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was a hallmark year for the top two sports teams in Boston. The Patriots went
16-0 and fell one David Tyree drop away from perfection. The Red Sox, of
course, won their second World Series of the decade. Since then, both teams
have headed for the cellar.
Sunday afternoon, when the Patriots were walloped by the Ravens, they showed
that their capabilities this season revolved around dominating weak teams while
choking or falling to good teams. They lacked talent on defense and a
versatility on offense (the Moss/Welker pair does not count as an abundance of
options) that ultimately put them in their place: on their sofas watching the
season, the Patriots lost Tom Brady in the first game of the season and still
went 11-5. While that’s all well and good, a team with a 16-0 record the
previous season should be able to win with or without their quarterback. The
Patriots fell short of the playoffs, but instead of raising expectations for
this season, they engaged in a series of inexplicable moves.
Cassel’s performance in Brady’s absence was excellent for his stock, yet the
Patriots ended up trading not only him, but also Mike Vrabel for draft picks
that they subsequently traded away. They also traded away all of their first
round picks and passed on highly touted linebackers the team so desperately
the time the Patriots showed up to training camp, they were missing Richard
Seymour, leaving only Vince Wilfork as a big name on defense. There was no
talent there, and while Belichick is a defensive-minded coach who does have the
capability to build himself a defense, he simply didn’t give himself enough to
Patriots seem to be in the throes of rebuilding a championship caliber team,
yet they have not taken that last step in finding enough talent to lead them to
glory for unknown reasons. The prices cannot be too high. After all, the Kraft
group just built a majestic shopping plaza in Gillette Stadium’s front yard. So
why the mediocrity?
since winning it all in 2007, the Red Sox seem unwilling to pay or acquire the
type of players necessary to bring baseball glory back to Boston. During the
summer of 2008, Manny Ramirez forced his way out of Fenway, so the Red Sox
brought in Jason Bay as a replacement. Bay was phenomenal in Boston, the kind
of quiet, team player that everybody needed in the aftermath of the Manny
removing Manny from the roster meant the lineup card would be missing the
hugely important intimidating bat. The Red Sox had a bunch of players who were
good, but none capable of greatness the way Manny was. Ortiz has watched his
numbers drop over the last few years, and while Youkilis, Pedroia, Lowell and
Bay are good hitters, they do not have the power to change the course of any one
game with a single swing of the bat.
the off-season after the 2008 post-season (where the Red Sox played above their
capabilities before eventually falling to the Tampa Bay Rays), the Red Sox
refused to spend the money to upgrade their team. Why? I could not tell you. All
I know is that the Red Sox began the season with a mediocre line-up, a
question-mark-filled pitching rotation, and a shaky bullpen. They exited the
season in much the same way.
line-up where most of the power is coming from J.D. Drew? No thank you. Jed
Lowrie and Julio Lugo platooning (until Julio was traded and Lowrie was injured
. . . again) at short? Shoot me now.
off-season, the Red Sox are starting to spend money. They acquired John Lackey,
Adrian Beltre and Mike Whoever-he-is, which is an improvement over last year,
but they still have not found that much needed bat for their lineup or a
bullpen that looks like it can hold a lead.
this is just a play-off loss hangover, but it seems that the winning ways from
the first half of the decade are but a distant memory. Sure, I’m lucky that I
was able to witness so many championships in such a short time, so I shouldn’t
wouldn’t complain if I saw a good reason for both teams to low-ball it
financially and put together a half-hearted roster. The Patriots and the Red
Sox have the resources to do more, attract better players, coach stronger, yet
neither team is fully taking advantage of those resources.
I felt the NBA had any redeeming qualities, perhaps I would just move on to the
Celtics, yet I don’t foresee much basketball-worshipping in my future. I guess
for these next 36 days before Spring Training starts, I’ll dwell on my fan-hood
It’s an even numbered year . . . olympics or bust!
You would think that because the Red Sox season is over, I would be done attempting to defenestrate myself for the next six months. After this weekend, this is not the case. We’ll discuss the horrors team by team here, since, you know, it’s no fun only rooting for one team or one sport.
Oh the hangovers from national championships! BU hockey has been, well, fallible this year. Most games they’ve been playing just short of wins. They’re really into doing this thing where they shoot the puck a billion times into the goalie’s chest, which obviously does not really lead to too many goals. BU also is a big fan of not playing defense, and not playing in the second period. Because of this, the team is now 3-6. They are in 9th place (out of 10) in Hockey East and completely tumbled out of all national rankings.
Despite this, I made the decision to travel up to Merrimack on Friday to watch the Terriers take on the Warriors. 2007-2008 was Merrimack’s only double-digit win season since 2003-2004. Needless to say, they’re a powerhouse.
BU struggled mightily with the Warriors. Or, well, BU actually didn’t struggle, as they did not show up for the game after the first period. In the words of BU coach Jack Parker, “We stopped competing.” Great, right? The score is deceiving. Merrimack won 6-3, but the final score may have well been 9-0. Additionally, my least favorite player on the team, Colby Cohen, fought two guys. Fighting is illegal in college hockey. He was ejected. This was great, because Colby is a defenseman and at one point, BU had 4 defensemen in the penalty box at once.
BU had six minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage. They didn’t score. Nobody fails to score with six minutes of a two man advantage. Defending national champions do not play the way BU did on Friday night. There was no effort, no spark, no leadership. It was disgusting. I was actually nauseated. After the “game,” the three other people I traveled up there with and myself went to Friendly’s for some comfort food. It was that bad.
Saturday night, BU took a 4-0 advantage in the first period. After that, BU felt that the game was over and it was time for them to partake in Saturday evening festivities. They ended up winning 6-4, but it was more of a “they didn’t lose” than a “they won the game” situation. The good news from Saturday is that two of our injured players returned, including the star and assistant captain, Nick Bonino. Also, BU scored six goals, so perhaps they finally figured out that you need to score goals in order to win games. We’ll see how they rebound this weekend against UNH.
Last week, I went to the Bruins game against the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins at the Garden in Boston. The Bs played terrific, shutting out Sidney Crosby and friends 3-0. On Saturday night, the Bruins traveled to Pittsburgh for a rematch. This one didn’t go so well.
The game was hard fought, and the Bruins never gave up. They came back from multiple deficits, most remarkably in the third period when they were trailing Pittsburgh 4-3. With 5:47 left in regulation and the Bruins holding a two man advantage (listen to this one, BU), David Krejci swept in on a Zdeno Chara shot and roofed the rebound towards the goal, where Marco Sturm tipped the puck in to tie the game, 4-4. Three minutes later, with 2:29 left in regulation, Zdeno Chara showed off his hardest shot skills, firing a slapshot from just above the left circle past Pittsburgh back-up netminder Brent Johnson. The Bruins were on their way to another victory.
Not so fast. With 4/10 of a second remaining, ex-Bruin Bill Guerin slipped a wristshot from the top of the right faceoff circle past Tim Thomas to send the game to overtime. The Bruins were exhausted, and a little over a minute into overtime, Pascal Dupuis netted the game-winner for the Pens.
After a good, hard effort like Saturday’s, you would think the Bruins would come out confident and strong against the Islanders last night.
Six minutes into the game, Matt Moulson capitalized on a turnover in the Bruins offensive zone and some poor defense at the hands of Dennis Widemann and Patrice Bergeron to give the Islanders an early 1-0 lead. The Bruins had a chance towards the end of the first to tie the game with a 5-on-3, but like BU, the Bs did not feel the need to take advantage of their opportunity and squandered the chance. Moulson ended up just shy of a hat trick, scoring two goals and briefly getting credit for a John Tavares goal to start the third. The Bruins lost 4-1, and Patrice Bergeron, who has been one of the best players on the ice this season for the Bs, finished the game with a -4 rating.
Claude Julien admitted after the game that the Islanders “wanted it more than we did.” Is there anything more frustrating in sports than when your team does not put forth their best effort? Come on.
Speaking of best efforts . . . I’m not sure if I should title this section The Patriots or Bill Belichick. By now, most people know the story. The Pats were leading the undefeated Colts by a solid 13 point margin coming into the fourth quarter. With a little more than two minutes left, the lead was whittled down to 6. A touchdown could win the game.
On 4th and 2 with 2:08 left in the game, Bill Belichick inexplicably decided to send his offense back out and go for it. Belichick had no challenges left in case he would need them (which he did). Brady threw a short pass to Kevin Faulk who was standing right on the 30-yard line, which is where the Pats needed to get to for the first down. The Patriots got a poor spot, as the referees decided the Patriots were about a yard short of a first down. This gave Peyton Manning two minutes to go 29 yards for the game-winning touchdown. That’s a series he will execute every time.
People are saying that the move says Belichick did not have the confidence in his defense to keep the Colts from covering 70-yards in 2 minutes. However, I believe Belichick has to have enough confidence in his defense to be able to hold the Colts from 29-yards out if the Pats do not convert on fourth down. Belichick is a defensive-minded coach. He most likely has faith every game in his defense, because ultimately, it is the defense Belichick himself creates. Any failure on the defense’s part is a reflection of Belichick himself.
Additionally, why were the Patriots throwing the ball so short? Why are they throwing for exactly two yards? Why not give themselves the insurance of a few more yards and throw a five-yard pass? Converting there is crucial, and they never should have given the referees the opportunity to decide whether or not the play was long enough for a first down. It’s the offense’s job to earn the first down, not the referees job to give it to them.
did Belichick waste a timeout at the beginning of a drive? He ended up needing that timeout if he had wanted to challenge the spot of the ball, because when the Patriots did not convert on third down, confusion about whether to punt or not forced the Patriots to use their final timeout to prevent a delay of game penalty.
The bottom line here, though, is that Bill Belichick made the completely wrong decision. With Peyton Manning leading an offense, you must punt the ball on 4th and 2 with 2:08 when holding onto a six point lead. Had it even been a seven point lead, this may have been slightly more understandable because the Colts would have to decide between a two point conversion to win or kicking the extra point to head into overtime. Going for it in this situation, however, gift-wrapped the game for the Colts, a game the Patriots players worked hard to win. A game that was negated because of poor coaching from one of the best coaches in NFL history.
Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi, both former players, criticized their coach. For them to say things like “this was the worst coaching decision I have ever seen Belichick make” (Harrison) and “the decision to go for it would be enough to make my blood boil” (Bruschi) means that they had to 150% believe both in what they were saying and in Belichick’s complete and total error.
In my mind, Bill Belichick is still one of the best coaches in football history, but this gaffe definitely mars his reputation. Before Sunday night’s game, Belichick was infallible. He was inhuman. He may have lost important games, big games, playoff games, but never because of such a momentous decision on his part. You cannot let one decision decide a career, yet at the same time, you cannot overlook this one decision in judgement of Belichick, because this one decision takes him down that notch from infallibility to simply extraordinary.
It will be hard to get over this game because it most likely cost the Pats home field advantage in the playoffs, but at the same time, the season goes on. This is not Grady Little. This is not going to cost Belichick his job. This is the regular season. Yet at the same time, it is November, the Colts did, by virtue of their win, tie the Patriots for second in consecutive wins (18), the Colts are a rival. This is a game that I will never forget.
Quotes and Patriots picture from boston.com. The other two pictures are mine.