New York Yankees Recap: Yankees don’t hit and Cole bombs in the wild card, Yankees go home

Tonight, with the whole season on the line, the New York Yankees faced the Boston Red Sox in the 2021 AL wild-card game. Although the Red Sox won more games in the regular season, causing the game to be played at Fenway Park in Boston, the last time the two teams met, the Yankees swept the Red Sox. They wanted just one more win tonight to get to the divisional series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Unfortunately, it was not to be the hitters didn’t hit, and the pitchers didn’t pitch well. The final score was the Boston Red Sox 7 and the New York Yankees 2. Tonight starts the long offseason of discontent.

The Yankees tried to put their best foot forward by sending their ace Gerrit Cole to the mound to face the Red Sox Nathan Eovaldi, a  former Yankee pitcher. Cole was 16-8 with an ERA of 3.23 and an incredible 243 strikeouts.  Cole has pitched to the Red Sox four times this season, with the Yankees losing two games.

The Red Sox sent Nathan Eovaldi to the mound to hold down the Yankees. Eovaldi is a former Yankee pitcher (2015-16, 23-11). With the Red, Sox Eovaldi has been 20-15 with an ERA of 4.11. This season he is 11-9 with an ERA of 3.75. The Yankees and Eovaldi have met in the postseason once before. In 2018 in game three of the divisional series, he pitched seven innings in the 16-1 Yankee loss, the Yankees’ most lopsided loss in their postseason history.

Eovaldi is coming off a September 29th win over the Baltimore Orioles when he gave up only four hits in a scoreless effort, striking out 7. Still, on the 24th, he lasted only 2.2 innings against the Yankees giving up seven earned runs in the Yankee win. Over the 2021 season, Eovaldi has a 2-4 record against the Yankees.

In the game, Anthony Rizzo led off the first inning against Eovaldi and ground out to first. Aaron Judge flew out to right for the second out. Then, Giancarlo Stanton singled to the monster. Joey Gallo struck out when he couldn’t hold up. At the bottom, Kyle Schwarber led off and flew out to Gardner in centerfield. Kiki Hernandez popped out to Torres at second. Rafael Devers walked. Xander Bogaerts homered to left-center, driving in Devers for the Red Sox two-run lead in the first. Alex Verdugo flew out, but the damage was done. Red Sox 2 Yankees 0.

Gleyber Torres led off the second inning by flying out to right field. Brett Gardner struck out. Gio Urshela singled to the right side. Kyle Higashioka struck out to leave Gio stranded. At the bottom, Hunter Renfroe struck out. Kevin Plawecki doubled to the centerfield wall. Bobby Dalbec struck out. Christian Arroyo struck out stranding one. Red Sox 2 Yankees 0.

The third inning was led off by Andrew Velazquez, who flew out to left field. Rizzo struck out swinging. Judge flew out to the right-center wall to end the half. Schwarber led off the bottom and homered to right field.  Hernandez singled. Devers walked, and that knocked the Yankee ace out of the game. Xander Bogaerts faced Clay Holmes and struck out. Verdugo hit into a double play to end the inning, but the Red Sox picked up another run. Red Sox 3 Yankees 0.

Giancarlo Stanton led off the top of the fourth and struck out swinging. Gallo flew out to center field. Torres flew out to center as Eovaldi had his way with Yankee hitters. At the bottom, Renfroe faced Holmes still on the mound for the Yankees and singled up the center. Plawecki hit into a double play for two outs in the inning. Dalbec flew out to far-right to end the inning. Red Sox 3 Yankees 0.

Brett Gardner led off the fifth inning by striking out. Urshela flew out. Higashioka struck out to end another Yankees scoreless inning. At the bottom, Christian Arroyo against new Yankee pitcher Luis Severino ground out to second. Schwarber ground out to first. Hernandez flew out to Judge in right as Severino put down the side in order. Boston 3 New York 0.

The sixth inning was led off by Rougie Odor pinch-hitting for Anthony Velazquez, and Odor went down on three pitches.  Rizzo homered into the right-field stands. Judge beat out a roller to short for a single, knocking Eovaldi out of the game. Stanton facing new pitcher Ryan Brasier and doubled with Judge in a baserunning mistake trying to reach home, was out at the plate. Gallo popped out to third, but the Yankees got on the board with the Rizzo homer. At the bottom, Devers struck out. Bogaerts walked. Verdugo doubled with Bogaerts scoring from first. Renfroe, against new pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga walked. Travis Shaw pinch-hitting for Plawecki struck out. Dalbec struck out to end the inning. Boston 4 New York Yankees 1.

Glyber Torres led off the seventh inning against Tanner Houck and flew out to center. Gardner stuck out swinging. Urshela struck out for another 1-2-3 inning for Red Sox pitching. Arroyo led off the bottom and ground out to third. Schwarber, who homered in the game, walked.  Hernandez walked, and that was it for Loaisiga. Chad Green came in and faced Devers, who flew out to Gardner with the runners staying put. Bogaerts walked for the third walk of the inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, Verdugo doubled with a run scoring and Verdugo out at second. Red Sox 6 Yankees 1.

In the eighth inning, with the New York Yankees down by five runs, Gary Sanchez pinch-hitting for Higashioka lined out to center. Odor flew out to center. Rizzo, who scored the only Yankee run, struck out to end the half. At the bottom, Renfroe struck out. Christain Vazquez, in his first at bat, went down on strikes. Dalbec ground out to third. Red Sox 6 Yankees 1.

The New York Yankees, with lack licks on the line in the top of the ninth, Aaron Judge ground out to short. Then, Giancarlo Stanton homered around the Pesky Pole in right. Next, Gallo flew out to the warning track in right field. Finally, Gleyber Torres flew out to right to end the season for the New York Yankees.

The wild card final score was the Boston Red Sox 6 and the New York Yankees 2. The winning pitcher was Nathan Eovaldi, and the loser was Gerrit Cole.

 

 

 

 

New York Liberty rookies Onyenwere, Richards honored by WNBA

Michaela Onyenwere and DiDi Richards’ efforts toward the New York Liberty’s playoff run were rewarded by the WNBA on Tuesday.

The WNBA named New York Liberty forward Michaela Onyenwere its official 2021 Rookie of the Year on Tuesday. Onyenwere also appeared on the league’s All-Rookie team alongside teammates DiDi Richards. Through their efforts, the Liberty reached the WNBA playoffs for the first time since 2017.

Onyenwere (pronounced On-yen-way-day) was a near-unanimous choice for the award, earning all but two of the 49 necessary votes. The lone outliers went to Richards and Aari McDonald of Atlanta.

“I’m so honored to be the 2021 WNBA Rookie of the Year,” Onyenwere said in a team statement. “To say that I am blessed to be in this position would be an understatement. Since I was drafted, I’ve always said that I couldn’t have been placed in a better situation. The people, the culture, and the organization have all been second to none and my experience so far has been so fulfilling.”

Onyenwere was chosen sixth overall in last spring’s draft and was one of two New York representatives (along with Betnijah Laney) to appear in all 32 games this season. The UCLA alumna started the first 29 contests and led all WNBA freshmen in scoring (8.6 points per game) and minutes (22.5). She also ranked second in rebounds (2.9) behind Charli Collier of Dallas.

With the honor, Onyenwere becomes the first player in Liberty history to earned the league’s Rookie of the Year title. She also joins an illustrious list of players to take home all of the Rookie of the Month honors in a single season, appearing alongside Tina Charles, Elena Delle Donne, Breanna Stewart, A’ja Wilson, and Crystal Dangerfield.

“I truly couldn’t have done this without God, my family, my teammates, my coaches, and support staff who have all had a part in my development and growth this season,” she said. “Understanding the magnitude of the legacy of New York basketball and the trailblazers who have come before me, it means that much more that I’m able to be the first in Liberty history to win the Rookie of the Year Award. I’m so grateful to be here and so excited for what’s to come.”

Richards was likewise nominated to the league’s All-Rookie squad, as she and Onyenwere become the first New York teammates to appear on the honor roll since Kiah Stokes and Brittany Boyd in 2015 (teammate Jazmine Jones also appeared on last season’s edition). The Baylor alumna was chosen 17th overall in April for her defensive prowess. Richards gained a large following as one of the most inspirational stories of the draft: she returned for her senior season at Waco after a devastating injury suffered in an accidental collision at practice left her temporarily paralyzed.

Though Richards struggled to carve out a role for herself in the early going, she became one of the Liberty’s most talked-about stars in the second half of the season thanks to newfound shooting talents. After attempting over a single three-pointer over her four years with the Bears, Richards converted 9-of-15 tries from deep over the last 10 games of the regular season. She became one of the Liberty’s most trusted reserves as the season went one and partook in all but one game in her rookie year.

As she became one of the team’s most fearless shooters, Richards was also a reliable source of energy, constantly diving for loose balls and engaging in raucous bench celebrations with Jones.

“It’s an honor to be named to this year’s All-Rookie Team alongside some amazing athletes who are the future of the WNBA,” Richards said in another team statement. “Thanks to my teammates, coaches, support staff, and my family for all of their support. I’m excited to continue working on my game this offseason and look forward to 2022.”

Joining the New York pair on the All-Rookie team are Collier, McDonald, and Dana Evans of the Chicago Sky.

The WNBA Playoffs’ semifinal round continues on Wednesday night with a pair of fourth games: Evans and the sixth-seeded Sky will look to close out an upset of top-ranked Connecticut (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) while the fifth-seed Phoenix Mercury will look to do the same against No. 2 Las Vegas in the nightcap (10 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Giants: John Ross speaks on speed, chemistry with Kadarius Toney

New York Giants, John Ross

With John Ross, the New York Giants may have found a receiving talent that adds even more value to their already deep lineup at the position. While Ross was more or less considered a draft bust based on his first four seasons in the league after being taken in the top 10 by the Bengals, the wide receiver showed flashes of his old potential in week 4.

Ross finished the game with 77 receiving yards on 3 catches, and scored a notable touchdown after using his speed to burn the Saints defense on a deep route. While the play technically involved a fumble and a recovery in the end zone, that didn’t make a difference on the scoreboard as it counted as a touchdown nonetheless.

Plays like that are something we could see more of from Ross. When speaking to the press on Monday, Ross mentioned fellow receiver Kadarius Toney multiple times and believes the combination of two fast receivers can open doors for the Giants on offense.

John Ross talks on the benefits of speed

“I think that’s something that’s hard to coach against,” Ross said about the element of speed. “Once you utilize it, it’s something you have to really hone in on. I think what me and Kadarius can do opens up a lot of things.”

He also believes it can open up chances for other players, through forcing the defense to look deep.

“I think, there’s no secret that I’m fast, so I would expect when teams put out a scouting report, or whenever my name is called, the first thing they think of is speed. So, I expect to kind of get a softer coverage a lot of times and for guys to play deeper.”

Ross has the advantage of being just one part of a talented and still improving group of wide receivers.

The Giants have a number of players at that spot who, when they are playing well, should qualify as standout players to the opposing defense. The opposing defense can’t prioritize every receiving target, and having speedy players such as Ross further down the depth chart will help force opponents to ‘pick their poison.’

The 77 yard performance was also Ross’ season debut, after injury kept him out through the first three games of the season. It’s hard to say at this point, but the Giants may have found a player that can improve week-to-week as the injury moves further into the past and more experience is picked up in the current offense.

Luca Vildoza undergoes surgery after getting waived by Knicks

Now it can be told.

The ankle injury doomed Luca Vildoza’s chances even before he could start his NBA journey with the New York Knicks.

Vildoza revealed Tuesday that he underwent surgery to extract fluid from the back of his right foot. The Knicks waived him last Sunday.

The 26-year old Argentinian guard said he sustained the injury before the Tokyo Olympics. That explains his poor showing after an impressive outing in the FIBA World Cup two years ago, which led to Kobe Bryant calling the Los Angeles Lakers to take a look at him and his other teammate Gabriel Deck, who is now with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

At the Summer Games this year, Vildoza failed to help Argentina get past the quarterfinal round. A week later, he played meaningless minutes with the Knicks in the NBA Summer League before being held out due to his ankle injury.

Vildoza may have aggravated the injury as he pressed on playing. Those months leading to Tokyo games and during the tournament proper were difficult, according to him.

“I always tried to keep going, but at one point I couldn’t take it anymore,” Vildoza said.  “The pain was very intense and constant. That is why I made this determination with my family and my girlfriend looking for the best for my health and my future.”

Vildoza reported to the training camp in a walking boot. The Knicks could have until after the opening night to arrive at a decision. But they couldn’t wait any longer. They decided what was best for the team and Vildoza’s health.

“You gotta make roster decisions this time of the year, and so availability is a big part of it,’’ Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said Sunday. “And we feel that the guys who are here, those are the guys that are fighting it out for that last spot. But he’s a good player and we wish him well.

Vildoza signed with the Knicks last May, but only the first year of the four-year, $13.6 million deal was guaranteed. He collected at least $1.5 million after the $2-million buyout of his contract with Baskonia in the top Spanish League was deducted.

“I thank the people in the Knicks organization. They were amazing to me and also to those who genuinely cared about my health. This NBA outing is just “a see-you-later” for me. I will do my best to return,” Vildoza said. “It is my dream, and I will pursue it while I can.”

There was no timetable provided for his recovery. Vildoza is now a free agent and can sign with any NBA team after returning from the injury.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

NBA GMs pick Brooklyn Nets to win title, Kevin Durant to pick up second MVP

Despite the threat of Kyrie Irving sitting out Brooklyn Nets‘ home games due to his reluctance to get the COVID-19 vaccine, the NBA general managers still overwhelmingly picked them to win this year’s crown.

In the annual NBA GM survey released Tuesday, the Nets received 72 percent of the votes, with the Los Angeles Lakers coming in as a distant second with just 17 percent. Defending champion Milwaukee Bucks got 10 percent votes.

The NBA GMs are bullish on the Nets primarily because of Kevin Durant, who showed no ill effects of the devastating Achilles injury he suffered two years ago. They predict that Durant (37%) will pick up his second regular-season MVP award over Dallas Mavericks’ fast-rising superstar Luka Doncic (34%).

Durant is also the second most popular choice among GMs behind Stephen Curry as the player who forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments.

Quicker and more agile than most power forwards and taller than perhaps all small forwards, Durant possesses the combination of size, talent, and high basketball IQ that tips the scale for the Nets. The NBA GMs view Durant as the best small forward and the third-best power forward behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James.

Durant, who came a couple of inches away from eliminating eventual champion Milwaukee in the playoffs, was the GMs’ top choice as the player they would want to take a shot with the game on the line. He was also ranked third in the most versatile player poll and received votes for the best pure shooter in the league, a recognition that went to Curry.

Even with the looming absence of Irving, the Nets have insurance in James Harden, another MVP caliber guard. Harden was voted as the best shooting guard by the NBA GMs and also collected votes in the best passer poll.

The Nets also made several low-key offseason moves but are expected to have a pronounced impact on their championship aspirations. The addition of veterans Patty Mills and Paul Millsap, plus the return of LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin, gives Brooklyn the depth they never enjoyed last season. Nets’ GM Sean Marks’ efforts received the third most votes for the best overall moves this offseason from his peers.

The Nets are pegged to be the most fun team to watch this upcoming season.

With their Big 3 resting, the Nets were still fun to watch at the start of the preseason with their livewire rookie Cam Thomas leading the way. Last Sunday at the Staples Center, the Nets obliterated the LeBron James and Russell Westbrook-less Lakers, 123-97.

Thomas’ red-hot shooting from the Summer League spilled into the preseason as he finished with 21 points on 50 percent from the floor. The Net’s 27th selection received votes in the poll of the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft.

Mills, who is coming off a bronze medal run in the Olympics, was voted as the second-best underrated player acquisition in the offseason. The Australian guard also received votes in the poll of active players who will make the best head coach someday.

Steve Nash landed fourth on the list of coaches who run the best offense while he also received votes for the coach who is the best manager/motivator of people. David Vanterpool, whom the Nets added to Nash’s coaching staff in the offseason, was tied with Scott Brooks as the third-best assistant coach in the league.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

What’s next for Thiago Santos after UFC Vegas 38?

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 38, Thiago Santos (22-9) returned to take on Johnny Walker (18-6). Santos entered the bout trying to snap a three-fight losing streak.

Now, the first fight in that losing streak for Santos came against Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight title. Santos lost a split decision in a fight where he completely tore his knee apart in the first round.

Since returning, he hasn’t looked like the same fighter. Santos dropped fights to Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic since returning from injury. This main event against Walker was a good opportunity to reset against a lower ranked opponent.

Now, Walker is very dangerous and he showed that on Saturday night. There were some definite spots where Walker gave Santos some trouble at UFC Vegas 38, but nothing that Santos wasn’t able to get through.

Santos landed some good shots and clean counters throughout the main event. In the end, he walked away with a unanimous decision victory and now he’s finally back on track.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 38?

When Santos heard his name called, it was the first time in two and a half years that he won a fight in the UFC. The last win he had came against the current champion Jan Blachowicz.

With a win under his belt, now it’s time for Santos to try and build back towards a title shot. So, what should the UFC do with him next? I don’t think his performance was impressive enough to get him close to title contention.

He likely will need another win or even two before he gets to that point. In terms of a next fight, I would look at UFC 267 at the end of the month. Magomed Ankalaev (15-1) is taking on Volkan Oezdemir (17-5).

Whoever wins that fight would be a great next step for Santos. A win over one of those two then perhaps you could put him in a title eliminator. However, he’s going to need to impress more in his next outing.

NBA GM Poll: Knicks outside East’s Top 7 despite having best defensive coach

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

Just like last year, the NBA general managers keep on sleeping on Tom Thibodeau and the New York Knicks.

Despite the addition of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier to a core that finished fourth in the East last season, the general managers around the league don’t see a top-seven team.

In the annual NBA GM survey released Tuesday, Knicks’ crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets emerged as the heavy favorites to win the title, netting 72 percent of the overall votes, followed by Los Angeles Lakers (17%) and Milwaukee Bucks (10%). 

The Knicks were nowhere to be found among the Eastern Conference’s top seven teams. According to the general managers, the Nets, Bucks, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, and Indiana Pacers are better than the Knicks.

But this is the least of concern of Thibodeau, who likes their chances once he gets the same buy-in as last season.

“It doesn’t really matter what outsiders think,” Thibodeau said in the training camp. “What matters is what we think. And we have an understanding of what we’re doing each and every day. And we understand we have to do it together.”

“I think you go into every season and we feel if we’re doing the right things, the results will take care of themselves.”

Naysayers view the Knicks’ surprising fourth-place finish in the regular season as a fluke, inflated by the COVID-related absences of key players of the other teams and the crowd-less games for most of the season. The playoffs exposed the chinks in the armor of the overachieving Knicks.

Leon Rose and his front office tried to plug those holes with the addition of Walker, a four-time All-Star who had knee issues in the past two years, and Fournier. Walker ranked fifth on the list of the most underrated player acquisition.

They have also added two defensive-minded rookies who can shoot the lights out in Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride to add more depth to a roster that can go as deep as a 12-man rotation. McBride, the 36th pick, also received votes for the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft.

The Knicks’ front office was also recognized for their prudent decisions, getting votes in the list of teams that made the best overall offseason moves.

Thibodeau, who won his second NBA Coach of the Year award last year over Monty Williams, isn’t considered a top-five head coach in the league next season. Heat’s Erik Spoelstra topped the list for the second year in a row, followed by Williams, Quin Snyder, Gregg Popovich, and Mike Budenholzer.

However, NBA GMS overwhelmingly picked Thibodeau as the top head coach with the best defensive schemes. He also received votes in the head coach who makes the best in-game adjustments.

“Understand what goes into winning, do everything you can to help the team win, and if we get the whole group doing that, we like our chances. There’s no easy way to do this. The teams are good, all 30 teams have great talent so you have to find a way to win games,” Thibodeau said.

Finding that edge is one of Thibodeau’s strongest suits as he has the uncanny ability to squeeze everything he can from his team.

With the crowd returning in full force this season, the Knicks were voted third behind Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets as the top teams with the best home-court advantage.

That will be in full display starting Tuesday when the Knicks host the Pacers in a preseason game at 7:30 p.m. in the Garden.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Jets: Grading Week 4’s win vs. Tennessee

The New York Jets got back in the win column for the first time in 271 days on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

New York Jets 27 (1-3)

Top Offensive Performer: QB Zach Wilson (21-of-34, 297 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT)
Top Defensive Performer: DL John Franklin-Myers (4 tackles, 3 QB hits, 2 TFL, 1 sack)
Top Specialist: Ret. Braxton Berrios (3 total returns, 56 yards)
Up Next: Sunday vs. Atlanta (@ London) (9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network)

Tennessee Titans 24 (2-2)

Top Offensive Performer: RB Derrick Henry (33 carries, 157 yards, 1 TD)
Top Defensive Performer: LB Harold Landry III (7 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)
Top Specialist: K Randy Bullock (3-of-4 FG, long 46)
Up Next: Sunday @ Jacksonville (1 p.m. ET, CBS)

Offense: B+

The stage was set for the Jets’ offense to sink to its traditional depths: they were unable to gain traction in the run game, Zach Wilson was forced into another interception blemish when Corey Davis was swallowed up by the MetLife Stadium turf, and they faced an early two-possession deficit. On their first 10 plays, the Jets mustered a mere 15 yards.

But enough can’t be said about the Jets’ offensive resiliency on Sunday, which helped permanently changed the course of the game on a crucial third down conversion where he found Corey Davis to wipe out a ten-yard obstacle. The Jets finally earned a first half touchdown eight plays later when Michael Carter earned his original NFL score from a yard out. Strong defensive efforts have kept the Jets in games throughout the season. On Sunday, the offense finally rewarded those efforts.

Wilson’s resilience was particularly inspiring, especially considering the depths his infantile NFL career has forced him into over the first three weeks. His adaptation to the Tennessee pressure showcased the rebirth of his ability to roll out and throw on the run, which was prominent in Provo but left somewhat forgotten after a stagnant preseason in the pocket. After the interception that came via a Davis error, Wilson completed 19-of-29 passes for 291 yards and two scores, good for a 121.5 passer rating in the later stages of the afternoon.

“You get a little ball rolling, you get a little bit of confidence, and it starts to snowball,” head coach Robert Saleh said of Wilson, per notes from the Jets. “He showed everything that we see in practice we see it all and the kid was outstanding.”

In an addition to the resiliency factor, Davis recovered from two early mistakes (the fallen route and a self-recovered fumble) to showcase the deep ball, big play skills that led the Jets to bestow him an expensive contract last spring. The Jets also immediately benefitted from the return of Jamison Crowder, who helped open more opportunities for Davis and became Wilson’s top option in the second half (6 receptions, 58 yards, including the score and an 11-yard red zone output that set up the eventual winning field goal in overtime). Despite the problems in generating ground traction (Carter, Ty Johnson, and Tevin Coleman united for 58 yards on 20 carries), the offensive line allowed only one sack of Wilson.

The unit still has plenty to work on: if there was anything to be upset about, Saleh seemed to be a bit miffed by the fact the Jets weren’t able to immediately finish the game via touchdown in the extra session. But Sunday marked one of the Jets’ most complete offensive efforts in a long time. Now comes the hard part: building on this momentum so Wilson’s big play antics become routine.

Defense: A-

The Jets’ garish opening efforts on the scoreboard masked some valiant work from a defense that played the hands it has been dealt very well. Such endeavors were finally recognized against the Titans.

Week 4 should’ve gotten out of hand after the Jets’ horrifying first ten plays: an opening three-and-out allowed Tennessee to start at its own 43. The aforementioned interception, landing in the hands of Kristian Fulton, situated them only 32 yards away from six points. For all intents and purposes, the game should’ve been over then and there.

But the defense once again kept the Jets in the game, primarily through a pass rush that looks absolutely spectacular considering Carl Lawson’s noticeable season-long absence. Gang Green’s defense took down Ryan Tannehill seven times on Sunday, their best output since a November 2017 prime time game against Buffalo. The John Franklin-Myers Pro Bowl campaign began in earnest on Sunday as he spent almost as much time in the Titans’ backfield as Derrick Henry.

Though it comes with the asterisk of missing out on the A.J. Brown/Julio Jones experience, the Jets’ makeshift secondary continued to work wonders. Cornerback Bryce Hall handled both his blitz and coverage duties, tallying two pressures and allowing only two completions when his assignments were targeted. The Jets lost Brandin Echols to a late injury but undrafted replacement Isaiah Dunn held down the fort well in his absence.

The Jets also continue to enjoy the fraternal antics of Quincy and Quinnen Williams. Quincy had a dozen tackles, including two for a loss, none bigger than an open-field tackle on the renowned Derrick Henry on a fourth down in the fifth period. Though the first down was earned, the denial of extra yardage resigned the Titans to rely on potential big plays downfield without Brown and Jones, the eventual endgame being a missed 49-yard field goal that ignited the metropolitan celebration. The younger Quinnen kept his breakout rolling with two sacks, having earned 3.5 over the last two weekends.

How can one reward such a high grade when giving up 24 points, even in an overtime effort? The answer lies in Henry, who managed to do the things expected of him on Sunday (177 total yards). While Henry’s abilities nearly derailed the Jets’ comeback efforts (much like his fellow elite running back Christian McCaffrey did during kickoff weekend in Charlotte), the defense (particularly the pass rush) did enough to force Tennessee to consider its non-Henry options. Strong efforts all afternoon allowed the Jets to take the ball out of Henry’s hands when it mattered most: the renowned rusher touched the ball only three times on the Titans’ ill-fated 13-play drive in overtime.

Special Teams: B

The Jets continue to tread water in the punter’s role with Thomas Morestead (46.2 average on six attempts) still filling in for Braden Mann. They also had to overcome a silly 15-yard fair catch interference penalty from specialist ace Justin Hardee in the crucial stages of the fourth quarter, though the defense was able to bail them out through a turnover on downs in the red zone.

Even if Ammendola’s triples (from 22 and 27 yards out) weren’t anything out of the ordinary, the continued consistency and stability in the kicker’s role are certainly welcome after waddling through the post-Jason Myers landscape. Braxton Berrios (in addition to tallying 15 yards on two instances of offensive trickery) also strengthened his stranglehold on the team’s return duties, earning at least 14 yards on all three of his returns.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

After No Contest at UFC Vegas 38, Kevin Holland and Kyle Daukaus will fight again

Kevin Holland

Last Saturday in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 38, we saw a middleweight showdown between Kevin Holland (21-7, 1 NC) and Kyle Daukaus (10-2, 1 NC). Holland was looking to snap his two-fight losing streak.

In 2020, you couldn’t get much better than Kevin Holland in the UFC. His personality was infectious and he was a perfect 5-0. That blistering year earned him a main event spot earlier this year against Derek Brunson.

Had Holland won that fight, the UFC would’ve put him in title contention. However, he ultimately fell short against Brunson. Then, he took a short-notice main event against Marvin Vettori and again fell short.

In both of those fights, Holland was exposed for not having the best wrestling. Prior to UFC Vegas 38, Holland switched things up and started training with former welterweight champion and national champion wrestler, Johny Hendricks.

Holland was excited to show off his new defensive wrestling and he did that early on at UFC Vegas 38. However, the fight wouldn’t last much longer and it ended in a very odd fashion.

UFC will run it back

Both men advanced for strikes in the first round and the two clashed heads. Holland had Daukaus’ head land right on his chin and it essentially put him out. He was really never able to recover.

Eventually, Daukaus got his back and was able to submit him for the win at UFC Vegas 38. However, the referees got together after the fight and started talking about what led to the submission.

Ultimately, it was ruled that the headbutt led to the finish and the fight was ruled a No Contest. Everyone, including Daukaus, seemed content with the decision. Holland was actually the one saying he thought he should’ve lost because if it was in the streets, he would’ve lost.

The UFC has decided to run things back as a result of Saturday. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto reported this afternoon that the two will run it back on November 13th.

5 questions the Knicks are facing as the regular season nears

Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks

The New York Knicks are preparing to play their first preseason game on Tuesday evening against the Indiana Pacers. With three preseason games until the regular campaign commences on October 19, the Knicks have a few lingering questions that will play a big part in the upcoming year.

Fives questions the Knicks are facing as regular-season draws near:

1.) How will Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose split minutes?

Veteran Derrick Rose already indicated that Kemba Walker would be the starting point guard to open the year, but that doesn’t show how Tom Thibodeau will utilize the duo.

Walker likely spends the majority of his time with the first team, but after playing in just 43 games last year, inserting Rose will be a frequent occurrence to mitigate fatigue over the course of a long 82-game season. Making sure both are entirely healthy is a priority for the Knicks, so expect Thibodeau to allow both to work with the first team depending on the scenario.

2.) What will Immanuel Quickley’s role be?

Immanuel Quickley emerged as one of the Knicks’ bright young players last season, but he will have to earn his way onto the floor this upcoming year. After averaging 11.4 points and shooting 40% from the field, Quickley will fill a shooting guard role. He will likely combo with Rose on the floor to maximize scoring efficiency (they had an excellent duo going last season).

Quickley’s best chance at earning more minutes is increasing his defensive attributes, which Thibodeau prefers from his players. There is no doubt that Quickley will come off the bench, and he will likely be fighting with Alec Burks for minutes.

3.) When will Mitchell Robinson make a return?

The Knicks are taking it slow with Mitchell Robinson, who suffered a broken hand and foot last season, forcing him to miss the majority of the season. Robinson only made 31 appearances, but at 23-years-old, he is nearly 100% healthy and ready to make a big comeback. The organization still has plenty of faith in his abilities to become one of the best defensive big men in the league.

“We’re following what our medical people are saying,’’ Thibodeau said. “There’s a plan in place. And we’re not going to rush, we’re going to take it step by step. That was the great value in having Nerlens and Taj. So we love the depth at that position. But we like where Mitch and the way he’s grown, professionally. We’re excited about the season, we’ll see how it unfolds but we’re not going to rush, we’re going step by step. He’s big part of what we’re doing.’’

I expect Robinson to be eased in at the start of the regular season, but they don’t want to rush him back and potentially risk re-injuring his foot.

4.) Can Kevin Knox make the active roster?

One player who is on the roster bubble is Kevin Knox, who has been unable to make an impact after being drafted in 2018. Knox has seen his minutes decrease every year, averaging just 11 last season over 42 games. He contributed just 3.9 points, 1.5 rebounds, and shot 39% from the field over just 3.4 attempts.

The Knicks have the roster space to give him a spot, but they might prefer to go with someone younger like Jericho Sims. The probability favors Knox, though, as Sims could benefit from a season with the G-League team. If Kevin is, in fact, able to retain a spot on the bench, this will be his last season in New York unless he takes an extravagant step forward, which is unlikely.

5.) How can Quentin Grimes/Miles McBride get involved?

The Knicks acquired both Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride in the most recent draft, and both offer significant strengths and weaknesses. Grimes is a strong defensive shooting guard who has plenty of developmental traits the Knicks love. However, McBride is a defense-first point guard from West Virginia, offering the biggest hands and wingspan of any player at his position of the most recent draft class.

It is no surprise that both harp on aggressive defense, which Thibodeau loves and prefers from his young players. Offering solid defense is a minimum requirement to get on the floor, and both are capable of scoring efficiently as well. During Summer League play, Grimes contributed 15.3 points, shooting 41.6% from the field and 40.7% from three-point range. He also offered 6.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists. With such a high rebound rate, it is an indication of his physicality and aggressiveness around the paint.

McBride, on the other hand, averaged 15.2 points, shooting 53.2% from the field and 50% from three-point range. He was an absolute menace from beyond the arc, proving why Thibodeau fell in love with him during the draft evaluation process.