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#pounditMonday, December 6, 2021

Stories by Grey Papke:

Jared Goff had ugly turnover after questionable Dan Campbell decision

Jared Goff strip sack

If you wanted to encapsulate the Detroit Lions’ season into one play, the decision they made late in Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings would be a good place to start.

The Lions had actually jumped out to a 20-6 halftime lead over the Minnesota Vikings, but Minnesota cut away at that lead in the second half. Detroit still held a 23-21 lead with 4:08 to go in the fourth quarter, at which point coach Dan Campbell faced a big decision. The Lions had 4th and 1 from their own 28 yard line, and instead of punting and playing field position, Campbell made the bold decision to go for it.

The Lions tried to fool the Vikings with a playaction pass, but it didn’t work. Not only did it not work, but quarterback Jared Goff found himself under pressure and wound up getting strip-sacked.

The Lions are 0-10-1. It’s not as if they have much to lose. If anything, they look very gutsy if they manage to get the first down there. However, if the goal is to maximize your chances of winning the game, the punt is the way to go in that spot. Goff deserves plenty of blame as well — there’s no way he can hold onto the ball that long under duress and expect to get away with it.

Campbell has won praise for his uniquely emotional personality. With more experience, he may become a solid playcaller and decision-maker as well.

Predictably, Minnesota went on to score a go-ahead touchdown with the extremely short field and went ahead 27-23. Amazingly, however, the Lions executed the two-minute drill and scored a walkoff touchdown for a 29-27 win.

Nikola Jokic has funny request for Nuggets after big game

Nikola Jokic

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is ready to embrace a new road trip ritual.

Jokic and the Nuggets were in New York over the weekend to play the Knicks, and had some downtime in the city. Jokic used that time to take in harness racing at The Meadowlands, and it sounds like he enjoyed the experience.

Not only that, but Jokic went off for 32 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists in Saturday’s win over the Knicks. That was enough for Jokic to contemplate making a harness racing trip a part of his road trip itinerary.

If taking in a horse race actually bolstered Jokic’s road numbers, the Nuggets would probably get right on it. On the other hand, those numbers aren’t that far off Jokic’s season averages of 25.7 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game, so how much did it really help?

We do know that Jokic was having some fun with one of the Knicks’ most famous fans during Saturday’s game. Maybe the reigning MVP just needs to banter with Spike Lee regularly to post huge lines.

Bill Belichick has funny reaction to ugly weather forecast for Patriots-Bills

Bill Belichick

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is a master of understatement sometimes. That includes when assessing weather forecasts, it turns out.

The Patriots are set to face the Buffalo Bills on Monday night, with the weather forecast looking a bit nasty. As of Saturday, temperatures were projected to drop into the 20s on Monday evening, with a chance of rain and 50 MPH wind gusts.

Belichick isn’t doing anything special to prepare for the weather. When asked about it, he had a pretty dryly hilarious response.

“Usually we’ll talk about it once we know for sure what it us,” Belichick said, via Chris Mason of Mass Live. “A lot of times that’s when we get to the stadium. It’s hard to really hang your hat on a lot of predictions here. So we’ll go with the known information understanding what it obviously could be.

“We’re not expecting overheating and fans on the sideline.”

That is an entirely fair assessment of the forecast. If anything, Belichick will probably embrace it considering the Patriots’ affinity for chilly weather.

The wind may make it a tough evening for passers, but that will probably suit the Patriots too. After all, only five quarterbacks have more pass attempts on the season than Buffalo’s Josh Allen. That could play right into New England’s hands.

Bryce Young Heisman hype grows after first half performance vs. Georgia

Bryce Young wearing headphones

The race for the Heisman Trophy has been wide open for much of the season, but Alabama quarterback Bryce Young may have made the final statement on Saturday.

Young was outstanding in the first half of Saturday’s SEC Championship, lighting up Georgia’s dominant defense. Young went 17-for-27 for 286 yards, throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions. He added 40 yards on the ground, and rushed for a third touchdown.

The hype was entirely justified. Alabama put up 365 total yards on a Georgia defense that has averaged 231 yards allowed per game all season. It was enough for many to anoint Young the Heisman frontrunner before halftime.

It’s hard to argue with any of that. Young lit up a historically great defense on a huge stage. If that isn’t what Heisman voters are looking for, it’s hard to figure out what would sway them.

Young certainly appears to have matured from earlier in the season when he was causing Nick Saban to nearly lose his mind. The Heisman may well be in the quarterback’s future after Saturday.

Photo: Dec 4, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) walks into Mercedes-Benz Stadium before the SEC championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Jones has bold Ezekiel Elliott prediction for rest of season

Ezekiel Elliott

The status of running back Ezekiel Elliott has been a big focus lately for the Dallas Cowboys, as the running back continues to battle a knee injury. It you believe Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, however, the worst is behind the running back.

On Friday, Jones told 105.3 The Fan that Elliott’s trainers believe the running back is “good to go,” and that a ten-day rest will get Elliott back to full health.

“His trainers, the people that are the closest to his health, his medical situation, they think he’s really good to go,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News’ “SportsDay.” “And, so, I don’t see after a 10-day rest here, you know, a lot of times, if you can get through games, if you can push on, then that’s better for you than sitting it out. You actually, if you have an issue, it improves if you’re able to get through and not injure it more. He certainly didn’t injure anything more last night. So, I really look forward to a powerful and dynamic Zeke as we move on into this last part of the season.”

Whether Jones is talking based on something he knows or is offering some hopeful speculation is not clear. We do know that there was legitimate concern about Elliott missing time due to the nagging knee issue. He also didn’t look any better Thursday against the Saints, picking up just 45 yards on 13 carries. The rest should help, but it’s hard to envision Elliott closing the season the way Jones seems to think he can.

Marcus Freeman hire likely to help Notre Dame’s playoff chances?

Marcus Freeman before a game

The College Football Playoff selection committee sparked some worry for Notre Dame after admitting that coach Brian Kelly’s abrupt departure might negatively impact the school’s playoff chances. Those worries are no longer in play, partly because of who the Irish tapped as Kelly’s replacement.

CFP committee chairman Gary Barta said Saturday that the committee had discussed the Notre Dame situation, and it will no longer factor into the evaluation of the Fighting Irish. Barta attributed that to the fact that Notre Dame made an internal hire in coach Marcus Freeman, and that the majority of the school’s assistants were staying instead of following Kelly to LSU.

This is the way it should be. Kelly and his coaching certainly helped Notre Dame, and he did recruit the players. It was those players, however, who put in the work and posted an 11-1 record. Kelly himself readily admitted to that.

Barta had previously suggested that the instability at Notre Dame could work against them in playoff consideration. Now that that’s off the table, the team’s chances look better than ever thanks in part to a dramatic result in the Big 12 Championship.

Photo: Oct 2, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish Defensive Coordinator Marcus Freeman enters Notre Dame Stadium before the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma State loses to Baylor by inches on final play at goal line

Dezmon Jackson goal line

The Big 12 Championship provided a ton of drama on Saturday, and the ending likely knocked one team out of contention for a College Football Playoff bid.

The Baylor Bears held off a spirited comeback bid from the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Saturday’s championship. It culminated in a last-minute goal-line stand that saw Baylor make three consecutive stops with the Cowboys at the one-yard line.

Oklahoma State trailed 21-16 and drove 89 yards to set themselves up for a potential go-ahead touchdown. A pass interference call in the end zone gave the Cowboys the ball at Baylor’s two-yard line with 1:19 left. After gaining a yard on first down, the Cowboys were stopped twice at the one, setting up a do-or-die 4th and goal play.

The Cowboys came within inches of taking the lead, as running back Dezmon Jackson bounced outside and tried to get the corner. He came up inches short, with Baylor safety Jairon McVea putting together a vital pursuit to cut Jackson off from the end zone.

The pylon cam showed just how close Jackson came to breaking the plane.

That is ultimately how close Oklahoma State came to a playoff bid. The Cowboys came into Saturday’s game at 11-1, and would have been a likely playoff team with a win. They were significantly hindered by the absence of star running back Jaylen Warren, who did not play with an ankle injury. Warren’s absence was particularly notable in light of Oklahoma State’s inability to punch it in at the goal line.

The Cowboys’ loss is great news for Notre Dame, especially in light of this admission from the chair of the College Football Playoff selection committee.

ABC made bizarre technical mistake at halftime of Big 12 title game

ABC Hoover Met shot

ABC’s broadcast of Saturday’s Big 12 Championship had a brief and inexplicable technical error at halftime.

The telecast was cutting to commercial and running through sponsors in typical fashion. However, eagle-eyed viewers noticed something very odd: the video used was of Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Alabama, the site of the SEC baseball tournament.

Not many people noticed, but those that did were left utterly baffled.

Maybe this was actually on purpose and ABC producers just thought the video made for good flavor, even though it had absolutely nothing to do with the Big 12 title game. The footage wasn’t even particularly recent, judging by the fact that the flags of SEC schools were flying in front of the stadium.

The good news? It’s not as if this actually matters, or hinders the telecast in anyway. There are enough examples of those sorts of mistakes, and ABC did not want to add to their ranks.