Patriots

Is this the end for Devils' Martin Brodeur?

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Is this the end for Devils' Martin Brodeur?

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The New Jersey Devils' dreams of a historic comeback were all but dashed less than 11 minutes into Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals. Just 10:10 in, Steve Bernier drilled Los Angeles defenseman Rob Scuderi from behind into the end boards and essentially took his club out of the game. Bernier was given a major penalty and was ejected from the game. "He turned back," Bernier said of Scuderi. "I feel very bad, but it's a fast game out there, and it ends up being a bad play. You certainly don't want to get five minutes for it. I wish I could take that play back." The Kings took full advantage of the 5-minute power play and scored three times in a span of 3:58 en route to a 6-1 victory that clinched Los Angeles' first Stanley Cup championship in the franchise's 45-year history. "It was just an unfortunate situation with a player who plays the game really hard, and he's going to have to live with that," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. "I don't think it's a fair thing, but that's what happens when one person has the fate of a hockey game in their hands. I talked to him and told him it's not his fault. I can't say if it was a good call or not." New Jersey trailed 3-0 after the first period and 4-1 through 40 minutes. The Devils had little left for the third period, when the Kings went into lock-down mode and added two late insurance markers. "I didn't want to hurt my team, I wanted to help them," Bernier said. "This is extremely hard. It's been a long playoff run for us. To finish on that note, it's not fun for sure. But there's nothing I can do now." The Devils were trying to become just the third team to force a Game 7 in the finals after trailing 3-0. Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs came all the way back to win the Cup, and New Jersey was thoroughly thwarted by the Kings in Los Angeles' third shot at the title. While it is of little consolation, New Jersey became the first team in 67 years to even get to a sixth game in the finals after falling behind 3-0. "You don't give yourself a lot of room for error," captain Zach Parise said. "We found ourselves in a pretty deep hole before we even realized that the finals started. But we didn't quit. We really felt that we could get back in it and force a Game 7." But Bernier never gave them a chance to take the series back to New Jersey. "Everybody feels bad, but he shouldn't. He's done a lot of good things for this team," right wing David Clarkson said. "There's no fingers being pointed -- at refs or anywhere else. He threw a bodycheck. I didn't think it was that bad of a play. But we dug ourselves a bit of a hole there and couldn't come out of it. It's tough to swallow." Bernier slammed Scuderi behind the Los Angeles net, driving him headfirst against the boards. The hit left Scuderi dazed and bloodied before he left the ice under his own power and headed to the dressing room. Scuderi returned to the bench, but Bernier was done for the night -- and the season. "That's what he's been doing the whole playoffs. He's been doing a great job of getting in on the forecheck and finishing checks," Parise said. "That's why he's here. That's what you want from him. "It's just unfortunate that it happened. It's not his fault." Kings captain Dustin Brown scored first at 11:03, and Jeff Carter made it 2-0 at 12:45. Just 16 seconds later, Trevor Lewis poked the puck past the 40-year-old Brodeur's glove after Dwight King's centering pass squirted through the crease. "I don't know if we were salivating when we got that power play, but we were just determined to capitalize on that opportunity," Doughty said. "We knew that this was our chance to put that team away and we did just that." Adding to the Devils' frustration was a one-timer by New Jersey's Patrik Elias that rang off the right post just 38 seconds before the first period ended. Carter made it 4-0 just 1 minutes into the second period, beating Brodeur with a wrist shot from the slot. By then, all that was left to determine was the final score. Adam Henrique cut the deficit to 4-1 with 1:15 left in the second period, but the Devils couldn't get any closer. The Devils also lost Ryan Carter and Clarkson to 10-minute misconducts that forced New Jersey to play with a diminished corps of forwards for large chunks of the game. Defenseman Bryce Salvador also served a 4-minute high-sticking penalty in the second period that didn't produce a goal, but milked important minutes off the clock. New Jersey was outdone by the Western Conference champions this time, and scored only eight goals in the six games. The Devils dropped a pair of 2-1 overtime decisions at home in the first two games, and fought uphill the rest of the way. The Devils were whistled for nine penalties that totaled 47 minutes in Game 6, after coming in with an average of just 8.7 in the playoffs -- the second-fewest in this postseason. New Jersey recorded only 18 shots on goalie Jonathan Quick, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Brodeur, who backstopped New Jersey to Cup titles in 1995, 2000 and 2003, made 19 saves in the clincher. "They started to play really hard in Game 5, and they had a lot of momentum tonight," Brodeur said. "The major power play came at a time when the crowd was going crazy, and they were really feeling good. Those are situations where before we'd fight through it. Tonight, we didn't." For the second straight season, the Devils will be facing major offseason questions. A year ago, New Jersey was left to figure out how the club missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996. Now the Devils will have to face the possibility they will have to replace Brodeur and Parise, who could be on the move as one of the most attractive unrestricted free agents on July 1. The 27-year-old left wing, who has spent his first seven NHL seasons with the Devils, is coming off a 31-goal season. Brodeur, the winningest goalie in NHL history, has hinted that he would like to return next season at age 41. "This season and this playoff run answered a lot of questions about where my game's at, and I'm really happy to hopefully continue," Brodeur said. If Brodeur and Parise return, the Devils could be poised for another deep playoff run despite playing in the tough Atlantic Division that produced four 100-point teams this season -- the last being New Jersey, which was the No. 6 seed in the East. "We took down our two biggest rivals, the Flyers and the Rangers, and we took this series to six games," Brodeur said. "It's disappointing, but it's been a great season. We came a long way to challenge for the Stanley Cup from not making the playoffs last year. "There's only one team that can win. It's not us this time, but we're proud of what we've done."

Hard to find a Patriots equal in soft AFC

Hard to find a Patriots equal in soft AFC

John Elway created a stir this week when he said his Broncos, after a 3-1 start, had “gotten a little bit soft." Elway, the Broncos GM, said that after five straight Denver losses – the last two by the combined score of 92-39

Denver’s head coach Vance Joseph said Elway’s remark bothered him. He talked to his players about it. On Sunday, the Broncos went out and did something about it. They lost by just three at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. Yay.

They’re pretty much all soft in the AFC this year. Check out the AFC West. There’s Denver. And the Raiders – who the Patriots handled with disturbing ease on Sunday, 33-8. The 5-4 Kansas City Chiefs, who lost on the road to the one-win Giants after starting the season 5-0.

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The AFC East is soft. Miami was 4-2. It’s lost four straight including a 40-0 loss to Baltimore. The Jets were 3-2, they’re now 4-6 (which is a minor miracle given how ragged their roster is). The Bills were 5-2, now they’re 5-5 having lost by a combined 101-34 the past two weeks as head coach Sean McDermott willingly stuck a butter knife in an electrical outlet and replaced Tyrod Taylor with a not-ready-for-preseason-Week-4 Nathan Peterman.

The AFC South is led by the Jaguars and Titans. Jacksonville – which can play some defense – isn’t as bad as the rest. The Jags have won four straight and play cutthroat defense, but they had their hands full with the 0-10 Browns on Sunday. During the week, running back Leonard Fournette complained about having to play in the cold in Cleveland. At least he showed up Sunday and ran for 111. The Titans are awful when they leave Tennessee, which was further proven last Thursday when they lost 40-17 at Pittsburgh. Since October began, they’ve been outscored 122-43 in four road games. Their one road win in that span was a 12-9 decision over Cleveland. 

The big, bad AFC North contingent led by the Steelers at 8-2? Talented. But led by a forever-whining, passive-aggressive quarterback who openly and annually mulls retirement and two “me first” skill guys in Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. Their greatest strength may be in executing elaborate post-touchdown skits. Vital.

Meanwhile, here are the boring-ass Patriots. Yeah, they have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and continuity in the program and coaching staff, but the gap between them and everyone else in the conference is that they don’t worry about the cold or the road or the five-act plays after they score.

They stayed a week in Colorado Springs to get ready for the altitude. Two Patriots – Stephon Gilmore and Danny Amendola – had to be treated for dehydration in the second half. After five PLAYS, Raiders rookie Obi Melifonwu was asking out of the game saying he couldn’t breathe.

The Raiders – a team that went 12-4 last year - haven’t improved a bit defensively all season. They are – under head coach Jack Del Rio – one of those “we do what we do” defenses the Patriots love to face because it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Brady is now 8-1 against Del Rio-led teams/defenses and the numbers against Del Rio’s teams are absurd: 225 completions on 310 attempts for (73 percent) for 2,387 yards, 21 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

It just feels like the AFC is a collection of teams, with an overwhelming majority of them in turn-it-on, turn-it-off mode. Their coaches are just kind of casting about, constantly open to suggestion and willing to give anything a shot because, hell, they better try something to get hot or they’ll be passing out resumes at the Combine in four months.

The Patriots remaining schedule goes like this: Dolphins, Bills, Dolphins, Steelers, Bills, Jets. Shake me awake on December 17 when the Steelers game comes. And we have a mountain of data explaining how that one will go too.

I’m not weary of the team. It’s historic and fascinating, like watching a hooded Mozart compose and a helmeted Van Gogh paint every week. But the exercise of trying to conjure scenarios where the Patriots play November football with the exquisite ineptitude of their opponents is not easy.

They are doing this without Julian Edelman or Dont'a Hightower. They played Sunday without Chris Hogan, David Andrews, Marcus Cannon and Matt Slater.

Offenses can’t score against them. Defenses can’t stop them. They create points on special teams. They manage the game, the clock and their opponents like simple arithmetic while every other team’s doing trigonometry. What was broken in September has been long fixed.

The time will come again when the Patriots appear just as inept, clueless and mired in mediocrity as every other AFC team appears right now. But it won’t be this year.

So embrace the softness? I guess?

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Wentz, Eagles roll over Cowboys 37-9 after losing kicker

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Wentz, Eagles roll over Cowboys 37-9 after losing kicker

ARLINGTON, Texas - No kicker, no problem for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Carson Wentz threw for two touchdowns and three 2-point conversions after Philadelphia lost kicker Jake Elliott to a head injury, and the Eagles all but wrapped up the NFC East with a 37-9 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.

The Eagles (9-1) outscored the Cowboys 30-0 in the second half while extending their winning streak to eight games, their longest since 2003-04 and tied with New Orleans for the best current run in the NFL.

Philadelphia leads the second-place and defending division champion Cowboys (5-5) by four games with six to play after handing Dallas its worst home loss at 8-year-old AT&T Stadium.

Dallas' Dak Prescott threw a career-high three interceptions and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in his second straight loss without star running back Ezekiel Elliott, serving a six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence.

Jake Elliott's injury wasn't a factor for nearly a half because the NFL-leading Eagles couldn't get in scoring position. They failed to get a first down on five straight first-half drives, starting with one at the Dallas 15 when Elliott missed a 34-yard attempt and soon after left the field.

Trailing 9-7 at halftime, Wentz led the Eagles on scoring drives of 75, 90 and 85 yards, the middle one boosted by Jay Ajayi's 71-yard run against his hometown team in his second game since getting traded by Miami.

"The biggest thing was sticking with the game plan," said Wentz, who is up to 25 touchdown passes with just five interceptions. "The big boys up front kind of came out angry. We ran the ball the second half really effectively."

Ajayi had 91 yards on seven carries and LeGarrette Blount added 57 on 13 carries, including a 30-yarder leading to the last offensive touchdown.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson declared at halftime that he would go for every fourth down and try 2-point conversions after every touchdown.

It came into play right away when Corey Clement scored on an 11-yard run to open the second half and ran in a screen pass behind three blockers for the 2-pointer.

The first fourth-down try was Wentz's 17-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery for a 29-9 lead. That 2-point pass failed. Torrey Smith had the other TD catch, an 11-yarder.

After Derek Barnett hit Prescott's leg and arm as he was throwing, Nigel Bradham picked up the loose ball and ran it 37 yards for a touchdown. Wentz's 2-point pass to Trey Burton provided the final margin.

"We got some nice 2-point conversions," said Wentz, who was 14 of 27 for 168 yards. "Now we've got to go back to the drawing board with our 2-point plays."

The Cowboys appeared to have fixed the problems of missing injured left tackle Tyron Smith and 2016 All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee from a week earlier, when they allowed eight sacks of Prescott along with three Atlanta scoring drives following Lee's injury in a 27-7 loss to the Falcons.

But after protecting Prescott fairly well before halftime, Dallas allowed three sacks and 180 of Philadelphia's season-high 215 yards rushing in the second half. Lee's replacement at weakside linebacker, Anthony Hitchens, left with a groin injury after halftime.

Prescott was 18 of 31 for 145 yards for a career-worst 30.4 passer rating before backup Cooper Rush took mop-up duty.

"It's no excuses," said Prescott, who teamed with Elliott in a remarkable rookie season that is now a distant memory with already two more losses and three more interceptions than Prescott had a year ago. Elliott won't be back until the final two games of the regular season.

"We're not saying injuries or any of that's bothering us. We're not saying it's the reason we're not winning is because of those guys."

NO RUST THIS TIME

The Eagles had a focus on being better following the bye after losing nine of 11 last season after a 3-0 start going into the break. Now Philadelphia will take a shot at the best record in the NFL with history on its side when starting this strong. The Eagles have two NFL championships (1949, 1960) and two trips to the Super Bowl (1980, 2004, both losses) following 9-1 starts.

SECOND-HALF MELTDOWNS

The Cowboys have been outscored 47-0 in the second half the past two weeks following a three-game winning streak that seemed to have Dallas back on track following an NFC-best 13-3 record last season.

"It would be pretty tough not to panic, but I don't think we are panicking," said running back Alfred Morris, who had 91 yards filling in for Ezekiel Elliott. "It's been two tough losses, ugly losses on top of that. But at the same time, I know the character of this team and the fight we have."

EMERGENCY KICKER

Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill is the emergency kicker for the Eagles. But he completely missed the safety net on a practice try on the sidelines, sending the ball into the stands. He did reach the goal line with his first kickoff, though.

UP NEXT

Eagles: Home against Chicago next Sunday.

Cowboys: Los Angeles Chargers visiting for annual Thanksgiving game.

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