A special message in response to an embarrassing week in the NFL, and all of Week 2’s biggest headlines—the Monday Morning Realist


Every Monday morning, Section 215’s Akiem Bailum gives an in-depth and unfiltered look at all of the latest sports news in The Monday Morning Realist. You can follow Akiem on Twitter @AkiemBailum.

When a Game is just a Game

Sep 11, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens fan Christina Burke (center) poses for photos while wearing a Ray Rice jersey prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

It’s rare that I use Thursday Night Football games in these Monday Morning Realist columns, Realists. A rare occurrence. About as rare as New York Giants victories nowadays, seemingly. But given the circumstances surrounding this week’s Thursday nighter, it had to get mention.

As we all know, this previous week is going to go down as one that Park Avenue would rather forget. Everything came to a head on Sunday when, at the last minute, the Carolina Panthers deactivated Greg Hardy for their game against the Detroit Lions. Plus, Adrian Peterson also encountered a world of hurt for doing the same to his own son.

It started, though, with Ray Rice.

We all know what happened with that elevator video with Rice and his fiancée. We all know about how badly the NFL botched the investigation of the incident that occurred in that elevator. We know that Rice’s reputation has been forever tarnished because of this. It is possible he has played his final NFL game, even though there is now a report saying he is looking for reinstatement in 2015.

It also had to come at a very less-than-opportunistic period if you are the NFL because the Thursday Night opener for this season just happened to feature the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers from Baltimore.

Oh, the shame of everything…not to mention the lack of shame Ravens fans had (especially WOMEN) since they were wearing #27 Ray Rice jerseys at the game in support of him.

Why CBS and NFL Network even decided to go with Rihanna for its intro music for TNF this year is beyond me. But they pulled her intro for this game considering she herself was once a victim of domestic violence. Also, James Brown on the CBS/NFL Network pregame show nailed it in his speech he gave. Why? Because he specifically called out men and asked for a redefinition of what masculinity truly is.

If there was an ESPY award for Sports Sound bite of the Year, I would nominate that James Brown speech for that award.

Men have to do better. And in this case, the NFL has to do better. How can the league seem to not give any you-know-whats about domestic violence when at the same time tout out such initiatives such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October? This week made that initiative look like a fraudulent PR maneuver as the league makes money off of the pink jerseys it sells to its female audience every year.

Seemingly, Park Avenue has no problem with asking female football fans to fill up the pockets of rich, old, out-of-date owners (how many of them are women, by the way?) but turn a blind eye to an issue plaguing not only the league but the U.S. of A. at large.

On top of this, several NFL owners, including Washington’s Daniel Snyder and Carolina’s Jerry Richardson have announced their support for Roger Goodell as commissioner.

I don’t think Goodell is going anywhere anytime soon, but shouldn’t his complete lack of understanding of the Ray Rice investigation warrant at least a season-long leave of absence? Even though…who is to say that the league would be better under his replacement (unless, of course, that replacement was…you know…a woman).

The owners have seemingly exposed themselves as no better than Commissioner Goodell by declaring their support. After all, as long as the value of a league exponentially increases under a commissioner (which allows owners to charge more money for season tickets, advertising, TV and radio rights, etc.) who cares about domestic violence?

Yes, the Ravens defeated the Steelers 26-6 on TNF and both teams are now 1-1, but I decided not to give a rundown of this game for a reason. Because football statistics were meaningless on Thursday night. It just so happened that Baltimore was playing a Pittsburgh team still with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, who once famously encountered his own transgressions with violence against women.

The only statistic that was relevant to this game was one referenced this week in the Washington Post that said that nearly a third of women have been abused at some point in their lives by an abusive male partner. I can attest to this since I have female family members and beloved friends whom this has happened to and have even seen it with my own eyes.

It’s easy to look at the video of Ray Rice and Janay Palmer-Rice and immediately play the victim-blaming card in this case. But, look closely (or imagine closely) that video again and picture your close friend, or daughter, or sister, or niece, or aunt, or mother in that same situation. You wouldn’t want it to happen to them—it shouldn’t happen to Janay Palmer-Rice or any woman.

Simply put—we all have to do better.

Hapless along the Hudson

Sep 14, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) reacts against the Arizona Cardinals during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Giants 25-14. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Now, as the NFL would say…back to football (even though that is admittedly a problem in light of the Rice controversy).

While overall, this week was rendered secondary after the controversy involving Ray Rice and the NFL’s botched job of an investigation into the elevator tape obtained by TMZ, there was still a bevy of interesting developments that took place on the field.

One of them happened to involve the Arizona Cardinals of all teams. This is a team that a few years ago started the season with a 4-0 record only to flame out and miss the playoffs by a plenty. In Week 1 of the second of the Monday Night Football games that week, Arizona defeated the San Diego Chargers 18-17 despite Larry Fitzgerald not being targeted for a reception until late in the second half.

One does not have to be an armchair quarterback (or a Monday Morning Realist) to know that a key to winning football games (especially today in this pass-happy NFL) is to make sure that it is in your hands of your best receiver. But, apparently, you do have to be Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin to figure this out.

And if that wasn’t enough headlines coming from the desert, quarterback Carson Palmer was sidelines for this game vs the New York Giants because of a shoulder ailment. Meaning Drew Stanton (remember him?) would be under center for the Cards.

As for the G-men, when was the last time this team was watchable? The team name says New York, they play in New Jersey, but this team looks like it’s lost in the deserts of New Mexico near Arizona.

Side note to this game—a women’s rights group apparently flew messages over MetLife Stadium asking for the resignation of Roger Goodell.

That was the highlight of this game above all others. As for the Giants, highlights come at a premium for the Football Giants nowadays.

Arizona scored on its opening possession when Jonathan Dwyer went up the middle for a one yard touchdown run. Chandler Catanzaro’s extra point was good and the Cardinals were ahead 7-0. Meanwhile, the opening possession for New York would result in what many of them do these days—an Eli Manning interception. The beneficiary of such was Sam Acho. The Cardinals would convert that turnover into points with Catanzaro’s 49 yard field goal towards the conclusion of the first quarter. 10-0 Birds.

A pair of Giants possessions later, Manning and the Giants would end its drive with a completion from Manning to someone in a blue jersey—namely Rueben Randle. His 7 yard reception and Josh Brown extra point brought New York to within three at 10-7 as the half concluded.

New York needed that touchdown to conclude the half given that they would also assume possession to start the second half. Their initial second half drive was short lived and they punted back to Arizona.

But, a couple of possessions later for the Giants, Manning connected with Daniel Fells for one yard and a TD. The score became 14-10 with Big Blue ahead late in the third.

New Jersey residents are known for using very vivid language. The rest of this game made those in attendance from Jersey do just that. It began in the third and continued early into the fourth when the Cardinals took over this game. A Catanzaro field goal brought Arizona within one.

Then, a three and out by New York ended up in the hands of Ted Ginn. 71 yards later, the Cardinals had a 19-14 lead despite the ensuing two point conversion attempt failing. The Giants’ Quintin Demps was credited with a fumble on the following kickoff. That was recovered by Robert Hughes. Then, despite a 1st & 10 at the Giants’ 21, Arizona had to settle for another FG via Catanzaro. 22-14.

It appeared as if the Giants would cut their deficit to at least one (if they attempted a PAT, or tie if they wanted to go for two). But, you will not have that chance when you put the ball on the turf, and when Manning threw to Rashad Jennings, he did just that.

A Rashad fumbled a football, and a second Rashad (Johnson—of Arizona) recovered it.

No points resulted from that possession, but a loss of downs for New York on their next drive (that started deep in their territory) had the Cardinals in perfect position to seal this one away. A 33 yarder from Catanzaro had Arizona in front by 11 at 25-14 and the Giants’ final drive resulted in a Larry Foote pick of Manning. Arizona wins.

It’s only two games into the season, but the Giants look as awful as ever. If anyone has golden horseshoes coming out of their respective posterior, its Giants coach Tom Coughlin. Those two Super Bowls he won with Manning during average seasons are the only reason New Yorkers haven’t called into ESPN 98.7 and WFAN demanding this guy’s job…


As for Arizona, let’s not jump the gun yet. It’s only two games and this was the same team that went 4-0 one year only to blow it in a heartbeat. Plus, Seattle and San Francisco are still in their division (more on them later).

  • Stanton—14/29, 167 yards
  • Ellington—15 carries, 91 yards
  • Fitzgerald—6 receptions, 51 yards
  • Manning—26/39, 277 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
  • Jennings—18 carries, 64 yards
  • Donnell—7 receptions, 61 yards

Week 3—NYG vs HOU, ARI vs SF

(Oh, and speaking of rivers…)

River currents opening the FloodGates

Sep 14, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (85) makes a one-handed catch for a touchdown past Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker K.J. Wright (50) in the third quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The off-field theme of this one is a plea for awareness for domestic violence victims. The on-field theme revolves around the NFC West, which was seen by pundits in the preseason as the best division in football. After all, the Cardinals did finish 10-6 last year and still missed the playoffs thanks to San Francisco and New Orleans.

San Diego lost in Week 1 on Monday Night to those very Cardinals in a game where Philip Rivers looked like the Rivers circa 2012. You know, the one that appeared to be over the hill and should’ve no longer been wearing an NFL jersey as opposed to the 2008 Rivers that was arguably one of the best QBs in the AFC (if not the league).

And, of course, the Seahawks are—the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Defending champs who are coming off of a Beast Mode-induced dominating performance at home last Thursday Night (36-16 over Green Bay).

But, these were the Seahawks now going on the road. Even though Seattle is our defending champions, a common talking point has stuck with this team as of late that they are nowhere near the same team on the road as they are at CenturyLink Field in front of their daunting “12th Man”.

Site—Qualcomm Stadium in Southern California.

After forcing the Seahawks to punt on its opening possession, Rivers and the Chargers were able to engineer an opening drive that ate up over eight minutes off of the clock for that quarter. Nick Novak was good from 50 yards out for an early 3-0 San Diego lead.

That lead lasted a grand total of three plays. Because three plays into Seattle’s ensuing possession, Percy Harvin went 51 yards to the house on a 3rd and 1 play. He needed one, he got 51 and six points. The Seahawks went ahead 7-3 on the following point after courtesy of Steven Hauschka.

The following Chargers possession would be the first of several that would end in Rivers finding Antonio Gates for a touchdown pass. Third and eight became seven points as Gates caught his first TD of the game. 10-7 San Diego.

That became 13-7 on another Novak field goal after the conclusion of the Chargers’ following possession (this time from 43 yards out) and one that began with Ryan Mathews placing the ball on the turf only for San Diego to recover (as we know, Mathews supposedly has a reputation of fumbling to uphold). Harvin was on the other end of the field to receive the following kickoff—only to fumble the football. Ball met turf and ball met Darrell Stuckey who recovered for the Chargers at the Seahawks 28.

1st and 3 became 1st and 23 after penalties for illegal use of hands as well as offensive holding (both charged to the Chargers). Rivers made those 23 yards look like nothing, and would again hit Gates from eight yards out for the San Diego score. Such a sequence had to be a game changer and definitely one that deflated the Seahawks as well as giving the Chargers are lightning storm’s full of confidence.

Seattle was not done yet as the first half neared its conclusion. Two big pass plays from Russell Wilson on his next drive resulted in him finding Robert Turbin from three yards out and a touchdown. 20-14 Chargers going into the half.

One issue for the Seahawks—the Chargers would receive to start the second half. They punted, but so did Seattle on its opening drive of the third quarter. Both teams traded touchdowns on their next two possessions when Rivers connected with Gates again (21 yards on a 2nd and 20) to make the score 27-14 and the Seahawks responded with a Wilson short pass to Marshawn Lynch for six and an extra point. 27-21. A Rivers fumble on the next possession was recovered by Eddie Royal, but the Chargers still punted after that drive.

Late in the game and trailing by six, Seattle had to attempt fourth down plays, but when a 4th and 11 play was incomplete, this gave Rivers and San Diego the ball deep in Seahawks territory. It resulted in a 28 yard field goal via Novak and a 30-21 lead—exactly the score that the Chargers would ultimately win by.

If San Diego wants to contend with Denver in the AFC West, they will need victories like this over what is, on paper, a superior team to the Chargers. They began the season against two opponents in what is arguably the toughest division in the NFL, nearly defeated one, and opened the flood-Gates to defeat the other. As for Seattle, they should worry more about Earl Thomas’ injury than this. Oh, also the fact that Richard Sherman apparently does not like being interviewed after tough losses.

I wonder if Richard Sherman thinks Antonio Gates is a sorry receiver like when he infamously ripped Michael Crabtree for supposedly being after last year’s NFC Championship Game. Today’s stats show otherwise.

  • Rivers—28/37, 284 yards, 3 TDs
  • Woodhead—8 carries, 32 yards
  • Gates—7 receptions, 96 yards, 3 TDs
  • Wilson—17/25, 202 yards, 2 TDs
  • Harvin—2 carries, 45 yards, 1 TD
  • Kearse—4 receptions, 61 yards

Week 3—DEN at SEA, SD at BUF

Beware of Dawgs

Sep 14, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer (6) celebrates after defeating the New Orleans Saints 26-24 at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The thought of the Cleveland Browns beating anybody other than, perhaps, Buffalo or Jacksonville (or the Raiders or Giants) can be a wild thought in itself for some football fans. Cleveland winning over Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints is one of the purest definitions of “upset” in the NFL.

But, Realists, we ought to give the Browns a little bit of credit for what they were able to accomplish last week. This is a team that in the offseason had to deal with Josh Gordon initially being suspended for the whole season for smoking pot (while Ray Rice only got two games) even though that suspension has been since significantly reduced.

Gordon’s out for a while, but the Browns in Week 1 nearly pulled off an upset victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. They lost 30-27. For a team that it is in the throes of a manufactured (media-induced) quarterback controversy, coming within one field goal shy of a division rival steel curtain is not too shabby.

But, on the Saints’ end of things, everyone knows how even without Darren Sproles (Eagles) how dangerous their offense can be. It seems to be their defense that is giving them problems. They began their game against the Atlanta Falcons (on the road) with a huge lead only to see Matt Ryan and Atlanta rip a victory from them last week in overtime. Ryan threw for 448 yards against the Saints. So much for the concept of defending against the pass.

And as mentioned earlier, this was a team that nearly defeated the Seahawks in the second round of last season’s postseason.

New Orleans did not want to go 0-2 and almost no one outside of a 50 mile radius of Cuyahoga County, Ohio picked the Browns to win.

This is why the games are played on the field and not in the Bristol studios. After punting on their first possession, the Browns would not draw first blood in this game until their second possession. This is when Brian Hoyer (not Johnny Manziel, ESPN) connected with Miles Austin for a seven yard touchdown. Yeah, Miles Austin. Remember that name, Dallas Cowboys fans? 7-0 Cleveland.

All three of the Saints’ first quarter possessions resulted in punts. Only one did in the quarter for Cleveland. The ensuing Browns possession would see a 32 yard field goal from Billy Cundiff to put them ahead at 10-0.
Two possessions later for New Orleans, they finally cracked the scoreboard with a 27 yard field goal courtesy of Shayne Graham. They had to settle for the field goal after being stopped for a one yard loss on 3rd and 1 from the 8 yard line. 10-3 Browns.

A three and out from Cleveland was followed up by a two and out possession for New Orleans. What do I mean by two and out? Two plays in, Brees was picked off by Tashaun Gipson who returned the football 62 yards in the opposite direction. The two point conversion attempt failed, but it was still 16-3 Cleveland?!


The Saints corrected that error on their next possession. A 12 play drive that only lasted just over three minutes resulted in Brees passing for 9 yards to Jimmy Graham to bring New Orleans back within six at 16-10 as the half concluded.

The Saints went into halftime with momentum and it showed in their opening series of the second half, as they assumed their first lead of the game on a short TD strike from Brees to Graham (remember, this is the same Jimmy Graham who the NFL is giving grief to about dunking footballs on goalposts and it seems to give more attention to that than what Ray Rice did, Realists).

Anyway, the game became 17-16 Saints. The lead New Orleans had would be short-lived as Terrance West went north for a 9 yard TD. 23-17 Browns again.

But, the Saints marched one more time as the fourth quarter began. This time, it would be Mark Ingram (yeah, the Alabama guy) for a short touchdown run along with the extra point attempt from Shayne Graham. 24-23 New Orleans.

The Browns would have one last shot with over two minutes left, all three timeouts, and the two minute warning on their side despite starting from their own four yard line. Only one of their plays was from over 28 yards (a Hoyer pass to Andrew Hawkins that advanced the football to the 11 yard line of the Saints). This set up Cundiff perfectly and he was true from 29 yards out to give Cleveland a 26-24 lead with three seconds left. One kickoff return later, the Browns were celebrating in front of the Dawg Pound.

Oh, Realists…I forgot to mention Johnny Manziel who got on the field for the first time in an NFL game (causing mass stiffness amongst the suits at ESPN!)…only to throw an incomplete pass. Yeah, he’s a bust, I guess.

As for those that played significant minutes in this game…

  • Hoyer—24/40, 201 yards, 1 TD
  • West—19 carries, 68 yards, 1 TD
  • Hawkins—6 receptions, 70 yards
  • Brees—27/40, 237 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
  • Ingram—11 carries, 83 yards
  • Graham—10 receptions, 118 yards, 2 TDs

Week 3—MIN at NO, BAL at CLE

Reckless A-Brandon

Sep 14, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) catches a touchdown pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter at Levi

Farewell, Candlestick Park. The San Francisco 49ers uttered these words after playing their last game the previous season at The Stick, and moving into their plush new digs at Levi’s Stadium.

Other than “The House that Kaepernick Built”, I’d like to know if any of us Realists have any creative nicknames for this new megapalace in suburban San Francisco. The best one I can come up with is “The Jean Rack”. And so are the limits of my creativity.

Whereas the Niners opened up the season with a 28-17 win at AT&T Stadium in Arlington (that also saw Tony Romo throw three interceptions), Da Bears started off its season on Da wrong paws by losing 23-20 at home to the Buffalo Bills (who by the way, now have a new owner and will be remaining put in Upstate New York).

Sorry, Toronto. At least you still have your Maple Leafs.

“Some consolation prize!”–Toronto

The 49ers’ first big play of the game would not occur on offense or defense, but on the special teams. This happened when Andrew Lynch blocked a Bears punt after a three and out. The ball rolled out of bounds at the Chicago eight yard line.

The special teams play paid dividends for San Francisco. The first regular season points scored in Levi’s Stadium came from a 3 yard TD pass from Colin Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree. The Phil Dawson extra point was good and the 49ers had an early 7-0 lead (this will be a trivia question in 40 years, Realists, when we’re all old and gray).

On a second and 10 from the San Francisco 46, Kaepernick was intercepted by Charles Tillman, except for there being two flags on the play. The offensive pass interference penalty on Stevie Johnson was declined, an illegal block above the waist on Chicago was enforced. The original call of incomplete pass was reversed.

That drive would continue for almost eight minutes, with the result being a 27 yard field goal from Phil Dawson. 10-0 Niners.

A couple of Bears possessions later, they punted from the eight yard line. Bruce Ellington muffed a punt before recovering at midfield. The ensuing San Francisco possession would last only one play.

As Deion Sanders of NFL Network would say…big play or boo-boo?

Boo-boo, indeed. Chris Conte intercepted a Kaepernick pass intended for Anquan Boldin. This one was only small as no points would result from the miscue.

The next 49ers possession included a 1st & 10 from the 46 yard line that ended in a Frank Gore 54 yard touchdown run. But, an offensive holding call on Boldin bailed out the Bears. Kaepernick then kept the rock himself on a 1st & 10 from the Chicago 30. He was tackled by Jared Allen (the Vikings will rue the day they decided not to return the Rhinestone Cowboy to their team) resulting in a fumble and a recovery by the Bears.

Jay Cutler then fumbled himself on the second play of the following Chicago series, but it was recovered by Brandon Marshall—at the two yard line. The Bears had to punt from the 1 yard line and the Niners found themselves with great field position at the Bears’ 30. Four plays later, (as Paul Heyman would say—Gore! Gore! Gore!) from eight yards to the end zone. 17-0 San Francisco.

The Bears got on the board first with their final drive of the first half. Aided by a 25 yard scamper from Cutler as well as illegal contact and roughing the passer flags on Frisco, Cutler connected with Brandon Marshall for 17 yards and a TD. The extra point attempt from Robbie Gould was good (as gold, as they say in the Windy City). 17-7 San Francisco going into the half.

As Miami must’ve heard a heck of a halftime speech during last week’s matchup against the New England Patriots, Chicago must’ve heard one as well this week. Maybe it was inspired by the 1985 Bears…or Mike Ditka.

San Francisco got the ball coming out of the half and were within five yards of another six/seven points. They had to settle for a 24 yard FG from Dawson to make the score 20-7. That drive lasted nearly ten minutes.

The ensuing Bears drive would last over seven minutes and spanned from the end of the third quarter into the final frame. Marshall caught his second touchdown pass from Cutler to begin the period which put the Bears within six at 20-14.

At this point, the Bears morphed into Monsters of the Midway. One play into the next drive for the Niners, Kaepernick was intercepted by Kyle Fuller who returned it to the six yard line. On top of that, an unsportsmanlike on Kaepernick moved the football half the distance to the goal. 1st & Goal from the three became a three yard TD pass to Martellus Bennett. Gould’s extra point was true and the Bears assumed their first lead of the game at 21-20.

Fuller gave Kaepernick nightmares in the fourth quarter as he picked him off again on the next San Francisco drive on a 3rd and 12 from the Niners’ 35 yard line. Fuller was at the Bears’ 40 on the pick then returned it to the 42 of San Francisco.

Chicago would capitalize. The big play of the following drive was a 29 yard throw to Alshon Jeffery and was capped out with a three yard pass to Marshall for his third TD of the game. 28-20 Chicago.

San Francisco would get the ball back one more time as they needed a touchdown and a successful two-point conversion to tie this game and send the first regular season game at Levi’s Stadium into overtime. They advanced the ball well, to the point where they were at the Bears’ 17 yard line. But, they had 4th and 9 from the 17 and Kaepernick’s intended pass for Crabtree was incomplete, sealing a comeback for Chicago.

  • Cutler—23/34, 176 yards, 4 TDs (also rushed for 25 yards on 5 carries)
  • Forte—5 carries, 21 yards
  • Marshall—5 receptions, 48 yards, 3 TDs
  • Kaepernick—21/34, 248 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs (also rushed for 66 yards on 10 carries)
  • Gore—13 carries, 63 yards, 1 TD
  • Crabtree—7 receptions, 82 yards, 1 TD

Week 3—CHI at NYJ, SF at ARI

Other Games

Nov 10, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; General view of the NFL shield logo at midfield at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bills defeat Dolphins 29-10

Redskins defeat Jaguars 41-10

Cowboys defeat Titans 26-10

Patriots defeat Vikings 30-7

Bengals defeat Falcons 24-10

Panthers defeat Lions 24-7

Rams defeat Buccaneers 19-17

Texans defeat Raiders 30-14

Packers defeat Jets 31-24

Broncos defeat Chiefs 24-17

Eagles vs. Colts (8:30—Monday Night Football)