Lionel Messi gets storybook ending with World Cup triumph, plus the dumbest Patriots loss ever

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Good morning to everyone but especially to…

LIONEL MESSI AND ARGENTINA

When people talk about “best game ever,” they often exaggerate. Not this time.

In Sunday’s World Cup final, Argentina and France delivered what was, given the circumstances, the most entertaining and best international soccer game I’ve ever seen. Tied 2-2 after 90 minutes and 3-3 after extra time, Argentina won on penalty kicks, giving Lionel Messi — in his fifth and final World Cup — his first World Cup title and his country its first since 1986.

  • Messi scored the opener on a penalty kick in the 23rd minute, and Angel Di Maria followed 12 minutes later on a wonderful counterattack.
  • But Kylian Mbappé led the French back in stirring fashion by converting a penalty kick in the 80th minute and then scoring a stunning strike in the 81st to level things.
  • It was Messi again in the 108th minute, bashing home a rebound after a Hugo Lloris save. But Mbappé had the answer with another penalty kick in the 118th minute to complete his hat trick.
  • Both Messi and Mbappé scored the first attempt in penalties. However, Emiliano Martinez stopped Kingsley Coman‘s effort, and Aurelien Tchouameni missed wide, while Paulo Dybala and Leandro Paredes both scored. Gonzalo Montiel scored the winner.

Messi’s GOAT status was already secured, but this victory defines his legacy, too, writes James Benge.

  • Benge: “No one else has been this brilliant for this long, the best player in the world for so much of the last 15 years. He did not burn brightly and fade away or slowly ease his way to the pinnacle. For almost his entire career, he has been the North Star against which all others are judged. … However you want to slice it, his case is overwhelming. His two goals in the final took him beyond Pele in the list of the World Cup’s greatest scorers, the first player to win two Golden Balls for the best player at the conclusion. He now has every major honor that has been available to him.”

Di Maria’s legend also grew, writes Roger Gonzalez.

As for France, Les Bleus can hold their heads high after narrowly missing out on becoming the first repeat champs since Brazil in 1962. And Mbappé showed he’s on his way to becoming soccer’s next all-time legend, writes Jonathan Johnson.

As for everything else..

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…


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THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS…

If Argentina-France was one of the best things I’ve ever watched, the ending to Patriots-Raiders was the one of the worst — or at least the dumbest.

Leading by a touchdown with just over half a minute left, New England somehow found a way to lose, 30-24… in regulation.

Keelan Cole caught a touchdown with 32 seconds left, and the extra point tied things up. The Patriots had two timeouts to use for the ensuing drive but didn’t get much. The game looked headed to overtime until…

Our John Breech described it as “a complete mental breakdown.” I think that’s being kind.

… AND ALSO NOT SUCH A GOOD MORNING FOR THE DALLAS COWBOYS

Leading 27-10 late in the third quarter, the offense was rolling. The defense was dominating. A fifth straight win was well within sight for the Cowboys. Leading 34-31 late in the fourth quarter, the defense came up with yet another turnover, its third of the day. The offense had stalled, but victory still seemed assured.

Then the Cowboys did just everything they could to lose.

  • After Jayron Kearse forced a Trevor Lawrence fumble and Micah Parsons recovered, the Dallas offense got the ball with 1:28 left and went run, run, incompletion. It took 27 seconds off the clock.
  • Then it was the defense’s turn to fall apart. Trevor Lawrence led a 41-yard drive with no timeouts, and Riley Patterson drilled a 48-yard field goal.
  • After a Jaguars three-and-out to open overtime, Dak Prescott threw behind Noah Brown, and Rayshawn Jenkins raced 56 yards the other way for a walk-off pick-six.

First off: Lawrence is terrific. If you wrote him off after his rookie season or even after his slow start to this year, think again. Since Week 9, he leads the NFL in passer rating and completion percentage, is third in expected points added per dropback behind Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes and has thrown 14 touchdowns and just one interception. He and the Jaguars rightfully earned an “A” in our weekly grades.

As for someone who hasn’t been awesome, Prescott has the league’s highest interception rate. The Cowboys’ mediocre wide receivers outside of CeeDee Lamb haven’t helped, but Prescott’s continued ball security issues are a huge contributor to the Cowboys’ inconsistency overall. That has our Jeff Kerr wondering about Dallas’ playoff potential.

The Football Five 🏈

  • The Giants picked up a massive win, eking one out against the Commanders, 20-12. Kayvon Thibodeaux had a monster game including a strip sack, scoop-and-score touchdown, and a controversial late no-call helped things go the Giants’ way. The updated playoff picture shows why this was such a big one.
  • The Lions have won six of seven. Jared Goff hit Brock Wright for a 51-yard touchdown on 4th down late, and Jets kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a 58-yard field goal as time expired.
  • Jalen Hurts ran for three touchdowns and the Eagles beat the Bears, 25-20. Hurts now has 13 rushing touchdowns this season; the all-time record for a quarterback is 14 from Cam Newton in 2011.
  • It wasn’t pretty, but the Chiefs clinched their seventh straight AFC West title with a 30-24 overtime win over the Texans.
  • After going down 17-0 early, the Bengals rallied and then dominated the Buccaneers, 34-23. The 17-point home lead blown is the largest in Tom Brady’s career.

Vikings pull off largest comeback in NFL history 🏈


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If you watched the first half of the Colts-Vikings, flipped off the television and dismissed the Vikings and their impressive record as frauds, I wouldn’t have necessarily blamed you. Then again, you would have missed the largest comeback in NFL history.

The Vikings turned a 33-0 deficit into an incredible 39-36 overtime win to move to 11-3 this season, clinch the NFC North and etch their name into the NFL record book.

  • Kirk Cousins threw for 460 yards (417 after halftime) and four touchdowns. The last of the four was a 64-yarder on a screen to Dalvin Cook, and the two-point conversion pass to T.J. Hockenson tied the game.
  • This tops “The Comeback” — a 32-point rally by the Bills against the Oilers in the 1992 AFC Wild Card Game — for largest comeback ever.
  • Colts head coach Jeff Saturday said there was “plenty of blame to go around.” Certainly some of that belongs to Matt Ryan, who… is piling up blowing historically large leads.
  • Entering Saturday, teams trailing by 30 or more at halftime were 0-132 in the Super Bowl Era (since 1966), including playoff games.

Anthony Davis out several weeks with foot injury 🏀


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Just as he was starting to look like his old, dominant self, Anthony Davis has had yet another health-related setback.

The Lakers star will be out at least one month with a right foot injury suffered Friday against the Nuggets.

  • Davis is averaging 27.4 points (on pace to be his highest as a Laker) and 12.1 rebounds (on pace to be a career high) this season. He’s shooting 59.3% from the field, also on pace to be a career high.
  • This is the third straight year Davis has dealt with a major injury. After helping lead Los Angeles to the 2020 NBA championship, he played in just 76 of a possible 154 games in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

The Lakers are 13-16, 12th in the Western Conference. Fair or not, it’s up to LeBron James to keep them afloat with Davis out, writes Sam Quinn.

Winners, losers and a new Top 25 And 1 after huge college basketball weekend 🏀


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We promised a huge weekend of college basketball, and it delivered. In case you were too busy watching, oh, I don’t know, all of the other sports, here’s what you may have missed.

Arizona was among the weekend’s biggest winners, and Gary Parrish has them in the top five of his latest Top 25 And 1.

  • 1. Purdue (prev. 1)
  • 2. UConn (prev. 3)
  • 3. Houston (prev. 5)
  • 4. Arizona (prev. 8)
  • 5. Kansas (prev. 15)

What we’re watching Monday 📺

🏈 Rams at Packers, 8:15 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Lakers at Suns, 9 p.m. on NBA TV





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