By Michael Felger
After a week off, the mailbag returns. And it doesn't take us long to get right back to our comfort zone.
Hey, Felger! Two things. The only time I've heard reference to Randy Moss the past few weeks was when Phil Simms pointed out that the Pats offense was now more sharp and precise, and the O-line was able to better protect Brady because he didn't have to stand in the pocket waiting all day for Randy to make his move. It also appears to my eye that Brady's passes are more direct and to the point. He is back to picking the first open read and firing it. I think it took him a couple of weeks to get over the Moss hangover but I think he and the rest of us are finally over it. Second, I was watching Ken Burns Tenth Inning last night and at the end just as the final music started playing there you were, ranting in the background. You've gone global, man. Steve Chester, NH
Yes, Steve. Worldwide Felger domination.
As for your first point, Simms thinks the Pats offense is more "sharp and precise" without Moss? Wow. Who could have predicted that?
Who could ever have said at the time of the trade that the Pats would actually be a better team on the field without him? That they would have a better offense when it counted -- on the road, in the second half, in big games? Was there anyone out there who could have dared to tell you that Deion Branch was a better fit for this team? Who is that person? I need to meet him.
Seriously, my victory lap is not yet complete, but we're getting there. A win over the Jets on Monday and a trip to the AFC title game would constitute crossing the finish line, but for now we all have to acknowledge the following: The Pats are better off without Moss. On the field. Off the field. Any way you slice it. And even the intangible thing that most everyone mocked me for -- i.e., the Pats "losing their soul" with Moss on the roster has come around. Consider what my former Moss nemesis Tom Curran wrote after the Detroit game:
"It's a team again . . . And it's impossible to not look at the trade of Randy Moss and the addition of Deion Branch as the propelling moment in this team's reclamation of its identity."
Couldnt have said it better myself, Tommy.
Hey, FelgerCheck out this Tweet from Mike Hill, ESPN: "Vince Young flips out after game . . . no longer the starter . . . Randy Moss overheard to say . . . 'What have I gotten myself into HERE . . . this place is crazy' Mike, you think he has regrets? Rocky Peabody
You know what's amazing to me? How many people around here deluded themselves into believing that it would somehow be different with Moss in New England. Get this through your heads, folks: Randy hasn't fought to the finish line ever. Not for any coach, any quarterback or any team. If he isn't happy -- and it doesn't matter if the source of that unhappiness is his contract, quarterback or role in the offense -- it's not going to end well. In this case, it happened to be his contract that sent him into his shell. And not Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Brett Favre or Jeff Fisher was able to pull him out.
And that, my friends, was entirely predictable.
Felger,A big difference in this Pats' team from last year's is how almost every week a different player is stepping up for the big play to win. Last year they didn't have this. Against Indy, it was James Sanders, of all people, with the interception. Against Pittsburgh, the big player was Gronkowski. In Detroit it was Branch. This is what they had back when they won Super Bowls. George Peabody
You mean it's not just Moss deep and Welker underneath? Too bad. I really enjoyed that era.
Hey, Felgy, If there's any problem with the offense it's the play-calling on close games! They need to keep the defense guessing with play-action and screens, etc. Screw the shot-gun, empty-backfield crap, where the defense can pin their ears back knowing its going to be a pass. This didn't happen when Charlie Weis was coaching the offense! I hope Bill sees this and will force adjustments in the play calling to be made. What do you think? Phil Methuen
I think the last two series against Indianapolis two weeks ago were bad. Brady in shotgun on the first. BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the backfield in a power running set on the second. The Pats declared both times, and both possessions went nowhere. The offense was obviously much more productive when it counted in Detroit (touchdowns on their final five possessions), and I think the play-calling was a bit more diverse. Then again, everything they were doing against Detroit worked. The bottom line is that the offense is going to have to close games when it gets the chance. If not, it's up to the defense -- and I don't think any of us like those odds.
Hey, Felger, Didn't I hear you last week (on Sports Tonight) say that if the Pats won on Sunday against the Colts that you would not qualify it? Any win against the Colts was a good win and this was the measuring-stick game. Well, they won and here you go qualifying it. "They did win but the offense almost blew it." Who cares? Every game against the Colts in the last few games has been within a touchdown and down to the wire. They beat Pittsburgh, Miami and San Diego on the road, and Indianapolis and Baltimore at home. They are tied for the best record in the NFL. The defense made just enough plays to win the game. The offense scored 31. Give them some props. John Cumberland
I read this on TV the other night but it bears repeating because John is so right here, it's scary. I broke my promise. I'm a bad person. So let me repackage this a bit. I put no blame on the Pats' offense for the Colts game, per se. They put their team in a position to win. They did their job.
But going forward, if the Pats want to win a championship, that unit is going to have to do even more. Not a lot more, mind you. But more than they did against the Colts in the fourth quarter. All that game required was two or three more first downs. I'm sure the offense will be in that position again, needing to protect the defense at the end of a big game.
Hey, Michael! My question is about Taylor Price. I mean, where is this guy? He can't still be hurt. Is it that he doesn't get the system or is it something else? Nobody seems to know where he is at a time when he should be utilized for all his speed and great hands. Anyway, I thought if anyone would know the answer it would be you . . . thanks, Michael. Steve Newport, VT
My source (okay, Chris Gasper) tells me that he hasn't earned the trust of Brady yet. And that, obviously, is a sure way to wind up on the inactive list every Sunday.
Mike, I was thinking how empty that "franchise-worst defense" tag sounds, as if people are trying to claim that the Pats are hanging their collective hopes on the youngest defense the Belichick era has ever seen. A 25th-ranked defense didnt stop the Saints from dispatching the Colts, who had the eighth-ranked defense, last year. And having the 23rd-ranked defense didn't stop Peyton from winning in '06. Does the 'D' need to be better? Of course. But someone grab Gasper and tell him that this, in fact, is what playmaking looks like. Does he get it yet? Brandon Meriweather is not a playmaker, never was; we just hadn't seen one in so long that we forget what it looked like. (Nice angle on that Reggie Wayne touchdown, Brandon; a lot of Pro Bowl safeties need to be burnt 20 or 30 times before they figure it out.) I know there is a thought that following 2004 the league started trending toward offense, but I don't think numbers back that up at all. The average points allowed per game from 2000 to 2004 was 20.98; from '05 to '09 it was 21.29. Where is the giant sea change in scoring? Perhaps its been a little longer than we think since dominating defense was necessary to win. Is there a team other than the 2000 Ravens that truly did it all on defense? It's QB, coaching, situational football, and opportunistic defense that has been getting it done more often than not this decade, and other than the Jets I dont see anyone that seems to have that makeup. Riddle me this: How many good teams do the Pats have to pick off before we stop looking for some nebulous piece of data that explains it all away as an accident? Peace, Jake Boston
Congrats, Jake. I think you nailed it.
I always thought "defense wins championships" was an overrated clich, anyway. I mean, how many teams in the last 20 years won with an imbalance favoring the defense? The Giants in 20007? Okay, sure. The last two Steelers teams? I don't know. I think they were pretty balanced. As you mention, that Ravens team in 2000 certainly qualifies. Also Tampa two years later. But the 2001 Patriots? Or the '03-04 versions for that matter? Nope. You can't say that defense won those titles when the quarterback is Tom Brady. They were balanced. The Cowboys teams in the '90s were better on offense. Same with Denver. Same with Green Bay and San Francisco. And on and on.
We just busted another clich, Jake.
Hi, Felgy,I just watched your Felger's Four from Monday and I can't believe you rate Darrelle Revis as the top Jet you'd want on the Patriots team. He's a huge turd, as proven by the fact that the second he comes into Jets camp like some returning conquering king, after signing a huge deal, he publicly states that he might hold out again next year! Then he promptly misses games because he held out of camp and pulled a hamstring. What a turd. No thanks! Care to rethink that one? Love ya, man! Scott Cape Cod
You are so wrong, Scott. All Revis wanted was to get paid. On everything else, he's flawless. I'll go one step further. Forget about the Jets. If youre saying I could have any non-quarterback IN THE LEAGUE, I think I'd take Revis (Julius Peppers would also have to get a look). Hes outstanding in every way. You're wrong.
Felger, If you were making a list of the top five offensive players that the Pats couldn't afford to lose this season, wouldn't Danny Woodhead crack that list? He would for me. Amazing to think that a few months ago no one knew his name, and now he's a critical player for a very good NFL team. That said, I think it's only fair to point out that BJGE has been a real asset, as well. That 15-yarder against the Lions was downright embarrassing for their DB Duane Star -- er, Alphonso Smith. Bottom line, with two undrafted RBs, the Pats seem to be doing just fine. Think the Jets regret keeping Joe McKnight? Andrew Leominster
I didn't need any more evidence, but what the Pats are doing right now is example No. 1,000 of why I would never take a running back up high in the draft. You just don't need to take one there to get what you need. I know the Pats have six picks in the first three rounds next year, but I wouldn't be upset if they didn't spend a single one at running back.
Felger,Is Darius Butler going to get out of witness protection anytime soon? This guy started disappointing people at his combine when Deion Sanders said he could run a 4.29 40-yard dash and he instead ran a 4.45. Another bad draft pick???Scott Claremont N.H
It doesn't look good for him, I agree, but I don't know if I would be framing it as "another" bad draft pick. The Pats have been better the last couple of years (McCourty, Chung, Cunningham, Spikes, Vollmer, etc).
Mike, You and your flunkies on CSN can parade Dan Shaughnessy and Bob Ryan and every old Globe hack out there to tell us who thinks what about the Pats legacy. Dan has already told me personally he hates the Krafts so, to me, he has no opinion of substance. Do comments by the media aggravate Patriot Nation? Sure. The only time it aggravates me is when Bob tells US how we should perceive the Pats legacy. Hey Bob, in 20 years youll be dead and the fans of today will be watching the "Pats dynasty" on NFL films. Thats the legacy. But Bob is always speaking from a point of hypocrisy. This is a guy with a Baseball Hall of Fame vote who said nothing about Steroids until years after the story broke. And hes still waiting for all the facts to come in. Belichick doesnt need to win another championship to eliminate Spygate. Its not ever going to change the minds of fans in other cities or media in general who hate Belichick. As I have always said -- and I will never move from this position -- if it was anyone else but Belichick, the issue would have been over in two weeks. So Bob can drag his tired old bones on every media outlet he wants and tell us what "perception" is. As Jack Nicholson says in the Bucket List, "no one cares what you think." And Mike, before you chime in that I care -- no, no, no. I only care that he THINKS we care or should care. As far as Josh McDaniels and Eric Mangini goes....Wow, I think people forget that Eric Mangini was a 28-year-old ball boy when Belichick found him. Thats embarrassing enough. Throw in that hes made him a millionaire and that has always been one of the greatest betrayals in sports. Josh,? Same thing. I mean, who was Josh McDaniels until Bill found him? He would be another 32-year-old charting plays waiting for a coordinator job or coaching at a Division 2 school. George Woburn
The reason I respect your opinion so much, George, is that it comes from such an objective place.
Hey Mike, Ive never heard anyone in talk-radio land mentiondiscuss the fact that the Patriots are the only team that does not have those stupid 'C' patches on their uniforms. Its obviously a continuation of the theme started in 2001 that they are a team and individuals are not singled out. Subtle, but very cool. Tim
You're right that the Pats don't do it, but I'm pretty sure they aren't the only ones. Those things are lame, anyway.
Mike, I can see it now. Brett Favre retires early this week announcing that the Vikes are out of contention and this will give them a chance to evaluate quarterbacks for the future. The national Brett suck-ups will write about this magnanimous gesture on his part, causing me to vomit as he never cared about anyone not named Brett Favre. Jack Auburn
Does anyone really think this season will be the end of the Favre story? Favre may not play next year (I'd say it's 50-50), but if you believe he won't allow the rumors to resurface again in the offseason, you're nuts. The chances of Favre flirting with a return and allowing the stories to flourish are 100 percent.
Mike, Ill be honest: With the Pats (the most interesting story in Boston right now) at 9-2 and the Celts and Bruins looking like they will be playing deep into the spring and early summer, my boyhood passion -- baseball -- is becoming more and more like BCS football. Wake me when the rankings come out. I see the Victor Martinez non-signing and shake my head. I know people have a thing with the Patriots' arrogance, but Red Sox ownership is much more arrogant. The differences are the manager is so media-friendly that it disguises that arrogance somewhat, and Peter Gammons' affection for Theo Epstein has led him to be their PR mouthpiece. Theo thinks he knows numbers we dont. Of course, it's the old adages that matter -- BA, HR, RBI and how you play against the Yankees, a trademark of the 2003-04 teams and missing on the teams for the last five years except forVictor. He killed lefties and the Yankees are going to have the two best in their rotation next year. But Theo is smarter than us. So the point I am getting at is the "system" of baseball has allowed the Sox to get away with what they get away with. Theyll add a few pieces and be a wild card. Why? Because Tampa got much worse, the A.L. West stinks, the A.L. Central stinks and 160 million is what MLB requires for automatic admission into the playoffs. (200 million gets you first place.) Then the "brain trust" will hope they get hot like the Giants and they have their third title. Their real plan is wait 'till 2012. Then they can get Adrian Gonzalez or Prince Fielder and not have to give up the "golden" prospects. Because in 2012 the wild card will only guarantee a two-out-of-three series with another wildcard -- forcing that winner to start the next round with their third and fourth starters. All of sudden, the division will matter again. I would think a .300 hitting catcher who kills the Yankees would help there. But then again Im not as smart as Theo. Anonymous Woburn
Why the Sox would over-extend for Carl Crawford or Jason Werth but wouldn't simply re-sign Jason Bay or Victor Martinez is beyond me.
Hey, Felga, I need your expertise here. With Savard and Krejci returning soon and Seguin in the center mix, the Bruins will be paying Bergeron -- a soon-to-be-third-line center -- 5 million a year. Also, we have Chara until hes 39 at 7.5 million per. Whos making these mismanaged, shortsighted decision on Causeway street? What am I missing? Benny Beverly
Peter Chiarelli, I think. I didn't believe it was possible, but Jeremy Jacobs replaced one of the tightest, hardest-lined chief executives in Harry Sinden with one of the biggest pushovers we've ever seen in Chiarelli. I'd love to have a contract up with him.
I'm with you. I don't see what the great rush was with Bergeron and Chara. The Bruins paid top-of-the-market dollars for those players well before they reached the market. Why? Why not wait to see what they'd get as free agents? It's hard to believe either would have received more. Chara, for example, will remain one of the top-two highest paid defensemen in the NHL with his new contract. That's crazy. The cap problems the B's are having right now are just the beginning. This will be a yearly exercise.
Hey, Felger, The Bruins need to act fast and sell high on Tim Thomas. He's been great, but Rask is the guy for the future and is a top 5 goaltender in the league right now. There are always plenty of teams in need of goalie help, and a team that is in win-now mode should be interested. Chiarelli needs to capitalize on this golden opportunity to dump that contract for future cap space while also adding a key piece, like a puck moving defenseman. JP
First of all, Thomas was freaking incredible on Wednesday in Philadelphia. As good as it gets.
Beyond that, there is no way the Bruins will get anything approaching fair value for Thomas -- so forget it. He's not going anywhere this season. His contract is just way too high. But I'll tell you what: I'm not so sure I want to dump him anymore. If Rask is going to have a sophomore slump, then that's a pretty good security blanket to have.
Felgy, The Bruins seem to lose a bunch of games at home -- a point youve brought up last season and this year. Interesting. The historic collapse last spring. Hmmm. Lets cut to the chase: Young guys with a lot of cash and time on their hands can become "distracted" when they think they can get away with it. The 1990 Edmonton Oilers can have a Peter Klima and his lifestyle on the team because the Oilers were loaded with talent. The Bs, not so much. Now imagine Mike Milbury behind the Bruins bench this spring. In two seasons as Bruins coach, he took them to the finals one year and the third round the next. Those Bruins teams were comparable in talent to the current edition. The difference was a coach with a screw loose (in a good way) who drove and willed his team deep into the playoffs. Hey, Chiarelli, sit down, shut up, and make Milbury the coach before April 1. Kevin
The Philly result notwithstanding, the Bruins come across to me as the classic example of a team that could use a shakeup. That could be the coach. That could be a big trade. That could be something else I'm not thinking of. But I just feel like something has to happen. The talent is there. You have to wonder if they need an "event" (think the Nomar trade; or the Bledsoe injury) to take the next step.
Hey, Felger! I happened to be listening to you the other day with Mazz, and I must say the more I listen to you, I can't help but agree with mostly everything you say. IT'S DAMN CRAZY! I must think that you and I must have met somewhere (It couldn't have been during the holiday season because you hate shopping in those malls that turn into warzones) and we just agreed with everything we thought of in Boston sports. Which brings me to my next question: Are we related? Matthew Framingham
Brothers in the truth, Matt.
Michael, Every week when I read your mailbag I have this same thought: When is CSNNE.com going to set Mike from Attleboro up with a blog or at least his own weekly column? He's bright, articulate, and like you, has the ability to look at things from a different angle than many of the conformist "professional" reporters and sportscasters in Boston. Maybe this is how Joe Posnanski got started. Would you please make an introduction between the powers that be at CSNNE.com and Mike? Since there's no chance I'll get to see you swim naked in the Charles River with a cheesehead hat when Favre wins a Super Bowl, I would settle for reading more of Mike from Attleboro. And I'd actually visit CSNNE.com more often than just Thursdays. Kim New Hampshire
Really, Kim? Don't encourage him.
Felger You DB! My first reaction when you forwarded me the above e-mail was to check and see if I had any family members named Kim living in the granite state who might have sent this. Then I quickly remembered how disappointed my relatives were when they realized I was going to be allowed inside the house to eat with them this past Thanksgiving, so that possibility was quickly dismissed. I have to say I am both shocked and flattered to be mentioned in the same paragraph as the prestigious Joe Posnanski, and somewhat relived that it was not in a court-ordered document that required me to maintain a adjudicated distance from the SI writer. (Sorry about that fence, Joe!) I would hope that Joe got his start in a fashion that didn't routinely disappoint more people than the Lost Finale, but if so hes got thicker skin for it. I appreciate the kind words, Kim, and Im glad that all the years of pop culture consumption and selling my ADHD medication has resulted in a unique perspective on Boston sports that you enjoy. I am just as grateful that Mike has put up with my semi legible ramblings for this long. As for a meeting with CSNNE leadership goes, I am sure that my professional Swiffer skills and multiple uses for Oxy Clean would no doubt impress the head honchos enough to fill a important niche in Burlington. Someone has to clean up when Gresh co-hosts Sports Tonight right? Mike Attleboro
Okay everybody, get a room.
Subj: Three yards and a cloud of hand lotionMike, On the crossover with DA on Tuesday night, you called Rich Eisen a "dime-a-dozen, glib, generic ESPN-type anchor."Is it better to be a "dime-a-dozen, glib, generic ESPN-type anchor" or a local hack who spouts the same crap day after day, hour after hour on LOCAL media platforms and generally with a TV rating share of under a 1? Is it better to be a "dime-a-dozen, glib, generic ESPN-type anchor" or a local hack who spent all of last spring telling us that he discovered Tuuka Rask (now 1-10-2 in his last 13 going back to your anointment last year)? Is it better to be a "dime-a-dozen, glib, generic ESPN-type anchor" or someone who has surrounded himself with a flunky who NEVER ("You're absolutely right, Mike") challenges him on the LOCAL radio show? Is it better to be a "dime-a-dozen, glib, generic ESPN-type anchor" or a local hack who goes on the air for four hours and spews falsehoods about the NFL tiebreaking procedure? And then, when presented with the facts responds with "that gives me an ice-cream headache"?Is it better to be a "dime-a-dozen, glib, generic ESPN-type anchor" or a local hack who openly worships a guy who was fired from the Boston Globe for plagiarizing? Is it better to be a "dime-a-dozen, glib, generic ESPN-type anchor" or a local hack who gets thrown off the Bruins beat by his newspaper for reasons never known? Anyways, I hope I see you on an airplane -- I'm not going take off my watch at security. I'm gonna stand up before we reach the gate. And I'm not turning off my laptop. Stan Jonathan
I always like to end on a positive note.
Read Felger's Patriots-Jets game column on Tuesday morning. The report card will post on Wednesday. E-mail him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to Felger on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.