Boxing’s best P4P returns: Errol Spence Jr. vs. Danny Garcia

Where to watch: Saturday, December 5, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Available on FOX PBC PPV.

After Errol Spence Jr. defeated Shawn Porter in September of 2019, fight fans everywhere could see where the welterweight division lined up, and how all the big fights would come down. Incoming was a possible Danny Garcia, Manny Pacquiao, or Keith Thurman lead in for a super fight versus fellow title holder Terrance Crawford. Then in the wee hours of October 10th, 2019, Errol Spence Jr. crashed his Ferrari 488 Spider at a “high rate of speed”. After miraculously only having minor injuries, Spence was charged with a DWI. Since then, promotional issues, and COVID19 have had a strong say on his return as a live gate is something a fighter of Spence’ stature requires. There will be 11,000 fans in AT&T Stadium Saturday, when his comeback is completed.

Meanwhile, Danny Garcia was dealing with inactivity (had last fought in April of 2019) that he later remedied by winning a unanimous decision over Ivan Redkach on January 25th of this year. The detractors of this matchup and of Garcia, point out that he had lost to Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter before, and thus disqualified himself from a title shot. The truth is that any reasonable observer could have easily had Danny Garcia as the winner of both fights (lost to Thurman by SD,Porter by UD), which would make him a perfect 38-0. The simple fact is that Danny Garcia is very deserving of this title shot based on merit. The only question is whether he will take advantage of this opportunity.


How does Danny Garcia (+350) win?

Don’t fade. It’s been Danny Garcia’s story that he tends to slow down as the fight gets longer, as he coasts with a perceived lead. He can’t do that this time. He must raise his activity level, with jabs/leads and be first to initiate for the scorecards, but keep that counter left hook as a deterrent, and land it to punctuate exchanges. Danny Garcia will have to fight the best fight of his career, but he is very much capable of it. I don’t see a knockout in the cards, as Garcia has never been known for his punching power, and the risk/reward ratio is pinned against going for it.

How does Errol Spence Jr (-500) win?

Stay behind his Jab. Move and be first. Control the center of the ring, and assert yourself as the more physical fighter. Instigate exchanges, and move left, as Garcia likes to throw his left hook as he escapes. Spence will be best served with each reset after a break, or when they finish exchanges. Spence is quicker to find the range and Garcia is a counter puncher at heart. Take opportunities to finish it as the power advantage belongs with Spence.

PREDICTION: Errol Spence (-500) Jr wins by Unanimous Decision.

All Odds cited are via MY BOOKIE
Use Promo Code: THREEYARDS (Match Bonus)

Alfredo Arteaga (@Alf_Arteaga) is one-third of the trio that does the Three Yards Per Carry (@3YardsPerCarry) podcast.

Brian Flores makes it clear that Tua Tagovailoa will be the Miami Dolphins quarterback when he is healty. (Craig Davis for Five Reasons Sports Network)

Pressure Point: If Tua is healthy, he’s the Dolphins’ QB—as he should be

The main conclusion about the Dolphins’ 20-3 win Sunday against the hapless Jets (0-11) is Miami did what was needed to hold serve against the worst team in the NFL.

They got the result that was expected. Combined with losses by Las Vegas and Indianapolis, the 7-4 Dolphins moved into the sixth seed (out of seven) in the AFC playoff race.

Individually, cornerback Xavien Howard (seventh interception) and kicker Jason Sanders (two more field goals longer than 50 yards) reaffirmed their status as super stars having All-Pro seasons.

What Sunday’s result didn’t do was ignite a quarterback controversy, though some short-sighted observers are sure to stoke the embers.

Coach Brian Flores nipped that in the bud postgame, asserting that Tua Tagovailoa (thumb injury) will be back at the controls as soon as he is healthy.

Flores: Tua is the guy

“Yeah. If he’s healthy he’s the guy. I don’t know how many different ways I’ve got to say that. You keep asking, I’ll keep answering the same way,” said Flores, adding that Tagovailoa was close to being able to play Sunday.

“He’s dealing with something with the hand. We’ll take it day to day. He’s a tough kid, he wants to be out there,” Flores said. “Thankfully, we have other guys who stepped up.”

Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, in throwing for 257 yards and two touchdowns, provided what any team would hope to get from its backup quarterback.

“It’s good to have Fitz,” Flores said. “He’s obviously a leader on this team. He’s been that for awhile. He’ll continue to be that for this team.”

As Flores pointed out, Fitzpatrick gave a competent, veteran performance. He was particularly effective in utilizing his best receiver, DeVante Parker — something Tua needs to improve at — who had eight receptions for 119 yards.

Fitzpatrick was good enough, not spectacular

But let’s not overstate Fitzpatrick’s performance. He didn’t exactly light up a Jets defense that ranked 30th in the league (29th in pass defense).

He had a run of 10 consecutive completions in the first half. But in the second half his accuracy was erratic.

Notably the Dolphins’ first five possessions in the second half went punt, punt, fumble (Matt Breida), fumble (Patrick Laird), punt. Fitzpatrick finally put together an 80-yard touchdown drive, aided by 32 yards in penalties, to put the Jets out of their misery and one step close to a chance to draft Trevor Lawrence.

The Jets are playing for the future. Frankly, so are the Dolphins.

Granted, Flores has the rebuilding Dolphins in playoff contention much faster than it was reasonable to expect.

They may actually get there, riding the backs of a defense that has blossomed into a high-end unit.

Flores was quick to credit defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, saying, “He’s done a great job the entire year. I think often times people give me too much credit.”

But let’s face it, these Dolphins aren’t constructed to vie with the top teams for a serious run in January. Not with an offense so lacking in playmakers.

Aside from Parker, there is little to fear in the receiving corps, particularly with Preston Williams out for the year and Albert Wilson opting out due to the coronavirus.

Receiver is Dolphins’ biggest draft need

The Dolphins will a chance to address that deficiency in the next draft. Wide receiver should be right at the top of the shopping list. Running back should be another priority, though DeAndre Washington showed some promise with some tough running in the fourth quarter that helped close out the victory.

The lack of depth at receiver is apparent regardless of the quarterback. But Tagovailoa can take a lesson from Fitzpatrick in making better use of Parker, who has the ability to beat defenders for contested balls. And he will.

Remarkably, a surprising number of fans were ready to toss Tua overboard after a poor outing at Denver. That despite leading wins in his first three starts while throwing for six touchdown and zero interceptions.

Some went so far as to suggest the Dolphins made the wrong choice in taking Tagovailoa over Justin Herbert. Even though Tua outplayed Herbert in beating the Chargers the week before.

No question, Fitzpatrick is more poised and in command of the offense than Tagovailoa at this point. He’s been doing it for 17 years.

Tagovailoa has four starts under his belt after having no preseason to aid in getting a grip on playing at this level.

Dolphins must look beyond 2020

Does Fitzpatrick give the Dolphins the better chance to make it to the playoffs? Maybe.

But it’s no certainty. And Flores made it clear that is not the way he is assessing the situation.

“We’ll take this one day at time, try to improve and get better on a daily basis,” Flores said, reiterating the mantra he has recited since Day 1. “I’m actually saying that very sincerely. So to get into a playoff this or that, I’m not really into that. I’m into, let’s get better tomorrow. Let’s prepare for the next opponent.”

So it’s not playoffs 2020, or bust. For Flores, it’s about preparing to make an impact in the playoffs when the ingredients are present to make it happen.

The objective is for Tagovailoa to lead the way. Unfortunately for Dolfans, who have waited so long for an impactful playoff team, that will require a bit more patience.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

The Essence of Maradona in 5 Unforgettable Quotes

Diego Armando Maradona was a legendary soccer player, maybe the greatest of all-time, and he passed away at the age of 60 on Wednesday. His legacy was defined not just by his authorship of the best goal you will ever see, the one that made him seem like a “cosmic kite” leaving Englishmen in the dust.

 

Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi dubbed him as “eternal” in their social media posts after his passing, and maybe you think that is too big a word for someone who just kicked a ball around for 20 years. However, the memories he left embedded in everyone’s minds are indeed timeless because he made us rise with joy after a goal, left our mouths wide open after not believing that gravity could be defied the way he bent it at his will, and most importantly gifted us with the goals that allowed us to hug our dads, grandfathers, moms, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends and even total strangers.

His memories as a player are intertwined with ours as fans who believed we could be him playing soccer in the park, at school or on the street. That is his true legacy.

Here are five of his best quotes, the ones that combined emotion, charisma, fear and anger. Sometimes separately, sometimes all at once. That is what made him relatable, that is what made him Maradona. What he lacked in formal education, he more than made up for in charisma.

1) “Shut up, you idiot, and hug me” 

That was what Maradona told his teammate right after his infamous “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals against England.

He didn’t want the referee to realize what had happened, so he said that when Argentinian midfielder Sergio Batista asked him point blank if he had scored. Like a kid trying to get away with mischief but, you know, in the world’s biggest stage.

“I scored with Maradona’s head, and the hand of God.”

2) “They cut my legs off” 

Maradona retired from the Argentinian national team for the first time after the 1990 World Cup that saw him but came back in 1993 to save Argentina from potentially missing the 1994 World Cup in a qualifying home-and-home playoff against Australia that they barely eked out with an overall 2-1 score.

Argentina survived that scare and entered the tournament as back-to-back finalists in the previous two editions and won 4-0 against Greece with what would be Maradona’s last international goal ever and 2-1 over Nigeria in a comeback effort that included an assist by “El Diego”.

I was 7 years old at the time and teachers at school would stop class and let us all gather in the auditorium to watch the matches. To watch Maradona.

 

However, Argentina’s championship dreams were crushed when a mysterious nurse came on the field to escort Maradona for “random” drug testing. He tested positive for ephedrine and a 15-month ban ensued.

Maradona felt so betrayed by the process that he said “this hurts a lot, it feels like they (FIFA) cut my legs off.”

Argentina hasn’t won the World Cup again since 1986.

3) “The ball should remain spotless”         

Maradona was in bad shape in 2001, he had already had one near-death experience because of his drug habit a year earlier, but he was able to gather soccer legends from all over the world for a match in his honor.

Afterwards, he took the mic and said this in tears: “Soccer is the most beautiful and one of the healthiest sports in the world. I made mistakes and paid the price for that, but soccer shouldn’t pay the price for that. The ball should remain spotless.”

His moral code revolved around the ball, his one and only true love. He was a flawed sports superhero, and people loved him for it.

4) “Grondona let the turtle get away” 

Maradona was anti-establishment and railed against the institutions that dared to attempt to control him. So he took a shot at Julio Grondona, the president of the Argentinian Football Association and FIFA VP, when he let a concert take place before a match Argentina had to play.

5) “No matter what happens or who coaches Argentina, the number 10 jersey will always be mine” 

Messi may be great, but Maradona is legendary. When you think of number 10, you think of Maradona.

 

Relegation, legitimacy, popularity: What should MLS do to grow in America?

Soccer, or more commonly known around the world as Futbol, is the most popular sport in the world. When the World Cup is on, people worldwide stop what they’re doing and watch. However, in the United States, it’s just that. For the World Cup, everyone in the US watches, but most don’t take a second to look at the MLS. Fans in the US follow other leagues and more popular teams, such as, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Liverpool FC, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Manchester United, Juventus, and the list could go on and on. 

The question we ask when looking at the lack of popularity in the MLS starts with how it’s set up. When you look at the structure, you can ask yourself, what is the MLS lacking? Truthfully it’s simple, a relegation system and legitimacy. In every major league worldwide, there is a relegation system. Finish last? You’re dropped to the second-tier league. Finish with the most points? You win the league. Cut, dry, and straightforward. However, it’s unlikely that the MLS goes through with a second league or a relegation system. 

This is unfortunate, but here is why a relegation system would prompt more fans in the US and worldwide to take the MLS seriously and not just as a retirement league. For this argument, I’m going to use the system that is in German football, the Bundesliga. 

As it currently stands, there are three major leagues in German football with several other leagues down below, which also hold the possibility for promotion and relegation. The same applies in various other leagues worldwide, but with less or more “major leagues.” For example, the Premier League in England has four major leagues, and La Liga in Spain has two. Let’s break the Bundesliga, 2. Bundesliga, and 3. Liga down piece by piece and show examples of how this might work in the MLS. 

 

Bundesliga

-Top German league

-Current champion: Bayern Munich

-The first place wins the league, 17 & 18 place get demoted, 16 plays a playoff game to stay up top.

The Bundesliga doesn’t compare to Spain’s La Liga or England’s Premier League when it comes to worldwide stature. However, German giants Bayern Munich won five trophies, including the Champions League, during 2020. The 2020 UCL win put Bayern as one of four clubs to win six or more UCL titles. The German league is also still considered one of the top five leagues in the world. Unless you go to Twitter, where everyone calls it a “farmers league,” I guess they haven’t seen Serie A yet. When we evaluate the table from this season, this is how the standings in the bottom-3 look like on Matchday 9. 

As we currently stand just eight games in, if the season had to end today 1. FC Koln and FC Schalke 04 would be automatically relegated down to the 2. Bundesliga as they hold the 17 & 18 spots on the table. This would also mean that Arminia Bielefeld  would also face a playoff relegation fight to stay up top. The MLS likes to make things complicated when it comes to standings, but if we took all of the teams and found the bottom three teams from this past season, FC Cincinnati and the Houston Dynamo would be automatically relegated with D.C United fighting to stay afloat. 

 

  1. Bundesliga

-Second-tier German league

-Current champion/promoted: Arminia Bielefeld 

-Follows similar rules to the Bundesliga

I ask you to stay with me a little here as the names start to get a little harder to pronounce. The top two leagues in Germany have played the same amount of games at seven ahead of Matchday 9. If we took the table as it is now, Hamburg SV and Grether Furth would be instantly promoted in place of Mainz and Schalke, and Vfl Osnabruck would play Bielefeld in the playoff to decide who goes up or stays put. There isn’t much to compare directly to the MLS with the bottom two German leagues. However, they’re essential for developing and promoting Germany’s young talent, which is key to the leagues success. Young talent developing in a separate professional league bodes well for the five major leagues, it could do the same in the MLS. 

 

  1. Liga

-Last hope for teams in the major leagues before a demotion to the amateur leagues

-Current champion/promoted: FC Bayern Munich II (the Bayern Youth Team…)

It had the same situation as the first two leagues. Winners go up, and losers go down. In this case, the losers would be demoted to the fourth tier of German football. The only difference is that the bottom four of the 20 club league go down to the fourth tier. No playoffs for them to stay. It’s an automatic relegation. The top two teams do get automatically promoted, and the third team would face off for promotion. We did see an abnormal table last season when FC Bayern Munich II, the youth team for Bayern, won the league. However, due to rules from the governing soccer body in Germany, they’re not allowed to be promoted any further than the third division.

What benefits does a relegation system provide?

Why does it matter if a team gets relegated? Essentially why should you care about relegation or promotion. Well, It’s a situation that would be uncommon to major sports leagues in the US and something that even LAFC coach Bob Bradley would welcome. 

There is a certain passion, as most fans of teams in these worldwide leagues will tell you. The feeling of having the last matchday of the season mean relegation, promotion, or winning the title is a feeling like no other. This goes from fans to the players. The fans build a connection with their team. They embody the club and everything it stands for. The passion they hold for each match is important no matter what the competition.

If the MLS requires the playoffs, then create a separate cup for the top four teams. Running each game as a two-legged affair (except for the final) with teams getting one home and away game. With away goals making the difference as they do in every league worldwide. 

When we related this to the 2019 MLS season, LAFC would’ve won their first MLS title, and the “MLS Cup” would be played between LAFC, NY City, Atlanta United, and the Seattle Sounders. LAFC would’ve faced the Sounders in a 1 vs. 4 seed matchup both home and away. NY City and Atlanta facing off in the 2 vs. 3 seed matchup with the same home and away fixture. Also creating more money, just saying. Make teams earn their spot in the league’s history and don’t allow a 7th place team into a playoff while undeserving.  

Breaking it all down:

For this same situation as the German leagues, we would be breaking down the MLS into three (or four) separate leagues instead of their one-tier league. Each team would play each other twice, and at the end of the season, the team at the top of the table wins the MLS title. It makes each game important during the season and, as the season progresses, leaves little room for error.

The USL Championship already has a system in place with multiple leagues. The MLS could adopt the USL into its system while replacing the youth teams for each MLS team and make a youth league for the MLS. They could even keep the four league system. 

 

  1. MLS
  2. MLS Championship
  3. MLS League One
  4. MLS League Two (Or just a youth league with their own cup but no relegation)

 

This would allow the MLS to keep a top tier league and include the chance for poor placing teams to be relegated to the championship. Not only this, but the US Open Cup already includes both USL teams and MLS teams. Why have a cup that is including both leagues but no relegation? 

There are currently 26 teams in the MLS, with expansion on its way with four more teams, and realistically we’d want the league to be around the 17-20 team range. All of this would be extremely difficult to accomplish, and it would be hard to break down the monetary distribution for the league(s), but it’s possible. 

Interest in the MLS is low in the states and worldwide. Again, it’s considered a retirement league to just about every country in the world. Wayne Rooney came here and essentially retired before moving to Derby County as a player-manager. David Beckham retired with the LA Galaxy, Thierry Henry with the NY Red Bulls, and the league thought it claimed its most recent victim in Zlatan Ibrahimović. The latter played two seasons with the Galaxy before returning to A.C Milan for a second stint in the winter transfer window. Star players from Europe come here to chill out, relax, score some goals, make some money, and retire. Even Gonzalo Higuaín and Blaise Matuidi have no European future and are now Inter Miami C.F. players. 

In an excellent article by Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, he mentions that money is starting to entice the world and, most notably, South American players to come to the MLS and eventually move on to Europe. Let’s say the MLS moves from a retirement league to a developmental league with more reputation and prestige than before. Well, it’s had its success in players like midfielder Miguel Almiron and winger/full-back Alphonso Davies who both moved to Europe in the last few years from the MLS. Almiron moved to the Premier League from Atlanta United and Davies to the Bundesliga from the Vancouver Whitecaps. Davies, a Canadian international, is 19 years old and the starting left-back for Bayern. The MLS can do it, but the biggest question is whether they can keep the casual fan. 

Popularity issues:

When Zlatan made his move to the Galaxy, he was on nightly talk shows, and he instantly became the face of the MLS while players like Carlos Vela and Josef Martinez had better overall seasons. Zlatan was the star with the Galaxy and even mentioned he was, “a Ferrari amongst Fiats”. He left, and now outside of LA who is truly following the Galaxy, or even better, did you hear anything from them at all this season?

They brought in Chicharito to replace that star talent they lost in Zlatan but still lack defense, which was a significant flaw the Galaxy had last season. Which is another problem the MLS faces when building teams. There is too much focus on star power and not the team. What more could Zlatan do without a team around him? They continued their lackluster performances this season without Zlatan, who is back in great form with A.C Milan scoring two-goals against Napoli this past weekend. 

To use the City of Miami as an example of why the MLS lacks in its popularity, I ask you to take a second and think about the types of jerseys you see in stores. What are the team jerseys most commonly worn? The top two teams are, without a doubt, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Ask any kid who loves soccer what their favorite team is, and it’s most likely one of those two top teams in La Liga. You could honestly throw in Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool F.C, Bayern Munich, Juventus, and Paris Saint Germain to the mix. Especially with most of those teams collaborating with shoes, clothing lines, etc. They’re more popular in the US than the MLS is by a mile. 

All of these teams do US tours, and each time they get ideal audiences. Barcelona and Madrid played an El Classico game in Miami, and the crowd was huge. Mind you, it was just a preseason game. Relegation is not why these teams are popular, but their league gets credit for the competition and how every single game matters. The same with the Premier League and the Bundesliga. Each dropped point matters, each mistake, every missed goal, they all provide context for what happens in a team’s season. Currently, the MLS has no reason for teams to panic or even care what happens if they finish last. Adopting a relegation system will ultimately provide more competitive games, bring legitimacy to this “retirement league,” and make each game matter more. 

Helping United States soccer grow:

Finally, we finish with one of the bigger issues. In the United States there is a big issue with the men’s team producing soccer stars. This is an issue in the MLS and how soccer is treated in the states. As it currently stands, the US team has many promising players, and most of them are playing in the Bundesliga (or have before). Top young prospects like Giovanni Reyna and Josh Sargent play in the Bundesliga right now. Reyna just recently signed a new 5-year deal with Borussia Dortmund and Sargent played a huge roll in the 1-1 draw against Bayern this past weekend. 

One of the most popular and successful of the current young stars, Christian Pulisic, plays with Chelsea in the Premier League after moving last summer from Dortmund. Even Weston McKinnie moved on loan from FC Schalke 04 to Juventus. US soccer prospects are moving to Germany to make a living for themselves, and rightfully so. The US gives them no path to make a name for themselves here. 

Top US prospects have grown and have shown the ability to get their name out there and make the most of their opportunities. All are playing outside of the country without any clear development provided in the US right now. They’re also learning the system they will hopefully play through for the rest of their lives. Having a league in their backyard that provides quality football and is respected worldwide would help a younger generation of players fall in love with soccer and develop at an earlier age. 

There is a need for an ability to show a younger generation of people in the US that they can be a successful star in soccer and allowing them to do it in their backyard is the chance of a lifetime. We had Dempsey, Donovan, and Howard in recent years, but none were as successful internationally as Pulisic is now. Create a relegation system, bring legitimacy into the league, and give young stars the chance to succeed here. 

Tua Tagovailoa experienced his first NFL loss and benching on Sunday. (Craig Davis for Five Reasons Sports Network)

Pressure Point: Tua one of many Dolphins who played poorly in loss to Broncos

This will go down as Tua Tagovailoa’s first NFL defeat after wins in his first three starts.

Also, his first time pulled from a game for ineffectiveness.

All of which he summed up succinctly as: “It just sucks to lose.”

A lot of blame will be directed the rookie’s way in the Miami Dolphins’ 20-13 loss Sunday at Denver which ended a five-game winning streak.

But the Dolphins were beaten the old fashioned way in this one. They got soundly whipped up front.

This was a big change from what we’ve seen throughout Miami’s streak. The Broncos were too physical on the line of scrimmage. On offense and defense.

That was evident in the difference in yardage, 459 to 223, advantage Denver. And in the Broncos’ six sacks to zero for a Dolphins defense that has been so impressive in applying pressure in recent weeks.

Miami’s offensive line, featuring two rookies starting and three seeing action — rookie Solomon Kindley left with an injury and rookie Robert Hunt came in at tackle with Jesse Davis moving to guard — had its poorest game of the season.

Dolphins offense struggles

Often Tagovailoa had no time to set up. When there was time, Tua often took too long to find a receiver. That was due in part to receivers struggling to get open — the absence of Preston Williams, on injured reserve, is apparent.

Coach Brian Flores mentioned the trifecta of inadequacies — Tagovailoa, the line and the receivers.

He made the switch at quarterback to Ryan Fitzpatrick with 10:44 remaining because, “At the end of the day we weren’t moving the ball effectively and I just felt like we needed to give ourselves a spark.”

Flores said Tagovailoa wasn’t injured (he’d been on the injury list with an undisclosed foot issue during the week). He also nipped any quarterback controversy in the bud.

Tagovailoa will start next week against the Jets. As well he should.

Without a doubt, the rookie quarterback played poorly Sunday. The Dolphins punted on six of eight possessions with Tua. The only touchdown drive was 22 yards, set up by Xavien Howard’s interception.

“I felt like I was holding the ball a little bit too long,” Tagovailoa said.

Fitzpatrick provides spark but throws clinching interception

Veteran Fitzpatrick came in and provided a spark, leading the Dolphins to a field goal. Then, after Andrew Van Ginkel forced a fumble at the Miami goal line, driving the Dolphins from their own 1 to the Denver 15.

It was vintage Fitzpatrick. The ol’ gunslinger can come in and lead a dramatic comeback or he can take you to the brink and throw the interception that seals defeat.

The later is what happened as Denver free safety Justin Simmons read Fitzpatrick’s intention on a post to DeVante Parker and cut across to pick it off.

It was a bad day all around for the Dolphins in Denver.

Adding to the frustration, a win would have pulled them even with the Bills atop the AFC East at 7-3. It would have been Miami’s best start in 19 years.

Sure, it’s disappointing. But it’s going to happen on the road in the NFL that a team playing well gets outplayed by one that has been struggling.

Dolphins outplayed, outcoached

The Broncos, now 4-6, not only outplayed the Dolphins, they outcoached them.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio is a heck of a defensive mind. His game plan appeared to confuse Tagovailoa and his defense outmuscled Miami.

Tagovailoa finished 11 of 20 for 83 yards. He still has not officially thrown an interception in the NFL. A penalty negated one Sunday.

The accuracy that Tagovailoa had shown in previous games wasn’t there. When he did look deep, he overthrew speedy Jakeem Grant three times.

His most impressive completion of the day was the three-yard fade to Parker for the only Miami touchdown in the first quarter. Tua has been very good in the red zone. But he was unable to get them there again.

Tagovailoa said the right things about his fourth-quarter benching, saying he recognized it was for the good of the team.

Flores said he isn’t concerned about how the loss and benching will affect Tua: “He’s a confident kid. … I think he’s dealt with a lot of adversity. I think he’s fine.”

Tua said he viewed it as a learning experience.

“It’s one way hearing from Fitz when I come to the sideline. … It may seem like [a receiver is] covered to you. It’s another seeing him going out there and kind of doing it.

“For me, a lot of the time I’ve seen guys were covered but they’re not necessarily cover, if that makes sense. Just being able to see a lot of what Fitz was doing when he got in … a lot of it [was] learning lessons for me.”

Reality check for Dolphins

It was also a reality check for a Dolphins team that perhaps is not as good as it may have appeared during the winning streak.

But for perspective, it was the first loss in two months for a rebuilding team that wasn’t considered ready to compete for a playoff spot this year. And Miami remains very much in the race with winnable games the next two weeks.

Also a reminder that a rookie quarterback in his fourth NFL start, no matter how highly acclaimed, has a lot of learning to do and growing pains to go through.

It could be worse. The Cincinnati Bengals, who play the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium in two weeks, lost prized rookie quarterback Joe Burrow to a season-ending knee injury on Sunday.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

E:5: Best Sports Video Games of 2020

Whilst sporting events may have taken a hit over the course of 2020, sports video games have gone from strength to strength.

It has been a tough year for physical events, with cancelations and postponements of fixtures peppering the calendar with uncertainty. The NHL season was postponed, as was the NBA and a host of other sports. To fill the void, some fans turned to online video games instead.

MLB was one organization which turned to an online competition to keep fans amused, with MLB The Show event pitting players from real clubs against each other in competition. Other sports, such as Formula One, followed suit and whilst the world emerges, slowly, from the shadow of 2020, those games have remained popular.

Sports video games have been big business for some time now, with some great titles and some a little less than inspiring. Whether it is an officially licensed game such as the soccer game FIFA or something a little zanier like Mario Tennis Aces, sport makes a great platform for drawing in players. Some developers even use sports themes in titles not directly linked with the game, such as in online slots or puzzle games. There is a diverse collection of titles dedicated to the sports genre on Foxy Games, including 24 Hour Le Mans and Football Star, whilst some big console sports titles encompass puzzle games, such as FIFA’s squad building challenges. Sport, whether played with a ball, racquet or engine, will always find a potential market, whatever the genre.

With such a variety of sports games available, how do you know which ones to buy and which to avoid? The market is choked with great simulations, but these four are arguably the cream of the crop in 2020.

Madden NFL 20

The latest Madden release, Madden 21, is hitting the shelves as we speak, but most players have been focused on Madden 20 through the year. With a franchise such as this, a new game hits the market every year, but that means the old one reduces in price. If you have not played Madden before and want to test the water, you can grab a bargain with the 2020 release. The highlight of the game was the QB1 story mode which offered you the opportunity to create your own quarterback, controlling their rise from College Football into the NFL.

NHL 2020

The NHL games do not gain as much traction in the market as the EA cash cows of Madden and FIFA, but it is an incredibly playable and fun game well worth your time and effort. It does lean on Madden for the superstar abilities mode, but also has a challenge where players can earn rewards for defeating featured squads, assembled by stars, not unlike the popular Ultimate Team mode in FIFA.

UFC 3

Combat games have formed a key part of the video game market for many years, from titles such as Mortal Kombat and Tekken right through to the present day. Boxing titles have always struggled due to the limitations of the combat, but with MMA, the gloves are off (pardon the pun). There are so many options and game modes to choose from, such as customizable fighters and a career mode, that even non-UFC fans will find this title engrossing and long-lasting.

Everybody’s Golf

Everybody’s Golf might not pack the licensed punch of TGC 2019 featuring PGA Tour, but it is an instantly accessible and enjoyable version of the real thing. It was formerly known as Hot Shots Golf and boasts features such as character customization, online play, and the ability to wander around golf courses as a tourist.

Kim Ng Marlins

What Kim Ng Means for the Marlins

It has been quite a rocky road for women in sports. Just ask Kim Ng, the new General Manager of the Miami Marlins. Although her resume speaks for itself (30 years in the sport, two Assistant GM roles, three World Series championships), she has consistently found herself on the short end of the stick. Finally, a team has given her a chance, and as a Miami native, I couldn’t be more proud that the Marlins were the team to pull the trigger. 

Let’s first set the record straight. This is not just a breakthrough for women in sports, it is a breakthrough for the Marlins. Kim was far and away the best choice for the job. With her experience and inherent comfort working in baseball front office, the choice was easy. Within her press conference yesterday, these sentiments were expressed to the fullest extent. Let’s take a look at what Kim Ng talked about and what this means for a promising Miami Marlins future. 

Kim Ng

There were over 100 people at the press conference yesterday. This is not just a local news story, but one that has garnered national attention. Early on, it was clear that Kim has a special bond with both Derek Jeter and Don Mattingly, which will allow her transition to be smooth and effective. As questions rolled in about her past and what led her here, she gracefully expressed her humble origins. Stickball in the streets of Queens growing up, applying a positive mindset to the seemingly insurmountable odds that laid ahead, and her failure is simply an opportunity for growth mentality helped to show her poise in this situation. We got to learn a lot about her and her talents. 

“When I got the job, I felt a huge weight of pressure lift off of my left shoulder. But after 30 minutes, I felt it transition to my right shoulder,” she said. Ng understands that getting this job is the first step. There is plenty more that has to be done to make the Miami Marlins a championship-level team. She expressed that she will continue to utilize everything that she has learned to do this.

What this means for the Marlins

Because of the national attention that this signing received, there was a lack of questions revolving around where Kim will actually take the team. Her personal story of triumph highlighted the day. And although this is clearly deserving, we are left wondering what route she will take to achieve that aforementioned success.

In our recent Youtube video, David, Alejandro, and I talked about where she can take this team. The conclusion we came to was clear. If she trusts the Farm System that has been developed, Kim can potentially put together a winning team internally. Otherwise, she will have to make deals involving our younger talent to win now. Based on our previous year (which was most likely not determinant of how good this team actually is), she will be forced to either accelerate the timeline or simply continue on the path that was originally set. If she decides to do the former, we will go over all of our free agent/trade options in an upcoming video.

All in all, we most likely will not know what is next until Kim Ng makes her first tangible move as GM. Until then, we wait.

Houtz Special: Yes, you should use a waiver claim on Dolphins’ RB Salvon Ahmed

Miami Dolphins RB Salvon Ahmed has looked impressive in Myles Gaskin’s absence. Here’s why you should pick him up in fantasy this week.

Most years, I strut around my fantasy leagues like Connor McGregor, knowing damn well I’m the big dog at the top of the mountain.

But not in 2020. I’ve done terrible this year. Maybe I can blame injuries or unexpected illnesses, but at the end of the day, I just suck.

Which brings me to my point.

I don’t care if you’re in first or last place. PPR or a Tyrannosaurus standard league.

STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING!

Go to your nearest fantasy league app and search the name ‘SALVON AHMED’. Then decide who on your roster is the weakest link, and smash that claim button without hesitation. Now do this for all of your fantasy leagues.

(NOTE: For those of you who are in dynasty leagues, you probably should’ve picked him up last week. But if you mistakenly passed on him, it’s probably not too late.)

Sure, there are a few other players you could consider.

Chargers fans would suggest Kalen Ballage. And though I do think he’s playing better, I’m not falling down that rabbit hole again. Some other free agent running backs to consider are Rex Burkhead and Devontae Booker. Obviously, every league is different. But you should be able to acquire one of these players, and Ahmed happens to be at the top of my list. (surprise)

But this isn’t rocket science.

If you’re a contender, who knows what might happen where you might find yourself in need of a running back down the stretch.

And if you’re not a contender, why not pick up one of these players to prevent one of your opponents from getting help down the stretch?

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather make things difficult for others than sit by the wayside and watch the weeks slowly pass by. Again, I’m not saying completely burn a nice waiver spot. But if you have the chance to improve your team AND make life difficult for those around, please do. There’s also a very good chance if you’re reading this, you’re a Dolphins fan, which gives you even more of a reason to make a move.

Salvon Ahmed is playing well.

Last week, Ahmed carried the ball 7 times for 38 yards–which was the best we’ve seen from a Dolphins’ rookie running back in his NFL debut since Jay Ajayi in November 2015. Ahmed then followed that up by playing 44 (76%) of the team’s offensive snaps vs. the Chargers, on his way to 22 touches for 90 yards and his first career NFL touchdown. What’s most exciting to see is how quick and decisive he’s been with the football in his hand. Yes, Matt Breida could be back this week, and De’Andre Washington might get more involved in the passing game, but as we saw last week, Flores continues to ride the hot hand.

Miami’s RB coach Eric Studesville had nothing but praise for the rookies’ work habits.

Final Yard

In the end, this Dolphins backfield is hard to predict from a fantasy perspective. Some would say it reminds you of the stable of backs in New England and how they can attack you in a number of different ways. And I’d imagine that’s exactly the way Flores and his staff want it. So, while we all sit here and wait for the inevitable rookie running back in 2021, let’s enjoy what we have.

If you’re a fantasy football contender, put a claim in for Salvon Ahmed. If you’re not, you should too.

It should also go without saying, but if you have Myles Gaskin stashed on your roster, you should add Ahmed as a handcuff. No questions asked.

You can ultimately decide when and where to put Salvon Ahmed in your fantasy lineup, but this late in the season with very few options, he’s worth a dart throw for the Dolphins and your Fantasy football team.

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Please take the time to read Jon’s story and remember, any donation helps!

 

Tua Tagovailoa is 3-0 as a starter for the Miami Dolphins. (Craig Davis for Fivereasonssports.com)

Pressure Point: Dolphins find more than a QB—they find how to win

The Tua train rolls on.

That would be the simplistic take on the 6-3 Miami Dolphins. It tells only a piece of the story — albeit an important one — though of a team that won all of five games a year ago and now in this very different season is on a five-game winning streak and stands a mere one-half game out of first place in the AFC East.

Much was made ahead of Sunday’s 29-21 Dolphins win over the Los Angeles Chargers about the first meeting between the quarterbacks drafted one pick apart this past April. So give the decision to Tua Tagovailoa (taken at No. 5 by the Dolphins) over Justin Herbert, if you must.

A better gauge is to look at how two teams that finished 5-11 in 2019 have done since that draft.

It is apparent that both teams have found their quarterback. Of greater significance, the Dolphins in their second season under coach Brian Flores have found how to win.

The Chargers, led by Herbert, have piled up impressive stats. Their offense came into Sunday averaging 420 yards a game, nearly 100 more than Miami (322.9).

But they left Hard Rock Stadium with a 2-7 record, all of their losses by a combined 29 points.

Tua puts up numbers that count

Some Dolphins fans seem bothered that Tagovailoa doesn’t have more gaudy numbers after three starts. They want 300-yard games (he has yet to produce one). They want Marino numbers.

What they are getting with Tagovailoa is of greater consequence: efficiency, effectiveness.

On Sunday, two touchdown passes, 169 yards, 106.9 passer rating, no interceptions.

In three starts, he has thrown five touchdown passes — to five different receivers — and has yet to throw a pick.

Tua joined Carson Wentz (2016) as the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to win their first three starts without throwing an interception.

There were no sacks Sunday. A reflection on the pass protection, to be sure, but also on Tua displaying a quick release and ability to escape the rush.

After Sunday’s win Flores was asked about whether this is the style of play he’s seeking from his team — the implication being that the Dolphins are winning without dazzling.

“I’m not really into style, fashion … but playing team football — offense, defense, special teams — if that’s what you mean, everyone involved, everyone’s role is important, good fundamentals, good technique, and just trying to grind out wins in a tough league, every game’s hard.”

Regarding Tagovailoa, Flores said:

“We’ve talked about this. We have a lot of confidence in all our draft picks, that they’re going to develop and improve. He’s no different. That’s what we’re trying to do, develop and improve, and take it week-to-week.”

Many names add up to Dolphins’ win

On Sunday, the Dolphins won again not just because Tua did his part, but also because of names with less recognition like Andrew Van Ginkel (blocked punt that put them on the doorstep of the first touchdown) and Salvon Ahmed, an undrafted rookie who rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown in his first start at running back.

Jakeem Grant had a game-high 43 yards on four receptions and a touchdown, helping fill the void with Preston Williams in injured reserve. He also contributed to favorable field position by averaging 19 yards on three punt returns.

There was unheralded Zach Sieler, a waiver wire pickup last December, continuing to stand out on the defensive line. He had two tackles for loss. On one, he pressured Herbert, who threw short to a back. Sieler hustled back and made the tackle.

There was cornerback Xavien Howard, flagged four times for pass interference a week ago, with a fourth-quarter interception that took the starch out of any Chargers comeback hopes.

There was defensive back Nik Needham, another undrafted player who has forged a key role in his second season. Needham had a sack and broke up a deep pass for three-time Pro Bowl receiver Keenan Allen.

The Miami secondary kept standout Charger wideouts Allen and Mike Williams mostly in check (combined five catches for 77 yards and a meaningless TD to Allen in the final two minutes).

Defense leads Dolphins’ resurgence

It was no accident Herbert had his worst statistical day in eight starts. The Dolphins defense kept him off balance by disguising their intentions on blitzes and coverage.

It is evident that while Tua may be the conductor, the Flores/Josh Boyer defense is the driving force in this run of seven wins in the past eight games.

“I think defensively we played, … We made it hard for them early in the game, getting off the field on third down. A lot of guys played well. I thought there was good communication, really across the board defensively, the kicking game, offensively,” Flores said.

Also notable was the response of center Ted Karras in standing up for the botched exchange with Tagovailoa as the Dolphins were on the verge of taking a 21-0 lead. Karras said his hands were wet with sweat in explaining why the ball squirted out like a greased pigskin and took full responsibility.

That one play swung the momentum to the Chargers and led to the outcome being in doubt until Howard’s interception.

It was Tua who chased down Nick Vigil and made the tackle on the fumble return.

“Well, that’s a gutsy play and one of the plays of the game and something that is just great team football and not on my part, on that play, and that hurts,” Karras said. “You want to always be the guy to be old reliable, but this team is so fun to play with and there’s a brotherhood here and I think that’s why it hurt me so much. But we rallied … We won the game and we’re going to keep rolling.”

Just another indication that these Dolphins are buying into Flores’ message of everyone doing whatever it takes to grind out wins, whatever it takes.

Including Tua, who ended his postgame media session by declaring, “Go, Fins!”

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

 

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