Much has been made of Ben Roethlisberger’s return from elbow surgery.
The Pittsbugh Steelers quarterback saw his 2019 season shut down after two games with an elbow injury. He had surgery in September and said in March that he feels better than he has in years.
“I have no doubts I’m going to be able to come back and play well — none,” Roethlisberger told told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook. “I have complete confidence in that. I’m throwing without pain for the first time in years.”
There are doubts about the 38-year-old’s optimism as he comes off a procedure on his throwing arm. But he looked pretty good on Monday in throwing his first touchdown pass of the new season.
Roethlisberger’s arm looks good early
With the Steelers trailing the New York Giants 10-3 early in the second quarter, Roethlisberger faced an all-out blitz in the red zone on third down. He stepped deep into the pocket and lofted a precision pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who hauled in the 11-yard touchdown in the end zone.
The pass in reality traveled about 25 yards in the air. And it was all arm from Roethlisberger, who threw the pass off his back foot.
One pass obviously isn’t going to quell the concerns surrounding the Steelers’ aging Pro Bowl quarterback. But it was an encouraging start to Roethlisberger’s season.
Power move secures Roethlisberger’s second score
Roethlsiberger looked good again at the end of the half, executing a two-minute drill for a touchdown drive.
This time, he found receiver James Washington short of the end zone on a pass from the 13-yard line. But Washington would not be denied when he appeared to be stood up just short of the goal line by Giants cornerback Julian Love.
Washington stayed upright and powered through Love and past a pair of pursuing Giants defenders to secure Roethlisberger’s second touchdown pass of the night and a 16-10 Steelers lead.
Can Steelers contend in 2020?
The Steelers have a lot of pieces in place to compete this season, including a swarming defense and talented skill players like Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner.
If Roethlisberger can return to his Pro Bowl form, the Steelers should be competitive in the AFC North.
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Costa calls out ‘human trash’ Adesanya for antics
Any significant achievement in sports is worth celebrating. NFL stars dance after scoring touchdowns, MLB players flip their bats after they blast home runs and UFC fighters dry hump their vanquished opponents.
Israel Adesanya took his UFC 253 celebration(s) a step too far after putting on a clinic against previously unbeaten Paulo Costa in their much-anticipated pay-per-view main event on Saturday in Abu Dhabi.
The middleweight champion delivered precision kick after kick before catching Costa in the second round with a powerful left hook that knocked the Brazilian down. “The Last Stylebender” quickly pounced and delivered several ground and pound punches before referee Jason Herzog stopped the fight. In that moment, perhaps feeling the rush of having successfully defended his undisputed middleweight title a second time against the No. 1 contender, Adesanya sprang back to stand up, but held on to Costa and thrusted the air behind his injured opponent.
A dazed Costa sat on the Octagon floor for several minutes trying to regain his wits and get the strength to stand on his battered legs. Meanwhile, Adesanya sprinted around the cage a la Naruto (a Japanese anime the Nigerian-born frequently references) and then began breakdancing like an extra on “Beat Street.” As if that wasn’t enough, Adesanya then proceeded to tell Costa’s cornermen that he’d …. well, let’s just leave that to Adesanya to explain:
Warning: The following tweet contains explicit language.
Costa responds to Adesanya’s post-fight celebration
On Monday, nearly two full days after his first career loss, Costa took to Instagram to call out the champion for his post-fight actions.
“I come here to talk about the action that the human trash did after our fight,” Costa said in a video posted to his Instagram. “I didn’t see when I was there in the cage but I saw now. I disapprove 100 percent. To me, this is [personal] now. Nobody will stop me. Nobody can stop me.
“I want my rematch. You know I am waiting for you. Something happened before the fight, I’m not [making] excuse here to my people, to my fans but I will be 100 percent to fight him and to make him pay. That’s my words. Save my words.”
Adesanya quickly caught wind of Costa’s post and responded in his comments.
“I can stop you again,” Adesanya wrote to Costa. “Dislike.”
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Doc Rivers out as Clippers head coach
Doc Rivers’ time with the Los Angeles Clippers is over.
Rivers is out as the Clippers head coach following their loss in the Western Conference semifinals at Walt Disney World earlier this month, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Coach Doc Rivers is out with the Clippers, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 28, 2020
Rivers had just finished his seventh season with the organization, where he compiled a 356-208 overall record. They reached the postseason in all but one season under his watch, but never made it out of the semifinals.
Rivers confirmed the news on Twitter on Monday afternoon.
“When I took this job, my goals were to make this a winning basketball program, a free agent destination and bring a championship to this organization,” Rivers said in a statement on Twitter, in part. “While I was able to accomplish most of my goals, I won’t be able to see them all through.
“Though it was a disappointing ending to our season, you are right there and I know what this team is capable of accomplishing with your support.”
Clippers bounced from playoffs after blowing 3-1 lead
Rivers and the Clippers nearly reached the Western Conference finals for the first time in his tenure this season, as they mounted a commanding 3-1 lead in their semifinal series with the Denver Nuggets earlier this month.
The Clippers, however, watched that lead disappear almost instantly. The Nuggets rallied back from double-digit holes in the final three games of that series to upset the Clippers and reach the finals.
Rivers is the only head coach in league history to blow a 3-1 lead three times in his career — he did so with the Clippers in 2015 and with the Orlando Magic in 2003.
Rivers spent five seasons with the Magic and nine seasons with the Boston Celtics — where he won an NBA title in 2008 — before making the jump to Los Angeles in 2013. The 58-year-old had two years left on his deal with the Clippers.
According to Wojnarowski, both Clippers assistant Ty Lue and former Houston Rockets and New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy are among the top candidates who will be considered to replace Rivers in Los Angeles.
This post will be updated with more information shortly.
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Studs and duds from Packers’ 37-30 win over Saints in Week 3
The Green Bay Packers are 3-0 after going on the road and beating the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday night. Matt LaFleur’s team scored 37 points, giving the Packers a team-record and NFL-high 122 points through three games.
Here are the studs and duds from the Packers’ 37-30 win over the Saints on Sunday night:
WR Allen Lazard: The degree of difficulty on his 48-yard catch was high. He was stumbling and had to make an over-the-shoulder catch with Marshon Lattimore trailing in coverage. Later, Lazard’s subtle move at the top of his route allowed him to blow past P.J. Williams and uncover deep for 72 yards to start the second half. Teams are underestimating his build-up speed. He might not be super quick, but he can get moving with a runway in front of him. Matt LaFleur is doing a terrific job of putting him in the slot and in bunch formations to create the runways. Of Lazard’s six catches, five gained first downs or touchdowns. His 146 receiving yards were a career-high. He did have a drop on a catchable ball over the middle, and his missed block on Malcolm Jenkins resulted in a stop of Aaron Jones on fourth down.
QB Aaron Rodgers: His impressive start to 2020 rolled on. Rodgers completed three passes thrown over 20 yards and was nearly perfect throwing underneath. The Saints got him with a few pressures, but Rodgers keeps mixing aggressiveness, accuracy and decisiveness with a little of old improvisational magic. He drew the Saints offsides twice and also created an extended play touchdown to Marcedes Lewis. His deep throw to Lazard while moving to his left in the first half was sublime. Matt LaFleur kept dialing up easy stuff, especially on rollouts and bootlegs, and Rodgers kept hitting them for chunk gains. He now has nine touchdown passes and zero interceptions through three games.
CB Jaire Alexander: The missed tackle on Alvin Kamara’s long touchdown was egregious and unacceptable. We’ll forgive it here because Alexander was so good for the other 57 snaps on Sunday night. He delivered a third-down stop on the first series and later dropped Kamara for a loss in the flat. Emmanuel Sanders didn’t have a catch against his coverage. He was very close to ending the game on a pick-six late in the fourth quarter.
DL Kingsley Keke: Both of his sacks – the first two of his career – were impressive. On the first, Keke executed a wide stunt to his right, bursting around the corner and closing down on Drew Brees with Rashan Gary crashing inside. Even at his weight, Keke can really move. Later, he executed a perfect push-pull move on Andrus Peat, beating the block with strength and collapsing the pocket on Brees before he could get rid of the football. He also helped string out a screen on third down, forcing a field goal. Keke might have the right combination of athleticism and power to be a valuable interior rusher. As an added bonus, Keke almost always gets his hands up and into passing windows when his pass-rush plan doesn’t work.
TE Marcedes Lewis: His block on Cameron Jordan helped open enough room for Aaron Jones to score on fourth down in the third quarter. Later, he was on the same page as Aaron Rodgers in the scramble drill and made an athletic catch over his head with Malcolm Jenkins in coverage for a go-ahead score. His one-on-one block on a linebacker helped create Jones’ longest run of the night in the third quarter. Big Dog still has a little bite.
K Mason Crosby: Kicks from 52 yards and 48 yards were no problem for the veteran. He made the 52-yarder with more than enough leg and confidently drilled the go-ahead kick from 48 yards in the fourth quarter. Crosby has made all seven field goals and all 13 extra points to start the 2020 season.
S Will Redmond: He missed Alvin Kamara twice in the open field, and both plays ruptured into big gains. Both times, Redmond came flying in out of control and swung and missed at Kamara’s ankles. On the first, Kamara skipped away from No. 25 and picked up the first down on 3rd-and-15. Later, Redmond was the first to miss on Kamara’s incredible touchdown. Redmond’s misses were responsible for roughly 70 yards of Kamara’s 197 total on Sunday night.
CB Kevin King: Emmanuel Sanders did all his best work against King, catching all three passes for 38 yards, a touchdown late in the first half and two easy first downs. King also allowed a catch to Tre’Quan Smith that converted a first down and got dinged for a holding penalty. He can be disruptive at the line in press, but King can also be exploited in off coverage. Drew Brees picked on him a little bit.
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