Jerry Rice is concerned that the 49ers are blowing an opportunity.

After losing 13-10 to the Rams when Colin Kaepernick fumbled on a quarterback sneak at the goal line in the final seconds, San Francisco is 4-4 and hardly looking like the team that has gone to the past three NFC championship games.

"Maybe the door's starting to close a little bit," Rice says.

Kaepernick is convinced that he scored a touchdown before fumbling, but Rice says that's missing the point.

"It never should come down to that play," Rice says. "You had so many opportunities during that football game to put the St. Louis Rams away. Somehow, you have to be able to get that ball in the end zone. It backfired on them."

It was the 49ers' second home loss at the new Levi's Stadium, with the other coming against the Bears, a 3-5 team like the Rams. When asked about what the 49ers need to improve, Rice is hesitant to single out one area.

"They have a lot they need to improve," he says. "The offensive line, Colin Kaepernick getting the ball out of his hands and being more productive in the red zone. That was something we always practiced back in the day. You need to get touchdowns, you need to get field goals. Just going out and dominating teams. I don't see that with the Niners this year."

The 49ers have not lost more than four games since 2010, before Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach. With Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and a number of other high caliber players on the roster, there is a win-now type feeling in San Francisco. Rice is fearful the 49ers' window of opportunity may be narrowing this season.

"There's a big sense of urgency to get it done," he says. "They need to get confidence again and go out there and play their best football."

Boldin is one player Rice is content with this season. The 34-year-old wide receiver nabbed his 900th career reception in the loss to the Rams. For the former Cardinal and Raven, the feat was accomplished in 164 games, the third-fastest pace of all-time behind Marvin Harrison (149) and Andre Johnson (150). Behind Boldin are Torry Holt (166) and Rice (168).

"He's one of these guys who knows how to create on the football field," Rice says "He knows how to find an open spot where the quarterback can deliver the football. I think you saw that in the game against St. Louis. He was able to get uncovered and Colin Kaepernick hit him with that pass that he scored on."

Another receiver making headlines last week was Giants rookie Odell Beckham Jr. During warmups before a game against the Indianapolis Colts, the former LSU star put on a circus act for the fans by snatching a series of pass out of the air with one hand, leading to some viral videos.

"It's just amazing how he can control his body like that," Rice says. "I'm one of those guys who out of desperation will stick their hand out there and you try to make an incredible catch and see what happens. It's probably something that he has done over and over again at practice. I think he's only going to get better."

Looking at the broader picture of the NFL, Rice notes two breakout teams this season.

"I think with [the] Pittsburgh [Steelers], what they're doing right now is great. Big Ben has 12 touchdowns the last two weeks and Antonio Brown, the way he gets open, it's killing defenses," Rice says. "Also, the Arizona Cardinals, that team is 7-1. We knew they would be a factor this year, but many, they're getting it done."

In addition to soaking up lots of football, Rice is still busy these days with endorsement deals and business opportunities. One is the MetLife Premier Client Group. MetLife and Rice are using football metaphors to educate consumers about the importance of having a balanced portfolio. Like football, financial planning includes a team with a smart offense and a solid defense.

As the face of the Green Bay Packers defense, Clay Matthews helps set the tone for the entire team. After a 5-3 start that, despite its winning record, was below the team's expectations, Matthews and the Packers used last week's bye week to mentally reset and focus on a grueling second half of the season.

Matthews also took some time to speak with ThePostGame about how Green Bay's identity will affect its success going forward, as well as the challenges that are bound to crop up over the course of eight more regular-season games.

ThePostGame: The Packers have had some slow starts to seasons in the past before recovering and finishing strong. How would you characterize this year's start?
MATTHEWS: I'm going on my sixth year with the Packers, and every year has its own advantages and challenges. This year is no different. We had an early-season loss to a division rival in Detroit, then we were getting on a real roll before coming up short against New Orleans.

We're 5-3 now with a good opportunity to make the playoffs. We play, I think, seven out of eight games in cold weather, and five games at home. As with all years prior, we expect to finish strong.

TPG You talked about needing to figure out what type of team Green Bay is. How important is identity to a football team? How do you develop that?
MATTHEWS: I think it’s really important. That way, you don't just go out there and go with the flow. In this case, ours is a team that likes to put pressure on defenses by scoring early and often. We air it out and score with one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

But we have to understand that we're a team that can get after the quarterback and cause chaos. That said, there's more to it. We need to communicate well and work in unison.

TPG: You would think that, with so much consistency year-to-year on the Packers roster, that the identity would maintain itself. What causes that identity change from season to season?
MATTHEWS I think sometimes, as you go through the season, it's a real roller coaster. It's a long season of attrition. You have to continue to remind yourself about how you go about practice and meetings.

We'll come back out there [Sunday], and we have a great opportunity national televised game [against Chicago in prime time]. We expect to get back to winning ways.

A legitimate case could be made for the New England Revolution being the favorite in the MLS playoffs. If you believe in the Revolution, chances are good that you have an appreciation for what midfielder Jermaine Jones has brought to the club.

Consider the numbers.

Jones joined the Revolution in late August after the team won the league's blind draw for his services. Since then, the Revolution has gone 9-1-1, including a 4-2 victory at Columbus to kick off the playoffs.

Although Jones, 33, is a newcomer to MLS, lots of soccer fans might be familiar with him from the World Cup this past summer in Brazil. He played the duration in all four of the matches for the U.S., and he scored a memorable goal in a 2-2 tie with Portugal.

Jones was among seven U.S. players on the World Cup team to hold dual-citizenship with another country and have competed for those foreign national team. Five of these players, including Jones came from Germany. The others were from Iceland and Norway.

Jones' dad was a U.S. Army soldier and his mom was from Germany. He made eight appearances for the Germany Under-21 team from 2001-2003. In 2004, he played one game for Germany's national B team. In 2008, he made three appearances in friendlies for the Germany national team.

After a FIFA rule change in 2009 allowed him switch nationalities because he hadn't played in competitive matches for Germany, Jones opted for the U.S. A shin injury kept him out of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but he was a serious factor for the team in Brazil.

Jones has the skills and experience, so he would likely have made a notable impact for the Revolution in any situation. But he said being able to play a role similar to the one U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann gave him at the World Cup made his MLS transition that much easier.

"I like that kind of game, where I have a little bit more freedom," Jones told MLSSoccer.com. "National team is the same: Jurgen gives me the same freedom. I love to go box to box and try to sneak sometimes around and see if the ball drops down like the last game. I'm happy that both coaches give me the freedom."

Jones had played professionally in Germany until his transfer to MLS.

Madison Bumgarner, the most dominant pitcher in the MLB playoffs, is from a town in North Carolina called Hickory. Located about an hour's drive northwest of Charlotte, Hickory has a population of 40,000. It is also called Bumtown, and that nickname developed a century before Bumgarner became a two-time World Series winner who is on the verge of a third with the Giants.

From Eric Adelson's 2012 column: "So many Bumgarners have lived here over the past century that the locals refer to this tiny area of rural North Carolina as Bumtown. About 100 Bumgarners still live here today."

Bumgarner, who limited the Royals to one run in seven innings in Game 1 of the World Series, lives in San Francisco now, but his mother, Debbie, said he enjoys making trips back to Bumtown during the offseason.

"When he is at home, he usually tries to do some type of event or fundraiser and helped with a benefit a few years ago when someone needed a kidney transplant," Debbie told the Hickory Daily Record in 2013. "He signed autographs and handed out pictures for the event and helped them raise money. But he's pretty quiet about it, whether he helps one person or helps an organization."

Part of Bumgarner's appeal is his easy-going style. In a 2011 interview with Marty Caswell, Bumgarner confirms the story that he once bought his wife a cow for her birthday:

If MAS Wrestling succeeds in becoming an Olympic sport, one key reason will be its simplicity. There are no judges quibbling about style points or artistic interpretations. There are no bizarre decisions like the ones that pop up in boxing. With MAS Wrestling, the winner is clear cut as the competition is a tug-of-war variation involving two competitors and one stick.

Competitors sit facing each other, separated by a two-meter board on which they use their feet to brace themselves. Then they grab a stick that is a little less than two feet long and start pulling. To win, a competitor must either wrest the stick from the opponent's hands or pull him to the other side of the board.

Odd Haugen, a veteran of international strength and bodybuilding competitions, is trying to popularize the sport in the United States and eventually earn Olympic status. Here's more about the MAS Wrestling and Haugen's quest:

There were lots of reasons why the New York Knicks of the late 60s and early 70s became a team for the ages. First of all, they were good, with three trips to the NBA Finals in four seasons and two championships. They had a blend of players from diverse backgrounds whose unique personalities played well in New York. And they had a fan base that was hungry for the franchise's first NBA title and understood the nuances of the game.

As their small forward -- former Rhodes Scholar and future U.S. Senator -- Bill Bradley put it, the team had an audience that appreciated not just the assist on a successful play but "the pass that leads to the pass that leads to the basket."

ESPN's 30 For 30 series takes a closer look at these Knicks, which had Hall of Famers with Bradley, Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere and Earl Monroe, with When The Garden Was Eden. (They also had a nice role player named Phil Jackson.) Based on the book by New York Times writer Harvey Araton, the documentary premieres on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday. It was executive produced by Doug Ellin, Jim Lefkowitz and their Halyard Park production company, and directed by Michael Rapaport.

The glory years of these Knicks were over by the time Ellin, the creator of the HBO hit Entourage, started elementary school. But this team had such an impact on New York sports that he and most Knick fans of his generation feel a special connection to it, even though they didn't really experience the run firsthand. Here's more from Ellin on why this project came straight from the heart:

Despite all of his significant and historic basketball accomplishments, including back-to-back NBA MVP awards, Steve Nash has always found a way to distinguish himself away from the game.

In 2007, Nash received The Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor, in recognition of his charitable efforts. He became the first NBA player to light the Olympic cauldron when the 2010 Winter Games were held in Vancouver.

He has also ventured into filmmaking and the business world, and an upcoming documentary, titled NASH looks at why he has become nearly as big of an international icon outside of basketball.

The film includes interviews with Barack Obama, Owen Wilson, Kobe Bryant, David Beckham, Snoop Dogg, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Yao Ming, Baron Davis, Ron Howard, Doug Ellin, David Blaine, Dick Davey (his college coach at Santa Clara), Bryan Colangelo and David Stern. It is scheduled for U.S. release on Dec. 4. Here's a sneak peek:

Here's the official poster:

There is a vast interest in the field of sports agentry at every level of school, as well as with people in other occupations. So far, there has been virtually nothing credible available in terms of specific training and direction. Many undergrad and law schools offer a course in Sports Law, but it tends to be taught with cases that apply to the NCAA, or other legal issues without focusing on the concept of representation.

If we hope to have a new generation of sports agents who are idealistic, ethical and care about the long-term interests of athletes and sport itself, they need to be trained.

When I taught Sports Law at UC Irvine and Chapman University School of Law, I tailored an interactive course emphasizing underlying skills. The students did personal value inventories to identify their own priorities. They wrote a mission statement as to what they hoped to bring to their practice. They used the priority list to elicit an understanding of athletes that they recruited in class. They were taught recruiting considerations and strategies.

The students were given the task of creating a charitable foundation for an athlete and designing a public service announcement. They were taught the basics of branding.​ A number of sessions were spent on the art of negotiating. The course culminated with students getting the role of agent or general manager and negotiating a complex, first-round draftee contract. They had to create a business plan and a structure for their firm. They were taught about how to deal with client maintenance -- injuries, disgruntled non-starters, and concierge. They were taught the considerations in a free agency setting.

They heard from Bob Hacker, VP of Business at Fox Sports about how to do a media contract for an athlete. Professor Mark Francis lectured on how to create an app. Former Giant, Cowboy and 49er Mike Sherrard shared perspective from a player standpoint. Kevin Kaplan of Coaching Charities presented the steps to create and run a charitable foundation. Robert Alvarado, VP of the Angels, instructed the students on how marketing and ticketing works.

In an attempt to create the best and brightest of tomorrow's agents, I decided to hold a Sports Academy with a day-long boot camp. Hopefully this will spur other practical educational opportunities. It will be held Oct. 11 in Newport Beach, California, and young super-agent, Chris Cabott, will add his wisdom.

We owe athletes representation that focuses holistically on an individual, and prepares them for life after football. For more information, check out Agent Academy.

J.J. Watt has wasted no time putting the money he's about to earn from his enormous new contract extension to good use.

Watt, who some believe is the early frontrunner for NFL MVP, surprised his mother this week with a new SUV for her birthday.

The Houston Texans defensive end posted a few photos of his mom, Connie, with her new car outside Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Watt starred at Wisconsin for two seasons before the Texans selected him with the 11th overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft.


After signing a six-year, $100 million contract extension with the Texans last month, Watt was coy about how he would spend the money. But knowing Watt, who has built a reputation as one of the most generous pro athletes around, he is going to be thoughtful and considerate in his decision.

"Growing up, on TV I saw all the commercials with cars with red bows on them at Christmas time," Watt told ESPN.com. "I always thought to myself, 'Who can do that? Who can just buy a whole car for somebody’s birthday or for Christmas and put a bow on it and drive it? Could you imagine if you could do that for somebody how awesome that would be?'

"My whole life my parents have made sacrifices for me. They've done everything. They've made it so my brothers have had opportunities for success. To be able to give back to her and to surprise her like that, and to see my brother got me a nice video of her when she first saw it, there’s really no better feeling in the world than that to be able to take care of your family, take care of those closest to you. There’s no better way to spend my money than that."

It's been a fun year for Watt and his mom, who posted this selfie from the White House Correspondents' Dinner in May:

Watt, the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, has gotten off to a stellar start to the 2014 season. He's recorded 15 hits on opposing quarterbacks through four games this season, which is singlehandedly more than 15 NFL teams. He's also notched two sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception return for a touchdown.

Vin Scully has pretty much seen it all during his 65 years as an announcer, but he got quite enthused when talking about two of baseball's most dynamic young players: Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers and Mike Trout of the Angels.

Scully had a chance to call their first games going to head to head when the teams met August. (Last season, Puig was promoted from the minors just after the Freeway Series.) With both teams winning their divisions, there is a chance Scully could be seeing them together again this season in the World Series.

"They're one in a million -- both of them," Scully says.

The same could be said for Scully, who received a lifetime achievement award from the Harold & Carole Pump Foundation in August.

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