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Sports Business 5 to Watch: Super Bowl Sunday

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Sports Business 5 to Watch: Super Bowl Sunday

1. Super Bowl 50 is set to be a classic matchup of old vs new, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos pitted against hot-handed Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. And if you want to see this game in person, it will cost you. According to VividSeats.com, a secondary market for sports and entertainment, and SeatGeek, SB50 is shaping up to be the most expensive in NFL history. The cheapest ticket available for the Feb. 7 game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., is $3,224, and the most expensive comes in at a whopping $12,785, as of this past Monday. The website’s median price for tickets sold thus far is $4,180 — the cheapest seat in the house was sold for $3,000 in the upper level corner of the 49ers' home. Of those who have already bought tickets from the website, 37 percent are from California, 8 percent are from Texas and Florida each, and 7 percent and 6 percent are from Illinois and New York, respectively.

2. While a significant portion of NFL fans will never be fortunate enough to see their team make it all the way to the Super Bowl, those who are lucky enough will not be able to follow their team to the big game for nothing. Immediately following their wins this past Sunday, both the Panthers and Broncos posted travel packages for its fans through PrimeSport, a Los Angeles-based sports travel packager. The cheapest option comes in at $180 per person, which merely buys you a ticket to your team’s pregame tailgate in the parking lot. If you wanted to actually go to the game as well, buying the cheapest seat available, that number jumps all the way up to $3,507.50. If you wanted to fly to San Jose, arriving for the pregame and departing immediately after, that number begins to hover are the $6,000 marker — being more expensive for Charlotte fans than Denver fans. Three-night land packages (no flight) at each team’s three hotels ranging from $5,935 to $6,805 per person for Carolina fans at the Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf, Embassy Suites at Burlingame or the Sir Francis Drake on Union Square or $5,795 to $5,995 per person for Denver fans at the Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Wharf or Marriott Marquis in San Francisco. No matter how you want to approach the prospect of attending Super Bowl 50, it sure won’t be cheap.

3. With Super Bowl 50 quickly approaching in the next few weeks, the event’s host committee — in collaboration with in/PACT and Citizen Group, has launched “Play Your Part,” a campaign focusing on reducing impact on climate change by delivering a low emissions event and responsibly using materials and resources, all while inspiring fans to embrace sustainability themselves. Prizes will be given out by the event’s host committee to leading fans that enter and engage in the campaign. Sustainability Director for the Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee and President of in/PACT Sports & Entertainment Neill Duffy spoke about “Play Your Part’s” course of action leading up to the game. “We’re asking fans to do three things ... take action, choose your cause, win prizes. Fans take action by either: a) taking a pledge to do something sustainable, e.g. host a sustainable SB party, or b) actually do something sustainable when visiting Super Bowl City, e.g. leave the car at home, bring their own reusable water bottle or recycle responsibly.” The Super Bowl’s host site, Levi's Stadium, is the perfect venue to foster this campaign, as it became the first stadium in the United States that is home to a professional football team to receive LEED Gold certification upon construction.

4. Super Bowl 50’s reach is going to span far beyond Levi's Stadium, as events will range all the way from the Embarcadero in San Francisco to Mission College in Santa Clara, hitting various other Silicon Valley hot spots along the way. The area has prepared by already designating a special lane on Highway 101 between San Francisco and San Jose for buses and limousines heading to the game. Meanwhile, the Valley Transit Authority is prepared to transport exactly 12,000 passengers to Levi’s on Super Bowl Sunday via VTA’s train system. A round trip transport to and from the game on these trains will cost a mere $20 and is set to be one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways of getting the football’s new mecca. Santa Clara council member Lisa Gillmor spoke of her anxiety and excitement surrounding her city’s hospitality. "I'm nervous but optimistic that Santa Clara is going to come through this with shining colors," she said. "I want to make sure that we showcase our city to the country and the world."

5. With recent hard-hitting storms on the East Coast, more bad weather is expected to make its way to the Bay Area just in time for Super Bowl 50. In a front-page newspaper piece in the San Francisco Chronicle this past week, Alexander & Rubenstein noted the likely chance that the days surrounding the matchup “will be significantly wetter than normal.” But NFL officials were quick to note that they “have contingencies in place for rain, from the new weather-tested turf laid at Levi’s Stadium to plans to keep the microphones dry for Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars during the halftime show.” While there is still a chance that the heavy rains foil out or miss Levi's Stadium and the surrounding area completely, the NFL is preparing for any possible weather pattern that might hit. “The football gods have been with us throughout the history of the Super Bowl. We’ve been fortunate to not have the weather as a factor,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. “And if it is a factor, well, that’s football.”

6. There are two reasons why people watch the Super Bowl: for the game itself and for the advertisements that come in between the action. This year, a few lesser-known brands will take their chances, spending big bucks to market their product during one of the world’s most-watched events. Bai, the maker of low-calorie health beverages, will make its first Super Bowl appearance with a 30-second commercial. The commercial will be "a new entry in Bai's 'None of This Makes Sense' campaign." Employing the shop's "trademark absurdist humor, the work presented oddball characters in weird situations asking why Bai — brimming with antioxidants and packing only five calories — tastes so good." Similarly, SoFi, a student-loan refinancing, mortgage and personal loan company, will ramp up “a $20 million TV and digital ad effort with a spot during Super Bowl 50 ... spending about 20 percent of its annual ad budget on the Super Bowl push," noted Suzanne Vranica of the Wall Street Journal.

7. After missing its chance last year, Snapchat has changed its sales tactics in order to capitalize on the Super Bowl’s popularity, according to Garett Sloane of Digiday. With Marriott, Budweiser, Pepsi and Amazon signed on as sponsors, the increasingly popular social media platform has sold out its Live Story with the NFL for Super Bowl 50. Video advertisements for participating companies are set to run in between the game’s Live Story. Budweiser will only be allowed to advertise to users who are 21 years or old, drastically decreasing their reach for the Broncos-Panthers matchup. Financial details have not yet been released for these advertising partners, but the overall revenue for Snapchat is expected to reach the “low seven figures” for the whole offered package. Sources said that Snapchat for this year's game "switched tactics" from targeting a single sponsor and instead "looked for multiple sponsors" in an attempt to bring in more revenue, citing the more sponsors, the more money.

8. Superstition is a real thing in sports, and the Super Bowl is certainly no exception to that. Broncos executive vice president and general manager John Elway is taking no chances of bad luck when his team squares off with the Panthers, hence his decision to wear white vs. the Panthers. Elway spoke earlier this week on that decision, saying, “We’ve had Super Bowl success in our white uniforms, and we’re looking forward to wearing them again in Super Bowl 50.” The Broncos have worn their home orange jerseys on four separate occasions in blowout Super Bowl losses. The last time they won in white was in the 1998 championship — overall in the Super Bowl, Denver is 0-4 in orange, 1-1 in white and 1-0 in blue.

9. While NFL players have been increasingly fined these past few years for excessive celebrations after touchdowns and big plays, one company is actually promoting excessive celebrations in the Super Bowl. This past week, Nestle’s Butterfinger brand announced that it plans to cover “up to $50,000 in excessive celebration fines levied against NFL players through Super Bowl 50” as part of its “Bolder Than Bold” Super Bowl campaign, according to Adweek.com. Former NFL receiver Terrell Owens, largely known for his own planned excessive celebrations, and comedian Billy Eichner were selected to make this announcement on behalf of Butterfinger. Owens and Eichner were seen on the streets of New York City asking people to show off their boldest end-zone celebrations in exchange for a Butterfinger bar. The campaign is certainly innovative, as this marks a first for a company willingly picking up players’ fine tabs.

10. Digital and online advertising has exploded these past few years, as platforms and companies are finding new and innovative ways to incorporate ads all around the web. After hitting a record 840 million minutes of Super Bowl ads on YouTube, the platform has once again elected to bring back YouTube AdBlitz — a YouTube channel and separate website where fans can view and vote for their favorite ads before they air on game day. While this service has been available each of the last seven years, Tara Walpert Levy, managing director of agency sales at Google, said its reach has grown exponentially in recent years. Last year alone, people watched the equivalent of 1,600 years of Super Bowl ads on YouTube, and nearly 40 percent of that viewing time actually occurred before the game itself, with another 300,000 hours of ads watching during the game. With last year’s Super Bowl matchup between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks being the most-watched broadcast in television history, it makes sense for YouTube to capitalize on this opportunity.

Akiem Hicks makes Pro Football Focus Team of the Week after strong game against Dolphins

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USA TODAY

Akiem Hicks makes Pro Football Focus Team of the Week after strong game against Dolphins

The Bears defense was not its usual self in their overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The pass rush was minimal and tackling looked optional, and Brock Osweiler threw for almost 400 yards.

There was plenty of blame to go around, but a few individual defenders had success while their teammates struggled.

Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks made the Pro Football Focus Team of the Week for Week 6 with a 92.2 overall grade.

He recorded seven tackles that resulted in a defensive “stop,” the most of any defensive lineman according to PFF.

Chicago’s next highest-graded player was cornerback Kyle Fuller (78.2), who intercepted Osweiler twice but also missed two tackles.

Offensively, wide receiver Taylor Gabriel led the way with a 76.9 mark. PFF credited four of his five catches coming against Dolphins cornerback Torry McTyer in coverage.

Meanwhile, outside linebacker Khalil Mack had the lowest-graded game of his career (47.8), while linebacker Danny Trevathan (29.9) and safety Adrian Amos Jr. (47.5) each had their second-worst games.

Some of the Bears’ best players were at their worst in Miami. They’re going to need to get their act together for the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Drilling further down on Matt Nagy after Bears OT loss to Miami Dolphins

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USA TODAY

Drilling further down on Matt Nagy after Bears OT loss to Miami Dolphins

The 31-28 overtime Bears loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday had myriad authors on the Chicago side of the ledger. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky correctly assessed the defeat as a team loss, which is pretty much the case in any NFL loss, but particularly so in this case.

“Growing pains” only goes so far in explaining the variety of problems that befell all three Bears phases in the heat of south Florida. And while devastating mistakes are inevitable for young, inexperienced head coaches and players, it falls to those coaches and players to demonstrate that Sunday in Hard Rock Stadium was an anomaly.

Because after five 2018 games, it is not clear that the Miami missteps are indeed exceptions, on the parts of players or coaches, both in fact. Regardless of whether the fault lies with offense or defense (special teams get a pass; Sunday should never come down to Cody Parkey needing to make a field goal from 53 yards).

The Bears have gone into four 2018 fourth quarters with leads and lost two of those games. The late-game defensive collapses at Green Bay and Miami should suffice to put a sock in mentions of the ’85 Bears defense and the ’18 iteration in the same conversation.

And the fact that the Bears offense has not scored more than 7 points in any of the five 2018 fourth quarters says that more than just the defense lacks a consistent finishing kick.

Coaching not to lose?

There is a fourth “phase,” and not the one (fans) that Lovie Smith once cited. It is coaching, which is intricately interwoven with each of the three main units but is its own phase. How well this fourth phase performed in Miami is a matter of some hazy perspectives.

“I’m a big boy; I can handle criticism,” Nagy said Monday. “You talking about the 53-yard field goal? No, I’m fine with that. I have no issue at all with the criticism. That’s where people are? That’s their own opinion. I felt good with what we did and, shoot, we’re all in this thing together and I trust our guys.”

Beginning with relative minutiae: Two flags were thrown (one declined) in Miami for illegal formations, in both cases for leaving the right tackle uncovered. A delay-of-game penalty on a second-and-3 at the Miami 44, led to a punt when the offense only made up seven of the resulting eight yards. That sloppiness pointed to issues on the sideline rather than in the huddle.

On multiple occasions coach Matt Nagy strongly defended Trubisky during training camp when interceptions occurred, the coach considering those acceptable temporary losses in the greater quest for his quarterback learning to stay aggressive in learning his limits and capabilities.

Yet in more than one situation Sunday, it was Nagy who dialed back the aggressive edge that he’s spoken of seeking to install in his quarterback and team. It left at least a small question as to whether Nagy lacked confidence in himself or his quarterback or his team to deliver in a critical moment.

Did Nagy second-guess himself the morning after? “Nope.”

Shaky confidence?

Whether the Bears were properly prepared coming into Sunday was an issue. A team on a three-game high came out of an off week with its poorest first-half performance of the season.

But it is what happened, or didn’t happen, later that warrants the some scrutiny.

As in: Nagy’s playcalling with the game there for the winning – the overtime possession starting from the Chicago 20, needing only a field goal for a win.

The point is not second-guessing a specific call or calls, but rather what may be at work with Nagy’s overall thinking and propensities.

After a short, high-percentage throw to Trey Burton on first down, Nagy called five straight runs. The first two, runs of 19 and 15 yards by Jordan Howard, worked. Howard went out for a two-snap break, then was back for a final run on third-and-4, which failed, leaving the ball at the Miami 35, Nagy’s minimum for attempting a field goal.

Beyond the obvious conservatism, the overall put the Bears in position of not only needing to convert a 53-yard field goal, but also leaving the Dolphins with field position at their 43 if the kick missed, which it did, although NFL kickers convert from 50-plus yards at a rate approaching 62 percent.

“To me, that 35-yard line [was the minimum], a 53-yard field goal, I have ultimate trust in [kicker Cody Parkey] making that,” Nagy said. “But at the same time, every yard that you get brings the percentage up a little bit.

“We just hit a [19]-yard run, we just hit a 15-yard run, and then we had a couple more runs right behind that. That’s just the decision we ended up making. Now, [if] he makes that kick and we’re good. He doesn’t and it’s ‘could you get a little bit closer?’ It would have helped, but at the same time I think Cody would be the first to tell you that he knows he can make that.”

One problem: Were Nagy’s defense playing at the level it had in the three previous games, he could be excused for trusting his defense to deliver a stop even with the Miami starting point. But the Dolphins had pushed the defense backwards for 344 total yards over the prior six possessions. There should have been no reasonable expectation that the defense, which already had driven backward 74 yards before a fumble on the first overtime possession, would suddenly rise up for a stop.

Nagy’s tactics also hint a lack of convinced confidence that his quarterback and offense could pull off an aggressive, under-control possession at that point. Exactly what Nagy is likely to stay in-house. His offense had scored touchdowns on four of its first five possessions of the second half, when the Bears never punted.

But Trubisky had thrown an inexplicable interception from the Miami 13 and Tarik Cohen had lost a fumble at the Chicago 45 on the fourth-quarter possessions on either side of the final Bears touchdown. So by the time the overtime possession arrived, Nagy had seen turnovers by all three principle members of his backfield – Cohen, Howard and Trubisky.

Whatever his reasoning, Nagy flashed defensive in the face of questions on his calls – “You go ahead, you throw it and then [media] are here asking me why you took a sack” – a response loosely suggests that Nagy either cares what people think (unlikely) or that he was mad at himself and/or his players (more likely).

That Nagy alluded to Trubisky taking a sack recalls sacks that the quarterback has taken that cost his team yardage before a missed field goal (Arizona) and other sacks incurred trying to force a play. Nagy sidestepped a question as to whether he would play that situation differently at such time as when Trubisky and his offense are more mature.

An erudite non-answer answer.

Fatigue factor

Running back Tarik Cohen mentioned his own failure to deal sufficiently with fatigue in Sunday’s second half, mentioned it in connection with his lost fourth-quarter fumble. Whether fatigue being allowed to reach a red-line level falls on coaches or player is debatable; players owe coaches honest self-assessments, and coaches had balanced snaps reasonably well for Cohen (34) and Howard (36) for the game.

Cohen is a young player. Nagy and most of his staff are young, and heat-management is not usually at the top of game-planning sheets. The last time (1994) the Bears played a day game in Miami, Cohen was still a year away from being born and Howard was two weeks old. Trips to Tampa the past three years don’t qualify for carryover conditioning; besides, one of the three was in December, a second in November.

But in the absence of player restraint/moderation/discretion/whatever in the face of in-game physical decline, it falls to Bears staff to monitor conditioning. The clear fall-off by the defense was more than apparent in the form of ebbing effort, missed tackles and generally flagging performance.

“I want to say that I’m not sure that our training staff and sports science staff could have done a better job in that situation,” Nagy said. “It was absolutely phenomenal. They were unbelievable, with how they handled the hydration and the cramping with our players. It was unreal. And so, that’s a credit to them for being prepared and getting our guys right.

“That was a long game. And when you play an extra period, or extra quarter in that heat, that’s a lot. For our guys to do that, that’s another part of the challenge that they battled through and that was everybody collectively — not just the players, but our staff as well.”