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Home » Category Listing » New England Patriots

December 27, 2005

Alphabet Coup

WwoslogoThe American Broadcasting Corporation will no longer be broadcasting “Monday Night Football.” Tonight’s 31-21 Patriots win was the 555th and final broadcast of this sports institution as we know it. In 1970, Pete Rozelle, then commissioner of the league, strong-armed ABC to commit to showing football during primetime. Rozelle threatened to go with the Hughes Sports Network (as in Howard Hughes) and ABC feared its affiliates would pre-empt its shows for the games.

Although MNF seems as natural as breathing to us, at the time it was an innovative and risky venture. It is yet another example showing the NFL’s strategy to corner market share and make its product appointment television. The league had the plan, but it was ABC producer Roone Arledge had the flash. Another man before his time, Arledge founded the sports coverage vernacular of multiple cameras and instant replay that we still speak today.

I have countless memories of MNF, and many of them are colored by growing up many time zones away. Every NFL fan in Hawai‘i knows about “close your eyes time” on the 6:00 evening news. Rather than showing MNF at its actual time, the game would be shown on tape delay. The final score would be shown on the screen as the sportscaster would solemnly intone those magic words. I was permitted to stay up late, even into overtime, as long as I did not peek at the final score and spoil it for my dad.

How we loved MNF through all its incarnations, even when Fran Tarkenton, the bland former Vikings quarterback whose hair oddness rivaled that of Ted Koppel, was part of the team. I remember when Howard Cosell called Washington Redskins wide receiver Alvin Garrett a “little monkey” although at the time I didn’t understand racist undertones to that comment. Had Cosell’s sympathies lay closer to indigenous peoples or had he been more canny, he could have turned the tables on his criticizers by pointing out the name of Garrett’s team is as racist his comment.

By the time Dennis Miller took over as color man I was in college. For this I am thankful, since I rather enjoyed Miller’s shtick and my dad most decidedly did not.

Al Michaels has always been one of my favorite play-by-play men--congenial without being fawning, concise but never overwhelming his audience with detail, and ever the consummate professional. Since he began his career on O‘ahu by broadcasting Hawaii Islander games, he always pronounced Hawaiian words correctly, which I appreciated.

To be sure, ABC’s productions were becoming encumbered with the gewgaws that adorn rather than enrich. Rather than keeping with the tried and true, ABC tried to keep up with FOX and ESPN’s sports spectacles and surrendered some of its dignity in the process.

I shudder to think what the effects meisters at ESPN will do with the game. Thankfully, the season is much shorter than baseball’s. I may survive the season without being driven insane by Chris Berman’s inane nicknames since there are only sixteen weeks in the season.

November 21, 2005

Stephen Nickolas Belichick, 1919-2005

Photograph from the Washington Post

Steve Belichick died late Saturday night after spending his day as he loved, watching college football, of course. His Midshipmen won, overcoming a halftime deficit to beat Temple. His son did not tell his team of his loss until after they had defeated the New Orleans Saints.

Anything that can be said about the elder Belichick has already been said far more eloquently than I ever could in David Halberstam’s The Education of a Coach.

“Steve Belichick also passed on to his son--a far more privileged young man operating in an infinitely more affluent America--a relentless work ethic, one that had been part of his own boyhood as the son of Croatian immigrants who had settled in Youngstown, Ohio, and had survived the Depression. The lessons of that difficult childhood and young manhood were never forgotten. If you were new in the country and your name was Belichick (or Bilicic, as it had been until it was changed by a first-grade teacher in Monessen, Pennsylvania, who had trouble spelling it), you were likely to get the worst jobs available. But you always worked hard. You always did your best. You did not complain. You wasted nothing. You had to be careful in good times because bad times would surely follow. Nothing was to be bought on credit. As a high school fullback Steve had earned a scholarship at Western Reserve, but just to remind himself how lucky he was, he had taken a job in the mills during the months after graduation, turning coal into coke for 49 cents an hour, unbearably hot, unpleasant and dangerous work. Nothing else in his life would ever seem hard again.”

Requiscat in pace.

November 20, 2005

Excellent well; you are a fishmonger.

Week 10: November 13, 2005
Patriots (5-4), 23
Dolphins (3-6), 16

Had the Patriots lost this game, they not only would have conceded the lead in the division, but also would have confirmed the status of Miami as the constant and fabled thorn in their flesh. Truth be told, a loss in Pro Player Stadium probably would have been the death knell for New England’s chances for another playoff run.

ESPN’s Tom Jackon selected Asante Samuels’s crushing of the presently svelte 226-pound Ricky Williams on a 2nd down and 10 yard running play in the 3rd quarter as his number one “Jacked Up” hit, but I think this has more to do with Jackon’s dislike of Williams than wanting to highlight a Patriots player. I’m not a big fan of Jackson or his segment because it isolates big tackles without the context of the drive or game. For once, however, Jackson’s selection as dead-on: the Samuels tackle was immediately followed by a 3rd down and 5 yard incomplete pass play from Gus Frerotte to Marty Booker, who was covered by none other than Samuels.

Fullback and West Palm Beach naitve Heath Evans, who was cut from the Dolphins’ roster on October 23rd, came back to haunt his former team. In place of the hobbled Corey Dillon, Evans plowed for 84 yards to lead the Patriots in rushing. As a Dolphin, Evans was tapped to write the player blog for the Palm Beach Post, the only thing that distinguished him while on that team. I checked, it seems that his archives have already been pulled since he was waived. Miami probably wished they could have just as easily erased his production, which was key to the Patriots’ fifth win of the season. How can you not like a guy that said, “I’m just glad we won because the soreness is always a lot worse after a loss. I haven’t played this many snaps in a long time.... What started as a negative turned into a positive for me and my family.” Welcome to our family.

Tim Dwight also had an excellent outing, particularly his 59-yard reception in the 4th quarter to set up the go-ahead touchdown with less than three minutes on the game clock. Of course, according the New England script for the season, he is on the injury list as “questionable” with a rib ailment and has missed practice.

On with the game breakdown:

  • Patriots: 161/248; Dolphins: 231/209. Advantage: New England.
  • The two changes of possession that went in New England’s favor ended up in Adam Vinatieri field goals: Rosevelt Colvin’s jolting of Randy McMichael in the 2nd quarter and Ellis Hobbs’s interception in the 4th quarter. However, an interception of Tom Brady by Yeremiah Bell later in the 4th quarter led to a Dolphins touchdown and the lead. Advantage: Miami.
  • As with last week, the teams were tied for red zone efficiency in terms of percentage (40%), but this week they were also tied with number of attempts converted (2 for 5). Advantage: Push.
  • For the first time in many weeks, the Patriots’ low number of penalties (6 for 38 yards) can be attributed to smart play rather than paltry time of possession. The Dolphins amassed 69 penalty yards on 4 infractions, which seems small. However, 49 of those yards were tied up in a key pass interference call in the 3rd quarter against Miami cornerback Travis Daniels as he covered Andre Davis. This pivotal call brought the Patriots into the opposition’s territory and eventually resulted in a field goal to keep the visiting team in contention. Advantage: New England.
  • Third down conversion rates are a continuing concern for the Patriots, largely attributable to the lack of a consistent running game. Last week, New England was 4 for 11 for 36%. This week, the percentage remained the same but they converted 5 of 14 third downs, so they are at least creating more opportunities for sustained drives. The Dolphins converted 7 of 17 for a 41% third down efficiency rating. Advantage: Miami.

The Patriots face the itinerate Saints (2-7) at Foxborough. With the win, New England would have their first winning streak. Frankly, if they don’t win, they’ll need to start praying to the saints of desperate or lost causes: Jude Thaddeus, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Philomena, and Rita of Cascia.

Game Leaders
Tom Brady: 21/36, 275 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
Gus Frerotte: 25/47, 360 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Heath Evans: 17 carries, 84 yards, 0 TD, 21 yard longest gain
Ronnie Brown: 14 carries, 64 yards, 0 TD, 16 yard longest gain

Deion Branch: 5 receptions, 82 yards, 0 TD, 30 yard longest gain
Ben Watson: 3 receptions, 37 yards, 2 TD, 17 yard longest gain
Marty Booker: 5 receptions, 102 yards, 0 TD, 35 yard longest gain
Chris Chambers: 6 receptions, 69 yards 2 TD, 17
yard longest gain
Michael Stone: 6 tackles, 2 assists
Ellis Hobbs: 5 tackles, 2 assists, 1 interception
Rosevelt Colvin:
3 tackles, 3 assists, 1 forced fumble
Zach Thomas: 8 tackles, 4 assists
Kevin Carter: 3 tackles, 2 assists, 1 sack
Travares Tillman:
3 tackles, 1 assist, 1 interception
Yeremiah Bell: 2 tackles, 1 interception
Jason Taylor: 2 tackles, 1 assist, 1 sack

November 13, 2005

And this weak and idle theme no more yielding but a dream....

Week 9: November 7, 2005
Colts (8-0), 40
Patriots (4-4), 21

I’ve already expressed my opinions on this debacle, but I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit some of the details of game to see if there were any positive things New England could build on for the future. Suffice to say, such encouraging examples are few and far between, but hey, at least we’ll always have memories. If the New England Revolution win the MLS Cup this afternoon, Boston can still call itself Title Town.

Some may have been relieved when the Patriots were able to respond with a touchdown by Deion Branch immediately after the Colts’ 5-play opening drive score, but I knew immediately that the home team was in peril. In comparison to Indianapolis’s leisurely jaunt down the field, New England’s opening drive was 11 plays and required a 4th down conversion at the opposition’s 21-yard line. The offensive was designed to eat time and keep the visiting team’s offense off the field with a 5 to 6 ratio of run to pass plays, but Corey Dillon is not playing at the top of his form due to his nagging injuries. Seven-minute drives would not be sustainable for the entirety of the game. The Patriots defense would have to rise up to the challenge of shutting down the highly effective onslaught of Peyton Manning and his myriad weapons.

Despite being on the field of so many grisly defeats from the past, the Colts did not wither as they had done before. In their second drive, which lasted 9 minutes even without huddles, converted a 4th down and 1 of their own at the Patriots’ 46-yard line. The old Colts would have botched this situation, but this new version handily earned the required yardage to continue their drive for a second touchdown.

  • Not only did the Colts outearn the Patriots by a little more than 33% in terms of yardage with their 228/207 first and second half yardage split, New England opponents continue to win the time of possession battle. The Patriots held the ball only 23:19 compared to Indianapolis’s 36:41. Tellingly, Hunter Smith, the Colts’ punter, made only one appearance on Monday night. Against most other teams, New England’s 102/186 split would have been adequate, but clearly not against the class of the AFC. Advantage: Indianapolis.
  • The primary narrator of the turnover story was Indianapolis. Mike Vrabel had his second interception of the season in the 2nd quarter and his team momentarily seemed to regain momentum. On the enemy’s 17-yard line, however, Dillon fumbled back the ball which led to a Colts touchdown just a little over two minutes later. Making a relief appearance, Doug Flutie also fumbled in the last seconds of the game to complete the epic defeat. Advantage: Indianapolis.
  • The teams were tied for red zone efficiency in terms of percentage with each team turning in a rate of 67%. The determining factor was that the Colts were 4 for 6 while the Patriots were 2 for 3. Advantage: Indianapolis.
  • Once again, minimal time of possession pared down the penalty yards for the Patriots, who had only 4 infractions for 24 yards. A key misstep in the 3rd quarter was an offsides against New England on a 3rd down and 4 with the Colts just 8 yards from the end zone to grant the visitors a new set of downs. The disturbing trend of the Patriots beating themselves continues. The Colts had 7 penalties for 32 yards. The officials called the game loose as the score was so lopsided. Advantage: Indianapolis.
  • Last week, the Patriots were only 1 of 7, or 14%, and this week the dearth of success on 3rd downs continued with 4 for 11 for 36%. The battered Patriots defense allowed an alarming 71% rate of conversion, permitting 12 of 17 chances. Advantage: Indianapolis.

In sum, complete and utter dominance by the Colts. For a team that had so long been on the cusp, they chose a tremendous stage for their coming out party. They now threaten to match the 1972 Miami Dolphins for a perfect season and perhaps the Patriots’ 21-game win streak as well.

Fair warning, however: Bill Belichick has a long memory. He will not forget that 2-point conversion attempt. When his roster is refilled and another game against the Colts is on the horizon, expect that debt to be repaid in full.

Game Leaders
Peyton Manning: 28/37, 321 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Tom Brady: 22/33, 265 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT

Edgerrin James: 34 carries, 104 yards, 1 TD, 9 yard longest gain
Corey Dillon: 12 carries, 40 yards, 0 TD, 13 yard longest gain

Marvin Harrison: 9 receptions, 128 yards, 2 TD, 48 yard longest gain
David Givens: 4 receptions, 64 yards, 0 TD, 35 yard longest gain
Deion Branch: 5 receptions, 58 yards, 1 TD, 17 yard longest gain
Gary Brackett: 5 tackles, 4 assists
Raheem Brock: 3 tackles, 1 assist, 1 sack

Robert Mathis:
2 tackles, 3 assists, 1 sack
Rosevelt Colvin: 6 tackles, 3 assists
Mike Vrabel: 6 tackles, 4 assists, 1 interception

November 8, 2005

Horse Nonsense

Hype does not a good football game make. The sports media acted as if it were the Patriots of last year, with Rodney Harrison and Richard Seymour intact and in sync with a functional secondary, that would play their AFC rivals. They tried to present the Colts as the effete pretenders of the past, with a gaudy offense but subpar defense. Everyone wanted to pursue and pimp the sexy storyline to cover up the obvious mismatch.

Say what you will about the Foxborough Mystique and Aura; as far as I know, after they abandoned Yankee Stadium they did not become world-class defensive backs nor ace assistant coaches. Anything for a Monday Night Football ratings boost, I suppose.

Bill Belichick defied his usual course of action by deigning to engage the Colts in an offensive shootout. It was perhaps the best option given his lack of a reliable defensive corps, but in doing so he violated the very principles with which he typically coaches. There would be no annihilation of the opposition’s strengths; for all his game-calling wizardry, Belichick cannot summon effective defenders from thin air nor heal his roster by mere touch.

Even the weather did not side with New England. There might as well have been a dome over Gillette Stadium. Mother Nature did not visit with a timely November flurry to remind Indianapolis that it isn’t nice to fool with her. If the Patriots were going to win, it would have to be on their own merits.

Perhaps we’re seeing a dynasty in the wane. The Patriots seem to ceding their crown, at least temporarily. Even on their own field they are not the most successful team this season: the New England Revolution defeated the Chicago Fire yesterday to win the MLS Eastern Conference Championship. This Sunday afternoon they will face the Los Angeles Galaxy for the MLS Cup.

At about the same time, the Patriots will attempting to regain some amount of dignity against the Miami Dolphins. If the pattern holds, they will win, as they have yet to have a winning or losing streak. Let’s hope last night’s blowout is not the start of one.

November 7, 2005

In form and moving how express and admirable!

Week 8: October 30, 2005
Bills (3-5), 16
Patriots (4-3), 21

I really meant to have this done earlier, but there were other, rather pressing issues with another area team. As everyone knows, when the Red Sox re-sign Mike Timlin, everything else just falls by the wayside.

This game against Buffalo could have been a prototypical “trap” game for the Patriots. With the formidable Colts in the offing, the Bills could have been overlooked if any other coach but Bill Belichick, the consummate preparer, led this team. Yet, it was still an ugly win due primarily to the Bills’ ineptitude on offense rather than New England’s expertise. Buffalo possessed the ball for nearly twice the amount of time, with the differential of 39:20 for the Bills compared to the Patriots’ paltry 20:40.

Although this game would determine the lead for the AFC East, the most compelling story of the game was the return of Tedy Bruschi. After failing to find a single medical expert that advised against his return, the veteran linebacker made his comeback. He played 64 defensive plays and also made some special teams appearances. The heart of the defense ended the game with 2 tackles and 5 assists.

In the 3rd quarter the Patriots finally scored with a 33-yard touchdown reception by Deion Sanders. But the defense immediately gave up the longest offensive for the Bills in this season so far with a 55-yard touchdown catch by Eric Moulds.

There were other flashes of hope. The struggling secondary had their first interception since September 18th when Asante Samuel intercepted Kelly Holcomb in the 3rd quarter. That last time we saw this was back on September 18th when Mike Vrabel got a pickoff of Jake Delhomme.

Corey Dillon, playing in pain, scored 2 touchdowns in the 4th to help seal the win for his inconsistent squad. Home field inoculated the Patriots. Despite the Bills having a tremendous possession advantage, the ailment of badly played football plagued the visiting team to a greater extent than their hosts.

  • The Patriots earned less total yards than the Bills but increased their gain 42% between the first and second halves with their 100/171 split. In contrast, the Bills were able to earn more yards in the second half by improving from 171 to 202 for a mere 15% increase. Advantage: New England.
  • As noted above, the Patriots (finally) intercepted the ball for their 3rd interception of the season so far. That change in possession did not result in points on the board, although Rosevelt Colvin’s sack and fumble recovery in the waning minutes of the 4th quarter gave the Patriots the lead once and for all. The Bills did force two fumbles to score two field goals. I’ll grant the Patriots a slight advantage because their turnover for resulted in more points and the victory. Advantage: New England.
  • The Patriots were 2 for 2 for 100% red zone efficiency, showing that they were opportunistic with the limited chances they had in enemy territory. Buffalo failed to convert any of their 3 red zone scenarios. Advantage: New England.
  • Since New England held the ball for such a short time, they managed to pare down their penalties to 7 infractions for only 57 yards. The Bills lost 74 yards on 12 penalties. Advantage: New England.
  • Although they rarely scored, the Bills converted 7 of 14 first downs (50%) while the Patriots were only 1 of 7 (14%). Advantage: Buffalo.

Game Leaders
Kelly Holcomb: 20/33, 263 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Tom Brady: 14/21, 199 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT

Willis McGahee: 31 carries, 136 yards, 0 TD, 14 yard longest gain
Corey Dillon: 18 carries, 72 yards, 2 TD, 12 yard longest gain
Eric Moulds: 9 receptions, 125 yards, 1 TD, 55 yard longest gain
Deion Branch: 3 receptions, 92 yards, 1 TD, 37 yard longest gain

Terrence McGee: 6 tackles, 1 assist
Aaron Schobel: 4 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Chris Kelsay:
1 tackle, 2 assists, 0.5 sack
Justin Bannan: 1 assist, 0.5 sack

Mike Vrabel: 9 tackles, 5 assists, 1 sack
Asante Samuel: 7 tackles, 1 interception
Rosevelt Colvin:
3 tackles, 3 assists, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble

November 3, 2005

Happy About Halberstam

If only I could write as well as David Halberstam spoke. He is able to weave a rich tapestry of words both in person and on the page. I went to Brookline Booksmith this evening to have my copies of Summer of ’49 and The Teammates autographed as well as to pick up Halberstam’s latest book The Education of a Coach. I knew that the Pulitzer prize-winning author was a great storyteller from hearing him on the radio, but he is even more charismatic in person.

Halberstam said that Bill Belichick is a genius because he has learned how to learn. This in turn made him both a great teacher and successful coach. The Patriots head coach is able to convey his strategies effectively because he knows how to help others comprehend his lofty concepts. Moreover, Belichick knew he had to earn his players’ faith by showing them how he could help them succeed. He convinced defensive linemen to follow his lead, but not because he had the on-field experience that others tout. Instead, from a young age he was an ardent student of the game; a seeming outsider, but one who used that clinical distance to observe nuances that go unnoticed when one is caught up in the fray of the game.

Since the shop is in Brookline, there was the inevitable Theo Epstein query. A customer asked Halberstam if he thought Epstein’s departure was analogous to Belichick’s resignation from the New York Jets. Halberstam said he doesn’t think enough of the Red Sox situation has been made public to make a determination yet, but did state that he saw similarities between Epstein and Belichick.

I got a copy of the book on Belichick signed to present to my dad. Much like the subject of the story, it was my dad that introduced me football. I hope to get The Teammates signed by Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, and Johnny Pesky eventually. Now there’s a Red Sox trio that I can actually admire.

October 18, 2005

Still losing when I saw myself to win!

Week 6: October 16, 2005
Patriots (3-3), 20
Broncos (5-1), 28

Did a typical Roman denizen know the moment when her civilization was falling? She didn’t have Edward Gibbon there to tell her the exact date of decline. Gibbon retroactively reckoned that date was September 4, 474, the day Flavius Romulus Augustus was deposed. Other historians claim that the empire was never as exalted as we imagined it to be and carried within its own seeds of decay, so there was no rarerified air from which to descend. Still others posit that no one reason, let alone moment or event, can be isolated to describe the descent of an idealized state. Even today the debate on the whys and hows of the fall of the Roman Empire rage.

Worry not, Patriot fans, because you do not have to live in such a state of nescience. For you, I can mark the very day of the 2005 team’s downfall. Just think back to September 27, 2005: the Red Sox were on the way to splitting a double header with the Blue Jays and the Patriots were flush with a close but rousing victory against the Steelers on their home field. In that game, strong safety Rodney Harrison was buffeted by wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, who rolled into Harrison’s knee. The collision rived three ligaments: the anterior cruciate, medial collateral, and posterior cruciate, which is every ligament save the lateral collateral.

Call it Gloomy Tuesday, for that was the day we learned Harrison would not suit up for the rest of the season. There have been other injuries and retirements, but none more vital than this missing piece. In the three games since Harrison’s injury, the New England has lost 2 games, been outscored 97 to 68, and have had no interceptions from any part of the defense.

Much blame can be laid at the laggard feet of cornerback Duane Starks, who was covering, or supposed to have been covering, a stable full of Broncos on several key plays. He was responsible for Rod Smith on his 72-yard reception to open the 2nd quarter, Ashley Lelie (formerly of UH) on his 55-yard catch on the second drive of the same quarter, and Tatum Bell on his 68-yard run up the middle to close out that calamitous 15 minutes. All three plays led to touchdowns. Ultimately, however, the loss of Harrison’s skills and leadership can be labelled the turning point of the season.

Tom Brady led yet another comeback attempt in the second half and scored 17 unanswered points. New England’s hopes were dashed when the normally sure-handed Deion Branch missed a pass on a 3rd and 20 play with 3:53 left on the clock. A reception would have granted the Patriots another set of downs and a shot at touchdown and 2-point conversion for a tie, but the gap was too wide.

The numbers tell part of the story:

  • New England’s second half comeback attempt is readily seen in its yardage split: 175 for the first half and 213 for the second. In contrast, except for one 74-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown, the Broncos were feeble in the second half. Their production decreased by 48% between the halves as they plummeted from 275 to 142 yards. The home team’s early scoring binge proved insurmountable, however. Advantage: Denver.
  • The two fumbles in the game were recovered by their respective fumblers (Daniel Graham and Tatum Bell), so there were no changes of possession to grant either team an edge. Advantage: Push.
  • Denver was a stunning 4 for 4 in red zone conversions while New England was an acceptable 2 out of 3 for 67%. Advantage: Denver.
  • The Patriots had 8 infractions for 55 yards, the lowest since the first game of the season. However, rookie left guard Logan Mankins was ejected on Adam Vinatieri’s missed 53-yard field goal attempt to end the second half. Mankins was caught punching Ebenezer Ekuban after the whistle was blown. Even though it is his first year, the incident is troubling not only because it left Tom Brady’s blind side vulnerable but because it may bespeak a lack of understanding on the part of young players on the Patriot doctrine of discipline. The Broncos had 11 penalties for 82 yards. As in the game against the Chargers, the discrepancy seems to be the result of the time of possession battle that the visiting team lost, 27:43 to 32:17. Advantage: Denver.
  • The Broncos’ third down version rate seems paltry at 27% (3 out of 11), but this is due to the second half malaise as well their opposition’s tendency to surrender immense swaths of yardage, which negated the need for conversions. The Patriots were 6 for 16 (38%) to tie their second-highest third down conversion percentage this season, but in this case the numbers aren’t telling the full story. Advantage: New England.

So, the Patriots limp into their bye week with a .500 record and a sheaf of questions to be answered. Tedy Bruschi has been medically cleared by his doctor as well as the team’s and the medical consensus seems to be that the Pro Bowl linebacker is not at risk for recurrence of stroke. With Bruschi’s return, will the Super Bowl champions find a new defensive field general to follow into a reinvigorated campaign into another golden era? Or has the team grown surfeit and complacent, lacking the appetite for a four-course feast?

Game Leaders
Tom Brady: 24/46, 299 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Jake Plummer: 17/24, 262 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Patrick Pass: 10 carries, 64 yards, 1 TD, 17 yard longest gain
Tatum Bell: 13 carries, 114 yards, 1 TD, 68 yard longest gain
Patrick Pass: 6 receptions, 89 yards, 0 TD, 39 yard longest gain
Rod Smith: 6 receptions, 123 yards, 1 TD, 72 yard longest gain
Mike Vrabel: 8 tackles, 5 assists
Willie McGinest: 3 tackles, 2 assists, 0.5 sack
Dan Klecko: 1 tackle, 2 assists, 0.5 sack
Domonique Foxworth: 8 tackles, 1 assist

October 15, 2005

Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths....

Week 5: October 9, 2005
Patriots (3-2), 31
Falcons (3-2), 28

The Patriots did not know Michael Vick was not going to be in this game until just a few hours before the coin toss. In anticipation of playing the multi-faceted Falcons quarterback, New England scrimmaged with backup quarterback Doug Flutie playing the role of Vick. Despite preparing for the incorrect situation, New England won to pull ahead of the division rival Dolphins. Miami came off their bye week with a loss to Buffalo, a team that wisely aborted the J.P. Losman experiment to snap a 3-game losing streak with Kelly Holcomb’s first start for the Bills.

New England scored first in the game on its second drive. Tom Brady handed off to Corey Dillon four times for 21 yards and passed to Deion Branch twice for 55 yards to set up a Patrick Pass 6-yard run to the left for a touchdown. With his 81st yard, Dillon became the 18th player to reach 10,000 yards.

With the score 14-10 and 1:03 left in the half, the Falcons nearly had possession at the Patriots’ 23-yard line thanks to Allen Rossum’s 50-yard punt return. Atlanta was penalized for an illegal block above the waist on the return and began at their own 35-yard line instead with 45 seconds remaining. Two incomplete pass plays seemed to stifle the Falcons’ chances for a last second score until backup quarterback Matt Schaub completed a 17-yard pass to Brian Finneran, a play that stopped the clock and brought Atlanta into field goal range. Instead of using their usual placekicker for the 58-yard attempt, the Falcons wheeled out punter and kickoff specialist Michael Koenen, who missed his attempt. New England had called a timeout just before the snap to nullify the attempt to give their opponents a second chance. Koenen successfully scored this time, placing his name in the history books with his franchise’s second-longest field goal.

As so often happens, however, it would be the Patriots’ placekicker with the final word. Opposing coaches, particularly Bill Cowher, take note: Brady devised the 18th drive in his career to tie or take the lead in the 4th quarter or overtime. It was already the second time this season he did this.

The final score was close, but in the main it was one of the better played games. The score and the metrics show how equally matched these teams were; here’s the breakdown on my selected statistics:

  • The Vick-free offense earned 225 yards in the first half and 173 the second for a 23% decrease. Meanwhile, New England notched a steady 206/267 split. Advantage: New England.
  • Atlanta scored a touchdown in early in the 4th quarter after Demorrio Williams intercepted Brady near midfield. Yet again the Patriots forced no turnovers either on the ground nor in the air, which is proving to be an area where they show substantial and sustained weakness. Advantage: Atlanta.
  • The Falcons converted 2 red zone attempts out of 3 for a 67% efficency percentage. In contrast, the Patriots were only 1 of 2 for 50%. However, New England scored three touchdowns on pass plays of 45, 33, and 55 yards to tight ends Daniel Graham and Ben Watson and wide receiver Bethel Johnson, respectively. Against a weak Atlanta secondary, the Patriots were able to score without having to sniff the end zone. Advantage (however slight): Atlanta.
  • Atlanta was penalized 8 times for 84 yards and New England 11 times for 83 yards. This was the third lowest penalty yardage for the Patriots this season, but the number of penalites continues to plague them. Three Patriot defensive penalties on the Falcons’ final drive of 1st quarter assisted them in getting into field goal range. The Falcons enabled their own demise with a 30-yard defensive pass inteference call on Rossum on a first down and 20 pass play at New England’s 26 yard line. This alone swings the pendulum in favor of the Patriots. Advantage: New England.
  • The Patriots converted 3 of 10 third downs (30%) versus the Falcons’ 5 of 13 (38%). Once again the home team came out on top, but this again seemed more a function of the visitors’ success in getting first downs before reaching the third down. Interestingly, both Atlanta and New England had 19 first downs by their own effort, but the home team gained three additional sets of downs due to Patriots’ penalties while the Patriots only had one first down because of the Falcons’ miscues. Advantage: Atlanta.

Tomorrow, the Patriots face the 4-1 Broncos at Denver. Rarely will fans of football see two head coaches of such renown pitted against each other. In 2003, when the teams last met, Bill Belichick called for a safety with 2:49 left in the game to widen the Denver lead from one point to three. This canny tactic granted the Patriots the field position they needed while circumventing their weakness at punter in the form of the feckless Ken Walter. Brady showed his nascent ability to lead game-winning drives and New England won with the final score of 30-26. This next Patriots-Broncos match-up might be another defining moment in the history of these illustrious teams.

Game Leaders
Tom Brady: 22/27, 350 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Matt Schaub: 18/34, 298 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
Corey Dillon: 23 carries, 106 yards, 0 TD, 12 yard longest gain
Warrick Dunn: 19 carries, 83 yards, 0 TD, 13 yard longest gain
Daniel Graham: 5 receptions, 119 yards, 1 TD, 45 yard longest gain
Brian Finneran: 5 receptions, 103 yards, 0 TD, 53 yard longest gain
Ty Warren: 6 tackles
Willie McGinest: 5 tackles, 1 sack
DeAngelo Hall: 10 tackles
Brady Smith: 3 tackles, 1 sack
Demorrio Williams: 3 tackles, 3 assists, 1 INT

Dear Mr. Bruschi,

I hope this letter finds you and your family well. I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time now. When you had that stroke after you played in your first (!) Pro Bowl earlier this year, I was worried for your health and wished for your speedy recovery. At least you could leave the game at the height of your career with the knowledge that you have nothing left to accomplish in the sport.

But now I’m reading reports that you are trying to get back on the gridiron. I’m not entirely surprised, given your competitive nature. I’ll always remember you wresting the ball away from Dominic Rhodes of the Colts in the AFC divisional game on the way to your third Super Bowl championship. Everyone thought Indianapolis’s high octane offense would overpower your team’s defense, and yet Peyton Manning’s vaunted scoring machine only managed a single field goal. I bet you still feel as if you could have shut them out, don’t you?

Because that’s they way you are. Always striving, never satisfied. That’s why you’re trying to make this comeback. I’m sure you’re hearing this from everyone and their uncle, but no one would think any less of you if you never played another game.

Consider what you are risking should you venture back on the field. There are at least five reasons not to return the game: your wife Heidi, Tedy Jr., Rex, Dante, and yourself. You only get one life and it seems to me you’ve reached heights that few before you have achieved and fewer still after you can hope to attain. You can’t give any more to the Patriots than you already have; don’t sacrifice your health, and possibly your life, as well.

Yours truly,
a fan

October 10, 2005

Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!

Week 4: October 2, 2005
Chargers (2-2), 41
Patriots (2-2), 17

I watched the first half of this game in a sports bar directly across Federal Street from PNC Park before my flight out of Pittsburgh. Since it was the Steelers’ bye week, the projection screens showed the Chargers-Patriots match-up. I’m sure Steeltown fans were particularly pleased with the second half of this game, but perhaps also confounded by how the Chargers were able to manhandle the Patriots, who had beaten their team just a week earlier.

If I were able consume alcohol for pleasure or had a higher tolerance of cigarette smoke, I would truly enjoy the sports bar experience. From the perfect perch of a revolving barstool I could watch Jaret Wright get shelled while Corey Dillon followed Richard Seymour into the end zone for the Patriots’ first touchdown of the game. The best vice available to me was the copious amounts of greasy food. Paramount on the menu for me was the highly vaunted pierogie, a peculiarly Pittsburgh specialty that is the essence of anti-Atkins dining with its doughy goodness enveloping potato and cheese, cottage cheese and chives, sauerkraut and potato, or beef.

Mercifully, I didn’t witness firsthand the drubbing of the Patriots in the second half, in which they were outscored 24-0. Had I stayed much longer at Hightops, it was likely that I would transform into a human-sized pierogie, much like those that race at every Pittsburgh Pirates game.

I’m going to go out on a not so precarious limb and guess that San Diego will win every statistical category I cover convincingly. However, I will risk stating that, barring injury to key positions such as quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive end, or placekicker, the Patriots will not suffer such a defeat for the remainder of the season. This loss will be the nadir to which New England will never sink again

  • The Chargers gained 212 yards in the first half and 241 the second, the only team that increased its offensive production after halftime against the Patriots the season so far. The Patriots split was 253/56 for an alarming decrease of 78%. Advantage: San Diego.
  • Turnovers did not play a large part in the game since the two interceptions New England relinquished happened late in the game and served only to pad San Diego’s time of possession and points. Tom Brady’s pass intended for David Givens in the 4th quarter with 4:38 left led to a San Diego punt after a 2:45 drive in which the Chargers had a touchdown nullified due to an offensive holding penalty. With 46 seconds remaining in the game, backup quarterback Matt Cassel was intercepted by Donnie Edwards, who lateraled to Clinton Hart for a 40-yard touchdown run. Advantage (for what it’s worth): San Diego.
  • The Chargers were an outstanding 3 for 4 in the red zone for a 75% efficiency rating while the Patriots struggled with 1 for 3 for 33%. Advantage: San Diego.
  • New England had its lowest penalty count of the season with only 4 infractions for 62 yards, but this seemed to be a product of its paltry 23:22 time of possession rather than crisper play. San Diego had a greater number of penalties with 7, but it only cost them 50 yards. Advantage: San Diego.
  • The Chargers converted 7 of 12 third downs (58%) while the Patriots were 4 of 11 (36%). Advantage: San Diego.

In all phases of the game the defending Super Bowl champions looked anything but, while the Chargers proved they are better than their 1-2 record going into Gillette Stadium led observers to believe. The Patriots were feeble on defense without their captain, safety Rodney Harrison. The New England secondary has not had an interception yet this season, and without an opportunistic defense it seems unlikely the Patriots will be able to fend off its stronger opponents such as the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos. Until Eric Mangini can solve the conundrum of a secondary without Harrison, expect the seesaw between triumphs and defeats to continue.

Game Leaders
Drew Brees: 19/24, 248 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Tom Brady: 19/32, 224 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
LaDainian Tomlinson: 25 carries, 134 yards, 2 TD, 11 yard longest gain
Corey Dillon: 14 carries, 63 yards, 1 TD, 29 yard longest gain
Antonio Gates: 6 receptions, 108 yards, 0 TD, 38 yard longest gain
David Givens: 6 receptions, 66 yards, 0 TD, 18 yard longest gain
Donnie Edwards: 9 tackles, 2 assists, 1 INT
Bhawoh Jue: 4 tackles, 1 assists, 1 INT

Mike Vrabel: 10 tackles, 1 assist

October 9, 2005

Still be kind, and eke out our performance with your mind.

Week 3: September 25, 2005
Patriots (2-1), 23
Steelers (2-1), 20

Back to Patriots football, Discovery channel, and other forms of potato couchery now that the Red Sox playoff run is over. I watched this game furtively, switching between it and the final Baltimore-Boston standoff in Charm City, a series that the Red Sox swept.

The Patriots eked out a win in the final minute of the game as Steelers head coach Bill Cowher demonstrated inexplicably bad clock management. With the score in favor of New England, 20-13, Ben Roethlisberger marshalled his team for a scoring drive that began on his 49-yard line. At the Patriots’ 27 on 4th and 11, Patriots cornerback Chad Scott was called for defensive pass interference, granting the Steelers a new set of downs from the 4-yard line. Pittsburgh scored a touchdown pass to Hynes Ward on the first play after the penalty, not even attempting a few running plays to run down the clock. The Steelers tied the score 20-20 and gave the ball to Tom Brady with 1:14 left on the clock.

Apparently, Cowher doesn’t recall the last three Super Bowls in which the Patriots played, all of which featured Brady leading his team down the field for last-second victories. It slipped his mind that the New England quarterback has executed 17 game-winning drives to tie or take the lead in 4th quarter or overtime.

The Patriots offense marched down the field from their own 38-yard line to get within Adam Vinatieri’s field goal range. As the seconds dwindled to nothingness and the Patriots without timeouts, the vaunted placekicker calmly setup for a 43-yard field goal to take the lead. It was later discovered that the clock keeper at Heinz Field added 52 seconds early in the 4th quarter, but both sides stated that this discrepancy did not impact the game’s outcome.

I’m predicting that Pittsburgh had the edge on the five metrics I’ve isolated to analyze previous games and the game was lost due to Cowher’s horrendous decision making. Let’s see how the teams performed:

  • When comparing the teams’ first and second half yardage, the Patriots split was 165/241 while the Steelers earned 211/101. Advantage: New England.
  • Neither team scored points off of fumbles or interceptions, but the Steelers did manage to be the recipients of turnovers that stopped New England from scoring. In the 2nd quarter, Kevin Faulk fumbled at the Pittsburgh 8-yard line and Steelers linebacker Larry Foote brought the recovery to his 35-yard line. Antwaan Randle El attempted a lateral to Ward after completing a 49-yard pass, but New England was unable to score on their free possession. Brady was intercepted by Chris Hope in the final seconds of the first half deep in the opposition’s territory, but the Steelers declined to risk moving the ball up the field with only 31 seconds left in the half. Advantage: Steelers.
  • In red zone efficiency, the Patriots were 2 for 5 for 40% while the Steelers were 1 for 3 for 33%. Advantage: New England.
  • New England continued its disturbing trend of high numbers of penalties with 10 for 118 yards. Pittsburgh had a mere 5 penalties for 35 yards. Advantage: Pittsburgh.
  • The Steelers converted 3 of 13 third downs (23%) while the Patriots were 8 of 16 (50%). Advantage: New England.

So I was wrong. I was a bit surprised by the Patriots’ success in these five facets of play, especially since they lost Rodney Harrison with 7:34 left in the 1st quarter and Matt Light with 10:36 remaining in the 2nd quarter. However, the Patriots’ 3 out of 5 edge is the closest this season so far.

I was tempted to wear my Patriots gear in Pittsburgh, but my judgment is better than Cowher’s. Instead I indulged a wry, inward smile at many a Steeler fan’s expense as I walked through black and gold clad masses. My enmity towards the team goes back to when I cheered for Dallas (give me a break, I grew up on Maui) as a child. I did like the Mean Joe Green Coke commercial, however. “Hey kid, catch.” Perhaps Randle El should have yelled this to Hynes on the lateral attempt for some clarification.

Game Leaders
Tom Brady: 31/41, 372 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Ben Roethlisberger: 12/28, 216 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Corey Dillon: 22 carries, 61 yards, 2 TD, 9 yard longest gain
Willie Parker: 17 carries, 55 yards, 0 TD, 11 yard longest gain
David Givens: 9 receptions, 130 yards, 0 TD, 30 yard longest gain
Hynes Ward: 4 receptions, 110 yards, 2 TD, 85 yard longest gain
Guss Scott: 5 tackles, 1 assist
Richard Seymour: 4 tackles, 1 assist, 2 sacks
Willie McGinest:
3 tackles, 1 assist, 1 sack
Rosevelt Colvin:
1 tackle, 1 sack
Ike Taylor: 11 tackles, 4 assists
James Farrior: 9 tackles, 6 assists, 1 sack
Clark Haggans: 7 tackles, 3 assists, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles
Chris Hope: 6 tackles, 4 assists, 1 INT
James Harrison: 2 tackles, 1 sack

September 25, 2005

And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.

Week 2: September 18, 2005
Patriots (1-1), 17
Panthers (1-1), 27

To be honest, I haven’t been paying attention to football closely. For the reason why, please see the current AL East standings.

That said, I hate not finishing what I started, so here’s a quick and dirty analysis of the Patriots’ second game of the season. It will be interesting to see if the metrics I singled out in the first game, a Patriots victory, hold true for their loss.

I decided to gauge halftime adjustments by noting the difference in between yards allowed and gained between the first and second halves of games. Patriots gained 171 yards in the first half and 85 in the second. Carolina’s split was 180/99. Last week, New England’s defense halved the Raiders’ production by half, much as the Panthers did to the Patriots. Advantage: Carolina.

As for turnover ratio, the Panthers came out on top. Tom Brady was intercepted by Will Witherspoon in the 2nd quarter, leading to a field goal. Mike Rucker sacked Brady in the 3rd quarter and forced the quarterback to fumble at the New England 27-yard line. Carolina would score a touchdown in the opening minutes of the 4th quarter as a result. The Patriots capitalized on a Mike Vrabel interception of Jake Delhomme for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter.

Both teams were efficient in the red zone, converting all of their respective opportunities. The Patriots were 1 for 1 while the Panthers went 3 for 3. Advantage: Carolina.

New England was unusually beset by penalties this game. They were assessed 86 yards on 12 infractions while the Panthers played cleaner with merely 6 penalities for 45 yards.

Finally, Carolina barely edged the Patriots in converting third downs: 5 for 14 or 36% compared to New England
’s 29% (4 for 14).

So, the Panthers were 5 for 5 in the key statistics I’ve been tracking. The Patriots look to redeem themselves today against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are looking for revenge against the team that knocked them out of playoff contention last year.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled baseball season coverage.

Game Leaders
Tom Brady: 23/44, 270 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Jake Delhomme: 11/26, 154 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Corey Dillon: 14 carries, 36 yards, 0 TD, 14 yard longest gain
Stephen Davis: 25 carries, 77 yards, 3 TD, 11 yard longest gain
Troy Brown: 3 receptions, 87 yards, 0 TD, 71 yard longest gain
Ricky Proehl: 3 receptions, 63 yards, 0 TD, 41 yard longest gain
Rodney Harrison: 7 tackles, 1 assist
Mike Vrabel: 3 tackles, 1 INT
Ken Lucas: 10 tackles
Chris Gamble: 6 tackles, 1 forced fumble
Will Witherspoon: 4 tackles, 1 INT
Mike Rucker: 3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble

September 11, 2005

To show our simple skill, that is the true beginning of our end.

Week 1: September 8, 2005
Raiders (0-1), 20
Patriots (1-0), 30

Football was the household sport of choice in my childhood. My dad and I would challenge each other with IBM’s “You Make the Call.” I kept a guide of referee signals at my side during games and would report back to my dad the results of plays that he may have missed.

These were the days before hyper-realistic video games. I played Mattel Electronics’ handheld Football and pretended my rectangular red blip was Tony Dorsett evading tacklers as it scored its 11th touchdown. You had to have an imagination back then.

I’ve heard it said that kids grow out of baseball to graduate to football. My appreciation of football will forever be tied to my childhood and my baser instincts to run like mad and collide without care. Football is a primal contest that appeals to my reptilian brain.

And yet, there is a cerebral aspect that I have only recently begun to appreciate. Whatever it is that Bill Belichick does behind the scenes to choreograph the chaos is a mystery to me. Part of my need to write about the New England Patriots this season is an attempt to understand the planning behind each game and better appreciate the sport in its totality.

Also, I’ll need something to write about instead of hot stove suppositions and mascot malarkey during the winter.

So, some key metrics I’ll observe throughout the course of the season will be:

  • Halftime adjustments (analyzing the difference between yards allowed and gained between first and second halves of games)
  • Turnover ratio (can be a determinant of a team’s tendency to win or lose)
  • Red zone efficiency (performance within 20 yards of the end zone on both sides of the ball is a pivotal element in the gameplan)
  • Net penalty yards (mental errors can erode great play execution, just as giving extra outs to a baseball team can lose the game)
  • Third down conversion efficiency (converting third downs keeps the offense on the field, extending time of possession and increasing the probability of scoring)

The Raiders gained 215 yards in the first half compared to 91 yards in the second whereas the Patriots’ split was 224/203. The Patriots’ clear advantage is shown with their success in halving their opponent’s offensive production.

As for turnover ratio, the Patriots did not hand over possession of the ball while Raider rookie Chris Carr fumbled out of bounds and Collins had a pass intercepted by Wilfork, both in the third quarter. The interception led to a Dillon touchdown.

Oakland converted 2 of 2 red zone opportunities, so their 100% efficiency beat New England’s 80% rate. The difference is the Patriots were successful in 4 out of 5 attempts.

As per their reputation, the Raiders had many penalties called against them: 16 for 149 yards. In contrast, the Patriots were penalized by about a third of the yards, 46, and had only 7 infractions.

Finally, New England barely edged Oakland with its 38% third down conversion rate (6 for 16), with its AFC rivals converting 4 of 13 for 31%.

As baseball season wanes, I hope to be covering the Patriots in greater detail, perhaps including pre-game posts exploring potential strategies and pitfalls. I’m (almost) ready for some football.

Game Leaders
Kerry Collins: 18/40, 265 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Tom Brady: 24/38, 306 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT

LaMont Jordan: 18 carries, 70 yards, 0 TD, 14 yard longest gain
Corey Dillon: 23 carries, 63 yards, 2 TD, 10 yard longest gain
Randy Moss: 5 receptions, 130 yards, 1 TD, 73 yard longest gain
Deion Branch: 7 receptions, 99 yards, 1 TD, 29 yard longest gain
Nnamdi Asomugha: 7 tackles, 1 assist
Richard Seymour: 6 tackles, 1 assist
Mike Vrabel:
4 tackles, 1 assist, 1 sack
Vince Wilfork: 1 INT

February 6, 2005

City of Champions

BranchLa Agonía regroups over the city of Philadelphia with the New England Patriots defeating the Eagles in Superbowl XXXIX.

Deion Branch (shown here making an amazing catch) wins MVP of the game. Looking over his particulars, can you believe he is only 5'9"? He is the typical Patriot player who proves his mettle through preparation and results.

I have to admit to being moved by the group embrace of Bill Belichick, Romeo Crennel, and Charlie Weis. The coaching staff that founded a dynasty will be no more. This is one football offseason that could rival baseball’s hot stove, since the team has to regroup and put new coaches in place.

But, until then, congratulations to the 2004 NFL Champion Patriots!

(In da postgame interviews, Christian Fauria stay wearin’ all kine leis li’dat. Stay cuz his wife’s muddah from Hawai‘i. Cool, yeah?)

January 24, 2005

Return Engagement

BruschiwinThe New England Patriots return to the Superbowl for the second straight year and the third time in four years. Bill Belichick is now 9-1 in the postseason, the same record as another storied head coach: Vince Lombardi.

There aren’t many more accolades to heap around this team. We can only marvel at the spectacle they are creating for us and relish the unfolding of history before our eyes, again.

“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”
Vince Lombardi

January 2, 2005


Bob Hohler’s January 2nd article in the Boston Globe goes into detail on how Terry Francona had to deal with some of the player incidents during the season. For me, the piece highlighted the similarities and differences between the leaders of the two current world champions of their sport, Terry Francona and Bill Belichick.

FranconabelichikBoth managed to keep a shroud of secrecy around their team basically intact. The reasons for this requirement are vastly different. Francona needs to be an ambassador, nursing egos and relationships over the course of a long and sometimes tedious season. His players are paid regardless of performance or behavior. The clubhouse atmosphere was loose, a necessity in the glare of media attention.

Meanwhile, Belichick can worry less about personalities, as long as his players buy into his system. It is incredible to hear interviews with Patriots players about any “controversies,” such as Charlie Weis’s appointment as Notre Dame’s head coach, and how everyone’s answers are in lockstep. No distraction or deviation from the task at hand is acceptable in the Patriot locker room.

The Red Sox front office has stated that Grady Little was fired because of his lack of preparation for games, and hoped that the next person they hired would use the information the advanced scouts and statisticians compiled for each game. Francona has satisfied this requirement, as well as being able squelch incidents before they arise. The official appointment of Jason Varitek as captain is the next step in the evolution of the 2005 Red Sox. It seems they are looking to have a team that does not cater to its superstars’ whims, where everyone more or less works under the same rules. With the subtraction of certain players who demanded special treatment, it appears that this goal will be attainable. We’ll see how “Patriotic” next season’s team will be.

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