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.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.