News Senior Sports Columnist Jerry Sullivan hosted a traditional live chat before shifting in front of the camera with The News' Tim Graham and continuing to answer your questions live.
August 5, 2011 - 7:18 AM
July 8, 2011 - 6:42 AM
News Senior Sports Columnist Jerry Sullivan hosts his weekly live chat at 1 p.m. today. At 2 p.m., he shifts in front of the camera along with The News' Bills beat reporter, Mark Gaughan. Continue to submit your questions in the same fashion and watch for a response.
April 2, 2011 - 6:03 PM
End of game: Butler defeats VCU, 70-62, and earns a second straight trip to the national championship game on Monday night at Reliant Stadium. The Bulldogs will play the winner of tonight's second semifinal between Kentucky and UConn.
Shelvin Mack led the Bulldogs with 24 points. Matt Howard had 17 and eight rebounds. Jamie Skeen of VCU led all scorers with 27 points. Butler outrebounded the Rams, 48-32.
30.5 seconds left in the second half: Butler is up, 67-59, and appears on its way to a second straight trip to the national finals. The Bulldogs played with much more poise down the stretch, its Final Four experience showing in the end. The Rams' rebounding woes hurt them again, too, as Matt Howard put in an offensive rebound after VCU had cut the deficit to four.
2:32 left in the second half: Butler took a 61-54 lead on a huge three-pointer from the left corner by Shawn Vanzant. Shelvin Mack had the ball 25 feet from the basket, dribbling away time, then leaped and heaved a cross-court pass to Vanzant, who drained the three. Matt Howard is back on the floor for Butler and playing tentatively. But Jamie Skeen swished a three at the other end and was fouled on the play by Ronald Nored. So Skeen, who leads all scorers with 25 points, has a chance to complete a four-point play and cut the deficit to three.
It's 61-57, Butler. Wow.
5:58 left in the second half: Butler leads, 56-52. The Bulldogs have played the last 3:24 without Matt Howard, who picked up his fourth foul on a hoop by Jamie Skeen. Shelvin Mack scored after Howard left, giving him 10 straight points, as Butler took a 54-47 lead. Then Joey Rodriguez rattled in a three-pointer for his first points of the night. Shawn Vanzant hit a pullup for Butler, then Darius Theus answered on a give-and-go layup. It'll be interesting to see how long Brad Stevens waits to put Howard back in the game. VCU has been going at him all night, so Stevens will probably wait until we're inside four minutes.
9:39 left in the second half: Shelvin Mack picked up where Hahn left off, scoring eight straight points to give Butler its biggest lead of the night, 52-45.
11:53 left in the second half: Butler has ridden an unlikely hot hand to a 44-43 lead. Reserve guard Zack Hahn scored eight points in a row, including a pair of three-pointers, for the Bulldogs. Hahn hadn't scored eight points in any game in his last 10 and had been five for his last 29 on threes.
15:41 left in the second half: At the regular TV timeout, Butler is up, 36-35. Matt Howard scored low after an inbounds pass. Reddic, a tad giddy after his five points earlier in the half, threw up a ghastly brick from the top of the key. VCU coach Shaka Smart will likely get Jamie Skeen back in now. Skeen has three fouls, but they need the guy. Coaches too often keep star players on the bench with three. Let him play through it. Butler is now winning the boards by 10, 29-19. Sure enough, Skeen is back on the floor.
16:22 left in the second half: VCU goes on a 7-0 run to start the half to take a 35-34 lead. So Butler will trail in the second half again. The Bulldogs have trailed in the second half of eight of their last nine NCAA tourney games. Juvonte Reddic, a 6-9 freshman, gave the Rams a big lift off the bench after Jamie Skeen picked up his third foul on a dumb over-the-back on a rebound. Reddic scored low to cut the deficit to 34-33, then hit a shot from the top of the key to give VCU the lead. Matt Howard has missed two more three-pointers and is 0-for-5 from distance on the night. Another miserable three-point shooting night by a VCU opponent in the tournament.
Halftime stats: Butler is shooting just 33 percent from the field (10 of 30), but the Bulldogs have nine offensive rebounds and are winning the battle of the boards, 22-16. VCU looks like the team with the 298th best rebound margin in America. Butler is outscoring VCU from the line, 11-2, largely because of all the second-chance opportunities. Simple game sometimes. Matt Howard has five rebounds and two steals for Butler -- including a crafty steal of an inbounds pass late in the half.
End of first half: Butler leads, 34-28, after a strong defensive finish to the half. The Bulldogs forced a tieup on one VCU possession, got a steal in the low post on another, and finally forced normally poised VCU point guard Joey Rodriguez to heave a long cross-court pass into the Butler bench with 2.4 seconds left in the half. Shelvin Mack leads all scorers with 13 points for Butler. Jamie Skeen has 12 and Bradford Burgess nine for VCU. Matt Howard has nine for Butler -- seven from the foul line.
3:52 left in the first half: Butler takes its first lead since the early moments as Shelvin Mack nails a three-pointer on the break to make it 25-24. VCU is getting some good looks down low. Jamie Skeen, who had 12 points, scored twice in a row on post-ups over Matt Howard. Butler was getting beaten down low against Florida in the regional final in the early going, too. Somehow, the Bulldogs have a way of staying in games. This game has been very reminiscent of last year's national semifinal, when Butler played a ragged and low-scoring first half against Michigan State.
7:50 left in the first half: VCU leads, 17-15, after a pretty sloppy exchange of possessions. Jamie Skeen made a nice lefthanded running hook in the lane to snap a long scoreless drought by the Rams. Butler has struggled on a couple of offensive trips against the swarming VCU defense. The Bulldogs definitely are not the same offensive time with Ronald Nored, a defensive ace, running the show.
10:15 left in the first half: Butler has rallied to tie the game, 15-15, on the strength of some offensive rebounding. That's not a shock -- VCU is rated 298th in the country in rebound margin and it's their Achilles heel. The Rams have gone cold from the field. They haven't scored since Bradford Burgess hit a three to makeit 15-7. Butler got four free throws from Matt Howard, a put-back from Andrew Smith, and another rebound basket by sub Kyhle Marshall to tie it. It's an 8-0 run and Marshall, who was fouled on his tip-in, has a chance to put Butler ahead with the free throw. He misses it.
14:57 left in the first half: The teams are playing at a very quick and entertaining pace. VCU got off to a cold start, but went on an 11-0 to take an early 11-7 lead over the Bulldogs. True to their NCAA tourney form, the Rams came out firing from long range. They finally got in rhythm as Bradford Burgess, Jamie Skeen and Burgess again hit threes to lift VCU from an early 5-0 deficit to a 9-5 lead.
Butler had a couple of turnovers early against VCU's aggressive defense. They barely averted another against VCU's full-court press. Looks like we're in for a good one. Keep in mind, Butler has trailed in the second half of eight of its last nine victories in the NCAA Tournament.
HOUSTON -- We're about 10 minutes from tipoff here in Reliant Stadium. Have a third-row press seat right next to my old NBA pal, Bob Ryan. The place is buzzing, as is always the case before the first national semifinal. I like to say the first two days of the NCAA Tournament (I mean Thursday and Friday) are the best days in sports. But there's a special buzz before the start of a Final Four.
The starting lineups:
Joey Rodriguez, 5-10 senior guard
Bradford Burgess, 6-6 junior guard
Ed Nixon, 6-4 senior guard
Jamie Skeen, 6-9 senior forward
D.J. Haley, 7-0 freshman center
Shelvin Mack, 6-3 junior guard
Shawn Vanzant, 6-0 sophomore guard
Chase Stigall, 6-4 sophomore guard
Matt Howard, 6-8 senior forward
Andrew Smith, 6-11 sophomore center
Whatever happened to starting two forwards? I'm expecting we'll see a lot of Butler's junior guard Ronald Nored. Nored started last year and is one of the top defensive guards in the country. I can see Brad Stevens using him early and often to check Joey Rodriguez, the terrific point guard for VCU.
December 22, 2010 - 2:59 PM
Tom Brady will come into Buffalo this weekend on an incredible roll, one that has a lot of NFL observers wondering if the Patriots' quarterback is the best ever to play the position. I've considered Brady the best of all time for at least five years, based largely on his winning record and his performance in the playoffs and Super Bowls.
In the long run, statistics have a way of swaying people's opinions. Brady is having a sensational season that could rival what he did in 2007, when he finished the year with a record 50 TD passes. As extraordinary as that year was statistically, this one might be even more impressive.
Brady has completed 66.6 percent of his passes for 3,561 yards and 31 touchdowns. He has thrown only four interceptions. He has not thrown a pick in his last 292 attempts. Brady is 16 shy of Bernie Kosar's record of 308 straight passes without an interception, set for Cleveland in 1990-91. Brady is third on the all-time list behind Bart Starr, who had 294 straight throws without a pick in 1964-65.
It's even more impressive when you consider that Brady has done it against most of the NFL's top defenses -- and while carrying a team with a defense ranked near the bottom of the league. He has played nine games this season against teams with defenses currently ranked in the Top 10 in the league. The Pats are 8-1 in those games. They're averaging 31.3 points. They've scored at least 30 points in six straight games, including wins over Pittsburgh, the Jets, Chicago and Green Bay.
The Patriots haven't turned the ball over in their last six games, an NFL record. They have nine turnovers on the season and are on pace to break the record for fewest turnovers (13) set by the 2088 Dolphins AND Giants. It's amazing when you consider that Brady has two rookie tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez) among his top four receivers, and that Deion Branch rejoined his old team in midseason after the Pats traded Randy Moss.
Brady is 33 years old. Barring injury, he is likely to play at least five more seasons. If he wins at least one more Super Bowl, it will put him ahead of Joe Montana, who is generally considered the best QB of all time. Montana played most of his career with the greatest wide receiver of all time, Jerry Rice. Like Brady, he had a great coach in Bill Walsh.
If Brady wins a Super Bowl and continues to put up these staggering regular-season numbers, a lot more people will come around to the notion that he's the best of all time. So what do you think? Is Brady the best ever? Or does he need to do more to surpass Montana in your estimation? Is it Terry Bradshaw? Dan Marino? John Elway? Otto Graham?
November 28, 2010 - 8:05 PM
It was pretty clear when it happened that Stevie Johnson was having trouble with his dropped TD pass against the Steelers today. Johnson sat at the far end of the bench, staring at the video board, unwilling to watch the game unfolding. Afterwards, he said he would never get over the drop. That's not what you want to hear from a professional athlete who has just recently become a star.
The worst of it was Johnson's post on his Twitter account after the game:
"I praise you 24/7!!!! And this is how you do me!!!! You expect me to learn from this??? How???!!! I'll never forget this!! Ever!!! Thx tho ... "
Wow. It seems Johnson is asking God why he allowed him to suffer such a distressing moment in a football game. It's sad to see a pro athlete wallow in self-pity this way, and yet another reason for me to detest the whole tweeting culture, which demands an instant response to every human happening.
Johnson has to forget it. It's a game. Even the greats drop passes, as Andre Reed told me after the game in the locker room. It must be tough for him. He went from a nobody to a national star in the space of a couple of weeks. Now he's a goat. But part of being a successful athlete is rebounding from adversity. This Bills team has done it all year. They don't need their new star receiver feeling sorry for himself and telling the world that God "did him" in some way.
I'm guessing the Creator has bigger concerns than a star athlete dropping a pass.
November 27, 2010 - 11:10 AM
I checked the NFL standings today and was a little stunned to find that eight of the Bills' first 11 opponents are currently leading or tied for the division lead. The Patriots and Jets are tied at 9-2 atop the AFC East; the Bears and Packers share the NFC North lead at 7-3; the Ravens and Steelers are deadlocked at 7-3 atop the AFC North; the Jaguars' 6-4 mark is good for a tie with the Colts in the AFC South; and the surprising Chiefs are leading the AFC West with a 6-4 record.
So looking ahead to possible ties and draft implications, you might assume the Bills' schedule was far tougher than the Panthers, who are 1-9 and currently positioned to get the top pick in the draft. The tiebreaker at draft time is strength of schedule. The team that played the weaker schedule gets the higher pick, since that suggest the team had the lesser talent.
Well, think again. Carolina's strength of schedule is almost identical to the Bills. Entering Sunday's games, the Bills' 10 opponents have an overall record of 60-44. The Panthers' opponents have an aggregate record of 59-44. The difference in games reflects the fact that games were played on Thanksgiving. Carolina has played two games against Tampa Bay, which is 7-3 and two against the Saints, who are 8-3. They've played two other 7-3 teams: Chicago and Baltimore.
The remaining schedules are also close. The Bills' last six opponents have a record of 36-26. The Panthers' final six are against teams with a 34-26 mark. Both teams play Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The Bills play the Jets and Pats again. But the Panthers play two against Atlanta, now 8-2.
As of this moment, the opponents on the Bills' and Panthers' schedule have the same numer of losses: 70. So it could go down to the wire to determine which team plays the easiest schedule -- and who drafts first in the event of a tie. The Bills seem good enough right now to win a couple more games and make the issue moot. But if you were thinking the Panthers were losing to much weaker opposition, the records say you're wrong.
November 24, 2010 - 3:48 PM
On my WGR radio show a few weeks back, I promised to run down the street in my underwear if Ryan Fitzpatrick finished the season with 30 touchdowns. Fitzpatrick has 18 touchdown passes. He is on pace to throw 32. I still think it's a long shot. But I'm worried. So on Wednesday, I asked Fitz if he would consider running with me if he gets to 30 TDs.
"Absolutely not," he said without hesitation. "But I'll probably be there watching."
Not even with all your clothes on, I asked him?
"No," he said. "I'll be cheering you on."
So I'm taking it as a promise that Fitz will at least be standing alongside the road if I'm forced to hobble on my bad hip down Hertel Avenue in early January. He said he heard about my wager with Jeremy White from a friend the other day and was amused by it.
"Yeah, I think it's funny," he said. "The first thing I got was the mental image, which wasn't pretty. I hope you're not rooting against me."
On the contrary, I'm rooting like hell for Fitz to throw the second-most TD passes in a season in Bills' history: 29.
November 17, 2010 - 3:59 PM
Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick spent two seasons (2007-08) backing up Carson Palmer in Cincinnati. The two became fast friends. Fitz will start against Palmer for the first time on Sunday when the Bengals host the Bills. He said they communicate with one another on a regular basis.
"Yeah," Fitz said. "Just joking, texts back and forth and that kind of stuff. Yeah, we talk about the season and how it's been going, what we're going to go to eat."
Fitz was asked if he and Palmer joked about their passing statistics. "No," Fitzpatrick said. "Are they funny to you? Uh, I don't know. I don't know why I would joke about them."
Well, Fitz might want to needle his mentor about their respective spots in the NFL passing stats. Fitz has taken a tumble the last few weeks. He's dropped to 11th in the NFL in quarterback rating at 85.5. That's one spot in front of Palmer -- a former No. 1 overall draft pick -- in the ratings.
Oh, and Fitz is second in the NFL in third-down passer rating at 110.0, just behind Drew Brees of the Saints. Palmer is 26th at 59.8. He has completed just 50 percent of his third-down throws.
So it'll be a big game for both this Sunday. Fitz admitted it won't be just another game. Palmer, meanwhile, has been struggling for a team that has lost six straight games. If he loses to his former caddy at home, Bengals fans might begin to wonder if they should be the ones looking to take a quarterback high in the draft.
November 3, 2010 - 5:47 PM
Bills coach Chan Gailey was asked his impressions of Shawne Merriman early Wednesday afternoon, before the news broke that the team had claimed Merriman on waivers. He said he hadn't seen Merriman in awhile. Gailey also said he had no recollection of coaching against the former Maryland star when he was coaching Georgia Tech, a rival in the ACC.
"I think he was gone by the time I got there," Gailey said.
Both claims seem a bit curious. For one thing, it's hard to imagine the Bills making a claim on Merriman without the head coach being involved in the process. It's well-established that Gailey and Buddy Nix are attached at the hip on all team matters.
As for the latter notion, Gailey was the head coach at Georgia Tech from 2002 through 2007. Merriman played at Maryland from 2002 through 2004. So their time in the ACC overlapped for three seasons.
Bills fans can only hope that Merriman makes a better impression on Gailey this time around.
October 18, 2010 - 4:24 PM
The Bills had a bye on Sunday, but they moved a tiny bit closer to getting the first overall pick in next April's draft when San Francisco won the Battle of the Bay against the Raiders. That leaves the Bills and Panthers as the only winless teams in the NFL.
It's a long road, but I think the Bills are in the driver's seat. For one thing, they're the worst team in the NFL. They have the worst talent in the sport, which will happen when you consistently blow first-round draft picks and don't bring in any quality free agents. If the injuries continue to mount, and their opponents have something to play for late in the year, the Bills could win this going away.
Carolina is 0-5, but the Panthers are better than their record. They're weak at quarterback, but they're second in the league in pass defense and sixth overall on D. They also have a fairly easy schedule. The Panthers host the 1-5 Niners on Sunday. They also have games remaining against St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Arizona and Seattle. I see them with three wins at least.
San Francisco is a decent 1-5 team. They were picked to win the NFC West and their owner says they're still going to win the division. With Arizona, Seattle and St. Louis in the division, I wouldn't rule it out. No team with Patrick Willis is going to go 1-15. I figure them for at least four wins.
Detroit is not a bad team. In fact, the 1-5 Lions have outscored their opponents this season, 146-140. I wouldn't be surprised to see them favored when they come to Buffalo on Nov. 14. Even if the Bills win that game, I see the Lions finishing with a better record.
Dallas is 1-4. They're the top-rated defense in the NFL. I wouldn't include them, but it gives me a chance to get a dig in against Wade Phillips, who is lucky to still be employed as an NFL head coach. Some Bills fans think of him as the last good Buffalo coach, but he had exceptional talent and didn't wina playoff game. Wade is a poor detail man, as Colin Cowherd said on his radio show today. Phillips will probably coach the Cowboys up to an 8-8 record.
Cleveland. The Browns (1-5) are probably the biggest threat to the No. 1 pick. They play in a tough division. They have games left with New England, New Orleans, the Jets, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. If they lose to the Bills here on Dec. 12, they could get the first pick in the draft. But they host Carolina on Nov. 28 and could be two games up on the Bills by then.
What do you think? Who has the best shot at No. 1 overall?
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