Patriots

Controversial ex-Patriots coach Ron Meyer dies at age 76

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Controversial ex-Patriots coach Ron Meyer dies at age 76

Ron Meyer, who coached the Patriots from 1982 until being fired in the middle of the 1984 season after a dispute with the front office -- and who earned the eternal enmity of Hall of Fame coach Don Shula for the infamous Snowplow Game -- has died.

He was 76.

Meyer was a college coach before joining the Pats, compiling records of 27-8 at UNLV from 1973-75 and 34-32-1 at SMU from 1976-81. The Mustangs won the Southwest Conference championship with a 10-1 record in '81.

Hired by the Patriots to replace Ron Erhardt after New England went 2-14 in 1981, Meyer led the Pats to the AFC playoffs in '82 with a 5-4 record during a strike-shortened season. That was the year Meyer directed Mark Henderson, on work release from prison, to take his snowplow on the field and clear a spot for kicker John Smith on a field-goal attempt during a snowstorm at what was then known as Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro. Smith hit the kick and gave the Patriots a 3-0 victory over the eventual AFC champion Dolphins, much to the fury of Miami coach Don Shula. Shula railed against Meyer's lack of sportsmanship and later, when after finishing his career with 347 victories, would always claim he "really" won 348, discounting the game which came to be known as the Snowplow Game.

Henderson's snowplow is on exhibit in the Patriots Hall of Fame.

Shula got his revenge when the Dolphins defeated New England, 28-13, in the opening round of the 1982 playoffs. The Pats went 8-8 in '83, missing the playoffs, and Meyer was fired in midseason 1984 despite the team having a winning record (5-3) at the time. Meyer -- who by this time had alienated many of the players -- dismissed popular defensive coordinator Rod Rust after a 44-24 loss to Miami, though he had no authority to do so. General manager Patrick Sullivan responded by firing Meyer, hiring Raymond Berry to take his place, and reinstating Rust. 

The firing happened just prior to the 1984 presidential election between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale. When asked who he would be voting for, Meyer famously replied: "Well, I was going to vote for Reagan. But now I'm unemployed, so I guess I'll vote for Mondale."

Meyer was hired by the Colts in 1986 and compiled a 36-35 record before being fired after an 0-5 start to the 1991 season. He led the franchise to its first playoff berth after moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis with a 9-6 record in 1987, another strike-shortened year.

He later coached in both the Canadian Football League and the short-lived XFL.

Steelers lock up AFC North with 39-38 win over Ravens

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Steelers lock up AFC North with 39-38 win over Ravens

PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Shazier was everywhere. His helmet rested on the Pittsburgh Steelers' bench. His jersey too. His face and #Shalieve stitched on specially-designed cleats. His familiar No. 50 printed in white in the middle of a gold circle on T-shirts worn by teammates searching for a way to let Shazier know he is never far from their mind as he recovers from a spinal injury that put the linebacker's blossoming career in jeopardy.

Shazier may never play football again. That doesn't make him any less of a Steeler. And the men who have taken so much from him over the last three-plus years decided it was time they gave him something back in return: the AFC North title he ordered them to lock down without him.

Chris Boswell made a 46-yard field goal with 42 seconds left and Pittsburgh's defense overcame a shaky night without their most dynamic player to shut down Baltimore's last-gasp drive and hold on for a 39-38 victory on Sunday night to capture their third division title in the last four years.

"We are riding with that guy," head coach Mike Tomlin said of Shazier. "He is strong. He is strengthening us."

Looked like it.

The Steelers (11-2) trailed by 11 points going into the fourth quarter but capped an emotionally draining week to rally for their eighth straight victory, one they couldn't wait to share with Shazier, who joined the giddy postgame celebration via Facetime.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 506 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to top 500 yards passing three times. Antonio Brown caught 11 passes for 213 yards, including two long gains in the fourth quarter that allowed the Steelers to recover after blowing an early 14-point lead. Le'Veon Bell had 125 yards of total offense and scored three touchdowns .

"We can win a shootout against anybody," Bell said. "I feel like we can score points whenever we need to."

Good thing, because Pittsburgh might have to. The Ravens (7-6) rolled up 414 yards against the NFL's fourth-ranked defense and recovered from a slow start to score on five consecutive drives and six out of seven to take a 38-29 lead on Javorius Allen's second touchdown with 6:44 left.

Not much time against most teams. Far too much against the Steelers.

Roethlisberger and Brown, who is mounting a legitimate MVP candidacy, hooked up on a 57-yard connection set up an 11-yard sprint by Bell with 3:29 to go. The Steelers forced the Ravens into a three-and-out and Roethlisberger calmly led Pittsburgh within field goal range, including a 34-yard lob down the sideline to Brown that set up Boswell's winner.

Baltimore's Joe Flacco threw for 269 yards passing with two touchdowns and one interception but was strip-sacked by rookie linebacker T.J. Watt on the Ravens' final snap.

"This one hurts," Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We lose to them the same way we did last year. This one sucks, but we've got to get over it. Yeah, this one's going to hurt but it's best for us to have a short memory on this one because if we win out there's a good chance we'll be in (the playoffs)."

Shazier, who's been in the hospital since injuring his spine in the first quarter of last week's victory over Cincinnati, told his teammates to finish the work he helped start. Even as they celebrated an important step in a journey they hope will carry them deep into the postseason, they were making plans to keep Shazier involved, starting with a late-night trip to the hospital to deliver him his AFC North champions' swag.

"We are going to give him the hat and T-shirt tonight," good friend and fellow inside linebacker Vince Williams said.

When someone mentioned visitor's hours were probably over, Williams repeated "tonight." Then, it was home to rest before preparing for a showdown with New England next Sunday.

"That's the crazy part about the NFL, things constantly change and you've got to keep rolling," Williams said. "So you've got to find a way to roll with the punches even though it may be a haymaker, got to find a way to recover."

HONORING SHAZIER

Linebacker James Harrison took to the field shirtless during warmups even as temperatures hovered in the low-30s, a nod to one of Shazier's pregame rituals. When Roosevelt Nix drilled Moore on the opening kickoff, Nix lifted his jersey to show the T-shirt most of the Steelers wore at some point during the night.

BRING ON THE PATS

The Steelers fell to New England in a one-sided loss in the AFC championship game 10 months ago. They're not exactly intimidated by the prospect of facing Tom Brady and company.

"You act like they're coming in with Kryptonite, Superman and Batman and Avatars and stuff," Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey said. "Heck yeah, it's a regular football game, what do you mean? We're going to go out there, tackle the football and run the football."

UP NEXT

Ravens: Visit winless Cleveland next Sunday. Baltimore beat the Browns 24-10 on Sept. 17.

Steelers: Will try to beat Brady and New England for the first time since 2011 next Sunday.

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