01.10.07 Wrap

There are few more unlikable national football writers than Pete Prisco.

It has little to do with his predictions or analysis, even though he’s said quite a few stupid things over the years. He does pick the Patriots this week, (Though reportedly Prisco picked the Chargers on an SD radio station this week as well.) but he comes across as the worst of all media types. This morning Prisco was on with Dennis & Callahan and brought up “the shove” and stated that if it had been him, HE would’ve gone after Belichick. Tough guy.

He also talked proudly about how much Patriots fans dislike him. From what I gather, Prisco is disliked almost universally by fans around the league.

We’re not the only ones who share this low opinion of Prisco.

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Hey, the Globe made a correction on Borges from last week!

Correction: Because of a reporting error, it was misstated in the playoff matchups in Friday’s Sports section that the Patriots led the NFL in fourth-down attempts this season. The Patriots had 20 fourth-down attempts, which ranked third. The Detroit Lions had the most with 22.

Now can we get a correction on the correction?

The “third” is actually misleading as well, because FOUR teams went for it more than the Patriots did on fourth down. If the Globe used the standard competition ranking, then the Patriots would be ranked fifth.

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From the “They pay these guys to talk about sports?” department.

Heard on D&C this morning:

Richard from Canton: I’ve got a question about the NFL draft next year. When Tony Romo blew that hold did that affect Seattle’s draft order for next year? Because the Patriots have Seattle’s first round pick.

John Dennis: Yeah.

Richard: I guess the follow up to that is every time Seattle wins in the playoffs, does that mean the Patriots are going to move down a notch in the draft?

John Dennis: You got it right, Richard. That’s correct.

Jon Meterparel: Yes.

Richard: So technically, a team that is a mediocre team like Seattle, if they go all the way to the Super Bowl, and win it, then the Patriots could get the last pick in the round.

Gerry Callahan: Correct.

John Dennis: You got it all figured out, Richard. That’s exactly right.

Jon Meterparel: 22 before that snap.

Gerry Callahan: They could be 32.

Sorry John, Gerry and Jon, but Richard was not “correct” or “exactly right.” The biggest thing that Richard got wrong and that the WEEI hosts should’ve known, is that the Seattle draft pick does NOT move a notch for every round that the team advances…unless of course they go all the way to the Super Bowl.

It’s pretty well known that the Super Bowl winner drafts last, the Super Bowl runner up drafts second-to-last and then after that are seeded by regular season record, with tiebreakers being used to slot the exact order.

I would expect highly paid sports radio hosts to know this. Then again, I guess I’m asking too much.

From NFL.com:

Priority of playoff clubs within a tied segment is based on their advancement in the playoffs, but they do not drop out of their tied segment unless they participate in the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl champion will select 32nd and the runner-up 31st.

Denver, Seattle, Kansas City and Dallas all finished with a 9-7 record. Denver didn’t make the playoffs so they get the first pick in that segment. Dallas and Kansas City were both knocked out of the playoffs before the Seahawks, so unless Seattle gets to the Super Bowl, it looks like that pick will be at # 24.

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There’s been plenty of discussion today about the Bruce Mohl article in the Globe today where he reports that the Chargers are restricting the sale of tickets for Sunday’s game to Southern California residents only.

Sports Law Blog’s Michael McCann is being interviewed on CNBC tonight on this topic. The interview will air sometime between 7 and 8 p.m. ET on the On the Money program. McCann will be interviewed by Darren Rovell on the legal implications of the San Diego Chargers refusing to sell tickets to Patriots fans.

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The Media Circus checks in with their weekly feature. I particularly liked these examples of media “insight” this week:

Tom Brady (is) 8-0 at halftime in his career.” – Dan Marino

No record in the NFL history books is as coveted by quarterbacks quite as much as the “all-time playoff winning percentage…at halftime.”
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Brady and McDaniels are building the kind of relationship you hope a quarterback and coach build, the kind Brady’s had only with Charlie Weis since entering the league in 2000.” – Peter King

Mainly because Weis is the only offensive coordinator other than McDaniels whom Brady has worked with professionally. Appreciate the insight, Peter.

Good stuff.

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Afternoon Speedlinks

What is “Marty Ball” anyway?

John Molori’s Media Blitz features an interview with Tom Curran, who talks about leaving the newspaper side to go to NBCSports.com, gives his thoughts on the state of the Patriots dynasty and on the playoff games this weekend.

Mike Reiss has a look at the defenses for the Patriots and Chargers, and notes that even though both clubs run a 3-4 set, they do so in quite different styles.

Michael Felger has a look at “Marty Ball” and whether Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer might do something this Sunday to lose the game for his team. The Herald also puts together a quick game-by-game look at Schottenheimer in the playoffs. Dan Pires also has a look at the Schottenheimer/Belichick, Chargers/Patriots matchup this weekend. Michael Parente has a look at the most difficult challenge of the season for the Patriots.

Joe McDonald looks at the challenge that LaDainian Tomlinson presents for the Patriots on Sunday. Hector Longo acknowledges that the Patriots run defense is much improved, but still wonders if it is stout enough to take on the all powerful Tomlinson. Tom King has the Chargers throwing bouquets at the feet of Tom Brady.

Shalise Manza Young has Dan Dierdorf and Phil Simms giving the Patriots more than a fighting chance on Sunday. Alan Greenberg has more from the same conference call.

Bill Barnwell on BSMW Game Day examines whether cold weather is really an advantage for home teams in the NFL playoffs.

Mark Farinella says that those who complain about the intense media coverage of the NFL should remember that the league has brought much of it upon themselves and that part of the reason the league is so successful is their early efforts at being a media-friendly league.

Gerry Callahan writes about the lack of shame from Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman for his steroid suspension, and how he is still treated as a hero, while Mark McGwire is shunned.

Reiss’ notebook has a look at area of strength for each team.

Check in with what’s being said on the opposite coast with the following links:

Stan Grossfeld says that despite now having the Ravens, Baltimore has never really gotten over the loss of the Colts in the middle of a night almost a quarter of a century ago. Grossfeld also talks to Colts legend Lenny Moore about some of the race issues he encountered in the NFL with the team in the 50’s and 60’s.

Baseball

Nick Cafardo reports on Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken being elected to the baseball Hall of Fame, while Mark McGwire and Jim Rice did not make it. Jeff Horrigan has more on the elections and on Rice coming up short for the 13th year in a row. Dom Amore also reports on the voting.

Dan Shaughnessy says that a strong message was sent to McGwire with yesterday’s results. Steve Buckley has more on McGwire wearing “the goat horns for an era gone bad.” Jon Couture admonishes self-righteous voters who have an inflated sense of self importance.

Celtics

Peter May observes that while the Celtics miss Paul Pierce tremendously, they are by no means alone among teams in the NBA missing key players. May’s short list of sidelined NBA stars includes Shaquille O’Neal, Yao Ming, Chauncey Billups, Dwyane Wade, Peja Stojakovic, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Nenad Krstic, Sam Cassell, and Lamar Odom.

Mike Fine wonders if Tony Allen is playing his way into a trade out of town. Steve Bulpett has Gerald Green as one of the few players who has been struggling with his shot since the league brought the old ball back on January 1. May’s notebook has Delonte West hurting all over.

Bruins

Kevin Paul Dupont and Steve Conroy report on the Bruins losing a 2-0 lead to fall 5-2 to the Ottawa Senators last night.

Conroy’s notebook has the Bruins adding another injury to their depleted defense as Jason York went down last night. Dupont’s notebook has the club ready to welcome Brad Stuart back after the birth of his first child.

College

Mark Murphy and Michael Vega report on BC’s 95-85 win over Wake Forest last night. Vega’s notebook has BC guard Tyrese Rice stepping up his game.

Bob Ryan has a look at the job done by Florida coach Urban Meyer in leading his team to the National Championship. Mark Blaudschun says that Ohio State was decidedly second-rate on Monday night.

FSN has Celtics/Pacers at 7:30. ESPN has Duke/Georgia Tech at 7:00 and Spurs/Nuggets at 9:00.

Reiss Says Patriots Not Cheap

Mike Reiss unveils some interesting information in his Ask Reiss Mailbag today. He is responding to an emailer (“Dan from Boston” – Shaughnessy?) who says that the Patriots “should be held accountable for the horrific 2006 offseason. We should not by force-fed competitive mediocrity while millions in cap space gets squandered.”

This was included in the response:

And as for the millions in cap space, I’ve been doing some research on this area and believe I’ve uncovered some interesting information in regards to the team’s cap spending that sheds a little bit of a different light on things. Because the team had such high cash spending the previous two years — with the top-level Tom Brady and Richard Seymour deals leading the way — the Patriots project to be one of a handful of teams who will actually be penalized by the league as part of the new CBA, and I believe will lose some cap space in a future season (possibly 2007) because of that. The Colts are also part of the small handful of teams who I think will be penalized; it’s sort of like the luxury tax in baseball. I believe the Patriots would do a service to their fans by explaining this intricacy of the salary cap — assuming I have it correct — because I sense there is a perception out there that the team is not spending compared to other teams. In actuality, they’ve spent to a level that is actually going to penalize them.

Well. Doesn’t THAT seem to change a thing or two. All season long certain media types have been accusing the Patriots of being cheap. Mike is classy enough not to throw anyone under the bus, but it’s clear he’s seen and heard this talk as well and decided to seek the truth for himself.

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So Nick Saban makes a strong statement that he’s not taking the Alabama job and then gets killed in the press when he does take the job. Ok, so he deserved a lot of the heat he took for how he handled the situation, but the media specifically gets on him for making such a strong statement which wasn’t final.

Now Scott Pioli makes the following statement yesterday:

"I am very honored to be granted the opportunity to discuss a potential position with the New York Giants. I have tremendous respect for the Kraft family, the Mara family, the Tisch family and the Giants organization. After careful consideration, and for personal reasons, I am continuing in my current role with the New England Patriots."

Seems pretty clear, right? But apparently not clear or definite enough for folks like Gary Tanguay or Dennis & Callahan, who think that the statement isn’t strong enough, is too ambiguous for them, so they say you can read into it that Pioli is leaving the door wide open and that he could be planning an exit to the Giants next year, or even as soon as the playoffs end for the Patriots. (If you notice, there is no “right now” in that statement as I’ve heard claimed.)

What exactly do these guys want Pioli, or the next sports coach or executive rumored to be connected with an opening to say? Either way they’re going to get knocked for it.

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  • Gregg Easterbrook has his Tuesday Morning Quarterback and leads off by saying that the influence of coaching is overrated.
  • Seth Mnookin continues his obsession over Murray Chass’ obsession with the Red Sox.
  • Nick Cafardo reports on Jim Rice once again missing out on the Hall of Fame.
  • All four Boston Globe writers with a vote had Rice on their ballots.
  • Richard Sandomir observes that the early blowout in last night’s Fiesta Bowl made for a challenge for the FOX crew.

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FOX’s broadcast of the Eagles and Giants sat atop the national ratings for the four NFL Wildcard games this past weekend. The numbers:

1. NFL on FOX (NYG-PHI) 1/7/07: 20.4/34
2. NFL on CBS (NYJ-NE) 1/7/07: 17.5/36
3. NFL on NBC (SEA-DAL) 1/6/07: 17.1/28
4. NFL on NBC (KC-IND) 1/6/07: 13.7/27

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I’ve been wondering…if Joe Sullivan can do a weekly blog on college basketball, why can’t he do a Globe sports editor blog? His college hoops blog is actually very well done, and his enthusiasm for the sport comes through in it. I think it would be a very nice way to reach out and connect with the readers to do a blog in the role of sports editor as well. Just a suggestion.

Patriots Prep For LT, Chargers

David Scott takes a further look at the timing of the Globe’s Sunday story by Jackie MacMullan on Asante Samuel.

Richard A Johnson, curator of the The Sports Museum at TD Banknorth Garden writes in the Globe about the last time the Patriots traveled to San Diego for a playoff game. The year was 1964 and the Patriots got thumped 51-10 in the AFL Championship game.

Michael Felger has his Patriots report card for last Sunday’s wildcard playoff game against the Jets. Ian Clark also has his weekly edition of the report card.

Ron Borges solicits some advice from around the league on how best to stop, or at least slow down a little bit, LaDainian Tomlinson. Tony Massarotti also looks at the challenge of stopping LT, but doesn’t talk to anyone outside the Patriots, and his effort pales compared to that of Borges. Chris Kennedy says that Tomlinson gives the Chargers star power to match what the Patriots have in Tom Brady. Michael Parente says that keeping Brady upright has to be at the top of the Patriots priority list this weekend.

Albert Breer looks at the preparation work being done by the Patriots for this game, work that began with the advance scouts on Christmas eve and has included looking at nearly 2500 plays run by the Chargers during the course of the season. John Tomase notes that the Patriots are following at least one of their hallmarks from their championship season – they’re playing their best football at the end of the year. Shalise Manza Young looks at the Patriots going full speed ahead with their preparations for San Diego. Rich Garvin has the Patriots relishing their role as the underdog once again.

Christopher L Gasper has more on the immense challenge that the Chargers present for the Patriots this weekend. Tomase offers up a Cliff’s Notes version of the Chargers to help us know a little more about a team we haven’t seen all season. Joe McDonald notes that it’s not just the offense that is electric for the Chargers, the defense is outstanding as well. Alan Greenberg says that that Chargers are balanced and a team of few weaknesses. David Brown has more on the work being put in by the Patriots this week.

Jim Donaldson profiles Chargers GM A.J. Smith, a Cranston R.I. native.

Mike Reiss reports on Scott Pioli declining to be interviewed by the New York Giants, even after the Patriots had given permission for the Giants to talk to him. Christopher Price also reports on this topic. Tomase’s notebook has more on this topic. Young’s notebook has more on Pioli and several other items. Parente’s notebook looks at the chances that Rodney Harrison could see the field on Sunday.

There’s more on Pioli as well as leftovers from the Patriots/Jets game in the New York Sports Pages.

I would think that Brian McGrory would have more pressing things to write about instead of chastising Bill Belichick for the incident with Globe photographer Jim Davis following the game on Sunday. If we’re looking for righteous indignation on the topic, there’s plenty of people in the Globe sports department who could’ve written this column.

Check in with what’s being said on the opposite coast with the following links:

College

Mark Blaudschun reports on Florida steamrolling heavily favored Ohio State 41-14 to win the Bowl Championship Series national championship game.

Bob Ryan looks at Florida’s impressive performance, which was a surprise to no one more than Ryan himself.

Michael Vega has former BC head coach Tom O’Brien ready to turn the page and take on the new challenge of NC State. He gets O’Brien to list out his favorite wins at Boston College.

Bill Reynolds remembers former Providence and Lakers coach Joe Mullaney, who was honored Saturday night. Mark Murphy looks at senior Sean Marshall stepping up for BC on the court.

Blaudschun’s notebook says that changes to the BCS format are unlikely to take place anytime soon.

Celtics

Steve Bulpett has the Celtics looking to improve their league-worst home record. Shira Springer has more on the Celtics home woes. Mike Petraglia says that a brutal road schedule the last few weeks has really worn the Celtics down as well. I guess this just means that the Celtics are a bad team…

Baseball

The Baseball Hall of Fame voting results will be announced today. Jeff Horrigan looks at Jim Rice who once again is a candidate to receive a call from the Hall. Paul Doyle has more on Rice, who has no expectations for today. Nick Cafardo looks at the imperfect process which is the Hall of Fame voting. Horrigan also notes that Mark McGwire is expected to fall short of being elected.

Bruins

Stephen Harris looks at Bruins captain Zdeno Chara still being sidelined with a mystery “middle body” ailment. Fluto Shinzawa has more on Chara sitting out at least tonight with the problem. Mike Loftus has Hannu Toivonen always happy to get some work, be it with Boston or Providence.

NESN has Bruins/Senators at 7:30.

Leftovers 01/08/07

A few leftover thoughts/items from the weekend and today.

Yesterday’s Patriots game picked up a 36.5 rating/64 share on WBZ-TV. Patriots Fifth Quarter notched an impressive 16.3 rating/29 share from 4:30 to 5:15.

Where was the WFAN simulcast on Dale & Holley this morning? Didn’t the NY guys last week say that they wanted to do it again on Monday?

Who from the Globe does the interview with photographer Jim Davis, who was pushed aside by Bill Belichick on his way to Mangini following the game? (Belichick expressed regret over the incident on his Big Show appearance this afternoon)

Jackie MacMullan’s piece on Asante Samuel was a good read, but I’ve got to question the Globe on their timing on running the feature. As you probably know, the story contains a number of pretty inflammatory comments from Samuel on his frustration about the lack of progress being made on getting him a new contract. Samuel is quoted as follows in the piece:

What they offered isn't even worth discussing. It's disappointing. You want to believe they know what you've done. So you hope for the best, but you end up feeling underappreciated. You feel disrespected, especially how they come at you with so much negative stuff. They show you such a low regard.

In this morning’s Globe, Julian Benbow has Samuel quoted as saying that he gave those quotes in MacMullan’s piece “three or four weeks ago.”

Three or four weeks ago? Let me get this straight. MacMullan and the Globe have had these quotes in their hip pocket for up to a month now, and they choose to hold it, and run the feature as their main story on the day of the Patriots first playoff game?

Now, I’m can already hear someone misinterpreting this criticism and accusing me of saying that they shouldn’t have run the quotes from a guy that is unhappy with his contract. That’s not the issue. I don’t have a problem with the questions, or the running of the answers in the piece. What I have an issue with is saving them up to run on the day of the first playoff game.

They couldn’t have just wanted to stir things up, could they? Create a controversy? Nah.

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We’re still waiting for the Globe correction on Ron Borges’ claims last week that the Patriots go for it on fourth down more than any other team in the league. He claimed again that Stephen Gostkowski is “the reason New England leads the league in fourth-down tries.” This was shown to be inaccurate, and I know of several Globe readers who have requested a correction.

Don’t hold your breath, guys.

I will give Borges credit for his column this morning, he appears to have gotten some one-on-one time with Mangini, as he had some quotes in that piece that I didn’t see anywhere else.

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In case you had any doubts that Michael Felger’s transformation to the dark side was complete, check this clip from WBZ-TV’s Patriots Game Day yesterday. He proclaims that the Patriots don’t pay anyone and admonishes Steve Burton for buying into the “Kool Aid drinking.”

Have you really bought everything about this Kool Aid Drinking here with this team? I mean you think its all a big campfire and everyone gets along, and everyone is happy, and everyone is satisfied with their role and what they are getting paid here? You think that is what is going on here?

Would the old Felger have said anything remotely close to that?

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From John Tomase’s game story this morning:

Tomlinson has faced the Patriots three times in his career, averaging 142 yards and scoring five touchdowns. He obliterated them in 2002, rushing for 217 yards and two scores, showing everyone how weak the Pats were up the middle minus nose tackle Ted Washington. They have rectified that weakness with Vince Wilfork.

The reason the Patriots were minus Ted Washington that day is because he was the property of the Chicago Bears. He didn’t join the Patriots until the next season.

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Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback. – Lots of Patriots/Belichick/Mangini stuff in here.

Chad Finn’s First and 10 – As usual, nothing to disagree with here.

Michael McCarthy recaps the NFL weekend on TV, and says that Tony Romo’s blunder will live in infamy.

David Barron looks at the average Nielsen home market ratings for each of the 31 franchises (New Orleans was not measured by Nielsen during 2006) for its local team’s 16-game regular season. Boston came in 16th for Patriots games.

Cold Hard Football Facts believes that they have uncovered the secret to Bill Belichick’s success.

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ESPNU will introduce a new programming initiative to supplement its college basketball schedule in the New Year. On January 10, the network will debut “Give ‘n Go”, a whip-around formatted show that will feature two hours of coverage from nine men’s basketball games. Additionally, the network will feature ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine’s Bill Simmons – “The Sports Guy” – as a special guest commentator later during two men’s basketball games on Jan. 15 and 22.

“Give ‘n Go” is scheduled for three Wednesdays — Jan. 10, Jan. 24 and Feb. 7 from 7-9 p.m. ET. During each window, the network will have frequent switches to and updates from games that are covered within the ESPN family of networks, as well as showcase live cut-ins from other regionally televised games permissible through conference agreements.

Simmons will assume the role of an ESPNU college basketball commentator alongside play-by-play announcer Rob Stone for a pair of Monday night games featuring schools from the West Coast Conference. On Jan. 15, “The Sports Guy” will call the San Francisco at Pepperdine game (11 p.m.) and on Jan. 22 he will return for the St. Mary’s at San Diego matchup (11 p.m.). A column about his experience announcing the aforementioned games will run in a future issue of ESPN The Magazine and on ESPN.com.

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Tonight:

FOX has the BCS Championship Game with Ohio State/Florida at 8:15pm. ESPN has Villanova/Georgetown at 8:00 and Texas Tech/Kansas St at 10:00.

Patriots Jet On To San Diego

After a week of intense media scrutiny over the relationship between Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini, with ESPN getting into the act with a ridiculous NFL Sunday segment and discussion on the topic, the Patriots turned things on in the fourth quarter yesterday and squashed Mangini and the upstart Jets 37-16 at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots now move on to play the San Diego Chargers next Sunday at 4:30 pm.

Mike Reiss has the Patriots coming out on top in a chess match with the Jets, a game that was as mentally taxing as it was physically. Shalise Manza Young says that this game followed a very familiar script for the Patriots…and a successful one. Alan Greenberg says that Bill Belichick and the Patriots avoided the unthinkable yesterday – a loss to his protégé Eric Mangini in the first round of the playoffs. John Tomase has the Patriots already looking forward to the matchup with the Chargers. Ben Rohrbach has more on the Patriots win over the Jets. Jennifer Toland says that the Jets gave it a nice try yesterday, but couldn’t repeat their magic of November.

Scott Benson has the coverage on BSMW Game Day, and feels good going into next week. Chris Ryan notes that playoff football was back at Gillette yesterday. David Brown has the Patriots showing the stuff of champions yesterday. Michael Parente has the Patriots record setting defense coming through again. Mark Farinella has the Patriots teaching Mangini and the Jets a lesson about playoff football. Mike Lowe has the Patriots providing a perfect ending on a spring-like January afternoon.

Ron Borges gives the Jets credit for staying in the game for 3 1/2 quarters – until the Patriots realized the game was on the line and put it away decisively. Michael Felger says that the Patriots will be going to San Diego playing their best football of the season…and will need to continue that. Christopher Price has 10 more things we learned yesterday. Albert Breer says that once again the Patriots had their nasty side dialed up for this one. Rich Garven looks at the Patriots defensive line again coming up big against the Jets. Dan Pires says that for three quarters, the teams looked like mirror images of each other.

Ian Clark says that the Patriots were prepared for everything the Jets threw at them this time. Jackie MacMullan notes that the Patriots beat the Jets at their own game by playing the hurry-up game to great effectiveness. Tim Weisberg has Brady able to stand tall and deliver in this one. Lenny Megliola says that the Chargers present the biggest challenge yet for the Patriots. Jeff Jacobs notes that Bill Belichick was not going to be denied yesterday…during or after the game. Steve Solloway has more on the post game greetings from the coaches. Tom King has Belichick winning the rematch of coaching wits.

My wishes that Dan Shaughnessy be kept away from the Patriots have apparently fallen on deaf ears. I’d toss Jim Donaldson into that pile as well. They offer nothing. I could do without Steve Buckley’s analysis of The Hug as well.

Joe McDonald has Vince Wilfork getting a smile out of his teammates with his recovery and runback of the Chad Pennington lateral that was batted down by Rosevelt Colvin. Greenberg has Wilfork simply doing what he was coached to do on the play – pick it up and run. Shawn Courchesne says that the Jets failed on one of the most basic cornerstones of disciplined football during that play. Jim McCabe has Wilfork simply following instinct on that play and jumping on the ball and running with it. Tony Massarotti apparently found little to whine about yesterday, so he also writes about the play. Garven labels the play one of the most memorable in franchise history. Mike Rocha has Wilfork playing sneaky on this one. Price also has a look at this play in the Metro.

Amalie Benjamin looks at things all coming together for Gaffney yesterday. McDonald has more on Gaffney’s big day, as the receiver registered his first 100 yard receiving game with the Patriots. Dan Ventura has more on the big day from Gaffney, who joined the Patriots on Oct 10th – taking the roster spot of Hank Poteat who was on the field for the Jets yesterday. David Brown has Gaffney getting involved early and often yesterday. Toland also has Gaffney coming up big in his playoff debut.

Julian Benbow has Asante Samuel watching his price tag go up again yesterday as the cornerback picked off a fourth quarter Pennington pass and took it to the house. Mike Rocha has more on Samuel’s big play, which buried the Jets. Farinella also heard the cash registers ring as Samuel picked off the pass. Breer looks at the Patriots three-headed running attack grinding the Jets down yesterday. Lowe says things only get tougher from here for the Patriots. Monique Walker has Stephen Gostkowski taking a step towards answering the concerns the media has about his ability to perform in the postseason. Breer also has a look at the rookie kicker handling the pressure of the postseason just fine. Dan Ventura has a look at Brady picking up the pace in yesterday’s win.

Art Martone offers up game analysis from all sides of the ball. Alan Greenberg has his Turning Point analysis. Martone tabs the Kevin Faulk TD reception as the play of the game. He has Brady as his player of the game for yesterday. Meanwhile, Massarotti tabs Wilfork’s rumble as his play of the game. Felger notes what a difference two months can make, and Buckley gives us the best & worst from yesterday. Pires offers up a quick report card from yesterday.

Christopher L Gasper has the Jets beaten but unbowed yesterday as they came up short in round three of this season’s rivalry with the Patriots. Karen Guregian instructs us to forget the last 10 minutes of the game, for the Jets are a factor now in the AFC East. While I do believe that, wasn’t everyone saying that about the Dolphins after last season?

Get the entertaining New York side of things in the New York Sports Pages.

Guregian also has Chad Pennington feeling frustrated after coming up short in the red zone yesterday. Weisberg has more on the Jets’ lack of success in the red zone. Peter Gobis has more on the Jets feeling blue in the red zone. Gasper’s Jets notebook has a look at the afternoon from Pennington, including his thoughts on the lateral pass that was deflected by Colvin and picked up by Wilfork.

Reiss’s notebook has the Patriots players already in a San Diego state of mind. Tomase’s notebook has more on Samuel and his focus on a payday. Young’s squib kicks offers the usual bevy of informational tidbits. Garven’s notebook has more on the postgame greeting between Belichick and Mangini. Parente’s notebook keys in on the Wilfork recovery. Lowe’s notebook has more on that key play.

Getting a jump on next week’s game here’s some links for the Chargers:

Celtics

The Celtics fell in Orlando last night, 87-79 to the Magic. The combination of Grant Hill and Dwight Howard proved to be too much for the Celtics, who fell behind by as many at 17 in the first half.

Shira Springer has the Celtics playing a selfish brand of basketball in that first half before getting themselves straightened out a little bit in the second. Steve Bulpett has the Magic putting a halt to any Celtics notions of fast breaking their way to victory.

Scott Souza has Delonte West answering some of his critics with his recent play. Mike Fine wonders how much longer Celtics fans will be patient.

Springer’s notebook has the former St Joseph’s backcourt of West and Jameer Nelson representing their school quite well in the NBA. Bulpett’s notebook has Doc Rivers talking about buying a house in Boston after this season.

Weekend Watch – Wildcard Weekend 2007

It’s that time again.

The NFL playoffs are upon us. The regular season has again just flown by and we’re hoping for another long postseason run by the locals. Their bitter rivals from the AFC East, the New York Jets come in for this year’s wildcard playoff game on Sunday. This matchup was a media dream with plenty of storylines and the whole added Boston/New York angle.

Check in with the BSMW Patriots Game Day page this weekend, both for Sunday morning links prior to the game as well as a post game column. The Patriots News Mashup page will also give you plenty of articles, columns and blog entries.

Here’s a few links you might also want to check out this weekend for the game:

WBZ-TV is the place to be on Sunday, starting with the Patriots GameDay pre-game show which will run from 11:00AM to Noon. The NFL Today then airs until kickoff at 1:00PM. Immediately following the game WBZ-TV will also have Patriots Fifth Quarter.

ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown will have a segment with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady sitting down with Chris Berman to discuss their relationship. There will also of course be a segment on Belichick and Mangini. Rachel Nichols will lead that segment.

Patriots All Access is a single airing this week. A live show, Friday night from 7-8 PM on WCVB-TV. Segments include:

  • Fresh off his 2 interception performance against the Titans, they go one-on-one with Asante Samuel.
  • They take a look at some of the key components in the Patriots record setting defensive play this season.
  • Bill Belichick points out several of the top offensive and defensive players to watch out for on the Jets on the Belestrator.
  • They take a trip to Hempstead, Long Island for a report from Jets camp.
  • Injured Patriots linebacker Don Davis joins the show live to offer his unique perspective on the match-up

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Weekend TV Highlights

Friday
8:00pm FSN, Celtics @ Grizzlies
8:00pm ESPN, Mavs @ Spurs (HD)
10:30pm ESPN, Heat @ Suns (HD)

Saturday
1:00pm NESN, Flyers @ Bruins (HD)
2:00 pm WSBK, BC @ NC State
4:30pm NBC, Chiefs @ Colts (HD)
8:00pm NBC, Cowboys @ Seahawks (HD)
9:00pm ESPN, UConn @ LSU (HD)

Sunday
1:00pm CBS, Jets @ Patriots (HD)
4:30pm FOX, Giants @ Eagles (HD)
6:00pm FSN, Celtics @ Magic

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Rob Bradford talks to a body language expert to try to decipher the Belichick/Mangini Handshake. (Seriously)

Mike Reiss had a Patriots Chat on Boston.com Friday.

Robert Weintraub looks at why center play is so important in the NFL playoffs.

Bill Simmons makes his NFL picks, after his top 10 highlights and lowlights from the extended holiday break.

Football Outsiders has their AFC Wildcard playoff preview.

ESPN’s Patriots/Jets Playoff Page is another place to check in this weekend.

Celtics News Mashup – The Green are on the road tonight and Sunday in Memphis and Orlando respectively. Donny Marshall sits in for Tom Heinsohn tonight on the FSN broadcast and Bob Cousy is in on Sunday.

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As a followup to yesterday’s guest column about the statements made by Ron Borges and Michael Felger on ESPN Boston earlier this week, I have to say that Felger took it well on the air yesterday. He acknowledged the points made in the article and the corrections and was able to laugh at himself about it. His line about “when a transcript of what you said appears on the website, you know you’re in trouble” was pretty good.

On the other hand, Borges has stuck to his claims, even putting factually incorrect information into his Friday column and then repeating the claims during an appearance on Mike Barnicle’s radio show.
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I guess the Red Sox really didn’t want Mark Loretta back. From Rob Bradford:

While signing a one-year, $2.5 million deal to return to Houston, where he spent a month with in 2002, was certainly a welcome scenario, Loretta had made it clear throughout the offseason that Boston was where he would have preferred to end up.

“At the Winter Meetings, my agent just said, How about a million dollars?’ It wasn’t a really serious conversation, but the point is that would have been, all things considered, my first option if there would have been any interest on the team’s side,” said Loretta from his San Diego-area home moments after returning from undergoing a physical for the Astros.

“We basically said, ‘Do you have any interest at any level at any dollar amount?’ And basically the answer was no.”

Check the Red Sox News Mashup for any Red Sox related news this weekend.

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Sports Media Columns From Around The Country

New England

Susan Bickelhaupt talks with Bob Neumeier, who is happy with his new full time job with NBC, which will have him on the sidelines for the Colts/Chiefs game tomorrow. Andrew Neff talks with Gary Thorne, who is not doing NHL hockey in a non-lockout year for the first time in 21 years after ESPN lost the NHL deal and wouldn’t let him move to Versus. Thorne has instead done a lot more football this year. Lori Riley looks at the TV coverage of the UConn/Tennessee game, which annually draws the most attention of any regular season women’s basketball game. David Scott has a look at Gatehouse Media ruffling feathers among long time staffers at papers that it has taken over because of their bottom line approach to news. John Molori handed out his 2006 Blitzy Awards to various Boston sports media members. A guest column on BSMW this week shattered the claims of a pair of Boston football writers that the Patriots are trying to shield rookie kicker Stephen Gostkowski by going for it more often than any other team on fourth down.

New York

Phill Mushnick is sick of “reaction shots” in TV sports coverage. Neil Best says that the Jets coverage on SNY has gotten a little too cozy. Peter Vecsey remembers “The Mayor of Baltimore” – former Bullets (and Knicks) announcer Jim Karvellas. Bob Raissman looks at how NFL “experts” actually do little more than simply guess. Andrew Marchand has ESPN/ABC saying that they are not interested in hiring “The Czar of the Telestrator,” Mike Fratello after his dismissal from the Grizzlies. He also says Chris Myers has to be the worst wing man in history. Marchand’s Memo of the Year is to Tiki Barber, advising him that after all of this hype, he’d better be pretty good when he embarks on his media career.

More East Coast

Jim Williams has extensive quotes from John Madden and Cris Collinsworth about this weekend’s NFL wildcard playoff games. Bob Smizik says that ESPN often seems more concerned with promoting themselves instead of the games they’re showing. Michael McCarthy looks at the debuts of Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long in the broadcast booth for the Sugar Bowl. He also reports on the media taking Nick Saban to task. Chris Zelkovich notes that Canadian bosses might not get a whole lot of work out of their employees with this afternoon with TSN offering live online streaming of the world junior hockey final. Laura Nachman says that Ray Didinger was born to be an Eagles commentator. Aaron Bracy talks to Sixers broadcaster Marc Zumoff about adjusting to life without Allen Iverson. He also talks to Pam Oliver about the Eagles game.

South

Dave Darling examines the local TV frenzy over the Florida Gators playing for the National Championship. Jim Sarni looks at the shots at Nick Saban on the airwaves, NFL coverage this weekend and the disappointing numbers from the Orange Bowl. David Barron reports on FOX’s BCS numbers, which are way down from last year.

Midwest and West Coast

Jeffrey Flanagan has Cris Collinsworth talking about the Chiefs chances against the Colts. Bob Wolfley notes that Barry Alvarez saw a classic in his broadcast debut of the Fiesta Bowl. Judd Zugad looks at KFAN’s search for a new Vikings analyst.

Larry Stewart notes that NBC has a hit on its hands with Sunday Night Football. Jay Posner has more on the NFL playoffs this week, noting that if the Chargers play the Patriots or Jets next weekend, it will likely be the 4:30 (ET) game on Sunday. If they play the Chiefs, it would likely be the late Saturday game. John Maffei however, guesses that a Chargers/Patriots game would be at 4:30 (ET) on Saturday. Stewart also says that Chris Rose has become FOX’s new star with his performance in the BCS broadcasts. Tom Hoffarth examines the road traveled by volleyball legend-turned-Denver Nuggets TV play-by-play man Chris Marlowe. Jim Carlisle has Golf Channel (no “The”) gearing up for increased programming in 2007. Joe Davidson has more on Golf Channel.

Patriots/Jets Finishing Up Preparations

We’ve got our Wildcard Edition of the BSMW Patriots Game Day Roundtable, featuring a look at Sunday’s playoff game and a couple of strong candidates for Mediot of the Week.

Bob Ryan notes that Bill Belichick and the Patriots are taking Eric Mangini and his Jets very seriously this week, knowing full well how dangerous they can be.

Michael Felger takes a position by position look at the matchups for the Patriots and Jets. Ron Borges takes an even more complete look at the matchups and says that the Jets won’t take the Patriots by surprise this time. However, he still clings to the notion that Gostkowski is shaky, incorrectly stating “he’s the reason New England leads the league in fourth-down tries.” He also falls for the Pepto bottle. (See two paragraphs below) Shalise Manza Young notes that one of the Patriots biggest areas of strength this season has been inside their own 20 yard line. Alan Greenberg looks at just how stout the Patriots defense has been this season. Dan Pires says Tully Banta-Cain and the Patriots aren’t ready for their season to end yet.

John Tomase notes that the trio of Richard Seymour, Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork is the unit most capable of bringing the Patriots to another Super Bowl. Mike Reiss has his NFL coaches panel speaking very highly of Laurence Maroney. Amalie Benjamin has a look at Daniel Graham, how he developed into the devastating blocker he is today and the keys to being a good blocker in the NFL. Albert Breer looks at how this has been a learning season in many ways for Ellis Hobbs. Jennifer Toland has Tom Brady enjoying the challenge of the playoffs.

A bottle of Pepto Bismol was spotted yesterday in plain view inside Stephen Gostkowski’s locker. Whether the rookie was actually using it, or if it was placed there by a joking veteran is unknown. (I think the latter is more likely the case.) Steve Buckley has a look at the rookie kicker, who has yet to face a game winning kick in his pro career. This of course doesn’t mean he can’t make the kick. He just hasn’t had the opportunity yet. Buckley believes the bottle was a Patriots prank. Joe McDonald has more on Gostkowski and apparently was duped by the Pepto Bismol bottle.

Eric McHugh has Tom Brady looking to right a couple of wrongs this weekend. Christopher Price has a couple of ex-Jets on the Patriots roster hoping to provide some leadership. Buckley has VinnyTestaverde talking about always being a Jet at heart, even if his loyalties right now are to the Patriots. Hector Longo says that the Jets will have a hard time matching up with Laurence Maroney. Breer looks at Warren being honored as the AFC’s defensive player of the month for December. Price looks at the Patriots playoff experience as a plus in this game. He also says this is the real season for Tom Brady.

Tomase’s notebook has Ellis Hobbs looking forward to his second postseason and talking about learning to deal with adversity. Reiss’ notebook has the Patriots aiming to stop the extended drives and third down conversions by the Jets. McDonald’s notebook has more on Ty Warren’s award. Toland’s notebook has Belichick praising the Jets special teams. Michael Parente’s notebook has the Patriots trying to figure out how to cure their kick coverage woes from last week. McHugh’s notebook has Mangini as the only strong branch in the Belichick coaching tree right now.

Jets

Christopher L Gasper has a mini-feature on Eric Mangini, who gives a lot of credit to Belichick for his development as a coach, but also acknowledges the role his late father played. Karen Guregian has Chad Pennington proving a lot of his doubters wrong this season, a season capped with the Comeback Player of the Year award, which he was awarded yesterday. David Brown has Pennington as a very driven player, though he is still known to scare fans on both teams. Michael Parente has more on the Jets re-energized quarterback. Guregian has Eric Mangini analyzing his handshakes with Bill Belichick.

Check the stories from the other side in the New York Sports Pages.

Guregian’s notebook has the Jets receivers not feeling any better about going over the middle simply because Rodney Harrison isn’t playing for the Patriots. Gasper’s notebook has more on Pennington’s honor.

Picks

Jim Lazar has his NFL Wildcard picks. Jim McCabe makes his picks in the Globe. Double D likes the Eagles this weekend and has the rest of his picks as well. I.M. Bettor also weighs in on the action for this weekend.

Bruins

It was a night to forget at the Garden for the Bruins, who fell to the Maple Leafs 10-2. Kevin Paul Dupont looks at “a new low to their suddenly imploding 2006-07 season.” Stephen Harris says that the effort simply wasn’t there for the Bruins. Robert Lee and Dave Nordman also provide coverage of the Garden debacle.

Mick Colageo says that this loss is more than a one night issue for the Bruins. Frank Dell’Apa has Tim Thomas saying that this game wasn’t a lost cause from the beginning. Steve Conroy has Thomas fielding questions, but having no answers for last night.

Dupont’s notebook says that Phil Kessel might spend some time in Providence as he works his way back from cancer surgery. Harris’ notebook has coach Dave Lewis saying there is plenty of blame to go around for last night. Lee’s notebook has Kessel itching to get out and play again. Nordman’s notebook has Hal Gill not finding life in Toronto any easier with the fans than it was in Boston.

Misc

Peter May and Mark Murphy have Theo Ratliff getting set for back surgery, which will likely end his season with the Celtics. Mike Fine has Doc Rivers giving Paul Pierce some coaching duties while the captain is sidelined.

Nick Cafardo has the Red Sox relying on their scouting as they make the move to try and convert Joel Pineiro into a closer. Jeff Horrigan notes that irony of how Pineiro getting demoted last season could actually help his career. Alex Speier looks at the Red Sox options and thoughts about who will be their closer next season. Joe Haggerty has a short bit on Pineiro as well.

David Scott says that Gatehouse Media’s pennypinching ways is ruffling feathers with long time staffers.

Lenny Megliola is saddened by the decline of Muhammad Ali. Is Megliola saying that all sick people should be quarantined and not allowed to be seen by the public?

Thursday Wrap

WEEI and WFAN teamed up today on the midday show, simulcasting Dale & Holley on the air with Joe Benigno & Evan Roberts and taking a few calls in the noontime hour.

Truth be told, the segment was pretty painful. The callers were almost all pro-Jets and the Patriots callers didn’t exactly represent themselves well. In fact, they were terrible. The first WEEI caller only managed a drunk sounding “Pats Suck!!” before getting cut off. New York callers obviously do not have a high opinion of Bill Belichick, as one insisted that Belichick knew he couldn’t win in New York and left for small-time New England “with his tail between his legs.”

The WFAN guys noted that the Jets have had problems with big, physical, defensive fronts all season, but said that the Patriots don’t provide one. Even after it was pointed out that Wilfork, Warren and Seymour are pretty good, they said that the Jets didn’t have too much trouble with the Patriots in Foxboro.

It was not noted however that Ty Warren didn’t play in that game, and Seymour was hampered with his arm injury and sat out a portion of that game as well.

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Football Outsiders has a few articles that should be of interest this week, one is a look at the Jets Offensive Line, while the another is a look at the DB’s playing in the Wildcard round and has some impressive statistics for Asante Samuel. They also have a look at what works in the playoffs, and why these Patriots are built to win in the postseason.

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Can someone please explain to me what Tony Massarotti is talking about?

Only three days remain before the latest installment of the Border War (Mangini Edition), and let the record show that Belichick this time fired the first shot. Certainly, it didn’t have to be this way. Mangini left his post as defensive coordinator of the Pats nearly a year ago to become head coach of the Jets, an especially wise career move now that Mangini is a leading candidate for NFL coach of the year.

Did I miss something from yesterday?

I liked Massarotti for the most part until he became a columnist. Since that time, whenever he writes about the Patriots he writes like a ninny. Check out a few headlines from Massarotti’s columns: (I know he doesn’t write the headlines, but these do reflect the content of the stories.)

  • Behavior’s so foolish: Pats had much to lose with win
  • So, they beat up Houston
  • Pats are nothing special: Clearly an ordinary team
  • Rout of Packers is hollow
  • Is old magic missing?
  • Patriots don’t stack up
  • Plain Pats give few answers
  • Problems in the present

Do you detect a pattern here? Again, these were all columns written about a 12-4 football team.

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You could have made some good money (especially betting reporters from the Herald) predicting that Corey Dillon would be named Practice Player of the Week at any point this season, as he was for his work during practice last week. In case you weren’t aware, the practice player of the week is the player who does the best job providing a look for the OTHER side of the ball in preparation for the game. It takes a guy who is willing to work, willing to do help the team even though it’s not really helping HIM do what HE has to do in the game. (which, as you may remember, was score on a 21 yard run and run for 50 yards on a screen pass)

We’re all still waiting for the bad apple to explode. Has there been a followup story since Felger talked about his threatening confrontation with Dillon?

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Peter Gammons checked in at Boston.com for a baseball chat.

Theo Ratliff is having back surgery and will probably not play for the Celtics again this season.

ESPN.com’s Patriots/Jets playoff page has Michael Smith taking a look at rookie kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

Bryan Morry has a look at the adjustments Tom Brady has had to make with his new receivers this season.

Phil Simms looks at the game within the game this weekend with Patriots/Jets.

The Gang Green message boards are fun read.

John Clayton has his First and 10 – Wildcard playoff edition.

Clark Booth weighs in on the baseball Hall of Fame voting and who should go in ahead of McGwire, Sosa or Bonds,

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According to Nielsen Media Research fast national figures, the NFL on FOX’s National Games finished the season with a 13.8/26 national household rating/share and an average audience of 21.8 million viewers. Those impressive figures push the program past ABC’s Dancing with the Stars (top-rated) and Desperate Housewives (most-watched) this TV season to-date. FOX’s National Games was obviously the NFL’s highest-rated, most-watched window on any network, out-pacing CBS’s National Games by 11% (12.4) and NBC’s by 25% (11.0), and posting its highest rating since 1999 (14.1/28). Year-to-year, the NFL on FOX National Game increased 6% in rating and (13.8 vs. 13.1) and 7% in audience (21.8 million vs. 20.4).

Guest Column – Borges and Felger: Lies My Radio Told Me

This is a guest column from BSMW member “rrsafety.” I should have one more post later today as well.

Borges and Felger: Lies My Radio Told Me

Ron Borges, football writer for the Boston Globe, must have a prodigiously large arse.
How else to explain his ability to pull so much out of it at a moment’s notice? Not to mention all the room he must have up there to house his many grudges, as well as the heads of his butt-kissing sycophants: most of the Boston sports writing corps and all of Borges’ editors at the Boston Globe.


But most of all, we know that furthest up the Borges rear resides the formerly respectable Michael Felger of the Boston Herald and of Boston’s ESPN Radio whose new relationship with Borges reads more like Stephen King’s Apt Pupil than it does a professional relationship.

Take for instance this bit of bitter wisdom from the almighty Borges on the January 3rd edition of the Mike Felger radio show: I, dear reader, am a “cuckoo person.”

That’s right, but not only am I cuckoo person, but I am not objective and I don’t care to look at unpleasant truths. I know this because Ron Borges and Mike Felger told me so, and they are always correct, right? Good thing for us that such virtuous folks as Borges and Felger are here to be of right mind, objective, and brave enough to look the truth straight in the eye.

Here is the exchange:

Borges: I also don’t trust the kicker [rookie Patriot Kicker Stephen Gostkowski]. I think eventually the kicker is going to hurt them and he could very easily have hurt them in each of the last two games.

Felger
: Yeah, they… Belichick has done a great job keeping him out of harms way during the season….

Borges: … but eventually…

Felger: …I mean, the Patriots had more fourth down attempts… Did you know this? … They went on fourth down more than any other team in the league.

Borges: Yeah, and anybody who thinks that is not kicker related is a cuckoo person.

Felger: Right, or just not being objective or doesn’t care to look at it.

Borges: Right, they just don’t care to look at it.

Hmmmm. Lot’s going on here. But let’s sort it out by being “objective”.
First of all, let us see if they are correct regarding the most basic fact of their assertion. “[The Patriots] went on fourth down more than any other team in the league.”

Oh? Did they?

According to the NFL.com’s team statistics the Patriots “went for it” on fourth down 20 times. Was that “more than any other team in the league”? Sorry Ron and Mike, it was not. In fact, there were six other teams in the NFL that went for it on fourth down 20 or more times during the 2006 regular season. Put another way, of the 31 other teams in the NFL, almost 20% of them went for it on fourth down as many times or more than the Patriots.

So, did the Patriots lead the league in fourth down attempts? No.

Were their number of attempts completely out of step with all other NFL teams? No.

Simply put, Borges’ and Felger’s premise was wrong from the very start.

But let us not just leave it at that, okay? To the observer uninitiated in the ways of Ron Borges, one might simply see this as a mistaken criticism of a rookie kicker and the Patriots lack of faith in him. And that observer would be wrong.

Strange as this all sounds, this Borges and Felger exchange has nothing to do with the kicker Gostkowski and has everything to do with Borges deep animosity toward all-things Belichick. For Borges, this is about the “arrogant” Bill Belichick who believes that the team’s success is all attributable to “the Belichick system” and that “Xs and Os” are more important than the “Jimmys and Joes”.

You see, one of Borges favorite “Jimmys and Joes” was the Patriots’ former kicker Adam Vinatieri who the Patriots were unable to re-sign last year. The more Borges is able to tear down the Patriots’ kicker, the more he is able to peddle his anti-Belichick wares that Bill’s systematic arrogance is leading the team to certain failure.

(A quick timeout is necessary here for many a reader may wonder, “But how can the system be a failure if they won three Super Bowls? How can it be a failure when the team has again made the playoffs and were 12-4 this year? How can the Belichick system be cheap and arrogant if the team consistently made Adam Vinatieri the highest paid kicker in the history of the NFL?” All good questions, but I’m afraid that asking such questions only makes you a cuckoo person.)

But there is another issue to address besides the mere misstatement of statistical facts perpetrated by the brothers Grimm. That is the contention that the decision to go for it on fourth down is “kicker related” and that those of us who do not believe that the evidence suggests that it is “kicker related” are cuckoo, non-objective and don’t care to look at it.

Okay, let look at as scientifically as possible by setting up some givens.

Let us stipulate that Adam Vinatieri is the best kicker ever. I will stipulate this because of two things 1) the Patriots made him the highest paid kicker in history, and 2) the enemies of the people – Borges and Felger – continue to tell me so. Therefore, polar opposites – the Patriots and the two-headed Hydra – agree on one thing – Adam Vinatieri was an outstanding field goal kicker.

If that is a given, than let us set up a hypothesis (remember high school science?). Taking Ron’s lead, I will propose the Borges Hypothesis of Fourth Down Attempts, that is, “When the Patriots have a great field goal kicker that that they trust, they will attempt very few fourth downs, and, conversely, when the Patriots have a field kicker they seek to ‘keep out of harms way’ due to a lack of faith, they will have many fourth down attempts.”

Good news. We have information directly from the NFL to test our hypothesis.

  • 2005 Regular Season – great kicker A.V. – 17 fourth down attempts.
  • 2006 Regular Season – “out of harm’s way” kicker S.G. – 20 fourth down attempts.

Ouch.

Shouldn’t there be a much MUCH bigger difference between these two numbers? I mean, we are talking about the greatest kicker in the history of the league vs. the nerve-wracking ineptness of a rookie kicker.

I know, perhaps the A.V. team of 2005 had a lot of fourth down attempts because the team ran more plays that year in comparison to 2006.

  • 2005 Regular Season – A.V. – 1031 plays – 1.64% of plays were 4th down attempts
  • 2006 Regular Season – S.G. – 1055 plays – 1.89% of plays were 4th down attempts

Uh, oh…. That can’t be the reason, because the Patriots actually had more overall plays in 06 than in 05.

Okay, I’ve got it now, maybe the reason why the Patriots attempted so many 4th down plays even though they had the greatest kicker in the world was because it just so happened that in 2005 the Patriots were extra-special, double-luck good at converting those fourth downs.

  • 2005 Regular Season – A.V. – 76% success on 4th down conversion attempts
  • 2006 Regular Season – S.G. – 80% success on 4th down conversion attempts

What? You mean even though the Patriots had LESS success at converting 4th downs in 2005, they STILL had A.V. sitting on the sidelines? How can this be when Borges had told us that the number of 4th downs you go for is “kicker related”??

Perhaps if we look at it another way. What percentage of the Patriots plays were FAILED fourth down attempts. This is a great statistic because it goes to the heart of the matter “The willingness of a coach to tempt failure in the quest for a first down”.

  • 2005 Regular Season – A.V. – .387% of plays were failed 4th down conversion attempts
  • 2006 Regular Season – S.G. – .379% of plays were failed 4th down conversion attempts

YIKES! Statistics from the NFL demonstrate that the Patriots actually accepted a higher percentage of failed 4th downs with Adam Vinatieri than they did with Stephen Gostkowski.

If Borges and Felger are correct, and the number of fourth down attempts is “kicker-related” then that means the greatest kicker in the history of the NFL was kept “out of harms way” at a higher rate than even our current rookie kicker! Has the world just turned upside down?

But that can’t be, can it? There must be a more satisfying solution that that.

Here is a satisfying solution: Borges and Felger are (once again) wrong.

Despite what they claim, perhaps the number of 4th down attempts is NOT related to kicker talent or trust. In fact, the data shows that the number 4th downs is more closely related to the team’s ability to MAKE 4th down conversions (the Patriots were #2 in 2005 and #1 in 2006). I should mention that many of the teams that also went for it on fourth down at a high rate, also have quality, veteran kickers.

So, not only did we disprove that statement: “They went on fourth down more than any other team in the league.”, but we have trounced the contention that in the Patriots system a high rate of going for it on fourth down is in any way related to the quality of the kicker.

If something that is so easily verifiable and so basic as kicking statistics can be twisted into a lie by the likes of Borges and Felger, how is that we can ever trust them to be sincere and accurate in more complex analyses for which readers cannot easily check?

Is it possible that writers like Borges and Felger have become so brazen in their biases that they have no qualms at all to present untruths as fact?

I’ll leave you with a reminder of what they said:

Felger: Yeah, they… Belichick has done a great job keeping him out of harms way during the season….

Borges: … but eventually…

Felger: …I mean, the Patriots had more fourth down attempts… Did you know this? … They went on fourth down more than any other team in the league.

Borges: Yeah, and anybody who thinks that is not kicker related is a cuckoo person.

Felger: Right, or just not being objective or doesn’t care to look at it.

Borges: Right, they just don’t care to look at it.

And will leave it to you to decide:

Who is being objective?

Who cares to look at it?

And, most importantly, who are the cuckoos?