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Tag:New England Patriots
Posted on: January 28, 2012 10:54 am
 

Ochocinco leans on T.O., Moss for support

Ochocinco on the 2011 season: 'I bought into the Patriot Way, and it paid off.' (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

Chad Ochocinco is the forgotten man in New England's offense. Acquired just before training camp, the former Bengals Pro Bowler was supposed to provide Tom Brady something he lacked since Randy Moss was shipped out of town a month into the 2010 season: a deep threat.

Ochocinco, in theory, would've been the final piece to a multi-dimensional passing offense that included two of the league's best tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and the precision route-running of Wes Welker. Instead, Ochocinco, who finished the regular season with 15 receptions and one touchdown, played just one snap in the Patriots' Divisional playoff win over the Broncos and was inactive last week against the Ravens.

On Friday, Ochocinco spoke with the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian. Despite the lack of production this season, he said that he'd love to return to New England in 2012. But first things first: how has he coped with one of the toughest years of his NFL life? Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.

“For me, those guys were my outlets. Not Twitter,” he said. “To have those two guys in my corner, I talk to them all the time. (Moss) keeps me sane for 16 weeks, every week. Every week we talked. T.O., too. We’re close-knit, us so-called diva receivers. Who is going to understand what I’m talking about, or going through, from my standpoint? Not Bill (Belichick), not Tom (Brady). It’s like having my own personal support group. I love those two, man. I didn’t want to burden anyone else in here with that bull. They don’t want to hear that.”

There are countless theories for why Ochocinco's productivity tok a nosedive this season. One is that he's struggled to learn the Patriots' offense after spending 10 years in Cincinnati.

“Anything is different, when you’ve come from something you’re used to for so long. It’s like being married,” he said. “If I’m married to Halle Berry for 10 years, and her and I break up, and I marry Scarlett Johansson, there are going to be some things I have to adjust to based off what I’m used to. That’s just the way life is in general. What I was able to do was come in here and keep on working.”

So is Carson Palmer Halle Berry in this analogy? (Personally, we had him pegged for someone like Jennifer Garner: relevant seven or eight years ago before disappearing to have kids only to resurface in a promising situation. And, yes, the movie title is intentional.) And while Johannson's no slouch, Ochocinco has to go with Gisele Bündchen as his new wife, as a metaphor for his relationship with Tom Brady, right?

Either way, he says there's nothing bittersweet about finally making it to the Super Bowl despite having little to do with helping the Patriots get there.

“There’s a competitive side to me that is angry, the competitive nature in me that it didn’t go the way it normally has," Ochocinco said. "I routinely produce a certain way every year. So when that routine goes astray like it did this year, it feels funny. It’s something I had to get used to. But I took it in stride. I did everything I was asked on and off the field. I didn’t become disgruntled, as I’ve done in the past. When I want the ball, I’ve let it be known I want the ball. I didn’t do any of those things (this season). I bought into the Patriot Way, and it paid off. Maybe not the way everybody thought it would. I don’t know.

“Sometimes you work at something, and you don’t always get the results," he added. "Some people quit, some people keep grinding. I’m one of those who keeps grinding. And that’s it.”

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Posted on: January 27, 2012 5:08 pm
 

Barack Obama's Super Bowl pick: 'I canít call it'

Barack Obama can't make a Super Bowl pick. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

One of the enjoyable things about Barack Obama's presidency (for us anyway) is that he's a big sports fan. (Certainly a bigger fan than his VP anyway.) Barry knows a thing or two about the sports world and he's not afraid to make picks, fill out brackets, whatever.

Except for Super Bowl XLVI, which simply has Obama perplexed.

"I can’t call it. I can’t call it," Obama said in an interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC News. "When the Bears are not involved, I can’t make predictions because I will get into trouble. But both are great teams. Brady obviously one of the best quarterbacks we’ve ever seen. Eli Manning playing as well as he’s ever played, and it’s going to be a fun Super Bowl."

Obama's right. It will be a fun Super Bowl. And there probably won't be any mentions of the first time Brady and Manning played.

The reality is, this is a good one to stay away from. All our experts believe the Giants will win. But that means we're inherently betting against Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. That makes little sense.

Of course, for Obama it would probably mean he hates the Patriots and therefore hates America. Or something. And although we could look at his recent visit to the University of Michigan as a clear-cut sign that he's backing Brady, the more logical explanation here is that's it an election year, and the choice between making a) the state of New York mad or b) the rest of New England mad, well, it's a lose-lose proposition.

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Posted on: January 26, 2012 12:30 pm
 

Belichick: Gronkowski won't practice today

GronkowskiBy Josh Katzowitz

While the Patriots insist Rob Gronkowski’s ankle -- injured when he was tackled awkwardly by Bernard Pollard in the third quarter of the AFC title game -- will allow him to play in the Super Bowl, Bill Belichick told reporters Gronkowski will miss practice today.

“He’s not going to practice today, take it day by day,” Belichick said via the Boston Herald. “Not going to try to forecast where things will be 10 days from now. Take it day by day.”

Belichick, when asked how Gronkowski’s ankle was progressing, he proclaimed it was “good, good.”

At this point, there doesn’t seem to be much concern on the part of the Patriots, and really, the fact Gronkowski isn’t practicing 10 days before the Super Bowl isn’t a big deal. If he’s still not practicing a week from now, OK, Patriots fans will be allowed to feel some concern. Until then, Gronkowski would make more news by actually practicing than not.

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Posted on: January 24, 2012 4:57 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 10:08 pm
 

You decide: Best Super Bowl game-winning finishes

All right, who ya got? (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

We have approximately 290 hours to fill between now and the kickoff for Super Bowl XLVI. Which means that we'll cover every conceivable storyline, probably multiple times, just to make sure you don't miss anything. But before we look ahead, let's take a look back and some of the best finishes in Super Bowl history.

Super Bowl XXIII, Bengals-49ers

Super Bowl XXXVI, Patriots-Rams

Super Bowl XXXVIII, Panthers-Patriots

Super Bowl XLIII, Steelers-Cardinals


And, of course (don't call it a rematch!)…

Super Bowl XLII, Giants-Patriots


Feel free to vote for your favorite finish in the poll below or let us know what you think in the comments.


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Posted on: January 24, 2012 9:00 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 11:51 am
 

Giants-Patriots is a SB XLII rematch in name only

The uniforms are the same but these two teams most definitely are not. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

The more things change, the more things … change. The uniforms may be the same but four years later, the Giants and Patriots are different teams who, after 20 weeks, find themselves in a familiar position: about to face off in a Super Bowl. Four years ago, in the fortnight leading up to their first encounter in February 2008, the storylines were some variation of: "New England will absolutely obliterate New York."

Predictable, sure. But in much the same way gravity is predictable. Except that night the Giants had no use for immutable laws of nature. (Evidenced nicely by David Tyree's physics-defying grab that set up the winning touchdown.)


The Patriots' offensive firepower led by Brady and Randy Moss didn't matter. And neither did did the Spygate soap opera which served to galvanize the team earlier in the year and perpetuate the "us vs. them" mentality that gave guys like Rodney Harrison Tony Robbins-like purpose. (Harrison was known almost as much for his reliance on the "no respect for motivational purposes" shtick as he was for his tenacious, sometimes dirty style.)

This time will be different. Or least that's the thinking going in. The head coaches and quarterbacks are the same, but Eli Manning has matured and the Patriots' defense has regressed. The difference in talent between these two clubs that was once measured in miles is now better gauged in yards.

Put differently: it only seems like we've already seen this movie.

So before we take a look ahead, we thought it made sense to first take a look back.

The Rosters

The Giants head to Indianapolis with 16 players (nine starters) from the Super Bowl XLII-winning squad. The Patriots, meanwhile, have just seven players (five starters) remaining. You can view the 2007 rosters for both teams below; the players in red are still with their respective teams.



The takeaway from the list above: only one defensive player from Super Bowl XLII remains on the Patriots' roster. Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, Asante Samuel -- all either retired or playing elsewhere -- and just Vince Wilfork, the team's 2004 first-round pick, is left. (Granted, Wilfork saved the best game of his career for last Sunday's AFC Championship matchup against the Ravens, which is timely.)

During the '07 regular season, the Patriots defense ranked 12th in league (fifth against the pass, 21st against the run), according to Football Outsiders. Four years later, and their travails have been well documented (30th overall, 28th pass, 28th run).

The one name that has remained constant: Tom Brady. He doesn't have Randy Moss but he doesn't need him. The offensive may not be as explosive without Moss but it's much more dynamic with Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

On the surface, the 2011 Giants don't seem much different from the 2007 version. They won nine games this season (with 30 percent of the personnel from the Super Bowl XL roster), nine in '07; ranked 12th in team efficiency this time around versus 16th four years ago. But the similarities end there because like Brady in New England, Eli Manning has everything to do with the Giants' recent success.

For almost the entire '07 season, Manning was one of the league's most inconsistent quarterbacks. He ranked 38th in total value among NFL QBs, sandwiched between the likes of Brian Griese and Chet Lemon. Now Manning's fifth behind Brees, Rodgers, Brady, Romo and Stafford. That, more than anything else New York has done this season, is the reason they're playing one more game.

In Super Bowl XLII, the Giants had no expectations. In Super Bowl XLVI there will be plenty. And the question goes from "Can this team avoid embarrassing itself in front of a worldwide audience?" to "Can they play up to their potential and win this thing?"

Pregame Hype: A Look Back

Given these two offenses -- one record-breaking, the other aimless for much of the season -- it wasn't surprising that the Giants were getting Washington Generals-type odds to win this game.

Then:
the Patriots opened as 13.5-point favorites, according to Las Vegas. Five weeks before, in Week 17, New England was favored by 13 to beat the Giants in New York. Instead, the Pats needed a fourth-quarter comeback to eke out the 38-35 victory. (Now: the line opened Sunday with New England favored by a more modest 3.5 points.)

Then: AccuScore ran 10,000 simulations of the Giants-Patriots matchup and gave New York a 25 percent chance of winning. Sounds high -- Manning could throw that middle-of-the-field-Hail Mary to Tyree 100 times and Tyree comes down with it once. Tyree, it turns out, has impeccable timing.

Then: Cold Hard Football Facts called it the "mismatch of the century," complete with subheadings breaking down each individual mismatch ("on offense," "at quarterback," etc…).

Football Outsiders was less definitive, writing that "Most likely, the Giants won't pull a shocking upset like the 2001 Patriots, and they won't get blown off the field like the 1985 Patriots. Instead, they'll end up like a third team from New England's Super Bowl past: the 1996 Patriots, a good team outclassed by a great team. … (The 2007) Patriots will probably dispatch the Giants in a similar fashion, completing their historic 19-0 season. Not definitely. Just probably."

Then: CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco was one of the few national voices to pick the Giants. You don't even have to look it up because we've done it for you:


"I like the +11.5," Prisco said. "I think the Giants -- not only will they cover the number, they may win the game. … I think the Giants could definitely win the football game."

Then: Princess the camel (yep, you read that right -- the terrestrial counterpart to Paul the Octopus) also picked the Giants to win.

"I can't explain it, but her predictions, more often than not, are right on the money," said John Bergmann, general manager of Popcorn Park Zoo where Princess has lived since 2004. "I'm hoping she's right this time because I'm a Giants fan."

Turned out, Princess had a thing for the Mannings more so than the Giants; she picked Peyton and the Colts to win the year before. (Then again, maybe she'd seen then-Bears quarterback Rex Grossman play.)

From the ridiculous to the sublime…

Then: Another national columnist driving the Giants' bandwagon: Dr. Z. He admitted that picking New York was an opportunity to right a past wrong, when he picked the Colts to beat the Jets in Super Bowl III even though he had a feeling New York, 19-point underdogs by kickoff, had a chance to pull the upset. Forty years later, Dr. Z wasn't going to make the same mistake. Here's what he wrote on January 22, 2008:

"And gradually it dawned on me, as I toured the (Giants) locker room (after their NFC Championship game win over the Packers), picking up a quote here and there -- there isn't a way to stop Brady and Welker and Moss and Faulk and Maroney ... the whole riotous bunch. A team just has to be tougher, more resilient, more able to sustain high-level pressure on both sides of the ball for a longer period. And I honestly feel that the Giants can do it. Just look at what this improbable team has done so far."

And that's exactly how it played out.

Now: We mentioned above that the Patriots' defense has just one player from the last Super Bowl team. But much like the Giants' offense during the 2007 season, New England's D has come on of late. But will it be enough?

From CBSSports.com's Clark Judge: No team went to a Super Bowl with a defense ranked lower than 25th. Now you have the league's 27th-ranked unit (the Giants) and its 31st-ranked defense (New England), but, just a hunch, defense makes the difference in Indianapolis. It did when these two met in Super Bowl XLII, with the Giants sacking Tom Brady five times and holding the league's highest-scoring offense to 14 points.


The NY Giants and Patriots will face off in the Super Bowl once again. NFL on CBS analyst Solomon Wilcots joins the Tim Brando Show to discuss how the rematch will play out.

Now:
There used to be a time when you were never certain if Good Eli or Bad Eli would show up from one week to the next, one quarter to the next, and sometimes, one play to the next. Manning has transformed into one of the league's most consistent quarterbacks and now he has a chance to double up his older brother on total Super Bowl rings.

From Prisco's most recent column on Eli's evolution: "it all starts with Manning. He's no longer another star's little brother hoping to become special. He's arrived, which is what's so different from 2007. 'You're right there,' head coach Tom Coughlin said in the locker room late Sunday night (after the win over the 49ers). 'It is Eli. He is special now. He's the biggest difference between the two teams.'

Now: And that leads us to this, from colleague Will Brinson who wrote Sunday about two ancillary storylines could morph into something much larger should the Giants win: Is Eli 1) better than his brother and 2) now in the same class as Brady? 

The Game: What Happened

Obviously, you know exactly what happened. And depending on your perspective, you'll either take great joy in reliving the Super Bowl XLII memories or, as Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Monday, choosing instead to forget it ever happened.

"I’ve never been able to watch it," he said (via ESPN.com), echoing remarks made by quarterback Tom Brady earlier in the day. "I do remember the end of the game, a ball going through our cornerback’s hands [Asante Samuel] that if he had caught that ball and it hadn’t gone through his hands, we would have been able to take a knee and we would have won the game.

"And, you know, that Eli [Manning] doing a great job escaping from that pile of guys that we had on him, and whether the whistle blows and the great catch and all these things. In the end, there are a lot of little things. That was a great game, that was a great team, and we’re looking forward to having the privilege of going to Indianapolis."


Michael Strahan: excited about Super Bowl XLII's outcome.

As for what will happen … well, we'll find out shortly. And if you can't wait, we know a camel...

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Posted on: January 23, 2012 10:05 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 10:13 pm
 

Suggs, Kluwe defend Cundiff, take aim at Bayless

Suggs and Kluwe have no time for silliness. (US PRESSWIRE/Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

ESPN First Take co-host Skip Bayless is known for many things: unconditional faith in Tebowmania, contrarian viewpoints, and TALKING IN A VERY LOUD VOICE when making his case. 

Shortly after Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff honked what would've been the game-tying field goal in the AFC Championship game against the Patriots, Bayless tweeted this:

RealSkipBayless
Honestly, I felt sorry for Suggs/Ray/EReed. Fought guts out, lost b/c a nonplayer missed easy kick. WHY I HATE FG KICKING. Ban it!
1/22/12 6:31 PM

Doing away with kickers is a predictably tired argument that pops up every time a game is lost on a botched field-goal attempt. 

On Monday, Cundiff's teammate, linebacker Terrell Suggs, called into First Take to talk about what transpired in Foxboro the night before. Bayless asked Suggs if the confusion leading up to Cundiff's missed kick was because the Patriots were beneficiaries of "home cooking" from the officials.

Suggs was having none of it. In much the same way a grizzled parent dismisses their unruly kid begging for attention, an unemotional Suggs kindly asked Bayless to join him back on Earth.

“Stop that. I know what you’re doing,” Suggs said, chastising Bayless. “Once again, stop it. Be an analyst. Don’t be a d-----bag. You know what I meant.”

(You can watch Suggs calmly put Bayless in his place here.)

A great moment in unintentional comedy, for sure. But it gets better.

Vikings punter Chris Kluwe weighed in on Bayless' "I hate FG kicking...ban it" tweet. (If you're not familiar with Kluwe's work, he's not your typically mild-manndered punter. He has opinions on matters outside football, is smart, and wickedly funny. In short: he's somebody you want to keep on your good side. Just ask former NFL wide receiver Nate Jackson.)

After Suggs scolded Bayless for his over-the-top schtick, Kluwe piled on via Twitter:

ChrisWarcraft
Couldn't have said it better myself. T. Suggs to Bayless on First Take: "Skip, be an analyst. Don't be a d-----bag." #wordsofwisdom
1/23/12 1:21 PM

And this, a few hours later...

ChrisWarcraft
I'm confused @RealSkipBayless. After Super Bowl XXXVI, you wrote that Vinatieri should be in the HoF. But now kickers are non-players?
1/23/12 6:09 PM

ChrisWarcraft
How is Adam going to make it to the Hall of Fame if you abolish his position @RealSkipBayless?! YOUR WORDS MAKE MY BRAIN ASPLODE #factssuck
1/23/12 6:10 PM

So, yes, don't make Kluwe angry. You won't like him when he's angry. The NFL can confirm this (Kluwe has taken great pleasure in mocking the league for, among other things, using season-ending injuries to promote fantasy football and their wishy-washy rules on injuries, fake or otherwise.)

Bayless has yet to respond to Kluwe.

Meanwhile, SportsIllustrated.com's Richard Deitsch, who follows the media closely as part of his day job, offered this frank assessment Monday afternoon:

richarddeitsch
ESPN execs have no idea how badly Bayless's flotsam reflects on its network & those at ESPN trying to do good work.
1/23/12 1:56 PM

via Shutdown Corner 


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Posted on: January 23, 2012 9:18 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 9:20 pm
 

Scoreboard mistake caused Cundiff to rush kick?

Cundiff isn't making excuses but admits there was confusion on the sidelines Sunday. (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

Not long after kicker Billy Cundiff pull-hooked a 32-yard field-goal attempt that would've likely sent the Ravens and Patriots to overtime, we wondered why Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh didn't use the team's last timeout. He said it never occurred to him, even though Cundiff was clearly rushed as he set up for a pretty important kick. By the time the ball was finally snapped, there was just one second remaining on the play clock.

A day later, there were reports that Cundiff "wasn't paying attention" which, frankly, seemed ludicrous.

Stefan Fatsis, who wrote a book on his summer as a training-camp kicker for the Broncos, spoke Monday with Cundiff who explained exactly what happened on that final, fateful play.


Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left that would have sent the game into overtime, and instead sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl. 

Like most kickers, Cundiff has a routine on every drive that starts on first down and ends on fourth down, either with him on the field attempting a field goal or with the Ravens' punting. As he explained to Fatsis, because NFL sidelines are a crowded place, it's easiest to follow the action by watching it live on the stadium scoreboard. Except on the Ravens' final drive Sunday, the scoreboard read third down when, in reality, it was fourth down. Fatsis explains:

"Then, suddenly, chaos on the sidelines. Coaches were screaming — from the opposite end of the field to where Cundiff was thinking his third-down pre-kick kicker thoughts — for the field-goal unit. The play clock was ticking and Cundiff, as per normal, was back from the sideline and farther from the line of scrimmage than his teammates. As he was not expecting to go in yet, he had to run to get into position for a game-tying kick."

The confusion stemmed from an Anquan Boldin catch-and-fumble that was mistaken for a first down. (Boldin had fumbled the ball forward past the first-down marker. The rules state the ball must be returned to the spot of the fumble, which is what happened.)

According to the Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel, "[Terrell] Suggs said there was a discrepancy between the scoreboard at Gillette Stadium and what the officials were saying about what the down and distance was after Boldin’s fumble. The Ravens took shots at the end zone on 2nd-and-1 and 3rd-and-1 before bringing out Cundiff for a 32-yard field goal attempt."

The problem: what was actually second and third down on the field was shown on the scoreboard as first and second down, respectively. Hence Cundiff's confusion and the subsequent scrambling to get the kick off.

Which again raises the question: why didn't Harbaugh call timeout.

It doesn't matter now, of course. Cundiff, to his credit, isn't looking to shirk the blame. And his teammates, to a man, have his back.

"Every single guy who said something to me after the game, in the locker room, or on the plane" was supportive, Cundiff told Fatsis, including Harbaugh.

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Posted on: January 23, 2012 3:51 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 4:01 pm
 

Paterno almost took Patriots job in 1973

Paterno didn't take the New England job (Newspaperarchives.com).

By Josh Katzowitz

As we try to wrap our heads around the flip-flop University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly has pulled in the past 24 hours and the death of Joe Paterno, all of that reminded Sports Illustrated’s Peter King about a flip-flop perpetrated by the longtime Penn State coach almost 30 years ago.

After turning down a chance to coach the Steelers in 1969*, which led Pittsburgh to hire legend Chuck Noll, Paterno -- who also was a target for the Packers after he turned down the Steelers -- was offered the Patriots job in 1973. And he accepted it before eventually changing his mind and returning to Happy Valley, because, as King writes, “he reportedly was skittish over the shaky ownership and management of the team.”

As I looked at some old newspapers from January 1973, it’s interesting to read what happened between Paterno and the Patriots.

After leading the Nittany Lions to a 10-1 season in 1972, the Patriots offered Paterno a package worth $1.25 million over five years if he would take over the coaching and general manager duties in New England. He also would have been awarded stock in the team. After Penn State lost to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, he and Patriots president Billy Sullivan met for two days in New Orleans.

The one who didn’t want Paterno to take the job? His wife, Sue, who said she liked living in State College too much to leave.

At the time, Paterno -- who made about $30,000 a year -- said the offer “was as good as anyone was able to get out of professional football. Mr. Sullivan was disappointed but he agreed that what was best for me was best for the Patriots if pro football was not what I wanted.” Somehow, Chuck Fairbanks was not as sexy a hire.

As King writes, that didn’t discourage the Patriots from trying to hire Paterno again in 1982. But he turned down the job again, and that was it for NFL teams trying to convince Paterno to leave Penn State.

"The fact that I'm just not a football coach and a businessman is because of Penn State's approach to athletics, within the entire framework of the university," Paterno said in 1973. "I have had an opportunity to work with young people and have an influence on their lives. I think that was an overriding factor in my decision -- the fact that it is such a healthy atmosphere."

It’s unfortunate that when Paterno was ultimately fired from his job -- whether you believe Paterno shared blame in the Jerry Sandusky controversy -- the atmosphere in Happy Valley has been anything but healthy.

*If you want more info on the Steelers offering Paterno their job in 1969, click on this post provided by CBSSports.com's Ryan Wilson.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com