Time's up for the Jets


Time's up for the Jets

By Michael Felger

A few thoughts from Conference Championship Sunday.

Drive to Nowhere Part II (courtesy Bob Neumeier)

Do you think Rex Ryan and the Jets actually realized that the Patriots endless, fruitless fourth-quarter drive last week was a bad thing? Hard to tell, since they nearly did the exact same thing in Pittsburgh.

First came an eight-minute drive that started in the third quarter and ended midway through the fourth when LaDainian Tomlinson was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the Steelers 1-yard line. Next came a 10-play, 58-yard drive that took 4 minutes and 32 seconds off the clock. The second drive netted a touchdown, but the pace of the Jets offense was still maddeningly slow. They huddled. They ran. They bled the play clock. It was curious, especially after the Pats did the same thing the week before to the chagrin of everyone in New England.

That won't be the only second guess the Jets coaches will be facing today. Another will be the usage of Tomlinson. Why were they slamming him into the line in short-yardage situations late when they had Shonn Greene? And how could the Jets come out so flat in the first half with the Super Bowl on the line?

And not that it mattered, but it was interesting to see Ryan celebrate the Roethlisberger safety in the fourth quarter when it meant absolutely nothing. The Jets still needed two touchdowns.

The real hero in Green Bay, in my opinion, is general manager Ted Thompson -- and the role he played in building the roster since he was hired in 2005 is only secondary to his greatest accomplishment.

He's the one who finally said "no'' to Brett Favre.

It seems like a simple decision now, especially given Aaron Rodgers' development and how it's ended for Favre. But it was no small feat at the time. Slaying a sacred cow never is. Favre was a God in Wisconsin. He had just taken the Packers to the 2007 NFC championship game. He was considered as untouchable as anyone in sports, a guy who was allowed to hold his franchise hostage and routinely put himself above his teammates because it was HIS team.

That's how they had operated in Green Bay for years, anyway. And Thompson was the one who finally said, "enough.''

Thank God.

That said, I consider the Packers a dumb football team. Talented, yes. Well-schemed, absolutely. But dumb. Here are some examples from Sunday:

It's hard to overstate how bad Rodgers' interception into the arms of Brian Urlacher in the third quarter was. The Packers were leading 14-0 at the time, facing a third-and-goal from the Bears' 6-yard line. Rodgers was pressured, and a simple throw-away would have resulted in a chip-shot field goal and what would have been a virtually insurmountable 17-0 lead. Instead, Rodgers tried to force it over the middle and paid the price. Dumb.

At that point of the game, with Jay Cutler about to go out (by the way, did anyone see when he got hurt?) and the Bears relegated to Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie at quarterback, all the Packers had to do was not turn the ball over and kick it away from Devin Hester.

So what did they do? They got careless with the ball (Tramon Williams fumbled a punt late in the third quarter, which the Packers luckily recovered) and they continued to kick the ball to Hester, who got his hands on a kickoff and three punts, one of which was nullified by penalty, in the second half. Hester never hurt the Packers on any of his returns, and punter Tim Masthay nailed some beauties in this game, but the fact that Hester ever got his hands on a single ball was just dumb.

Do we even need to mention BJ Raji's Leon Lett impersonation? Or the fact that running back James Starkes inexplicably ran out of bounds with under four minutes remaining and the Bears needing to call timeouts to stop the clock? Or corner Sam Shields running with his last-second interception and nearly fumbling it away? Or the Packers inability to stop a no-name, third-year, third-string undrafted quarterback?

We won't bother. Take our word for it. The Packers do dumb things. Consistently. If they lose to Pittsburgh in two weeks it won't be because they lack talent. Or good schemes. It will because, on an individual level, they're sloppy.
E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1


STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Posey stays out of the fray during Strickland-Harper brawl


Posey stays out of the fray during Strickland-Harper brawl

SAN FRANCISCO  — As an irate Bryce Harper charged toward the mound, Buster Posey just stood and watched from behind home plate.

And when the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants cleared their benches Monday and punches flew both ways, the All-Star catcher did his best to remain just outside the fray.

Not where some expected to find the Giants team leader with his pitcher, Hunter Strickland, exchanging head shots with Harper.

“Posey did NOTHING to stop Harper from getting to his pitcher,” former major league pitcher Dontrelle Willis wrote on Twitter. “I’ve never seen that before in my life.”

Posey declined to enter the fracas, instead remaining around its edges and watching as the players scuffled in “a pretty good pile,” as Giants manager Bruce Bochy called it.

Posey dealt with a concussion in April after being struck in the head by a pitch, but did not say he held back because of concerns related to that. He did say he was wary about the risk of injury.

“There were some big guys tumbling around out there,” Posey said. “You see Mike Morse and Jeff Samardzija are about as big as they come and he was getting knocked around like a pinball. So it was a little dangerous to get in there.”

Still, social media was abuzz at the sight of Posey not sticking up for his teammate.

“Strickland must have told @BusterPosey he was hitting him and let him come cause he didn’t even give a soft jog,” Willis wrote.

“Says all you need to know that Buster Posey didn’t bother to hold back Harper,” tweeted Fox broadcaster Kevin Burkhardt . “Let him go get his pitcher.”

Also absent from the fight: hard-nosed Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. As his teammates flew over the dugout railing, Bumgarner stayed put, perhaps because the left-hander is still recovering after injuring his pitching shoulder and ribs in a dirt biking accident in April.