Tuesday, January 30, 2007


So the news is that the Sox and Rockies could not come to a consensus on the proposed Todd Helton deal, so the potential trade is off. Thank God!

You know, deals like this one, and even more ludicrous ones, are bandied about everyday by teams. We just usually don't hear about them unless there's a leak. So sometimes we can panic when we read that the Red Sox are considering trying to get a diminishing, expensive, ex-slugger. But they consider EVERY deal, at least for a split-second. Good to hear they did the right thing and didn't make this deal happen.

Monday, January 29, 2007


So here's what the Rockies want in exchange for Todd Helton:third-baseman Mike Lowell, pitcher Julian Tavarez, prospects Manny Delcarmen, and Craig Hansen.

This is entirely too much to give up for Helton. First of all, I'd rather have Lowell as opposed to Helton. Lowell is getting paid $7M less this season, has proven he can hit in Fenway Park, has similar numbers to Helton (Helton has a big edge in OBP, but Helton also hits at Coors), and we're only tied to him for 2007. Helton would be on our payroll until at least 2011, and then in 2012, it will be either $4.6M to buy out his contract, or over $23M to keep him for another year.

Then we'd have to include Tavarez, whose versatility could come in handy in the ever growing question mark that is our bullpen, and two young pitchers. You know, you can never EVER have enough pitching in this league. To give up two young pitchers, along with a solid hitter, and a decent reliever/spot-starter for an over the hill, expensive ex-slugger is just stupid.

In lieu of running for Senator in 2008, Curt Schilling would like to continue pitching. His contract with the Sox expires at the end of the 2007 season, and Curt says he wants an extension. And he wants it now.

You know, I love Curt, he was a big part of the 2004 team, and I'd love to see him finish his career in a Sox uniform. But he turned 40 last November. He'll be 41 for the 2008 season. He did have a solid 2006 season with 204 innings of 3.97 ERA work, but I think he needs to have a bit more patience here. He as yet to throw a single meaningful pitch this year and he already wants us to extend his contract? For how much, exactly? He got $13M last year. Will he be worth that much in '08? How the hell can anyone tell?

I think perhaps a tentative contract with incentives might be a good thing to keep Curt happy. But let's say he only goes 150 innings this year with a 4.00 ERA, should we really re-sign him if we have better options for pitchers? Would he be willing to work out of the pen in his final year?

Curt really sprang this one on the Sox at a really awkward time. I could understand wanting this done after a nice April, or even a good Spring Training. But now? C'mon, Curt. Just pitch.


There's rumors flying around The Nation about the Red Sox acquiring Todd Helton in a trade. This isn't the first time that Helton and the Sox have been rumored to be involved together. But I kind of hope it is the last.

I'm failing to see why the Sox would want to do a deal for Helton.

1. I think we're pretty much set at first base and offensively. Our biggest question marks are in the outfield, not at first-base. Youkilis had a good first full season in 2006, offensively and defensively. He's not going to make any All-Star teams, but he'll be solid enough. First base is not a hole on this team. And let's say Youk gets hurt or something, Ortiz can play there.

2. Todd Helton is a decent hitter that seems much better thanks to Coors Field. Over the past 3 seasons, Helton's numbers are much better at home as opposed to away. He has a .469 OBP at home, .409 away. .353 batting average at home, .293 away. Looking at the power numbers, one can see that he benefits a great deal from the lack of atmosphere at Coors Field. 42 homers in Denver, 25 away from home. 119 extra basehits at Coors, 91 away. .613 slugging at home, .473 away. 1.082 OPS at home, .882 away. Don't get me wrong, he isn't a bad hitter in general, he's good. But Coors makes him seem great.

3. He isn't as good as he used to be. Over the past 4 seasons, his average, OBP, slugging, HR, and RBI have all gone down lower and lower each year. He's 33 years old and not getting any younger.

4. His salary is way too high. He got $16.6 million last year. Even if Colorado paid half of this, I'd still think that $8 million a season was too much for him. This would be a 5 year commitment, too. That's just too much.

So why would we be willing to pay a large amount of money, give up any prospects, for a player who is on a 3 year down-swing, who hits much better at Coors Field than away from it when we already have a good first baseman and really don't have any glaring offensive holes?

I don't know. Hopefully this is all speculative rumor-mill stuff concocted by bloggers like me, and bored Boston sportswriters who are scrambling to write Sox material after being forced to scrap their typical Patriots Super Bowl bye week stuff.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Whenever there's a signing or a trade, you always see this disclaimer. "Pending a physical." Well, this is only the second time that I can recall that said physical has meant something significant in Red Sox Nation. The other time being when the Yankees traded for Ugueth Urbina at the deadline, then he failed a physical, then we traded for him, and he passed a physical. Let's hope that Drew can contribute to the Sox similar to Urbina (49 saves in a season plus a few months) but over a much longer period of time.

I think hope is a key word when talking about JD Drew. The 31 year old has had a career of hope and dashed hope. When the Phillies and Giants drafted him, they hoped he'd sign, but he didn't. Can't blame him much for that. He did sign with St. Louis and the Cardinals hoped their 5th overall pick (Drew was actually selected in the 1st round of the draft twice) would quickly blossom into a potential MVP. Drew did make it to The Show in his very first season with the Cardinals. But in what would have been his first full season (1999), Drew hit the DL for a month and a half with a strained quad. In 2000, he sprained an ankle and missed about 3 weeks. In 2001 he was hit by a pitch and broke a pinkie, then had a lower back sprain. He missed almost a month combined with those injuries. In 2002 he missed half a month with tendinitis in his knee. He had off season surgery on the knee, and coupled with a strained oblique, missed about 6 weeks of 2003. In 2005 he was hit by a pitch on the wrist and missed the entire season after the 4th of July. The barrage of injuries has resulted in JD Drew only playing 145 games or more twice in his career, playing 130 or more 4 times, and playing fewer than 110 four times.

In eight seasons that were meant to be full, JD Drew has amassed 157 homers and 496 RBI. That's 19.6 HRs and 62 RBI. now, he's averaging 27 homers and 86 RBI for every 162 games played, so when he's healthy, he's solid. He also has a very nice .393 OBP in his career, and a respectable .286.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming Drew for his injuries. The two DL stints from being hit by pitches are just freak things. And the guy is obviously in good shape so it isn't like he's to blame for getting hurt. And I'm not going to accuse him of being a Nomar and milking injuries as long as possible. It's just somewhat uneasing to think of him on the Sox. He could very well play 145 games for us this season, hit 30 HRs, and knock in 110 runs. He could very well do that for a few seasons. But at the moment, it is still just a hope. There's very little evidence to suggest that he will do it. He seems capable of doing it, but is he very likely to remain healthy enough to do that? And the thing about injuries is that they mount up over time. They get worse and worse the more times you get hurt. And he isn't exactly a young player anymore.

It just seems like we're taking a big risk on Drew. He seems so much like Trot Nixon in every regard except for salary. Baseball-Reference.com has Trot Nixon as the most similar batter to Drew statistically. The two are prone to frequent injury, and neither one hits right-handers that well. Yet Drew is getting $70 million over 5 seasons, and Nixon was signed by Cleveland for 1 year at $3 million. That's about 5 times as much as Nixon, per season, and its 23 times the commitment to Nixon.

But it isn't my money to risk. I think Drew will perform well, spend some time on the DL, but generally be a positive impact player on the team.

With Drew, the Sox starting position players look like this:

C - Jason Varitek
1B - Kevin Youkilis
2B - Dustin Pedroia
3B - Mike Lowell
SS - Julio Lugo
LF - Manny Ramirez
CF - Coco Crisp
RF - JD Drew
DH - David Ortiz

My basic lineup would look like this:

1. Coco Crisp
2. Kevin Youkilis
3. David Ortiz
4. Manny Ramirez
5. JD Drew
6. Mike Lowell
7. Julio Lugo
8. Jason Varitek
9. Dustin Pedroia

That has the potential to be a very solid middle of the lineup. But the entire thing has the potential to be a disaster. If Crisp continues to struggle, Youkilis's performance last year was a fluke, Manny decides not to try, Drew gets hurt, Lowell falls off, Lugo is a bust, Varitek continues to struggle, and Pedroia doesn't play like a major leaguer; we're screwed. I think we'll score as many as 975 runs if things go right, and as few as 800 if things go poorly. I think as long as we get in that 900 range, we'll be fine.

Monday, January 22, 2007


The Colts played better than us and deserved to win. Give them all the credit in the world for their victory.

You know, at the beginning of the season, we had an almost entirely new receiver corps, a plague of injuries to our defensive secondary, and a variety of other problems to contend with. We didn't win the Super Bowl, or even the AFC title, but we had a solid season. We can build on this year and do better next year.

Just a few instances in Sunday's game that combined with other things to result in our loss:

1:32 1st quarter: On 3rd and 19, the Colts ran a draw play that wound up resulting in an 11 yard gain. Had Addai been stopped at the line of scrimmage, the field goal would have been much more difficult for Vinatieri to hit.

4:32 2nd quarter: On 3rd and 6, the Patriots seemed to convert a 1st down at the Indy 19, instead, the play was called back for offensive pass interference.

4:05 2nd quarter: On 3rd and 16, the Pats tried a draw on which Evans got 4 yards, but the play was called back for illegal motion on Watson.

3:37 2nd quarter: On 3rd and 21, Brady was sacked at the 49. This play, coupled with the previous two penalties, knocked us from field goal range and forced us to punt.

7:23 3rd quarter: The Patriots fail to convert a 3rd and 2 and go 3 and out. Their drive took 1:05 off the clock. This came after the Colts had a 6:47 drive. The weary Patriots defense then endured a 2:50 drive

4:58 3rd quarter: Richard Seymour enters the neutral zone, 5 yard penalty resulting in an Indianapolis 1st down instead of a 3rd and 5 attempt.

4:12 3rd quarter: Ellis Hobbs doesn't even try to play the ball and the refs throw an obvious pass interference flag in the end zone, setting up 1st and goal.

13:42 4th quarter: Jarvis Green gets called for a neutral zone infraction on 2nd and goal.

13:34 4th quarter: Addai fumbles just before the goal line. Hobbs and Bruschi are in the area, but not able to fall on the ball. The Colts regain possession in the end zone.

8:59 4th quarter: On 1st and 10 from the Indy 15, Brady hits Brown for a gain of 7. But the play is called back as Gaffney is flagged for an illegal shift.

8:38 4th quarter: On 1st and 15 from the Indy 20, nobody, and I mean NOBODY is anywhere close to covering Reche Caldwell on the far sideline. Brady throws a short dump pass to him, and Caldwell appears he will get at least 7 yards on the play. But he drops the ball after it ricochets between both his hands. The Pats settle for a field goal on the drive.

3:22 4th quarter: Heath Evans gets flagged for being the 12th man in the offensive huddle before a 1st down play. The Patriots would wind up 4 yards shy of a 1st down.

2:01 4th quarter: Tully Banta-Cain gets a roughing the passer penalty in one of the ticky-tackiest roughing calls we've seen all season. This gives the Colts an additional 12 yards in the red zone, setting up 1st and 10 from the 11 instead of 1st and 10 from the 23. On the same play, the ball pops out of Reggie Wayne's hands, but no Patriot is able to grab it out of the air. The Colts eventually score the game winning TD.

We've got no-one to blame but ourselves. The roughing penalty was pretty God-awful, but we could have stopped them after that. Reche had some bad dropped passes, Brady had some passes that looked way off, our defense got ripped apart by the Colts in the 2nd half, we committed some stupid penalties, etcetera.

You know, we had the ball with a 3 point lead and 3:22 on the clock. We get a a 1st down, the game is very close to being over. We get two 1st downs, the game is over. Instead, we went 3 and out and punted.

But we'll be back. And we'll be better. And we'll play better.

All in all, a good season. Good, not great. Can't wait until next year.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Back in November when we lost to Indianapolis, I ended my post about the game with "I wouldn't be surprised if these two teams met again."

Well, I was right. I am not shocked in any way that these two teams are playing each other again. Yet another correct prediction from Boston Blood Sox.

Anyway, these two teams have been the best in the AFC consistently for several years now. This is their 3rd meeting in the playoffs in four seasons. Their regular season meeting did indeed have playoff implications, as both teams finished with 12-4 records, with Indy getting home-field advantage based on their victory over us.

We all know the history between these two teams. Manning and the Colts are 0-2 against us in the playoffs. Since 2001, the Patriots are 6-2 against Indy, but haven't beaten them since the 2004 divisional playoff game. Furthermore, only 2 of these games were in Indianapolis.

These two teams met in November and both looked dreadful. There were 7 turnovers, including 5 from the Patriots. There was a combined 703 yards of offense. The major deciding factor in the game were the turnovers as it was pretty close statistically and on the scoreboard.

I've always felt that the key to beating the Colts is to prevent Manning and the offense from scoring too much and from taking utter control over the field position battle and at the same time taking advantage of every opportunity to score and move the ball. Seems pretty obvious, eh? Score more than your opponent.

The key to stopping Manning and the offense is 4 man pressure on the QB. Blitzing too often is unwise as Manning and his receivers are too good to cover with one-on-one coverage. We run the 3-4 defense (and do it very well) which has the built-in advantage of a 4th rusher coming from an unknown player. Typically, it is one of the outside linebackers, and sometimes one of the inside guys. Now, if we can get good, consistent pressure on Manning with 4 and sometimes 5 rushers, it will leave 6 or 7 men back in coverage.

The pressure prevents Manning from finding his open receivers, it forces him to make decisions quickly in order to avoid being sacked. As pressure to score points mounts in the game, he is more prone to make mistakes. These mistakes get bigger and bigger as passes that are slightly off target soon turn into passes that are thrown directly at defenders and intercepted. The reason Manning hasn't won a big game in college or the NFL is typically that his mistakes build and snowball on each other. He makes a small mistake, then pressures himself to make up for it, causing a bigger mistake. This repeats and the mistakes become more common and more glaring.

The Colts defense is small, but it is fast. In the November game, the Patriots tried a few misdirection plays that were blown up by the Colts. These types of plays are unwise to run. It's better to run right at them and try to be more physical. The Patriots ran for 148 yards against their defense in November on 33 carries (4.5 yards per carry). The problem was that we were slightly behind for most of the game. We also didn't want to have the running game stopped three straight plays and be forced to punt in a disadvantageous position. We actually passed the ball 35 times, 2 more than we rushed. I wouldn't be shocked if the Patriots tried a similar overall balanced offense, but perhaps with a bit more running. Let's say we run 60 plays on offense, I think we will have about 35 rushes and 25 passes. Of course, this could change based on the score of the game.

In the first game, we didn't do a good job of setting up the pass through the rush. We seemed to be afraid that the defense would sit on the run and stop us so we went to the pass just a bit too early. In the first drive of the game, we attempted a deep pass to the end zone for seemingly no reason. We had driven 47 net yards on our first possession, with 37 yards of rushing and 24 passing (we had a few penalties that drive). On 1st and 10 from the Indy 34, we suddenly passed deep for Gabriel and the ball was intercepted.

In the second half of the game, we seemed to get away from the run just a bit. I'm not saying we should have run the ball every time, but a few additional rushes here and there might have done well. There was one drive in which we had 1st and goal from the 10 and ran Faulk instead of say Dillon. We then tried two passes and then kicked a field goal. What really hurt us, though, were the turnovers.

Let's look at all five.

9:30 1st quarter - Brady throws deep for Gabriel, intercepted and returned to the Indy 38, ended what seemed to be a sure scoring drive. Indy scored on their drive.

0:28 2nd quarter - Brady throws into triple coverage, bobbled by Watson, intercepted ending a 2 minute drill. Colts kneeled the ball.

12:21 3rd quarter - Dillon fumbles on our 27. The Colts went 3 and out and punted.

13:11 4th quarter - Tipped ball interception 2 plays after we intercepted Manning. Colts drove for nearly 3 minutes and kicked a field goal.

1:23 4th quarter - Tipped ball interception right after a 25 yard reception by Watson. Colts kneeled to end the game.

Right up there with turnovers as far as important stats go, is points scored off turnovers. The Colts scored 10 off our turnovers, we scored 0 off theirs. The Colts also had 2 picks that ended 2 minute drill drives.

The Colts defense has looked very good these past two games, but the offenses they were up against played terribly. Our offense didn't exactly look good last week, but we were up against the Chargers defense, one of the toughest in the league. We managed to put 24 points on the board. The Colts faced a good defense in Baltimore and managed only 15 points and 0 touchdowns.

I think we'll win this one, but it won't be easy. I would not be surprised if we did not have the lead for most of the game. But I think when it comes down to the wire, we'll prevail. 24-20 Patriots.

I really hope I'm right. If the Colts win this game, they'll win the Super Bowl, and Manning will have more confidence in big games regardless of how well he plays. I'd prefer it if the weak, collapsible Peyton Manning was still out there in years to come.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Doubtful: S Rodney Harrison (Knee).
Questionable: DE Mike Wright (Illness-Flu); T Ryan O'Callaghan (Illness-Flu); WR Troy Brown (Illness-Flu).
Probable: QB Tom Brady (Right Shoulder).

Questionable: WR Ricky Proehl (Hamstring); CB Nicholas Harper (Ankle); T Ryan Diem (Shoulder); LB Cato June (Concussion); S Bob Sanders (Knee); G Ryan Lilja (Knee).

As you can see, Rodney Harrison has been upgraded from out to doubtful, meaning there is about a 25% chance that he will play in Sunday's game. Wright, O'Callaghan, and Brown all apparently are exhibiting flu-like symptoms, and all three were unavailable to the media the other day. Tom Brady, as always, is probable with a right shoulder "injury" that has been nagging him for a few years now.

Ricky "Tonight a Dynasty is Born" Proehl will be facing the Patriots in the playoffs for the third time on the third different team. He was on the Rams in Super Bowl XXVI and on the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Is it me, or does almost every opponent we've beaten in the playoffs turn into a whining, moaning, bitching bunch of p*ssies after we end their season? The Raiders and Steelers in '01, The Colts in '03 and '04, and now the San Diego Chargers take their place among the obnoxious and pathetic whiners.

Why? Because after the game was decided, some of the Patriots celebrated. They imitated Shawne Merriman's spaz dance, and stomped on the all of a sudden hallow and sacred San Diego Charger logo at midfield. The excessive celebration resulted in a meaningless 15 yard taunting penalty, and an equally meaningless Ladainian Tomlinson temper tantrum.

Here's what LT had to say:

"When you go to the middle of our field, when you start doing the dance that Shawne Merriman is known for, that's disrespectful to me. And I can't sit there and watch that. And so, yeah, I was very upset. And just the fact that they showed no class at all. Absolutely no class. And maybe that comes from their head coach. So you know, there you have it."

First of all, how is making fun of Merriman disrespectful to LT? I understand Tomlinson wanting to stand up for his teammate, and I respect him for that, but the Patriots weren't disrespectful to Tomlinson in any way shape or form by doing the "Lights Out" dance. LT is taking this way too personally, as if Ellis Hobbs walked over his mother's grave doing the Lights Out dance.

Let's look at the man that the Patriots actually disrespected by mimicking him. Shawne Merriman is one of the best players in the NFL. He was also suspended for 4 games due to failing a steroids test. In other words, he cheated. He cheated big time.

When Merriman finished 3rd in the voting for defensive player of the year, Jason Taylor said that he didn't belong on the ballot due to his steroid use. According to some rumors, Merriman then sent Taylor a "Lights Out" t-shirt, and some popcorn so that Taylor could eat it while watching Merriman in the playoffs. That's real classy. Now maybe it was a joke, and maybe it never happened. Nevertheless, on the surface at least, it seems like Merriman has some difficulty in respecting a player who is not only very good, but has been very good for a long time.

The funny thing is, the NFL seems to have heeded the advice of Taylor and will not be allowing any player who has been suspended during the season to receive any award or accolade beginning next season.

Merriman is perhaps best known for his spastic embolisms after recording a sack. He's one of countless players that have prepared and planned celebrations. Usually, guys like Chad Johnson or TO do their little dances after touchdowns. Merriman does them after sacks. Now a sack is a great play, but it is hardly a touchdown. Apparently, Merriman can do his dance, but nobody else can.

Where did Merriman get the nickname "Lights Out" which adorns his body in the form of a tattoo? Playing in a high school game, he knocked out 4 players on the opposing team in the 1st half. This achievement, of injuring 4 players, has caused so much pride for Merriman that he revels in being named for it.

Merriman was also not shy or even humble leading up to Sunday's game. During the Pats/Jets game, he predicted the Patriots would lose. During a pep rally in San Diego, he vowed to "hit Tom Brady in the mouth" as if Tom had done something to him.

What did Merriman do to backup his talk on Sunday? He had two tackles, and sacked Tom Brady at the line of scrimmage as Brady attempted to scramble for yardage. It was hardly an electrifying performance. In fact, it was quite mediocre.

This is the player the New England Patriots had the gall to disrespect. A cheater, a showboat, a braggart, a trash talker, and after Sunday: a loser.

As far as celebrating on a team's emblem on a field goes, I think LT and some anti-Patriots haters out there are blowing it out of proportion. I'm sure it hurts to watch an opposing team dance on your own field, but it happens. Grow up! It's a friggin' lightning bolt painted on turf! If you don't want people celebrating on your field, or on your team's logo, don't give them reason to celebrate. Don't get pissed off at the Patriots for beating you in your own house. Could you imagine Tedy Bruschi going ape-sh*t if opposing players danced on the Flying Elvis in Gillette? I'm sure he wouldn't be pleased, but he'd probably be more upset at losing a game, not watching another team do a little dance on a painted piece of sod.

People are comparing the Patriots logo celebration with the infamous incident in Dallas with TO.

There's a few differences, though. TO celebrated twice DURING the game after touchdowns. The Patriots celebrated after essentially WINNING the game. TO's celebrations were also during a regular season game against a mediocre Cowboys team. The Patriots celebrated on the logo of the #1 seeded 14-2 Chargers in a divisional playoff game. BIG DIFFERENCE between the two.

This will sound weird, but maybe LT and the Chargers can see the Patriots celebrating as a sign of respect to their team. I can't recall the Patriots celebrating on anyone else's logo in recent memory. And we certainly wouldn't do a dance on the Buffalo Bills logo or the Houston Texans logo. You only do that kind of thing if the logo actually means something. This season, the Chargers logo meant the best in the NFL in the regular season.

And the remark about Belichick was way, WAY out of line. It was a very disrespectful thing to say about one of the best coaches in the NFL's history. Belichick keeps things in house, and shows nothing but respect for his opponents. All of us in New England who watch him on TV shows or listen to him on the radio in between games are practically sick of hearing him talk about how good of a pass rusher Jason Taylor is.

It isn't as if Belichick ordered or even suggested to his players that they go celebrate on the Chargers logo. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if he scolded some of them for the outburst. But he isn't going to use the media to do that scolding. If he wants to say something to Ellis Hobbs, he'll say it to Ellis man to man, not through WCVB or the Boston Globe. Unlike a guy like Parcells, he isn't going to tear down one of his players via the media.

But there's some people that just flat out dislike Belichick and still think the Patriots are nothing but lucky illusionists, somehow beating teams through smoke and mirrors, or even the occasional vast NFL conspiracy theory. Just look at Mike Ditka, the coach of the Super Bowl Shuffle Bears, who called out Belichick and the Patriots for being "classless, ridiculous, and childish." You want to talk about class, Coach Ditka? Well, a picture is worth a thousand words.

The remarks from Tomlinson above came right after a gut-wrenching and heartbreaking loss in his team's first playoff game of the season. So some intense emotion is to be expected. It's got to be frustrating to have a great game like LT had and still lose. But Tomlinson, a self-described "classy guy," was still crying about it long after the game was over with.

“What message do you want to send kids? That’s the way you act after a win? In my opinion, that’s not the way you act.”

Apparently LT feels that a dance mimicking his teammate is a worse influence on kids than say, a Pro Bowl linebacker doing steroids (Merriman), or another linebacker driving around drunk (Steve Foley), or a defensive linemen using steroids to recover from an injury (to Luis Castillo's credit, he openly admitted his steroid use). I guess LT feels that respecting the pride and honor of another team is a much more heinous act than injecting yourself with a harmful substance in order to gain an unfair advantage, or driving around with 3 times the legal limit blood alcohol level in your system, disobeying a police officer.

“When you’re the three-time Super Bowl champion, you don’t need to act that way. My whole thing is, you won the game. We were going to congratulate you for going on. But then you start to further disrespect us. In my mind, you don’t do that. Not with athletes, anyway. We’re all competing.”

I guess, in LT's mind, it's okay to talk trash and be disrespectful before a game, then during it, but not after you've won it. The Chargers were talking and jawing all game long. Hell, they even head-butted Kevin Faulk in plain sight of the official. The Patriots kept their cool and celebrated when they had secured victory.

And what the hell does Ladainian Tomlinson know about being a three time Super Bowl champ? Seriously, who does this guy think he is, giving advice on how to act like champions to the New England Patriots? The only Bowl LT has ever won is the Sun Bowl. If you want to give lectures and criticism on how to act like a champion, let's limit it to the Mountain West for now.

“Marty always tells us to act like you’ve been there before. That’s something your coach always tells you, so if your guys are acting like that, it comes from top to the bottom, in my opinion. I could be wrong.”

Again, what does Marty know about "being there?" Did I miss something? This is the guy who holds the distinction of being the NFL head coach to have the most wins without ever coaching in a Super Bowl! Suddenly everyone who has never been "there" is telling a team that has been "there" how to act like they've been "there."

Does Marty tell Merriman to act like he's been there before when he records a sack? If he does, Shawne must not be listening. Maybe Merriman is on another cycle and the roids cause muscle spasms or something.

LT, you are wrong.

Here is what Philip Rivers had to say:

"I was disappointed at the finger-pointing and the lights-out stuff and how they handled winning. As much as people expect them to win, they didn't act like it."

I guess Rivers is more disappointed in the Patriots than he is with his own teammates. How about Drayton Florence and Shane Olivea and their pointless unnecessary roughness penalties? How about Marlon McCree fumbling a game sealing pick, or Eric Parker trying to pick up a muffed punt so he could return it? How about the non-factor Merriman was? I guess Rivers is more concerned with the honor of his team's logo and the lack of respect shown to his honorable teammate Shawne Merriman, than he is about winning. Good for him.

This is all really funny and childish. It was obvious that the Chargers were trash talking right in the face of the Patriots players during the game. How did we handle it? We remained calm and won the game. That is what acting like a champion entails.

Since when did people expect us to win? Are you telling me the Chargers were underdogs in this game? Guess what, Phil, you were expected to win by everyone and your team messed it up. You had 9 Pro Bowlers, the NFL MVP, homefield advantage, and pretty much everything in the world in your favor. But you lost the game. Your team lost to the likes of Jabbar Gaffney and Artrell Hawkins. No offense to either of these guys, but they aren't exactly superstars or Pro Bowlers. But they are winners.

Here's what Shaun Phillips had to say:

"That was very classless. When we went in and beat their head in New England, blew them out, we did nothing but compliment them and say they were a good team. We would never disrespect a team like that. Shaun Phillips will have a grudge against them the rest of his career."

That game was in 2005 and you're still talking about it? Wow! And talking in 3rd person? HAHAHAHAHA!

"That's just something you don't do"

That's what Merriman had to say. Apparently doing steroids is okay, but doing his "Lights Out" dance isn't. Now, in the rest of this interview with Merriman, he seemed to want to move on from this whole celebration issue and focus on next season, so give some credit to him for not being a total cry baby. He didn't like what we did, but he seemed to not like losing even more.

The San Diego Chargers are being nothing but a bunch of cry-babies. It's really a shame because they played such a tough game against us, and are a very good young team that will be in many more playoff games in the upcoming years. but it seems like they're trying to take the low road like the 2001 Raiders, 2001 Steelers, 2003 Colts, and 2004 Colts. They're getting mad at things and people other then themselves for losing. The Raiders blamed the refs and their fans concocted a huge NFL-wide conspiracy. The Steelers complained about the better team not winning. The Colts whined and moaned about being touched too often. None of these teams could just look in the mirror and say "We lost, let's learn from it, and move on."

LT, Rivers, and Phillips are taking their anger out on the Patriots because we celebrated a victory. They're not assessing their own team's performance against us. They're being immature, and as tough as they played us, that toughness seems to have vanished after the game as they whined and moaned about the Big Bad Patriots being a bunch of Big Bad Meanies.

To paraphrase one of my favorite lines from The Rock, losers complain about classless celebrations, winners go home and [expletive] Gisele Bundchen.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


I've lived in central New York state for nearly 4 years now, surrounded by Bills, Jets, Giants, Eagles, and Steelers fans. These people also think Peyton Manning is the best player in the NFL. They are united only in their hatred of the New England Patriots.

A common word associated by these haters is "lucky." The Patriots were "lucky" to win such and such a game. An even more ludicrous statement is "the Patriots didn't win the game, the other team lost it." Of course, this makes no sense, because if someone loses a football game, then someone else wins it. Then there's also the "they didn't deserve to win" accusation. All of these things are just silly.

With the recent 24-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers, these words have been tossed around by many up here in CNY, and by some on the national sports media level. If you ever want to lose a few brain cells, listen to WEEI past midnight. WOW!

They all point to the Tuck Play a few seasons back in Oakland. They claim that this single play is what made Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots what they are today.

Just a few things about this particular play:

1. The officials called it correctly, as confirmed by the NFL after the game.

2. The NFL has kept the tuck rule in exactly the same language as it was written back then.

3. It may have been a freak thing, but it didn't exactly end the game. The play was called incomplete in our favor, not a touchdown or anything.

The Tuck Play occurred at the Oakland 47. There was only a little over 90 seconds on the clock in that game with us down by 3. We drove the ball 23 yards after that play to set up Vinatieri's game tying 45 yard kick.

We won the toss for overtime, which I guess is lucky. But then we drove to the Oakland 28, converted a 4th and 4, and kept driving until we set-up a Vinatieri 23 yard field goal. Yeah, Oakland let us get all the way down to the 6 yard line. I guess we were lucky to get down there.

The next week, we beat Pittsburgh straight up. Yeah, we had 2 special teams TDs, but we also held Jerome Bettis to 8 yards on 9 carries. And despite what Bill Cowher might still think, special teams are part of the game. You return a punt for a TD, or block a field goal, it is a good football play, not a lucky play.

We all know what happened to the Rams the next week. There wasn't much luck in that game, either. We outplayed St. Louis and we won.

We also won 21 straight games a few seaosns later, 6 more playoff games and 2 more Super Bowls. I guess we were still riding that luck. Remember when we dominated the Colts and Steelers in back to back weeks? Man, we were sooooooooo lucky!

After our win against the Chargers on Sunday, all the haters continued to call the Patriots lucky. But where the hell is this luck?

I'll say this much, the Chargers did make a few pivotal errors which gave the Patriots an opportunity to win the game. The muffed and re-muffed punt, a few dropped passes, and the interception fumble are a few of the most obvious. I don't see how this is luck, though. Nor do I see our being able to score after these plays was being lucky. Furthermore, we made plenty of mistakes, as well. We turned the ball over 3 times. San Diego had 0 points off our turnovers. We scored 14 off their turnovers. Luck? We had a few dropped balls, and a few misguided passes, but in the end, our offense was still able to score more points than the Chargers.

As glaring as some of the mistakes San Diego made were, they also played one hell of a football game. LT had 187 yards of total offense. As a team, they ran for nearly 3 times as many yards as we did. They pressured Brady a great deal, sacking him twice, hurrying and hitting him so often that he made big mistakes. Both of their lines did a great job at what they do. Most of them played a very good game. They controlled the line of scrimmage, the rushing game, the field position, 3rd down conversions, total first downs, time of possession, and were only -1 in the turnover ratio. But we still won. I guess we got lucky.

What exactly is luck? Here's what Dictionary.com defines luck as:

1. the force that seems to operate for good or ill in a person's life, as in shaping circumstances, events, or opportunities: With my luck I'll probably get pneumonia.
2. good fortune; advantage or success, considered as the result of chance: He had no luck finding work.
3. a combination of circumstances, events, etc., operating by chance to bring good or ill to a person: She's had nothing but bad luck all year.
4. some object on which good fortune is supposed to depend: This rabbit's foot is my luck.
—Verb phrases Informal.
5. luck into or onto, to meet, acquire, become, etc., by good luck: She lucked into a great job.
6. luck out, to have an instance or run of exceptionally good luck: He lucked out when he made a hole in one during the tournament.
7. luck upon, to come across by chance: to luck upon a profitable investment.
8. down on one's luck, in unfortunate circumstances; unlucky: She hated to see her old friend so down on her luck.
9. in luck, lucky; fortunate: We were in luck, for the bakery was still open.
10. luck of the draw, the luck one has in or as if in drawing cards.
11. out of luck, unlucky; unfortunate: When it comes to getting World Series tickets, we're usually out of luck.
12. push one's luck, Informal. to try to make too much of an opportunity; go too far. Also, crowd one's luck.

A key word I'm seeing here is "chance." Now, a flip of a coin, that's luck. That's purely chance. Recovering a fumble, that isn't luck. There isn't much chance involved in that. The player fumbled for some reason. He could have been stripped, hit hard, just lost control of the ball, whatever. He still fumbled because he lost control over the ball. That isn't chance. Neither is a muffed punt, or a personal foul penalty. These things are not random events like being struck by lightning. These are mistakes.

The real test in any football game is how a team capitalizes on their opponent's mistakes and how they minimize the effect of their own miscues. You can throw 10 INTs and fumble the ball 5 times, but if the other team fails to score any points off these turnovers, and you score a touchdown somehow, you'll probably win.

The Pats are NOT lucky to still be in the playoffs. They outplayed the San Diego Chargers. They outcoached the San Diego Chargers. On Sunday, they were better than the Chargers.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Wow! WOW! As much as my heart was racing in anticipation of this game, it got faster as time went on. I have to say that for 90% of this game, perhaps more, we looked terrible. But in that 10%, we played our hearts out and earned a victory over the 14-2, #1 seeded San Diego Chargers.

For a great majority of this game, I was planning a losing post. This is one of those "Here is why we lost" types of thing that I hate to write. I was planning to don my Brady jersey tomorrow in order to show everyone that I still loved the Pats. Now I will wear it out of pride for our team, and I will write a regular post about why we won, why we COULD have lost, and what is up ahead.

Let's start with before the game. Everyone, and I mean everyone was talking about LT and how the Patriots would try to stop him. I didn't think we'd be able to keep him to a bad game like 15 carries for 50 yards, or anything like that. I figured LT would have a great day, but we could win. It all depended on what we did on offense, and what we did with the opportunities given to us. The Chargers were going to blitz the crap out of us, and how we played against the blitz would be a big factor in determining the game. Would we give Brady enough time, and would our receivers get open against one-on-one coverage.

The game started with, guess what, LT running. He got some good blocking from his tackle and tight end that created a pinhole that he made look like a black hole. He ran for 11 yards and a 1st down. He got 3 on the next play and Rivers threw to Neal for 11 more. LT got 3 on the next play. To me, these 3 run yards were huge. LT had so many carries that could have been stopped for a loss or no gain, but he is so hard to bring down that he gets a few extra yards. He uses his speed to get 20 when he should get 3, and his strength to get 3 when he should get none. He is the MVP, without a doubt.

After that run, Rivers threw to Parker who was stripped before having control by Hobbs. Not being able to hold onto the ball would be a trademark of Chargers receivers throughout the day. On the next play chad Scott made a nice open field tackle on Antonio Gates to force a 3rd down and a punt. However, the drive had successfully gotten into our territory to the 43 yard line. The Chargers ensuing punt was fair caught by Troy Brown at the 10.

The Patriots had a three and out. They tried spreading the field a bit, but things just weren't working. Sauerbrun punted to the 50. LT and the chargers were unable to get a yard, and punted. Faulk fair caught it at the 7. Even though we had just made a good defensive stop, I was worried. Things were looking like the Miami loss when we couldn't get anything going on offense, and were constantly defending a short-field.

Brady hit Reche for 3, then scrambled for 4 more. On 3rd and 3, Merrimen defensed (I love that term) a pass intended for Faulk. Steroid Shawne wouldn't be heard from much the rest of the day.

Speaking of roids, Sauerbrun had a nice 56 yard punt and the Chargers would start their next drive at the 35. The Pats had a chance to make some progress in the field position battle. But then LT ran for 15 yards. After a pair of incompleteness, Rivers hit Parker for 21 yards. A reverse got blown up by Colvin, Warren, and Phil Rivers for a 7 yard loss. LT got 6, but the Chargers couldn't convert on 3rd and 11. The Chargers went for it on 4th down instead of a 47 yard field goal attempt. However, Vrabel got in on Rivers and forced a fumble. After we recovered, we finally had the ball to start a drive past our own 10 yard line.

On 1st and 10 on the 35, we ran three straight plays. Dillon for 3, then 3 again, then Faulk for 5 on 3rd and 4. The Patriots made their first penetration into Chargers territory with a 9 yard pass from Brady to Brown. Dillon got the 1st down on the next play. After Dillon was stopped for a 1 yard gain, Brady overthrew Gaffney in the end zone. Jabbar had a step and a half on his man, but Brady just put a bit too much under it. On 3rd and 9, Brady threw a conservative pass to Brown, who was tackled shy of the 1st down, but the play allowed us to attempt a 50 yard field goal which Gotskowski nailed. 3-0 New England

After a good kickoff return, the Chargers tried an all Tomlinson drive. LT got 16 on the first play to end the 1st quarter, then was stopped at the line. He caught a 6 yard pass, then a 3rd and 4 incomplete forced a Chargers punt. On 1st and 10, Maroney got 5, but was swarmed in the backfield on the next play and lost 4. An incomplete was followed by a punt.

LT got 5, then 4, then Neal was stuffed. The chargers went for it on 4th and 1, and Turner got 17 before Sanders wrapped him up. Rivers threw to Gates who seemed to catch it at the 2, then seemed to fumble it. Vrabel seemed to fall on it, but the play was challenged by San Diego and the pass was ruled incomplete. It was a good reversal, though, as Gates never did a "football move." Rivers hit Gates again for 9, then Rivers was flushed and forced to scramble for 2. He then hit Neal for 9. On 1st and goal from the 2, LT easily took it in for a TD. 7-3 San Diego.

After a 15 yard face mask penalty, the Patriots had their best starting field position on the 43. Then Brady and Graham hooked up for the biggest offensive play for the Patriots for 19 yards to the charger 38. Then Brady threw a pick. It was probably the worst time to throw it. We had just fallen behind 7-3, but seemed to have a little bit of momentum about to build up. Brady seemed to think that Edwards would follow a receiver who ran in front of him, but he stayed put and jumped up to catch the ball. Just a stupid INT.

The Chargers blitz was preventing Brady from making complete throwing motions and following through. They did a good job of forcing Brady to make decisions, and on this play, Brady made a bad one.

The defense stood up nicely after the INT. This would be a theme. Even though we had difficulty holding onto the ball, we did a good job of not allowing turnovers to kill us by allowing points off them. Hawkins capped off the defensive stand with a sack for an 11 yard loss. However, give credit to Rivers who did a good job of holding onto the ball. If he fumbles right there, it's a HUGE turnover.

Although the Patriots forced a 3 and out and allowed 0 points off the interception, the turnover still hurt us. We had gotten to the San Diego 38 yard line with a chance to penetrate even further. After the Chargers punted, we had the ball back at our 33. That's a 29 yard difference, and yards weren't exactly coming cheaply against the Chargers defense.

After gaining 0 yards, Sauerbrun punted a 52 yarder and after the 8 yard return, San Diego would start at their 23. This was their worst starting field position at this point in the game. It didn't seem to matter, though.

LT ran up the middle for 11, then again for 2. He caught a screen and exploded for 58 yards. It was just a display of a great football player making a great play.

Asante Samuel finally dragged down Tomlinson at the 6.

Probably the weirdest "tackle" of Samuel's career as he essentially tripped up LT enough so that he fell down. Turner took it into the end zone on the next play. 14-3 San Diego. Things were looking bleak.

The Patriots had 2:00 and some timeouts to try to get some points on the board. But things didn't look good. We were down by 11 against a defense that hadn't allowed us to do anything consistently. We were also against a team with a sensational running game that could drain out the clock with ease.

The Pats started from their 28. Surprisingly, Faulk got the ball for 7. Then he got it again and got 7 more. These two plays allowed us to continue the drive further. After a holding penalty on Mankins, Brady hit Gaffney on a sideline route for 17. Jabbar got it again for 16 more to the Charger 32. This was our deepest penetration to that point. After an incomplete, Faulk ran for 5 and Caldwell caught a 9 yarder. With 0:17 on the clock, Gaffney had a 7 yard reception, moving the ball to the 11. An offside penalty moved the ball to the 6, Brady hit Gaffney in the back of the end zone for a touchdown, 14-10 San Diego.

The Pats went into the locker room with some momentum, and had the game close against a tough blitzing defense and a strong running game.

The teams exchanged punts to open the 2nd half. On a 3rd and 10 play, Brady threw a ball that was intended for Brown but was picked off by the Chargers. They started the drive from our 32 and moved the ball forward 11 yards before a holding penalty pushed it back. This meant they were on the edge of field goal range. After an in-completion and a Tomlinson run for 2, Rivers was sacked by Sanders for a loss of 10. This knocked San Diego out of field goal range and they were forced to punt.

Even though we kept San Diego from scoring, the turnover hurt us. Their punt was downed at the 2 yard line and we'd once again have a long field. In the 2nd half, to this point, neither team was really winning or losing the field position battle. But after the pick, we were definitely losing it.

After an incompletion on 1st and 10, Brady hit Brown for 12 yards. Faulk got 6 up the middle, but after an incomplete and a run for a 2 yard loss, the Pats were forced to punt. Sauerbrun booted a 51 yarder, which was muffed by Parker. Instead of trying to collapse on the ball, Parker then seemed to try to pick it up so that he could return it. This allowed the coverage team to envelop him and David Thomas to fall on the ball.

Now we had the ball on the Charger 31. San Diego gave us 5 more yards with an illegal contact penalty. After an incomplete pass to Graham, the Pats tried a play-action pass to Faulk, who was stopped at the line. Mankins was called for pass interference. Now, I haven't done any research on this to confirm it, but this is the first and last time Logan Mankins will be called for PI.

Brady hit Brown for 7 on the next play, but was sacked from the blind-side and the ball popped out. Matt Light caught it, though, but he was unable to advance anywhere near a 1st down. Florence head-butted a Patriot after the play and was flagged for it, which gave us a 1st down and another shot at the end zone.

Maroney ran for 4, then was stopped at the line. Mankins was called for holding which moved the ball back to the 24. Brady then threw too low for Watson, who could have walked into the end zone. On 3rd down, Brady hit Gaffney for 8, which I felt was a good play because it made the field goal attempt easier. Gostkowski nailed the 34 yarder. 14-13 San Diego.

We took advantage of San Diego's mistakes, which were numerous on this drive. This was something the chargers hadn't really been able to do to us.

The Chargers seemed to respond nicely on offense. Rivers threw to Jackson for 12. Tomlinson ran for 9, then Neal got the 1st down with 2. The Chargers ran a screen to LT on the flat, but Colvin was in between Rivers and Tomlinson. Rivers tried lofting the ball over Colvin, but Roosevelt tipped it up, then came down with it.

For a linebacker not named Vrabel, it was a dam good catch. Tomlinson seemed to have his hands on Colvin's face mask, but the flag thrown by the officials was picked up. I felt it should have been a 5 yard incidental penalty, but no penalty was assessed.

We didn't score off the turnover, but we were able to move the ball as far as San Diego's 41. After driving, we punted the chargers back to their 17, their worst starting field position to that point.

LT moved the ball to the 30 with a 17 yard run. Turner was held for 1 on the next play, but then Rivers hit Gates for 19 at midfield. The chargers converted a big 3rd and 7 when Rivers hit Gates for 12. LT ran for 1, then Jackson caught a 31 yard pass at our 3. LT easily took it into the end zone on the next play.

21-13 San Diego.

8:35 left in the 4th quarter and we needed 8 points to tie. I'm not going to say I was confident we'd win at this point, but I didn't doubt it much.

We started the drive at the 37, thanks in large part to a Chargers personal foul on the extra-point. This drive needs to be divided play by play.

On 1st and 10 at the 37, Brady threw incomplete intended for Brown, defensed very well by Polk.

On 2nd and 10, Brady found Gaffney for 17 yards in the middle of the field. These 10-19 yard passes were the bread and butter of the Patriots the past two years.

On 1st and 10 from the San Diego 46, Brady hit Faulk for a modest gain of 5. Even though there was just under 8 minutes on the clock, the Patriots needed to be quick. Even if we scored a tD, we also needed to make the 2 point conversion, and if we failed, we'd need the ball back with time.

On 2nd and 5 from the Charger 41, Brady threw to Brown deep down the sideline, but the ball was overthrown, which was good because Brown was pretty blanketed.

On 3rd and 5, Brady was pressured out of the pocket. He seemed to want to run, but Merrimen's steroid fueled legs allowed him to converge on Brady at the line of scrimmage and the hyped up linebacker made his only noise of the game with a "sack" that resulted in a loss of 0 yards.

The Pats were forced to go for it on 4th down, and what happened was one of the greatest plays in Patriots history.

Brady threw to Brown in tight coverage. Marlon McCree intercepted it, and Troy Brown stripped him. Reche Caldwell fell on the ball and it was 1st and 10 Patriots at the San Diego 32. For some reason, the chargers challenged the play, but it was clearly an interception, then a fumble, then a Patriots recovery.

This play shows what it means to be a Patriot. Brown isn't going to be named to any All-Star teams any time soon, but he is capable of making amazing plays when confronted with tough situations. This is what the Patriots do!

The challenge was also one of the weirdest decisions I've seen a coach make to challenge a play. The ruling on the field was upheld and San Diego was charged a timeout.

On 1st and 10, Brady hit Gaffney for 7 yards. Gaffney has become a favorite target of Brady the past 2 weeks, with 18 total catches against San Diego and New York, compared to 11 during the regular season.

On 2nd and 3 from the 25, Brady threw incomplete to Watson. Despite being thrown to, Watson had yet to make a catch and he let this one go underneath his fingers.

On 3rd and 3, Brady hit Gaffney yet again for 12 more yards.

On 1st and 10 from the 13 and 4:46 on the clock in the 4th, Watson caught his first pass of the day for 9 yards.

On 2nd and 1 from the 4, Brady looked right, then to the middle, then to the right, then looked left and saw Reche Caldwell all alone in the end zone. Brady threw it, Reche caught it, touchdown. 21-19 San Diego.

We had to go for 2 to tie it.

My roommate said as the Patriots lined up for the attempt "I like seeing trick plays."

To which I replied "Well, you're about to see one."

Kevin Faulk had lined up as a receiver, but came in motion and wound up next to Brady, who was in the shotgun. Instantly, every Patriots fan is thinking direct snap to Faulk. That's what happened. And Faulk took it in to tie the game.

It was 21-21 with 4:36 on the clock. But we still had to stop the Chargers from scoring. If we stopped them quickly, we could get the ball back and a chance to win it.

LT ran for 5, then Rivers threw incomplete. Asante Samuel made a great play on the ball to force an in completion on 3rd down and force a punt. The 3 and out took a total of 60 seconds off the clock. Great stop by the defense.

We got the ball back on our 15. We moved the ball to the 34 when Brady hit Graham for 19. Brady threw Graham's way again and it was nearly picked off, but Graham was able to break up the play enough. After Brady threw incomplete to Faulk, the risk of blitzing was demonstrated fully.

Why don't teams blitz on every play? Well, it leaves receivers on islands with their DBs in one-on-one coverage. If the blitz is sufficiently picked up, and the receivers are able to create any kind of space, they will be burnt. If the QB has enough time to look, he will find an open man. This is exactly what happened on 3rd and 10. Brady found Caldwell in one-on-one coverage. Caldwell had beaten his man. Brady hit him in stride, and Caldwell tight-roped up the sideline for 49 yards.

The ball was on the San Diego 17, in field goal range. With 2:31 on the clock, the game was now about running off time and setting up a field goal attempt.

Dillon got 2 and the Chargers used a timeout. Dillon then got 3 and the 2 minute warning stopped the clock. Dillon was stopped for a loss of 1 at the 13 and the Patriots ran off the clock before calling a timeout. Then the rookie kicker took the field, and nailed a 31 yard field goal.

24-21 New England. This was our first lead since 7:19 in the 2nd quarter, or nearly 40 minutes of game clock.

There was 1:14 on the clock, still plenty of time for San Diego.

After the kickoff and return, San Diego had the ball on their 25 with 1:05 left. Rivers hit Gates for 14 yards. The play took 25 seconds. Ball on the 39, 0:50 on the clock. For some reason, Rivers hit Gates near the middle of the field for 4 yards. Clock continues moving. Ball on the 43, 0:24 on the clock. After a spike, Rivers hit Parker at our 36. This was at the edge of field goal range. They spiked the ball with 0:08 on the clock. They attempted a 54 yard field goal that was short and to the right. Game over.

This wasn't the cleanest of wins, and we should thank San Diego for helping us out with dropped balls, silly penalties, and turnovers. But I think the Patriots earned this victory. Despite all their miscues, the Chargers are a dam good team. And it wasn't like they all played like crap, either. LT had 187 yards of total offense and 2 TDs. As a team, San Diego rushed for 148 yards against us. They forced 3 picks. They won the field position battle throughout most of the game with 5 punts inside our 20, and 3 inside our 10.

We took advantage of San Diego's miscues, and we limited the damage of our own mistakes. That's New England Patriots football.

Tom Brady had one of his worst playoff performances for about 90% of this game. He threw 3 picks, and threw about half a dozen balls off target, including an overthrow of Gaffney in the end zone. He also had a fumble. His stat line looks like a Drew Bledsoe one (no offense, Drew, and we all know you're better than Tony Romo). 27 for 51 (yes, 51!), for 280 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs. But in the end he orchestrated some nice drives.

The Patriots running game was non-existent. The Chargers did an excellent job of stopping our run. Faulk led the team in rushing with 25 yards on 6 carries. Dillon had 8 carries for 18 yards, Maroney 5 for 5, and Brady 2 for 3. Our running backs had a total of 19 carries for 48 yards. That's 2.5 yards a carry. Not good. Compare that with San Diego's backs who had 29 carries for 152 yards (5.2 a carry). Faulk was the only back who caught passes, he caught 2 for 11 yards. San Diego's backs had 84 receiving yards on 4 catches. No running back fumbled the entire game on either team.

Jabbar Gaffney had his second straight career game. He had 10 catches for 103 yards and a TD. That's 18 catches and 207 yards in these last two games. But I guess he wasn't good enough for Houston or Miami. Great find by the Patriots to pick this guy up.

Reche Caldwell had a great game with 7 catches for 80 yards and a TD. His 49 yard reception and run set-up the game winning field goal. Reche also recovered Troy Brown strip in the 4th quarter.

Troy Brown. You simply can't say enough about Troy. He had 5 catches for 39 yards. Perhaps more importantly, he stripped McCree after Brady threw an INT. The play allowed the Patriots drive to continue and they eventually tied it up. He's such a Patriot, and by that I mean he's a great team player.

The tight-ends didn't make a whole lot of noise in this game, partially because they were kept in on pass protection on a good number of plays. Graham had two big receptions for a total of 38 yards. Watson only caught the ball once after being thrown to several times, for a 9 yard gain. David Thomas might have had the best game out of all of our TEs with a muffed punt recovery.

Stephen Gostkowski had a very nice day. His only blemish was a kickoff out of bounds. However, he made 3 field goals, including the game winner, and including a 50 yarder, and kicked an extra point. Can we finally stop all the whining about losing Vinatieri's clutchness. I know Gostkowski's kick in the 4th wasn't exactly the hardest in the world, but he still nailed it to win the game. He also nailed that 50 yarder in the 1st, and in a close game like this, every single point counts.

Our return game was non-existant. We averaged 17.5 on kickoff returns, and had 1 punt return for 0 yards. Credit the Chargers punter and coverage team for this.

Saurbrun had a decent day with a 44.7 yard average and 1 punt inside the 20. He had a few 50+ punts, which was good because we were losing the field position battle for most of the game. Maybe he and Merrimen started another cycle.

The Pats defensive line had a decent day. Their job is to eat up blocks both on pass and rush defense, and they did that. It's just that LT got to the outside on us so well and eluded the tackles of our linebackers and defensive backs.

Our linebackers were beaten by LT a few times, but so wasn't every linebacker in the NFL that played San Diego. Colvin only made noise on one play, but he made a lot of it with a brilliant pickoff of a screen intended for LT. Bruschi did a good job of gang tackling in the middle. Banta-Cain had a fumble recovery, and Mike Vrabel was the one who forced the fumble with a sack of Rivers.

Our DBs had a solid game, as well. Notice how you didn't really see Asante Samuel that much? That means he was doing his job. We did see him a few times, and he did a good job of playing the ball and breaking up plays. Ellis Hobbs also had a few good plays on the ball that broke up some pass plays, including one that would have been a San Diego touchdown in the 1st quarter. Artrell Hawkins made some nice "last-chance" tackles on LT and by in large did a good job defending. He also had a sack rushing off the edge. Sanders also sacked Rivers, but he got burnt a bit more in run stopping by LT. We really missed Rodney Harrison in this game because he does such a great job of finishing off tackles and stopping the run in the middle of the field.

All things considered, the offensive line did well. Mankins had a few penalties, but Light had a great game. You didn't see Merrimen much, even when he was on the field. They even moved him away from Light. Matt also recovered a fumble which allowed a Patriots scoring drive to continue. The line didn't get much push for the running game, and they bent to the blitz a few times, but we must remember that San Diego has a very good defensive front.

So we beat the best team in the NFL. Imagine if the NFL had a BCS type of system, Baltimore and San Diego would be playing as the 1 and 2 teams. Instead, it's the 3 and 4 teams. We go to Indianapolis next Sunday. We can win that game, but I'll talk about that in another post.

After the game, Tomlinson remarked about the Patriots players imitating Shawne Merrimen's "lights out" dance.

"You guys know me, im a very classy person," Tomlinson said. "They showed no class, and maybe it comes from the head coach."

Just a few thoughts.

1. Classy people don't usually call themselves classy. LT doesn't dance in the end zone and doesn't talk trash, but it is weird when someone says "I'm a classy guy" to reporters after a game.

2. Imitating a dance is not classless. If it is, then the dance itself is classless. That would mean that Merrimen is classless. If you're going to have a special little "trademark" dance like some sort of stripper with a special move, then prepared to have it imitated. People do the Mile High Salute in Denver to make fun of the Broncos, and many, many other celebrations have been imitated.

3. I thought that given Merrimen's history with steroids, it would have been even funnier to start a modified Lights Out dance by injecting one's arm with a fake syringe. But I guess that would be even more classless according to LT. But not as classless as TAKING STEROIDS AND CHEATING!

4. I know I'm biased, but the Patriots under Belichick are some of classiest players and coaches you'll see in the NFL. We don't talk trash all week leading up to a game, we don't talk trash after a game, and we don't have choreographed and planned celebrations after making a freaking tackle. We play, we win, we keep our mouths shut, and our celebrations spontaneous.

5. Your team showed no poise, and maybe it comes from the head coach.

Anyway, LT will probably apologize. I know he was probably frustrated after having such a great game and still losing. But hey, it's the NFL, it's a team game, and you lost fair and square. Enjoy the off-season, and have fun with 8 of your teammates at the Pro Bowl.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Just Ended Their Season

The New England Patriots met the Jets in Foxborough, and blew them out 37-16. The game was closer than the score would suggest, but the Pats maintained control almost throughout the contest.

The Pats started off the game in decent field position at the 35. They decided to pick on Dyson as he was inactive until this week. They also seemed to prefer throwing short to the sidelines in an effort to stop the inevitable blitzes of the Jets. The Jets started off with a very Patriot-like defensive alignment in that they had no defensive alignment. Everyone was milling on or near the line of scrimmage. But the Pats, this time, were ready for the blitzes.

Brady hit Gaffney on the flat for 12. Dillon then got the ball and ran for 4. Gaffney got it again for 7, then Dillon again for 2. After an incomplete, Gaffney got another catch for 15 to the Jets 25 yard line. Faulk got stuffed for a loss, then after an incomplete, Brady found Brown for 16 and a first down. Dillon took it off tackle for an 11 yard TD run.

The Patriots ran a no huddle, non-hurry-up offense that kept the Jets from subbing and adapting. 65 yards, 3:07, 7-0 Patriots.

The Pats came out just as aggressively on defense. Banta-Cain got in Pennington's face, along with Seymour, Wilfork, and warren. Tully took him down for a loss of 2. The next play, they got pressure on Pennington again, and forced him to run. Chad got 7, but forcing Pennington to use his legs is a good thing about 99.9% of the time. The Jets were also running no huddle, but the Pats were able to mount good pressure with 4 men and forced an incomplete and a 3 and out.

On the punt, Hobbs got called for holding so the Pats were forced to start from the 10. Maroney took the hand off for 4, then the Pats caught the Jets in the middle of a substitution and got a 5 yard penalty out of it. Maroney got 7, then 4, all in the no huddle. Brady threw incomplete, then he hit Gaffney for 5 on 3rd and 6. Gaffney could have fallen forward for a 1st down, but he seemed to not know where the marker was and he stepped back in an attempt to get running room, only to be tackled behind the 1st down line. The Pats were forced to punt.

Gaffney's misstep was a small mistake. But if we get the 1st down, the drive continues and we may be able to continue moving and pin the Jets deep, or maybe even score again. But unlike mistakes we've made earlier in the year, we didn't let this one kill us.

The Pats stopped the rush up the middle for no gain, but Pennington hit Washington for 11 and a 1st down. They seemed to adjust their protection and the Patriots were finding it difficult to pressure Pennington. After an incomplete, Washington was stuffed for a gain of 1, by Vinny Wilfork who tossed him like a rag doll. I couldn't hear a whistle, but Wilfork got called for a 15 yard personal foul for finishing a tackle.

The Jets got 8 yards after the penalty, but were forced to punt. We got the ball on the 14. Next play, Dillon had the ball pop out and the Jets recovered.

This was another mistake, and could have been a massive one. We've been fouling up like this all season, but this time we did a great job to limit the damage. The Jets got the ball at the 15, but were only able to move 5 yards forward. They kicked a field goal, 7-3 Patriots.

The Pats were able to move the ball from the 30 up to the 48 before they were forced to punt. The 2nd quarter began and the Jets had a 3rd and 7. Pennington found Cochery in space. Vrabel had been on him, and was obviously mismatched. Hawkins came up to stop him, but overran him and missed the tackle. Cochery was sprung free to the sideline and absorbed the tackle of Sanders enough to get into the end zone. It was a bad play by Hawkins, and a good one by Pennington, and cochery. 10-7 Jets. They wouldn't lead for much longer.

Maroney had a nice return to the 42 yard line which set up the Pats drive. Dillon ran for 2, then Caldwell caught a 7 yard pass. On 3rd and 1, Dillon got 8. After an incomplete and a 4 yard throw to Watson, Brady stepped up to elude the rush of Vilma. Vilma was running too fast on the outside to cut back in and was only able to flail wildly at the ball in Brady's hands. But Brady had both hands on the ball, and eventually found a wide enough hole to run for 12 yards. When i say hole, I mean like a third of the field.

On the next play, Poteat got called for PI on Watson so we got the ball on the 3. The Jets did a good job at standing us up and forced a field goal try. It was the first field goal attempt by a Patriots kicker in the playoffs that wasn't Adam Vinatieri since 1994. But Gostkowski hit it, tied game, 10-10.

The Jets came out in a no huddle, shotgun format that worked nicely against us. They drove into our territory before we finally stopped them and forced a punt. But they were protecting Pennington and finally getting 1st downs.

Maroney started the drive with a 6 yard run. Brady hit Watson for 10, then Faulk was stopped at the line of scrimmage. Brady hit Caldwell for 19, then after an incomplete pass, the Kevin Faulk show started. Faulk ran up the middle for 7. Then for 8. Then for 9. Maroney got 2, then Gaffney caught a 13 yard pass. Maroney had a pair of carries for 5 each. It was 1st and goal on the 1. Evans and Maroney got stopped at the line. With 0:14 on the clock and on 3rd and 1, the Pats could go for the end zone twice, or pass once then try a field goal. They threw play-action pass and Brady split the defenders to hit Graham for a touchdown. 17-10 Pats, and they would not give up the lead for the rest of the game.

The second half began with a long Jets drive. They were protecting Pennington, spreading our defense, and finally ran the ball well. They were making a lot of good mid-range passes and racking up 1st downs. They got as far as our 3, but were forced to kick a field goal. The drive ate up 6:41 of clock, which actually was good for us.

The Pats responded with a nice drive of their own. They were in a hybrid of a huddle/no-huddle scheme, gathering after each play but not really huddling. They drove as deep as the New York 15, but on 2nd and 7, Brady was sacked for a loss of 12. After a conservative pass, Gostkowski nailed a 40 yard field goal to make it 20-13.

The game was still close. It was only a 7 point lead with nearly 20 minutes left on the clock. The Jets had been moving well against us and were definitely threats to score a TD. The Jets continued their forward momentum with a 19 yard pass that broke into our half of the field. On the next play, Pennington threw a quick pass to the side. Colvin jumped and the ball hit both hands, but slipped to the ground. Everyone on the field thought the play was over except for the refs and Vinny Wilfork. Vince scooped up the ball and ran down the sideline before being knocked out at the 14. The replays clearly showed the ball travelling backwards, making the play a fumble. This was a game-breaking play, and good heads up football by Wilfork.

The Pats didn't move the ball much, and settled for a field goal, but that made the game a two score contest. We also took 1:39 of the clock, and would force the Jets to mount another complete drive in order to score.

The Jets did drive down the field, but were stalled on the 19. They hit a 37 yard field goal, but the game was still a 7 point game, and the Jets took 3:25 to drive down the field.

There was now 11:32 left in the 4th, and the Pats had the ball. It was kill time. A long drive and/or a score would effectively end the game. They did both. After a strange long pass attempt down the field on 1st down, Maroney gained 2 yards and Brady found Brown for 10 and a 1st on a big 3rd and 8 play. Maroney ran for 8, then for 4. The clock was under 10:00. Caldwell got 13 yards, then Faulk ran for 1. Clock under 8:00. Gaffney caught an 8 yarder to break 100 on the day, and set up a 3rd and 1 run by Dillon which he got 7 on. Under 7:00. The ball was on the 10. Brady hit Watson for 3, then the Pats utilized the Jets blitz against them. The Pats had often been keeping the back in the backfield for additional protection on passing plays. On this play, Faulk went out on a pattern and was wide open. Brady found him, and Kevin found the end zone.

Warm up the bus, the game was over. 30-16 Pats.

There was still 5:00 on the clock, but the Jets would be in a situation in which they'd be passing every play. This meant the line could tee off on Pennington and the coverage guys knew the patterns would be deep so they could sit back. This became very apparent when Samuel picked off Pennington and returned it all the way for a 36 yard TD.

The rest of the game was elementary. The Jets moved forward a bit, but Pennington was sacked on 4th and 10 to end it.

vinny "Victory Formation" Testaverde took a knee to end the game.

Before this tender hug, Belichick manhandled a photographer in his way to meet Mangini.

A lot of guys had great games and good games, which is why we won. Let's start at the top.

Belichick did a great job anticipating what the Jets would do, especially in terms of blitzing. The Jets got some pressure on Brady, but it was inconsistent and sporadic. On offense and defense, we were able to sufficiently surprise the Jets enough to give us an edge.

Tom Brady had a very solid game, throwing a lot of great passes. Some were close to being picked, but these were long jump balls. He was 22/34 for 212 and 2 TDs. It was his 10th straight playoff game with at least 1 TD pass, tying him for 3rd all-time behind Favre and Marino. It was also his 11th win in the playoffs as a starting QB.

Corey Dillon, despite the fumble, had a solid game. He had 10 carries for 53 yards, and a TD. He worked for a lot of extra yardage on every play. He had some big 1st down runs in which he demonstrated a great deal of latteral power. This is something he has that often gets overlooked. everoyne knows he's a great North-South power back, but his power gets displayed when he runs side to side along the line and is able to evade potential tacklers by moving them out of his way. A lot of power backs have trouble on the side, especially when they're unable to square their shoulders. But Dillon is so strong that he can use his arms and upper body to keep defenders from getting good angles on him.

Maroney had a solid playoff debut, rushing for 69 on 18 carries. 3.83 per carry isn't his best average we've seen, but he was very workmanlike and got some tough yardage. He and Dillon helped eat up clock, wear down the Jets, and keep their D-line at home to help pass protection. He also had a big 29 yard kickoff return that set-up a scoring drive.

Kevin Faulk had a good game that is hard to see in the stats. His first few carries went nowhere, but he had some nice runs late in the game and racked up a total of 26 yards on the ground. His 6 carries was a season high. He also caught the game sealing TD pass. Faulk, Dillon, and Maroney all did a phenominal job in picking up blitzes. This is an overlooked part of our RB Corps, but they're very good at it and helped keep Brady from being enveloped.

Jabar Gaffney came out of nowhere to have an amazing game. He had 8 receptions (more than a third of our total catches) for 104 yards. He only had 11 catches all season. This was also his first playoff game and he did very nicely.

Reche Caldwell had a good day at the office with 5 catches for 50 yards.

Troy Brown only caught two passes for 26 yards, but both of these were on 3rd downs and both of these resulted in 1st downs.

Ben Watson didn't look that amazing, but he didn't look terrible. He had 4 catches, but could have had more, including a TD catch. He was hardly in space, though, and didn't screw up any sure receptions.

Daniel Graham had an absolutely amazing game. He only caught one pass for 1 yard, but it was a great TD pass. His blocking and blitz pick up was great. He did a very good job of sealing off the Jets DEs which created huge holes for Dillon, Maroney, and Faulk.

The offensive line looked so much better than they did in November. The Jets were doing a lot to disguise and confuse, but the line was able to answer the challenge. Brady was only sacked once, and we also rushed for 158 total yards.

Vince Wilfork has a great game. He got flagged for a sick tackle, and his awareness shone through when he scopped up the ball and returned it to the 14 on the latteral play. He also ate up a lot of rushers, and did a good job of pushing back the center of the Jets offensive line.

Seymour and warren had solid games. Their 1st quarter pressure didn't last, but they still did a decent job of eating up blocks. The defense was very bendable in the 2nd half, but they did not break. They played very well in the Red Zone today.

Asante Samuel, of course, had a nice INT that ended the game. He had a solid day before that, as did the rest of the defense. We didn't play perfect, but we didn't give up a TD besides the 77 yarder in the 1st half. We didn't allow a TD in the 2nd half, despite the offensive movement of the Jets.

Special teams performed very well. Gostkowski was perfect in place kicking, making 3 field goals, and 4 extra points. He also kicked a touchback. The Pats coverage teams did a good job of preventing any big returns by the Jets. The Jets averaged a mere 16.3 yards in kickoff returns. In punt returns, they only had 1 for 7 yards. Meanwhile, our return team did a good job at getting us decent field position. Hobbs and Maroney combined for a 25.2 return average and we frequently started with the ball beyond the 30 yard line.

Next stop, San Diego to play the Chargers. Should be a good game between two very good teams. By the way, during half-time, Shawne Merrimen of the Chargers predicted the Jets would win. Uh, oh.

For the record, I came up with my headline before I saw this picture.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Okay, I'm gonna do something new. I'm going to give out meaningless, pointless, arbitrary awards (like the Grammys) for various sports related things. Now, all the categories will be limited to New England sports. The team, person, or event must have something significant to do with New England. Also, since winter sports traverse years, starting in one year and ending in the next, we're going to define "year" to mean January 1st, 2006 until December 31st, 2006.

Now keep in mind, these awards are determined strictly by me. You may disagree with them and they may be outright stupid, but they're my decisions

And since this is the first year of the Boston Blood Sox Awards, I'll briefly explain each award.

We're going to start off with the Harry Frazee Award for Goat of the Year. This goes to the athlete(s), coach(es), or executive(s) who were called out and used as whipping boys (or girls) for the downfall or troubles of a team. Now, this doesn't mean that they were responsible for anything, they just became the focus of anger amongst the media and fans. The award is named after Harry Frazee who sold Babe Ruth along with many other great players to New York.

The winner is Manny Ramirez, Left-Fielder, Boston Red Sox

When the Red Sox fell apart near the end of 2006, Manny stopped playing. The anger of Red Sox fans and sportswriters at this lack of heart and hustle incited yet another off-season of Manny Ramirez trade talks. Of course, Manny didn't help the situation much by not playing and then asking for a trade. But there were definitely a great many fans and writers who took the opportunity to try and run Manny out of town on a rail, regardless of the consequences. Manny took the brunt of Red Sox Nation's frustrations over a ruined summah.

Speaking of sportswriters...

On to the Dan Shaughnessy Award for Worst Sports Writing. This goes to the writer that embarrassed himself the most, either through bad writing, or poorly crafted and supported opinions. Or both.

The winner is Dan Shaughnessy, columnist, Boston Globe

Dan is the epitome of Boston sports writing. And that isn't necessarily a good thing. Boston sports writers are overly general, too quick to judge, too quick to take sides, suffer from "binkyism" (choosing favorites), and often can't see past the surface of any issue or situation. Dan is a good example of this. Now, his writing isn't that bad and this is more of a joke at his expense than anything else. Honestly, I like some of his books, I just think a lot of his columns are a bit ridiculous from time to time.

Some friendly suggestions for Matsuzaka
Piecing it all together

In the second one, he predicts USC will beat OSU in the title game. The prediction was published the day USC, "a virtual NFL team," lost to UCLA. And we all know that USC didn't make it to the title game. Furthermore, anyone who thinks USC is a the next best thing to an NFL team is a fool. NFL teams would not lose to Oregon State, or UCLA. Plus, if they were an NFL team, Pete Carroll wouldn't be able to couch them. After all, he's a crappy NFL coach.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Are all the Boston Blood Sox Awards negative? Unfortunately, most of them are positive. I just wanted to start off with the negative ones before getting to the upbeat ones. Sadly, here is the last negative award.

The Peyton Manning and Alex Rodriguez Award for Biggest Disappointment is given to any team, player(s), coach(es), or executive(s) that essentially snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, that was poised on the precipice of greatness and slipped on their own two feet. The one thing that made New England swear the most.

And the winner is the 2006 Boston Red Sox

After making the playoffs for the third straight year in 2005, Sox fans had high hopes for the team. Despite losing Johnny Damon to New York, we had acquired Coco Crisp, Josh Beckett, and a few seemingly decent relievers. We also had prospects on the way, a healthy Schilling, a healthy Nixon, and no more Edgar Renteria.

The team started off nicely, too. After a par April, they exploded in May and June, going 34-18. They came back down to earth in July, and in August, they went further down into the depths of hell. Their 9-21 record in August was one of the worst months of baseball you'll see. They finished with a .500 September/October that kept the season from being a total and utter embarrassment.

Against the AL, we were 70-74. We were 4-5 against the Royals, 10-9 against Tampa, and 7-12 against Toronto. We had the 8th best record in the AL. Only Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Texas, and Seattle had worse records. We lead the East for a good amount of time early on, but then slipped behind New York. We continued to slip until we fell behind Toronto.

Not only was 2006 the first time we've failed to make the playoffs since 2002, it was the first time we finished worse than 2nd in the division since 1997. The team spent about $120 million for a team that folded, collapsed, fell-in, broke down, and sucked.

Now we can move on to the more positive awards. The Award for Hottest Cheerleader on the Patriots is given to the hottest cheerleader on the Patriots. Simple enough. Now I know it seems sexist of me to say "best" player or coach for a guy, and then say "hottest" whatever for a woman, but I don't go to Patriots games that often, I rarely get to see Patriots cheerleaders perform, so it would be difficult to say which one is the best. But I can peruse the web-site and judiciously determine who is the hottest.

And the winner is Ashleigh van Gerven out of THE Worcester State College

Don't really need to explain much, do I?

Up next is the Doug Flutie College Athlete of the Year. This goes to the best athlete that goes to a New England college/university. This award is technically open for any athlete at any school, playing any sport, at any level. However, the bigger the stage, the better. Let's say the best lacrosse player in the country goes to UMass, but the 4th best basketball player goes to BC, obviously the basketball player is on a slightly bigger stage because of his school and his sport.

And the winner is Craig Smith, Forward, Boston College Men's Basketball

Craig Smith was the heart and soul of the BC team that made it to the Sweet 16. He was All ACC first-team, and All American second team. The BC Eagles were the fourth best college sports team in New England behind UConn basketball, last year's BC hockey team, and UMass football. Smith WAS the team. Not to take anything away from the other players, but Smith was just the man for the Eagles last season. Just look at how they're doing at the beginning of the '06-'07 season.

Now it's time for the Bobby Orr Bruins Player of the Year Award. This goes to the best player on the Bruins from January to December.

The winner is Patrice Bergeron, Center

Bergeron led the Bruins in goals, assists, and points in the '05-'06 season, and he is currently 2nd on the team behind Savard in points, 2nd in goals behind Murray, and 2nd in assists behind Savard (also he's 12th in the NHL in assists). He's 21 years old and already an Assistant Captain. He's a big part of the reason why the Bruins have been able to crawl back into playoff contention in a very difficult division (at the moment, 4 of the 5 teams in the Northeast division would be in the playoffs, with the Bruins left out in 9th).

Now it's time for the Bill Russell Celtics Player of the Year Award. This goes to the best player on the Celtics, obviously.

The winner is Paul Pierce, Guard-Forward

Yeah. Paul Pierce. That's all I have to say about that.

The Drew Bledsoe Patriots Player of the Year Award goes to the best player on the Patriots.

The winner is Asante Samuel, Cornerback

Samuel tied for the League lead in interceptions with Champ Bailey at 10 picks. He didn't bring any back for a TD, but he did average 12 yards a return. Asante fell 1 INT short of tying a Patriot record, but he did tie a New England record for picks in a game with 3 against the Bears.

The Ted Williams Red Sox Player of the Year Award goes to the best player on the Sox.

The winner is David Ortiz, Designated Hitter

Papi led the team in homeruns. Had Papelbon remained healthy, he might have been a contender for this award, but Ortiz was able to go out every day and mesmerize, even when the rest of the team was doing the opposite. Fifty-four homers, 'nuf said.

The Tom Brady Award for Biggest Surprise goes to the player, team, coach, or executive that came out of nowhere and burst onto the scene as a force, even though most of us either never heard of them, or didn't think they were very good.

The winner is Jonathan Papelbon, Closer, Boston Red Sox

Papelbon went from a potential starter with some promise at the end of 2005, to being the most dominant closer we've ever seen don the Red Sox uniform. His consecutive save streak of 20 was one of the most impressive stretches of pitching you'll ever see. 29 innings, 1 earned run. Overall in '06, he saved 35 games and kept opponents to a .167 average.

The Curt Schilling Bloody Sock Award is awarded to an athlete who has demonstrated extreme toughness, grit, and determination. It is named after the famous blood-soaked sock that Schilling sported in the ALCS and World Series in 2004.

The recipient of the Bloody Sock Award is Jon Lester of the Boston Red Sox.

Lester was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma near the end of the 2006 season and has since undergone treatment in his native Washington. The good news is that all signs of cancer have gone away and Lester expects to be back in 2007.

I just found this web-site on MLB Blogs:
K Cancer
They sell t-shirts with Lester's name and number on the back and a K Cancer logo on the front. Or, they used to, not sure if they still do but you can ask them via e-mail. Proceeds from the shirts are split between Dana Farber and the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
The Best Game Award goes to the best contest involving a New England team. The game could be a great championship win, or a defeat in a well fought contest, whatever. The Best Game was...

BC Men's Basketball vs. Villanova in the 3rd round of the NCAA Tournament on March 24th.

In the Metrodome, 4th seeded Boston College faced 1st seeded Villanova in a battle to determine who went on to the Elite Eight. Boston College burst out of the gate and led for most of the early part of the game. BC opened up a 9-0 lead to begin the game, and led by as many as 16 points before Villanova came back to within 4 at the end of the 1st half. In the 2nd half, Villanova tied the score at 28-28 before BC once again pulled away to lead by 8 points. But ‘Nova never quit and kept it close as the game winded down to the final minutes. BC lost the lead for the first time in the game with 2:37 left on the clock. With 0:28 left, down 51-48, Jared Dudley made a 3 pointer that tied the game. Villanova failed to score and the game went to OT.

In overtime, ‘Nova pulled ahead early 56-51, but BC crawled back to make it 56-55. With 0:42 on the clock, Villanova took a 58-55 lead. BC responded with 0:25 left with 2 points to make it 58-57. After Villanova missed a free throw, Craig Smith hit a two pointer to take the lead 59-58 with 0:12 on the clock. Villanova missed a shot but got the rebound, then Sean Williams appeared to block another shot, but it was ruled goaltending and Villanova was awarded the 2 points and the 60-59 lead. The Eagles failed to hit a desperation 3 and the game was over.

Even though Boston College lost, it was still one of the best games of the entire NCAA tournament between two very good teams.

Now it is time for the Best Athlete Award. This goes to the best performer in any sport, at any level.

The winner is David Ortiz, Designated Hitter, Boston Red Sox

David Ortiz had one of the best seasons in Red Sox history last year. He hit 54 homeruns, which led the AL, and set a new franchise record for the Sox. He knocked in 137 runs, had 85 extra-base hits, 115 total runs scored, an OBP of .413, SLG of .636, and an impressive OPS of 1.049. He also stole a base.

Ortiz was the starting first-basemen for the American League All-Star team. He won the Silver Slugger Award for Designated Hitter. He finished 3rd in MVP voting. He was the AL player of the month in July. He broke his own record for homeruns hit by a DH. He tied Babe Ruth's AL record for homeruns hit on the road with 32. He led the AL in the following categories:

Homeruns - 54
RBI - 137
Total Bases - 355
Walks -119
Runs Created - 146
At-Bats per HR - 10.3

Ortiz finished in the top 5 in the AL in Slugging, OPS, Runs, Extra-Basehits, Times on Base, Intentional Walks.

Ortiz was the best player on the Red Sox, and the best player in New England sports in 2006.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to a man or woman whose lifetime work deserves recognition. The first BBS Lifetime Achievement Award goes to the late, great Red Auerbach.

Red's resume is well known, but it deserves repetition. Nine NBA Championships as a coach, including eight in a row. He led the Celtics to 10 Eastern Division titles. He was the first coach to reach 1,000 wins. He was named Coach of the Year in 1965, Executive of the Year in 1980, and Greatest Coach Ever in 1980. Red was a member of the Celtics organization for each one of their record 16 titles. He was the greatest coach in NBA history, the greatest executive in NBA history, the greatest coach in Boston sports history, the greatest executive in Boston sports history, and one of the greatest coaches or executives in the history of all of sports.

Now, the final Award. The Team of the Year Award goes to the team that was the most impressive, most excellent, and did the best at making you proud of New England sports in general. This was not an easy one to pick. The 4 major teams in New England all failed to win a championship. The Pats were eliminated in the 2nd round of the playoffs at the beginning of 2006, and God knows what they'll do in 2007. They were the only one of the major teams to make the post-season, but they did disappoint.

One less than major team did win a championship. The Portland SeaDogs won the Eastern League Championship. A few other teams came very close. BC Men's Hockey made it to the NCAA finals, losing 2-1 to Wisconsin. The New England Revolution made it to the MLS Cup, losing on penalty kicks. UMass made it to the D-IAA final, losing 28-17 to Appalachian State. Another team that had a good end of 2006 was UConn Men's basketball. They made it to the Elite Eight before being upset by George Mason. So far this season, they're 12-1 and ranked 18th in the country. But that record is not as good as it seems.

Since there is no obvious standout for Team of the Year, I've decided to use a process of elimination to narrow down the field.

The SeaDogs won the Eastern League Championship. But this is a AA championship. It isn't even the championship of all of AA. AA baseball has the sole purpose of developing talent, not determining which team is better than the other. Props to the SeaDogs for winning the Eastern League, but it isn't exactly a monumental achievement.

BC hockey came very close to winning a national title in the '05-'06 season. They fell 2-1 to Wisconsin (in Milwaukee, no less) in the final game. Although they came that close to taking the championship, their regular season was a bit of a disappointment. They were in position to win the Hockey East regular season title, but fells short, thanks in large part to a 3-6 loss to UMass-Lowell, a 3-3 tie with UNH and a 2-5 loss to UNH to end the season. Then in the Hockey East Tournament, they lost the championship game to Boston University. Speaking of BU, the Eagles also lost the Beanpot to their crosstown rivals. At the moment, the '06-'07 Eagles are tied for 2nd in Hockey East, but are very far behind 1st place Vermont. They're ranked 7th in the country. The lack of a trophy at the end of last season, coupled with good but not great results so far this season, and BC hockey doesn't merit Team of the Year.

UConn basketball was pretty damn good last season. They earned a 1 seed in the NCAA tourney, and had an impressive 30 win season, with only 4 defeats. Despite winning 31 games in the 2006 calendar year, and losing only 5, it is safe to say the end of the 05-06 season was disappointing for the Huskies. They lost to the Syracuse Orangemen in the Big East Tournament. Then they lost to George Mason in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies were more talented than both of these teams, but these losses cost them some silverware. Also, their 12-1 performance so far this season is far from mesmerizing. These are the teams they've beaten: Quinnipiac, Central Arkansas, Fairfield, Mississippi, Albany, Sacred Heart, Texas Southern, Northeastern, Saint Mary's, South Florida, and Pepperdine. And all of these games were played in Connecticut. Their one loss came on the road against unranked West Virginia. UConn's lack of big end of season victories, as well as their lack of strong opponents this season eliminates them as contenders for Team of the Year.

So who is left? UMass football and the New England Revolution. The Revs finished 2nd in the MLS Eastern Conference, beat Chicago in the 1st round of the playoffs, then beat DC United to win the Conference. They lost to Houston on PKs in a closely fought game. UMass also lost a hard fought championship game. UMass also won the Atlantic 10 title, going undefeated in the conference (I think the last time that was accomplished was in 1997). UMass lost only 2 games all year. They lost to Appalachian State in the championship, and to D-IA Navy in the regular season. They lost 21-20 to a D-IA team that went 9-4, and nearly beat Boston College in a bowl game.

Since UMass had such an impressive regular season, and since they were 2nd best among 122 D-IAA teams, and the Revs were 2nd best among 12 teams; and since UMass won a regular season title and had a very impressive year up to and including the playoffs...The University of Massachusetts Minutemen football team is the Boston Blood Sox New England Team of the Year for 2006.

So in summation:
Harry Frazee Award for Goat of the Year: Manny Ramirez, LF, Red Sox
Dan Shaughnessey Award for Worst Sports Writing: Dan Shaughnessey, Globe
Peyton Manning/Alex Rodriguez Award for Biggest Disappointment: Boston Red Sox
Award for Patriots Hottest Cheerleader: Ashleigh van Gerven
Doug Flutie Award for Best College Athlete: Craig Smith, F, BC basketball
Bobby Orr Award for Best Bruins Player: Patrice Bergeron, C
Bill Russell Award for Best Celtics Player: Paul Pierce, G-F
Drew Bledsoe Award for Best Patriots Player: Asante Samuel, CB
Ted Williams Award for Best Red Sox Player: David Ortiz, DH
Tom Brady Award for Biggest Surprise: Jonathan Papelbon, Closer, Red Sox
Bloody Sock Award: Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox
Game of the Year: BC men's basketball vs. Villanova, March 24th, NCAA Regional Semi-Finals, Villanova 60, BC 59
Athlete of the Year: David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox
Lifetime Achievement Award: Red Auerbach, coach/executive, Celtics
Team of the Year: UMass Minutemen football