Curran: Pats, Giants the same underneath it all


Curran: Pats, Giants the same underneath it all

FOXBORO Biggest difference between the Patriots-Giants matchup in Super Bowl 46 compared to the one four years ago?

This time, the teams are very much the same.

There are teeth being gnashed along the Eastern Seaboard this morning about the Patriots not deserving to be in the Super Bowl (Ravens linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo is calling it the unSuper Bowl and vows he wont watch . . . a certain blow to TV ratings).

The Patriots lucked out, the thinking goes. Lee Evans' touchdown-that-wasnt. Billy Cundiffs high draw into the lumberyard. The two biggest horseshoe moments for New England since the words, After reviewing the play, the quarterbacks arm was going forward were uttered 10 years and three days previous.

The Giants? Lost amid their latest Road Warrior stampede through the playoffs is a play from Week 14. With 2:25 remaining and the Dallas Cowboys ahead 34-29, Tony Romo saw Miles Austin walk free on a third-and-5 go route. Free as in noooobody near him. And Romo threw a very Romo touch pass inches out of Austins reach.

If completed, the Giants were on their way to their fifth straight loss and a 6-7 record. They wouldnt have had the leg up in the NFC East division race. They almost undoubtedly wouldnt have been in the postseason at all.

And we wont even get into the Jason Pierre-Paul field goal block on Dan Bailey with six seconds left in that game, snuffing out a tie.

Or the two punt return stupids by Kyle Williams on Sunday that kind of handed the Giants their Super Bowl tickets.

The Giants and Patriots are both lucky and good. And flawed and brilliant.

Both are anchored to quarterbacks who lugged them here, Tom Brady and Eli Manning.

(Aside on Eli: Have you ever seen so much conversation about whether a guy deserves to have an adjective attached to his name? Its absurd. Elite, not elite. Whatever. Yet it dominates dominates media coverage and conversation. Put it this way: right now, hes been one of the NFLs top five quarterbacks in 2011. Last year he threw 25 25!!!! interceptions. Great year for a talented player. But to be in the class of Brady or his own brother hes got to be a little more consistent than that, right? So hes elite and Brady is transcendent and Rodgers and Brees are next level. Can we go with that?)

Both have defenses that are . . . suspect. But both defenses have had days where theyve been forced to make up for uncharacteristically bad play by their leaders. The Patriots doing so Sunday. The Giants doing so more often for Eli.

But check out these stats on New Yorks defense. They allowed 400 points, 25th in the NFL. The Patriots allowed 342 (15th). The Patriots were the 31st pass defense in terms of yards allowed (4,703). The Giants were 29th (4082). The Patriots had 40 sacks; the Giants had 48. Opposing quarterback rating against? 86.1. For both teams.

Both teams are run by old school, no BS coaches, acorns that fell from the Parcells coaching tree that have now at least in Bill Belichicks case grown taller and stronger than the Tuna.

And both have impressive ownership families both in business and in character.

But the thing they both share this season that they didnt necessarily in 2007? Resilience. The Patriots of 2007 were so powerful, so overwhelming, they didnt deal with a lot of on-field adversity (off-field? Different story).

The Giants did deal with it, as their three road playoff wins before Arizona showed.

The Patriots have had to build their character. In 2009, they were a malignant, unlikable team with little chemistry and maturity. In 2010, much better guys but they hadnt learned mental toughness to the point where they were able to deal with in-game adversity. They were frontrunners.

This season? Theyve had to battle back from deficits in seven of 10 games during their winning streak. And the last team they couldnt come back on, the one that out-resiliented them? The Giants back in Week 9.

On the outside these teams may not look much alike. But underneath the skin? The Giants and Patriots are mirror images.

Patriots officially side with Brady vs. NFL by filing amicus brief


Patriots officially side with Brady vs. NFL by filing amicus brief

Robert Kraft and the Patriots organization has been saying for a long time that they hope Tom Brady prevails in his fight with the league over Deflategate. Kraft reiterated that stance on Tuesday at the NFL's annual spring meetings.

But on Wednesday, the Patriots took their support for Brady to a new level. The team has filed an amicus brief stating that it has sided with Brady and the NFLPA now that the union has filed a petition to be granted a rehearing by the Second Circuit. 

Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, the last time an NFL team took legal action against league was when late Raiders owner Al Davis sued the NFL. The amicus brief filed by the Patriots is a legal brief that plainly opposes the NFL and its legal position, Schefter notes.

On the first page of the amicus brief, in the document's second footnote, the language is strong: "From the outset of this matter, the League's conduct reflects less a search for the truth than pursuit of a pre-determined result and defense of a report which, despite no direct evidence of tampering or Mr. Brady's involvement, was reiled on to impose penalties with no precedent or correlation to the alleged offense."

The Patriots have continued to update The Wells Report in Context, a website that argues the findings of the NFL's investigation into Brady that has also accumulated various reports and scientific studies that support Brady's innocence. But this amicus brief is another way for the team to show that it has its quarterback's back. 

The NFLPA filed its petition for a rehearing on Monday and now awaits a decision from the 13 judges of the Second Circuit as to whether or not they will grant Brady a rehearing.

Statistically speaking, Brady is facing long odds to be given a rehearing, but his legal team believes there's reason for optimism

Brady legal team encouraged by Chief Judge's 'convincing dissent'


Brady legal team encouraged by Chief Judge's 'convincing dissent'

Tom Brady came away the loser when the Second Circuit's three-judge panel ruled in favor of the NFL and reinstated Brady's four-game suspension last month.

But the decision was not unanimous, and the lone judge who decided in Brady's favor may have some sway now that the Second Circuit has to decide whether or not it will grant Brady a rehearing. That judge, of course, was Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann. 

The fact that the Chief Judge of the Second Circuit was the one who dissented with the majority opinion gives Brady's legal team some hope that seven of the 13 Second Circuit judges will agree to grant him a rehearing. 

"The Chief Judge wrote a very convincing dissent," Brady's lead counsel Ted Olson told PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. "He’s a highly respected individual. He’s been a member of that Court for many, many, many years. He very rarely dissents from an opinion by his colleagues. Over the years, just a few times out of thousands of cases in which he’s participated.

"So here’s an individual who is highly respected, who’s the Chief Judge of the court, who wrote a very cogent, persuasive, dissenting opinion pointing out important principles that he felt -- and we feel -- the majority got wrong. So we do think that that gives us an extra impetus in seeking rehearing."

In its petition requesting a rehearing, Brady's legal team reiterated the same arguments that Katzmann made in his dissent: a) NFL commissioner Roger Goodell should not have been able to change the factual basis for the discipline once the appeal hearing had concluded, and b) Goodell should have at least considered punishing Brady based on the CBA's scheduled punishments for equipment violations.  

"[The] majority . . . asserts that the Commissioner did not change the factual basis for the discipline and, in effect, that any change was harmless," Katsmann wrote. "I cannot agree."

Katzmann added: "The Commissioner failed to even consider a highly relevant alternative penalty and relied, instead, on an inapt analogy to the League's steroid policy. This deficiency, especially when viewed in combination with the shifting rationale for Brady's discipline, leaves me to conclude that the Commissioner's decision reflected 'his own brand of industrial justice.' "

You can read our breakdown of the cases upon which Brady's team relied in its petition here

McAdam: Just like old times for Red Sox at Fenway


McAdam: Just like old times for Red Sox at Fenway

BOSTON -- The last two seasons, tourists weren't the only ones eager to visit Fenway Park. Opponents, too, couldn't wait to get to the old ballpark.

In 2015, the Red Sox barely finished above .500 at home (43-38). In 2014, their performance at Fenway was truly troubling -- 34-47, worse than they were away from home.

The days of juggling rotations to avoid unfavorable matchups against the Red Sox in Boston were a distant memory. It didn't much matter who pitched at Fenway. The Red Sox weren't much to worry about.

That's not the case in 2016, however. Overall, the Sox are 17-9 at home this season. Since April 24, they're 12-2.

And they're not just winning at home; they're bludgeoning other clubs into submission. Since the start of the season, the Red Sox are averaging 6.73 runs per game at Fenway Park . . . and over the last 18 games, they've pumped that average up to exactly eight runs per outing.

In 11 of their last 13 home games, they've scored at least six runs and pounded out 11 or more hits.

So it was, again, Tuesday that the Red Sox kicked off a three-game set with the Colorado Rockies with another eight-run performance.

A decade after the PED era crested, the Red Sox are putting up late 1990s/early 2000s offensive numbers at home.

"Our roster, our personnel has changed,'' said John Farrell after the 8-3 win over the Rockies in explaining the surge in Fenway offense. "We've added young, energetic, athletic guys that are able to go first-to-third, which is key in this ballpark because a man at second base in not always a guaranteed run on a base hit, particularly to the left side of the field.

"It's an all-field approach. That's the other thing. This has historically been a great doubles ballpark. Our hitting approach plays to that. The combination of those two things is the reason why.''

Indeed, the numbers bear all of that out. When it comes to their numbers at home, the Red Sox lead the league in runs scored, doubles, hits, total bases, batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and OPS.

They've scored 175 runs at home; that's 59 more than the next-best team (Texas) has scored in its home ballpark.

Why, the Red Sox even lead the league in home triples (seven), evidence of how much more athletic they've become.

Farrell's right to point out the improved athleticism. Once more on Tuesday night, Xander Bogaerts scored from first base on a double by David Ortiz, something Bogaerts has seemingly done several times a week at Fenway this season.

The ability to take an extra base or two extends big innings and puts further pressure on an opponent.

When slow-footed catcher Christian Vazquez is rifling a ball to the triangle and ending up on third with a triple -- as was the case Tuesday -- then you know that things have changed at Fenway.

Chili Davis, the Red Sox hitting instructor, has been preaching the importance of using the entire field, and hitters are listening. On Tuesday, Ortiz slapped a single through the shortstop hole against the shift in the first for a two-run single.

Then, two innings later, Ortiz pulled a ball into the right-field corner for two more runs.

It's like that night after night, game after game for the Red Sox. The hits and runs pile up, and the wins follow.

The Sox are advised to take full advantage now of a schedule that is decidedly home-friendly in the first half of the season. In August and September, they'll will play the vast majority of their games on the road.

For now, though, there are plenty of games lined up at Fenway . . . an opportunity to keep the offensive numbers surging and the opponents cowering.