So here we go, the

So here we go, the countdown to the Super Bowl is on. Bob Ryan says this focused football team truly takes things just one step at a time. Kevin Mannix looks back and gives his report card for the AFC Championship game. The Receivers and Special Teams get C’s, the rest are all A’s and B’s. Tom Curran says that Bill Belichick is finally being embraced as a local son here in New England. With the exception of a couple holdout sportswriters, that’s true.

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Ron Borges says the Patriots will be in the unusual position of being a favorite coming into this Super Bowl. I’m sure this isn’t easy on Ron considering how much he hates seeing the Patriots succeed. His premise that he needs to be negative to be “objective” is tired. He manages to get through his article today without venom, though he’s probably saving it for his TV and Radio appearances, which is where he does the majority of his blustering these days. With the advent of this pesky Internet invention, the things you write can be looked back on in the future. It’s easier to just throw things out on the air instead. Like that Tony Dungy is just as good a coach as Bill Belichick. (From Channel 7 last week.) Alan Greenberg says there will be no looking back from this team, either to the AFC title game nor to previous Super Bowl appearances. Mike Reiss says that flexibility is the key to the Belichick philosophy. Karen Guregian gives us a glimpse of the lighter side of Bill Belichick as revealed in a question about playing football with this kids from yesterday’s press conference. Michael Parente says that the Patriots will have plenty of time to prepare for the Panthers with the two week gap between games. Ian M. Clark says the Patriots are just focused on getting one more win for this season. Michael Smith has a look at the offensive line and their season-long game of “Survivor”. Jim Donaldson also has a look at the offensive line.

Rich Thompson says that Bill Belichick does not care who Vegas installs as favorites and underdogs in this game. Bill Reynolds also takes a look at Belichick and the side of him that came out in the press conference yesterday. Rick Gossellin of the Dallas Morning News tells us this will be one of the most hard-hitting Super Bowls in history. Frank Dell’Apa has a look at the astonishing development of David Givens. Buddy Thomas admits his team got bested on Sunday afternoon. Smith’s notebook looks at similarities between Belichick and John Fox. Felger’s notebook tries to get us an update on Tedy Bruschi. Reiss’ notebook has some on Bruschi, and a lot of other stuff.

So just who are these Panthers, anyway? Michael Felger gives us a primer on the Panthers, and who to look for on their roster. Nick Cafardo looks at the rise of Carolina from a 1-15 team to the Super Bowl in just three years. Lenny Megliola says the Panthers are not made for prime time, but worries that they’ve got some of the Patriots vibe of two years ago going on. Steve Buckley has a pay column saying the Panthers are just like the 2001 Patriots. Should’ve known Buckley would be the one to pen that obvious angle. You can get more on the Panthers, as well as what they think of the Patriots down at the Charlotte Observer. (Free registration required to read stories.) They’ve got an article on the Patriots bouncing back from the Lawyer Milloy release and a look at the Patriots players that Carolina fans need to know about.

Steve Conroy and Nancy Marrapese-Burrell report on the Bruins 5-2 win over the Rangers yesterday. Gus Martins looks at Brian Rolston and Glen Murray ending their scoring slumps yesterday. Andy Nesbitt looks at the addition of Jiri Slegr to the blue line. Joe Gordon looks at another strong game for Andrew Raycroft. Marrapese-Burrell’s notebook looks at a punch from Eric Lindros that fractured the cheekbone of Joe Thornton and will keep the Bruins Captain out of tonight’s game. Conroy’s notebook says that the B’s could be without Dan McGillis as well, after the defenseman received a match penalty yesterday.

Celtics links are over at Fox Sports New New England.

Tony Massarotti says that the Sox hope to avoid arbitration with Trot Nixon, David Ortiz and Byung-Hyun Kim by signing each to a multi-year contract.

NESN has Bruins/Rangers at 7:00. FSNNE has Celtics/Heat at 7:30. WBZ4 has a special Patriots program each night this week at 7:00.

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Quick Monday Links by Len

Quick Monday Links by Len

The Patriots Protected This House and now we must prepare for two weeks of Super Bowl hype. Tom Curran has the game story on an overpowering performance in the 24-14 win. Curran also tells us that Bill Belichick knew the Colts were not looking forward to yesterday

Sunday Links from Len Championship

Sunday Links from Len

Championship Sunday is finally here as the Patriots host the Colts today at Gillette Stadium. We must protect this house. The game is on WBZ-4 at 3:00 PM with pre-game shows beginning at noon.

Ron Borges tells us that the Colts are close to unbeatable and that the weather will not likely be a factor. Dan Shaughnessy believes the Patriots are something special and will be headed to the Super Bowl. He also salutes the Patriots fans who are a special bunch. Shaughnessy covered Larry Bird during the 1980

The countdown to kickoff is

The countdown to kickoff is on. In a event that is reminiscent of Lawyer Milloy’s press conference prior to the AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh two years, Michael Felger reports on a session that Rodney Harrison had with the Indy press that had a bit of an edge to it. Jeff Jacobs also looks at Harrison’s comments. Mike Reiss tells us that the 40 seconds between the end of one play and the next snap is where this game is going to be won or lost. Alan Greenberg looks at a Patriots club made up as a team and not individual stars. Joe McDonald says this will be a poker match for the ages. Eric McHugh says the Patriots have used their entire roster to get this far. Ian M. Clark says the Patriots defense sneaks up on it’s foes. Most of today’s articles focus on one player. So if you’re the casual fan who hasn’t paid a whole lot of attention to the team and has just come on board here recently, these articles might be good for you. For the hardcore fans, they might be a bit of a disappointment, as you might be thirsting for more indepth analysis of the matchups. But here goes with the player articles. John Powers has an article on Richard Seymour, who is one of the prime stoppers in the NFL. Tom Curran has a piece on rookie safety Eugene Wilson, who isn’t going to be intimidated playing in his first AFC Title game. He’s put the first game with the Colts out of his mind. Michael Smith has an article on rookie receiver/kick returner Bethel Johnson, who was dynamic in the first meeting between the teams. It was a little amusing to read Smith describing Johnson as baby-faced (which he is.) Smith and Johnson are the same age. Glen Farley also has a look at Johnson. Rich Thompson chats with Dedric Ward about this team’s unselfish nature. Dan Shaughnessy looks at Tom Brady, and compares his matchup with Peyton Manning as a Russell/Chamberlain type duel. Michael O’Connor looks at tight end Christian Fauria, who is hoping to just stay as even as possible through the playoffs. Frank Dell’Apa has a piece on Matt Light, who will have his hands full, and likely get some help in protecting Tom Brady’s backside on Sunday. Karen Guregian looks at clutch kicker Adam Vinatieri. Thompson also has a piece on rookie center Dan Koppen. O’Connor also has a bit on Joe Andruzzi, who has been the mainstay on the offensive line. Bob Fedas reviews the Patriots history in AFC Title games. Lenny Megliola looks at a 41 year old Patriots fan battling Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Felger’s notebook says the Pats are keeping their defensive game plan under tight wraps this week. Smith’s notebook says this is the most comprehensive test the Patriots have faced this year. McDonald’s notebook has Bill Belichick keeping his team level. Reiss’ notebook says that Ken Walter likes the cold.

For the Colts, Joe Burris looks at Indy’s all world receiver Marvin Harrison. Michael Holley and Michael Gee look at Brandon Stokley returning to practice yesterday.

The Globe staffers make their picks. They all pick the Patriots, with the exception of Ron Borges who predicts a 24-20 Colts victory. Yet in his matchups, he gives the overall edge to the Patriots “by a ring finger”. Speaking of Borges, the flap that came about last weekend with the eery similarity between a section of his Sunday article and one written by Len Pasquarelli on Friday has been investigated by the Globe, and they are certain that Borges did his own work there. In an email sent to many readers who had written in on the incident, Sports Editor Don Skwar said that

"Although there were only two sentences that were similar, we nonetheless, because of the similarity of the anecdote, checked into it. Ron said he didn't get the language from Mr. Pasquarelli. We can't speak for Mr. Pasquarelli, but we contacted the source of the anecdote, and he affirmed that Ron did his own reporting. Ron wrote the item based on the information he received from that source."

So there it is. They checked it out, and he came out clean.

A great article is in The Atlantic, and it focuses on Eagles center Hank Fraley, but the Patriots figure large in the story as well.

That’s all I have time for right at the moment.

Only had time for Patriots

Only had time for Patriots links this morning, but that’s pretty much all that is going on anyway.

With the seeming loss of Damien Woody for the remainder of the playoffs, (The Patriots still him as “doubtful” and say he is day-to-day.) you’ll get used to the name Russ Hochstein over the next few days. Michael Smith says that Hochstein will just try to fit in and do the job come Sunday. Alan Greenberg looks at the loss of Woody and how Hochstein can try to fit in. Michael O’Connor says Hochstein is ready to do whatever is asked of him, even stepping in and starting an AFC title game. Mike Reiss says that the Woody injury will showcase a staple of the Belichick era…depth. Michael Parente also has a look at the loss of Woody for the Patriots. Bob Ryan says the Patriots stand out among the four remaining teams. Michael Felger looks at Willie McGinest, who doesn’t want to look back at his heroics in the first meeting between the Colts and Patriots. Michael Holley says that Peyton Manning has his poker face on this week, he’s not going to reveal anything. Karen Guregian says that Foxboro is just not Peyton’s place. Tom Curran just knows that special teams will somehow come into play in deciding the game on Sunday. Mick Colageo looks at how newcomers fit into and adjust to coming to the Patriots. Kevin Paul Dupont says the Patriots’ young secondary members need to study up this week, as they’ll be tested come Sunday. Another member of the secondary, Tyrone Poole knows that his small stature could also lead to his being picked on, but to him, it doesn’t matter. Frank Dell’Apa has a look at Christian Fauria, enjoying his second season in New England much more than his first. Robert Lee says that Indy’s offense is just scary. Joe Burris says the Colts defense is hoping to make a statement this Sunday. Colts fan Buddy Thomas tells us that the Colts can beat the Patriots. Jim Donaldson looks at the AFC title games in Patriots history. Curran says that Patrick Pass may get some touches if Antowain Smith is too banged up.

Felger’s notebook has Ty Law looking for a bigger piece of the action come Sunday. Smith’s notebook says Tom Brady has a tall task in front of him as far as trying to match Manning on Sunday. Lee’s notebook has more on Woody. Reiss’ notebook looks at Ted Washington’s “Homeland Defense” T-shirts. Parente’s notebook says the Colts will try to stretch the Patriot secondary. Burris’ Colts notebook says the Brandon Stokley could miss the game Sunday because his son is in the hospital.

Celtics lost to the Rockets at home last night. An injured Paul Pierce had only four points. The links are at Fox Sports Net New England.

The countdown to Sunday continues.

The countdown to Sunday continues. Tom Curran talks with the Titan’s offensive and defensive coordinators to get their input on what the Patriots can do against the Colts and how they can beat them. Michael Felger says one of the ways that the Patriots will likely try to do that is by controlling the clock, using the running game. Antowain Smith was a little banged up last week but will be ready to go. On the other hand, Michael Smith says Damien Woody’s season is over, a big blow for the Patriots. Jim Donaldson finds time to knock Bill Belichick for building up each opponent to seem unbeatable. Donaldson is clearly crying for attention with this article. That’s the only reasonable explanation for it. All coaches do that. What does he want Belichick to say? “I’m clearly in Peyton Manning’s head, so I don’t think we’ll have much trouble with them. Their defense is terrible, and I think we’ll pretty much be able to do whatever we want offensively.”? Yeah smart move. Jackie MacMullan has a good piece with Ken Walter, talking about his struggles this year, and how he’s been trying to deal with all of it. Eric McHugh looks at the 28 Patriots who are trying to make it to their first Super Bowl. Mike Reiss says the success of the Patriots is hurting the head coaching chances of Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis. Teams just don’t want to wait to name their new coaches. Alan Greenberg looks at the resurgent, Pro Bowl season of Willie McGinest. Glen Farley looks at the impact and importance of Rodney Harrison. Steve Buckley says that as long as the Patriots execute, they’re going to be fine, regardless of the matchups. Hector Longo breaks down the NFL final four. Michael Parente says the Patriots offense will try to crank it up this Sunday. Jonathan Comey says that in order to gauge this game, you need to take a look at the past. Gerry Callahan’s pay column says that Antowain Smith must run on Sunday, or be run out of town. Michael Vega looks at rookie Dan Koppen, another success in a long line of B.C. offensive linemen. Felger’s notebook has more on the frustration of Crennel and Weis.

Nick Cafardo says playing it safe in the playoffs gets you sent home. Jim McCabe looks at an older and wiser Edgerrin James. Lenny Megliola says that Doug Flutie’s days with the Chargers could be numbered. Joe Burris looks at the success the Colts opponents have had moving the ball on them.

The Celtics fell in Milwaukee last night 111-103, despite 33 points off the bench from Ricky Davis. The links are at Fox Sports Net New England.

Bill Reynolds writes about an appearance by Jason Varitek, Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar at the Warwick mall yesterday, and the reception they received. Gordon Edes says the Red Sox are close to a contract agreement on a two year deal with Byung Hyun Kim. Mike Fine says that life goes on for the Red Sox after the A-Rod flirtation. Ken Lechtanski looks at an amazing offseason for the Red Sox. Kevin Thomas looks at an appearance by Jerry Trupiano and Joe Castiglione up in Bangor. Thomas also reports that a Red Sox minor leaguer, Justin Sherrod is among the 25 bachelors on ABC’s new edition of “The Bachelorette,”which starts tonight at 9:00.

Russ Conway says Cam Neely’s style would’ve been hampered by today’s NHL. Mike Loftus says that Neely’s impact was felt on and off the ice. Win Bates looks back at the night for Cam. Ron Indrisano looks at the recent success of the Bruins, and the role played by Patrice Bergeron. Stephen Harris says a number of minor injuries isn’t going to stop the Bruins recent hot streak.

Tom Long has the obituary for James (Jim) Greenidge, who was the Patriots Media Relations director in the ’80’s and who had written for the Globe until suffering a stroke last year. Greenidge covered some hockey and also did a number of media-type columns as well. He’ll be missed.