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.

Acciari notches first NHL goal in Bruins win over Predators

Acciari notches first NHL goal in Bruins win over Predators

BOSTON – It took until his 43rd game in the NHL to finally score his first goal with the Bruins, but Rhode Island native Noel Acciari said it made him appreciate it all the more when that moment finally did arrived on Tuesday night. The 25-year-old Acciari finished off a Riley Nash feed on a 3-on-1 odd-man rush that gave the Bruins an insurance goal they badly needed in a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators at TD Garden.

Then David Pastrnak hit Acciari with a shaving cream pie to the face during the NESN broadcast as a way to commemorate his teammate’s big scoring moment, and Torey Krug immediately fished the puck out of the net to make certain that Acciari would get it.

So it was the best of both worlds with the team-oriented Acciari, who watched his Bruins win to go right along with his hallmark scoring moment that he’ll remember forever.

“Your first NHL goal is a special feeling and to finally have it, you know, like I said before I couldn’t have done it without the other guys, the other four, five guys on the ice. But it feels good,” said Acciari, who has a goal and four points in 24 games this season in Boston. “It just shows you how special it is. It’s not going to come the first game you play; it could come 10, 20, for me probably over 40, but it still feels the same.”

Clearly it’s more about providing a physical, heavy and aggressive opponent when Acciari suits up for the Black and Gold, and it’s less about providing offensive production that’s really a bonus from the fourth line. The focus on throwing hits, aggravating opponents and playing with extra energy have been a big part of Acciari’s game since his return from Providence, and that is absolutely been by design.

“I think I kind of strayed [from my strengths] when I got back from my injury – I kind of strayed away from the hitting game,” said Acciari. “Just getting in on the fore-check and, you know, just kind of getting back to that down in Providence was huge and kind of get my confidence up down there helped out a lot. So when I got the call up I was ready for anything.”

He’s certainly played like he was ready for anything while posting a goal and two points along with a plus-4 in his first four games back for the Bruins organization. Acciari did all of that while leading everybody in Tuesday night’s game with eight registered hits in the win over Nashville. So the 5-foot-10, 208-pound Acciari gave a pretty good example against the Predators of just what he can do with steady ice time and the trust of his teammates as all of the hockey clubs in the East gear up to finish strong for the playoffs.

Now all Acciari has to do is continue to play consistently, punish opposing players and chip in a little offense from time and time as he carves out a permanent role on Boston’s fourth line, and helps his team win a few along the way. 

Florio on issues NFL may face with Raiders in Las Vegas

Florio on issues NFL may face with Raiders in Las Vegas

Mike Florio joins Quick Slants to discuss the problems of the Raiders moving to Las Vegas, and the latest NFL rule changes.