OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Subtract a reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year from the lineup of almost any team, and a lost season is likely in the offing. Certainly Super Bowl dreams would wither and die.
FOXBORO, Mass. -- During Bill Belichick's tenure in New England, the Patriots have gradually transformed themselves from a lunch-pail group of players who fed off other's disrespect to an offensively brilliant glamour team. The first group won Super Bowls; the second lacked a key ingredient for postseason success. They got it back Sunday to hold off the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 in a win that felt more like 2001 than 2012.
Grading out the performances in the New England Patriots' narrow 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game.
1. Joe Flacco picked a bad week to face Tom Brady.
1. It's a brave new world for both teams.
Although she admits she loves a man in uniform, the actress declines
Lot of reaction from all of you -- via e-mail, Twitter and from my hosting gig on SiriusXM NFL Radio this morning -- on the Ray Lewis comments to Sal Paolantonio Sunday. Lewis thinks the crime rate in America will rise if there is no football this fall. And in a dead NFL news period, the story got a lot of play. Here is some of your reaction:
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The last time I swung a golf club was a year ago, at the 2010 Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Celebrity Golf Classic, in which, I'm sure, I was the worst golfer on the famed Stadium Course at Sawgrass. That is trouble for the foursome that gets me as a golfer this morning at the 2011 Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Celebrity Golf Classic. Let's just say Sterling Sharpe, one of the real golfers today, won't be looking for me on the leaderboard.
"To this day, I've never lost a fight to him."
KANSAS CITY -- During the week leading up to Sunday's AFC wild-card game here, when it was suggested to the Ravens that the Chiefs -- the young and inexperienced Chiefs, the Chiefs that had gone 10-6 and won the AFC West but had played just one 10-win team, to the Ravens' seven -- appeared to be overmatched, their responses were usually similar, and often included the same word.
Grading out the performances from the Ravens' 30-7 victory over the Chiefs in the AFC wild-card playoffs ...
"What we've got to do is find a way to play this game without killing each other.'' --Lito Sheppard, June, 2007
ColdHardFootballFacts.com breaks down Sunday's Baltimore at New England game
Quick-hitting insights from the slate of 1 p.m. games.
It seems so ridiculous now -- or maybe it's a sign that the USC football team should actually have been the 33rd NFL franchise in the Pete Carroll years.
This may be hard for you and me to believe, but there are people in this country who don't watch football. Life is not easy for them -- their neighbors point and whisper, the CIA is constantly tailing them and, of course, they have to pay higher taxes -- but they survive. Could you be one of them?
Grading out the performances from the Colts' decisive 20-3 victory over the Ravens in the AFC Divsional Playoffs ...
SAN DIEGO -- Best weekend of the year in the NFL, always. And especially this year, because of the weirdness of the end of the season, when the two top NFC seeds had some very shaky moments and the Colts took their annual late-season siesta.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Grading the performances from the Ravens' 33-14 win over the Patriots on Sunday in the AFC wild-card round ...
FOXBORO, Mass. -- The Ravens couldn't take the Patriots out with one play on Sunday. It took them three: Ray Rice's 83-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, Terrell Suggs' sack-forced fumble on the Pats' first drive, and Ray Lewis' vicious sack of Tom Brady on New England's second drive. After Lewis drove Brady into the ground, the Gillette Stadium crowd fell silent, Brady became uncomfortable in the pocket and the Ravens' running game took over.
Breaking down the AFC wild-card matchup, Ravens at Patriots, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Nov. 30. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer. He double-checked beforehand, just to make sure. He wanted these kind people to know he wasn't actually a civil rights activist or some marquee player, a name normally worthy of such applause.
After seven seasons in Cincinnati, Marvin Lewis finally has a team he can wrap his identity around. Lewis is from southwestern Pennsylvania, more precisely a steel and coal place called McDonald, same as Marty Schottenheimer and very close to Bill Cowher's Carlynton and Mike Ditka's Aliquippa.
Eli Manning was always the third son. The Manning family had four tickets to Saints' home games when he was a kid, and the three boys -- Peyton, Cooper and Eli -- would sit together, and the fourth seat would always go to a friend. "The deal was we were always supposed to rotate bringing a friend, but somehow I never got to bring one," Eli said on Thursday. "But it was a fun time with my big brothers. Dad used to say, 'Make sure Eli gets a hot dog.' ''
Before reading another word, knock on wood. Pray that the spate of injuries ransacking NFL training camps does not arrive at the doorstep of a crucial player near you.
Thousands gathered Saturday for the funeral of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair, who was killed a week ago.
It was an emotional day for loved ones of NFL quarterback Steve McNair during his funeral today. Larry Smith has details.
Picture in your mind the NFL's all-time most dominating defensive players.
I remember covering the New York Giants for Newsday from 1985 to '88 and getting into a loud discussion with GM George Young (he was often loud, but always educational) over the merits of free agency. He thought it would ruin what was a great game because you wouldn't be able to build a team with chemistry for the long haul anymore. He was right about that, of course. But my point was the train was rolling down the tracks, so why not make the best of it -- and besides, it'd make for a great hot stove league when normally there's no NFL talk, other than the warmup for the draft.
The 2009 season officially began Friday at 12:01 a.m. when free agency opened. What follows is a rundown of the 25 best available free agents. This list was compiled through a series of conversations with scouts and through game-tape evaluations.
Transaction season has arrived, and SI.com's NFL writers are here to analyze the free-agent signing and trades that will shape the season to come.
Stories abound on a busy dawning of the NFL's offseason. The Jets are desperate to get Bart Scott to quarterback their defense and are in the driver's seat to sign him. And after a year of salary sanity, the Washington Redskins led the rush in free-agency this morning, inking defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, the prize of the free-agent crop, to a 7-year, $100 million deal and cornerback DeAngelo Hall to a contract with $22 million in guaranteed money. Friday afternoon they will host Cowboys defensive end Chris Canty.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The draft is in the air, yes. But it's 61 days away, and when you get the coaches and general managers together in one place, as they were this weekend here at the Arctic Circle, you can just tell they're in first grade in 2009 Draftology 101.
Since Day 1, Ray Lewis has been the face of the Baltimore Ravens. Teammates and fans have deemed him irreplaceable. The head coach and owner have publicly proclaimed their willingness to shell out huge sums to retain his services. But despite all of this, should Lewis receive monster offers from other teams hoping to add his production and leadership, the prudent move for the Ravens would be to let him walk.
PITTSBURGH -- We have 13 days to hype the Super Bowl, and I'll even do some of that here. But first a few words on what we saw last night in the Baltimore-Pittsburgh Texas Cage Match.
So here we are. Week 15. The Hines Ward Bounty Bowl. Pittsburgh-Baltimore, in Baltimore, Sunday, with the lead of the AFC North at stake. A Pittsburgh win locks the division, giving the Steelers a two-game lead with two to play and a sweep of the season series. A Baltimore win ties the teams at 10-4, with Baltimore taking a slight edge based on better division record (5-1 versus 4-1).
Florida safety Ahmad Black texted linebacker Brandon Spikes on the bus en route to the Georgia Dome for Saturday's SEC championship. You are the leader, and I'm following you.
I don't normally do this, but it's a different week. I have two column leads today. The first concerns the stars -- Ray Lewis, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, Wes Welker -- carrying their teams with the season on the line.
It has become something of an NFL cliché in recent years, the notion that a new head coach or general manager taking over a losing team must before all else effect a dramatic culture change throughout the entire organization. First you supply a sweeping shock to the system, rejecting much of the way the team previously did business, and only then can you begin to revive, restore and rebuild.
Before 2000, I didn't care about football. I was 15, growing up in Maryland. My sports were soccer, basketball, sometimes baseball. Football was boring, played by a bunch of fat guys who, given my high school bravado, I was sure I could run circles around.
In a Los Angeles hotel lobby filled with the likes of Jerry Rice, Ray Lewis and Snoop Dogg last weekend, it was Ronny Turiaf, the Lakers' eccentric reserve forward, who stole the spotlight prior to an awards dinner three days after securing a spot in the NBA Finals.
Here's an old rule of thumb I just made up: Never write a critical column about NFL announcers when you're in an ugly mood because every little annoyance will be magnified beyond reasonable proportions. Thus, as I spent the last two days going through the notes I meticulously made during the season, all the old resentments came back, the sneers, the head-banging frustrations, the wonderment at how we can stand still for the unbelievable barrage of crapola to which we've been subjected.
You can hold off on the notion that Redskins assistant Gregg Williams is a slam dunk to replace the re-retired Joe Gibbs in Washington, in light of the news that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder started his coaching search Thursday by interviewing Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
BALTIMORE -- If Romeo Crennel and his upstart Cleveland Browns go on to reach the playoffs this season -- and at 6-4 they may well be on their way -- perhaps they'll look back to Sunday's game against the Ravens and realize their drive to the postseason began in earnest with as close to a life-after-death experience as the game of football allows.
Before I get to your mail, two observations on the events of the weekend:
This story was originally published in the February 7, 2001 issue of Sports Illustrated
A voice pierced the still August air, raspy and wild. The Baltimore Ravens were nearing the end of yet another training camp practice on yet another humid morning, with the temperature approaching triple digits and every player on autopilot. Except linebacker Bart Scott, who in the waning moments of an intrasquad scrimmage was baring his teeth and barking taunts at quarterback Steve McNair.
It's bad enough that Barry Bonds, the Anti-Hank, is zeroing in on Hank Aaron's home run record. Pray that 756 won't come next month in Atlanta, where, until recently, the populace was reeling from a certified steroid-induced tragedy.
It's time once again to sneak a peek at e-mails to and from sports figures. OK, these aren't actual intercepted messages; we're not running the NHL players union, people. But here's what we imagine that we're missing:
SI.com's Adam Hofstetter spent a day last week with top NFL Draft prospects, Adrian Peterson and Brady Quinn. Below is a recap of his time with Peterson. Check back tomorrow for a story on Quinn.
MIAMI BEACH -- Jim Brown is sitting in the corner of a secluded VIP room in an exclusive area separated by a velvet rope on Wednesday night. As he sips drinks next to a fireplace, a couple of diminutive security guards, who are dwarfed by football players twice their size, are hopelessly trying to keep guests from coming inside.
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - If you've got Ray Lewis in your fantasy football league, you might want to consider trading him.
From the early 1930s to the mid-1940s, Arthur Fellig was at every tenement house fire, gangland shooting, shipwreck, and major disaster--natural and otherwise--that took place in New York City, cap...