Tuesday, January 31, 2006

SOX GET ANOTHER FORMER MARLIN

The Red Sox have reportedly signed free agent defensive short-stop Alex Gonzalez to a one year deal worth $3 million according to the Boston Herald. Gonzalez will not hit much over .250 and his minimal power, but he has a good glove and will bat 9th. Although the Red Sox may have lost something offensively this off-season, their defense is much improved. Loretta, Gonzalez, and Crisp are all solid fielders. Mike Lowell, JT Snow, and Varitek are all Gold Glove winners.

Is it me, or do we get an overwhelming amount of players from the Marlin organization? Lowell, Beckett, Clement and Gonzalez are all former Marlins. Former Sox players Edgar Renteria, Kevin Millar, Matt Mantei, and others were all Marlins. This is the second time this season that the Red Sox have gotten talent from the Marlin organization. Let's hope Lowell, Beckett, and Gonzalez fare better than Renteria and Millar.

Red Sox projected lineup:
CF Crisp
RF Nixon
DH Ortiz
LF Ramirez
C Varitek
3B Lowell
1B Youkilis/Snow
2B Harris/Graffanino/Loretta
SS Gonzalez

Sunday, January 29, 2006

DAMON TAKES RESPONSIBILITY FOR CLUBHOUSE CHEMISTRY

David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Kevin Millar, Manny Ramirez, Orlando Cabrera, Trot Nixon, Mark Bellhorn, Jason Varitek, Bill Mueller, Curt Schilling, Terry Francona, Gabe Kapler, Mike Timlin, Allan Embree, Pokey Reese, Doug Mirabelli, Dave Roberts, Tim Wakefield, Kevin Youkilis, Bronson Arroyo, Derek Lowe, Keith Foulke, and the rest of the 2004 World Series Champion Red Sox had little to do with having such great clubhouse chemistry that allowed them to win the World Series 2 years ago. It was all Johnny Damon. That's according to Johnny.

This is from the Eagle Tribune:

"'I remember my first day with the Red Sox and I could not believe how boring the team was, how boring the clubhouse was and how miserable everybody was,' said Damon. 'I like to think that I helped change how fans looked at the team, how the media looked at the team and how the team got together and it was different. How the players stopped being afraid of failing, which I think was why we were able to accomplish something that hadn't been done in a very long time. Now I want to bring that attitude to New York. You must win and you must have confidence, because if you don't have that in this city it will definitely eat you up.'"

Everytime he is photographed or quoted, it becomes easier and easier to not like him.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

SOX GET CRISP, FANS GET AGGRAVATED IN VIRTUAL WAITING ROOMS

I didn't even bother this year. I didn't go to the virtual waiting rooms to wait for hours while someone else bought tickets. Hopefully the Sox will offer some deals for members of the Nation and I intend on going to Toronto and maybe Baltimore and New York to see the Sox play.

The bigger news is that the Red Sox got center-fielder Coco Crisp. They had to rework the deal, adding cash considerations along with a player to be named later or more cash considerations. The important thing is that we have a solid center-fielder. Not only that, David Riske is a decent releiver.

This deal really takes the pressure off the whole short-stop situation. Most teams don't have really good offensive short-stops so even if we don't get a new one, we won't be interrible shape.

Here's what our lineup currently/potentially looks like:

1. CF Crisp
2. RF Trot Nixon
3. DH David Ortiz
4. LF Manny Ramirez
5. C Jason Varitek
6. 3B Mike Lowell
7. 1B Kevin Youkilis/JT Snow
8. 2B Mark Loretta
9. SS Alex Cora

Not as great as 2003-2005, but still not that bad.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

THEO IS BACK AS GENERAL MANAGER

Theo Epstein will be the Red Sox General Manager. Again. His Grover Cleveland like absence and return will go down in baseball history along with the comings and goings of Billy Martin in the New York Yankees organization.

Theo said there were "fundamental disagreements among members of upper management" about organizational priorities.

"This lack of a shared vision, plus the stress of a far-too-public negotiation, strained some relationships, including mine with Larry Lucchino."

Basically, the Red Sox brass and Theo disagreed on where to go with the team (perhaps it was a large philosophy like pitching versus hitting or younger vs. older or perhaps it was just a bunch of smaller decisions like what to do with Damon, Manny, and the bullpen). Then the negotiations got public (Shaughnessey column) and Theo decided to leave.

Hoyer will be the assistant GM and Cherington will be the VP of player personnel. Theo will also go from senior VP to executive VP.

This whole thing has been insane. Apparently Hoyer and Cherington were told their positions were only temporary until Theo returned. Apparently the Red Sox knew he'd come back all along. I wonder if all of that is actually true.


MOTA FAILED A PHYSICAL?
The Red Sox have been talking with the Indians for a deal for center-fielder Coco Crisp. They reportedly agreed on a deal 2 days ago that would send prospect Andy Marte, who we got for Edgar Renteria; releiver Guillermo Mota, who came along with Mike Lowell in the trade with the Marlins; and long-time AAAA catcher (those four A's are intentional) Kelley Shoppach. We would reportedly be getting young outfielder Coco Crisp, young set-up man David Riske, and young catcher Josh Bard. However, according to ESPN.com, Guillermo failed a physical. If so, that would nullify the deal entirely. However, Mota's agent claims Guillermo didn't fail a physical. Which is true? I have no clue.

Andy Katz, Mota's agent, claims that he didn't fail a physical, but the Indians had some concerns about his shoulder. To me, that is failing. When a person passes a physical for a trade or for the army or for a job, that means that the organization administering the physical has no concerns about that person's ability to get the job done. Obviously, Cleveland has concerns. Obviously, that means Mota failed. The deal will have to be reworked or completely dumped.

If anyone can sort out that mess, it is Theo. It's good to have him back.

In Theo We Trust. Again.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

MLB DEMONSTRATES HOW CLASSY THEY ARE


From the people who brought you this infamous and equally as classy item:



I know Major League Baseball is trying to make money off this rivalry, but let street vendors make these shirts. They try to make them look like street vendor shirts with the intentionally crappy lettering and the "gritty" look of the shirt. However, $19.95 plus S&H is a bit more than what street vendors sell their stock for. It is funny how MLB isn't selling a shirt like this one:



Even though they are better made, and are much more clever. I guess we just have more clever guys in Boston making t-shirts then they do in New York so they need MLB's help.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

UNCOORDINATED

The third Bellichick coordinator in two years to leave the Patriots organisation and become a head coach is Eric Mangini. He will be coaching the hapless New York Jets next year. Once again, the Pats are left with no coordinators.

As much as the salary cap, the way the draft is structured, and free agency prevent dynasties, I think the coaching system does so even more. If you're team is winning, other teams, that are desperate for quality coaches and executives, will come running to raid your organisation.

At least there wasn't any bad blood and no Dan Shaughnessey article with leaked material and no Patriots press conference to "react" to the loss of a member of the team.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

PATRIOTS TURN OVER REIGNS OF POWER

The Patriots reign of supremacy in the NFL is over. At least for this season. They weren't dominated, or beaten by a much more talented team. They were outplayed. They were outplayed because they made mistakes and their opponent capitalized. It was the oppositte of New England Patriots football.

The Pats first drive started off well enough. A 2 yard run by Dillon then a 9 yard catch by Branch for a 1st down. Evans caught a 3 yarded then Dillon was stopped for 1 yard. A false start penalty turned a 3rd and 6 into a 3rd and 11. That's a huge difference. Brady threw an incomplete and Miller punted the ball away.

The Patriots defense started playing well. They stopped Anderson for only 1 on first down. After a false start penalty, they allowed a 10 yard catch by Lelie, but stopped Anderson on 3rd and 4 and forced the punt.

Brady missed Fauria then hit Branch for 9 yards. Corey Dillon crossed midfield for 11 more yards on 3rd and 1. Then Mankins had a false start. Brady threw a screen to Dillon for 9 yards, then Faulk ran for 4. On 3rd and 2, Faulk got the handoff but only got 1. On 4th and 1, the Patriots lined up in a power formation but changed to a spread. Denver adjusted nicely, blitzed, and forced Brady to make an off target throw to Fauria. The play call was questionable and the execution was terrible. Had they gotten the 1st down, they might have gotten into field goal range and amy have even gotten into the end zone. Instead, they turned the ball over on downs at the Denver 36. They also could have pooched it and tried to pin Denver back.

Plummer started the drive with a pass to Lelie for 5 yards. He then scrambled for 6 more. Bell got his first carry for 3 more to midfield. Plummer threw an incomplete, and then hit Rod Smith for 5, but was shy of the 1st down. The Broncos punted and pinned the Patriots down on our own 4 yard line. The field position battle had gone froma stalemate to a decidely Denver advantage.

Brady missed Branch on 1st and 10 then Dillon got 5 on 2nd. Brady threw incomplete to Givens on 3rd and 5. The Patriots punted but Denver was offside so the Patriots punted again. It was a 5 yard penalty on 4th and 5, but it was a long 4th and 5 so the penalty didn't give us a first down. We re-punted and Denver got the ball back on their 37.

Plummer hit Leli for 15 yards to our 48. Anderson ran right for 4 more then was stuffed on 2nd and 6. The first quarter ended. Plummer hit Rod Smith for 15 yards on 3rd and 6. The Broncos were picking on Hobbs and they wouldn't stop for the remainder of the night. On 1st and 10 from our 29, Plummer hit Lelie for 3 yards. Plummer threw incomplete on 2nd and 7. On 3rd and 7, Plummer threw incomplete. The Broncos were penalized for holding. The Pats could have declined the penalty and make it 4th and 7 from the 26, forcing Denver to attempt a 43 yard field goal, or they could have accepted it, pusehd Denver back 10 yards (which would have made it a 53 yard attempt if Denver didn't convert, certainly not that far for Jason Elam in Colorado's thin air), and made it 3rd and 17. The Patriots would pay for their arrogance. Plummer hit Putzier for 24 yards to our 12. Bell ran for 8 more, then 1 more. On 3rd and 1, Plummer attempted a QB sneak but it was stuffed. The Broncos went for it on 4th down but didn't covert.

The Patriots got the ball back and didn't allow any points after the long 3rd down conversion, but they got the ball back on their 3. The drive was essentially an effort to get the ball away from their own goal line. Dillon ran right for 2 yards. He then went up the middle for 2 more. Mankins was called for a false start that erased 3 of those yards. It went from 3rd and 6 from the 7 to 3rd and 9 from the 4. That doesn't sound like much but it changes the play calling. Faulk got some room for Miller and ran 5 yards to the 9. Miller punted it to the Denver 44. The Broncos were definately winning the field position battle.

Plummer hit Anderson for 14 yards, then Smith for 11. Anderson was met at the line by Bruschi for a gain of 1. Plummer threw a pass towards Lelie but Samuel made a great play and intercepted it. The play was originally ruled an incomplete but the challenge reversed the play and made it an interception. The Patriots would start from the 11.

On 1st and 10, Brady nailed a wide open Andre Davis for 51 yards to the Denver 38. After an incomplete, Branch had a 13 yard reception. Faulk ran up the middle for 3 yards. That was followed by 2 incompletions and the Patriots were forced to kick a field goal. Vinatieri hit a line drive from 40 yards out. 3-0 Patriots.

The Broncos went 3 and out and punted from their 46. It was a good one as Tim Dwight fair caught it at the 6 yard line. Once again, Denver was in control of field position.

The Patriots still had some momentum. They had the lead and the defense had just forced a 3 and out. Brady hit Givens for 21 yards up to the 28 yard line. Dillon then had a nice 8 yard run on 1st and 10. On 2nd and 2 on the 36, Faulk got the carry. He got 3 yards for a 1st down but defensive end Courtney Brown forced his first fumble of the season and fell on it, giving the Broncos the ball at the New England 40. It changed the tide of the game in a big way.

The Broncos got incredibly lucky. On 1st down, they went for a homerun ball to Lelie in the end zone. Asante Samuel covered him perfectly, playing the ball while Lelie tried to push off. A VERY late flag was thrown by the ref on the opposite side of the field and pass interferance was called. The play looked clean and if anyone was to be penalized on the play, it should have been Lelie. The Broncos got a 1st and goal on the 1 and Mike Anderson punched it in with ease. 7-3 Broncos.

The pass interferance call was complete and total bullshit. However, the Broncos shouldn't have even had the ball on our 40. We should have had it. We also didn't put up much of a fight on the goal line. I know it must have been demoralizing to endure such a bad call, but that is no excuse.

There was 1:42 left i nthe 1st half and the Patriots got the ball back with time to put up another score. They didn't have the ball for long. Ellis Hobbs, who began returning kickoffs in the middle of the season, fumbled the ball. Sauerbrun, the punter and kickoff kicker for Denver, forced the fumble. Hobbs should be embarrassed by that. The Broncos fell on it at the 39 yard line.

Putzier caught a 5 yard pass, then Bell ran for 2. After an incomplete, Elam kicked a 50 yard field goal. 10-3 Broncos. In less than a minute of game time, the Patriots went from driving and up 3-0, to going into the locker room down by a touchdown.

The Broncos got the ball to begin the 2nd half and the Pats forced a 3 and out. We got the ball back on our 28 after a 13 yard return by Dwight.

Dillon ran for 3 on 1st down, then Brady hit Graham for 18 yards to the 49. After an incomplete, Brady hit Givens for 14. Faulk ran up the middle for 5 yards, then Dillon was stuffed for no gain. On 3rd and 5 from the Denver 32, Brady hit Branch for 10 yards. Faulk got 2 on 1st down, then Givens caught a 6 yard pass to make it 3rd and 3. Brady threw incomplete on 3rd and 2 from the 14. A running play would have been nice there, if you ask me. We might not have gotten it, but we may have gotten close enough for a QB sneak and we've all seen how good Brady is at those, this season. We were forced to attempt a field goal and Vinatieri hit a 32 yarder. 10-6 Broncos.

The Broncos moved the ball on their next drive, mostly on a 19 yard pass play to Rod Smith. On 3rd and 6, the Patriots got to Plummer and Vrabel sacked him for a loss of 7. Sauerbrun punted to our 8 but Dwight was able to return it to the 22.

Brady hit Troy Brown on 1st and 10 for 33 yards. Branch then got 26 more on the next play. The Patriots offense looked like it was finally clicking. They were picking up blitzes and finding empty spots in the coverage. Brady hit Givens for 9, then Dillon ran for 5 and the 1st down. It was 1st and goal from the 5 when Deion Branch had a false start penalty. The penalty was bigger then it appeared, if you ask me. Those last 10 yards are the hardest to get because the defense only has 10 yards of field and 10 yards of end zone to cover. On 1st and goal from the 10, Brady hit Branch for 5. He then missed Givens in the end zone. On 3rd and goal, Brady got greedy and threw to Troy Brown. Champ Bailey, one of the best CBs in the league, was covering Brown like a rug. He picked it off and it was off to the races. He ran 100 yards before foolishly slowing up. Ben Watson nailed him and the ball popped out of Bailey's hands and out of bounds. It looked like it went out of bounds in the end zone which would have been a touchback for New England. However, it was ruled a fumble at the 1 and there was inconclusive evidence to overturn that. There simply weren't any overhead cameras in the end zone that was 95 yards away from where the play started. It was a questionable call, but the Pats couldv'e avoided it by not throwing the interception to begin with. It would have been a nice boost for the Pats to get that touchback, though. It wouldv'e moved the ball, 75 yards back from where the play started, but it would have taken some wind out of the Broncos. Instead, Denver all too easily ran it in around Larry Izzo and the Patriots defense. 17-6 Broncos.

We weren't in terrible shape to start off the fourth quarter. We were down by two scores with 15:00 left to play. We had moved the ball on Denver's defense with the pass and we had Brady, Branch, Givens, Brown, Davis, and Watson as offensive weapons. We still could have won it.

Dillon got a 1st down on a 17 yard run to begin the 4th. Brady then missed Davis but hit Faulk twice for 14 and then 6. On 2nd and 4 from the Denver 25, Dillon was stuffed for no gain. Brady then threw incomplete to Brown. Vinatieri missed a 43 yard field goal and the Broncos got the ball back. It wasn't the end of the world, though. There was still 12:48 left on the clock and Denver hadn't been able to run the ball that well on us unless the ball was on the 1.

Plummer missed Smith to begin the drive, then he hit Leli for 17 yards to midfield. Anderson ran for 6, then 2. On 3rd and 2, Plummer was sacked by Seymour near the line of scrimmage. A holding penalty was declined. Sauerbrun punted the ball. Brown was back to return it for the first time that night. Brown has been the return man whenever the ball is expected to be punted behind the 20 yard line because Brown has better catching ability than Dwight. He called for a fair catch, but he muffed it. He wasn't able to recover it, but Denver was.

Anderson ran for 3, then 8. On 1st and goal from the 4, Plummer threw to Smith in the end zone. 24-6 Broncos.

The game wasn't totally over, though. Brady hit Branch for 73 yards to begin the enxt drive. He then hit Givens for 4 more yards. In 0:33, the Pats cut a little off the Denver lead. 24-13 Broncos.

The Pats defense had to stop Denver from getting a 1st down. It was a 2 score game and there was 8:00 on the clock still. However, Plummer and the Broncos offense caught the Pats off guard and Rod Smith caught a 42 yard pass. Anderson ran for 6, then 3, then 2 and a 2nd Bronco 1st down. Bell was stuffed, then Plummer ran for 3. Bell ran for 5 on 3rd down. Elam came in and kicked a 34 yard field goal to make it a two touchdown game. 27-13 Broncos. They not only made it a 2 touchdown lead, they also took 4:45 off the clock. Had they not been able to get a 1st down, they might have taken half of that off the clock.

With 3:14 on the clock, the Patriots needed a big play once more. They didn't get one. Brady threw an incomplete, then an interception as he threw into triple coverage. The game was over.

Anderson ran for 4, then 18. The 1st down was all they needed. Plummer kneeled three times and the clock ran out on the Patriots season.

Playoff football is like a game of chess. It is more physical than chess, but the concept is the same. Two teams of near equal strength position themselves, try to wear down their opponent, wait for a mistake, then capitalize on it. That is how we won those three Super Bowls. We didn't make too many mistakes in the previous 10 playoff victories. When we did, we made up for them with big plays. We also cpaitalized on our opponent's mistakes. We also put ourselves in position to capitalize on those mistakes. It was the exact oppositte in Denver last night.

This game, like the October meeting between these two teams, was a game of big plays. Here are the plays that lost us the game. Some are obvious, some aren't as obvious.

12:24 1st quarter - Neal false start penalty turns a 3rd and 6 into a 3rd and 11, Patriots fail to convert, are forced to punt.

5:30 1st quarter - Brady throws incomplete to Fauria on 4th and 1, Denver gets the ball and an edge in field position.

2:45 1st quarter - Sauerbrun pins the Patriots at the 4 yard line with a 41 yard punt, Patriots forced to dedicate their drive to moving the ball away from their goal line.

2:30 1st quarter - Dillon gets 5 yards on 2nd and 10. A gain of 6 would have eventually resulted in a 1st down after the offside penalty on the punt.

13:35 2nd quarter - Patriots accept a holding penalty on 3rd and long. Denver doesn't score on the drive, but the Pats get the ball back on their 3, and are forced to dedicate another drive to moving the ball a few yards forward.

13:26 2nd quarter - Patriots give up 24 yard pass to Putzier on 3rd and 17. The Broncos drive continues and is able to pin the Patriots in the shadows of their own goal posts.

9:28 2nd quarter - Mankins called for false start on 3rd and 6 from the 7. It pushed the ball back 3.5 yards and changes the play calling. The Pats don't convert the 3rd and 9 and the Broncos get the ball back on their 44.

4:01 and 3:57 2nd quarter - Brady throws incomplete to Watson and Branch in Denver territory, forced the Pats to kick a field goal.

2:48 2nd quarter - Sauerbrun has another great punt, pinning the Pats at their 6 yard line.

2:00 2nd quarter- Faulk fumbles on the 39 yard line. Broncos recover.

1:51 2nd quarter - BS pass interferance call, Broncos get 1st and goal from the 1.

1:45 2nd quarter - Not even a semblance of a goal line stand by the Patriots.

1:42 2nd quarter - Ellis Hobbs fumbles kickoff return, Broncos kick field goal.

2:12 3rd quarter - Deion Branch flagged for a false start on 1st and goal from the 5. 1st and goal from the 5 is a lot easier than 1st and goal from the 10.

1:03 3rd quarter - Brady throws a pass to Champ Bailey, Bailey returns it 100 yards to the 1. Watson knocks the ball loose and it appears to go out of bounds but there is inconclusive evidence to overturn it.

0:47 3rd quarter - Once again, no goal line stand, Anderson walks in pretty much untouched.

13:17 4th quarter - Dillon stopped for no gain on 2nd and 4 from the Denver 25.

12:57 4th quarter - Brady can't connect with Brown on 3rd and 4 from the 25.

12:53 4th quarter - Vinatieri misses 43 yard field goal to the right.

10:21 4th quarter - Troy Brown muffs a punt, Broncos recover.

10:10 4th quarter - Anderson gets 3, then 8 to make it 1st and goal. Pats defense again doesn't look good defending their end zone.

8:00 4th quarter - Plummer hits Smith for 42 yards, gets a 1st down, and gets close to field goal range.

5:46 4th quarter - On 3rd and 1 from the New England 26, Anderson gets his 3rd straight carry for a gain of 2.

3:08 4th quarter - Down by 2 TDs, Brady throws a desperation pass into triple coverage. John Lynch catches it, effectively ending the game.

Denver scored 24 of their 27 points off of turnovers. We were only able to force one turnover and we only got 3 out of it. Had Faulk not fumbled, we probably would have punted. Had Hobbs not fumbled, we might have gone down field and kicked a field goal. Had Brown not muffed a punt, we probably would have punted.

Our defense played well, except after turnovers. They didn't allow any long scoring drives until they got worn out at the end of the game. They sucked in the red zone but were forced to defend it because the offense and special turned the ball over or because the refs made a terrible call. The only time the defense and the defense alone allowed the Broncos to get into the red zone, they stopped Denver on a 4th and 1 and got the ball back.

Brady did not have that great of a game. He threw for 341 yards, but he also threw 2 INTs. He had 16 incompletions and a lot of those were inaccurate throws on his part. He was under an extreme amount of pressure from Denver's blitzers, but that also means he had open men to throw to. It wasn't as if Denver was being surprising with their blitzing, everyone knew they were going to blitz. They disguised WHO was blitzing, but only on one play did they disguise the blitz altogether.

We averaged 4 yards a carry, but that stat is about skewed. We only had 20 real carries as a team. 21 if you count the Brady kneel down at the end of the 1st half, which I don't count. Throw in Faulk's fumble and the running aspect of our offense just wasn't that good. Dillon was stuffed for less than 3 yards on 7 of his 13 carries. Last year, he would improve as the game went on. Last night, he didn't. We didn't have any power run game and it showed on a lot of 3rd and short situations, as well as that 4th and short. I would have liked to see Heath Evans get a carry here or there just to establish the threat of a power run. Faulk's day on the ground was worse then Dillon's. He averaged just over 3 yards a carry and his fumble was the first big momentum swing against us in the game.

The receivers had a good game. Branch had an impressive 153 yards and was a favorite target for Brady with 8 receptions. Givens had 54 and a TD. Davis only had that big one for 51 and Brown only caught one ball. In fact, Brady didn't do a great job of distributing the ball. Branch and Givens combined for 13 receptions and the rest of the team only had 7. Ben Watson didn't catch a single pass.

Our special teams were not that good. We had good coverage teams, but our return team was lacking. Hobbs and Brown each put the ball on the ground in special teams play. Miller was forced to punt out of the end zone a few times but he never got off any big kicks that went 60 or so yards in the mountain air. Sauerbrun was able to pin us back a few times and it essentially killed drives before they even started. Vinatieri also missed a field goal. We didn't have any big plays on special teams which had been a trademark of ours over the past few seasons. All year, we didn't have too many big plays like blocks or TD returns or turnovers forced.

Our defense played well enough for us to win the game. They stopped the Denver running game and held the Broncos to 96 on the ground. They got some pressure on Plummer and sacked him twice. They also picked him off. They couldn't shut down Rod Smith, though. He had 6 grabs for 96 yards and a touchdown.

A telling stat is where we started our drives and where Denver started them. In the 1st quarter, we started at our 25, our 35, and our 4. Denver started at their 26, 36, and 37. In the 2nd quarter, we started at our 3, our 11, our 7, and our 11. Denver started at their 44, their 38, our 40, and our 39. In the 3rd quarter, we started at our 28, 22 and 29. Denver started at their 22, 20, and our 1. In the 4th, we started at the 23 and the 11. Denver started at their 33, our 15, their 23, and their 39. On average for the game, we started at our 17. Denver had an average starting position on their 45 yard line.

Offensively, we outgained Denver by 134 yards. But they had a head start of 28 yards on average for each posession. We also had 82 yards in penalties (39 of which came from that BS interferance call). We never allowed a sack, we had more yards per carry, and more yards per throw. We lost because we screwed up in big plays. It is that simple. Denver won because they capitalized on big plays.

So, the run is over. For now. This team isn't looking to break up, but they might lose yet another coordinator in Eric Mangini. The Jets are looking at him to be their new head coach. The team has some holes to fill, but not many. I think we need a shutdown cornerback. Having a guy like Ty Law allowed us to shut down receivers like Marvin Harrison. We could have used a guy like Law to help against Rod Smith. We also need an inside linebacker. We need a blocking and power fullback. We might have that in Evans, but Bellichick doesn't seem to think so and he would know better than I.

Next season, our schedule looks like this: We'll play Houston, Indianapolis, Chicago, Detroit, and Denver in Foxborough. We'll play Jacksonville, Tennessee, Green Bay, Minnesota, and Cincinatti on the road. The Jets will be bad but probably not as bad as this year. The Bills will be just as bad. The Dolphins will be better. We should go 5-1 within the division again, splitting with Miami.We should win at least 5 of our non-divisional games. We do have some tough ones, though. Indy, Chicago, Jacksonville, Denver, and Cincinatti will all be tough games, but I think we can win 3 of those.

On the bright side of all of this, won't it be nice not to have the 32nd pick in the draft?

Friday, January 13, 2006

MILLAR ENDS UP IN BALTIMORE

The Orioles signed former Red Sox first baseman/outfielder/double play grounder into Kevin Millar. Millar was best known for his clubhouse value and not his bat, or glove. Millar started off in Boston in 2003 and played very well, knocking in 96 runs. In 2004, he knocked in only 74 but he did hit .297. Then last year, he was most unimpressive. Nine homeruns, 50 RBI and a .272 average in far too much playing time. Now, he's gone and will play first base for Baltimore. I can't say I will shed a tear. However, he is another member of the 2004 Championship team that will be leaving and considering how many members of that team have left, it is somewhat sad.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

SOX BOLSTER PEN

The Red Sox probably aren't going to have an amazing offense next season, but they will be in a lot of games thanks to their pitching, particularly the revamped bullpen. The Sox just signed righthanded releiver Julian Tavarez. You may remember Tavarez from his Game 1 loss in the 2004 World Series.

Julian is a guy that is capable of making a lot of appearances. He's made 151 in the past 2 seasons for the Cardinals. He's pitched 213.2 innings over the past 3 seasons. Before being a releiver, he was a starter so his arm has durability. He's also saved 19 games over the past 3 seasons so he is capable of finishing a game here or there. He doesn't give up the long ball, allowing only 8 homeruns in the past 3 seasons. Over the past 2 seasons, he's struck out 2.5 times as many men as he's walked. His ERA over the past 3 years is a nice 3.21. Before then he struggled but that was in mixed duties as starter and releiver. I think he adds a good deal of depth to the bullpen and giving Francona another option late in the game is always a good thing.

I know, we still need a center-fielder, but at least we've got some pitching now. And frnakly, 'd rather have pitching than hitting. Of course, I'd rather have both than just one.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

PATS/BRONCOS PREVIEW

28-20. That is the number that Broncos fans will probably be saying to themselves as they go to sleep every night this week. Yes, the Broncos did indeed beat the Patriots in the beginning of the season. Yes, the game wasn't even as close as the score suggests. Yes, the Broncos are comprised similarly. However, the Patriots are not.

Tedy Bruschi's name is not on the Patriots injury report this week. That's one difference. Richard Seymour will be playing. There's another difference. Corey Dillon will be playing. One more difference. Kevin Faulk will be playing. Another difference. Troy Brown will be playing. Yet another difference. Vince Wilfork, Roosevelt Colvin, Ben Watson, and the entire offensive line have all played much, much, much better lately than they did in week 6 against Denver. We're a totally different team now and I think it will show on the field.

Let's look back at why we lost in week 6. Drive by drive. We started off with the ball, but the drive stalled at midfield, thanks in part to a no gain 1st down run by Amos Zeroue. Brady was also throwing only to Givens and Branch, the only truly dependable receivers at the time.

The Pats stopped the Broncos in three plays but failed to fully capitalize on good field position. We had the ball on the Denver 30. Zeroue got 2, then he got 2 more, then there was a holding penalty which set up 3rd and 1, then Pass got stuffed for no gain. We then kicked a field goal but with a running game we mightv'e gotten more out of the drive.

The Broncos punted, then we punted, pinning them back to their 3 yard line. Then we let up a 72 yard pass play. Duane Starks, who is no longer an active member of the team, was the cover man who got burnt on the play. The Broncos easily got the 5 additional yards for a TD.

The Pats began their response drive with a gift from the Broncos, a roughing the passer play. The Pats felt so touched by this gesture that they lost 5 yards on a 1st down run by Amos Zeroue. The Pats eventually punted.

The Broncos next drive was highlighted by a 55 yard pass to Ashley Lelie. He was covered by...Duane Starks. A few all too easy running plays and the Broncos were in the end zone again.

After a few exchanges of posession, the Broncos got the ball and Tatum Bell busted a 68 yard run through the middle of the Patriots defense. Guess who plays there? Wilfork, Seymour, and Bruschi!

That was the first half and that was pretty much the game. The Broncos sealed it with a drive to begin the 2nd half. They were up 28-3 and sat back while we finally woke up and tried to get back into the game. We couldn't, though.

I think the Patriots are going to play much, much, much better than they did back in October. I think they're going to pressure Plummer much better, protect against the deep ball better, and figure out Denver's routes. The Patriots defense plays QBs much better the 2nd time they face them in a season. The TD-INT ratio is reversed. The running game will be difficult to stop, but if we can score points and force them to pass the ball, we'll be in great shape. I think we will score points. Our offensive line is playing great, our run game is solid overrall, and Brady is rolling along with the receivers.

Prediction: Patriots 31, Broncos 20

JOE THORNTON'S REVENGE, RICE SCREWED


Joe Thornton never had a chance to help his new team beat his old team. He was ejected within minutes of the outset of the game for a check from behind on Bruins defenseman Hal Gill. Gill was injured on the play and Thornton got a game misconduct for the hit. The Sharks didn't really need him as they went on to an easy 6-2 victory over the lowly Bruins.

Jim Rice fell just 53 votes and 9% short of the required votes to be elected into the Hall of Fame. This was his best chance to get in due to the lack of any standout players on the ballot this year. Only Bruce Sutter got in. Next year, however, Ripken, McGwire, and Gwynn will all be eligible for election. Tommy John somehow got 154 votes.

I think Rice deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. He was an all-star 8 times, the MVP of the 1978 season. He has a .298 career average, 1,451 RBI, and led the league in HRs 3 times. If Ozzie Smith and his .262 batting average, 26 HRs, and 793 RBI are in the hall, I think Jim Rice deserves to be in there as well.

Monday, January 09, 2006

TEJADA AND MANNY: MAKE UP YOUR MINDS!

Miguel Tejada has apparently called the Baltimore Orioles from his Domincan Republic home and has rescinded his request to be traded.

Newsday article taken from the Baltimore Sun

This means that the Orioles would probably want more than Manny, Clement, Marte, and cash. They'd probably want Larry Luchino's first born son and a piece of the gate at Fenway Park now that Tejada doesn't want to be traded. I don't know what changed his mind. Maybe he didn't want to go to any of the teams that were interested in him. What does that say about us?

Manny is a bit less clear on this whole situation. He said one thing, his agent said something more vague, and there is no real clear direction to go in. Does Manny want to stay, does he want to go somewhere else?

The Phillies may be interested in Ramirez. There were some rumors going around baseball that the Phillies were willing to deal for Tejada then send Tejada to Boston for Manny and a pitcher. There may be a possible deal involved with Ramirez. Of course, Manny is a 10-5 guy which means he'd have to aprove the trade. Bobby Abreau would probably be coming the other way, but he too has a no trade clause and a contract that could cause complications.

The Sox are rumored to be talking to the Athletics about a trade involving David Wells. The trade might also involve the Dodgers. The goal of the trade for Boston would be to get Jay Payton back. Payton would most likely be happy in a starting role in center-field and I think he would be the best available replacement at the moment.

The Sox are continuing to seek a short-stop. This lack of direction at short-stop has really been a demonstration of a lack of direction in the organization as a whole. We had Nomar, then we traded Nomar and got Cabrera. Then we dumped Cabrera because he wanted a 5 year deal and we had Hanley Ramirez coming up. So then we signed Renteria to a 4 year deal. And then we traded him for Marte, who we might trade for a short-stop. And then we traded Ramirez. We also sent along money with Edgar to Atlanta. Now we're offering teams more money along with current players for a short-stop. At the moment, our short-stop is Alex Cora, a fine bench player, but he is hardly an elite player.

Alex Gonzalez is now an eligible free agent. The Sox are talking with the D-Rays about Julio Lugo. They may have to use more prospects and spend more money to fill the gaping hole at short-stop. Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal. Short-stop isn't a production position. But the Sox have depended quite a bit on offensive production from the short-stop position. This is partially due to a lack of offensive production at first-base since Mo Vaughn left. That's another position we have no direction with.

There is no plan on Yawkey Way. There is no direction, no philosophy. And firing GMs, switching managers every year, then appointing co-General Managers while secretly running things with a caniving CEO leaking stories to back-stabbing opportunistic columnists, and all the while being totally confused about what to do with your team even though you have hundreds of millions to spend, a fanatically loyal fanbase, and an historic team.

Again, I look South to Foxboough. A place of direction and consistency. Thank you, Mr. Kraft, and the entire Patriots organization.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL

This has been a good and exciting start to the playoff season. We all know about the Pstriots crushing the Jaguars. The other blowout in Wild Card Weekend was the Giants falling to the Panthers 23-0. Eli Manning pulled a Peyton Manning and choked, throwing 3 INTs. The other overrated young QB in the league that benefits because of his last name, Chris Simms, also had a poor day as his Buccaneers were upset by the Redskins 17-10. Simms threw 0 TD and 2 INTs. The Steelers benefited from the loss of Carson Palmer by the Bengals and eventually got to Jon Kitna and won 31-17.

With Pittsburgh's win over Cincinnati, the Patriots will be sent to Denver on Saturday night. It should be an interesting matchup. The Broncos went 8-0 at home this season including a 28-20 victory over us on October 16. However, we had Patrick Pass and Amos Zeroue running the ball for us. Dillon didn't play. Neither did Seymour, Brown, or Faulk. Against Jacksonville, Seymour had half a sack and fell on a fumble. Brown caught a TD pass, and Faulk had 96 all purpose yards. I think we're a better team than we were back in October. Tedy Bruschi also did not play and Ben Watson did not start. We're a different and much improved team than we were in October.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

JACKSONVILLE JOKE



This game started off slow with the Patriots struggling to move the ball and the Jaguars moving the ball just as well as us. The score was 7-3 at halftime and it looked as if this game would be a repeat of the Tennessee Titans playoff game in '03.

The Pats started the game at their 28 yard line. Brady hit Faulk on a short route for 6 yards but it was called back for holding. A neutral zone infraction by the Jags made it 1st and 15 from the 23. Brady had Watson open but the pass nailed the umpire and fell incomplete. Brady missed Watson again and scrambled for 7 on 3rd and 15. Miller punted and long snapper Lonnie Paxton - who had a good day on special teams - crushed Pearman at the 33 yard line. It was the first of many hard hits.

The Jags had similar difficulties in getting things started. Fred Taylor was held to a 1 yard gain on 1st down. Leftwich hit Jimmy Smith on a line of scrimmage pass play that was sniffed out and stopped by Ellis Hobbs for no gain. Leftwich then threw to Wilford incomplete. The Jaguars punted and we got the ball back at the 22.

On 1st down, Brady hit Faulk for a gain of 12. Faulk then ran off the guard for 19 more to the Jacksonville 47. Brady hit Watson on a TE screen but the play was blown up for a loss of 3. Brady missed Patrick Pass on 2nd down. On 3rd and 13 from midfield, Brady hit a wide open Branch on a beautiful play for a gain of 20. The Jaguars were called for illegal contact which moved the ball to their 25. Faulk ran right for a yard, then Brady was sacked for a loss of 4. On 3rd and 13, Brady missed Watson down the field. Vinatieri came in for a field goal, apparently, but it would have been a 45 yarder which is very difficult in cold weather. Vinatieri took a good direct snap from Paxton - again, great game - and pooch punted it down near the end zone. Paxton downed it at the 4.

Jones started the Jacksonville drive with a gain of 4. Taylor then ran for 3. On 3rd and 3, Leftwich threw to Taylor for 2 yards before being stopped on a great effort tackle by Mike Vrabel. Fred Taylor is a difficult man to tackle one on one in the open field but Vrabel stuck with it and forced a punt. It only went 30 yards and the Pats started on the Jacksonville 43.

Dillon ran up the gut for 5 yards. He was then stopped for no gain. On 3rd and 5, Dillon hit Watson for a gain of 8. 1st and 10 from the 30 and Dillon wa sstopped for a gain of 1. Brady then ran to the left for 2 under pressure. On 3rd and 7 from the 27, Brady was sacked for a loss of 3. The Pats went for it on 4th and 10 because a 48 yard field goal would be very difficult. A bad center/QB transfer resulted in a fumble. Brady picked it up but threw incomplete to Watson. The Jaguars got it back on downs.

On 1st and 10 from his 30, a terrible snap forced taylor to fall on the ball at his 22 for a loss of 8. Leftwich then threw an incomplete pass and was hit HARD after throwing but the play technically never happened because there wasa delay of game penalty. On 2nd and 23 from the 17, Leftwich hit Jones for an 8 yard gain that ended the 1st quarter. On 3rd and 15, Leftwich was sacked by Willia McGinsit for a loss of 7. Hanson punted 46 yards to our 36 yard line. Dwight ran by the sole gunner that made it down field and ran out of bounds after a 27 yard gain to the Jacksonville 37.



Brady threw incomplete to Givens on 1st and 10. Dillon ran for 4, then Faulk ran for 18 to the 15 yard line. Brady missed Brown then Dillon ran for 4 yards. Without a huddle, Brady took the 3rd and 6 snap from the 11 and on play action found Troy Brown in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. 7-0 Patriots.



The drive began with a sack of Leftwich by Roosevelt Colvin. Leftwich then hit Wilford for 15 yards. Taylor ran up the middle for 4 yards. A delay of game penalty made it 2nd and 11 from Jacksonville's 37. Leftwich hit Smith for 19 yards, moving the ball into New England territory. Pearman got a carry to the left and got 4 yards before being greeted by Eugene "The Presence" Wilson. Wilson hit him so hard that the ball popped out. Seymour retrieved the ball and the Patriots had a 1st down.



A 6 yard run by Dillon was called back by a holding penalty. On 1st and 20, Faulk ran for only 2. Brady then hit Faulk on a screen for a 5 yard gain. On 3rd and 13, Brady threw incomplete to Givens. Miller punted and the Jags got it on the 26 yard line.

Leftwich tried a screen for a loss of 1. Jimmy Smith had an 11 yard catch on 2nd down. Then Leftwich hit Wilford for 17. The ball was on the New england 47 and Taylor ran up the middle for 7 yards. A false start penalty brought the ball back to the 40. Leftwich hit Jones for a gain of 9. On 1st and 10 from the 36, Taylor ran for a yard. Leftwich threw incomplete to Jones, then hit Wilford for 11 on 3rd and 9. After the 2 minute warning, Leftwich threw an incomplete, then the Jaguars falsely started. On 2nd and 11 Leftwich hit Williams for 11, but on 3rd and 4 he threw incomplete to Wilford. Scobee grazed the uprights with a field goal. Patriots 7, Jaguars 3.

The Pats weren't able to do anything positively to end the half except a 21 yard reception by Faulk. 7-3 at half-time. The game was about to change, dramatically in the 2nd half.

Leftwich started the 2nd half with a 14 yard pass to Matt Jones. Who? Matt Jones! Three more incompletes and the Jaguars were forced to punt. The Pats got it at their 19.



Dillon ran for a yard then branch got 16 on a pass. Dillon ran for 2 yards, then 2 more. On 3rd and 6 at the 40, Brady hit Watson for 15. Faulk continued his good night with a rush of 6 followed by a rush of 5. 1st and 10 on the Jacksonville 34. After an incomplete, the Patriots tried a little trick play. The snap went directly to Kevin Faulk, who ran across the snap-line in between the center and Brady. Andre Davis came from the wideout spot and took a handoff from Faulk. He got 13 down the right side of the field and had Brady been able to block a 300 pound defensive lineman, he would have gone all the way. On 1st and 10 from the 21, Dillon ran for a yard. Brady hit Watson for 8 yards. Watson lost the ball but Davis fell on it at the 3. Brady then threw to Givens. It was Givens 6th straight TD reception in a playoff game. 14-3 Patriots.

The Jagaurs answered with a 3 and out and were forced to punt.



Dillon ran left for 6, then right for 5. Brady threw an incomplete pass and Faulk was stopped on a run for no gain. Kaczur was called for holding on the play. On 2nd and 20 from the 30 yard line, Faulk caught a short pass for 7. Then came a big play. On 3rd and 13, Brady threw to Watson. Watson shook off the tackle of a player who had his hand in a club-cast and couldn't fully wrap up. But two other Jaguars had no excuse. They couldn't take down Bigger Ben nor could they push him out of bounds. He ran down the sidelines then turned back inside and then into the end zone. It was a 63 yard TD reception and it set the record for the Patriots longest pass play in the playoffs. 21-3 Patriots.



Fred Taylor had a 7 yard run on 1st down. Leftwich was pressured on 2nd and 3 but he found a huge hole and ran for a gain of 18 yards. He didn't evade Willie McGinist on the next play, though, and was taken down for a loss of 5. Leftwich hit Williams for 6 yards down to the New England 36. Pearman ran for 4 yards to end the 3rd quarter.

To begin the final period of play, Leftwich threw a pass to the right. His man appeared open but unbeknowst to Leftwich, Asante Samual would cut back inside off of his man and onto the route and catch the ball in stride like he was Ty Law. Samuel outran Leftwich for a 73 yard interception return for a TD. 28-3 Patriots.



The rest of the game was running out the clock and teeing off on Leftwich. McGinist got his 3rd sack of the game at 11:39 in the 4th which tied him with Bruce Smith for the all-time playoff sack record at 14.5. The Jags would miss a 41 yard field goal attempt after that. Dave Garrard came in and drove down field but the Jags turned it over on downs. Brady made a nice pass from his own end zone with 2 guys in the midst of bringing him down. If not for a questionable spot, it would have been a 1st down. McGinist sacked Garrard with Seymour making himself the sole record holder in playoff sacks.



At 3:03, McGinsit sacked Garrard again and then hilariously took himself out of the game with an NFL playoff record 4.5 sacks in the game and 16 in his career. The Pats let the clock expire after a turnover on downs. Game over.



Tedy Bruschi didn't play, but we didn't seem to need him that much. McGinist, Colvin, and Vrabel did well on the outside and in coverage. We could have used some improvement in the inside of the linebackers but we compensated nicely. It was good to be able to give Bruschi an extra week off.



One of the biggest reasons we won this game was because we were more physical and tougher than the Jaguars. They spent the entire season playing in the NFC Soft Division and playing in warm weather. Then they have to play against guys like Eugene Wilson, Willie McGinist, Roosevelt Colvin, Vince Wilfork, Corey Dillon, and Ben Watson. They were simply beaten up. Their receivers dropped a lot of balls, especially their star WR Jimmy Smith. They were stuffed at the line of scrimmage and couldn't establish dominance or superiority in any facet of the game.

We also won this game on 3rd downs. We were 7 for 14 on 3rd downs and we held Jacksonville to 1 of 12 on 3rd down conversions. We stepped up and made good plays on 3rd downs to get the ball back and stop drves short. The Jaguars were able to get a few nice 10-20 yard pass plays here and there, but we were able to stop them from stringing a few of them together.

We had too many penalties. Too many holding penalties. However, we also forced a good number of penalties on Jacksonville. They were msotly croud noise penalties like false starts, illegal formations, and delays of game. And who says Gillette is too quiet?

Our rushing attack was a good combined effort of 118 total yards. Faulk had 51, Dillon had 40, Pass had 6, Brady had 9, Davis had 13, and Cassel had -1 with the final play of the game. 118 yards on 28 carries is a solid 4.2 YPC and having 28 carries means we were able to keep Jacksonville's defense on the field.

Brady played well after a shaky beginning. He seemed too wary to have balls tipped and was getting too much air under the ball. He settled down and tied his post-season best with 3 TDs and 201 yards.

The defense was phenominal. Willie McGinist led it with 4.5 sacks, 6 solo tackles, and 8 total tackles. Asante Samuel had a good night of coverage capped off by a 73 yard INT returned for a TD. Eugene Wilson forced a fumble and generally spread fear among the Jacksonville receivers. Roosevelt Colvin got a sack and helped create consistent pressure on Leftwich. The secondary played better than I can remember seeing them play. They broke up passes, tackled perfectly, and beat the crap out of the receivers when given a chance.

Jacksonville was simply beaten in the 2nd half. They were outhit, outcoached, outmaneavred, and outplayed. 10th straight playoff win for the Patriots. 68th career win for Brady. The MVP for this game is Willie McGinist with an NFL playoff record 4.5 sacks.

Now it's on to Denver or Indianapolis. Both teams are great, both places are difficult to win in, and both teams have weaknesses. Frankly, I don't care which one we have to play. If we play well, we'll win. We play Denver if Pittsburgh beats Cincinnati. We play Indy if Cincinnati wins.

Friday, January 06, 2006

THERE WILL BE SNOW IN BOSTON


J.T. Snow will probably remain in World Series highlight reels for all-time because of his efforts to get Dusty Baker's son Derrin out of the way of the most furious play in baseball: the play at the plate. The Red Sox hope he can help them return to the World Series once more. They have reportedly signed the veteran lefthanded first baseman to a 2 year, $2 million deal. Snow will probably play in a platoon role with righthanded Kevin Youkilis.

ESPN.com Article

David Ortiz expects to get a contract extension soon. 2006 is the last year of the two year extension he signed two years ago, obviously. He most assuredly deserves an extension along with a raise over his $6.5 million salary. The Red Sox need to get this done NOW!

The thing about negotiating contract extensions early is that technically it doesn't make a difference. In reality, though, it does. It lets the player know you want him on the team. It also allows you to negotiate without competing with other teams that may or may not be offering bigger and/or longer contracts. We simply can't afford to lose Ortiz.

There is word from Manny's agent that they are still looking at deals. This doesn't completely contradict the report from ESPN Deportes that Manny wanted to stay. I guess his agent pobably isn't as pone to mood swings as Manny.

PATRIOTS PLAYOFF PREVIEW

The Patriots started off the season with high expectations. They then saw player after player fall to injury. They had already lost Ty Law to the Jets, Ted Johnson to retirement, Tedy Bruschi to a stroke, Romeo Croenell to the Browns, and Charlie Weis to Notre Dame. Then Rodney Harrison went down for the season. Matt Light went down for the season. Corey Dillon went down, as did Kevin Faulk, Patrick Pass, Heath Evans, Tom Ashworth, David Givens, almost the entire defensive secondary, Richard Seymour, and then Tedy Bruschi AGAIN. Yet some how, some way, the Patriots find themselves in the playoffs and at home to start them off.

The last time the Patriots played the Jaguars was in 2003. The Pats won 27-13 in a snow-filled game in Foxborough. Before that, they beat us in a playoff game in 1998. That game was in Jacksonville. In 1997, we beat them 26-20. We beat them in 1996 28-25 (I think Vinaieri had his first game-winning FG in this one) then once more in the AFC Championship game 20-6.

The big question with this game is who will be starting at quarterback for the Jaguars. Byron Leftwhich is the pocket passer of the two. His QB rating is only 6 points higher than David Garrard. However, Garrard played against some pretty weak teams (Arizona, Houston, San Francisco, Cleveland, Tennessee). Garrard can run the ball. He had 29 carries for 185 yards. He was sacked 8 times in 6 games. Leftwich was sacked 23 times in 10 games.

Leftwich has been named the started by Jack Del Rio, but that doesn't mean we won't see any of Garrard. He could come in if Leftwich isn't performing/gets hurt or if Del Rio wants a quick change of pace to keep the Pats defense off balance.

The Jaguars game plan will probably be very simple on defense. They will attack Tom Brady all night. Their defensive line is anchored in the middle by Marcus Stroud and John Henderson. They only have 4 sacks combined, but they are able to create solid and consistent pressure up the middle that will force Brady back in the pocket. They will also be hard to block when it comes to running plays. This season, when Brady has been pressured consistently, the Pats offense has been far less than stellar. We depend on multiple passing options and progressions for Brady, along with well designed receiver routes that take time to develop. Pressure would screw this gameplan up quite a bit.

Jacksonville has the 6th ranked defense in the league, allowing 291 yards a game. They are the third best defense on 3rd down conversions. They are 7th against the pass and 8th against the run. They also have the 6th best scoring defense. They probably won't let the Patriots get much going on the ground, but we haven't had much on the ground all season. This game, offensively at least, will be up to Brady and the receivers to win. The Pats will probably spread the ball, as usual, and will probably utilize everyone. We have a great deal of depth when it comes to guys to catch the ball and it will be on full display Saturday night.

The Jaguars offense is average and unspectacular. They're 12th in scoring in the NFL. Fortunately for us, they're 19th in passing. They're 10th in rushing. I think we can stop their rushing attack with our front 7. Especially if Bruschi is healthy. Fred Taylor and Greg Jones combined for over 1,200 yards this season but that was against the likes of Houston and Tennessee. I think the Patriots will effectively stop the run game.

The Jaguars passing game isn't all that impressive. Jimmy Smith had a good season with over 1,000 yards but none of Jacksonville's receivers apart from him are very threatening. If we can keep the running game to about 3 yards a carry and shut down Jimmy Smith, we can keep Jacksonville under 20 points. If we keep Jacksonville under 20 points, we will win. If not, I think we will lose or it will be a coinflip whether or not we win.

Gameday temperature should be in the 20's with a 20% chance of snow. This plays in our favor. The Jags haven't played in a cold weather game in a month. They barely escaped Cleveland with a 20-14 win. They needed 17 second half points to come back. Now, the Browns were 4-8 this year. We're much better than them. That was the ONLY game Jacksonville has played in cold weather all season.

Prediction: Patriots 24, Jaguars 17.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

MANNY TO STAY PUT...MAYBE

English translation of ESPN Desported article

"No hay cambio. Voy a quedarme en Boston, donde conozco el sistema y tengo mis amistades, especialmente mi compaƱero David Ortiz."

"there is no change. I am going to remain in Boston, where I know the system and I have my friendships, specially my companion David Ortiz."

Manny says he wants to stay in the American League. He says he wants to play for a competetive team. A trade with the Mets would put him in the National League. A trade to the Orioles would put him on a non-competetive team. It looks like he is here to stay.

Were the Boston Red Sox simply incapable of moving Manny or did they simply know that he would change his mind after a few days of trade talk? They seemed to take their time and didn't really seem to put that much effort into making the deal. They'd make an offer one day then wait 24 hours or more to come up with some new offer. It took almost 3 days for the Orioles to make it clear that they wanted Andy Marte thrown into the deal. Did the Sox know that they could slow down negotiations until Manny was going to decide to stay? I have no idea. It is possible.

The precursor to this was when Manny asked for a contract extension to be part of any trade. This request was simply ridiculous considering how much money he will already be paid. I think when Manny asked for this, he was having second thoughts about being dealt to the Orioles.

THE BEST COLLEGE GAME I'VE EVER SEEN



I swear to God that this is true. Before the Rose Bowl started, I predicted a score of 42-38 with Texas as the winner. The game ended 41-38 with Texas as the winner.



I am an Oklahoma fan so normally I don't root for Texas. In fact, I became an Oklahoma fan because I hate the state of Texas. However, ever since Pete Carroll took over at USC, I've not liked them. Then they started winning titles and people started calling Carroll a good coach. This was despite the fact that Carroll had the most talented teams in the country by far. Furthermore, Carroll had nothing to do with the offense and for the past two seasons, the offense has carried the Trojans.



I also don't like Reggie Bush or Matt Leinart. Ever since Bush celebrated early against Notre Dame and then took a kickoff away from his own teammate in the same game, I haven't really liked him. I also find the "619" on the eye black to be retarded. Even if he were from Boston and it was 617, I'd still hate it. I also don't like the hype around Bush. He's a talented running back with multiple capabilities. But he also runs behind an amazing offensive line, has a great passing game to support him, and he can rest because of Lindell White and his 57 career TDs. White runs up the middle and wears out defenses then Bush goes to the outside and outruns them. It's a great combination, not just Reggie Bush.



I don't like Matt Leinart because I think he's afraid of the NFL. Why else would he stay at USC? To get his degree by taking a dance class? To complete the normal 5 year red-shirted college experience? I think that any true competitor would always want the bigger challenge once they've conquered a level. Leinart won every game he started in 2004, took the Heisman, and won the national title. His second. But he didn't want to leave. Then all the morons on ESPN are praising him. God knows why.



I think this guy should have won the Heisman. He had a QB rating of 111.6 and was one of the most efficient passers in college football. Throw in 850 rushing yards (led the team) and 9 TDs on the ground and then the fact that he was essentially the entire offense of an undefeated offensive powerhouse (60+ points in 4 games, 50+ in 7 games, 40+ in 12 games) and you've got yourself a Heisman winner. The Longhorns had 6,101 yards of total offense. Vince Young accounted for 3,619 of those. That's 59.3% of a teams total offense from one man's arm and legs. Texas rushed for over 3,200 yards this season as they were well ahead in most of their games. Furthermore, Young didn't have amazing WRs. They were good, but none were great.



The best college football game I've seen in my short but sport-filled life. Two teams superior to every other system in the country squaring off in front of more than 90,000 fans. A team from LA with glamorous superstars getting all the attention and all the accolades. Then a team from the college town of Austin from the state where football is King. Tommy Trojan oppositte Beavo summed it all up. Then the unheralded, and somewhat overlooked Longhorns went to war with the Trojans. It came down to inches and 4th downs. Broken plays turned into big gains. Masterful plans executed to perfection. This game had everything. Even defense in the 1st half. If someone could come up with a better game in the past 20 years, let alone a better bowl game, let alone a better championship game, I'll be most impressed.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

FLUTIE WINS AWARD


Doug Flutie was awarded the AFC Player of the Week on Special Teams for week 17. It is the fifth time he has won a Player of the Week award and it is the first time he's gotten it on special teams.

Tedy Bruschi also got an award. He was awarded the Ed Block Courage Award for the Patriots. Each NFL team has a recipient and Tedy is the Pats'. There will be a ceremony for the recipients in February.

Bad news on the Tejada front. The Red Sox and Orioles reportedly exchanged offers but the Orioles didn't like the deal. They want more. I don't know how much more the Red Sox could offer. They're willing to give up their best hitter, a solid pitcher, and cash. I have a really bad feeling that the Sox might overpay for Tejada just to make a splash and make a positive move so the fans are satisfied for a bit.

"THE DEAL"

The buzz in baseball is that the Red Sox are trying to get Miguel Tejada. Still. For about the fifth straight week. The deal currently being discussed seems to be Manny Ramirez and Matt Clement for Miguel Tejada and a prospect, said to be outfielder Nick Markakis.

The deal will supposedly be done soon if it is done at all. I'm pretty excited at the possibility of Miguel Tejada wearing a Red Sox uniform, but would it really improve our team to the point where we'd be a 95-100 win team. By the way, we're probably going to need 100 wins to claim the division, maybe even to claim 2nd place.

Tejada would probably replace Ramirez in the batting order. What could we expect from Tejada offensively?

Last year, Miguel Tejada batted .304. Manny Ramirez batted .292. That's about one additional hit per 100 at-bats, or around once every 27 games in a 600 AB season. Tejada's .304 was higher than his .280 career average while Ramirez's .292 was lwoer than his .292 average. In fact, 2005 was the first season Manny had an average below .300 since he became a regular player with the Indians. Batting average wise, they will probably be the same, hovering around .300 or so.

Tejada might see his average go up if he came to the Red Sox. He does hit well in Fenway. Last year against the Red Sox, he hit .306 against us while playing in Camden Yards. He hit .439 against us in Fenway. He slugged .805 in Fenway, hitting 7 doubles, a triple, and two homeruns. He knocked in 7 in 9 games and 41 at-bats in Fenway. However, he did strike out more frequently in Fenway.

Manny outslugged Tejada .594 to .515. Manny had 45 HRs to Miguel's 26. Miguel wound up with more extra-base hits with 81 compared to Manny's 76. However, Manny had exactly 100 fewer ABs than Miguel (654 to 554). Manny walked twice as much as Tejada, but he also struck out much more.

Here's what we'd probably get out of Tejada: 600 at-bats, 180 hits, 50 doubles or triples, 30 homeruns, 100 singles. 110 runs scored, 110 runs knocked in.

Now, keep in mind that Manny would be hitting without Johnny Damon batting leadoff. Manny has had a good leadoff man almost his entire career in Kenny Lofton with Cleveland, and Damon here in Boston. Damon didn't start hitting very well until 2004. In 2003, Damon hit .273 and Manny had 104 RBI. In 2004, Damon hit .304 and Manny knocked in 130. Last year, Damon batted .316 and Manny knocked in 144. So how would Manny do without Damon or any "traditional" leadoff hitter in front of him?

I think Manny would still hit, getting an average in between .295 and .310. He'd still hit homeruns, hitting 40 or so. He'd still get on base and score about 110 runs. But, I don't think he would knock in more than 120 runs tops.

There are, of course, many more things to baseball than numbers. It is obvious that Manny is at elast a small distraction to the Red Sox clubhouse. They can dismiss it as "Manny being Manny." However, it must be distracting to not know if your teammate will screw up or not put forth a full effort. If we don't trade Manny, he could shut down. I know he has wanted to be traded in the past and has still performed, but that always seemed to be because he decided he wanted to stay. Until he makes that decision, he asks to be benched, or he doesn't give it his all if he does play. What if he doesn't decide he wants to stay until May or June? We could be out of the playoff race by then.

Tejada wants out of Baltimore. He wants to play for a competetive team like Boston. He wants to play for a team that will spend money to win, not to bring in big name players like Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro. He is probably fed up with the rivers of scum that flow in and around Camden Yards. I'm not talking about the fans, I'm tlaking about that organization's proficiency for acquiring some of the lowest calibre of people to play for them (Sosa, Palmeiro, Ponson, Bedard [don't ask]). I think if Tejada came here, he would play hard, and be a leader. Francona probably won't let him, but Tejada would want to play every single game, which he has for 5 straight years. In the same stretch, Manny has missed 90 games (18 per season) due to various "injuries" and "illnesses."

I think Tejada would be an improvement for the Red Sox. We'd probably get similar production numbers and we would get them from a player who is more consistent and, at least until WEEI drives him out, wants to be here. (sarcasm). The loss of Clement in the deal would not really kill us, especially if we get another pitcher via free agency and/or if we keep Arroyo. Plus, we could get a nice prospect out of it (Markakis batted .339 in AA last season, is rated by Baseball-America as Baltimore's top prospect, and went 3/11 in spring training last season). Markakis probably wouldn't be able to step up and immediately play in the outfield, but he would probably be ready to do so by 2007.

So the deal is good. But it isn't monumentally great. It makes us better, but it doesn't even begin to solve all of our problems. We would still need another solid pitcher, in my opinion, because Schilling, Papelbon, Beckett, Wakefield, and Arroyo all have question marks flying around them, as does Keith Foulke and the soon-to-be worn out.

If we do trade Manny, then we'll have TWO holes in the outfield which will put us in an even weaker position to bargain with other teams for a left-fielder and a center-fielder. We couldv'e gotten Lofton for $4M, but we seriously though Damon would sign a 4 year, $40 deal.

In summary, I'd like to make a deal for Tejada, but I wouldn't burst out of my house and start dancing in the sreets if we got him. We'd still need to make a few more moves to be competetive in the much tougher AL East.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

SATURDAY NIGHT, GILLETTE STADIUM, FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS

The Patriots will host the Jacksonville Jaguars Saturday night at 8:00 PM in Gillette Stadium. The weather forecast for Foxboro(ugh) is a high of 32 on Saturday with a low of 20. Game time temperature, this is just a guess, should be in the mid to high 20's getting colder as the game progresses. There is also snow in the forecast. But, we all know that the weather in New England can often change dramatically within a few hours so a forecast for the weather 6 days away is less than set in stone.

LET THE PHINS CELEBRATE A JOKE WIN


I love the Natick hoodie. This might have been Doug Flutie's final game of his career and the sweatshirt is a nice tribute to the Natick native. Allowing Flutie to drop kick an extra point was an even better tribute. It also demonstrated how seriously the Patriots took this game, which wasn't very much at all. It was the first succesful drop-kick in the NFL since 1941. This was a scrimmage for the Patriots. Nothing more. And we still almost came out a winner. The funniest part of the game is probably the celebrating and trash talking Miami Dolphins players, who will go back to Florida to WATCH football while the Patriots remain in Foxborough to PLAY football.

Oh, and Jason Taylor roughing Matt Cassel with 10 seconds left in the 4th showed how classless, pathetic, and lowly the Miami Dolphins really are. What are you trying to prove, Jason?

Cassel started off and looked, well, like a rookie and a 2nd stringer. But he settled down nicely and we nearly came back to tie the game. If it weren't for that safety, we might have won it. Cassel threw a pair of TD passes against Miami's 1st stringers. What I think might be very telling of the young USC grad is that he was pissed after the Pats failed to convert the 2 pointer at the end.

I kind of feel bad for Cassel. He goes to USC and has to play behind Carson Palmer, 2002's Heisman winner, and then Matt Leinart, 2004's Heisman winner, and then Tom Brady, a 2 time Super Bowl MVP. He has still stuck with it and he still looks very skilled and very motivated. I think we've got a really good backup QB in Matt Cassel.

This is just a funny picture:


Another laughable aspect of this game was the way the announcers were praising the Dolphins when they were struggling to finish drives against the Patriots' Junior Varsity team. We had Klecko, Banta-Cain, Izzo, Chatham, Mike Wright, and Chad Brown in the game. The strength of this defense has been the front 7 and the only regular in the front 7 that played regularly was Ty Warren.

So, the Patriots will host the Jaguars on either Saturday or Sunday. Had they beaten Miami, they would have hosted the Steelers. I think it is a wash either way. Both teams have their exploitable flaws and both teams have their fearsome strengths. A big advantage we will have over Jacksonville is experience in the cold weather. Saturday the forecast calls for 33 degrees and snow. Sunday is supposed to be partly cloudy and 32 degrees. I'll write more on the playoff game in the following days.

In summary, our JV team lost by a 2 point conversion to an NFL team. Had we tried our hardest and played our best players, we probably would have won. But we got some good reps for people that, God forbid, might have to see time in the playoffs. We also got a week of half rest for some banged up and tired starters who haven't had a bye in 10 weeks.

Who said Bellichick doesn't smile?

SOX VERY CLOSE TO SIGNING SNOW

Boston.com Article

This is pretty close to a done deal. The Red Sox have the money to spend and the desire for a part-time first baseman and Snow seems willing to play on the East Coast for the first time since he broke into the league with the Yankees back when George H.W. Bush was President.