Guess who's coming to town?

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Guess who's coming to town?

By Michael Felger

I think Ron Burgundy put it best:

Go & yourself, San Diego.

Felgy,Why, after 2 12 quarters of quality, attack-style defense and a 20-3 lead, did the Patriots go into a conservative soft zoneprevent defense and allow Phil Rivers to get into a rhythm? On pass plays, Meriweather and Mayo were playing so far back off receivers, it was ridiculous. I'm sure the goal was to allow underneath plays, but instead, they were allowing 12-yard receptions. Also, what does Gary Guyton bring to the table? For someone who's supposedly fast, every time I see him on the field, he's getting torched on passing plays. Did anyone ask Belichick why he changed up the defensive strategy and went away from what was successful? All I know is you don't see Dick LeBeau and the Steelers dropping into a prevent defense. They keep attacking.KevinAcushnet

I know what you're saying, but are the Pats good enough to keep attacking? I know I wouldn't want Kyle Arrington or Jonathan Wilhite or any of the safeties on an island with the game on the line. Let's just hope it's the scheme and not the talent. In other words, you get the sense the coverages call for the defensive backs (particularly the safeties) to play well off the ball and over the receivers. If the secondary is actually supposed to be underneath the receivers, or at least on them, then we're in trouble. I think it's a combination of both: a secondary that tackles much better than it covers and a coaching staff that is loathe to expose it.

Felger,A win is a win, but that was a putrid performance by the offense.It seems like going into this year, the Pats were stuck in between continuing with the wide-open, vertical, Moss-styled offense from '07 on and getting back to the short, possession, ball-control offense of the championship years. They made a point to get more physical on offense by bringing in three new TEs and by using more traditional two-TE sets and less shotgun. Many people in the media talked about getting back to a more physical brand of football.However, looking back on the offseason, I almost feel like Belichick was indecisive. If he truly was going to get back to a more possession-oriented offense, shouldn't he have dealt off Moss, who obviously doesn't fit this style, in the offseason and brought in an adequate replacement, as well as address the need for a young talent and consistent playmaker at RB?Anquan Boldin was traded to Baltimore for third- and a fourth-round picks, and the Pats were linked to him in trade rumors because of their three second-round picks. I'm sure the Patriots could've reeled in a third for Moss (or maybe even a late second) in the offseason, and then could've used that ammo in addition to their other three second-round picks to get a Boldin deal done. Isn't Boldin exactly the type of guy that would've been perfect in this offense? He is such a physical WR that runs good routes, gets great YAC, plays every play like it's his last, excels in the short-to-intermediate passing game, and can occasionally go deep. Brady would have loved him.I am 100 percent on board with this shift in offensive philosophy, but the change to go back to the old style of offense should have been firmly made in the offseason. Belichick half-assed it and tried to hedge his bets so that he could go either way with the offense a few weeks into the season. Hindsight is 2020, but Belichick should have blown the whole thing up and revamped the offense in the offseason rather than waiting until midseason to do it.JP

I think the deal with Randy Moss (and that's really what were talking about, right?) is this: The Pats knew they had a trade partner in their back pocket starting in training camp, coinciding with around the time Brett Favre returned to the Vikings. But they said to themselves it was worth giving it a shot with Moss still in the fold. They had until the trade deadline on Oct. 19 to figure whether Moss was going to be worth the trouble. If Moss could handle being a decoy in many games, if he could handle the offense going away from him, the Pats were prepared to go forward with him. As long as everything remained functional, he was in their plans. But they also knew that if things started to fall apart, the Vikings would be there to take him off their hands. Then the team charity event happened. Then the Jets game happened. Then Miami happened. Then Moss was a Viking. Simple as that.

The offense without Moss is pretty much as I expected it to be: Not as prolific but better when it counts. Could they have used Moss in the first half in San Diego with all those red-zone opportunities? Certainly. Maybe he would have had a score or two and it wouldn't even have been a game in the fourth quarter. I'll concede that. But there's no way you beat Baltimore with Moss on the field in place of Deion Branch. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but consider this: In the previous two seasons the Pats had a 2-5 record in games decided by three points or fewer. Since the Moss trade, theyre 2-0. I'm just saying.

Bottom line: It's awfully hard to have a tough, smart, resilient football team and have Randy Moss be a prominent part of it. Those things, as we like to say, are antithetical to each other.

As for the offense now, I think they desperately need Fred Taylor. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a nice story, but in the previous two games hes averaged two yards per carry (44 yards on 21 attempts). And it's just not smart to give Danny Woodhead a heavy load. Two other players who absolutely must "step up" are Brandon Tate and Julien Edelman. Tate, especially. More than any other player, it looks like he is feeling the loss of Moss the most. Since the trade, he has one catch for a grand total of three yards.

Hey Mikey,My take: Hands team or not, that was the best onside kick I've seen and that ball was bouncing right back to the Chargers. However, if the Pats recover there, they win the game going away. The NFL is a game where one play changes everything. And the Chargers have an awesome defense. That's what great defenses do: They hold you in the red zone. So I think people are a little hard on the offense. However, Brandon Tate might be Bethel Johnson redux.Brandon Meriweather (your buddy) has no instincts. All those passes in the middle of the field were his reads. He never anticipates and makes the pick. He won't EVER take a chance, which along with 50 other things makes him different than Ed Reed. A good free safety should be making picks and he makes none.GeorgeWoburn

You're right on Meriweather; his best breaks on the ball come after it's been caught. But, again, is it his job to play deep center field, or does he just stink? In this case, I think it's a lethal combination of both.

Hey Felger,Please start pushing my new nickname for Brandon Tate. I call him "Tater Tot." You know . . . since other teams can't KETCHUP to him on kickoffs.AndrewLeominster

Maybe Brady should start kicking the ball to him. Then maybe he'd make an actual play on offense.

Hey Felger,You were wrong about the Colts taking care of Manning -- FACT, NOT OPINION.For the last year, you and Tony tripped all over yourselves in glee to praise the Colts and how they do business better than the cheap Patriots. Then Brady signed his deal and you guys suddenly went silent and have remained silent since. And today there are reports that the Colts WILL NOT give Manning a new deal until the season is over. Oh, that's gotta hurt to be so wrong about a situation.I'll ask the same questions that you used to ask about how the way the Patriots were supposedly dealing with Tom: Why are the Colts making Manning play out his deal? Out of all the guys, why are they messing around with that guy? Why can't they be more like the Patriots and take care of their best player BEFORE the season starts? Why must they make him play out every cent of that deal?Why Mike, why?DanielEast Providence, RI

Why, Dan, why do you keep pounding me with this? For the 100th time: I AGREE WITH YOU. I think it's a joke for Indy to string Manning along like this. If I were him, I'd tell them to screw and become a free agent after the season. Or at least force them to franchise him at 25 million, or whatever his crazy figure would be. Is there a new stadium, or do the Colts even still exist in Indianapolis, without Manning? Probably not. And they're going to screw around with him on a contract? They're going to invoke this garbage about the uncertain environment of a new CBA (something the Pats proved was baloney with the Brady deal)? If I were a media man in Indy, trust me, I'd be hammering the Colts over it.

In the end, the Pats ultimately did the right thing and the Colts are doing the wrong thing.

Satisfied?

Felger,Watching Sunday night's Green Bay-Vikings game and listening to the absolute ball-washing Michaels and Collinsworth are laying on Favre and Moss, I am convinced you have not been hard enough on these two clowns. (Moss and Favre, that is.) Forget about hits to the head; this continued celebration of Favre and Moss is far worse for the league's image. (Just kidding . . . but not really.) What an embarrassment.ChrisProvidence, RI

Favre outdid himself at the podium on Wednesday. Words dont do it justice. Give it a listen.

Mike, You said Favre would limp off the field this Sunday. Not NEARLY dramatic enough!!Hell go off on a CART and give a feeble "thumbs up" that will have the national announcers not only soiling themselves, but weeping openly!!MarkLowell

Isn't it obvious? Favre has been so bad this year (10 interceptions, 4 fumbles) that the Vikings have to make a football decision: Favre or Tarvaris Jackson? Only the giant colossus of everything that is BRETT FAVRE makes that virtually impossible. Childress just can't sit him, can't end his consecutive-start streak over a benching. So now we have this phony baloney injury. As Peter King wrote this week, it amounts to a glorified sprained ankle, but it's enough to give Childress, Favre and the Vikings an out. It's not a straight benching. Favre also has this excuse if the Sterger thing turns against him.

Anyway, when Favre gets yanked early on Sunday (as I predict he will), it will be for injury, not performance. And you're right: When Favre does go off the field, he'll be praised by the announcing team for even attempting to play. Even though he's mostly fine. Welcome to the wonderful world of Brett Favre.

Felger,You DB! Listening to you talk about how the Bruins have the same core that blew the 3-0 lead was beyond annoying. Weren't you the same guy that said that series turned when we lost Krejci and Philly got Gagne back? So what do you define as the B's core? Wouldn't you say Krejci (currently the No. 1 center), Horton (No. 1 RW) and Seidenberg (No. 2 D) make up huge parts of that core? Of course they do! None of them played in Games Four through Seven last year. Fact, not opinion. You even think Seidenberg might be better than Chara (asinine), only furthering the point that the core has improved with him being back on the roster. Throw in Caron (who looks like a polished vet), Seguin (who's going to be much better by April) and Campbell (who's a big upgrade over Begin) and even your fringe players have improved. Plus, trick-or-treat Wideman is gone. That's why the fans are optimistic. And yes, nobody wants to spend the next six months reliving the Philly series. Well, maybe the CHB.DanNashua

P.S. On a scale ofRoseanne to Krusty the Clown, where did Tyler's rendition of the anthemrank? Also, was he wearing a girl's t-shirt???

First of all, Mazz is the one who thinks Seidenberg could be better than Chara, not me. You're going to have to go to his bag for that one. As for the larger point: Has the same core that blew the 3-0 lead against the Flyers returned in their same roles this year? I would say you're wrong; the answer is unequivocally yes. The coach is the same, the captain is the same and the most valuable forward (Patrice Bergeron, based on salary cap allotment and the opinion of most Bruins fans) is the same.

But let's leave Bergeron and Krejci out of it; I've been drawn into a battle over those two when the fact is I like them both. They aren't the problem. Neither, in a vacuum, is Chara.

But do you understand that Chara and Julien have disappointed in the playoffs wherever theyve been? Look at some of those Ottawa teams Chara was on: they were wagons, and they could never get it done when it counted. This is Julien's eighth season a head coach in the NHL. Hes been on three teams. Hes never made it out of the second round. When are we allowed to look at those things as a trend?

HEY FELGER! I don't blame you for not enjoying the Bruins' great start to the season. I mean, you have to remind all of us every Sunday night at the end of your show it's been X number of days since the Bruins did something that only three other hockey teams have done in hockey history! So what about the parade route? Duck boats?And I don't get much of a chance these days to listen to your radio show in the afternoons because of work, but you have to tell me when you get Peter Chiarelli on your show so you can rip him to shreds for these contract extensions and no-trade clauses. You might send him running off a cliff.MatthewFramingham

People wonder why I get so up in arms over the Bergeron on Chara contracts, both of which were overpayments. Cap jail may not exist in the NFL, but it definitely does in the NHL. When Savard and Strum get healthy, the Bruins are screwed. They will need to ditch at least two bodies from their regular lineup or pull off a major trade where they're sure to get poor value. There are just too many bad deals on the books, and based on the Bergeron and Chara deals it doesn't look like the trend is about to reverse itself.

And my only request for the parade (which is obviously where they're headed after six games, right?) is that they stop at City Hall Plaza and get on a stage for a few minutes. That's always where the best stuff happens.

Felgy,Who won the Celtics game on Wednesday? I was watching the pregame show. Hannah Storm came out with her blue mini and knee-high black boots. After about 10 minutes of that I had to run out and spend the night at the Hooters Bar. MarkPA

Don't get me started on Hannah. She's so hot she distracts me. Takes me out of my game . . . And Lord knows we can't have that.
Felger's Vikings game column will appear on Monday morning. Read the report card on Tuesday. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

First Impressions from Boston's 10-3 loss to Texas

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First Impressions from Boston's 10-3 loss to Texas

First impressions of the Red Sox 10-3 loss to Texas:

 

Steven Wright can’t be stellar every night.

Although it’s seemed like it lately, it’s just not possible -- especially with a knuckleball.

He wasn’t even that bad Saturday night. He just didn’t get any help from his defense in the fifth frame.

But there’s no denying he didn’t have his best stuff. But whatever the reason, he couldn’t find consistent command or movement from his knuckler and he gave up some hard hits as a result.

Did he receive a fate worse than he pitched? Yes. But what Boston saw from Wright in his Saturday start is there will be times his go-to pitch is off -- and there’s really no way to work around that.

 

Hanley Ramirez’s “timing issue” seems to be coming around.

Although he hasn’t necessarily caught fire, Ramirez hit another home run -- once again to right field.

He’s shown more patience at the plate, and not trying to pull every ball out of the yard.

Ramirez doesn’t have everything completely figured out, but his homeruns have been plenty valuable at this point.

 

Ian Desmond is no joke.

The newly converted centerfielder is 5-for-10 against Boston pitching this series with a run and two RBI.

The ex-Nationals shortstop has good pop and good speed still. He seems to be a lot more comfortable in his new home after hitting .233 for Washington last year with 19 homeruns -- hitting his 13th Saturday night.

 

For all the criticisms Boston’s bullpen has received, the Rangers’ is definitely worse.

Although there wasn’t the same miraculous comeback witnessed Friday night -- and Boston’s pen wasn’t particularly stellar in the loss -- the Ranger relievers did not look good in the second game of the series.

They put themselves into deep counts right away -- and was lucky Boston’s offense was off.

Boston’s bullpen has its faults -- no question -- but it’s not nearly as bad as the one in Texas.

 

The Red Sox unfortunately have to rely on Clay Buchholz Sunday.

The bullpen is beaten down once again. The righty is still fighting for his job, so this would be the best time for him to pitch competitively into the sixth inning -- and maybe even longer.

DC United tops Revolution 2-0

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DC United tops Revolution 2-0

WASHINGTON -- Lamar Neagle had a goal and an assist to give D.C. United an early lead that stood up in a 2-0 victory over the New England Revolution on Saturday night.

D.C., after being shut out in its two previous games and four of six, opened the scoring in the 20th minute when Luciano Acosta chipped a perfect pass over the defense to the foot of Neagle, who volleyed it in from 10 yards out.

Sean Franklin scored the second goal, his first of the season, when he knocked in Neagle's cross. Albaro Saborio sent a long ball down the right sideline that Neagle ran down and crossed to Franklin for the easy counter.

D.C. (5-6-5) leapfrogged the Revolution (4-5-7) into fifth in the Eastern Conference with its fourth shutout in the last seven games and improved to 2-0-1 in the series this season.

Haggerty: Grading the Bruins Draft

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Haggerty: Grading the Bruins Draft

BUFFALO – The Bruins knew they had some objectives heading into the 2016 NHL Draft at the First Niagara Center, and by their accounts they achieved them. The Black and Gold were looking to get bigger and grittier down the middle at the center position, they wanted to get faster and they knew they had to continue to add quality top-4 candidates to their organization defensemen corps depth.

Charlie McAvoy, Ryan Lindgren and Cameron Clarke will add to the defensemen within the Bruins organization, and both Trent Frederic and Joona Koppanen are big-bodied, gritty centers that take care of business in their own end.

Oskar Steen is the one departure as a small, skilled forward out of Sweden to add to the D-men and centers that now count themselves as members of the Black and Gold. Interestingly enough this was the first season in Bruins history that the B’s drafted an entire class of players without selecting a single Canadian player.  

The six player draft class wasn’t an overwhelming success or an abject failure, but something in between both of those while a much more muted all-around experience for Don Sweeney in his second season running the hockey operations in Boston.

“You look at last year and we took three junior players right out of the hop. This year there were some college players,” said Don Sweeney. “We always identify the best players that we want, and positional need. In a perfect world it all lines up.”

With that in mind, here are grades and breakdowns for each of the six prospects that heard their names called by the Bruins this weekend:

First round: Charlie McAvoy (14th overall) – The Boston University D-man impressed scouts and college hockey enthusiasts all the same by playing extremely well as the youngest NCAA player last season. McAvoy’s explosive skating ability, quick decision-making with the puck on his stick and ability to execute the tape-to-tape pass practically ensure that he’ll have success at the next level, and his low center of gravity and feisty physicality at 6-foot, 208-pounds will make him well-embraced by Bruins fans. The Bruins scouting staff was split between choosing McAvoy or BCHL defenseman Dante Fabbro when both players were there for the taking, but McAvoy’s skating ability and playmaking confidence tipped the scales his way. McAvoy could be NHL-ready a within a couple of seasons, and immediately shoots to the top of the organization’s D-men prospects. Grade: A-. What the Bruins say: “We had a lot of discussion on a lot players, and those two players [McAvoy and Fabbro] we went back and forth on them quite a bit. They’re both good defenseman, but we really believe that Charlie has something that we really liked. Playing against men already at that age is a big thing, and we’ve seen him grow as a player. He can skate, he’s mobile and he plays physical. We feel like his style is what we’re looking for, and it’s up to him to take it to the next level.”

First round: Trent Frederic (29th overall) – The 6-foot-2, 210-pound center is a hard-working, strong player in the pivot that isn’t afraid to pay the price in the danger areas, and is more than willing to throw his body around. The offensive ability seems to be a bit limited, but he also played with an injured hand in the second half of last season that appeared to impact his placement in the final draft rankings. In a perfect world Frederic develops into a hard-nosed, gritty forward in the mold of his favorite players (David Backes, Justin Abdelkader), but he sounds eerily like a Chris Kelly kind of player taken in the first round of the draft. Clearly the Bruins were looking at size at the center spot, and perhaps they were a little thrown last minute when Tage Thompson got selected a few picks earlier in the first round. But it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to draft third and fourth line center prospects at the end of the first round when skilled players like Alex DeBrincat and Pascal Laberge were still on the board. If DeBrincat turns into a scoring machine in Chicago with Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin, the Bruins will regret this weekend in a big, big way. This feels like a reach with a draft pick the Bruins were hoping to move for a defenseman, but the likeable Frederic will have years at the University of Wisconsin to prove everybody wrong. Grade: D. What the Bruins say: “We needed some centers with some size and heaviness, and we really believe he’s going to a [Wisconsin] program where everything is changing for him. Even his teammates all talk him up. He’s not going to be top two line guy, and we all know that. He’s got some jam, and he plays hard. You want good people that are going to pay the price. He playing well during the year, and then he tailed off at the end because he had a broken hand. We liked his projection as a staff.”

Second round: Ryan Lindgren (49th overall) – The Minnesota native and Gophers recruit has recorded nine goals and 35 assists for 44 points and 145 penalty minutes in 116 games over the last two years with the US National Development Team Program. The 6-foot, 198-pounder isn’t very big, isn’t the fastest guy when it comes to skating and is far from the flashiest player that came through the Team USA pipeline over the last couple of years. But Lindgren is hard-nosed and competitive, and is a high character player that brings effort into every category of his game. Scouts rave about his leadership, character and willingness to sacrifice for the greater good of the team while quietly going about his own business, and the Bruins could use a solid defenseman like that. Lindgren will need to improve, but everybody that knows him thinks he’ll be able to do it. Grade: B. What the Bruins say: “He blocks shots. He’s not the most skilled guy like McAvoy or anybody like that, but he brings an element that we really liked as an organization. He really brings something as a leader, and we like those guys.”

Fifth round: Joona Koppanen (135th overall) – The 6-foot-5 center from Finland is big, strong and keen on playing with strength and effort in his own end, and has the kind of size at the center position that you just can’t teach. The problem right now is that the body type, style of game and limited offensive ability in a Finnish player reminds everybody of Joonas Kemppainen, who quite simply didn’t work out in Boston during his NHL audition last season. One has to hope that Koppanen can continue to develop his offensive skills to at least be a player with average production down the road, but nobody is expecting him to be more than a third or fourth line center at this point. Grade: B-. What the Bruins say: “He’s a big guy, and for a big guy he can really move around. He’s very good defensively and smart with his positioning. He plays hard. The skill is the one area that needs to develop, and we think it’s going to do that. He was a guy that we targeted because he’s a big guy that can skate, and is good in his own end.”

Fifth round: Cameron Clarke (136th overall) – The 18-year-old is a bit of a diamond in the rough out of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), who nonetheless got noticed in Michigan over the last year. Clarke played last season for the Lone Star Brahmas, and registered nine goals and 41 assists for 50 total points and 29 penalty minutes in 59 games during the 2015-2016 season. The 6-foot-1, 170-pounder is a bit on the gangly side and needs more physical development before he turns professional, and that’s something he should be able to focus on while heading to college at Ferris State. I like the off-the-beaten path Grade: B. What the Bruins say: “We knew there were teams that were there [ready to take him], and our guys really liked him. He’s gained a lot of weight in a year-and-a-half, but we know he’s going to take some time. We’re good with that. Our guys really liked him, so we took him.”

Sixth round: Oskar Steen (165th overall) – The 5-foot-9, 187-pound Steen is an undersized Swedish forward that plays a smart, versatile brand of hockey, and he does it while also showing plenty of flashes offensively. The 18-year-old played for Farjestad BK J20 of the SuperElit League for the past two years, putting together 15 goals and 45 total points across 69 games leading up to his selection this weekend. Clearly the size and lack of physical strength will be marks against Steen when he goes toe-to-toe against bigger, stronger competition in North America, but he showed enough smarts and skill to make his own mark. Grade: C+.What the Bruins say: “He’s got underrated skill. He can score goals and move the puck. He’s not the biggest guy, but we’ve seen him and we were excited to be able to draft him.”