Time's up for the Jets

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Time's up for the Jets

By Michael Felger

A few thoughts from Conference Championship Sunday.

Drive to Nowhere Part II (courtesy Bob Neumeier)

Do you think Rex Ryan and the Jets actually realized that the Patriots endless, fruitless fourth-quarter drive last week was a bad thing? Hard to tell, since they nearly did the exact same thing in Pittsburgh.

First came an eight-minute drive that started in the third quarter and ended midway through the fourth when LaDainian Tomlinson was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the Steelers 1-yard line. Next came a 10-play, 58-yard drive that took 4 minutes and 32 seconds off the clock. The second drive netted a touchdown, but the pace of the Jets offense was still maddeningly slow. They huddled. They ran. They bled the play clock. It was curious, especially after the Pats did the same thing the week before to the chagrin of everyone in New England.

That won't be the only second guess the Jets coaches will be facing today. Another will be the usage of Tomlinson. Why were they slamming him into the line in short-yardage situations late when they had Shonn Greene? And how could the Jets come out so flat in the first half with the Super Bowl on the line?

And not that it mattered, but it was interesting to see Ryan celebrate the Roethlisberger safety in the fourth quarter when it meant absolutely nothing. The Jets still needed two touchdowns.

The real hero in Green Bay, in my opinion, is general manager Ted Thompson -- and the role he played in building the roster since he was hired in 2005 is only secondary to his greatest accomplishment.

He's the one who finally said "no'' to Brett Favre.

It seems like a simple decision now, especially given Aaron Rodgers' development and how it's ended for Favre. But it was no small feat at the time. Slaying a sacred cow never is. Favre was a God in Wisconsin. He had just taken the Packers to the 2007 NFC championship game. He was considered as untouchable as anyone in sports, a guy who was allowed to hold his franchise hostage and routinely put himself above his teammates because it was HIS team.

That's how they had operated in Green Bay for years, anyway. And Thompson was the one who finally said, "enough.''

Thank God.

That said, I consider the Packers a dumb football team. Talented, yes. Well-schemed, absolutely. But dumb. Here are some examples from Sunday:

It's hard to overstate how bad Rodgers' interception into the arms of Brian Urlacher in the third quarter was. The Packers were leading 14-0 at the time, facing a third-and-goal from the Bears' 6-yard line. Rodgers was pressured, and a simple throw-away would have resulted in a chip-shot field goal and what would have been a virtually insurmountable 17-0 lead. Instead, Rodgers tried to force it over the middle and paid the price. Dumb.

At that point of the game, with Jay Cutler about to go out (by the way, did anyone see when he got hurt?) and the Bears relegated to Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie at quarterback, all the Packers had to do was not turn the ball over and kick it away from Devin Hester.

So what did they do? They got careless with the ball (Tramon Williams fumbled a punt late in the third quarter, which the Packers luckily recovered) and they continued to kick the ball to Hester, who got his hands on a kickoff and three punts, one of which was nullified by penalty, in the second half. Hester never hurt the Packers on any of his returns, and punter Tim Masthay nailed some beauties in this game, but the fact that Hester ever got his hands on a single ball was just dumb.

Do we even need to mention BJ Raji's Leon Lett impersonation? Or the fact that running back James Starkes inexplicably ran out of bounds with under four minutes remaining and the Bears needing to call timeouts to stop the clock? Or corner Sam Shields running with his last-second interception and nearly fumbling it away? Or the Packers inability to stop a no-name, third-year, third-string undrafted quarterback?

We won't bother. Take our word for it. The Packers do dumb things. Consistently. If they lose to Pittsburgh in two weeks it won't be because they lack talent. Or good schemes. It will because, on an individual level, they're sloppy.
E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Two more Pastrnak goals pull him into tie for NHL lead with Crosby

Two more Pastrnak goals pull him into tie for NHL lead with Crosby

BOSTON – While the loss to the Avalanche on Thursday night was a monumental dud, it put another dazzling display on the hockey resume of David Pastrnak. 

The 20-year-old star right winger scored two more goals in the 4-2 loss at TD Garden and nearly brought the Bruins back into the game by himself before another defensive breakdown at the end of the second period doomed them. 

Instead, Pastrnak had to settle with being the proud owner of 18 goals scored in 23 games that places him in a tie with NHL superstar Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead in goals. 

The goals also showed his wide range of lethal offensive skills. On the first score, he just broke away from the Avalanche defense and managed to bury a second-effort breakaway chance after a nice Tim Schaller stretch pass off the boards. The second goal was a straight one-timer bomb from the high slot off a slick setup pass from Brad Marchand in the corner, and it had the Bruins right back into the mix after a dreadful first period. 

It wasn’t enough when the B’s defense faltered again toward the end of the second period, but it was enough for everybody to be singing Pastrnak’s praises once again following the loss. 

“He’s a game changer. The momentum is going the other way, and he has the ability to break away on any given shift and score a big goal for us. He did that tonight,” said Torey Krug. “We can’t just keep relying on the same guys to score goals. We’ve got to come up with secondary offense, and I know every other guy wants to do that. 

“Now it’s about showing that on the ice and making sure we’re doing the work and getting better and proving to ourselves. But Pasta [David Pastrnak] has been great for us so far, and we’re obviously lucky to have him.”

The 18 goals barely two months into the season are not too shabby for a kid, in his third NHL season, who just now coming into his own. He’s nearly halfway to 40 before Christmas. For Pastrnak, however, it’s about the team result and he wasn’t overly satisfied with his two goals in a losing effort. 

“I’ve said before the season that our goal is to make the playoffs and to have that experience and have the chance to win the Stanley Cup. I’m still focusing on that,” said Pastrnak, who has yet to experience the Stanley Cup playoffs in his two-plus seasons with the Black and Gold. “We have zero points from tonight’s game and we have to move on. I think our game gets better in the second and third periods, you know, and we have to regroup and get ready for Saturday’s game.”

The Bruins will undoubtedly regroup and once again count on another Pastrnak offensive explosion to help lead the way in what’s become a truly spectacular season for the youngster. 

Report: Bobby Valentine could be Trump’s US ambassador to Japan

Report: Bobby Valentine could be Trump’s US ambassador to Japan

Major league manager. Inventor of the wrap sandwich. Champion ballroom dancer.  And…

US ambassador to Japan?

Bobby Valentine is on the short list for that position in President Donald Trump’s administration, according to a WEEI.com report.

The former Red Sox manager (fired after a 69-93 season and last-place finish in 2012), and ex-New York Mets and Texas Rangers, skipper, also managed the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons. 

Valentine, 66, has known the President-elect and Trump's brother Bob since the 1980s, is close to others on Trump’s transition team and has had preliminary discussions about the ambassador position, according to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. 

Valentine, currently the athletic director of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., is also friendly with current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who, like Valentine, attended the University of Southern California.