Guess who's coming to town?


Guess who's coming to town?

By Michael Felger

I think Ron Burgundy put it best:

Go & yourself, San Diego.

Felgy,Why, after 2 12 quarters of quality, attack-style defense and a 20-3 lead, did the Patriots go into a conservative soft zoneprevent defense and allow Phil Rivers to get into a rhythm? On pass plays, Meriweather and Mayo were playing so far back off receivers, it was ridiculous. I'm sure the goal was to allow underneath plays, but instead, they were allowing 12-yard receptions. Also, what does Gary Guyton bring to the table? For someone who's supposedly fast, every time I see him on the field, he's getting torched on passing plays. Did anyone ask Belichick why he changed up the defensive strategy and went away from what was successful? All I know is you don't see Dick LeBeau and the Steelers dropping into a prevent defense. They keep attacking.KevinAcushnet

I know what you're saying, but are the Pats good enough to keep attacking? I know I wouldn't want Kyle Arrington or Jonathan Wilhite or any of the safeties on an island with the game on the line. Let's just hope it's the scheme and not the talent. In other words, you get the sense the coverages call for the defensive backs (particularly the safeties) to play well off the ball and over the receivers. If the secondary is actually supposed to be underneath the receivers, or at least on them, then we're in trouble. I think it's a combination of both: a secondary that tackles much better than it covers and a coaching staff that is loathe to expose it.

Felger,A win is a win, but that was a putrid performance by the offense.It seems like going into this year, the Pats were stuck in between continuing with the wide-open, vertical, Moss-styled offense from '07 on and getting back to the short, possession, ball-control offense of the championship years. They made a point to get more physical on offense by bringing in three new TEs and by using more traditional two-TE sets and less shotgun. Many people in the media talked about getting back to a more physical brand of football.However, looking back on the offseason, I almost feel like Belichick was indecisive. If he truly was going to get back to a more possession-oriented offense, shouldn't he have dealt off Moss, who obviously doesn't fit this style, in the offseason and brought in an adequate replacement, as well as address the need for a young talent and consistent playmaker at RB?Anquan Boldin was traded to Baltimore for third- and a fourth-round picks, and the Pats were linked to him in trade rumors because of their three second-round picks. I'm sure the Patriots could've reeled in a third for Moss (or maybe even a late second) in the offseason, and then could've used that ammo in addition to their other three second-round picks to get a Boldin deal done. Isn't Boldin exactly the type of guy that would've been perfect in this offense? He is such a physical WR that runs good routes, gets great YAC, plays every play like it's his last, excels in the short-to-intermediate passing game, and can occasionally go deep. Brady would have loved him.I am 100 percent on board with this shift in offensive philosophy, but the change to go back to the old style of offense should have been firmly made in the offseason. Belichick half-assed it and tried to hedge his bets so that he could go either way with the offense a few weeks into the season. Hindsight is 2020, but Belichick should have blown the whole thing up and revamped the offense in the offseason rather than waiting until midseason to do it.JP

I think the deal with Randy Moss (and that's really what were talking about, right?) is this: The Pats knew they had a trade partner in their back pocket starting in training camp, coinciding with around the time Brett Favre returned to the Vikings. But they said to themselves it was worth giving it a shot with Moss still in the fold. They had until the trade deadline on Oct. 19 to figure whether Moss was going to be worth the trouble. If Moss could handle being a decoy in many games, if he could handle the offense going away from him, the Pats were prepared to go forward with him. As long as everything remained functional, he was in their plans. But they also knew that if things started to fall apart, the Vikings would be there to take him off their hands. Then the team charity event happened. Then the Jets game happened. Then Miami happened. Then Moss was a Viking. Simple as that.

The offense without Moss is pretty much as I expected it to be: Not as prolific but better when it counts. Could they have used Moss in the first half in San Diego with all those red-zone opportunities? Certainly. Maybe he would have had a score or two and it wouldn't even have been a game in the fourth quarter. I'll concede that. But there's no way you beat Baltimore with Moss on the field in place of Deion Branch. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but consider this: In the previous two seasons the Pats had a 2-5 record in games decided by three points or fewer. Since the Moss trade, theyre 2-0. I'm just saying.

Bottom line: It's awfully hard to have a tough, smart, resilient football team and have Randy Moss be a prominent part of it. Those things, as we like to say, are antithetical to each other.

As for the offense now, I think they desperately need Fred Taylor. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a nice story, but in the previous two games hes averaged two yards per carry (44 yards on 21 attempts). And it's just not smart to give Danny Woodhead a heavy load. Two other players who absolutely must "step up" are Brandon Tate and Julien Edelman. Tate, especially. More than any other player, it looks like he is feeling the loss of Moss the most. Since the trade, he has one catch for a grand total of three yards.

Hey Mikey,My take: Hands team or not, that was the best onside kick I've seen and that ball was bouncing right back to the Chargers. However, if the Pats recover there, they win the game going away. The NFL is a game where one play changes everything. And the Chargers have an awesome defense. That's what great defenses do: They hold you in the red zone. So I think people are a little hard on the offense. However, Brandon Tate might be Bethel Johnson redux.Brandon Meriweather (your buddy) has no instincts. All those passes in the middle of the field were his reads. He never anticipates and makes the pick. He won't EVER take a chance, which along with 50 other things makes him different than Ed Reed. A good free safety should be making picks and he makes none.GeorgeWoburn

You're right on Meriweather; his best breaks on the ball come after it's been caught. But, again, is it his job to play deep center field, or does he just stink? In this case, I think it's a lethal combination of both.

Hey Felger,Please start pushing my new nickname for Brandon Tate. I call him "Tater Tot." You know . . . since other teams can't KETCHUP to him on kickoffs.AndrewLeominster

Maybe Brady should start kicking the ball to him. Then maybe he'd make an actual play on offense.

Hey Felger,You were wrong about the Colts taking care of Manning -- FACT, NOT OPINION.For the last year, you and Tony tripped all over yourselves in glee to praise the Colts and how they do business better than the cheap Patriots. Then Brady signed his deal and you guys suddenly went silent and have remained silent since. And today there are reports that the Colts WILL NOT give Manning a new deal until the season is over. Oh, that's gotta hurt to be so wrong about a situation.I'll ask the same questions that you used to ask about how the way the Patriots were supposedly dealing with Tom: Why are the Colts making Manning play out his deal? Out of all the guys, why are they messing around with that guy? Why can't they be more like the Patriots and take care of their best player BEFORE the season starts? Why must they make him play out every cent of that deal?Why Mike, why?DanielEast Providence, RI

Why, Dan, why do you keep pounding me with this? For the 100th time: I AGREE WITH YOU. I think it's a joke for Indy to string Manning along like this. If I were him, I'd tell them to screw and become a free agent after the season. Or at least force them to franchise him at 25 million, or whatever his crazy figure would be. Is there a new stadium, or do the Colts even still exist in Indianapolis, without Manning? Probably not. And they're going to screw around with him on a contract? They're going to invoke this garbage about the uncertain environment of a new CBA (something the Pats proved was baloney with the Brady deal)? If I were a media man in Indy, trust me, I'd be hammering the Colts over it.

In the end, the Pats ultimately did the right thing and the Colts are doing the wrong thing.


Felger,Watching Sunday night's Green Bay-Vikings game and listening to the absolute ball-washing Michaels and Collinsworth are laying on Favre and Moss, I am convinced you have not been hard enough on these two clowns. (Moss and Favre, that is.) Forget about hits to the head; this continued celebration of Favre and Moss is far worse for the league's image. (Just kidding . . . but not really.) What an embarrassment.ChrisProvidence, RI

Favre outdid himself at the podium on Wednesday. Words dont do it justice. Give it a listen.

Mike, You said Favre would limp off the field this Sunday. Not NEARLY dramatic enough!!Hell go off on a CART and give a feeble "thumbs up" that will have the national announcers not only soiling themselves, but weeping openly!!MarkLowell

Isn't it obvious? Favre has been so bad this year (10 interceptions, 4 fumbles) that the Vikings have to make a football decision: Favre or Tarvaris Jackson? Only the giant colossus of everything that is BRETT FAVRE makes that virtually impossible. Childress just can't sit him, can't end his consecutive-start streak over a benching. So now we have this phony baloney injury. As Peter King wrote this week, it amounts to a glorified sprained ankle, but it's enough to give Childress, Favre and the Vikings an out. It's not a straight benching. Favre also has this excuse if the Sterger thing turns against him.

Anyway, when Favre gets yanked early on Sunday (as I predict he will), it will be for injury, not performance. And you're right: When Favre does go off the field, he'll be praised by the announcing team for even attempting to play. Even though he's mostly fine. Welcome to the wonderful world of Brett Favre.

Felger,You DB! Listening to you talk about how the Bruins have the same core that blew the 3-0 lead was beyond annoying. Weren't you the same guy that said that series turned when we lost Krejci and Philly got Gagne back? So what do you define as the B's core? Wouldn't you say Krejci (currently the No. 1 center), Horton (No. 1 RW) and Seidenberg (No. 2 D) make up huge parts of that core? Of course they do! None of them played in Games Four through Seven last year. Fact, not opinion. You even think Seidenberg might be better than Chara (asinine), only furthering the point that the core has improved with him being back on the roster. Throw in Caron (who looks like a polished vet), Seguin (who's going to be much better by April) and Campbell (who's a big upgrade over Begin) and even your fringe players have improved. Plus, trick-or-treat Wideman is gone. That's why the fans are optimistic. And yes, nobody wants to spend the next six months reliving the Philly series. Well, maybe the CHB.DanNashua

P.S. On a scale ofRoseanne to Krusty the Clown, where did Tyler's rendition of the anthemrank? Also, was he wearing a girl's t-shirt???

First of all, Mazz is the one who thinks Seidenberg could be better than Chara, not me. You're going to have to go to his bag for that one. As for the larger point: Has the same core that blew the 3-0 lead against the Flyers returned in their same roles this year? I would say you're wrong; the answer is unequivocally yes. The coach is the same, the captain is the same and the most valuable forward (Patrice Bergeron, based on salary cap allotment and the opinion of most Bruins fans) is the same.

But let's leave Bergeron and Krejci out of it; I've been drawn into a battle over those two when the fact is I like them both. They aren't the problem. Neither, in a vacuum, is Chara.

But do you understand that Chara and Julien have disappointed in the playoffs wherever theyve been? Look at some of those Ottawa teams Chara was on: they were wagons, and they could never get it done when it counted. This is Julien's eighth season a head coach in the NHL. Hes been on three teams. Hes never made it out of the second round. When are we allowed to look at those things as a trend?

HEY FELGER! I don't blame you for not enjoying the Bruins' great start to the season. I mean, you have to remind all of us every Sunday night at the end of your show it's been X number of days since the Bruins did something that only three other hockey teams have done in hockey history! So what about the parade route? Duck boats?And I don't get much of a chance these days to listen to your radio show in the afternoons because of work, but you have to tell me when you get Peter Chiarelli on your show so you can rip him to shreds for these contract extensions and no-trade clauses. You might send him running off a cliff.MatthewFramingham

People wonder why I get so up in arms over the Bergeron on Chara contracts, both of which were overpayments. Cap jail may not exist in the NFL, but it definitely does in the NHL. When Savard and Strum get healthy, the Bruins are screwed. They will need to ditch at least two bodies from their regular lineup or pull off a major trade where they're sure to get poor value. There are just too many bad deals on the books, and based on the Bergeron and Chara deals it doesn't look like the trend is about to reverse itself.

And my only request for the parade (which is obviously where they're headed after six games, right?) is that they stop at City Hall Plaza and get on a stage for a few minutes. That's always where the best stuff happens.

Felgy,Who won the Celtics game on Wednesday? I was watching the pregame show. Hannah Storm came out with her blue mini and knee-high black boots. After about 10 minutes of that I had to run out and spend the night at the Hooters Bar. MarkPA

Don't get me started on Hannah. She's so hot she distracts me. Takes me out of my game . . . And Lord knows we can't have that.
Felger's Vikings game column will appear on Monday morning. Read the report card on Tuesday. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

The case against Tom Brady playing to 45 isn't as strong as you think

The case against Tom Brady playing to 45 isn't as strong as you think

Robert Kraft relaying Tom Brady’s intention to play another six or seven years was . . . alarming. Brady is 39 and will be 40 when next season begins. Six more years would make him 45. Seven more years would make him 46. Math life. 

But back to the “alarming” thing. As you’ve probably heard by now, quarterbacks don’t usually play to their mid-40s, and they certainly don’t play at a high level into their mid-40s. As such, it’s easy to laugh off the idea that Brady could do it. 

(No it isn’t. This is Boston and a lot of people would probably bet their lives that Brady could win a Super Bowl at like 65.)

At any rate, the problem with writing off Brady’s six (or seven)-year plan is that the cases against it aren’t entirely relevant. 

The list of the oldest quarterbacks in NFL history is not impressive. The top eight is led by a guy who was pretty much a kicker who played to 48 and rounded out by a hobbled Brett Favre at 41. 

So in that respect, nobody has played great into their mid-40s. But it’s also worth noting that nobody great has really attempted it. 

Of that list, which also includes such names as Vinny Testaverde, Warren Moon, Doug Flutie and Mark Brunell, only Favre was a starter in his final season. Steve DeBerg was retired for four-plus years and came back for one more season as a backup at 44. Pro-Bowlers like Moon and Brunell had seen their stars fade years earlier.

Basically, the super old quarterbacks sucked and good quarterbacks didn’t last until they were super old. By even reaching what he’s done now, Brady has proven to be an outlier. 

The gawd Michael Hurley illustrated Brady’s prowess last season compared to other Hall of Famers (or eventual Hall-of-Famers) at age 39. Brady had the highest completion percentage (67.4) and a staggering 112.2 passer rating; the next-highest passer rating was by Moon, who posted a 91.5 mark. 

The other guys? Peyton Manning sucked (9 touchdowns, 17 picks -- but one Super Bowl, nerd!) and Favre was all over the place (28 touchdowns, 15 picks), while Len Dawson, Sonny Jurgensen and Johnny Unitas all played eight games or fewer. 

Conclusion: Even great quarterbacks can’t do what Tom Brady has done. He is one of a kind, so comparing lesser players to him when determining whether he can do something might not be the most foolproof (it’s foolproof, not full-proof; look it up) strategy .

Additionally, as Tom E. Curran pointed out Tuesday on "Quick Slants," Brady’s preparations to play into his mid-40s are over a decade in the making, dating back to what Curran estimates to be his early days with Alex Guerrero around 2005 or 2006. Curran noted that as being the time that Brady went from more traditional training and nutrition to being the pliability and hydration-obsessed freak he is today. 

Do you think 2010 Brett Favre was in anywhere near the shape Brady is? Of course not. Do you think Peyton Manning had even half a right arm in the 2015 season? Of course not. Comparing Brady to old quarterbacks past is obviously a stretch from a performance standpoint, but it also is from a physical standpoint. 

So yes, Brady playing at a high level until 45 or 46 would be unprecedented, but then again doing what he’s doing now is already unprecedented. We’re comparing the best to ever do it to a bunch of mortals.  

Haggerty: Rask puts up, makes critics shut up

Haggerty: Rask puts up, makes critics shut up

BOSTON -- The decision to sit out Saturday night's game against the Islanders, for whatever issue needed healing, worked wonders for Tuukka Rask.

Rask looked fresh, strong and determined while stopping 24 of 25 shots in a 4-1 win over Nashville on Tuesday night, and, at the very least, temporarily quieting talk of his missing Saturday's win over the Islanders because of a lower-body injury that wasn't disclosed until the day of the game. It also snapped his personal four-game losing streak, in which Rask had allowed 15 goals on 95 shots (an .842 save percentage) and hit rock bottom while surrendering a couple of damaging soft goals in last week's loss to the Lightning.

After watching Anton Khudobin battle, brawl and double-pad-stack his way to a huge win in Brooklyn on Saturday, Rask played with his own battling style Tuesday, fighting through Nashville attackers as he limited the the Preds to one goal.

"I loved [his battle]," said interim coach Bruce Cassidy. "He really worked hard to find pucks in traffic. They created some good opportunities, and even the goal against, he found it. They just tipped it at eye level so it was going to be a tough one, and we need to be better in the shooting lane on that one.

"But I thought he was terrific, very pleased with his performance. If you've got to track pucks, you've got to find pucks and you've got to fight through bodies, and he did a real good job with it.

"I thought we played well in front of him, but when we broke down it seemed to be in those areas where we couldn't break the puck up below our goal line. [There were] lot of bodies, a lot of point shots. This is the type of team, [Ryan] Ellis, [P.K.] Subban, [Roman] Josi, they rely on that part of the game and traffic. It was going to be a test for [the defense] there. I thought [Rask] answered the bell and in a terrific manner."

There were no two ways about it, Rask was truly excellent in a game where he had to be.

He made a save in the second period on Viktor Arvidsson when a David Backes turnover at the half-wall gave Arvidsson a wide open look at the net, and made 9 of his 24 saves in the third period as the Predators ramped up the desperation once Craig Smith had broken through on a tipped Josi shot. He also was the beneficiary of 24 blocked shots from the defenders in front of him. Adam McQuaid had five of the blocks all by himself,  absorbing all kinds of bumps and bruises in the process.

It was clear that the Bruins, as a team, were in late-season urgency mode.

"Well, we needed [a win]," said Rask. "Personally, I mean, I've lost four games but played a couple good games there, and we just didn't get the bounces. But we kind of got in winning habits there in [Broooklyn] and me stepping in here, I just wanted to make sure that I gave us a chance to win. The guys did the rest. So, it was a great team effort today, I think. As I said before, we blocked a lot of shots, which is huge."

So does one solid performance mean everything is settled for the B's No. 1 netminder after sitting out last weekend?

It certainly goes a long way toward putting some distance between Rask and whatever lower-body injury popped up and then disappeared just as quickly, and it puts a bit more of an optimistic spin for the remainder of the season. Rask didn't actively listen to any of the criticism of the last couple of days, but he fully understands that it comes along with the territory of being the No. 1 goalie in a city that takes hockey seriously.

"I can't do anything about what people say," said Rask, who took a pretty good hit on a Predators drive to the net in the third period but kept right on trucking. "I'm not staying home because I want to say home. I'm not playing because I don't want to play. I don't think any athlete does that. Obviously what's happened where I missed a game [vs. Ottawa] last year, people are going to talk about it. That's just the nature of media people, and what they talk about. It's fine.

"[All you can do is] you try not to read any of it, you stay even-keeled and you play the game the right way."

But the bottom line is the Bruins need much more of what they saw from Rask on Tuesday -- determined, tough-minded, a strong No. 1 goalie -- in the final six games if they want to be a playoff team this year.

He played well enough in the first few months, carrying the Bruins through the early portion of the season, to make people forget about calling in sick against Ottawa in the final game of last season. That's to Rask's credit. But last weekend's action, or lack of it, brought some of those same nagging questions back. He needs to build on Tuesday's encouraging performance to continue instilling confidence that he's a big-time No. 1 goalie.