Monday, December 31, 2007

The Brackets Are Set

With the Titans' thoroughly uninspiring win over Jim Sorgi and the Colts last night, the matchups for the NFL tournament kick-off next weekend are set. It'll be those on-a-mission-led-by-Todd-Collins Redskins vs. Seattle in the first wild card game on Saturday, followed by Jacksonville vs. Pittsburgh in a smashmouth night game. On Sunday, it'll be Giants vs. Tampa Bay in the first game, and the Titans visiting LT and the Chargers in the second game.

I'm thinking the 'Skins, Jaguars, Giants and Chargers emerge as survivors, setting up Pats-Jags, Colts-Chargers, Dallas-Redskins, and Green Bay vs. the G-men. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the 1 and 2 seeds in both conferences advanced to the championship games. I'm personally pulling for Pats vs. Cowboys, though the Cowboys and Tony Romo have some improving to do if they want to get to Phoenix in early February. A little revenge on Brett Favre and the Packers for our first SB defeat wouldn't be a bad thing either. I still have Desmond Howard nightmares.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Patriots Officially Enter Mercury Morris' Crack-Infested Neighborhood

As a buddy remarked to me last night after it was all over, 'that was like a mini-Super Bowl.' For all the talk about resting players - particularly on the Giants' side - last night's edge-of-your-seat historic win in the Meadowlands was intense/fun to watch from beginning to end.

In the end, the remarkable Patriots go 16-0, and even more impressive, they come back from a 12-point deficit early in the third quarter to beat a good playoff-bound team in their house. From the Pats' perspective, the end result is exactly what they had hoped for. They get the win, Brady and Moss get their records on the same, crucial, go-ahead play, and there are no major injuries, at least as of the morning after. The Pats now get 2 days off to enjoy the achievement, and then they get ready for their first playoff game (most likely against either Jacksonville or Pittsburgh) on the weekend of Jan. 12-13. In other words, we get to watch our future competition beat each other up, get some players healthy (namely on the O-line), and then the march into Mercury Morris' den of insanity begins.

Some quick-hit observations and links regarding the big win:

- I loved how Brady went right back to Moss after the long pass that was dropped on the previous play. Killer instinct, and the composure to immediately put the last play behind him.

- If the Pats gave out a 12th player award, there would be many worthy candidates.
Mine would be Kevin Faulk, who has simply done an amazing job since replacing the injured Sammy Morris. Faulk is money on third down, and has a natural nose for where the down markers are. Just a smart, professional football player.

- Wes Welker truly is a freak of nature, with all the caroms and ricochets and zig-zags he does after a catch.

- Good job by Gostkowski on the field goals, but what's up with the kickoffs lately? Giants had pretty good starting field possession all night long.

- Makes you appreciate how good the NFC East is compared to the AFC East. The Pats had battles with the Cowboys (for most of the game), Eagles and Giants, and though they blew out Washington, the Skins have been playing well lately.

- One of the talking heads on the broadcast last night made a good point about the Patriots' opponents in the AFC playoffs. The teams this year that have had success against Brady have been those that send everything but the kitchen sink at him. The Jags, Steelers, and Colts aren't blitzing teams in the same vein as the Eagles and Giants.

- Last night's game was a bit, shall we say, chippier than any other this year. Lots of trash-talking, shoving, and finger-in-the-eye poking (Wilfork).

- Have I mentioned how much I love the NFL Network? They had some cool post-game footage of Brady running through the tunnel that showed how excited he was. Cool to see.

Here's a couple of links on how the Giants and their fans were whining about the officiating last night (see the comments)-- and one on the ongoing classiness displayed by certain members of the 1972 Dolphins, including Garo Yepremian, otherwise known as the Idiot Kicker. God, do I hope the Patriots shut these mopes up and make them increasingly irrelevant. There are a few who have been complimentary (Nick Buoniconti for one), but by and large they truly have shown themselves to be a bunch of grumpy old men. What's nice is that if the Patriots do run the table and go 19-0, fans across the country get to be judge and jury on where the Pats' feat stands in NFL history. I think most logical-thinking football minds (no, not you John Clayton, and certainly not you, Dr. Z, you old, useless fart) would have to admit that the Patriots' accomplishment - in the salary-cap driven NFL of today - would sit in rarefied air.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tick, Tick, Tick...

First things first: whoever dreamt up the NFL Network was an absolute genius. The channel has been going all-out on Patriots vs. Giants over the past week, even going so far as to replay every single Pats game this year. I came across the scintillating finish to the Ravens Monday night game the other day and again found myself sitting on the edge of my seat. Every time a Raven defender did a little jig after a tackle, I muttered under my breath, 'yeah, but... you LOSE.'

There's 12 hours to go before the biggest regular-season finale in our lifetime, and this must be sort of what it was like for the Beatles, with Tom Brady playing John Lennon. The attention has been ratcheted up over the last couple of days, and if any coach can help his team stay focused it's our Bill. It would be a fascinating read if someone could get enough access to write a book about how Belichick has kept the Pats in line over these last few weeks. I know all about the 'one game at a time' mantra, but there has to be so much more to it than that. This is when a coach becomes part psychologist, and something tells me BB is pretty skilled wearing both hats.

As for the game itself, I'm looking at something like a 27-13 score in favor of the Patriots. It won't be easy - the Giants will come to play - but in the end, the Pats are simply the better team. Brady will get the TD passing mark, but Moss will fall short of his record by 1. There's been a lot of talk this week about the imposing Giants' D-line, which has sacked the QB a league-leading 52 times. Add to that the fact that we're missing two offensive line starters in Neal and Kaczur, and it's a little scary. But it seems like whoever we put on the O-line always comes through, and I'm thinking that our own D-line (Seymour, Wilfork, Warren, Green) may be feeling a little unloved. That can only be a good thing. Watch out, Eli.

Enjoy the big game, and let's hope we're all celebrating history tonight at around 11 p.m. One more prediction: as soon as the game is over, BB and the boys will be saying that it means nothing if we don't win the Super Bowl to cap it all off. He's right, of course, but let's enjoy the momentous moment if we're lucky enough to see it.

In the meantime, you know what channel I'll be watching.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

More Witnesses to History

Pretty weighty headline, no? Weighty being the operative word after strapping on the food bag for the last couple days. Hope everyone had a good Christmas. I know Coach Bill has to be thrilled with the latest SI cover.

We're two days away from the big game in the Meadowlands, where the Patriots of 2007 can take their place in NFL history with a victory over the Giants. All sorts of fascinating angles to this one, with the main question being the approach Tom Coughlin will take regarding his starters. The Jints are already locked into their seeding for the NFC playoffs, and truly have nothing to gain except being remembered for one titanic upset. All signs point to Coughlin playing Manning, Burress, Jacobs, etc., for at least a half, and then resting the horses. It will be verrrrry interesting, however, what they do if they're still in the ballgame at halftime. As for Bill Belichick, really, need you ask? His studs will play the whole game - barring a blowout - in pursuit not only of perfection, but also some lofty individual records (season TD's for both Brady and Moss).

Either way, it's going to be riveting TV, and the NFL announced yesterday that the entire country will have a chance to watch possible history. The game was scheduled to air only on the NFL Network, which is a pay channel on all cable systems. As each week has passed, pressure has been applied to the league and to major cable operators to reach some type of compromise that would allow more fans to see the game. Unable to do so, the league finally stepped in yesterday (after its antitrust exemption status was threatened) and announced that the game will be simulcast on NBC and CBS. It was the right move by the league, and the suits at the two networks must be positively thrilled, what with content lacking due to the ongoing writers' strike. The Patriots have been stacking up huge ratings, and this Saturday night will be the biggest.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rawhide, Cowhide - It All Tastes the Same

Just when you thought Red Sox closer supreme Jonathan Papelbon couldn't get any zanier, we get word yesterday from Paps regarding the whereabouts of the final-out ball from Game 4 of the series-clinching win over the Rockies.

For set-up purposes, you may recall that the last out was a swinging strike that Paps blew by someone named Seth Smith. In the ensuing delirium, Paps showed his impressive vertical and Jason Varitek raced to the mound for the traditional man-hug. Asked about what he did with the ball later, Varitek claimed that he gave it to Papelbon, who in turn said that he stuffed it into his back pocket. A couple of weeks later, however, nobody knew what had happened to the ball.

Well, it turns out that Pap's dog - named Boss - got ahold of the damn thing and pretty much did to it what the Sox did to the Rockies. He chewed it up until it was nearly unrecognizable, though Paps says that there are some remnants that he's holding onto as a keepsake. Is this guy beautiful or what?

Elsewhere on the local scene, the game last night between the Celtics and the Pistons lived up to the pre-game hype, as the two best teams in the East went down to the wire. Detroit picked up the W, but the Celts let them know that they'll be hanging around for the rest of the season. My uninformed analysis: the last shot should have been taken by Ray Allen, who was en fuego all night, and not Paul Pierce, who was ice cold shooting-wise. Also, when the Pistons got the ball with 1.5 seconds left in regulation (score tied 85-all), even the most uneducated hoops fan knew that Chauncey Billups was getting the ball. So why did Doc Rivers have Tony Allen - he of the recovering ACL - on Billups? That said, it's great to see the excitement back in the Garden. Just like old times.

And finally, one last little item for a snowy Thursday in Boston. If you want to get a feel for what the members of the 1972 Perfect Season Dolphins are up to, check this informative grid out. Mercury Morris' job kills me, and I think I'm jealous of Jake Scott, who lists himself as an investor living in Hawaii. Maybe the 8 Patriots heading to the Pro Bowl in Honolulu in February can stop by and share Perfect Season stories?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Back in the Saddle

Well, well, well... go on a little vacation and nothing newsworthy happens. I was surrounded by Yankee fans 4,500 miles away, and the strangest thing about the Clemens/Pettitte public "indictment" was that I almost couldn't pile on with all the hell they've endured in that city this year. Think about it - everything from the Mets' collapse to the Knicks' lawsuit to their crappy football teams, to yet another trophy-less year for the Spanks - and the cherry on top is that it now appears (as if we didn't know already) that the entire 1999 and 2000 Yankee teams were on the beans. Asterisks all around.

The beautiful thing about the Mitchell Report is that it answers a lot of questions that have added up through the years. Remember when Rocket Roger fielded Mike Piazza's shattered bat in the 2000 Series, threw it in Piazza's direction, and then incredulously claimed that he thought it was the ball? We now know he was in full 'roid rage mode, and we can only hope that Piazza had been as well because he likely would have gone out to the mound and shoved the bat up Clemens' ass. The other nice aspect of the Report is that even if Clemens and all the other idiots wanted to sue, who would be the defendant? MLB? Senator Mitchell himself? The national media? You and I? Good luck with the lawsuit, Roger. As the days have gone by, you've had some notable players (Pettitte, Brian Roberts) come out immediately and say that they took HGH to help themselves heal more quickly from injuries. This is smart. They'll get a suspension, they deal with the issue directly, and they can continue playing and collecting millions. Clemens, on the other hand, as Dan Shaughnessy (for once) eloquently points out in today's Globe, is doing more harm than good by not issuing a direct, public statement. It makes you wonder what he's hiding, and whether he will soon be lumped in with Big Head Barry. Time will tell, but one thing is for sure. Clemens' reputation has taken a huge hit, one that he may never recover from. (Aren't you glad he wasn't swayed by the video Larry, Theo, and Dr. Charles put together last year? Goodness gracious, I know I am.)

Moving onto other things I missed - my entire trip would have been absolutely ruined if the Patriots hadn't won that game on Sunday. Jets fans were everywhere, and I sat next to a broker from NYC who wore nothing but his bathing suit and a green Jets' Santa hat. It would have been catastrophic to lose that game in that setting. Fortunately, thanks to the timely dogsledding of Laurence Maroney, things turned out okay. The Jets gave us a ballgame, and we came out of it 14-0. One other note: it was incredible to see how many more people crowded around the TV after the game just to see The Handshake. Old men, mothers, kids. All had some sort of opinion on it, and everyone thought they were a professional lip reader.

The other cool story from last Sunday was the Dolphins getting their first win. All you need to know about the 2007 Dolphins is that their biggest play of the year was a pass from Cleo Lemon to Greg Camarillo. Still, you had to smile watching them jump around like high schoolers who had just won their state championship. I think it's also probably a good thing that they got that win out of their system before we face them this Sunday. The story lines between the '07 Pats and the '72 Dolphins are about to be ramped up a notch. To me, though, the Pats are already the far superior team. The Dolphins played a cupcake schedule that year, and the Pats so far have beaten four likely divisional winners in the Colts, Steelers, Cowboys, and Chargers.

Turning to hoops, the Celtics also continued their winning ways over the past week and now sit at a lofty 20-2 going into tonight's big test against the Detroit Pistons at the Gahden. Should be a good one.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Three More Speed Bumps to Go

The Patriots predictably handed the Steelers a decisive beatdown at Gillette Stadium yeterday, waxing the NFL's "best" defense, 34-13. The Pats are now 13-0 and are looking at a remaining three-game schedule that includes the 3-10 Jets, the 0-13 Dolphins, and the Eli Manning-led Giants. In other words, the path to history isn't exactly looking like a dangerous gauntlet.

While Captain Morgan made the Pats-Steelers game a little foggy, I do remember the biggest play of the game, and maybe the year. The Brady to Moss to Brady to Gaffney lateral was unreal, and Brady made a great play to field a tough throw from Moss. With the score 17-13, the trick play blew it open and the Steelers never recovered. The Pats held them scoreless in the second half.

The other side story in this game was the guarantee issued by Steelers' safety Anthony Smith. Brady and Moss played catch over, behind, and around Smith all game, to the point where the kid looked like a revolving door. Brady on the radio this morning so much as admitted that the Pats designed plays to go right at Smith.

Who's the next speed bump on the path? Why, it's the Jets and their weasely coach, Eric Mangini. The first line has the Pats favored by around 26. And it may climb.

Just a quick note to my three loyal readers: I'm off on vacation for the week so the site may be pretty dormant. Enjoy the Pats-Jets hype, which should be in full swing by noon today.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Pre-Game Thoughts

About an hour away from Pats-Steelers. The weather dudes are calling for a "wintry mix" to hit Boston and surrounding suburbia later this evening. It shouldn't have too much of an effect on the game. My biggest concern is that we need to hear a LOUD Gillette Stadium tonight. Lots of talk in the papers lately about Gillette being a somewhat quiet stadium compared to some other places. That needs to change today, and I'm thinking the quality of the opponent - and of course, the pursuit of perfection - will raise the decibels. We need a home-field advantage today.

Nothing very exciting as far as the 1:00 games go. Dallas (11-1) is currently losing to Detroit, but elsewhere it's been mostly as expected. Chargers-Titans has playoff implications, but it's been a pretty boring game so far with the Titans clinging to a 10-3 lead. It's funny - when I was a little tyke and the 49ers were the team to beat in the NFL with Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Roger Craig, I can remember thinking how the Niners were playing at a completely different level, and that dichotomy came through loud and clear whenever I had to watch the pathetic Patriots. My, how the tables have turned. The quarterback play around the NFL - save for Brady, Manning, Romo and Favre - is putrid. It's arguably the most important position in sports, and it's positively glaring how many bad ones there are out there.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Counting Down

A little under 30 hours away from yet another 'biggest game of the year' for the Patriots. It can't get here soon enough. The Steelers have done an awful lot of yapping this week for a team that hasn't been quite able to master beating the Pats over the past few years.

I'm certainly no Ron Jaworski when it comes to analyzing football strategery, but a couple of things I'd like to see tomorrow are a consistent, steady pass rush, and more opportunities for Laurence Maroney to operate in the open field, out on the edges. He and Kevin Faulk were great on screens last Monday in Baltimore. The other interesting angle here is that in some ways, the Pats have become the Colts - in terms of having the wide-open aerial attack - and other teams have become the Pats of yore, employing a strategy of bumping and whacking Moss, Welker, Stallworth, etc., to disrupt their routes. It will be very interesting to see how Josh McDaniels adjusts.

Elsewhere in the Boston pro sports world, you have to feel great for Paul Pierce. The guy has done nothing but play hard during his time here, and he's finally surrounded with a tremendous supporting cast. I had no idea Kevin Garnett was this good. After last night's trouncing of the Bosh-less Raptors, the C's are 16-2, which represents their best-ever start to a season. That's saying something considering their rich history. Can't wait to see them match up against the heavyweights from the West.

And last, just a quick word on the Johan Santana trade talks. It's unbelievable how quickly the hype machine gets going around here - they're exchanging medical records!!!! - but we should all know by know that these things, if they happen at all, take time. Some reports are saying that Theo has already moved on to Plan B (Erik Bedard, who I love), but there's some doubt that idiotic Orioles owner Peter
Angelos would trade his ace lefty within the division. It's also no longer just about the Sox and the Yankees in the AL after Detroit acquired Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from Florida. In my mind, this increases the need for the Sox to get Santana.

Celtics vs. Bulls tonight at 8:30. Also, a good boxing match on HBO between Floyd Mayweather and Ricky Hatton. Wonder who Steelers safety Anthony Smith thinks will win? He's into making guarantees, you know.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Some Hump Day Tidbits

Couple of interesting items in the Globe's Patriots blog today:

Some obscure Steelers defensive back named Anthony Smith has come out and guaranteed a victory over the Patriots this Sunday. Are you kidding me? Hines Ward probably stuffed this guy into a locker after he heard this. Not exactly on the same level as Broadway Joe's famous guarantee against the Colts in Super Bowl III. Automatic bulletin board material for Coach Bill.

Also, the Monday night game drew the biggest cable TV audience in history, with more than 12 million viewers tuning in. Not sure what the weekly average is, but that's pretty impressive. People may hate the Patriots right now - like they do any dynasty - but they can't turn away from history.

On another note, as a fan of the Grateful Dead and Bob Marley, this story makes me like Salty the golfer. Not to mention it gives me an opportunity to post a picture of Jerry Garcia.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Is Santana Claus Coming To Town?

Apologies to Boston Dirt Dogs for the headline. The news this morning on the Sox' pursuit of Johan Santana contains a few new wrinkles, namely that the teams swapped medical reports (on Jon Lester and Santana) last night, and that the proposal in place - Lester, Jed Lowrie, Justin Masterson, and Coco Crisp - might be enough to get it done. One report mentioned that the Twins are extremely high on Masterson, who they view as a future set-up man supreme. I'm sure the updates will be fast and furious today as the dust flies down there in Nashville.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Kyle Boller Finally Acts Like Kyle Boller

The Ravens just had a chance to put the Pats on the ropes, and Boller threw a horrendous pick to James Sanders. Brady has the Pats on the move... and he hits Maroney for another screen and long-gainer. 42 yards to the Ravens 25. Wow, Maroney's showing me something here. I'll have to call out more people publicly. Come on Moss, you're due. Damn - almost. Brady just tried to gun one into Moss in the end zone and Moss missed it. 3rd and 6 on the 20. And it looks like it's going to be another field goal. Welker was just interfered with but it wasn't called. Gostkowski nails a 38-yarder into the wind and it's 24-20 with more than 8 minutes left. They have to put the clamps on McGahee and make Boller throw it more. Gostkowski also needs to kick this one into the end zone, or special teams needs to make a good stick. The Ravens have been killing us with good returns.

Ravens will start at their 27-yard line. And conveniently, they go three and out and look pretty bad in doing so. Pats have great field position, at around their own 45, and Brady fires a missile into Moss. Maroney is running hard, which is nice to see. Dan Koppen just got flagged for a tough penalty after Maroney had run for a first down. Big play. Now it's 2nd and 14 on the 41. And another flag on the Pats - what the hell is going on here? Rare mental mistakes. It's now 3rd and 14. Need a clutch-ass throw here. Crap. Incomplete, and the Patriots are punting. The Ravens are going to get the ball with about 5 minutes left. A steady dose of McGahee here and the dream season could be just that.

Good stop on McGahee. A big third and 2 here. Key on McGahee. And Boller's throwing... McGahee's got it, but he's taken down short of the first down. Huge play by the Pats' D. Just what we needed.

So here we go... it's down to 3 minutes and 30 seconds and the ball is in the steady hands of Tom Brady. Brady throws one to Stallworth, who has the ball temporarily before getting popped by a DB. 2nd down. Shotgun. There's Ben Watson! Where you been hiding, Dawg? Clutch throw and catch for a first down. Incomplete on the screen attempt to Faulk - and damn, he had some green in front of him. 2nd and 10 from about midfield, and another short pass to Faulk. 3rd and 1 here. Maroney? Keeper? Brady gets the first down. We're at the two-minute warning and the Pats have a 2nd and 10 from the Ravens 39. It all comes down to this, and in a way it's pretty cool that we're trying to get it done against Ray Lewis and the vaunted Ravens D.

We've got 2 timeouts left. Brady back, and he gets pressured again. 3rd and 10, and somewhere Don Shula is waving a Ravens pompom. OH MY GOD. Brady just tried to sneak it and was stopped, but someone on the Ravens sideline called a timeout and the play was whistled dead. This could be GIGANTIC. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are looking around incredulously. We've got another chance, and again we shoot ourselves in the foot. Offsides. Now it's 4th and 6. Yikes. I've got butterflies.

And Brady runs for the first down! Wide open field, so why not. There's a flag - holding my breath - and it's against the Ravens. A very nice turn of events. 1st and 10 at Balty's 18. This is fun. Faulk with a nice run. (That rhymed). Oh my - Brady just threw a ball that hit a helmet and bounced way up in the air... and luckily it fell to the ground. 3rd and 5 on the 13. Brady back - incomplete. And it's fourth down. The perfect season comes down to one play. Holy sheeeit.

Pats call a timeout to discuss things. And I don't believe what I just saw - the Ravens just got called for defensive holding, giving the Pats first and goal. And Brady connects with Jabar Gaffney in the left corner for a TD! Pats lead it 27-24!! Un-freaking believable.

After Ravens LB Bart Scott has a meltdown - and throws the officials flag into the stands - the Pats kick off to the Ravens with about 45 seconds left. Boller keeps going for the home run ball, but what about going sideline to sideline and trying to get into position for a field goal? Boller's last heave is caught on the 2-yard line but the receiver is tackled short of the end zone. Game over. And an incredible game it was.

Wow - this was like a playoff game. A commenter on Deadspin posted: "Why am I emotionally drained from watching a game featuring two teams I don't give a shit about?" That about sums it up - and imagine if you had a rooting interest. I want to watch and absorb all the postgame stuff. The Pats are still perfect, and if any team was going to knock them off, it was tonight. They won it on hostile turf, against an inspired, great defense, and now the talk is going to heat up. After the Steelers next week, the Pats have pattycakes in the Jets and Miami, and then the season finale in the Meadowlands against Elise Manning and the Giants. Four left baby. And for Coach Shula and those overrated '72 Dolphins? Instead of a glass of champagne tonight, how about a nice cold mug of shut the f*ck up?

Well, Well, Well...

We've got ourselves a ballgame. Pats and Ravens are tied up at 10 as the second half gets underway, and I thought this might be a pretty opportune time to do a little live-blogging. We are chasing history and all, you know. Plus, ESPN's got Don Shula coming to the booth during the third quarter, so the drama to see if the Pats can stay unbeaten will ratchet up a few notches.

Tony Kornhole of the Monday Night Football crew started saying 'is this the night?' early in the first quarter, and I must say, it would be nice if Tom and the boys can shut him the bleep up ASAP. I usually am entertained by Kornholio, but not this evening.

Anyway, the story lines of the game so far: The Patriots have squandered an opportunity or two, and have been abysmal on third down. Moss and Welker have been surprisingly quiet. For the Ravens, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed & Co. are playing inspired, QB Kyle Boller has gotten the job done, and RB Willis McGahee has been chewing up the yards. Holy shit - the Ravens just slammed it down our throats and scored on their first drive of the second half. 17-10 Baltimore. Uh-oh. Time for Brady to show why he's the MVP.

Maroney gets the ball on 1st down for a small gain. No matter how you slice it, he's been a disappointment. How good would Corey Dillon look right now?

2nd down - niiiice. Brady eludes pressure and hits Maroney with a screen that turns into a 35-yard gain. Like I said, I like this Maroney cat. 3rd and 2 - let's convert... handoff to Maroney and he doesn't get it. Doesn't even come close, actually. Crap. It's either a 42-yard FG or go for it and they're going for it... niiiice. Faulk cuts through the hole for a huge first down. They get stopped there, this stadium goes nuts.

Now Brady can relax and get six. Faulk gets another first down. Faulk has been so underrated this year - he's filled the Sammy Morris void quite capably. This is where the Pats have run into trouble tonight - in the red zone, unable to operate against the Ravens D. They've got two tries here for a TD. Brady shotgun. Hits Randy Moss for maybe a 5-yard gain, and Randy takes out a TV guy on the sidelines in the process. After a quick commercial break, Brady hits Moss for the score to make it 17-17. After the catch, Moss was giving some verbal abuse to one of the Ravens' DB's. There's been a lot of chirping in this game, including a minor skirmish right before the half. (I just used chirping and skirmish in the same sentence).

After a nice kick return, and a few McGahee runs, the Ravens are marching again. They're sitting on the Pats' 19-yard line. They are steamrolling the Pats D right now, just going straight at them. McGahee's running like a man possessed, and really he is. Before the game, ESPN showed a clip of former Miami Hurricanes Lewis, Reed, and McGahee huddling together, exhorting each other to play well in memory of their buddy Sean Taylor. Maybe there's something to it, who knows? All I know is that Baltimore's got a first down on our 2-yard line, and McGahee has been unstoppable. This time, though, it's Boller with another touchdown pass. Jeeezus. 24-17 Ravens with 14 minutes left.

ESPN's been playing Led Zeppelin songs tonight during the broadcast, but they keep playing the same three songs over and over. How about digging a little deeper guys?

Ray Lewis and the D has had a nice rest. First three drives of the second half have resulted in touchdowns. Nice return by Ellis Hobbs as the Pats look to again tie this up. Something tells me they ain't covering the 20 tonight.

First down run by Maroney, who gets a few. We need you here, Laurence. Where's that wascally Wes Welker been? Ben Watson? And Brady gets sacked. Third and 12. Brady gets sacked again, and the Ravens return the punt to the Pats' 30. We are officially in deep doo-doo. Bummer. Brady kinda went down easy on that second sack.

I need to take a little break. Maybe change my seating position.

A Fish Rots From the Top Down

How do you explain the amazing role reversal between the Red Sox and the Yankees of the last few years? In simplest terms, it's all about the management stupid. I've said before in this space that Pats owner Bob Kraft has transformed the way teams do business in Boston. Thankfully, those trade secrets have remained in the Hub and haven't trickled a couple hundred miles south to the Bronx. For decisive proof, see Exhibit 1 (Knicks, New York, James Dolan). And today, I give you Exhibit 1A (Yankees, New York, Hank Steinbrenner).

The Yankees have approached this whole Johan Santana soap opera with an air of superiority, which is quite odd seeing as how this team hasn't won a World Series this century. First, they were offering slop (ie., no Phil Hughes) for the Twins superlative ace, and yesterday came word that the Yanks were giving the Twins an ultimatum - either decide on our trade proposal Monday, or we're moving on. Little Hankie says he won't allow his team to be played a fool by the Red Sox. Too late, Hank. Of course, we all remember how they stuck to their guns on A-Rod. To the Twins' credit, they came out today and said they were miffed by Steinbrenner's stance.

It's now 1:45 p.m. Eastern time, and the baseball meetings are underway in Nashville. Let's see what happens over the next 10 hours, at which point the Yankees "claim" they will pull their chips off the table. That would only help the Red Sox, who might be able to surrender less talent with the Yanks no longer in the picture.

By the way, a quick sidenote: While Santana garners most of the media attention - and rightly so - there are some other pretty good arms available for trade, including Oakland's Danny Haren and the guy I'd love to see the Sox get, Erik Bedard of the Orioles.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Upping the Ante

The Johan Santana trade talks continue between the Twins, Sox, and Yankees, with word coming late today that the Sox are now willing to include Jacoby Ellsbury in the deal.

I'm a bit surprised at this, unless it's a great ploy by Theo to get the Yankees to add to their offer. New York has been low-balling Minnesota the whole time - they didn't even have Philip Hughes in their offer until the other day. Supposedly, the deal on the table right now includes Hughes and Melky Cabrera, and the Yanks say they're done playing games and they want an answer by Tuesday. Now that Ellsbury is back in the mix, is it time to start mentioning Joba Chamberlain's name? I'd love to get him out of our division.

I don't want to lose Ellsbury. He's got the potential and tools to be a better Johnny Damon for the next decade. But if I have to lose him, acquiring Santana - and signing him long-term - lessens the blow a little bit. The one thing that makes me think Theo's trying to drive up the price on New York is that the Yankees clearly need Santana more than the Sox do. It's going to be fascinating to see how this parlor game ends - and just think, no Scott Boras this time!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

That's what college football is this year. Someone needs to do an in-depth feature on just what the hell is causing all this zaniness. The top-five spots in the polls have fluctuated like the stock market all year long, and it's going to be verrrry interesting to see who ends up playing for the national championship. Maybe this will finally make the NCAA suits reconsider this whole BCS process.

Going into today's activities, the Missouri Tigers were No. 1 and West Virginia was No. 2. Missouri's currently locked in a 14-all tie in the Big 12 title game against Oklahoma, and West Virginia was last seen losing to Pitt, 10-7, with electric QB Pat White supposedly injured.

Someone wrote that Appalachian State should get some consideration for Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year, and I think it's a worthy idea. Their incredible upset over Michigan at the Big House started all this madness. Stanford over USC was also huge.

Some news & notes from around college football today:

- Interesting turn of events in the 'is Les Miles going to Michigan' story. ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit reported this a.m. that Miles was a lock to be the next coach of the Wolverines. Later in the day, before LSU took on Tennessee for the SEC crown, LSU hastily threw together a press conference at which Miles denounced the report and announced that he was in Baton Rouge to stay. Herbstreit reiterated his confidence in his sources on tonight's Mizzou-Oklahoma telecast, so it will be interesting to read the details over the next couple of days.

- Boston College lost a tough one to Virgina Tech today in the ACC Championship. They actually had a lead early, but the Hokies - as is their tradition - made some huge special teams plays, Matt Ryan had a couple of passes picked off, and just like that, BC's Orange Bowl dreams were gone. Feel bad for the Eagles - they had a great year, even if the Ryan for Heisman talk was typical BC delusion - but also feel good for Virginia Tech with all that school has gone through over the last year.

- If my eyes can make it tonight, I'm hoping to see what Hawaii's Colt Brennan is all about. Kid grew up in Laguna Beach and now he's playing QB for a top-rated team in Honolulu. Not too bad.

Switching from the colleges to the pros, I'm beginning to wonder if the Patriots are ever going to play on a Sunday afternoon again. Monday night's game against Baltimore will be their third straight prime-time night game. It's getting tougher and tougher to stay awake.

As for the Pats-Ravens game, I've got a feeling that Tom Brady & Co. will come to play and this could get back to being ugly. The Ravens' offense sucks, which makes their legendary defense less productive. If the Pats do win this game, it will be interesting to see if the national media ratchets up its undefeated talk. I know people are sick of us, but it seems like this story has been a little under-reported lately. The Pats are five wins away from doing something historic, and two of those games are against the currently 0-11 Dolphins and 1-10 Jets. If they get past the Ravens, next week's game against the Steelers will no doubt get the talk revved up again.

The best game on the board tomorrow looks like Jacksonville vs. Indy. The banged-up Colts need to make a statement, while the Jags have been playing well behind steady QB David Garrard and bowling ball RB Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jaguars are my sleeper pick to get in the playoffs and make some waves.

Some reasonably decent TV games tomorrow:

CBS, 1:00 - Jacksonville @ Indy
FOX, 1:00 - Seattle @ Philly
FOX, 4:15 - NY Giants @ Chicago
NBC, 8:15 - Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh

Missouri-Oklahoma update: The Sooners have blown it open at 28-14, but Missouri just kicked a field goal. And believe it or not, West Virginia just lost to Pittsburgh. Unbelievable. Anybody want to play for the title? Anyone? Bueller?

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