Venti venting


Venti venting

By Michael Felger

Oh my goodness, the venting . . .

Felger,Well, it happened. I e-mailed you last week and said if the Pats lost, it would be the worst defeat in franchise history. I stand by that. But, regardless of the fact that we disagree there, here are my rants:1) Welker's benching. I DON'T GET THIS!!! If you really want to send a message to Welker, fine him an undisclosed amount. Don't hurt the entire team by benching one of your best players! And then to have him come out to field the punt . . . what?! Was he benched, or only "kinda" benched? It's like Bill couldn't make up his mind. Awful.2) The fake punt: I consider this one of the worst coaching decisions in Belichick's career, EVEN IF IT HAD WORKED. Why would you risk it at that point in the game? I might have understood the call on the other side of the 50, but certainly not on my side of the field. An absolutely terrible decision, one that may have cost us the game. I don't fault Chung for the play. It was a miserable call. Miserable.3) Where was Aaron Hernandez?! Isn't this guy the Jets killer? Maybe his injury was worse than we thought. I certainly didn't expect the game MVP (for N.Y.) to be Alge Crumpler. Kudos to him for stepping it up.4) "The drive" in the fourth quarter. Did Belichick morph into Andy Reid on the sidelines? That time management was about as efficient as Hugh Hefner's urethra. It looked like they were up 20! Why would you waste all that time? Absolutely bizarre.5) Certainly this HAS to be the game to open Bill's eyes for the need for a pass rusher, right? The whole Tully Banta-Cain thing isn't working. It's not Tully's fault, he's just not that good. He is what he is -- a situational rusher, as is Mike Wright, as is Eric Moore. We NEED a consistent pass rush. On this roster, I don't see it. And I fear it won't be a priority in the draft, either.AndrewLeominster

Two hours later . . .

I know I already e-mailed you an hour after the game, but I need to vent on two more things:1) Can Patriots fans please stop calling the Jets "classless" and complaining about their antics?! It's pathetic. We all yukked it up when McCourty did the flying airplane thing in the 45-3 blowout. Or when various Pats mocked Merriman in the '06 game vs San Diego. So we're supposed to be able to give it, but can't take it? PATHETIC. The Jets are no more classless when the Patriots. When you get a big win, you have the right to celebrate however you want. Darrelle Revis was 100 percent right with his comments regarding the need to be able to take it both ways, win or lose.2) Can people stop calling Rex Ryan a crappy coach now? The guy is a GREAT coach. There is no one else in the entire NFL I'd want running my team other than Belichick. Is he a loudmouth? Yup. Does he behave like an idiot? Most of the time. But he's a GREAT coach. He defends his players and truly believes in his team. He's made the AFC championship game two years in a row. Seriously, if BB ever leaves, I'd put Ryan as my 1. And I hate him. But he's that good.AndrewLeominster

Not a thing I disagree with here other than the bit about Rex coaching my team. I respect the guy, but I might need some time wrapping my head around that concept.

And I totally stand by my contention that nothing will touch the loss to the Giants in Arizona. In time, you'll feel the same way, Andrew. The stakes involved in that game (if the Pats won, they'd probably be considered the greatest team of all time that's all) were unprecedented. And they'll probably never come up again. The Jets loss isn't even really close.

Felger,Is Belichick's "genius" and magic gone? Every year going into the playoffs, pundits say "Well, when it really comes down to it, who wants to face Belichick and Brady in the playoffs? Give Belichick two weeks to prepare and he's nearly impossible to beat." It's always been stated as a fact that having Belichick as our coach was an enormous advantage. Well, it seems that Belichick has lost his mojo. Early in the decade, he always seemed to have the answers. The trademark of a Belichick team was that it was prepared for everything, and that if you threw something new at them, they would find a way to make the adjustments on the sidelines or at halftime. But that hasn't been happening. Bill has routinely been getting his ass handed to him in the adjustments battle more often than not in big games. Super Bowl vs Giants, first time Miami unveiled the Wild Cat, this week vs Jets, etc. Tom Brady just may not be the same guy. Maybe he's the football version of Josh Beckett. Someone that had a lot of success early on in his career on the big stage and is now automatically called "clutch" or "the best postseason QB" because of those performances 7-10 years ago, just like Beckett. Maybe the Pats' great defenses, coupled with Weis' play-calling, carried him when he was younger and just let him be a game manager.Either way, something just isn't right. Where's the guy that wanted to rip the opponent's heart out? The last two playoff games Brady has looked flat and disinterested at times - almost like LeBron. He's looked scared in the pocket. He has not been clutch or come up with that vintage drive or carried this team on his back. Hell, the only "great" playoff game he's played in the last five years was probably vs. Jacksonville in the '07 season. Nostra-Felger, how do we get back to the glory days? Give us your plan!JP

This is what the scoreboard has told us, JP: When the Pats have a better defense than offense (2001, 2003, 2004) they win championships. But when it's been the other way around, when it's been up to Brady and offense to pick up the defense they choke in postseason (2007, 2009, 2010).

I admit that I'm late to this opinion. Like a lot of others, I felt the NFL had evolved into something different. I felt that teams with an imbalance towards offense (like the Colts in 2006 and the Saints in 2009) could consistently win championships as long as their defense was merely representative. Well, that may have worked in Indy and New Orleans, but it's not working here. When it's been left on the shoulders of Brady and the offense as opposed to the other way around they've gagged.

Again, that's just what the results have shown. To believe otherwise would be ignoring the final score, which is the only thing that matters. The Giants loss was one thing. The Ravens defeat was another. But three in a row? This is about the point where you have to reconsider your thinking. Winning as an offense-first team is just not happening. I thought it would. We all thought it would. But it's not.

That's all a long way of saying I would continue to devote all my energies toward rebuilding a championship defense, one that can pick up an offense when it runs into tough competition. Because relying on the opposite equation relying on the offense to carry the defense has turned us into the Colts.

Felger, You DB! Where do I start?The Wes Welker benching was stupid. Very Very Stupid. This team won games thumbing its nose at stupid league rules. So why handicap yourself with team rules that matter to no one in this day and age? I still disagree with you on the talent issue with the Pats. I still think Bill is the best head coach of our time. But there are limitations to what he can do. Now don't get me wrong, I am not excusing bone head decisions. The "drive to nowhere" (copyright Bob Neumeier) was the football equivalent of a botched root canal. The time management was abysmal and the fake punt was a real head scratcher. If you feel you HAVE TO go for it in that situation, you're beginning to panic. And even if you're not panicking, who do you trust more to pick up the first: Patrick Chung on a gimmick play, or Brady and the offense? I'll take Brady every time.But I really think you understate the impact talent has. The Patriots do not have enough talent to create a consistent pass rush. Bill is forced to manufacture one with gimmicks while Mayor McCheese can just blubber, "Drop eight into coverage and rush three" and get pressure. The talent issue is settled right there. And Mikey, can you please stop calling this the second-worst loss in franchise history? It's no higher than the sixth and probably the seventh-worst. I still think the 2006 AFC Championship game was the absolute worst. Not only because the collapse cost them a title, but because it was eminently preventable by showing Branch the money. And this spawned the offensive overcompensation, which created the soulless monster responsible for the 2007 Super Bowl loss. The other two Super Bowl losses were worse as well. One was an embarrassing blowout (vs. the Bears) and the other (vs. the Packers) was a winnable game if the NFL's most prolific prostitute had kept his focus on giving his current client a happy ending and not quoting prices for his next John. And how could the acclaimed author of "Tales from the Patriots Sidelines" rank this loss higher than the Ben Dreith roughing-the-passer game against the hated Raiders? And personally, the 2005 loss to Denver pains me more than Sunday's because the Cowher Steelers, (who they owned) and the Seahawks were the only things standing in their way of a three-peat. Bottom line, this was a rebuilding year that was so successful, expectations were blown out of proportion. It takes hindsight to realize it but it's absolutely fact not opinion. BTW, tough luck about the bet with Gresh. But it took balls for you to take that bet because the odds were stacked against you from the get go, and it was a no lose situation for Andy. Either way, he'd get to eat the Oatmeal. MikeAttleboro

Tough loss indeed. Predicting the Pats in the AFC championship game the day they traded Randy Moss? Now THAT'S a hot sports take, Mikey. And I think was generally right about most of it the Pats were a better team without him and probably went farther than they would have if he were still here (remember, last year they were bounced in the wild-card round). But I was dead wrong about one, very important thing: The Pats were no better when it truly mattered. Dumping Moss made them no more likely to win a tough, tight playoff game than when he was here. I was confident it would, and right up until the "drive to nowhere" (copyright Bob Neumeier) I felt they would pull it out. But no dice. Win some, lose some.

I won't argue with your assessment of this being down the list of crushing Pats losses, although I put it head of the games you mention from 1976-96 because the Pats are simply far more important to more people now then they were back then. This is a dynasty going after history. Again, the stakes are higher.

Finally, I think you are so wrong about the talent thing as least as far as it relates to the Jets. Do you really think the Pats don't have the horses to beat that team? Come on, Mikey. If they had played well they would have won. You think they got the most out of their talent that night? Not even close. Maybe they didn't have enough to win a title this year, but they had enough to beat the Jets. You'll never convince me otherwise.

Felger: Here are some facts that we as Patriots fans need to come to grips with:1. Pats got crushed in last three playoff games. Huge favorite in each game. Each game on homeneutral site. Outcoached in each game. Brady underperformed in each game. Took bizarre fourth-down risks in two of three games, neither of which paid off.2. Pats have a losing record in the playoffs since Weis and Crennel left.3. Pats should have made the Super Bowl three times in last five seasons. They blew 2006 AFC Championship Game, blew 2007 Super Bowl, blew this week. Instead, one Super Bowl and no wins.4. The Pats have the lowest payroll in the NFL (92 million; btw, the Jets payroll is 116 million).Who are we now? The Miami Dolphins of the 1990s with an over-the-hill, arrogant Don Shula. From 1990-95, Shula, another coaching "genius," had a great quarterback, had great regular seasons (59-37, four playoff births), but he was 3-4 in the playoffs and went to one AFC Championship game.Belichick is the coaching equivalent of Lawyer Malloy: his best days are behind him. Belichick needs to hire some real assistants who will help him against younger, more creative coaches and stand up to him when he gets too wacky. Otherwise, history will repeat itself.Sko

Disagree on the staff. I think we saw enough to let the Bill O'Brien and Matt Patricia grow more into the roles. The Marino comparison is an interesting one. Maybe it's unfair to say that Brady can't do it alone. Isn't is more accurate to say NO ONE can do it alone? I mean, Manning hasn't really done it. And Marino, arguably the greatest pure passer ever, didn't do it once.

Hey, Felger, You called out Randy Moss as soft, not mentally tough. What about Brady? When has Tom Brady put the Patriots on his back and willed them to a win in a big game, a meaningful game? If you want to look at the past glories, it was the other guys on the team who stepped up (Troy, etc.) and Tom was able to ride their coat-tails. Now that he's the man he can't do it. Did you see Brady ducking, seeing imaginary Jets about to sack him when no one was even there? He was overthinking so much. I was irritating. He wasn't instinctive. (His press conferences aren't even instinctive. If no for Belichick's pre-packaged clichs Brady wouldn't know what to say.) This bunch of Patriots reminds me of bullies. They jumped you. They need to be ahead to win. If a team punches them in the mouth and takes the lead, the Pats back down. They don't go toe-to-toe. When has this group mounted a come-from-behind win? Detroit on Thanksgiving and that's because the Lions started committing stupid penalties. ColleenBoston

Well, they also did it against Baltimore back in October, but you're point still applies. They didn't do it when it counted in the playoffs. Randy Moss or no Randy Moss, they still aren't equipped to win 21-17 playoff games.

Hi Mike, I know you might not want to hear this but I think its time for the "homers" around here to realize that Brady's playoff record is 4-5 in his last 9 games. These stats just tell me that Brady CAN NOT win a big game without a defense or videotape . . . The proof is in the pudding. TonyBoston

Ah, the Spygate thing. Until they win another ring, you Pats fans are going to have to put up with this.

Hey, Mike,I know you think you were the only one who thought the Jets had a shot. I'll admit I didn't until the Colts game, and I thought while the Pats would win that the Jets had something going. They are a better playoff team than regular-season team. Their style wins playoff games if you execute it right. The Pats had the blueprint for how you lose: 1) Turnovers, 2) stupid special teams calls, 3) weak defense when you needed it. The only way they could lose is if Brady had a bad game. Maybe Tom should have been watching film because the Jets ran the same defense they did against the Colts, dropping guys into coverage. It seemed like he lost it after the interception and never got it back. Kudos to Rex. No New England fan, including me, can call him a fraud or a fool. He's 4-1 in the playoffs and a great coach. Now he needs to go the distance to prove he's not Andy Reid.The Patriots better spend their offseason putting together a roster to beat this team. They ain't going anywhere. And Tom Terrific is 0-3 in his last three playoff games and two were at home and one was in a dome on a neutral field with the best offense in the league. It's been seven years since the last championship, and until the Patriots prove they can win a big playoff game you can no longer expect it. GeorgeWoburn

One equation that has to change by the time the next playoffs roll around is the sack disparity. Brady has been sacked 13 times over the past three postseason games while the Pats have managed just three all against Eli Manning in the Super Bowl. They haven't gotten a single one in the last two games. They didn't even register a hit against Sanchez. I will grant those bemoaning the talent issue that I agree on the pass-rushing front. The Pats just don't have those horses. But offensively, the Pats simply have to do more to get the ball out Brady's hands and keep him upright.

Felger,The Pats played in panic mode in first half. A fake punt in your own end only down 7-3? Then in second half no sense of urgency on last drive that mattered. Why no hurry up offense?BarryHyannis

Because the coaches had a bad day.

YOU'RE THE ONLY REASONABLE LOCAL MEDIA GUY THAT MIGHT HEAR ME OUT! PLEASE READ!!!We should have known the Pats were going to lose. We know better, or at least we knew better. Defense wins championships. Isn't that what we said when the Pats won it in '01 and '03 and '04? Peyton Manning had ALL the stats and the MVPs and we consistently beat him in the playoffs. Now the Pats are the Colts. Brady is breaking records and winning MVP's and losing in the playoffs. Not that it is his fault, he's playing against superior defenses. With a couple of RARE exceptions, the better defense wins in the playoffs. The Pats haven't won and won't win in the playoffs until they get a dominating defense again. They proved it in '07 and proved it again this year.I LOVE Tom Brady. But it is time to trade him. PLEASE Hear me out!TomDartmouth


FelgerDid the Patriots roster of mostly rookies, but good rookies, really effect our chances of a victory? Will next year really be the season to go all the way? Is Brady worried that he might not see another Super Bowl appearance?RichMethuen

I think the Pats were pointing to a window beginning in 2011 for some time. The 2010 season was simply a pleasant surprise. But if the Pats are going to make that jump, they need more than mere "development" from their young players on defense. They need someone to emerge as a tone-setter on that side of the ball or they have to go get one. Someone who talks it and walks it. There has been no heir to Lawyer Milloy and Rodney Harrison and I believe they need it.

Hey, Felger,Where has the Patriots creativity gone? I remember games during their championship years where they would start a game in the no-huddle offense. Where was that? And the fourth quarter lack of urgency was obvious. Press the issue! Change the game! This was easily the worst coached game of coach Billy B's career!!! KenWhitman

It's up there, no question . . . Oops, sorry. That's wrong. The Pats all together now just didn't have the talent. Belichick wrung every last ounce of it out of them in the game Sunday. It's amazing they only lost by seven.

Felgy,I sent you a long, drawn out e-mail regarding the NFL's labor situation that you declined to comment on in your mailbag. In short my argument was that the league, in time, will soon resemble the MLB. In 2009, your argument was the following: That the Jets' accumulation of top free agents and draft picks was evidence that the salary cap could be worked around. I remember debating you on 98.5 on this -- as a Patriots fan I thought the NFL has been stringent on payroll all along -- but you were absolutely right: "The cap has been crap" for quite some time. Here's the question, however: What are the long-term implications of a big market football team like New York behaving like a big-market team does in baseball? And that's not a "Yankees bought a championship" whine -- I just think that the Jets are clear proof that this league in transition. There's no way they'd be able to operate the same way during, say, '02. Moreover, isn't it interesting how during an uncapped year the final four teams are: Pittsburgh, Green Bay, New York, and Chicago? All big markets. Coincidence?Greg

Green Bay and Pittsburgh are two of the smallest markets in the league, so I'd chop that assessment in half if I were you. But the way the Jets built the roster is an absolute confirmation of what I used to argue about until I was blue in the face. The salary cap at least the one that existed starting around 2005 was nothing more than an ownership excuse. Over the last 5-6 years, any team has been able to sign just about any player they wanted for whatever they wanted. The "cap jail" that the Pats promised us would befall teams like the Jets and Colts never materialized.

Michael, You are lucky I don't come to your studio and kick your ass and believe me, I can! The N.E. Patriots fans and media are the worst hated in the country because of their elitist attitude. You feel that you are morally and intellectually superior then all the fans in the NFL. The best organization in football is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since 1970, they have probably made the playoffs 30 out of 40 years, have been in 15 AFC championship games and have won six Super Bowls. They do it the right way. They do it through the draft. They take players who fit the attitude of Pittsburgh, tough and blue collar. Unlike you, you pinky tea drinking wimp ass, Felger . . . Your skirt-wearing QB fell when he saw his own shadow and still complains to the refs when he gets a hang nail while Big Ben gets the snot kicked out of him with constant head shots and low knee shots that the refs don't call, and Ben doesn't even complain. He plays with a busted nose. Cowher won with O'Donnell, Stewart, Tomzcak and rookie QB in Big Ben. If Ben wins a third Super Bowl, that will make him 11-2 in the playoffs with a regular-season record and QB rating comparable to Manning and Brady. So Michael, you can take your arrogant, punk ass, elitist attitude and shove it up your arrrsse!!!! You are convicted cheaters, no way around it. Go Steelers,
Charlie GatsiosWorcester, MA

As any local media member can attest, these Steelers e-mails come fast and furious at times like these. Absolute Neanderthals. I have dozens more, but you get the point. Just thought I'd share one with you.

Felger, I would rather listen to Rex Ryan and the Jets players than you. Why don't you try to become a coach or manager on a pro team and see how long you last? You know so much about it.HarryLowell
I agree on your first point. As for becoming a coach or GM, it's obvious I have the skills to do it. But I'm having too much fun talking to you people, especially the folks from Pittsburgh. Besides, what would Mike in Attleboro do?

Felger's weekly column appears Mondays. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Streak reveals depth even Celtics didn't know they had

Streak reveals depth even Celtics didn't know they had

Coaches in all sports will tell you that winning is not easy.
Making the Celtics’ 16-game winning streak even more impressive is that a number of the victories have involved Boston turning to some unlikely sources of production.


And that has provided a glimpse into a franchise that’s getting the best of both worlds: quality play from its core group while developing reserves who have contributed to the team reeling off 16 straight wins in a variety of ways.
Because coach Brad Stevens has gone deeper into his bench this season than past years, it has created a roster with minutes more evenly distributed and with that, less wear and tear on the bodies of key players.
And while this team is led by Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, there has been at least one other Celtic to emerge as a top-three performer every night...and often it’s not the same player.
“Much more unpredictable now,” a league executive texted to NBC Sports Boston. “That number three guy, is it [Jaylen] Brown? [Jayson] Tatum? Sometimes it’s Marcus [Smart]. You don’t know who it’s going to be because a lot of times, I don’t think they [Celtics] know who it will be. It’s why they’re so good, man.”
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game in Miami with the Celtics trying to push their winning streak to 17:

It’s one thing for the home crowd to get into the ‘M-V-P’ chants when you’re at the free-throw line. But it’s a completely different matter when those same cheers are being heard on the road. That’s where Irving was following the 110-102 overtime win at Dallas, a game in which Irving dropped 47 points, 10 in overtime. It’ll be interesting to see if another strong game by Irving will lead to another serenading of ‘M-V-P’ chants for the most dominant player on the team with the league’s best record.

The streak is the talk of the NBA right now, but streaking was going to be part of the conversation leading up to tonight’s game regardless. The Celtics come into tonight’s game having won eight in a row over the Heat, their longest current winning streak over any team. Boston has dominated this matchup for years, posting a 70-44 record all-time against Miami in the regular season.

College basketball just kicked off and Duke is once again among the game’s top teams, a school that consistently produces NBA talent at a relatively high level. That’ll be very apparent tonight when you consider this Boston-Miami matchup features three players (Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum for Boston, Justise Winslow for Miami) from Duke who will all be in the starting lineup and a fourth (Boston’s Semi Ojeleye) who attended Duke but later transferred to SMU.

Every front-office executive has that one player they tried – and failed – to acquire that, in hindsight, not getting him was a really good thing. Winslow is that guy for the Celtics. While he hasn’t been necessarily a bust, his impact at this level hasn’t been enough to have warranted all the assets Boston was willing to part with on draft night in order to move up and select him. Still, he’s healthy now and starting to play better which is evident by his numbers in most offensive categories on the rise, while his defense has been relatively solid.

The Heat have made the 3-point shot a much bigger part of their offense this season, evident by Miami ranking seventh in the league in 3-point makes (11.2) this season. In Boston, one of the keys to their top-ranked defense has been their length, which has come in real handy defending the 3-pointer. In fact, Boston has limited opponents to just 32.1 percent shooting on 3’s this season, which ranks third in the league.



Gostkowski named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week


Gostkowski named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week

FOXBORO -- Stephen Gostkowski is almost 34 years old, but in Mexico City he provided a reminder that he's not slowing down in his 12th NFL season. 

After going four-for-four on field goals -- including a team-record 62-yarder, a 51-yarder and a 40-yarder -- and making all three of his extra points, Gostkowski was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the sixth time in his career. 

During a press conference on Wednesday, Bill Belichick explained that someone in Gostkowski's situation probably isn't improving at this point in his career. But if he's maintaining a strong level of play, that's OK. 

"I don’t know how much real improvement you’re going to see from a player that’s been in the league 12 or 20 years in a case like Adam [Vinatieri] or somebody like that," Belichick said. "But, if the level they’re performing at is pretty good, if they can maintain that, then that’s certainly enough to help the team.

"Are there things that a player can do better? Yeah, sure, there always are technique things. I think Steve has really improved in some of his alternative kicks on kickoffs, as an example, instead of just kicking every ball as far as he can. He’s done a great job of that. I’d say it’s maintaining the timing and the overall leg speed and technique that makes kickers good at their job."