Sunday Night Wrapup
Does it surprise anyone that neither Nick Cafardo (Who picked the Bills to win this morning on WB56) nor Ron Borges made an appearance on the late night shows? Sure, they might’ve had legitimate reasons for not being on the shows, but after all the stuff they’ve said this year about the Patriots, and about Bledsoe and the trade, they owned it to their reputations to sit there and face the music. I don’t know if Borges was even in town, but Cafardo as mentioned was on the WB56 show this morning, repeating his rant that if the Bills win today the trade is looked at as completely horrible. What was Belichick thinking trading him within the division. No matter their reasons, their not being around to take the heat is poor form.
After the highlights of the Patriots win and other key AFC games, Fox25’s Sports Sunday with Butch Stearns had Kevin Mannix in to talk about the return Drew. Mannix said the fans were very supportive of Drew, until the end, when they chanted a Clemens-like “Bled-soe, Bled-soe”. The INT to Jones was terrible. Stearns says he’s not trying to be negative, but they can’t put anyone away. Mannix said they’re starting to turn things and look like last year, they’re making key plays at the key time, which is the sign of a good team. Tennessee is going to be a real tough game, Eddie George is looking good again, if McNair can stay healthy those are going to be a tough twosome for the Patriots next Monday night. Mannix ending saying again that it’s concerning that the Patriots can’t put teams away.
Rob Nikoleski had a report on Bledsoe from the day, reaction from fans all kinds, and a look at his performance today. Drew feels bad for the interceptions, his teammates feel for him and though he says he wasn’t pressing today, they all know how much this game meant to him. Though Bledsoe is a top notch performer, with admirable off-the-field qualities, he has critics who say he turns the ball over too much and too often makes the big mistake at the wrong time. Today’s performance did nothing to quiet those critics. Levan Reid’s segment looked at the job the secondary did today. They consistently make big plays. Clips from members of the group, (Smith, Buckley, Jones) as well as Brady talked about a top-notch group the Patriots have back there. Buckley talked about the older guys setting an example and it’s trickling down to the younger guys and that’s exciting to see. Milloy talked about the return of the big hits, something they’re aiming for. For his Last Blast, Stearns says Theo Epstein should shop Nomar around at the winter meetings, but not trade him. They should sign him up long term. He is the leader in passion on the team.
WHDH’s Sports Xtra followed the Patriots highlights with Gene Lavanchy sitting down with Fred Smerlas and Tim Fox, looks like Belichick might know how to handle Bledsoe after all. Smerlas noted Drew has trouble with the pressure up the middle, when he can’t go over the top, when he’s under pressure. Lavanchy said this is the Bledsoe we remember from the past few years. Fox gives credit to coaching staff for all the different looks. Bledsoe never had the chance for a deep ball. Seymour was a key, not letting Drew step up in the pocket. Defense had a great effort today, starting to create turnovers, make big hits. Smerlas said whenever a team goes up big there is a tendency to step back a little bit. More on that, why can’t they go for the jugular, Lavanchy wants to know. Smerlas talked about the bad calls by the officials, and also the three TD’s called back. Fox says it’s Belichick’s personality to shut it down and play cautious after getting a lead, feeling confident on the defense. Fox also liked the diversity of the offense with all the different players catching passes. Smerlas says the game is in hand they don’t want to take risks, do enough to just win the game. The team has a mindset about turnovers…don’t want to give any away.Fox noted that Brady always overthrows on the deep ball, because he doesn’t want to take a chance that it could be picked off if it is thrown short. They considered the rest of the schedule, three tough games. The Patriots though, seem to be able to step it up down towards the end. Fox think they’re in great position, and no one in the national media is even considering them. Lavanchy detects many similarities to last year, Fox does too, but is wary of Oakland. He doesn’t think the Patriots could go to Oakland and win a playoff game.
Gary Gillis sat down with former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette in the next segment. Duke says once you’re in the job you just need to concentrate on doing the job, he wishes Theo the best of luck and hopes for a good season. He said that everyone wants to trade with a new GM…to help them into the position. Red Sox fans are the most passionate and knowledgeable in baseball, they know talent, and there are no secrets in Boston baseball. You need to have a competitive team year in and year out to generate excitement. His biggest regret during his time here was not winning a pennant. As for Carl Everett, they couldn’t do anything about his behavior during the season, they eventually had to trade him off to Texas during the offseason. They closed with some details of the new Dan Duquette Sports Academy.
WBZ’s Sports Final with Bob Lobel had the latest Las Vegas odds which have the Patriots as the team with the second best chance in the AFC to make the Super Bowl at 7-1, behind the Raiders, who are 4-1. In as the first group of commentators was Scott Zolak (who picked the Bills to win by 10 today) and Steve DeOssie, along with Lobel and Steve Burton. Deossie said the defense was swarming like last year, Belichick/Parcells teams peak in December. Burton wants to know again about why did the team look complacent after going up 20-0. Zolak and DeOssie said it’s easy to try to settle in, and not make mistakes, be conservative. Lobel brought up the three drives in the third quarter that went three and out, and a drive in the fourth that could’ve used more time. He thinks last years team did a better job at game management on offense. He questioned some of the play calls. DeOssie questioned the end-around attempt to Graham. DeOssie interjected about Bledsoe making many of the same mistakes he made here the last few years. Burton liked the play where Brady caught the TD and had it called back. Didn’t agree with the official’s call. Zolak noted they were able to make a couple good down field passes, which makes them tougher to defend. Today’s plan was totally different from last game. Not many screen plays called this week at all. A clip of Bledsoe checking out the stadium with Burton was shown, Drew was looking around, saying “really cool, really cool, I knew they’d go first class all the way.”
After the Burton game recap, back to the studio, where Lobel talks about the play of game being Otis Smith’s strip of Peerless Price. Smith was in studio with them, and he said they needed a big play then. He said earlier in the game Price had made a catch and he stripped it out along the sideline and tried it again and was able to get the fumble. He said it’s just as good as a interception, though he wishes he could’ve had one as all his buddies seemed to have one today. The Antowain Smith TD after that was really big for them. Belichick didn’t say much after the game, but they do have to come in tomorrow. It’s playoff time. As for why the defense is giving up less points, earlier in the season they were going with a more conservative defense, in recent weeks more blitzes have been worked in. Michael Smith and Michael Felger joined at this point, and Michael Smith also praised the strip play by Otis. Felger says Otis represents alot about this team, left for dead, thought they couldn’t play any more, like Smith, Phifer, Pleasant, Ted Johnson, all those guys are now making plays. Felger asked Otis if the players went to the coaches and asked to be more aggressive, Otis said he did go to Romeo and asked if they could go after teams a little more, and they did, and that’s a great part about this coaching staff, that they’ll listen to the players. Otis knows today was tough for Drew to lose here. Michael Smith talked about getting into Bledsoe’s head, it isn’t so much that as it is that they can read Bledsoe, know what he’s going to do. Felger says Belichick owns Bledsoe, he has his number, it’s clear. Lobel asked Otis who was keyed in most on the Bills offense, Otis said it wasn’t any one player, they needed to be aware of everyone. Asked about Tennessee, Lobel asked what the Patriots would do against the Titans, a good team, they’re winning. Otis said “We’re winning too.”
A look back 20 years ago (10 years ago tonight was the Ted Wiliams/Bobby Orr/Larry Bird show) to Norman Leveille was up next. This was the same piece that ran on ESPN earlier in the week. Lobel recalled after the piece being in the Hospital after it happened, as well as the closing of the Garden when Bourque guided him on skates onto the ice.
Steve Buckley and Gordon Edes were in next to talk about the Red Sox and the supposed Manny Ramirez trade request that hit the papers yesterday. Lobel says that Manny has wanted to leave since he got here. Buckley brought up a Peter Gammons article last winter that Manny wanted to be traded and all the talk last winter about making Manny comfortable. Buckley said he just thought it was weird that they had the meeting with John Henry, and stuck by his “source” that said he asked for a trade. Edes questioned him on this. Buckley says Manny should’ve stayed in Cleveland. When Edes related what Manny’s agent told him about denying a trade, Buckley said “what do you expect him to say?”. Edes brought up the fact that Manny wouldn’t likely speak out to the owner like that and ask for a trade, he would go through his agent. Buckley disagreed, and said this was an unstructured meeting, so it’s certainly possible that he would just blurt out that he wants a trade. Lobel says he asked Bill James which was a bigger mistake, Jose Offerman for 26 million or Manny for his contract. Lobel says James avoided the issue. Edes says everyone needs to be careful about saying what an awful contract he has, he brought up Manny’s perfect rating in a recent ranking. All said they would definitely consider trading Nomar for Vladimir Guerrero. (“In a New York minute” said Lobel) Buckley thinks he’d be easier to sign long term too. Back to the Manny issue, Edes talked about responsible journalism is going to the agent for comment, and from his talking with him he never even hinted that Manny might’ve asked for a trade. Buckley dismissed that and pointed to the Red Sox not denying that Manny asked for a trade as evidence for his story.