Here are three disturbing trends we’ve seen continued this September:
1 If you are conflicted about watching the NFL these days — torn by the breathtaking beauty, drama and physical skill on the positive side and the frightening specter of head injuries on the negative side — it didn’t take long for those feelings to be stirred anew.
In fact, it took exactly one game of this NFL season.
Providing a near-perfect microcosm of the NFL today, the Broncos defeated the Panthers 21-20 Thursday night in the season opener, a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl also won by Denver. There were story lines galore, there was drama, there were wonderful plays and there was a game-deciding field goal in the closing seconds drifting wide left.
But there were also multiple hits to the head of Carolina QB Cam Newton, the reigning league MVP. Only one was called a penalty, even though it appeared there was just cause for flags to be thrown at least three times.
Perhaps just as troubling is that Newton didn’t appear to get much in the way of concussion testing in-game, despite measures put in place by the league intended to diagnose concussions swiftly and independently of the teams themselves, who figure to have an incentive to keep players (especially one as important as Newton) on the field.
If the NFL wants to have it both ways — the game is great and safe — it missed the mark in its first try of 2016.
2 If Blair Walsh wanted to put to rest any lingering questions about his badly missed 27-yard field goal that ended last season for the Vikings, the Minnesota kicker instead invited more concern by missing his first try of 2016 (again, wide left).
He missed another one later in the game and an extra point as well — kicks that could have been critical in a low-scoring game at the time. The Vikings ended up pulling away for a 25-16 victory and Walsh rallied to make four field goals in the second half, but this is going to remain a question for the foreseeable future.
3 If the Twins were hoping to finish the year strong and put some distance between themselves and their 90-plus-loss teams from 2011-14, they’ve instead followed the same disturbing pattern they set in those years — namely, taking a bad year and making it even worse with a poor finish.
Sometimes that is natural when a losing team realizes it has no chance and consequently starts playing a lot of prospects who take their lumps. That doesn’t fully explain this, though: From 2011-14, the Twins were a combined 78-148 from Aug. 1 through the end of the season (.345 winning percentage).
This year’s team is 13-26 (.333) since the start of August, using many of the same players who helped spark a 23-15 stretch starting near the end of June that gave some hint that 2016 might not be a completely lost cause.
Instead, the Twins are right back where they started — both in terms of the beginning of this year and those other bad seasons.