Wednesday, October 31, 2012
On the heels of releasing linebacker Bobby Carpenter yesterday, they surprisingly released second-year cornerback Sterling Moore this afternoon. To take their places on the 53-man roster, New England re-signed linebacker Mike Rivera (who has been with the team a couple times) and safety Derrick Martin, who has played six seasons in the NFL most recently with the Giants last year and was with the Pats during training camp. They also terminated the practice squad contract of defensive end/tight end Alex Silvestro.
Moore was an undrafted free agent that the Patriots discovered last season. He had played in all eight games this season (no starts) as a nickel back and made 13 tackles (12 solo) with one fumble forced and one fumble recovered. Considering the fact that he was released twice last season but ended up playing a prominent role in the playoffs means that I doubt they have completely given up on him (he's only 22). I bet they told him to hang tight and he'll be back on the team in a few weeks when someone else goes down or this Martin character proves to be a bum.
UPDATE 11/1: The Pats signed wide receiver Jarred Fayson to the practice squad today. Moore cleared waivers which means he's a free agent. He does have practice squad eligibility left though and New England has one open spot there.
If you're keeping score at home, he is the 10th Bruin to take their talents overseas-an NHL high (loads gun). Even better, when the Winter Classic is officially cancelled any day now, expect more B's to hop on the next flight. Kelly's deal is monthly with an out clause if the NHL lockout ends.
After having already missed all the October games with no November games set to occur, the NHL lockout is in full effect and shows no signs of ending anytime soon. Much like the NBA lockout last year or the NFL lockout (why can't we have an MLB lockout too?), I have become immune to the few brief daily news to come out of this debacle. Every day that goes by with no positive movement, I become more convinced that we won't have a 2012-13 NHL season.
The fact that the NBA regular season started last night-hello Celtics-only further hurts the NHL since casual fans will forget about hockey soon enough. If you need a hockey fix, I would recommend paying closer attention to NCAA hockey. We are lucky to have the best conference in our backyard-Hockey East-with plenty of nationally ranked teams in New England: Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, UNH, Northeastern, etc.
It's hard to picture a much more efficient but still spectacular performance by TB12 than the one he turned in on Sunday during New England's (5-3) 45-7 rout of St. Louis (3-5) at London's Wembley Stadium. He was 23 of 35 for 305 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. His rating of 131.1 was a season-high and it eclipsed the 120.1 against the Bills that earned the first award.
Whenever Brady has a good game, he always seems to break or tie some sort of record and this week was no exception. This was the 22nd time he's been named AFC Offensive Player of the Week, tying Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. Additionally, it was the ninth time in his career that he's thrown for 300+ yards, four TDs and no INTs which ties Saints quarterback Drew Brees for an NFL record. He also became only the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300+ yards 50 times in his career.
After a bumpy start to the season, the Pats and Brady have won two in a row and put together their most impressive game against the Rams. It's no coincidence that he has pushed back into the NFL MVP discussion with 16 TDs, 3 INTs and an NFL-leading 2408 passing yards. Midway through the regular season, things are looking up in Foxborough. Happy Halloween everybody!
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Things couldn't have gone any better for fraud Heat fans. LeBron James (26 points, 10 rebounds) still looks like the best basketball player on the planet, Dwayane Wade (game-high 29 points) was healthy, Chris Bosh (19 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks) was a capable third option while Ray Allen (19 points off the bench) had a hell of a debut for Miami. Even Mario Chalmers had eight points and 11 assists while the ghost of Rashard Lewis scored 10 off the bench.
Boston is clearly loaded with talent, it is just going to take time to mesh the veterans with the younger guys and other new players. Rajon Rondo (20 points, 13 assists, 7 rebounds) picked up where he left off with his 25th straight regular season game of 10+ assists. Paul Pierce had a team-high 23 points, five rebounds and five assists while Brandon Bass notched 15 points and 10 rebounds in the start.
Other positive notes for the C's: Courtney Lee scored 11 in his Celtics debut and Leandro Barbosa exploded for 16 points in the fourth quarter also in his first game with the Green. Kevin Garnett (9 points, 12 rebounds), Jason Terry (8 points) and Jeff Green (3 points) were the main no-shows for Boston and the reason why they lost, outside of the non-existent defense.
The Heat led basically from wire to wire. They were up 31-25 after one quarter and 62-54 at halftime. Miami was about to blow Boston out when they took a 93-76 lead into the fourth. Thanks to Barbosa, the Celts made it interesting and even cut it to four with a 14-3 run but they ran out of gas. Bosh scored seven straight points and that was it.
Rondo picked up a flagrant foul late for a cheap shot on Wade which was proceeded by a technical foul for berating an official earlier in the contest. I thought he had changed over the summer? The main thing to take away from tonight is not to get too wrapped up in the result. It's only 1 of 82 and as far as I'm concerned, the Heat are still the best team in the NBA (as much as it pains me to write that).
Getting away from the hoopla of tonight's ring ceremony and banner raising event, the Celtics can get back to basketball and forget the Ray Allen drama for a while. This is a new team that can run (27-12 fast break points) but they'll need to cut down on the turnovers (19-6 points off turnovers in favor of Miami). The C's get a couple days to rest and practice before hosting the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday (7:30 p.m., CSNE) in their home opener.
Sunday, October 28, 2012
That all changed today as they punished St. Louis (3-5, 3-2 home) 45-7 in a game that didn't even feel that close. For whatever reason, the Pats enjoy their trips to the UK: this victory made them 2-0 there and they've outscored opponents (Tampa Bay in 2009) 80-14. Even better, in Bill Belichick's last two games against Jeff Fisher (formerly of the Titans), he has beat him to the tune of 104-7. Haha wow.
Week 1 seems like so long ago and that was a blowout of the Titans while New England also took out Buffalo in convincing fashion (52-28 in Week 4) but for all intents and purposes, today was the first time they put all three phases together: offense, defense and special teams. The crazy part is that they spotted the Rams a 7-0 lead as St. Louis went down the field on its first drive and when Sam Bradford (22 of 30, 205 yards, TD, INT) hit Chris Givens for a 50-yard TD, we all wanted to punch a hole in the nearest TV or wall.
No worries as the Pats proceeded to score touchdowns on their next five drives and end the game with 45 unanswered points. Tom Brady (23 of 35, 304 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs) had his best performance of the season and ditto for Rob Gronkowski (8 catches, 146 yards, 2 TDs) who more than covered for Aaron Hernandez's absence. Stevan Ridley ran for 127 yards and a touchdown on only 15 carries while Brandon Lloyd caught a pair of touchdowns.
The combination of a banged up/horrible offensive line and an injured/awful wide receiver core made the Rams the perfect combination as the Patriots' defense built up some confidence. Blitzing Bradford and pressuring him also help immensely. Rookie Alfonzo Dennard had his second interception in two weeks while fellow rookie Tavon Wilson intercepted former Jet Kellen Clemens in garbage time.
It got so bad, that I pleaded on Twitter for running time and the blind hope that Belichick would sit some of his starters lest they run the risk of a needless injury. You can exhale in that case since it looks like Wes Welker's (6 catches, 48 yards) ankle will be OK. I've never been so happy to see Ryan Mallett than I was in the fourth quarter today.
Lloyd's 19-yard touchdown catch tied it at seven midway through the first quarter. Shane Vereen scored on 4th and Goal from the 1-yard line early in the second quarter. Gronk's 7-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was followed by his best celebration (imitating a Buckingham Palace guard) before his signature spike. A flurry of penalties by the Rams gifted Ridley a 1-yard score with 10 seconds left in the second quarter. At that point, down 28-7, St. Louis might as well have packed their bags for the long flight home.
Think of the second half as extended garbage time since New England finally learned how to step on a team's throat and put them out of their misery-something they couldn't against Baltimore, Seattle or the Jets. Lloyd caught a 9-yard touchdown pass on the Patriots' opening drive and later Stephen Gostkowski got some work with a 26-yard field goal. Gronk had one more highlight for his new legion of fans: a 14-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.
I wouldn't take too much out of this one game-the eternal lesson of the Any Given Sunday NFL-but it felt nice to see the Patriots look like their old selves again for however long. They improved to 1-2 against the NFC West this season. After some delayed travel due to Hurricane Sandy, New England will come home tomorrow and then they get a week off.
UPDATE 10/30: The Patriots released linebacker Bobby Carpenter, who had played in four games on special teams since being re-signed on October 2.
As my friend Jim Nantz said during the telecast, the bye week couldn't come at a better time. They have played eight games (half a season), they have a week off then they play eight more. Thanks Roger Goddell! When we next see the Pats, Sandy will be long gone, ditto for Halloween and the presidential election. Buffalo travels to Gillette on Sunday, November 11 (CBS, 1 p.m.).
Friday, October 26, 2012
Running back Brandon Bolden (knee), safetys Patrick Chung (shoulder) and Steve Gregory (hip), cornerback Ras-I Dowling (thigh; also placed on season-ending IR for the second straight season), tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle), defensive end Trevor Scott (hamstring) and linebacker Tracy White (foot) all skipped the trip to the UK. The good news for them-minus Dowling-is that since the Patriots' bye week is next week, they'll have an additional week to rest and recover.
The Rams have been in London since Tuesday but only tackle Rodger Saffold (knee) and defensive end Eugene Sims (knee) have been ruled out so far. Five guys on St. Louis are questionable: wide receiver Danny Amendola (shoulder), defensive tackle Matt Conrath (knee), linebacker Mario Haggan (thigh), tackle Wayne Hunter (back) and tight end Mike McNeill (knee).
11 Patriots are questionable but I don't know how many more will sit since technically they've already reached the required amount. Defensive tackle Ron Brace (back), wide receivers Julian Edelman (hand), Brandon Lloyd (knee) and Wes Welker (ankle), tight end Rob Gronkowski (hip), linebackers Dont'a Hightower (hamstring) and Jerod Mayo (elbow), guard Logan Mankins (calf), center Nick McDonald (shoulder), cornerback Sterling Moore (knee) and tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back) are all 50/50 in the eyes of the NFL but not New England.
Load up on your supplies of Fish & Chips and London Pride (a local brew) as we get set for the Patriots' second game in London in the last four seasons.
UPDATE 10/27: Cornerback Malcolm Williams was promoted off the practice squad to the 53-man roster. He'll play tomorrow as he takes Dowling's spot.
UPDATE 10/28: Amendola, Hunter, Conrath, quarterback Austin Davis and Haggan are all inactive for the Rams.
Mankins has also been declared inactive for the Patriots, meaning Donald Thomas will start. Yikes.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Luckily for him and Patriots fans, they were facing the Jets so New York only managed a field goal to put them ahead 26-23 after his ghastly miscue. For the first kickoff return for a touchdown in his career (and New England's first in over two years), today he was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
When Jeff Demps was put on IR in the preseason, things did not look good for the Patriots' kick return game. Luckily, McCourty has done a good job in that respect. He has been their main kick returner and averaged 28.3 yards on 12 returns so far this season.
New England (4-3) is getting ready to hop across the pond for their game on Sunday (1 p.m., CBS) against St. Louis (3-4) at Wembley Stadium. It's the second time (2009) that the Patriots have invaded the UK. That time, they blew out the Buccaneers 35-7. That Tampa Bay team was a joke and at the time, New England was playing better than now.
The Pats have opened up as a seven-point favorite but they were a 10.5 point favorite against the Jets last weekend. What I'm saying is that at this point, you can't overlook almost any team on their schedule. Expect a closer than expected contest. Some more good returns by McCourty and keeping him at safety would help the Patriots' cause.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
The Patriots have pretty much left me speechless with their inability when it comes to closing out games this season. Today they were up 23-13 heading into the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium against the Jets who came in with statistically the third worst offense in the NFL.
Wouldn't you know it, New England (4-3, 2-1 home) nearly blew it as New York (3-4, 1-2 away) rallied for 13 straight points. Thankfully for once, the Pats were able to drive for the tying score and then won it with another field goal in overtime as their 29-26 win put them in sole possession of first place in the AFC (L)East. Buffalo lost earlier today and Miami had a bye week.
I suppose there are two ways to look at this win if you are a Patriots fan. 1) If they struggled so much against a team as bumbling as the Jets, what will happen when they play a legitimate playoff contender? 2) The AFC is awful and other than Houston (who got blown out last week at home by the Packers), who else is there to fear? Don't get me wrong, I don't know if I've ever felt less satisfied after a victory but bigger picture, I hope that maybe this game will serve as some sort of rallying point for a team that was going nowhere fast.
Perhaps most disheartening for New England was that they made Mark Sanchez (28 of 41, 328 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) look like a quality NFL quarterback. Of course, the clinching play was a strip-sack of Sanchez and recovery by Rob Ninkovich (6 tackles, 4 solo, 1.5 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, 2 quarterback hits). Nobody better illustrates the up and down nature of this team like Devin McCourty (5 solo tackles): the much maligned cornerback/safety had a 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He also coughed up the ball on a kickoff late in the fourth quarter that led to New York's go-ahead field goal.
Tom Brady (26 of 42, 259 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) wasn't at his best but he was able to lead New England to the tying field goal-a 43-yard kick by Stephen Gostkowski-as regulation expired. Likewise, after the Patriots received the kickoff to begin overtime, he led them down the field for what turned out to be the game-winner: a 48-yard kick by the suddenly clutch Gostkowski.
Both quarterbacks spread it around to eight receivers. Jeremy Kerley set a career-high with seven catches for 120 yards while Dustin Keller added seven catches for 93 yards. Rob Gronkowski (6 catches, 78 yards) had one of his best games of the season with two touchdowns while the Jets neutralized Wes Welker (6 catches, 66 yards) and Aaron Hernandez (5 catches, 54 yards). Brandon Lloyd's first dose of the Patriots-Jets rivalry was not a memorable one as he had one catch for six yards. I shudder to think what he would do if Darrelle Revis had played.
New England's rushing attack didn't seem to miss Brandon Bolden that much as Stevan Ridley (65 yards), Shane Vereen (49 yards) and Danny Woodhead (17) combined for 131 rushing yards in the win. After blowing up against the Colts last weekend, Shonn Greene (54 yards rushing, TD) was back to his usual level.
New York scored a touchdown on its opening drive, a sign of things to come in this nail-biter. Greene ran it in from a yard out. McCourty's kick return to paydirt answered that and Gronk's first TD put New England up 14-7 after the first quarter. It was a diving grab from 17 yards out, proof of why Brady needs to target Gronkowski more in the red zone than he has so far this season.
In the most Jets play of all-time, Sanchez fumbled a handoff to Greene when they were backed up near their own end zone. Rather than have Vince Wilfork (7 tackles, 5 solo) or another Patriot recover it, Sanchez kicked it out of the back of the end zone for a safety. It was New England's first two-pointer since Week 1 in 2006 (miss you Ty Warren).
Nick Folk showed that he has a bigger leg than we knew by drilling a 54-yard field goal with two seconds left in the first half. New York only trailed 16-10 at halftime in one of the strangest halves of football in recent memory.
New England got a red zone stop so the Jets had to settle for a 21-yard goal from Folk to cut it to 16-13 early third quarter. Gronkowski's 2-yard touchdown catch put the Patriots up 10 (23-13) and I think naively that's when we thought they would pull away.
In basically a four-minute span late in the fourth quarter, Keller caught a 7-yard touchdown (Sanchez's best throw of the day) then Folk hit identical 43-yard field goals. I had little faith that Gostkowski would make not one vital kick but two. I'm happy to say he proved many people wrong and maybe that will get him over that mental hurdle.
The Patriots linebacker crew of Jerod Mayo (11 tackles, 10 solo), Brandon Spikes (10 tackles, 7 solo) and Dont'a Hightower (7 solo tackles, sack) all had big games. Kyle Arrington added seven solo tackles and rookie Alfonzo Dennard recorded the first interception of his NFL career.
Next Sunday, the Patriots play the Rams (3-4) in London (1:00 p.m., CBS) at Wembley Stadium. I won't get into how the NFL should just give up on trying to market the league in the UK and simply hope that the Patriots don't keep getting sent there. St. Louis lost 30-20 to Green Bay today at home, their second loss in a row. They present a somewhat similar challenge that the Seahawks did. They have a very solid defense and their offense remains a question mark led by inconsistent quarterback Sam Bradford. After losing to Seattle and Arizona, New England can ill-afford another loss to an NFC West squad they should beat.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
He had one year remaining on his contract with the Blue Jays so Boston will send infielder Mike Aviles to Toronto as compensation. There is also talk of the Red Sox receiving a player in return from the Blue Jays but we don't know who that would be yet-there have been whispers of Adam Lind. Losing Aviles would have happened away since Pedro Ciriaco and to a lesser degree Jose Iglesias have taken his spot on the roster.
We can all agree that the role of manager on a baseball team has been proven to be largely irrelevant but if anyone is suited to clean up this disaster site on Yawkey Way, it's a guy that was a pitching coach here for four very successful years (2007-10). He understands the city, the franchise and the inherit pressure of the position that he's walking into.
More importantly, he has a background with Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz who are Boston's two best starting pitchers. The only way that the Red Sox will get anywhere is if those guys turn around their careers from 2012's nightmare. Other positives in his favor are his age (50) and decent major league career as a player. The fact that he was .500 in 2011 with the Blue Jays and 73-89 (four games better than the Red Sox) this season is largely irrelevant. It doesn't matter who was in charge of that mediocre squad that was decimated by injuries and underachievement.
As a fan, I'm happy that the Red Sox didn't let this process drag itself out to a ridiculous degree like last year with Valentine. There are a million issues facing that team but at least this is a decent start to turning things around. The Red Sox had lost their way for over a year but now it appears like their gaining some common sense back in their day to day operations.
UPDATE 10/21: Farrell received a three-year deal from the Red Sox and Boston received right-hander David Carpenter as part of the deal. In 33 games between the Astros and Blue Jays in 2012, the reliever had a 8.07 ERA in 32.1 innings so don't expect to ever hear from him again.
UPDATE 10/23: Former PawSox manager and Blue Jays first base coach (the last two years under Farrell) Torey Lovullo will be named Boston's bench coach in the next few days according to WEEI.com's Rob Bradford.
UPDATE 10/25: WEEI.com's Alex Speier reports that bench coach Tim Bogar won't return to the Red Sox next season.
UPDATE 10/30: Maine native and former Blue Jays third-base coach Brian Butterfield was named third-base coach for the Red Sox. Like Lovullo, he worked in the same role under Farrell in Toronto so they obviously have chemistry and a familiarity with each other.
Friday, October 19, 2012
Look, I've always said that the role of manager is vastly overrated in MLB (hi Mike Matheny one win away from the World Series) so that means by extension that hitting coaches and pitching coaches are even more irrelevant. I mean, what can you say to a major leaguer that's struggling in those areas? Swing at better pitches and throw strikes?
Truth be told, the Red Sox' offense was much less of an issue this past season than their god awful starting rotation. Hence why hiring a new pitching coach would seem to have a higher priority.
Speaking of managers, Boston is reportedly in negotiations with Toronto regarding their manager John Farrell. You'll remember he was the pitching coach for the Red Sox from 2006-10 before being the manager of the Blue Jays the last two seasons. They have also interviewed Yankees bench coach Tony Pena, Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach, Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus and Orioles third base coach DeMarlo Hale but from the start, everyone has felt like Farrell is their man. It would be surprising if they went with someone else.
Whomever the Red Sox select, they better learn from their mistakes of last season and let that guy pick his assistants. Sticking Bobby Valentine with a hodge podge of holdover coaches from Terry Francona's regime that he didn't bring with him or select was only one of the million reasons why 2012 was doomed to fail from the start.
For the Patriots, running back Brandon Bolden (knee), safety Steve Gregory (hip) and linebacker Tracy White (foot) are all out for Sunday (4:25 p.m., CBS). The Jets haven't ruled anybody out yet but defensive linemen Kenrick Ellis (knee) and Sione Pouha (lower back), running back Bilal Powell (shoulder) and safety Eric Smith (knee) are all doubtful so don't expect to see them on the field unless backup quarterback Tim Tebow can perform some type of miracle on them.
New England defensive lineman Ron Brace (back), safety Patrick Chung (shoulder), wide receiver Julian Edelman (hand), tight ends Rob Gronkowski (hip) and Aaron Hernandez (ankle), linebacker Dont'a Hightower (hamstring), guard Logan Mankins (calf/hip), offensive lineman Nick McDonald (shoulder), cornerback Sterling Moore (knee), offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee) and wide receiver Wes Welker (ankle) are all questionable.
The two guys that are the biggest unknowns on that list are Chung and Hightower. Chung got hurt last Sunday against the Seahawks and didn't return while Hightower has missed the last two games.
New York wide receiver Clyde Gates (shoulder), center Nick Mangold (ankle) and running back Joe McKnight (ankle) are questionable.
Stay tuned tomorrow night or Sunday afternoon when we find out who else will be siting out during this vital AFC East showdown.
UPDATE 10/20: Linebacker Jeff Tarpinian was added to the 53-man roster today from the practice squad. To make room, the Patriots released offensive lineman Matt Tennant. This will be his first game of the season, after playing in seven (1 start) last year-his rookie season-before going on IR with a concussion. If I'm reading the tea leaves correctly here, this probably means that Hightower is still out. We shall see.
UPDATE 10/21: The other Patriots out are Mankins, Chung, defensive end Jake Bequette and Brace.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
He's only 29 but the Brazilian (joining countrymen Fab Melo) has been in the NBA for nine seasons already. He made his name with the Suns where he spent seven years before a year and a half with the Raptors then the final part of last season with the Pacers. He won the Sixth man of the year award in 2006-07 for Phoenix after averaging 18.1 points per game. Between Toronto and Indiana last season, he averaged 11.1 points per game in 64 games.
Like new teammate Jason Terry-who also has a Sixth Man of the Year award on his resume-Barbosa has always been more comfortable coming off the bench. In 588 career games, he's made only 109 starts. He's averaged 12.5 points per game, including 39% on 3-pointers, 46% from the field and 82% from the foul line. He's never been known as much of a passer (his highest average was 4.0 assists per game in 2006-07), he's a pure scorer and instant offense. I'm sure he's slowed down some but at one point, he must have been one of the fastest guys in the NBA. I know that's impossible to really judge but he got from one basket to the other as fast as anybody with the ball on his hand.
At this earlier juncture, his role is yet to be determined. When Avery Bradley returns, the Celtics will have more depth, especially in the backcourt than I can ever remember in recent years: Rajon Rondo, Bradley, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, Kris Joseph and Barbosa. It's often said in any sport that you can never have too much talent and as long as they get Barbosa on the same page with them, he could be a nice pickup with real upside.
UPDATE 10/30: As expected, today the Celtics picked up the fourth-year option (next year) on guard Avery Bradley. He is due back sometime in December after two shoulder surgeries last spring.
Rosario only made four appearances for the Marlins last season and he's had 10 career appearances in MLB. He's 27 and went to Baylor (alma mater of former Red Sox David Murphy and Kelly Shoppach). With New Orleans (Triple-A) this past season, he made 25 relief appearances (26 innings) and had a 1.04 ERA. Rosario recorded 16 saves, struck out 24 and walked only two so he must have good control and stuff. Opponents hit .215 against him last season. Boston's bullpen actually wasn't that bad all things considered but this guy is probably insurance in case Scott Atchison doesn't bring it next year.
Lin only played nine games for the Red Sox in 2012 and he hit .250 (3 for 12). He was an All-Star this season with the Pawtucket Red Sox (who won the International League) and he hit .247 with 11 doubles, five triples, two home runs, 30 RBIs, scored 42 runs and stole 15 bases. We didn't really get to see it in Boston but apparently he's a defensive whiz. At 24, this doesn't close the book by any means on a real MLB career but he obviously needs more time to develop not to mention less of a logjam in the outfield to produce and show what he can do.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
If you didn't watch any of the NBA Summer Leagues this past summer and you're not a college basketball junkie (i'm guilty in both cases), then you probably don't even know who those guys are. They both played very well for Boston, especially Christmas whose minimum deal was half-guaranteed for $236,000 this season. I'm convinced from that and his time at Temple that Christmas can play in the NBA but he would never get minutes here so this probably isn't the worst thing to happen. As for Smith, he seems like D-League material to me.
By getting rid of these guys, the Celtics are down to 16 players on their roster. That means, they'll need to release one more player and they still have non-guaranteed camp invites left in swingman Micah Downs and forward Rob Kurz. I remember both from college and there is no chance either will be on the C's, sorry.
What I bet happens is that rookie guard Kris Joseph makes the team (today's moves really solidified his place) while Boston will sign some veteran in the next two weeks that gets released by another NBA team. It's hard to believe it but Celtics' regular season opener is two weeks from tonight, in Miami against the defending champions-the team that beat Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals.
For the record, New England (3-3) is 8-3 in its red jerseys (modeled on the 1985 jerseys) since their inception. They beat New York (3-3) 30-21 last season also at Gillette Stadium when they put the throwbacks on. In addition to the red jerseys, they rock white pants and a white helmet with the old Pat Patriot logo on them.
Everyone has an opinion on uniform changes, especially throwbacks-some people love always them and some people always hate them-but I think these are pretty sweet. I wouldn't buy one since they only wear them at most a few times per season and NFL jerseys are so overpriced but when I become a millionaire any day now that would definitely be something I splurge on.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
We are left with all these unanswered questions after yet another unexpected loss by the Patriots (3-3, 2-2 away) to an inferior team. In this case, the Seahawks (4-2, 3-0 home) benefited this afternoon from all of New England's mistakes in a 24-23 win by Seattle at rain-soaked CenturyLink Field.
The funny thing is that the Patriots' three losses so far this season are by a combined four points. That means two things: they've been in every game and they simply don't know how to close out a win against a decent opponent anymore. New England led 23-10 with 9:21 left in the fourth quarter but apparently, that's exactly where Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson (16 of 27, 293 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT) and his awful receivers wanted them.
Former Jets great Braylon Edwards cut it to 23-17 with a 10-yard touchdown catch with 7:21 left in the fourth quarter. Sidney Rice (3 catches, 81 yards) had the winning score, a 46-yard touchdown catch with 1:18 remaining. The Patriots bungled two chances to get a bigger lead between Seattle scores there but they were forced to punt both times. That's not even as bad as their bungled possession at the end of the first half that ended with Brady's intentional grounding penalty so a 10-second run off and no points. Brady had another intentional grounding called in the fourth quarter, what's with that (remember the last Super Bowl)?
He was off his game, especially in the second half. Brady badly underthrew a deep ball to Deion Branch (and why look for him in that spot?) in the third quarter which led to Richard Sherman's interception. Then he forced a pass to Wes Welker (10 catches, 138 yards, TD) in the fourth quarter and it deflected for Earl Thomas who picked it off.
After running the ball so well in the first five games, the Patriots seemed to leave that part of their team at home. Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden (who left with a knee injury) and Danny Woodhead combined for 87 yards rushing. The lack of a dependable running game really killed them at the end since they were forced to pass on every down which played into the top defense in the NFL's hands.
This game unfolded eerily similar to the loss at Baltimore in Week 3. In the same manner, the Patriots built up a lead after playing well on both sides of the ball then everybody (including the coaches) had a complete meltdown where everything went wrong.
Needham and Middlebury's Steven Hauschka gave Seattle a 3-0 lead with a 34-yard field goal. Welker answered with his second touchdown in as many games. He went 46 yards in the first quarter for a 7-3 advantage. Doug Baldwin (2 catches, 74) ensured that Kyle Arrington would see extended time on the bench in the second half with a 24-yard touchdown catch late in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Aaron Hernandez returned and made an impact with a 1-yard touchdown catch on a beautiful fade pass by Brady to the corner of the end zone. Gostkowski's 25-yard field goal made it 17-10 in favor of the Patriots but as I said before, it should have been more.
The only points of the third quarter came on Gostkowski's 35-yard field goal that extended the lead to 23-10. Brandon Lloyd (6 catches, 80 yards) and Rob Gronkowski (6 catches, 61 yards) had decent performanecs but I'd love to see them get more cracks in the red zone. Chandler Jones (9 tackles, 4 solo, 2 sacks, 3 quarterback hits, forced fumble) was a beast as usual.
As pathetic as this loss was, to a team that the Patriots normally should wipe the floor with, they still have no chance to lose the AFC East to the assorted cupcakes around them. More importantly, they will look to get back on track as they host the Jets (3-3) on Sunday afternoon (4:25 p.m., CBS) at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots will have to put another disappointing loss behind them as they try to put together the first full 60 minute effort of the season.
Friday, October 12, 2012
The Patriots have two guys already out: safety Steve Gregory (hip) for the second straight week and linebacker Tracy White (foot) who left last week's game against the Broncos with an injury. The Seahawks will be missing defensive tackle Jaye Howard (foot) and guard John Moffitt (knee).
As always, New England is taking advantage of the questionable label by putting a whopping 14 guys with that designation. Running back Brandon Bolden (knee), defensive end Brandon Deaderick (ankle), wide receivers Julian Edelman (hand) and Wes Welker (ankle), defensive tackle Justin Francis (ankle), tight ends Rob Gronkowski (hip), Aaron Hernandez (ankle) and Michael Hoomanawanui (concussion), linebacker Dont'a Hightower (hamstring), guard Logan Mankins (calf), center Nick McDonald (shoulder), cornerback Sterling Moore (knee), running back Shane Vereen (foot) and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back) are all 50/50 wink wink, nudge nudge.
Deaderick and Francis haven't played at all while Hightower missed last week. I'd say Dont'a along with Hernandez (out since Week 2) are the two names to watch out for since they are very important players that we know have legitimately been hurt.
For Seattle, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (groin) is doubtful but he's the only other Seahawk that is expected to miss the game.
Stay tuned tomorrow and on Sunday as we find out who else will be on the sidelines.
UPDATE 10/14: Hightower and Edelman have been ruled out. The Boston Globe reports that Hernandez is expected to play but in a limited role so don't hold your breath for a big performance. Also, I wouldn't start him in fantasy football but that's just me.
The three other Patriots out today are defensive end Jake Bequette, center Matt Tennant and Hoomanawanui.
The Seahawks out are wide receiver Charly Martin, strong safety Winston Guy, cornerback Danny Gorrer, cornerback Jeremy Lane and McDonald.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
If you are a Pats fan, we have been lucky enough to have countless incredible players walk through Foxboro Stadium and Gillette Stadium in the last 15 years but Faulk will always rank high on that list for a few immeasurable qualities: being a winner, versatility, making clutch plays, dependability and getting the most out of his talent.
A second-round pick (46th overall) out of LSU by New England in 1999, Faulk quickly established himself and hung around long enough to win three Super Bowl rings while also being on teams that lost two others (he was on the roster but didn't suit up in February vs. the Giants). He retires as the Patriots' all-time leader in all-purpose yards (12,349) and return yards (5041). His best two seasons were 2000 (570 yards rushing, 4 TDs; 465 yards receiving, TD; 816 kick return yards) and 2003 (638 yards rushing, 440 yards receiving). For his career, he scored 33 touchdowns (16 rushing, 15 receiving, 2 kickoff returns).
After tearing his ACL two games into 2010, Faulk worked diligently to return last season but he only appeared in seven games. He was a free agent last offseason but he only wanted to return to New England. When the summer came and went with him still sitting on his couch, we could all read the writing on the wall.
In this age of Fantasy Football and crazy stats, Faulk's numbers (other than the ones I just said) won't wow you. However, if you remember how many big 3rd down conversions he made year after year, it's easy to recall what an important part of the team he always was for head coach Bill Belichick. He was Darren Sproles before we knew that Darren Sproles existed. He also basically invented a position-3rd down running back-with his ability to catch passes out of the backfield and block. Fittingly, Belichick and owner Bob Kraft will both speak tomorrow morning (10:30 a.m., the Hall at Patriot Place) at the retirement ceremony.
Maybe it was because he was undersized (5-foot-9) for an NFL running back or had a taste for the good life (caught smoking weed at a Lil' Wayne concert in his native Louisiana) but I feel like in various ways we could all relate to Faulk. He was a great teammate and a standup guy that wouldn't hide from the media no matter what the outcome. For all the wonderful memories, we say thanks Kevin! Good luck with the next phase of your life, whatever that may entail.
Here is a higlight reel of Kevin Faulk that I found on YouTube, enjoy.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
For everything that the Pats did right, building up a 31-7 lead late in the third quarter, they had to sweat it out a bit in the fourth quarter after Stevan Ridley (28 carries, 151 yards, TD) ruined his perfect day with a costly fumble. Thankfully, Willis McGahee (51 rushing yards, 51 receiving yards) was in a giving mood as well, Rob Ninkovich forced his second fumble of the game and Jermaine Cunningham fell on it to wrap it up.
Manning (31 of 44, 345 passing yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT) and Brady (23 of 31, 223 passing yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) had solid performances but Denver overshadowed it with three costly fumbles and New England put up 251 rushing yards as a team. When's the last time the Patriots had more rushing yards than passing yards in a game?
Brandon Bolden (54 yards rushing) and Danny Woodhead (47 rushing yards, 25 receiving yards) were sprinkled into the playcalling wisely by Josh McDaniels. Wes Welker (13 catches, 104 yards, TD) scored his first touchdown of the season with his mortal enemy Julian Edelman still sidelined with a hand injury.
Demaryius Thomas (9 catches, 188 yards) is a beast and Peyton is helping him become one of the NFL's top receivers but he needs to cut down on his fumbles. Today's fumble after a 43-yard catch and run was his third consecutive game with a fumble. Props though to Patriots cornerback Sterling Moore who chased him down (after getting beaten deep), knocking it loose then recovering it.
The other fumble was from Manning and Vince Wilfork recovered it after Ninkovich drilled Peyton. Jerod Mayo (13 tackles, sack) also played well for the Patriots defense that was superb, until the last quarter or so. Broncos linebacker Von Miller had eight tackles, two sacks, five tackles for loss and a pass deflection.
Welker's 8-yard touchdown catch were the only points of the first quarter. Denver tied it at seven early in the second quarter after Devin McCourty's standard pass interference (not turning his head at all) penalty put the ball on the 1-yard line. Joel Dreessen caught the 1-yard score from Manning.
Of course with all the weapons New England possesses in the running game at the moment, Shane Vereen would be the one to get a 1-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter that made it 14-7. It was his only touch of the game and first score of the season. The Pats could have gone up two touchdowns heading into halftime but they were stuffed twice on runs at the goalline and had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.
In the third quarter, Brady got in on the fun with a 1-yard sneak and Ridley's touchdown had everybody thinking about the two Patriots blowouts vs the Broncos last season. If nothing else, Peyton is not Tim Tebow which means Denver still had some hope to rally. Eric Decker made an amazing 2-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter and Brandon Stokley (yes, he's still in the NFL) cut it to 31-21 with a 5-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots' tour of the NFC West continues on Sunday (4:05 p.m., CBS) with a game at CenturyLink Field against the Seahawks (3-2, 2-0 home). Seattle has a big homefield advantage although we all know they should have lost to the Packers in Week 3's debacle that was the swan song for the replacement refs. Pete Carroll's team doesn't have many weapons on offense and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson has struggled but their defense is legit and their home crowd makes a ton of noise so that game won't be easy by any means.
Friday, October 5, 2012
New England had two players out-safety Steve Gregory (hip) and wide receiver Julian Edelman (hand)-while listing an absurd 12 players as questionable. Denver on the other hand simply said five guys were probable, that's it.
The most intriguing names that are questionable for the Pats include tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle) who hasn't played in three weeks, linebacker Dont'a Hightower (hamstring) and running back Brandon Bolden (knee). Haha you know Bolden has made it when he's getting the questionable treatment, that's usually reserved for some of the best players on the team. I'm willing to bet New England wouldn't have bothered if he hadn't played so well last Sunday in Buffalo.
The rest of the guys that are questionable: defensive end Brandon Deaderick (ankle), defensive tackle Justin Francis (ankle), tight end Rob Gronkowski (hip), tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (concussion), guard Logan Mankins (calf), center Nick McDonald (shoulder), cornerback Sterling Moore (knee), running back Shane Vereen (foot) and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back).
I won't worry about Gronk, Mankins or Vollmer since they were all on the injury report last week with the same stuff and each managed to make it on the field against the Bills. The rest of the guys that I didn't specifically point out at the beginning or now aren't too important either way (Deaderick, Francis) or too injury-prone to expect anything from (Vereen) at the moment.
In other Patriots news, Brandon Spikes was hit with a $21,000 fine for unnecessary roughness against the Bills. That came on the play where he leveled Buffalo tight end Scott Chandler up high after one of Devin McCourty's interception returns.
Stay tuned tomorrow and Sunday as I update this with the latest news.
UPDATE 10/7: Inactives for the Patriots include Hernandez, center Matt Tennant, Hightower, Hoomanawanui and defensive end Jake Bequette. The only notable Bronco that's inactive is running back Knowshon Moreno. I haven't heard of any of the other bums that will be out, sorry guys.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Scott Podsednik-19 runs, 60 hits, 7 doubles, 12 RBIs, 8 stolen bases, .302 batting average, .322 OBP and .352 SLG in 63 games.
When they signed Podsednik off the scrap heap, naturally I laughed thinking that he had nothing left in his washed up body. He proved me wrong and at 36, he can still play in MLB.
Pedro Ciriaco-33 runs, 76 hits, 15 doubles, 19 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, 293 batting average, .315 OBP and .390 SLG, in 76 games.
He was the buzz in Spring Training and amazingly enough, a guy that was released by the Pirates turned out to be a diamond in the rough. It seemed like he always made something happen when he was in the lineup and he'll be a great utility guy off the bench.
Dustin Pedroia-81 runs, 163 runs, 39 doubles, 15 homers, 65 RBIs, 20 stolen bases, .290 batting average, .347 OBP and .449 SLG in 141 games.
Numbers wise, it was about an average season for Pedroia but I mention him since he played the last two games with a broken finger. If there was any doubt, he's still the heart and soul of this team and somebody we can all root for/be proud of.
Will Middlebrooks-34 runs, 77 hits, 14 doubles, 15 homers, 54 RBIs, .288 batting average, .325 OBP and .509 SLG in 75 games.
After tearing it up in Pawtucket, Middlebrooks was called up to Boston in May and promptly took Kevin Youkilis' job. One of the worst moments of this season was when he broke his wrist in Cleveland after getting hit by a pitch. His future seems limitless.
Cody Ross-70 runs, 127 hits, 34 doubles, 22 homers, 81 RBIs, .267 batting average, .326 OBP and .481 SLG in 130 games.
A blueprint of a player that can handle things in Boston. He had a great first season individually with the Red Sox. The rare baseball player that seems to be a good guy while also consistently productive. Any day now, he should get an extension.
Junichi Tazawa-37 appearances, 1 win, 1 loss, 1 save, 5 holds in 44 IP; 0.95 WHIP and 1.43 ERA.
It is hilarious that the player that was a complete afterthought has turned into a better pitcher than the supremely hyped Daisuke Matsuzaka, at this point in their respective careers. He should be a big part of the bullpen moving forward.
Scott Atchison-42 appearances, 2 wins, 1 loss, 5 holds in 51.1 IP; 0.99 WHIP and 1.58 ERA.
Who knows how much longer old man Atchison's bionic arm will stay attached to his body? He was great before his forearm injury but he shocked everyone by returning late in the season. Ride the wave.
Clayton Mortensen-26 appearances, 1 win, 1 loss, 1 hold in 42 IP; 1.21 WHIP and 3.21 ERA.
A mystery man, he was what the Red Sox received from the Rockies for Marco Scutaro. He was the mop-up guy but he proved that he is deserving of a better role than that.
Andrew Miller-53 appearances, 3 wins, 2 losses, 13 holds in 40.1 IP; 1.19 WHIP and 3.35 ERA.
We've all accepted long ago that Miller will never live up to his crazy potential. Still, this season was a step forward for him. He proved to be a capable lefty set-up guy.
Craig Breslow was good after coming over from the Diamondbacks but he only made 23 appearances and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit 25 homers but he batted .222 with a .288 OBP plus 139 strikeouts in 121 games (yikes!).
Hopefully all these guys find themselves back with the Red Sox next spring, they all earned another chance and proved they were winners amid all the drama and losing.
I can never recall seeing a coach in professional sports in New England that was more overwhelmed by all the day to day duties of his job. I don't know if it's because the game had completely passed him by, his age or what but this whole entire season was a complete joke and you could never get away from that fact. Every awkward press conference, interview session and shots of him in the dugout made you almost feel bad for Bobby V. That is if he wasn't one of the biggest egomaniacs in the world.
We have to make sure to quell our temporary joy over this move since while it feels good to kick him to the curb, the real question is who GM Ben Cherington, team president Larry Lucchino and owners John Henry and Tom Werner choose next? On the one hand, they literally couldn't pick someone more incompetent or less ready to handle the rigors of a big market, high-pressure team that is undergoing a massive rebuilding project. Then again, if they made that terrible decision last year to hire Valentine, who's to say they won't completely whiff again?
Valentine was an embarrassment to the Red Sox and fans and it would be a waste of all our time to run through the litany of mistakes and head-scratching moves he made in his short stay here. All you have to know is that Boston finished in last place in the AL East for the first time since 1992 and 69-93 was their worst overall record since 1965. It is doubtful that anybody could have wrung much more out of that historically awful team but there is only one way to go now: up in the standings while slowly bringing back interest in the team.
Getting rid of him was only step one in a long process that also has to include bringing in much better players, namely pitchers, and building some semblance of a team. You know, a group of guys with chemistry. Like the A's, Orioles, Reds or Giants to name a few. Look around at the teams left standing in the MLB playoffs this October and you realize how far away the Red Sox were from the playoffs in many aspects.
New England was an uneven 2-2 in September but if their record mirrored Jones' impact and output, they would be one of the NFL's few unbeaten squads left. He has been on the field on virtually every defensive play no matter what the formation or scenario they face. He has put up 17 tackles (9 solo, 8 assists) along with three sacks and two forced fumbles (one which Hightower returned for a TD against the Titans).
The loss to the Ravens was the one game where Jones looked like a rookie (2 assists). In the other three contests, he produced identical lines of five tackles (3 solo, 2 assists), a sack and run stuff. The other forced fumble was in Week 2 against Arizona.
I hate getting ahead of myself but you have to admit that the sky appears to be the limit for Jones. As he grows and develops more pass rushing moves, there is little doubt that he could become one of the premiere defensive players in the AFC. This award validates that and shows how much unlimited potential he possesses. For Patriots fans, when's the last time we had someone like that on the team?
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Fittingly, for Daisuke Matsuzaka's (1-7) last outing as a Red Sox (69-93, 35-46) and Bobby Valentine's final night as an MLB manager, both were thoroughly embarrassed as New York (95-67, 51-30 home) trampled Boston 14-2 at Yankee Stadium. It clinched the third AL East title in four years for the Yankees and 18th overall after the Rays beat the Orioles 4-1.
Now is when the real fun starts, we can only hope that the Red Sox owners and GM Ben Cherington come up with a better choice than Valentine. Then again, who could possibly be a worse pick? It is horrifying that last winter, after months of deliberation, that clown was their hire.
Dice-K didn't stick around long, he probably had a flight back to Japan to catch. In 2.1 innings, he allowed five earned runs on six hits with two strikeouts, a walk and two homers.
Hiroki Kuroda (16-11) went seven innings (2 earned runs, 7 hits, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks) for the Yankees, who will host the winner of Orioles-Rangers starting on Sunday in the ALDS.
It was a monster night for Robinson Cano (4 for 4, 3 runs, 6 RBIs, 2 homers) and Curtis Granderson (2 homers, 4 RBIs). Nick Swisher was 2 for 3 with a run, RBI and two walks while Alex Rodriguez (2 for 3, double, 2 runs, 2 walks) and Ichiro Suzuki (2-run double, 2 runs) contributed to the laugher for the Yanks.
Cody Ross was 2 for 3 with an RBI single, Pedro Ciriaco was 2 for 3 with a double and run while Dustin Pedroia had a double, walk and stolen base. In the near future (possibly tomorrow) after I have some time to breath and wash the stink away from this incomprehensibly bad season, I plan to write a post highlighting the few Red Sox that had good seasons (hint: those three play prominent roles). Jose Iglesias also had an RBI single, hopefully that gives him some confidence heading into the winter.
Until then, let's hope that a Men In Black type mind eraser device exists and that we can all use it to get rid of all our memories having to do with the 2012 Red Sox. They were truly the most hateable Boston sports team that I've ever seen and it would be tough to top them in that particular way.
The ironic part was that this was Brady's 21st such honor, tying the NFL record of none other than Peyton Manning who just so happens to be coming to Gillette Stadium on Sunday (4:25 p.m., CBS) with his new team-the Denver Broncos (2-2). Can you say ratings bonanza? One of the best quarterback rivalries that the league has ever known gets renewed for the first time in nearly two years since Peyton sat out last season with the Colts following neck surgery.
Brady, who received three Player of the Week awards in 2011, has now thrown for 300-plus yards in three straight games (48th of his career) and needs only one more 300-yard game to tie Hall of Famer Warren Moon for seventh place all-time in NFL history.
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
In the penultimate contest of their 2012, Boston (69-92, 35-45 away) had a 3-1 lead on the Yankees (94-47, 50-30 home) heading into the bottom of the ninth at Yankee Stadium. No sooner had I tweeted "not over yet" but Curtis Granderson (2 runs, 2 hits, walk, stolen base) singled and pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez tied it with a two-run homer (his 19th of the season) off closer Andrew Bailey (3rd blown save).
Ibanez was the hero again in the 12th with an RBI single against Andrew Miller (3-2) that scored Francisco Cervelli with the winning run. If you're looking for something to root for Red Sox-related tomorrow night (7:05 p.m., NESN) in Game 162, you want Boston to lose and Miami to win. If that happens, they'll "earn" the No. 6 draft pick in 2013. By virtue of their loss and Toronto's win, the Red Sox sealed last place in the AL East for the first time in 20 years. Marvelous.
The Yankees all too predictable comeback win was extremely important to them since Baltimore had already beaten Tampa Bay 1-0. This means both teams are tied heading into the final regular season game with the AL East up for grabs.
Playing with a broken finger, Dustin Pedroia (2 for 3, run, walk) was an inspiration with his RBI double in the first inning. Cody Ross knocked him in with a sacrifice fly and the Red Sox led 2-0.
Jon Lester went five innings, allowing one run (0 earned) on eight hits with one strikeout and one walk. David Phelps went 5.1 innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits with four strikeouts and two walks.
Eduardo Nunez (2 for 3 with double) got the Yanks a run with an infield single in the second inning. James Loney (2 hits) hit a solo homer (2nd with the Red Sox) off Rafael Soriano in the 9th which gave Boston a temporary 3-1 advantage.
Mark Melancon (1.2 scoreless innings) and Vicente Padilla (1 scoreless inning) were able to clean up Bailey's mess but the final salt in the wound was that our old drinking buddy Derek Lowe (9-11) earned the win for New York with two scoreless innings of his own.
Pedro Ciriaco was 2 for 4 with a walk and stolen base in the loss. Derek Jeter (double), Nick Swisher (double, 2 walks), Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano each had two hits for the Bombers.
If you like car crashes-and who doesn't-make sure to check out the season finale of the Dead Man Walking Red Sox. Witness Bobby Valentine and Daisuke Matsuzaka's (1-6) last game in a Red Sox uniform. Hiroki Kuroda (15-11) gets to send this historically bad team to another tumultuous offseason filled with drama. I can't even predict what wacky thing those two jokers will pull? Perhaps Bobby V gets thrown out during batting practice or Dice-K finally unleashes the gyro ball? Whatever happens, it is destined to be hilarious.