Off to the AFC Championship

(This morning’s links are provided by guest blogger Bob Ekstrom. He can be reached at [email protected])

It doesn’t get much busier around the Hub than yesterday, as the Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins were all in action. As always, Boston’s media coverage was out in full force, bringing all the games to your desktop this fine Sunday morning. Better get a cup of coffee, as there’s a lot of clicking ahead.

We’ll start off in Foxborough, where the Patriots, on the strength of Tom Brady’s 26 of 28 passing for 3 TDs and Lawrence Maroney’s 122 yards and one TD on the ground, got by the determined Jacksonville Jaguars, 31-20. Check out Scott Benson’s thoughts on last night’s performance over on Patriots Daily.

Christopher L. Gaspar has the Patriots opening the playoffs right where they left off the regular season with his full account of the on-field happenings. Karen Guregian notes that Tom Brady’s near perfect night keeps the Patriots’ season on the path to perfection. Douglas Flynn has the Pats overcoming some sloppy play and finishing strong to close out the Jags. Rich Garven says that, unlike other recent performances in which the Pats hung on to victory, this one was about pulling away, After a halftime reaming, David Heuschkel has the defense responding nicely by limiting the Jags to two second half field goals. Despite some rough patches, Shalise Manza Young keeps the big picture in focus, saying a win is a win. Bob Ryan says the Jags surely walked the walk, but it wasn’t enough to answer Brady and the offense. Mike Reiss says the Jags executed their plan to a T, but the Pats took what they were given all the way to victory.

Steve Buckley places Brady’s performance on a higher plane, both athletically and spiritually. Dan Shaughnessy reflects on Brady’s performance last night, which came two dropped passes short of perfection. Chris Price tops his weekly Ten Things We Learned with Tom Brady’s continual ability to surprise us.

While Brady carried the night, Tony Massarotti was impressed with Lawrence Maroney’s timely resurgence. Jackie MacMullan says Maroney’s performance was the perfect complement to Brady’s passing game, while Robert Lee has Maroney nearly too tired to talk after his heavy workload. Jeff Goldberg says Maroney’s star outshone the Jags’ tandem of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. Bill Doyle thinks the Jags made a big – albeit understandable – mistake not accounting for Benjamin Watson. Jim Donaldson has the nearly-forgotten Randy Moss staying upbeat heading into next week’s AFC Championship.

Donaldson can’t savor this victory because of the bad taste the defense left in his mouth. The poor defensive effort made Michael Felger’s weekly quest for the dark cloud inside the 17-0 silver lining an easy one. Michael Vega has the defense taking on Jacksonville’s best shot and vowing to do better. In his Patriots Beat, John Tomase has today’s Colts vs. Chargers participants licking their chops for a shot against the Pats’ defense, which he rates in the “lower third of good”. Lenny Megliola has apparently already seen the game as he has Peyton Manning and the Colts at Gillette Stadium next Sunday.

Tomase votes Brady’s hidden ball trick that led to the Patriots’ third TD as his Play of the Game. The play didn’t make Massarotti’s Best and Worst, but he wasn’t wanting for plenty of other nominations in this one. While Jags’ QB David Garrard was working over the Pats’ cornerbacks, so was Karen Guregian, who says Asante Samuel’s agent sees rich days ahead, and for his client too. In her Patriots Notebook, Guregian has Ellis Hobbs’ limited duty attributable more to preparation for the Colts than to injury. Bill Doyle brings Junior Seau one step closer to his first Super Bowl appearance in 13 years.

Celtics

The Celtics dropped their second game in the last three last night in Washington, falling to the Wizards, 85-78, after being outscored 15-4 down the stretch. Marc J. Spears has the C’s hitting a bump in the road. Steve Bulpett says that, in getting out-muscled and out-hustled by the Wizards, the C’s may have lost their swagger in addition to the game.

Spears’ Celtics Notebook updates us on the absence of Rajon Rondo in last night’s lineup. In his own Celtics Notebook, Steve Bulpett says Rondo could be out a while. Peter May offers a nice feature on Paul Pierce getting his just reward after nine years in NBA purgatory.

Bruins

The Bruins came away with a 4-3 overtime win against the Flyers yesterday afternoon in Philadelphia. Steve Conroy runs down the action clear through the 43-second overtime period.

Kevin Paul Dupont’s Bruins Notebook updates us on the B’s injury status after two more bodies went down during yesterday afternoon’s first period. Conroy’s Bruins Notebook has more on the end of Milan Lucic’s modeling career after breaking his nose yesterday. In his NHL Notes, Stephen Harris recounts Andrew Ference’s long road to recovery. Bud Barth might be thankful the B’s won yesterday’s match outright as he trashes the statistical anomaly that is the shoot-out goal.

Odds & Sods

Look, up on the Jumbotron. It’s Travolta. It’s Timberlake. No it’s one more distraction from the game on the floor. The Globe’s Wesley Morris has more on Gino Time, the latest rave at TD Banknorth Garden.

Kevin Paul Dupont has former NHL great Brett Hull saying enough is enough with all this politically-correct reticence among today’s players.

Haven’t had enough stories on Roger Clemens’ butt yet? Well, you won’t want to miss the latest controversy first reported by the New York Times yesterday.

I hope you have a great remainder of the weekend and get some time to enjoy today’s Colts-Chargers game. Thanks again, Lenny, for spoiling the outcome here. And for any Giants fans out there, may good fortune rest on Eli’s arm later today.

Five Nights, Four Cities, Four Wins

(This morning’s links are provided by guest blogger Bob Ekstrom. He can be reached at [email protected])

The Celtics’ front office could not have been smiling much last summer when the schedulemakers slotted them for a grueling four-game road trip out west during Christmas week. Yet, their impressive 110-91 victory over a hot Lakers squad last night capped a 4-0 road trip that has become the crowning validation of Danny Ainge’s rebuilding program. Yes, folks. If you didn’t believe it before, the C’s are back.

Coverage so far this morning is thin, with most outlets on AP AutoPilot. However, the Herald and Globe each had their beat writers out west. Mark Murphy starts us off with his account of a nice effort last night, capped by Paul Pierce getting it done on both sides of the court during the third quarter, and the Lakers’ mercifully changing out of their ridiculous shorts at halftime. Marc J. Spears has Phil Jackson needing to wait until the C’s leave town before passing Red Auerbach on the career coaching victories list.

Both Spears’ Celtics Notebook and Murphy’s Celtics Notebook get us updated on Rajon Rondo’s injury Saturday night that caused him to sit out against the Lakers. Over on Full Court Press, Kevin Henkin suggests some New Year’s resolutions for The Green.

Your 16-0 Patriots

It’s a day of reflection around the Boston media in the aftermath of the Patriots’ historic regular season.

Over on Patriots Daily, there is a sampling of reaction from network analysts on the Patriots finishing off a perfect 16-0 regular season with the Saturday night win over the Giants.

In the papers, we’ll start things off with Micheal Felger’s weekly report card. ‘Unflappable’ is Christopher L. Gaspar’s take on the perfect season. Karen Guregian uses the same description in one of her pieces this morning, while John Tomase says it’s all about talent. In Guregian’s Patriots Notebook, Karen scolds the Pats for some breakdowns in composure Saturday evening.

Mike Reiss found delight in the unpredictable courses of the Pats’ regular season. Now that they’ve fulfilled an early season prophesy, Douglas Flynn says there’s no relaxation in Foxborough after the Patriots posted the first undefeated regular season since the 16-game schedule. Jackie MacMullan has more on the Patriots’ unfinished act. Yet, Tony Massarotti has Coach Belichick still taking time to smell the roses. Rich Garvin offers up a little credit to Giants’ head coach, Tom Coughlin. Lenny Megliola reflects on how the planets aligned to make Saturday evening’s victory an ending to remember.

Jim Rome calls it self-glossing. Michael Holley blows that little bicycle horn, while The Big O blares that 18-wheeler horn. Nevertheless, Chris Price and the Boston Metro ran my three-part series on the Giants’ influences in New England last week. Catch the final act, where I give you Zak DeOssie’s account of his first year in the NFL.

Sorry to be so brief this morning, but I’ve been on my sickbed all week. I won’t have any updates for you this afternoon, either, but I do have a sincere wish for the very best New Year for our beloved Boston sports teams and each of you who’ve made this past year so incredible at BSMW.

It’s Beginning To Look Like . . . Panic?

(This afternoon’s links are again delivered by guest blogger Bob Ekstrom. Contact him at [email protected])

For those of you kind enough to take time from your last-minute shopping to check out what’s new in the world of Boston sports, thanks for dropping in. We didn’t get to some fine columnists north and west of the city this morning, so we’ll take you there now.

Patriots

The tone continues to be decidedly negative across the Pats’ fan base this afternoon, as it was all morning. On WEEI’s Dale & Holley show, guest hosts Paul Perillo and Butch Sterns have spent the mid-day hours talking Patriots Monday callers off the ledge after yesterday’s poor second half. And the print media has been stoking the fire as well.

Up north, Ian Clark suggests that if the Patriots are tired of humble pie, they may not want to turn the ball over three times after halftime any more. Tom King has Brady & Co. leaving nothing under our trees with a bad finish against the 1-14 Dolphins. Jennifer Toland says the Pats’ half-hearted effort was good enough to stay perfect. Alas, Russ Charpentier throws a wrench into the fretting we so love by offering us virtually nothing of negative value. And a happy holiday to you too, Russ.

Eric McHugh has the Patriots coming up a little short of the green in their march on the record books, but David Heuschkel has them within an easy chip shot. King has more on the Patriots closing in on their historic quests. Jeff Jacobs has the Pats’ beat going on. Rich Garven gives us his weekly rundown of milestones accomplished. Toland also checks in on Troy Brown’s return, while Heuschkel reflects on Lawrence Maroney’s career day.

Odds & Sods

We had a bad link in Stephen Harris’ Bruins Notebook this morning, so let’s bring it again.

There’s a few presents left around the tree for us all on this Christmas Eve afternoon. Joe Sullivan brings us a nice story from the past. Mike Loftus has the Bruins’ Bobby Allen home for the holidays. Here’s a feel-good piece from Shawn Courchesne about Theresa Deleston’s influence on her son, UConn safety Dahna Deleston. And we’ll close with something for the tree from Tim Weisberg.

Thank you again for dropping in and from each of us at BSMW, enjoy a healthy and happy Holiday. We’ll see you back here on Wednesday morning.