A Tale Of Two Halves

(This morning’s links are brought to you by Bob Ekstrom. As always, he can be reached at [email protected])

Okay, I get that being the Goliath of the most lopsided matchup in NFL history means you probably need to play only one good half of football anyway, but one has to wonder where the rule ends and the exception begins with our 15-0 New England Patriots. Are they still the Pats of October, or have they, in their quest for immortality, atrophied into the team we saw for three quarters against the Eagles, or 59:16 in Baltimore, or the enitre time the offensive unit was on the field against the Jets? Are they now the team that cast us into football purgatory – and showed us what it’s like to be a Dolphins fan – for two painful quarters in an albeit lopsided 28-7 win last night?

At the risk of pulling a Felix Unger, who usurped his sportswriting housemate’s opinions when the latter feigned a tooth extraction and Unger interpreted for him, let’s get it straight from the experts. We’ll start with Scott Benson over on Patriots Daily, who has some morning-after thoughts on the game. Also there is Karen Guregian, who has the spirit this fine Christmas Eve as she recounts all the good in yesterday’s performance and reminds us there’s no ‘L’ in “Win’. Shalise Manza Young says that, if you like beauty, yesterday’s four TD first half was something to behold. Then there’s Douglas Flynn, who is thankful Brady’s health didn’t go the way of his stats. And, even if you’re among the lucky ones not commuting into work this morning, you’ll still want to catch Boston Metro’s Chris Price as he brings us his weekly Ten Things We Learned after yesterday’s game.

Unfortunately, this one didn’t end at halftime. Christopher L. Gaspar has the Patriots leaving us at the threshhold of history with a flat second half. Mike Reiss puts forth the proposition that yesterday’s sloppy seconds were intended for some probing eyes in attendance. Michael Felger smells something funny after yesterday’s final gun and thinks the Pats’ offense might have stepped in it.

Jackie MacMullan tries to convince us that winning is more important than the individual records in reach for Brady and Moss. Her energies would seem better spent on Steve Buckley, who tells us records are important to these Patriots. Robert Lee has Tom Brady thinking too much about Randy Moss’s chances for glory. Jim Donaldson says it’s really all about 19-0 in the Pats’ locker room, while Lenny Megliola has some players reveling in their chase for the history books.

With two consecutive 100-yard games, Lee says this is Lawrence Maroney’s tyme to shyne. Flynn has more on David Ortiz’s newest hero. Karen Guregian’s Patriots Notebook has the Foxborough crowd appreciative of Troy Brown for at least one more time. Manza Young has more on a geeked-up Troy Brown.

Tony Massarotti strikes two nerves with me when he touches on Stephen Gostowski and Brandon Meriweather in his best and worst roundup.

Celtics

Right now, the Celtics look to be in the Patriots’ October state of mind with another impressive performance at home in a 103-91 win over the Magic last night. Marc J. Spears has the recap, including four C’s hitting 21 points or better. Mark Murphy says the balanced scoring attack took the magic out of Orlando.

Steve Bulpett features Rajon Rondo, one of last night’s stars with his 23-point, 6-assist effort. Scott Souza says threes were wild yesterday at the TD Banknorth Garden.

In Spears’ Celtics Notebook, Marc reports on Santa Rivers coming a little early this year. Over on Full Court Press, Kevin Henkin airs a few year-end grievances.

Bruins

Guess who Boston’s lone loser was yesterday? No, you don’t need the caption above to tell you it was the Bruins. Yesterday in Pittsburgh, the B’s went down for the fourth straight time – sorry, but BSMW doesn’t give style points for OT losses – and second in four days to the Penguins, 4-2. Stephen Harris takes one for the home town in bringing you the action from Mellon Arena.

Now that they’ve gone winless for a week, Kevin Paul Dupont has the Bruins officially on Christmas holiday after yesterday’s game. Harris’ Bruins Notebook provides the latest medical report, where the B’s have lost 124 player-games due to injury.

Odds & Sods

Rob Bradford plays an early Scrooge with his account of Big Papi saying good friend Johan Santana will not be coming to Boston this Christmas, or any other time.

Check out the very humble Roger Clemens mailing in yet another denial, this one against the visual backdrop of a personal banner. The video is so clear that the asterisk after his 300-win tag line appears visible until further inspection reveals it to be nothing but a Yankees logo. Oh, well, same difference.

As with every Monday, Christmas Eve or not, we’ll be back about mid-day with more links we just can’t get to. For those of you who can’t join us, on behalf of the entire staff at BSMW, have a healthy and happy Holiday tomorrow and thanks for getting us nationally recognized this year. And we still have a week to go!

Fun Never Sets On The Boston Empire

(Keeping you current on all the sports news this busy Monday is guest blogger Bob Ekstrom, finishing what he started earlier this morning.)

Wow! When you’ve got home teams like ours, there is no limit to the quality of writers or writing that one can come across simply by sitting at a computer monitor. It is nearly impossible to catch every good piece, and that’s why BSMW is here with some more for you to peruse over a sandwich and a bag of chips.

Patriots

Dave Goldberg says yesterday’s conditions offered the perfect dress rehearsal for the post-season. Chris Price has neither rain nor snow nor any other slop doled by Mother Nature standing in the way of a 14-0 start. Tom King says that even though Mangini and the Jets left with their dignity intact, it was still a successful day in New England. Ian Clark is thanking the defense for this one. Russ Charpentier has Belichick setting aside his test tube of high-octane offense to win one in the trenches. And what would a NYJ loss be without the perspectives of Mr. Jet himself, Mark Cannizaro, who is as entertaining a voice as any emanating from the Empire.

In his weekly 10 Things We Learned Yesterday, Chris Price alleviates any fears over the Patriots’ non-existent running game and red zone defense, to name just two. Dan Shaughnessy relates the some tribulations of the do-it-yourself fan attending yesterday’s game. The Globe also has a nice gallery of the many records still in New England’s grasp over the next two weeks.

Odds & Sods

In case you spent the night catching up on household chores that didn’t get done during the game, you probably missed CBS’s 60 Minutes and may not know that the honeymoon is over between A-Rod and Scott Boras.

No matter. As Mike Lupica tells it, Dr. Boras is spending too much time on Mitchell Report damage control to be mailing Christmas cards to the Rodriguez residence.

Bob can be reached at [email protected]

The Handshake Seals The Contract

(This morning’s links are brought to you by guest blogger Bob Ekstrom.)

In addition to grounding Bruce from his return trip home, yesterday’s weather paired with an energized Jets secondary to foil Tom Brady’s own flight plans. No. 12 posted his worst stats this season, but the Patriots still became only the second team in NFL history to reach 14-0 with their 20-10 rain-swept victory yesterday at Gillette Stadium. Of greater importance to all of America was the handshake between coaches that followed, and Steve Buckley tells us not to deny it: we cared just as much! Lenny Megliola is bored and says it’s time to seal this case shut.

Anyway, there’s a lot of reaction to this one, so we better get started. And what better place than over on Patriots Daily where Scott Benson takes a Dylanesque rear view of yesterday’s twists, from a Jets team looking for respect to the enamel of Bill Belichick’s teeth looking for the light of day.

Christopher L. Gaspar says that, while the means were somewhat unexpected, the end was another ho-hum victory. Douglas Flynn notes that this victory came without its requisite pound of flesh. Over at the Herald, John Tomase offers all the slips and slides of an anemic offensive attack and wonders about the running game’s ability to pick it up should Mother Nature stay grumpy throughout the playoffs. His more-appreciative officemate Jeff Horrigan celebrates Lawrence Maroney’s effort in bad weather.

Armed with the best 12th man in football, Bob Ryan says the Jets really blew their opportunity. Dan Ventura has Jets players saying yesterday’s loss was no different than the rest of their miserable season.

Despite wrapping up home field advantage throughout the playoffs, Bill Reynolds says these Patriots won’t be letting up. Killjoy Tony Massarotti focuses on the cons of playing starters the next two games. Mike Reiss looks at his ups and downs yesterday, while Massarotti offers his best and worst. Not to spoil things, but seldom-mentioned punter Chris Hanson made both writers’ lists.

On the missing persons front, Robert Lee has the forgotten Kelley Washington coming up with his best game as a Patriot. Gaspar also applauds Washington’s contribution, which was good enough to earn him Ventura’s Play of the Game. Turning to defense, Michael Felger is glad to have Richard Seymour showing signs of his pre-contract extension hunger. Jennifer Toland welcomes Eugene Wilson back into the line-up in place of the injured James Sanders. Lee also has Wilson re-emerging with two big plays.

Shalise Manza Young has another NFL record tied when Wilson became the 21st Patriot to find the end zone this season. Rich Garvin leads off with Wilson’s feat in his weekly update on key milestones.

Celtics

Only in Boston does a 20-2 team have to settle for second billing, but that’s where the Celtics find themselves this morning after beating the Raptors, 90-77, in Toronto yesterday afternoon. Boston came out strong, grabbing a 10-point first quarter lead and never looking back. Steve Bulpett has Doc Rivers’ game plan executed to perfection with yesterday’s quick start. Marc J. Spears cites Boston’s top-ranked defense as the real key to victory.

While the C’s played their second game without the Big Three intact, Mike Fine talks about the other Allen filling in admirably. Bulpett’s Celtics Notebook updates us on Pollard’s rib, the Toronto nightlife, a leaky roof, and Ray Allen’s ankle. Spears’ Celtics Notebook has Allen projected to return to the line-up Wednesday night. Isn’t Boston big enough to find two original names for our beat writers’ features?

MLB / Red Sox

Anyone thinking that Andy Pettitte’s confession to George Mitchell’s charges would force Roger Clemens to cross over should probably think again, especially after reading Nick Cafardo’s caution that honor is not necessarily contagious, even among these joined-at-the-hip friends.

Another indictee taking the Clemens path over the weekend is old friend Brendan Donnelly. Rob Bradford has the former Sox pitcher denying steroids usage and that his non-tender by the Red Sox was linked to his inclusion in the Mitchell Report. At least Donnelly didn’t spend last winter preaching steroids abstinence to college kids.

Odds & Sods

It wasn’t all good on the football front this weekend. As the Pats climbed to 14-0, their draft position next April plummeted when Ocho Stinco dropped this game-tying touchdown on a fourth-down play with just over two minutes remaining Saturday night, preserving the now 4-10 San Francisco 49ers’ win. True to form, the three other 3-win teams proceeded to lose, along with all three 4-9 teams. Depending on tie-breakers, the Pats’ selection slot dropped faster than the pigskin through Ocho’s fingers.

Eric McHugh talks to a man caught in the crossfire of the modern-day Hatfields and McCoys feud between Foxborough and Hempstead.

Karen Guregian scolds us for throwing snowballs, conduct that led officials to the rare action of delaying yesterday’s game during the fourth quarter.

As always, I thank you for dropping in to start your week off on BSMW. Send thoughts, comments, insults – really, anything but snowballs – to me at [email protected] Have a great day.