Matthews: Blame Tyrod If You Must


The Bills almost stole a game it had no business winning Sunday in Charlotte.

When an NFL team has 3 points, 10 first downs, 176 total yards offense, is averaging 3.5 yards per play and 3.8 yards per pass on 51 total plays and has 21:07 time of possession in the finals seconds of a game, it should not have a shot to pull out a victory.

But the Bills had that chance.

If quarterback (for now) Tyrod Taylor makes a better throw on fourth down or rookie receiver Zay Jones makes a good (not great) catch, Buffalo wins the game 10-9 and fans of the Panthers would be even more demoralized than fans in western New York are today.

After two games, the Bills are 1-1 (a victory over the New York Jets counts as a full “W” in the standings; not sure that it should).

After two games, this season, I believe it is fair to say that:

The Bills as currently constituted are a good defensive team and figure to get better as the new players adjust to each other. Entering Monday Night Football, Buffalo ranks second in defense in the NFL (allowing 234.5 yards per game), behind only Charlotte (196.5 yards per game; getting to play the Bills helped).

The Bills are a below-average offensive team that relies too much on running the football – particularly against top defenses. The strategy by opponents is pretty basic: stop LeSean McCoy on the ground and force Buffalo to throw.

After Sunday’s loss to Carolina—despite the fact that McCoy had 12 carries for a total of 9 yards – Taylor Taylor again was the main target from the fans and most of the media for Buffalo’s feeble “attack”.

Taylor is the convenient player to blame. I don’t think that’s fair.

Tyrod isn’t good enough to lift an average team into the playoffs. But I don’t think he is the worst problem the Bills have throwing the football. Buffalo’s current group of five wide receivers – including two who primarily return kicks – is among the worst in the NFL (I’m trying to be kind).

Critics were crying for Taylor to throw deep against Carolina. Throw deep to who? Sammy Watkins, or Robert Woods, or Chris Hogan, or Marquise Goodwin? They’re all gone.

I suppose Taylor is on thin ice now. Everybody loves the backup quarterback.

Maybe rookie Nathan Peterman could save the day. Hit the deep ball. Spread the field. Open up space for McCoy to run.

I doubt it. What do you think? Are you eager to find out?

Suggested trade (I’m serious about this): McCoy and Taylor to a marginal playoff contender that might need an upgrade at running back and No. 2 quarterback for a first-round draft pick in 2008 or 2009.

These punchless Bills (21st in total offense, 8th in rushing (but can’t play the Jets every Sunday); 27th in pass offense and t25th in scoring at 12.0 points per game) aren’t a playoff team with or without McCoy and Taylor, so move them before the October 31 trade deadline and add to the impressive collection of first- , second- and third-round future draft picks.


The Denver Broncos are favored by only 2 ½ points Sunday against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field.

Other early Week 3 odds from Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook: Thursday, LA Rams at San Francisco (+3)...Sunday, Baltimore at Jacksonville (+4)...New Orleans at Carolina (-6)...Pittsburgh at Chicago (+7 ½)...Atlanta at Detroit (+3 ½)...Cleveland at Indianapolis (+1 ½)...Tampa Bay at Minnesota (no line due to Vikings QB Sam Bradford’s status)...Houston at New England (-13)...Miami at NY Jets (+6 ½)...New York Giants at Philadelphia (-3 ½)...Seattle at Tennessee (-2 ½)...Cincinnati at Green Bay (-8 ½)...Kansas City at Los Angeles Chargers (+2 ½)...Sunday night, Oakland at Washington (+3 ½)...Monday night, Dallas At Arizona (+3).


The Minnesota Twins had the worst record in Major League Baseball last season: 59-103.

The 2017 Twins embark on a 10-trip Monday night that could determine their surprising bid for a wild-card playoff berth:

@ the New York Yankees (3 games) Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday

@the Detroit Tigers (4 games) Thursday through Sunday

@the Cleveland Indians (3 games) September 26 through September 28.

They’ll finish the regular season with three home games against Detroit: Friday, September 29 through Sunday, October 1.

Playing on the road against the Yankees and Indians will be huge challenges. Playing 7 of their final 0 games against the Tigers looks like a gift from the baseball gods.

Detroit is playing out the string this disappointing season as one of the worst teams in the majors. The Tigers have lost by far their two best starting pitchers (Justin Verlander was traded and Michael Fulmer had season-ending surgery), traded two of their best hitters (J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton) and Victor Martinez’s season is over because of an irregular heartbeat. Miguel Cabrera and Ian Kinsler are experiencing off seasons.

The Tigers were 51-57 on August 4 but are a miserable 11-30 since. It is not a fluke.

If Minnesota can go 5-5 on this trip (maybe  1-2 vs. the Yankees, at least 3-1 vs. the Tigers and 1-3 vs. the Indians), I’d like their chances to earn a spot in the American League’s one-game wild-card showdown to advance to the American League Division Series.

Many of the players on Minnesota’s active roster spent time with the Red Wings this season and several of them have been significant contributors to the success of these surprising Twins.

Pre-2017 Red Wings on Minnesota’s September roster include Brian Dozier, Tyler Duffey, Max Kepler, Joe Mauer, Glen Perkins, Jorge Polanco, Taylor Rogers and Eddie Rosario.

No wonder the Red Wings are the only team in the 14-team International League with a winning record in each of the last five seasons.

Minnesota’s Paul Molitor obviously is a candidate for American League Manager of the Year. My only slight problem with that is the team’s awful record in 2016 after he guided the Twins to an 83-79 record in 2015. Did Minnesota underachieve last season?

I believe the Twins have a bright future. The starting lineup is loaded with young and talented players who figure to improve, particular the young outfield of Rosario, Buxton (likely to win his first Gold Glove this season and he appears to have turned the corner on stardom) and Kepler, and shortstop Polanco. Veterans Mauer and Rozier should have a few more productive seasons left in them.

The huge problem is pitching, particularly the back end of the starting rotation and the entire bullpen. Entering this crucial 10-game trip, Minnesota ranks 11th in in the AL in ERA and 12th in batting average against.

It will be interesting to see how Minnesota will attempt to shore up the pitching staff this offseason. The Twins clearly are an exciting team headed in the right direction. One or two new starting pitchers and two or three power arms in the bullpen could make this an elite team.


I’d never heard of Bob Motley until the weekend, when I read his online obituary.

Mr. Motley, who died last Thursday in Kansas City, was 94 years old. He was the last surviving umpire from the Negro Leagues.

He was born in Alabama, the sixth of eight children in a sharecropper’s family.

In World War II, he was a member of the only all-black Marines’ combat unit. At Okinawa, he was part of the third unit to storm the beaches. The first two units were wiped out. He was wounded in the foot and received a Purple Heart.

After World War II. He moved to Kansas City. He began umpiring in the Negro Leagues in 1947 and soon was known as the best ump in the league.

He later umpired in the minor leagues, getting as far as the Pacific Coast League.

In 1973, he was chief umpire in the College Baseball World Series.

In 1979, when the Major League Baseball umpires went on strike, he was offered a job as a replacement ump. He refused to cross the picket line.

In 1990, he was a main mover in founding the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. He was a loyal fan of the Kansas City Royals and a guest of MLB at the 2014 World Series.

Earlier this year, a fundraiser was held to pay for a statue of Mr. Motley in the Negro League Museum. It will be unveiled next year.

He fought for his country. Race probably kept him from umpiring in the Major Leagues. When he received a belated call, he refused to cross a picket line.

Thank you for your service and decency. RIP Bob Motley.


Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, arguably the all-time greatest manager of heels in pro wrestling history, died Sunday at age 73. He had battled throat cancer off-and-on since 2002.

Mr. Heenan was a master at promoting “bad guy” wrestlers and annoying fans of “babyfaces.” He was tremendous on interviews and later as a pro-heel announcer.

He was a great and loyal friend of Rochester natives Bob “Gorilla Monsoon” Marella and Ken Kaiser.

Marella, a Jefferson High School graduate and Ithaca College Hall of Fame wrestler, was one of pro wrestling’s top-drawing heel wrestlers before becoming a WWE broadcaster and executive.

Marella and Heenan had memorable verbal sparring sessions during TV broadcasts – with Heenan directing hilarious zingers at Marella --but were great friends in real life. When Heenan was inducted into the WEE Hall of Fame in 2004, he concluded his speech by saying he only wished the late Gorilla Monsoon were there. Marella had died in 1999.

Kaiser, who died August 8 at age 72, was a pro wrestler before he became a baseball umpire and Heenan was among the several ‘rasslin personalities who were regular guests at the head table of Kenny’s tremendous winter baseball banquets at the Dlplomat Party House. He was as popular at those dinners as any of the great ballplayers.


Shortstop Engelb Vielma did an excellent job on defense for the Rochester Red Wings this season but his poor season with the bat (.206 batting average; 61-for-296; 12 doubles, 2 triples, 0 HRs, 17 RBI; 11 walks; 72 strikeouts; .233 on-base percentage; 2-for-7 stolen bases) has cost him a spot on Minnesota’s 40-man roster (replaced last week by Double-A pitcher Gabriel Moya) and he’ll likely be playing elsewhere next season.

The Rochester Knighthawks signed 35-year-old veteran defenseman Billy Dee Smith as a free agent last week. It will be interesting to see how much he has left. He was the third overall pick in the 2002 National Lacrosse League draft by Buffalo and has played 15 seasons with the Bandits. He was the NLL Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and is the NLL’s career leader with 634 penalty minutes. He’s big (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) and physical and everyone says he is a terrific team leader and teammate,

Mike Waters of The Post Standard of Syracuse reports that former Syracuse U. forward Taurean Thompson hopes to play at Seton Hall after sitting out this basketball season.

The final three Buffalo Sabres preseason games will be shown on MSG: vs. Toronto Saturday, at Pittsburgh September 27 and vs. the New York Islanders September 29.

The Peterborough Lakers (Ontario Major Series A) won their third straight Mann Cup, Canada’s summer pro indoor lacrosse championship Friday night, 14-10 over the host New Westminster Salmonbellies (Western Lacrosse Association). Peterborough dropped the first two games of the best-of-seven series (12-10 and 13-8) and won the next four games (13-12, 9-7, 11-10 and 14-10). The entire series was played at New Westminster, BC. Former Knighthawk Shawn Evans of Peterborough was selected MVP and Knighthawks star Matt Vinc and Evan Kirk shared goalie duties.

Penny Chenery (Tweedy), who bred and raced 1973 Triple Crown champion Secretariat, died Saturday at her home in Boulder, Colo. She was 95. She was portrayed by actress Diane Lane in the 2010 hit movie Secretariat.

The Durham Bulls (International League) will play the Memphis Redbirds (Pacific Coast League) in the Triple-A National Championship Game Tuesday night in Scranton/Wilkes Barre’s PNC Field.

It will be an all-MLS showdown Wednesday in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship match: Sporting Kansas City vs. the New York Red Bulls, 9 p.m., in Kansas City (ESPN2/ESPN Deportes). The Red Bulls rallied to beat FC Cincinnati 3-2 in the semifinals to assure that the 1999 Rochester Rhinos would remain the only non-MLS team to win the Cup since the MLS began in 1996.


Monday, September 18

Cordy Glenn (28)...Serge Ibaka (28)...Travis Outlaw (33)...Ronaldo (41)...Lance Armstrong (46)...Toni Kukoc (49)...Ryne Sandberg (58)...Chip Banks (58)...Peter Statsny (61)...Dennis Johnson (63)...Rick Pitino (65)...Darryl Sittler (67)...Scotty Bowman (84). Heinie Groh, arguably the greatest Major League Player from Rochester, was born on this date 128 years ago (1889) and died in 1968 at age 78...54 years ago (1963), the Mets lost to the Phillies 5-1 in the final game played at the Polo Grounds.

Tuesday, September 19

C.J. McCollom (26)...Stephon Gilmore (27)...George Springer (28)...Tyreke Evans (28)...Danny Valencia (33)...,,,Rich DiPietro (36)...Nick Johnson (39)...Dan Bylsma (47)...Jim Abbott (50)...Dan Hampton (60)...Disney Wicks (68)...Larry Brown (70)...first winner of Rochester’s LPGA Tour stop in 1972 Jane Blalock (72)...Joe Morgan (74)...Ed Westfall (77). On this date 70 years ago (1947), Jackie Robinson was named Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year. 29 years ago (1988), US Olympic diver Greg Louganis  hit his head on a diving board...Jimmy Fallon (43) and Jeremy Irons (69) are invited to the birthday party.

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