Saturday, February 24, 2024
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Breaking down how the Broncos broke down in crunch time, plus previewing today’s Champions League action

Happy Tuesday, everyone. I hope all of your fantasy football teams were victorious in Week 1. Mine weren’t, but we don’t need to talk about that.

Let’s get right to it.

Good morning to everyone but especially to…

NFL: Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks

USATSI

THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Call them lucky, call them feisty, call them still not very good, call them… undefeated. The Seahawks beat the Broncos 17-16 in a game that was equal parts thrilling, surprising and confusing. We’ll get to how the Broncos blew it, but first, let’s credit Seattle.

  • Geno Smith went 23 for 28 for 195 yards, two touchdowns and, crucially, no turnovers.
  • Tight ends Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson combined for five catches, 86 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Seattle went 6 for 11 (55 percent) on 3rd down.

The defense was the most pleasant surprise, though. The young defensive backs held up well even after Jamal Adams left with a serious quad injury. Seattle simply made more plays in the most crucial junctures.

The expectations were not very high for the Seahawks entering this season, and they still might not be. But led by their former quarterback’s backup and several Denver cast-offs, they’re 1-0 after a hard-fought win not many people thought they would get. There are few better feelings than that.

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…

THE DENVER BRONCOS

The situation was perfect: Russell Wilson in his Broncos debut, back in Seattle, with Denver down by one with 4:02 left. Broncos Country, let’s… settle for a 64-yard field goal attempt after completely mismanaging the clock? Is that how the saying goes?  

That’s exactly what Nathaniel Hackett — in his head-coaching debut — decided. Near midfield shortly after the two-minute warning, Denver’s final four offensive plays were…

  • 1:24 remaining, 1st and 10 at Denver 49: Wilson had almost no time to throw and flicked a pass to Javonte Williams for a loss of 4 yards.
  • 1:13 remaining, 2nd and 14 at Denver 45: Wilson incomplete pass.
  • 1:11 remaining, 3rd and 14 at Denver 45: Wilson’s short pass to Williams for 9 yards.
  • 0:20 remaining, 4th and 5 at Seattle 46: After the Broncos finally call a timeout, Brandon McManus misses a 64-yard field goal.

I’m sure that when the Broncos traded multiple picks and players to acquire Wilson and then gave him a $245-million extension, settling for 64-yard field goals is exactly what they had in mind, right? I cannot possibly tell you how wrong it felt, but the following career numbers may help:

  • Wilson’s teams on 4th down with 4-6 yards to go: 12-21 (57%), including 10-14 (71%) since 2017
  • McManus on 60+ yard field goals: 1-8 (13%)
  • Since he entered the league in 2012, Wilson has 32 game-winning drives, more than anyone except Matthew Stafford

But the Broncos still decided to take the ball out of Wilson’s hands in his debut. As far as Hackett’s clock mismanagement (which he tried to explain): by letting it run down to 20 seconds remaining before using his timeout, he guaranteed the Broncos would have no shot to get the ball back if McManus missed, meaning his defense — which allowed zero points the second half — never got the chance for one final stop.

Instead, he showed confidence in neither his historically clutch quarterback nor his dominant defense and opted to have his kicker — a very good kicker, but still — try to set a new career long.

Here are some more nightmarish numbers for the Broncos to look over:

  • The only team to fumble on a play from the opponent’s 1-yard line twice in the same game since 1987
  • Zero touchdowns on four red zone trips
  • Twelve penalties for 106 yards, including five pre-snap penalties by the offense (remember, Wilson got no preseason work)
  • In 2021, teams went 35-2 (.946 win pct) when they out-gained opponents by at least 180 yards, as the Broncos did Monday.
  • In 2021, teams went 45-5 (.900 win pct) when they held opponents scoreless in the second half, as the Broncos did Monday.

The Broncos may be just fine. There is a ton of talent. But wins are simply too valuable — and too difficult to earn — to just throw away. Or, rather, kick away.

Not so honorable mentions

MLB Power Rankings: Yankees bounce back, Orioles’ magic running out ⚾

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When the Yankees need to bust out of a slump, they should always invite the Twins to the Bronx. The Yankees are a ridiculous 21-3 at home against Minnesota since 2015, and that includes taking three of four last week. Combine that with them taking two of three from the Rays and the Yankees are up from eighth to sixth in our MLB guru Matt Snyder’s Power Rankings.

They’re still looking up at this top five, though:

  • 1. Dodgers (prev: 1)
  • 2. Astros (prev: 2)
  • 3. Braves (prev: 3)
  • 4. Mets (prev: 5)
  • 5. Cardinals (prev: 4)

Things aren’t so rosy for another AL East team: The Orioles were this week’s biggest fallers, going from 10th to 15th, and they’ve lost six of eight. Baltimore is 5.5 games behind Tampa Bay for the final AL Wild Card spot.

Will Aaron Judge be the ‘real’ home run king if he gets to 62? 🤔

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A new home run chase but the same debate: If Aaron Judge gets to 62 home runs this season — he’s currently at 55 and on pace to break the AL record — will he be the “real” home run king?

The question only exists, of course, because the only players to hit more than 62 are Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Those three are forever connected to steroids in various forms or fashions. They, again, also all hit more than 62 home runs in a season. So, if Judge hits 62, he still won’t be the “real” home run king — whatever that means — writes baseball scribe Matt Snyder.

  • Snyder: “If you’re one of the people who really hates the numbers from the 1998-2001 seasons, by all means, believe that Judge has the ‘clean’ record, should he get to 62. It’s your right. What you don’t get to do is proclaim what is ‘real’ and what isn’t. Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001. That’s the single-season home run record. You don’t have to like it, and maybe it hurts your feelings, but it’s a fact. It happened.”

UEFA Champions League preview: Lewandowski faces former team ⚽

FC Barcelona Training Session And Press Conference

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UEFA Champions League group play resumes today with seven matches, all streaming on Paramount+:

  • Sporting CP vs. Tottenham, 12:30 p.m.

  • Viktoria Plzen vs. Inter Milan, 12:30 p.m.

  • Porto vs. Club Brugge, 2 p.m.

  • Marseille vs. Eintracht Frankfurt, 2 p.m.

  • Liverpool vs. Ajax, 2 p.m.

  • Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atlético Madrid, 2 p.m.

  • Bayern vs. Barcelona, 2 p.m.

Of course it’s that last match that stands out, with superstar Robert Lewandowski taking on his former team. Lewandowski scored 344 goals in 375 matches with Bayern and already has nine goals in just six matches with Barcelona. Our soccer expert Chuck Booth predicts he’ll turn in a Man-of-the-Match-worthy performance.

You can see all of our experts’ picks here and an in-depth preview of Bayern-Barcelona here.

What we’re watching Tuesday 📺

UEFA Champions League, 12:30 and 2 p.m. on Paramount+

Yankees at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. on TBS

🏀 Sun at Aces, 9 p.m. on ESPN

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