Vick KO'd in return to Atlanta

539603.jpg

Vick KO'd in return to Atlanta

From Comcast SportsNet Monday, September 19, 2011
ATLANTA (AP) -- Michael Vick and Matt Ryan met at the center of the field for the coin toss, the former Falcons quarterback embracing the guy who took his place. When it was done, Ryan trotted off the field in triumph, leaving little doubt this is his city now. Vick wasn't even there to see it. He was back in the locker room, still woozy from a big hit. Ryan tossed a career-high four touchdown passes, shaking off all the hoopla over Vick coming back to face his old team as Philadelphia's starter, and rallied Atlanta from a 10-point deficit for a 35-31 victory over the Eagles in a Sunday night thriller. "It was a wild one, for sure, but we hung in there," Ryan said. "I think everybody hung in there and kept making plays, kept battling. Credit to guys on both sides of the ball -- we never gave up." Two of Ryan's TD throws went to ageless tight end Tony Gonzalez, who went past Terrell Owens into the fifth spot on the NFL's career receiving list. Then, Ryan hooked up with Ovie Mughelli on a 1-yard score that brought Atlanta to 31-28 with just under 11 minutes remaining. The Falcons (1-1) completed the comeback with Michael Turner breaking off a 61-yard run, then powering over from the 3 with 4:48 remaining. Turner finished with 114 yards on 21 carries. Vick threw for a pair of touchdowns for the Eagles (1-1) but left with what coach Andy Reid later described as a concussion after getting spun by a Falcons rusher into Eagles lineman Todd Herremans. No. 7 staggered to the sideline and Mike Kafka came in for the first game of his two-year career. Vince Young, normally the backup, was inactive because of a hamstring injury. Now, the Eagles have to worry about Vick's health, though he didn't have to be hospitalized and was cleared to travel with the team back to Philadelphia. "I know Mike is upset about (not finishing)," Kafka said. "When you're hit like that, you can't do anything about it. It's out of his control." Kafka did a good job in a tough situation, guiding the Eagles down the field on a potentially winning drive in the closing minutes. But on fourth down from Atlanta's 22, Jeremy Maclin dropped a pass over the middle that would have kept it going. "I'm better than that," Maclin said. "It was a very catchable ball." The Falcons ran off all but the last 5 seconds, and Kafka's desperation heave into the end zone was batted down to end the game. The buildup for the prime-time contest was one of the biggest in years for a regular-season game in Atlanta. The Georgia Dome was packed and loud, many fans wearing Vick's old No. 7 jersey from his Falcons days but plenty more adorned in Ryan's No. 2. In some ways, it seemed like a head-to-head matchup -- even though they were never on the field at the same time. Vick was the one-of-a-kind quarterback who put the Falcons on the NFL map before he was caught running a dogfighting operation, leading to a prison sentence of nearly two years. Banished by the Falcons, he revitalized his career in Philadelphia and earned another 100 million contract. He had returned to Atlanta once before, as a backup in 2009, but this was different. He's now THE guy for the Eagles, and he wanted to impress in front of his former city. "I feel for him," Maclin said. "Obviously, he wanted to come home and make a statement." Instead, he had to settle for mixed results and an early end to his night. Vick fumbled twice and threw an interception, and the Falcons turned two of those mistakes into touchdowns. Still, he had seemingly done enough when he left the field. Kafka came on and handed off to LeSean McCoy, who scored his second touchdown on a 2-yard run with 1:59 left in the third quarter. McCoy had 95 yards on 18 carries. But Ryan and the Falcons hung in there, even though the quarterback was sacked four more times after taking five in a 30-12 loss at Chicago to open the season. "You just keep getting up," Ryan said. "There's a lot of tough guys on this football team and I try and stay in line with those guys and just keep bouncing up. I'm just glad we came away with the win." There were plenty of big hits, most notably a shot by Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson on an Eagles receiver for the second year in a row. Last year, Robinson knocked out himself and DeSean Jackson with a brutal collision. This time, the defensive back leveled Maclin with a shot that drew a flag for slamming into a defenseless player with a helmet-first shot in the third quarter. Falcons coach Mike Smith disputed it was illegal hit, saying "that's the way we teach it," but the NFL could dole out a suspension after it reviews the play. Maclin went to the sideline to be checked but wasn't out for long. Robinson insisted he did nothing wrong. "I saw him catch the ball," the cornerback said. "I saw him run and take steps trying to get upfield and score." Vick's first fumble, with the Eagles poised for a touchdown that would've given them a 17-7 lead, wasn't really his fault. Peria Jerry burst through the line and knocked the ball away before Vick could even hand off to McCoy, the ball skidding backward to Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards. He took off the other way, rumbling 64 yards before Jackson hustled back to make the tackle. The Falcons offense did the rest, capped by Gonzalez's first TD catch of the night -- and perhaps one of the best he's ever made. In the back of the end zone, he reached up to snare the ball with his right hand and brought it down to his body just as he dragged a second foot inbounds "I can't say nothing but 'Wow!'" Smith said. "That's one we'll be seeing for a long time on the highlight films." On the Eagles' first possession of the second half, Vick threw a pass over the middle that was picked off by Kelvin Hayden. The Falcons turned that into seven more points, as Ryan went to Gonzalez again on a 17-yard TD that gave Atlanta a 21-10 lead. Back came Vick and the Eagles. McCoy broke off runs of 23 and 36 yards before Vick went to Maclin for a 36-yard touchdown pass. Then, after Ryan threw his second interception of the night, the Eagles reclaimed the lead, 24-21, with their second score in just over 2 minutes on McCoy's 8-yard run. Philadelphia extended its lead after a shanked punt by rookie Matt Bosher turned the ball over to the Eagles at the Atlanta 20. Vick was hurt three plays later, but McCoy finished off another touchdown drive. Vick completed 19 of 28 for 242 yards, also going to Maclin on a 5-yard touchdown. In addition, the quarterback ran six times for 25 yards. "I thought the guys battled," Reid said. "We just had too many turnovers, too many mistakes."

Bill "Spaceman" Lee is running for governor in Vermont

red_sox_bill_lee_052416.jpg

Bill "Spaceman" Lee is running for governor in Vermont

BURLINGTON, Vt. — A former Major League Baseball player is running for governor in Vermont as a member of the Liberty Union party, which bills itself as nonviolent and socialist.

Bill "Spaceman" Lee tells WCAX-TV voters will "need umbrellas" if he's elected, because "it's going to be raining dollars," referring to money trickling down from the wealthy.

Lee pitched for the Boston Red Sox from 1969 to 1978. He was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame in 2008.

Lee says he's a "pragmatic, conservative, forward thinker." He supports legalizing marijuana, a single-payer health care system and paid family leave.

Carrabis: Do you trust Dombrowski to find bullpen help?

trustdombrowski524_1280x720_692237891608.jpg

Carrabis: Do you trust Dombrowski to find bullpen help?

Jared Carrabis joins Sports Tonight to discuss the news that Carson Smith will undergo Tommy John surgery, and whether he has faith that Dombrowski will be able to find bullpen help.

Haggerty: Miller signing more of same head-scratching stuff from Bruins

6snc20524161464129602343_3450k_1280x720_692161603908.jpg

Haggerty: Miller signing more of same head-scratching stuff from Bruins

It’s more than a year into the Cam Neely/Don Sweeney partnership running hockey operations for the Boston Bruins, and it’s still incredibly difficult to decipher what their master plan is for turning around the downtrodden franchise.

The Bruins are badly in need of something special to sell to their fan base, and a four-year contract for Kevan Miller is most definitely not “It.”

The latest chapter in the sagging saga of the Black and Gold is the aforementioned four-year, $10 million contract extension for Kevan Miller signed on Tuesday with little clear reason for the urgency to get something done with the soon-to-be 29-year-old defenseman. There’s no doubt the Bruins will say Miller could have pulled that kind of contract offer had he gone to the open market, and Sweeney should have let him walk –and let another team overpay for him -- had that happened.

One also can’t blame the hard-working, no-nonsense Miller for being pumped about the contract that fell into his lap.

“It’s the team I started with, whether it was in Providence and then back to Boston, the organization I started with. I couldn’t be happier with how things have gone,” said Miller. “That was one of the big key factors of me making my decision is I really love the city. I love the fans. Like I said in my statement, we have the best fans in the league and they’re great to play for. The whole experience so far has just been great. I’m looking forward to four more years of that for sure.”

The immediate negatives are there for Miller after signing the deal: he’s been injury-prone throughout his NHL career, he really hasn’t proven he can be consistently effective against the other team’s best players and he does very little to solve Boston’s puck-moving problems.

There’s a lot of redundancy with Adam McQuaid on a number of different fronts when it comes to Miller and an alarming lack of proven puck-moving defenseman in general beyond Krug at the top of the B’s priority list.

If the undrafted former UVM standout can hold it together as a top-4 defenseman then the Bruins will have decent value for a limited player in Miller, but he could just as quickly, and perhaps even more quickly, develop into another overpaid member of the B’s if he settles into the bottom-pairing role that seems to be his NHL future.

The deal leaves the Bruins with Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Miller and Adam McQuaid as the four defensemen signed through the next two seasons, and features a pair of bottom-pairing D-men in Miller and McQuaid taking up a combined $5.25 million in salary cap space over the next three seasons. That means the Bruins have to move somebody from their aforementioned quarter of signed blueliners, and the Miller contract already has the Bruins backed into a corner before Don Sweeney and Co. even line up their other moves.

That’s the exact same problem that cropped up at the draft in Florida last summer when Sweeney executed a flurry of eyebrow-raising moves to ship Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic out, and then failed to execute when trying to move up for Noah Hanifin as Hamilton’s replacement. It would be an epic Black and Gold trainwreck if Sweeney makes the same mistake two years in a row in failing to land the big move, but it would be of Boston’s own doing.

It’s Roster-Building 101 in the NHL that a team takes care of their big ticket items first during the season, and then moves on to the complimentary and secondary pieces that backfill the roster. Sweeney is doing just the opposite here after tying up $2.5 million per year on Miller, and doing so before he’s even secured a top pairing defenseman or top line right wing on their summer shopping list.

It’s the same kind of thing departed GM Peter Chiarelli did for years in Boston after winning the Stanley Cup, and the very issue that Cam Neely, Charlie Jacobs and Jeremy Jacobs threw their old GM under the bus for during last month’s end-of-season press conference. The multi-year contracts for Jimmy Hayes, McQuaid and Miller over the last two seasons are overly generous deals with too much term for limited players easily replaced by young, cheap players on entry level deals.

There's really no difference between them, and the contracts of Chris Kelly and Dennis Seidenberg that were previously cited so consistently as cap-busting deals. 

It also leaves the Bruins in a tough position with restricted free agent Torey Krug, who they’re going to have to now pay double what they gave to Miller ($5 million per season) if they hope to actually re-sign last year’s No. 2 defenseman. The bigger problem: retaining all these back end players after the B's finished 19th in the league in defense last season is asking, or more accurately begging, for more of the same problems that pushed Boston out of the playoff picture two years running.

It’s too bad the Miller contract has drawn a firestorm of Bruins criticism this week: the rugged blueiner is a good, tough competitor that’s developed into a responsible young leader on the team, and he can make opponents pay a physical price when healthy.

Miller has also been an impressive plus-55 over his three NHL seasons in Boston while at least becoming respectable in the offensive zone, and posted a career-best five goals and 18 points with the B’s last season.

This example of contractual largesse to a low-ceiling player in Miller, however, is exactly the kind of thing that landed the Bruins in cap jail in the first place, and also the very thing Neely and Jacobs claimed they were getting away from after firing Chiarelli a little over a year ago.

It sure feels like it’s the same old gaffes over and over again rather than some fancy new Black and Gold plan to reinvigorate things on Causeway Street, doesn’t it?