Monday, January 15, 2007

AFC Championship On My Birthday, It's Fannnnnnnntastic

"They say it's your birthday, we're gonna have a good time."

I needed to wait a day to do this one because even though I'm completely partisan as far as writing about the Pats, it would have been completely ridiculous writing about them from "Cloud Nine," which I was in for the last day and a half. The mood still hasn't changed, but I can at least be somewhat objective now.

Ok, first of ya like that score? I know how my team plays people, that's all I have to say. Love when I'm right, and this one was absolutely no exception. First of all, his name is Marty Schottenheimer. This is the sixth consectutive playoff loss he's had. It's pretty easy to predict against him. If I said it once, I'll say it again: Us playing San Diego in the second round was a godsend compared to if we had to play Baltimore. Baltimore and San Diego, as far as coaching is concerned, aren't even close to being in the same league. Even though the Ravens lost to the Colts (ok, I admit I flip-flopped from my original prediction, and it ended up biting me in the ass, but honestly, I couldn't see the Colts going back to Baltimore and winning a playoff game, but I guess history be damned), I still really don't think the Pats could have beaten the Ravens. But getting back to San Diego, the coaching absolutely killed them. Ok, when you have the best running back in the last decade (yes I said it) and he touches the ball nine times in the second half, you got issues. LT would have had a field day if they had given him the ball more often in the second half, but instead, they relied on Phillip Rivers, who was making his first start not only in the playoffs, but against the Patriots, a team that has reveled in making inexperienced quarterbacks look flat out bad. Rivers was no exception on Sunday. Sure, he cam out looking ok, but it's all about the adjustments the Pats make in the second half. Once they saw that Rivers was not throwing at all to any of his receivers (I mean you can't really blame him with that array of mediocraty). In the end, LT ended up getting 123 on just 21 carries, an average of 5.9 per carry. 5.9! If he runs the ball, say, five more times, we lose that game plain and simple. Their running attack, all and all, put up 158 yards and three TDs. How do you not go back to that in crunch time? That was what was killing us all game long, and if you are a Pats fan, you knew going into the game Tomlinson would get at least 100 yards on the ground. The only hope was that we could pressure them to try and rely on their passing game, which is exactly what happened. That's "Marty Ball" for you. You gotta love it.

Ok, Dave Thomas should have definitely played a bigger role in that game. The tight ends are questionable at best right now, with both Graham and Watson combining on just three receptions for 47 yards. However, Thomas did recover the muffed punt of Eric Parker to set up a field goal, so I wasn't completely off on that.

The Chargers just kept making mental mistake after mental mistake, and that's what happens when you come into a game overconfident in your team. The penalties really did the Chargers in, especially Drayton Florence's helmet smash on Daniel Graham after a third down play, which would have forced New England to punt. Instead, they give us a fresh set of downs, and the Pats proceed to get a field goal from the now-suddenly reliable Stephen Gostkowski (just get a kicker with a strange name ending in "I." It worked for Kramer when he was trying to scam the bank..."Ok, so here's our have a greeting that starts with "H," how's 20 bucks sound?" The other ones that stick out to me were the dropped interception (I forget if it was Terrance Kiel or Clinton Hart) on the Patriots first series and Troy Brown's strip after Marlon McCree intercepted one of Brady's passes. You want to talk about a potential momentum changer, the interception was huge. The Chargers would have had the ball right around the 40 yard line. Then, on the strip by Brown, it doesn't get any better than that. If McCree hangs onto the ball, it's first down San Diego. Instead, the Pats get the ball back and get a fresh set of downs. It all goes to show that, if you play the Patriots, you have to play a perfect game, especially in the playoffs. While San Diego definitely had some bright moments, I can't say I was really impressed by their performance.

After Kaeding missed the field goal that would have tied the game, the Pats stormed the field and started celebrating with three seconds left. After the game, a few of the Charger players thought that that was "disrespectful" and that the Patriots should be held to "a higher standard." Let me tell you something, if San Diego didn't want us celebrating, then they shouldn't have lost the game to us. Period. Otherwise, you're gonna have to sit back and take it. Look, everyone knew that San Diego was the best team in the league, including the Chargers themselves, who had already started working on the parade route for when they win the Super Bowl. As a bit of a side note, I have to say that impromptu celebration plans never work...ever. So why do people continue to do it? The '86 Red Sox, the '05 Yankees, Jean Van de Velde, when will it end? Anyway, you have to believe that kind of thing had to serve as "bulletin board material" for the Pats on Sunday. Then, the Chargers were mad that a few of the players immitated the Shawne Merriman dance. First of all, it's really a stupid dance that further implicates that he did steroids (or heroin). Secondly, if you're going to go out of your way to try and taunt a team by doing some kind of celebration, you have to expect that if things start to go south, people are going to be mocking you and making you look like a fool. That's the negative about celebrating: it can be thrown right back in your face. And finally, look, we are the "gold standard" of the NFL, whether people choose to except that or not is up to them. However, during our run, we've mocked everyone! When we went to Pittsburgh two years ago, we were doing the towel twirl. When we played Philly in the Super Bowl, we mocked T.O. (David Givens bicep flex) and the Eagles in general (flapping the arms). We are equal opporunists as far as making fun of someone's celebration, and if you don't want us to do it, here's two easy steps to assure that won't happen:

1.) Don't let us win.
2.) Stop celebrating.

My final point about the game has to come back to Marty Schottenheimer. Have you ever heard of a coach being on the "hot seat" after going 14-2? Obviously the Chargers have to be disappointed in their finish. They had an open road to get to Miami, and all they had to do was win two games at Qualcomm Stadium, a place where they had not lost this year. They had the league MVP and a much improved defense, and it still wasn't enough. Isn't it strange that in two big games that have taken place in the last week, you have two teams (San Diego and Ohio St.) who had the top player in the league/nation (LT and Troy Smith) and one of the top defensive players (Merriman and James Laurinitis) and they both got beat in games in which very few people thought the other could "hang" with them? Granted, the Pats were only five point 'dogs, but if you look at a consensus of league-wide predictions, I would have to say it was around 80/20 for the Chargers. Anyway, they should absolutely fire Marty. I mean this team should have been a lock to at least have gotten to the AFC Championship game, but one and done? I can totally sympathize with LT being distraught after the game. He's the MVP of the league for crying out loud! And you only have him carry 21 times? What were you thinking Marty? The thing is though, who is really out there as a replacement? Cowher I don't believe will be coaching this year, Ken Whisenhunt was already snagged by Arizona (good move on their part), so who is left? They may have to hang on to him strictly for the fact that there's no one that is better on the market right now.

So now onto January 21, which not only marks the day of my 22nd birthday, but also, the AFC Championship game (no work will be accomplished that day...that's like a double sabbath right there). I'm going to go into a full-fledged preview later on in the week, but just know right now that if any team is going to win on the road at Indy, it's the Patriots. Two things bother me about this game:

1.) How long can Peyton Manning suck against us in the playoffs? I mean can he really continue this? The guy is the best "numbers" QB in the league, yet come playoff time, he comes undone. His first two games in these playoffs have again been less than stellar, and he's had to rely on his running attack and defense (who'd-a-thunk it) to get the job done. With him being so close, and now playing indoors at home, and not being "exposed" to the elements (I guarantee if that game would have been played at Foxboro, more people would have shown in t-shirts than any January playoff game in the history of cold-weather warming baby!).

2.) Their kicker...please don't let it come down to trotting out Vinatieri for the win. I'm almost tempted to pull for a blowout loss than have Adam Vinatieri kick a game winning field goal against the Pats to get to the Super Bowl.

Anyway, so I watched the game up in Charlotte last weekend with some friends of mine. We went to a place called "Bostonian Tavern," which is located in Matthews to be exact. I gotta tell you something: Living in the South for the last four years, I had not been able to watch a Pats game in a Boston bar, let alone a playoff game. When you walk in, it makes you feel like you're home again. Immediately upon entering, there was just a sea of red, white, and blue. That may not mean much to many of you, but when you haven't experienced that in a good, long time, it was something else. I was totally surprised by how many people showed up. The place was packed by game time. So, to sum it all up, I had such a good time there (hey, $1.50 Bud Selects don't hurt either), and I've already vowed that, should we win one more road game, I would be back there on Super Bowl Sunday, so that will be a trip I'll be more than happy to make. So for any Boston transplant in the Carolinas, this is definitely a place you should check out (stuffed quahogs, so help me God, stuffed quahogs!)

Has anyone noticed that the previews for movies have been getting a lot better lately? See, I have a theory about this. I'll call it the "ugly girl" syndrome. Anytime there is a girl, who is maybe decent looking, and she's standing next to, or talking to a girl that is totally not up to par, that girl looks way better than the way she normally would be. I think that's the same with movies right now. With all the crap that has been bombarded upon us (really, did anything after Borat make anyone want to even check out what any movie was about?), the movies that are now starting to come out, which would have probably been mediocre at best, are looking incredible. Take "Alpha Dog" for example. Normally, I would never have wanted to even know what the point of making that kind of movie was. Now, I'm curious. Why do they kidnap the guy? How are they going to not end up in jail at the end? You know, stuff like that has been entering my mind when I watch that. Also, when I saw "The Hitcher" previewed for the first time, I wasn't too interested. Now, however, I'm thinking this is a "can't miss" movie. You got "Alec Trevelyan" from "Goldeneye" going around trying to kill college kids, including Sophia Bush, who I'm not too against seeing for 83 minutes (am I crazy of is that kind of short?). Also, I saw an extended preview last night. Let me tell you something: Anytime there is a two-and-a-half minute preview of a guy in an old Caddy ramming cop cars to the song "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails being played in the background, you got my nine bucks.

Is there any way that Gilbert Arenas does not deserve the MVP right now? You want to talk about carrying a team on someone's shoulders. This guy is like the Atlas of NBA players right now. He won yet another game last night, his second game winning shot in a week, as part of his 51 point explosion in the Wizards' win over the Jazz. Right now, Arenas is the league's second leading scorer at 30.2 ppg (remember my guy's still #1...coming back Jan. 22, a late birthday gift from the fine people at the Commissioner's office!), 6.3 apg, 4.3 rpg, 2.0 spg, 40% on 3-pointers, and 84% from the charity stripe, which has led Washington to a 21-16 record, only a half a game behind Orlando for the top spot in the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference. I mean this guy really fills up a stat sheet, and he has the ability to get others involved, even though his team, besides Antawn Jamison, is basically full of scrub players.

While I'm on the subject as far as the NBA, I feel compelled to talk about the good old Celtics and how, in the season proceeding the death of Red Auerbach, they have reduced the team to a laughing stock in the Eastern Conference. Look, I understand that Pierce and Wally, they're two leading scorers, being injured doesn't help, especially in the case of Pierce, who has clearly had to become the leader of that team. And now with Tony Allen done for the year, and Delonte West recently being sidelined with a bruised lower back, you really are working with the absolute last couple of guys on your bench now. Still, Doc Rivers needs to make two important moves:

1.) START RAJON RONDO! God, how many times do I have to say this. Who cares if he's a rookie. If he's better than the incumbent, and no one can tell me he's not better than Telfair, then let him start. He played more minutes than Telfair yesterday, and put up a 9-8-7 game. This is an all-around player who can bang around inside, and also is very quick and good at on-the-ball defense (three steals yesterday as well). I can't deal with Telfair anymore. The guy tries to be too flashy for his own good, he shoots under 40% from the field, and his three point totals are less than stellar (28.2%). Rondo is the best solution for this team right now. I feel like he will give them a boost, kind of like what Renaldo Balkman did in his USC days.

2.) Please Doc, I'm begging you, cut Brian Scalabrine. Have him come into some kind of "unfortunate accident" and put him on IR. He sucks! You cannot tell me that Pittznogle is worse than this guy. Plus, when he starts making threes, there can be the universal call of "you just got Pittznogled!"

Well, the Super Bowl is only three short weeks away, and I thought it would be nice to make a list of "The Top Ten Sports Days Of The Year." These are in order of significance, at least to this guy.

10. Baseball Trade Deadline (July 31)
9. Daytona 500 (Mid February)
8. NCAA Signing Day (Early February)
7. NCAA Selection Show (Mid March)
6. Pitchers And Catchers Reporting To Spring Training (Mid February)
5. Patriots' Day- Boston Marathon + 11:00 Red Sox Game (Mid April)
4. Super Bowl (Early February)
3. Red Sox Opening Day (Early April)
2. First Day Of NCAA Men's Tournament (Mid March)
1. NFL Draft Day 1 (Late April)

Honorable Mentions:
  • Madden Video Game Released (Mid August)
  • NBA All-Star Saturday (Mid February)
  • MLB Home Run Derby (Mid July)
So it's been reported that John Henry has been in talks with Randy Hendricks, the agent of Roger Clemens, to try and bring the Rocket back to the Sox. I have three issues with that:

1.) Where are you going to put him? I mean unless the whole "Papelbon as a starter" thing is a fluke, you have a full rotation right now, plus, you have Jon Lester, who is reportedly going to be at full strength come Spring Training. He already said he's not going to close, so basically, you will have a minimum of six starters.

2.) Where the hell do you get the money to pay him? Seriously, look at the spending that has happened with Dice-K, Lugo, Drew, and Piniero. The payroll right now is at around $140 million, and you want to add another $20 million to that? Bleacher seats are gonna go for $100 a whack now. Come on, help the common man out.

3.) What makes the Sox think that Clemens will be happy to be back in Boston? First of all, he always got booed when he came back, because he took more money from Toronto, and also decided to get in shape when he left, getting five more Cy Young awards, and playing for the Yankees never help. We called the guy "donuts" forever, and now we want him here? You know what, I don't believe that this guy is still a big game pitcher. Look at his performances in the last few postseasons with the Yanks and the 'Stros. I mean they're ok, but not nearly worth $20 million.

Has anyone else noticed that the phrase "finger in a dyke" has all of a sudden made a resurgence? How can they possibly be able to say that on network TV? Al Michaels dropped that like three times in the Seattle-Dallas game. Finger in a dyke? There is no other conceivable way to point out a wrong situation than that?

Has anyone noticed that the "NFL Insider," Jay Glazer, is also the host of the Pride F-1 fighting show on Fox Sports Net? I know that in the past, there have been guys who have crossed over into different sports. Marv Albert, who is known for basketball, also does football on the radio, and Jim Nantz, Joe Buck, and Al Michaels do...well...whatever their networks want them to. But can you recall any kind of specialist known as an "insider" having another job in something which is the polar opposite of the one he's known for. Perhaps you could make the arguement about Max Kellerman when he was the host of "Around the Horn" and "I, Max" while he was also a boxing analyst on HBO and ESPN. The point is, if this guy is an insider, I want his focus to be purely on football. I don't know, maybe this is me being completely jealous and wishing I was in that position. Basically, I would be flown around the country, get to meet players, and get paid for all of it. Honestly, I want that. However, there still hasn't been anyone showing up here, or writing me any letters about doing anything to that effect, so unless that happens, I don't know if I'm gonna get it. But I'll keep watching my mailbox for that, and also to see if the chick from the "Lectric Shave" ads wrote me back. I got an in baby, I'm a "Lectric Shave" insider!

What was with Jeff Garcia on Sunday? They were interviewing the guy, and all of a sudden, he bursts into tears talking about wanting to stay in Philadelphia and how great the fans are. First of all, I know Eagle fans...they're not really the crying kind of bunch, and furthermore, I don't think they like guys on the Eagles balling after a loss. They like to see the other team at least get hurt when they lose (by the way, Sheldon Brown had the hit of the year on Reggie Bush...Gamecock!). Another thing, when T.O. came out and called Garcia "a homo" when he left the Niners a few years back, many people thought Owens was saying what everyone was thinking, then he goes out with a "Playmate of the Year," now he's crying...I don't know what to believe anymore. Someone help me!

Alright, the championship preview will be up soon. Thanks for reading. Peace.


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