Do They Make The Grade?

Last week the likes of Michael Felger, Tony Massarotti and Gary Tanguay (not to mention Dakota from Braintree) told us that the Falcons were an undefeated offensive juggernaut that would shred the Patriots defense all day long.

After listening some yesterday, apparently the Falcons were nothing but a flawed, dome NFC team that couldn’t play in the rain. The real beating will come this Sunday when the Ravens fly into town and run roughshod over the Patriots.

So how did the experts grade the performance against the Falcons? The aforementioned Michael Felger is almost gushing in his praise of the Patriots, especially the defense. The toughest grade is a “C” for Tom Brady. Is this really the same guy I hear trashing the Patriots every single day on 98.5? Ron Borges ia a little rough on the linebackers, giving them a “C-” while the QB and receivers each get a “C+”. All other grades are “A’s” and “B’s”. On Patriots Daily, Jeremy Gottlieb has a “C” for the quarterback and a “C+” for the receivers. Steve DeOssie is surprised by the defense, and hands out “A’s” and “B’s” across the board.

Shalise Manza Young had the first report I saw that the North Attleboro police were investigating “an incident involving a Patriots player” who was the victim of a home invasion. That player was thought to be Jonathan Wilhite. Monique Walker and Christopher L. Gasper have more on the story in the Globe today. David Linton reports on what Wilhite told police.

Ian R. Rapoport reports that Vince Wilfork has a sprained left ankle, and that the injury is not thought to be a long term problem.

Rapoport says that one way that the Patriots keep opponents off balance is by changing game plans each week. Glen Farley says that the Ravens will give the Patriots a much tougher test. Brian MacPherson is impressed bu the Patriots defense in the early going. Christopher Price looks at how Brandon McGowan has become a sparkplug on defense for the Patriots. Rich Garven has the Patriots able to get the job done on defense despite injuries.

Karen Guregian says that Fred Taylor made a statement with his play on Sunday. Tim Weisberg says that the breakout game from Taylor was welcomed by his teammates and coaches. Price says that Taylor is up for the challenge of being the lead back. Young looks at the risky fourth down play on Sunday that paid off for the Patriots. Farley has more on Belichick’s faith on fourth down Sunday.

Rapoport’s notebook mentions the Wilhite incident. Gasper’s notebook says that Taylor wouldn’t mind grabbing the lead role at running back. Young’s Patriots Journal says that Wilfork’s injured ankle isn’t believed to be serious.

Red Sox

The Red Sox couldn’t clinch their postseason berth last night, as they were swamped by the Toronto Blue Jays, 11-5in a rain-shortened game last night. The Rangers lost to the Angels tonight, so the Red Sox clinched at least a tie for the wild card. They can clinch the postseason berth with a win tonight or another Rangers loss.

Nick Cafardo has Michael Bowden getting the start in place of Josh Beckett last night, and getting hit hard. John Tomase says the Red Sox have the chance to clinch tonight in front of their own fans. Ron Chimelis has the Blue Jays keeping the Red Sox celebration on ice for another night. Jeff Goldberg has the Sox struggling without Josh Beckett last night. Bill Ballou has the Sox playing another Fall Training game. Kevin McNamara has the Sox leaving fans feeling empty and wet last night. Ken Lechtanski has the champagne on ice for another night.

Sean McAdam says that this week is about getting rested and healthy. Rob Bradford looks at how worried we should be about the Red Sox injuries. Howard Bryant has David Ortiz able to rebound from a horrible start this season, but the PED issue still lingers. Chimelis says that we shouldn’t take the consistently winning Red Sox for granted. Joe McDonald has the Sox playing without Beckett last night, while Jon Lester feels better. Mike Fine has the Red Sox juggling things in preparation for October.

Michael Vega has Dustin Richardson waking up in Florida yesterday, and ending the night making his major league debut for the Red Sox. Brian MacPherson looks at how the Red Sox are dealing with the setbacks to their two aces. Joe Haggerty say that the Red Sox have no panic over their health woes. Pedro Gomez has Manny Delcarmen making some progress in his outing last night.

McAdam reports that J.P. Ricciardi could be in jeopardy of losing his job in Toronto. Bill Reynolds says that for the Yankees, it’s win it all or bust.

Cafardo’s notebook says that the news is optimistic on Beckett and Jon Lester for their next starts. Tomase’s notebook looks at Beckett getting scratched last night with back spasms.  Chimelis’ notebook has more on Beckett getting scratched. Ballou’s notebook has Beckett and Mike Lowell getting some rest last night. Goldberg’s notebook has Jon Lester feeling better. The Projo Red Sox Journal has Lowell getting a shot of of both Synvisc and cortisone yesterday to prepare for the postseason.

Celtics media day links coming in separate post.

Demise of Patriots Put on Hold. Again.

Updated with more links below.

There had been a lot of doom forecast this week regarding the Patriots. Sports radios hosts and callers, as well as national football writers felt that the high-powered Atlanta Falcons offense was going to come into Foxborough and run roughshod over the Patriots defense. Tony Gonzalez in particular would be a problem for New England.

The much-maligned defensive unit held Gonzalez to one catch on the day, and limited the vaunted Falcons offense to 10 points in a 26-10 Patriots victory at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots offense had red zone issues once again, but was able to move the ball on the ground and in the air all afternoon.

Mike Reiss says that the Patriots still have plenty of room for improvement after this one. Ian R. Rapoport has the Patriots answering their critics in an emphatic, straight-forward fashion on a dreary, wet day. Christopher L. Gasper has the Patriots coming out on top despite an offense that is still a work in progress. Jennifer Toland says that it turns out that the panic from last week was unfounded. Mark Farinella says that flawed victories are still victories. Tim Whelan Jr. calls this one a vintage effort from the Patriots. Tim Weisberg says that this was a step in the right direction for the Patriots. Glen Farley has the Patriots using the running attack in the win. Steve Krause has the Patriots using the running game to right the ship.

Bob Ryan says that while the Patriots are still a work-in-progress and need to improve, they’ll take this one.  Ron Borges says that a poor game plan, not anything special that the Patriots did, doomed the Falcons. Jim Donaldson says that it was like old times for the Patriots defense. Bill Burt says that Fred Taylor provided a spark that the Patriots had been lacking. Tom King says that playing keep-away with the Falcons gave the Patriots the edge. Michael Felger says that this was an old-school win for the Patriots.

You might want to check out Spawn of Dumb Girl by Dan Snapp on Patriots Daily. Just sayin’.

Jonathan Comey in his Monday Morning Fullback column looks at Josh McDaniels’ fast start in Denver. Christopher Price rolls through 10 things we learned about the Patriots yesterday. Chris Warner has the Gut Check after this one.

Karen Guregian has the unheralded Patriots defense getting the job done against the Falcons offense. Hector Longo has the Patriots defense making a statement with their play. Eric McHugh has Brandon McGowan becoming an impact playmaker on the Patriots defense. King has the defense stepping up in the win.

Monique Walker has Tom Brady still trying to find his touch, but getting the job done anyway. Kirk Minihane isn’t buying this “Brady’s back” talk that we’ll be hearing all week. I really don’t think we’ll be hearing much of that. Brady’s issues with accuracy were there for all to see. Guregian has Randy Moss coming up big in the passing game despite a sore back. Donaldson says that Moss was probably able to sleep well last night after his effort.

Dan Duggan has Fred Taylor getting the bulk of the carries in the running game, and finishing with 105 yards and a touchdown. Julian Benbow has Taylor making the most of his opportunity. Rich Garven has the Patriots balanced attack with Taylor proving effective. Robert Lee says that Taylor may have run himself right into the Patriots future plans. Peter Gobis has the time of possession numbers in favor of the Patriots. Carmine Frongillo has Taylor showing he can still be depended upon.

Duggan has the Patriots offensive line improving in their protection of Brady yesterday. Farinella notes that a more balanced day was the key for the Patriots. He adds that the ground game was able to make up for the lagging passing attack of Brady. Jeff Howe has the offense getting better, but still struggling in the red zone. Krause credits a a much-improved game plan for the Patriots success yesterday.

Dan Ventura has Matt Ryan unable to recapture his Boston College glory in his return to New England. Michael Vega has a cold second half doing in Ryan in his return. Joe Sullivan has the Patriots making sure that Gonzalez wasn’t going to beat them. Lee has the Falcons saying that they were “outcoached” and “outplayed” yesterday. Gobis says that the Patriots spoiled homecoming for Ryan.

Ventura has the Patriots finally making a Long-distance connection yesterday. Lee serves up some Game analysis. Reiss hands out three stars in the win and three not-so-stars. Longo has his Two-minute drill. The Patriot Ledger has some Chalk Talk after the game.

Rapoport’s notebook has the Patriots losing Vince Wilfork to an ankle injury in the second quarter. Gasper’s notebook has more on the injury to Wilfork. Toland’s notebook looks at the decision to go for it on fourth down while backed up deep on their own 24-yard line. Young’s Patriots journal has the Patriots playing some improv yesterday. Whelan’s notebook looks at Taylor’s efforts in the win. Weisberg’s notebook has the Patriots frustrated at their lack of red zone production. He also notes an interesting argument in the press box during the game. Farley’s notebook says that it was an impressive win, but still not a perfect one.

Red Sox

The Red Sox were swept in New York this weekend, but creeped closer to a playoff berth anyway, as the Rangers lost to the Rays yesterday. The Red Sox magic number sits at two currently.

Adam Kilgore has the Red Sox watching the Yankees celebrate their 100th win of the season and another AL East title yesterday. Michael Silverman has the Yankees giving the Red Sox plenty to think about. Daniel Barbarisi says that the Red Sox still have some unfinished business to attend to. Dom Amore has the Yankees cutting loose after the game.

Nick Cafardo celebrates the Yankees’ “extraordinary regular season.” Sean McAdam has the Yankees taking care of business with remarkable efficiency. Steve Buckley wants another Yankees/Red Sox ALCS clash. Joe McDonald says that all the Yankees offseason spending has paid dividends. Amy Nelson has the Red Sox hoping to have their own celebration soon.

Buckley has Victor Martinez bringing the Red Sox leadership as well as on-field production. Pedro Gomez has Martinez getting more time behind the plate as the playoffs approach. Alex Speier says that the Red Sox weren’t bothered at seeing the Yankees celebrate.

Bruins/Celtics

Kevin Paul Dupont has Claude Julien looking for the right line combinations. Rich Thompson has Michael Ryder making the case to fill the spot on the top line vacated by the trade of Phil Kessel. Joe Haggerty has Blake Wheeler back on the right track.

Steve Bulpett has a peek at the key issues facing the Celtics as they get ready to start training camp with media day today.

Kilgore’s notebook has Victor Martinez’s hitting streak coming to an end in a pinch hitting appearance yesterday. Silverman’s notebook has Paul Byrd looking sharp yesterday. The Projo Red Sox Journal has the Yankees getting to Daniel Bard again. Amore’s notebook has the Red Sox focused on getting the wild card clinched.

Friday Ramblin’s

Mixing things up a little bit this Friday, rather than full links, we’ll jump around a little bit.

Patriots Daily is giving you what you need for Sunday’s Patriots/Falcons game. Weekly features like Worry Wart by Chris Warner, Trading Places – a chat with the Falcoholic blog and First Impressions get you warmed up for Sunday. Later today the Buffet Table and Matchups should be posted.

With an NFC opponent coming into town, FOX has the game on Sunday, however, if you live in certain parts of New England that happen to lie close to New York, you’re going to get the Giants game instead. Check Patriots Daily tomorrow for the weekly media notes feature. Check PatriotsLinks.com for all the stories today in the papers.

FOX also has the Red Sox/Yankees game on Saturday. So it’s a big weekend for Butch Stearns and crew.

One story that was kicking around yesterday was the news (first reported by Sports Business Daily) that the Kraft Sports Group has entered a business relationship with ESPNBoston.com to sell ads on the site. Mike Florio of Profootballtalk.com was apoplectic at the news, calling it “one of the most blatant and obvious conflicts of interest we ever have seen.” A bit of exaggeration there, for sure. This is sports. What kills me about how Florio handled this was his followup post nearly 12 hours later on the subject. He admits that ESPN got back him on his questions in the morning, yet he waited all that time to post the reply…because he didn’t have time. Yet, he had time to personally post15  items in between the two ESPNBoston items.

It seems more likely that Florio let the item sit on his site, knowing it was a hot topic, (83 comments and counting) and wanted to milk it as long as he could before posting the ESPN followup later at night. I can’t really fault him for this…it’s good website business. Keep those pageviews coming in. But Mike, don’t say you didn’t have time to post the followup. That’s lame.

Locally, Jenn Abelson in the Globe writes about potential conflicts of interest in the deal. That’s all well and good, and a legitimate concern to bring up. However, how in the world can the Globe not disclose in that article that they themselves are in a similar conflict, with their (for the moment) parent company also owning 17% of the Red Sox? Inexcusable.

My boy Chad Finn makes the same misstep in his media column today. He starts out with quotes from Tim McCarver on Red Sox/Yankees and Troy Aikman on Patriots/Falcons, and then dives into the ESPNBoston/Kraft Sports Group potential conflict of interest without mentioning the Globe’s situation. He describes the news partnership as starting off on “dubious journalistic ground.”  Sure, I think that most people are by now aware of the 17% but I find it a little hard for the Globe to be critical of ESPNBoston in this instance. 

Elsewhere, in real sports, Sean McAdam breaks the news that Jon Lester, not Josh Beckett, will get the game one start in the postseason. I’m shocked that the Red Sox failed to consult Glenn Ordway on this. He spent hours yesterday telling us it was a no-brainer that Beckett would get that honor.

Dom Amore tells us that this Red Sox/Yankees series is a bit more laid back.  Bill Burt tells us that a Red Sox/Yankees postseason series could come down to Daisuke Matsuzaka and Joba Chamberlain. Check RedSoxLinks.com for all the stories today.

Jessica Camerato has a nice piece on new Celtic Shelden Williams, who is married to WNBA superstar Candace Parker. 

It sounds like Gerry Callahan is going to be making an appearance on the Big Show this afternoon, at least that’s what was stated a number of times on the WEEI morning show today, hosted by Butch Stearns and Greg Dickerson. John Dennis is undergoing surgery this morning, and apparently will be out to at least start next week. At the end of the morning show, Dickerson said that Callahan would be back in the morning on Monday.

If you’re able to, I highly, highly recommend checking out Showtime’s Full Color Football series. It’s a history of the AFL, and is simply tremendous. I can’t say enough good things about it.