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Friday, February 1

Super Bowl start of championship stretch for CBS’ Nantz

Jim Nantz has been the lead announcer for many events during his 34 years at CBS. Calling four major championship events in a span of 106 days will be something new. Nantz calls his fifth Super Bowl on Sunday when the New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams. That will be followed by the NCAA Men’s Final Four and the Masters in April. What will be new this year is the PGA Championship moving from August to May.

By JOE REEDY

AP Sports Writer

Jim Nantz has been the lead announcer for many events during his 34 years at CBS. Calling four major championships in a span of 106 days will be something new.

Nantz calls his fifth Super Bowl on Sunday when the New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams. That will be followed by the NCAA Men’s Final Four and the Masters in April. What will be new this year is the PGA Championship moving from August to May.

“I’m trying not to look to far ahead, but it is an exhilarating stretch,” Nantz said in a phone interview. “It sounds a little overwhelming, but there are many outstanding events coming up.”

Nantz has done the Super Bowl, Final Four and Masters trifecta four times (2007, ‘10, ‘13 and ‘16), but changes to the PGA Tour’s calendar gives CBS the first two majors instead of the first and last.

Besides the aforementioned events, Nantz is just as excited for the upcoming golf tournaments at Pebble Beach and Los Angeles as well as calling the Big Ten basketball tournament.

One of Nantz’s main goals during Super Bowl week in Atlanta has been to make sure Tony Romo enjoys the experience and doesn’t get too caught up in calling his first Super Bowl.

“I’m thrilled for him. He has been consistently great since our first game. He has been slightly refined, but the thing to remember is we have done only 44 games. It still remains very new,” Nantz said.

Romo was asked earlier in the week if he planned to join Nantz and Nick Faldo during a golf broadcast. He said he would love to improve his game and eventually qualify for a PGA event.

Other things of note for Super Bowl weekend:

PREGAME JUGGLING

Scheduling the segments for a four-hour pregame show may seem like a daunting task, but “Super Bowl Today” producer Drew Kaliski said that there is a certain flow to figuring out when to air certain pieces.

“You can’t come out of the gate at 2 (p.m.) with all football. We are going to touch on the game, but there are other pieces that are important,” Kaliski said. “As players start arriving at the stadium, we will start to get more into the analysis of the game.”

In other words, features on the Atlanta music scene, an interview with Joe Namath 50 years after leading the New York Jets to their only Super Bowl, and CBS News’ interview with President Trump will happen from 2-4:30 p.m. with the last 90 minutes geared toward analyzing the game.

CBS Sports President Sean McManus viewed most of the pregame features on Friday and said during a phone interview that he is extremely pleased with what he has seen.

“I have never seen a variety of pieces and features that are more attractive,” McManus said. “We have everyone from Warren Buffett to Hank Aaron to Magic Johnson. I am really excited about them.”

Among the pieces that McManus mentioned are a look at Atlanta and its role in the Civil Rights Movement; a feature with Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh that includes an interview with Buffett; and looking back at the 50th anniversary of Super Bowl 3 with Namath.

SPOTLIGHT ON TOPS

CBS’ Super Bowl programming kicks off at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday with “That Other Pregame Show.” The show has been on CBS Sports Network on Sunday during the regular season and provides a lead in to “The NFL Today,” but this is the first time TOPS will be seen on the main network.

The program, which has a more relaxed feel compared to other pregame shows, has made former Raiders president Amy Trask one of the more underrated analysts. It will also mark the first time a woman director and producer have been at the helm for a network pregame show.

“This is a tribute to the work (producer) Deb Gelman and (director) Linda Malino have done, and the confidence we have in them,” McManus said.

WHO’S NEXT?

Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Larry Fitzgerald are frequently mentioned as players with potential to be great analysts should they decide to move into television. But they aren’t likely to retire for another year or two.

There is one player and a coach, though, who could end up in the booth for next season: tight end Benjamin Watson, who is retiring after 15 seasons, and former Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. Both have appeared on various shows from Atlanta this week and have been highly regarded through the years for their interaction with various crews during production meetings.

“You have to find someone who wants to make it a second career and work as hard as they did as a player or coach,” McManus said. “What also matters is how you see the field and can you analyze the offense and defense? How likable are you on TV? That’s something you can’t predict until the light goes on.”

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Follow Joe Reedy at www.twitter.com/joereedy

Patriots beat Rams 13-3 in lowest scoring Super Bowl ever

By BARRY WILNER

AP Pro Football Writer

Monday, February 4

ATLANTA (AP) — That super shootout everyone expected turned into a defensive standoff. The New England Patriots showed they can win that type of championship game, too.

So after Tom Brady led one classic drive to win the Patriots their record-tying sixth Super Bowl, he perfectly summed up the 13-3 victory Sunday over the Los Angeles Rams.

“Finally got a touchdown and the defense played the best game of the year,” Brady said.

In a season in which all sorts of offensive records were set, this Super Bowl rewrote the defensive record book.

“How about our defense? How about our defense?” he said. “They played unbelievable.”

So well that their leader linebacker Dont’a Hightower, joked they had extra incentive.

“I’m tired of hearing about Brady,” he said with a laugh. “I won one today — we all got one. It feels good for us to get it all. Shout out to him getting his, but this is a team game and it feels good to win.”

But the defense still needed vintage Brady for one drive . He threw two perfect passes to Rob Gronkowski to set up rookie Sony Michel’s 2-yard score — the only touchdown in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever. That put New England up 10-3. A late field goal clinched it 13-3.

No Super Bowl had gone into the fourth quarter without a touchdown. This one did, tied 3-3 — even though these teams had combined to average over 60 points a game.

When the Patriots needed a score, Brady, the oldest winning quarterback in a Super Bowl at 41, completed four straight passes, including a pair covering 47 yards to Gronkowski. The second , on which the star tight end beat two defenders, ended at the Los Angeles 2, the only time either team was inside the 20-yard line. Michel ran off left tackle for his sixth postseason touchdown.

“He knows to trust in me and throw that ball,” Gronkowski said, “and I’m going to grab it.”

Julian Edelman, the outstanding receiver who missed the 2017 season with a knee injury, was the game’s MVP with 10 receptions for 141 yards.

With 4:17 left, All-Pro Stephon Gilmore picked off an ill-advised pass by Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who seemed overwhelmed by the big stage all night, at the New England 2.

Stephen Gostkowski made a 41-yard field goal with 1:12 remaining, completing a 72-yard march that took more than three minutes off the clock and included 26-yard runs by Michel and Rex Burkhead.

It was a workmanlike conclusion for the Patriots (14-5), whose losses all came away from New England. They beat the top two offenses in the Chiefs and Rams (15-4) in the postseason, and tied Pittsburgh for most Super Bowl titles.

“We’re a relentless team,” Hightower said after New England allowed the fewest points in a Super Bowl (tied with Dallas in 1972 against Miami). “We didn’t give up. A lot was thrown at us. When we play like we did tonight, we can’t be beat.”

The Rams, who reached the NFL championship game with the aid of a major officiating error in the conference title victory at New Orleans, never really threatened to reach the end zone.

“Last time I checked, defense wins championships,” Rams running back C.J. Anderson said.

At 66, Bill Belichick became the oldest winning Super Bowl coach. The Patriots beat the Rams, then representing St. Louis, to begin their dynastic run in the 2002 game. They also have beaten Carolina and Philadelphia (2004 and ‘05, the last back-to-back championships); the Seahawks in 2015; and the Falcons in 2017 in the only overtime in Super Bowl history.

They have lost three times, including to Philadelphia a year ago. New England is the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to win a Super Bowl the year after losing one.

How the Patriots accomplished it was atypical. The 10-point margin was their biggest in winning a championship.

“This whole year, it was the biggest team win, the biggest team Super Bowl that I’ve ever been a part of,” said Gronkowski, who could be headed for retirement.

Brady, who has won four Super Bowl MVP trophies, wasn’t particularly sharp — except when throwing to Edelman. He was the steadiest offensive player on the field.

“It just matters that we won,” Edelman said. “It was a crazy year. We had a resilient bunch of guys.”

Brady passed Hall of Famer Charles Haley to become the only player with six Super Bowl titles.

All those suspicions about the Patriots declining this season became moot as the defense made the 24-year-old Goff look awful and turned All-Pro running back Todd Gurley into a nonfactor.

It wasn’t a typical New England championship win. The 2 1/2-point favorite Patriots moved the ball well, ran down the clock, but made uncharacteristic gaffes on offense. Goff and the Rams made more.

“I think we expected to score a lot more points than that,” Goff said. “It sucks that’s the way it worked out, but we’ll use this as a learning experience.”

A painful one.

LA’s second-ranked offense managed 57 total yards for the first half. The Rams were completely overmatched on the line and were particularly unable to handle the elusive Edelman, who had seven receptions for 93 yards.

Coach Sean McVay, whose Rams never had been blanked in a first half, let out a long, deep sigh just before halftime, recognizing how badly his team was manhandled, even though it trailed just 3-0.

It was the lowest score at halftime since Super Bowl 9, which Pittsburgh led 2-0 over Minnesota.

McVay, the youngest Super Bowl head coach at 33, admitted he was outcoached. He had no answers as Gurley, coming off knee issues, managed 35 yards rushing, Goff went 19 for 38 for 229 yards and was sacked four times. Brandin Cooks, a Patriots receiver last season, did have eight receptions for 120 yards.

“They did a great job. I’m disappointed that I didn’t do a better job of adjusting,” McVay said. “I know there is a handful of decisions that I’m going to wish that I could have back, for sure.”

KICKING GAME

Gostkowski’s 46-yard miss wide left in the first quarter was the first unsuccessful field goal in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Falcons, by an NFL player all season.

The Rams’ Johnny Hekker had a 65-yard punt in the third quarter, the longest in a Super Bowl. It was his eighth punt of the game — with 1 1-2 periods remaining — the most for LA in McVay’s two seasons in charge.

Greg Zuerlein tied it with 2:11 left in the third quarter on the first drive on which Los Angeles gained more than one first down. His 53-yarder was the second-longest field goal in a Super Bowl.

COIN TOSS

McVay deferred after winning the coin toss. In their previous two playoff games, the Patriots marched right downfield to a touchdown with the opening kickoff, setting an immediate tone. This time, after Cordarrelle Patterson’s 38-yard kickoff return and four successful runs, Brady’s first pass was tipped by receiver Chris Hogan and cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. Linebacker Cory Littleton made a diving interception. It was the first time Brady was picked on his initial throw in a postseason game.

INJURIES

New England lost safety Patrick Chung on the third play of the second half when his right forearm was caught between Gurley’s shoulder pad and the helmet of teammate Jonathan Jones. Chung writhed in pain before walking off with an air cast on.

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Still no slowing down the Patriots’ dynasty

By ROB MAADDI

AP Pro Football Writer

Monday, February 4

ATLANTA (AP) — Tom Brady quickly made it clear that winning a record sixth Super Bowl title won’t change his mind about playing at least another year.

As long as No. 12 is still going, New England’s dynasty won’t crumble.

“Doesn’t change anything,” Brady said moments after the Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 on Sunday . “I can’t wait to spend some time with my family, my kids and my wife. Couldn’t do it without their support. It’s been a great year.”

The Patriots have long defied odds and continue rewriting history by sustaining their success for two decades. Brady and coach Bill Belichick are 6-3 in Super Bowls since 2001. They have won 10 straight AFC East titles and reached eight conference titles games in a row. They’ve posted a winning record in 18 consecutive seasons, reaching the playoffs 16 times, winning 16 division titles and nine AFC championships.

It’s an unprecedented run, and they’re not done yet.

The Patriots were counted out in 2014 after a 41-14 loss to Kansas City on Monday Night Football dropped their record to 2-2. All they’ve done since is win three of the last five Super Bowls. Each time it appears they may be slipping, the Patriots come back strong and find a way to overcome any turmoil.

Belichick and Brady were supposedly at odds last year and their relationship was reportedly nearing a breaking point.

One of the first people to embrace Brady after the game was Belichick, wrapping his arms around his quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman amid a sea of confetti and a swarm of cameras.

“Coach makes it a challenging football environment, the pressure is always on, and for moments like this, you have to rise to the occasion,” Brady said.

Brady hasn’t wavered from his stated desire to play until he’s 45. He was ordinary much of the game against the Rams but delivered in the clutch in the fourth quarter . Overall, he had an excellent season at age 41 and was spectacular in the conference title win at Kansas City.

Brady shows little sign of slowing down thanks to his rigorous training schedule and nutrition program. And thanks to a great team Belichick re-assembles around him each season, Brady doesn’t have to win every game with his arm.

The Patriots reinvented themselves this season, adding a downhill running game that gave the offense more balance. Rookie Sony Michel ran for 931 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season, and 336 yards and six more TDs in the playoffs. He can be even better next season.

“I’m so proud of him,” Patriots center David Andrews said of his fellow Georgia Bulldog Michel. “He faced a lot of adversity at the beginning with an injury, and he battled through people calling him a bust. And I knew when he got a shot, he’d cut it loose. We started finding our identity throughout the year.”

Then the defense dominated in the biggest game, holding the league’s second-highest scoring offense to only a field goal.

“I don’t think we care about what people had to say,” cornerback Jason McCourty said. “We just knew what we were capable of, and we still had a chance to win the Super Bowl. It doesn’t matter how many people doubted us.”

It’s possible the Patriots may lose one of their key players if four-time All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski decides to retire. Gronkowski, who had a 29-yard catch to set up Michel’s TD run, isn’t certain of his future.

“I haven’t thought about that,” he said. “That’ll be decided in a few weeks or so.”

The Patriots can stock up on talent in the upcoming draft. They have 12 picks, including six in the first three rounds. And they have a history of making key free agent signings and trading for veterans who play key roles.

“We have a lot of great people in the organization,” Belichick said. “It starts at the top with (owner) Robert (Kraft) and his family. He’s given us great support in all the things we need to do to be competitive.”

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

The Conversation

Belichick versus McVay: An age-old question of leadership

February 1, 2019

Author: Megan Gerhardt, Professor of Management, Farmer School of Business, Miami University

Disclosure statement: Megan Gerhardt is founder and owner of The Gerhardt Group, LLC, a leadership consulting organization.

Super Bowl LIII will pit the Los Angeles Rams against the New England Patriots, but the sidelines will be the setting for another kind of matchup: youth versus experience.

In 2017, Sean McVay, at 30 years old, was the youngest head coach to be hired in NFL history. Now in his second season, he’ll be facing off against Bill Belichick, the league’s longest tenured head coach.

As a leadership professor, I study how leaders of all ages navigate generational differences, including how to motivate those that might be on the other side of the generation gap.

For Belichick and McVay, the challenges might seem particularly acute. Most of Belichick’s players hadn’t even been born when Belichick secured his first coaching gig. And while McVay can probably talk about social media with his players in a way Belichick can’t, he’s in charge of a coaching staff that includes septuagenarians.

But it doesn’t matter if you’re the greenest of leaders or a grizzled veteran: With some insight into generational dynamics, your age can become irrelevant.

Bridging the generational divide

Having a leader at one end of the age spectrum can lead to all kinds of assumptions.

Research has shown that older leaders are expected to be stable, dependable and interested in upholding the status quo. Younger leaders are thought to be natural change agents and innovators.

There seems to be a basis for these assumptions. Studies have found older leaders do tend to take a more measured approach and lead in ways that are described as structured and conservative. Younger leaders, in contrast, are more energetic and have what employees describe as a “take charge” approach.

But one approach isn’t necessarily better than the other. Instead, what matters is the ability of a leader, young or old, to do two things.

First, they must reflect certain leadership qualities. Research shows that people want leaders who they see as inspiring, competent, forward-looking and honest.

Second, a good leader must also understand the needs and perspectives of each team members – specifically, the different kinds of support younger and older employees require from their leaders. Navigating these generational differences requires what I call “gentelligence.”

For example, a young employee and an older employee might interpret the same action differently. While boomers tend to interpret a lack of feedback as a sign that everything is going well, millennials may assume the opposite. Studies show that they expect a steady stream of feedback and mentoring.

We also know that millennials place a lot of weight on how well a leader communicates and connects with them on a personal level, which makes them feel valued. Boomers also want to feel valued, but asking them what they did over the weekend isn’t the way to do it. Instead, a boss could ask them to offer advice or input.

The yang to McVay’s yin

The Rams aren’t the only organization giving the keys to a young leader: Across many industries, the number of millennial bosses is rising. Those born between 1981 and 1996 now make up 20 percent of organizational leadership roles. Baby boomers like the 66-year-old Bill Belichick currently hold just 18 percent of these roles.

Baby boomers may appreciate the energy and communication skills of younger leaders. But in order to gain the trust of older employees, young leaders often need to be willing to openly acknowledge what they don’t know yet, and ask others for input.

McVay appears eager to do just this. When asked what it means to have the older, more experienced Wade Phillips as his defensive coordinator, McVay described it as a “yin and yang” dynamic.

“It allows you to have a sounding board from someone who has been through a whole lot more than you have, have somebody to bounce things off of,” he told NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico. “It’s all about the people you’re around,” he later added, “and not being afraid to say, ‘Hey, help me figure this out.’”

Sean McVay, who admits he can be too ‘wired’ at times, values the wisdom of his levelheaded assistant, Wade Phillips.

Belichick never rests on his laurels

Older leaders need to grapple with a different set of challenges when engaging younger members of their team.

Established leaders such as Belichick grew up in an age when holding positions of leadership meant unquestioned respect. But younger generations are less inclined to listen to someone simply because they hold a title.

Nonetheless, older leaders are still well positioned to connect with younger employees who are eager for guidance, and their years of experience make them effective mentors. They also tend to bring a calm and consensus-building approach.

Just as important is an older leader’s openness to the ideas of their young employees. It signals that they’re confident enough in their own experience and track record to empower those beneath them.

According to his coaching staff, what makes Belichick such an effective leader is his willingness to listen to and trust his staff.

As former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia explained, “We go to him with new ideas all the time – or what we think are new ideas.”

“He wants you to disagree,” receivers coach Chad O’Shea added. “He respects that. He listens. He trusts us and demonstrates that by letting us go out and make decisions.”

Success, whether in the boardroom or on the field, depends on the talent of a leader to understand and navigate the expectations and needs of all their team members – no matter their age.

For a leader in today’s 21st-century workplace, that may be the most important playbook of all.

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