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FMIA Week 1: Tagovailoa bursts back as Rams, Browns, 49ers lead surprise-filled NFL weekend

1. I think Jeff Darlington’s piece for ESPN on Miami coach Mike McDaniel was most valuable for McDaniel admitting he almost lost his career because of alcohol use. McDaniel told Darlington he went to an alcohol rehab program for three weeks in 2016 when he worked for the Falcons as an assistant coach. He said he was way too concerned with his place in the pecking order of bright coaches like Kyle Shanahan, Matt LaFleur and Sean McVay. What McDaniel told Darlington was raw and real. “Why am I drinking alcohol in the office on a Wednesday night, which is what was happening in Atlanta in 2015,” he said.

2. I think it’s great to see people on top of the world admit they were almost knocked off the pedestal, and that’s what I told McDaniel Sunday night after the Dolphins won in L.A. “I was fortunate to have people give me another chance,” he said. “You can make what appears to be the worst thing the best thing that’s ever happened to you.”

3. I think one thing about this story that’s important is the value of journalism. I know Darlington pretty well. We’ve talked a lot about stories. The Dolphins, like every team and every public entity, like to control the narrative of what’s in the public sphere about their team. And Darlington worked to get time with McDaniel, private time. When so many people cover a team so closely, that effort to get private time is accomplished only with consistent effort and hustle and proving to the subject that you’re the best person to do this story. Obviously, Darlington did that, and hat’s off to him.

4. I think if I’m Baker Mayfield this morning, I’m feeling damn good about winning a road game against a 2022 playoff team when everyone gave up on me.

5. I think the only thing the Giants can do now is shut up, be thankful that the next game on the schedule is out of town, and at Arizona (both very good things right now), and think back to horrible openers for teams that weren’t that bad. Probably not a bad idea for Brian Daboll to tell his team this week that in 2003, the New England season started with a 31-0 loss at Buffalo—and ended with a victory over Carolina in the Super Bowl.

6. I think Jerry Jones’ reaction to Dak Prescott being sedated for 11 hours to get a hugely involved leg tattoo was priceless: “It further explains to me why I don’t have a tattoo.”

7. I think these are my thoughts on Detroit 21, Kansas City 20:

a. Detroit deserved it, because you get what deserve in the NFL. Kadarius Toney did hand it to the Lions on a silver platter, but the Lions did so much well. They’re stout defensively, they can run with power and speed, the secondary is feisty. The Lions are absolutely not overrated.

b. Best player on the field for Detroit: Aidan Hutchinson. How fortunate for them that Jacksonville passed on Hutchinson with the first pick in the 2022 draft. After a terrific rookie year, Hutchinson in Kansas City influenced the pocket for four quarters, pressuring Patrick Mahomes seven times, per PFF. “I was thinking I’m not letting this dude get out of the pocket,” Hutchinson said afterward. That’s how it looked. Even with right tackle Jawaan Taylor getting away with false start after false start, leaving his stance early to prep for Hutchinson’s rushes, the defender still had a huge edge.

c. Jared Goff’s interception-less streak is at 359 (44 away from breaking Aaron Rodgers’ record of 402), and though he didn’t spot a wide-open Amon-Ra St. Brown for what would have been an easy TD, Goff played efficiently on 91- and 80-yard TD drives. His protection was good too.

d. St. Brown’s a marvel—202 catches now in 34 career games. Tough and physical, he’s the perfect leader for that receiver corps.

e. David Montgomery’s the tough inside runner Dan Campbell craves, but Detroit will need to feature Jahmyr Gibbs (nine touches in 70 Lions snaps) more.

f. Mahomes lost 111 catches and 1,239 yards in 2022 after the trade of Tyreek Hill; Mahomes survived that and won the Super Bowl. On Thursday, he was without Travis Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman (213 catches, 2,568 yards, 19 TDs between them last year) and nearly survived that.

g. Big mistake, I thought, by Andy Reid, going for it on fourth-and-20 from his 35-, then fourth-and-25 from his 30-, with 2:09 left. No reason for it. Punt it there, use timeouts, make a stop, and if you succeed, you’ve got the ball back with Mahomes needing to go 30 yards or so for the game-winning field goal. Don’t get that one.

8. I think Kansas Citians bummed about week one should remember six seasons ago. KC stomped the Patriots 42-27 in Foxboro on opening night, there was gloom-and-doom all over the league about New England, and the champs responded by making it to the Super Bowl.

9. I think there’s got to be more than we know to this weird story of Chandler Jones going off on the Raiders. Bad way to start the season, and I do not think it’s meaningless at all.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. What a great event, Coco Gauff’s three-set U.S. Open championship win over Aryna Sabalenka Saturday. To have that athletic greatness, determination and post-match grace, at 19, is such a tribute to Gauff and her family. Best wishes to her for a run that I hopes lasts as long as Serena and Venus Williams’.

b. Good line by Chris Evert, as Gauff and Sabalenka dueled and volleyed and smashed and lobbed-overhead: “This is a new level of women’s tennis.”

c. Quote of the Week that isn’t in the Quotes of the Week section: Andy Reid on the new State Farm commercial, saying, “Explain it again, with those nuggees.” Reid saying “nuggees” to Patrick Mahomes and Jake from State Farm, with his right hand sneaking toward the chicken nuggets to steal them, was, well, pretty different.

d. Can’t Miss TV Story of the Week: Courtney Kube of NBC News, on Vietnam War hero Larry Taylor receiving the Medal of Honor from President Biden at the White House for an incredible act of valor a half-century ago.

e. Taylor was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. One pitch-black night, he got a call to aid four trapped soldiers, and he went up in the air toward the area in question. Kube reported Taylor used all his ammo to give support to the four trapped soldiers. They were surrounded, in an area the size of a football field. Taylor’s commanding offer ordered him back to base and out of the impossible situation, to reload and try again. But Taylor told the commanding officer to get off his radio—he was going in or these four men would not survive.

“Before I started the approach in,” Taylor said, “I thought, ‘This is a good idea.’ When I got about halfway through it, I thought, ‘What the hell am I am doing?’”

He landed under heavy enemy fire. With no extra seats, the four soldiers clung to the outside of the chopper.

Taylor got them all out safely.

Kube: “Did you get in trouble for defying the order?”

Taylor: “What were they gonna do? Send me to Vietnam?”

f. “We never lost a man. And we never left anybody behind, for any reason.”

g. Such a great American, Larry Taylor.

h. “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” going off the air is a huge loss for the sports public. So many important sports stories will go untold now. Kudos to Gumbel and his staff for so many great pieces over the years. Here’s the story of the series’ demise after 29 years, from Deadline.

i. Thirty-seven Sports Emmys! Big, big loss. I’m looking at you, Andrea Kremer. I will miss your stories.

j. One day, Jose Altuve will walk into the Hall of Fame. That day, the Houston second baseman should remember the best seven innings of his life. In the last four innings Monday night at Texas and the first three innings Tuesday night at Texas, Altuve came up six times in big, big pennant-race games against the Rangers. The results:

Monday: Home run, single, home run.

Tuesday: Home run, home run, home run.

k. Five homers in seven innings. Twenty-one total bases in seven innings.

l. Then there’s this 15-game swath for Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez, ending last Wednesday: 34 hits, eight homers, 22 RBI. Some good baseball being played right there.

m. Have you seen these (fairly) new flies all over the country? The lanternflies with the bright red body parts?

n. Science Story of the Week: Jason Bittel of National Geographic on the race to kill the spotted lanternfly.

o. How great are scientists, like this biology professor from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.? How lucky are we to have people like this prof. adding to the Spotted Lanternfly Invasion Archive, while the rest of us just go about our lives?

p. Writes Bittel:

Native to China, this striking, black-and-red planthopper showed up in the U.S. for the first time in 2014, perhaps stowed away on an international shipment of decorative stone bound for Berks County in eastern Pennsylvania. The species has also been found in South Korea and Japan.

Over the last nine years, spotted lanternflies, which use their straw-like mouthparts to slurp the juices out of trees, have colonized 51 counties within the Keystone State and established satellite populations in 14 other states, from Connecticut and North Carolina as far west as Indiana. They’ve also invaded the public consciousness. In 2020, a spotted lanternfly crawled across President Joe Biden’s shoulder at a campaign stop in Wilmington, Del. And in October 2022, the species made a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live.

As the insect spreads, it has the potential to wreak havoc on crops and other agriculture, feeding on over 70 different kinds of plants and trees in the U.S. alone. They have a taste for certain species, namely tree of heaven—also an invasive species from Asia—as well as native species, such as black walnut, several species of maple, hops, and grapevines.

q. No wonder they want us to stomp on these flies.

r. Football Story of the Week: It’s paywalled, but if you get ESPN+, Seth Wickersham on Sean Payton is worth the time.

s. Lots of nuts and bolts about what drives Payton, which is well worth it, and also a good bit on how he can never, ever forget a slight.

t. My favorite part of the story comes at the end, when Wickersham sits with Payton getting ticked off about what he sees on tape in a training-camp practice against the Rams. This is so Payton.

u. Writes Wickersham:

He tilts his chair back toward the flat-screen on the wall, finding it hard to believe anything but the worst of his team. He knows himself well enough to realize that this emotion will pass, part of a process. He hopes … He pulls out a yellow legal pad and kicks his feet up.

“All right,” he says. “I’m going to be pissed off watching this.”

Two hours pass and he utters only disparate thoughts, 10, 20 minutes apart … Helluva throw by Russ … Horrible route … What are we doing … I hate this … clicking through plays, rewinding over and over and over. The Rams seemed more invested than the Broncos, both in the outcome and in one another. They jump and yell after a big play. The Broncos are flat. He’s frustrated about pre-snap penalties and that the receivers aren’t blocking downfield on screen passes, killing any chance of a big gain.

What troubles him more is something he sees on film but isn’t sure how to fix: It’s that the Broncos, after a bad play, are discouraged on the snaps that follow. They can’t forget …

He writes in all capital letters on his pad:






He walks out of his office, and into a team meeting. The room quiets when he enters. He’s at the front, looking out on the players, his tone urgent but diplomatic. He shows some slides, detailing the Broncos pre-snap penalties last year. “Let’s not lose track of the part about knowing how to win first,” he says. “We’ve gotta fix that.”

He then shows plays from today’s practice, of mental errors and lack of effort, and his calm evaporates. He starts to simmer. “You false start, I’m pulling you out. Take a lap around the whole f—ing complex …”

v. You can just feel Payton simmering.

w. This is why Wickersham is so good: He figures out a way to get inside a guy. He gets inside the guy. He witnesses the crucial nugget that explains everything about a guy and his current lot in life. He explains the nugget (in greater detail than I’ve just given). And you know, now, about a guy who is famous and what ingredients have brought him that fame.

x. Feeling guilty over the past few days about wondering why Bruce Springsteen’s concerts on this tour are an hour shorter than classic Bruuuuuuce shows. Reasons for guilt: The man is 73, for crying out loud. And he just postponed his dates for this month after being diagnosed with an ulcer. Seems that he must have gutted out his last three shows at the Meadowlands—I saw the second.

y. Thanks, Boss. I’ll be keeping that ticket stub.

z. Headline of the Week: “A Three-Legged Bear Walks Into a Bar,” from The New York Times. The first two grafs of the story are not bad either, from Christine Hauser:

A three-legged black bear wandered onto the patio of a house in Florida. He trudged by the pool. He ambled up to a fish tank and gnawed on a container of guppy food. Then he went for the refrigerator, grabbed two cans of White Claw hard seltzer and tossed away a third.

It was a typical day in the neighborhood of Magnolia Plantation — a subdivision of about 500 houses in Lake Mary, just north of Orlando — where the three-legged bear makes himself at home so often that residents have given him a name befitting a creature with just a trio of limbs: Tripod.

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