Thursday, December 31, 2015

Can Nick Saban read Alabama's mindset in pregame warmups?

Are they ready?

How does the team look?

Are their heads in it?

They come in different variations but there's a constant theme to the pregame inquiries. They might, perhaps, fill an email box or Twitter mention for a beat writer. It's a question not easily answered since the interaction before game day is limited.

Turns out, even those closest to Alabama's football team have a tough time with it too.

"I don't really think ― I can't tell," Nick Saban said before Alabama's Cotton Bowl semifinal with Michigan State approaching at 7 p.m. CT Thursday. "I mean, maybe somebody can tell. I can't even tell that we're going to play for 60 minutes in the game once the game starts."

Alabama (12-1) has appeared focused all week, eager to correct the problems it had playing Ohio State in last season's semifinal. The mindset was not right entering that game, Saban and players have said all year.

The issue in the Tide's lone loss of 2015 wasn't a lack of focus. Saban said they were too fired up to play Ole Miss in September. Five Tide turnovers later, the Rebels left with a 43-37 win and

They've said all the right things in the days leading up to kickoff. Ultimately, however, it's impossible to know how they'll respond when the three-plus week layoff ends.

"I think you're always trying to focus on playing the next play," Saban said, "and making sure your guys are staying focused and doing the best job you can to sort of teach them as the game goes on, any adjustments that they need to make and things they need to do better. And so sometimes I think we have the right mindset and all of a sudden we have a lapse in the game and the other team goes on a three-play drive for 81 yards and scores a touchdown and gets right back in the game.

"And you're sitting there saying, "What happened?" So I don't think that you ever know for sure. I think you're always trying to work to make sure that you're keeping the right focus and mindset on your team as you play a game."

Cities around world tighten New Year's Eve security amid terror attack fears

Brussels has cancelled its official celebrations, Paris called off an annual fireworks display on the Champs-Élysées and London increased the numbers of firearms officers on the streets as authorities across the world stepped up security measures for New Year’s Eve.

Belgian police detained six people during house searches in Brussels on Thursday in an investigation into an alleged plot to carry out an attack in the city. Earlier in the week two other people were arrested on suspicion of preparing attacks on “emblematic sites” in Brussels during the celebrations. Another man was questioned over links to last month’s Paris attacks.

Authorities said a firework display and festivities that attracted 100,000 people last year would not go ahead after revealing the alleged jihadi plot.

“Unfortunately we have been forced to cancel the fireworks and all that was planned for tomorrow [Thursday] evening,” the mayor, Yvan Mayeur, told Belgian broadcaster RTBF. “It’s better not to take any risks.”

In Paris, where 130 people were killed by extremists last month, the annual fireworks display on the Champs-Élysées has been called off and 11,000 police, soldiers and firefighters will patrol the French capital. In all, 60,000 police and troops will be deployed across the country.

However, France’s biggest public gathering since the atrocities will still go ahead on the Champs-Élysées.

“The people of Paris and France need this symbolic passage into the new year,” said Anne Hidalgo, mayor of the French capital. “After what our city has lived through, we have to send a signal to the world,” she told the weekly Journal du Dimanche.

Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine, is to release a special issue one year after the attack in which 12 of its staff were killed by jihadis. The 32-page double issue – featuring a selection of drawings by the cartoonists who died in the attack, as well as by current staff and messages of support – will be released on 6 January. Nearly a million copies will go on sale.

Moscow’s Red Square, traditionally a place where people gather to ring in the new year, will be closed. “It’s no secret that Moscow is one of the choice targets for terrorists,” the Moscow mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, said recently.

In London, thousands of police, including increased numbers of firearms officers, will be on duty. Scotland Yard said there would be about 3,000 officers across central London as a fireworks display brings in 2016.

Metropolitan police spokeswoman Supt Jo Edwards said: “New Year’s Eve is a major celebration in the diary and the Met has been working with colleagues to ensure celebrations run smoothly and the event is safe and enjoyable for everyone who attends.”

In Madrid, 600 police will be deployed to Puerta del Sol square, where the number of revellers has been limited to 25,000.

In Turkey, officials said two Islamic State suspects, reportedly both Turks, were planning to stage suicide bombings in the centre of Ankara. Turkey has been on a high security alert since October, whentwo suicide bombers blew themselves up in a crowd of peace activists in Ankara, killing 103 people in the worst attack in the country’s modern history. According to the private NTV television, counter-terrorism police arrested the pair in the Mamak district on the outskirts of the capital.

“They are suspected of being affiliated with Islamic State and were planning an attack on the new year in Ankara,” a Turkish official told AFP.

The two intended to stage an attack in Ankara’s main Kizilay square, the Anatolia news agency reported, citing the prosecutor’s office.

In New York city, where 1 million gather in Times Square every year, officials said 6,000 officers, some plainclothes, would be on hand to watch over celebrations. Bill de Blasio, theNew York mayor, said the security measures this year would be “more extensive than ever” and include more than 500 police trained in preventing terror attacks.

“We’ll have a huge number of police out on New Year’s Eve, including a lot of our new anti-terror force, the critical response command,” he said.

In Somalia, the government has banned celebrations of Christmas and New Year for fear of attacks. In Germany, which has received 1 million refugees this year, many shelters have banned firecrackers and pyrotechnics to protect people from reliving the trauma of wars they fled.

Sydney kicked off the global celebrations with its biggest fireworks display ever. Despite safety concerns, a million-plus crowd watched the extravaganza from the Harbour Bridge and Opera House before the chimes of midnight began their move across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and finally the Americas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Trump: 'Schlonged' is not vulgar

Donald Trump took to Twitter Tuesday to defend using the word "schlonged" to describe Hillary Clinton's primary loss in 2008, saying the word is "not vulgar."

"Once again, #MSM is dishonest. 'Schlonged' is not vulgar. When I said Hillary got 'schlonged' that meant beaten badly," he said in one tweet.

He then attacked the mainstream media, MSM for short, for being unfair to him.

"For those on TV defending my use of the word 'schlonged,' bc #MSM is giving it false meaning-tell them it means beaten badly. Dishonest #MSM," he said.

Trump may have confused "schlonged" -- a vulgar Yiddish word for a penis -- for "shellacked," which does indeed mean to be beaten badly.

But Trump cited Tuesday what he said was a 1984 NPR report in which "schlonged" was used similarly to how he used it Monday.

"NPR's @NealConan said 'schlonged' to WaPo re: 1984 Mondale/Ferraro campaign: 'That ticket went on to get schlonged at the polls.' #Hypocrisy"

The controversy began Monday night when Trump used the word to slam Clinton over her 2008 primary loss to then-Sen. Barack Obama.

RELATED: Clinton will play victim over 'schlonged' comment, Bush says

"Even a race to Obama, she was gonna beat Obama. I don't know who would be worse, I don't know, how could it be worse? But she was going to beat -- she was favored to win -- and she got schlonged, she lost, I mean she lost," Trump said.

The comment was widely criticized, and Clinton's campaign said Tuesday that Trump's "degrading language" hurts women.

'Tis the season for a holiday trip

AAA has predicted a record 100 million people will be traveling over the Christmas holiday, including thousands flying through Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

RDU officials said an estimated 30,000 travelers would pass through the airport daily on Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday and next Monday – 30 to 40 percent more than a typical day. They advised flyers to arrive two hours before their flights to provide enough time to find parking and make it through check-in and security lines.

Francesca Aaron and her husband made a point of getting to the airport early Tuesday, and rainy weather, traffic and long lines haven't dampened their Christmas spirit as they head to Chicago.

"(We're going) to see our only daughter and our granddaughter, who just turned 3, and our daughter's expecting a baby a month from today," Aaron said. "We're excited. Santa Claus is definitely on the way."

Although many people might want to avoid RDU because of the holiday crowds, a number of volunteers braved the rush to help travelers.

"It's kind of overwhelming, especially if they've never been here before," said Joanie Richards as she helped people navigate Terminal 2, from pointing them to the right check-in area to clueing them in on where to find a restroom or buy a sandwich.

Richards and fellow volunteer Jean Spargur said the travelers they've seen have been in a pretty good mood.

"I think people are excited at Christmas time. They're looking forward to their journeys," Spargur said.

Another group of volunteers was welcoming some special travelers coming in – art students from Orange High School brought handmade cards to give to arriving service members.

"I want to say happy holidays and we all care for you and appreciate you for everything. Have a wonderful Christmas and stay strong, and remember, you are always cared for and loved," ninth-grader Brittany Moore said.

Art teacher RaeAnn Daughtry, along with fellow teacher Micki Saad, said her students undertook the project as a way to thank military members for their service. Even though their school is already on holiday break – and there are a lot of other places students could be – about a dozen went to RDU to hand out their cards personally.

"Students, if you give them an opportunity to give back, that's all they want to do. They want to make people happy, and the fact that they created these things, they're so proud to give it to someone, and a lot of them have family in the military, so it means a lot to them as well," Daughtry said.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Jimmy Carter's grandson, Jeremy Carter, dies at 28

Former President Jimmy Carter told his weekly Sunday-school class at Maranatha Church in Plains, Georgia, that his grandson, Jeremy Carter, had died, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. Two weeks earlier and before the very same crowd, the 91-year-old Carter had delivered the cheerful news that he is cancer-free due to cutting-edge surgery and medicine. This Sunday, Carter was about 25 minutes late to the church in Plains, Georgia. It was the first time he had ever been tardy, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution. The former president explained that his grandson had not been feeling well and laid down for a nap at his family's home in Peachtree City, just south of Atlanta. Jeremy Carter's mother later discovered that his heart had stopped. The family attempted CPR, and then rushed their son to the hospital, where doctors tried to resuscitate the 28-year-old. "They took him to the hospital and we got there I guess about 1:30 this morning, " the former president said. "After we were there about 20 minutes his heart stopped beating again. So they tried to give him CPR but he passed away. He was just 28 and a wonderful young man whom we loved very much." Jeremy Carter was pronounced dead early on Sunday morning. The cause of death is still unclear.,

The former president urged the congregation to “be filled with a sense of joy and thanksgiving,” despite his family's obvious sorrow.

“I should be joyful and thankful to God for giving me both life and freedom,” Carter continued, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Churchgoers at Marantha Church described Jeremy Carter as a “great, fun-loving guy,” who visited his grandparents in Plains, Georgia, as often as he could.

"(Jimmy Carter’s) decision to come teach Sunday school is indicative of his character, how important this church is to him, teaching is to him,” said Maranatha Church Pastor Jeremy Shoulta, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

"The past few months have been a very emotional time for this church. There have been moments of great joy, of sadness, of grief. The church has done all it can to lift the Carters up during this difficult time.” Shoulta continued.

Jeremy Carter was the son of Annette and Jeff Carter, Jimmy Carter's youngest son. Jeremy Carter had also accompanied his Nobel Prize-winning grandfather on initiatives with the Carter Center in Atlanta.

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings: Second Quarter Open Thread

Toget their Week 15 match-up underway, the Minnesota Vikings won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, meaning that they kicked off to theChicago Bears. Things got off to a rough start, as Deonte Thompson took the return out to midfield to get things started for the visiting team. Matt Forte then broke off a big 35-yard run, but a holding penalty on Hroniss Grasu negated the play. A sack byTom Johnson followed, and the Bears were forced to punt it away. The punt from Pat O'Donnell was downed at the 7-yard line, and that's where the Vikings picked up their first possession of the day.

The Vikings went to Adrian Peterson early, as he picked up a first down on two quick carries. That was followed up by a nice 12-yard pass from Teddy Bridgewater to Kyle Rudolph on third down to keep the drive moving. The Vikings then found themselves facing third down again, but Bridgewater found Jerick McKinnon for a nice 25-yard gain into Chicago territory at the 39. After another first down for Peterson, Bridgewater foundJarius Wright for 7 yards, and an offside penalty put the Vikings into the red zone. The Vikings then finished the drive in style, as Bridgewater lofted a beautiful ball into the back left corner of the end zone for Stefon Diggs, who hauled it in for a 14-yard touchdown reception. Blair Walsh connected on the extra point, and the Vikings had a 7-0 lead after an impressive 93-yard drive.

Minnesota forced a second consecutive three-and-out on Chicago's next drive, highlighted by Chad Greenway sacking Cutler on third down. O'Donnell came on to punt again, and Marcus Sherels called for a fair catch at the Minnesota 29-yard line. Peterson got the first two carries of the next drive as well, resulting in a Minnesota first down. Bridgewater then hooked up with McKinnon again for another big gain, this one for 31 yards down to the Chicago 29-yard line.

As we move to the second quarter of play, the Vikings are facing 3rd-and-6 from the Chicago 25-yard line.

After one quarter of play at TCF Bank Stadium, the Minnesota Vikings lead the Chicago Bears by a score of 7-0. Can they keep the momentum going as they approach the Chicago red zone?

Panthers survive Giants; Chiefs keep winning — NFL Week 15 Cheat Sheet

The New York Giants, a team that has specialized in ruining previously unblemished records, simply refused to go away. Once trailing 35-7, New York tied the game at 35 with a dramatic late-game touchdown. But in a season marked by near-misses, the undefeated Carolina Panthers would hand the Giants another, after MVP candidate Cam Newton led his team down the field for a game-winning 43-yard field goal by Graham Gano. The win improved the Panthers to 14-0 and likely ended the Giants’ playoff hopes.

It was a heated affair throughout the game, as Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. struggled early against shutdown corner Josh Norman of the Panthers, with the two incurring multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penaltiesthroughout the game.

The feud started after it appeared Beckham would strike first, but he dropped a deep pass that would have been a sure touchdown in the first quarter.

It was downhill for the Giants from there until late in the second half when they rallied to tie it late in the fourth quarter after blocking a field goal that would have pushed the Panthers up by 17. Beckham caught the game-tying touchdown on a fourth down just inside the two-minute warning.

The game was crucial for the Giants’ playoff hopes in the NFC East, as the Redskins beat the Bills with the Eagles set to play the Cardinals Sunday night.

Elsewhere in the NFL, the AFC South lead was on the line, as the Texans topped the Colts with Brandon Weeden at the helm after Texans QB T.J. Yates left Sunday’s game with a torn ACL. Weeden, late of the Dallas Cowboys, has now placed the Texans atop the division and in strong standing for the playoffs.

In Minnesota, the Vikings beat down the Bears, but may have suffered a serious blow to their playoff hopes as Adrian Peterson limped off the field after apparently injuring his left ankle. He later returned to the game.

Peterson wasn’t the only high-profile back forced from the game Saturday, as LeSean McCoy left the Bills’ game against the Redskins with what looked like a knee injury. He will not return.

Bernie Sanders Falls Behind in a Race Centered on Security

In his opening remarks at the Democratic presidential debate on Saturday, Senator Bernie Sanders railed against “establishment politics and establishment economics” and then the nation’s “rigged economy.” He moved on to the “corrupt” campaign finance system, then the “planetary crisis of climate change.” Only after that did he say he wanted to destroy the Islamic State.

It was a litany of priorities that made good sense when Mr. Sanders announced his presidential bid in April. But after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., he made fighting terrorism sound like an afterthought.

These are challenging times for Mr. Sanders as the chief opponent toHillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. His progressive political message, so popular with liberals for much of 2015, now seems lost in a fog of fear. Americans are more anxious about terrorism than income inequality. They want the government to target the Islamic State more than Wall Street executives and health insurers. All of this plays to Mrs. Clinton’s strengths — not only as a hawkish former secretary of state but also as a savvy politician who follows the public mood. After months of pivoting to the left on domestic issues to compete with Mr. Sanders for her party’s base, she is now talking about security and safety far more than Mr. Sanders — and solidifying her lead in opinion polls.

At Saturday’s debate, Mr. Sanders struggled to undercut Mrs. Clinton. He pointed out aspects of her record, including her relationships to Wall Street executives and her years at the State Department, in relatively respectful fashion rather than seizing on them to strongly question her judgment. He apologized to her for a breach by his campaign of her voter data, and he complimented her on being a transformative first lady. In his treatment of Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Sanders was more gentleman than giant killer.

“Hillary is now in the driver’s seat in a way she has never been before,” said Arnie Arnesen, a New Hampshire liberal and talk radio host who admires Mr. Sanders but is uncommitted in the race. “It’s Bernie’s turn to pivot.”

“I don’t know if he can,” she added, “or whether his base will approve. They love him for the man he is, not the leader he needs to become.”

Most candidates evolve: Barack Obama and George W. Bush became better at communicating and campaigning during their first presidential races, and their agendas developed overarching themes. Mr. Sanders, by contrast, was repeating old talking points on Saturday night — like breaking up big banks and increasing taxes on the rich — without convincingly saying how he would achieve those goals or presenting them in powerful new language. As the debate demonstrated, he has yet to grow from a movement messiah into a national candidate whom many people can imagine as president.

Mr. Sanders has few options at this point. Barring a scandal or another extraordinary event that consumes Mrs. Clinton, his only way to beat her starts with a lightning strike: winning the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1 and then the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9. Such victories would instantly raise questions about Mrs. Clinton’s strength and electability and provide political momentum, fund-raising energy and far greater visibility for Mr. Sanders in the next major contests, in states like South Carolina, Colorado and Texas, where he is not well known.

But Mrs. Clinton has been ahead in Iowa for three months, while Mr. Sanders has a slight lead in New Hampshire polls. Mrs. Clinton held a lead in Iowa in 2007, too, before losing there to Mr. Obama. But he had far more endorsements from state leaders and a sharper line of attack against Mrs. Clinton (over the Iraq war) than Mr. Sanders has. Mrs. Clinton is vulnerable this time around on her ties to Wall Street, and there is also an opening for a candidate to run to the left of her on national security issues.

But Mr. Sanders, who has ruled out negative campaigning, has not done anything memorable on either front. When he did challenge her on Saturday, accusing her twice of being “too into regime change” to topple dictators and enemies, he did it as respectfully as possible — after which Mrs. Clinton hit him hard both times for voting to oust Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the former Libyan leader. Mr. Sanders could have brought up the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that occurred on Mrs. Clinton’s watch as secretary of state, but instead he all but surrendered, saying that Mrs. Clinton was “right” that dealing with dictators was a “complicated issue.”

On Wall Street, meanwhile, he said that corporate chief executives “may like” Mrs. Clinton as president but would not like him — a contrast that could have been made more sharply.

Mr. Sanders has many strengths, but moxie is not one of them. He speaks the language of a high-minded policy wonk, not a street fighter. Gutsy aggressiveness has been so lacking in his campaign that it was one reason the news media paid so much attention on Friday when his advisers went to court against Democratic National Committee officials after they punished the Sanders campaign over a data breach.

The bold move showed that the Sanders team could throw a punch — including against the Clinton campaign, which Sanders aides suggested had also breached data. Yet Mr. Sanders himself backed off the issue at Saturday’s debate, apologizing to Mrs. Clinton for the breach. Just as he refused to attack her at the first Democratic debate over her private email server as secretary of state, he showed on Saturday that he would rather repeat his policy priorities than shake up the race by trying to score political points by challenging Mrs. Clinton.

At one point in the debate, Mr. Sanders agreed that Americans were “fearful and anxious” about the security issues that Mrs. Clinton has focused on.

“But you know what else they’re anxious about?” he asked. “They’re anxious about the fact that they are working incredibly long hours, they’re worried about their kids, and they’re seeing all the new income and wealth, virtually all of it, going to the top 1 percent. And they’re looking around them, and they’re looking at Washington and they’re saying: ‘The rich are getting much richer. I’m getting poorer. What are you going to do about it?’ ”

Mr. Sanders seems willing to rise or fall on his message about a rigged American economy, even if 2016 is looking more and more like a national security election.

Will Kylo Ren Be In ‘Rogue One’? There’s A Timeline To Consider

Did you walk out of Star Wars: The Force Awakens wanting more of Darth Vader-obsessed villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)? Or maybe you haven't seen the movie yet, but you are intrigued by the three-pronged lightsaber-wielding villain? Perhaps you want to know if he'll be in 2016 flick Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and you want to know now? You say you don’t have the patience you must have? OK, then. Here is your answer, young Padawan: Kylo Ren probably won’t be in Rogue One, the to-be-released Star Wars offshoot. And why is that? The vague answer: It would not be consistent with the franchise's timeline.


What do Kylo Ren's parents have to do with whether or not he'll be inRogue One? Don't worry, I'm getting there. Given that the first movie of the Star Wars Anthology takes place some time after the prequel trilogy and before the original trilogy (i.e., before Han and Leia met), it'd be a head-scratcher of a twist if Kylo Ren was a Rogue Onecharacter. Because Kylo Ren didn’t exist yet. (I am going to go out on a Dagobah swamp tree limb and say it is safe to assume Han and Leia did not conceive a child together before their first interaction.)

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens': All About the New Characters

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" hits theaters across the country today and viewers will see a slew of new characters in the film, in addition to the usual suspects, like Luke (wherever he may be), Leia, Han and Chewbacca.

Rey is a scavenger and the fact she has no last name has been said to be on purpose. Rumors have her possibly tied to one of the "Star Wars" icons, but that remains to be seen. Harrison Ford either gave away a nice spoiler or could be yanking our chain when he said his favorite scene was the lightsaber battle between Rey and new villain Kylo Ren. So maybe she has skills with the ancient, elegant weapon, as well.

According to Star Wars wikia and from clips we've seen, Rey, who is played by actress Daisy Ridley, trades her finds while scavenging on the world of Jakku.

Rey becomes good friends with new droid BB-8.


Meet the new, cutest droid in the galaxy. BB-8 belonged to Resistance pilot Poe Dameron, but in most of the footage we've seen, the little rolling ball of spunk is hanging out with Rey.

Ridley, who plays Rey, spoke to Time magazine about working with the new droid.

“I had a chat with BB-8, and I remember J.J. [Abrams] saying, ‘He’s not a child’ and obviously the impulse because he’s small and cute is to infantilize. The impulse is to baby talk, but he’s not a child. He’s a droid with a mission,” she said. “But after they created him and treated him like a puppet everyday and they gave him so much life that it didn’t really feel any different to acting with a person. He’s there moving around, he’s making noises, he’s responding to what I’m saying. It really is just like having a conversation.”


Played by John Boyega, Finn is no one to be trifled with. We've already seen that he is going to have an epic showdown with baddie Kylo Ren, but Finn was also trained all his life to be a new breed of Stormtrooper.

After Finn realizes he's "got nothing to fight for," according to one clip, he goes on his own and meets Rey. We eventually see the young man also connect with Resistance pilot Poe Dameron, so he's fully entrenched against the First Order, the modern-day Empire.

According to Wookieepedia, "After leaving the First Order, [Finn] wielded the lightsaber that once belonged to Jedi Knights Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker," so he holds a powerful piece of history in his hands.


One of the leaders of the Resistance, Poe flies under the moniker of "Black Leader."

Poe's parents Shara Bey and Kes Dameron both served the Alliance, the rebel group that helped bring balance back to the galaxy.

In the clips, we know that Poe is captured and tortured by Kylo Ren of the First Order. Ren looks to be using the Dark Side of the Force against him.

Kylo Ren

Ren, played by Adam Driver, is a fan of the work Darth Vader did many, many years prior to "The Force Awakens."

In one scene, Ren tells the melted mask of Vader, "I will finish what you started."

"A dark warrior strong with the Force, Kylo Ren commands First Order missions with a temper as fiery as his unconventional [three-pronged] lightsaber," according to

Ren is a follower of the Dark Side and we know for sure he faces off against Finn in one scene. Ren is usually surrounded by his Knights of Ren and is not technically a Sith lord.

Maz Kanata, Supreme Leader Snoke and Captain Phasma

We still haven't seen much or don't know much of these characters from the clips thus far. We've only seen Phasma stalking ground while other Stormtroopers under her command burn a place to the ground. We also recently discovered that Phasma wasn't always going to be played by a woman, namely Gwendoline Christie. One of the film's co-writers revealed that came later.

As for Maz, we know that character is played by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o and she had to use motion-capture to bring Maz to life.

"It was an opportunity to play a character that wasn't limited by my physical circumstances," she told IGN last week. "It's not everyday you get to play someone who is really not you."

Maz, a tiny, goggle-wearing alien, has also been heard in one of the clips, revealing she's "lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people."

The actress also spoke to ABC News' "Good Morning America" recently and said the character is a pirate, possibly with eyes that have powers or are important.

Snoke is even more mysterious. We haven't seen or heard much from the great actor Andy Serkis, who plays the Supreme Leader of the First Order, and also uses motion-capture. We should expect plenty from Snoke in the actual film.

Serkis did tell Empire magazine that Snoke "is severely damaged. Although he's a powerful leader, he comes across as vulnerable. Very scarred and disfigured."

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Round-by-round recap: Canelo Alvarez defeats Miguel Cotto by unanimous decision

xico's Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 knockouts) defeated Puerto Rico's Miguel Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs) by unanimous decision Saturday night at Mandalay Bay to claim the WBC middleweight title.

Alvarez, who was more aggressive than usual, was able to dominate most of the rounds with his heavy punches and uppercuts. Cotto, 35, tried to outbox the younger Alvarez, 25, but was often on the short end of exchanges.

The judges scored it: 117-111 (John McKaie), 119-109 (Burt Clements) and 118-110 (Dave Moretti). The referee was Robert Byrd.

Alvarez is in line to fight Gennady Golovkin, who owns the WBA, IBF and IBO middleweight titles.

Here is a round-by-round recap of the Cotto-Alvarez fight (scoring is unofficial):

Round 1: Cotto jabbing, protecting his head. He lands a jab. Canelo waiting for an opportunity, hits Cotto in side with a right. Canelo lands a clean left. Canelo wins round, 10-9.

Round 2: The first was a close one. Cotto’s jabs and evasiveness vs. Canelo’s occasional power. Canelo lands a left to the body to open the second. Follows with a good right to Cotto’s head. Cotto jabbing, staying in the middle of the ring as ordered. Canelo slips some jabs. He hits Cotto with a right. Crowd roaring for Canelo. Cotto sneaks in a right. Canelo wins round, 10-9. Canelo leads fight, 20-18.

Round 3: First two rounds close to toss-ups for judges John McKaie, Burt Clements and Dave Moretti. The third round opens with a good left and a dangerous right by Canelo. Canelo lands a right to Cotto's head. Cotto covers after a Canelo right. Cotto works the jab. A good Canelo right to the head. Cotto counters with a jab. Canelo wins round, 10-9.Canelo leads fight, 30-27.

Round 4: Cotto lands with a left. Canelo comes back with a good right. Cotto can take a punch. Canelo darts away from jabs and a right, comes back with a clean left-right combination. Canelo jabs, and jabs again. Cotto lands some punches and backs up. Nice boxing. Good right by Canelo. Three lefts by Cotto to close. Cotto wins round, 10-9. Canelo leads fight, 39-37.

Round 5: Good action, with Cotto landing a left uppercut. Canelo connects with a clean right as Cotto tries to continue boxing. Left hook by Canelo lands. Cotto answers with a clean combination. Cotto then lands a left. Canelo has a welt under his right eye. Cotto left counterpunch while slipping a Canelo right. Cotto wins round, 10-9.Canelo leads fight, 48-47.

Round 6: Canelo fires off a left and right that glance Cotto. Canelo follows with an overhand right. Then a good left by Canelo, who looks more aggressive this round. Cotto boxing and moving. He’s staying away from the ropes as Roach advised. Two clean jabs by Cotto. They trade jabs, mostly missing. Cotto wins round, 10-9. Fight is even, 57-57.

Round 7: Very close rounds here. Cotto working body, throwing punches. Canelo lands big left and hard right to Cotto's body. It's busy work vs. heavy work. Cotto jabs and backs away. He jabs again. Good right uppercut by Canelo lands. Not exactly the action we were promised yet. Canelo misses a right. Canelo wins round, 10-9. Canelo leads fight, 67-66.

Round 8: Canelo opens with a left uppercut, followed by a jab. A hard right by Canelo, but Cotto answers before Canelo rips him with a left and right. Canelo follows with a hard left. Canelo on the attack, crowd loves this. Great action. Canelo jabs. Cotto has taken some big blows and Canelo wants to keep throwing them. Hard right uppercut by Canelo. Good left by Cotto at the bell, but a convincing round for Canelo, who wins the round, 10-9. Canelo leads fight, 77-75.

Round 9: Trainer Freddie Roach is in Cotto’s ear. Good right by Cotto to open. Canelo answers with a good left. He follows with a left to Cotto's body. Canelo gets Cotto to the ropes with power punches, but Cotto answers on the other side. Two left hooks by Canelo to close. Canelo wins round, 10-9. Canelo leads fight, 87-84.

Round 10: Will Cotto tire now? He’s 10 years older. Canelo makes Cotto cover with a right to the head. Canelo lands a hard right to the body; Cotto complains to no avail. Cotto lands a left to Canelo's face. Canelo misses with two big rights. Cotto pulls down Canelo. Cotto moving away, he needs to do more, like that big right he lands near the end. 10-9 Cotto wins round, 10-9. Canelo leads fight, 96-94.

Round 11: Cotto lands a good right to Canelo's head. Cotto blocks a Canelo left and ducks a right. Left by Canelo makes Cotto back up. Another good left by Canelo. Cotto is jabbing, dancing on toes. Canelo connects with a left, then a right. Cotto tries to land lefts before bell, but they weren’t as meaningful. Canelo wins round, 10-9. Canelo leads fight, 106-103.

Round 12: Canelo opens by landing a pair of lefts. He follows with bigger rights. There's a good exchange from the fighters. Cotto cut above left eye. Nice right by Cotto, Canelo lands a response. Cotto lands a left. Canelo follows with a couple of lefts and a hard right. There's another good exchange. Cotto delivers lefts at the bell. They embrace. Close fight going to the judges. Canelo wins round, 10-9. Canelo should win by decision, 116-112.

Flaws exposed as Ohio State comes undone

We need to collectively apologize to Baylor.

The Bears aren't the most overrated team in the country. It's actually defending national champion Ohio State, which lost to Michigan State 17-14 at home on Saturday.

Somehow, it took us 12 weeks to figure out the Buckeyes aren't really that good. We weren't the only ones hoodwinked, though. The College Football Playoff selection committee thought so much of the Buckeyes that it ranked them No. 3 in each of the first three top-25 rankings.

Even as Ohio State struggled to put away teams such as Northern Illinois,Indiana and Minnesota, we figured it would kick into gear once it played a game that really mattered. But the Buckeyes didn't, and now it's too late.

Hopefully, it's a valuable lesson for all of us: Last season doesn't (and shouldn't) matter when it comes to picking the four best teams for this season's playoff.

If Ohio State had played anyone of real consequence in the previous three months, we might have been exposed to the warts and boils that were festering behind the facade. What was supposed to be Urban Meyer's next dynasty was dismantled in about four hours Saturday.

After losing to No. 9 Michigan State on Michael Geiger's 41-yard field goal as time expired at the Horseshoe, it took the No. 3 Buckeyes about 30 minutes to completely implode.

Star tailback Ezekiel Elliott announced after the game that he would not return for his senior season in 2016. Backup quarterback Cardale Jones, the hero in OSU's unlikely run to a national championship last season, announced on Twitter that he would not either.

At this point, I'm not even sure it's fair to call the Buckeyes an actual team. They might be more of a loose collection of star players with one foot out the door to the NFL draft.

Don't the Buckeyes have another important game to play next week, as well as a postseason bowl? Talk about slapping Ohio State's biggest tradition right in the face. Elliott and Jones couldn't have waited until after next week's showdown at No. 12Michigan in "The Game" to announce their future plans? Legendary OSU coach Woody Hayes must be rolling in his grave.

If Michigan State loses to Penn State next week and Ohio State somehow recovers to beat Michigan, the Buckeyes would win the Big Ten East and play in the Big Ten championship game. Isn't that worth playing for?

After losing for the first time in 23 games and suffering their first Big Ten regular-season defeat in Meyer's four seasons at the school, the Buckeyes' world seemed to come to a stunning end.

"It's easy to lead when everything is going well, and you won a bunch of games in a row," Meyer said. "That's not how you judge a team. That's not how you judge character. That's not how you judge a leader. That's how you judge a front-runner."

The Buckeyes sure sounded like front-runners on Saturday. Elliott ripped Ohio State's play calling against the Spartans. He carried the ball 12 times for 33 yards with one touchdown, which were three fewer rushing attempts than quarterback J.T. Barrett had.

"What happened today, it was kind of like a bad, bad dream," Elliott said. "Offense had a rough day, and I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed in the play calling, I'm disappointed in the situations we were put in, and I wish it all played out differently.

"I deserve more than [12] carries. I really do. I can't speak for the playcaller. I don't know what was going on."

Elliott certainly has reason to be frustrated, but voicing his frustrations publicly wasn't the smartest thing to do. On a cold, rainy day in Columbus, the Spartans had to figure the Buckeyes would try to hop on Elliott's back and ride to a victory, as they did at the end of last season. Instead, Elliott seemed to be more of an afterthought in the offense.

The Buckeyes also failed to take many chances in the passing game, as Barrett finished 9-of-16 passing for 46 yards with one touchdown. OSU finished with only 132 yards of offense, the lowest-ever total by a Meyer-coached team, with only five first downs.

How conservative was the play calling? Rarely has a Meyer-coached team taken so few chances on such a big stage.

"No, I was not content," Meyer told reporters postgame when asked about the play calling. "I call a lot of plays anyway, so finger will be pointed right here. And I have to do better. We didn't -- it was very conservative."

There's no question the Buckeyes are only a shell of the team that steamrolled Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon in its final three games of 2014 en route to a national championship. In hindsight, the loss of offensive coordinator Tom Herman, who left to become Houston's head coach, seems to be the biggest blow. The OSU offense has sputtered under the direction of co-offensive coordinators Tim Beck and Ed Warinner.

Coming into this season, the Buckeyes easily looked like the most talented team in the country. They had a handful of All-Americans on both lines, one of the country's best tailbacks and two quarterbacks who could seemingly start anywhere. It seemed the only way they wouldn't make the playoff was if the quarterback battle became a full-blown controversy.

The Buckeyes seemed too good to not have a legitimate chance of repeating. They looked so loaded at quarterback that two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Braxton Miller moved to wide receiver in the offseason. Meyer chose to start Jones at the beginning of the season, but then turned to Barrett in midseason after Jones failed to rekindle the magic he had during the 2014 finish.

However, Barrett couldn't get anything going against Michigan State, a 13-point underdog playing without injured star quarterback Connor Cook.

"For the most part, it was tough sledding throwing the ball," Meyer said. "And it hasn't been a smooth run, really, most of the year."

Now, the Buckeyes look like they're out of the playoff. They'll have to hope the Spartans lose to Penn State and they beat Michigan to have a chance of winning the Big Ten and playing in the Rose Bowl.

"We've just been hit right in the gut," Meyer said.

Some of Ohio State's best players sounded like they were knocked out for good.

1. Clemson: The Tigers continued their march to the ACC championship game and possibly the playoff by routing Wake Forest 33-13 at Death Valley. It was Clemson's 14th consecutive victory, the second-longest win streak in school history. If the Tigers win at rival South Carolina next week, they'll finish the regular season unbeaten for the first time since they won a national championship in 1981.

2. Alabama: The Crimson Tide cruised to a 56-6 rout of FCS foe Charleston Southern, which gives them 10 wins for the eighth consecutive season. It's the third-longest such streak in FBS since 1937. Florida State (14 10-win seasons in a row from 1987-2000) and Texas (nine straight from 2001-09) are the only schools with longer streaks in that span.

3. Oklahoma: Playing without star quarterback Baker Mayfield in the second half, the Sooners barely survived in a 30-29 home victory over TCU. The Horned Frogs rallied from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter, and the Sooners didn't win until they stopped a two-point conversion attempt with 51 seconds to play. It was OU's sixth consecutive victory.

4. Michigan State: The Spartans' upset of Ohio State might be enough to propel them into the top four. Michigan State's earlier wins over Oregon and Michigan are looking better every week, and its only loss was a controversial 39-38 defeat at Nebraska. If MSU beats Penn State at home next week, it will win the Big Ten East.
Next four in contention
1. Iowa: Iowa fans will undoubtedly be upset if the unbeaten Hawkeyes are ranked behind three one-loss teams. The good news: Iowa still controls its playoff fate. The Hawkeyes clinched the Big Ten West by beating Purdue 40-20. If Iowa defeats Nebraska next week and the East Division champion in the Big Ten championship game, the committee will have a difficult time leaving it out of the final top four.
2. Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish picked a bad time to have a less-than-impressive game. The selection committee couldn't have been too impressed by Notre Dame's 19-16 victory over Boston College at Fenway Park, in which the Irish turned the ball over five times. They still have to survive next week's trip to Stanford, where they've dropped three straight games. At least Notre Dame's earlier victories over Temple and Navy are still carrying some weight.
3. Baylor: The Bears recovered from last week's disappointing loss to Oklahoma by upsetting previously unbeaten Oklahoma State 45-35 on the road. Baylor piled up 700 yards of offense with third-string quarterback Chris Johnson at the helm. The Bears play at TCU on Black Friday and host Texas on Dec. 5.
4. Stanford: The Cardinal bounced back from a 38-36 loss to Oregon last week by throttling rival California 35-22 to win the Pac-12 North. Stanford can help its case by beating Notre Dame for the fifth time in the past seven meetings. The Cardinal will face the UCLA-USC winner in the Pac-12 championship game.

1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama: Henry ran for 68 yards with two touchdowns on nine carries on the first two possessions of the Crimson Tide's 50-point rout of FCS foe Charleston Southern. He tied Trent Richardon's school record with 21 rushing touchdowns in a season and extended his school record with his 16th consecutive game with a rushing score.

2. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: Watson threw for 343 yards on 24-for-35 passing and accounted for four touchdowns in the Tigers' win over Wake Forest. Watson threw two interceptions, but he also rushed for 44 yards with one score. He ran and passed for a touchdown in the same game for the sixth time this season, the second-most in FBS.

3. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: Cook was as steady as ever in the Seminoles' 52-13 rout of FCS foe Chattanooga, in their 21st consecutive victory at home. He ran 15 times for 106 yards with two touchdowns. It was his seventh 100-yard game of the season, which is second in school history behind Warrick Dunn's eight in 1995.

4. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford: McCaffrey broke the single game school record for all-purpose yards with 389 in the Cardinal's win over Cal. He'll have two more marquee opportunities to impress: next week against Notre Dame and against either USC or UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game.
Best moments
1. After losing to North Carolina 30-27, Virginia Tech's players carried retiring coach Frank Beamer off the field in his final home game.

2. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh lost his cool (again) on the sideline.

3. Clemson offensive lineman Daniel Stone proposed to his girlfriend on the field before Saturday's game against Wake Forest at Death Valley (she said yes).

4. Snowplow races! Iowa's field crew had some fun at snow-covered Kinnick Stadium during the first winter storm of the season.

Best plays

1. Michigan State kicker Michael Geiger's 41-yard field goal to beat Ohio State was one for the Spartans' history books, and his celebration was pretty epic too.

2. Alabama's Richard Mullaney made a sick touchdown catch before landing on his back in the Crimson Tide's rout of FCS foe Charleston Southern.

3. Stanford's Christian McCaffrey turned a short screen pass into a 49-yard touchdown by making defender after defender miss.

4. Mississippi State's Fred Ross made an amazing, one-handed catch across his body to score a 55-yard touchdown against Arkansas.
Worst plays

1. Virginia Tech defensive end Dadi Nicolas should know you never put your hands on ACC ref Ron Cherry.

2. Somehow, Big Ten officials overturned Jazz Peavy's apparent touchdown catch and ruled it incomplete late in the Badgers' 13-7 loss to Northwestern.

3. Michigan State has had some luck against Australian-born punters. Ohio State's Cameron Johnston had an ugly 5-yard punt against the Spartans on Saturday.

4. Wisconsin's cheerleaders left the field after being pelted with snowballs -- by Badgers fans.
Quotes of the night

1. "I don't really like comparing humans to chickens or any other type of animal." -- Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, when asked if he was worried about the Wolverines laying an egg at Penn State before next week's showdown against Ohio State.

2. "The headline in the Columbia paper today said we had no chance. Twenty-five years ago, they said the same thing. At some point, they better start respecting the kind of young men we have at The Citadel." -- Bulldogs coach Mike Houston, after FCS The Citadel beat South Carolina 23-22 to end a 27-game losing streak against FBS opponents.

3. "I'm sure the guys next week are going to take a look at this and probably go on vacation." -- Florida coach Jim McElwain, after the No. 8 Gators barely survived a 20-14 overtime win over the 2-9 Owls at the Swamp. Florida plays FSU next week.

4. "I do think we had more yards rushing than Leonard Fournette did." -- Charleston Southern coach Jamey Chadwell, after the Buccaneers ran for 85 yards in their 50-point loss to Alabama. Fournette had 31 in LSU's 30-16 loss to the Tide two weeks ago.
Stats that matter

2: Winless teams remaining in FBS, after Kansas fell by seven touchdowns to West Virginia. Kansas and UCF are both 0-11. The Jayhawks finish the season against Kansas State, while the Knights host USF.

2: Alabama's Cyrus Jones returned two punts for touchdowns in the Tide's rout of Charleston Southern. He's the first Alabama player to return multiple punts for touchdowns in a game since the school started keeping official records in 1944.

6: Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. tied a school-record with six touchdowns passes -- all longer than 20 yards -- in a 48-28 win over USC. It was the most touchdown passes ever allowed by the Trojans.

7: Touchdown passes by Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen in a 51-50 loss to Mississippi State. Allen became the school's all-time leader with 63 career touchdown passes, which broke the previous record of 62 held by Ryan Mallett.

How Anonymous war with Isis is actually harming counter-terrorism

Anonymous are in the throes of an all-out cyberwar with Isis – but could they actually be harming counter-terrorism?

Three days ago the hacking collective announced they were going to out as many Isis-affiliated social media accounts as they could find, forcing websites like Twitter to shut them down.

They’ve been quite successful, finding and closing down more than 5,500 Twitter accounts under the banner of #OpISIS.

However, there are security groups that rely on the terror group’s social media presence.

GhostSec is one of these. They regularly track down jihadist accounts and forums – but rather than shut them down, they infiltrate them and monitor their activity.

According to their website, their mission is to ‘eliminate the online presence of Islamic extremist groups such as Islamic State (IS), Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra, Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab in an effort to stymie their recruitment and limit their ability to organise international terrorist efforts’.

They pass all important information they gather about extremist groups to intelligence agencies, such as the FBI.

This could include details about where to buy bomb-making materials, and plans for carrying out major terrorist attacks like those in Paris last week.

It is a lot easier for groups such as GhostSec to monitor what terror groups are planning when they communicate over Twitter, because it is an unencrypted, public forum.

But since these accounts have been getting shut down, Isis supporters have been setting up new accounts on encrypted messaging sites such as Telegram.

Telegram not only protects its messages from surveillance, but users can transfer funds to each other, or set a timer on their messages so they self-destruct.

So Anonymous closing down thousands of Twitter accounts isn’t eliminating terrorism – it’s just pushing it further underground, out of sight

‘When it comes to terrorist attacks, one of the big worries is that you could take down forums and cost someone their lives,’ a GhostSec spokesman known only as Digital Shadow told Tech.Mic.

‘Anonymous has a habit of shooting in every direction and asking questions later.’

GhostSec, and another similar group called CtrlSec, have an online form where people can report any terror activity they see online.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Box office preview: Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 aims for $120 million

Katniss Everdeen is about to make her final box office bow, capping off a film franchise whose first three installments brought in a whopping $2.3 billion worldwide.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is expected to debut around $120 million, on par with Part 1, which opened this time last year to $121.9 million. It went on to gross $337.1 million domestically and $755.4 million worldwide. While the latest Mockingjay isn’t expected to reach the box office heights of the first Hunger Games and Catching Fire, it should beat out this year’s Minions debut to become the fourth-biggest opening of 2015.

The odds are definitely in Mockingjay’s favor, and it will handily take home the box office crown this weekend, but Mockingjay isn’t the only new release hitting theaters. The Christmas-themed comedy The Night Before and the crime thriller Secret in Their Eyes are also opening, as are Carol and Legend in limited release.

Here’s how this weekend might play out at the box office:

1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 — $120 million

After huge debuts for the first two installments in theHunger Games franchise, last year’s Mockingjay – Part 1 took a bit of a box office dip. Catching Fire andThe Hunger Games clock in as the eighth and ninth biggest domestic debuts of all time, with $158.1 million and $152.5 million apiece, making Catching Fire the biggest opening ever for a movie with a female lead.Mockingjay 1, on the other hand, only (only?) brought in $121.9 million in its debut. That’s about what Part 2is expected to make this weekend, although it could see a slight boost from fans turning out for the franchise’s final chapter. Even if the latest Mockingjay won’t, um, catch fire, a debut above $116 million will make it the fourth-biggest opening of the year.

Mockingjay – Part 2 has a budget of $160 million, and critical reviews have been generally better than last year’s installment, but not as overwhelmingly positive as the first two films. It currently holds a 72 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. After helming Catching Fire and Mockingjay – Part 1, Francis Lawrence returns to direct the final installment in Suzanne Collins’ YA saga, which stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth.

In addition to its big domestic haul, Mockingjay should also pull in some huge global numbers, as it’s opening in 4,175 North American theaters and more than 33,000 theaters in in 87 international territories. Those territories include an unusual same-day release in China.

2. Spectre — $16.8 million

After opening to $70.4 million two weeks ago, Spectre spent its second weekend at the top of the charts with $33.7 million. To date, it’s grossed more than $137 million domestically for a global total of more than $550 million. But after reigning for two weeks without much opposition, Spectre’s facing a steep fall of about 50 percent, as the Girl on Fire will prove tough competition for Bond.

3. The Peanuts Movie — $13.2 million

While the big-screen story of Charles M. Schulz’s beloved characters hasn’t pulled in 007-level numbers, it’s had a solid run since debuting two weeks ago opposite Spectre. The Peanuts Movie has benefitted from being one of the only family-friendly films in theaters right now, and its domestic total is now at $85.3 million. This weekend, it’s expected to drop about 45 percent for a third weekend of $13.2 million.

4. The Night Before — $13 million

Directed by Jonathan Levine, the R-rated comedy about three lifelong friends reuniting for a wild Christmas Eve stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anthony Mackie. Reviews have been decent but mixed, with a 67 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but The Night Before is expected to land somewhere in the low to mid-teens.

5. Secret In Their Eyes — $8 million

Billy Ray’s dark crime drama follows a team of investigators looking into the murder of one of their own daughters. Even with a star-studded cast, headlined by Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, critical reception has been poor, with a 31 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s the second big release for distributor STX Entertainment, who had a surprise hit earlier this year with The Gift, which opened to $11.9 million and went on to gross $43.8 million domestically. Secret In Their Eyes is expected to debut around $8 million.

At the specialty box office, two high-profile films are getting limited releases. The 1950s lesbian drama Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, is debuting in four theaters, as is the gangster dramaLegend, starring Tom Hardy as the notorious London gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray. Since opening in the United Kingdom in September, Legend has earned more than $27.9 million.

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans fall 19-13 to Jacksonville Jaguars: Live chat recap

Marcus Mariota and his Tennessee Titans teammates lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars 19-13 on Thursday Night Football.

Jaguars kicker Jason Myers makes a 36-yard field goal and extends Jacksonville's lead to 19-13 with 2:19 remaining in regulation.

Jacksonville takes back the lead, 16-13 after quarterback Blake Bortles connects with Julius Thomas 5-yards for the touchdown.

Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota scores the first touchdown of the game on a 23-yard keeper. The Titans hold a 13-9 lead over the Jaguars with 5:22 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

Jacksonville's Jason Myers connects on his third field goal of the night, this time from 20 yards out to give the Jaguars a 9-6 lead in the 3rd quarter.

Succop added a 49-yard field goal in the second quarter to give the Titans a 6-3 lead. Jacksonville evened the score 6-6 with a 32-yard field goal from Myers just before halftime.

Tennessee's Ryan Succop kicks a 47-yard field goal to give the Titans a 3-0 lead over the Jaguars in the first quarter. The Jaguars responded with a field goal of their own to start the second quarter, 31-yards form Jason Myers.

First half recap:

The Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars ended the first half tied 6-6.

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 10 of 17 passes for 128 yards. Tennessee running back Antonio Andrews rushed for 24 yards on six attempts.

Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles completed 10 of 15 passes for 125 yards.

Second half recap:

Jacksonville kicker Jason Myers added two field goals in he second half for the Jaguars (20 and 36 yards).

Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota scored the first touchdown of the game with a 23-yard keeper with 5:22 left in the third quarter. Overall, Mariota completed 22 of 35 passes for 231 yards. He was sacked four times throughout the game.

Blake Bortles connected with Julius Thomas 5-yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 3:30 remaining in regulation. Bortles threw for 242 yards and completed 21/30 passes. He also threw an interception.

Follow along in the comments section, and add your own thoughts on the game by signing in below as we bring you analysis of Mariota's performance and live updates from the field as they happen.

Jared Fogle, ex-Subway spokesman, gets 15 years in prison for child porn, sex crimes

Former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle was sentenced Thursday to more than 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges related to child pornography and sexual conduct involving minors.

Fogle faced two counts: traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor, and distribution and receipt of child pornography.

“How do you plead to the charges?” U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt asked Fogle on Thursday at the federal courthouse in Indianapolis,according to the Indianapolis Star.

“Guilty,” Fogle replied.

Pratt sentenced him to 15 years and eight months behind bars, according to the Associated Press.

The news service reported that prosecutors had recommended a 12½-year sentence.

“The level of perversion and lawlessness exhibited by Mr. Fogle is extreme,” the judge said, according to the Star.

[Jared Fogle admitted to sex crimes against minors. Why wasn’t he charged with rape?]

The AP reported that Fogle’s family grew emotional as Pratt announced the sentence.

Some of Fogle’s family members in the courtroom started crying and hugging each other when he ordered taken into immediate custody.

Federal marshals had Fogle remove his suit jacket, tie and belt before they handcuffed him behind his back. Fogle blew kisses to relatives as he was led away.

Fogle’s attorney had announced in August that his client would enter a guilty plea to the charges, which came after a raid at the ex-sandwich pitchman’s Indiana home.

Court documents released earlier this year detailed the allegations against Fogle. The documents claimed that he had used Web sites to solicit commercial sex and that he had traveled to engage in sexual acts with minors. Authorities also believe that Fogle received images and videos of nude children from the former executive director of his charity foundation.

That man, Russell Taylor, has agreed to plead guilty to child exploitation and child pornography charges.

Before his sentencing, Fogle delivered a statement in which he apologized for his actions, the Star reported.

Fogle’s voice cracked and he sobbed as he said, “Not a day will go by when I don’t think about what I did to (the victims).”

“Members of my family are also victims of my acts,” he said before noting that his wife will be a single mother.

“You gave your wife $7 million, so she’ll be OK,” the judge said, interrupting.

Fogle — who said he lost more than 200 pounds by exercising and eating Subway sandwiches — had long served as spokesman for Subway, as the story of his diet helped the Connecticut-based sandwich chain market itself as a healthier option.

But after Fogle’s home in Zionsville, Ind., was raided in July, Subway announced that the company and Fogle had “mutually agreed to suspend their relationship.” When a report about the federal charges emerged, Subway said that it already ended its relationship with Fogle, though it was unclear exactly when that occurred.

According to the AP, a psychiatrist who had analyzed Fogle said Thursday that the 38-year-old suffers from hypersexuality, “mild pedophilia” and alcohol abuse and dependency.

John Bradford, a professor at the University of Ottawa in Canada, testified by phone Thursday “that Fogle appears to have had a compulsive eating disorder and that he began to develop hypersexuality shortly after losing weight,” the AP reported.

According to AP:

Bradford says Fogle told him he had sex with minors age 16 and 17 and had “a fairly extensive history” of using prostitutes. He says Fogle told him he masturbated to fantasies about prepubescent girls, but that there’s no evidence he acted on them.

According to the Star, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven DeBrota said in court Thursday that Fogle “can’t control his demons.”

“For most of my adult life, I’ve been in the spotlight, trying to be a role model,” Fogle told the judge Thursday, according to the Star. “…I became dependent on alcohol, pornography and prostitutes.”

Drew Harwell and Abby Phillip contributed to this report, which has been updated.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Instant Analysis: Oklahoma topples Baylor, muddles Big 12 playoff picture


Oklahoma knocked out one of the Big 12’s two remaining undefeated teams and kept itself alive in the Big 12 title hunt with a 44–34 win against No. 6 Baylor. Here are three thoughts from a rainy night in Waco.

1.The Sooners’ three biggest offensive stars came up huge

Quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 24 of 34 passes for 270 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed 15 times for 76 yards and a touchdown. Tailback Samaje Perine carried 28 times for 166 yards with two touchdowns. Meanwhile, receiver Sterling Shepard caught 14 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns.

The Bears sliced No. 12 Oklahoma’s lead to three when quarterback Jarrett Stidham hit Jay Lee for a 17-yard touchdown with 10:29 remaining. It appeared Baylor would get the ball back when a Travon Blanchard sack of Mayfield forced the Sooners into third-and-long deep in their own territory. But Blanchard was called for a horse collar tackle on the play, and Oklahoma went from third-and-forever to first-and-10 at its own 32. Mayfield guided the Sooners down the field after that. On third-and-goal from the seven, he danced in the pocket behind excellent protection before hitting Dimitri Flowers for a touchdown.

On Baylor’s next play from scrimmage, Ahmad Thomasintercepted Stidham. The Sooners then ran out the clock.

Stidham, the true freshman who was making his second start in place of the injured Seth Russell, completed 16 of 27 passes for 257 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Sooners held Baylor star Corey Coleman to only six targets, resulting in three catches for 51 yards. Coleman caught two passes that had floated out of bounds in the first half, and he dropped a slant before getting clobbered in the third quarter. Oklahoma kept a safety to his side for most of the night. With their best playmaker covered, the rest of the Bears couldn’t pick up the slack.

2. Oklahoma’s win complicates the Big 12’s playoff picture

The Sooners moves on to the next stage of the Big 12 knockout round, but their win complicates matters in terms of a Big 12 team making the playoff. It would have been much tidier for the Big 12 had Baylor won and then faced Oklahoma State in a clash of undefeated teams in Stillwater next week. Now, the Sooners move on to a matchup with a potentially hobbled TCU in Norman next week. Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin left Saturday’s win against Kansasafter a first-half ankle injury and didn’t return.

Like Ohio State last year, Oklahoma looks like a completely different team than the one that suffered an early-season loss. Since falling 24–17 to Texas on Oct. 10, the Sooners have won their past five by a combined score of 276–84.

Because of that loss to Texas, Oklahoma must keep winning and probably needs to hope for some chaos elsewhere. For example, aMichigan State win at Ohio State next week could be a huge boon. The last thing the Sooners want is to wind up fighting an 11–1 Notre Dame for the final playoff spot. Why? Because Notre Dame would also have several quality wins and a 38–3 win against Texas that isn’t even close to one of its best. The Fighting Irish’s loss, meanwhile, is at Clemson. The Sooners really need Stanford to beat Notre Dame on Nov. 28 and eliminate them from the playoff hunt.

It also goes without saying that Oklahoma needs to beat TCU next week and Oklahoma State on Oct. 28. That might be difficult enough.

3. It’s time to seriously consider Mayfield for the Heisman Trophy

Before Saturday’s game, Oklahoma sports information director Mike Houck passed out a sheet that showed the numbers for Mayfield compared to the numbers for the past 13 quarterbacks to win the Heisman through the first nine games of their Heisman seasons.
Mayfield’s numbers do stack up favorably, and his performance in the Sooners’ biggest game to date only helps his cause.

Floyd Mayweather has unexpected reaction to Ronda Rousey’s knockout loss

In the wake of Ronda Rousey’s shocking knockout loss Saturday to Holly Holm at UFC 193, some of her known antagonists took the opportunity to gloat. For example, one mixed martial arts rival, Miesha Tate, said she was “[expletive] stoked” while another, Cris Cyborg, simply tweeted out a happy-face emoticon.

[Laila Ali on Ronda Rousey: A real champ wouldn’t get beat up like that]

So surely another major figure in the world of combat sports, one who has been the subject of many of Rousey’s verbal jabs, would also take delight in her defeat, right? I am referring to retired boxer Floyd Mayweather, who may or may not have been serious when he said of Rousey last year, “I don’t know who he is.”

Since then, Rousey, who has never been shy about taking a shot at someone she doesn’t like, has made Mayweather a frequent target. In May, she said of a hypothetical match against the boxer, who has spent time in jail for domestic violence, “I don’t think that me and him would ever fight — unless we ended up dating.”

In the wake of Ronda Rousey’s shocking knockout loss Saturday to Holly Holm at UFC 193, some of her known antagonists took the opportunity to gloat. For example, one mixed martial arts rival, Miesha Tate, said she was “[expletive] stoked” while another, Cris Cyborg, simply tweeted out a happy-face emoticon.

[Laila Ali on Ronda Rousey: A real champ wouldn’t get beat up like that]

So surely another major figure in the world of combat sports, one who has been the subject of many of Rousey’s verbal jabs, would also take delight in her defeat, right? I am referring to retired boxer Floyd Mayweather, who may or may not have been serious when he said of Rousey last year, “I don’t know who he is.”

Since then, Rousey, who has never been shy about taking a shot at someone she doesn’t like, has made Mayweather a frequent target. In May, she said of a hypothetical match against the boxer, who has spent time in jail for domestic violence, “I don’t think that me and him would ever fight — unless we ended up dating.”

[Floyd Mayweather fires back with possibly disturbing shot at Ronda Rousey]

So you might think that, after Holm’s kick to the head sent the previously undefeated UFC star tumbling to the canvas, Mayweather would be more than ready and willing to kick Rousey while she was down. Well, actually, in his first public comments on the topic, he provided some very even-handed thoughts.

“Just in boxing period, contact sports period, you win some, you lose some,” Mayweather said Sunday to David Mayo of “I don’t know about this fight, I just know that you win some and you lose some. It basically comes with the territory.”

Interesting wording from Mayweather, considering that, far from losing “some,” he never lost any in his professional career, retiring with a 49-0 record after beating Andre Berto in September. And that, of course, could have been his intention — to remind everyone that he is one of the truly exceptional figures in combat sports, while attempting to take the air of the much-hyped Rousey’s balloon.

[Lady Gaga says Ronda Rousey got what she deserved for poor sportsmanship]

Mayweather did reiterate to Mayo his previously stated dismay that Rousey was put on the cover of venerable boxing magazine The Ring. She became the first MMA fighter accorded that honor, but Mayweather thinks it makes his sport “look bad.”

Perhaps he is taking some comfort in the fact that it took a woman relatively new to MMA after a lengthy career as a boxer to topple the face of the UFC. But if Mayweather is gloating over Rousey’s stunning defeat, he isn’t (yet) saying so.

[UFC announcer Joe Rogan’s face after Ronda Rousey’s defeat said it all]

'It sickens me': Ariel Winter fires back at body shamers over bikini picture

Have something you want to say about Ariel Winter's body? Then get ready for the 17-year-old "Modern Family" actress to strike back, hard.

The controversy erupted Friday when Winter posted a photo to Instagram of herself wearing a bikini, grinning along with her two young nieces:

Among the ensuing comments that followed (many of which were the equivalent of a thumbs-up), Winter received a barrage of negative thoughts, including some people who apparently thought that by wearing a bathing suit she was "asking for it."

Winter did not let that stand, and posted a second photo of a woman with her leg marked up, indicating what a skirt length might imply about her to some people (up high is "whore," down low is "prudish").

And in the caption to that picture, she took those who left judging comments to task:

"Who knew that an innocent photo with my nieces would turn into this? The height of a girl's skirt or whatever she is wearing for that matter, does not imply what she is asking for. It sickens me to think at 17 years old, a photo of myself with my nieces is suggesting that I'm 'asking for it,'" she wrote.

MORE: 'Modern Family' teen Ariel Winter scores $6 million in contract renegotiation

"I typically never give power to the mean things people bravely say behind their computer screens on the Internet, but this is for the girls who are constantly bullied whether it be online or at school," she continued. "You are not asking for anything because of what you are wearing — you are expressing yourself and don't you ever think you deserve the negativity as the consequence to what you are wearing — YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. Celebrate you and don't let anyone's comments allow you to think less of yourself. Us girls have to stick together!!!!!!"

MORE: Emmy Awards red carpet 2015: See the best-dressed stars!

Fans have responded. On the original post, one wrote, "Currently deployed to Iraq, this is the kind of stuff I hate seeing. I'm just 2 years older than @arielwinter, and I'm over here doing this. I think she has the right to wear what she wants. It looks like you had a good time with your nieces!"

And on the second post, another wrote, "You are beautiful inside and out & such a wonderful role model for girls all over the world!!"

Monday, November 16, 2015

Julian Edelman has broken foot, report says

The Patriots lost receiver Julian Edelman to a foot injury late in the first quarter of Sunday’s 27-26 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium. reported Edelman has a broken foot. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted that Edelman is having surgery Monday.

The team’s top receiver and one of Tom Brady’s favorite and most reliable targets was hurt after a catching a 12-yard pass on the final play of the quarter.

Edelman left for the locker room with a noticeable limp after being examined on the bench by the medical staff. He was originally listed as questionable to return but the Patriots later announced he would not return.

Edelman had four catches for 53 yards in the first quarter, including a 30-yard connection two plays before he was hurt.
Deep covered

Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, whose 54-yard field goal was the difference Sunday, is the first to reach an 80 percent success rate from 50 yards or longer.

Gostkowski has made 81 percent (17 for 21) of his career field goal tries from 50-plus. He is 4 for 4 from 50-plus in 2015, including a career-best 57-yard kick.

Gostkowski’s 17 field goals of 50-plus yards are the most in team history. His game-winner Sunday gave him a franchise-record 264 field goals.

It was plenty deep, too. Gostkowski had been booming kicks through the same uprights from farther back before the game.

“The ball definitely carried better that way,’’ he said. “It was a pretty calm day for this time of year, especially in the Northeast. It was a good night to kick.’’

Good feelings

After the Giants took a 26-24 lead with less than two minutes left, things didn’t look good for the Patriots, but special teams captain Matthew Slater was still feeling good.

“I remember looking at Nate Ebner when we got the ball back on that and saying, ‘Hey, I wouldn’t want any other quarterback in this situation’ . . . had a couple plays that could have gone either way but at the end of the day, 12 [Brady] made the plays he needed to make.

“[Rob] Gronkowski and those guys all produced and then Stephen the machine just continued to be the machine.’’

Pregame sights

Among the more interesting pregame scenes was Patriots owner Robert Kraftchatting with commissioner Roger Goodell and Jon Bon Jovi.

Later, team president Jonathan Kraft had a lengthy conversation with Goodell. Some tweets indicated it was an animated discussion. Kraft disagreed.

“I think I’m always animated. I may or may not have been animated,’’ he said. “We were having a very civil conversation, we were talking about e-commerce and some digital media stuff.

“There is other business, so separate those two things and that’s the way it’s working right now. The conversation was not animated. I might use my hands a lot to talk. It was definitely not an animated conversation.’’

Asked if this was Goodell’s first Patriots game of the season, Kraft said, “He’s the commissioner of the league. He didn’t say this to me, but he lives in New York, and the situation that happened on Friday in Paris, part of what took place there was at a sporting event, and I think one of Roger’s motives — he didn’t say this to me — was to be visible at a sporting event.’’

Fells spotted

Giants tight end Daniel Fells, a former Patriot, was spotted on the sideline before the game. He is recovering from an MRSA infection in his foot and there were fears earlier in the season that he could lose his foot . . . Also spotted was former Rutgers playerEric LeGrand, who was paralyzed during a game in college. Patriots defendersDevin McCourty, Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon, and Jonathan Freeny all played at Rutgers . . . Referee Ed Hochuli had a microphone malfunction during the television break between the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth. He was discussing a complaint the Patriots sideline had on Josh Brown’s 53-yard field goal attempt with his crew but left the mic on, momentarily letting the entire stadium in on the conversation . . . The Patriots clinched their 15th straight winning season . . . The Patriots have scored in an NFL-record 35 straight quarters . . . Defensive endJabaal Sheard returned for the first time since injuring his ankle against the Colts in Week 6. He had been limited in practice. Additionally, offensive lineman Chris Barker made his season debut. He was promoted from the practice squad Saturday night. The Patriots were without offensive linemen Sebastian Vollmer (concussion),Marcus Cannon (toe), and Tre’ Jackson (knee). The other inactives were receiverKeshawn Martin (hamstring), defensive lineman Trey Flowers, and safety Tavon Wilson.

Vincent ‘Don Vito’ Margera, reality TV star turned sex offender, dead at 59

He was fat. He was slow. He was often intoxicated, and/or appeared to have a speech impediment. If it was an act, it didn’t seem like it. And if he was in on the joke — which ended in 2007, when he was found guilty of molesting two teenage girls and legally barred from portraying his reality TV “character” — it didn’t seem like it.

Now, Vincent “Don Vito” Margera — the uncle of “Jackass”-affiliated prankmeister Bam Margera and the heel of his nephew’s MTV reality show “Viva La Bam” — is dead at 59. Margera battled liver and kidney failure in his final years, as his family told TMZ, and died Sunday.

“He struggled with kidney and liver issues for a while, and he put up a good fight,” his sister-in-law April Margera told CNN. “But he died this morning at 6:45 a.m. at Chester County Hospital in West Chester, Pennsylvania.”

“RIP Don Vito,” Johnny Knoxville, the closest thing to an A-list star that came from the “Jackass” franchise, wrote. “You will be missed.”

Others offered measured praise — or outright criticism.

“Don Vito died?” one user wrote on Twitter. “No loss. Too bad it wasn’t before he touched kids and whatnot.”

“I thought Don Vito died like 7 years ago,” another wrote.

This wasn’t just humor or hyperbole. In the wake of his sex crimes, Margera was barred, by a Colorado court, from playing the character of Don Vito — so named for his mumbling, a la Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone in “The Godfather.” The problem: Vincent Margera was Don Vito, and Don Vito was Vincent Margera. It’s a question as relevant to Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” as it is to “Keeping Up the Kardashians”: How can one stop playing oneself?

Before the rise of reality TV, Vincent Margera would likely have lived and died quietly in the Philadelphia suburb where he lived for decades. But his nephew, skateboarder Bam, rose to prominence as a member of MTV’s “Jackass” crew. Known for its cast’s irreverent, ridiculous — and sometimes dangerous — shenanigans, “Jackass” proved an incredibly popular MTV series and feature-film franchise. Bam’s spin-off, “Viva La Bam,” hit the air in 2003. And in this spotlight, Don Vito became a star — or, depending on one’s view, a black hole.

There is nothing new about less-than-beautiful characters getting abuse from those whose names are at the top of the marquee. Moe slapped Curly; Seinfeld put Newman in his place. But on “Viva La Bam,” the routine humiliation dumped on Don Vito, an obese middle-aged man who appeared to have issues with alcohol and a less-than-gentlemanly view of women, by his photogenic young nephew always seemed cruel and unusual. It wasn’t clear that Vincent/Vito really understood what was going on.

In one representative episode — “Destination: Mexico,” which aired in 2005 and does not hold up well — Bam and company depart for sunny south of the border, leaving Don Vito in snowy Pennsylvania.

Bam: We’re going to Mexico. You guys wanna go?

Vito: We’re going to Mexico.

Bam: You’re not going.

Vito: I know Mexican.

Bam: It’s not Mexican, it’s Spanish. And you don’t know Spanish.

Vito: I know uno, dos, tres, cuatro.

Bam: That’s not going to do any good and I don’t feel like spending my vacation bailing you out of a Mexican prison.

Vito: [unintelligible outburst] … I should get to go!

Bam: How bad do you want to go?

Vito: I want to go bad because I like the senoritas.

Bam then tells Vito he will give him a Hummer if Vito can master 10 sentences in Spanish.

Vito: What are you going to do if I don’t learn the Mexican people language?

Bam: You are going to be my pet Mexican.

Vito: A pet Mexican? What the hell is a pet Mexican?

Bam: You’ll find out.

The episode concludes when, after several embarrassing attempts to learn 10 Spanish sentences, Don Vito fails. In the final minute of the show, Bam crowns his uncle with a sombrero into which he pours salsa. Bam and his crew then dip tortilla chips into the salsa and eat it off of Vito’s head.

MTV is no stranger to poor taste. This episode, and many others, likely would have disappeared among the network’s many “spring break” adventures and other questionable programming. However, in real life beyond reality TV, Vincent Margera inhabited “Don Vito” all too well. In 2006, he was arrested after allegedly groping three girls — two 12-year-olds and a 14-year-old — at an autograph signing in Lakewood, Colo.

“This man was out of control during this public event,” prosecutor Jim Stanley said. “He was so intoxicated that he peed his pants while with these children.”

Margera’s defense was curious: His attorney argued her client was merely inhabiting the poorly-behaved Don Vito when he transgressed.

“Fans came to see the crazy, outrageous, profane uncle,” Pamela Mackey, Margera’s lawyer, said. “That’s who they wanted their picture taken with. Fans expected to see Don Vito, not Vincent Margera … You may find the behavior vulgar and disgusting, but it was done to amuse, to entertain, to get a laugh.”

A jury, not convinced, found Margera guilty of two counts of sexual assault on a child. When the verdict was read, Margera collapsed in court. His words were chilling.

“You might as well kill me now!” he shouted.

Margera, who could have spent six years in jail, faced a somewhat bizarre sentence. He had to register as a sex offender and spend 10 years on probation — that was routine. But to avoid jail, a judge ordered that Margera could “no longer be Don Vito” for a decade.

The victims seem satisfied with the verdict.

“I’m glad we haven’t dropped as a society to where touching young girls is entertainment,”one victim’s grandmother said at the time.

Margera appeared to comply with the ruling. Scenes in which he appearedwere reportedly cut from a subsequent “Jackass” film. Between his conviction and his death, he largely disappeared from press reports.

In comments posted to YouTube in 2012, Bam Margera angrily addressed what appeared to be civil claims filed against his uncle. There was no point to pursuing such actions, Bam said. Vito was broke.

“Guess what, lady?” Bam said. “Vito doesn’t have any f—king money. He has a red Ford Ranger and that’s it.” (Bam Margera was not immediately available for comment.)

Vito, however, said he had no regrets.

“He said to me last week that he wanted everyone to know it was a good ride,” sister-in-law April Margera told CNN. “He enjoyed himself and wanted to thank all the fans. He went through a lot, especially with the Denver stuff. He wanted everyone to know that he never did that.”

Cardinals scorch Seahawks, tighten grip on NFC West

All week, Seattle Seahawks players insisted Sunday night was just another game.

In Arizona, the Cardinals were treating it as anything but.

“We addressed this game as we wanted to show the nation that we’re for real this year,” cornerbackPatrick Peterson said after the Cardinals’ 39-32 triumph. “We thought this was an opportunity for us to come in here and show the world that we are a contender, not a pretender.”

Rallying past the two-time defending NFC champions in prime time might have a little more shine if the Seahawks hadn’t already let four other fourth-quarter leads slip away this season.

But there’s an emotional aspect to sending fans to the exits with two minutes to go at CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks have been so formidable. And the tangible impact can’t be denied.

Up three games with seven to go, the NFC West is the Cardinals’ to lose.

“Once we beat Cleveland and going into the bye, everything was about ‘take control of the division,’” defensive lineman Calais Campbell said. “It feels really good to do that.”

The Cardinals did it Sunday despite blowing an early 19-0 lead and falling behind early in the fourth quarter, thanks to a pair of strip-sacks on quarterback Carson Palmer as the Seahawks’ pass rush exploited and exacerbated issues with the protection.

“After some disastrous drives, basically giving them 14 points,” coach Bruce Arians said, “to come right back speaks volumes about the character we have in that locker room.”

They did it despite watching left guard Mike Iupati taken off the field in an ambulance with a neck injury that sent him to a local hospital for testing. (An MRI and CT scan came back normal, the team said, and Iupati flew home with the team.)

They did it despite having two of their top receivers, Michael Floyd and John Brown, hobbled by hamstring injuries, leaving little-used Jaron Brown to make a pivotal play: a 10-yard catch on a ball batted into the air by Seahawks star Richard Sherman, extending Arizona’s go-ahead drive.

“All year, we’ve kind of been the team that’s going to blow a team out, or if it’s close, we lose it,” running back Chris Johnson said. “Championship teams – you’ve got to win those type of games when it’s close in the fourth quarter and we got the ball.”

The Cardinals led this division at this stage last season, too. But they lost Palmer in their ninth game – the most damaging blow in a series of them that left Arizona limping into the playoffs with a fourth-string quarterback and backups all over.

The Cardinals were outscored 54-9 in two losses to the Seahawks last season with Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley at quarterback. On Sunday, Palmer was 29-of-48 for 363 yards with three touchdowns (and one pick early) before Andre Ellington’s 48-yard TD run all but iced it with 1:58 to go.

“I’ve always said I wanted to come back with Carson,” Arians said. “I don’t mind coming here with Carson any day of the week.”

The Arizona defense did its part, too, repeatedly forcing the Seahawks into passing situations on second- and third-and-long. Marshawn Lynch got just eight carries for 42 yards, and Russell Wilson was 14-of-32 passing with a touchdown and a poorly thrown interception to Tyrann Mathieu. The Cardinals ran 84 plays to Seattle’s 52 and had the ball for nearly 39 minutes.

Set aside that awful stretch early in the fourth quarter, and this was a relatively dominant effort on the road against the team that has owned the division and the conference the past two seasons.

“What’s our reward?” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “Another game on Sunday Night Football next week against undefeated Cincinnati.”

Another opportunity to show what these Cardinals are about – not that anyone’s opinion changes the fact they’re set up well to finish off one title and keep working toward another.