Gronkowski sets TE record with three straight 10-plus TD seasons

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Gronkowski sets TE record with three straight 10-plus TD seasons

FOXBORO -- Before leaving Sunday's game last in the fourth quarter with what was later determined to be a broken forearm, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski made NFL history in a 59-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Gronkowski became the first tight end in NFL history to have three-straight, 10-plus touchdown seasons. He finished the game with seven receptions for a game-high 137 receiving yards, and two touchdowns.

His first touchdown of the game came on New England's opening drive, which resulted in a four-yard touchdown reception by Gronkowski, which tied the game at 7-7.

But it was Gronkowski's second touchdown reception of the game -- a 24-yard catch in the third quarter -- which pushed his 2012 season totals to 10 touchdowns for the third straight season.

"Hes a tough matchup for everybody, not just us," said Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians after the game. "So, yeah, youve got your work cut out for you if it is your job covering him. And Tom Brady knows where to put the ball on him when youve got good coverage. I mean, Antoine Bethea had great coverage on him one time and it was a perfect throw and a good catch. Theres nothing else you can do. Just line up and play the next down."

"He is such a big body and fluid receiver," said Colts safety Tom Zbikowski. "It's not like he is going to burn you with his speed, but he finds a way to get open every time. And they also have a pretty good quarterback that can put it where he needs to put it."

That quarterback was asked after the game why Gronkowski doesn't get double-teamed more often on Sundays.

"Well, they try," said Tom Brady. "I think its definitely something they try. Its just hard because do you want to blitz? Do you not want to blitz? When you're a tight end, you're really in the inside part of the field and you can run basically anywhere you want. Its not like youre an outside receiver where your route has to complement other peoples routes. As a tight end, you can go to the right, left, deep, short; you can really do whatever you want. And the more guys you put on them, the less there are on Wes Welker, the less guys you have rushing, the less on Brandon Lloyd, Julian Edelman. Thats why it's team football."

Gronkowski also became the third Patriots player to record three consecutive 10-plus touchdown seasons, joining Randy Moss and Corey Dillon.

"Rob does a great job for us, blocking, receiving, third down, red area," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick after the game. "Hes a good player."

That's something the Patriots knew well before Sunday's win over the Colts.

Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

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Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

A day after the Bruins announced a much-maligned four-year contract extension for defenseman Kevan Miller, B’s general manager Don Sweeney held court with the media to equal parts explain/defend the $10 million deal. Sweeney pointed to the very high character of a hardnosed player in Miller, and the relatively low mileage given that he’s played only 159 games at the NHL level.

There was also mention made of the room to grow in Miller’s game, though it’s difficult to imagine a much higher ceiling for a 28-year-old player than what the former UVM produced showed in 71 games last season.

“Kevan brings incredible character. His signing provides us with the necessary depth on our defense that all teams need. His relative low-mileage, having just played 160 games, we identified that we think Kevan has room for continued growth and development,” said Sweeney. “We certainly saw that in his play this year when he had an expanded role. Relative to the free market place, very, very comfortable with where Kevan fits into our group, and this provides us with the opportunity to explore the marketplace in every way, shape, or form, in having Kevan signed.”

Here’s the reality: Miller is a 5-6, bottom pairing defenseman on a good team, and a top-4 defenseman on a team like last year’s Bruins that finished a weak 19th in the league in goals allowed. The five goals and 18 points last season were solid career-high numbers for a player in the middle of his hockey prime, but he barely averaged 19 minutes of ice time per game as a front top-4 defenseman. Miller struggles with some of the fundamental needs in today’s NHL if you’re going to be a top-4 D-man: the tape-to-tape passes aren’t always accurate, there’s intermittent difficulty cleanly breaking the puck out of the defensive zone and Miller was exploited by the other team’s best players when paired with Zdeno Chara at points last season.

Certainly Miller has done some good things racking up a plus-55 rating during his three years in Boston, but executives and officials around the league were a bit surprised by the 4-year, $10 million contract extension. It’s viewed as a slight overpay in terms of both salary and term, but it’s more the redundancy of the contract that’s befuddling to some.

“Miller is certainly a rugged guy, but you already had one of those at roughly the same value in Adam McQuaid. I believe that you can’t win if you have both McQuaid and Miller in your top 6 because they are both No. 6 D’s in my mind,” said a rival NHL front office executive polled about the Miller contract. “You look at the playoffs and the direction that the league is headed in, and you need to have big, mobile defenseman that can quickly move the puck up the ice. You have too much of the same thing with Miller and McQuaid, and I think you can’t win with that in this day and age.”

The one facet of the four year Miller contract that might make it okay for some Bruins fans: the tacit connection to the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes. According to several sources around the league, the Bruins taking care of Miller now will very likely have a positive impact on their chances of landing Vesey when he becomes a free agent on Aug. 15, and makes them the front-runner for the Harvard standout’s services. Both Miller and Vesey are represented by the same agent in Peter Fish, and those are the kinds of behind-the-scenes connections that many times factor into free agent signings and trades around the NHL.

So many, this humble hockey writer included, may owe Sweeney a slight apology if paying a $10 million premium for a bottom-pairing defenseman in Miller now pays dividends in landing a stud forward like Vesey that’s drawing interest all around the league.

First impressions from Red Sox' 10-3 win over Rockies

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First impressions from Red Sox' 10-3 win over Rockies

BOSTON- First impressions from the Red Sox' 10-3 win over Colorado:

 

Steven Wright is the very picture of consistency.

In nine starts this season, Wright has pitched at least six innings and allowed two earned runs or fewer eight times. In the one start in which he failed to do so, he was pitching in a mini-monsoon and unable to properly grip his signature pitch.

On Wednesday, he battled some early-inning wildness with the knuckler, resulting in two wild pitches and four passed balls, but eventually settled down.

His 4-4 mark hardly represents how well he's pitched. A more telling stat is the 60 2/3 innings he's pitched in nine outings, just shy of seven per game.

 

It could be a costly night for injuries.

Ryan Hanigan left the game after 2 1/2 innings because of illness. Dustin Pedroia came out in the fifth as a precaution after experiencing some tightness in his right hamstring. And Xander Bogaerts jammed his thumb in the eighth.

Let's assume that Hanigan's illness is a temporary thing, and since Bogaerts remained in the game, that, too, seemed minor.

But the Pedroia hamstring is potentially a red flag, since it was that same hamstring that sidelined him for almost half of last season.

 

For the past 19 home games, the Red Sox have averaged more than eight runs per game.

Nineteen games isn't exactly a small sample size. In fact, it's almost exactly one-quarter of the home schedule. To average more than eight runs per game over that long a stretch, covering parts of three different homestands, is pretty remarkable.

 

Blake Swihart's speed is something else.

Swihart hit two triples to the triangle Wednesday night, and on the second, to see him shift into higher gear as he approached second base was really something to see.

It's difficult to think of another catcher -- and yes, I understand that Swihart has been playing left field exclusively of late; but he remains primarily a catcher -- who ran as well as Swihart does.

When the Sox and other independent evaluators remark about Swihart's athleticism, that's one of the things to which they're referring.