Belichick's AFC squad falls in Pro Bowl, 55-41


Belichick's AFC squad falls in Pro Bowl, 55-41

By Phil Perry

Patriots coach Bill Belichick would have liked to have spent Sunday preparing for a trip to Dallas to coach in next week's Super Bowl.

Instead, he spent the day patrolling the AFC sideline during a typically light-hitting, but particularly uninspired, Pro Bowl game in Hawaii.

His AFC squad turned the ball over six times and fell to the NFC, 55-41.

The Belichick-led side -- which fell behind 42-0 in the second quarter -- was short on highlights, but the seven Patriots players involved provided a few relative bright spots:

Cornerback Devin McCourty capped off his accomplished rookie season by mostly holding his own against a slew of the NFL's best receivers. He covered Atlanta's Roddy White, Detroit's Calvin Johnson and Dallas' Miles Austin in the game. He also recorded his first-ever Pro Bowl interception.

On the first play of the second quarter, Atlanta's Matt Ryan tested McCourty and tried to hit Austin deep downfield. McCourty, in single coverage, out-jumped the Cowboys receiver and came down with the AFC's only interception of the game.

McCourty was burned for a touchdown by Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald in the second quarter, but he also recorded four tackles and defended two passes.

Wes Welker couldn't reel in any of the bombs thrown his way in the second half as the AFC attempted a comeback, but he tied for the team lead in receptions with 5 for 34 yards.

Welker had one of the AFC's lowlights of the game when in the second quarter, he was stripped by Washington's DeAngelo Hall at the AFC 34-yard line. Hall scooped up the fumble and scored to put the AFC down, 27-0.

In Jerod Mayo's first Pro Bowl game, the All-Pro linebacker finished with seven tackles, which was the second-most on the team.

Safety Brandon Meriweather chipped in with three tackles.

The game was devoid of hard-nosed play in the trenches, meaning it was a fairly uneventful day for Patriots offensive linemen Matt Light and Logan Mankins and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.

Wilfork's day was spent mostly leaning lackadaisically into NFC offensive linemen and raising an arm to try to block passes thrown over his head.

Interestingly, Mankins and Light finished the game with as many tackles as Wilfork; each player had one.

Light tackled London Fletcher after the Redskins' linebacker intercepted San Diego's Philip Rivers in the first quarter. Mankins got his name in the box score by tackling Hall, the game's MVP, after he intercepted Rivers on the AFC's next possession.

Rivers started in place of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was voted in as the AFC's starter. Brady elected not to make the trip to Hawaii, opting instead to have foot surgery Jan. 20 to repair a chronic stress fracture.

Kansas City's Matt Cassel was named to the AFC team in Brady's place. He went 5-12 for 95 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Felger: 'The Oakland Raiders are garbage, and they always have been'

Felger: 'The Oakland Raiders are garbage, and they always have been'

Want a classic Felger rant? Or forget Felger; a classic rant, period?

Watch the video above as Michael Felger eviscerates the Oakland Raiders.

"You know what the Oakland Raiders are? And their fans, and their city? A bunch of dirtbags," Felger said Tuesday on Felger & Mazz. "If that's not the most overrated team and organization in the history of sports, I don't know what is . . . That is a garbage organization and it has always has been.

"And the way people are treating them now, like . . . the Green Bay Packers or the Boston Celtics or the Montreal Canadiens or the New York Yankees are moving, is laughable. Laughable! The Oakland Raiders are garbage. And they always have been."

There's more . . . ,much more. Watch the video to hear the full treatment.

Rules changes are in: Field-goal leap, crackback blocks banned

Rules changes are in: Field-goal leap, crackback blocks banned

PHOENIX -- The NFL has announced which rules, bylaw and resolution proposals passed following Tuesday's vote at the Arizona Biltmore. The full list is below, but here are a couple of the noteworthy changes from a Patriots perspective . . . 

* That leap-the-line play that Jamie Collins and Shea McClellin have executed for the Patriots over the course of the last two seasons? That's been prohibited, as expected. The league did not want coaches to be responsible for putting a player in a position where he may suffer a head or neck injury. (Which is different from a player putting himself in that position with a split-second decision to leave his feet mid-play.)


* Receivers running pass routes can now be considered "defenseless." That means that even within the five-yard "chuck" area beyond the line of scrimmage, receivers will have some measure of protection. The Patriots, like many teams, have called for linebackers to disrupt the routes of shallow crossers, which can lead to monster hits on unexpecting players. Those types of collisions may now be fewer and farther between.

* Crackback blocks are now prohibited by a player who is in motion, even if the player is not more than two yards outside the tackle box at the snap. What's the Patriots connection here? It seems as though the overtime play that won Super Bowl LI -- during which Julian Edelman came in motion and "cracked" down on corner Brian Poole -- is now illegal. We'll look for clarification on this when the league holds its press conference describing the rules changes later on Tuesday.

Approved 2017 Playing Rules Proposals

2a. By Philadelphia; Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays. (Final language will be available on  

8.   By Competition Committee; Makes permanent the rule that disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. 

9.   By Competition Committee; Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line for one year only. 

11. By Competition Committee; Gives a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection. 

12. By Competition Committee; Makes crackback blocks prohibited by a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is not more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped. 

13. By Competition Committee; Replaces the sideline replay monitor with a hand-held device and authorizes designated members of the Officiating department to make the final decision on replay reviews. 

14. By Competition Committee; Makes it Unsportsmanlike Conduct to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock. 

15. By Competition Committee; Makes actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half.

Approved 2017 Bylaw Proposals

4.     By Competition Committee; Liberalizes rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club’s facility for one year only. 

5.     By Competition Committee; Changes the procedures for returning a player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness to the Active List to be similar to those for returning a player that was Designated for Return.  

6.     By Competition Committee; The League office will transmit a Personnel Notice to clubs on Sundays during training camp and preseason.

Approved 2017 Resolution Proposal

G-4.     By Competition Committee: Permits a contract or non-contract non-football employee to interview with and be hired by another club during the playing season, provided the employer club has consented.