PHOENIX — Doug Baldwin went on a tirade after the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC championship game in dramatic fashion, which came off as fairly amusing. “I want y’all to write this down,” Baldwin said at the time . “Write this down, OK? Remember when we were 3-3? Everybody counted us out! Y’all didn’t believe in us! A whole bunch of people saying that we weren’t going to make it, right? When we were 6-4 [you were like], ‘Aw, it’s ok, they got a winning record, but they not gonna go to the playoffs. “Remember that? [Trailing] 16-0 at the first half! How many y’all counted us out?! How many y’all doubted us? It’s indicative of our entire season. Y’all don’t want to believe in us, it’s OK. You ain’t gotta believe in us because we can believe in ourselves.” [ Watch the Super Bowl live on Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports – Sunday at 6 p.m. ET ] The rant about about the perception of the Seahawks team. Which is laughable. Few were openly beating up the team that has been the best in the NFL over the past two seasons. But Baldwin’s rant might also have contained a hidden message. Perhaps he was feeling the disespect of the Seahawks’ wide receivers, a group that includes himself. On the cusp of Super Bowl XLIX, the Seahawks’ wide receivers come into the game rife with question marks and originating from rather humble roots. Baldwin, undrafted. Jermaine Kearse, undrafted. Ricardo Lockette, undrafted. All undaunted. For the Seahawks, they pride themselves on turning over rocks to find players. “We take pride in that a little bit,” Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “We pride ourselves in being able to find talent. Our scouting department and [general manager] John Schneider do an outstanding job. They’re our kind of guys. “You can see Doug Baldwin with a chip on his shoulder and Jermaine and how he is and how he persevered through our game a few weeks ago and made a big play for us. Those are our kind of guys.” In the Seahawks’ two playoff games, no wide receiver still on the roster other than those three has played more than seven snaps on offense. Second-round pick Paul Richardson, the team’s top overall selection last May, tore his ACL in the divisional round over the Carolina Panthers. Percy Harvin — whom the team traded first-, third- and seventh-round picks for and doled out a six-year, $67 million extension to — was dealt for pennies on the dollar to the New York Jets. Former Seahawks second-rounder Golden Tate signed with the Detroit Lions before the season and had a career year. They’re all gone. It’s up to Baldwin, Kearse and Lockette, along with emerging tight end Luke Willson, to make plays in the secondary for quarterback Russell Wilson and the rest of the Seahawks’ offense to step up on Sunday. ” I think our receiving corps plays with a chip on our shoulder,” Kearse said. Baldwin admitted this week that he has heard the chatter about his unit: that they’re nothing special. The criticism, he said, is fair game to make — as long as people can back up their assertion with facts. “If you are going to bring up something, I need the facts,” Baldwin said. “I need you to show me exactly why you think that way. If you don’t back it up with facts, it’s just an opinion. I will respect your opinion, but you are going to respect mine as well. I’m going to bring the facts to back my opinion up, as well.” The facts are these: In the regular season, only one team (the Kansas City Chiefs, with zero) had fewer touchdown receptions than the Seahawks’ wide receivers collectively during the regular season. The Seahawks trio combined for a pedestrian 115 catches for 1,557 yards (13.5-yard average) as the Seahawks went 12-4 to repeat as the NFC’s top seed. But in the postseason, they have come more alive with a combined 16 catches for 339 yards and three scores in the two games. Kearse exploded with a career game against the Panthers, with three catches for 139 yards and a 63-yard score. After a mostly miserable game against the Packers, with all four of Wilson’s interceptions in the game intended for him, Kearse stepped up with the walk-off 35-yard TD in overtime. “It was definitely a roller-coaster of emotions. You kind of have a down moment and you just try pick yourself back up,” the humble, quiet Kearse said. “It’s just about staying in tune, staying in the game and not quitting.” Baldwin is Kearse’s opposite: He’s outspoken and brash, and he has carried that undrafted chip on his shoulder all through his career — especially after his college coach, Jim Harbaugh, passed on not even extending Baldwin a free-agent contract after the draft. He, too, has been excellent in the postseason. Baldwin scored the opening touchdown against the Panthers, and even with a lost fumble against the Packers, he finished the game with a game-high 106 yards on six catches. And then he launched into the aforementioned tirade. Consider those emotions boiled over. ” It’s not necessarily proving people wrong,” Baldwin said. “It’s more so proving ourselves right. We like that negativity that we get from the media and from some fans sometimes, but we use it as motivating, fuel to the fire. We look at it as a way to not only to prove others wrong, but to prove ourselves right.” The New England Patriots often employ their best cornerback, Darrelle Revis, on the opponent’s top receiver — in this case, Baldwin — and use safety help over the top on the other side. That might be a tough assignment for Baldwin to win consistently, but it could open things up for the speedier and taller Kearse and Lockett, who each average more than 14 yards per catch this season. Keep an eye on the under-the-radar Lockette, who might have some mismatches against Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan, if those two match up. “He does great things,” Bevell said of Lockette. “He’s a really, really talented player.” Willson and Marshawn Lynch also are big factors in the Seahawks’ passing game, giving the Seahawks a balanced feel offensively. But they are not afraid to dial up big plays in big situations to any of their wideouts, and Bevell said they and Wilson have worked hard on their chemistry on broken plays when Wilson scrambles out of the pocket. “That has allowed us a few more big plays,” Bevell said. “Sometimes we get the look we want [defensively], we get the blocking and we hit the play the way it’s drawn up. Other times, you have to go off script. I feel a lot better when we do have to do that.” The script right now, is unfinished. Baldwin was a major part of last year’s Seahawks Super Bowl run, but each of this year’s wide receivers has moved a notch or two up the ladder with Tate and Harvin leaving the team and Richardson out. How big a factor will they be Sunday? “We don’t have to prove anything but to ourselves and win for our teammates,” Baldwin said. “We know what we are capable of.” – – – – – – – Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm
The Detroit Lions, feeling burned by a non-interference call in a playoff loss to Dallas, already have proposed expanding the use of instant replay for coaches’ challenges. Dean Blandino, the NFL’s officiating director, said Thursday the competition committee will look into adding to what calls are reviewable, as it does each year. Blandino, who is on the powerful committee, says its members ”look at any situation … any time a team brings up an issue that has to be looked into.” League football operations chief Troy Vincent, also a committee member, adds both of those plays and the rules involved will be major topics in the offseason.
Once upon a time, the Silverdome was the largest stadium in the NFL. The home of the Detroit Lions between 1975-2001, the Pontiac, Mich. venue also hosted Super Bowl XVI, Wrestlemania III and the first indoor match in FIFA World Cup history. But the structure that was built for $55.7 million forty years ago (and sold for just $583,000 in 2009) has fallen on hard times. These pictures of the #Silverdome today are remarkable: http://t.co/jSObXe2sHr What should happen to it? #fox2det http://ift.tt/1zCfFKD — FOX 2 News | WJBK (@FOX2News) January 27, 2015 And that shot doesn’t do the stadium’s current sad state justice. Check out some of the images photographer Johnny Joo submitted to MLive recently.
It’s tough being a New England fan. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown and all that. Sure, (arguably) the greatest coach in NFL history sports a Patriots logo on his sleeveless sweatshirt, and (arguably) the best quarterback of all-time dons a Flying Elvis on his helmet, but every other God-fearing football fan across this great nation has yet to bow at the altar of Bob Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Discussions about football would be a whole lot simpler if everyone could get it through their thick skulls that the game we all knew in a bygone era has since been reinvented by that holy trinity. Instead, you can’t log onto Facebook or travel south of Hartford, Conn., every February without somebody pointing out the Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl since the Spygate scandal revealed them to be cheaters. Never mind the 16-0 regular season that ensued once they stopped videotaping sideline signals. The Patriots couldn’t beat Eli Manning of all QBs without having studied film of the backside of a laminated white sheet of paper covering his offensive coordinator’s mouth. Heck, even God himself got involved by gluing a football to David Tyree’s helmet just to spite them for their sins, proving once and for all Brady — despite his three championship rings and supermodel wife — is in fact not the second coming. Now, deflate-gate has only reinforced the rest of the country’s resolve to hate the Patriots. Sure, a New Englander can explain away deflated footballs and videotaped signals — as Belichick did — with science and the idea that cameras only caught on film what 80,000 people could see in plain sight, but all every other un-Patriotic football fan hears is Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart” drowning out your excuses. So, if you’re from the Northeast corner, the best way to crawl under every other football fan’s skin like Ed Gein and “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” their dreams of deflating your seventh Super Bowl experience is to offer up the only excuse that should be universally accepted in NFL circles by now: Everybody cheats. As famed 21st-century philosopher Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. has hypothesized, the best defense is a good offense, so here’s the New Englander’s guide to labeling every other NFL team a cheat. Even if it’s baseless. Because if we’ve learned anything in the past 10 days, you’re guilty before proven innocent. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS : They had two Pro Bowl defenders — LaRon Landry and Robert Mathis — suspended for PED use and still couldn’t stop Jonas Gray or LeGarrette Blount. Not to mention they allegedly pumped crowd noise into the RCA Dome to beat the Pats in the 2006 AFC Championship. BALTIMORE RAVENS : Ah, the easiest fans of all to take up residence within their bird brains. Three simple words: Deer-antler spray . And if those don’t work, remember five-time All-Pro defensive lineman Haloti Ngata got busted for performance-enhancing drugs just last month. Or mention that — while the Ravens rightfully cut Ray Rice — somehow their other All-Pro defensive stud, Terrell Suggs, remains on the roster despite a pair of equally disturbing domestic violence allegations against him. See, you don’t even need to bring up the double-murder indictment of Ray Lewis to incite a Baltimore riot. Oh, wait. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS : The Seahawks lead the league in performance-enhancing drug use since Pete Carroll’s arrival in 2010, and that doesn’t even include the overturning of Richard Sherman’s positive test before the first of three straight playoff appearances. Talk about deflated balls in the Super Bowl. NEW YORK GIANTS : Former coach Jim Fassel may have explained away radio signal stealing allegations in 2001 by feigning ignorance, calling such high-tech cheating “impossible to even try,” but the Giants already admitted to intercepting radio waves — in 1956 . It’s not like technology has progressed in the past half-century or anything. No wonder they beat the Pats in 2007 and 2011. ATLANTA FALCONS : Speaking of listening in on conversations, assistant general manager Scott Pioli is a notorious offender, having allegedly bugged former Chiefs coach Todd Haley’s phones during his GM tenure in Kansas City. (Please pay no attention Pioli’s presence in New England during Spygate.) NEW YORK JETS : The only reason New York ratted on the Patriots for videotaping signals in 2007 is because New England threw a Jets employee out of Gillette Stadium for doing the same a year earlier. Of course, then-Jets coach Eric Mangini dubbed their misdeeds as “standard operating procedure.” Not to be outdone, former New York strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi resorted to tripping a dude . PITTSBURGH STEELERS : Current coach Mike Tomlin warranted a $100,000 fine when he interfered with a Jacoby Jones kickoff return in 2013, but it’s best to hit Pittsburgh where it hurts most — puncturing a hole through the heart of the Steel Curtain. In making his own steroid admission as a player, former Steelers defensive coordinator Jim Haslett called all four of their Super Bowls in the 1970s into question . MIAMI DOLPHINS : A pair of Fins got caught violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, but that perfect 1972 season is the only thing the Miami faithful can hold over New Englanders’ heads (well, that and the fact Floridians aren’t covered in two feet of snow right now), so let’s point out the Dolphins committed three counts of tampering in order to hire Don Shula as their coach. BUFFALO BILLS : The Bills have been all about those banned substances for the past five decades, beginning with Haslett’s admission to steroid use during his Buffalo career from 1979-85. When the NFL cracked down on steroids in the late 1980s, the Bills had more players suspended than any other team. Soon afterwards, Don Smith allegedly tested positive for steroid use before Super Bowl XXV, and then proceeded to score a touchdown in the first of four straight title losses. Before making a Pro Bowl, running back Travis Henry violated the league’s substance policy, citing ephedra, as was the custom at the time. And more recently tight end Shawn Nelson earned his own four-game suspension. Whatever’s in the sauce on those wings up there in Buffalo, maybe the Bills should be using more of it, because they haven’t made the playoffs since New Englanders threw them a bone with Doug Flutie in 1999. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS : Bountygate . DETROIT LIONS : Center Dominic Raiola and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh have both been fined multiple times for attempting to intentionally injure their opponents after the whistle, which is kinda like Bountygate, only without the monetary incentive — which kinda makes it even worse. DALLAS COWBOYS : Take your pick between the Cowboys’ salary cap violations , Orlando Scandrick’s PED suspension or Jerry Jones partying with NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino and a bunch of coeds in a bus outside Bootsy Bellows nightclub in Los Angeles. The third option seems the most fun. WASHINGTON REDSKINS : Likewise, it’s a toss-up between salary cap violations , widespread PED use , signing Andre’ Woodson off the scrap heap to recreate the Giants’ playbook and illegally calling out the Cowboys’ snap count . It’s really not that hard to rile up a fan base whose team’s owner sued season-ticket holders during a recession and vehemently defends the use of a racially insensitive nickname. CHICAGO BEARS : Forget former linebacker Brian Urlacher’s concession that the Bears assigned ” a designated dive guy ” to fake injuries when opposing offenses got hot, current wideout Brandon Marshall suggested players use Viagra to gain an edge, which creates all sorts of problems in those pig piles. CLEVELAND BROWNS : The Browns are currently being investigated for texting during games — a violation of NFL policy — suggesting these weren’t just messages from Johnny Football’s lady friends. DENVER BRONCOS : Where do we begin? ESPN’s Mark Schlereth and a couple Bronco buddies got popped for oiling themselves up in Vaseline before a playoff game, which seems minor in comparison to the team’s pair of violations of the league’s salary cap restrictions , including $29 million in deferred payments to John Elway and Terrell Davis — the two cogs in Denver’s Super Bowl victories. (It’s probably best not to mention Josh McDaniels earned a $50,000 fine for videotaping a 49ers practice.) HOUSTON TEXANS : Three-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Duane Brown got busted for PEDs before this season, but teammate Brian Cushing takes the cake. Following a season in which he won Defensive Rookie of the Year from the Associated Press in 2010, Cushing tested positive for a fertility drug (perhaps to counteract his opponents’ Viagra consumption?). So, the AP took a revote, and he still won the award. It’s always nice to see the media taking the moral high ground when it comes to football scandals. TENNESSEE TITANS : The last time the Titans were any good, they had fullback Ahmard Hall paving the way for 1,000-yard rushers Travis Henry (yes, that Travis Henry), LenDale White and Chris Johnson from 2006-11. And Hall earned a performance-enhancing drug suspension at the end of that run. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS : Linebacker LaRoy Reynolds sat out four games for a PED suspension in 2013, but there’s no use trying to incite a fan base that requires swimming pools, go-go dancers and two-for-one drink specials just to get enough fans in the front door to avoid television blackouts. ARIZONA CARDINALS : GM Steve Keim can call Daryl Washington’s indiscretions “unacceptable” all he wants, but when a team continues to employ an admitted domestic abuser and two-time violator of the league’s substance abuse policy — including one positive PED test — simply because he has an All-Pro bid on his resume, it kind of gives off the impression that those actions are in fact acceptable. CINCINNATI BENGALS : It’s kind of boring when all the Bengals have done to cheat is use a few performance-enhancing drugs, as cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris was busted for earlier this season. Apparently, they prefer to do their misdeeds off the field, leading the league in legal battles last decade. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS : Ho hum. Just a run-of-the-mill PED ban for offensive tackle Donald Stephenson. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES : Two more PED suspensions this season . Boring. OAKLAND RAIDERS : After Al Davis spent years suggesting Mike Shanahan’s Broncos should have an asterisk next to their Super Bowl victories for violating the salary cap, his own organization was among four teams punished by the league for similar infractions a few years ago. Also, they’re the Raiders. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS : The Bucs aren’t opposed to PED use, either, having received a pair of suspensions this past season, but don’t forget Brad Johnson paid an NFL representative $75,000 to rub down his balls prior to their Super Bowl XXXVII victory — the lone title in the team’s 40-year existence. GREEN BAY PACKERS : The Packers cheated so bad they had to buy their way back into the league, per Albert J. Figone’s 2012 book, ” Cheating the Spread “: “The American Professional Football Association, organized in 1919, soon became embroiled in recruiting collegiate players. The Green Bay Packers had their franchise revoked in 1921 because they recruited three Notre Dame Players — Hunk Anderson, Ojay Larson, and Hee Garvey — for their final game of the season at Milwaukee. The story was broken by the Chicago Tribune, home of the Packers’ archrival Staleys (later the Bears), coached by George Halas. The Green Bay franchise was reinstated in 1922 after Curly Lambeau paid a fee.” Nowadays, Aaron Rodgers’ over-inflation of balls keeps the proud cheating tradition established by Hunk, Ojay and Hee alive. MINNESOTA VIKINGS : As long as we’re still on the subject of balls, the Vikings like theirs warm , which also violates league policy. Oh, and Hall of Famer Cris Carter spearheaded his own Bountygate scandal . CAROLINA PANTHERS : They heated their balls on the sidelines, too, but that’s not quite as egregious as a trio of Carolina players filling prescriptions for steroids shortly before losing to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII — making former Panthers GM Marty Hurney’s recent sour grapes all the more hilarious. ST. LOUIS RAMS : Former running back turned NFL Network pundit can cry foul about the Patriots cheating him out of a second Super Bowl ring all he wants. He probably just accused New England of cheating again in the time I wrote that last sentence. But the Rams aren’t innocent, either, fielding performance – enhancing drug abusers every season since the NFL ramped up its testing policy in 2011. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS : LaDainian Tomlinson once said, “I think the Patriots actually live by the saying ‘If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying,'” so it stands to reason his team didn’t trying until he retired in 2012, since that’s when the Chargers received a $20,000 fine for using a “Stickum”-like substance . SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS : In the late 1990s, the Niners were finally busted for a practice they had accused of and denied during their dynastic run from 1981-94 — skirting the salary cap, including a violation involving Super Bowl XXIX MVP Steve Young. If that doesn’t get a San Fran fan going, just let Bill Parcells do the finger-pointing for you, since he claims the 49ers twice disabled the Giants’ phone communications in the mid-’80s. And Bill Belichick’s defense still managed to win both games. Now, cue all the angry emails from non-Patriots fans, who might finally understand how it feels to root for New England — only without all the Super Bowl appearances to make the cheating rumors worthwhile. – – – – – – – Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach
The Dan Patrick Show: Tony Dungy joins the show to discuss the latest from Deflate-Gate and also take a look at some Super Bowl matchups, including the Patriots’ potential gameplan against the Seahawks’ offense. As for the Seattle secondary, the Pats know that while they’re one of the best in the game, a lot of what they’re able to do is because of the strong defensive line, too. In short, the Seahawks have a nasty, in-your-face defense in all areas of the field. They allowed the fewest yards per game this season with 267.1, and the Detroit Lions were a distance second with 300.9 per game. They allowed the fewest passing yards per game (185.6) and third-fewest rushing yards (81.5). And yes, their 15.9 points allowed per game were the fewest in the NFL, too. The Patriots will have their hands full with the Seahawks hybrid version of the 4-3 defense. They know this. “They’re definitely a great defense,” fullback James Develin said. “They’re good across the board, up front, and in the secondary they post a lot of hard matchups and we’re definitely going to have our work cut out for us come Super Bowl Sunday.” Seattle’s defensive line features two defensive tackles in 6-foot-7, 305-pound Tony McDaniel and 6-foor-5, 311-pound Kevin Williams – extremely large human beings. Defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril make for solid pass rushers on the edge and provide plenty of pressure to opposing quarterbacks. “Their front is an excellent front, that’s why the secondary does such a great job,” Brandon Bolden said. “Their front takes care of business. They’re all penetrators and they’re all gap guys and they follow the rules and they do what they have to do to win.” The Patriots offensive line, one that started off the season sketchy to say the least, is tasked with its biggest challenge all season. Patriots rookie center Bryan Stork at least appears to be on the mend after a knee injury two weeks ago, and the Pats will need all hands on deck for this one. Still, the improvement from the unit as a whole has been noted. “We’ve gotten better every game,” rookie Cameron Fleming said. “No matter who was in there, we just stepped up as a whole group and now we’re at where we want to be at the end of the year.” Getting past that defensive line is only the first part of the challenge. Julian Edelman is used to going up against a good secondary in practice, but the ones in Seattle will be a challenge for other reasons. “They’re a little different because they’re all big,” Edelman said. “They’re all big, strong, ferocious players. They play in their scheme. They’re well coached. They play hard. We certainly have some guys that are big, but this a completely different group.”
GLENDALE, Ariz. — In a game with 1,063 combined yards of offense, it was a defensive play that was the highlight of the Pro Bowl. Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes — aka “Optimus Grimes” — was one of the few defenders who really showed up to play in the 32-28 Team Irvin over Team Carter game. J.J. Watt might have won defensive MVP honors, but Grimes’ interception was ridiculous. Covering Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, Grimes never turned around to find the ball on a fade route in the end zone, instead playing the receiver. No problem — Grimes reacted to the ball when Hilton leaped to make the catch, and Grimes — without ever really seeing the ball — just stole it. Like it was his lunch money. Grimes’ interception this season while covering Detroit Lions wideout Calvin Johnson was the better play because it happened against Megatron in a heated tight, regular-season game. But this Pro Bowl pick might have had an even higher degree of difficulty. It was that good. – – – – – – – Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm
After three days of light, make that very light, workouts, Team Irvin and Team Carter are ready for Sunday night’s Pro Bowl. Tony Romo will start at quarterback for Team Irvin, Andrew Luck for Team Carter in the second year of a format concocted to bring some life to an event that had become a show of halfhearted effort, little defense and practically no blocking. Not that it was anything close to a regular NFL game, and not even in the same stratosphere as what will be happening on the same field a week later when Seattle and New England meet in the Super Bowl. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford joked that he could make a deal with Lions safety Glover Quin that Quinn would allow Stafford to throw a touchdown, and Stafford would throw Quinn an interception.