Bruin up a storm

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Bruin up a storm

By Michael Felger

Anyone else smelling the Bruins' first overtime game this postseason? I think we're due for one tonight.

Hey, Felger!What were you thinking when you came on the air the other night with the second shirt button so tight it was choking you, plus neither collar buttoned down??? Love your show, but you definitely need to update your wardrobe! You are one of the best looking men on CSNNE, but lack any sense of style and look like you shop at Sears for your on-air outfits. Please try SOMETHING other than the open collar blue shirt and boring sports jackets!! At the very least wear something that fits!!!JayNew Bedford
Ugh! So frustrating. I knew I was making a big mistake that night. It's the single, biggest issue I face on a daily basis. As I've said before, if I keep that second button undone then the hamburger meat comes out and the masses are horrified. But if I button it, then I'm too conservative and I get the likes of you. What's a girl to do?

Felger,When the Bruins get the first goal of the game, they are a different team. But they'll lose in five.The constant in all of the Bruins' failure through the years is Harry. Coaches and players have come and gone, but until Harry goes the Bruins will never win.Christopher

Um, I don't want to burst your bubble, Christopher, but Harry was done as president in 2007. He's still around the team, I guess, but he doesn't do much. As for your first point, I think the team that really changes stripes after the first goal is Montreal. The Habs can't trap and take that defensive posture as they do with the lead, and that plays to the Bruins' advantage. Not that the B's want a shootout, but a more up-and-down game is to their advantage in this series.

Felger,I'm with you 100 percent on the Bruins. The entire organization has a losers' mentality from the GM down to the coach. Do they realize that they operate in the sports town that has experienced six championships in the last ten years? We expect championships, not participation awards. It's about time this team steps up, thinks like a winner, acts like a winner and actually wins something. I'm not holding my breath.JoeWarwick, RI

Me neither. I think that Julien and Chiarelli brought an important culture change from the Harry years -- and it was sorely needed. They brought the organization out of the dark ages and back to respectabilty. Unfortunately, it feels to me like they're a little too comfortable with what they've accomplished. When the general manager explains after a 3-0 series collapse that his team is one of only five in the league to reach the second round two consecutive years, as Chiarelli did last year, then I think that pretty clearly signals the need for another change in culture.

Felger,Anyone who thought the Bruins really would contend for the Cup were out of their minds. They played gutless without passion and no physical hits.GilbertAspen, CO

The reason the B's aren't true contenders has nothing to do with passion and physical play. Those things are important, don't get me wrong, but if that's all you got, then you aren't going that far. And I believe the B's show enough of it, anyway. No, the B's issue comes down to skill and balls. They don't have enough skill up front when it comes to finishing -- their only 30-goal scorer, Milan Lucic, needed five empty-netters to reach that threshold, and the closest thing they had to a point-a-game guy was David Krejci with 62 points in 75 games. They also don't have enough skill in back when it comes to moving the puck. Above all, they've shown a propensity to shrink in big moments -- as evidenced by the Flyers series last year and the Carolina series the year before that. Skill and balls. Those are the issues.

Felger, You DB!We see eye to eye on numerous things. It's one of the many reasons why I put up with that tinny hum on the AM band all those years ago. And one of those things is that we both wish Chara was more like Scott Stevens and Chris Pronger. That being said, there is no way I can fault Chara for not trying to gut it out during Game 2. Did you see him during that pregame skate? He looked like he was a crossover away from loading up his Cooperalls. This wasn't about Chara having the guts to play, it was a question of controlling them while he played. Now, under normal circumstances I would be all for an on-ice gastro-intestanal calamity the likes of which would make Nick Brophey's squat of shame in Slap Shot look sanitary. Poo is funny. But the fact that such an incident would be lorded over B's fans by those crepe-eating francophones makes it 100 percent unacceptable.And honestly Mike, he looked like garbage in Game 1 during his ailment's opening act! Do you think that a weaker, ranker, more fetid version of Z, with the possibility of uncontrolled anal leakage, manning your blue line was going to help during the most physically demanding postseason in professional sports? It's just not worth it, and I fail to see how having your captain battle the squirts on the bench would inspire any of his teammates. Now, I know people have referenced other examples of athletes playing with the flu. To me, Michael Jordan reportedly playing in the Finals with the sniffles (I discount every NBA-related news story by at least half), the Pats fighting the flu in Indy, or Colin Montgomery playing every Major with an adult diaper do not translate. You can make a case for the New Zealand playing the 1995 Rugby Would Cup final after getting food poisoned, but since literally everyone on the team was sick, they either played or forfeited. (Funny how Clint left the scenes of Uncle Sal coming to visit Jonah Lomu on the cutting-room floor. They should have called that movie Infectious) They played bravely but were nowhere near the juggernaut (maybe one of the most dominating teams I have ever seen, in any sport) that crushed everyone on the way to the final, and lost in extra time. And when the details of their sickness came out, it was called sour grapes. This wasn't Jed Lowrie nursing a four-month case of Mono or Ellsbury having the bone density of one of the Gabor Sisters. It was an unfortunate combination of bad timing and a debilitating illness for a guy who is clearly a workout junkie whose fitness is never questioned. But it unfairly boils down to a lose-lose situation for Chara, because no matter what he did, he'd get crap from somewhere.MikeAttleboro

What was that, about 500 words on soiling your pants? The greatest poopy-pants stories in sports? Some of your finest work, Mikey.

Hey, Felger!I'm writing this before the Bruins' second game. I predicted to some fans I know that the Bruins would go down in six. No snipers, as Mazz would say.To continue on my NostraDOOMus rant: The Celtics could be out in the first round, too. Definitely the second. Ainge screwed up the chemistry of that team big time and they don't even care anymore. The Red Sox are already done. Carl Crawford is a small-market player already in way over his head and will never recover. The only way he may come back is if they move Ellsbury, because they are the exact same player. I'd say keep Lowrie in there, bring up that Kalish kid and just dump Drew. What are they keeping him for? So what if they owe him money? He will soon be hurt and he brings ABSOLUTELY nothing to the table. Dump Dice-K. Same as above. The season is already over. They have 149 meaningless games left. Sweet. The Patriots. Football in general is ruined unless they come to an agreement this week. Players will return out of shape and most of them will be on IR before four games are finished. Although I am generally a glass-is-half-empty guy, I don't feel that my opinions in this case are too far-fetched.SteveChester, NH

You're a glass-is-half-empty guy? No way! You really can't tell by reading your e-mail.

Felger,What you saw last weekend was the difference between the Celtics and the Bruins: Knowing how to win in the playoffs.ErikHyannis

Don't sell the Bruins short, Erik. Don't you remember those divisional banners in the rafters? And don't you know after losing to the Flyers they were one of only five NHL teams to make the second round two consecutive years?

Felger,The NHL may have its warts and all, but I'll take their officials swallowing whistles late playoff games, over the disgraceful call on Carmelo (which was sold by a flop by Paul Pierce) on Sunday night. The NBA is a clown league.KeithVernon, CT

Do you know that Pierce did it again in Game 2? Did you see it? Same situation, one of the last few possessions of the game, and Anthony was trying to get position and pierce snapped his head and arms back like he'd gotten shot. Only this time the refs didn't bite. You know you have a bad product when one of the top storylines coming out of every single playoff games is the officiating.

Felger,I rarely e-mail TV shows . . . but the way you put Max in his place last week on Sports Sunday was AWESOME!!! He's such a Green Teamer, and you clearly got under his skin. Keep him honest, we true Celtic fans love it!LarrySpringfield

I've crawled so far into the heads of the Green Teamers I might as well start paying rent. I've crawled into their kitchens and taken a giant, steaming dump. I'm the last thing they think of when they go to sleep and the first thing they think of when they wake up. Dickerson rolls over in bed and mutters my name. Tanguay calls out "Felgy!" during intimate moments with his wife. Poor Max is hearing voices. They need help.

Mike,So seriously . . . how hot is Lisa Hughes in real life??CrisNashua, NH
Scorching.

Felger,Tell those knuckleheads who produce the Sports Sunday show to turn down the background music during the "Reality Check" and other segments. I just watched the show and I could barely hear you over the music. MikeShrewsbury

Unfortunately, I get the sense that's the point.

Read Felger's weekly column Mondays. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

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.