September 27, 2021
👋 Happy Monday! Welcome back.
Today's word count: 1,627 words (6 minutes).
1 big thing: 🏈 Kickers are stealing the show
Through three NFL Sundays, the story of the season is kickers coming up clutch, Axios' Jeff Tracy and I write.
Wild stat: There have already been 10 go-ahead field goals in the final 10 seconds of regulation or overtime. That's the most through Week 3 since the 1970 merger, three more than the previous record. Sunday's stars:
- Justin Tucker: The Ravens kicker added to his GKOAT resume with an NFL-record 66-yard field goal that bounced up and over the crossbar. Incredible.
- Mason Crosby: The Packers vet drilled a 51-yarder to lift Green Bay past San Francisco in another Sunday night thriller.
- Daniel Carlson: The former Auburn Tiger hit a 22-yarder to down the Dolphins and keep the Raiders perfect.
- Younghoe Koo: The Falcons kicker walked it off against the Giants less than 15 miles from where he played high school in Ridgewood, New Jersey.
- Mr. Primetime: The Packers have won Aaron Rodgers' last nine primetime starts.
- Last-place Chiefs: The Chargers picked off Patrick Mahomes twice, and the Chiefs — under .500 for the first time since 2015 — are last in the AFC West.
- Winless in New York: The Jets are 0-3 for the third straight season, and the Giants are 0-3 for the second straight season. ... At least the team up in Buffalo looks good.
- King of the deep ball: DeSean Jackson had his ninth career TD reception of at least 75 yards, tying Hall of Famer Lance Alworth for most in NFL history.
By the numbers:
- 47 yards: The Bears produced just 47 total yards of offense against the Browns, meaning Tucker's walk-off kick went 19 yards farther than Chicago's entire offensive output.
- 0-4: Rookie first-round QBs Justin Fields, Trevor Lawrence, Mac Jones and Zach Wilson went winless, throwing 2 TD and 7 INT while getting sacked 19 times.
- 109 yards: Jacksonville's Jamal Agnew returned an overly-ambitious FG attempt for a record tying 109-yard TD. Gus Johnson, as always, nailed the call.
- 18 straight losses: Agnew's heroics couldn't stop the Jags from losing their 18th straight game, tying the 1973 Oilers for the fourth-longest streak ever.
- Home winners: Bills 43, Washington 21; Browns 26, Bears 6; Titans 25, Colts 16; Broncos 26, Jets 0; Vikings 30, Seahawks 17; Rams 34, Bucs 24; Raiders 31, Dolphins 28
- Road winners: Ravens 19, Lions 17; Chargers 30, Chiefs 24; Saints 28, Patriots 13; Falcons 17, Giants 14; Bengals 24, Steelers 10; Cardinals 31, Jaguars 19; Packers 30, 49ers 28
📆 Tonight: Eagles at Cowboys (-3.5), 8:15pm ET
2. ⚾️ The Cardinals can't stop winning
The Cardinals kept it rolling Sunday, beating the Cubs for their 16th straight win.
Why it matters: The Redbirds are just the fourth team in MLB's expansion era (since 1961) to win 16 straight games in a season, joining the 2017 Indians (22), 2002 A's (20) and 1977 Royals (16).
- They now have a six-game lead over the Reds and Phillies in the NL Wild Card race, all but guaranteeing a trip to the postseason.
- With their remaining six games coming at home, the Cardinals join the 1887 Philadelphia Quakers as the only teams to win their final 11 or more road games.
- Brewers clinch: Milwaukee clinched its third NL Central title (2011, 2018).
- Yanks sweep Sox: Giancarlo Stanton's monster weekend helped the Yankees sweep the Red Sox at Fenway and take over the top spot in the AL Wild Card race.
- 100 wins: The Giants (102-54) and Dodgers (100-56) hit the 100-win mark this weekend. The Rays (97-59) and Brewers (94-62) are the only teams that could join them.
3. ⛳️ Team USA romps to Ryder Cup win
The U.S. reclaimed the Ryder Cup in dominating fashion over the weekend, beating Team Europe, 19-9, for the largest margin of victory in the modern era (since 1979), Jeff writes.
The big picture: The U.S. now holds a 27-14 advantage (two ties) in the all-time series, though Europe holds an 11-9 edge since 1979, when that side of the field expanded beyond just Great Britain and Ireland.
By the numbers:
- 417 yards: Bryson DeChambeau's 417-yard drive was merely the longest in a weekend filled with Americans bombing it off the tee — a key factor in their victory, per WSJ (subscription).
- 5-0: Dustin Johnson became just the third golfer to go 5-0-0 at the Ryder Cup, joining American Larry Nelson (1979) and Italy's Francesco Molinari (2018).
- 29.1 years old: Team USA was comprised of more Ryder Cup rookies (six) than golfers over 30 (four), with an average age of just 29.1.
The backdrop: Home field always plays a critical role at this event — with the home nation going 13-6 since 1979 — but Team USA's advantage was even greater this year.
- Due to travel restrictions, 90% of fans at Wisconsin's Whistling Straits were American, and the home crowd broke into patriotic chants and songs all weekend long.
The last word: "This is a new era for USA golf," said captain Steve Stricker. "They are young. They come with a lot of passion, a lot of energy, a lot of game. They are just so good."
What's next: The 44th Ryder Cup will take place in the fall of 2023 at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome.
4. 🏈 AP poll: Chaos yields parity
Alabama remains atop the rankings after winning its record-extending 100th straight game against an unranked opponent, Jeff writes.
Yes, but: The Tide's dominance contrasts with the struggles of other ranked teams. 25 have lost already this season, the most through four weeks in the AP poll era (since 1936).
- Clemson's 27-21 loss to NC State dropped the Tigers all the way to No. 25, ending a run of 97 straight weeks in the top 10.
- Notre Dame's 41-13 win over Wisconsin gave coach Brian Kelly his 106th victory with the Irish, breaking Knute Rockne's record.
- Moving in: Wake Forest enters at No. 24 after scoring a school-record 155 points through four weeks. No. 19 Oklahoma State, No. 21 Baylor and No. 23 NC State also joined the poll.
- Moving out: Iowa State and UNC, both in the preseason top 10, are out. So are Wisconsin and Kansas State.
📆 Coming up: Saturday’s slate is headlined by No. 8 Arkansas at No. 2 Georgia, No. 7 Cincinnati at No. 9 Notre Dame, No. 12 Ole Miss at No. 1 Alabama and No. 21 Baylor at No. 19 Oklahoma State.
Go deeper: What's next for each Top 25 team? (ESPN)
5. 🇺🇸 Photos across America
EVERETT, Wash. — The Mercury beat the defending champion Storm, 85-80 (OT), on Sunday in what may have been the final meeting between Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird.
- What's next: The semifinals (best-of-five) are now set and begin tomorrow. No. 6 Sky vs. No. 1 Sun; No. 5 Mercury vs. No. 2 Aces.
BOSTON — Even without Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic on the roster, Team Europe easily beat Team World to win its fourth straight Laver Cup.
- Go deeper: Four ideas for the future (Tennis.com)
SPOKANE, Wash. — The Kraken made their debut Sunday night with a 5-3 win over the Canucks in the preseason opener for both teams. I dig the uniforms.
- Go deeper: Releasing the Kraken (Axios)
- Go deeper: Behind the scenes with Jaskol (The Athletic)
6. 🌍 Photos around the world
SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton won his unprecedented 100th Formula One race, fighting back from seventh place on the first lap to retake the championship lead from Max Verstappen.
- Go deeper: Putting Hamilton's 100 wins in perspective (ESPN)
LONDON — Oleksandr Usyk (19-0, 13 KO) stunned Anthony Joshua (24-2, 22 KO) on his home turf to become a two-weight world champion and upend the heavyweight boxing picture.
- Go deeper: A plot twist for boxing's heavyweight division (NYT)
LONDON — Gabriel Jesus' 53rd-minute strike lifted Manchester City past Chelsea, 1-0, in a rematch of May's Champions League final.
- Elsewhere: Brentford held first-place Liverpool to a thrilling 3-3 draw; Arsenal beat Tottenham, 3-1, in the North London Derby.
BERLIN — 25,000 runners took part in the Berlin Marathon, the biggest marathon in the world since the pandemic began.
- 🎥 Watch: Highlights (YouTube)
7. ⚡️ Lightning round
💉 NBA denies Wiggins: The NBA has denied Andrew Wiggins' request for a vaccination exemption, leaving him ineligible to play home games until he meets San Francisco's vaccination requirement.
💔 Ballpark deaths: A woman and her 2-year-old son died Saturday after falling from the third level of San Diego's Petco Park.
💵 Caps + Caesars: The Capitals are the first NHL team to sell ads on their jerseys, announcing a multi-year deal that will see a Caesars Sportsbook logo on their home and third jerseys starting next season.
🏀 Manu's back: Four-time NBA champion Manu Ginóbili is returning to the Spurs as a special adviser to basketball operations.
❤️ Awesome moment: Fulham celebrated a goal alongside a teen fan with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Sports, man.
8. 📆 Sept. 27, 2008: Maddux goes out on top
13 years ago today, Greg Maddux won his final start, a 2-1 Dodgers victory over the Giants.
By the numbers: Over the course of his 23-year Hall of Fame career, Maddux won 355 games with the Cubs, Braves, Dodgers and Padres — the eighth-most in MLB history.
All-time wins leaders (see full list):
- Cy Young (511)
- Walter Johnson (417)
- Pete Alexander (373)
- Christy Mathewson (373)
- Pud Galvin (365)
- Warren Spahn (363)
- Kid Nichols (362)
- Greg Maddux (355)
- Roger Clemens (354)
- Tim Keefe (342)
From the vault: Greg Maddux is the best righthander in the past 75 years — but he would rather you didn't know it (SI, 1995)
9. 🏈 NFL trivia
There are five undefeated NFL teams remaining. Can you name them?
Answer at the bottom.
10. 🎥 Catch of the weekend
Take a bow, Romello Brinson.
Kendall "What a weekend" Baker
Trivia answer: Rams, Panthers, Cardinals, Broncos, Raiders