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Tiki’s Anne Frank comments create a stir

Tiki Barber AP

On Wednesday, we included in a blurb regarding the feelings of former Giants running back Tiki Barber’s teammates a quote from Barber that, in many respects, sums up the Michael Scott-style awkwardness that periodically has emerged throughout Tiki’s career.

Talking about time spent huddled in agent Mark Lepselter’s attic after news broke of Tiki’s failed marriage and his affair with a former NBC intern, Barber told Sports Illustrated, “Lep’s Jewish, and it was like a reverse Anne Frank thing.”

As L. Jon Wertheim of SI aptly put it, the remark shows that Barber “has the wit and smarts to make an Anne Frank allusion and the artlessness to liken himself — an adulterer trying to elude gossip columnists — to a Holocaust victim.”

Per ESPNNewYork.com, the Anti-Defamation League sees more than artlessness in Tiki’s comments.  “Holocaust trivialization continues to spread and finds new ways and expressions that shock the conscience,” national director Abraham Foxman said.  “Tiki Barber’s personal behavior is his business.  But our history and experiences are ours and deserve greater respect than being abused or perverted by Tiki Barber.

“The analogy to Anne Frank is not funny, it is outrageous and perverse.  Anne Frank was not hiding voluntarily.  Before she perished at age 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, she hid from the Nazis for more than two years, fearing every day for her life.  The Frank family’s experiences, as recorded in Anne’s dairy, are a unique testimonial to the horrors of the Holocaust, and her life should never be debased or degraded by insensitive and offensive analogies.”

Lepselter predictably is defending his client.  “In a world where nothing surprises me, where things get completely blown out of proportion, this only adds to the list,” Lepselter told ESPNNewYork.com.  “[Tiki] was shedding light on going back to that time when he was literally trapped, so to speak, in my attic for a week.  Nothing more, nothing less.

“Let me remind all those who want to make this more than it is:  Tiki was a guest of [president] Shimon Peres in Israel five years ago.”

In claiming that folks are blowing Barber’s comments out of proportion, Lepselter possibly is blowing the criticism out of proportion.  No one has accused Barber of being an anti-Semite.  Instead, he picked the wrong topic for an attempt at humor based on the fact that he went into hiding after his marital infidelities game to light.

As a smart guy who is just smart enough to outsmart himself, Barber’s clumsiness isn’t surprising.  Though we detect no malice in his words, he needs to be smart enough to know that certain topics probably are off limits when trying to find a way to characterize a predicament resulting directly from his own decisions and actions.

We can only imagine how Tiki will eventually describe the persecution he feels he’s experiencing after making what he believed to be a harmless remark.

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Ben Roethlisberger hurts knee, stays in game

Ben Roethlisberger AP

The Steelers scored and then they had a scare.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass to Antonio Brown and then departed for the locker room while Bruce Gradkowski started warming up on the sideline. He was quickly determined to be probable with a knee injury, however, and returned to the game on the next Steelers drive.

That drive started with the lead cut to 17-9 after the third Chiefs field goal of the afternoon. The Chiefs got some help from a third down flag on Steelers cornerback William Gay for taunting, although his post-play antics didn’t appear to be much more than we’re used to seeing on plenty of unpenalized plays.

That flag upset Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and helped push the Chiefs close to the end zone, but they failed to get the ball into it for the fourth time on the day.

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Saints season going down in flames after fumble ruling

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The Saints season might be ending, just as it looked like it was getting going.

Tight end Jimmy Graham scored what appeared to be a touchdown, but fumbled as he was going into the end zone.

A replay review of the call confirmed the ruling of a fumble on the field, so instead of cutting the Falcons lead to 20-14, they’re now down 20-7 in the fourth quarter.

A Falcons win could set up a win-and-in game against the Panthers next week, but the Panthers are actively trying to blow a game against the Browns.

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Pats move in front after Geno Smith interception

New England Patriots v New York Jets Getty Images

The Jets Defense has done a great job against the Patriots on Sunday, but the Jets have lost their lead in the fourth quarter thanks in large part to a miscue by the offense.

Geno Smith threw his 13th interception of the season on an underthrown ball to tight end Jace Amaro as the third quarter wound down with the Jets nursing a 13-10 lead. Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins picked off the pass and then flirted with danger by lateraling it to Brandon Browner in a bit of traffic, but Browner held on and the Pats had the ball inside the Jets’ 40-yard line.

Tom Brady threw quickly to keep the Jets pass rush at bay and then ran for 11 yards when the Jets coverage held up to set up a one-yard touchdown for Jonas Gray. Both Patriots touchdown drives have started in Jets territory, making things easier for a unit that’s had a hard time against the Jets for most of the afternoon.

The Jets Offense hasn’t scored touchdowns of their own, though, and they made the first turnover of the game to give the Patriots the lead with a first-round bye waiting for them if they hold it the rest of the way.

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T.Y. Hilton inactive for Colts

Hilton Getty Images

If the Colts are going to beat the Cowboys on Sunday, they’ll be doing it without one of the best young receivers in the NFL.

T.Y. Hilton will miss the game with a hamstring injury.

Listed as questionable, Hilton traveled to Dallas.  Ultimately, it was a game-day decision that became a decision to not play.

With the Colts already in the playoffs and chances fairly slim of getting a first-round, it makes plenty of sense to give Hilton the week off.

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Buccaneers make goal-line stand, but Packers later add to lead

Bradley McDougald, Eddie Lacy AP

The Buccaneers are hanging in against the Packers.

Turning away a 4th-and-1 attempt at their one-yard-line, the Bucs remain within one score at 10-3 as the fourth quarter begins in Tampa Bay.

On the fourth-down try, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ throw to Randall Cobb fell incomplete. On the previous two plays, the Buccaneers stuffed Green Bay rushing attempts.

The Packers would force the Buccaneers to punt on the ensuing possession, which again puts the onus on Tampa Bay’s defense to keep the team in the game.

UPDATE: The Packers have added to their lead and hold a 13-3 edge in the fourth quarter.

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Lions’ Dominic Raiola stomps on Bears’ Ego Ferguson

Dominic Raiola AP

Ndamukong Suh isn’t the only Lion who stomps on opposing players.

Lions center Dominic Raiola stomped on the leg of Bears defensive lineman Ego Ferguson in the third quarter today in Chicago. It looked intentional.

Ferguson limped off the field afterward although he did not appear to be seriously hurt.

Suh’s infamous Thanksgiving stomp on Green Bay’s Evan Dietrich-Smith resulted in a two-game suspension. Raiola will surely be hearing from the NFL’s disciplinary department as well.

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Joe Flacco has first half to forget

Joe Flacco AP

After a nightmarish first half from their quarterback, the Ravens are in a halftime hole in Houston.

The Texans, behind three Randy Bullock field goals and a TD pass from Arian Foster, hold a 16-0 edge after two quarters.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has struggled mightily, completing just 3-of-18 passes for 27 yards with two second-quarter interceptions, with one coming on a deflection. Overall, Baltimore gained just 31 yards on 28 yards.

The Texans’ second pick, which came courtesy of cornerback Kareem Jackson, set up Foster’s five-yard scoring pass to tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, which give Houston the 16-0 lead with 1:53 left in the half.

Texans backup quarterback Case Keenum has been serviceable, completing 13-of-27 passes for 140 yards with one pick.

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Jets lead Patriots 10-7 at halftime

Tom Brady AP

The Jets have nothing left to do with the playoff race other than play spoiler and they’ve done a pretty good job of it through 30 minutes at MetLife Stadium.

They’ve sacked Tom Brady four times and held the Patriots to an anemic 60 yards in what could be Rex Ryan’s home swan song as the team’s head coach. The offense got off to a slow start in the first quarter, but Geno Smith got hot in the second quarter and moved the team to a pair of scores that put them up 10-7 as the teams went to their locker rooms at halftime.

Sheldon Richardson had two of the sacks for the Jets, including one just before halftime that ended any Patriot thoughts of scoring, to do his best to back up his assertion that he belongs among the best defensive linemen in the league. The Patriots have heavily favored the pass, dropping back to throw 19 times against five rushes, and it hasn’t worked out as their offensive line has been overwhelmed by the Jets pass rush all afternoon.

They’ll get a chance to make some adjustments during the break and they’ll need to if they want to end Week 16 as the top seed in the AFC playoffs.

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Falcons go up 13-7 on Saints just before halftime

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

Once upon a time, opponents worried about going to the Superdome.

That hasn’t been the case this year, and the Falcons are the latest to make themselves at home there.

Matt Ryan hit Eric Weems for a short touchdown just before halftime to give the visitors a 13-7 lead at the break.

The Falcons have played an alarming amount of defense, limiting the Saints to 78 yards and sacking Drew Brees three times along with picking him off once.

There have also been several fights over the course of the game, as both sides are desperate to hang onto playoff chances.

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Steelers hold on fourth down to hold onto halftime lead

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Chiefs have moved the ball well against the Steelers on Sunday, but only until they get anywhere close to the Pittsburgh end zone.

Once the Chiefs make it onto the Pittsburgh side of the field, things have played out much better for the Steelers. They held the Chiefs to field goals on their first two drives of the game and then held firm on fourth down on the final drive of the half to hold onto a 10-6 lead at Heinz Field.

Officials initially ruled that Chiefs running back De’Anthony Thomas got a first down on the previous play, but the booth called for a review that found Thomas short. Jamaal Charles was stuffed on fourth down and the Steelers remained in front. There wasn’t much time left in the half and the Chiefs may have had to settle for a field goal even after converting, which opens the door for criticism of coach Andy Reid given the team’s established red zone issues.

The Chiefs never punted in the first half, gained 181 yards and held the ball for more than 17 minutes, but they weren’t able to make any plays in the red zone outside of a successful fake field goal pass to Travis Kelce for a first down. It’s not a new problem for a team that hasn’t thrown a touchdown to a wide receiver all year and it’s not something that Reid has even admitted is a problem, but it’s a big reason why the Chiefs could find themselves losing this Sunday.

The Steelers have pulled off a couple of long drives of their own, twice scoring at the tail end of 11-play, 80-yard voyages down the field. Ben Roethlisberger is 10-of-15 for 131 yards, but the Chiefs have done a good job against Le’Veon Bell outside of his one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

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Johnny Manziel leaves game with hamstring, questionable

Cleveland Browns v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Browns might start looking at quarterback options sooner than anticipated.

Rookie Johnny Manziel had to leave the game after taking a hard shot just before halftime, and Brian Hoyer replaced him.

He was driven into the ground by Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly and safety Colin Jones as he ran for the sideline. Trainers took him to the locker room, as he draped a towel over his head.

They announced his injury as a hamstring, and he’s questionable to return.

Manziel has had a largely ineffective first half, though the playoff-hopeful Panthers have something to do with that. He’s still 3-of-8 for 32 yards passing, with two rushes for 3 yards.

Brian Hoyer didn’t exactly light it up in relief, as the Browns still trail 10-3.

UPDATE 2:44 p.m. ET: Hoyer took the field in the second half.

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Packers starting to assert themselves vs. Tampa Bay

Eddie Lacy, Mason Foster AP

Heavy favorites over the Buccaneers, the Packers have generally looked as much in the early stages of Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay.

Tailback Eddie Lacy’s 47-yard TD run put the Packers on the board first, and they have added to their edge since, taking a 10-0 second-quarter lead over the Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay’s offense has struggled mightily, gaining a grand total of zero yards on 15 plays. Meanwhile, the Packers have the passing and ground games going. After something of a slow start, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has settled in, completing 13-of-17 passes for 121 yards. According to the Fox telecast, Rodgers is dealing with a cold.

Lacy, for his part, has added 84 yards on 10 carries for 10-4 Green Bay, which is tied for the NFC North lead.

Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown has a tough go of it thus far, completing just 1-of-8 passes for five yards.

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Nick Mangold carted off, Jets tie game

Nick Mangold AP

Jets center Nick Mangold has had a lot of good battles with Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork over the years, but Sunday’s looks like it will be an abbreviated one.

Mangold was carted off the field in the second quarter at MetLife Stadium after suffering a left leg injury during a Bilal Powell run. Mangold remained down on the field for several minutes surrounded by members of both teams and Wilfork shared a few words with his longtime rival before Mangold was taken to the back.

The Jets announced Mangold, who sported an NYPD hat during pregame a day after two New York police officers were murdered in their patrol car, has an ankle injury and called him questionable to return.

The Jets were driving when Mangold went down and continued their march after the injury. Geno Smith hit Jeff Cumberland for a 25-yard pass over a frozen Patrick Chung to tie the score at 7 with six minutes to go in the first half.

The Patriots broke a scoreless tie with a touchdown catch by Rob Gronkowski earlier in the second quarter. Danny Amendola helped set it up with a big punt return as he fills in for Julian Edelman on both offense and special teams this Sunday.

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Panthers and Browns locked in a real thriller

Cleveland Browns v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

Johnny Manziel hasn’t been a disaster today.

But he hasn’t been much of anything, really.

The Browns and Panthers are locked in a 3-3 pillow fight, as neither Heisman-winning quarterback has gotten much going.

Manziel hit Andrew Hawkins for a 28-yard pass earlier, but has otherwise struggled, but has 4 yards on his other seven pass attempts.

The Panthers have dominated time of possession, but don’t have much to show for it.

As they have all year, they can put together long drives occasionally, but stall in the red zone.

Despite outgaining the Browns 119-40 in the first quarter, they’re sitting on a field goal.

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Chiefs pull off fake field goal, but wind up settling for field goal anyway

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Chiefs are now more than a quarter into their 15th game of the 2014 season and the search for their first touchdown pass to a wide receiver continues.

They came close in the second quarter at Pittsburgh. Dwayne Bowe had a pass from Alex Smith in his hands, but Steelers corner Antwon Blake knocked it away for an incompletion. Smith would scramble out of bounds for a loss on third down and the Chiefs settled for a Cairo Santos field goal to give them a 6-3 lead.

Santos had been on the field a few plays earlier, but the Chiefs pulled a bit of trickery to set up Bowe’s near-miss in the end zone. Holder Dustin Colquitt threw a pass to tight end Travis Kelce to convert on 4th-and-5 from the Steelers’ 12-yard line for a first down that the Chiefs weren’t able to turn into six points.

The Steelers got off to a fast start with a 44-yard pass to Martavis Bryant, but their opening drive also stalled close to the end zone. The Chiefs have driven well twice for field goals since then and have a leg up with halftime approaching.

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