By Dan Walk
1 The question in Cleveland is no longer “Why is Brandon Weeden the starting quarterback?” What I’m wondering is why is Weeden still in the NFL? He’s a washed up baseball player. The Browns are better off signing Tim Tebow — he at least is able to finish close games, even if he struggles throughout the first three quarters. Weeden plays his worst ball when it matters the most. Weeden’s sorry attempt of a pass on first down at midfield with 4:40 left in the game is one of the worst plays in NFL history when you consider the situation. Take the sack and move on.
2 Watching Brady lead a game-winning 70-yard touchdown drive in just 68 seconds makes me think of the saying that prevent defense prevents the defense from winning. But even before that, the Saints’ high-octane offense blew the game by failing to get a first down on consecutive drives in the final three minutes. Running the clock out is great and all, but why not put the ball in Drew Brees’ hands and pass on first or second down? Sean Payton’s greatness didn’t shine through on Sunday.
3 It’s sad to see how the Texans fans have acted toward quarterback Matt Schaub. It’s no secret Schaub has struggled and he’s a big reason why Houston, once a legit Super Bowl contender, has dropped four straight games. But there’s really no excuse for cheering a guy as he lays there with an injured leg. Booing him when he doesn’t perform is fine. But the fans didn’t have to kick him while he was down.
4 NFL quick hits: Denver scored 35 points and won by 16, yet it was a “bad” day for the Broncos because of the 27-point spread. ... Knowing for years by some to have the loudest fans in the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs fans at Arrowhead Stadium broke the world record for an outdoor sports venue by reaching 137.5 decibels on Sunday. ... Top 5: 1. Denver (6-0), 2. Seattle (5-1), 3. Kansas City (6-0), 4. New England (5-1), 5. New Orleans (5-1). Indianapolis gets an honorable mention as its Monday night game usually doesn’t end in time for our deadline. ... And the bottom 5: 32. Jacksonville (0-6), 31. New York Giants (0-6), 30. Tampa Bay (0-5), 29. Pittsburgh (1-4), 28. Minnesota (1-4).
5 It’s amazing how a game, a series and a season can turn on one pitch. In the 17th inning of series in which Boston had just three hits, David Ortiz’s grand slam tied the game at 5. One inning later, and the Red Sox are tied at 1 with the Tigers in the ALCS. Suddenly, just four outs away from heading home with a 2-0 series lead, Detroit is in what’s nearly a must-win situation with Justin Verlander on the mound tonight. Detroit was in total control before the grand slam, while Boston now has the momentum.
6 The Tigers’ two biggest issues snuck up on them during Sunday’s game: the lack of a closer and a poor defense. Prince Fielder is not a first baseman. Joaquin Benoit is not a closer. Fielder is only on the field because Victor Martinez can’t stay healthy enough to stay at first. Benoit is an eighth-inning guy at best. The Tigers are in trouble because even if Verlander, Max Scherzer and the rest of Detroit rotation can put up zeros in the run and hit columns, Boston is great at working pitch counts. It’s hard to get into the seventh inning without throwing 100-plus pitches against the Red Sox — meaning the Tigers will need the bullpen if they want to reach the World Series.
7 If it wasn’t already known, this MLB postseason has reinforced that elite pitching wins championships. During the six elimination games so far, the losing team hasn’t scored more than three runs — and four of those teams (Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Oakland) scored one or fewer. There’s nothing more important that having that shutdown starter with the season on the line.
8 With four teams left in the MLB playoffs, the Cardinals are the favorite in my eyes. Why? Behind ace pitcher Adam Wainwright is Michael Wacha, who has allowed just one run on seven hits over his last 22 2/3 innings. That includes a 7 2/3 clutch innings against the Pirates in Game 4 of the NLDS when St. Louis was on the brink of elimination. He then didn’t allow a run on Saturday to help the Cards go up 2-0 against the Dodgers in the NLCS. With Wacha and Wainwright available for two more games this series, Los Angeles is in trouble.
9 The two best heavyweights in the world face off Saturday at UFC 166. Champion Cain Velasquez once again defends his belt against Junior dos Santos in a fight for which I’ve been waiting quite a while. Dos Santos needed just 64 seconds to knock out Velasquez in November 2011 for his first UFC heavyweight title, while a unanimous decision victory in December 2012 brought the championship back Velasquez’s corner. Saturday’s bout will serve as the rubber match. It’s no secret that Velasquez has better conditioning and dos Santos has better knockout power. Either dos Santos scores another early KO or Velasquez drags out another decision or scores a late TKO. I’m more inclined to favor with a second-round finish for dos Santos.
10 This will be the last weekly edition of Walk Talk. It’s been a great two years — that’s more than 100 columns and 1,000-plus topics. I still plan to write sporadically but just not on weekly basis anymore. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read this over the years — even if it’s one or two topics per week. And an even greater thank you goes out to the people who have emailed or called me with their comments.
Dan Walk can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.