Belichick gives high praise for Colts' Vinatieri


Belichick gives high praise for Colts' Vinatieri

FOXBORO -- Is Adam Vinatieri a Hall of Famer?

As the former Patriots kicker returns to Foxboro in his 17th NFL season, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked the question. And even though Belichick admitted to not really understand the Hall of Fame criteria, he did seem like he would put Vinatieri into the Hall if the choice was his.

"He's certainly one of the greatest kickers I've ever seen, since I've been in the league," said Belichick. "The longevity, the production, the performance of championships in big games. What more could he do? You know, what more could he do? Go out there and play wide receiver and catch a bunch of passes? What more could he do?"

Vinatieri spent 10 seasons with the Patriots and won three Super Bowls. Now with Indianapolis, he enters Sunday's game at Gillette Stadium having hit the most 50-plus yard field goals in a season in his career, with three through nine games.

So he's still got it.

"When Adam was here -- and I'm sure it's the same in Indianapolis -- he trained hard, worked hard, kept himself in good condition, had good overall strength, and certainly mental toughness and concentration, and all those things, technique," said Belichick. "He kicked the ball straight. I haven't seen any of that change too much. He might have lost a little bit of range, but, he's still making 50-yard kicks. I'm sure they're confident when they send him out there. And I can understand that."

As much as Belichick praised Vinatieri on Friday, he also made sure he expressed his confidence in his current kicker and Vinatier's replacement since he left: Stephen Gostkowski.

"Steve works hard, and he's been real consistent for us, since the first year he got here," said Belichick. "He's really pretty much the same guy every day. He doesn't get too up or too down. He's made a lot of big kicks for us. Not perfect, but he hasn't been too high in the highs or too low on the lows. He's been very consistent with his work ethic, his discipline, his ability to adapt to different snappers and holders over the course of his career. It's something you can't control as a kicker, but you have to work with. And he's done a good job of that. He hasn't let it affect him. What he controls is just his preparation."

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss


Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

NEW YORK -- It had the potential to be the most awkward celebration ever.

In the top of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, before their game was complete, the Red Sox became American League East champions, by virtue of one other division rival -- Baltimore -- coming back to beat another -- Toronto -- in the ninth inning.

That eliminated the Blue Jays from the division race, and made the Sox division champs.

But that ninth inning reversal of fortune was about to visit the Red Sox, too.

Craig Kimbrel faced four hitters and allowed a single and three straight walks, leading to a run. When, after 28 pitches, he couldn't get an out, he was lifted for Joe Kelly, who recorded one out, then yielded a walk-off grand slam to Mark Teixeira.

The Yankees celebrated wildly on the field, while the Red Sox trudged into the dugout, beset with mixed emotions.

Yes, they had just lost a game that seemed theirs. But they also had accomplished something that had taken 158 games.

What to do?

The Sox decided to drown their temporary sorrows in champagne.

"As soon as we got in here,'' said Jackie Bradley Jr., "we quickly got over it.''

From the top of the eighth until the start of the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox seemed headed in a conventional celebration.

A two-run, bases-loaded double by Mookie Betts and a wild pitch -- the latter enabling David Ortiz to slide into home and dislodge the ball from former teammate Tommy Layne's glove --- had given the Sox a 3-0 lead.

Koji Uehara worked around a walk to post a scoreless walk and after the top of the ninth, the Sox called on Craig Kimbrel, who had successfully closed out all but two save opportunities all season.

But Kimbrel quickly allowed a leadoff single to Brett Gardner and then began pitching as though he forgot how to throw strikes. Three straight walks resulted in a run in and the bases loaded.

Joe Kelly got an out, but then Teixeira, for the second time this week, produced a game-winning homer in the ninth. On Monday, he had homered in Toronto to turn a Blue Jays win into a loss, and now, here he was again.

It may have been a rather meaningless victory for the Yankees -- who remain barely alive for the wild card -- but it did prevent them the indignity of watching the Red Sox celebrate on their lawn.

Instead, the Sox wore the shame of the walk-off -- at least until they reached their clubhouse, where the partying began in earnest.

It had taken clubhouse attendants less than five minutes to cover the floor and lockers with plastic protective sheets. In a matter of a few more minutes, the air was filled with a mix of beer and bubbly.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski wore a goggles and only socks on his feet.

As the spray reached every inch of the clubhouse, David Ortiz exclaimed: "I'm going to drown in this man.''

Defeat? What defeat?