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D is for Denver

Von Miller strips the ball from Cam on the way to a defensive score (NFL/CBS News)

Congratulations to the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos!

In a tough defensive battle against the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers—the favorite to win thanks to their dynamic quarterback, Cam Newton—the Broncos held the NFC South powerhouse to 10 points and eventually took home a 24-10 victory.

Although the Panthers limited Peyton Manning’s team to only one offensive touchdown—a one-yard C.J. Anderson run late in the fourth quarter—it was a key, Von Miller forced fumble and defensive touchdown in the first quarter that more-or-less sealed the Panthers’ fate. Granted, they were able to punch in their own Jonathan Stewart TD—and to score a Graham Gano field goal—but sadly, that was all the offense that NFL MVP Newton and his crew could muster… and it simply wasn’t enough.

The Sheriff came to town and took home the win (Pinterest)

The Super Bowl win was the second for future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning—tying him for bragging rights with his brother, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning—and this could well signal the end of his NFL career as many feel Manning will retire—especially since he would be going out on top.

Yes, the Sheriff may ride off into the sunset—not on a horse, but on the back of the best defense in the NFL. Way to go, Broncos!

Last Team Standing

Nov 29, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos mascot

What a relief! (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

At long last, the unthinkable has happened: the previously undefeated New England Patriots have finally lost a game!

The dethroning of the AFC’s last unbeaten team came at the hands of the Denver Broncos—and Peyton Manning wasn’t even at the helm. Instead, backup quarterback Brock Osweiler made clutch plays to lead his team to victory, including an overtime audible that ended with running back C.J. Anderson rumbling 48 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

“That’s what becoming a team is all about,” Broncos’ head coach Gary Kubiak said after the game. “You never know who’s going to make that play. Everybody stayed the course tonight and that is what is exciting about this team.”

The win elevated Denver to 9-2 and placed them three games ahead of Kansas City in the AFC West. At 10-1, New England still has full command of the AFC East, with the 6-5 New York Jets their closest competition.

Of course, this win also means only one undefeated team remains in the NFL: the 11-0 Carolina Panthers. And here’s hoping Cam Newton and company can keep this train rolling to 16-0!

Perfect Balls

No one touches Tom Brady's balls but him... and a few staff members (Sports Central/YouTube)

No one touches Tom Brady’s balls but him… and a few staff members (Sports Central/YouTube)

Last week, attorney Ted Wells released the findings of his investigation into Deflategate, the name given to allegations that the New England Patriots deflated footballs to gain a competitive advantage over the Indianapolis Colts during January’s AFC championship game.

Implicated in Wells’ report was the NFL’s golden boy—quarterback Tom Brady—who initially denied having any knowledge of footballs being underinflated and then failed to cooperate in the investigation. As a result, he has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season and his beloved Patriots will lose not only a $1 million fine, but also two draft picks—a first-round pick in 2016 and a fourth-round pick in 2017.

Some (mostly Patriots players and fans) are calling the punishment too harsh, but many others feel it’s time that a sketchy Patriots organization pays for stretching—and even breaking—NFL rules so consistently.

Personally, I’m fine with the punishment since it means Brady won’t be on the field in week one against my Pittsburgh Steelers. I respect his skills, but I much prefer to see him sitting on the sidelines.

Of course, he might have a future as a pop star given this VIDEO just released of him. It’s a spoof of him singing his latest hit “These Balls Are Perfect.” And if you’re interested in a good laugh, I suggest you take a look.

After all, no one knows balls like Tom Brady!

Farewell to Troy

Troy does his best Superman impression (NFL/Getty Images)

After 12 incredible seasons as a Pittsburgh Steeler, veteran safety and all-around defensive powerhouse Troy Polamalu plans to retire from the NFL. The announcement came down today and for most Steelers fans, the news was bittersweet.

Yes, Troy’s production has been waning for the last few years, primarily due to injury. But the fact is that without him, the Steelers wouldn’t have been the same team—and they surely wouldn’t have won two Super Bowls.

During his tenure, Troy was a difference maker, for lack of a better term. He broke Steelers’ defensive records, represented the team at eight Pro Bowls and was a leader in the locker room and on the field. Teammates respected him, fans loved him and opponents feared him.

And honestly, watching games without seeing his bushy hair flying around will be depressing, to say the least.

So on behalf of Steelers fans everywhere, I want to say thanks to Troy Polamalu—one of the greatest to wear the black and gold, and one hell of a great guy to boot. We’re going to miss you, my brother.

Most Watched

Sorry, Seattle. Better luck (and play calling) next year (AP)

As hard as it is to believe—given all the scandal and hype leading up to the underwhelming Super Bowl XLIX—the “Big Game” broke U.S. television history by becoming the most watched show of all time.

Apparently, New England’s 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks brought in more than 114 million viewers and became the highest-rated Super Bowl in the last 30 seasons… despite having the worst ending and the dumbest play call in SB history.

So congratulations to Tom Brady and the Patriots for chalking up another Super Bowl victory, the fourth of Brady’s career. Granted, he and his cohorts may have deflated some footballs to get there, but ultimately they won because Seattle decided against winning by throwing the ball on 2nd and goal.

I still can’t believe it…

Deflated

The new Vince Lombardi Trophy? (Steve Sack/Star Tribune)

I don’t know which is more deflated: the semi-flat footballs discovered during the recent AFC Championship Game or the ongoing investigation into Deflategate.

According to the lawyer hired by the NFL to investigate cheating accusations against the New England Patriots, things won’t officially wrap up for “at least several more weeks.” This means that no one will be punished or fined until after Super Bowl XLIX—even if they are guilty of tampering with footballs to gain a competitive advantage over the Indianapolis Colts.

To make matters worse, the investigation now seems to be focused on a Patriots locker room attendant now considered to be a “strong person of interest.” Apparently, surveillance camera footage showed him entering a bathroom with two bags of footballs—one for New England and one for Indianapolis—and then emerging 90 seconds later to deliver the footballs to the proper place.

I’m sorry, but 90 seconds is roughly the amount of time needed to take a quick piss and return to your duties. If anything, I might accuse this attendant of not washing his hands properly after urination. But accusing him of entering the bathroom—which may or may not have been empty—and then hurriedly deflating 11 of 12 Patriots’ footballs before exiting? That seems a little far-fetched, if you ask me.

god super bowl press conference

Who’s God taking in the Big Game this year? Tune in Sunday to find out! (Kurttoons/YouTube)

Of course, this opens up a host of new questions: Why would a locker room attendant do such a thing on his own? Is he such a die-hard Pats fan that he tried to fix the game all by his lonesome? Or is it possible someone asked or even paid him to do it? And could it be the same culprit now responsible for throwing this attendant under the bus?

I’m afraid we may never know what really happened, even after the Deflategate investigation concludes next month or later this spring. The sad fact—at least from the perspective of non-Patriots-fan observers like me—is that the Patriots can do no wrong. Of all the teams in the NFL, New England is the only one constantly accused of cheating.

Sure, New Orleans suffered through Bountygate, which resulted in some pretty harsh penalties for its coaches and players, but nothing this harsh will ever be imposed on the illustrious Patriots. And honestly, that’s a real shame since they make the NFL look worse than anyone—except maybe Ray Rice. Oh well.

On a slightly related note, a recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service indicated that 1 in 4 Americans believe that God will decide who wins Super Bowl XLIX. If this is true, then it stands to reason that the Patriots can’t win if they’re cheaters. If they do, though, does that mean there is no God?

I’m sorry, but if there is a God, I’m pretty sure He has better things to do than rig football games. Sheesh…

Pants on Fire

Brady addresses cheating allegations… and digs an even deeper hole for himself (New York Daily News)

Yesterday, New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady held a press conference to address Deflategate, the franchise’s most recent scandal. And almost everyone who heard him still thinks he’s lying.

Deflategate centers around 11 footballs found to be underinflated during the Patriots’ recent 45-7 trouncing of the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. Coach Bill Belichick denied any knowledge of ball tampering and instead threw his future Hall of Fame QB under the bus. When asked if he was a cheater, Brady had this to say:

“I don’t believe so… I didn’t alter the ball in any way… I would never do anything outside the rules of play.”

ALWAYS protect your balls! (BN Blitz)

Of course, Brady never said, “No, I am not a cheater.” And this created even more doubt with regard to his honesty and integrity. He may not have altered the balls himself, but he could have paid someone else to do it. After all, former Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson admitted to paying his equipment guys $7500 to wear in the balls before Super Bowl XXXVII, which the Buccaneers won 48-21 over the Oakland Raiders.

Here’s what Brady had to say about his own balls:

“I don’t want anyone touching the balls… I don’t want anyone rubbing them. To me, those balls are perfect.”

Personally, I hope Brady’s balls are sitting on the bench come Super Bowl Sunday. Go Seahawks!

Don’t Be Hatin’

Redditor Releases Most Hated NFL Teams in Each State

The most hated NFL teams by region, according to Reddit (KMHokies35/Reddit)

The new NFL football season hasn’t started yet, but already the rivalries are starting to rear their ugly heads. Take this infographic from Reddit user KMHokies35, which shows the most hated NFL teams in each U.S. state.

Most of the “hate” involves long-standing rivalries between division foes—like Dallas Cowboy fans disliking the Philadelphia Eagles, for instance—but others are more difficult to understand—like why people in Maine hate the New York Jets so much.

Of course, I was pleased to see my Pittsburgh Steelers represented in several different states. We must be doing something right!

Goodbye, Chuck

Chuck Noll: Best. Coach. Ever (Getty Images)

Chuck Noll: Best. Coach. Ever (Getty Images)

Last Friday, we lost one of NFL football’s greatest coaches: Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll. He passed away late Friday of natural causes at the age of 82. And as a die-hard Steelers fan, I can tell you that he will be missed… and not just by other Steelers’ fans, but by fans of sports in general.

Noll played the game in the 1950s as part of the Cleveland Browns—ironically one of the Steelers’ main division rivals—as a linebacker and guard. Following his playing career, he served as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Chargers and then as defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Colts in 1968. That year, the Colts gave up only 144 points, a sign of the defensive glory to come with the Steel Curtain.

Baltimore head coach Don Shula—who would later lead the Miami Dolphins to two Super Bowl victories—recommended Noll for the lead coaching job in Pittsburgh, a city that hadn’t enjoyed much success in nearly 40 years. And sadly, they wouldn’t taste success during Noll’s first year, when the team posted a pitiful record of only one win and 13 losses.

Fortunately, this would not become a habit.

By 1972—and thanks to some savvy draft picks and other roster adjustments—the Steelers’ luck changed completely as Noll led them to their first division title in the AFC Central. Hall of Fame players like Terry Bradshaw, “Mean Joe” Greene, Jack Ham, Mike Webster, Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann and Franco Harris helped Noll and the Steel Curtain achieve eight more such titles, as well as four Super Bowl victories. And by the time his career ended in 1991, Noll had 209 wins, 156 losses and 1 tie under his belt.

He also laid the foundation for one of the NFL’s most successful franchises. To date, the Steelers have six Super Bowl wins, more than any other team in history. And there’s plenty of time to add more… believe me.

Steelers’ Hall of Famers (Steel City Artist)

News of Noll’s death hit Steelers’ fans like me pretty hard, but no one felt it more than his former players. Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw—who often clashed with Noll both on and off the field—said he was “kind of like a father from whom you want approval [but] don’t quite get it.” He added that he was “proud to have played for him” and that “it was a great honor.”

Legendary defensive tackle “Mean Joe” Greene had this to say about his former coach, with whom he spent his entire professional career: “Chuck was just the ultimate leader. He had truth and belief in what he was saying, and over time all of those things he said were validated, the things about winning football games and being a solid citizen.”

And that, to me, was Noll’s greatest achievement: producing players who not only performed on the field, but also led by example in their daily lives. Unlike some of today’s prima donnas—who seem to care more about their individual performances and large paychecks—Noll instilled a strong sense of teamwork and unity in his players, who returned the favor by bringing the Lombardi trophy back to the Steel City not once, but four times.

In other words, he was the ultimate football coach. And I, for one, couldn’t be happier to have watched Chuck Noll in action. I even had an opportunity to meet him and some of his greatest players when I visited the Steelers’ training camp as a child, so I can say this: I will always be a Steelers fan. And I have Chuck to thank for bringing me and so many others into the fold.

We will miss you, Chuck. Rest easy and I promise the Steelers and their fans will keep your dream alive. Always.

Double Take, Vol. XII

When the first openly gay player enters the NFL later this year, something tells me he'll feel right at home (Perfectly Timed Photos)

When the first openly gay player enters the NFL later this year, something tells me he’ll feel right at home (Perfectly Timed Photos)

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