In 1994, I had only been watching the NFL for a couple of years. I lived in Hawaii, where the closest thing to a home team we had was the Pro Bowl — which pretty much made me a Dallas Cowboys fan. I griped when it seemed like the Miami Dolphins were on TV every week.But that changed on Nov. 27, when I watched the Dolphins come back from a 17-0 third-quarter deficit against the New York Jets, culminating with Dan Marino’s legendary “Clock, Clock, Clock” play with 30 seconds left that led to the game-winning touchdown. It made me a Dolphins fan for life.1In fairness, looking back on this it seems pretty antiquated. There were 22 seconds left on the clock when he made that pass — teams would never let up in that spot today. It blew my young mind. Marino’s fake-spike and pass to the end zone was thrilling and unexpected, but it made so much sense! After getting a first down with little time left, teams always spiked the ball. This is something that an ideal team would never do, as it would always have its next play ready. Yet it was so routine that defenses mostly took the play off, something the Dolphins eagerly exploited. This was the moment at which my long journey toward skeptical sports analysis began.2Until that moment, I never knew myself.As my obsession with football increased, my passion for the Dolphins did as well.3In 1996, Miami hired Jimmy Johnson, one of the architects of the Hershel Walker trade, and an innovator (sometimes for worse than for better) in economic-style draft analysis. But in the decades since, I’ve had my heart broken one too many times, and I’ve become numb to Dolphins results.For a few minutes on Sunday, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers brought those feelings back. With 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter and trailing by four points against the — my! — Miami Dolphins, Rodgers completed a pass inbounds. He rushed to the line and snapped the ball with 13 seconds left, on what everyone seemed to think was going to be a spike — he was selling it so hard he deserved a Razzie4Seriously, why defenses aren’t assuming every “spike” play is a fake is beyond me. Also, the more emphatically the quarterback gestures that he is going to spike, the more likely the fake is on! — but it wasn’t. Rodgers flung the pass down the right sideline to Davante Adams, and Adams ran it out of bounds at the 4-yard line. First-and-goal, seconds remaining.The Dolphins took a timeout, and in the minute or so between that completion and their final play, I was a young Dolphins fanatic, hoping that I wouldn’t have my heart broken again. On the next play Rodgers threw a game-winning touchdown.Aaron Rodgers is something of an enigma. I’ve written about him several times before, pointing out that he’s statistically one of the best quarterbacks in football — maybe ever — but he takes few risks when his team is down and rarely leads the Packers to comeback victories.But with this win against the Dolphins, along with his Week 2 comeback against the Jets, it appeared my theory of Rodgers was on shaky ground. So I decided to look into his comeback conundrum more deeply — was it due to bad play? Or bad luck? Bad defense? Something else? Nothing at all?In a surprise, I found that Rodgers actually has a history of being great in comeback situations like the one he faced against the Dolphins. In the fourth quarter, with his team needing a touchdown to tie or take the lead (that is, down 4 points to 8 points), only Peyton Manning has led his team to a higher percentage of touchdown drives:So bravo, Aaron. The Hacker Gods, who rule over this terrestrial simulation from their higher order reality much as Odin rules over Midgard from his perch in Valhalla, did everything in their power to get me to recognize your brilliance. They’ve sent me the ravens Huginn and Muninn to change my thought and mind. Perhaps they’re even daring me to eat them. And perhaps someday I will, but not today.Chart of the weekWhile I applaud Rodgers’s fourth-quarter driving efforts, breaking down his game more thoroughly has made me more convinced that he’s too cautious.For this chart, I’ve taken quarterback drives in the second half of games and broken them down into four categories: 1) games in which the quarterback’s team is more than a touchdown behind (down 9 or more points); 2) games in which the quarterback’s team needs a touchdown to tie or take the lead (down 4 to 8 points); 3) games in which the two teams are within a field goal of each other; and 4) games in which the quarterback’s team is ahead by 4 points or more. I’ve then plotted the percentage of such drives that end with a touchdown versus the percentage of those games won. (The bubble size is the number of drives.) I’ve highlighted the results for Rodgers and Manning, and noted their interception percentages.A few things pop out of there:When leading by 4 or more points in the second half, both Rodgers (6.2 percent) and Manning (7.9 percent) throw a pretty low percentage of interceptions. About 30 percent of their drives end in touchdowns (29.8 percent and 29.5 percent, respectively) and both win at a very high rate (90.9 percent and 92.9 percent of the time, respectively).When the game is close — up or down 3 or fewer points — Manning’s interception rate drops a little (to 5.8 percent), while his touchdown percentage goes up a little (to 31.4 percent). Overall, Manning is still winning 77.7 percent of these games, while Rodgers’s (8.3 percent interception rate, 26.6 percent TD rate) winning percentage drops all the way down to 55.1 percent.When their teams are down 4 points to 8 points (i.e., they need a touchdown to win), both Rodgers’s and Manning’s TD rates shoot way up (Manning: 45.7 percent, Rodgers 40.0 percent). Manning’s interception rate also climbs (10.9 percent), while Rodgers’s drops (7.3 percent). Rodgers is winning a smaller share of these games (31.3 percent vs. Manning’s 44.9 percent), but it’s one of his best showings overall (and includes the scenarios in the intro above).It’s when the quarterbacks’ teams are down 9 or more points in the second half that you really see the difference. Peyton Manning throws interceptions on 15.6 percent of his drives, compared to Rodgers’ 8.1 percent. And for that, Manning is punished … by winning 28.6 percent of these games. Rodgers, meanwhile, wins 0 percent. That’s right, Rodgers has zero comebacks of 9 or more points in the second half. Ever.Judging any QB in relation to Peyton Manning is setting him up for failure. But the starkness of the difference is pretty amazing. Rodgers has zero wins in 21 games while Manning has 14 wins in 49 games, with Manning throwing interceptions nearly twice as often. If you need one stat to demonstrate the gunslinger hypothesis (i.e. that you can throw too few interceptions as well as too many), that would probably be it.Twitter question of the weekLast week, I introduced a chart meant to show how second-and-1 is basically preferable to first-and-10, even if it means sacrificing a couple of yards to get it. This has tactical implications (if a running back can’t get at least a couple of yards past the first-down marker, he should go down just before it), and can even affect how we evaluate players (for example, I love to see a running back get a lot of 9-yard runs).So this week’s question is brought to you by a number of tweeters, emailers and Facebook commenters, but here’s the one I thought put it most explicitly: It’s a very fair question. If stronger teams attempt a disproportionate share of second-and-1s, they would inflate the value of second-and-1 in my analysis.This is something I’ve looked into before, and indeed, stronger teams do account for a larger share of second-and-1s. However, they also take a larger number of first-and-10s. The net difference is negligible, and my result holds: For a typical team, second-and-short is still a few yards preferable to first-and-10.For those interested in how I got there: I projected expected points per drive based on down, distance to first down, and distance to the end zone.5This was done with a regression to points scored that used goal distance and “down/distance,” the latter as a single categorical variable. I’ve plotted the results of this for second-and-x at midfield as the top line below, and marked the value for a first-and-10 at midfield as the top dashed line.Second down becomes about as valuable as first down when it’s second-and-3, and is up to a third of a point better at second-and-1.I then used the same model, except I adjusted for team strength bias and calculated the results based on what we would expect for an average team,6By including team season as a categorical variable and then setting its value to 0. and plotted those the same way.Sure enough, our second-and-short expectation drops by more than half a point when adjusted for what kinds of teams are likely to be in second-and-short positions. But so does our expectation for first-and-10. Thus, in the adjusted results, though the average points per drive are lower, the break-even point is still around second-and-3, and second-and-1 is still about a third of a point better than first-and-10.7All in all, the first down line drops slightly less than the second-and-short line: The gap between second-and-1 and first-and-10 drops from 0.32 expected points to 0.27 expected points.We can then repeat this process to adjust for strength of defense, but it follows exactly the same dynamics: Teams are more likely to give up second-and-short by just about the same amount they’re more likely to give up first downs.Gunslinger of the weekOur winner this week is Ryan “He was a first-round draft pick?” Tannehill, who threw two interceptions in the second quarter against the Packers, both with his team trailing, yet managed to claw his way into the lead before the Dolphins succumbed to Rodgers’s dirty trickery.Also, following that fake-clock debacle, Tannehill kept his composure well enough to complete two passes on a last-ditch, lateral-laden desperation play.I love those plays, though they obviously never work. A well-executed lateral play can double a team’s chances of winning — OK, maybe from half a percent to 1 percent, but still. Not going all-out on a last-minute play is just throwing away fractions of a win.Kicking awards for Week 6This week I used an algorithm8OK, it just sums the standard deviations of points vs. expectation and contribution to margin of victory. to pick the most and least valuable kickers, and I thought its results were pretty good.9I’ve changed up my most/least valuable kicker chart a little this week by capping the margin of victory contribution at 100 percent.For least valuable, a case could be made for Matt Prater, who went 1-in-3 in his first week back from suspension and his first week with the Detroit Lions. Detroit’s ice-cold kicking continues, and its season total of 20.0 points below expectation is now just a sliver behind San Francisco’s 2012 record of 20.6. But, fortunately for Prater, the Lions didn’t need his kicks in their comfortable win against the Vikings.The most dramatic miss of Week 6 was by the Cincinnati Bengals’ Mike Nugent, who shanked a 36-yard field goal as time expired in overtime against the Carolina Panthers, leaving the two teams tied. But perhaps lost in that drama is the fact that the Panthers’ Graham Gano also missed a 38-yard attempt in the third quarter. Both Gano and Nugent made three of four field goals in a game where four would have gotten them the win, but because Nugent’s attempts were slightly harder (made FGs of 44, 38 and 42 yards), Gano (made FGs of 39, 44 and 36 yards) wins least valuable kicker of the week.For most valuable kicker, the Dallas Cowboys’ Dan Bailey narrowly beat out the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Bryant (Bailey’s three made field goals contributed more to his team’s margin of victory than Bryant’s two). Bailey is now the NFL’s all-time FG percentage leader for someone with a minimum of 100 kicks. Moreover, 20 of his attempts have been for 50 or more yards — of which he has made 14.10Recall Mike Vanderjagt had only one attempt of 50+ yards in his perfect season. This makes Bailey 28.2 points above expectation on just 112 attempts. Here’s how that stacks up to other kickers since 2001 (adjusted for era):Dan Bailey (class of 2011), Justin Tucker (2012) and Blair Walsh (2012) are this generation’s golden triad of kickers, and their infiltration of the record books has likely just begun.Rookie QB watchAfter limited action last week, the rookie QBs really got to work in Week 6. My ranking of their career prospects:The Jacksonville Jaguars’ Blake Bortles had 336 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He keeps the top spot by virtue of yardage and still being the top draft pick.The Oakland Raiders’ Derek Carr had a stellar day in his first action since his coach got fired. In the Raiders’ loss against a strong Chargers team, he managed 282 yards and four touchdowns. As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, yards and touchdowns are the main predictors of rookie success, so this was a good game for Carr regardless. But a rookie who throws four TDs is standing on pretty hallowed ground, let alone four TDs in a game by Week 6 of his rookie year11Counting “true rookies” only. Meaning quarterbacks drafted in the same year they played.: The last (and to Pro-Football-Reference game-finder’s knowledge only) player to do so was Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton in 1961.The median career Approximate Value for a (retired) QB on this list is 92! For comparison, when evaluating draft prospects, I sometimes use a “success” line of 32, which so far nine of the 12 QBs on this list have surpassed. From Carr’s draft position, his chances of being “successful” were about 28 percent. Is it silly to read so much into one crazy performance? Maybe a bit, but there’s such uncertainty with rookie QB prognostication that Bayesian reasoning comes into play. Carr’s four-TD game as a rookie is extremely rare, but it’s less rare among great quarterbacks. Rapidly updating beliefs in light of new information is what Bayesian inference is all about. So the question is: Which is more unlikely, that Carr is bad and had a freak performance, or that Carr is good and had a very good performance? The Minnesota Vikings’ Teddy Bridgewater had 188 yards with no TDs and three interceptions in the Vikings’ game against Detroit. As usual, the interceptions don’t mean much for a rookie, but the lack of yards and TDs do. In three games, Bridgewater has yet to throw a touchdown (though he has one TD on the ground).The New England Patriots’ Jimmy Garoppolo did not play, but the news for him is that Tom Brady had a stellar week with over 300 yards and four TDs. This is bad for Garoppolo’s chances of getting into the game anytime soon, as Brady might have more left in the tank than we thought. On the other hand, the Patriots recovering from dire straits to their present 4-2 record may also be good news for Garoppolo: If the Belichick-led Patriots are able to maintain their high level of performance indefinitely, that means Garoppolo’s chances of having a good career will converge with his chances of being the Patriots’ heir apparent.The Cleveland Browns’ Johnny Manziel did not play. And his starting competition seems to be getting better and better. Journeyman quarterback Brian Hoyer — who had only started four games in his five-year career prior to 2014 — is now 3-2 this year with an NFL passer rating of 99.5 and a Total QBR of 75.4 (good for seventh in the league).Most empirically significant game of Week 7I’m taking the New Orleans Saints (2-3) vs. the Detroit Lions (4-2).This is an extremely high-leverage game for both teams. Per the charts from Week 1, having a record of two wins and three losses is the second-highest-leverage game for a team that won 12 or more the previous season (the Saints won 11).12The highest is the last game of the season for teams that are 9-6. Of 2-3 teams that won their sixth game, 61 percent made the playoffs. Of those that lost their sixth game, only 6 percent made the playoffs. On the Lions’ side, looking at the charts for all teams no matter their previous season, 4-2 teams that win their next game make the playoffs 75 percent of the time, teams that lose it just 50 percent.But these are also two franchises and two quarterbacks at a crossroads.Drew Brees and the Saints have five 10-win seasons together, including three straight 5,000-yard seasons prior to this year and a Super Bowl win. Matthew Stafford has put up big numbers but not a lot of wins. Collectively, they hold six of the top nine spots on the leaderboard for most passing yards in a season.Other interesting angles include: Can Brees defy concerns about his age as deftly as he defied concerns about his height? Are Stafford’s numbers soft, or is he the next big thing? Can some coach not named Bill Belichick keep a franchise competitive for more than a few years?I’ll be watching.Reminder: If you tweet questions to me @skepticalsports, there is a non-zero chance that I’ll answer them here.Charts by Reuben Fischer-Baum.CORRECTION (Oct. 16, 11:36 a.m): An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated which team took a time out during a fourth-quarter Green Bay Packers drive in their Sunday game against the Miami Dolphins. It was the Dolphins, not the Packers.
Tonight, the San Antonio Spurs tip off the 2012 Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder as the hottest team in the NBA, which is not unlike 1999 (another lockout-shortened season), when the Spurs won their first of four championships.With a quiet resolve, the Spurs remain relevant and a model of consistency year after year, something most franchises only wish they could achieve. This year’s version, however, is arguably the most complete team in basketball and an 18-game winning streak serves as confirmation.However, there is something different about how this team functions. The defense remains a stabilizing force, as well as precise execution on offense. But gone are the days of post players as the focal point when they have the ball. David Robinson, the Hall of Fame center, is retired and watches in admiration. Tim Duncan has played inspired basketball lately, but he isn’t exactly the “Big Fundamental” of his sensational prime years.Rather, the Spurs have been led by the mesmerizing point guard play of Tony Parker. He didn’t exactly choose a leadership role this season; it was essentially assigned to him by coach Gregg Popovich, who watched Parker lead France to it best EuroBasket finish in 60 years last summer. Witnessing Parker command of the team, Popovich asked his 6-foot-1 floor leader to take more of a leadership role in San Antonio. Parker, who had acquiesced to Duncan all these years, obliged. Parker has delivered not only brilliant play, but he has directed the team in times of duress and been the vocal leader to rally the team.“With the national team, it’s always been my team,” Parker told ESPN the Mag. “I just tried to fit in here. Pop told me, ‘This year, you need to lead, and Timmy and Manu (Ginobili) will follow.’ Only Pop could say that. I felt it was time too, but to me, it’s always been Timmy’s team.”Under Parker’s leadership, the Spurs flourished, finishing with the best record in the Western Conference and tied with Chicago for the best overall record in the NBA. Parker averaged 18.3 points and 7.7 assists in the regular season and 19.1 and 7.1 in the postseason.Duncan said of Parker: “This is more his team now. You can see him turning it up.”Parker will have to keep it going at a high level against the Thunder, as OKC’s 23-year-old point guard Russell Westbrook has been one of the keys to the young team’s emergence. Clearly, Parker, 30, does not fear the challenge.“I’m definitely going to go at him,” he said.It’s not going to be like Dallas or the Lakers, where their point guards are not as aggressive. I’m going to go at him and make sure he works a little bit.”Exactly what coach Pop expects.
The New York Yankees are getting aggressive in their quest to acquire offense players to help their squad. The team is currently looking to add Alfonso Soriano, a league source confirmed to ESPNChicago.com.“If you’re referring to that Soriano rumor, that’s very premature,” Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said on MLB Network Radio. “We’ve had some discussions with some different teams about Sori, nothing close at all. … That’s not nearly as advanced as those reports make it seem.”According to a New York Post’s report, the Yankees will pay the rest of Soriano’s salary for 2013, where he is owed a little more than $6 million on his $18 million salary.“Last year, we sort of took things to (Soriano) on an individual basis, when teams asked about him,” Hoyer said. “This year, I’m in an airport right now. We’re heading out to Arizona. We’ll probably sit down with Sori. We’ve been in touch with (his agent) about his thoughts. He’s got 10-5, he has the right and earned the right to veto deals. We won’t push in any direction, but we’ll certainly give him some of the teams that have inquired about him and let him make that decision himself.”
OSU then-sophomore Kyle Snyder gets his hand raised during a meet against Nebraska at St. John Arena on Jan. 17. Credit: Lantern file photoResults: OSU wins 30-12•125 pounds: Michael Beck (UMD) won by forfeit. Jose Rodriguez (OSU) out due to illness.•133 pounds: No. 1 Nathan Tomasello (OSU) major decision over Billy Rappo (UMD), 15-5•141 pounds: No. 14 Luke Pletcher (OSU) major decision over Jhared Simmons (UMD), 16-7•149 pounds: Adam Whitesell (UMD) fall over Blake Riley-Hawkins. No. 5 Micah Jordan out due to illness.•157 pounds: Jake Ryan (OSU) decision over Justin Alexander (UMD), 3-2•165 pounds: Cody Burcher (OSU) decision over Patrick Gerish (UMD), 5-2•174 pounds: Justin Kresevic (OSU) decision over Josh Ugalde (UMD), 3-2. No. 1 Bo Jordan (OSU) out due to injury.•184 pounds: No. 10 Myles Martin (OSU) major decision over Sam Rowell (UMD), 16-6•197 pounds: No. 5 Kollin Moore (OSU) major decision over David-Brian Whisler (UMD), 17-7 •HWT: No. 1 Kyle Snyder (OSU) technical fall over Youssif Hemida (UMD), 22-7Worth noting: The Buckeyes lost two matchups to the Terrapins on Sunday. Both came in matchups in which Buckeye starters were not able to participate. Junior Kyle Snyder took home a technical fall victory in his high school gymnasium, as the dual meet between OSU and Maryland took place at Good Counsel High School, Snyder’s alma mater. Looking ahead: The Buckeyes travel to take on the No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes on Jan. 27. This matchup will impact the Buckeyes greatly, both in the Big Ten and in national rankings moving forward. OSU currently sits at 8-0 on the season, but are entering a tough two-game stretch with Iowa next week and No. 1 Penn State the following week (Feb. 3).
Senior guard Aaron Craft answers questions from the media during Ohio State basketball Media Day Oct. 10 at the Schottenstein Center.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorA mission trip to Haiti. Getting engaged. Taking courses as he works toward earning his nutrition degree.Senior point guard Aaron Craft had quite the summer — and still managed to work on his jump shot.“It was probably one of the more challenging summers I’ve had, academic-wise, but I got to do some fun things,” Craft said Oct. 10 at OSU Media Day. “I got to go to a couple (basketball) camps, got to go to Haiti, I got engaged (to longtime girlfriend Amber Peterson). It was a good summer.”The main facet of his game he wanted to change was his jump shot — mainly to remove the pause it had in hopes of making it more fluid.“I worked hard. I don’t know what happened last year but we started from square one this spring,” Craft said, referencing his time in the gym with former assistant coach Chris Jent and assistant coach Greg Paulus. “It was tough — it was frustrating at times.”Craft averaged 10 points per game last season, a career best, but only shot 41.7 percent from the field, and 30 percent from beyond the arc. Both career lows.The 2012-13 second team All-Big Ten selection is sure to be counted on this season to shoulder more of a scoring load with the departure of Deshaun Thomas (team-leading 19.8 points per game in 2012-13) to the NBA Draft.OSU coach Thad Matta said filling that void will not fall on one guy.“When you think back, Deshaun got us a lot of big, important baskets. A lot of times we looked, we looked, we looked, we looked for Deshaun,” Matta said at Media Day. “The one thing I think we got right now going is a little bit more of a flow to our offense. I don’t want to label a guy and say ‘Hey, you’re Deshaun Thomas, you’re going to do what he did.’”Craft agreed, adding that improving as a team is more important than a single player stepping up.“You can’t replace Deshaun with just one person,” he said. “Even with him, we shot one of the worst percentages in coach’s career here at Ohio State. Our biggest focus is being able to knock down open shots, elevating our shooting percentage and that opens up countless other things on the offensive end.”Craft’s work retooling his shot into more of a threat came from the team needing it to, but also because doing so is just how the man is wired.“We watched tape, we knew what the problems were, things that I struggled with,” Craft said. “And not being able to go on the floor and correct it right away is very frustrating. Especially for a guy like me … it made me really angry. It took us a while, (but) we got there eventually.”Refining his shot and other parts of his game came as no surprise to Matta.“If there’s one person that you don’t have to challenge, it’s Aaron Craft,” he said.The Buckeye point guard has been part of 94 of Matta’s 250 wins at OSU, and being a part of that standard of excellence is something he calls “a great blessing.”“It’s amazing,” Craft said. “We are still a football school, but Coach Matta’s done leaps and bounds not to change that, but you know, understand that basketball is a big time program here. And being able to play a small role in that over my three years has been a great blessing for me.”Being that this season is his point guard’s last hurrah, Matta knows Craft is really one of a kind.“He’s special, he’s unique (as a player),” Matta said. “He wants to win and he wants to win the right way. And that is by playing great team basketball. He wants to represent this university the best that he can.”Junior center Amir Williams, who will more than likely be a full-time starter along with Craft this winter after starting 26 of 37 contests last year, called Craft the “heart and pride” of the Buckeyes. Williams said his defensive prowess, which has garnered Craft numerous awards, namely 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and 2013 Big Ten All-Defensive Team, is what sets him apart.“He’s what makes us go. His hard work, his effort (on defense) … He’s very talkative,” Williams said. “We see him out there competing and giving his all, that forces us more to give our all out there.”Matta said Craft has not been shy about telling his teammates what to do on that side of the ball.“Aaron is more vocal to what he’s seeing,” Matta said. “He’s, in my mind, always doing the right thing (on defense).”With pressure mounting to continue and even exceed the high-caliber play that has become the norm for the program since before he arrived in Columbus in 2011, enjoying his final year as a Buckeye is the only thing Craft has on his mind.“It’s crazy. It’s gone by fast. I’ve loved every moment I’ve had here,” Craft said. “The biggest thing (fellow senior) Lenzelle (Smith Jr.) and I are trying to do is make the most of this last year. We really think the best is ahead of us.”Craft and company are scheduled to open regular season play Nov. 9 against Morgan State at the Schottenstein Center.
Midfielder, Megan Rapinoe (15), beats a New Zealand defender to the ball. The U.S. women’s national team played New Zealand at Crew Stadium Oct. 30. The match resulted in a, 1-1, tie. Credit: Ritika Shah / Asst. photo editor The United States Women’s National Team battled New Zealand to a 1-1 draw Wednesday in a Women’s International Friendly. Sydney Leroux tallied the lone goal for the U.S.The U.S. started with a 4-3-3 formation for the first time under coach Tom Sermanni. The offense generated a lot of opportunities in the first half, and Leroux was able to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the 42nd minute.“We wanted to pressure New Zealand; we wanted to matchup in midfield,” Sermanni said. “I think we weren’t quick enough to do things in transition today either, when we won the ball or when we lost the ball.”Leroux did most of the work herself as she turned inside, eluding defenders and eventually finding an opening allowing her to finish into the left corner.After leading for a majority of the second half, New Zealand stunned the U.S. with the equalizer in the 87th minute. Hannah Wilkinson received the ball from Rebekah Stott and slotted it past U.S. keeper Hope Solo to even things up.After the game Leroux said she was disappointed that the U.S. were unable to hold on for the victory.“Anytime the US Women’s National Team ties, it’s a loss for us,” Leroux said. “We’re very proud, we should’ve won and we’re going to be upset about this for awhile.”Sermanni agreed, adding that he expected his team to dominate proceedings.“We expect to win games, particularly at home, we expect to dictate and dominate games. We didn’t do that as well tonight as we have done with some of our games during the year,” Sermanni said.The United States fired 12 total shots with five on goal, compared to six and four on target for New Zealand. Abby Wambach had a few chances that she couldn’t capitalize on, including a penalty kick in the 10th minute that was saved by Erin Nayler.American superstar Alex Morgan was unavailable as a result of an ankle injury she suffered in a recent training session.“It’s disappointing for this team if ever we tie or lose. It’s a complete failure of producing what the game plan was,” Wambach said.More than 15,000 supporters attended the match. As always, it was a great atmosphere in Columbus, Solo said.“Columbus is awesome. We’re filling stadiums from the west coast all the way to the east coast,” Solo said. “We have passion here. Women’s soccer is here to stay.”The US Women’s national team travels to Florida to play Brazil next, which will cap off the 2013 season. World Cup qualifying matches begin in 2014.
These changes will help to ensure fairness to all parties as charges of pre-hearing stage may be subject to changeNursing and Midwifery Council Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Allegations that she had allowed an incorrect temperature to be recorded while being screened at Heathrow Airport were dismissed by the panel, and another charge of dishonesty was withdrawn.Ms Cafferkey said the NMC had later apologised for publishing the allegations on its website ahead of the hearing.A spokesman for the hearing said: “These changes will help to ensure fairness to all parties as charges of pre-hearing stage may be subject to change.” Allegations against nurses and midwives charged with misconduct or incompetence will no longer be made available for public scrutiny, the professions’ regulator has said.The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which was criticised over its handling of the charges against “Ebola nurse” Pauline Cafferkey, will in future not publish details on its website.The decision means investigations against potentially dangerous practitioners will remain completely private until a disciplinary tribunal is held. Under the new system, members of the public and journalists will be prevented from knowing the details of charges against individuals in advance.It means nurses and midwives will now be treated differently from doctors, as the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Services publishes a summary of allegations against medics on its website prior to hearings.Ms Cafferkey was cleared earlier this month of professional misconduct following an investigation by the NMC, which had accused her of concealing a high temperature when she returned to the UK from Ebola-hit Sierra Leone in 2014.
During the 45 minute set, Sheeran treated guests to performances of his most famous hits including Thinking Out Loud, Sing, I See Fire and The A Team.Sheeran, who took a break from social media in December 2015 and has not posted publicly online since, also played Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself – a song Sheeran co-wrote but said he had never played live before.The Suffolk-born singer helped raise valuable funds for the charity which provides vital services for children and young people with life-threatening illnesses across East Anglia.Sheeran has been an ambassador for the charity – which has the Duchess of Cambridge as its royal patron – since 2014 and supported Each’s nook appeal which aims to raise £10 million to transform children’s palliative care across Norfolk, including building a new hospice called the nook.Each said the total raised on the night came to more than £262,000. The Sun said Sheeran, 25, needed stitches after Beatrice, 28, swung a ceremonial sword over her shoulder while she was pretending to “knight” James Blunt, not realising that the Thinking Out Loud singer was behind her.Sheeran took to the stage on Wednesday night in front of Dippy the Diplodocus, the dinosaur skeleton replica which will be removed from Hintze Hall next month to go on a nationwide tour.”This is the first time I’ve done a show in a year, so please bear with me,” the singer said as he played to 350 guests at the East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) gala dinner. Musician Ed Sheeran, right, took a cut to the face Ed Sheeran has joked about getting his face “cut open” as he showed off a scar on his cheek during his first official performance of 2016.”It’s nice to be back. I’ve had a whole year off. I went to Japan for about a month and hung out with Japanese people. Got my face cut open, anyone read about that?” he said during a charity gig at the Natural History Museum.Sheeran’s comments came after reports he was cut on the face by Princess Beatrice during a party prank. Oh I’m a mess right now… #EdSheeran pic.twitter.com/yiVLP5iodc— EACH (@EACH_hospices) 30 November 2016 Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
From left, Trina, Tia and Dave Birtwistle The pilot has been paused whilst a root cause analysis investigation is carried out. Mrs Birtwistle said: “Dave’s death was a complete shock as he had been fit and well and had no long-term medical conditions. He visited his GP on November 10 as he felt unwell. Three days later he felt breathless and went to A&E at Bristol Royal Infirmary. He was seen by a GP service there and died the following Tuesday.“The cause of death is still being investigated and we do not know if the system at A&E that day contributed to his death. Until we have reports back from the hospital and an inquest is held we can’t comment further.“Dave was an amazing man, loved by all his family and friends and his sudden death at such a young age has hit us all very hard.”Joyce Robins, of Patient Concern, said: “This is deeply worrying. I am also concerned why this has only emerged more than a month later. These schemes are being set up without people realising until they get to A&E.”All details of the Bristol pilot scheme had been removed yesterday from the websites of both BrisDoc and NHS Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group (BCCG), which oversees patient care. A BCCG spokesman said: “We are very sorry to hear of this sad death. We are actively working with our partners at BrisDoc to understand the full circumstances of the gentleman’s assessment and treatment.”The spokesman added: “A gentleman died in Bristol Royal Infirmary on Tuesday 15 November. He had attended the BRI on Sunday 13 November and was seen, treated and discharged in a primary care service, provided by BrisDoc, as part of a pilot project. An investigation is now under way and a post-mortem has been carried out.“The pilot has been paused whilst a root cause analysis investigation is carried out.”BCCG said that every year 60,000 people in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire attended A&E without requiring treatment.A BrisDoc spokesman said: “We would like to express our sincere condolences to the family of the gentleman who sadly passed away. “A thorough investigation is currently underway in order to establish the circumstances surrounding his death.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. The hospital admitted it had only been a few days into its “Front Door” pilot when Mr Birtwistle was turned away from A&E.Health officials have told hospitals across the country to set up such schemes to divert thousands of patients from casualty units, amid warnings of “unprecedented” pressure.At least 14 have already been established, stationing GPs and nurses at the front doors of hospitals to assess whether patients are seriously ill enough to enter A&E.The Telegraph disclosed on Monday that NHS England has issued instructions for dozens more to be running by Christmas. Bristol Royal Infirmary had already awarded its contract to manage the scheme to BrisDoc Healthcare Services, a company which sells out of hours GP services to the NHS.The company enjoyed a turnover of £12.7 million in the 12 months to March and a pre-tax profit of £380,000. Under the Front Door scheme, patients are first seen by a primary health care worker, who decides whether they should be admitted into A&E or else seen by a non-emergency professional. Dave was an amazing man, loved by all his family and friends and his sudden death at such a young age has hit us all very hard.Trina Birtwistle A scheme to reduce pressure on an Accident and Emergency unit has been suspended following the death of a “devoted” father denied casualty treatment just six days after it launched.The trial was one of dozens being set up on health officials’ orders amid a growing crisis over hospital overcrowding.An official investigation is now under way into why Dave Birtwistle, 44, a father-of-one, was turned away from the A&E department at Bristol Royal Infirmary.Mr Birtwistle, described by his grieving widow as previously “fit and healthy”, had gone to casualty suffering from breathlessness.But instead of being treated by A&E doctors, he was seen by a non-emergency GP service that sent him home – only to die two days later. Mr Birtwistle, a fleet controller for Motability from Whitchurch in Bristol, was seen and treated by a BrisDoc healthcare worker on November 13 – four days after the scheme was launched – rather than be allowed into A&E.He died two days later, prompting health bosses to suspended the Front Door scheme, pending the conclusion of an inquiry.In a statement, Mr Birtwistle’s wife Trina and daughter Tia, 18, described him as a “devoted” husband and father. Dave Birtwistle at Liverpool Football Club
Deep splits have opened up within Labour on the question of law and order after a shadow cabinet minister said the party was no longer interested in appearing to be the toughest on crime.Baroness Chakrabati, the shadow attorney general, said in a radio interview that it was time to end the “authoritarian arms race in British politics” that she said had led to a doubling of the prison population.But her party colleague Lord Falconer, the former lord chancellor, said Labour would be punished by voters if it was seen to be supporting softer sentences for criminals.Lord Falconer said the electorate would not support cutting sentences for sexual, violent and drug-related offences which have made up the bulk of the increase in the prison population.He said public attitudes towards crime had led to the tougher rhetoric from politicians during the 1990s, when Tony Blair declared in opposition that Labour would be “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” and then-home secretary Michael Howard declared that “prison works”.In an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme Lady Chakrabarti, the former Liberty director, said: “In my adult lifetime I have seen a doubling of the prison population. I think this is caused by an authoritarian arms race in British politics, particularly between the two parties.”Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott described her comments as “great” and added: “Time to end the criminal justice arms race.”But Lord Falconer said the riots that have swept through several prisons in recent weeks were the result of staffing cuts rather than tougher sentences.”The prisons are in a mess because of the deliberate decision to reduce the number of prison officers while not reducing the prison population,” he said.The peer, who was Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow justice secretary until June, acknowledged that too many people were remanded in custody before trial, while some sentences were too long in non-violent, non-sexual cases.But he rejected any calls to cut sentences for more violent crimes.“I don’t think it’s right to think about reversing the increase in the severity of sentence that’s taken place over the last 25 years in relation to violence cases and sexual cases and drug cases – big drug-dealing cases,” he said.Lord Falconer told the Today programme on Saturday that the changes in sentence severity reflected the way society viewed the impact of crime.He said: “I think over these last 25 years, for example in relation to sexual crime, people have become much more aware of the extent of it, the damage it has done and they refuse to accept it, and that is reflected in the way that the criminal justice system has dealt with it.”If you call it an arms race, because both political parties reflected that debate, then that may be one way of looking at it. But I think a better way of looking at it is that society changed its attitude and became much tougher to those things.”I don’t think society would wish to go back to the position of 1993 or 1992 when, for example, sexual crimes were less prosecuted and sentences were much more lenient.”Lord Falconer added: “Two-thirds of the increase in the number of people in prison between 1993, when the prison population was 41,000 and now, when it’s 86,000, has been caused by increased numbers of peoples in for longer for sex, violence and drugs.”I don’t think that there should be a very significant change in relation to that.”John Spellar, Labour’s former Northern Ireland minister, described Lady Chakrabarti’s interview on Friday as a “car crash”.He added: “I think it will go down very badly in the country. Tony Blair’s doctrine of ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ set a policy that got us back in line with the public and recognised their fear of anti-social behaviour, burglary, muggings and worse and indicated very clearly that we were on their side.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.