Slow Burn to Sunday

It’s Patriots/Steelers for the AFC Championship this Sunday, but there is still some looking back at Sunday to do. Kevin Mannix and Michael Parente file their report cards on the game and as you would expect are generally positive about the results. Mannix does hand out two “C’s” – to quarterback Tom Brady and his receivers. This despite the fact that 10 different receivers caught passes in the game. Mannix knocks them for not getting a lot of yards per catch. Bill Reynolds says Peyton and the Colts never quite got out of the stable on Sunday. Tom Curran looks at three key plays that changed the game on Sunday. Lenny Megliola says hey, maybe Bill Belichick isn’t so boring and dull after all. Some of us never thought he was.

Michael Felger says the AFC Championship will be different from last week in that this time, the opponent will hit back. Nick Cafardo adds that the last time these teams met, the Patriots were not only beat, they were beat up. Bob Ryan says that while Bill Belichick may not have been looking specifically forward to a rematch with the Steelers ever since October 31st, the fans, media and the players certainly have been. He praises the coach, which may get him in hot water with his bosses at the Globe. Alan Greenberg has Bill Belichick denying that he is out for revenge this Sunday. The coach claims never to have looked that far ahead. Michael Parente says there will be many challenges for the Patriots this Sunday, not the least of which will be dealing with how physical the Steelers will be. Chris Kennedy writes that Sunday will be a matchup of strength vs strength. Jon Couture asserts that the game will be a serious battle. Christopher Price also looks ahead to Patriots/Steelers. Tom Curran looks back at 15 of the top games in the Belichick/Brady era of the Patriots.

Felger’s notebook says that the Patriots are hungry for another title, has some news on Ty Law possibly being unhappy with his diagnosis, and Belichick saying that the coaches are starting out a little behind in their game planning for the Steelers. Cafardo’s notebook has a familiar theme saying that Sunday’s win no doubt solidified Romeo Crennel’s status as a hot coaching commodity. He also does the usual speculation about replacement candidates. Parente’s notebook says that it shouldn’t be any surprise that Tedy Bruschi came up front and center in Sunday’s win over the Colts. Kennedy’s notebook looks at the struggles the Steelers have had in home AFC Title games.

View From Pittsburgh

Jerry DiPaola says that Bill Belichick is eager for a second chance at the Steelers. Ed Bouchette says that his teammates expect Ben Roethlisberger to fully rebound from his shaky game against the Jets. Chuck Finder says a healthy Corey Dillon could be the difference in this rematch. Mike Prisuta says that the Steelers hope that their special teams breakdown on Santana Moss’ punt return for a TD was a one-time thing. Bouchette’s notebook says that the Steelers are accepting their underdog role. DiPaola’s notebook says that the Steelers aren’t going to urge Roethlisberger to lose the gloves he wore on Saturday. Finder’s Patriots notebook has Belichick heaping praise on the Steelers.

Ricky – don’t hate him

Peter May and Mark Murphy look at Ricky Davis who was back at practice after being tossed out on Sunday after a “colorfully worded outburst” in front of high school kids. All agree that this incident was not a big deal, and is behind them. All except for Glenn Ordway and the like. The only mention of the Celtics in weeks on the Big Show was yesterday in reference to the Davis situation and Ordway, Smerlas and company castigated Davis. They said he is what is wrong with the Celtics and how opposite from the Patriots that team is. Ordway couldn’t be more wrong about this situation. He used to be in touch with the NBA, but no longer. If he had watched more than a couple minutes of each Celtics game this season he would see that Davis has emerged as arguably the heart and soul of the Celtics. He’s come off the bench without complaint, played hard every minute he’s out there, worked on defense, and done everything they’ve asked him to do. However, Glenn and many other middle aged white men look at Davis and see the cornrows and tattoos and recall a missed dunk from earlier in the season and base their whole opinion on that. Similarly Glenn looks at Paul Pierce and Mark Blount and their clean cut appearance and pronounces them the “good guys” when in reality, they are the ones that have been loafing on the court, being benched for doing so and openly whining and complaining about the coaching staff. May’s notebook says that even at two games under .500 the Celtics could do no worse than pull even for the Atlantic Division lead with the win against the Bulls tomorrow night.

Jeff Horrigan reports on the arbitration situations for Bronson Arroyo and Mark Bellhorn. Joe Sullivan of the Union Leader gives thumbs down to books by Jerry Remy and Joe Castiglione.

John Molori has praise for Dale & Neumy and knocks Boomer Esiason in this week’s edition of Media Blitz. Bill Griffith knocks CBS for coming back late from commercial and missing the Tom Brady TD that sealed the game for the Patriots.

NESN has game two of the 1986 World Series at 7:00. ESPN has Purdue/Michigan State at 7:00 and Mississippi State/Alabama at 9:00. ESPN2 has Wake Forest/Florida State at 7:00.

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