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Custom Laurent Duvernay-Tardif Jersey Large

Referee Jerome Boger and his crew are receiving plenty of criticism Monday after an awful officiating performance in Sunday’s Week 14 game between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.

There were plenty of missed calls throughout the evening.

Patriots rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry dove toward the pylon early in the fourth quarter for what looked like a touchdown. The officials ruled Harry stepped out of bounds at the 3-yard line even though replays clearly showed he hadn’t. The officials likely cost the Patriots a touchdown shortly before the Harry mistake when they ruled Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce down by contact and blew the play dead despite a clear fumble and recovery by New England cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who had a clear path to the end zone.

Despite those glaring errors, the worst mistake from Boger’s crew might have been its inability to penalize the Chiefs the correct amount of yards on an illegal hands to the face penalty in the third quarter. Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif committed the penalty, which was the correct call, but Boger announced the infraction as a 5-yard penalty when the rulebook states it’s a 10-yard loss (click here to watch Boger incorrectly announce the penalty).

Mixing up penalty yardage would be understandable in most cases because the crew still has time before the next play is run to correct the referee and ensure the proper yardage is enforced. That didn’t happen, though, because none of the seven officials on the field noticed the error. The Chiefs, as a result, moved back from their own 44-yard line to their own 39-yard line. This Kansas City drive ultimately ended in a punt, which New England blocked to set up great field position for a possession that resulted in a Brandon Bolden touchdown run.

The Chiefs ended up winning 23-16 despite a late comeback attempt by the Patriots.

This kind of penalty mixup is inexcusable for any officiating crew, but especially for an experienced official like Boger, who’s in his 13th season as an NFL referee.

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Custom Anthony Sherman Jersey Large

FOXBORO — There was plenty for Anthony Sherman to celebrate on his 31st birthday.

Being in New England, 10 minutes up Route One from North Attleboro, Sherman’s frosting on the cake was the Kansas City Chiefs clinched the AFC West Sunday, beating the Patriots, 23-16

“To come in here and beat a great football team, it’s good, it’s a morale booster for us,” Sherman said of the Chiefs’ ninth win of the season to improve to 6-1 on the road.

In his seventh season with the Chiefs and ninth season in the NFL, Sherman, who turns 31 on Wednesday, is a a two-time All Pro selection (2014, 2018) for the Kansas City specialty teams and a blocking back on offense.

This season, Sherman has touched the ball just six times on offense with four rushes for nine yards and two receptions for 22 yards as he has been on the field for 24 snaps.

“We’ve been a little up and down this year,” Sherman said. “We’ve started to hit the ‘more consistent’ button. “This is a good time of the season to start playing well, this is what you look for. One of our goals was to win the AFC West and we did that.”

Sherman was on the field for 13 specialty teams situations during the first half Sunday, including two PAT kicks and two field goals as the outside left blocker.

Sherman was also in for a dozen plays in the second half, including four at fullback in the final minute of the game protecting quarterback Patrick Mahomes as the Chiefs ran out the clock.

Sherman also got into a jawing session with the Patriots’ Elandon Roberts on Kansas City’s kickoff after the Chiefs had taken a 23-7 lead.

“I’m doing whatever I can do to get on the field and help the team win — I’ll do it,” Sherman said.

Sherman was one of the four Chiefs’ captains on the field for the pre-game coin toss, calling heads, winning the flip and electing to defer possession of the ball to the second half.

Fortunately for Sherman, he had his No. 42 jersey. A container filled with Kansas City game uniforms and equipment was inadvertently shipped to Newark, N.J., after not being taken off the Chiefs’ chartered flight into Boston on Friday.

“I think my helmet was in there,” Sherman said.

The container was hastily retrieved and arrived in Foxboro 90 minutes before game time.

Sherman never could have envisioned his NFL career lasting so long — 137 games, 109 with Kansas City — with five straight AFC (six overall) playoff appearances.

A 2007 graduate of North Attleboro High, Sherman captained the Rocketeer football, winter track and baseball teams with 1,202 rushing yards and 20 TD’s to go along with 100 tackles at linebacker. He was named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2006.

Sherman remains the Big Red career rushing leader with 2,537 yards and 48 TDs.

True to his “townie” roots, one of the most memorable moments of Sherman’s career was scoring a TD for the Rocketeers as a freshman against Attleboro High in the Thanksgiving Day game – playing that season for North coach Paul Sullivan, then for current AD Kurt Kummer over the next three seasons.

And that’s not forgetting that Sherman ran the 55 dash at 6.98 seconds and the 100 dash at 12.19 seconds as a North trackman, also putting the shot. And in the spring he tended to duties in centerfield and generally batted out of the No.3 spot of the order for the North baseball team.

Only two NCAA Division I programs in New England actively recruited Sherman, Boston College and UConn. Sherman envisioned more chances to improve under Huskie coach Randy Edsall and more playing time in Storrs.

Sherman was a fifth-round draft pick by the Arizona Cardinals coming out of UConn and played two seasons there before his rights were traded to Kansas City.

Now with three children, the eldest of which is five years old, Sherman may stay closer to Kansas City, but is always in contact with his Rocketeer family of friends.

Against the Patriots, Sherman was in on the game-opening tackle of Brandon Boldin at the New England 17; played at the upback position ahead of the Chiefs’ primary kick returner as a blocker; and was a wedge blocker for Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker, who hit a 48, 31 and 41 yard field goals-yard field goal midway through the first quarter.

Renowned for his community service projects, Kansas City resigned Sherman for a one-year, $1.02 million pact in March.

The 5-foot-10, 242-pound Sherman (who turns 31 Wednesday) may not be a regular with the offensive unit, save for blocking, “we have so many weapons, they don’t dare give me the ball,” chuckled Sherman. “I’m the last choice.”

The Chiefs won their first four games of the season and have now won four of five outings. Consistency has been an issue. The Chiefs have outscored foes 134-57 during the second quarters of games, but been out-scored 94-65 during the fourth quarter.

The Chiefs rank 24th overall in the NFL in rushing offense (94.5 yards per game) and 25th overall defensively (372 yards allowed). Kansas City scored just three second half points against the Patriots, but held New England to 2-for-12 on third down situations and Tom Brady to 9-for-17 passing in the second half.

“This locker room is awesome, we all have the same mindset,” Sherman said. “We’re all having fun and I’m part of it. It’s nothing better than being around a bunch of guys who just want to win football games. We’ve got a lot of football ahead of us.

“I made that goal 10 years (in the NFL) in my head and I’m a year ago,” he added. “I made that goal not knowing I’d be here or be in the league and even play three years. I’m in the best situation for me, I’ve taken full advantage and continue to do what I do. I’m just trying to be reliable.”

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Custom Tanoh Kpassagnon Jersey Large

The Kansas City Chiefs draft class was special with the drafting of Patrick Mahomes, but think how much better it would have been if the team would have drafted Alvin Kamara.

The Chiefs took Mahomes with the 10th overall pick and also owned the 59th pick. Karma wasn’t drafted by the New Orleans Saints until the 67th pick, but the Chiefs instead decided to take Tanoh Kpassagnon with the 59th pick. Kpassagnon has been a solid defensive end racking up six sacks in his career, but Kamara would be having a bigger impact on the Chiefs offense.

The first big change if the team would have drafted Kamara is they wouldn’t have had the headache of Kareem Hunt. Hunt rushed for 2,151 yards and 15 touchdowns during his time with Chiefs but his off the field issues put a real black spot on the organization.

Hunt was released after a video emerged of Hunt kicking and shoving a woman in a Cleveland hotel. The Chiefs had drafted hunt with the 86th overall pick in the 2017 draft. If the team had drafted Kamara, there would have been no need for the team to take Hunt, and they could have spent that pick on a defensive end to fill the role that Kpassagnon fills with the team.

Since the team has released Hunt the Chiefs offense has been elite led by Patrick Mahomes but the running game has been a weakness.

The team has run through LeSean McCoy, Damien Williams, Spencer Ware to try and fill the role. They have done well enough, but Kamra would be a big upgrade.

During the 2018 season, Kamara rushed 194 times for 883 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also caught 81 passes for 709 passes and four touchdowns. During his time with the Saints, he has split carries if he would be a true number one back the stats would be even more impressive.

Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Alvin Kamara wouldn’t be fair to deal with even if the Chiefs had a mediocre quarterback. Add in that it’s Patrick Mahomes slinging the rock to them, it might be the greatest offense in NFL history.

In NFL history there are a lot of what if’s and this will be one that will be questioned for many years. The Chiefs don’t have Kamara and instead, they will probably be in the market during the offseason looking for someone to fill the role that the Saints running back would have had in their offense.

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Custom Patrick Mahomes Jersey Large

The Kansas City Chiefs have a special media schedule this week with Christmas Day on Wednesday. Head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes spoke to the media on Tuesday instead. If you want to watch the full Reid and Mahomes pressers, you may do so here.

Here were my five most significant items of note:
1) Reid tied up some loose ends.

Some quick Chiefs player notes from the head coach:

On RB Spencer Williams, who hurt his shoulder in the team’s game against the Bears: “If we had to practice [Tuesday], Spencer Ware would be questionable, but we didn’t practice [Tuesday], so he wasn’t questionable.”
On LG Andrew Wylie, who was ruled out of the Bears game due to a mix of ailments: “He was not on the list [Tuesday]. We didn’t practice. Still a bit tender, but we’ll see, see where he is, but there’s a chance [he will practice Wednesday].
On DT Xavier Williams, who the Chiefs need to make a decision on this week: “There are a bunch of things that go into it. Brett (Veach) weighs all that out. I stay out of that mix of it, so he’s got to juggle a bunch of different things with that, and that’s what he does. But we’ll see. We know he’s a good player and gives us quality depth there. That’s one of the things that Brett keeps in mind.”

2) Reid was impressed with what he saw from defensive tackle Terrell Suggs in his Kansas City debut.

The 17-year NFL veteran played 17 snaps against the Chicago Bears.

“I kind of liked what I saw,” said Reid. “He’s got a good energy about him, and you saw it on the first couple rushes… guys get upset if they don’t get a sack that first rush, and he was in that first third down. He chased the quarterback (Mitch Trubisky) from the pocket, was right there to take it and 55 (Frank Clark) got the sack.”

Here is the play:

“[Suggs] laughed about it. He goes, ‘Man, I worked [Trubisky]. My man here gets the sack. Well, good for him!”
3) Mahomes and the Chiefs’ ability to convert third-and-longs has become a topic of conversation after their win against Chicago. Mahomes explained his perspective on the success.

The Chiefs were 6 of 11 on third down, including conversions of third-and-10 and third-and-18.

“I think it’s coach (Reid) preparing us for those situations,” said Mahomes. “We have times in training camp where it’s just third-and-long, where we’re third-and-11 plus and we’re going against the defense. They’re more in the prime position, where they want to get those stops, but he’s putting us in those situations, so we’re prepared to either hit the first down or chuck it down and find a way to get the first down.

“I think it goes with a lot of trust between teammates. When you have a third-and-long like that, the offensive line has to do their job protecting for a long time and then the receivers have to do their job of getting open. They all have to trust that I’m going to put the ball out on time to give them chances to make plays. I think just preparing that way and trusting each other has given us the opportunity to make some of these third and longs happen.”
4) Mahomes confirmed he has felt healthier each week.

It has seemed over the past few weeks that Mahomes has grown more and more comfortable on the field and in the pocket. This could be because he finally feels healthy after recovering from left ankle, right kneecap and right hand injuries.

Mahomes was asked if he has felt stronger as the year has gone on in 2019.

“I think so,” said Mahomes. “Each and every week, I’m able to go through the rehab and treatment process and just prepare my body. I feel like this year I’ve learned that even if I am feeling 100 percent, I still want to go in there and take care of my body. Whereas, last year I would’ve just gotten out of here when I was done with my film study. I’ve really spent more time in the training room preparing my body just knowing I need to be in the best shape possible going into the playoffs.”

Mahomes said that pre-hab was his idea.

“As I was in the training room early with the ankle injury, I’ve kind of realized I just want to keep taking care of my body in that way. I thought I was before that but this year I’ve really understood that I can take care of my body even better.”
5) Reid plans to play all of his starters against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.

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Custom Eric Fisher Jersey Large

At their Nov. 25 meeting, Denver Council heard from a Main Street resident who asked why the neat piles of leaves he’s raked have not been picked up. The resident said he called the borough in October when leaf collection began, and and again in November to no avail.

“Here we are headed into December and the problem still exists,” he said.

Borough manager Mike Hession maintained leaves in the 300 block of Main Street have been collected. Starting in October, leaves are collected throughout the borough. It takes a week to cover all parts of the borough and then the leaf collection starts again. Leaf collection lasts six to nine weeks, depending on need.

Hession said it could be that with diagonal parking in the 300 block, the resident’s leaf piles raked between parked cars cannot be safely accessed by the leaf collection equipment. He suggested the borough may need to post some parking spots as “no parking” areas on certain days to permit safe access for leaf collection equipment.

Councilman Matt Stover said he is aware of other municipalities who restrict parking at certain times to allow leaf collection.

Hession will look into this situation.

In other business, council:

• Heard East Cocalico Township Police Chief Darrick Keppley report Denver had 156 calls for service in October. This was 22.4 percent of the department’s total calls. Keppley reported East Cocalico Township approved hiring one patrol officer. Officer Eric Fisher became the fulltime Cocalico School District school resource officer in January 2019. This necessitated overtime for other officers. The SRO program is well accepted, useful and one the district intends to continue. Fisher’s spot needs filled.
Keppley said, “Two other officers intend to retire in 2020, one in February and one in March. The call is out. Anyone who has their Act 120 should come by the station. We now need three good officers.”

• Adopted an ordinance levying a $52 tax for the privilege of engaging in an occupation in Denver. The only change from the current ordinance is the appointment of the Lancaster County Tax Collection Bureau (LCTCB) to collect the tax.•Authorized Attorney Bradford J. Harris, a partner with the firm of Good & Harris, to serve as backup solicitor or solicitor for Denver when the borough’s regular solicitor Neil Albert is not available. Albert is opening a solo practice in Ephrata.

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Custom Tyreek Hill Jersey Large

Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill calls himself “The Cheetah.”

No one else in the NFL could say that with a straight face.

“Special, special, special speed,” Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack said.

NFL Next Gen Stats began tracking the league’s fastest ball carriers in 2016. That year, Hill ran 23.24 mph and 22.77 mph on plays 10 weeks apart. No one in the league has topped either mark since.

“It’s a different speed,” said Bears coach Matt Nagy, who coached Hill in 2016-17. “There’s no one in the NFL that has that speed. They might think they have that speed, but they don’t.”

Not the Bears’ Tarik Cohen or Taylor Gabriel or any of the NFL’s other speed demons.

Hill will test safeties Eddie Jackson and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix all night Sunday.

“Not just our safeties — a lot of safeties,” Nagy said. “He can fly. Every team knows that. Every defense knows it. We’re well aware of that.”

Hill comes to town at a unique time for the Bears’ two starting safeties. Jackson is trying to justify his Pro Bowl berth, which was announced this week, despite having only one interception all season. Clinton-Dix, a pending free agent, has two games left to prove he’s worthy of the lengthy contract that eluded him last offseason.

The Chiefs average 28.1 points per game, fourth-most in the NFL and the most of any team the Bears have played this season. In their last home game, the Bears shut down the Cowboys, who still lead the NFL with 434 yards per game.

Sunday’s game will have more at stake symbolically. The safeties will be the last line of defense against quarterback Patrick Mahomes poster-izing the Bears on national television — and rubbing his 2017 draft selection in the noses of every Bears fan still upset the Bears traded up to draft Mitch Trubisky instead.

“He’s like a fighter,” Mack said of Mahomes. “You see it on the film. He’s breaking tackles and throwing the ball down the field. You can tell he keeps his eyes down the field.”

Mahomes often looks for Hill when he does. Hill is only 5-10, 185 pounds, but he manages to play even bigger.

“He’s his own type of player,” Bears slot cornerback Buster Skrine said. “He can jump, too, being a smaller guy.”

Hill, who was named to his fourth Pro Bowl in as many seasons, is one reason Mahomes makes running the Chiefs’ offense look so easy.

“Knowing his speed — knowing he’s a vertical threat, guys kind of get scared and give that space and back up,” Jackson said. “So a lot of stuff comes open underneath.”

Tight end Travis Kelce was a stud before the Chiefs ever signed Hill, but the two have proven a deadly combination. With safeties worried about Hill going deep, Kelce is able to work freely in the slot and the middle of the field. This season, he’s seventh in the league — and tops among tight ends — with 1,131 receiving yards.

“It stresses the defense,” Skrine said. “It definitely keeps your safety back. You can’t be as aggressive as a safety. It stresses your defense. It gives people opportunities underneath to get a one-on-one matchup.”

Or they go deep.

Hill’s longest catch of the season this year is a 57-yard touchdown pass. The Bears’ longest is a 53-yarder by Gabriel.

Hill has five catches of 40-plus yards. The entire Bears team has two.

That’s some speed.

“Maybe 2.0 DeSean Jackson,” Clinton-Dix said, looking for a comparison. “They call him ‘Cheetah’ for a reason. He’s explosive when he gets the ball in his hands. We just have to be physical, man, and get him on the ground as soon as possible. We’ve got to do our best to contain this guy.”

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Custom Andrew Wylie Jersey Large

PLATTSBURGH — David J. Bova has been sentenced to 25-years-to-life for the murder of Magen Goyette.

Bova, 31, along with his defense attorney James Tyner, of Latham, heard Judge William Favreau’s ruling in the Clinton County Courthouse Thursday afternoon.

Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie, prosecutor of the case, first outlined that the people hoped for maximum sentences on all charges before introducing several members of Goyette’s family who wished to read letters to Favreau, including Magen’s mother, Michelle Goyette.

‘TRUSTED THIS MAN’

Michelle Goyette, who was driving the truck that her daughter was riding in when Bova committed the murder, read a letter written by her and Magen’s father, George Goyette.

“This is the most difficult reality we could ever be in,” Michelle Goyette said. “Our family trusted this man. He was welcome to enter our home and our lives. Magen was truly one of a kind. Our family was the center of her world.”

Two other letters were read on behalf of other family members.

‘SHOULD HAVE

WALKED AWAY’

Wylie also brought up several points from the pre-sentencing investigation report, including that it had been found that Bova fired four rounds at the truck Michelle and Magen Goyette were riding in March 13.

One shot hit Magen Goyette in the head, killing her, while the others were embedded in the vehicle, some in the driver’s side.

“It was a crime that David Bova could have and should have walked away from,” Wylie said.

‘TRULY SORRY’

Tyner made brief comments on the case, but said that because Bova had already admitted he was guilty and showed remorse, he wanted to let Bova speak for himself before Favreau handed down a sentence.

“I am truly sorry for the events that happened on March 13,” Bova said. “I never meant to hurt anybody.”

This case was originally set to go to trial on Oct. 15, but Bova instead pleaded guilty that day.

“I do appreciate that you did come into this court and saved the family a long protracted trial,” Favreau said.

But not enough to be lenient.

FINES, SENTENCINGS

On top of the 25-years-to-life for the second-degree murder charge, Favreau sentenced Bova to 20 years with five years post-release supervision for second-degree attempted murder, 10 years with five years post-release supervision for second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, 15 years with five years post-release supervision for first-degree criminal use of a firearm and one year for second-degree menacing.

All sentences will be served concurrently.

Fines against Bova totalled $21,000, as well as a $300 surcharge, a $50 DNA charge, a $25 crime victims charge and $5,530.50 of restitution for the costs of Goyette’s funeral.

ORDER OF PROTECTIONS

Favreau also enacted an order of protection protecting Michelle and George Goyette for eight years following Bova’s release, if and when he gets out.

Bova murdered Goyette in the Town of Black Brook on March 13.

The killing followed several verbal altercations between the pair the night before and the morning of the 13th, according to a statement Bova gave to State Police.

According to the same statement, given by Bova after his arrest, he used a semi-automatic 9 mm Hi-Point rifle to shoot at the black Chevrolet pickup truck Goyette was riding in as it drove toward him on Silver Lake Road in Black Brook, with him adding, “I’m not sure if I hit the truck or anyone in it.”

Goyette, 30, died of a gunshot wound to the head shortly after the incident.

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Custom Dustin Colquitt Jersey Large

Dustin Colquitt, with a leg and heart of gold, has been a crucial part of the Kansas City Chiefs franchise on and off the football field. For the second consecutive season, Colquitt has been selected to represent the Chiefs as their Walter Payton Man of the Year award nominee. It will be his third nomination for this award.

The award has long been considered one of the most prestigious honors in the NFL. On Thursday, it was announced that Colquitt was selected to represent Kansas City among the nominees. The award originally began in 1970, and intends to honor an NFL player for his esteemed performance on and off the field. Each team selects a player to represent their franchise and there’s no one more deserving than Colquitt.

In a statement through the Chiefs, Clark Hunt had some incredible words to say about the Chiefs’ long-time punter.

“For 15 years, Dustin Colquitt has been a pillar of the Chiefs organization and the Kansas City community, and we are thrilled that he will once again represent the Chiefs as our nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award,” Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “Over the course of his career, Dustin has developed into one of the top punters in NFL history, and his character and humility have made him one of the leaders in our locker room for many years. But Dustin’s commitment to the Kansas City community is what truly sets him apart. Through his leadership at TeamSmile and his involvement with Fuel Up to Play 60, Athletes in Action and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Dustin has shown tremendous dedication to improving the lives of youth in Kansas City, and he is once again a deserving candidate for one of the most prestigious honors in sports.”

Colquitt talked about what he’s learned since his previous nomination in 2018.

“The Kansas City Chiefs Community Outreach team is proactive in finding individuals and worthy organizations to support within our community. Over the past 15 seasons with the club, I have learned the fastest way to make our NFL communities a better place to live, work and play is to spend time with the people who make this a special place, uplift those with the greatest need, and be generous with things we have been gifted with,” Colquitt said. “After spending time around the Payton family last year, I realized they graced us with the blueprint on how to make the communities we love a better place.”

Chiefs Kingdom can help Colquitt inch one step closer to receiving a $25,000 donation for a charity of their choosing. Supporters can cast their votes by using #WPMOYChallenge on Twitter with Colquitt’s last name somewhere in the post between Dec. 12 and Jan. 12.

TeamSmile is Colquitt’s charity of choice, and he has been a long-time supporter of the non-profit. For 12 years, Colquitt has worked with TeamSmile and is a member of the organization’s Board of Directors. Tune in to the NFL Honors ceremony on Feb. 1 to see if Colquitt has been named the winner of this year’s Walter Payton Man of the Year honors.

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Custom Chad Henne Jersey Large

On Sunday, Ryan Fitzpatrick joined the elite Miami Dolphins company when he joined Dan Marino in the team’s all-time record book. His four touchdown, 400-yard performance was enough to get it done.

Fitzpatrick became only the second player in Miami Dolphins history to have four touchdowns and 400 yards passing in a game. The other of course, Dan Marino who did it seven times. Thanks to Josh Houtz for pointing this out on Twitter.

Fans questioned the motives behind the Dolphins signing Fitzpatrick as a free agent last off-season. It wasn’t a “tanking” type move. Over his career, Fitzpatrick has been wildly inconsistent. Easily throwing for multiple touchdowns one week and multiple interceptions the next. This year, he was more consistently good than sporadically bad.

Sunday was a special day for Fitzpatrick who was joined on the sideline pre-game by his wife and seven kids. He played a little catch with them and then played a lot of catch with his receivers as the Dolphins improved to four wins.

Throughout the year, Fitzpatrick has played like a little kid in the backlot of school. Every touchdown celebrated like it was his first when it is likely closer to his last. His future in Miami is uncertain but he has shown enough to warrant staying through 2020.

He is under contract through the 2020 season and there is no reason that he should not stick around. As a starter, he will be a bridge to whomever the Dolphins believe to be their future. As a backup, he will be a valuable veteran to have in the locker room.

In a way, Fitzpatrick is this decade’s Chad Pennington who ironically came to the Dolphins in 2008 at the end of that decade. Pennington didn’t bring much more than a veteran presence after 2008 but maybe Fitzpatrick can. Not so much in wins but if the Dolphins can get a future QB on the roster, unlike Pennington having to work with Chad Henne, then maybe the long-term hopes for the Dolphins will be better.

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Custom Anthony Hitchens Jersey Large

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There’s something happening to the Kansas City Chiefs that can’t be ignored as we roll into December. They’re creating more frustration for opposing quarterbacks, causing more turnovers when the opportunities arise and cultivating a culture that hasn’t been consistently seen in these parts in some time. It used to be that this team’s only chance of winning a championship came down to a prolific offense. Now it feels more like the Chiefs’ defense might have something to say about that formerly long-held belief.

That defense was the biggest reason behind Kansas City’s 40-9 win over Oakland on Sunday. First place in the AFC West was on the line and the Raiders were looking to pull an upset inside Arrowhead Stadium. The only real surprise that came out of this game was the continued dominance of the Chiefs’ defense. That unit forced three turnovers, sacked Raiders quarterback Derek Carr twice and even added a fourth-down stand in what was easily its best performance of the season.

The Chiefs have spent this entire year talking about the potential of this defense once everyone found a comfort level with it. That optimism made more sense after the way Kansas City pummeled the Raiders.

“We’re just jelling together,” said linebacker Anthony Hitchens. “We all knew it wasn’t going to show up early in the season but we just kept working and it’s starting to show. There is still tons of improvement to make but we only let them in the end zone once. That’s the whole thing — we can give up a lot of yards but we lock down when we get in the red zone. That’s the difference between now and a few weeks ago.”

It’s fair to point out that the Chiefs beat up on a Raiders team that looked just as awful in a 34-3 loss to the lowly New York Jets two weeks ago. It’s also not a secret that Carr never has played well in Kansas City, as he’s now thrown four touchdowns and seven interceptions during his career inside Arrowhead. That doesn’t mean the Chiefs didn’t do something impressive on Sunday. In fact, it’s now been two straight weeks that Kansas City’s defense has outplayed its offense.

The Chiefs forced four turnovers in a 24-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Nov. 18. That win also included a meltdown by an opposing quarterback — Philip Rivers tossed four interceptions in that contest — but the larger point here is that Kansas City isn’t solely relying on star quarterback Patrick Mahomes anymore. The vaunted Chiefs offense amassed just 259 total yards against the Raiders, with Mahomes throwing for a career-low 175 yards. That same unit had been averaging 396.1 yards coming into this game, which ranked third in the NFL in that category.

Kansas City needed its offense to play at an exceptional level last year, when the Chiefs reached the AFC title game. They couldn’t rely on a miserable defense that ultimately failed them in the postseason, and they made plenty of changes to improve that side of the football this past offseason. There’s a new coordinator (Steve Spagnuolo), a new scheme (the 4-3) and six new starters. There also have been plenty of growing pains, especially because the Chiefs have struggled to stop the run all season. This actually is the first time this year where Kansas City can say it’s put together two straight weeks of strong defensive play.

The difference is that more players are becoming more familiar with Spagnuolo’s schemes as well as each other.

“Everything is starting to come together because we know we have guys who can make plays,” said linebacker Reggie Ragland. “(Safety) Tyrann Mathieu has been making plays since he was at LSU. (Safety) Juan Thornhill has been making plays since he was at Virginia. We have a lot of guys who know how to make things happen and we’re playing loose. At the end of the day, it’s our job but we also still need to have fun with it.”

The Chiefs set the tone on defense from the moment this game started. Mathieu intercepted Carr in the first quarter and set up Kansas City’s first score, a 3-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to running back Darrel Williams. The Raiders later tried to convert a fourth-and-1 on the Chiefs 40-yard line in the second quarter. Thornhill sniffed out a jet sweep by Oakland wide receiver Trevor Davis, stuffed the play and the Chiefs eventually turned that into a 13-yard touchdown run by Mahomes.

The Raiders were already reeling by that point and then Thornhill added to their misery with a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown. Just like that, the Chiefs had a 21-0 lead and all hopes of a decent division battle vanished.

“You’ve got to give them credit,” said Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. “That is a good defensive team. They do a lot and they came in with a very unorthodox package. They mixed their coverages and mixed their looks. We had some opportunities, (but) we just didn’t cash in on them and they did. That is a big part of this game.”

The Chiefs couldn’t have picked a better time to find some consistency on defense. The race for AFC playoff spots is heating up, with New England and Baltimore sitting in favorable positions to land first-round byes. When this season began, most people thought the AFC title game would be a rematch of last year’s epic contest between the Chiefs and Patriots. However, the Ravens firmly have entrenched themselves as the best team in football right now, especially after beating the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

This Kansas City win was a reminder that the Chiefs shouldn’t be forgotten. They’ve battled through injuries to key players (including the loss of Mahomes for two full games) and they now sit at 8-4. Next up is a trip to New England to face the Patriots in a game that will say even more about where the Chiefs stand.

“They’re a really good football team and they’re going to be in an environment where they win a lot of games,” Mahomes said. “We have to find a way to go out there and win. We came close last year (a 43-40 loss) and when (former Chiefs quarterback) Alex (Smith) was here, we did actually get the win (in 2017). So guys know how to (do it). It’s about finding the best way to get the win.”

The Chiefs know it won’t be easy. The Patriots already possess the stingiest defense in the league so Kansas City might have a hard time shaking its recent slump on offense. That used to be a recipe for disaster against an elite opponent like New England. Now it could be one more opportunity for the Chiefs’ defense to prove its mettle.

A year ago, it was laughable to think such a thought. It didn’t even feel that plausible when this season began, especially with the Chiefs struggling to find their way. But there really is something growing within Kansas City’s defense after this latest victory. It’s the confidence that comes with knowing your team has more than one way to win when the games become a whole lot bigger.