Patriots can clinch AFC East this Sunday

926815.jpg

Patriots can clinch AFC East this Sunday

A win Sunday over the Dolphins will deliver the Patriots their 10th AFC East title in 12 seasons.

With their record currently at 8-3 and the Dolphins at 5-6, a win by the Pats means the Patriots would have a four-game lead on them with four games to play.

Miami could tie the Patriots at 9-7 if the Patriots lost their last four against Houston, San Francisco, Jacksonville and the Dolphins, and Miami wins its last four at San Francisco, against the Jaguars and Bills and then at New England.

But even with a split of the head-to-head games, the Patriots would have a 5-1 record in the AFC East and Miami would be 3-3.

What the Patriots have accomplished since 2001 is stunning. They have finished alone or in a tie for first place in the division every season since 2001. The two times they failed to make the playoffs in that stretch -- 2002 and 2008 -- the Patriots finished at 9-7 and 11-5, respectively, but were edged from the postseason on tiebreakers.

The Patriots are slowly approaching the point where the Brady-Belichick Era will be regarded as the greatest run in NFL history.

A win this week will mean the Patriots have won nine or more games in 12 straight seasons, second only to the 49ers run of 16 seasons of nine or more wins (1983-98). The Niners accomplished that with three different head coaches (Bill Walsh, George Seifert, Steve Mariucci) and two Hall of Fame quarterbacks (Joe Montana and Steve Young).

If the Patriots get to 10 wins, they will break into second place with nine straight seasons of 10 or more wins (trailing the Niners' 16 straight).

If the Patriots win their final five games, they will become the first team in NFL history with three straight seasons of 13 or more wins. Currently, they are the only team to have done that deed twice (2003-2004 and 2010-2011).

Lance Stephenson goes back at Isaiah Thomas for recruiting Paul George on Instagram

Lance Stephenson goes back at Isaiah Thomas for recruiting Paul George on Instagram

Isaiah Thomas keeps recruiting players on Instagram. It was only a matter of time before somebody got pissed. 

Thomas, who on Wednesday commented on a photo of the disbanding Clippers telling Blake Griffin to come to Boston, was up to his old tricks again later in the day. With Paul George almost a certainty to be dealt this offseason, Lance Stephenson posted a picture of he and George pleading with him to stay in Indiana. Thomas wasn't exactly polite in his comment, leading to a back-and-forth.

"Blasted" might be a stretch, but the Celtics did indeed go 3-0 against the Pacers last season, though none of the wins were by large margins. George dropped 37 points on the Celtics in Boston's 109-100 win on March 22. 

MLB ump saves woman attempting to jump from Pittsburgh bridge

umpire-john-tumpane-david-ortiz-062917x.jpg

MLB ump saves woman attempting to jump from Pittsburgh bridge

PITTSBURGH -- John Tumpane can't explain why he approached the woman as she hopped over the railing of the Roberto Clemente Bridge on Wednesday afternoon.

The woman told Tumpane she just wanted to get a better view of the Allegheny River below. The look on her face and the tone of her voice suggested otherwise to Tumpane, a major league baseball umpire in town to work the series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Tampa Bay Rays.

So the 34-year-old Tumpane reached for the woman even as she urged him to let her go.

"It was just pure instinct," Tumpane said . "You hear kind of stories of this all the time, different scenarios, people aiding and situation where I was lucky enough to be there to help and try to think of everything I could do, hanging on to her. At times she wanted to go the other way. I was like, 'not on my watch, please.' We were just hanging on."

And saving a life.

Tumpane secured one of her arms. A bystander walked up and grabbed the other while another -- Mike Weinman, an employee for the Rays -- clutched her legs and pinned them to the railing while Tumpane mouthed to someone in the crowd to call 911.

What followed were chaotic moments of panic, fear and ultimately, grace.

"I couldn't tell you how long we were waiting for everyone else to get in place," Tumpane said. 'Obviously another power comes into be when you're hanging on and you know what the alternative is of you letting go and not having other people to help you."

Tumpane, Weinman and the third volunteer clung to the unidentified woman until emergency responders arrived. A police boat raced up the river to the iconic yellow bridge named for the Pirates Hall of Famer who died on Dec. 31, 1972, when a plane making humanitarian deliveries to earthquake victims in Nicaragua crashed. Now, 45 years later a crowd thrust together by fate brought a complete stranger back from the brink. Together.

"Once they were able to secure her, we were able to talk her back to help us out and we got her back on this side," Tumpane said. "After that I went up to her, she said, 'You'll just forget me after this' and I said, 'No, I'll never forget you.' This was an unbelievable day and I'm glad to say she can have another day with us and I'm glad I was in the right place at the right time."

Tumpane, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, got into umpiring as a teenager, made his major-league debut in 2012 and received his full-time MLB commission in 2016, stressed he's no hero.

"I just happened to be there," he said. "I think I've been a caring person in my life. I saw somebody in need, and it looked like a situation to obviously insert myself and help out."

The aftermath was a bit surreal. After the woman was taken away, Tumpane called his wife, his arms still shaking.

"Not too many times you call your wife and say you helped save somebody's life," he said. "A really special moment."

One that stayed with him even as he prepared to call balls and strikes behind home plate Wednesday night. During breaks in the action his eyes would drift to the bridge just a few hundred feet behind the center field wall at PNC Park.

"It's also hard when you stand back behind home plate and look and you see the bridge in the distance, In between innings and whatnot, just thinking of how things could have maybe been," he said. "Glad it was this way."

Tumpane has no experience in crisis management or suicide prevention. He's spent 16 years living the nomadic life of an umpire. Asked what was going through his head while he tried to coax the woman back to safety, Tumpane just shrugged his shoulders. How do you explain the unexplainable?

"I happened to be in the right spot at the right time," he said. "Tried to be as comforting as I could and talk her through it. Thankfully that was the outcome."