The Pulse: NFL blunders, LeBron’s next record and MVP trade

The Pulse: NFL blunders, LeBron’s next record and MVP trade

Updated: 2 months, 11 days, 5 hours, 59 minutes, 39 seconds ago

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Good morning! Use all your timeouts today, please.

NFL Playoffs

What’s a timeout worth anyway?

I was so, so wrong about how the weekend NFL playoff slate would go. Instead of three blowouts, we got three fantastic games yesterday — each one defined by a maddening decision.


The Dolphins blew it. Down three with just 2:29 left, Miami faced a fourth-and-1 at their own 48. A quick QB sneak probably picks up the yard and gives them a beautiful chance to advance into field-goal range or better. Mike McDaniel and his coaching staff couldn’t get the call in, even with some additional time to prep, due to an injury on the field. They took a delay of game, and the opportunity vanished. Bills 34, Dolphins 31.

Kalyn Kahler took a close look at the Dolphins’ wild season, which included some beautiful playcalling … except when it mattered most.

So did the Vikings. Minnesota carried in some impressive juju (11-0 in one-score games) that, in hindsight, was due to run out. It evaporated on fourth-and-8 on their own 48, when Kirk Cousins inexplicably threw a three-yard out route to T.J. Hockenson. How do you throw that with the season on the line? Woof. Giants 31, Vikings 24.

And John Harbaugh still has a timeout left. The Ravens drove all the way to the 17-yard line with 1:17 left. By not using one of two remaining timeouts, Harbaugh let more than 30 seconds run off the clock before snapping the ball. It was a mess from there, although James Proche came this close to catching what could’ve been the game-tying score. Bengals 24, Ravens 17.

The Ravens almost caught the hail mary off the deflection 😳

Bengals move on to the divisional round.

🎥 @NFL

— The Athletic NFL (@TheAthleticNFL) January 16, 2023

For the Ravens, the Summer of Lamar begins. Will they tag him? Trade him? Give him the money he wants? Oddly enough, Jackson didn’t even travel with the team to Cincinnati yesterday.

Next weekend should be fantastic — see the full divisional-round slate here, pending tonight’s Cowboys-Bucs winner. Bengals–Bills (Sunday at 3 p.m. ET) is your headliner. More on that one this week.

Serious Matters

A tragic Sunday in the college sports world

Tuscaloosa police charged Alabama basketball player Darius Miles with capital murder after a fatal shooting near Alabama’s campus. reported Jamea Harris, 23, died after a minor Sunday morning altercation near a popular late-night stretch in Tuscaloosa. Georgia offensive lineman Devin Willock and recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy died in a car crash early Sunday, the school announced. “Devin and Chandler were two special people who meant so much to the University of Georgia,” Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks said in a statement. Offensive lineman Warren McClendon and a female passenger were also involved, and both are in stable condition, according to the university.


Former MVP traded
The Connecticut Sun are sending 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones to the New York Liberty as part of a three-team trade, according to multiple reports. Jones, 29, averaged 14.6 points and 8.6 rebounds last season. She’ll be a key scoring threat in New York alongside star Sabrina Ionescu. The question now is: Will the Liberty still go after Breanna Stewart in free agency?


Penn State grabs WR transfer
Former Kent State receiver Dante Cephas committed to Penn State yesterday, a big win for a Nittany Lions team that feels primed to contend next season. Cephas is a former three-star recruit turned All-MAC receiver who’d ranked No. 3 among our best available transfers. He chose Penn State over Georgia, UCLA, Notre Dame and others.

Stats to Melt Your Brain

It’s just LeBron and Kareem

LeBron James hit a 20-foot jumper early in the Lakers’ loss to the Sixers, giving him 38,000 career points. The 38,000-Point Club now has a whole two members: James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

We tire of the LeBron news cycle. I get it. It’s even more excruciating when his team isn’t great. But he’s 38 and playing like a top-10 player in the league right now. We shouldn’t lose sight of how absurd that is. Just because he makes it look normal doesn’t mean it is normal.

Barring injury, James will surpass Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time NBA points leader this year. Just 363 points to go, or about 13 games at his current scoring pace.

Things You Need to See

Sam Hubbard’s sprint

Yes, this play deserves its own section. Bengals defensive end Hubbard — listed at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds — arguably won the game yesterday with his incredible, lumbering 98-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

It is the longest touchdown in Bengals playoff history, and the longest distance any ball carrier traveled on a touchdown run this year.

I hope this video plays on loop in some team museum exhibit soon:


A 98-yard turn around. A 14-point swing.

Sam Hubbard takes it all the way for the Bengals lead.

🎥 @NFL | @Bengals

— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) January 16, 2023

Pulse Picks

・We have early odds on upcoming NFL playoff games here. Bengals +165 seems like your best bet to me.


・Pierre LeBrun picks five perfect NHL trades, including Ryan O’Reilly to the Maple Leafs.

・Oh boy: If Jim Irsay hires Jeff Saturday to be the Colts’ permanent head coach — which appears to be a real possibility — he risks running afoul of the Rooney Rule.

・Seth Davis stakes his claim in January: One of these eight teams will win the national title. Davis’ column also represents a touching Grant Wahl tribute.

・Ken Rosenthal empties the notebook, highlighted by a possible Royals-Zack Greinke reunion.

・Unranked USC stunned No. 2 Stanford yesterday. How far did they fall in the women’s college basketball power rankings? Sabreena Merchant answers.

(Photo: Matt Krohn / USA Today)