Jacksonville Bound

The Patriots dominated the top rated defense in the NFL yesterday putting up 41 points on Pittsburgh last night in advancing to the Super Bowl for the third time in four years. Couple that with holding the “greatest offensive team of all time” to three points last week and you have as impressive a performance as has been seen perhaps ever in the NFL playoffs. That’s not being a yahoo. That’s the truth. Speaking of yahoos…has anyone seen Merril Hoge?

Let’s get right to the links, there are a ton today. First, the game/lead stories, provided by Nick Cafardo, Michael Felger, Tom E Curran, Alan Greenberg, Michael Parente, Mike Reiss and of course Scott A Benson. Are Super Bowls becoming commonplace events in New England? Dan Shaughnessy says so, but adds that each one is better than the last. Kevin Mannix says that this Patriots dynasty is the greatest of all time. I think I’m still a little uncomfortable with that statement. Should the Patriots happen to lose to the Eagles in two weeks, will that assertion still stand?

Ron Borges looks at “a team made up of hard-nosed, nimble-footed, mentally tough players masterfully led by Bill Belichick”. Borges seems to have come around a bit the last few days in his position, but you can be sure any setback will have Ron back to his cackling self. For the second day in a row he mentions Romeo Crennel possibly taking Eric Mangini with him to Cleveland. Jim Donaldson says the Patriots surprise us not in how good they are, but how much better they are than everyone else. Lenny Megliola looks at our Boston sports nirvana we have going on here. Karen Guregian looks at Tom Brady continuing his hot streak of postseason excellence. Bob Ryan says we already know what will happen in two weeks because the Patriots always play their best games in the biggest games. Jeff Jacobs says that Brady and Belichick are truly the masters of this game. A very good read. Steve Buckley (subscription only) writes about the mastery of Bill Belichick. He mentions in his in-game adjustments, and has Ted Johnson lauding the coach mental acumen. Kevin Paul Dupont looks at how last night’s win put Belichick on a par with Vince Lombardi. Shalize Manza Young has Belichick shunning the praise and limelight. Dan Pires says Belichick and the Patriots were confident even before they took the field. Bill Burt had a pretty extensive piece on Belichick yesterday.

Steve Conroy looks at the huge game turned in by Deion Branch, who had missed the first meeting this season between the Patriots and Steelers. John Powers also looks at the huge game for Branch, who both caught and ran for a TD last night. Alan Greenberg looks at the Patriots Branching out with Deion. Shalize Manza Young also turns in a piece on Branch. Jerry Spar looks at the Patriots other top receiver, David Givens, who also had himself a good night. Jim McCabe looks at Brady, who still found areas he could’ve done better at last night. Rich Thompson has a quick peek at the job turned in by Tedy Bruschi and Ted Johnson last night, the linebacker duo is also part of the group now know as the “Four timers”. Dan Ventura looks at how Ty Warren and Jarvis Green helped fill the void left by the absence of Richard Seymour. Lenny Megliola looks at the Patriots being a model for other teams to follow, from top to bottom. Paul Doyle says a third Super Bowl win would clinch dynasty status for the Patriots.

Conroy also has a piece on a pair of second year DB’s in Eugene Wilson and Asante Samuel, who each came up big last night. Chris Snow looks at their partner and leader in the secondary, Rodney Harrison. Young looks at the youngsters in the secondary coming of age in the playoffs. Thompson also turns in a piece on Dillon, who pulled his weight in the victory over the Steelers. Young also has a quick look at Dillon. Young turned in five articles for the Projo today. Bill Reynolds looks at the Patriots giving us a welcome respite from the cold and snow.

Felger’s notebook mentions Belichick’s pregame speech to his club, something that apparently left quite an impact on them. Cafardo’s notebook looks at how Corey Dillon’s rushing, though not overwhelming, was enough to get the Patriots to another Super Bowl. Curran’s notebook looks at Dillon’s continued transformation into a winner. The Standard-Times notebook says this game was a lot like the last meeting between these clubs, only different.

Steelers Perspective
George Kimball (subscription only) writes that glove or no glove, this was a rough night for young Ben Roethlisberger, who was clearly bedeviled early by the Patriot defense. Mark Blaudschun looks at how rookie mistakes proved the undoing of the Steelers. Jim Donaldson says young Ben is no Tom Brady. He also looks at the Steelers trying to put the loss in perspective. Tom E Curran says that Bill Cowher is going to feel the heat for coming up short in the playoffs again. Jon Couture looks at Pittsburgh fans, disappointed again by the Patriots. Young looks at the Patriots taking away the vaunted running game of the Steelers. Blaudschun’s notebook looks at another tough AFC title game home loss for Bill Cowher.

Check out reaction in Pittsburgh from the Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review.

NFC Title Game
Michael Gee looks at the Eagles finally breaking through in the NFC title game. Frank Dell’Apa covers the game for the Globe. Gee also has a subscription column pretty much on the same subject, how the Eagles avoided the choke. Dell’Apa also has a notebook with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, a Boston native, looking forward to playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Media
Bill Griffith wraps up the NFL coverage from yesterday.

The Passion of the C’s?
Steve Bulpett and Peter May (I assume, no name is on the article) have Doc Rivers assessing his team, which seems to be lacking in passion and intensity at times. Bulpett looks at Tony Allen being put in the starting lineup Saturday night, and the rookie responded with 20 points in 27 minutes.

Keepin’ It Real
Mike Shalin looks at the Boston College Eagles setting their sights high. Bob Ryan says that despite being ranked ninth in the country, coach Al Skinner isn’t losing perspective.

Last Chance?
Yesterday, Russ Conway said that the NHL’s last chance to salvage things might be this week.

Tonight
ESPN has Syracuse/Rutgers at 7:00 and Oklahoma/Oklahoma State at 9:00. NESN has game 5 of the 1986 World Series at 7:00.

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