Destiny’s Children

Bruins picIn this week’s issue, SI’s Brian Cazeneueve takes a look at the Boston Bruins’ unlikely road to the Stanley Cup Final after their near loss in the first round. After squandering a 3-1 series lead to the Maple Leafs, the Bruins found themselves trailing Toronto 4-1 with 14:31 left in the third period of game seven. But when Milan Lucic found an open Nathan Horton in front of the goal, the Bruins brought the score to 4-2 with 10:42 to play. A shift in momentum and confidence would inevitably allow the Bruins to become the first team in NHL history to rally from a three goal deficit in the third period to win a game seven.

“They’re a team that waits for your mistakes,” said the Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby after being swept in the Eastern Conference Finals by the surging Bruins. “There are times when they possess the puck. It doesn’t mean they’re carrying the play. They’re just patient. We were trying to get three goals back on one shift. You can’t do that against a team that thrives on your mistakes.” (PAGE 44)

Also in this week’s issue, Pierre McGuire breaks down the keys to a Stanley Cup victory for the Bruins and Blackhawks and Cazeneueve predicts the Bruins to take the cup in grueling seven game series.

Are You Ready for More Football?

RussellWilsonAnchored by Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the new crop of NFL starting quarterbacks are changing the belief that signal callers need time on the sidelines before taking control of the team. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Senior Writer Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) writes that the recent surge of young quarterbacks making an impact instead of the “carry-a-clipboard-for-years credo” shows a distinct change in the NFL game. King writes:

“Learning curve? They don’t need no stinkin’ learning curve (PAGE 40).”

In addition to rolling right away with young quarterbacks, teams have embraced a variety of changes, such as implementing schemes from the college game, embracing the no-huddle, pistol, and option offenses, and taking a chance on short quarterbacks (Wilson stands at 5’10 7/8”.) King says: “As running threats with great arms force defenses to change on the fly, Sunday’s game looks an awful lot like Saturday’s.” (PAGE 40)

Seattle head coach Pete Carroll, who took a chance on starting the short, young Wilson this season, is one of the examples of the new forward-thinking NFL.

“When we gave Russell the job, I thought, Well, buckle up: it’s gonna be a Disney ride. It wasn’t conventional thinking. But conventional thinking, that’s not always what wins. (PAGE 43).”

The Maddest 2 Minutes in Sports

ImageIn four of the last five Super Bowls, the game has been determined by a turbulent, exciting final drive. In this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED senior writer Austin Murphy (@si_austinmurphy) takes us through the history of the two-minute drills that make NFL games, especially Super Bowls, so memorable. From Unitas to Montana to Manning (Eli, that is), Murphy breaks down some of the most iconic drives. The piece also dives into the drill’s evolution, such as communication between quarterback and coach via headset, the growth of hurry-up offenses and the intense preparation of all the possible late game scenarios coaches stress to get ready for games.

“There’s so much more emphasis on [hurry-up offenses]. Especially in OTAS and training camp,” says new Cardinals coach and former Colts interim coach Bruce Arians (PAGE 34), who helped rookie quarterback Andrew Luck become a two-minute maestro this season.

Murphy also poses the question of which Super Bowl quarterback has the better chance to lead a winning two-minute drill in this year’s game. Will it be Joe Flacco, who already has 10 fourth-quarter comebacks to his name, or the elusive Colin Kaepernick, who showed at Nevada that he has the potential to be a “future maestro of the 2MD”?

“Flacco’s guys know he can do it. They’re going to have a confidence that the 49ers can’t have because they haven’t done it,” says Randy Cross (PAGE 32), the former 49ers center who was a part of in the winning drive in Super Bowl XXIII.

Harbaugh Brothers, Frank Gore, Ray Lewis and Joe Flacco Featured on Special Four-Cover Series of This Week’s Sports Illustrated

NFL Super Bowl CoversBrothers Jim and John Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore; Ravens linebacker and emotional leader Ray Lewis, and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco are featured on a special 4-cover series of the Jan. 28, 2013 Sports Illustrated, on newsstands Wednesday.

The first three covers feature the headlines: “There Will Be Blood”, “There Will be Gore”, and “There Will be a Valiant Last Stand”. They lead up to the final cover, which predicts “There Will Be a Parade in Baltimore”. This is the 3rd time that both Lewis and Flacco have appeared on the cover and the 2nd time Gore has appeared on the cover.

This week’s Sports Illustrated includes12 pages of Super Bowl XLVII coverage, featuring “10 Things We Thing we Think”.  Highlights include:

Senior writer Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) says that you must expect the unexpected from the unpredictable 49ers offense, as they have proven they can beat you in multiple ways (PAGE 40). However, King still picks the Ravens to defeat the 49ers, 27-23. King says: “I’ve doubted Flacco one too many times this winter, and I won’t make that mistake a third time (PAGE 49).

Ray Lewis and the reinvigorated Ravens defense will contest the 49ers explosive offensive attack writes senior writer Austin Murphy (@si_austinmurphy). Murphy says: “Galvanized by hardships earlier in the season and rallying around spiritual leader Lewis, they are headed to the Big Easy brimming with the confidence that comes from confounding the doubters three weeks in a row (PAGE 42).”

 They may share the same last name, but Jim and John Harbaugh have taken different journeys and approaches en route to leading their teams to the Super Bowl. Senior writer Michael Rosenberg (@Rosenberg_Mike) writes that while most Super Bowl storylines tend to overwhelm the game itself, this story—the HarBowl—is a worthy one will certainly live up to the hype. Rosenberg writes: “Two brothers, who were born 15 months apart and spent much of their childhoods sharing a room, will be coaching against one another on the biggest stage in American sports (PAGE 47).”

Download a high res image of the covers here

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco on Regional Cover of This Week’s Sports Illustrated

Flacco Regional 1 21 13Appearing on a regional cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated is Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who led his team to an epic double overtime comeback victory against the favored Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning in last Saturday’s AFC Divisional showdown. This is the 2nd time Flacco has appeared on the cover. He first appeared on the cover on Sept. 19, 2011.

Senior writer Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) writes that it’s time to make room for Flacco in the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks. Since entering the NFL in 2008, Flacco at 61-30, is the winningest quarterback in the league and also the only passer in history to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons.  Flacco and the Ravens advance to play in their second straight AFC title game at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.

“Will people finally buy how good this guy is?” asks coach John Harbaugh. “I mean, we love him (PAGE 49).”

Work In Progress? Scary

Von MillerWhile Peyton Manning’s arrival may be the most credited reason for Denver’s ascent to the top of the AFC this season, the maturation of Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller from one-trick pony to a complete linebacker may be just as significant writes senior writer Jim Trotter in this week’s issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. After earning Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011 thanks in part to his 11 ½ sacks, Miller has taken his game to the next level this season, having recorded 18 ½ sacks, six forced fumbles and his first career NFL interception (which he returned for a TD). While initially being known just as a dominant pass rusher, Miller now wants to be considered amongst the best all around defenders in the league. “I’m a true linebacker. I believe that in my heart,” says Miller. “I want to be a dominant run stopper. I want guys to say when they see 58, they’ve got to go to the other side.”

Miller grew up in East Texas in a home where his parents instilled values such as hard work, respect and accountability. His father once told him, “You have to be your biggest critic.”  At only 23 years old, he has certainly taken his dad’s advice to heart. “It’s not the amount of success you’ve had,” says Miller, “it’s the respect you get in the locker room as a leader, as The Guy. The organization brought me in to be that guy, and I feel like I’ve taken steps in that direction. But I still have a long way to go (page 58).

Hello. My Name is Thomas, And I’m a Falcons Addict

Falcons Lake photoAfter 46 years in the National Football League, the Atlanta Falcons remain one of 14 teams that have yet to hold the Vince Lombardi trophy and call themselves Super Bowl champions. To be a fan of the Falcons is to accept the inevitable feeling of complete and utter disappointment. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED senior writer Thomas Lake, a lifelong Falcon fan, describes how his fondest memories of the Falcons are fogged with the eerie understanding that even the most outstanding victories can be followed by season-halting losses. Whether it was the debacle that was their first Super Bowl appearance in 1999, the complicated love-hate relationship and bitter divorce with Michael Vick, or last year’s playoff shutout loss to the Giants, Falcons fans have learned to live with heartbreak. But as the Falcons gear up for this year’s playoffs, Thomas and his brother, Red, stand together amongst a sea of red and black waiting for their turn to come. Could this be their year? History says no, but their eternal optimism and devotion is telling them yes (page 66).


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