Boston Red Sox

Moore's late-game plays save day for Pats

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Moore's late-game plays save day for Pats

FOXBORO -- Sterling Moore was in attendance for last year's Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas. But he was just a fan then.

In two weeks, the rookie will be playing in the big game, in large part because of his on-field play in Sunday's AFC Championship win over the Baltimore Ravens.

The story at Gillette Stadium was Billy Cundiff's missed 32-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide left with 11 seconds remaining. But even if he had made the clutch kick, the game wouldn't have been over. It would have tied the game at 23-23, sending it to overtime.

It was Moore's heroic defensive efforts, prior to the missed kick, that truly saved the day.

Before the kick, Baltimore had the ball at New England's 14-yard line with one timeout remaining, and a chance to put it in the end zone for the win in regulation.

On 2nd-and-1, Flacco threw a perfect pass to Lee Evans in the back-right corner of the end zone. It hit Lee in the numbers, and looked as if he made the catch, which would have ended the game. But Moore quickly reacted by batting the ball out of Evans' hands, making for an incomplete pass, and bringing up a 3rd-and-1 from the 14.

"I saw him catch it," said Moore after the game. "Honestly, I saw him catch it, and I tried to do whatever I could to get the ball out. It was the first thing I did, so, I'm glad it worked.

"It wasn't even in my mind to slap the ball out. That was just a reaction."

That reactionary type of play came up again on the very next snap, as Flacco tried to find Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta with a throw to the right side, but that was also batted away by Moore, forcing the Ravens to attempt a game-tying 32-yard field goal.

We all know how that worked out.

If it wasn't for Moore's heroics in Baltimore's final set of downs, then it would be the Ravens celebrating a trip to the Super Bowl, not the Patriots.

"Sterling has done a good job or us here the last few weeks going back to the Buffalo game and then last week against Denver," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "He made some plays. Not perfect out there, but he competes hard and hes a tough kid. Hes got good ball skills. He gets around the ball."

Moore's game-saving plays showed that he was also able to put game-changing breakdowns behind him.

In the final minutes of the third quarter, Moore was beat by Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith after Smith caught a quick dump-off and spun up the right sideline. Moore couldn't make the tackle on Smith before he dove into the end zone, giving the Ravens their first lead of the game at 17-16.

"The biggest thing was just trying not to think about it," said Moore. "They just told me to put it behind you, and step up and make a play. And that's what I did."

And because of those big plays he eventually made up for his third-quarter mishap.

Moore entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent this season and was cut by the Oakland Raiders in late September. Now, he's one of the main reasons the Patriots are heading back to the Super Bowl.

"It shows just the mental toughness that he has, personally," said Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo. "He comes out every day and goes to work, and tries to show the coaches what he's capable of doing. He showed it today."

"Just the season that I've had, just to do it at this stage, is huge," said Moore. "Proving to everybody else that, you know, I can make these plays. I'm glad the Patriots gave me the opportunity. I deserve to be out there.

"I'm very fortunate, very blessed to be here," said Moore. "When I was released from the Raiders, who knew that I would be picked up. Who knew what team, when. I'm just glad to be here and have the opportunity that coach Belichick gave me."

On Sunday, Moore returned the favor.

Drellich: Forget Red Sox resiliency or luck, banked wins are what matter

Drellich: Forget Red Sox resiliency or luck, banked wins are what matter

BOSTON — The minutiae starts to fade now. Steal a few wins, rattle off a gorgeous run when people didn’t expect you to — what should or shouldn’t happen doesn’t matter.

Are the Sox really this good? At a certain point, it’s irrelevant how many wins were lucky (Friday’s, arguably), or against bad teams (the White Sox), or anything else. Those victories are cinderblocks in the standings that the Yankees are will find increasingly difficult to budge.

There’s simply no challenging the value of banked wins, no eliminating them.

Look, you didn’t need Friday night’s 9-6 Red Sox win over the Yankees to realize the Sox are resilient. All of August has been a coming out party: for a pitching staff that’s making due without David Price, for an offense liberated by a 20-year-old third baseman who homered again Saturday, Rafael Devers, as the team adapts smoothly to the absence of Dustin Pedroia.

“We miss them,” Sox manager John Farrell said Saturday night. “There’s no question we miss those two guys, and [are] really looking forward to their return. But it speaks volume to the team we have, the depth and talent that’s here. 

“What Raffy has done by coming up, and Eduardo [Nunez’s] arrival here at the time when Pedey goes down, they’ve been instrumental in the way we’ve played. I don’t know if you want to call it the next-man-up mentality, but we have not skipped a beat and guys are beginning to flourish and shouldering a greater burden.”

But what, beyond this sense of resiliency, have you learned since the trade deadline? What can you tell about the Sox’ future from watching them reach a season-high 19 games over .500? 

That discussion is more complicated. The Sox are of the best anywhere, just as they were projected to be entering the year — albeit with some different personnel fulfilling those predictions. They’re just the second AL team to reach 70 wins.

Yet, it’s fair to wonder how many times a reliever like Tommy Kahnle — one of the Yankees’ significant trade additions — will let Mitch Moreland come through with a go-ahead hit on an 0-2 count in the seventh inning. 

It’s fair to wonder how many times Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly can fall into trouble without swing-and-miss stuff and be bailed out. Or how many times Farrell can keep holding back guys like Addison Reed, as the skipper did on Friday, until he really has no other choice — and be let off the hook for those choices.

The Red Sox are homer-happy right now, with multiple long balls for the 9th time in 14 games. Those home runs could be long overdue, or it could be a cluster and an aberration.

Again, those questions start to diminish in importance. Because in the same way we talk about time running out for Price’s return from injury, time also starts to run out for other teams.

There’s a cushion of five games in the AL East going into Saturday’s middle game of three with the Yankees, one of just four remaining head-to-head match-ups between the Sox and Yanks this season. The last time the Sox and Yankees were playing each other as the top two teams in the division this late in the year was 2011, a reminder of how quickly leads can dissipate. 

This isn’t a suggestion the Sox should be foolhardy, or have anything wrapped up. It’s a reminder that whether you believe Eduardo Nunez will keep up his .361 average down the stretch, or whether you find anything dubious about some of these Sox wins — they’re still in the bank, appreciating in value from now until October.

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Jaguars pursue Jimmy Garoppolo?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Jaguars pursue Jimmy Garoppolo?

0:43 - Drew Pomeranz left Friday’s Yankees game with back spasms. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are still waiting for David Price to come back. Evan Drellich checks in from Fenway Park to talk about this bullpen situation. 

08:03 - Rookie defensive end Derek Rivers is out for the season with a torn ACL. Tom Giles, Tom Curran, Michael Holley and Phil Perry decide if it’s time for the Patriots to look elsewhere for backup.

13:38 - Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone is not happy with the performance of his quarterbacks. Giles and Curran discuss whether Jimmy Garoppolo could end up in Jacksonville. 

18:15 - Holley and Curran take a look at the top free agents in the NBA right now and if the Celtics should be exploring any of them.