN.com that he had to “use the facility” since the seventh inning but was forced to wait until the game ended because of drug testing. There’s something very unhealthy about that, I think.

Much can be said, of course, about every World Series game starting after 8 p.m. Eastern. It’s been an awful long time since Cal Ripken caught the last out of the 1983 World Series on a Sunday afternoon, and you could go meet the team when they got back from Philadelphia and still go to school the next day. Those days are not coming back, unfortunately.


Why?

How they got there…

It’s funny how some players end up in the World Series, and the roles that they take once they get there. As an Orioles fan, it’s particularly interesting.

Machado isn’t just a great player added to an already excellent team, he’s the cleanup hitter for Los Angeles. Pearce isn’t just a utility guy who can play everywhere and hit a home run once in a while; he’s batting third in the incredible Boston lineup.

The Game 4 starter for Boston was Eduardo Rodriguez, the former Orioles’ farmhand traded at the deadline in 2014 to the Red Sox for Andrew Miller. Rodriguez had an excellent season for a great Boston team in 2018, but the jury is still out on whether he’ll be anything more than a No. 3 or No. 4 starter. Of course, the Orioles could use a No. 3 or No. 4 starter as their No. 1 starter.

Do you remember that Justin Turner played in 12 games for the Orioles in 2009, and had nine at-bats with the Birds in 2010? He was later waived and picked up by the Mets. He’s blossomed as an older player, even making the All-Star game last year.

Turner was originally traded to the Orioles for the catcher Ramon Hernandez, who played his last MLB games as a Dodger in 2013, the year before Turner himself would sign with the Dodgers.

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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.



"This ain't the same old Ravens."

That's what Eric Weddle told us after the Ravens' Week 3 victory over Denver, and when they shellacked the Steelers a week later a lot of us started to believe he was right.

Four weeks later we're a long way from Pittsburgh, the season is half over, and this sure looks an awful lot like the same old Ravens.

The optimism of a 3-1 start is but a faint memory as the Ravens find themselves at an even 4-4 at the halfway point, with a series of losses that all bode poorly for the team, if for different reasons.

First there was a loss to the still hapless Browns, a team that John Harbaugh once counted on for two automatic wins en route to the postseason. Last week the Ravens came up just short at home against a good New Orleans team. They played well, but just not quite well enough. And this week, in a game that everyone recognized as pivotal to their positioning for a second half playoff push, the Ravens got manhandled by the Panthers in just about every way.

There's nothing positive to say about this game, and nothing really new I can add to what everyone else has already said, so let's just take a look at how things have gotten here.

-The Ravens' defense was very bad in Carolina on Sunday. You can make a big deal out of that if you want to, and I know there are those of you who for some reason desperately want to be able to paint the Ravens' defense as a huge problem (actually we all know what that reason is), and maybe you should.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley had one of the worst games of his NFL career on Sunday in the 36-21 loss at Carolina.

But the Ravens did come into this game second in the NFL in defensive DVOA, first in most traditional metrics, and they held an exceptional team to a well below average output just last week. One dud in eight games is probably not something to draw too many conclusions from.

But then, in some ways that portends some of the same old problems we've seen from them in previous years. Most obviously, the Panthers were just faster than them, and they exploited that throughout the game. They outran the Ravens in space, created match-ups to expose certain players in isolation and, no surprise, C.J. Mosley was a prime target.

Mosley's often touted as a big star here in Baltimore, a crucial cog in the defense, and someone that plenty of people think the Ravens need to give a big contract to after this year.

Mosley was a liability in the passing game, no big surprise there, but the Panthers also had no fear of running at him, and on one of the game's signature plays DJ Moore just flat out outran Mosley's angle even though he had to catch the pitch bouncing off of the ground.

At one point in the game I saw someone tweet that Mosley had 11 tackles, that came an average of 8.6 yards downfield. If that doesn't sum up Mosley as a player I don't know what does, and halfway through his fifth year in the league Mosley is really a great encapsulation of exactly why the Ravens seem so "head-scratching" to so many fans: He's an okay to good player that a lot of Ravens' fans have convinced themselves is a top defensive player in the league.

-Hey, that's a heck of a segue to talking about Joe Flacco! Honestly though, that's getting boring. It's really the same old story with Flacco, even when things seem different on the face of it.

Last week he was mostly good, but not quite good enough. This week he was mostly bad, but not embarrassingly awful by any means. He threw some bad interceptions, failed to read blitzes adequately, went through a stretch where he clearly had no idea what Carolina was doing so defaulted to throwing jump balls to any receiver in one on one coverage, and just generally didn't make very many plays at all really.

But he's not humiliating himself out there, and he's not Jameis Winston level bad even. He's just....Joe Flacco. A mediocre quarterback who runs hot and cold game to game, and sometimes even drive to drive like we saw last week.

And that would actually be okay if not for the fact that he's being paid like a top 6 or 8 quarterback in the league and, by extension, the Ravens' roster is built around that premise.

The Ravens made a mediocre quarterback the foundation of their entire organization because Rahim Moore blew his coverage on one play and shockingly they themselves have been a mediocre team ever since and halfway through their sixth season since that Super Bowl win they're....a .500 team.You Flacco fanboys can keep making all of the excuses you can come up with, but those are the results.

-Case in point: The Flacco cult has held the offensive line up as a chronic bugaboo, a totem to blame for all of Flacco's struggles if they couldn't give him five or six seconds to stand still on every dropback.

Well the Ravens have quietly built up a very good pass blocking team over the past two seasons, and for the most part this season Flacco has seen nothing but clean pockets. And the tradeoff is that the line is really bad at run blocking. Maybe that's okay. Passing offense is more important in the grand scheme of things after all, but the fact of the matter is that the Ravens are a really bad running team.

Except for when Lamar Jackson is in the game.

Can we have a much overdue real talk about that?

Is it time for the Ravens to use Lamar Jackson more?

Towards the end of the Ravens' first offensive possession, Jackson came in at quarterback to run a read option play. He rode the read beautifully, going so deep with the fake that he fooled everyone including the cameraman and the announcer. The Panthers' edge collapsed on the back, and Jackson pulled the ball out and took off around the edge for a 17 yard gain.

After that the Ravens called up the same play, Julius Peppers hesitated taking the back, and Jackson handed the ball off to Collins with a seam and, thanks to some physical running, Collins ended up with a 14 yard touchdown run.

Two plays, two examples of perfect execution by Jackson, 31 rushing yards, and a touchdown. That's pretty good stuff!

That's particularly good news for a team that really wants to run the ball better than they've been able to, and you'd think it would be encouraging to the segment of fans who talk about how the Ravens just HAVE to run the ball better every week (now that you can't really complain about the pass blocking, I guess complaining about the lack of rushing yards make sense if your goal is, well, you know).

So why did the Ravens more or less stop running the play after that point?

The question is easy to answer: John Harbaugh and Marty Mornhinweg aren't all that good at coaching offense.

In truth, John Harbaugh and all of his offensive coordinators (save for Gary Kubiak) haven't been very good at this, but I digress. The Ravens' coaches know that they have a shiny new toy in Lamar Jackson, and they know they have to use him.

They might not think he's ready to be a starting quarterback, but they know Jackson is the fastest guy on the offense, they know he's got tremendous ball carrying ability, that he's a threat to find the endzone on every play, and they know they have to use him somehow.

They just really have no idea how to, and they think that incorporating him has to be some kind of gimmick package by definition. We saw that a lot in the first few games when he was lining up at receiver and running pointless decoy plays by going in motion for little reason on plays that didn't work.

It says everything you need to know about their approach to the whole question that they thought THAT was the way they should be using Jackson. And despite themselves, they've actually stumbled into a highly useful role for their first round pick.

The problem is that they still think of it as a gimmick. That's why, for example, they still leave Joe Flacco on the field to stand around and not move on those plays, even as the entire world is laughing at them for it.

Because they think it's a gimmick, that Flacco's a decoy, and they imagine everyone sleeping on it and Flacco eventually making a big catch I guess.

But the read option isn't an any way a gimmick play. Just the opposite, it's such a basic play that everyone learns it in pee wee football. But when you have a quarterback with the running ability of Jackson, who's also very good at making the read, it's just a very hard play to defend even if you know it's coming.

We saw why in Cleveland: The Browns sniffed it out on 3rd and 2, devoted an extra defender in the box to taking away both options....but Jackson just ran around the edge defender and got the first down anyway! At this point, if you honestly believe the Ravens have to run the ball better, then there's no reason they shouldn't be calling this play 10-15 times a game.

If an inside counter was going for 17 and 14 yards, you better believe they'd be calling that play again until the defense actually stopped it. They don't do that with Jackson's option because they think of it as a gimmick play, and they just don't think they can do that. So instead of running what's working until the defense actually stops it, they stop themselves by abandoning it after just a few times instead.

Because at the end of the day they, like so many other aspects of this team and this organization right now, aren't particularly all that good.

They're just mediocre.

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#DMD GAME DAY
Week 8


Sunday — October 28, 2018
Volume LI — Issue 28

Baltimore Ravens at Carolina Panthers

1:05 PM EDT

Bank of America Stadium
Charlotte, NC

Spread: Ravens -2½


which ravens team shows up today?


It's becoming an almost weekly game.

Sometimes it actually gets played within the game itself.

Which Ravens team is showing up today?

Is it the one that dismantled Pittsburgh on Sunday night football back in late September?

The one that lost to the lowly Browns?

Could we see a duplicate effort from the beatdown of the Titans two weeks ago in Nashville?

Or will the same Ravens team that let the Saints come back and win last Sunday's game be the one that shows up today in Charlotte?

Let's hope Cam Newton isn't smiling like this at 4:15 pm today.

Who knows...

That you don't really know which version of the Ravens we'll see vs. the Panthers today is the same sort of puzzle about 25 other teams in the league will try and solve this afternoon.

Most NFL teams have no clue how they'll play on any given Sunday. It's part of the league's charm, even if it's tough on the nerves of the coaches and staffers.

So, saddle up, folks. Let's see if the Ravens are 5-3 later on this afternoon -- or 4-4.

I actually like this match-up for John Harbaugh's team today. I realize it's very slippery to play the game of "look what happened a few weeks ago, and last week, too", but nothing about the Panthers concerns me in the least.

Yes, they're 4-2. And, yes, they beat the Eagles last Sunday with a stirring fourth quarter comeback in Philadelphia. That, and only that, was their signature moment of the season to date.

Three weeks back they needed a last gasp 63 yard field goal to beat the lowly Giants, of all people. The following week, they lost to the Redskins.

The Panthers are likely every other decent team in the league. They can play well this week and stink it up the following Sunday.

This one, I think, will come down to who has the better defense.

Other than last Sunday's fourth quarter against the Saints, the Baltimore defense has been out-of-this-world since the second half of the Thursday night Bengals loss back in week two. And there's a huge difference between staring at Cam Newton on the other side of the line instead of Drew Brees.

It's dangerous to play "who needs it more?" because both teams can look at their remaining schedule and stake claim to needing to win today's game more than the other team. But since I don't care about the Panthers, I'll just paint the Ravens' picture for you.

This is a signficant game. To say the least.

A win today puts Baltimore at 5-3. In the second half of the season, they'll play five home games and three away.

Let's do the dumb thing and check off the win box for the home games against Oakland, Tampa Bay and Cleveland. That's eight wins (assuming a victory today in Charlotte).

The three second-half road games are all challenges; Atlanta, Kansas City and Los Angeles (Chargers).

For kicks and giggles, let's check off a road win in ONE of those places (doesn't really matter where, although beating the Falcons wouldn't help as much as beating an AFC team).

That's nine wins now.

The only two remaining games? Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, both in Baltimore.

One win would probably be good enough, as that would put Baltimore at 10-6 and would mean Pittsburgh would have to finish 10-5-1 (unlikely). Cincinnati could still finish 10-6, of course, but that also seems unlikely.

You see where I'm going with this...

This game today in Charlotte paves the way for an easier second half road for the Ravens. They still have to win games, yes. But the way the schedule lays out for them, a 5-3 record at the halfway mark is much better than 4-4.

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how drew sees today's game


I don't know what's telling me this, but I see the Ravens actually running the ball well today in Charlotte.

I think this is one of those days where we wind up praising Marty Mornhinweg at game's end.

The Ravens jump out to a quick 7-0 lead on the opening series with a Flacco-to-John-Brown TD pass, but Carolina comes right back with a TD of their own to make it 7-7 after one quarter.

Baltimore's running game perks up in the second quarter, with both Alex Collins and Buck Allen finding their footing, as the Ravens go up 14-7 on Collins' TD run midway through the quarter.

After a C.J. Mosley interception, Flacco takes the offense down the field only to see the drive stall. A short-range Tucker field goal makes it 17-7 Ravens.

A late Carolina field goal just before the intermission puts the Ravens up 17-10 at the half.

After a scoreless third quarter, Justin Tucker proves he can still kick in the clutch with a 50-yard field goal to put the Ravens up 20-10 early in the final period.

The Panthers rebound with a touchdown to cut it to 20-17, but Tucker again hits on a field goal from 40 yards to make it 23-17 with six minutes remaining in the game.

After a Carolina drive stalls on the Baltimore 24 yard line, the Panthers attempt a fake field goal that gets sniffed out by the Ravens defense. Baltimore runs out the game to win 23-17.

For the day, Flacco goes 18-for-30 for 279 yards and two TD's.

Alex Collins runs the ball 16 times for 64 yards. Buck Allen carries it 13 times for 49 yards.

John Brown leads the Ravens' receivers wtih 8 catches for 99 yards and two TD's.

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show me the money


I always talk about "market correction" in the NFL as it relates to teams and games and who gets hot and who turns cold.

I hope I don't encounter the same issue anytime soon. I have a feeling I'm due for a cold streak.

Through 7 weeks of the NFL season, I stand at 22-11-2. I haven't had this sort of run of good fortune since I introduced "Show Me The Money" back in 2014.

I did once have a three-week run of 12-2-1 a couple of years back, but I haven't had a 7-week stretch like the one I've experienced this season.

I know...it's dangerous to even talk about a run of good luck, right?

"And here comes Justin Tucker, on to attempt the extra point...he's never missed one of these in his entire NFL career."

So, I'll shut up now and direct you over to "The Juice" podcast, where you'll be able to hear me run through today's games and give you my five NFL picks for week #8.

Stay away, "market correction". Stay. Away.

Glory
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manny might be losing respect, but not money


It took Manny Machado a little more than a week to go back to his old ways.

Twitter lit up like an October camp fire in the 6th inning of last night's World Series game after Machado one-hopped a ball off the wall and wound up standing on first base.

Most of the on-line stuff wasn't very favorable to Machado, who skipped along the first base line in anticipation of breaking out into a home run strut-stroll, only to see the ball nose-dive near the warning track and bounce off the wall.

And then there he stood...at first base. Grimacing. As if to say, "Oh boy, I'm gonna hear about this one."

It took O's color analyst Jim Palmer about 30 seconds to go to Twitter, as 'Cakes had a succinct tweet for the former Baltimore infielder.

"Manny." That's all Palmer wrote. Just -- "Manny."

Funniest part of that? We all knew exactly what Palmer meant.

While people around the country poked fun at Machado for his laziness and others bashed him for his failure to hustle in perhaps his team's most important game of the season, I wondered if any Major League executives watching the game were in any way losing interest in trying to sign Manny this off-season.

Manny Machado went 1-for-7 in last night's World Series Game 3, and even the "1" in his boxscore was met with controversy.

My guess? Probably not.

I mean, sure, there might have been 8 teams interested at the start of the 2018 season. Maybe there's one, somewhere, who has now said, "Eh, I don't know if we're up for giving him $35 million to have him do that kind of stuff."

But there are still plenty of teams out there who won't bat an eye in November when the Machado sweepstakes begin in earnest.

They'll be in the water with both oars, full force, and they'll either not care that he doesn't always give 100% or they'll just assume they can change him once they hand him $250 million or more.

I saw someone on Twitter muse, "I hope Manny didn't sell his place in Baltimore. The Orioles might be the only team who wants him."

Uh...funny thought. I mean funny as in "ha ha". Machado's going to a high bidder, somewhere. He won't be looking at the prices on the menu any longer, you can rest assured of that.

If anything, though, Machado's post-season antics have at least confirmed what a lot of folks around town already knew about Manny long before he packed his stuff for L.A. in late July. He's completely a "me" guy, period. It's about him, and his feelings, and his performance, and that's pretty much it.

None of that takes away from his value, though. Most teams will say, "If he helps us get to the World Series, we'll worry about the "jaking it" at that point."

Manny might be losing respect around baseball, but he's not losing money.

Teams want great players. They'll pay out the wazoo for the right one.

Machado's getting paid, hustle or not.

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tiger and phil for $19.95?


So, the price for the Tiger vs. Phil pay-per-view is out and it's right at what most of us figured it would be: $19.95.

Woods and Mickelson will meet in a $9 million winner-take-all 18-hole match on Thanksgiving weekend.

10 years ago, people might have forked over $49.99 to see the two tee it up in a one-on-one battle.

Now...I think $19.95 is about the max they can ask for -- and get.

And even then, there's no telling how many people will buy it.

I'll definitely be a last minute decision, but only because I have no idea what I'll be doing on the Friday after Thanksgiving at 3 pm (start time).

If it's 44 and rainy, like it is on this Saturday morning, October 27, I might gladly fork over twenty bucks to have something interesting to watch in the afternoon.

But if it's 66 and sunny, I might play golf myself and catch the highlights at some point down the road.

So, I'm most certainly a "wait and see" customer for the pay-per-view, but that doesn't mean I'm not curiously interested to see how it all unfolds.

And, no, I'm one of those guys who spouts off about "not helping those two guys make their next million". Tiger and Phil don't need my money. They're getting their $9 million (and whatever the loser gets...please don't tell me he walks away with nothing, I don't believe it) whether I watch the event or not.

It's a TV show. Nothing more than that. Yes, of course, it's "golf" and all and the competition itself could turn out to be interesting, but this is a TV show, more than anything else. It's just like going to the movies, if you ask me, although you don't know the ending of the Tiger vs. Phil match ahead of time.

Details of the match were released on Thursday. They found a title sponsor, who, we assume, is putting up a significant portion of the $9 million purse. There will be side bets maxing out at $500,000. No report yet on how many each player can make and where that money comes from, but it might be pretty cool to see Phil short-side himself on a hole and hear Tiger say, "Hey, Lefty, I've got a hundred grand says you can't get that up and down."

I said from the start I'd really be interested in this concept if the two of them were putting up their own money. Anyone can play for someone else's $9 million and have fun. But if they have agreed to side-bets with their own money, that will certainly be a novel twist to the events of the day.

That Tiger played so well at the end of the season and Mickelson stunk it up also adds some real intrigue. Woods will be the massive favorite in the match. And even though Tiger's career stats are far superior to those that Phil possesses, this would be a needling point for Mickelson if he can somehow win the match and the $9 million.

I think you'll hear a lot of friendly chatter and banter in the first nine holes.

Things will start to quiet down around the 12th tee.

By the 15th green, everyone will be in full grind mode.

That's what $9 million will do to you.

And just think, you can see it all for just $19.95, or the equivalent of a beer and a burger at your local bar.

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the flacco trolling is out of control now


I really should label this "fake news" but someone else uses that term so much I think it's lost its value.

In yesterday's edition of #DMD, you all had the opportunity to trade Joe Flacco straight-up for any of these guys:

Matt Ryan.

Would you rather have Big Ben than Flacco? Only 18% of you who answered our poll said "yes".

Ben Roethlisberger.

Carson Wentz.

You also had the option of checking off "All of the above" or "None of the above".

Here's what happened: You guys stuck with Flacco.

Big time, in fact.

42% of you said you wouldn't trade Flacco for any of the three ("none of the above").

In other words, you'd keep Flacco over all three of those guys.

Wow...

30% of you said you'd trade Carson Wentz straight-up for Flacco.

OK, that makes sense.

18% said you'd trade Joe for Big Ben.

10% said "all of the above".

And...ready for this? None of you -- that's 0% -- said you would trade Flacco straight up for Matt Ryan.

Poor Matt Ryan...

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about that kaepernick guy


I happened to channel surf my way onto a satellite sports talk show on Thursday and I caught enough of it to hear this exchange between two show hosts:

Voice #1 -- "Look, Kaepernick could start for 20 teams around the league right now. Today. If that's not reason enough to say he's been blackballed, I don't know what is."

Voice #2 -- "How much better would the Dolphins be right now if they had Kap on their team this season? Don't laugh. They might be winning the AFC East."

Voice #1 -- "We'll never know because he's been blackballed."

I listened for about a minute more while they rambled on in support of Kaepernick.

That there wasn't another person chiming in with a semblance of a counter-point made the whole thing unlistenable. I'm all for opinions, but in that situation, where there's a lightning rod topic, it would be good to have someone in the studio representing all sides.

Oh, and a fact checker or two wouldn't hurt, either.

There are 32 teams in the NFL. They all have a quarterback. Colin Kaepernick is not better than 20 of those 32 quarterbacks. Maybe that was announcer-hyperbole, but Kaepernick's probably not better than the bottom starting 12 in the NFL, whomever they might be right now.

And no, you can't count the four rookies; Mayfield, Rosen, Allen and Darnold. They're rookies. They're supposed to stink in year one.

Anyway...not having someone in the studio to say, "Whoa now, wait a minute. You guys are just saying stupid stuff to say it," made for a pretty boring few minutes.

I never really understood why they were talking about Kaepernick in the first place. Weren't there World Series games to review? An upcoming NFL weekend to preview? Who out there can beat Alabama? OK, that might have been a quick discussion. But you get my point.

As I surfed my way down to Channel 30 -- the Billy Joel channel -- I thought about the exchange I had just heard on the previous channel and wondered how I, myself, would have positioned my take in the debate about Kaepernick.

I probably wouldn't have lasted very long on that station. They seemed a liberal lot to me.

"I agree that it appears as if Kaepernick has been blackballed," I might have said. "But you can't possibly tell me you think signing him would have been a positive move for your franchise."

I read and hear people all the time rattling off the names of struggling quarterbacks and then throwing Kaepernick's name in there as if he, two years later, would step in and look like Joe Montana right off the bat.

Kaepernick was a good NFL quarterback who had a great run in January of 2013 when the 49'ers made it to the Super Bowl. Ironically, he reminds me a lot of the guy he competed against that night in New Orleans. I think Joe Flacco has been a good NFL quarterback who had a great run in January of 2013.

But let's be serious. Kaepernick's a middle-of-the-road guy. At best.

And he would be the single most polarizing player signing in the history of the NFL if you took him on your team right now.

Think about that.

Debate it if you want. Maybe I'm missing someone.

But I don't think I'm wrong. If your team signed Colin Kaepernick today, it would be the single most polarizing player signing in football history and one of the most polarizing player signings in the history of sports.

Is it worth it?

I don't think so. If I owned a NFL team, I wouldn't employ him.

I'm guessing every NFL owner has asked themselves that question -- Is it worth it? -- at some point, particularly if his head coach casually mentioned, "You know, signing Colin Kaepernick wouldn't be a bad idea..."

As a side note, here, a number of owners and/or team execs have gone on the record over the last year when Kaepernick's name was brought up. It never ceases to amaze me how many of them can't just say this: "We considered Mr. Kaepernick and then decided to sign a different player."

They should just repeat that sentence anytime a Kaepernick question is brought to them: "We considered Mr. Kaepernick and then decided to sign a different player."

But they can't do that. They have to talk more. And try and explain themselves. And that's when it starts to look more and more like a collaborative effort to keep Kaepernick out of the league.

Not that it matters, but you get radio talk show goofs who fan the flames by saying idiotic stuff like, "Colin Kaepernick could start for 20 teams in the league." And someone hears that and believes it. And retweets it. And there you go.

I still go back to the point about signing Kaepernick in the first place. There's not enough "good" to offset the "bad" to even remotely consider taking him. You stand to lose sponsors, fans, and community support. You might win games. Or not. Football being what it is -- the other team tries, too -- you could wind up getting a below-average-Kaepernick who doesn't help your team at all.

He's just not worth it.

Not now, anyway.

He might have been worth it three years ago, before he took his much-celebrated knee during the playing of the national anthem.

And are you ready for the hottest, potentially-most-backwards-take of them all?

Here it is. And I happen to believe this, truth be told.

Kaepernick is where he is today because that's exactly where God wants him to be. That's what I would tell Colin, I think, if I had two minutes with him. God doesn't want him on the football field any longer. He has other plans for him. And whether you care for his plight or not, it's perfectly acceptable to at least acknowledge that the quarterback-turned-rebel has garnered a lot of attention for his side of the argument.

I don't see how that theory gets introduced in his collusion trial, but that's the way I see it.

Has he been blackballed by the NFL owners? Maybe. I have no idea if his legal team will be able to prove it, but I look forward to the testimony nonetheless.

And in the end, whatever happens will be part of the plan for Kaepernick that was there all along. He was just too busy fighting with NFL owners and GM's to recognize what was being laid out for him.

His opportunity off the field far exceeds any opportunity he might have had on the field. In other words, he should keep trying to change the world instead of the NFC West. That suits him and his skill set much better.

And given what we're seeing from the Rams these days, changing the world might be easier.

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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.



This week another shoe dropped in the Department of Justice's sprawling case against various people involved in NCAA basketball. As Drew covered on Thursday, guilty verdicts have been handed down to three people involved with adidas for fraud, the Justice Department's lead case in a broad and ambitious prosecution of shoe company officials, agents, coaches, and various hangers-on.

The news was generally met with positive response from various fans and commenters who want to clean up what has become a barely concealed cesspool of rule breaking that NCAA sports has come to be.

They shouldn't be happy about this, for reasons related to both sports and larger principles of law and democracy.

But first, let's establish some parameters, because the overall DOJ effort is incredibly broad and somewhat confusing.

First, the campaign encompasses multiple different cases which are decidedly not equally supported. For example, the primary charge against Chuck Person is that, as a coach at Auburn, he was being paid by an agent to steer departing players to his representation, but failed to disclose to those players and their families that he was being paid, instead presenting his sales job as sincere advice from a trusting coach.

That's a pretty clear example of fraud, but it's a LONG way away from what the three defendants who were convicted this week have been accused of.

Secondly, everyone who has been charged has, in fact, done exactly what the government says they did. The question that some of them can ask is whether or not those actions actually amount to crimes or whether prosecutors are overreaching with their charges.

Third, and this one seems to be the one that's tripping a lot of people up, NCAA rules are not actually laws, and breaking NCAA rules is not actually a crime that the federal government can put you in jail for.

James Gatto (left), Merl Code (middle) and Christian Dawkins (right) were all found guilty of fraud this week in the NCAA pay-for-play trial.

Here, in a nutshell, is the government's theory of the crime in this week's case: By paying recruits money to go to a particular school, the defendants' actions would cause the players to be deemed ineligible if discovered and potentially expose the schools to NCAA sanctions. The prosecutor's argument is that this constitutes fraud against the universities.

This is ridiculous on some many levels it's hard to know where to start, but I guess the most obvious problem is that its based an obvious, bald-faced, and outrageous lie.

The basic principle behind fraud is that ir requires a certain level of deceit. So for example, if I sell you a "replica signed Babe Ruth baseball" for $10,000 you can't sue me for fraud on the basis that the signature wasn't real because I told you it wasn't authentic. I might have taken way more money from you than the ball was worth otherwise, but I didn't misrepresent its nature so, by definition, I didn't defraud you.

As it pertains to these cases, what that means is that if the universities these players were being paid to sign up with knew that the defendants, or other parties like them, were paying high school recruits to come to their school then by definition they can't be the victims of fraud. So to this end, the Justice Department's claim is that the schools have absolutely no idea that all of this pay-for-play rulebreaking is going on.

Far from waging a vigorous campaign to clean up NCAA athletics, the prosecution makes laughably unbelievable claims absolving the worst actors in the entire system of any wrongdoing, and covers up the most egregious corruption in the entire rotten enterprise. Say what you will about the coaches, but at least it's clear that their job is to win games and none of the major programs are going to prioritize graduations rates and GPA over conference championships and primetime wins on ESPN.

The university Presidents and other senior administrators are supposed to be safeguarding the integrity of their institutions of higher learning and looking out for the best interests of the student body, and instead they've sold their souls for seven figure salaries supported by the billions and billions of dollars in television and advertising revenue that college football and basketball bring in. And the prosecutors in this case are literally swearing that these guys are the victims!!!

Secondly, fraud requires some sort of harm. To go back to our last hypothetical, if I did tell you that it was an authentic Babe Ruth style ball even though it wasn't, but sold it to you for only $0.25, you probably wouldn't get very far suing me for fraud.

Yes I lied about the nature of the signature, but you couldn't go buy a single generic baseball from Modell's for a quarter, so you can't really demonstrate harm as a result of my fraud. The government's claim here is that the harm the universities are exposed to are NCAA sanctions, but the reasoning oscillates between circular and self-refuting.

First of all, this harm isn't actually guaranteed. It's not as though NCAA sanctions are automatic results outside of anyone's control. It's not like "well that player once got $500 from a booster so your coach is suspended and you lose 10 scholarships no exceptions." NCAA sanctions are entirely discretionary, and once you realize that it becomes clear that the government's claim here makes absolutely no sense at all.

Remember that it is a bedrock claim of their case that the schools themselves know absolutely nothing of the rule breaking and have nothing whatsoever to do with the improper behavior. If that's true....why would the NCAA sanction the school/program in the first place? As a matter of fact, we're often talking about public universities here, and a common NCAA sanction is limiting the number of scholarships a programs can award.

If the NCAA, a private organization, is prohibiting a public university from awarding scholarships for infractions that the Department of Justice contends that the universities are completely unaware of and bear absolutely no culpability for, then why in the world is the DOJ not going after the NCAA for blatantly inappropriate actions clearly beyond their authority?!?!

The answer, of course, is that this whole thing is 100% pure, undiluted hogwash and everyone, including the prosecutors, knows it. The government here is pushing an absurdly broad interpretation of the fraud statute even before you consider how openly dishonest it is. It's self-evident that this is a novel, grandstanding theory based on the fact that it's literally never been used before.

There have been hundreds if not thousands of instances of boosters, donors, agents, or others paying athletes in violation of NCAA rules and none of those cases have prompted prosecution such as this one. Even egregious and high profile cases such as the Reggie Bush/USC case didn't prompt federal prosecutors to say "wow, that's an obvious case of criminal fraud under federal law." Because until now it never occurred to anyone that breaking NCAA rules on "amateurism" could actually be a criminal offense that the government could put you in prison for.

Now as the regular crowd knows, I support dropping the pretense of amateurism and paying college athletes for a variety of reasons. But as I often say, I sincerely respect the people who want college athletics to reflect the values of amateurism and student-athleticism. To some degree I suppose I support the same thing: I would like the see the NFL and NBA have to bear the cost of their own development systems rather than unloading that cost on the American higher education system and, in many cases, creating publicly funded insitutions of higher learning that for all intents and purposes are minor league football teams that dabble in the college education industry.

On a certain level we share the same goal, even if we have different ideas on the best way to get there. But first and foremost, "cleaning up" college sports requires going after the officials and administrators who are pocketing millions of dollars off of the commercialization and corruption of college athletics, and this prosecution not only doesn't do that, it reframes the worst offenders as innocent victims.

And beyond sports, the implications of this case should deeply trouble anyone who belives in the American values of due process and fairness under the law. As previously stated, the idea that these actions are obviously violations of the law is ridiculous on its face. As recently as two years ago NO ONE was claiming that paying college athletes in violation of NCAA rules was a federal crime.

And that's not just a matter of lay people vs. lawyers either, since it never occured to federal prosecutors to bring fraud charges against people who gave money to college athletes and caused programs to suffer NCAA sanctions, even in the very recent past. And while it may seem like sports stories exist in their own, mostly unimportant little world, this is a bona fide federal case that will soon find itself in federal appeals court, and all such cases create their own precedent that extends to very important, very real life issues.

If a federal appeals court upholds these guilty verdicts, the precedent that will be set is that an unelected federal prosecutor, in no way empowered to legislate or otherwise make law by the Constitution, can nonetheless radically expand the scope of what is to be considered a criminal offense at will by means of nothing other than creative reasoning, in ways and to extents that no one ever conceived of at times when said "crimes" were committed.

And though you might find it satisfying to see big money college sports brokers getting the comeuppance you think they deserve as a result, please keep in mind that if the government can successfully bring that force to bear on millionaire representatives of billion dollar apparel corporations than they absolutely can, and will, use that power to chew up and spit out regular schlubs like you and me however they like.

There's real merit in the goal of cleaning up college sports.

The people who think the answer is paying players and the people who think the answer is a more purely amateur product are in no way staking out mutually exclusive positions, and they can absolutely work together to fight for a system that doesn't exploit young athletes in the name of cutting costs for the NFL and the NBA while simultaneously propping up million dollar salaries for half-rate college head coaches and six figure salaries for undistinguished podunk assistant coaches like Zach Smith and Rick Court.

And we can absolutely do that without cheering on less than half-baked legal theories that expand the power of federal prosecutors in frightening ways and degrade the basic rights that have made our legal system and our country the worldwide gold standard for liberty, fairness, and equality under the law for centuries.

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more flacco love...


I'm almost starting to think you guys are trolling me.

For the second straight day, Joe Flacco was a landslide winner in our NFL quarterbacks poll. He didn't quite with with the same ease on Thursday as he did on Wednesday, but he still won going away.

Rivers for Flacco? #DMD readers say "NO!"

If you recall, yesterday's question was this: Which of these quarterbacks would you trade Joe Flacco for, straight up? The answers: Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, DeShaun Watson and Cam Newton. And there was a "none of the above" option, meaning you'd turn down a Flacco trade for any of those four starters.

And the results...

"None of the above" was the winner, again, at 67%.

Cam Newton was second at 12%.

Philip Rivers was third at 10%.

DeShaun Watson garnered 7% to finish fourth.

And poor Matthew Stafford received 4% of the vote.

We can't let this one go without one more attempt at sanity.

We're REALLY going to increase the quality of the trade offers today. This is it. If you want to keep Flacco after today, all I can say is: caveat emptor.


 Drew's Morning Dish

#DMD Poll

Question: What happens with the Ravens over their last seven games?
6-1, finish 10-6
5-2, finish 9-7
4-3, finish 8-8
3-4, finish 7-9
2-5, finish 6-10
Name
Email address
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Thursday
October 25
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issue 25
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"jungle rules" might work


The guilty verdict of the three men on trial in the NCAA college basketball case came as no surprise yesterday.

This thing was over before it started. Vegas oddsmakers would have taken the case "off the board", the conclusion was so much never-in-doubt.

Three men are heading to jail. Two are employees of adidas and the other was simply a go-between, a guy with designs on being a player representative who, in the meantime, established a pretty fancy business as a middle man of sorts between colleges and elite high school players looking for a free ride -- and then some.

In some ways, the trial itself was a joke. A colossal waste of time, really. But we're all afforded the right to our day in court and those three men were probably hoping for a miracle.

They didn't get a miracle. Or anything close to it. Their sentencing comes on March 5. The case against them was pretty much a slam dunk from the opening remarks.

Interestingly, no one else associated with the case was punished. The actual charges against the three -- fraud and wire fraud -- were the only ones put before the judge and jury.

What about the coaches? The assistant coaches? The high schoolers themselves...and their parents?

Why were they absolved from any wrongdoing?

How would the NCAA recruiting game have changed for Marvin Bagley III and the colleges that pursued him if no rules would have existed when he was a high school senior?

Didn't everyone involved knowingly participate in an illegal act?

Unless I'm missing something, I'd say they did.

The coaches, of course, will feign ignorance and claim they had no idea their assistant coaches were paying for players.

The assistant coaches, who generally do the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to recruiting tricks, will undoubtedly stick to the story that a booster or two might have been involved, but none of it was approved by anyone associated with the basketball program.

The kids themselves, along with their parent(s) and or relative(s), are almost never held accountable for their nefarious ways. If anything, they garner more sympathy than scrutiny. Yet, they were (and are) well aware this tax free money they receive is against the law.

But they're all participants in an illegal activity. To whatever degree their fingerprints are directly on the events, the coaches, staff members, players and parents are just as dirty as the shoe manufacturers and apparel companies.

There could be college presidents, athletic directors and other high ranking educational officials who participate too, and they should be held just as accountable as everyone else.

So, what's the solution?

Three men are already going to jail, mainly because they tried to get some kids and their families a reasonable amount of money in exchange for the school and the NCAA profiting off of their basketball acumen.

On the surface, that doesn't seem very fair. But the rules are the rules. And no one has yet figured out how to get all the schools to follow the rules. And no one has come up with a fair way to compensate the kids who play high profile college athletics and make their schools a gazillion dollars while they eat 99 cent tacos and burritos.

Some winter golf circuits use a format called "jungle golf".

Here's how it works: There are NO rules.

I mean, you still have to tee off between the two tee markers and you still have to putt your ball in the hole. But other than that, there are NO rules.

You can roll your ball one foot (12 inches) in the fairway. Or in the rough. Or in a hazard. Or in a bunker. In other words, you can move your golf ball everywhere.

Those white stakes that mark out-of-bounds on the course? Nope. They're there, but you can ignore them. Same thing with the hazard stakes. There's no such thing as a "hazard" when you're playing jungle golf.

If you hit your ball in the yards that border the 12th hole, just ignore the out-of-bounds stakes and walk in there and hack away. The lady with the dog might not be happy. Just tell her "Jungle rules today" and move on.

Why do tournament organizers adopt that formula? That's easy. So no one will cheat.

Because it's off-season golf and pro shop staffs are minimal, it's nearly impossible to run a tournament, have officials out on the course, and monitor rulings and other situations of interest.

So, rather than "play by the rules" and then have to worry about a guy touching his ball in the rough or grounding his club in the hazard, jungle rules allow you to just do all of that from the get-go.

It's a genius way of playing off-season golf, if you ask me. "The best way to avoid having players cheat is...let them all cheat."

I wonder if the NCAA should just adopt jungle rules? It would be a dramatic turnaround, obviously, but that might be the best way for the NCAA to handle their cheating epidemic.

Just make everything fair game.

If kids want to whore themselves to the highest bidder, let 'em do it.

If schools want to give $200,000 per-year to the best high school player in the country -- instead of investing that money in, say, education -- let them go ahead and spend it.

If shoe companies want to invest $100,000 on a kid who still isn't old enough to drink alcohol and they think that's a sound business plan, give 'em the green light.

The current way it works, with the NCAA setting rules and guidelines and then every coach and high school kid working overtime to circumvent them, certainly isn't proving to be a successful formula.

Shoe and apparel companies complain all the time -- as do their shareholders -- about a decrease in quarterly profits. Yet, they're willing to give backdoor cash payments to kids so they can run around in their shoes for a year or two. It doesn't make sense.

Jungle rules might work, I tell ya. And here's a a funny side-story to the jungle rules idea.

A few years back, I played in a "jungle rules" tournament in York, PA. Several of us from the Baltimore area went up there for the day, including a guy that had a reputation, let's say, for not always playing his ball where it came to rest, both in the fairway and the rough.

When we drew teams for the day, he wound up playing with me in my foursome. On numerous occasions during the round, he faced a gnarly lie in the rough or his ball came to rest near one of the many hazards on the course.

On more than one occasion, I reminded him, "Hey, remember, you can move that. Jungle rules."

Several times, he blurted out: "Yeah, I know. It just feels kind of weird to be moving the ball all over the place."

Jungle rules leveled the playing field on him. In summer events, he might occasionally get the benefit of nudging the ball into a better lie (as long as he didn't get caught, of course). But with "jungle rules" in place, there was no advantage for him.

The same concept might work famously in the NCAA if everyone is just allowed to pay whatever they want to whomever they want whenever they want.

Jungle rules might actually take some of the fun out of everyone cheating.

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"The Keen Eye" of 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 Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.


That was a great game.

The Ravens-Saints, I mean.

Best game in which the Ravens have participated in a long time.

Compared to the first two games at M&T Bank Stadium this season, against Buffalo and Denver, this one was like a combination of the Ice Bowl and the Immaculate Reception.

It took him a while, but Drew Brees played like the Hall of Famer that he is. Like Daryl Johnston said postgame on FOX, the other team has to worry about the Saints’ offense for 60 minutes. I don’t think Brees was overly discouraged that his team only had seven points after three quarters.

Besides their quarterback, the Saints showed why they have such a good offense. How about Taysom Hill? He might be the best “utility player” in recent NFL history.

Meanwhile, the Ravens kept playing, and New Orleans’ reputation as a poor defense wasn’t helped much in the last minute of the game. Joe Flacco was mostly terrific, and the staff even figured out the right situations for Lamar Jackson near the goal line and a couple other times.

Down by ten points in the 4th quarter last Sunday, Drew Brees engineered a 17-point comeback that helped the Saints edge the Ravens, 24-23.

It’s hard to quantify exactly how different the Ravens’ offense is with John Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead IV, but you know it when you see it. It’s going to lead to plenty of wins.

I’m almost forgetting the first quarter, which must have featured one of the more amazing drives by a team in NFL history that didn’t lead to any points. I began to wonder if Flacco and the offense would take the field before it got dark.

Speaking of “dark,” it just looked like an important football game from the beginning. The late-afternoon shadows were creeping at kickoff and the football weather seemed to arrive just in time, even if it’s honestly a bit early for that. Unfortunately the autumn wind was not kind to the Ravens in the end.

Plus, any great NFL game features something from the officials, of course. Jimmy Smith didn’t have a great game, but neither of the pass interference penalties called against him was legitimate.

And then the game ended when something that hadn’t happened in seven years finally happened. The most automatic player at his position in league history inexplicably went on “tilt” at the worst time.

A great game with an anti-climactic ending. Even the winners would admit that.

Pick any quarter in this one; there was something worth noting.

On their opening drive, which lasted more than 10 minutes, the Saints converted on three fourth downs, beginning with a direct snap to Hill on a fake punt. On the third one, knowing the windy conditions in that end of the field (ahem), New Orleans dispensed with a 48-yard field goal attempt and handed it to Mark Ingram, who easily gained the yardage needed.

As for their fourth attempt at a fourth down, needing one yard on the four-yard line, they chose their strategy poorly. I guess three outta four ain’t bad if you’re a Saints fan.

In the second quarter, fate smiled upon the Ravens after Flacco, Snead and Brown sliced up the New Orleans secondary in the last two minutes. With one timeout left on second-and-goal, the Ravens could afford to run the ball from just outside the goal line. Luckily, Marty Mornhinweg sent out one of the greatest running quarterbacks in college football history to get the job done.

After halftime, New Orleans made a terrific defensive stand near midfield. On third down, for the first time I can remember this year, Mornhinweg called that pitch play to Alex Collins he used often on third and fourth down last season. Unfortunately, the Saints were ready for it.

It was only seconds later, however, that Sam Koch and then Chris Moore combined on one of the best punts of the NFL season. Moore, the gunner, camped on the one-yard line and had the ball ricochet off the turf directly to him like Koch had thrown him a bounce pass with a basketball from six feet away.

The late part of the third quarter featured a huge play from Brees, who somehow found Michael Thomas for a first down despite being pulled down by Tony Jefferson. What should have been a New Orleans punt with his team trailing by 10 points was a touchdown a few minutes later.

The only reason the game didn't go to overtime last Sunday is because Justin Tucker did something he hadn't done since high school...he missed an extra point attempt.

And then came the fourth quarter, when Brees used the ageless former Raven Ben Watson twice to escape from a second-and-17 predicament after a first-down sack. Later in the quarter, John Harbaugh somewhat inexplicably didn’t punt on fourth-and-seven from midfield with 3:47 on the clock and all three timeouts remaining, only to be bailed out by a pass interference call.

And finally the equally inexplicable defense on John Brown’s touchdown catch with 28 seconds left, when the cornerback just seemed to let him go to the wide-open end zone.

Well, not “finally.” I’m just talking about the good stuff.

In no way can you really call this game a “Super Bowl preview,” and not just because we’re not even halfway through the season yet. The Ravens have now lost three games, two of which have come in their own division, so they’ll most likely be fighting very hard just to make it to the playoffs.

As for the Saints, well let’s just say that they can be outscored at any time.

Still, I could see both teams being legitimate contenders to win two or three playoff games if the situation would present itself.

The Saints not only have Brees but also a versatile running game, featuring power, speed and deception. They ran the ball 39 times against the Ravens, and they can run it effectively with Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram and even Hill. Was Baltimore’s run defense exposed? A little, but New Orleans has an unusual kind of attack that easily exposes a defense.

The Ravens are good enough to dominate almost any team in the NFL if the situation is right. They can make it very hard on a defense with their passing game, and even Lamar Jackson adds something to the offensive equation now. We know that the defense can make it very difficult on any team; they even did it to Brees for much of the game.

After a few years where you couldn’t say it, at least with a straight face, the current edition of the Ravens are a fun team to watch.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t any frustration, of course, and it doesn’t mean that they’re bound for great things in the postseason. It sure doesn’t mean that John Harbaugh and his staff are bound to be back on the sideline next year.

It does mean that they can play a game like the one this past Sunday, a game that was played at a level we haven’t seen for a few years. In the first seven weeks of this NFL season, there can’t have been too many better games than that one.

Wait, you say that Justin Tucker missed an extra point?

Never mind, I guess. That game totally sucked. On to Carolina…

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flacco getting some love


Wow, you folks sure do love you some Joe Flacco.

Yesterday here at #DMD, I proposed that each of you could trade Flacco for any of the following quarterbacks: Russell Wilson (Seattle), Kirk Cousins (Minnesota), Andy Dalton (Cincinnati) or Alex Smith (Washington).

I had to "refresh" the statistics page on the results this morning to make sure they were accurate.

Only 6% of you yesterday said you'd swap Joe Flacco for Bengals' QB Andy Dalton.

Shockingly, they were.

In one of our more lopsided polls ever, "none of the above" was the winner with a whopping 74% of the vote.

15% of you said you'd trade Flacco for Russell Wilson.

6% said you would take Dalton.

4% said you would take Cousins.

And 1% said you would take Alex Smith.

Flacco stays, apparently.

I'm not completely shocked the results stacked up like they did, but I can't believe the numbers. 74% of you wouldn't trade Flacco for Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, Kirk Cousins or Alex Smith? I'm shocked...shocked I tell ya.

So today, I'm going to ask you to vote again. This time, though, I'm going to up the ante a bit and see how much you folks really love Flacco. I'll give you a few other names that should spark a different voting result tomorrow. We'll see...


 Drew's Morning Dish

#DMD Poll

Question: What happens with the Ravens over their last seven games?
6-1, finish 10-6
5-2, finish 9-7
4-3, finish 8-8
3-4, finish 7-9
2-5, finish 6-10
Name
Email address
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Wednesday
October 24
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issue 24
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finally, a win for the anthem


It might have been a small victory to some, but yesterday's news that Eric Reid's grievance against the Cincinnati Bengals had been denied by an independent arbitrator was particularly gratifying to me.

The quick back-story is this: Reid, a safety, was a free agent last summer when he met with various NFL teams, including the Bengals. Owner Mike Brown asked Reid during his visit to Cincinnati if he still intended to kneel during the national anthem in the 2018 season. Reid would eventually file a grievance against Brown and the Bengals, claiming they had no right to ask him that question since kneeling (or not) wasn't a collectively bargained right for NFL players.

Thankfully, the case got assigned to a smart arbitrator, Shyam Das, who ruled on Tuesday that the Bengals were within their rights to ask Reid the "kneeling question".

Of course they were within their rights to ask that question. Reid was interested in employment with the Bengals. They were trying to determine, in advance, if he would be a good fit for their organization. That question helped them determine what Reid's employment might look like.

Reid would eventually sign with the Carolina Panthers about a month into the NFL season.

Former 49'ers safety Eric Reid was signed by the Carolina Panthers in October and continued his pre-game routine of kneeling during the national anthem once he got to Charlotte.

Even though the "kneeling issue" seems to have quieted in the NFL, it's stories like the one that surfaced on Wednesday that still remind us of how much damage was done to NFL teams and the league in general in 2017 and 2018 when the anthem story was front and center.

Despite a (then) 4-2 record heading into Sunday's home game against the Saints, the Ravens are still feeling a pinch from last season's episode in London. Scores of empty seats have been seen at the team's first three home games in 2018, although it's fair to point out rain dominated the forecast in the home opener on September 9 and the second game of the season on September 23. But last Sunday, on a cool, crisp Fall day in Baltimore, plenty of folks still stayed home instead of heading downtown to see a marquee NFL match-up.

The arbitrator's ruling on Tuesday at least gives NFL owners a small consolation prize, particularly the ones who would rather have their employees stand up for the national anthem.

And it gives those fans who feel the same way a similar moment of gratification. Finally, a win for the anthem.

I've always contended NFL teams should be allowed to hire anyone of their choosing. That's the way companies operate in our country. There's an opening, they bring you in for an interview (or two) and they eventually hire the best candidate. Or try to, anyway.

There's a difference between a random job interview and being employed as a NFL player, because the players have rights attached to their employment through the Collective Bargaining Agreement. In the case of the Reid decision on Wednesday, the arbitrator ruled the players don't have a collectively bargained "right" to not be questioned about kneeling during the national anthem.

Mike Brown and the Bengals don't win much in key situations, so let's tip our caps to them for an important victory on Tuesday.

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you take flacco, i'll take...


I had an interesting discussion with a friend of mine on Tuesday who is an ardent supporter of Joe Flacco.

"Tell me, right now, what quarterbacks in the league you would take over Joe," he asked me. "And all you're doing is switching teams. It's a mid-season trade. Forget about the salary cap, who makes what money and so on. Right now, in the middle of the season, you can make trades for Flacco. Who would you take?"

"And you can't factor Lamar Jackson into any of your decisions," he said. "Pretend Jackson isn't on the team. This is just trading a player-for-player. Quality for quality."

I got out a piece of paper and a pen and I went to work.

The results were actually a little bit surprising.

Rodgers for Flacco? You bet.

The first three names I wrote were the obvious ones. Brady, Rodgers, Brees. I'd take all of those right now over Joe.

Roethlisberger was next. That's four quarterbacks I'd swap for Flacco right away.

Then I started going through the teams.

Jets QB? No.

Bills QB? No.

Dolphins QB? No.

I don't even know who the best QB is within those three teams. Tannehill has the most experience, but he stinks.

On to the AFC South.

Andrew Luck? Yes. I'd trade Flacco for Luck, but would need Luck to go through two of those famous Orioles physicals before I'd complete the deal.

DeShaun Watson? Hmmmmm. Maybe. Let's get back to him.

Blake Bortles. LOL. No thanks.

Marcus Mariota? Nope.

In the AFC West, I'd definitely take Mahomes and Rivers in a trade for Flacco right now. You can have Keenum and Carr, I'd keep Flacco over those two.

In the NFC, I'd swap Wentz for Flacco. That's a definite.

Prescott? No. Alex Smith? No. Eli? Ummmmm. No.

Matt Ryan for Flacco? No thanks.

Matthew Stafford in Detroit? That's a good one, I'm not sure. The same with Kirk Cousins in Minnesota. If you give up Flacco for one of those two, are you getting Flacco2 in return? OK, I think I probably would trade Flacco for Stafford. And let's make Cousins a "maybe". You can keep Mitchell Trubisky. No deal there.

Matt Ryan? No. Jameis Winston? Nope. Cam Newton? Yes. I like Newton. I realize he has his ups and downs, but so does Flacco.

Goff in L.A.? You bet. Wilson in Seattle? Maybe. Garoppolo in San Fran? Not sure. Haven't seen enough of him. The Arizona QB, whomever that is? Nope.

Last but not least...Dalton in Cincy? Maybe. Baker Mayfield in Cleveland? No.

So, after all of that, here are the definites:

Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Roethlisberger, Luck, Goff, Newton, Stafford, Mahomes and Rivers.

That's ten guys, right now, I'd swap even up for Flacco.

Frankly, I thought that number might be more like 15 or 16.

But the list of "maybe" names is kind of long, too. Watson, Cousins, Wilson, Garoppolo and Dalton are all "considerations".

For the record, my friend would only take SIX quarterbacks -- right now -- in exchange for Flacco. Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Mahomes, Wentz and Goff.

We don't see things quite the same way, obviously.

As for you, which of these quarterbacks below would you swap, right now, for Joe Flacco?


 Drew's Morning Dish

#DMD Poll

Question: What happens with the Ravens over their last seven games?
6-1, finish 10-6
5-2, finish 9-7
4-3, finish 8-8
3-4, finish 7-9
2-5, finish 6-10
Name
Email address
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Tuesday
October 23
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issue 23
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the morning after the morning after


I promise, I won't be critical of Justin Tucker in this piece.

The guy made 112 consecutive extra-points from 33 yards since the distance was moved back in 2015. That's a great run. He missed one at a terrible time, obviously, but his track record speaks for itself.

I will, though, be critical of certain aspects of Sunday's demoralizing 24-23 loss to the Saints.

This is the big leagues, folks. When you win, credit gets doled out. When you lose, people (like me) come along and beat you up. It comes with the territory.

Perhaps the single biggest non-player-personnel issue on Sunday in Baltimore was the weather. Specifically, the wind.

According to weather bureau data, here were the top gusts recorded in Baltimore per-hour on Sunday, October 21st:

4:00 pm-4:59 pm -- 16 mph

5:00 pm-5:59 pm -- 14 mph

6:00 pm-6:59 pm -- 15 mph

7:00 pm-7:59 pm -- 15 mph

In other words, it was windy on Sunday.

One look at that final kick by you-know-who will serve as a reminder that the wind mattered in the fourth quarter of that game.

Here's how the coin-flip process works in the NFL.

The visiting team calls the toss.

The team winning the coin flip has this option: They can either elect to kick or receive the first quarter kick-off. Or they can elect which end of the field they would like to defend in the first (and third) quarter.

After winning the coin toss on Sunday, the Ravens elected to receive the second half kick-off. Doing so did not give them the opportunity to select which end of the field they wanted to defend.

That, as it turns out, was a mistake.

John Harbaugh and the Ravens are now 4-3 after Sunday's 24-23 loss to the Saints in Baltimore, a game that featured several puzzling decisions by the coach and his staff.

The Ravens kicked "against the wind" in the second and fourth quarters. New Orleans, of course, kicked against the wind in the first and third quarters.

Once they won the coin toss, the Ravens could have decided to kick "with the wind" in the 2nd and 4th quarters. Doing that would have then allowed the Saints to choose between kicking or receiving to start the game.

On Sunday, the wind was a big enough factor that it should have been the number one issue the Ravens considered after winning the coin toss.

Alas, they thought the biggest factor was getting the ball to start the second half.

I'm not sure what benefit John Harbaugh thought his team had by putting the New Orleans offense out on the field to start the game. I don't see that benefit, personally.

I'd try and keep Drew Brees off the field as long as I could. But that's just me.

I understand what folks will say. "We wanted to put our defense out there to show them right from the start they were in for a long day." Eh, machismo aside, I don't think the first series of the game (which, by the way, the Saints offense dominated) dictates much of anything. It's a 60-minute football game.

So, on Sunday, by choosing to receive the second half kick, the Ravens actually did TWO things. They, 1) put New Orleans on the field first and, 2) they lost the ability to determine which end of the field they would defend first.

On a normal, sunny October day, deferring (after winning the toss) might be a sensible thing to do.

On a wind-blown October day when the gusts were at 15 mph throughout the afternoon, the Ravens should have made "kicking with the wind" in the fourth quarter a priority. Above all, they should have wanted the wind at their back in the final 15 minutes.

When the Ravens eschewed that option, they made a significant mistake.

They made others...

Baltimore's first challenge of the game came on the Saints' opening drive. A bad spot after a 3rd and 6 completion from Brees to Watson gave New Orleans a first down at their own 47 yard line.

Harbaugh -- most likely on the advice of someone up in the booth -- challenged the spot on the 3rd down conversion. He was 100% right on the premise of challenging the spot. It was awful.

The call on the field was changed and the Saints were then faced with a 4th and 1, which then resulted in a Brees quarterback sneak and a first down.

So...the Ravens used a challenge on the first series of the game at midfield.

Keep that in mind.

A few minutes later, still on that same series, Harbaugh again challenged an official's call. This time it was a "down by contact" decision on an Alvin Kamara fumble that was recovered by the Ravens. The first challenge on the bad spot was a no-brainer in terms of right and wrong. It was VERY obvious the spot was bad.

The second challenge wasn't nearly as black and white. Using it in the first quarter was an extremely dangerous decision. If the challenge wasn't upheld, the Ravens would be out of challenges -- 8 minutes into the game.

And.......when the call on the field stood, Harbaugh and the Ravens were out of challenges.

If you'd like to pontificate a bit about how screwed up the NFL rules are and how the officials should get simple stuff right during the run of play in order to avoid having coaches challenge their calls in the first place -- go ahead and do so. You wouldn't be wrong.

That said, the rules are the rules are the rules. And in this instance, on Sunday, Harbaugh should have NEVER challenged that "down by contact" call on Kamara.

Moments later, you'll recall, the Saints botched a running-back-pitch and came away with no points on the drive.

So, just to summarize. The Ravens used two challenges on that opening drive, neither of which was critical, really, and the Saints still wound up not scoring anyway.

Fast forward to a crucial part of the game...

In the fourth quarter, on the Brees sneak on 4th and 1 when he basically just stuck the ball out to reach the first down line, the referees goofed up in their application of the rules. Shocking, I know...

But because Harbaugh didn't have any challenges left, he couldn't do anything about the whole mess. That was a critical missed call by the refs, for sure, and Harbaugh said on Monday afternoon he would have challenged the play if...........you know the rest.

Challenging a first down on the first series of the game, especially given that all it would create (if successful) was 4th and 1, was nowhere near as important as challenging (or having the ability to challenge) a 4th and 1 quarterback sneak where, if your challenge is upheld, YOU GET THE BALL.

Does it make sense for the Ravens to ONLY use Lamar Jackson on two-point conversions? #DMD says "yes", maybe so, but go ahead and use him on ALL of them.

And then, there was the game-tying -- or so we thought -- touchdown throw from Flacco to Brown.

That little matter of the extra point after the TD throw still loomed...

But what about going for two points there?

Sure, it's pretty simple. Make it and you likely win (there were still 24 seconds left). Miss it and you likely lose (you could recover the onside kick and somehow kick a last-second field goal).

Worth the gamble?

Probably so, yes.

I don't think I'd go for it on the road. But at home? Not a bad idea.

For all the talk and rambling about Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' insistence on getting him involved in the offense, here's the truth.

Having him throw the football at this stage is silly. Reports out of Owings Mills throughout the last three months are that the Ravens are quietly unimpressed with both his accuracy and decision making as a "real" quarterback.

Having Jackson run around as a half-a-Michael Vick during the normal course of the game seems kind of dumb to me, too. All it's really doing is putting 11 defensive players against 10 offensive players, since Flacco is clearly and obviously NOT involved in the play call, whatever that might be.

So, while Jackson's role in "normal" time seems ill fitting at best, dumb at worst, there is one area of the game where it might make perfect sense to have him be a focal point: Two point conversions.

In that scenario, take Flacco off the field completely. And let Jackson take the snap and figure out how to get two yards.

This is largely the same argument I made at the end of Super Bowl 47 when the 49'ers outsmarted themselves on 1st and 5 with two minutes left in the game.

They should have simply said to Colin Kaepernick, "Here's the deal. You have four plays to get five yards. Take the snap in the shotgun and make something happen. Get us FIVE lousy yards in four plays and we win the championship."

I'll always be convinced Kaepernick could have picked up five yards in four plays just running the ball himself.

And Jackson, right now, might be best suited to be the Ravens' designated two point conversion specialist.

Let him decide how to get the ball into the end zone from two yards out. If he's ever going to be a real quarterback in the league -- heads he will be, tails he won't -- he'll need to figure that stuff out anyway.

Going for two points in that situation on Sunday would have definitely been risky. But it seems like the easiest thing to do is to simply establish a plan or protocol and say, "This is what we're doing when we have a chance to tie the game with an extra point or win it with a 2-point conversion."

Back in 2007, Zach Johnson won The Masters. He did so with a very strange statistic attached to his victory. Not once in four days did he try and reach one of Augusta National's four par-5 holes in two shots.

No matter the yardage he had into the green for his second shot on a par-5, Johnson laid up and wedged his 3rd shot on to the putting surface. It was a plan, he said, that he vowed to follow all week no matter where he was in the tournament.

It was a plan that helped him win the first of his two major titles.

The Ravens might be well served to devote themselves to a similar plan.

"If we have an extra point to tie the game or a two point conversion to win it (or go ahead in the final minute, i.e.,), we're going for two every time."

They might lose one or two that way. They might win one or two that way.

But at least they won't be unoriginal.

And perhaps the other in-game mistakes they make will be overshadowed by a last second win instead of a cruel, heartbreaking loss.

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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.



There's an old maxim in the NFL: Good teams find a way to win, bad teams find a way to lose.

It'd be a major stretch to call the Ravens a "bad" team, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more starcrossed way to lose a game than to have the most accurate kicker in NFL history miss an extra point for the first time in his career after what should have been a game tying touchdown in the game's final minute.

Obviously that's about as flukey of an occurrence as you'll see in an NFL game, and I have no doubt that Tucker is going to bounce back with little trouble.

But as easy as it is to feel better about how little the loss means in terms of evaluating this team, it's still one that's going to have major repercussions over the rest of the season. That's because the Ravens schedule is downright brutal the rest of the way, with no fewer than half a dozen games left against playoff contenders.

What's more, the Ravens will also have to face Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Patrick Mahomes, and Phillip Rivers on the road. Thanks to this loss (and the loss to the Browns, obviously) the Ravens have to pick up at least one of those road wins to have a shot at a 10-6 record and a strong chance at a playoff berth.

Lose them all, or go 1-3 and drop, say, the home game against Pittsburgh, and they'll be 9-7 at best and they'll need the kind of good fortune they haven't had in recent years to make it into the playoffs.

Some thoughts from what may prove to be a devastating loss:

-There's no real point in breaking down Tucker's fateful kick, because there's nothing to really break down. He just missed the kick. It happens, even to Tucker. It's unbelievable that it happened when it did, but there's no greater lesson to take from this, other than that the NFL still has the potential to deliver unbelievable moments.

So instead of talking about Tucker let me take the chance to ask: Why do teams even kick extra points in the first place? I was actually thinking about this earlier in the game watching New Orleans go from refusing to kick on 4th and short to passively lining up for one point instead of two after their touchdowns.

The math here is pretty simple: Convert the two-point conversion 50% of the time and you get as many points as you do for making 100% of your extra points. If you can't line up and gain two yards on the goal line at least 50% of the times you try, you probably don't have a good enough offense to contend for anything anyway, right?

Obviously there are late game situations where an extra point would make sense given the scoring situation, but If a team like New Orleans is going to be hyper-aggressive on 4th and short (to their benefit) why do they suddenly abandon that strategy by leaving points on the field after a touchdown?

-While we're on the topic, it continues to amaze how many boneheaded coaching decisions you see on a week to week basis, and this game had its fair share on both sides.

On New Orleans' first drive, they took Drew Brees off of the field on fourth down on the goal-line to run what looked like a speed option with Taysom Hill but may well have been a straight pitch.

In any event, if it was an option Hill failed to attack the line and led Alvin Kamara right into the Ravens' linebackers.

Not to be outdone, the Ravens decided to finally let Lamar Jackson throw a passing play...on a 3rd and 8. Now on a 3rd and 3 or 4 you might have something going here. If the Saints' safeties sneak up to guard against the option, there may well be a big opening over the top for a play-action pass. But on 3rd and 8 there's no need to play the line that tight, and thus no room over the top, and all you end up with is a short pass over the middle that gets stopped short of the sticks.

Later on the Ravens found themselves in a 3rd and 1 and, even though Jackson had already scored a touchdown from a similar formation to end the first half, had Alex Collins take a pitch from Joe Flacco out of the shotgun formation for a loss of 3 yards.

It is just amazing how in today's game of prolific and highly skilled offenses, offensive coaches are quite often doing more to stop their units than opposing defenses are simply because they're too afraid to do the obvious thing, even if the defense hasn't shown they can stop it.

-Oh, and speaking of Jackson's aforementioned touchdown, here's something I noticed on Sunday. The Saints ran a similar package with Taysom Hill as the option plays the Ravens have been running with Jackson, to similar success.

Hill led the Saints in yards per carry by a wide margin on Sunday, and the Ravens had real trouble defending those options in the open field (excepting the first one anyway).

You know what was different? I couldn't find any Saints fans on Twitter complaining about Brees not playing quarterback on those plays. It's almost like fans who aren't insecure about their quarterback's ability are happy when a sub package proves to be an effective way to gain rushing yards or something.

-As for Flacco himself, for the vast majority of the game he continued his run of good performances this season. He went toe-to-toe with Brees in yards per attempt, and both quarterbacks threw two touchdowns against no interceptions.

And, of course, there was the Ravens final drive, where Flacco slung it all over the field before finding John Brown in the end zone for the touchdown that made it 24-23.

Despite good numbers on Sunday in the loss to the Saints, it was Flacco's play in the fourth quarter that was just so-so enough to keep the Saints in the game.

Unfortunately there was also the second to last drive of the game, and Flacco was less than stellar on that drive to say the least.

Despite two pass interference calls helping the Ravens move down the field, including a borderline call on 4th down, the Ravens came away with no points to show for making it to New Orleans' 40 yard line in no small part because Flacco missed four throws on that drive alone.

There was a badly underthrown deep ball to Hayden Hurst, throws behind both Chris Moore and Willie Snead over the middle, and a play where Flacco had Mark Andrews open on the sideline but couldn't find him in time and ended up sailing the ball over his head and out of bounds instead.

The throws to Hurst and Snead both came after the second pass interference call gave the Ravens a first down inside New Orleans territory and needed just 5-10 yards to get into Justin Tucker's field goal range. Once again, Flacco's game reflected the overall team performance: Mostly good, but ultimately not quite good enough.

-I've seen some fledgling efforts to blame the loss on the Ravens' defense for blowing a fourth quarter lead which....really? The Saints have an inner circle Hall of Famer at quarterback, a top 4 or 5 wide receiver, and the reigning offensive rookie of the year at running back.

They came into Sunday's game averaging 424 yards and 36 (!) points per game. And the Ravens held them to just 24 points and 339 offensive yards over the course of the game.

To put that in perspective, the median NFL offense gains 371 yards per game on average at the moment. You just can't ask for much more out of a unit than that and, if anything, this game serves as a reminder that in the modern NFL you can't expect to beat good offensive teams by holding them to 21 points or less.

The Saints's defense, on the other hand, was giving up 28 points per game while the Ravens were scoring an average of 25.5 points per game. You can't underperform both of those numbers at home and even think of putting the blame on the defense.

-It's not really a fair comparison at the moment, because Hurst has been sidelined by injuries, but of the two tight ends the Ravens drafted this past spring Mark Andrews is the one I'm currently more excited by.

He's already flashing the receiving skills that made him stand out at Oklahoma, particularly his instinctive ability to find open space against zone defense. That's exactly what he did on his third quarter touchdown play, and that hasn't been a rarity for him by any means.

And he threw a dandy of an open field block to open up a huge run after the catch for John Brown earlier in the day. Oh yeah, Brown caught seven passes for 134 yards including the big touchdown catch at the end of the game. Ho hum, just another week.

-After a franchise record setting 11 sacks a week prior, the Ravens managed just one this week: By Terrell Suggs late in the second half. The Ravens looked like they were playing a safe cover package for most of the game, which made some sense given how thin they were at cornerback particularly with Marlon Humphrey out injured.

And for the most part it worked, too.

-On the offensive side the Ravens had a tremendously beat up offensive line, going so far as to start two rookie backups with James Hurst and Alex Lewis both out. The line played quite well throughout the game however, especially in pass protection. That's quite a confidence boost for everyone I'd imagine.

-The Ravens now have to go on the road to face the Panthers, who are coming off of a big win on the road against the Eagles, and I think it's safe to call this a must win of sorts for Baltimore. A loss drops them to 4-4 and will only ramp up the pressure on everyone with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati headed to town just after that.

That's not do or die stuff, exactly, but it's definitely not ideal either.

And again, the Ravens have put themselves in a position where they eventually HAVE to beat a playoff contending team on the road, so might as well do it sooner rather than later, right?

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our 2019 masters trip is now on sale


Once again next April, #DMD will be taking you on the trip of a lifetime. That is, if you're a golfer and you've never been to Augusta National to see the Masters up close and personal.

Our annual trip to golf's most sacred piece of property is set for Tuesday, April 9, 2019. It's a practice round for the Masters, with Tuesday always being the best day of the week because all of the players in the field are at the course for the entire day and there's no other tournament obligation (par-3 tournament on Wednesday, for example) to take them away from the course.

So, no matter if it's Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka or any other golfer you admire (yes, even Rickie Fowler), you'll get to see him and everyone else in the field.

And here's a promise I make to everyone who goes on the Masters trip with us: You'll never watch the golf tournament the same way again. You simply can't have an appreciation for how difficult the layout is at Augusta National until you see it for yourself, in person.

To make the whole day as economically feasible as possible (which isn't easy), the whole trip gets done in one day. We could stay in Augusta overnight, but you'd be adding $300 or so to the cost of the trip, if we could even get rooms, which, sadly, you can't...without the three-night minimum attached.

So, our group leaves BWI at 5:30 am and returns home on the last flight on Tuesday night, arriving back in Baltimore just before midnight. As I always say: "It's a long day, but it's a great day."

We'll arrive on the property at Augusta National sometime around 9:00 am and they'll be locking the doors behind us at 6:30 pm when we finally call it a day.

Your trip price of $1,345 per-person includes the following:

Round-trip airfare from BWI airport.

Ground transportation to/from the golf course in Augusta, Georgia.

Your full-day practice round ticket.

A $10.00 lunch voucher (Which, as you'll see, goes a long way down there.)

We have 20 spots available on the trip.

If you're interested in going with us, please e-mail me today: drew@drewsmorningdish.com

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issue 22
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tuckered out


The ending of yesterday's Ravens-Saints game was so bizarre, so off-brand, and so unexpected that it almost feels like we should just skip the summary.

The Saints won, 24-23.

Let's talk about the Panthers now.

Yes, it was a fluke.

New Orleans supporters won't like that, but it's the truth. They were fortunate to win yesterday. As FOX's Chris Myers reminded us throughout Sunday's game, "Justin Tucker has never missed an extra point in his career."

And then he did.

But for as lucky as the Saints were to win, let's give them the credit they deserve, too.

Drew Brees and his (supposed) high-flying offense were largely kept in check all day, trailing 17-7 after three quarters of play.

When it was gut check time, though, the Saints came through with flying colors and the Ravens defense folded like a cheap suit from Two Guys, circa 1977.

The fourth quarter really came down to three things.

That look we all had yesterday when Tucker's extra point went wide right.

One...the Saints were able to run the ball right through the Ravens. Overall, they piled up 134 yards on the ground, lugging the ball 39 times. But in that final 15 minutes, the Saints' offensive line smacked the Ravens in the mouth...repeatedly.

Two...the next-to-last Baltimore offensive series was a mixture of dreadful execution and an inability to make the big play. And, naturally, Marty Mornhinweg was involved, too.

The Ravens trailed 21-17 when they got the ball back with 4:58 remaining in the game.

Of their next 11 plays, 10 were throws. They ran the ball one time.

The key play in the series was a poorly thrown ball to Hayden Hurst deep in New Orleans territory with three and a half minutes left in the game. Some will claim Hurst should have reeled in the pass but it wasn't thrown with anywhere near enough conviction to reach him before the defensive player got to the scene and helped knock Hurst off balance.

The Ravens eventually turned the ball over on downs and New Orleans meandered down the field, chewed up some clock, and connected on a short field goal to make it 24-17.

And, three...doing what he couldn't do on the penultimate series, Flacco then took the Ravens right down the field, connecting on a TD pass to John Brown with twenty four seconds left in the game to make it 24-23.

"Now here's Justin Tucker, on to attempt the extra point," said play-by-play man Chris Myers. "He's never missed an extra point in his NFL career."

And...shanksville.

Ravens lose.

It was stunning. Sure, there's no guarantee the Ravens win the game if Tucker converts and the teams head to overtime. It was eerily similar to the kick Billy Cundiff missed in 2012 in New England. His was from 32 yards out. Tucker's kick was from 33 yards away. Sure, Cundiff's miss was in the AFC title game and yesterday's was merely a late October regular season game, but in both instances, the miss only prevented the game from going to overtime.

There's no way to know what would have happened yesterday had Tucker's extra point sailed through the uprights.

But that's still a terrible, terrible way to lose a football game, particularly when you're likely only allowed six losses and you suddenly have three and you're not yet at the season's halfway point.

Oh, and your next opponent, on the road, just went into the defending champion's stadium and beat them with a fourth quarter rally for the ages.

No one said this would be easy. Funny enough, though, for three quarters yesterday, the Ravens' defense did make it look easy. They shut down Brees for 45 minutes and Flacco and the offense did more than enough through three quarters to make things look promising.

Then, suddenly, the Baltimore defense couldn't get off the field. And Joe Flacco and the offense couldn't make a big play when needed.

Even then, with everything conspiring against them -- including their own play -- the Ravens still scratched their way back into the game and sent it to overti ------

Thanks Chris Myers.

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"i need to be accountable"


Kickers.

Quarterbacks.

Pitchers.

Goalies.

They're all cut from the same cloth, sorta-kinda.

For whatever reason, they're wired to accept responsibility when something goes wrong on their watch.

The worst moment of Billy Cundiff's career sadly defined his tenure in Baltimore.

I remember, like it was yesterday, waiting by Billy Cundiff's locker in New England when he missed "the kick" in the AFC title game.

"I don't know what to say," he explained. "There wasn't anything out of the ordinary about that kick. I've made that kick a thousand times in my life. I just missed this one. It happens. I wish it didn't, but it did."

Sadly, and not so surprisingly, given the circumstances, Cundiff was never really the same after that miss. He was replaced by Justin Tucker and the rest is history, as the saying goes.

But I'll always remember Cundiff coming out of the shower in the Baltimore locker room and saying to the 25 or so people waiting for him, "If you guys will just give me five minutes, I'll get dressed and I'll talk then."

He could have scooted off to the training room for a band-aid or something and "waited it out" until the room was clear. But he didn't. He got dressed and faced the music.

Justin Tucker did the same thing yesterday. He didn't even bother holding court at his locker. He went right to the podium in the interview room and stood there to accept questions and explain the shocking miss that cost the Ravens a chance at winning the game in overtime.

"I feel like it's important to be up here and to be accountable," Tucker said. "This is something I'll need to teach my son. You're accountable when you do well and win and you're accountable when you make a mistake and you lose."

I was already a Justin Tucker fan before yesterday, but his stock just rose with me after Sunday's faux pas.

It would shock me to see the miss have a long-standing impact on Tucker. He's a better kicker than Cundiff, for starters. Much better, in fact. And I can't imagine he's mentally weak to the point where he'll let one miss break him down.

The football gods being kind hearted and all, Tucker probably nails a 55 yarder at the buzzer next Sunday in Charlotte to give the Ravens a 26-23 victory.

He's earned that kind of good fortune, I'd say, with both his kicking history and his professionalism after the worst moment of his NFL career yesterday.

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"The Keen Eye" of 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 Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.


great teams edition


Who?

The Red Sox

Anytime a team wins as many games as the Red Sox did this season, 108, you have to make them the favorite in the World Series. We know that the Dodgers, with a tremendously talented roster, had to work hard until season’s end to make the playoffs.

Boston is certainly one of the better single-season teams the league has seen since the great Yankee squads that won three straight championships nearly 20 years ago. Maybe Houston is going to be better over a longer period of time, but that isn’t going to make Astro fans feel any better right now.

Oriole-killer extraordinaire Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez each have an OPS of greater than 1.000; you could have a great team without any players reaching that mark.

Interestingly, Betts and Martinez may be intertwined in a different way when the Sox play in Los Angeles. Red Sox manager Alex Cora hinted that he’s going to put Martinez, his usual designated hitter, into the lineup and the outfield in the National League park, and that might mean that Betts is going to play second base.

At this point, I’m not sure what Cora might do that wouldn’t work. One exception to that is Craig Kimbrel, his closer, who’s been doing a modern-day version of Don Stanhouse recently. The Red Sox are good enough to win the World Series in four games, especially with the free-swinging ways of the Dodgers’ lineup. I’d be surprised if the series goes past Game 5 in Los Angeles on Sunday.


What?

Rolling Tide

Might Alabama lose a game this season, whether in the regular season or during the College Football Playoff? Certainly. In fact, the next game for the Crimson Tide is at LSU, a matchup certain to qualify as one of those “games of the year.”

Still, eight games into the season for the Tide, it’s worth looking at numbers that are absolutely staggering, even for Nick Saban’s program.

Alabama’s quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, has thrown 25 touchdowns and no interceptions. His NCAA passer efficiency rating is 238.8; the current record for a season is 198.9. Oh by the way, Tagovailoa has yet to play a down in the fourth quarter this season.

The Crimson Tide have scored 58 touchdowns overall, an average of more than seven per game, and are averaging 347 yards passing and 217 yards rushing per game.

Saban’s team has played three games on the road, all against Southeastern Conference competition, and has scored 62 points, 65 points and then 58 points in those three games.

On the defensive side, the Tide has 26 sacks and 12 interceptions, compared to five sacks and two interceptions for their opponents.

On some level, what’s happened with Alabama was bound to happen. Eventually, Saban was going to come to his senses and start caring about offense in the same way he cares about defense. Right now, his team is threatening to become the UConn women’s basketball program translated to the gridiron.


Where?

Los Angeles

A reminder: the Los Angeles Rams, who missed the playoffs in their final 11 years in St. Louis and their first year back in California, have returned to prominence with a head coach who was a teenager the last time the team was in the postseason in St. Louis.

Sean McVay is now 32 years old. He started his coaching career in 2008 as a wide receivers assistant in Tampa and worked for the Redskins for seven seasons as a tight ends coach and then the team’s offensive coordinator.

The Rams took a real chance, though someone was smart enough to realize that it wasn’t much of a chance at all.

McVay is an offensive-minded coach, obviously, though it’s interesting to note that his offenses in Landover finished 26th, 10th and 12th in the league in points scored. The Redskins were no juggernaut in McVay’s three seasons as offensive coordinator, though certainly Kirk Cousins blossomed into a high-level player.

On offense, of course, it helps to have a great quarterback, a big-time running back and excellent receivers; even good teams don’t necessarily have all three of those. The Rams do…with Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and the receiving trio of Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks.

McVay’s grandfather, John, was kind of a success himself. He was the Vice President/Director of Football Operations for the 49ers from 1980-1994, a period when San Francisco won five Super Bowl titles.


When?

December 17, 2016

On that day, the football team from the University of Central Florida played their counterparts from Arkansas State University in something called the Cure Bowl. Despite the advantage of playing the game in its home city of Orlando, UCF lost 31-13. It was the Knights’ third-straight loss, actually, and gave them a losing record of 6-7 for the season.

Turns out they haven’t lost since. “National champions” or not, who could have predicted that? 20 wins in a row, under two head coaches, including that victory over Auburn in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Day 2018.

Did you know that it’s now been three years in a row that UCF has been forced to cancel a game because of a hurricane? This year, it was a game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill at the time of Hurricane Florence. Last year, Hurricane Irma cancelled a matchup against Georgia Tech; by the time the Knights demolished Maryland in College Park, they hadn’t played in 24 days.

Nothing has stopped UCF in almost two years now. The Knights even held out their starting quarterback, McKenzie Milton, against East Carolina on Saturday and had no problems.

With three straight home games coming up, I’d bet on UCF getting to 10-0 before their annual matchup with USF in Tampa on Thanksgiving weekend. I’d also bet on UCF not even getting near the College Football Playoff conversation for as long as they play football there.


Why?

The unsung hero

Renowned teams, including those who might qualify as “dynasties,” get that way because of the players who wear the uniform. In the case of the Golden State Warriors, that would be Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Now, you have to add DeMarcus Cousins to that list.

Still, it’s enlightening to look at the plays that win individual games. Did you notice who won the game for Golden State in Utah on Friday? Somebody named Jonas Jerebko.

Durant got off a great shot in the final seconds with his team losing by one. I suppose it’s surprising that he missed it, but Jerebko was smart enough to anticipate a miss. He got inside rebounding position and tipped the ball in at the buzzer.

Jerebko, who is Swedish, is a 10-year NBA veteran. In Detroit, Boston and Utah over the past eight seasons, he averaged about 15 minutes per game. For his career, Jerebko has scored almost 3,500 points. Three years ago, Curry scored almost 2,400 points in one season.

Give Jerebko credit where it is due. He was a second-round pick of the Pistons in 2009 and is still playing in the league nine years later. His career could have been permanently affected when he missed his entire second season in the NBA due to injury, but it hasn’t been.

I suppose that the Warriors will win enough games this year that one great play at the end of one game won’t stand out. Jerebko is unlikely to have a better NBA memory than that one no matter how much longer he plays.

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#DMD GAME DAY
Week 7


Sunday — October 21, 2018
Volume LI — Issue 21

New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens

4:05 PM EDT

M&T Bank Stadium
Baltimore

Spread: Ravens -2½


this is a real test today


If the Ravens defense can't stop Drew Brees and that New Orleans offense, perhaps the wind and weather can help silence them.

Who knows what the conditions will be at kick-off -- you know what they say about Baltimore weather, if you don't like it, wait four hours or so and it will change -- but if it's anything at 4 pm like it was at 4 am this morning, Brees and his counterpart, Joe Flacco, will be in for an interesting afternoon.

Then again, it was rainy and yucky back on September 9 and September 23 and Flacco carved up the Bills and Broncos. But the wind in those two games was nothing like we might see in this afternoon's contest. So it's anyone's guess how the weather could impact the two offenses today.

No matter, though, today's contest presents each team with a real test.

The Ravens are facing one of the league's most powerful offenses and an all-time great NFL signal caller in Brees. And not only can New Orleans pepper their way down the field with every passing play imaginable, they can also run the ball effectively.

New Orleans hasn't seen a defense like this one yet in 2018. While their offense has feasted on the likes of awful defenses in Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Washington, when they were pressed by the Browns' "decent" defense back in week 2, they were held to just 21 points in an overtime victory.

Barring a Ravens-Saints Super Bowl this year or in the immediate future, this is potentially the last time the Ravens will ever face the future of Hall of Famer.

Yes, that Cleveland game might have been their in-season outlier, but the reality for New Orleans stays the same. The defense they're facing today is, by far, the best one they've seen this season.

As for Baltimore, if they need a "big win" for their self-esteem, that opportunity presents itself front and center this afternoon.

Beating the Saints isn't quite like beating New England, but anytime you get the better of Brees, it's front page news. That they're getting him away from the cozy confines of New Orleans' domed stadium is most certainly an added bonus for John Harbaugh's team.

The run through the NFC South that starts today for Baltimore could very well wind up helping to decide the AFC North title. The Bengals, Ravens and Steelers all get their shot at Brees and the other three NFC South foes. There's probably no harm in a 4-game split. A 3-1 mark would be ideal. But going 1-3 against the Saints, Bucs, Falcons and Panthers could be a division-decider. This week and next week in Carolina gives the Ravens a chance to start that quest in a positive fashion.

Today's game features a lot of nooks and crannies.

What's the acceptable limit for Brees' production? 2 TD's and 275 yards in the air seems like the kind of number the Ravens would gladly take before the game even starts. If they can limit Brees to those numbers, Baltimore should win the game.

And what about Joe Flacco? What do the Ravens need from him and the offense? Can Flacco throw for at least 3 TD's and 300 yards? Can the Baltimore running game produce at least 120 yards on the ground? Those two sets of numbers seem perfectly aligned with a Ravens win. Flacco, of course, has never had a 400 yard passing game in his career. A wild, throw-it-every-time shootout with Drew Brees doesn't seem like it would favor Flacco and Marty Mornhinweg, so it will be important to sprinkle in lots of running this afternoon.

Can the Baltimore defense take a few lumps today and still soldier on? What happens if Brees slices and dices them a couple of times in the first quarter? Can the Ravens stay "in it" and not cave in to the pressure of facing a Hall of Famer who might occasionally make them look bad?

And with the potential for windy conditions at 4:05 pm, what about the kickers? Nothing seemingly stops Justin Tucker, but if there's one thing out of his control that could impact his ability to connect on field goals, it's high winds.

While it seems like today's game comes down to one line item -- Brees vs. the Baltimore defense -- the truth is the Baltimore offense will have to do something of significance if they hope to be 5-2 at day's end. The Ravens likely aren't winning this one 17-13.

Once again, the heat is on Joe Flacco. Last week was easy. He had to outduel Marcus Mariota. This week is a step up in class for both Flacco and the Ravens as a whole.

Note: "Show Me The Money" is in audio form today. Just to go to the "Juice" podcast in the upper right corner above and you'll hear all five of my NFL picks for week #7.

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how drew sees today's game


I'm making this prediction based on the fact I believe the weather won't be a major factor by 4 pm. The forecast shows diminishing winds throughout the day, down to 13 MPH by 4 pm. While the conditions might not be ideal later this afternoon, they won't be hazardous to Flacco and Brees.

Expect the Ravens to mix the run and pass today, or at least as long as they're not behind by two scores. If they should fall behind by double digits, we all know that triggers an "abandon the run" philosophy in Mornhinweg.

Running the ball effectively not only helps keep the defense off balance, it also helps decrease the number of times Drew Brees might get on the field to engineer the New Orleans offense.

Ball control helps the Ravens today. No two ways about it.

So with that, I see, in general, a lower scoring game than most people think.

Baltimore moves down the field quickly on their first series, with Flacco using former Saints receiver Willie Snead effectively. A big Michael Crabtree catch puts the Ravens in the red zone but the drive stalls there and the Ravens settle for an early field goal.

An impressive Saints drive abruptly ends on a ball batted up in the air at the line of scrimmage by Za'Darius Smith, who then watches C.J. Mosley grab it and return it 54 yards for a field-switching turnover.

Five players later, Flacco finds Snead for a touchdown against his former employer, and the Ravens lead 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, a Brees touchdown throw -- the 500th of his career -- to former Raven tight end Benjamin Watson cuts the Baltimore lead to 10-6, as the Saints miss the extra point.

New Orleans then connects on a field goal just before halftime to make it 10-9 at intermission.

The Ravens get a 3rd quarter TD run from Alex Collins to go up 17-9. On New Orleans' next possession, Brees has a pass picked off by Marlon Humphrey.

Flacco finds Michael Crabtree in the end zone in the final minute of the 3rd quarter to put the Ravens up 24-9.

Alvin Kamara's 12-yard scamper into the end with six minutes left in the game makes it 24-15. The Saints go for two and are denied.

Flacco and the Ravens convert on two big third down plays on the next series, and Tucker makes it 27-15 with a 43 yard field goal.

And that's how it ends. The Ravens improve to 5-2 with a 27-15 win, where they hold Drew Brees to one touchdown throw and 297 yards in the air.

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go dodgers, go!


One thing is certain in these parts. We have a team to root for in the World Series.

They're called the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers earned their second straight trip to the World Series last night with a 5-1 win in Game 7 at Milwaukee. They'll now face the Red Sox -- who own home field advantage -- starting on Tuesday night.

Clayton Kershaw closed out last night's game for the Dodgers, striking out two batters in the ninth inning of the 5-1 win.

So...we can't possibly hope to see Boston win the title, right? Right.

And the Dodgers do have Manny Machado, so for those of you who can still stomach his Hollywood act out there in L.A., there's yet another reason to want the Dodgers to win.

Anyone but Boston...

And since there are only two teams remaining, that means we have to pull for Los Angeles.

Sadly, I don't think it's happening.

Red Sox win the series in six games.

I can't even think about the torture we'll have to go through hearing Boston sports fans remind us the Red Sox have won four World Series titles since the last time the Orioles won one.

My stomach already hurts just thinking about it.

Glory
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Saturday
October 20
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issue 20
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70 days later...and still nothing


A little more than two months ago, a national story broke in the wake of Jordan McNair's death at the University of Maryland.

"The toxic culture within Maryland football".

There's no need to go over the details again. If you've even half-followed the story, you know what happened.

But there's a "new" story from College Park.

And here it is: There's been no formal resolution to anything connected with that culture at Maryland.

Sure, Rick Court lost his job. He was the strength and conditioning coach who supervised a lot of the dangerous tactics that were revealed in the mid-August story.

Still nothing "official" yet from Dr. Wallace Loh or the University of Maryland...

Oh, and head coach D.J. Durkin was placed on administrative leave -- "suspended", if you will -- while the school investigated the death of McNair and how/why it happened on Durkin's watch.

But it's October 20 now and Durkin is still, technically, employed by the school. There have been whispers recently that Durkin continues to gain support from within the program itself -- players, staffers, etc. -- as it relates to the environment at College Park.

How can it take an institution as big and advanced as Maryland more than two months to render a verdict on something as cut-and-dried as this sad saga?

Two months to come up with an answer. Two months. And yet, they haven't done it.

They've had reports and commissions and more reports. Countless hours of interviews, testimony and so on. The school has spent 70 days investigating this story.

The strength and conditioning coach was fired.

And thus far, that's it.

I'm certainly not leading a witch-hunt for Durkin's job. If Maryland has dug their way all to China and back and they don't have enough evidence in place to fire Durkin, then don't fire him. Fair enough.

If you're going to fire him, do it. Pay the man what you owe him and start fresh with Matt Canada -- the interim head coach -- or someone else.

We all know, of course, that's part of the reason why Durkin wasn't terminated right away. Maryland didn't want to pay him money for not coaching. Maryland wanted to fire him, logically. But they didn't want to pay him.

Meanwhile, 70 days later, the school looks like they can't get from Parkville to Perry Hall without a GPS.

Oh, and here's the kicker to the whole thing. How much money do you think Maryland has spent in this investigation? How many attorney hours have been billed? It's been an expensive last two months, you can bet on that.

Here's a wager I'd make: Maryland has spent more money on the investigation than they would have spent on just firing Durkin and paying him.

Two months later...and still no real direction from the administration at College Park.

Yesterday, the Maryland Board of Regents received a report from the commission they hired to investigate McNair's death and Maryland's role in it.

"We'll have a press conference next Tuesday or Wednesday to discuss what the commission reported to us," the school said yesterday.

Make it 75 days. And counting...

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"stock tips" for ravens-saints


You'll have to check back here tomorrow for my official prediction on the Ravens-Saints showdown in Baltimore.

Honestly, I'm not 100% sure what way I'm going yet. It's most certainly a coin-flip game.

But all week I've heard various "sub-stories" being discussed on sports radio or being written about in social media.

I thought I'd look at five of those topics and give you some "stock tips" on them.

Drew Brees has defeated every team in the NFL in his career except...the Baltimore Ravens.

I don't put any stock in the note about Drew Brees being 0-4 against the Ravens in his career.

He's been a starter in the NFL since 2002. In 17 previous seasons, he's seen the Ravens four times. There's "sample size" and "small sample size". Four games in 17 years isn't even up to "small sample size" yet.

Look, if Baker Mayfield beats the Ravens later this season in Baltimore, then somehow beats them twice again next year as well, one of the storylines in 2020 might be, "The Ravens have never defeated Baker Mayfield." I understand that one.

But putting stock in a quarterback being 0-4 against a team over a 17-year period is a worthless piece of information.

I put a lot of stock in New Orleans playing away from home tomorrow.

Here's a fact. Drew Brees and that Saints offense are really, really good in their home, domed stadium.

Another fact. They're only "good" once they have to play away -- in an outdoor stadium.

Don't get me wrong...they're coming to Baltimore tomorrow locked and loaded and the Ravens defense will have a challenge on their hands.

But they're not running up a 40-spot on the Ravens in Baltimore tomorrow. It's just not happening.

Brees and the offense have three, 40-point games this season thus far. Two at home (40 and 43 points) and one on the road (43 at Atlanta). But the 43 point output at Atlanta came in a domed stadium, remember.

New Orleans will score some points tomorrow. But they're not getting close to that 40 point number tomorrow.

I put a lot of stock in Joe Flacco playing at home tomorrow.

Look, Flacco was decent last week against the Titans, no doubt about it. But Tennessee didn't do anything on offense themselves, and once the game got to 14-0 in the first half, all Flacco needed to do was keep the ball in the fairway and the Ravens were going to win.

Tomorrow presents a significantly different challenge in that we all expect the Saints to score some points. Conventional wisdom suggest Baltimore will need at least 25 points to win. I think Flacco and the offense can reach that number, but it's mostly going to be on Joe and the receivers.

Like nearly every other athlete, ever, Joe plays better at home than on the road.

There's "home Joe" and there's "road Joe". Anyone who has watched the Ravens over the last 11 years knows exactly what I'm talking about. I'm thinking there's a really good chance the Ravens get a healthy dose of "home Joe" tomorrow.

I don't put any stock in the so-called hangover effect I hear people worrying about after last Sunday's road win in Nashville. Sure, that Cleveland loss three weeks ago might have been one of those occasions where the Pittsburgh road win from the week before was still on everyone's minds. I don't discount that theory.

But there's no hangover effect from beating the Titans in Nashville last Sunday. None.

And I put a lot of stock in the Ravens' defense having a barrel full of extra motivation tomorrow to get in the national spotlight with an impressive outing vs. Brees.

I think that kind of stuff matters to players. And, let's face it, you only get to play Brees and Rodgers once every four years. And you might see Brady once every two years or so. The opportunities to shine against those Hall of Famers don't come around often.

And with Baltimore's defense only giving up 77 points in six games thus far, they are one more really good defensive performance away from getting some national attention. If they somehow hold Brees and that New Orleans offense to two touchdowns or less on Sunday and the Ravens win, 27-14, one of the biggest stories of the NFL weekend will read: "Ravens defense shuts down Brees".

Players have pride. This one matters to the Ravens tomorrow. In more ways than you can imagine.

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Friday
October 19
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issue 19
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back to real college basketball maybe?


"Old Fogey Alert".

I saw the news yesterday that the NBA is going to upgrade their developmental league -- now called the G-League -- and offer elite college-age basketball players the option of skipping the formalities of playing one year of freshman hoops and immediately start the play-for-pay game and make up to $125,000 for their efforts.

Boy, do I absolutely love that idea.

Kudos to the NBA for coming up with a solution for the dozens of kids who come along each year and purloin their way through a year of college before gracing the professional ranks with all of their elite skills.

Maybe this is the start of college basketball actually returning to -- gulp -- college basketball.

Wouldn't that be something? Wouldn't it be great to see kids go to school for four years and both play for their designated institution AND get a college diploma?

I'm dreaming, right? Is that what you're thinking?

Maybe I am.

But maybe I'm not.

In the future, high profile high school players like Marvin Bagley, who played for Duke last season, will have the option of moving right into an NBA "developmental league" and earning a salary instead of playing in college.

While there are most definitely basketball "factories" scattered all over the country who reward their "student-athletes" with money and other forms of incentives, there are also a significant number of schools who choose to operate within the NCAA rules.

Believe it or not, right here in Baltimore, kids that play basketball at places like Towson, UMBC, Loyola, Morgan St. and Coppin St. actually trade their education for basketball services.

Some of them -- wait for it -- even get a job after they graduate.

If the NBA figures out how to run this G-League the right way, places like Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina and, yes, our own University of Maryland, might not be able to "afford" the best players anymore.

If the G-League works, the elite high school kids -- better known these days as "the one and done'rs" -- will no longer have to peddle themselves to the highest college bidder. They'll become professionals just after leaving high school.

The new NBA-run G-League would also allow their players to earn money for marketing endorsements, shoe contracts and so on.

Now, they'll be able to see right away what they're really worth out on the open market.

And best of all, if this new league does take hold, we won't have to hear the whining any longer. No more poor-boy-crying from these entitled kids and their parents who feel like they're getting the bad end of the bargain because their son doesn't really want to attend college but has no better avenue into the NBA.

Those poor kids. They even have Condoleezza Rice hoodwinked.

"Elite high school players with NBA prospects and no interest in a college degree should not be forced to attend college, often for less than a year," commission chair Condoleezza Rice told The Associated Press on Thursday. "One-and-done has to go, one way or another."

I love it. Those young men are forced to go to college. I had to LOL at that one. I sure hope my son and daughter are forced to attend college free of charge for four years. From her lips to God's ears.

Ultimately, though, I approve of the G-League. I'm all for anything that stops the bellyaching from people who think a $240,000 education from (insert school here) isn't a fair swap for four years of playing basketball.

I'm kind of shocked that the NBA came up with this concept, but the idea is sound. Why let a kid make $75,000 playing for Kansas or Duke when you can pay him the same thing and get him "NBA ready"?

And the schools that really want to field a true college basketball program can continue with that ambition.

The schools that fancy themselves bigger than the system can continue to do what they've always done...outbid each other -- and now the G-League -- for high school kids who couldn't care less about what happens to the school or the program as long as they get their money.

I'm the G-League's biggest new fan.

When do tickets go on sale?

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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.



As the NFL regular season and the MLB playoffs rage on, to say nothing of the NHL and NBA seasons kicking off if that's your thing, it's been easy to forget all about our hapless Baltimore Orioles as they meander into the offseason with surprisingly few news developments for a team with so much work to do.

Maybe that's because everyone wants a chance to forget about them after one of the worst seasons in modern baseball history but, frankly, unless something changes pretty quickly there's going to be even more reason to fear that the Orioles aren't going to right this ship anytime soon.

First of all there's the glaringly obvious issue: The team has neither a general manager nor a field manager at this time, and the offseason is fast approaching. Suffice it to say that it's less than ideal to be 2-3 weeks away from the beginning of free agency with no real idea who the guy building next year's roster is actually going to be, and the current vacuum only brings more attention to how ridiculous the Orioles' treatment of the issue has been for nearly a year now.

Put simply, it doesn't look like they've ever had any kind of plan for what was going to come after Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter were ushered out, and honestly I'm not even sure when they made the decision to do that.

For a while after the trade deadline it looked and sounded like Duquette was going to stick around after all, and that would have made sense given that ownership kept him around and allowed him to orchestrate the trading away of most of the team's most valuable trade assets. Instead he was canned right after the regular season, and now someone else has to come in at the last minute and rebuild the big league roster on the fly and develop prospects mostly chosen by someone else. What could go wrong?!

Did these two have opposite opinions on the value of baseball analytics? Could it have contributed to the awful 47-115 season we just witnessed in Baltimore?

In fact, there hasn't really been any hint of who might be the Orioles' next general manager, or who they even want to consider for the job. We know that they interviewed Ned Colletti for....something several months ago and that Brady Anderson has publicly stated that he doesn't want the job (or any other job that comes with actual, ya know, work and responsibilities) and that's about it.

Meanwhile the Marlins just surpassed the Orioles in available international signing pool money which, coupled with the fact that the Orioles don't have a GM or anyone with any real Latin American connections, seems likely to seriously damage their pursuit of Victor Victor Mesa.

What we have heard is how dysfunctional the Orioles organization has grown in the last few seasons, and maybe always was under the Duquette-Showalter regime. Not that that really qualifies as news, I guess. Most of what national reporters have disclosed in the past week or so has been previously reported in varying detail by local outlets, most notably by Jon Shepherd of Camden Depot. And some of it, especially the scouting and player development related stuff, extends far back into the organization's past, well before either man arrived in town.

What has drawn particular attention from national reporters of late is how the Orioles organization has included and utilized analytics on the field. Or more precisely, how they haven't. Topics like Kevin Gausman's strikingly improved performance in Atlanta and Manny Machado's improved defense in Los Angeles have brought up issues of how other teams are using data to fix issues the Orioles weren't able to, and Zach Britton pretty much confirmed that things are much different outside of Baltimore when he vaguely alluded to the volumes of data he was presented with by the Yankees, unlike anything he ever saw with the Orioles.

Now it's important to understand exactly what we're talking about here. We're well past the point where analytics is just another word for "stats," new age or otherwise.

Talking about analytics has little to do with whether or not a GM is looking at wOBA instead of batting average or FIP instead of ERA, or whether anyone is paying any attention to RBI. At this point, "analytics" is mostly about the ways that computers and visual technology have allowed teams to map out and accrue data on the fiber of the game itself.

Launch angles, exit velocity, spin rate and whatever other proprietary numbers teams have come up with don't tally up outcomes on the field so much as they measure inputs. And there's not really anything up for debate about them either: You can think WAR or wRC+ is a bunch of hooey if you want to, and that's fine.

You can get annoyed when some announcer awkwardly forces a reference to spin rate into a broadcast, and think about how you'd rather not have to be presented with that information while watching a game, and that's fine too. But it's still a basic fact of physics that how fast the ball spins effects how much movement a pitch has, so while it might be of no use to a fan watching a game, it should mean a lot to pitching coaches everywhere.

How can a team weaponize this data? Well it's hard to say for sure, because obviously they aren't rushing to tell everyone what they're doing with they're data and how they're using it to improve performance.

But we can tell that they are.

The Astros in particular seem to have found some way to really wring a ton of value out of spin rate. First of all they've targeted players with higher than average spin rates (the Charlie Mortons as much as the Justin Verlanders) and they've managed to increase those players' spin rates after joining the Astros consistently. The end result is a very good pitching staff that generates a ton of strikeouts, because pitches spinning faster are harder to hit.

Lord only knows what ways big and small other teams are figuring out to take this measurable data and turn it into plans for improvement, but it does seem as though the Orioles aren't even playing the same game.

That's not to say that they don't have an analytics department. They do, in fact, and Duquette was apparently a big proponent of their work. Buck Showalter....not so much, and with a coaching staff unwilling to read and use whatever data was generated, it was pretty much useless. And again, this goes to show how deeply dysfunctional the Orioles appear to have been for years now.

Most obviously, if the Orioles' were spending money on an analytics department, and the field coaching staff was simply ignoring them full stop, then all of the resources that went into research and staff was completely wasted.

Secondly, Shepherd has consistently reported that the Orioles had "gatekeepers" between the analytics department and other staff/players, allowing a small number of people (presumably Buck) to bottle all of this up entirely and not even allow players, in the big leagues or minors, to get access to any data they themselves might find useful. On Thursday, Shepherd tweeted specifically that even Duquette, the team's general manager, didn't have the authority to bypass these gatekeepers.

Regardless of the merits of analytics, this is just crazy. It's more than apparent that the Orioles' front office situation is, or at least has been, a total mess, that lines of authority are blurred at best, and that there's no one with the power to create and implement a broad, long term strategy for the franchise.

And this certainly isn't new either: It was explicitly cited as a reason that other MLB executives wanted no part of the Orioles' GM job before Duquette took it. The Orioles do need to catch up to what the rest of the league is doing with technology and knowledge capital if they're going to be competitive sooner rather than later, but most of all they need to finally get their act together and comport themselves like a competent, professional organization.

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your solution? use alex collins more


Yesterday's #DMD reader's poll yielded some not-so-surprising results.

You said "no" to LeSean McCoy.

And "yes" to more Alex Collins.

Most #DMD readers want the Ravens to use Alex Collins more.

I'm guessing the Ravens are going to utilize the same formula.

47% of you indicated "Use Alex Collins more" was the best way for the Ravens to pump up their lousy running game.

22% said "Use Buck Allen more".

17% had a completely obvious solution: "Have Flacco throw it 50 times". Joe loves you, at least.

12% chose "Trade for any running back but McCoy".

And just 2% of those who responded said, "Trade for LeSean McCoy".

So there you have it.

The Ravens, I assume, are going with some sort of similar plan. They'll likely use Collins and Allen more, for starters, and if Flacco and the receivers continue to shine, they might even throw the ball more often than perhaps they thought they would back in training camp.

Of course, one of the reasons why the running game has been stale in 2018 is because the offensive line has been on-again, off-again in the run blocking department. It's hard to run through holes that aren't there in the first place.

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Thursday
October 18
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issue 18
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investing in the orioles...why would you?


I was honored yesterday to speak to a group of local business leaders within the Executive Association of Baltimore.

One of the main parts of my presentation was the enormous chasm that presently exists between the Ravens and Orioles.

The Ravens are 4-2 and looking very much like a team that could be a legit playoff contender.

Meanwhile, the Orioles are coming off the worst season in franchise history and experienced two dozen or more home crowds of less than 10,000 people actually in the stadium.

But that's just the on field stuff.

What about off the field?

That's where the Orioles are really behind the eight ball.

Kim Ng won a championship ring with the New York Yankees back in 1998. Twenty years later she's rumored to be a candidate for the Orioles GM job after their 47-115 season in 2018.

The problems and issues are so numerous, they're almost impossible to prioritize.

With Peter Angelos' health rapidly declining, the ownership element of the franchise is currently in the hands of his sons, Lou and John. Therein lies the first problem, and perhaps the biggest one.

Upon Peter's passing, whenever that might be, the two sons will be facing an estate tax of roughly $60 million if they intend on inheriting and keeping the Orioles in their possession.

I don't know much about estate taxes, but $60 million sounds like a lot of money to come up with.

Let's pretend for a second the two boys decide they don't want to own the franchise any longer.

Forbes currently estimates the Orioles value at $1.2 billion.

Who in their right mind in Baltimore would fork over $1.2 billion for the Baltimore Orioles?

That's quite an investment, obviously.

It's beyond an "investment", actually. It's silly money, if you have it to spend.

Oh, and don't forget, if you do pony up $1.2 billion and you buy the team, you still need to negotiate a TV contract with one of the regional sports networks in the area. There are only two of them, mind you. One is NBC Sports Washington. The other is the Middle Atlantic Sports Network, or MASN.

Guess who owns MASN? That's right. The Angelos family.

So you're going to invest over $1 billion to buy the team, and still have to cut a TV deal with the same people from which you purchased the team in the first place.

But before you buy the team, wouldn't you want to know that corporate Baltimore is on board with the rebuilding project? And wouldn't you want to be comfortable that a ticket plan base will be there next summer to support the team no matter what the on-field results are in 2019?

Those two components require -- here's that word again -- an investment from folks in Baltimore and Maryland.

Let's play fantasyland for a second and pretend you're a corporate honcho in Charm City who has been signing off on a $300,000 corporate sponsorship with the Orioles over the last few years.

It made sense in 2014, 2015 and 2016. It might have even made sense in 2017 and this past season, at least until late May when the team essentially threw in the towel on what would become a miserable campaign.

But how could it possibly make sense to invest $300,000 (or any six figure number, really) on the Orioles in 2019?

Noble thing to do? Sure, that's a good word: noble.

Smart thing to do? Ummmm, probably not.

There's little chance the team will average 20,000 fans per-game in 2019.

TV ratings have been down and will likely continue to dwindle while the on-field product staggers through a three year down period.

This isn't piling on. It's business. Why would a company write the Orioles a six-figure check in 2019?

And how many ticket plan holders will return in 2019? My O's rep called me in September and I told him I'll be back with my two 13-game plans. But am I part of the majority or the minority? We won't know until next April, I suppose.

We haven't even discussed the two significant front office positions that are due to be filled sometime within the next month.

The Orioles are presently without a general manager and a field manager.

It's hard to prepare for next season without having both of those positions locked down.

The cycle continues, naturally, when you think back to sponsors and ticket holders. What would motivate those people to be excited about next season when there's no GM or manager in place? Why invest in the product at this point when you're not even sure who is going to be running the show?

And what if the hirings aren't exciting or marketable?

A recent inner-circle rumor had the Orioles ready to bring Ned Colletti (GM) and Joe Girardi (manager) to town, only to have the duo-signing put on hold when longtime baseball exec Kim Ng drew the organization's interest.

Colletti is a former GM with the Dodgers, Ng has never held down a GM position but has been a finalist on several occasions for vacant positions within MLB.

Neither would likely inspire a fan base in Baltimore. Then again, if memory serves me correct, Dan Duquette didn't have people doing jumping jacks in the streets, either.

The field manager, naturally, is a much more connective position with sponsors and fans. Girardi is a name, at least. Others, like Kevin Boles, Ron Johnson or even Mike Bordick, would likely not generate much enthusiasm right out of the gate.

Let's pretend -- again -- that you control the purse strings at a local corporation and the Orioles ask you to spend $200,000 with them next season. They hire Kim Ng and Kevin Boles. Or Ned Colletti and Mike Bordick. Do either of those combinations spin your wheels? Probably not.

Would Joe Girardi be enough to get you to renew your season tickets? How about Ron Johnson? Would you invest in the Orioles if he's the manager in 2019?

The Orioles are in a position they haven't encountered in.....well.....forever, basically.

They've never faced these challenges all at the same moment.

New ownership.

Potentially a new roster.

New general manager.

New field manager.

Oh, and don't look now, but in a few years, they'll need a new stadium lease, too.

These are indeed interesting times for the Orioles.

They need investors.

Lots and lots of them.

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should ravens add mccoy?


With the NFL trade deadline looming at the end of the month, teams are starting to put together their wish list and important needs for the second half of the season.

In-season trades in the NFL are rare, but not impossible to make if you have the salary cap space and a draft pick you don't mind parting with.

The Ravens are in a tricky spot this season. They might actually need to swing a deal for a running back. And one is available.

No, I'm not talking about Le'Veon Bell. Would I be on board with the Ravens bringing in Bell for the last two months of the season? You bet. But it's not happening, so strike that thought right away.

But LeSean McCoy is available.

If the Bills are willing to part company with Shady McCoy, should the Ravens take a mid-season chance on him?

Unfortunately, he brings so much baggage with him the Ravens will need to rent two moving vans to get his stuff from Buffalo to Baltimore.

Just yesterday, in fact, we learned McCoy is being sued by his former girlfriend and a friend of hers for $13.5 million. This all stems from a home invasion back in the summer in which the two women claim McCoy had attackers invade a Georgia residence, assault the two women, and remove jewelry that McCoy had once given to his girlfriend as a gift.

It's not a pretty story in the least.

Neither, though, is the Ravens' running game.

And with the team perched in prime position for a run at the AFC North title, they might have a difficult decision on their hands over the next 12 days.

"Sell our soul for LeSean McCoy?"

"Or keep our average-at-best running game intact and hope we can with what we have now?"

There's no doubt about it. McCoy would be an asset to the Ravens.

But at what price?

Do the Ravens want to win that badly?

What do you think they should do?


 Drew's Morning Dish

#DMD Poll

Question: What happens with the Ravens over their last seven games?
6-1, finish 10-6
5-2, finish 9-7
4-3, finish 8-8
3-4, finish 7-9
2-5, finish 6-10
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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 Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.


effort? it’s not so simple…


Eight years ago, more than 15 years after I graduated from college, I was back in the office of Glenn Robinson, the winningest basketball coach in NCAA Division III history (1). It was the same small office he occupied when I worked for him as a student manager, only cluttered with more stuff and featuring a laptop he never would have used back then.

As we were chatting, there was a knock on the door. It was a player, dressed in practice gear, returning a laminated poster board to the coach. A quick glance showed it was filled with play diagrams. Coach Robinson seemed happy to be talking to me, reliving some great memories, but he soured a bit when the freshman closed the door and walked away. I remembered this exact look of disdain, even 15 years later.

“We’ve only had a week of practice. It doesn’t bother me that our freshmen don’t know all our inbounds plays,” Robinson said to me. “What annoys me is that our upperclassmen aren’t helping them learn. I haven’t seen one of them say anything or communicate at all.”

With that, we left his office and headed out to practice. Coach Robinson had invited me to watch, and it was a lot of fun, and a bit surreal, to sit there on the bleachers again after all those years (2). The entire time, and on the drive home, I couldn’t get what he said out of my mind though. It stuck with me for days.

He was demanding teamwork in a way I’d never noticed. He was asking for a level of responsibility I hadn’t thought about. The effort he was looking for went miles past the obvious.

In the 115 games I watched as a student, 103 of which were wins, I’m sure that Coach Robinson applauded when a player dove for a loose ball and gave his team possession. I’m positive that he benched players for not getting back on defense.

I have no recollection of any of that, of course. What I remember, and saw at practice again 15 years later, was the amount of work required to develop a winning program in a competitive environment.

Some of that was physical. I remember the dearth of fouls our assistant coaches called in scrimmages, which probably made a difference during games when a player went to finish near the rim while taking contact.

Some of it was technical. Coach Robinson was, and still is, a great “big man” coach, a stickler for proper footwork and good body positioning. Good teams make a lot of easy layups, and a lot of that comes from knowing how to get them.

Some of it was mental. As I saw again as an adult, Coach Robinson ran hyper-focused practices, ones that required everyone’s full attention, even the managers (3). If you wanted to be somewhere else, you were in the wrong place.

Add that all together, and you get what more than a few of the players told me, then and now. The games? Compared to practice, and everything else involved in preparing to play, the games were easy.

I recently heard Ray Lewis and Ed Reed say it another way when they were talking about film study to a group of high school football players. “The game,” Lewis said, “is mastery.”

Hustle, in the sports context? It’s not overrated. In sports like basketball, it almost becomes second nature. Diving for a ball, or jogging quickly into a huddle, aren’t an extra thing for a competitive athlete. They’re just part of the fabric of the game.

I’d argue that running hard to first base, and being a smart baserunner elsewhere (4), are a part of the fabric of being a professional baseball player.

It’s just that…we spend a lot of time talking about talent — surely the Golden State Warriors have a lot of it. And we often talk about “heart,” — never giving up, trying to the best of your abilities, and expecting those things from your teammates.

I wish (obviously) every player had Manny Machado’s talent. I wish every player showed every possible outward manifestation of “heart.”

What I really want, however, is for my team to be prepared.

That’s what Coach Robinson was doing with his team, even though they were amateurs. He was preparing them in a hundred ways, and he was trying his best to make all his players understand how to be good teammates. His goal was mastery, to use Lewis’s word, though even he knew that was impossible.

That’s what determined so many wins and so few losses, the effort required to develop that kind of mastery. Everything else was secondary.

As for baseball players, I want them to be professionals in a hundred ways; running out ground balls is just one of them. Is running hard on a ground ball really open to question? Not really. But neither is being in the wrong position to make a cutoff, or not congratulating your teammate after a good play (5), or not communicating something important on the field to another player.

Sure, baseball is unique among team sports. There you are, one-on-one, batter against pitcher (6). The other players on the field don’t matter much until you put the ball in play, your teammates on the bench can only help you with encouragement. It’s a lonely feeling sometimes, and it’s easy to forget you’re not out there by yourself.

When a guy doesn’t run hard, he’s definitely not remembering that. When a guy does that a lot, maybe there should be some consequence for it besides disdain from fans and broadcasters. That’s up to the organization to decide, I guess.

Still, there’s a whole world of effort, work and preparation out there that many of us never see. I was lucky back in college; I got to see it thousands of times, and that’s what makes the difference between winning and losing.

We never won or lost a game because of hustle. Neither has Manny Machado. I wish he’d just make it easier on himself when he has the chance, though, because I’m entirely positive that there’s been a lot more effort on his road to a $300 million contract than anyone really knows.


Notes

(1) Robinson, 73, has a record of 952-348 in 47 years of coaching at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.

(2) Robinson, then and now, doesn’t really allow people in the gym during practice unless they have a good reason to be there. I felt honored that he’d let me hang around.

(3) I often had to work the game clock, shot clock and scoreboard at the same time, and if I screwed up I sure heard about it.

(4) Manny Machado isn’t a good baserunner. As instinctual as some of his skills seem, that one doesn’t make the grade.

(5) I don’t remember ever seeing a player more enthusiastic about congratulating his teammates than Manny Machado, and not just with Jonathan Schoop.

(6) “Hitting a baseball is the single-most difficult thing to do in sports” — Ted Williams. Discuss…

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"manny being manny" isn't a good look


Sadly, Manny Machado's 13th inning single that helped the Dodgers win last night's NLCS game is nothing more than a footnote to everything else that happened to the ex-Oriole on Tuesday.

It started (poorly) earlier in the day when Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic published a story in which Machado basically bragged about the fact that he doesn't hustle or give everything he has on the diamond.

By the end of Tuesday, Machado was at the center of a situation that emptied the dugouts in the 10th inning and led to Brewers' star Christian Yelich calling Machado a "dirty player".

Hey, at least the Dodgers won the game...

It hasn't been a good series for Machado.

On Saturday, his failure to run out a ground ball in the 4th inning ignited a national story about Machado's lack of hustle. Also in that game were two questionable slides, although one (the later of the two) was clearly more dangerous than the other (which, frankly, wasn't all that bad).

Tempers flared in the 10th inning last night when Manny Machado's left foot clipped the right foot Jesus Aguilar on a routine ground out.

In Monday's 4-0 loss in Game 3, Manny had two of L.A.'s three hits. All the attention from Saturday didn't bother him at the plate on Monday, at least.

Then, shockingly, Rosenthal's story hit the streets mid-day Tuesday and there was Manny, brazenly, almost sadly, admitting he doesn't hustle and doesn't really know how to change it.

For a guy seeking $40 million a year, it showed a remarkable, if not puzzling, lack of smarts.

Manny started the interview with a reasonable admission of guilt. “Should I have run on that pitch? Yeah, but I didn’t and I gotta pay the consequences for it. It does look bad. It looks terrible. I look back at the video and I’m like, ‘Woah, what was I doing?’ You know, just the emotions of the game -- I’m the type of player that has stayed in the zone, I’m playing and I’m just in the zone.”

“I’ve been thinking about it and it happens every time, there’s no excuse for it honestly. I’ve never given excuses for not running," Machado told Rosenthal. "I’m not hurt, there’s no excuse but I’ve been the same player … I’ve been doing this for eight years, I’m in The Show for eight years, I’ve done the same thing for eight years, I’ve been the same player. (Note: Machado's actually in his 7th season, not 8th).

Machado wasn't finished. “Obviously I’m not going to change, I’m not the type of player that’s going to be ‘Johnny Hustle,’ and run down the line and slide to first base and, you know, whatever can happen. That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am."

OK, so Machado is essentially saying, "This is who I am. If you want to give me $40 million, that's great, but don't think it's going to change me because it won't."

Then came last night's Game 4, with the Dodgers trailing the Brewers, 2-games-to-1.

Machado had a dismal night overall at the plate, going 1-for-6. But he did help engineer the game-winning moment with a 13th inning single and later scored the deciding run on Cody Bellinger's single.

It's worth noting, particularly here in Baltimore where we saw years of amateur base running mistakes from Machado, that his effort and technique on the game-winning hit from Bellinger were almost shockingly flawless. He got a great jump on the hit, sized up the throw coming in from Yelich in right field, and made a perfect slide to narrowly beat the throw and give the Dodgers a 13-inning win that evened the series.

But it's what happened three innings earlier that once again thrust Machado into the spotlight.

MLB's tight rules on video use being what they are, we can't post the incident here, but if you go elsewhere on the sports-related web, you'll find it.

In a nutshell, Machado grounded a ball to shortstop and was -- no surprise here -- out by three steps. As he passed over first base, Manny clipped the right foot of Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar with his left foot.

The two exchanged words, things got heated, and the benches cleared while cooler heads prevailed.

On review, it's very obvious Machado drug his left foot and intentionally "nipped" Aguilar's foot as he tried to cross first base. His later comment that he tried to step "over" his foot was clearly not accurate.

The play that led to the benches clearing in last night's NLCS game in Los Angeles.

There was almost a smirk on Manny's face in his post-game remarks when he was asked about the incident. "We go way back," Manny said, as if that mattered. "We're trying to win, they're trying to win, things get heated. Whatever happens on the field, stays on the field. It stays between the lines."

Yelich didn't mince words after the game.

"It was a dirty play by a dirty player," Yelich said. "He's a player that has a history of those types of incidents. One time is an accident. Repeated over and over and over again, you're just a dirty player. It's a dirty play by a dirty player. That's what it is. I have a lot of respect for him as a player, but you can't respect someone who plays the game like that."

Yelich wasn't done. "It was a tough-fought baseball game. It has no place in our game. We've all grounded out. Run through the bag like you've been doing your whole life, like everybody else does. If it's an accident, it's an accident; but on the replay to us, it looks like you clearly go out of your way to step on someone. It has no place in our game. It really doesn't."

That Machado is at the center of attention shouldn't be a surprise.

In some ways, like his former boyhood idol, Alex Rodriguez, he craves the spotlight.

Come to think of it, the 10th inning move where Manny clipped the foot of Jesus Aguilar is eerily similar to something Rodriguez would have done back in his day, only to claim innocence later on.

For Machado, all of these moments could be used against him this winter when he tries to hoodwink some team out of $30-$40 million a year.

The "I don't hustle" comments might be more damaging than last night's Aguilar incident. No team wants to fork over a gazillion bucks to a guy who basically admits he doesn't give his all.

But someone will fork it over. Baseball's weird that way.

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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 saying goes, it's not how many times you get knocked down that matters, it's how many times you get back up.

We've certainly seen the Ravens lose games to teams they should have beaten on paper during the John Harbaugh years, even in some of their better years. What has separated the good teams from the mediocre teams in those scenarios is not stringing losses together, especially early in the season, but bouncing back quickly to maintain a strong position in the grand scheme of things.

As Drew wrote here at #DMD on Sunday; this was in many ways a critical game. A loss would have dropped the Ravens to 3-3 with plenty of difficult matchups left to play and, because the Steelers beat the Bengals in the early slot, would have dropped them to third place in the division to boot.

Instead they're 4-2 and tied with the Bengals for the division lead. It might not matter anymore that they also pitched a shutout and turned in an historically good performance, but it matters a lot that they're 4-2 instead of 3-3 with the Saints heading into town this coming week.

The nuts and bolts:

-Obviously the day's biggest story was the franchise record 11 sacks. The Ravens actually registered more sacks of Marcus Mariotta than Mariotta had completions (10) in 26 dropbacks, which is absolutely remarkable.

I'm not the only one to say this by any means but I will repeat it because it's true: Any time you're setting team records on defense in Baltimore, that's really saying something. And frankly, it's hard not to think that the fact that former defensive coordinator Dean Pees was lined up on the other side had at least a little something to do with both the effort from the players and Wink Martindale's game plan.

Pees was routinely criticized for not being aggressive enough with his pass rush during his time in Baltimore, and on Sunday Martindale unleashed the dogs, so to speak, with blitz packages that were both creative and aggressive, and the end result was an all-time great performance and a shut out.

After a dismal game in Cleveland, where he dropped the potential game-winning touchdown in the final minute, Michael Crabtree had a big game in Nashville this past Sunday.

-But the feel good story of the day, at least for me, was Michael Crabtree. Crabtree had as rough of a game as you're likely to see in Cleveland, with multiple drops at crucial junctures.

But the Ravens featured Crabtree prominently on Sunday from the very beginning, giving him a chance at redemption that he did not fail to exploit. Crabtree capped an opening drive of over 90 yards with a touchdown, and also featured prominently in said drive before the capstone play. When the final whistle blew Crabtree would have six catches for a team leading 93 yards and the Raven's only receiving touchdown on the day.

-Beyond Crabtree, it remains impressive how the Ravens are managing to work all of their receiving options into the mix even if their bottom line numbers don't seem impressive. Willie Snead still isn't the flashiest of playmakers, but he led the team with 7 catches.

John Brown was fairly quiet, but he had a tremendous 23 yard catch on 3rd down.

Mark Andrews gained 20 total yards on catches of 13 and 7 yards. The numbers aren't gaudy, but multiple guys are contributing meaningful catches each and every game.

-On the flip side of the Ravens' fantastic defensive effort, Tennessee could barely breathe on Joe Flacco, who was hit just once in the entire game. That kind of protection has been the norm this season for the offensive line, despite the fact that they're bizarrely catching flack from some local critics, mostly for poor run blocking.

No, they're not great at that, but outside of the Cincinnati game they've been outstanding in pass protection and the Ravens offense has been productive despite the poor running game. Also of note, when Alex Lewis left the game with a scary neck injury the Ravens replaced him with Bradley Bozeman rather than putting Orlando Brown Jr. into the game, which should perhaps be a message to the agitators in town calling for him to be made the starting right tackle.

-Speaking of the Ravens' running game, I'm honestly not sure what to make of it at the moment. Take Alex Collins: He had some nice runs on Sunday, including two that went for touchdowns but also racked up just 2.8 yards per carry.

Meanwhile Gus Edwards gained 42 yards on 10 carries. Oh and Lamar Jackson took a QB sweep for 22 yards and just missed a touchdown. Still that's the Ravens longest run of the season, Jackson currently leads the team in YPC rather easily, and plays with him lined up at quarterback continue to be the Ravens' most consistently effective running plays.

Call me crazy, but I think people calling for the Ravens to stop using those sets are...misguided.

-As for Joe Flacco, much like the team as a whole he bounced back from an uneven game in Cleveland to deliver an excellent performance. End of the game stat line aside, Flacco made several great throws to move the offense and avoided any bad decisions.

Take out the Cincinnati game where just about everyone played poorly on a short week and that's 4 games out of 5 in which we've gotten "good Joe" this season.

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it's called "a character flaw"


We tend to lose interest in baseball in these parts every October. Not since Buck fell asleep in the dugout in Toronto two years ago have we really cared all that much about post-season baseball in Charm City.

Our Birds will be back one of these days. And it will all matter again.

In the meantime, though, four cities still do care about baseball. The Dodgers are playing the Brewers in the National League and the Red Sox and Astros are facing off in the American League.

This past Saturday in Milwaukee, a story surfaced that indirectly connects with Baltimore because it involved ex-Oriole Manny Machado. But in other ways, it connects with all of us. Anyone involved in sports, for example, should be interested in the situation involving Machado.

The nuts and bolts of it all: In the 4th inning of Game 2, Manny hit a ground ball, then essentially broke into a half-a-jog until the ball made its way to first base. He, was, I'd say, about 30 feet down the line when the ball found the first baseman's glove.

FOX TV analyst Joe Buck picked up on Manny's cruise-control act right away, and mentioned it (more than once) during the broadcast. Frankly, I found that quite refreshing. In a day and age where we tend to criticize play-by-play guys for just calling the action in a vapid, robotic kind of way, I actually found it appealing that Buck was willing to step up and call Machado out for his bush-league performance.

A little while later, Jim Palmer did the same thing, only not on national television. Palmer took to his Twitter account to criticize Machado for not running hard down to first base. Palmer actually could have left out the word "hard" and just left it as "running". Machado didn't really run. He strolled.

But anyway...

In the aftermath, I wrote a quick summary of Saturday's episode on Sunday morning at #DMD and, somewhat surprisingly, there are actually people who believe it was acceptable for Machado to not run hard.

We'll get back to those folks in a little while.

There's a basic theme in athletics that's non-negotiable. It's called "effort". You either believe effort, hard work and hustle matter. Or you believe they don't.

There's no real middle ground. Not in my book, anyway. It's pretty cut and dried.

Hard work and effort either matter or they don't matter.

You either bust your tail all the time. Or you pick and choose when you want to bust your tail. It's not that hard to figure out.

Here's where we'll separate the men from the boys, I suppose.

If you believe effort matters, you're a winner. If you believe effort doesn't matter, you're probably not a winner.

Either way, the result of the criticism that Machado received was that some folks actually defended him by saying, basically, "You don't have to run hard (hustle) every time."

Hogwash...

That's part of what's wrong with our country these days. People being paid to work (hard) pick and choose when they want to work (hard). They don't care that others (teammates, employees) might be following lock-step and following the rules and protocol set forth by management. If they decide now's not the time to work (hard), then so be it...they won't work (hard).

Machado, as most everyone will admit, has been a habitual lollygagger for the better part of three years now. He's an extraordinary talent. But there have been numerous instances when he doesn't run out ground balls or fly balls because it's simply not in his make-up to give his all on each and every play.

Maybe he's one of the reasons why the Orioles were 30-75 before they traded him in July.

"You are what your record says you are..." or something like that.

Defending Machado for not running hard is akin to not holding a bank teller accountable for giving you $160 instead of the $200 you asked for when you were making your withdrawal.

"Oh, I'm sorry, sir. Am I supposed to be precise and on-point with every transaction I do today? I'm sorry. Occasionally when I'm supposed to give someone $200 I give them $160 instead. It's only forty dollars."

When you're a baseball player and you hit a ground ball to ANY place in the infield, you have one goal: Get to first base before the ball does. It's not up to you to judge how quickly the ball might get there. After all, how can you be doing that when your head is down and you're running to first base?

You hit the ball. You run. It's that simple.

And built into that "you run" part is this other little suggestion that asks you to put forth the maximum effort you can.

Do you know why it's important to put forth the maximum effort?

Follow along, this is important: Because everyone on the team is supposed to put forth the maximum effort. Those are called (stick with me) -- basic expectations.

And please, please don't tell me about situations where the ball was "hit hard" or the game was "out of reach".

You're embarrassing yourself with stuff like that.

And please don't counter this editorial with something like, "These instances of not hustling are few and far between. You're making a mountain out of molehill." Manny has done this exact thing dozens of times over the last three seasons. Not once. Not an isolated instance. Dozens of times. Dozens.

He decides when he'll try hard. He decides when he'll put forth maximum effort. He's been doing it for years.

Let's shift to football for a second. It's 34-10 with one minute left in the game. You're on the team with "10", unfortunately.

It's 3rd and 7. The quarterback calls a play that could involve you. You run the route, beat your man and the ball gets thrown your way. What do you do? Do you try and catch it? It's 34-10, after all. What's it matter if you decide, right there, that catching the ball isn't that important?

Catch it? Apply yourself? Or no?

You catch it because that's what you've trained yourself to do. It's called "practice" for a reason. You build good habits that way.

I saw somewhere in the Comments section where George McDowell mentioned golf and a tournament score/position that wasn't within reach. If the leader has a 3-round score of 66-66-66 and you're 76-76-76, do you show up with left handed clubs for the final round (assuming you're right handed) and just goof off for 18 holes?

I've won 27 tournaments in my barely-successful golf career. That's the good news. The bad news? I've probably played at least 500 tournaments in my life. That means I lost a golf tournament 473 times.

And I can say, without question, that in a significant number of those 473 losses, I was likely out of it going into the final round, whether it was a two day or three day event. Was I supposed to not try hard in that final round? I never got that memo if so.

Golf being mostly an individual sport, feel free to substitute the team sport of your choice.

Where's the chapter in the sports book that teaches us when it's appropriate to work hard and when it's appropriate to lollygag?

If all the players on the Dodgers are putting forth maximum effort and Machado isn't, who is the player without professional integrity?

Who is the player with the character flaw?

Former Oriole Manny Machado had two of L.A.'s three hits in last night's 4-0 loss to Milwaukee in Game 3 of the NLCS.

Are the 24 guys who are putting forth maximum effort the bad guys?

Or should we point the finger at the one guy who thinks he should be treated differently than the others?

Machado -- and superstars like him who jake it on occasion -- are bad for the team.

That doesn't make them bad players, by the way. Not in the least.

But it does make them something MUCH worse, in my opinion. They are bad teammates.

One of the few coaching axioms I use every season, regardless of experience, returning players vs. newcomers, etc. is this one: "My job as your coach is to teach you how important it is for you to be a great teammate."

There's nothing better in sports than having a great teammate. And nothing worse than having a bad one.

Losing is no fun. Having a bad teammate is the worst experience you can give a team.

When you decide on your own accord that you'll run hard when you want, you're essentially telling the rest of the team, "I'm more important than you."

That sort of breakdown is almost irrepairable.

A leopard's spots never go away, remember. They just fade a little over time. Translation: A leopard will always be a leopard.

The same usually goes for guys who put themselves above the team.

Can I present Exhibit A? Thank you. Machado didn't run out ground balls in Baltimore. "The team's losing five games a week," supporters would claim back in June. "Why should he bust his tail down the line when they're losing 6-0 in the third inning?"

Fast forward to mid-October. Now he's in Los Angeles. They're playing in the National League Championship Series. These games matter. They really matter. And guess who isn't running out ground balls, still?

Right...

And guess what? He won't be running out ground balls next season in (insert city here) either. You can make book on that, friends.

Here's the other thing: Those who defend a lollygagger are, most likely, lollygaggers themselves. Misery loves company, as the tee shirt says.

There's no defending lack of hustle. Or lack of ambition. Or lack of trying to do the best you can for your teammates.

You're either trying hard and giving the maximum effort you can or you're unprofessional.

Not giving everything you have is a character flaw. Nothing more, nothing less.

No one's perfect, of course. Flaws? We all have them. But the most basic thing every athlete should have is the ability to give everything they have for the common good of their teammates.

If you can't figure out a way to put your teammates first, you're likely someone not worth trusting when the chips are down.

In closing, I hope you noted that I went the entire piece without mentioning Machado and the salary he hopes to command this winter.

It is part of the story, by the way. A guy hoping for a $300 million contract should never have "doesn't always try hard" on the back of his bubblegum card.

But that's definitely part of Machado's history.

Gifted.

Extraordinarily talented.

And a guy with a glaring lack of professional integrity.

You want him? You can have him for $300 million.

Good luck getting those spots to completely disappear.

News flash: It won't happen.

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the morning after the morning after


I've calmed down a bit since yesterday morning, where I started rambling on about the Ravens defense being "championship caliber".

Yesterday I did catch myself perusing airline websites for flights to and from Atlanta in early February just in case our boys in purple are playing a big football game down there. No, I didn't reserve any seats on those flights. Just checked pricing...

But I haven't changed my mind on the proclamation I made about the Ravens' defense.

I don't care who you play, when you allow 77 points in six NFL games, you have the makings of something good going on.

And after watching New England and Kansas City shoot 'em up on Sunday night, I'm convinced now of two things. Well, three things, actually.

1. There's no way the Chiefs or Patriots can put together the kind of defense the Ravens have in 2018. They simply don't have the talent on that side of the ball.

2. There's no way the Ravens can put together the kind of offense the Chiefs and Patriots have in 2018. With all due respect to Joe Flacco and his plethora of new pass catching weapons, Kansas City's offense is better. And Tom Brady and his offense are also better.

3. In the post-season, give me the "OK" offensive team with the rock solid defensive side. You can have the great offensive team with the awful defensive side.

So, the key, of course, is to make the playoffs. The Ravens haven't done that since 2014.

At 4-2, the Ravens have put themselves in great position to reach the post-season, particularly given that four of their six games to date have been played away from home.

You might have the rest of the schedule etched in your memory. Or maybe you don't. Either way, here it is:

October 21 vs. New Orleans; October 28 at Carolina; November 4 vs. Pittsburgh; November 18 vs. Cincinnati; November 25 vs. Oakland; December 2 at Atlanta; December 9 at Kansas City; December 16 vs. Tampa Bay; December 23 at Los Angeles Chargers; December 30 vs. Cleveland

OK, so follow along with me.

Are we allowed to dream? Could we see this scene once again at the end of this season's AFC title game?

I know nothing is guaranteed in the NFL. We were just reminded of that on October 7 when the Ravens lost to the lowly Browns in Cleveland.

But that schedule above has three (virtually) guaranteed wins; November 25 vs. Oakland, December 16 vs. Tampa Bay and December 30 vs. Cleveland.

None of those three teams are coming to Baltimore and winning.

That's 7 wins.

Where are the other three? Or four?

It can be argued that all of the remaining games could come against teams with playoff aspirations.

Even Atlanta, at 2-4 right now, could still be on the outer edges of making the post-season when the Ravens head south for that December 2nd match-up.

This Ravens team could go 11-5. Heck, you want ambitious? They could finish 12-4, especially if they're able to run the table at home and finish 8-0 in Baltimore.

But the next three home games will likely make or break the Ravens in 2018.

New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati.

Win those three and 11-5 is almost a certainty.

Lose one or more of those three and, well, who knows?

I like the Ravens' chances, though. While the next six games are far more imposing than the first six, overall, I don't see one game in there that makes me think, "Well, that's a loss."

At the beginning of the season, I said the Ravens would finish 11-5 and win the AFC North. I had Pittsburgh at 9-7 and Cincinnati at 8-8.

I'll stick with those thoughts, although Pittsburgh obviously can't finish 9-7 since they have a tie thus far (3-2-1).

This Ravens team is on pace to post an 11-5 mark. The next three home games will tell the story.

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"SHOW ME THE MONEY!" for October 28. Drew makes his week 8 NFL picks right here.





breakfast bytes

Orioles make it official, hire Mike Elias as the team's new general manager (press conference set for this Monday).

NHL: Backstrom's game-winner in OT lifts shorthanded Capitals to 3-2 win at Colorado.

College hoops: Terps recover from 6-point halftime deficit, turn back pesky Hofstra at College Park, 80-69.

UMBC improves to 3-1 with 77-72 win over Air Force; Towson falls to 1-2 with 74-65 loss to Pepperdine.

PGA Tour: Charles Howell III (-14) leads RSM Classic by three shots over Cameron Champ and Jason Gore.


SCOREBOARD
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16
CAPITALS
3 (OT)
COLORADO
2
CAPS GOALS: Smith-Pelly (3), Ovechkin (12), Backstrom (5)

GOALTENDER: Copley

RECORD/PLACE: 9-7-3 (3rd, Metropolitan)

NEXT GAME: November 19, at Montreal