Staying put: Pats-Broncos won't be played at night

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Staying put: Pats-Broncos won't be played at night

The NFL announced Wednesday that the Patriots-Broncos game on Dec. 18 will not be switched to an 8:20 p.m. kickoff and will instead remain at 4:15 p.m.

According to multiple reports, NBC -- which has the right to request schedule changes 12 days in advance over the latter stage of the season -- wanted to switch from its scheduled Ravens-Chargers game to the Pats-Broncos for its showcase Sunday night telecast. But CBS, which holds the rights to the game, resisted and, per NFL rules, CBS and FOX can deny one NBC request per week (up to a maximum of six per year) to switch one of their scheduled games to Sunday night.

It was also believed the Patriots themselves -- or at least those in the football operations end -- did not want the game switched, as the travel home from Denver in the overnight hours on Monday would basically wipe out a day of meetings during a short week. (The Pats play Miami on Saturday, Dec. 24.)

Tim Tebow vs. Tom BradyBill Belichick is suddenly a marquee matchup, given Denver's recent resurgence, which is why NBC wanted the game.
When flexible scheduling was implemented by the NFL and its broadcast partners in 2006, the agreement was that the announcement on any changes to the original schedule would be made "at least 12 days before the game."This is the pertinent paragraph from the original flex-scheduling announcement:

The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET. The wrangling carried it to 11 days before the game. The Denver Post reported Tuesday that Patriots' owner Robert Kraft was lobbying to keep the game at 4:15 p.m. and on CBS. That report led to speculation that Kraft was keeping CBS' interest foremost because a business relationship beyond the NFL exists (CBS Scene is a restaurant at Patriot Place). That led to counter-speculation that Kraft was interested in serving his team's best football interests so that they wouldn't fly out of Denver at 2 a.m. EST on Monday morning with a game five days later against the Dolphins on Christmas Eve. That scuttlebutt during the midday on Tuesday seemed to prompt an announcement by the NFL Tuesday night which read:

"Due to NFL Committee Meetings in New York today, the Week 15 flexible schedule announcement will be released tomorrow (Wednesday, December 7). All of the clubs under consideration to have Week 15 games flexed have informed our office that they are interested in the strongest schedule for our fans and network partners."

In any case, the deed is done and the Patriots-Broncos will be only highlights to some of the country.

Belichick explains matching in the secondary

Belichick explains matching in the secondary

FOXBORO – Here’s a leftover from last week I’m dredging up because it’s really instructive in giving insight to something we all flap our arms about: how the Pats decide whether to play zone, man-to-man or match receivers with their secondary.

The jumping off-point was asking about Trumaine Johnson -- a long-tall corner for the Rams. As Belichick about Johnson and the difficulties he poses, at 6-foot-2, it brought to mind the team’s acquisition earlier this season of Eric Rowe. The 6-2 corner they got from the Eagles filled a need in that the Patriots other corners are not very tall, headlined by 5-9 Malcolm Butler.

So I asked Belichick if the team strives to have different sized players in the secondary.

“That’s if you move them around,” he explained, meaning size only matters if you intend to put size-on-size. “If you don’t move them around, if you play a guy at one positon and he plays on the right side or the left side, you cover the guy that’s over there, which I’d say is more the situation than not. There are some teams or some situations where you’ve got him, he’s got the next guy, you’ve got somebody else, but I’d say that’s by far the lower percentage of the plays, by far. Generally, you see a corner play – some games are different. We’ll match to this guy and somebody else matches to that guy. Teams will do that. There’s some of that, but by and large, most teams play at one position and whoever is in that spot, that’s who they cover.”

With matching receivers being the exception rather than the rule, the next logical question is why? Why would you let a little guy cover a big guy if you also have a big guy who could cover?

Because offenses make it complicated, Belichick answered.

“The easiest thing in the world is for one player to match another,” he explained. “‘OK, you go cover this guy.’ Alright, great. But what do the other 10 guys do? That’s the problem. It’s easy to matchup one guy. That’s simple. What do the other 10 guys do? What if he’s here? What if he’s there? What if he goes in motion? What if he’s in the backfield? What if it’s this personnel? What if it’s that personnel in the game? Then how does all the rest of it matchup? That’s where it gets tricky.  You can be spending all day, literally, on that. OK yeah, you take this guy but what are you going to do with the other 10?”

Belichick also delved into other options including a coverage concept the Pats used when Darrelle Revis was here. Giving Revis the opponent’s so-called No. 2 receiver and doubling the No. 1.

“You can matchup and put your best guy on their best guy, or you can matchup and put your best guy on let’s call it their second best guy and put your second best guy on their best guy and double him,” Belichick said. “If you’re going to put your best guy on their best guy and double him anyway then you kind of lessen the matchups down the line. It’s like setting a tennis ladder, or whatever. If you put your bad guy at one and you win two through seven, great. If you put your best guy at one and he gets beat by their one and then your two versus their two, you know. That’s what you’re doing. You have a three to four-man ladder there with the receivers and your DB’s [defensive backs], except we don’t have to match them that way. You can match them however you want.”

It’s a fascinating discussion and it comes into play the next two weeks as the Patriots will see a true test with receivers like the Ravens Steve Smith and Denver with Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.

The Patriots will have decisions to make. Chances are they’ll use a little bit of everything. But these are some of the the things they weight when doing so.

Players, analysts weigh in on Chris Sale trade

Players, analysts weigh in on Chris Sale trade

The Red Sox made a major splash with Tuesday’s Chris Sale, the second swap of the day after acquiring Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers. 

MORE ON THE TRADE

While Boston had to give up top prospect Yoan Moncada and three other legitimate prospects in the trade, the deal gives them a very deep starting rotation that figures to see last offseason’s big acquisition -- David Price -- end up as Boston’s No. 3 starter. 

Here’s what the reaction looked like as the trade came down: 

CSN baseball analyst Lou Merloni gave the deal his stamp of approval. 

Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan cautioned against thinking the Red Sox at a discount. 

Blake Swihart was not one of the four prospects involved in the deal, and he’ll have a heck of a team to work with going forward. 

In Tampa, Chris Archer realized the AL East has a new ace. 

And one Sox fan pointed out that Dave Dombrowski has absolutely dumped out what was once a large and top-heavy chest of prospects.