Cubs

Didinger's all-time Super Bowl team

Didinger's all-time Super Bowl team

Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011
2:26 p.m.
By Ray Didinger
CSNPhilly.com

Offense

QB Joe Montana, San Francisco Undefeated in four trips to the big game, MVP three times, QB rating of 127.8.

RB Franco Harris, Pittsburgh Most rushing yards in Super Bowl history (354) and scored four touchdowns in the Steelers four victories.

RB Terrell Davis, Denver Set a Super Bowl record with three rushing touchdowns in 31-24 win over Green Bay. Dominated the game with 157 rushing yards despite missing most of the second quarter with migraine headaches.

WR Jerry Rice, San Francisco, Oakland Holds Super Bowl records for points (48), touchdowns (eight), pass receptions (33) and yards (589). Enough said.

WR Lynn Swann, Pittsburgh The first wide receiver to earn Super Bowl MVP honors for his spectacular performance (four catches, 161 yards, one touchdown) in a 21-17 win over Dallas.

TE Dave Casper, Oakland Outstanding receiver and devastating blocker, scored a touchdown and helped pave the way for the Raiders 32-14 rout on Minnesota in Super Bowl XI.

T Art Shell, Oakland Pitched a shutout at Viking defensive end Jim Marshall (no tackles, no assists) in Super Bowl XI.

T Joe Jacoby, Washington The Redskins offensive line, known as the Hogs, were the key to the team winning three Super Bowls. Jacoby was the tackle who most often pulled to lead the counter trey, their bread and butter play.

G Bob Kuechenberg, Miami Played Super Bowl VIII with a cast on his broken arm and dominated Vikings All-Pro Alan Page as Miami ran the ball 53 times in a 24-7 win.

G Larry Allen, Dallas Big, mauling blocker cleared the path for Emmitt Smith to rush for 289 yards and a record five touchdowns in three Super Bowls.

C Mike Webster, Pittsburgh The only Hall of Famer on an underrated offensive line. Outstanding run blocker.

Defense

E Reggie White, Green Bay Set Super Bowl record with three sacks in one game, the 35-21 win over New England.

E Charles Haley, San Francisco, Dallas Played on five Super Bowl winners, more than any other player. Holds the Super Bowl record with 4.5 career sacks.

T Joe Greene, Pittsburgh Mean Joe was the heart and soul of the Steel Curtain defense that crushed Minnesota (17 yard rushing) in Super Bowl IX.

T Manny Fernandez, Miami Should have been the MVP of Super Bowl VII. Had 17 tackles in the Dolphins 14-7 win over Washington.

OLB Rod Martin, Oakland -- Set a Super Bowl record with three interceptions in the Raiders 27-10 win over the Eagles.

MLB Ray Lewis, Baltimore Tough call, Lewis over Jack Lambert of the Steelers, but the Ravens won with defense and Lewis was the MVP of the Super Bowl rout of the New York Giants.

OLB Mike Vrabel, New England Had two sacks and a forced fumble in the win over Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII as well as catching a touchdown pass. Had a sack and another touchdown reception the following year in the win over the Eagles.

CB Larry Brown, Dallas The only cornerback to earn Super Bowl MVP honors. He had a mediocre career except for Super Bowl XXX when his two interceptions (OK, they were gifts from Steelers quarterback Neil ODonnell but still) set up 14 points in a 27-17 Cowboys win.

CB Ty Law, New England Returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown to lift the Patriots to a 20-17 upset of the favored St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.

S Ronnie Lott, San Francisco Leader of the 49er defense, played both corner and safety. His head-snapping hit on Cincinnati fullback Icky Woods was a tone-setter in Super Bowl XXIII.

S James Washington, Dallas Overlooked, but a key performer in the Cowboys 30-13 win over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVIII. Washington had 11 tackles, an interception and returned a fumble for a touchdown.

Special Teams

Placekicker Adam Vinatieri, New England Kicked two last minute field goals to win Super Bowls for the Patriots. Sure bet to become only the second kicking specialist voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jan Stenerud of Kansas City is the other.

Punter Jerrel Wilson, Kansas City -- Averaged 46.5 yards per punt in two Super Bowls, highest average in Super Bowl history.

Kick Returner Desmond Howard, Green Bay The only return specialist voted Super Bowl MVP. His 99 yard kickoff return for a touchdown helped the Packers defeat New England, 35-21, in Super Bowl XXXI.

Coach

Chuck Noll, Pittsburgh The most underrated coach in NFL history. Transformed the NFLs most hapless franchise into a dynasty. A perfect 4-0 in the Super Bowl.

E-mail Ray Didinger at viewfromthehall@comcast.net.

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

The Cubs and Braves got through roughly one inning of Stranger Things Night at Wrigley Field before Willson Contreras made the evening his own. 

The catcher went 2-4 with three RBI, and provided the most notable moment from the game: a 2nd inning solo homer that caused both benches to clear. Contreras had taken issue with a few of the called strikes earlier in the at-bat, and said something to home plate umpire John Tumpane about it. Contreras continued to make his feelings known as he left the box, drawing the ire of Braves catcher Tyler Flowers.

“To be honest, those pitches weren’t even close to the strike zone,” he said. “[Flowers] got mad because I was talking to the umpire about that, and he jumped into the conversation. 

Contreras then proceeded to shout in the direction of Atlanta’s dugout while rounding first base, and the two catchers exchanged more words as he crossed home plate. The benches quickly emptied, and after a few moments of posturing, returned to their dugouts. 

“It was a lot of emotions together,” he said after the game. “I was having a conversation with the umpire, and it ended up with [Flowers], so that’s all I can say. I just basically told him to do his job and I’ll do mine. I don’t know why he got pissed off because that’s all I said - you do your job and i’ll do mine.”

“I was kind of amused by the whole thing,” Joe Maddon added. “I don’t really know Mr. Flowers - we had a nice conversation, walked away, and it was over. It really wasn’t worth more than what happened.

The confrontation was just one of a few testy moments between these two teams. In the top of the 2nd inning, Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson was caught on cameras shushing the Cubs dugout: 

Two innings later, it was Javy Baez who returned serve by blowing the Braves a kiss after stealing second on Flowers: 

“It’s fun because they’re good,” Maddon said. “And we’re good - that’s the fun part. Monday night, at 7:05, to have that kind of attitude and atmosphere is outstanding. That’s what baseball needs.” 

On the mound, Jon Lester bounced back from a run of three straight underwhelming performances. June hasn’t been kind to Lester, as the lefty had allowed 14 runs over the last 23 IPs prior to Monday’s start, good for a 5.93 FIP. He threw 94 pitches against the Braves, lasting six innings while allowing two runs -- both unearned, though -- and striking out seven. He only threw 94 pitches, but his control (0 BB) was excellent. Lester spotted his strikeout pitch well all night, getting four of his six right-handed K’s on the low outside corner:

“I just tried to stay down there, and had the backdoor cutter to those guys,” Lester said. “We were able to kind of exploit that, and then when we felt that guys were reaching out there a little bit, I ran the cutter in on some guys too. I was just able to command both sides of the plate tonight, which is huge against an offense like that.” 

“Great job by Jon,” Maddon added, “Jon had great stuff. Coming off of [throwing 114 pitches], he’s been throwing a lot of pitches on regular rest, so I wanted to limit that tonight. He was lobbying to go back out, but I didn’t feel good about it based on the longevity of the season and we had a rested Kintzler.

“But Jon was really good, and really good against a tough lineup.”

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

After finishing 30th in goals against average (3.55) and 31st in penalty kill percentage (72.7) this past season, the Blackhawks are clearly making it a priority to patch up their defense this summer. And that's been evident with the acquisitions of defensive-minded defensemen Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta.

But it raises some interesting questions about the future of the Blackhawks blue line.

With the de Haan and Maatta additions, the Blackhawks now have five defensemen under contract through at least the 2021-22 season: Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million cap hit), Duncan Keith ($5.538 million), de Haan ($4.55 million), Maatta ($4.083 million) and Connor Murphy ($3.85 million). That's $24.8 million tied up to five guys.

The money isn't the primary concern, though. It's the limited amount of roster spots available. The Blackhawks don't have to immediately figure out how it's going to work a year from now and beyond, but it makes you wonder how the cards may eventually be shuffled.

Let's run through the situations:

— Erik Gustafsson had a breakout season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He's obviously not part of the five current players under contract after next season, putting the Blackhawks in a spot where they have to consider trading him or be comfortable with letting him walk for nothing if he isn't re-signed. (They could always trade his negotiating rights after next season and pull off a sign-and-trade as well, if it came to that).

And even if Gustafsson is re-signed, the Blackhawks would then have six players locked up for the 2020-21 season and on, and that's enough to submit a lineup.

— Henri Jokiharju, who was drafted No. 29 overall in 2017, is probably ready to take the next step and become an everyday player. Where does he fit into the long-term plans?

— Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018, likely needs one more year in the OHL before making the jump to the NHL, which would put him on a timeline to become part of the Blackhawks next season. Does he occupy that sixth spot if another one isn't opened by then?

— Nicolas Beaudin, who was drafted No. 27 overall in 2018, is expected to start the upcoming season in Rockford after four years in the QMJHL but might be NHL-ready by the 2020-21 campaign.

— And then there's Ian Mitchell, who's returning to Denver for his junior season and will serve as the team's captain. He's said all along that he intends to sign with the Blackhawks once he's finished with college, but does the organization value him enough to create a spot for him when he's ready?

To make things a little more complicated, the Seattle expansion draft is set to occur in 2021 and the same rules will apply as Vegas in 2017.

The Blackhawks have the option to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and one goaltender. All players with no-movement clauses at the time of the expansion draft (and who decline to waive them) must be protected; Keith and Seabrook have a NMC. And all first- and second-year pros are exempt; Jokiharju would have to be protected.

As of this moment, the Blackhawks are likely to use the eight-skater option, but they will also have valuable forwards to protect. They're going to lose a good player one way or another, and it's probably going to come from the defensive group. All of this comes into play when weighing roster decisions for next season and beyond.

As stated above, the Blackhawks do not have to make an immediate decision on the future of their blue line corps. They can play out the 2019-20 season with the group as currently constructed. But the decisions the Blackhawks have to face next season could impact how Stan Bowman operates the rest of this summer and throughout the upcoming campaign.

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