Tag Archives: Twitter

A memorable college football play, according to Twitter

I’m not exactly in Twitter’s target demographic, but I’m on there just the same. Call it an occupational hazard. By following a bunch of athletes and sports media types — plus William Shatner, of course — it becomes something of an instantaneous news feed for someone in my line of work.

But instantaneous is the right word. If you don’t have some device buzzing against your leg every time anybody says¬†anything¬†— and I don’t — it’s only good for the period you’re reading it.

So anyway. There was a play in the second quarter of the Alabama-Texas A&M game today that had the makings of an instant classic.

A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the only freshman in history to win the Heisman Trophy a year ago, took a snap on third-and-eight from the Alabama 34-yard line. He retreated to pass, then retreated some more from the five-man Alabama pass rush. Crimson Tide defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan broke free and came after him. Manziel retreated some more.

Pagan carried a fistful of Manziel’s jersey from about the A&M 45 to the 42, creating the possibility a referee would judge Manziel “in the grasp” and blow the play dead.

But no referee did, so Manziel did what he does, which is escape. He spun away from Pagan, then darted right, where the rest of the Crimson Tide pass rush was still coming. Retreating just behind his own 40-yard line, 26 yards behind the line of scrimmage, Manziel heaved the ball down the middle of the field. An instant later he was knocked to the ground by Alabama linebacker C. J. Mosley.

Meanwhile, back in Alabama territory, where the play began, a small convention of white and maroon jerseys gathered for the arrival of the ball, more of them white (Alabama defensive backs) than maroon (Manziel’s receivers). But Edward Pope, a 6-foot-4-inch freshman clad in maroon, elevated above the crowd and snatched the ball, falling on his back at the Alabama 22.

To summarize: A harrowing retreat and escape by Johnny Football (becoming known in the Twitterverse as JFF, much as Peyton Manning is known as PFM, the socially acceptable alternative for the middle initial being “freaking”) followed by a 38-yard pass fired as he ran for his life laterally, still retreating vertically, which turned into a 12-yard gain and one of the more amazing third-down conversions I’ve seen.

It was not significant in terms of the outcome. Manziel ended the drive by throwing an interception in the end zone. But the play will no doubt live on forever on YouTube and elsewhere as a tribute to Manziel, college football’s biggest star, and an echo of the famous Eli Manning escape and desperation heave in Super Bowl 42 that ended with David Tyree’s “helmet catch.”

The reaction on Twitter, of course, was instantaneous. My feed is presented here without comment and in chronological order from moments after the play. This portion came within about two minutes. There was awe, humor and, of course, the scolds:

Pat Forde (Yahoo Sports): Oh my Lord, JFF.

Jason McIntyre (The Big Lead): OH MY GOSH MANZIEL

Tavarres King (Broncos practice squad): Lucky lil duck

Dan Wolken (USA Today): WHAT THE

Mike Freeman (CBS Sports): OhmyGod. #OhMyGod #Twitterexplodes

Greg Bedard (Sports Illustrated): Holy Manning to Tyree flashbacks

Bonnie Bernstein (Campus Insiders): ARE YOU KIDDING ME with that scramble? #Manzielmagic

Rick Reilly (ESPN): That’s a signature play for Johnny Manziel.

Michael Smith (ESPN): Johnny Manziel > Eli Manning LOL

David Dahl (Rockies 2012 No. 1 draft pick): Two words: Johnny Football

Erin Andrews (Fox Sports): STOP IT #thirddown

Chris Harris (Broncos cornerback): WTH lol Johnny football lucky

Kevin Corke (CBS Sports): UNBELIEVABLE!!!!! #JohnnyFootball

Josina Anderson (ESPN): You can’t tell Manziel anything now.

Jordan Hamilton (Nuggets swingman): That boy Manziel unreal!

Doug Gottlieb (CBS Sports): Incredible play, horrible decision in reality . . . no?

Bomani Jones (ESPN): bet that was frustrating.

Chuck Culpepper (Sports on Earth): That play will run on all our various screens in perpetuity.

Frank Schwab (Yahoo Sports): Fun play, but what a horrible pass. Worked out. You’ll see that highlight a million times.

Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): That was a horrible throw Manziel got away with. Don’t praise that

Gregg Doyel (CBS Sports): Manziel is way too good to be lucky too! Great escape. Lucky pass. Fun.

Dave Hyde (South Florida Sun-Sentinel): Will that Manziel pass be replayed more than Clowney’s hit last year?

Within a minute or two, Twitter moved on. The game turned into a memorable 49-42 shootout. A&M lost, but Manziel & Co. put up more points on the Crimson Tide than it’s seen from an opponent under coach Nick Saban. If you missed the play, don’t worry. It will be playing on SportsCenter indefinitely.

Winning without your fastball

No question about it, the Broncos lost valuable style points Sunday in Kansas City.

Wait, what? There is no column for style points in the standings? Oh, then never mind.

Before complaining about the Broncos’ season-low point total (17) or season-high missed field goal total (2) in their sixth straight win, keep this in mind:

In 2008, a Chiefs team that finished 2-14 beat the Broncos at Arrowhead, 33-19.

A year later, a Chiefs team that was 3-12 at the time came to Denver for the season finale and blew out the Broncos, 44-24.

In their 22 previous visits to Arrowhead, the Broncos were 7-15.

The Chiefs have been dysentery to the Broncos. No matter how bad they are, they can still ruin Denver’s day.

So winning at Arrowhead is its own reward. How the Broncos get there is all fine print. Fortunately, this is not college football. There are no voters to judge the dominance of a win or computer algorithms to assess the margin of victory. In the NFL, as Bill Parcells famously said, you are what your record says you are. The Broncos’ record says they are 8-3, six games after starting the season 2-3.

It also says they are 4-0 against division opponents with games at Oakland (3-8) and at home against Kansas City (1-10) still to play. They are already guaranteed a winning record within the AFC West for the first time since 2005.

The game? The game was like watching a power pitcher on a day he lacks command of his fastball. Can he find another way to win? Will he grind it out or flip out?

This was not the finest game Peyton Manning’s receivers have played. With the ball at their own 2-yard line and 8 minutes to play, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was fearless, calling three consecutive pass plays. On first down, Manning put the ball on the hands of wide receiver Demaryius Thomas on a split screen. On second down, he put it on the hands of tight end Joel Dreessen on a crossing pattern. Neither made the catch.

Still, the defense did its job once more and when the Broncos got it back at their 16 with 6:24 remaining, they put together a 12-play, 68-yard drive that ended in a confidence-restoring field goal for Matt Prater, who had missed twice for the first time all year, and drained all but 14 seconds off the game clock in the process.

“This is the kind of a drive that championship teams put together,” CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf said. “This is just a demonstration of how to win football games, what Denver has done on this drive.”

Here are some reactions to the 17-9 win from Broncos players in their own words, posted on Twitter, with spelling and contractions as posted:

Tight end Jacob Tamme: “Another good team win on the road! Records mean nothing. Hard fought, man.”

Defensive lineman Derek Wolfe: “Def wasnt pretty but a wins a win and we gotta keep on rollin”

Omar Bolden: “Sometimes it’s pretty and sometimes it’s ugly. . . . I really don’t care what it is as long as its a W!!!”

Chris Harris: “Blessed to be able to play in front of my Fam & friends today. I came a long way.”

Eric Decker: “W is a W in this league! What’s better than 5 in a row, #BroncosCountry? 6 in a row!!”

A pattern has emerged in Manning’s post-game ruminations. When outsiders are piling on the praise, Manning responds with caution, emphasizing things his team could do better. When outsiders are critical, Manning defends his guys.

But after praising the work of Knowshon Moreno, who stepped in productively for injured Willis McGahee after spending most of the season on the scout team, Manning made it clear the Broncos will be working on their shortcomings in Kansas City as they prepare for Tampa Bay next week.

“I know Jack Del Rio has high expectations for the defense,” he said. “Mike McCoy has high expectations for the offense. Ultimately, it is about winning the game, but certainly we want to try to fulfill those expectations that the coaches have for us. They set goals for us. There are certain parts of the game, certain goals for the game, they want to accomplish, whether it’s ball security, red zone, third down.

“Sometimes, you won’t hit on all those goals, yet you can still win the game. So when we watch the film, the coaches are very constructive of us and the players are very accountable in wanting to hit those goals and play better. I think that’s the sign of guys that certainly have the right attitude, in my opinion.”

Manning also disclosed that Broncos players have recently added a players-only film session in which they are expected to own up to their own failings.

“Certainly, I think players being accountable is very important,” he said. “These past couple weeks we’ve been watching the game film together — just the players; the coaches aren’t in there. It’s the player’s job to speak up on what he did wrong if there was a mistake he made, and what he can do better.

“I know offensively that’s been productive for us. I know defensively Champ (Bailey) and Elvis (Dumervil) have said the same thing. Ultimately, players have to hold each other accountable. You’re certainly always trying to get better, and you want to get better late in the season. Either you get better or you get worse; you don’t stay the same. So certainly our goal is to get better every week.”

For the first time all year, the Broncos won a game in which they did not score 30 points. The hidden story of the winning streak has been their growing confidence on the defensive side of the ball. Del Rio has taken a unit that finished 20th in total defense a year ago and moved it into the league’s top 10.

Its pash rush couldn’t take over this one because the Chiefs don’t much like to pass. Even in a loss, they ran the ball more often than they threw it. Former Bronco Brady Quinn was accurate early (nine of 11 in the first half) and familiar late (four of 14 and an interception after intermission).

Despite 107 yards rushing from Jamaal Charles, Del Rio’s unit held the Chiefs to 264 yards of offense and kept them out of the end zone all day.

It may not have been a work of art, but it wasn’t an Arrowhead horror movie, either. The Broncos will take it, happily, and move on to the next one.