Fortnight From Hell

(Thoughts on this season that wasn’t from guest blogger Bob Ekstrom. Reach him at [email protected])

I have to give it to Bruce for being our first responder, trying to restore order to the chaos and carnage of last Sunday. Now it’s up to the rest of us to dig out of our personal rubble. For me, it was a hellish fortnight that began when I realized the road-warrior Giants were the designated visiting team in Super Bowl XLII, this being an even-numbered year. Then, Johan Santana signed with the Mets eight weeks after the Twins asked for Jon Lester’s medical records, a leading indicator that a trade for the Coco Crisp package was imminent. Days before the Super Bowl, the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol, thereby providing Kobe Bryant with newfound passion and earning him comparisons to our beloved Tom Brady. I never want to see those two names in the same sentence again, but it does seem plausible that Phil Jackson will break the tie with Red Auerbach yet. To kick it all, my son decided to paint his new room in Patriots blues, reds, and grays, courtesy of Lowe’s. It seemed we were tempting fate by immortalizing a perfect season upon his walls before perfection was achieved.

At about 6:30 Sunday night, the Patriots lost the coin flip and didn’t see the ball until his bedtime. Then, all hell broke loose.

Since Sunday night, I’ve searched for my therapy in front of the radio, rather than turning to websites or newsprint. Airwaves carry the voice of the real fan, and some were bound to express my sentiments. But now, I no longer want to hear that the Giants outplayed the Patriots. I saw that for myself. It doesn’t help me get over the fact that the Patriots should not have been outplayed, that the better team did not win. It may be sour grapes, but I’m a fan before a writer. Vic Carucci feels my pain, even as Logan Mankins says there are more important things than football. Are you kidding? Christopher L. Gaspar has Coach Belichick not dwelling on this one, either. Hey, I need these guys to be in the dumps until I’ve gotten up. Mike Vrabel and Dan Koppen understand that.

I also don’t need more complaints about the FG that was never attempted, or an O-line that provided as much resistance against the Giants’ rush as those turnstiles at the T do to the commuter rush. The bottom line is that our team got the footing for victory with 2:42 remaining, then ceded it. The end came 1:27 later, when a potential fourth-and-fifteen morphed into a first down with the Eli-to-Tyree catch, now preserved in Super Bowl lore as The Escape. 18 games, 58 minutes, and 45 seconds of perfection fell by the wayside when Rodney Harrison could not make that football do the same.

Karen Guregian puts Sunday’s loss in its quantitative perspective, but she also goes one better in addressing the emotional damage it could inflict on New England’s future. I’m down, but not that down. As one Giants fan pointed out in a call to WEEI this week, it took a super-human effort and all the bounces to set this team back. Already looking forward, Mike Reiss suggests that Randy Moss could be franchised, making the offense seemingly as potent next year. And, as they did after a fourth quarter defensive meltdown last year, Belichick and Scott Pioli should have one marquee defensive acquisition up their sleeves this year. Unfortunately, it might not involve keeping Asante Samuel.

Like my fellow Pats’ fans, I’m still alive, and if this one didn’t kill us, maybe it will make us stronger. For the time being, I’m still not ready to go into my son’s blue, red, and gray room quite yet.

Championship Sunday

(Super Sunday links are brought your way by guest blogger Bob Ekstrom. Reach him at [email protected]).

Rise and shine, New England. Time to get another Championship Day started, the third and final of a memorable 2007 as the Patriots look to follow the path of the Red Sox and avoid that of the Revolution. The winning path seems a bit more clearly delineated this morning after Senator Arlen Specter’s strangely-timed initiation of Spygate II days ago. The Giants will no doubt remember the fallout of Spygate I, when the Chargers became the first in a string of casualties that have led the Patriots to history’s door. Now, they have Specter pushing it open.

As with every Sunday morning, Scott Benson and the staff over at Patriots Daily bring you all the local Patriots coverage in Sunday’s Links. Grab your coffee and head over there; we’ll be here with some national coverage when you get back.

And what better place to start than in Arlen’s house. The Inquirer’s Bob Ford tries to convince himself and all of Philly that the 2007 Patriots don’t make honorable mention in his list of the greatest teams of all time. Ashley Fox thinks the Patriots themselves provide the best blueprint for an underdog to succeed in the Super Bowl. Bob Brookover finds one native that hasn’t been brainwashed into thinking the Patriots’ Super Bowl XXXIX victory over the Eagles was fixed, that being South Philly native and Pats’ fullback Kyle Eckel. On the other side of Arlen’s district, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gene Collier examines the Belichick vs. Coughlin match-up.

In the Big Apple, the Daily News’ Ralph Vacchiano says the Giants are ready for their shot at immortality, while Mike Lupica says tonight’s game is guaranteed to be unforgettable. At the Post, Paul Schwartz says the Jints cannot lose tonight, while Mike Vaccaro offers 42 reasons why they won’t. Steve Serby sees the Giants as some modern-day Persian emperor, bringing home the heads of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to parade them throught the streets. Are you ready for tonight yet? In Newark, the Star-Ledger’s Steve Politi has a placeholder ready for Big Blue in the list of the greatest upsets ever. Jerry Izenberg offers an entertaining and first-hand look at the commercialization of the Super Bowl over his 42 years of coverage. And straddling the Giants/Patriots border, the New Haven Register’s Joe Amarante finds the super glue that binds both sides.

Okay, back to reality. Here’s a shocker from Miami, as the Herald’s Dan Le Batard thinks that, win or no win today, the Patriots season is already more impressive than that of the 1972 Dolphins. Better stuff some spare tires in the trunk, Dan, because tormer Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson’s comments that a win puts Belichick’s season at the top in the annals of NFL coaching has him in a heap of trouble with those ’72 Dolphins. From Indianapolis, the Star’s Bob Kravitz cannot be more emphatic: forget about any upset today. Out west, the Union-Tribune’s Michael Stetz tells San Diego that tonight’s game should not compel them out of football hibernation, as the memories will be painful.

And since we’re looking to crown them as world champions, let’s see what a couple of international outlets are saying about our hometown team. The London Times has the Patriots as the most polarizing force in the States since the Civil War, but says they’ll be champs again sometime in the small hours of Monday morning. The Sydney Morning Herald gives ten reasons why the Super Bowl is can’t miss viewing, and the top three are because of your New England Patriots.

Bruins

The Bruins availed themselves of their last opportunity to fly under the radar of football-frenzied Hub fans, falling 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings at TD Banknorth Garden last night. Despite the loss, Stephen Harris says the B’s turned in an admirable effort against the NHL’s best. Fluto Shinzawa has the B’s playing a perfect first period, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Red Wings winning streak, now at seven. Barbara Matson says the Bruins may have missed their chance in the second period, which included a fruitless 5-on-3 power play.

Bud Barth says that, at 6-2-1 over their last nine games, the B’s are headed in the right direction. In Harris’ Bruins Notebook, goalie Tim Thomas recounts the three goals he surrendered as the Red Wings snapped his career-best five-game winning streak. Shinzawa’s Bruins Notebook has B’s forward Marco Sturm becoming the NHL’s iron man among German natives.

Red Sox / MLB

It may have been too late, but Art Davidson has former Haverhill High School slugger Carlos Pena’s remarkable turnaround anything but too little, as he posted some staggering numbers with the Tampa Bay – drop the Devil – Rays in 2007, after finishing out the previous season in Boston.

As all of Red Sox Nation breathes a sigh of relief, Nick Cafardo gives Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman credit for not pulling off a Johan Santana deal. Michael Silverman says it’s good to be young, philosophies shared by both the Red Sox and Yankees front offices.

Be sure to stay tuned to BSMW for all the accounts on tonight’s big game. In the meantime, may Boston champagne bottles overflow as those of New York – and Miami – remain corked.

Here we go again

Saturday Links from Brian. Email him at [email protected].

Just when you thought Spygate was over, it rears it’s ugly head yesterday. Since the outset of this controversy back in September, a few media and football sources such as Tom Curran of NBCSports.com and formerly of the Providence Journal, have briefly alluded toward rumors that the Patriots taped the Rams final walkthrough before the Super Bowl in 2002. Yesterday, news of a former disgruntled Patriots employee Matt Walsh surfaced in a New York Times report questioning Roger Goodell’s destruction of the tapes confiscated by the NFL. Wouldn’t you know it, one day later, John Tomase has an “unnamed source” who confirms a member of the video/scouting department stayed behind after the Pats walkthrough and team photo to tape the Rams walkthrough. I don’t want to give this story too much play the day before the Super Bowl, but the storylines here are endless. Goodell claims the tapes destroyed were from the 2006 season and 2007 preseason, and that there was no evidence any of the tapes helped them in the Super Bowl victories, per Dan Ventura’s piece, and Mike Reiss’ hit on yesterday’s comments. But with Tomase’s story today, one has to wonder if there are more tapes that were not turned over, or did Goodell know about this and not want to put a black eye on the league? Furthermore, what is the credibility of this Matt Walsh, whose timing could best be described as curious? IMO, media members can speculate all they want and get unnamed sources until they’re blue in the face, but if there is no evidence, it’s all hearsay at this point.

Mike Florio over at ProFootballTalk.com discusses the fallout from the Herald piece today, particularly the frenzy to interview Rams from the 2001 team, but more importantly, that if there was any doubt the Patriots were going to win this game tomorrow, there no longer is and all this weak Plaxico-guarantee talk will take a much-needed backseat to the allegations of cheating on the eve of the game that began this dynasty. Steve Buckley claims Senator Arlen Specter, who brought this issue to the forefront once again, has a point in claiming Goodell’s actions underscore a cover-up, despite his obvious conflict of interest as a die-hard Eagles fan. My final thought on this; regardless of what the national media and public say about past Super Bowls, the Pats aren’t taping anyone this year under heavy scrutiny from the league, and thus far, have put forth the most dominant season in NFL history. Nothing will change that. I apologize for this, as I went into this with every intention to not give Spygate more play than the Bowl, but these stories were given heavy play in Boston, and duty calls. I’ll end this thought with Tony Massarotti’s piece on how everybody wants to attack you when you’re on top. Amen.

Over at Patriots Daily, Scott Benson recaps a crazy week in Arizona.

Oh yea, the game tomorrow. Karen Guregian has the Pats defensive front enjoying being overlooked with all the attention focused on the Giants front four. Mike Lowe also has Richard Seymour enjoying football for himself once again, as well as appreciating his return to the Super Bowl after being spoiled in his early years. Rob Bradford takes a look at the nasty, dirty tactics used in the trenches between offensive and defensive linemen, especially during fumbles. Rich Garven touches on the challenge Brady and the offense face against a very talented Giants secondary that has stepped up in the postseason. Christopher Gasper has a piece on the Pats dominance in the fourth quarter, particularly entering the 4th with a lead under Bill Belichick. Jim Donaldson has a great piece on Joel Collier, Pats defensive backs coach, lamenting the downfall of proper tackling in football over the years, hoping to correct one of the Pats few weaknesses this season. Mark Farinella has coverage of Belichick’s final presser, with BB saying he thinks the team is ready for Sunday, touching on his relationship with Bill Parcells, as well as a few other broader, league matters. But not Spygate, of course. David Heuschkel has more on Belichick’s final presser. Jackie MacMullan talks to a few of the departed former Patriots, asking them if they miss the success they had in New England. Dan Pires has Tom Brady not denying the significance of this game and what it means on many levels.

Many of the local outlets have nice pieces on individual players today, with Shalize Manza Young starting us off with an uplifting piece on Tedy Bruschi’s journey. Hector Longo has a story of Larry Izzo’s long journey as an undrafted rookie free agent to All-Pro special teamer in his fourth Super Bowl. Nick Taveres has more on Izzo’s understanding of his role with the Pats and desire to be on a winner versus maxing out every last cent. Robert Lee has Junior Seau hoping to add the last piece to his storied career; a Super Bowl ring. David Heuschkel has more on Seau’s decision to return this season and how a win would be the ultimate joy for him. I don’t know about you, but I’m a little tired of listening to Matt Cassel talk about how ready he is to play every day, and wanting to get in the Super Bowl, per Lee’s piece here. Nick Taveres takes a look at the forgotten Patriot, Troy Brown, and his journey with the Patriots. Frank Dell’Apa has more on Brown’s long, strange journey in the NFL. Dell’Apa also touches on the versatility of Mike Vrabel, and how that makes him the perfect fit for the Patriots system. Rob Bradford has Vrabel supporting Andre Tippett’s nomination for the Hall of Fame this weekend. Amidst the guys who have been here before, Dan Ventura has a piece on the experiences of the first-timers this Super Bowl week. David Brown has a feature on Laurence Maroney’s ire toward the same reporters who doubted him when he was “tap-dancing” early in the season.

Ah, what would this weekend be without comments from the 1972 Dolphins. Just go play golf or cards or something. Just go away, you all come off as bitter, bored old men. Gasper has more petty, rambling comments from a few members of the Dolphins in his notebook. Mike Lowe has more on the Dolphins readying themselves for company in perfection. Dom Amore has more on the potential for two perfect teams. Mark Farinella has Jim Brown speaking to the Patriots before practice at the request of friend Bill Belichick. Longo’s notebook has more on Brown’s appearance at the final practice yesterday. Guregian’s notebook has Belichick pleased about where his team is from a preparation standpoint, and touches on the short injury report for the Pats. Heuschkel’s notebook has more on Brown’s speech and the final practice session.

Giants

Dom Amore has yet another piece on the Giants coaching tree, including comments from Coughlin and Belichick on their relationship working together. Jim McCabe has a piece on local guy Brandon London, a Framingham native on the Giants practice squad, whose job has been to play Randy Moss. Amore has Plaxico Burress missing practice again yesterday with both ankle and knee injuries, officially listed as questionable. Amore has more on the kinder Coughlin this season and where it has gotten them.

Whew. That’s all I got for today. For coverage of the Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins, check out RedSoxLinks.com, CelticsLinks.com, and BruinsLinks.com. Feel free to shoot me any comments at [email protected]. Enjoy the weekend, be safe, and go Pats!