Super Bowl LV: Tale of the Tape

Patrick Mahomes (left) and Tom Brady (right) – Credits: Justin Edmonds and Mike Ehrmann (People)

Surprisingly, we made it through a full season of professional football in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Super Bowl LV may be a dream matchup for casual and hardcore football fans. The defending champions, Kansas City Chiefs, face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a star-laden matchup. This game is highlighted by two quarterbacks destined for greatness.

Icon Vs Icon: The Young Buck Against The Savvy Veteran

We are seeing a generational matchup between two football icons. Essentially, this is a matchup between the past and future.

On one side we have Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs with an already stacked resume in his young career. Winning the Season MVP award, holding the Lombardi Trophy, a Super Bowl MVP nod, and passing over 50 touchdowns in a single season are some accolades he has already achieved. Most players in the NFL dream of achieving at least one of those feats in a 15 year career – Mahomes has done all of them in 4.

On the other hand, there is Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A household name that your mom probably knows – and many other casual fans. 21 seasons in the NFL, Brady doesn’t seem to slow down at the ripe age of 43. Most NFL players would have retired around this age (hence, Phillip Rivers and possibly Drew Brees), as their bodies naturally slow down. But for Brady still dominating the league is completely unheard of – especially someone in the late stages of his career. This being his 10th trip to the Super Bowl, Brady cements himself as the winningest quarterback in the history of the National Football League.

Any comparisons you want to make between these two: Ali versus Frazier, Pacquiao versus Mayweather, The Rock versus John Cena, Lebron James versus Kobe Bryant – the list goes on. We’ve seen an icon versus icon matchup before in sports, but the stakes have never been higher. They are playing for the most prestigious prize in American sports – The Super Bowl, baby!

All I’m saying is, expect an offensive slugfest between these two juggernauts.

The Narratives: Silencing the Critics

Of course, the media will heavily focus on these two NFL superstars until the game is conceded. Not only is the chip on the line but legacy as well.

Tony Romo, former Dallas Cowboy quarterback and CBS sports analyst, puts it best: “The fact that Mahomes is somehow in this discussion as the GOAT shows you how amazing this guy is. There’s a chance for Mahomes playing this game, to climb the ladder. If Mahomes wins, he keeps that door open. If Brady wins, I don’t know how anyone can top him.”

A win here from the Chiefs will assert their dominance over the league for many years to come – as we witness one of the greatest dynasties in the history of the NFL. But not only that, this outcome will be one of those “passing of the torch” moments in sports. Brady, a living legend, hands the keys over to Mahomes as the face of the NFL. Said best by Ric Flair, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man!”

Credit: Steven Senne – AP Photo (MassLive)

If Brady wins, he proves his critics wrong about his time in New England. Scrutinized as a “system quarterback” throughout his career, people heralded Bill Belichick for creating a formidable team in the past two decades. Since 2001, Brady has achieved: 9 Super Bowl trips, a NFL Season MVP, over 74,000 yards passing, and 14 Pro Bowl nods all under Bill Belichick.

Even though Belichick may be responsible for Brady’s successes, this year has already proven otherwise for The Patriots who finished 7-9 for the season and missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.

No stranger to critics, Brady has proved time and time again to shut them up. He is already the winningest quarterback in NFL history, but a win here cements him as the greatest football player of all time.

Legacy is on the line for both sides, so expect a great show on February 7th in Tampa Bay.

Jeff Dominguez is the Communications Director for The Sting

Training camp injuries test Ravens’ depth on offensive line

The offensive line was a point of strength for the Baltimore Ravens during the 2014 season. The line gave up just 19 sacks all season long, which meant that quarterback Joe Flacco usually had plenty of time to find open receivers. However, that strength is being tested heading into the 2015 season.

The Ravens have been plagued by injuries to their offensive line during the preseason. They were without six linemen heading into their second preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. During that game alone, three more linemen were injured, including left tackle Eugene Monroe, who will be protecting Flacco’s blind side. Injuries are also testing the depth of their secondary and receivers. Rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman has not practiced since suffering a knee injury during the first day of training camp. Tight end Dennis Pitta continues to recover from a hip injury. Lardarius Webb has also been in and out of practice with a hamstring injury. Strong safety Matt Elam will be out for the season after suffering a torn bicep on August 1 and undergoing surgery. The coaches had high hopes for Elam to have a bounce-back season after struggling in his first two years in the league,. Elam is not the only player who suffered such an injury. Just a week after Elam’s injury, defensive end Brent Urban tore his biceps, and is also likely to miss the entire season after undergoing surgery to repair the muscle.

While the Ravens’ 2014 season was clouded by the scandal surrounding Ray Rice’s now-infamous fight with his wife that was caught on camera inside the elevator of an Atlantic City casino, they were hoping for a quieter off-season. They have gotten that to a certain extent, but this off-season has not been free of controversy.

As training camp was getting underway, emails were uncovered that allege communication between the Ravens and Colts during the week between the Ravens’ loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round and the Colts’ loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game about the Patriots’ alleged use of under inflated footballs. The emails reportedly show that a phone call was made from Ravens special teams coach Jerry Rosburg to Colts head coach (and former Ravens defensive coordinator) Chuck Pagano about footballs. The team also released the content of a text message from kicking consultant Randy Brown in which he told Pagano to make sure that the officials use a proper rota- tion of the kicking balls. Rosburg says Pagano called him to ask about a substitution play he saw the Patriots try to use against the Ravens while reviewing game video to prepare for the AFC Championship Game. Ravens Head coach John Harbaugh completely denied that any communication with the Colts was about underinflated game balls.

The Ravens’ starters on offense and defense played well in their first preseason game at home against the New Orleans Saints on Aug. 13, but the second-team defense gave the lead away in the second half. Third string quarterback Bryn Renner, a rookie from the University of North Carolina, threw an interception that led to a Saints touchdown, giving New Orleans a 27-23 lead late in the fourth quarter. On Baltimore’s next possession, Renner drove the offense down the field during the two-minute drill, and then scored on a two-yard bootleg run on which he faked to the left before rolling right and finding nothing but open turf between himself and the end zone. As good as the starters were against the Saints, they were just as bad in their second preseason game at Philadelphia on Aug. 22. Flacco threw two interceptions, which led to two Eagles touchdowns. The Ravens first team defense gave up points on all three possessions it played, and their special teams gave up a punt return touchdown as the Eagles won, 40- 17. Renner was one of the few bright spots for Baltimore, completing 15 of 21 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns. The Ravens were flagged for 17 penalties for 139 yards, including nine accepted penalties in the first half. The game followed a week of joint practices with the Eagles in Pennsylvania.

The Ravens will open their regular season at Denver on Sept. 13 and play at Oakland on Sept. 20. Their home opener will be on Sept. 27 against Cincinnati, and will be the first of three straight divisional games, including a Thursday night game at Pittsburgh on Oct. 1. 10 days later, the Ravens will welcome Cleveland into M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore will play two straight games against the NFC West, starting on Oct. 18 at San Francisco, followed by their first of two appearances on “Monday Night Football” at Arizona on Oct.

26. San Diego will come to Baltimore on Nov. 1. The Ravens’ bye week will be Week Nine. The home stand continues the two weeks following the bye, with games against Jacksonville on Nov. 15 and St. Louis on Nov. 22. Baltimore will travel to Cleveland for “Monday Night Football” on Nov. 30. December will see the Ravens travel to Miami for a third straight season on Dec. 6. The Seattle Seahawks will travel across the country to play the Ravens on “Sunday Night Football” on Dec. 13. The Ravens will host Kansas City on Dec. 20. They will wrap up their home schedule against the Steelers on Dec. 27 before concluding their regular season at Cincinnati on Jan. 3.

In other Ravens news, wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. announced early in training camp that this season, his 15th in the NFL, will be his last. Last season, in his first year with the Ravens, Smith caught 79 passes for 1,065 yards and six touchdown.

Maryland football looks to improve in second B1G season

After languishing in its final few sea- sons of football and men’s basketball in the ACC, a new era began last summer in College Park when the University of Maryland, along with Rutgers University in New Jersey, officially joined the Big Ten Conference. In their first season of Big Ten football, Maryland went 4-4 in the conference, and 7-6 overall, despite inconsistent play on offense, especially from starter C.J. Brown. Although Maryland managed to finish .500 in conference play and make a bowl game appearance in their first season in a new conference, the Terps often shot themselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties. Turnovers were a major factor in lopsided losses against Michigan State and national champion Ohio State. Penalties proved to be their downfall at Wisconsin. While Maryland didn’t play well in those losses, they had some bright spots in conference play.

Maryland won its first Big Ten game emphatically, 37-15 at Indiana, a perennial bottom-dweller in the conference in football. After committing four turnovers in a 52-24 blowout loss to then-20th-ranked Ohio State at home, the Terps bounced back with a 38-31 win over Iowa, usually one of the stronger teams in the Big Ten. Maryland also came from behind for a 20-19 win at Penn State. The game featured a fight during pregame warm-ups, followed by the Maryland captains refusing to shake hands with the Penn State captains before the coin toss. Kicker Brad Craddock won the game by kicking a 43-yard field goal with 51 seconds left in regulation. Maryland also went into “The Big House” and came away with a 23-16 win over Michigan in a game that proved to be the final nail in the cof- fin for then-Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke. The Terps ended the 2014 season on a down note, blowing a 25-point lead in losing to Rutgers, 41-38 in the regular season finale. They then lost 45-21 to Stanford on a chilly, windy night in the Foster Farms Bowl in the Bay Area.

Randy Edsall enters his fifth season as Maryland’s head coach. This year, he’ll be joined by a pair of familiar faces on his staff. Keith Dudzinski is the new defensive coordinator, and is switching the alignment of the front seven from a 3-4 to a 4-3. Darrell Perkins has been hired as the defensive backs coach. Last year, he was the cornerbacks coach at Old Dominion University in Virginia. Terry Richardson is the new running backs coach. He held the same position for the last two years in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Both Perkins and Richardson were assistant coaches on Edsall’s staff when he led Connecticut to an 8-5 record and an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl during the 2010-2011 season.

Junior cornerback William Likely will be relied upon by the coaching staff to be one of the team’s leaders this season. Last year, Likely had six interceptions, tied for the most interceptions in the Big Ten, and returned two of those for touchdowns. His 170 interception return yards led the conference, ranked fourth in the country, and set school single-season records for return yards and touch- downs. He also had 83 tackles (66 solo), 496 kickoff return yards with one touchdown (a 100-yard return in the bowl game against Stanford), and 225 yards and two touchdowns on punt returns. His average of 31 yards per kickoff return was fourth- best in the country. This preseason, Likely has been named to the Watch Lists for the Bednarik (Best Defen- sive Player), Nagurski (Most Out- standing Defensive Player), Thorpe (Best Defensive Back) and Hornung (Most Versatile Player) Awards. In an interview with The Baltimore Sun in mid-August, he proclaimed himself to be the best defensive back in the country.

Although Likely will lead the secondary and probably find himself matched up against the opponents’ top receivers, the defensive line will have to overcome some losses to season-ending injuries during training camp. The most recent loss was sophomore defensive end Malik Jones, who was a part of three state championship teams while attending Dunbar High School in Baltimore. Jones suffered an unspecified injury to his lower leg during practice on August 19. A week earlier, junior linebacker Abner Logan was lost to an ACL injury.

On offense, the search is ongoing for a starting quarterback following Brown’s graduation. There are three candidates for the job: redshirt junior Perry Hills, true junior Caleb Rowe, and senior Daxx Garman, who transferred from Oklahoma State. Both Rowe and Hills saw limited playing time last season. Rowe threw for 489 yards and five touchdowns in four games before suffering a season-ending ACL tear. Hills, who was selected to the All-Big Ten Academic Team, played in three games. He came in after Brown was injured against Iowa, and threw for 86 yards and a touchdown. Garman took over the starting job at Oklahoma State after the Cowboys’ original starter was injured. He won his first four starts, and threw for 2,041 yards and 12 touchdowns in nine games. His best game was against Texas Tech, when he threw for 370 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for another touchdown. Edsall says he’s still waiting for someone to separate himself from the other two. Meanwhile, there’s still competition among the receivers. Brandon Ross and Wes Brown are also competing to be the top running back.

Maryland will open its season with three straight home games at Byrd Stadium, starting on Sept. 5 against Richmond from the Football Championship Subdivision. That will be followed by games against Bowling Green and South Florida in the following two weeks. The Terps will then travel to play West Virginia on Sept. 26. Maryland will open its Big Ten schedule by welcoming Michigan and new head coach Jim Harbaugh (brother of Ravens head coach John Harbaugh) to College Park on Oct. 3 as part of Family Weekend. The Terps will play at Ohio State on Oct. 10, and following their bye week, will host Penn State at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Oct. 24. Maryland will travel to Iowa to play the Hawkeyes on Hal- loween before returning home to host Wisconsin on Nov. 7 during Homecoming. The Terps will play at Michigan State on Nov. 14, and their final home game will be Nov. 21 for Military Appreciation Day against Indiana. Maryland will wrap up the regular season at Rutgers during Thanksgiving weekend.

Free agency leaves Ravens with more questions than answers

Free agency in the NFL got off to a busy start when it began on March 10. As a result, the Baltimore Ravens have lost several popular players who’ve been keys to their success over the last several seasons, providing several players from last year’s draft class with an opportunity to play a bigger role in 2015.

Just before free agency began, the Ravens released receiver/kickreturner Jacoby Jones. Jones had been a game- changer with his ability to make big plays in the kick return game. He was also on the receiving end of“The Mile-High Miracle,” catching Joe Flacco’s 70-yard touchdown pass to tie the game in the 2013 AFC Divisional Round at Denver, which the Ravens won in double overtime. However, Jones struggled with catching the ball in the passing game, and as a returner muffed several kicks. Jones signed a two-year contract with San Diego.

Wide receiver Torrey Smith, a 2011 graduate from the University of Maryland, has also left the Ravens as an unrestricted free agent. He signed a four-year, $32 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers, where he’ll join another former Raven in Anquan Boldin. Last year with the Ravens, Smith caught 49 passes for 767 yards, and was 10th in the NFL with 11 touchdown catches. However, he’s been knocked for his perceived inability to run more complex routes. Baltimore is also down a tight end after Owen Daniels joined former Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak by signing with Denver. Free safety Darian Stewart also signed with the Broncos.

DefensivetackleHalotiNgatawas scheduled to make $16 million this season, and was going to count for $8.5 million against the salary cap. On March 11, the Ravens traded Ngata to Detroit for the Lions’ fourth and fifth-round picks in this year’s draft. Ngata thanked the Ravens and their fans with a full-page ad in the March 15 edition of The Baltimore Sun. He ended the letter with the Samoan phrase “Ofa Lahi Atu,” which means “Love you.” The Ravens also released defensive tackle Terrence “Mount Cody,” who’s been charged with animal cruelty in Baltimore County. Meanwhile, linebacker Terrell Suggs did agree to restructure his contract to give the team some space under the salary cap, and cornerback Lardarius Webb took a pay cut to re-sign with the Ravens. Cornerback Anthony Levine has also re-signed with Baltimore, and defensive end Chris Canty has signed a new two-year, $4.65 million contract with the team after being released in late February.

In the backfield, running back Justin Forsett agreed to terms on a three-year, $9 million contract to stay in Baltimore. Baltimore will be looking for a new backup quarterback after Tyrod Taylor signed with the Buffalo Bills.

The Ravens are once again dealing with players who’ve had run-ins with the law. Running back Bernard Pierce was pulled over by Baltimore County Police for speeding after allegedly being clocked going 55 mph in a 30 mph zone near the Beltway on St. Patrick’s Day. He reportedly failed a field sobriety test. Pierce has been charged with DUI and exceeding maximum speed, among other charges, and has since been released by the team. He’s the second Raven to be released after being arrested for DUI this offseason, joining cornerback Victor Hampton.

Maryland football: Diggs leaving for NFL, Craddock named best placekicker

The Maryland Terrapins football team finished the season on a down note, but, by its standards, still had a successful first season in the Big Ten conference.

Maryland (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) fell to Stanford (8-5, 5-4 Pac-12) 45-21 in the Foster Farms Bowl on Dec. 30 at the new Levi’s Stadium in suburban Santa Clara, California, just about 11 miles from the Stanford campus. That came just over a month after the

Terrapins lost at home to Rut- gers 41-38 in the regular season fi- nale. Cardinal Kevin Hogan threw for 189 yards and two touchdowns, and added 50 yards rushing. Run- ning back Remound Wright added 49 yards and three touchdowns rushing as Stanford set a school record for most points in a bowl game. In their final games for the Terrapins, sixth-year senior quarterback C.J. Brown threw for 205 yards, ran for a touch- down, and was intercepted once, and wide receiver Stefon Diggs caught 10 passes for 138 yards.

Terps running back Wes Brown scored on a one-yard touchdown run to tie the game at seven early in the second quarter, but it was all Stanford after that. The Cardinal finished the first half by scoring touchdowns on three straight drives to take a 28-7 halftime lead. Stanford would score two more touchdowns to take a 42-7 lead early in the fourth quarter before cornerback Will Likely ran back a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.

Just four days after the Foster Farms Bowl, Diggs announced that he’d be entering the NFL Draft in May. Diggs had 62 catches for 792 yards and five touchdowns this season. His best game was against Iowa on Oct. 18, when he caught nine passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. He’s projected to be picked in the middle rounds of the draft.

Senior placekicker Brad Craddock was named the winner of the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top kicker at the College Football Awards Show on Dec. 11. Craddock, an Australian whose nickname is “Automatic Craddock,” made 18 of 19 field goal attempts, and all 44 of his extra-point attempts during the 2014 season. One of the few highlights from Maryland’s Oct. 4 loss at home to Ohio State was when Craddock nailed a school-record 57-yard field goal.

He set a school record by making 24 straight field goals, and tied the Big Ten record for most consecutive field goals, which he now shares with former Ohio State and current Cincinnati Bengals kicker Mike Nugent. Craddock was also the winner of the Kicker of the Year Award for the Big Ten, and was selected to the Football Writers Association of America All-America First Team, as well as the Associated Press’ All-America Second Team.

Ravens cut Rice after video shows what happened in the elevator incident

After surveillance video was obtained by TMZ Sports in February showing Ravens running back Ray Rice dragging the unconscious body of his then-fiancee Janay Palmer out of an elevator inside the now-closed Revel Casino during Valentine’s Day weekend in Atlantic City, New Jersey, many people were wondering what really happened inside the elevator that resulted in Palmer becoming unconscious. Now, video from inside the elevator has been obtained by TMZ Sports showing what happened inside the elevator that night. Rice’s football future is now very uncertain.

After the video was picked up by media outlets early on Sept. 8, the NFL and the Ravens acted swiftly. The Ravens terminated Rice’s contract that afternoon, and the NFL followed suit by suspending Rice indefinitely. League spokesman Greg Aiello says league investigators had asked investigators in Atlantic City for all available video evidence, but the league hadn’t seen the video until it was released by TMZ, Local sportscasters are questioning how the NFL can say it had all the video when it made the controversial decision to suspend Rice for just two games.

The video shows Rice and Palmer appear to exchange words, and then Rice hit Palmer first. Palmer retaliated by slapping Rice, who responded with a punch that caught Palmer in the head, knocking her off her feet. Her head then hit the hand rail inside the elevator, knocking her unconscious. The surveillance camera inside the elevator then shows Rice dragging Palmer’s body out into the hallway.

The decision by the Ravens brings Rice’s time with the team, which started when the one-time Heisman Trophy candidate was drafted out of Rutgers in 2008.