Monday, October 26, 2020

A Tale of Two Bakers- Browns Rally Past Bengals 37-34

   Baker Mayfield threw five touchdown passes in the final three quarters and hit rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones with a 24-yard pass in the end zone with eleven seconds remaining to lift the Cleveland Browns to a 37-34 victory.

Mayfield finished the afternoon with 297 yards passing with those five touchdowns to four different receivers. 

Rookie tight end Harrison Bryant caught two of those scoring passes and Rashard Higgins grabbed all six of the passes thrown to him for 110 yards.

Kareem Hunt led the Browns in rushing with 76 yards in the victory that boosted the Browns to 5-2 on the season and in playoff contention.

Cleveland will host the 3-3 Las Vegas Raiders next Sunday before their bye week

Brownie Bits

1) Before I start on the win, the Browns announced on Monday that Odell Beckham tore his ACL while attempting a tackle on Baker Mayfield's first-quarter interception and will miss the rest of the season.
I know how it seems like Baker Mayfield has been chemistry with other receivers and it may be so to an extent, but I also know this- this team doesn't have a deep threat on the roster without Odell Beckham other than the still-raw Donovan Peoples-Jones and as opponents realize this, the underneath throws to Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins will be contested more and more.

2) On to Baker Mayfield, who missed on his first five passes, his first was intercepted on the play that ended the season of his star receiver, and generally looked terrible in the first quarter.
As people such as myself were going crazy with his poor play (although I did criticize him on Twitter, I didn't call for Case Keenum as many did), the Browns started their first possession in the second quarter and...

3) That Baker Mayfield left the building, replaced by this other guy that resembled the player that finished the 2018 season.
The quarterback that arrived would complete every pass that he threw for the remainder of the game with the exception of one clock spike and would throw the game-winner with seconds to play.
That Mayfield played with confidence, put the ball on a line, didn't hang his receivers out to dry, and generally looked like a quality NFL quarterback.
Kevin Stefanski didn't ask him to make long downfield throws and maybe that could be the key to success for Mayfield, but I don't think you could ask for more than what the Browns got from their quarterback in the final three quarters.

4) All of that said, it's not unfair to say we still need to see a body of work.
Baker Mayfield's career passing rating against the Cincinnati Bengals is 111 and in all other games, his rating is 83.
That doesn't' mean that it will remain that way, it just states what has been to this point.
The schedule plays to his advantage with an erratic (much like the Browns) Raiders team next before games against weak sisters Houston and Philadelphia with all three games in Cleveland followed by a visit to one win Jacksonville.
It's not out of the question the Browns could be 9-2 or at least 8-3 going into Tennessee without a true test other than maybe the Raiders and we won't know that much more about Baker Mayfield's future than we do today.

5) Rashard Higgins, the most popular player in Cleveland, steps in and finishes with over 100 yards with two of the biggest catches of the game.
Higgins digging a low pass from the grass only gained eight yards, but Higgins managing to get out of bounds was a huge play in saving time and his following catch for thirty more yards put the Browns in a spot to throw more than a Hail Mary to score.
I recently wrote that everyone loves Higgins except several coaching staffs who try to avoid using him at every turn.
Perhaps now, Higgins can have some of the respect he deserves.

6) Donovan Peoples-Jones did make an excellent catch on the game-winning touchdown, but there was a little bit of luck involved as the ball literally passed between the arms of Bengals defensive back Darius Phillips.
I'll take the luck this time, but Peoples-Jones, for now at least, is the major deep threat on the roster and he'll need to continue his development.

7) Austin Hooper missed the game after an emergency appendectomy on Friday,  but the Browns did not miss him as much as they could have with Harrison Bryant catching two touchdowns and David Njoku catching another.
I really like Bryant and the Browns might have found themselves an excellent tight end.

8) Myles Garrett continued his display of dominance with two sacks, a forced fumble on Joe Burrow, and has sacked a quarterback in six straight games, which established a team record.

9) Denzel Ward had an excellent game covering A.J. Green, but the safety position is going to kill this team (like it has done several times) if Andrew Berry doesn't step up and get someone that can play safety.
Eric Reid is a Pro Bowl level safety that is available for nothing but money and the Browns would be well served to give him a call.

10) The Browns still almost lost this game after all that- Watch the Hail Mary and after the tip drill started, the ball was going straight to A.J. Green but bounced off the chest of Sheldrick Redwine.
For all of the excitement of this game, it almost added even more.

11) The injuries are piling up on offense.
Their top running back is gone as is the only deep threat in the passing game and although the schedule will help with the next four games against one team at .500, can you rely on Baker Mayfield to outscore all of these teams without his two biggest weapons?
We shall see.

12) And can you outscore EVERYONE, even the bad teams?
Let alone the good ones?
It makes me think that although this team has improved, can they take the step forward by beating all the teams they should and do it with all offense?

13) Winding up with this- I always remember Dick Vermeil, back when he coached the Eagles, discussing the Miracle in the Meadowlands and what he was thinking before the famous Herman Edwards recovery and touchdown.
Vermeil was thinking about the game, but what he said was his thoughts were about his program.
In 1978, the Eagles were in their third year under Vermeil and his thoughts were about the foundation of the Eagles being the domination of the New York Giants and how that was slipping away before that fumble.
The Steelers and Ravens have that feeling with the Browns- they will bully them, beat them, and even when they play them close that they will find a way to win and the Browns know it.
Perhaps Kevin Stefanski has begun the foundation of his program with the domination of the Cincinnati Bengals?

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Lipinets, Clayton battle to Majority Draw

   Saturday night's PBC card from Showtime didn't appear to be one of their more glamorous offerings from the premium cable network and while it lacked huge names and anything resembling what DAZN televised on Friday night, they still delivered a decent night from their Covid-19 home of Uncasville, Connecticut.

In the main event, welterweights Sergey Lipinets and late replacement Custio Clayton battled to a majority decision draw for an interim IBF belt that was planned so long ago that at that time, the organization didn't know the status of their champion Errol Spence and Spence will fight in early December against Danny Garcia.

Hopefully, the majority draw and Spence's return will take this belt out of play because one of the few things that the IBF ( and the WBO for the most part) does well is that they usually stay out of the multiple titles in the same division garbage that the WBA and WBC do so often with their "titles".
This one wasn't filled with action, but there was enough to follow that it wasn't a boring fight either and Clayton credit as he stepped up well as a late replacement and in his first test after an amateur career that saw him fight at the Olympic level.
I had Clayton a 115-113 winner as did one of the judges, but have no problems with the majority draw in such a close fight.

The two undercard bouts featured prospects from the Floyd Mayweather camp with the evening ending in a mixed bag for the Money Team.
Junior lightweight Xavier Martinez survived an eighth round that saw veteran Claudio Marrero knock him down twice to win a unanimous decision.
I haven't watched this fight yet in its entirety (was on the way to the road office), but reading the reports of others Martinez deserved the close nod despite the knockdowns from Marrero, who continues to be a stern test as a crossroads fighters in the 126 and now 130 pound divisions.

I did see the first fight with junior welterweight Subriel Matias rebounding from his first pro loss with a stoppage of a surprisingly meek Malik Hawkins when the doctor ended the fight one second into the seventh round.
Matias is the young bomber that knocked out Maxim Dadashev and Dadashev passed away from his injuries shortly after the fight.
Matias lost his next fight after that and I wondered if Matias may have been scarred by the tragedy entering this match with Hawkins, but Matias walked through Hawkins' punches, ignored his jab and broke Hawkins down with a stoppage seeming to be inevitable.
For Matias, the win returns him to fighter to watch status and for Hawkins, this uncompetitive loss combined with his last fight with Darwin Price, where he was on his way to a loss before a knee injury to Price gave Hawkins the duke, marks him as more suspect than prospect. 

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica scored three points to my two to cut my lead further at 137-129.

They are back! Buckeyes roll over Nebraska 52-17

  The Ohio State Buckeyes finally started their 2020 season in an eerily spooky near-empty Ohio Stadium, but slowly pulled away from the Nebraska Cornhuskers on their way to a 52-17 win in Columbus.

Justin Fields completed twenty of twenty-one passes for two touchdowns and 276 passing yards to go with his team-leading fifty-four rushing yards.
Garrett Wilson caught seven passes for 129 yards and a score to lead the skill players in the victory.
The 1-0 Buckeyes travel to State College and an angry bunch of Nittany Lions, who will be looking to even their record after giving what looked to be a sure victory away at Indiana in overtime.

Olentangy Offerings

1)  Can you be any better than 20 for 21?
Only if it's 21 of 21, but Justin Fields looked in mid-season form in this win.
It's only one game against a mid-level Big Ten team, but if this is the type of play that Ohio State fans are going to see from Justin Fields, it might be the best season ever from an OSU quarterback.

2) Fields showed a strong arm and nice touch on two different completions to Garrett Wilson and almost hit the perfect day as the one incompletion was on a Chris Olave pass in the end zone that was a little high.
Olave climbed the ladder and had the ball in his possession before being hit by a Nebraska safety and giving the ball up.
That is how close Fields came to 21 for 21.

3) Garrett Wilson was tremendous out of the slot and I'm not sure how opposition slot corners are going to deal with his combination of speed and strength. 
Wilson is going to improve with time (this was his first game moving inside to the slot position) and here is the problem for the opposing defenses- Wilson is going to be too fast to be covered by linebackers and perhaps too strong for slot corners, creating a nightmare in coverage for the opponent.
Good luck.

4) Chris Olave got his bell rung later in the game on a ball he caught and fumbled.
Ryan Day said he seemed fine after the game, so hopefully, Olave will be available for Penn State.
Olave finished his day with over one hundred yards on six catches, so he didn't take a backseat to Garrett Wilson in any stat other than touchdown receptions.

5) Nebraska was in this game for a while, but Ohio State showed their firepower when they ended the first half with a five-play drive for a touchdown, opened the second with an eight-play drive for another, and when Sevyn Banks vacuumed up a Husker fumble and raced fifty-five yards for another score, the game had moved from 17-14 to 38-14 in less than half a quarter of game time.

6) But the same defense occasionally struggled in the first half and I'm sure it will be a developing defense that will improve as the season moves on.
Ohio State did finish with three sacks against the very mobile Taylor Martinez, so there is room to grow there, but they did have issues with one of the eight thousand McCaffery offspring, who ripped off a 47-yard run and finished with ninety on the day.

7)  Ryan Day apologized after the game for not kneeling on the ball late in the game and the ensuing touchdown run by freshman quarterback Jack Miller.
Day is known for being friendly with Nebraska coach Scott Frost, so this may be trying to stay in good graces with someone he likes.
I doubt he'd worry about such things in their next game.

8) The running game will also need to pick the pace up.
Yes, the Buckeyes did rush for 161 Non-Fields yards and Master Teague's runs on one touchdown drive were powerful in between the tackles, but there is work to be done on the ground.

9) I was impressed by the garbage time carries by Steele Chambers, who carried four times for thirty-two yards.
Chambers ran once for a seventeen yard gain that was impressive and I'm hoping to see more from him.

10) Then there was the play of the day in the phenomenal touchdown catch from freshman Jaxon Smith-Njigba that is pictured above.
How the frosh pulled that pass down and managed to scrape the red of the end zone for a good catch astounds me.
The pass-catching talent in this freshman class is incredibly deep and while Justin Fields will not be around to reap the total benefits of these players as C.J.Stroud, Jack Miller, and 2021 incoming freshman Kyle McCord will, Fields will be on his share of big plays from these young men this season as well.

11) Penn State had a win over Indiana in their hands late in their contest and gave it away as noted above.
It's hard to blame Penn State's Devyn Ford for scoring a touchdown to boost a lead to eight points late in the game.
Players are taught to score when you can from the first game you play as a child, it is the coaches job to make sure the players know what to do in those situations- No matter how prepared you think they are!
Penn State is going to be ready for the Buckeyes as an 0-2 start in a shortened season is even larger than usual.
I'll write more about this in the return of I tell ya' Herbie later this week.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Estrada, Gonzalez win to set rematch

DAZN's Friday night card with two titles at stake in the junior bantamweight division received quite a boost with the main event turning into a battle that won't be forgotten anytime soon as Juan Francisco Estrada retained his WBC title with an eleventh round stoppage of challenger Carlos Cuadras in Mexico City.

Cuadras started very quickly and raced to an early lead with a knockdown of Estrada in round three as the highlight of the initial rounds.
Estrada wasn't severely hurt, but the knockdown from a right uppercut and glancing left hook gave Cuadras hopes of ruining the expected Estrada-Roman Gonzalez fight early in 2021.
In the fifth round, Estrada began to turn the tide as Cuadras began to breathe through his mouth, throw fewer punches and those that were thrown were far wider than in the early rounds.
The technically sound Estrada connected with accurate shots to the head and to the body and slowly began to take more and more energy from Cuadras by the round to take a small lead.
Cuadras made a last stand by winning the tenth round, but Estrada closed the show in round eleven with two knockdowns that saw a courageous Cuadras exchange punches as best he could before a right hand swiveled the head of Cuadras and allow the referee to end the fight.
I had Estrada slightly ahead after ten rounds, 95-94 (6-4 with the Cuadras knockdown), and would have clinched a decision win after the eleventh, had Cuadras survived.

The other title fight saw the WBA version of the 115-pound division championship defended as Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez won a clear, but not easy unanimous decision over a determined Israel Gonzalez.
The taller Israel Gonzalez won the first two rounds on my card and was never hurt by Chocolatito, but also couldn't keep the champion's pressure slowed enough to make a claim thereafter other than winning the tenth round for my final card of 117-111 for the champion.
A solid victory for Roman Gonzalez in his first title defense after defeating Kal Yafai earlier this year and a unification match with Juan Francisco Estrada looks likely for early next season in what is one of the most anticipated fights in the game.
Gonzalez won a close unanimous decision over Estrada to defend his then-flyweight title in 2012 when Estrada was the first fighter to keep the fight close against Gonzalez, who was ranked at the time as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world.

WBC flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez won a non-title fight by second-round knockout over Moises Calleros.
The fight was scheduled to be a title fight, but Calleros missed weight badly as a late replacement with the fight continuing as a non-title bout.
The extra weight didn't help any as Martinez dropped Calleros in the first round with a left hook and battered him into submission in the second round for the victory.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored four points to move the total to 135-126 in my favor...

Friday, October 23, 2020


   Finally, the PPM will be welcoming a full college football schedule with the return of the Big Ten and Mountain West!

Last Week: 3-4
Overall: 32-14

Ohio State over Nebraska 45-22
Boise State over Utah State 35-21
Houston over Navy 28-21
West Virginia over Texas Tech 45-28
LSU over South Carolina 34-31
North Carolina over N.C.State 30-20
Middle Tennessee State over Rice 24-19
Coastal Carolina over Georgia Southern 48-38

Game of the Week
Cincinnati over SMU 27-25

Browns over Bengals 27-20
Saints over Panthers 32-21

Game of the Week
Seahawks over Cardinals 35-34

Boxing Challenge

   The boxing weekend starts on Friday this week with a strong card from DAZN before Showtime takes over on Saturday with a slate that isn't quite as strong, but has some interesting matches as well.

DAZN hasn't exactly set the boxing world on fire with their few offerings since Covid-19 arrived, but Friday's card from Mexico City is a solid return with three world titles at stake before a miss at the weigh-in caused one to be shifted to a non-title affair.

The main event features Juan Francisco Estrada defending his WBC junior bantamweight title in a rematch from 2017 against Carlos Cuadras in what at that time was an eliminator for that title, then held by Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
The first fight was decided by a tenth round knockdown scored by Estrada that made the difference on all three cards (114-113) at a time when Cuadras was the slight favorite after his stern challenge against the then-dominant Chocolatito Gonzalez.
The careers of both men diverged after that as Estrada split two fights with Rungvisai and now is considered for top ten pound for pound listing and Cuadras losing his next fight by decision to McWilliams Arroyo in a surprising loss with three wins against lesser competition following the Arroyo defeat.
This one is important to both men with Estrada risking a lucrative unification fight against Roman Gonzalez and Cuadras needing a strong showing at minimum to show that he is still competitive at the elite level of the sport.

The co-main event is the aforementioned Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez defending his WBA junior bantamweight title for the first time after his title win over Kal Yafai just before the beginning of Covid-19 in February against Israel Gonzalez.
Chocolatito's ninth-round knockout wins over Yafai not only gave him a world title, it returned him to fight fans thoughts of wanting to see him in big fights and a unification fight against Estrada, whom Gonzalez defeated via decision in a flyweight title defense in 2012, would be an anticipated fight for boxing fans.
Gonzalez will be a solid favorite against a fellow Gonzalez, who won a split decision in his last fight over former world title challenger Sho Ishida in Ishida's native Japan to earn this championship challenge.

The other scheduled title fight will take place, but without a title, as Moises Calleros missed weight by over five pounds and will not challenge for the WBC flyweight championship held by Julio Cesar Martinez.
The journeyman Calleros isn't really of world title caliber, but Martinez lost a summer fight in Tulsa for various reasons and accepted the fight anyway to stay active despite the weight advantage that Calleros will hold.
Martinez should still use the fight in the same manner as planned- a match to display his talents in the suddenly packed flyweight division...

Saturday sees the stage shift to Showtime in their version of the 'bubble' in Uncasville, Connecticut with a three-fight card of interest, if not the star power of the DAZN version.

The main event will star Sergei Lipinets against late replacement Custio Clayton for the IBF's "interim" welterweight title.
Why they need an interim champion when the actual champion (Errol Spence) is in action in six weeks is one question and why the IBF, who had been above the fray in this multiple titles per organization and division business, is doing this at all.
Lipinets briefly held the IBF junior welterweight title before dropping it to Mikey Garcia and has won three fights since with an impressive tenth round stoppage of Lamont Peterson that sent the former junior welterweight champion into retirement leading the trio.
The fight was delayed a few weeks due to visa problems with original opponent Kudratillo Abdukakhorov and when those issues couldn't be cleared up, the IBF ruled that Clayton could step in his place.
Clayton is a former Olympian from Canada and is undefeated, but his best two wins were over well past their prime former contenders DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley and Johan Perez, so I have plenty of questions about Clayton that will need to be answered.

The other two bouts on the card will pit undefeated fighters from Floyd Mayweather's money team against their toughest foes as professionals.
Xavier Martinez is paired against veteran Claudio Marrero in the co-feature at junior lightweight with the talented Martinez expected to make a move forward in his first test against a solid veteran
Marrero, who seems to be on every PBC card in the featherweight division, will be a tough test as Marrero loses to top ten fighters (Tug Nyambayar and Kid Galahad), but beats almost anyone else and if a prospect isn't up to snuff, Marrero can not only defeat them, he can eliminate them in destructive manner as he did undefeated'prospects Jorge Lara and Carlos Zambrano, both of whom were taken out in one round on national television by Marrero.
Still, Martinez is the naturally larger man and I think that will come into play.

The opener is the most interesting fight of the evening to me with undefeated Mayweather protege Malik Hawkins against once-beaten Subriel Matias in a junior welterweight battle.
Hawkins defeated undefeated Darwin Price in his last fight, when Price, who was leading on the scorecards tore a knee ligament in the fifth round and was unable to continue.
Price was outboxing Hawkins before the injury and I wonder what Hawkins might have as his level of opponent improves.
Matias looked so impressive when he came out of nowhere to upset and stop Maxim Dadashev in the eleventh round as a heavy underdog before Dadashev would pass away from injuries suffered in the bout, but two fights later sleepwalked for ten rounds against Petros Ananyan in losing a unanimous decision.
Matias was knocked down in the seventh round by Ananyan and had that not occurred would have salvaged a majority decision draw but just looked like he was a fighter that didn't want to fight anymore.
Two talented fighters with plenty to prove after a less than impressive outing might make a good match if both are motivated.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 131-122

WBC Junior Bantamweight Title. 12 Rds
Juan Francisco Estrada vs  Carlos Cuadras
Both: Estrada Unanimous Decision

WBA Junior Bantamweight Title. 12 Rds
Roman Gonzalez vs Israel Gonzalez
R.L: R.Gonzalez KO 9
TRS: R.Gonzalez KO 6

Flyweights. 12 Rds
Julio Cesar Martinez vs Moises Calleros
R.L: Martinez KO 10
TRS: Martinez KO 4

Welterweights. 12 Rds
Sergey Lipinets vs Custio Clayton
Both: Lipinets Unanimous Decision

Junior Lightweights.12 Rds
Xavier Martinez vs Claudio Marrero
R.L: Martinez KO 9
TRS: Martinez Unanimous Decision

Welterweights.10 Rds
Malik Hawkins vs Subriel Matias
R.L: Matias Unanimous Decision
TRS: Hawkins Unanimous Decision

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Cleaning out the Inbox

Time to clean out the ol' inbox with a few of the various clippings that hit the inbox for times like these.

The Athletic scores with this profile of Doris Burke before Burke's debut as the first female analyst to cover the NBA Finals.

Burke is an analyst that knows the game, comes off as extremely prepared, and is witty without the need of being the center of a vaudeville act.
I will admit that I wasn't always a fan of Burke not for a lack of knowledge, but for appearing so grim and not seeming to enjoy the game.
That's not her M.O. anymore and I enjoy her work.
Doris raises the point that it would be nice if her gender wasn't mentioned every time she worked on a big game and that it'll be a good day when it isn't brought up.
I agree, but what will be equally refreshing will be when you can say I don't care for this person's work and not have to be called a sexist.
I enjoy Burke calling a game, I'm not a fan of Jessica Mendoza's when she commentates on a baseball game.
I'm not a crusader for liking Burke's style and I'm not a sexist for disliking Mendoza- It'll be a good day when you can say I like or dislike and it's accepted as an opinion, not as a stance on a woman calling the game.

NPR really hits one out of the park with this article on the oil companies and their pushing of plastic recycling and the myth of all plastic being able to be recycled.
It's a very eye-opening read with why most plastic isn't recycled due to the cost and the quality, recycled plastic isn't nearly as strong as new plastic (I've been saying that for years!), why recycled plastic can't be recycled forever, among other facts as well.
The illusion of this goes back to the late 70s and early 80s when people were beginning to show anger about the amount of plastic trash lying around and the oil companies (many of whom have subsidiaries that make plastic products from petroleum) and the companies pushing the idea of recycling all plastic.

Rolling Stone writes their feature article on the Beatles and the 50 year anniversary of their 1970 breakup.
The anniversary is based around an upcoming documentary using the films that were saved from the Beatles documentary "Let It Be" entitled "Get Back", but it's still intriguing as it goes behind the scenes as the band is beginning to fizzle.
Yes, there is a bit on Yoko Ono and her influence, but there are other contributing factors to the unhappiness of the various Beatles and the new film is discussed as well.

Discover Magazine writes of the five NASA spacecraft that are on their way out of the solar system.
What I found most interesting was the chart in the article which displays two different views of where each craft currently is located and their trajectory of where they are headed.

The New York Times gives some bad news on climate change and I know that we see these types of articles often and we can become numb to them after a while, but this doesn't write about what could happen.
Instead, it writes of what is happening with hurricanes and the current wildfire situation in California and makes the case that the disruption to the climate is now irreversible to a degree with only the remaining questions of how bad things will be in the future with how able are we to deal with those changes.
Earlier this summer, the temperature in Death Valley, California reached 130, the hottest ever recorded by man, and earlier this week, Arizona hit its 144th day of the year of over 100 degrees for a new record.
You can argue on the causes or the solutions with this issue, but denying that there is a problem is simply closing your eyes and wishing it to go away.