Rivers' postgame comments after Bulls loss motivate C's

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Rivers' postgame comments after Bulls loss motivate C's

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics have won their last two games by a combined total of 38 points and have held their opponents to an average of just 75.5 points.

Their commanding victories in back-to-back contests against the Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers have made their disappointing loss to the Chicago Bulls last Thursday seem like weeks ago.

But Doc Rivers comments after that game are still fresh on the Celtics minds.

I think it kind of woke us up and let us know, man, we were bull-expletive-ing, said Brandon Bass, who scored 18 points in Sundays 103-79 win over the 76ers. Thats what it was. After that, everybodys just been locked in. I wasnt surprised by Rivers comments because that wasnt even bad to me, I didnt think. Not with the way we played.

After the Celtics blew an 11-point halftime lead, Rivers deemed the 93-86 defeat the worst loss of the season. He said the Derrick Rose-less Bulls were too tough for his team, who he thought played like "the cool Boston Celtics," that night. Rivers called the game "unacceptable" and, when asked about the postseason, said the playoffs were the "furthest thing from my mind right now."

Just four days later, the Celtics (32-24) have a three-game lead in the Atlantic Division and are seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference with 10 games left in the regular season. They were not pleased with their loss to the Bulls, or their one-point defeat to the San Antonio Spurs the previous night at home, and are motivating themselves even when Rivers isn't speaking out.

He was frustrated, but we all were frustrated, said Paul Pierce (17 points, five rebounds, 3 assists against the 76ers). Of course we were frustrated from losing a game that we all feel like was a very winnable game. As veterans, we know how to respond, we know how to take our game up another level. You felt the frustration from the coach, but we felt it ourselves. Even if Doc didnt express it, I think we would have come out and played the way we played the last couple nights.

This weekends bounce-back wins were critical as the Celtics begin one of the most challenging stretches of their season on Tuesday with upcoming opponents including the Miami Heat (twice), Atlanta Hawks (twice), Orlando Magic, New York Knicks, and Milwaukee Bucks.

They will play their final 10 games, including two awayhome back-to-back series and a back-to-back-to-back series on the road, of the regular season over the next 17 days.

We all were disappointed, said Greg Stiemsma (2 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks against the 76ers). We all kind of felt like we let the San Antonio one kind of go before that. In the Chicago one, we just didnt have it. We know weve got to be better than that. Weve played at such a high level at times that weve got to stay at that high level all the time to finish this stretch out. Everybodys got a tough stretch left. Ours is really tough. So we cant make excuses, weve just got to go out and play our games.

We all kind of felt that he (Rivers) was just resonating how we were feeling. He didnt have to say a whole lot, but what he said was meaningful enough to get us going.

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.