Week 1: The Aftermath

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Week 1: The Aftermath

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

I woke up Sunday morning at about 9:30 am. Got up, brushed my teeth, looked out the window and saw two dudes carrying a pair of 30 racks and mini-keg down my street.

Football season!

The significance of the games may increase every week, but in terms of pure fun, Week 1 of the NFL season ranks right up there with the first round of the NCAA tournament and the WNBA All-Star game as one of the greatest daylong spectacles in sports.

NFL Sundays are like a drug, and Week 1 is like a binge after eight months of sobriety. It hits you all at once, and you suddenly remember how you got hooked in the first place. Before Sunday, itd been eight long months since we had the pleasure to get blown away by Chris Johnson or stupefied by a Randy Moss press conference or gamble with the passion of Antoine Walker or become dangerously bipolar while following StatTracker.

It was all as glorious as I remember it. I loved every second. And over the course of the day I got at least 10 random texts messages from friends who were spending this Sunday doing the same thing as me: Just sitting on their couch, beaming over the fact that football's back.

Not those two guys from the morning, though. I'm pretty sure they were passed out by noon.

Anyway, here are a some quick thoughts on a few of Sundays biggest stories:

"Mr. Moss, the podium is yours."
I have no beef with what Randy Moss said after Sundays game. Could he have timed it a little better? Yeah, sure. But the question is, for whom? More than anyone, maybe himself, as Im sure that the front office wasnt thrilled, but who else really suffers from Moss postgame sideshow? One argument I heard was that the outburst took away from Wes Welkers heroic return. That Moss should have taken more time to praise his fellow receiver. OK, maybe that would have been nice, but in reality, do you think Welker cared even a little bit that he wasnt the focal point of that press conference? He was far more likely to be sitting at his locker, and feeling lucky to have a receiver like Moss out there with him every Sunday. And most of the other guys feel the same way.

Randy's been like this since he got here. You know what you're going to get. He's going to be crazy. He's going to dog it every once in a while. It won't always be smooth sailing. But at the end of the day, he always makes you a better team. He's still one of the best in the game. And that's why, despite all the baggage Moss brings, Tom Brady has still been so vocal about how badly he wants Moss back. It's because he understands his teammate. It's because he wants to win more than anything, and knows that Randy does, too. The Pats just need to accept that already. They have to, at the very least, open up a dialogue with the guy. Because as far as this team goes, it's not a matter of wanting Randy Moss. They need him.

Obviously, next weekend at the Meadowlands is huge. If Moss can escape Revis Island and help lead the Pats to a enormous statement win, then the cries to sign Randy will ring louder than the Rex Ryan when he's all hopped up on peanut M&Ms. All the onus will be on the Pats, and theyll be pushed to react. Youd like to think that they would, but who knows?

They'll probably try and make him publicly apologize for Sunday's tirade before letting him sign.

Speaking of apologies . . .
Lets say you're out at a bar one night with your girlfriend and her friends. It's a good time, everyone's having fun, the drinks are flying and then all of a sudden, through some random conversation, you find out she lied to you about something. Something pretty significant. You get upset. Now you're in a fight, it gets a little heated, you say one or two things that you shouldn't and she walks out. You guys break up.

I swear this will have a point in a second.

Two weeks pass, and you're still upset about what she did, but you know you can get over it. She feels the same way, and you guys decide to work it out. She apologizes for lying, and you explain how sorry you are for what you said. At this point, you realize that even though you're genuinely hurt, your comments were a little bit over the line. So you get back together; you're both ready to move forward.

Until an hour passes and she calls to say: "Hey, um, so, I've decided that the only way I'll take you back is if you also e-mail all the girls we were out with that night and apologize for what you said to me.

"I want them to all know how sorry you are. But it's not enough that they hear it from me. Gotta come from you."

Ehhh, I dont know. In some cases, maybe you write the e-mail. Maybe you say, "OK, this sucks, she's who I want to be with, so I'll suck it up to make her happy."

But if this relationship was already rocky to begin with, or, if you're still secretly harboring some very strong negative feelings from the night in question, then I doubt you'd do it. You'd take it as a slap in the face. You'd feel like she was trying to demean you in front of her friends, when in reality you were both at fault.

You'd probably walk. I know Logan Mankins would.

The Megatron Bomb
Did anyone else notice that Calvin Johnson's left hand was out of bounds in the back of the end zone before he dropped the ball? Actually, I'm not sure if it was, because we never got the perfect angle, but gun to my head, the left hand was down on the white before the ball came out. Think about that for a second. How does it make sense that a guy could have possession of the ball, go out of bounds, and then be penalized for something done after the fact?

In any other situation, if you go out of bounds when you have possession then that's it. Like, imagine a receiver makes a catch on the sidelines, gets two feet down, then steps out, stumbles and drops the ball on impact. That's a reception. But in this case that didn't matter. Or maybe it was just never brought up.

Either way, this rule does have to be tweaked. If for no other reason than because players today are absolute freaks. They can do things like catch the ball with one hand, be in complete control, and then go out of bounds with the other.

I understand the rule, but there's no doubt he caught the ball. The touchdown should have been good. But on Sunday, it was only good if you were a Bears fan (or if you were playing against Johnson in fantasy).

Fail Mary
If you missed the last play of the first half of last nights CowboysRedskins game, heres a quick recap:

Washington's up 3-0, and Dallas has the ball on its own 36. Obviously the Cowboys want to take a shot at the end zone, so Romo takes the snap, and fades back for a Hail Mary attempt. Nothing's there, so he steps up in the pocket and decides to throw a one-yard dump off to Tashard Choice, who promptly gets hit, fumbles and lies on the ground as DAngelo Hall returns it for six.

It was a crushing play. Which for some reason prompted Cris Collinsworth to take a collective shot at NFL fans. I'm paraphrasing, but this is essentially what Collinsworth said after the Washington TD:

"You know, Al, you've got all these fans around the league who like to yell and boo when their team takes a knee and runs out the clock at the half, and, well, this is what you get . . . By the way, how do you like the sound of my voice? I love it!"

He painted the Hail Mary as some intricate play with a high risk of disaster, which the fans so savagely ignore in their quest for entertainment. When in reality, the whole things pretty basic. There's no precision timing, laterals or fumblerooskis involved; it's basically, "OK, everyone run down there, I'm gonna yell '500' and toss it up. Or if I get in trouble, I'll just throw it away." Can something go wrong? Of course, but something can always go wrong. Shouldn't fans be able to trust that their team can pull a Hail Mary? Or that their quarterback knows not to throw a last-second shovel pass to a back-up running back who's surrounded by three defenders and the sideline?

Despite what Collinsworth was suggesting, Wade Phillips' mistake wasnt calling for an oh-so-risky Hail Mary. It was that, as usual, his team lacks discipline and doesn't know how to react in pressure situations.

Yet somehow, he continues to work.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

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.