There aren’t many days when Rohit Sharma’s white-ball brilliance is eclipsed. It nearly happened at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Wednesday when Afghanistan stunningly matched India’s mammoth 212-run total, dragged the contest into not one but two Super Overs before falling agonisingly short.
Afghanistan made 16 for one in the first Super Over, only for India to match it, helped by two sixes from Rohit. In the second tie-breaker, India scored 11 for two but Afghanistan were shot out for one run, with Ravi Bishnoi claiming both wickets to help sweep the series 3-0.
In a match that ebbed and flowed like an ocean wave on a full moon day, Rohit (121 n.o., 69b, 11×4, 8×6) and Rinku (69 n.o., 39b, 2×4, 6×6) rescued their side from a precarious 22 for four with a majestic 190-run partnership.
But Afghanistan showed its collective spirit as openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (50, 32b, 3×4, 4×6) and Ibrahim Zadran (50, 41b, 4×4, 1×6) put on 93 from 11 overs, before two scarily good cameos from Gulbadin Naib (55 n.o., 23b, 4×4, 6×4) and Mohammad Nabi (34, 16b, 2×4, 3×6) almost flattened the host.
With 36 needed off the last two overs, India seemed ahead in the contest, only for Naib to hit 23 runs off Avesh Khan and Mukesh Kumar to even the tie and give the fans more than their money’s worth. Virat Kohli, who was out for a first-ball duck, showed his worth by reducing a potential six into two runs with a stellar leap at long-on in the 17th over.
Earlier, after deciding to bat, India was off to a disastrous start. Between a cut to the boundary from Rohit off the 13th ball of the innings to another from the captain off the 31st, the crowd was stunned into silence.
On a sluggish pitch, Kohli, Sanju Samson and Yashasvi Jaiswal all fell trying to execute cross-batted shots, as Fareed Ahmed bowled a fine first spell (3-0-10-3). Shivam Dube was caught acrobatically by wicket-keeper Gurbaz.
Little did Afghanistan know that that would be the last of its happy moments. At one point, Rohit was 13 off 22 deliveries, but he took off in the middle-overs, recalibrating his game splendidly to the pace of the wicket.
There were eight maximums, including a breathtaking reverse-swept six off tweaker Sharafuddin Ashraf. Rohit’s 64-ball century — a record-breaking fifth in T20Is — came in the 19th over when he hit Azmatullah Omarzai for a six over mid-wicket, a four past short-fine and for another boundary over point.
While all eyes were fixated on Rohit, Rinku proved to be the ghost in the ring, the kind of moving target Afghanistan found incredibly difficult to pin down. The result was a splendid T20 innings, that saw the southpaw even strike at a rate marginally higher than his skipper (176.92 to Rohit’s 175.36).
Rinku smashed half-a-dozen sixes, including three over the mid-wicket region off the last three balls of the innings, as Afghanistan bled 103 from the last five overs. The weight of the runs would have crushed most teams, but not the spirited Afghans.
Thus far during the MLB offseason, many of the SF Giants’ free agent targets for 2024 have not decided to come to the Bay Area. With Yoshinobu Yamamoto signing with Los Angeles and Shohei Ohtani going to the Dodgers as well, the offseason has been close to a disaster from San Francisco’s perspective. Not only have the Giants missed on some of their top targets, but the rival Dodgers have signed those players.
How Can Giants Save Their Offseason
In fairness, the Giants have signed outfielder Jung Hoo Lee and catcher Tom Murphy. They have also acquired Robbie Ray via trade, dumping Mitch Haniger and Anthony DeSclafani in the process.
There are also plenty of other SF Giants rumors swirling around, indicating that the Giants are still working to make some moves this winter. Let’s take a look at some of the remaining SF Giants free agent targets in 2024 and what San Francisco can do to salvage what has been an otherwise disappointing offseason.
Sign Shota Imanaga
The Giants may have missed out on Yamamoto, but it’s not too late to grab Shota Imanaga. Of course, Imanaga isn’t projected to be a bonafide ace like Yamamoto. But he also won’t be as expensive to sign while still improving the San Francisco rotation.
Imanaga is projected as a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues, making him a good complement to Logan Webb, Alex Cobb, and Ross Stripling. He would also be a second lefty in the rotation alongside youngster Kyle Harrison. If the Giants can make a competitive bid for Imanaga, there are plenty of reasons to believe that he’ll find San Francisco to be the best landing spot available.
Trade for Corbin Burnes
There is still every indication that the Brewers will try to trade Corbin Burnes before the season. The number of potential trade partners appears to be going down, improving San Francisco’s chances of acquiring the former Cy Young winner. Needless to say, there will still be a heavy price to pay, although the Giants have a strong enough farm system and some current MLB players to give Milwaukee an enticing offer.
Burnes would immediately give the Giants the ace they covet. Even with a solid rotation already, San Francisco knows that starting pitching will be key to the team’s success in 2024. Trading for Burnes would change the look of their rotation and perhaps give the Giants a leg up in signing him when he hits free agency.
Take a Chance on Tim Anderson
The Giants are understandably excited about Marco Luciano, but he’s far from a sure thing right now. It might be best to give the 22-year-old more seasoning in the minors, creating the need for a shortstop.
Why not take a chance on a player like Tim Anderson?
He’s surely better than he showed last season and would be willing to take a one-year deal at a reasonable price to prove himself. Such a move would give the Giants a motivated and proven shortstop in 2024 while giving Luciano another year to develop.
Sign Marcus Stroman
If the top free-agent pitchers on the market are out of San Francisco’s price range, Marcus Stroman could be the ideal fallback option. He’s not going to require as much money or years as some other pitchers but will still be a useful rotation asset in 2024.
Stroman has been durable and effective over the last several years, always pitching as if he has something to prove. That’s the kind of pitcher the Giants could use in their rotation next season.
Sign Cody Bellinger
While it might seem like a pipe dream, signing Cody Bellinger would surely salvage the offseason for the Giants. What better way to compete with the Dodgers than to sign a Los Angeles castaway? Obviously, Bellinger is going to require a long-term deal and hundreds of millions of dollars to sign.
But he’s also a former MVP who is only 28 and can play multiple positions. The Giants could certainly shift some pieces around to make room for Bellinger in either the outfield or at first base, perhaps creating some trade chips in the process. More importantly, Bellinger would give the Giants the type of power hitter they’ve been lacking in recent seasons, finally giving them someone who can anchor their lineup.
A new directive to crack down on football managers overstepping their boundaries has been installed for the 2023/24 season. Football managers will now be under closer scrutiny and are more likely to be punished with a yellow card for approaching officials or demanding that opposing players get a booking.
The Premier League is a high-pressure world for managers to operate in as job security is low. That has led to some big managerial meltdowns. TV cameras are watching everything, millions of punters attracted by generous football bonuses UK betting companies offer are lapping up outbursts, so these are moments when the red mist descends and the whole world gets to see.
Here we showcase the top five most infamous managerial meltdowns from the Premier League.
Conte vs Tuchel
There was a squaring up between then-Chelsea manager Tomas Tuchel and former Blues boss Antonio Conte in 2022. After a 2-2 draw in the EPL, the two managers crossed paths for a handshake, but Tuchel didn’t let go of Conte’s hand and sparked the flashpoint. It was all over the fact Tuchel had felt disrespected because Conte had not looked at him. Players and staff piled in and both bosses admitted improper conduct.
Benitez Rants at Ferguson
Former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez launched into a memorable press conference in 2009, citing plenty of ‘facts’. Benitez’s Liverpool had been duelling with Manchester United in the Premier League title race, which the Reds ultimately lost. But Benitez had been niggled by complaints from Ferguson about the fixture list.
The Spaniard retaliated and kept referring to how refereeing decisions would always go Manchester United’s way and pointed fingers at Ferguson’s behaviour towards referees. It was a juicy five-minute rant.
Klopp Loses it
The Liverpool manager has had his fair share of rants. But the biggest was during his side’s 1-0 FA Cup victory over Manchester City in 2022. The Reds boss lost his cool,
chased a referee’s assistant up the sideline and then back again while screaming in the face of the unfortunate official. It echoes when in charge of Borussia Dortmund, Klopp screamed in the face of an official for which he received a red card.
Keegan “Loves it”
Former Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan was interviewed in the closing stages of the 1996 season with the title still on the line. Keegan’s Magpies were fighting with Manchester United
for the honours. United boss Ferguson had been doing his mind-game things in the build-up. So following a league win that kept the Magpies in touch for the title, Keegan lost his cool and in a passionate outburst told the TV crew “I will love it” if he beat Sir Alex Ferguson to the title.
Conte Rages Against Players
During his time as Tottenham manager, Antonio Conte launched into one of the most bizarre press conferences ever. The Italian laid his feelings bare as he attacked his Spurs players for being selfish after losing a 3-1 lead in a draw against Southampton.
Conte also attacked the club for not being in a position to play for anything important and not wanting to play under pressure, and calling out his employers for not having won anything in the 20 years under owner Daniel Levy.
Sir Alex Ferguson
This is more of an honourable mention of the king of Premier League football managers, Sir Alex Ferguson. The legendary Manchester United boss wouldn’t shy away from letting people know what he felt.
There’s no single event that gets him on this list as he had so many, like making goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak cry after suffering a 4-0 loss against West Ham in the League Cup.
There was the flying boot that cut David Beckham’s eye; the calling of referee Alan Wiley ‘unfit’ to referee a Premier League game; a five-match ban he received for a comment made
about referee Martin Atkinson and the hairdryer treatment he gave to Louis Saha after a Championship fixture to name but a few.
The early window to enter the transfer portal is officially closed. Barring a five-day extension for playoff teams, players will have to wait until the spring to enter their names in the portal. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the biggest portal winners from the SEC.
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The recent loss of star running back Quinshon Judkins stings, but Ole Miss is still the biggest winner of this year’s early transfer cycle. The Rebels came away with an embarrassment of riches, landing seven players in the top 100 of the Rivals Transfer Tracker.
Ole Miss’ haul is highlighted by Walter Nolen, the top player in this year’s cycle. Along with landing the former Texas A&M defensive lineman, the Rebels also bolstered their defensive line by bringing in two other elite pass rushers in Florida’s Princely Umanmielen (No. 11 overall) and Tennessee’s Tyler Baron (No. 69 overall). Behind them will be former Arkansas linebacker Chris Paul Jr. (No. 48 overall) and former Oklahoma defensive back Key Lawrence (No. 37 overall).
Ole Miss also added to its offensive arsenal by bringing in the No. 3 wide receiver in the portal in South Carolina’s Antwane Wells Jr., ranked No. 21 overall.
The Rebels know they have a window for success, and they capitalized on it. They should be legit playoff contenders next year.
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Missouri put itself in a position to build off its Cotton Bowl-winning season by making several key additions through the portal. None of those were bigger than offensive lineman Cayden Green, who the Tigers stole from new conference rival Oklahoma.
Green, a Missouri native, started five games at guard during his freshman season with the Sooners. He should also play a big part in the Tigers’ front as they look to protect returning quarterback Brady Cook.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Tigers poached cornerback Toriano Pride from Clemson and linebacker Corey Flagg Jr. from Miami.
Look for Missouri to continue to make noise in the SEC moving forward.
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Georgia suffered some notable portal departures, but it was also able to pull in some talent as well.
The Bulldogs’ most notable addition is Florida running back Trevor Etienne, who will end up as the No. 2 back in the portal once Judkins officially enters. After sitting in the 700-yard range on the ground the past two years, Etienne should have the ability to take his game to another level in Athens.
Georgia also gave returning quarterback Carson Beck a tall target in 6-foot-5 receiver Colbie Young, who reeled in 47 receptions for 563 yards and five touchdowns last season. He’ll be joined by Vanderbilt transfer London Humphreys, who caught 22 passes for 439 yards and four scores.
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Alabama saw a mass exodus through the transfer portal this week following its Rose Bowl loss to Michigan. However, none of the Crimson Tide’s departures should sting too much.
Conversely, Alabama was able to answer two major needs by bringing in Southern California cornerback Domani Jackson (No. 13 overall) and Texas A&M edge rusher LT Overton (No. 24 overall). Both five-star defenders should compete for starting spots in next year’s defense.
The Crimson Tide also added Texas A&M offensive tackle Naquil Betrand. While the 6-foot-6, 340-pounder didn’t see the field for the Aggies during his debut season, he should provide depth to Alabama’s offensive front moving forward.
Alabama might not be done either.
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Rafael Nadal has fired a rocketing forearm at long-time foe Novak Djokovic.
In the latest chapter of the tennis legends’ simmering feud, Nadal has responded to comments made by Djokovic in December, when the Serbian champion recalled a time that he shared a Roland-Garros locker room with his Spanish rival. Djokovic told CBS’ 60 Minutes that the intensity of Nadal’s warm-up and blaring music were “pissing me off”.
Nadal told Spanish publication El Pais this week that it was “never, never, never my intention” to intimidate Djokovic, before knocking Djokovic down amid the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) debate.
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“Since I have a memory of tennis, [Roger Federer] is the player who has impressed me the most, the one who has entertained me the most, the one who has moved me the most,” said Nadal, whose prickly relationship with Djokovic is contrasted by his deeply special bond with Federer.
“Watching Federer play has moved me more than Djokovic, and in the end, tennis is about emotion. It’s the emotion that draws you to it.”
Djokovic has won a record 24 singles grand slam titles, placing himself ahead of Nadal (22) and Federer (20) in the GOAT debate purely in terms of numbers.
Federer won his final grand slam title at the 2018 Australian Open and announced his retirement four years later, calling time in September 2022.
Nadal continues to fight on — he’s Down Under for another Australian Open — but whether the 37-year-old’s battered body will allow for another grand slam title is tough to predict.
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Djokovic, in contrast, is still exceptionally fit at the age of 36 and highly likely to add more grand slam triumphs to his resume. He’s the hot favourite to win a record-extending 11th Australian Open title in Melbourne this month.
But as Nadal noted in his interview with El Pais, “there are several factors” to weigh up in the GOAT argument — not just statistics.
“Some I won’t tell you because it’s difficult for me, it’s not my place to comment on them, but in terms of tennis, it’s clear,” Nadal said.
“It’s a combination of very radical styles. Federer was perfection in terms of aesthetics, elegance and technique.
“I have very good technique, but technique is not the same as aesthetics. They are two different things. He had incredible technique, doing things beautifully with impressive elegance.
“We have all reinvented ourselves [and] that’s why there has been this intense rivalry. We always surprised each other. Djokovic, as well, but with a difference compared to the two of us.
“He hasn’t needed to evolve [his style] as much as we have. He hasn’t suffered as many injuries. The only thing that has demanded him to improve his game has been his rivals, not physical issues. That’s a difference.”
The Celtics host the Detroit Pistons for the first of 3 games this season. They will meet again in Boston on March 18 and then again in Detroit, 4 days later, on March 22. The Celtics won the series 4-0 last season and have won their last 6 meetings with the Pistons. The Celtics are 250-140 overall all time against the Pistons and they are 40-14 at home.
The Celtics remain in 1st place in the East. They are 1 game ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee, 2.5 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia and 5.5 games ahead of 4th place Orlando. They are 14-0 at home and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 19-4 against Eastern Conference opponents. They have won their last 3 games.
The Detroit Pistons are last in the East. They are 21.5 games behind the Celtics. They are 3.5 games behind 14th place Washington and 11 games out of 10th place and play in contention. They are 1-14 on the road and they are 0-10 in their last 10 games. They are 2-19 against Eastern Conference opponents. They have lost 27 straight games and now hold the record for most consecutive losses in a single season.
The Pistons just completed a home and home set against the Nets. After this game they return home for a game against the Raptors and then they have a 4 game road trip through Houston, Utah, Golden State and Denver, so things don’t get much easier for them. The Celtics are playing in the first of back to back games. They play Toronto on Friday at home and then they face San Antonio and Oklahoma City on the road.
For the Celtics, Svi Mykhailiuk is probable with a heel contusion. Lamar Stevens is probable with a non-covid illness. Jaylen Brown has been listed as out with a back contusion after taking a knee to the back from LeBron James on Monday. Jayson Tatum was originally listed as questionable but is now expected to play. I’m guessing that Hauser will start in Brown’s place.
For the Pistons, Killian Hayes is probable with a non covid illness. Ausar Thompson is also probable with a non-covid illness. Monte Morris is out with a quad injury. Isaiah Stewart is out with a toe injury. Since Ausar Thompson is probable, I’m going to guess that he will get the start in place of the injured Isaiah Stewart.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Jrue Holiday SG: Derrick White SF: Sam Hauser PF: Jayson Tatum C: Kristaps Porzingis
Celtics Reserves Delano Banton Al Horford Svi Mykhailiuk Payton Pritchard Lamar Stevens Jordan Walsh Oshae Brissett
2 Way Players JD Davison Drew Peterson Neemias Queta
Injuries/Out Svi Mykhailiuk(heel) available Lamar Stevens (illness) available Jayson Tatum (ankle sprain management) available Jaylen Brown (back contusion) out
Pistons Reserves Alec Burks Joe Harris Kevin Knox II Isaiah Livers Marcus Sasser Ausar Thompson James Wiseman
Two Way Players Malcolm Cazalon Jared Rhoden Stanley Umude
Injuries/Out Monte Morris (quad) out Isaiah Stewart (toe) out Ausar Thompson (illness) probable Killian Hayes (illness) probable
Head Coach Monty Williams
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images
Jrue Holiday vs Cade Cunningham Cunningham is averaging 23 points, 4.1 rebounds, 7 assists and 1 steal per game. He is shooting 44.5% from the field and 33.1% from beyond the arc. He is coming off a 41 point game on Tuesday and so the Celtics need to defend him well as he is capable of having a big game.
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images
Oshae Brissett vs Bojan Bogdanovic Bogdanovic is averaging 19.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1 steal per game. He is shooting 46.6% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc. As I said above, I’m not sure who will start here so Brissett is just a guess.
Honorable Mention Kristaps Porzingis vs Jalen Duren Duren is averaging 12.5 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.3 blocks per game. He is shooting 62.3% from the field and does not shoot from the perimeter. The Celtics need to box him out and keep him out of the paint.
Keys to the Game Defense – Defense will always be key to winning every game. The Celtics are 5th in the league with a 110.5 defensive rating while the Pistons are 26th with a defensive rating of 119.0. The Pistons are 28th in the league, averaging 109.3 points per game. The Celtics have to come into this game with the mindset that they need to play tough defense and not underestimate the Pistons, who have a lot of young and hungry players and, in spite of their 27 game losing streak, if the Celtics don’t take them seriously, the Pistons may surprise them.
Rebound – Rebounding is important to give the Celtics extra possessions and to limit possessions for their opponents. The Celtics are averaging 47.0 rebounds per game (2nd) while the Pistons are averaging 43.3 rebounds (20th). Rebounding takes effort and the Celtics need to give extra effort to beat the Pistons to rebounds. When they show extra effort on the boards, it often shows up in other areas of the game as well.
Stay Focused – The Celtics must stay focused on playing the right way. They have to take care of the ball and they have to focus on making crisp passes and on careful ball handling. They also have to focus on taking good shots and making them. The Celtics have to come into the game focused and keep that focus throughout the game. The Celtics should not underestimate this Pistons team because they are very hungry for a win and so if the Celtics lose focus they may just get beat.
Be Aggressive – The Celtics can’t come into the game expecting an easy game and to be able to take it easy on both ends of the court because the Pistons are at the bottom of the league and are on a historic losing streak. They have to come in and be aggressive on defense, on taking the ball to the basket, on diving for loose balls, on rebounding and on playing as a team. If they allow the Pistons to play harder than them, especially playing short handed, they could be surprised by a loss.
X-Factors Pitiful Pistons – The Celtics are back at home and they need come out ready to protect home court. Young teams often struggle on the road and hopefully the Garden will be loud and will be able to distract the young Pistons team who also have to face the distractions of travel. The Celtics will possibly be short handed if Tatum and Brown are out, and so every player has to step up their game, even against the team at the bottom of the East. Too often we have seen the Celtics relax and let up and lose to teams they should absolutely beat.
Officiating – Officiating is always an x-factor. Every crew calls the game differently. Some call it tight and call every bit of contact while others allow more physical play. Some favor the home team while others call both sides evenly. The Celtics have to adjust to the way the refs are calling the game and not allow the no calls and bad calls to affect their focus on playing the game.
Another week, another defeat for Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea.
The Christmas Eve loss to Wolves was, shockingly, the Blues’ 19th of 2023, and it once again came thanks to a disastrous mix of frugality in attack and silly errors in the defensive third.
Mario Lemina opened the scoring for Wolves in the 51st minute before Matt Doherty bagged a 93rd-minute goal to seal the win for the home side, with Christopher Nkunku’s 96th-minute strike proving too little, too late for Pochettino’s men.
Here’s Chelsea’s best and worst players from the game, according to 90min’s player ratings.
Christopher Nkunku: 8/10
Nkunku scored his first goal in the Premier League / MB Media/GettyImages
Christopher Nkunku made his belated Premier League debut off the bench on Sunday and showed Chelsea fans exactly what their attacking line has been missing in the first half of the 2023/24 season.
The former RB Leipzig star immediately added some genuine quality to the Blues team in the final half an hour of the game, popping up in dangerous areas and finding space in a way Armando Broja and Nicolas Jackson could only dream of.
His headed goal was certainly a sign of good things to come.
Nicolas Jackson: 3/10
Another poor outing / David Rogers/GettyImages
No Premier League team has missed more big chances than Chelsea so far this season, and with Nicolas Jackson up front it is pretty easy to see why.
The 22-year-old mustered up a measly one shot on goal, completed no dribbles, lost seven duals and generally didn’t do anything well.
Thiago Silva: 4/10
Thiago Silva played like a 39-year-old on Sunday afternoon.
For perhaps the first time in his Chelsea career to date, the legendary defender was unable to roll back the years, instead looking slow and rather clumsy in and out of possession. It was a worrying performance, especially when you consider how much the Blues lean on him defensively.
READ THE LATEST CHELSEA NEWS, TRANSFER RUMOURS & GOSSIP
From the moment Ron Rivera named Sam Howell his starting quarterback in the summer, the coach had never flinched. He has praised Howell’s potential, even as he struggled. He lauded his growth, even as the losses mounted. He made it clear he believed the Washington Commanders had found their franchise quarterback.
Then, last Sunday, he flinched.
It wasn’t just that Rivera pulled Howell with 9:05 to go in the Commanders’ 28-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, or that the offense clicked as backup Jacoby Brissett nearly rallied Washington for the win. It’s that the benching was weeks in the making, as Howell’s struggles have mounted.
And it was that Rivera said that if the Commanders still had any shot at the playoffs, he might not be willing to put Howell back in.
“Well, if this was about playoffs and we’re right in the middle of it, that’s something you have to most certainly consider,” Rivera said. “Do we still have that opportunity to continue to win? That’s one of the things you always consider because you have to make sure everybody’s getting the opportunity to be successful.”
That’s something the eventual new regime of the Washington Commanders will have to consider, too. And it’s no longer as easy a decision as it once might have seemed.
It’s not just that Howell has struggled mightily over the last four games — a 59.4 completion percentage, 196 passing yards per game, two touchdowns and six interceptions, including three that were returned for touchdowns. It’s that with him leading the way the Commanders (4-10) have lost five straight, seven of eight have gone 2-10 since their surprising 2-0 start.
As a result, they would currently pick fourth in the 2024 NFL Draft. They have a real shot to pick as high as second. That means whoever takes over for Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew after the season will be holding a top pick in a quarterback-rich draft and could maybe even have a shot at USC’s Caleb Williams or North Carolina’s Drake Maye, or perhaps LSU’s Jayden Daniels.
With Week 16 right around the corner, Dave Helman reveals his updated NFL power rankings
The new GM and coach will also have no allegiance to Howell, a fifth-round pick in the 2022 draft, nor will they care that Rivera once believed his legacy in Washington would be the franchise quarterback he left behind.
Of course, just because Rivera benched his 23-year-old quarterback doesn’t mean anyone in Washington has — or should — give up on Howell yet. Overall, he’s still had a surprisingly productive season. He ranks seventh in passing yards with 3,568, even though he’s thrown for just 229 total in the last two weeks. He’s completed 64.6 percent of his passes and thrown 19 touchdowns despite being sacked a ridiculous 59 times.
More often than not, he’s been a bright spot on a bad Commanders team.
“There have been some positives and it continues to be positive,” Rivera said. “But the thing you always want to make sure is (that) we’re still seeing the growth. That’s something we have to sit down and discuss and see exactly where we all feel he is.”
Lately, it’s hard to argue there’s been much growth. The six interceptions Howell has thrown in the last four games has ballooned his season total to 15 — the most in the NFL. And it was hard not to notice how well Brissett performed after Howell was pulled on Sunday, going 8 of 10 for 124 yards and two touchdowns on his only two drives.
Yes, the Rams’ defense was sitting back a bit protecting what was a 28-7 lead with nine minutes to go. But there were little things that Brissett did that Howell hadn’t been doing. And there are bigger things, like rediscovering Terry McLaurin, the Commanders’ best receiver. He had a career-high 141 receiving yards on Sunday, including 93 on passes from Brissett. The lack of a connection between Howell and McLaurin has been disappointing all season. One game earlier, McLaurin didn’t even catch a single pass.
That has all helped the doubts creep in where there hadn’t been many before. In early November, Rivera was all but handing the keys to the franchise to Howell. He said, “This franchise has been looking for quite some time and for the first time in a while, I think that that guy might be here.” Now he’s questioning his growth, saying he needs a “reset,” wondering out loud if he’s the guy who gives his team the best chance to win.
“That’s stuff that I have to take into consideration — exactly where he is and how he’s handling these things,” Rivera said. “He’s done a really good job for us and it is a long year. It’s been a tough year. But again, this is stuff that we can hope that he understands, and he learns and he grows.”
There are certainly signs that he has, and he can. As recently as last week, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was still raving about Howell’s progress, his intelligence, his pocket presence and more.
“Do I like what he’s done? Yes, I do,” Bieniemy said. “Obviously, in this league, you’re measured by wins and losses, so we have to make sure that is reflecting in that column. But I’m very happy with his development and his growth process. Do we have a long way to go? Yes, we do, but he’s growing every single day.”
Howell’s teammates seem to sense that and still believe in him, too.
“Sam’s still doing a good job of growing and learning and giving us chance to make plays down the field,” McLaurin said. “We’re still rolling with him. We’ve just got to continue to support him and make his job a little easier.”
“He’s going to be a good player in this league for a long time,” Brissett added. “The key is just you can’t be discouraged, can’t lose confidence, and I’m sure he won’t. I’m sure he can come back and be better than this.”
Howell didn’t sound discouraged after he was benched on Sunday. He even insisted: “I know I’m not defined by this one game.” And he won’t be. Rivera has already said Howell will be the starter again when the Commanders play at the New York Jets (5-9) on Christmas Eve. It’s a good bet he’ll be the starter in the final two games, too.
After that, though, all the bets on Howell are now off, because there are just too many variables about his future. No one knows yet who’ll be in charge, let alone what they think of Howell — or even what new owner Josh Harris thinks of Howell and his potential. It’s unclear just how high the Commanders will be picking in the draft, and what the new boss’ evaluation of the quarterback class will be.
There was a time, though, when Howell seemed to be steaming towards making it an easy decision for whoever ended up in charge. Through the first eight games he had completed 66.9 percent of his passes, he had thrown for 2,146 yards and 13 touchdowns, his passer rating was 90.1, and everyone seemed to believe the best was yet to come.
But the only thing that came next were struggles and doubts, leaving many to wonder if Rivera even still believes the Commanders have their franchise quarterback. Not that it matters, since that won’t be his decision.
The legacy he hoped to leave behind is now very much up in the air.
Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.
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Marcel Louis-Jacques, ESPNDec 12, 2023, 02:11 AM ET
MIAMI GARDENS — Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill played only 33 snaps in Monday night’s 28-27 loss to the Tennessee Titans after suffering an ankle injury in the first quarter.
Hill was tackled out of bounds after catching a pass from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and immediately writhed in pain before leaving the field. He initially walked across the field from the Titans’ sideline to the Dolphins’ but ran the final 20 or so yards after hearing “MVP” chants from the home crowd.
The NFL’s leader in receiving yards didn’t play another snap until the Dolphins’ second drive of the third quarter, inspired in part by a text from his wife.
“When it happened, like my first reaction was like, man, my ankle is gone,” he said. “My adrenaline kicked in, I ran off the field, then I sat for a while and it got stiff and I was going through a lot of pain. Then I just made up in my mind, I came in at halftime, I texted my wife, I was like, ‘This s— hurt.’ I need an ankle massage tonight, and she’s like, ‘You’d better get your ass back in that game, dawg.’ I was like, ‘All right.’
“So I just made up my mind that it’s going to hurt. It’s going to suck. Tonight and tomorrow morning. I just went back in the game on my own, without anybody saying, ‘Reek, go.’ It was like, no, f— this, I’ve got to get out there and bring some energy and be that spark.”
Miami was outgained by the Titans 403 yards to 366 and largely struggled without Hill in the game. Miami played without starting offensive linemen Terron Armstead, Robert Hunt and Isaiah Wynn, who were inactive, and center Connor Williams, who left the game because of a knee injury in the first quarter and did not return.
After the game, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said he hadn’t spoken with the training staff yet for an update on Williams, who was seen wearing a knee brace while standing on the sideline during the game.
“I know it would take a lot to keep him out,” McDaniel said. “It’s probably not the most positive.”
While the Dolphins averaged 5.1 yards per carry, rushing for 158 yards on 31 attempts, they were far less successful throwing the ball.
Against Miami’s decimated offensive line, the Titans attacked, pressuring Tagovailoa on 39% of his dropbacks Monday night. Tagovailoa completed just 4 of 11 passes for 27 yards when pressured and was sacked five times.
He finished with 240 scoreless yards, completing 23 of 33 passes and snapping a streak of 21 consecutive games with a passing touchdown.
“I think what they wanted game-plan-wise was to put a shell over our team, forcing us to run the ball, forcing us to beat them that way,” Tagovailoa said. “But when you have someone like Tyreek go down, it does make it tough, but when you also have a couple of your key O-linemen go down, as well, it does hurt the guys up front and sort of the way we operate.
“I think one of the toughest parts of that is a lot of those guys haven’t gotten reps at some of the positions. It’s not to say that we practice for situations like this to happen. It just so happened that Connor went down and we already had a couple of our guys out. But needless to say, I know the guys up front will get better. I know the guys around me will get better. I will continue to get better. That’s the only way we can grow. We’ve just got to watch the tape. Tough loss tonight, but it’s going to linger like this if we don’t do anything about that.”
Despite playing a minimized role, Hill finished with 61 yards on four catches. Jaylen Waddle led the team in receiving yards with 79 on six catches.
“So I just made up my mind that it’s going to hurt. It’s going to suck. Tonight and tomorrow morning. I just went back in the game on my own, without anybody saying, ‘Reek, go.’ It was like, no, f— this, I’ve got to get out there and bring some energy and be that spark.”
Tyreek Hill on returning to MNF game after injuring ankle
Miami clearly looked off rhythm without Hill, but McDaniel blamed the loss more so on a lack of red zone production — two touchdowns on five red zone trips — rather than Hill’s injury.
“There’s a good amount of offense that goes through [Hill]. However … ‘Ced’ [Cedrick Wilson Jr.] made a couple plays,” he said. “It wasn’t the reason for the lack of first half — or really first three quarter — points. I think there were just critical times that we would be off a hair on first or second down and you’re put in a third down situation, and our protection wasn’t exactly what maybe we’d be used to on a play or two.
“Obviously a player of Tyreek’s caliber, it hurts when he’s not in. However, I think there was plenty of offense to be had and we’ve got a lot of guys that I trust to do that. I think that just bottom line, you have things like that happen in a game, you’re going to lose and those are lessons that are learned usually one way, and that’s the hard one.”
At 9-4, the Dolphins still hold a two-game lead in the AFC East over their division rival Buffalo Bills and host the New York Jets on Sunday. With a win and a Bills loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Miami would set itself up for a division-clinching scenario in Week 16.
There is no guarantee that Hill plays against the Jets — unless the decision is left up to him.
“That’s never something that I would be thinking about,” he said. “But if the trainers come to me, if they see something in the scans whenever I get these scans, they say, ‘Hey, Reek, you can sit out,’ I do it. But me being me, I don’t want to sit out. I want to be able to help this team any way I can, and that’s just who I am. I just don’t want to miss any games.”