The Hewitt Report: January 3rd, 2022
Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals are a serious threat to anyone in the AFC after an electric win against Kansas City in the 'Jungle.'
Don’t be too excited for 2022
Well, welcome, everyone, to the first column of 2022. If you didn’t read the email header, I’ll reiterate that the new schedule for this year is a tri-weekly column schedule with articles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with the occasional extra post (which would be a feature) and a weekly podcast. Instead of just using the Spotify embed feature, I’ll also attach the audio file here on Substack.
Anyway, how’s it going? Here we are, 2022. The year has much promise as many experts predict that the COVID-19 pandemic will fade away into an endemic. Now, we have to dampen are hopes for COVID leaving our lives for good (just like baseball has), since many believed the same going into 2021. But the yearlong narrative of an endemic is much more plausible given the state of vaccination. (At least in Canada.) The actual query should be: how could we contain another variant if there is one? The latest variant, Omnicron, has lesser side effects (pro) but it spreads like a wildfire. (Con.)
South Africa, the country in which Omnicron originated from, has said that the variant has “passed it’s peak.” Good news.
But stay in perspective. We celebrated hard when 2020 was over, only to slog through another long year. I hate to be the bearer of bad news/prediction, but it’s hard not to. However, we can enjoy it in the meantime.
COVID has plagued many sports, but even that couldn’t stop the NFL from pausing play. They rolled on with another week filled to the brim with playoff implications and drama. It’s a team who had a great week that earns today’s biggest story.
Burrow, Chase lead Bengals to division title
The newest fashion trend among the citizens of Cincinnati, Ohio? Well, obviously anything that dons the colours of orange and black for the cities biggest team at this moment, but more importantly, shirts that read “It was 14-0,” with the date of January 2nd, 2022 at the bottom. But it wasn’t collapse, heartbreak, dissatisfaction for the Bengals faithful this time, no, it was glory. It was redemption for all of the pain the fans had gone through in recent years. For the first time since 2015, the playoffs are coming to the Queen City following a thrilling 34-31 win from the Bengals.
Any given Sunday.
But no, this isn’t one of those moments. Heck, this is barely an upset. Even before the 1 o’clock kickoff between Cincinnati and Kansas City in the ‘Jungle’ a passionate term for Paul Brown Stadium in Cincy.
In the jungle, the big animals go after the little ones, not reverse. Thing is, ecosystems isn’t football. In this game, the little guys who wore orange were chasing the whole game to the top of the chain in red and yellow.
Let’s cut to the chase (no pun intended): Kansas City did play some incredible football. The team that we have thought when we hear “Chiefs” in recent years has been an exciting, big-play, creative club that has done things we didn’t think of trying on a football field. Patrick Mahomes is still what he is, which just happens to be a quarterback that is still a MVP contender year in and year out. He managed to freeze a linebacker in the first half via a sidearm laser that flew right by the Bengal who was located right down the middle of the field.
However, in weather that at it’s highest reached 1 degree celsius (35 degrees farenheit), Kansas City found a way to utilize an underrated aspect of the team: running. The Chiefs went to Darren Williams much of the game as he ran 14 times, totalling 18 yards and two touchdowns within five yards of the end zone. The Chiefs also threw Derrick Gore (no relation to NFL great Frank) in for 3 plays, and he went for 37, earning a marker of 12.3 yards per carry.
The Chiefs played ground-and-pound football to annihilate the cool weather and it’s implications for throwing and catching. The MVP of the game for the Chiefs in this one was easily the offensive line. They created spaces for the two running backs as well as providing loads of time for Mahomes to throw. The one problem was, on a hail mary with 8 seconds left in the first half where Mahomes evacuated the pocket and flew to the near sideline, the ball was caught before being punched out by a member of the Bengals secondary.
Here’s the problem that I have with that play: Mahomes had 10, 20 yards of green turf ahead of him. Sure, his arm is something to behold, but it’s not like he can’t run. In football, 8 seconds can be a lot of time if you use it right. And between the cerebral genius of Chiefs coach Andy Reid and the supreme talent of the roster, there would’ve been a way to make something out of nothing. Instead, Kansas City couldn’t make any magic and was forced to kick it back to the Bengals for the second half.
Where Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase promptly went for a 69-yard touchdown catch and run.
No one was guarding the rookie. Burrow sent a perfect pass to Chase over the head of multiple Chiefs defenders. Daniel Sorensen made an attempt to get to Chase but let’s be honest, getting into a speed battle with LSU alum is just going to embarrass yourself. Chase had three touchdowns, each spectacular in their own way. You want guys on your team who isn’t a football player, rather an athlete, and Chase fits that mold well.
He came in clutch in the most clutch moments. The Bengals trailed somewhere like 95% of the game, before Kansas City evened at 31. Chase delivered 3 touchdowns at times where the Bengals needed it more than ever. His first was a 72-yard play where he cut around Daniel Sorensen upon receiving the throw and took off like a Formula 1 car on an open road. His other touchdown before the hat-trick came via a leaping grab from behind a defender in the end zone.
Needless to say, he’s pretty good at only 21-years-old.
The Bengals have paired the first ever pair of receivers that have over 1,000 yards under the age of 23. (The other being Tee Higgins.)
The biggest touchdown, though, came from a very underrated player, Tyler Boyd. He has been with the Bengals for a very long time. He made a wonderful, all-out catch where he toe-dragged out of the end zone.
But this game went down to the final play.
Within 1:30 seconds, the Bengals were within 2 yards of the end zone.
They proceeded to try to get in 9 times before kicking a field goal in the last second.
Many and-goal plays that were really and-one, since the Bengals were so close to the end zone dragged on.
But here’s the craziest bit: on first of two passing plays, Burrow dumped it off to another unsung hero, Joe Mixon. He ran ahead and got an elbow on the line. That was a fourth down play, and since the ball wasn’t over, it didn’t count. Wait! 2 flags went out, one for each team. So, rerun the play. Bengals coach Zac Taylor went for it again. Nope. Burrow couldn’t find either of his receivers in the near side of the end zone. Wait! Penalty on the Chiefs. It’s a first down for the Bengals.
Burrow left the game after trying to run it in, bringing backup Brandon Allen into the game. He used his pure NFL talent by taking a knee. The Bengals ran the clock now, and they spiked it with two seconds left. Evan McPherson, reigning AFC special teams player of the month, kicked it in from 20 yards out.
Joe Burrow for MVP? Ja’Marr Chase of OROY? Zac Taylor for COTY? Either way, Cincinnati folk can party like it’s 2015.
Pepi goes to Germany, Blue Bliss, and more
The St. Louis Blues took the 2022 NHL Winter Classic in blowout fashion, taking a game where temperatures plummeted to nearly -10 degrees celsius. They won 6-4 over the hosts, the Minnesota Wild. It took 2 years to get this game done, and the NHL is happy it did. The Blues showed wearing full-on beach clothes to the game, which they now must do for every single game the rest of the way.
German club FC Augsburg bought FC Dallas star Ricardo Pepi and made a MLS record out of it. A $20 million (US dollars) transfer fee was reached, breaking the record held by Alphonso Davies move to Germany. The same night, Championship side West Bromwich Albion purchased another young American star, Daryl Dike, from Orlando City. The two combined to score 23 goals in the 2021 MLS season.
Antonio Brown walked off the field in the middle of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets. He threw his shirt and gloves into the crowd in dissatisfaction. The Bucs ended up coming back, and head coach Bruce Arians released Brown.
Vancouver Canucks equipment manager Brian ‘Red’ Hamilton was able to find a Seattle Kraken fan who quite possibly saved his life. Nadia Popovici is about to attend medical school and as she was sitting behind the Canucks bench when she saw a mole on the back of Hamilton’s head. She got his attention and showed him a message on her phone. She told him the mole may be cancerous. She ended up right. After a social media search, the two met up and were able to meet in person. This stands a chance as the best human moment of the season. There is a link below for more.
Georgia and Alabama are set for the CFP National Championship. The teams only let 17 points by them in the semifinals. Yes, that’s the combined score Cincinnati and Michigan could muster against the two SEC giants. It will be a rematch of the Southeastern championship game.
This, via TSN, via The Canadian Press, provides more detail on the crazy story of how Hamilton found the person who very likely salvaged his life, and how the two met in real life.
So, that was the wrapup from the first weekend of 2022. Podcast tomorrow, and a new column on Wednesday. Talk to you then!