Patriots Peak Too Soon, Blow Chance At Super Bowl Title

(I can’t wait to see how many angry emails and tweets I get from people who only read the headline.)

It’s hard to find to find much fault with the Patriots performance last night, so those who wish to force doom and gloom on their audience the next few days will have to work a little bit. I’ve seen a few references to the 45-3 December win over the Jets a couple years ago, and how that turned out, I’ve seen the phrase “peaking too soon” – how do we know the Patriots are peaking? Still seems like plenty of room for improvement, right? I’ve seen worries about the two fumbles – both recovered by the offense, mind you – and continued worries about the kicker, who didn’t attempt a field goal last night.

But if you’re going through those items and fretting over them, I’d say you’ve got issues. The Patriots ran roughshod over the Houston Texans, who were an NFL-best 11-1 coming into this game. New England jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first half, and kept the pedal down in a 42-14 thumping.

The CSNNE interview with Wes Welker last night ended pretty awkwardly, as the receiver was asked about his tough night connecting with Tom Brady (targeted 9 times, 3 catches) and Felger suggested the drops got into Welker’s head. He wasn’t amused, nor was he interested in Troy Brown’s suggestion that being on the punt returns messed him up as a receiver. Felger also managed to chastise “sensitive” Patriots fans who interpret them listing out all the ways the opponent gives the game to the Patriots as taking away from how the Patriots played.

For all those marveling that Dan Shaughnessy called this one, as if he actually had any knowledge or foresight, I just have to shake my head. If you read his column yesterday, he was insulting to Robert Kraft, to the Patriots and especially to their fans, and the column was written in a completely disingenuous manner, hoping the Patriots could somehow lose a game that he said they should win easily, and then he could thus blast them. Really it was genius. It was a no-lose proposition for Shaughnessy. Win, and he gets credit for “predicting” the win. Lose, and he gets to blast them. Pure genius.

Alright, let’s enjoy this one for a few days before we worry about the 49ers. Can we? Is that allowed?

Get all the coverage at PatriotsLinks.com.

Season’s Greetings – Leigh Montville on Sports on Earth looks at the Patriots doing what they do – come to play in December.

What we learned: Defense answers all questions in rout of Texans – Christopher Price says that the Patriots have a championship defense.

Plan short-circuits Watt – Greg A Bedard looks at what the Patriots did to limit the disruptiveness of J.J. Watt.

Patriots’ defense comes of age – Jackie MacMullan says that earlier in the season, the idea of a Super Bowl run was “pure folly, simply unfathomable.” Why is it so hard for some to catch on to the pattern that New England defenses almost always get better as the season goes on.

5 Things We Learned about Monday’s Game- Andrew Tornetta and Tim Weisberg analyze a few points from last night.

Win over Texans a statement of purpose – If you work in a Secretariat reference, there’s a good chance I’m going to link you. Well done, Tim Whelan Jr.

——–
Win a Patriots-themed NFL Crock-Pot ® slow cooker from BSMW!

Another No-Win Game on Tap For Patriots

No tomato cans this week. Or next.

Make no mistake, tonight’s game against the Houston Texans is a tough one, no matter how Dan Shaughnessy might try to reverse-jinx you into thinking it’s going to be a Patriots cakewalk.

Much of last week on the airwaves, well, at least on a couple of shows was spent figuring out how to argue that this game also means nothing, or if it means something, it’s only to the Texans. If the Patriots win, we learn nothing, because it is at home, the weather is bad, and the Texans are injured. If the Texans win, it validates their status as the greatest team of this generation. Or something like that.

Michael Gee had a nice take on this.

So what’s a commentator to do? I dunno. No city is ever short of commentators eager to shout “Rah!” for the home team, and Boston has its share. That’s demeaning as well as dull. Were I still professionally employed, I’d probably have focused on the new guys. Becoming part of an already successful football team is not an easy chore, and their stories might be of some interest to fans or even just plain folks.

I know what I wouldn’t do, though. I wouldn’t take what is a depressingly popular role among the commentariat — the pigskin concern troll. I would neither pick nits nor spend any time fretting over possible negative future events for the Pats as if I was one of those  anonymous “senior Democratic aides/officials/legislators” who’re always being quoted in “Politico.” That would be demeaning, dull AND ridiculous.

Pigskin concern troll. Plenty of those around.

Back to Shaughnessy for a moment. How does this:

We try to represent the interests of the fans. – Nov 1, 2012

Reconcile with this:

Patriots fans are the most confident, arrogant, thin-skinned fans in the entire world. – Today.

Seems like a conflict to me.  Or a lie.

Shaughnessy calling someone else arrogant and thin-skinned is probably the most ironic thing he has ever written.

The hype started early for this one, and you’ve probably already read all the good stuff written on this one tonight. If you missed any, you can catch up over at PatriotsLinks.com.

Here’s one from today that’s a must read:

Texans’ turn at trying to roll with Patriots – Tom E Curran looks at the Texans taking their shot at breaking through to the big stage.

He also takes aim at media members such as Shaughnessy. This seems like a direct hit:

There’s a lazy tendency around here for media types to point out that the Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl in eight seasons, as if that’s a damning fact.

In fact, Shaughnessy used that exact argument this morning.

More:

That “stat” – like so much of what we in the media sadly offer our consumers – is devoid of context and thought, merely a ploy to agitate when we haven’t bothered to investigate.

The current Patriots are – along with the 80s and 90s 49ers, the 60s Packers, and the 70s Steelers – the most successful organization the NFL has seen.

And there is no end in sight, especially with their 35-year-old quarterback playing better with each passing season.

Surely Curran is outing himself as a Patriots fanboy here. But what is the real reason we don’t hear more about this stretch of success that the Patriots are enjoying? Curran has a theory on that, too.

Well, the formative years of Boston media members born before 1983 was spent watching mostly talented but flawed teams that would faceplant at crucial moments. That left us sitting on the ends of our beds, pimply-faced and wondering what might have been. It made us cynical, the kind of people who walk out on a clear, spring day, look at the sky and wonder when the meteor will hit.

Those born before 1960 are afflicted with a more virulent strain of miserable. They romanticize the 1967 Red Sox, a team that didn’t even win the friggin’ World Series, as the pinnacle of their sports-viewing lives. They remember a time when the teams they covered needed them because they were the only voice in town. Now, not so much.

They could only take so much success from one franchise before reverting to the hackneyed, sky-is-falling, “you don’t know what we know” storylines that get them to deadline and onto their next gig.

Let’s see, I identified call-outs of Shaughnessy, Steve Buckley and Ron Borges there. Speaking of those “storylines,” Curran next bit could be “ripped from the headlines.”

If the Patriots beat the Texans, the fossils will tell you it’s the outcome everyone expected anyway. If they lose, it’s comeuppance for the arrogant Patriots.

It’s neither. The Texans are trying to be successors to the Colts, the Steelers, the Ravens and the Chargers. We will find out tonight whether they may be worthy adversaries to the one AFC constant since 2001. The Patriots.

Well done.

A couple of media-related columns:

What was CBS thinking? – Kirk Minihane wonders why CBS decided to show us Steelers/Chargers instead of one of the games involving of the dynamic rookie quarterbacks in Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.

Samantha Steele talks Ponder; NFL pregame shows talk tragedy, again – Richard Deitsch has his complete wrap of sports media commentary and news from the weekend and last week.

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 28 vs. the Bucks

Celtics (20-7) vs. Bucks (19-10)
December 9, 1979
MECCA Arena

After a flat performance the prior night in Cleveland, the Celtics arrived at 400 West Kilbourn Avenue with a plan to re-insert themselves in first place in the Atlantic Division with a victory over an NBA stalwart in their final year in the Western Conference.

[Read more...]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 27 vs. the Cavaliers

Celtics (20-6) vs. Cavaliers (13-17)
December 8, 1979
Richfield Coliseum

The Cavaliers were thrilled to find the Celtics on the second night of a back-to-back and shared no sympathy toward former coach Bill Fitch in a 116-100 victory over Boston.  The win put the Cavs only three games under the .500 mark.

An exquisite performance from Larry Bird went to waste.  Bird set a new high by compiling 32 points, 18 rebounds, and five assists.  Cedric Maxwell added 11 boards and 18 points off 50 percent shooting, and Tiny Archibald was stellar at the point with 16 points and 9 assists.  M.L. Carr gave the Celts a little punch off the bench with 10 points, but Dave Cowens endured his worst performance of the season.  Playing 39 minutes, he shot 1-of-9 from the field to give the Celtics only two points.  With no true backup center on the roster, Cowens’ three rebounds and poor play left the Green Team in a very weak spot in the middle.  The season had been mostly positive for the former 1971 co-rookie of the year, but nights like this must have had Red Auerbach and Bill Fitch thinking of ways to improve their strength and depth at center. [Read more...]

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 26 vs. the Suns

Celtics (19-6) vs. Suns (17-11)
Friday, December 7, 1979
Boston Garden

Today is a tragic day in the history of the United States as we remember those who lost their lives on Pearl Harbor, but today also marks the day of birth for Larry Bird.  Bird and the Celtics began their next stretch of three-games-in-three-days with a Friday night game at the Garden against a highly competitive team in the Phoenix Suns.  The Suns as an organization are the best franchise in NBA history never to win a championship, even though the team has been competitive through the years.  The 1979-80 Suns team fit that model perfectly, as they advanced to the Western Conference Finals before submitting in five games to the Lakers. [Read more...]

Tom Coughlin’s Encounter with Bill Belichick after Super Bowl XLVI

Another reason why I just can’t dislike Tom Coughlin even though he’s beaten the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl:

Tom Coughlin On The Handshake With Bill Belichick After Super Bowl XLVI: “Very, very moving experience for me because I tried to put myself in his shoes and how difficult that was for him. We kind of put our arms around each other – I won’t tell you what was said, but we put our arms around each other. We had embraced so I started to come back and he kind of pulled again. And so we…it was kind of a special moment.”

From Costas Tonight: 2012 Year In Review.

These guys have a long, and well documented history and friendship, having worked together under Bill Parcells with the Giants. As tough as that moment had to have been, at least there was a friend to congratulate on the other side.

Kevin Winter Gets D&C Update Gig, Ted Johnson Looks Great, Gruden On Patriots/Texans

It’s almost a weekend off for Patriots fans, with New England taking on the Houston Texans on Monday night, it’s a weekend to score points with your significant other by offering to do something on Sunday afternoon.

Unless you have the Red Zone channel, that is.

On CSNNE’s Quick Slants last night Tom E Curran had former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson on as a guest from Houston, where he has been working for CBS Houston. I’m really glad to say that Johnson looked and sounded great. He said that he feels great, he works out regularly, eats right, been taking care of himself. He still looks like he could suit up and stuff the run.

It’s good because he was a guy I think we all worried about, at least I did, especially since I hadn’t seen or heard him locally for a bit, and we know about his battles with the effect of concussions. It was great to be pleasantly surprised. Hopefully he continues to do well. On another note about that show, Mary Paoletti was, in the words of a BSMW reader, “throwing Pedro ’99 heat” last night.

Chad Finn broke the news yesterday that Kevin Winter, formerly of 1510 The Zone and 890 ESPN had gotten the job as flash guy on the Dennis and Callahan Morning Show, replacing Jon Meterparel. Winter will continue his freelance work at ESPN, but it’s a good hire, and the personable Winter will be a nice contrast to the fire-breathing hate of the two hosts on the program. He’ll also provide actual sports knowledge, which is a bonus.

For the other candidates – Jen Royle just launched a new Boston based sports site – Sports Reel Boston – which will mainly be focused on the Red Sox and baseball, but will cover the other sports as well. Pete Sheppard will have plenty of appearances upcoming on WEEI with the holiday coming and the regular hosts taking their customary days off. He should also be a candidate for the 98.5 evening gig, which would be an interesting move.

Steve Burton’s report, like NHL season, is in limbo – Finn’s media column today looks at the CBS Boston anchor’s report earlier this week that the NHL lockout would end by midweek. He also has more on the Winter hiring.

Media roundup: Do you know Bo? If not, you really should – My SB Nation media column this week looks at ESPN’s 30 for 30 production You Don’t Know Bo, which debuts tomorrow night at 9:00 pm.

Bryan Morry Enjoys Gridiron and Golf Greatness – John Molori talks to the Executive Director of the Hall at Patriot Place (and former PFW writer) about some of his moments covering the Patriots.

Holy Cross women blessed with radio coverage – Bill Doyle has Holy Cross men’s and women’s basketball returning to the airwaves after a three-year absence on the new Emmanuel Radio. He also has a few Patriots Monday Night Football and Celtics programming notes.

ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden offered some thoughts on Monday’s game:

What are your thoughts on this week’s Texans-Patriots game?

You obviously have two of the most high-potent offenses in the NFL. You have two great defensive coaches. I’m excited about Tom Brady going up against Wade Phillips and the Houston Texans defense. The idea of seeing Matt Schaub and the balanced Texans offense going up against Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia and the Patriots makes me want to get to Foxborough tonight.

What are keys to the game for both teams?

For the Texans, they possess the ball almost 36 minutes a game with their running game and high-percentage pass offense. I think keeping Tom Brady off the field and doing what they do on offense – protecting the ball, moving the ball and scoring points – is the recipe for success for the Texans. For the Patriots, they’re going to have to rely on Tom Brady once again – his ability to recognize, audible and attack. The Texans injuries in the secondary and at linebacker are going to make things difficult for Houston. This game has all the makings of a shootout.

I also think how the Patriots offensive line can handle the fierce front of the Texans is going to be something to watch. Houston has the best inside pass-rush that I’ve seen with Antonio Smith, J.J. Watt and Jared Crick coming in as the third tackle. They’ve got some real energy and playmaking inside.

What have you seen from quarterbacks Tom Brady and Matt Schaub this season?

Tom Brady’s expertise and clutch playmaking, talent and work ethic has been well-documented where Matt Schaub’s probably hasn’t. Schaub has won 15 out of 16. What he’s done behind the scenes in Houston rivals what Tom Brady does in New England. These are two very intelligent, highly motivated CEOs of their teams. They unify their football teams and epitomize everything you want in a quarterback. I kind of put them on the same level in terms of preparation, leadership and dominating the game from the neck up.

What are your impressions of J.J. Watt this season and what has impressed you the most?

He’s just unblockable. His stamina is incredible. He’s a tremendous athlete. A lot of people think he’s just a high-effort guy. He’s a rare athlete. He can get off the blocks and close. He can run over you. He has the elusiveness to run you down and change directions. He’s instinctive. He has the ability to reject passes when he knows he’s not going to get there, or when you’re going to throw the quick gain. He bats balls and he bats quarterbacks around. He’s an MVP candidate. There’s no question.

Is there an off-the-radar player – what you would call a “Gruden Grinder” – who is a potential difference-maker on Monday night?

I like Houston wide receiver Kevin Walter. He does a lot for the Texans as a blocker. This stretch running game is magnificent, but he cuts off the back side. He blocks the perimeter for these quick screens. He runs patterns. He catches balls. He’s a great pro football player. A lot of his production is not on the stat sheet.

A guy for New England is defensive end Rob Ninkovich. You watch Ninkovich on a snap-by-snap basis, you might not be overwhelmed by how good he is, but when you look at the whole game, and a series of games, he’s as valuable a member of the Patriots defense as anyone because he can play outside linebacker, inside linebacker, right end, left end. He can move around in their sub package. And he has skill to do all these things. I really like Ninkovich a lot.

Where do you rank the Texans and Patriots at this point in the season?

Houston is 11-1 for good reason. Their performance against the Ravens, the game we saw on Monday Night Football in New York against the Jets, going to Denver to beat the Broncos, there’s a consistency that’s impressive. They’ve had some injuries now and that’s the only concern I have. Brooks Reed and Brian Cushing are out. Johnathan Joseph has been out. They’re missing some key ingredients to their defense, but they can score with anyone and their effort and energy level is outstanding on defense. I think they are a favorite to get to the Super Bowl and win it. I would say the same about New England because of No. 12 and the head coach of the football team. They’ve had such great continuity. They can beat you in all three phases of the game, and they expect to win. They are used to winning. It’s hard to go against them.

How special is it to call a game of this magnitude in primetime on MNF this late in the season?

We had the world champions last week and one of the great up-and-coming stars of pro football in RGIII last week. This week, the two teams have combined for 20 victories. You want to coach in the biggest games, you want to play in the biggest games, and you want to broadcast the biggest games. And, if you’re a fan, you want to watch the biggest games. It’s exciting. It’s going to be a heck of a game.

Q&A with Comcast Sportsnet host/Celtics reporter Gary Tanguay

Gary Tanguay is involved with a number of programs for Comcast Sportsnet including UNO Sports Tonight, Patriots Wednesday Live and Celtics pre and post game coverage. He also co-hosts 98.5 The Sports Hub’s pre and post game coverage for every Patriots game. In addition, he has also called some college football games for CSN. Tanguay is one of the most versatile members of the Boston media having hosted TV shows, hosted radio shows and also done play-by-play.

A life-long Boston sports fan, he’s been labeled as a  “Green Teamer” for his passion and the way he covers the Celtics, but still Tanguay is a very accomplished, dedicated member of the Boston media. Boston Sports Media Watch had the chance to catchup with Tanguay, touching on a number of subjects, including his interested in the soon to be vacant Patriots radio play-by-play position.

Gary Tanguay is one of the busiest members of the Boston sports media on Comcast Sportsnet and 98.5 The Sports Hub.

BSMW: Growing up did you have a favorite team? Did you have a dream job? When did it finally become a reality that you would be covering the Patriots, Celtics and the entire Boston sports scene for a living?

Growing up I loved the Patriots, Celtics and the Sox. Believe it or not, where I lived in Maine we could not get TV 38, therefore I saw very little of the Bruins.  That’s why I am an awful skater. The other three teams I could see on network television plus Sox games were picked up by local stations at least once per week.

Fortunately, I am living my dream job. My goal was to work in Boston radio or television. I think it is the best media market in the country.

As an original member of the WEEI air staff in the early 90′s, I had a weekend show on Saturday’s following Jimmy Myers. I remember interviewing Will McDonough and Andy Moog. I guess that’s when it hit me that I had a shot at this.

BSMW: You’ve done play-by-play of games, hosted talk radio shows and hosted TV shows, is there one which you prefer best? Is there one you’re best suited for?

I have been very fortunate to experience all three and each offer rewards and challenges. I think trying different things makes you a better broadcaster. For me it’s a three way tie. I love doing them all.

BSMW: What was it like co-hosting the midday show at 98.5? Do you have any regrets during your time there?

Working with Zo on 98.5 was exciting and a lot of fun. There is nothing like the spontaneity of talk radio.  Many don’t know that I worked in radio for twelve years before I made the move to television. My first job was a weekend radio shift when I was 16 at WRUM, the local radio station in my hometown. No regrets at the Sports Hub. Gresh and Zo are doing a great job. I am still happy to be a part of the station on the Patriots pre and post game shows.

BSMW: With the number of guests you have on Sports Tonight, do you have a favorite? Is it sometimes difficult to get strong opinions from the guests to make good for TV? 

I have a lot of confidence in our guest lineup on Sports Tonight. All of them bring unique personalities to the table. You never know what Ron Borges is going to say, Dan Shaughnessy never pulls a punch and Bob Ryan bring a boat load of energy to the show. My favorite duo is Andy Hart and Paul Perillo of Patriots Football Weekly. Andy gets under Paul’s skin, which makes for great television. Fred Toucher has become a regular and that is always an adventure. One time, with the angelic Jackie MacMullan next to him, Fred was fairly descriptive on how he and his wife had to “figure out” how to have their first child.

At times we have to “coach up” new guests. When the red light is on it is our job to be entertaining and deliver opinions. They cannot be afraid to jump into the conversation and make their case.

BSMW: What does the future hold for you? Your name has been thrown around as a possible replacement for Gil Santos, would you be open to doing play-by-play full-time?

I work at a great place in Comcast Sportsnet. With our purchase of NBC, there is a great emphasis on growth and development. While other stations are cutting back we are adding shows and looking to become a larger player in the market. As far as Gil’s job goes, I will be one of many who will apply for the job. Whoever gets the nod will be a very lucky person.

You can follow Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84

Shaughnessy’s Continued Digs at Robert Kraft…And Fondness For Tomato Cans

Dan Shaughnessy just can’t help himself.

From Sunday:

In typical lucky fashion, the tomato cans* are lining up for the Patriots, which is great news for Robert (“you can call me Amos Alonzo or you can call me Hef, but please don’t call me Bob”) Kraft and the CBS executives who worship the Patriots.

*see below

From today:

According to the Patriots Pro Shop website, you can still order a Myra H. Kraft lapel pin or patch for $5.

Is Shaughnessy accusing the Patriots/Krafts of making money off the MHK pins? The Patriots Pro Shop website states:

Show your support with the Myra H. Kraft Lapel Pin. All proceeds go to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Scholarship Fund at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston.

Or is Shaughnessy expressing disapproval for Kraft’s current relationship? (The “Hef” reference above would seem to indicate that.) Whichever it is, the point remains that the MHK pins and patches are only there to raise money for charity.

Shaughnessy’s digs are predictable…and despicable. That breakfast snub 15 years ago or so really burns him up so much to this day?

Back to the asterisk above, Shaughnessy seems to have a fondness for that phrase, and mostly when it comes to the Patriots schedule, Celtics too on occasion.

From just this year:

January 14, 2012

Their 2011 regular-season schedule featured more tomato cans than an Andy Warhol gallery, and they’re coming off a bye week in which several of their wounded warriors got healthy.

February 7th, 2012

Ultimately, they were fortunate sons enlarged by a tomato can schedule and masterful coaching.

May 9th, 2012

Like the 2011 Patriots, the Celtics are beneficiaries of some nice breaks at the start of the playoffs. The Patriots drew a horrible Denver team for the first round. The Celtics got the Atlanta Tomato Cans.

May 19th 2012

The tomato cans were falling down in front of the Celtics.

May 28th 2012

The Tomato Cans from Atlanta and Philadelphia have been beaten.

September 10th, 2012

Tennessee was 9-7 last year, but on Sunday looked like just another tomato can lined up in front of Bill Belichick’s steamroller army.

November 6th, 2012

The AFC is weak, and once again the tomato cans are falling down in front of the Patriots.

December 2nd, 2012

In typical lucky fashion, the tomato cans are lining up for the Patriots, which is great news for Robert (“you can call me Amos Alonzo or you can call me Hef, but please don’t call me Bob”) Kraft and the CBS executives who worship the Patriots.

December 3rd, 2012

The Dolphins are like fellow division tomato cans, the Bills and the Jets.

Might be time for a new catchphrase, Dan. I know you’re thinking it is a clever way to discredit whatever accomplishments the Patriots might achieve, but it is incredibly lame.

Especially when there is a specific formula for coming up with the schedule. The Patriots will have played the Ravens, Broncos, Seahawks, Colts, Texans and 49ers – all who could be playoff teams. The Ravens, Broncos and Texans are the top teams in the AFC, with the Patriots.

Bird’s Rookie Year — Game 25 vs. the Hawks

Celtics (19-5) vs. Hawks (16-12)
Wednesday, December 5, 1979
Boston Garden

The Celtics returned home and received a beat-down from Hubie Brown’s Hawks.  The 120-92 loss marked the sixth game in eight nights for the C’s, and Atlanta took advantage of the Celtics’ tired legs.  Boston was competitive for a quarter, only trailing, 25-24, after the first twelve minutes.  The Hawks’ onslaught started when Eddie Johnson and Tom McMillen teamed up for 24 points in the second quarter, and the C’s never recovered from a 21-point halftime deficit.  The Celtics had used the Garden as an extraordinary resource all season, and this was only their first home loss of the season. [Read more...]