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Papa John’s, NFL end sponsorship deal

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Papa John’s is no longer the official pizza of the NFL.

CEO Steve Ritchie said on the company’s earnings conference call that the league and the company mutually decided it was in their best interests for Papa John’s, which became the official pizza of the league in 2010, to give up the designation.

The brand is the first NFL sponsor to leave in the midst of its deal. The company said on the call that there was no additional cost for undoing the deal.

“The NFL and Papa John’s have made a mutual decision to shift from their official league sponsorship to a focus on partnerships with 22 local NFL teams, presence in broadcast and digital media, and key personalities in the sport,” the league and company said in a joint statement.

The company will continue to invest in the NFL through its local-market deals with 22 teams. The company will no longer have presence at the league’s big events, including the draft and the Super Bowl, which will be given to the new pizza sponsor. The league is expected to have a replacement before the 2018 season begins.

It was nearly four months ago that Papa John’s founder John Schnatter, then also the CEO, said players who staged protests during the national anthem hurt business. The company pulled the NFL shield off its commercials during game broadcasts and took the shield off its pizza boxes.

“We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this,” Schnatter said at the time.

Twelve days later, after the company’s stock had dropped 12 percent, Schnatter apologized for his comments.

Schnatter, who was the face of the brand, was later replaced as CEO on Jan. 1. The company’s chief financial officer, Lance Tucker, will leave after this week to become CFO at Jack in the Box.

Sales for Papa John’s were down 3.9 percent across the country from October through December versus the same time period a year before, the company announced Tuesday, due to promotions that didn’t pan out and negative consumer perception. The company had positive comparative sales for the 14th consecutive year, narrowly accomplishing the mark in 2017 by growing 0.1 percent.

Shares were down 7 percent in after-hours trading as of 5:09 p.m. ET.

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Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson calls Kansas City Chiefs ‘our Kryptonite’

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BALTIMORE — Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens stumbled against the Kansas City Chiefs once again, losing 34-20 on Monday Night Football in a game that ended their 14-game regular-season winning streak and left them feeling stripped of their cape.

Asked how the Ravens can get over the hurdle of beating the Chiefs, Jackson interjected by saying: “Our Kryptonite.”

Jackson fell to 0-3 against the Chiefs after passing for a career-worst 97 yards. He’s 21-1 against the rest of the NFL in the regular season.

The reigning NFL MVP, Jackson has completed 67% of his passes against the other 31 teams with a 72.9 Total QBR. Against Kansas City, he has connected on 53% of his throws with a 58.5 QBR.

The Chiefs kept Jackson off his game by blitzing him on 35% of his dropbacks, compared to 29% by all other teams, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“It looked like the same thing from the Tennessee game [2019 divisional playoff] to be honest — that’s all,” Jackson said.

The Ravens (2-1) had been the hottest team in the NFL. They hadn’t lost a regular-season game in almost a full calendar year (their last defeat was Sept. 29, 2019 to the Browns). Baltimore had led at halftime in 11 straight games and hadn’t trailed in the second half at any point in 13 consecutive games.

But Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs scored touchdowns on four of their first five drives to jump out to a 27-10 lead in the second quarter. Baltimore closed to within 27-20 in the fourth quarter, but Kansas City responded with a 2-yard touchdown pass to left tackle Eric Fisher to seal the victory.

“I’m really looking forward to earning the right to try to face them again,” Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell said. “I’m very confident if we played the game that we’re supposed to, we can hang with those guys.”

Even though it’s Week 3, this loss could have ramifications for the Ravens in January. Baltimore’s chances for capturing the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs dropped to 35% while Kansas City’s chances increased to 43%.

Now, the Ravens have to wonder what it’s going to take to beat the Chiefs if they meet them in the postseason.

“They beat us. They out-executed us. They out-game planned us. They just beat us,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s the story tonight. Big-picture stuff, all of that, I don’t know. They’re better, obviously. They’re a better football team at this point in time.”

The Ravens slipped out of first place in the AFC North for the first time since Week 15 of 2018, moving behind the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0). That ended a streak of 21 weeks of holding at least a share of the lead in the division.

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The Lamar Jackson-Patrick Mahomes rivalry isn’t one yet

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Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are many things — quarterbacks, playmakers, artists and friends. But right now, one thing they are most certainly not is rivals.

Mahomes is too good to have a rival. He proved Monday night that he is playing a different game than everybody else, with the same wonderment in his eye he had as a kid shagging flies at the World Series that his father’s Mets played against the Yankees two decades ago.

A fake jump pass. Precise throws against the grain. A perfectly placed long ball into the back of the end zone. A touchdown strike while taking a shot to the ribs. A six-point softball pitch to a fullback. A six-point lob to a left tackle. It all added up to pro football’s Big Two being reduced to pro football’s Big One.

The quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs threw for four touchdowns and 385 yards, and ran for a score, while the quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens threw for one touchdown and 97 yards, and ran for no scores. The Ravens lost, 34-20, in a fashion that felt a bit similar to their flameout loss to the Titans in January, convincing nobody that they represent a good bet to ultimately unseat the Chiefs as AFC champs.

The night was rightfully advertised as a historic matchup of young megastars who have done their teams and their league proud through performance and generosity of spirit. Mahomes had a Super Bowl ring and a league MVP award at age 24. Jackson became the youngest quarterback to win a league MVP award at 23. The distance between the two of them, today, is wider than that sounds. Mahomes is 3-0 against Jackson, and, of course, holds a 1-0 lead in Super Bowl titles.

Monday night offered a clash of the NFL’s two most exciting franchise players and their distinct styles. Unlike the quarterbacks who defined the sport’s last epic rivalry, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, Jackson and Mahomes don’t quite play the same game. Jackson has great feet and a very good arm. Mahomes has a great arm and very good feet. When they decide to abandon the pass and take off with the ball, they deploy a different approach to the process.

One looks like he’s ripping the heart out of the defense. The other looks like he’s playing a practical joke on the defense.

“Mahomes makes great runs, but his runs are like freeform, off-the-cuff,” said Joshua Harris, Jackson’s personal coach. “Even his running style is almost playground-ish; it’s almost like he’s laughing while he’s running. He doesn’t look like he’s really moving, but he’s getting chunks.

“Lamar runs on a mission. He runs with bad intentions, and he’s trying to score. Nobody runs like Lamar runs. I don’t even think running backs run like him.”

Mahomes ran mischievously for a 3-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Jackson rushed with more force for 83 yards, or 57 more than his counterpart did, but never found the end zone. Edge, and a big one, to the reigning Super Bowl MVP.


The good news for Baltimore fans? This was a hyped-up regular season game and Jackson has plenty of time to catch up to Mahomes to make this a true rivalry. Manning lost his first six meetings with Brady, but ended up winning six of the final 11, including their last three duels in the AFC Championship Game.

The better news for NFL fans everywhere? Sometime in the not-too-distant future, people might look at the classic pocket passer the way they now look at a rotary phone, a typewriter or a grainy film of a basketball player taking a two-hand set shot.

“In our minds,” said Harris, “when we’re talking 10 years from now, that generation will be like, ‘What, the quarterback didn’t run in the past? What were you idiots thinking? You just wanted him to stand there and get pummeled?”

Pro football has finally embraced the obvious, more than a few decades too late, allowing Jackson and Mahomes to turn Monday Night Football into a showcase for arguably the two most accomplished young quarterbacks ever.

Jackson’s inability to beat his friend isn’t for a lack of trying. This past offseason, he again worked on his game with his tutor, the 39-year-old Harris, a former college defensive end who has been a throwing coach, a serviceman in the Air Force, a lawyer, an English teacher, and a college team chaplain — a Renaissance man who has helped Baltimore’s quarterback redefine the position. Harris thought Jackson didn’t throw the deep ball late last year as consistently as he did earlier in the season, so they worked on tilting his shoulders for an improved trajectory and an easier ball for receivers to find in mid-flight. Coach and pupil also worked on aligning Jackson’s feet and using his lower half to achieve maximum velocity on passes traveling outside the numbers.

Harris half-jokingly asked Jackson to ease up on his fascination with sidearm passes. “It’s effective,” Harris told him, “but let’s not do it all the time.”

Jackson’s stated goal, according to Harris, is “to be Tom Brady with 4.4. speed.” But if he wants to go down among the greats, Jackson knows he needs to win the Super Bowl, more than once. And as much as he says he focuses on an opposing team’s defense, not its quarterback, Jackson had to be motivated by Mahomes’ MVP performance in his Super Bowl victory over San Francisco.

“It was a source of inspiration,” Harris confirmed. “But I love the way it formed and shaped in Lamar’s mind. It was, ‘Let me be a part of that club. Man, that’s awesome for Pat, now I want to join that same team.’

“Lamar wants to be the best, but he genuinely loves every other player. He’s a fan of Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson, and Kyler Murray. The rivalry is Lamar vs. Lamar, and I love that about him. He’s the right guy to be one of the leaders of this revolution and new way to play the game, and probably the right way to play the game.”


Archie Manning laughed the other day when told that the NFL had finally come back around to his style of quarterbacking, passing the lead-footed likes of his sons Peyton and Eli along the way. Archie ran for his life more than he actually ran for the horrid New Orleans Saints of the 1970s, but he did rush for 14 touchdowns and more than 500 yards during one season at Ole Miss, and he did run a 10.2 in the 100-yard dash. They didn’t regularly time players in the forty back then, but when Archie was asked to do it — by an Oakland Raiders scout before the 1971 draft — he ran a 4.6 with a cast on his broken arm. Manning wasn’t Lamar Jackson, but the man could move.

Archie said he is proud of the success of his former Manning Passing Academy counselors, Jackson and Mahomes, who were among 40 top college quarterbacks who attend the camp every year.

“I loved watching Lamar play in college,” Archie said. “This is a different thing happening at the quarterback position now, and Lamar and Patrick are leading the way. I think there will always be a place in pro football for a pocket passer, for a Brady or a Peyton, but I think what these young quarterbacks are doing now is great for the league. I just want them to get down.

“With the athleticism and size and strength of linebackers and safeties, it’s more dangerous now than when I played.”

On the rivalry that he lived every day with his son, Archie said that Peyton always felt he was competing against Bill Belichick more than he was competing against Brady. But Archie conceded that Peyton’s AFC Championship Game victories over New England minimized the legacy damage done by Brady’s considerable advantage in Super Bowl rings (6-2) and in their 17 head-to-head meetings (11-6).

Lamar Jackson does not have to worry about climbing out of those kinds of depths — yet. For now, Jackson cannot spend any time or energy on winning his rivalry with Patrick Mahomes.

He needs to focus on making it a rivalry first.

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Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes fastest to 10,000 passing yards

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes became the fastest passer in NFL history to 10,000 career yards in the first quarter of Monday night’s 34-20 win over the host Baltimore Ravens.

Mahomes, in his 34th regular-season start, completed a 13-yard pass to Travis Kelce that put him over the 10,000-yard mark. Kurt Warner previously held the record at 36 games.

Mahomes finished with 385 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He tied Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford for second-most in three passing-TD games at age 25 or younger with 17, surpassing Peyton Manning. Dan Marino holds that mark with 28.

Mahomes in his first season as a starter in 2018 became only the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in one season.

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