St. Patrick’s Day countdown: the NFL’s luckiest plays

NFL.com Illustration

NFL.com Illustration

With St. Patrick’s Day today, the luck of the Irish is in the air. Which means it’s time to look back at some of the luckiest plays in NFL history. In no particular order, here are seven of the luckiest. If they didn’t already have a name, I gave a half-hearted attempt at coining a new one. If you have better options, tweet them at me below and I’ll rename them in this post and give you a shout out as well.

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The Hail Mike Thomas

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The Jaguars were facing overtime against the Texans in 2010 until Mike Thomas snagged the batted down pass intended for Mike Sims-Walker and trotted into the endzone for the game-winning score. Conventional wisdom (and most coaches) teach you to bat the ball down. Some players learned that the hard way last season.

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The Helmet Catch

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This play was incredible (and incredibly lucky) for a number of reasons. To start, how in the world does Manning elude that much pressure? The guy typically is about as agile as those fainting goats, but he somehow managed to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge his way out of the pocket. Then, David Tyree (who’d only caught four passes during the regular season) manages to hold onto the ball as the hard-hitting Rodney Harrison tries to wrench it from his hands, err helmet. Lastly, this whole play was set up by a stroke of luck when Asante Samuel dropped what should have been the game-clinching interception.

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Monday Night Magic

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I remember staying up late to watch the overtime finish of this game. Boy, was it worth it. It was hard to see live, but I thought Freeman had made the catch, whether through some form of mysticism or pure luck I wasn’t sure. The television replays later confirmed that Freeman was on the right side of one of the luckiest bounces in NFL history. Kudos to Freeman though for being aware enough to make the ridiculous grab and run into into the endzone for the game-winner.

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The Immaculate Reception

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No list of lucky plays would be complete without this gem. From the way the ball bounced back to Franco Harris to the way the ball was also just out of the camera view, there isn’t anything about this play that isn’t lucky.

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The Miracle at the Meadowlands

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Footballs have a tendency to bounce whatever way they so choose causing havoc on the field. Yet this football decided to bounce directly into the outstretched hands of Herm Edwards. My favorite part about this play is that when it originally happened the TV broadcast credits were rolling across the screen because they had assumed the game was over. And you know what they say about assuming…

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Music City Miracle

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The Titans needed a miracle, and they got it. I added this play to the “lucky” list because if Kevin Dyson doesn’t take that step back, the refs probably throw a flag for an illegal forward pass and we’re reminiscing the Music City Mistake instead. Whether or not he actually stepped back far enough for it to be legal lateral remains up for debate. But the Titans are lucky Dyson took that fateful step to spark their playoff run that unfortunately ended on a rather unlucky play for Titans fans.

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The original “Hail Mary”

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We have to pay homage to the one that started it all. Admittedly, I wasn’t alive to witness this in person but as soon as I started to develop my love for football I heard stories of the one true Hail Mary. Thanks to the internet, I was able to get a chance to watch it years later. To me, the luckiest part of this play is that Vikings cornerback Nate Wright loses his footing and falls over as Drew Pearson leaps over him. Had Wright not tripped, we may never have had one of the most iconic plays in all of sports.

Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

EA Sports launches Madden 25 demo

(EA)

(EA)

All right, if you haven’t left for work yet please stop and call in sick. The Madden 25 demo is launched today!

Fine, you probably shouldn’t call in sick to work (I can’t be responsible for that), but you’re going to want to take advantage of this first look at the Madden game as soon as possible. Of course, the game will be released on August 27 but consider this your first taste of preseason action for Madden 25 (Make sure to check out the photo gallery here). It goes without saying August 27 should already be marked down as a vacation day for you. That’s an automatic for me. Well, it’s kind of my job, but still.

Now you can play (that’s right, you can play) a matchup of last year’s Super Bowl between the Ravens and 49ers. Or the Seahawks against the Packers. The best answer of course, is to play with all four teams. Get your first chance to do some Madden scouting!

So now you’re going to ask, what’s new with this game? And here’s the thing, you’re going to love the new precision modifier. You can use the left trigger to perform some sick combo moves as the ball hander. It’s not just a matter of hitting the trigger to run fast or do a spin move, you can do both. The tuck spin and juke spin was very realistic. As somebody who is more of an old-school player who runs a ton, trust me, it’s pretty awesome. Let me tell you, if you can run in Madden, you can beat just about anybody.

In fact, I’m thinking of just using the Seahawks with Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch all year long. Because that’s what I do!

But do yourself a favor and check out the demo as soon as you can. It will be enough to tide you over for the real thing.

Adam Rank is our resident Madden expert. Or at least that’s what he claims. In truth, he’s not as good as he thinks he is. Just ask Roddy White right here. But follow him on Twitter anyway @adamrank.

#ThrowbackThursday – Roman Gabriel

Associated Press

Associated Press

The tension between the NFL and AFL during the 1960s was great, but it reached its fever pitch when the Oakland Raiders signed Roman Gabriel in 1967. The Raiders originally drafted Gabriel in the 1962 AFL Draft, but he instead signed with the Los Angeles Rams.

The Raiders, however, were able to seize on Gabriel’s dissatisfaction with his use in Los Angeles and he signed with the Raiders. While some players had opted to sign with the AFL out of college instead of the NFL (like Joe Namath), Gabriel was widely considered one of the first NFL stars to be lured away by the upstart league according to AP reports at the time.

The AFL was believed to have attempted a raid on NFL talent in retaliation to the New York Giants’ signing of kicker Pete Gogolak. (That’s right a kicker.)

But Gabriel never played with the Raiders. (And if case you never heard; the AFL and NFL merged!) Instead he became the leader of new coach George Allen’s offense. Together the Rams would have much on-field success and Gabriel was selected as the NFL’s MVP in 1969. In fact, he’s still the Los Angeles Rams’ all-time leader in touchdown passes (154) and games won by a starting quarterback (74).  He was also the first Asian-American quarterback in the NFL.

Gabriel was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1973 after injuries and new coach Chuck Knox facilitated the move. Gabriel would be the NFL’s comeback player of the year in his first year in Philly and earned his fourth and last Pro Bowl berth.

Gabriel has not been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he often feels that it’s because of his lack of a Super Bowl title. But many who played with him consider him one of the best of his era.

Training Camp: Unneccessary quarterback controversies


Quarterback uncertainty can be tough for a team this time of year.  Just ask Michael Vick, who plead, very publicly, with coach Chip Kelly to cut the Eagles’ quarterback contest short for the good of the team.

Does Vick have a point?

No team entering camp with a quarterback controversy in 2013 was particularly great on offense in 2013. With a prolonged battle at the most important position on the field, the other ten offensive starters only stand to lose valuable practice time.

That problem only worsens if there’s a clear-cut favorite at quarterback on the roster right now. The Eagles have a serious quarterback competition, but the same can’t be said for other squads around the NFL. With that in mind, here are some teams that might be better off by throwing their support behind one guy sooner rather than later:

Buffalo Bills:
The Guy: Kevin Kolb

Is it the soul patch or the perpetual losing that gives us a bad feeling about Kevin Kolb? He gets a bad rap either way. Few quarterbacks are brave enough to rock the chin hair these days, and even fewer quarterbacks can say they’ve marched a bad team into Foxboro and beat the Patriots.

That week 4  game seems like eons ago. Since then, the Bills snagged EJ Manuel out of the “Supposedly Bad Quarterback Class of 2013.” Handing the job to Kolb now will allow new coach Doug Marrone to work on molding Manuel into the quarterback the front office believes he can become. And if Kolb stays healthy and beats the Patriots a few more times, that’s all the better for Buffalo.

Oakland Raiders:
The Guy: Matt Flynn

The 2013 NFL Draft viewing party at the Flynn household must have been an interesting affair this year. All was going well until his new team drafted yet another mid-round quarterback named “Wilson” as his backup.

We all know how that same scenario played out in Seattle last year. But this is the Raiders! Someone has to quarterback that anemic offense (Raiders fans should hope it’s not Tyler Wilson or Terrelle Pryor). He’s clearly the best hope for the silver and black.

Jacksonville Jaguars:
The Guy: Chad Henne

It was Henne, not incumbent starter Blaine Gabbert, who disappointed Jags fans least in 2013. In fact, Henne seemingly did more good than harm last year, clicking with Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts and passing for over 2,000 yards over just six starts. The team still lost, but they’ve got to start somewhere, right? Henne should be afforded the opportunity to build on what he accomplished last year and give Gabbert a little more time to work on his stubble.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The Guy: Josh Freeman

This perceived controversy is by far the most bogus the NFL has to offer.

It started because Josh Freeman is entering a contract year and the team lost five games to end the 2012 season (gasp and double gasp). It kept going when the team drafted rookie Mike Glennon, another member of the “Supposedly Bad Quarterback Class of 2013.” It reached a fever pitch when coach Greg Schiano sung Glennon’s praises at rookie minicamp. And it should have ended when Schiano joined us for “NFL Total Access” and crowned Freeman.

Expect to hear that Josh Freeman is the starter about 746 more times this preseason before he actually suits up in Week One. We get it, Greg Schiano, but it doesn’t seem like anyone else does.

Minnesota Vikings:
The Guy: Christian Ponder

Christian Ponder was the NFL equivalent of Mike Winchell from Friday Night Lights for his first two seasons. He only needed to exist in the four seconds it took to take the snap and hand it to Adrian “Boobie Miles” Peterson.

That’ll change this year. No offense to Devin Aromashadou, but the Vikings haven’t exactly surrounded Ponder with high-caliber receiving options until they snagged Greg Jennings and drafted Cordarrelle Patterson (who was by far the best dressed player at the NFL Draft last April). If you think the team should try another option, just remember: everyone loves their backup quarterback until they realize it’s Matt Cassel.

Let Them Play It Out:

Every quarterback needs to be evaluated on these two teams in green.

It’s not 2010 anymore and it shows for Vick. What’s even worse is that Chip Kelly is cracking jokes about using challenger Nick Foles in the option and the still-speedy Vick still can’t nail down the starting gig. That speaks volumes about where that battle stands.

Mark Sanchez’s recent racy YouTube video might’ve lasted longer than his 2012 highlight reel. Last year, he had 32 turnovers– that’s right — 32 turnovers. The Jets need to know if Geno Smith can throw it to the opposite team fewer times before moving on from Sanchez.

- Nick Toney

#ThrowbackThursday – John Stallworth

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Associated Press

John Stallworth’s statistics look almost pedestrian compared to the numbers the receivers put up in the current NFL. But there might not have been a better, big-time receiver during his era.

Stallworth was blessed with great speed and great height, an advantage for him in an era when defensive players were allowed to play, well, defense against receivers. You simply couldn’t out-muscle him. Those receivers today who have come so adept at the “jump ball,” well, that was a move perfected by Stallworth.

Stallworth retired as the Steelers’ all-time leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns. The most indelible image of Stallworth was him as he hauled in a 73-yard touchdown reception as the Steelers rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV.

Stallworth always had a flair for making the biggest plays on the biggest stage. He still holds the Super Bowl records for career average per catch (24.4 yards) and single-game average (40.33 in Super Bowl XIV). He had 12 career playoff touchdown receptions and had a catch in 17 consecutive postseason games.

#Throwback Thursday: Jim Jensen

Tom DiPace/Associated Press

Tom DiPace/Associated Press

“I always asked him, ‘Coach, where you want me to go?’ during practice,” Jensen said.

When you talk about players who did everything in their power to get on the field, former Dolphins legend Jim Jensen immediately springs to mind.

Of course, he first came to mind because it seemed unusual for a guy who wore a No. 11 jersey to run the ball on third down. Or to throw himself at runners on special teams. But that’s what he did.

Jensen played quarterback at Boston University and was drafted by the Dolphins in the 11th round. But his future would not be at his college position. He would line up at receiver, running back and yes, he even threw a few passes, too. His career passer rating was 141.4 which would be an all-time record … if he had attempted more than seven passes. He completed four of them for two touchdowns.

He was a special-teams ace, too. “Crash” often became an adjective as he famously collided with kick returners, but it was how he was often referred to by the Dolphins fans.

Jensen played 12 years for the Dolphins from 1981-1992 and was the personification of a football player. (Tim Tebow could probably take a few pointers from this guy.)

#ThrowbackThursday: Chuck Bednarik

0ap1000000216099

Associated Press

“The positions I played, every play, I was making contact, not like that … Deion Sanders. He couldn’t tackle my wife. He’s back there dancing out there instead of hitting.” – Chuck Bednarik

There was a man at a Super Bowl party I attended about 10 years ago who was wearing a No. 60 Eagles jersey. I sidled up to the man and asked, “Chuck Bednarik jersey?” This guy became so excited he gave me a hug and said, “I told my daughter that somebody was going to recognize this jersey today. I just didn’t figure it would be somebody so young.”

My affinity for Bednarik is somewhat unexplainable. I am not an Eagles fan. I obviously never saw him play. But if you are a fan of NFL Films, then you know how easy it is to become a fan of the man they call “Concrete Charlie.” A waist gunner on a B-24, he flew 30 combat missions over Germany in World War II. He is a man’s man. Not some glamor boy like, well, me.

Bednarik had a Hall of Fame career with the Eagles and played on both sides of the football. Even as the NFL moved into specialization, or at least guys who played on one side of the ball, Concrete Charlie never came off the field. Fitting, the guy who was known as the last 60-minute man wore No. 60 for the Eagles.

Also fitting, Bednarik served as a waist gunner in a B-24 Liberator and took part in 30 long-range bombing missions over German.

“There was anti-aircraft fire all around,” Bednarik said. “You just waited for your turn to get hit, but ours never came.”

Bednarik was awarded the Air Medal and four Oak Leaf Clusters, the European Theater Operations Medal, four Battle Stars and the Good Conduct Medal.

So, thank you to Bednarik and all of those who have served in our armed forces. For more on the NFL’s history in the military check out our photo gallery.

#FlashbackFriday: Joe Namath

Joe Namath is more than just a guy who constantly complains about the New York Jets and Mark Sanchez. He was also an exceptional quarterback. Here’s a look at his guarantee against the Colts prior to Super Bowl III.

And here I talk to him and Phil Simms about a New York Super Bowl.

Adam Rank has never won an award. For anything. We don’t mean to be harsh, but it’s true. You can follow him on Twitter @adamrank. Oh, and if you liked this (right!), check him out on the latest “Dave Dameshek Football Program“. Which, come to think of it won an award. So Rank has won something meaningful. Yes, meaningful unlike this latest post. Am I right? But follow him on Twitter, please. He’s taking us to lunch if he gets 25 more Twitter followers today.

#ThrowbackThursday: Bert Jones

Credit: Jeff Hinckley/Associated Press

Credit: Jeff Hinckley/Associated Press

“I was so excited when we got Bert Jones (in 1982), he was one of the best.”-  Jack Youngblood.

There were many great quarterbacks in the AFC during the 1970s with Terry Bradshw, Joe Namath and Ken Stabler. But it would be wrong to overlook Bert Jones who led the Baltimore Colts from 1973 to 1981.

Jones’ best season came in 1976 when he led the NFL with 3,104 passing yards to go with 24 touchdowns and just nine interceptions as he earned the MVP award. Impressive numbers for the day with just 14 games and more liberties given to defensive players. He had the Colts lined up for a deep playoff run the following year, but was done in by “the Ghost to the Post” as Baltimore lost an overtime thriller to the hated Raiders.

Jones battled injuries the next two seasons and two additional years with some struggling Colts teams led to him being dealt to the Los Angeles Rams in 1982 (and led to one of the most embarrassing SI covers of all-time). The Rams struggled that year to a 2-7 mark and Jones retired. But he was still one of the most respected quarterbacks of his era.

Adam Rank is an old man in a young man’s body. Follow him on Twitter @adamrank

#FlashbackFriday: Emmit Smith

Today’s #flashbackfriday, and we here at NFL.com realize we have a treasure trove of amazing football footage in our archives. Every Friday, we’ll release some of it of a great player or coach.  This week we’re choosing the great Emmitt Smith.

Check out his amazing performance against the Eagles in 1993 when he rushed for 237 yards.

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Also, check out an interview we did with him regarding another classic game he dominated against the 49ers

#ThrowbackThursday: Green Bay Packers WR Max McGee

(National Football League)

(National Football League)

“When it’s third-and-10, you can take the milk drinkers and I’ll take the whiskey drinkers every time.” – Max McGee

Max McGee was one of the most colorful personalities in NFL history. McGee was known to break a curfew or nine. At one point when he faced a $1K fine if he missed bed check again, coach Vince Lombardi told him, ‘if you find something worth $1,000, call me and I’ll go with you.’

And yes, as Dan Lauria pointed out as we swapped Lombardi stories the other day, that quote is cleaned up a little bit.

McGee’s greatest feat happened prior to Super Bowl I. McGee was at the end of his career and rarely played in 1966. And seeing that Los Angeles was one of his favorite towns, McGee slipped out after bed check and didn’t return until morning.

McGee didn’t even have his helmet on the sidelines when Lombardi summoned him to replace Boyd Dowler who separated his shoulder early in the game. Wearing the helmet of a lineman and fighting blurry vision (the sun will do that to you after a night on the town), McGee would go on to score the first touchdown in Super Bowl history on a nifty one-handed grab and finished with seven receptions for 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

McGee died in 2007. His legend lives on.

Adam Rank is an old man in a young man’s body. Follow him on Twitter @adamrank

Unexpected (and expected): Day 3 of the 2013 NFL Draft

(National Football League/Associated Press)

(National Football League/Associated Press)

NEW YORK — The drama in the final day was short-lived as Matt Barkley was the first player off the board in the fourth-round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Oh, in case you missed it, he went to the Philadelphia Eagles. I know, right?

Anyway here is some of the Unexpected (and expected) of the conclusion of the 2013 NFL Draft.

And yes, they still boo’d the Dallas Cowboys for most of the day.

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Better safe than sorry
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I wondered if Chargers GM Tom Telesco had to do some convincing to Manti Te’o to let him know the selection was legit. Teo told Sports Illustrated he was a little dubious when the California number came up.

Te’o met with the San Diego media on Saturday.

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The Jaguars finally get their quarterback!
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It’s Denard Robinson. Who is listed as a running back.

Still better than Blaine Gabbert, though.

Oh, and check out this guy at the beginning of this video.

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You ought to be in pictures
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There were some lulls during the draft because they were putting together the movie “Draft Day” which will star Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner. Our Crystina Poncher took a look behind the scenes.

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Welcome to Cleveland
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Barkevious Mingo arrived in Cleveland with his new team, the Browns. But please, save your “Bark” puns about him going to the Dawg Pound.

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Time to shine
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Fan selections dominated the early part of Saturday. And if I don’t mind saying so, some team competing in #FanFreeAgency really missed an opportunity because if I had been allowed to read one, that team would have shot up in the rankings.

But here we follow along with a couple of lucky fans.

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And finally!
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It’s been a great week from New York City. Be sure to check out the rookie predictions for 2013.

Unexpected (and expected): Day 2 of the 2013 NFL Draft

NEW YORK — Did you have Manti Te’o being drafted before Geno Smith? Because that’s exactly what happened on Friday night. Let’s take a look at the expected (and unexpected) from Friday night.

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Is it really a quarterback league?
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One quarterback in round one (not the guy you expected) and then Geno Smith stopped the skid in round two when he was selected by the Jets. Smith avoided controversy earlier in the day when he came to his senses and chose to stay in New York.

Could you imagine the controversy Geno would have caused if he had left New York, only to have to return because he was drafted by the Jets? Why, that would be worse than predicting playoffs for the Jets.

Oh wait …

That’s exactly what he did.

This is a puzzling move by the Jets. Didn’t they just sign David Garrard?

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So you’re saying …
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Maybe one of the more unexpected moves of the weekend so far is what the Jaguars haven’t done. That’s right, the Jaguars haven’t drafted a quarterback. Wait, let me check.

Nope, no quarterbacks.

Damnation of this class or an endorsement for Blaine Gabbert? Probably a little of column a, and a little of column b.

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Stop the skid
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Manti Te’o will be a San Diego Charger. And when you think of the media blitz, San Diego was one of the top options for Te’o to slip. Though to hear Ryan Leaf tell it, the San Diego media might be tougher than you think.

But when you consider the back-to-business Chargers just got rid of the A.J. Smith/Norv Turner circus, bringing in Te’o when there are similar talents on the board is a bit curious.

Oh and that’s Jim Hill who announced the pick. The same Jim Hill who played a reporter in “Rocky III”. (That’s right.)

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Trolling
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Some of the legends of the NFL were on hand to announce the picks for their respective teams on Friday night. And some of them really enjoyed the spotlight.

Jonathan Ogden referred to the current Super Bowl champions. Guy McIntyre recognized the five-time champion 49ers. Former Packers great Dave Robinson noted Green Bay has won more championships than any NFL team.

Nobody had a better time than Tony Casillas who had the crowd eating out of his hand. The Cowboys are jeered every time a selection is made. Even military personnel hear it when they are calling the selections for the Cowboys (which is totally not cool, by the way).

“With the 47th pick in the draft, the Dallas Cowboys …” and Casillas paused for effect, “and STILL AMERICA’S TEAM!” The crowd went nuts and you could tell Casillas just loved it.

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Stop the skid, part II
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Tyrann Mathieu was selected in the third-round by the Arizona Cardinals. With Patrick Peterson as his sponsor, this was probably the best stop for Honey Bader.

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And finally!
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Aaron Rodgers signed a big-money deal on Friday (you might have heard). And here Christian Ponder is still looking for low-low prices. Check out this tweet from Samantha Steele Ponder, the wife of the Vikings quarterback.

Well at least click the link to her Instagram.

Unexpected (and expected): Day 1 of the 2013 NFL Draft

(National Football League)

(National Football League)

NEW YORK — The experts said this was going to be one of the most unpredictable in recent memory. And you can easily say that was the case for Day 1 of the 2013 NFL Draft. There were some surprises and disappointments.

Speaking of disappointments, no “Fandango” humming in the first round? The “What?” chants sort of hung on for another year. Thought we could get “Fandangoing” got at least.

Ah, let’s get to it.

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First things first
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Mike Mayock called this fat-boy draft. He said Eric Fisher was going to be the first overall selection. So there were no surprises. Luke Joeckel went to the Jaguars with the second pick. That was expected. (And our style correspondent Megan Collins also called Fisher because he looked meaner than Joeckel … when you’re right, you’re right).

The big surprise came when the Raiders traded out of the third pick. There were rumors the Raiders wanted to get out of that spot and the Dolphins were hot for Dion Jordan. So there weren’t too many surprises up at the top.

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First quarterback selected
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There was a strong feeling in recent days the Bills were going to draft the first quarterback in the first round. And there was an even stronger feeling the quarterback wasn’t going to be Geno Smith.

We were right.

However, most figured it would be Ryan Nassib (who played for Doug Marrone at Syracuse), or maybe Matt Barkley. Turned out it was none of the above as the team went with E.J. Manuel from Florida State.

If somebody tells you they knew the Bills were going to do that, they’re lying. How surprised was Manuel to be picked? He didn’t even have his coat on.

Oh, and can somebody give a call to Kevin Kolb to see how he’s doing?

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Free falling
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Geno Smith, uh, see you on Friday.

But he does have a new friend.

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Free falling, part II
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Some mock drafts had Shariff Floyd going as high as No. 3 to the Oakland Raiders. Floyd went out No. 23 to the Vikings. He has some new friends, too. The Vikings chose Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson in the first-round. The Vikings paid quite a price to the Patriots to get Patterson. Not sure if the Vikings are that high on Patterson, or if they wanted to take Friday off because the team won’t have a selection in the second- and third-rounds.

Wouldn’t it be cool if the Vikings draft table was just empty on Friday? I want this to happen more than I should.

Don’t bother to look it up, St. Louis was the last team to draft three players in the first-round in 2001. The selections, Damione Lewis, Adam Archuletta and Ryan Pickett. St. Louis did go to the Super Bowl that season, so you have that,Vikings fans.

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Free falling, part II
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Manti Te’o didn’t go in the first-round, either. But at least Alex Flannigan gets another day (at least) in Hawaii!

Oh, did we end up jinxing Smith, Te’o and Barkley with this?

But hey look, Te’o found a friend, too.

I feel better for Geno.

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New threads
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The Miami Dolphins showed off some new uniforms. The all-white uniforms will look rather striking in person. The white facemasks give it kind of a World League of American Football feel. Seriously, look at the Orlando Thunder uniforms.

Uniform monitor reaction: Meh+

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New threads, II
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The Vikings also showed off some new uniforms. And it looks pretty slick. But like the Dolphins, the Vikings should have gone with grey facemasks.

Uniform monitor reaction: Sweet

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And finally!
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This was my first NFL Draft and the place went bananas right before the Jets were going to select. Both times, however, it was a letdown. Maybe the Jets fans have been beaten into submission, but there wasn’t any lusty boos to be heard. If that’s the case tomorrow, Jets fans, can we get a little “Fandango”?

NFL Schedule Release – Ultimate Road trip

roadtrip-130418-BLOG

Is it just me, or is there a feeling in the air? A feeling that the return of football isn’t as far off as it once seemed. The NFL schedule was released today, and while we’re all dreaming of what matchups will be the best or which games we’ll try to attend in person, why not dream a little bigger? If you had the funds, and time off from work or school to travel around the country watching football, what should your route be? Here is my suggestion:

17 weeks. 19 stadiums. 20 games. 10,234 miles. One unforgettable road trip.

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START: NFL Kickoff Game – Denver, CO

Baltimore at Denver – Thursday, September 5, 8:30pm EST

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Naturally, your journey will start with the kickoff game, featuring a rematch of the stellar AFC divisional game from last season. Peyton Manning will be out for revenge. The Ravens will be amped up to prove they can still contend after losing numerous key players.

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TRAVEL from Denver to Seattle (1,315 miles)  

San Francisco at Seattle – Sunday, September 15, 8:30pm EST

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The first journey is a long one, but it’s worth it. Hop in the van (any good road trip needs a van) and head to the Pacific northwest to watch the first matchup of the NFL’s best rivalry today: the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. You’ll also be treated to the city of Seattle, so enjoy good coffee, craft beer and rain before joining the 12th man at CenturyLink Field to watch an old-fashioned slug-fest.

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TRAVEL from Seattle to San Francisco (808 miles)

Indianapolis at San Francisco Sunday, September 22, 4:25pm EST

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You’ll double up on the Niners this week, but for good reason. The journey down the coast will be one to remember, as you can visit the Avenue of the Giants and see the massive beauty of the Redwoods. Oh, and once you get to San Francisco you’ll be treated to a bevy of tourist options (Alcatraz, for one) as well as a great game between two of the elite young signal-callers in the game today: Colin Kaepernick and Andrew Luck.

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TRAVEL from San Francisco to Oakland (12 miles)

Washington at Oakland – Sunday, September 29, 4:25pm EST

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A short trip now, and a chance for you to further enjoy/explore the bay area before a hopefully fully-healed RG3 and company come to Oakland for a week 4 clash. If RG3 isn’t back, you’ll still have an interesting game to watch as Kirk Cousins takes his place for the time being.   For the Raiders, Matt Flynn tries to prove his worth by turning around the franchise of the silver and black.

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TRAVEL from Oakland to Glendale, AZ (739 miles)

Carolina at Arizona – Sunday, October 6, 4:05pm PST

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Back to the van! This time you begin the journey back to middle America with a stop in Arizona to watch Bruce Arian’s new-look Cardinals take on Cam Newton and company.  A solid game in the early portion of your journey that you’ll at least have some fantasy players to watch if the matchup itself doesn’t interest you. If you’re feeling bold, take a detour to the Grand Canyon before or after the game. You won’t be disappointed.

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TRAVEL from Glendale to Dallas (1,075 miles)

Washington at Dallas – Sunday, October 13, 8:30pm EST

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Another long trip, but at the end of the road is a ticket to Jerry World to watch another great rivalry game, Redskins vs. Cowboys. The Redskins handled the ‘Boys in Dallas on Thanksgiving last year, so revenge will likely be a key theme heading into this one. If you missed out on RG3 in Oakland, here’s another good chance to see the electric young superstar return to action. Also, while in Dallas you can enjoy some fine southern eats. If your timing works out, brush up on your manliness by checking out the Mesquite Rodeo just west of Dallas.

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TRAVEL from Dallas to Kansas City (555 miles)

Houston at Kansas City – Sunday, October 20, 1pm EST

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A must-stop on any NFL road trip is Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. The fact that you get to see Andy Reid’s Chiefs take on the rock-solid Houston Texans is just a little more glaze on the barbecue. Speaking of barbecue, trips to Gates BBQ are a must while you’re in town. Notice how I said trips and not “trip.” You can thank me later.

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TRAVEL from Kansas City to St. Louis (248 miles)

Seattle at St. Louis – Monday, October 28, 8:40pm EST

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In what equates to your bye week, you take a short sojourn across Missouri for a stop in St. Louis to catch another fierce NFC West bout between the Seahawks and the Rams on Monday night. Take the extra time to soak in more of the KC culture, or get to St. Louis early. If you’re lucky, the Cardinals might be playing in the postseason.  If not, there are enough tourist options in St. Louis to keep you busy as you recover a bit. The road trip isn’t even halfway through yet!

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TRAVEL from St. Louis to Green Bay (489 miles)

Chicago at Green Bay – Monday, November 4, 8:40pm EST

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Back-to-back Monday night games, but the second one is under the lights at historic Lambeau Field to witness the latest contest in the NFL’s oldest rivalry – Bears vs. Packers. There’s really no place like Lambeau Field, but be sure to take advantage of the surrounding features before gameday like the Packers Hall of Fame and the plethora of pubs full of friendly Midwesterners. Tailgating is a must prior to kickoff, as few places do it better than Green Bay. For the record, you’ve now crossed the 5,000 mile mark on the road trip!

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TRAVEL from Green Bay to Minneapolis (278 miles)

Washington at Minnesota Thursday, November 7, 8:25pm EST

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Thankfully, as the great white north temperatures drop your next stop is in Minneapolis where the warm confines of the Metrodome will treat you to a Thursday night matchup between the Redskins and the Vikings.  Before leaving be sure to check out Mall of America to scoop up some good, cheap souvenirs for all of your relatives that will be clamoring for a handout after your epic journey.

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TRAVEL from Minneapolis to Nashville (882 miles)

Jacksonville at Tennessee Sunday, November 10, 1pm EST

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Not the sexiest of matchups, but still a necessary stop.  Plus, you get the benefit of visiting the Music City. Check out a set of some up-and-coming talent at the Blue Bird Café, or visit any of the other myriad music history spots. As for the game on Sunday, you can make jests about which 2011 quarterback will wash out of the league first  – Blaine Gabbert or Jake Locker. Unless one of said quarterbacks is on your team. Instead you can join together with fellow fans and wallow in self-pity.

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TRAVEL from Nashville to Cincinnati (271 miles)

Cleveland at Cincinnati  – Sudnay, November 17, 1pm EST

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Now, before you scoff at this matchup, take another look. The Bengals have been to the playoffs the last two years, and the Browns have slowly been adding young talent to the roster to make themselves more competitive in the AFC North. This could actually be a pretty great game. And if not, downtown Cincinnati has plenty to offer.

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TRAVEL from Cincinnati to Atlanta (461 miles)

New Orleans at Atlanta Thursday, November 21, 8:25pm EST

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A healthy trip down I-85 leads you to one of the better games on this trip: Saints at Falcons. For years these two have battled for the top spot in the AFC South, and with Sean Payton back in the fold for New Orleans this becomes a can’t miss game.  Thankfully, you’ll be there. While you’re in Atlanta check out Daddy D’s for some more delicious barbecue. Are you sensing a trend here? And is anyone else getting hungry?

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TRAVEL from Atlanta to Miami (662 miles)

Carolina at Miami  – Sunday, November 24, 1pm EST

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This is the middle of a tough, but necessary stretch on the road trip. But it’s mostly downhill after this. With three teams in Florida, it’d be criminal not to make at least one trip to the Sunshine State. This stop will feature two talented young quarterbacks again, and a nice plus in November – some warmer weather. Spend a little time outdoors after the game, but don’t dawdle. There’s more NFL to get to.

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TRAVEL from Miami to Charlotte (729 miles), and get on a flight to Baltimore (437 miles)

Pittsburgh at Baltimore – Thursday, November 28, 8:30pm EST

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This is the longest leg of your journey, that’s why I suggest getting the 10 hour drive from Miami to Charlotte out of the way before you catch a flight so you can sleep. If you want to do this NFL road trip right, you need to see a game on Thanksgiving. And while the Steelers and Ravens don’t have the tradition of the Lions or Cowboys on Turkey Day, it’s still a great rivalry and should provide you with some stellar entertainment. So Skype with your families from the road and get ready for some football.

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TRAVEL from Baltimore to Charlotte via plane (437 miles)

Tampa Bay at Carolina – Sunday, December 1, 1pm EST

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Back to South Carolina, and your van! You will not have seen four NFL games in a span of 11 days. Pat yourself on the back! Relax and watch another NFC South bout, this time between the Buccaneers and the Panthers.  Afterwards, take a mental break and visit Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte for some simple fun.  Then grab some grub and pile back into the van.

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TRAVEL from Charlotte to Philadelphia (538 miles)

Detroit at Philadelphia – Sunday, December 8, 1pm EST

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At this point, games will start carrying serious playoff implications. Well, maybe not this one, but it should be loaded with offensive fireworks with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson squaring off against Chip Kelly’s unique new offense. While in Philly, be sure to stop at Chickie’s and Pete’s which is just around the corner from Lincoln Financial Field. It was voted the Best Sports Bar in America by ESPN after all, so it’s at least worth a look.

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TRAVEL from Philadelphia to New York City (96 miles)

Seattle at New York Giants – Sunday, December 15, 1pm EST

Cleveland at New York Jets – Sunday, December 22, 1pm EST

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Whew, another short travel stint to one of the greatest cities on earth. Get comfy too, because your next two games will be at Metlife Stadium (don’t make the mistake of staying in New Jersey, however). First up is a sure to be entertaining game between the Seahawks and Giants. Playoff seeding will likely be on the line, making the game even better.

You then get a week off to enjoy New York in December. Check out the Rockerfeller Center Tree, which will be already be lit. Visit Central Park, the NFL offices, Times Square and whatever else your little heart desires. After you’ve had your fill of tourism, head back to Metlife for the Browns vs. Jets. Playoff implications will likely be non-existent in this one, but take a moment to appreciate how far you’ve come 19 games in 16 weeks. And only one more to go.

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TRAVEL from New York City to Foxboro, MA (202 miles)

Buffalo at New England – Sunday, December 29, 1pm EST

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You did it. You’ve completed the ultimate NFL road trip and are watching Tom Brady destroy the Buffalo Bills, ensuring the Patriots at least get the 2nd seed in the upcoming playoffs. Whoops, it looks like you missed Christmas this year, but your family will understand. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity after all. You’ve traveled across the country for 17 weeks, witnessed 20 NFL games and had the time of your life. Move over Lewis and Clark, there’s a new great American adventurer.

Now… sadly this trip is ludicrous and would be outrageously expensive. So start saving your pennies now, forget about sending your kids to college, and find a reliable van (again, a must). There’s one incredible road trip waiting on the horizon.

PS – For those of you who actually made it through this outrageously long piece and kept score, only one NFL franchise was not included in the road trip. My apologies to said fan base, it just didn’t work out this year!

Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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