Heard on the Hill

Congress gets first win of the decade in charity football

The Mean Machine team, consisting of members of Congress, hold up the winning trophy after defeating the Guards team, made up of current and former U.S. Capitol Police members, during the annual Congressional Football Game for Charity on Tuesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Members of Congress snapped a four-game losing streak in the biannual Congressional Football Game for Charity on Tuesday night to defeat the Capitol Police, 14-4, behind a stellar defensive effort.

The Mean Machine, a bipartisan team of members of Congress and former NFL players, defeated The Guards, a team made up of Capitol Police officers sworn to protect lawmakers, for the first time since 2009.

But could these lawmakers get together for something as nonpartisan as charity, with the specter of impeachment looming over the proceedings? Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially endorsed opening an impeachment inquiry on President Donald Trump mere hours before kickoff, capping a chaotic day in the House.

But team cohesion and unity didn’t seem to be a problem. Outwardly, the Mean Machine seemed focused on the task at hand. The way the members played you wouldn’t even think that one part of the team was closer than ever to impeaching the leader of the other half. But then again, maybe a chance to get out and sling around the pigskin was a respite from the acrimony and rancor of Capitol Hill.

The night was perfect for football, a mild September evening filled with the smell of White Castle cheeseburgers and pepperoni pizza wafting from food trucks parked behind the bleachers.

As The Cars’ “Let the Good Times Roll” played over the loudspeaker (RIP Rick Ocasek) during pregame, both teams seemed focused on getting the “W,” warming up with crisp route-running and sun salutation stretches.

While the members executed a solid defensive game plan, their offense had a new weapon in freshman Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, a former standout wide receiver at the Ohio State University and the Indianapolis Colts.

“I am so terrible right now,” he joked. “It’s like a disgrace to my 25-year-old self.” Despite lingering injuries from his pro days, Gonzalez still performed at a high level, and played a crucial role for his team on both offense and defense.

But the game got off to a rocky start as both teams worked through their jitters before settling into their offensive rhythms.

While the first drives featured several dropped long passes, the teams quickly switched up their strategies. Mean Machine quarterback former Rep. Bob Dold led an impressive drive, completing several quick out routes, culminating in a 5-yard pass to Gonzalez. The Mean Machine would fail on the 2-point conversion.

While it would be the only touchdown until late in the game, it wouldn’t be the only scoring, as the game entered a sloppy patch.

Former NFL player John Booty picked off a deep ball only to have Dold give it back to The Guards on the very next play with his own INT.

For his next play, Dold would get sacked for a safety with about 5:30 left in the second quarter, making the score 6-2. And less than a minute later the cops took a safety. On the next member possession, Dold fumbled the snap and took another safety.

The half would end 8-4, with Dold responsible for six of his team’s points and all of his opponents’.

The second half featured a TD strike to Booty, making the score 14-4, where it would remain.

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