Bruce is away this week, so I’ll be doing some pinch-hitting. I may not be quite the power hitter, but I’ll try to get on base for you each day. So, let’s lead off with the Patriots.
In what’s becoming a recurring theme, the Pats gave up another one on the road and in the fourth quarter yesterday, going down to the Dolphins in Miami, 22-21. Ian R. Rapoport says a slew of issues inside the 20-yard line leaves the Patriots losers of three of the last four and a mere one game up in the AFC East. For Jim Donaldson, it all came down to defensive stops, and the Patriots once again didn’t have any. Tom E. Curran is confounded over how bad the Patriots are in the second half. And what would Mondays be without Christopher Price, the godfather of sports lists, running down Ten Things We Learned Yesterday about our under-achieving Patriots?
In a constant redrawing of the line in the sand, Chris Warner now calls this loss the lowest point of the season. Christopher L. Gasper has the Pats failing in the five-contest crucible that was supposed to tell us all where this team was headed. Curran is troubled by the organization’s apparent acceptance that the Pats are closer to mediocre than to elite. Mike Petraglia has Tom Brady saying the Pats don’t fight very hard.
Once again this week, it’s a feeding frenzy of assessing blame. Ron Borges finds cause for another X’s-and-O’s-and-Jimmys-and-Joes reference, citing bad drafts and bad free agent signings as the reason for today’s lack of talent. Monique Walker has Tom Brady failing to put any points on the board on two different red zone trips. Despite countless chances, Karen Guregian says Brady could not find a way to lead his team to victory. Michael Felger is astounded at how much damage a three-man rush can inflict on the Pats’ offense.
How about something good? Well, Boston Metro calls Randy Moss a playmaker and Sam Aiken’s catch one of the best of the season. Of course, Donaldson points out that a 5’10” rookie stood taller than the 6’4″ Hall of Famer that is Moss, and Rapoport’s Patriots Notebook notes Aiken couldn’t come up with a big play when it mattered most. Donaldson also has Aiken going from brilliant to . . . well, the opposite of brilliant. Walker’s Patriots Notebook has Aiken getting his hands on two big balls in the fourth quarter, but coming up with neither.
Shalise Manza Young calls the offense stagnant and defense porous when it comes to second halves on the road. Brian MacPherson has the Pats’ secondary two weeks late and two corners short of being good. Albert R. Breer says Miami QB Chad Henne never heard so much as a grunt from the Patriots’ ineffective pass rush. Cristina Ledra has Henne the latest QB to post a career-day performance against the New England secondary. Henne’s effort wasn’t bad for a guy Miami writers like Edwin Pope have been ready to write off at one time or another.
Kirk Minihane is left scratching his head over all the coaching inconsistencies. Jonathan Comey opines that 2009 has inflicted a mortal sting on Bill Belichick and left him in the weeds. And Dan Shaughnessy has Belichick going off the deep end on fourth down calls.
FBS bowl selections were announced last night and there are no surprises for either of New England’s entrants, with BC playing in the Emerald Bowl and UConn the PapaJohns.com Bowl. Mark Blaudschun attributes BC’s unexpectedly early date with the USC Trojans to the wacky world of college football bowls. Steve Conroy has yesterday’s pairings the culmination of a season-long closure of the chasm that once existed between the Eagles and Trojans. Desmond Conner has the UConn Huskies making their third consecutive bowl appearance, taking on the Gamecocks of South Carolina.
Going into the four-day rumor mill that is MLB’s winter meetings, Amalie Benjamin contends there are few deals the Sox really need to make, but MacPherson’s Sox Beat says Theo has plenty of work to do. Alex Speier says any team with a blockbuster trade in mind should look long and hard at the chips the Sox have stockpiled.
Tim Weisberg says the Patriots may struggle on the road, but the Celtics sure don’t.
Fluto Shinzawa says that former Bruins interim GM Jeff Gorton must have been wearing a mask when he robbed Toronto of Tuukka Rask.
With the count up to six – what do you want to call them, paramours? Sarah Green thinks Tiger Woods, Inc. has lost his right to privacy.
I’ll be laying back in a dentist’s chair by the time you get here, but I’ll be back again tororrow, repaired teeth and all, to bring you some more Morning Links. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter for any other breaking items.