Patriots

Time's up for the Jets

197881.jpg

Time's up for the Jets

By Michael Felger

A few thoughts from Conference Championship Sunday.

Drive to Nowhere Part II (courtesy Bob Neumeier)

Do you think Rex Ryan and the Jets actually realized that the Patriots endless, fruitless fourth-quarter drive last week was a bad thing? Hard to tell, since they nearly did the exact same thing in Pittsburgh.

First came an eight-minute drive that started in the third quarter and ended midway through the fourth when LaDainian Tomlinson was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the Steelers 1-yard line. Next came a 10-play, 58-yard drive that took 4 minutes and 32 seconds off the clock. The second drive netted a touchdown, but the pace of the Jets offense was still maddeningly slow. They huddled. They ran. They bled the play clock. It was curious, especially after the Pats did the same thing the week before to the chagrin of everyone in New England.

That won't be the only second guess the Jets coaches will be facing today. Another will be the usage of Tomlinson. Why were they slamming him into the line in short-yardage situations late when they had Shonn Greene? And how could the Jets come out so flat in the first half with the Super Bowl on the line?

And not that it mattered, but it was interesting to see Ryan celebrate the Roethlisberger safety in the fourth quarter when it meant absolutely nothing. The Jets still needed two touchdowns.

The real hero in Green Bay, in my opinion, is general manager Ted Thompson -- and the role he played in building the roster since he was hired in 2005 is only secondary to his greatest accomplishment.

He's the one who finally said "no'' to Brett Favre.

It seems like a simple decision now, especially given Aaron Rodgers' development and how it's ended for Favre. But it was no small feat at the time. Slaying a sacred cow never is. Favre was a God in Wisconsin. He had just taken the Packers to the 2007 NFC championship game. He was considered as untouchable as anyone in sports, a guy who was allowed to hold his franchise hostage and routinely put himself above his teammates because it was HIS team.

That's how they had operated in Green Bay for years, anyway. And Thompson was the one who finally said, "enough.''

Thank God.

That said, I consider the Packers a dumb football team. Talented, yes. Well-schemed, absolutely. But dumb. Here are some examples from Sunday:

It's hard to overstate how bad Rodgers' interception into the arms of Brian Urlacher in the third quarter was. The Packers were leading 14-0 at the time, facing a third-and-goal from the Bears' 6-yard line. Rodgers was pressured, and a simple throw-away would have resulted in a chip-shot field goal and what would have been a virtually insurmountable 17-0 lead. Instead, Rodgers tried to force it over the middle and paid the price. Dumb.

At that point of the game, with Jay Cutler about to go out (by the way, did anyone see when he got hurt?) and the Bears relegated to Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie at quarterback, all the Packers had to do was not turn the ball over and kick it away from Devin Hester.

So what did they do? They got careless with the ball (Tramon Williams fumbled a punt late in the third quarter, which the Packers luckily recovered) and they continued to kick the ball to Hester, who got his hands on a kickoff and three punts, one of which was nullified by penalty, in the second half. Hester never hurt the Packers on any of his returns, and punter Tim Masthay nailed some beauties in this game, but the fact that Hester ever got his hands on a single ball was just dumb.

Do we even need to mention BJ Raji's Leon Lett impersonation? Or the fact that running back James Starkes inexplicably ran out of bounds with under four minutes remaining and the Bears needing to call timeouts to stop the clock? Or corner Sam Shields running with his last-second interception and nearly fumbling it away? Or the Packers inability to stop a no-name, third-year, third-string undrafted quarterback?

We won't bother. Take our word for it. The Packers do dumb things. Consistently. If they lose to Pittsburgh in two weeks it won't be because they lack talent. Or good schemes. It will because, on an individual level, they're sloppy.
E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

best_of_bst_podcast.jpg

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

0:43 - Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley talk about Bill Belichick saying it’s “incomprehensible” that people expect the Patriots to be on the same level as last year at this point in the season.

11:55 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss J.R. Smith’s comments about the Celtics not being a threat to the Cavaliers.

15:38 - Abby Chin, Chris Mannix, and A. Sherrod Blakely join BST from Cleveland to talk about Marcus Smart and the Celtics failing to agree to a contract extension, making him a restricted free agent in July. They also preview Tuesday’s Celtics-Cavaliers season opener.

19:25 - Reports say Alex Cora is the frontrunner for the Red Sox managerial position, but Brad Ausmus interviewed for the position on Monday. Who is the right man for the job? Tom Giles and Michael Holley discuss.

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
 
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
 
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.

MORE:

 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
 
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
 
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
 
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
 
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
 
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
 
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
 
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
 
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
 
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
 
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
 
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
 
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
 
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
 
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Boston’s Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
 
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
 
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
 
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
 
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
 
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
 
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
 
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
 
And even that might not be enough.
 
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
 
“Here in this league,” he said. “You have to love challenges.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE