IT GOT SOMEWHAT LOST in the hype and excitement of Tom Brady playing against Aaron Rodgers on Sunday night with the whole world watching. But here’s the thing:
The Green Bay Packers aren’t very good.
And they’re injured.
And they had a key defensive cog kicked out of the game for no good reason.
Still, it was a game.
Brady finished strong and another Foxborough pretender was exposed — a team, by the way, that is 0-4 on the road. The Pats, en route to the AFC title game, won their sixth straight game.
As my buddy Jim Donaldson, formerly of the Providence Journal, pointed out: “Reminder: Those weren’t Vince Lombardi‘s @Packers who were in Foxboro last night. Not Brett Favre‘s Super Bowl champions, either. The Pack now is 3-4-1 this season and is winless in all four of its road games. A good win for @Patriots, no question. But not a big deal.”
Valid. And this one, put in the W column without Rob Gronkowski, was just like so many games on the New England schedule – like next week’s visit to Tennessee, where the Pats are early 7-point favorites to beat former Foxborough heroes Mike Vrabel and Malcolm Butler.
The following week brings the bye before a visit to the again-hapless Jets. Then comes an interesting home game against the Vikings. But realistically, the only game remaining on the schedule that looks like a potential loss is Dec. 16 at Pittsburgh. There’s a bunch of AFC ‘Least’ games in there as well.
The Pats, who have unveiled a new running threat in Cordarrelle Patterson, got better Monday with the signing of safety Obi Melifonwu. The feeling here is the defensive backfield is still an area of concern in terms of another Super Bowl. This reported move can only help.
New England coach Bill Belichick, after the game, on Patterson: “CP – he’s worked really hard with the ball-handling, the reads, but boy, he runs hard. He runs fast and he’s a hard guy to tackle, so he’s done a great job for us. He gave us some important carries and some big yards.
“He played in the backfield in Oakland. You could definitely see him running there. They had a package for him, so I saw that when we watched him before we traded for him in Oakland. He’s a versatile guy that can play receiver. He can certainly carry the ball, return kicks and also play in other areas in the kicking game, as well.
“He’s big, he’s fast, he’s tough and he competes well. With the ball in his hands, he’s pretty good. But yeah, we saw it. We saw enough of that, I would say, in Oakland to feel confident enough to – I mean, look, we thought we had good depth at running back and we did at one point in the year. Depth in August and depth in November are two different things. We have what we have now and hopefully that’ll improve, but we’ll see.”
Josh McDaniels, the offensive coordinator who backed out on the Colts at the last minute to stay in New England as the coach in waiting, is now reportedly open to listening to other teams. Is he getting the feeling Belichick isn’t going anywhere?
Brady, appearing on his regular WEEI weekly radio spot Monday, said, “You can ask that to Josh. Josh will have as much opportunity as anyone out there because he’s the best in the league at what he does. Everyone is going to want that. I know the Patriots want him coaching for us. He’s under contract with our team for a long time and that is a great thing for the Patriots.”
Sunday night’s game had eyes, Chad Finn of the Boston Globe noted: “Per NBC, Patriots-Packers delivered the best Week 9 overnight rating in the 13-year history of SNF with a 15.6 rating/26 share. In Boston, game got a 37.9/59.”
Rodgers on Brady going over 80,000 yards, the most yards amassed by anyone in the NFL, counting postseason, Sunday night: “If you play long enough and you have the sustained greatness that Tom has had, there’s going to be a lot of records that go down. He’s had an incredible career, been the gold standard at quarterback for the better part of two decades and he’s a great player.”
London Fletcher, who played against both Brady and Rodgers, said Sunday: “Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all-time, and he’s also the best quarterback playing today.”
Not a good look
We know how Belichick feels about the authority of the NFL. We also know Belichick is very much a supporter of our military. But it still looks bad when the entire NFL is decked out in camouflage and there’s Bill wearing blue.
Is there any difference between Belichick defying the league and players, many of whom come from military families, taking a knee? Optics-wise we mean. It would have been so cool to have seen him in camo – and would have capped off a tribute night that again showed what the troops mean to him.
Keeping with this theme, another bad look was Brad Marchand‘s latest bit of embarrassing behavior on the ice. One of the better players in the National Hockey League has always had this knack of doing something stupid which hurts his image and his team. He did it again Saturday night.
His theatrics, after Colton Sissons faked his way into a Marchand penalty, cost Marchand and the Bruins, a hockey team looking for ways to score goals, without Marchand for 14 minutes. It was just another example of a player thinking (or not thinking?) of himself instead of the team.
The Bruins lost 1-0, getting shut out for the second time in three games, the third time this young season.
NESN announcer Jack Edwards, love him or hate him (and his theatrics), but one thing you have to say: he loves and knows the game he calls. Always has, always will. That’s what made it surprising to hear him say the Predators could call a timeout after icing the puck in the final minute of Saturday night’s game – something you can no longer do in the NHL.
Gold Glove winners
Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and soon-to-be-former Red Sox second baseman Ian Kinsler were named Gold Glove winners Sunday – Betts winning his third in a row and Bradley his first.
Adam Jones of 98.5 The Sports Hub tweeted: “All it took for JBJ to win the Gold Glove was for (Kevin) Kiermaier to get hurt, (Kevin) Pillar to have a down year, (Lorenzo) Cain to switch leagues and (Leonys) Martin to basically die. Congrats, I guess?”
This is not to denigrate Bradley as a center fielder but as I’ve been saying all along, this is an era of outstanding players at the position. He didn’t mention Mike Trout.
JBJ is a GREAT center fielder. But so are the other guys mentioned above.
Chris Smith of MassLive thinks the Red Sox can actually be better with either Ryan Brasier or Matt Barnes as the Sox closer in 2019 – after Craig Kimbrel leaves and the Sox pick up a compensation draft pick. Interesting thought – and with this crazy era of the reliever it’s something to keep an eye on going forward.
“They are not Craig Kimbrel at this point of their careers,” Dave Dombrowski said. “But I don’t think we’d go into closer-by-committee approach. So if it wasn’t Craig, it would be either them or we’d have to see what other alternatives existed outside of the organization.”
Outstanding and heartwarming Alex Cora/Sox visit to Puerto Rico – before coming back to visit Foxborough.
WBZ’s Dan Roche points out Cora was the 29th-highest-paid manager in 2019 – that he made an insulting salary of $800,000. That disgusting figure makes the job he did going all the way even more impressive, and, as Roche pointed out, the number should be adjusted going forward.
Chestnut Hill primetime
College Game Day is coming to Boston College Saturday for the game between No. 17 Boston College and No. 2 Clemson. The game is on ABC at 8 p.m.
Tweeted BC star AJ Dillon: “Still remember people laughing saying “why BC” when (I) committed. Trust in the process, we aren’t done yet!”
The Eagles are 7-2 – but Vegas has Clemson as a 17½-point favorite to stay undefeated.
The Celtics opened their five-game road trip with a tough last-second loss at Indiana Saturday night.
“Everywhere we go, it’s like they won the championship against us, the way the fans celebrate, the way they celebrate,” said Kyrie Irving.
Lee Smith is on the list of 10 names released Monday eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame on the Game Era ballot this offseason. George Steinbrenner heads a list that includes Albert Belle, Lou Piniella, Harold Baines, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson and Charlie Manuel. The vote is Dec. 9 at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.
Finally, Belichick Monday on Vrabel: “I’m very fortunate to have had a great relationship with Mike through the years when he played and then when he stopped playing and went into coaching, starting at Ohio State and continued on to the Texans and now in Tennessee. Mike has a lot of great qualities as a person and that translates into being a good coach, but he works hard.
“He’s physically very tough and has a great passion for the game. I think you saw that in his playing, saw it in his coaching and (he) has a lot of experience. He’s very astute and picks things up quickly. He works hard, but has a good aptitude for football. I think the game comes fairly easily to him in terms of understanding concepts and situations and things like that. He was a great player here, one that hopefully will be recognized into the Patriots Hall of Fame. I certainly think he deserves to be there. He’s got a great coaching career. He’s already established it but continues to build on it. Yeah, he’s one of the best; the best we’ve ever had.”