Patriots Back Into Playoff Spot As Miami Chokes in Buffalo

The Patriots backed into yet another division title as the Buffalo Bills helped them out by shutting out the Miami Dolphins yesterday, 19-0. The same Dolphins team that beat YOU last week.

Kidding aside, the Patriots played perhaps their best all around game of the season yesterday – or did Baltimore just play that poorly, as the storyline ran on the on 98.5 morning show today?

It was a rough afternoon for sports radio hosts and columnists who rely heavily on storylines to do their jobs for them. (catch up on all coverage at PatriotsLinks.com.)

Let’s review:

  • The Bills beating the Dolphins eliminated the lusted-after possibility that the Patriots could be playing for their playoff lives next Sunday, and could even miss the playoffs altogether.
  • Dont’a Hightower was visible and made several good plays yesterday, which actually isn’t new, but he has actually been labeled the worst first round pick of the Belichick era by more than one radio personality.
  • Tony Massarotti was heard screaming THIS DEFENSE BLOWS, MIKE! last week. The cornerbacks can’t cover, the safeties can’t cover, the linebackers can’t cover…they BLOW! They all looked pretty decent against a team with better personnel than the one they faced last week. The stops of the Ravens on 3rd and 4th down throughout the game were impressive as well.
  • Joe Flacco owns YOU! The story this morning has been that Flacco has been terrible this season. Which is true. However, this was not the storyline last week, it was all about how Flacco always outplays Brady and that he lights up the Patriots every single time.
  • We heard last week that the Patriots have not had a “quality” road win since 2006, or something like that. This game was pointed to as one that they would have trouble with. I’m 100% positive that this will now no longer be considered “quality” win. We had no idea Flacco was so hurt!
  • They can’t make plays in  the Red Zone without Gronk! Running back is perhaps now their deepest position, talent-wise, and as long as Vereen isn’t hurt too badly, look for a lot more calls to this group inside the 20. All offensive touchdowns were scored by running backs yesterday.
  • The Ravens aren’t afraid of YOU! The coach and QB matchup are not an advantage! They have your number!  41-7.
  • The Patriots are not a very good team right now. Too many injuries, not enough talent left to make any sort of run. 41-7.

It was, all in all, a glorious Sunday. Plenty of schadenfreude to be had all around.

Some of my favorite Tweets/Moments from yesterday:

Our (2nd) favorite Boston Globe troll. This was after the Patriots very first drive. Within 10 minutes they were up 14-0.

Peter King hates Cam Newton. It’s odd, really. in addition to the Tweets shown in that post, on TheMMQB today, he writes:

Time was drawing short for Cam Newton to justify why he’d been the first pick in the 2011 draft, and why the Carolina Panthers made him the franchise cornerstone 32 months ago. In the last 20 minutes of the NFC South title game Sunday in Charlotte, he’d gone three-and-out four straight times. Four series with the division on the line, 16 yards. Playing at home. Losing, 13-10, the only touchdown coming on a 43-yard run by DeAngelo Williams. Sitting there at NBC, I’d seen enough. I tweeted: “Has Cam Newton made a play today? One?” Then: “Carolina drafted Newton first overall for games like this, and he’s failing them miserably today.”

It’s not the first time King has gone off on Newton. He’s been pretty critical of the Panthers’ QB. Do you know why? Not because Cam stole his triple grande hazelnut latte or anything. It’s much simpler:

Yes, the cardinal sin for an athlete.

Tom E Curran has a terrific column today, it’s the anti-Boston sports radio version of the Patriots:

Patriots continue to make the most of who’s left

He also had a tremendous Tweet:

I don’t mind that people picked the Ravens in this game. I wasn’t feeling all that great myself going into it.

(An early graphic had everyone picking the Ravens, Ditka apparently changed his pick yesterday morning.)

I appreciate that Mike Reiss acknowledged and owned the pick that he made:

Some other links this morning:

Belichick’s best year? Don’t go there – Bill Burt (who guaranteed a Patriots win yesterday) doesn’t want to hear this talk that this is the best coaching job of the Belichick era.

What we learned: Complete game carries Patriots in rout of Ravens – Last week, a mailbagger to Mike Reiss wanted Belichick’s head for the massive failure that was the Issac Sopoaga trade. (yes, the one in which the Patriots swapped 5th and 6th round picks with the Eagles and Sopoaga thrown in.) Chris Price in this column, points a trade that has been a roaring success, but no mailbaggers mention – Jeff Demps for Legarrette Blount.

Pats push Ravens around in signature win – Reiss has noted talker Terrell Suggs silent after this one.

Ravens Present Huge Challenge To Patriots Hopes

This week has been a lovefest for the Baltimore Ravens, both from the Patriots themselves, and from the local media.

It’s understandable, the Ravens have become a thorn in the side of New England pretty much since John Harbaugh took over. Do you realize that the 2010 Wild Card playoff game was the first time that the Ravens had ever beaten the Patriots? Since then, every single game has been a battle, with the possible exception of last year’s AFC title game, which the Ravens were running away with at the end.

The Patriots speak in reverential tones about the Ravens, even Bill Belichick today was waxing poetic about his relationship with Harbaugh and about his respect for and relationship with Ozzie Newsome.

There is a lot of respect there, and there should be. This is going to be a very difficult game to win, and will pretty much tell us if this Patriots team can still harbor hopes of a Super Bowl run, or is more of a one-and-done playoff team.

There is another possibility, one that the WEEI morning show, along with he-who-shall-not-be-named were drooling about, that the Patriots lose and are fighting for their playoff lives the following week against Buffalo. Wait, in order for that to happen, wouldn’t they been rooting for the Patriots to lose on Sunday? I thought your columnist was there to write, not to root?

Catch up on all the coverage today and this weekend on PatriotsLinks.com.

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I did get a bit of a laugh yesterday from the Felger and Mazz show when Felger was launching into his YOU bit. “Joe Flacco plays great against YOU, the Ravens defense knows how to stop YOU, etc etc.

Marc Bertrand (and even Mazz) called him on it, and he confessed that he doesn’t always realize he’s doing it, but that he does know that it makes him even more annoying, it’s a way to “twist the knife” on fans a bit more. He admitted to using YOU only on the negatives. When there is a positive, he just says “the Patriots.”

I laughed because it was a rare admission that it is all an act, and he actually did it good-naturedly. That’s the thing about Felger. I just can’t dislike him, no matter how much trolling and faux storylines he creates. He has moments where he actually breaks character, and its amusing when he does. Massarotti on the other hand, I have no use for. He has no redeeming qualities, and exists simply to shout agreements to Felger and to worry about how the sky is going to fall this time.

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Chad Finn’s media column today – Formula ranks the NFL broadcast teams from bad to not-so-bad – looks at a study from SportsOnEarth of the national NFL broadcast teams.

He also has a few notes, and this morning he noted on Twitter:

I don’t know what changes are afoot, but we can all guess. The bit about D&C (and Minihane) getting a new deal is interesting. They’ve definitely made a nice comeback in the ratings area, and I know I listen to them a whole lot more than I do to Toucher and Rich. The latter are nicer human beings, but come up lacking in what I’m looking for in a morning sports show. I definitely do my share of flipping back and forth, if there is a worthy guest on Toucher and Rich (Mike Gorman, Danny Ainge, Rosevelt Colvin, etc) I’ll listen in, but the discussions among themselves about sports are low quality.

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If you see a Patriots Football Weekly on the newsstands near you, pick it up! My monthly media column is in there, and it is a three-parter. A look at the broadcast crews who have called the Patriots games this season, including Don Criqui making some history, a look at why this week’s game with the Ravens was flexed out of Sunday Night Football (Hint – it wasn’t because Eagles-Bears was a better game.) and debunking some conventional wisdom about the impact of playing in the AFC East for the Patriots.

One final link: How To Become The Next Great Sports Talker – Jason Wolfe gives his tips on how you can become the next Glenn Ordway.

Wolfe says he’s now considering becoming an agent for radio hosts.

Media Circling Wagons Around Shaughnessy Are As Clueless As He Is

I’m convinced that the majority of these media people 1) only read the headline or summary of the column, namely that sportwriters shouldn’t root for teams,  and 2) have no idea about some of the stuff Shaughnessy has pulled over the years.

I’m not going to launch into another 2000 word screed here. Just want to reemphasize a couple of things.

I keep hearing from media, while Shaughnessy goes on his media victory tour “Dan’s absolutely right, media shouldn’t be rooting for teams.” – as if that is the entire issue here. The enabling hosts cry “But it would be so boring if there weren’t brave people like Dan and Ron Borges around!  They’re making this into “Shaughnessy makes fans mad because he picks against the locals!!!”  As if that matters at all. I don’t care who he picks to win.

Let me be clear: I don’t think sportswriters should be rooting for the home team.

It is possible though, to write entertaining columns while remaining detached from the outcome and without completely trashing the locals.

I understand that Dan Shaughnessy is simply not a talented enough writer to do this. He’s no Ray Fitzgerald or Leigh Montville. He’s not Bruce Arthur. He only knows one way, and that is the misery way. Shaughnessy is utterly predictable.

Either that, or he’s just too lazy.  Yeah, he’s not there to root. He’s there to troll the fans. That’s brave? That’s creative? When was the last time you ever learned something from a Shaughnessy column? The next time will be the first time for me.

This morning Shaughnessy said his not caring about the outcome allowed him to sit and write after the Patriots blew a 19-0 season instead of “wetting his pants” like the fanboys and presumably others in the pressbox were doing. Even on the air, he needs to bring that game up whenever possible.

How noble. How brave. Yes, Joe Sullivan, I know Shaughnessy is the bravest columnist you’ve ever seen.

I can see how others in the media just want to hold him up as a shining example of their profession.