Boston Red Sox

Ravens' last-second FG sinks Patriots, 31-30

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Ravens' last-second FG sinks Patriots, 31-30

It was a rematch of the 2011 AFC Championship Game, so it was only fitting that the Patriots put on a 2011 nostalgia show for NBC's national Sunday Night Football audience.

Wes Welker, after two weeks more or less on the shelf, was a lynchpin of the attack. Tom Brady, after two less-than-Brady-like performances to start the season, was Tom Brady again.

But most importantly, the defense -- after two encouraging weeks that stirred memories of the stout '03 and '04 championship units -- melted back into the can't-stop-nuthin' Swiss Cheese A.C.

After an encouraging start (two three-and-outs and an interception on Baltimore's first three possessions), the Pats' defense wilted, allowing the Ravens -- who put together drives of 82, 92, 80, 92 and 70 yards -- score five of the last seven times they had the ball. Justin Tucker's 27-yard field goal as time expired provided the game-winning points, as Baltimore handed New England a bitter 31-30 defeat.

Much of the postgame discussion will center on the officiating, and rightfully so; the replacement refs put on their most controversial performance yet (and under a national television spotlight, to boot). Twenty-four penalties were called -- on one of them, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was nailed for unsportsmanlike conduct when he complained that the refs didn't see him signalling for a time out -- and Bill Belichick was so frustrated he actually grabbed at one of the officials who was racing off the field after the game, in an attempt to talk to him.

But to blame the referees for the defeat is to ignore a disheartening, alarming night by the Pats' defense that wiped out all the optimism that grew after its performance in the first two games.

"The offense played their tails off," said Vince Wilfork, "and we just left them out to dry."

More to come . . .

Drellich: Dave Dombrowski, at last, built an excellent bullpen

Drellich: Dave Dombrowski, at last, built an excellent bullpen

BOSTON — Congratulations, Dave Dombrowski. It’s September, and you built a certified, top-notch bullpen. 

Credit goes all around. The pitchers themselves receive the most, with the front office, John Farrell and the rest of the staff taking their slices as well.

But the success is particularly notable for an executive who perennially had terrible bullpens in Detroit. Dombrowski knows the reputation he garnered, too.

Maybe now he’ll start to shed it.

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The trouble in his old job wasn’t for lack of trying. Joe Nathan didn’t work out. Many folks didn’t.

“I think that there’s a few factors there,” Dombrowski said in 2016 of his bullpens in Detroit. “At one time we had (Jose) Valverde (from 2010-13 who) was the best closer for a couple years. (Joaquin) Benoit pitched very well as a set-up guy. We had a very solid bullpen at that point.

“We were unlucky a little bit in, for example, a guy like Joel Zumaya — who was a dominant guy, young — hurts his arm. Somebody you’re counting on. . . . Really (Bruce) Rondon never lived up to the early expectations. I know he’s still young, he’s doing better. So we got a little unlucky on those things. He got hurt too.”

So it goes. Per FanGraphs’ measurement of WAR, the Tigers had the worst bullpen in the majors from 2003-15, Dombrowski’s tenure.

The Sox’ bullpen is fifth in WAR this year, and second in ERA. Last year’s group was good, but not this good. 

One of Dombrowski’s premier pick-ups in Boston, Addison Reed, has a common refrain when asked about his own pitching: he doesn’t change a thing. 

When Reed got rocked in one of his early outings with the Red Sox, against the Yankees, he said he didn’t change. When he got in and out of trouble in the eighth inning Monday night in another extra-inning win for the Red Sox, 10-8 over the Orioles in 11, he said he didn’t change.

Same for Dombrowski, it would seem. 

He continued to go after established relievers. There was the huge trade for Craig Kimbrel. Carson Smith took a while to contribute because of arm injuries, but he had the 11th-inning save Monday, and his velocity appeared to be creeping up. 

The Tyler Thornburg situation was troubling, so Dombrowski went out and got Reed from the Mets.

Could Dombrowski have had success sooner if he had changed his approach? Well, maybe, but that’s a different argument.

It’s worked. He didn’t change a thing. 

How cliche. But cliches, we should point out, have become a central theme in all these extra-inning wins for the Sox (they're 14-3). Grit, resiliency, determination — you run the risk of drowning on those words, even if they’re well deserved.

Those relievers, though. Both throughout the season and in these marathon games the Sox too often seek, the ‘pen has been unexpectedly excellent, with a rotating cast of characters.

“It’d be nice if we started winning those games in nine and not going extras,” Reed joked, with a presumed kernel of truth. “If it takes 19, 20 innings to get that win, we’ll take it.”

The roles for the postseason are still up in the air, which is strange for a ‘pen that’s been so successful. But at the same time, it suggest an equal distribution of success (and at times, challenges).

The bottom line: Dombo did it, with his relievers making him look smart.

CSNNE SCHEDULE

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Injuries piling up for Patriots

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Injuries piling up for Patriots

0:41 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their main takeaways from the Patriots win over the Saints and discuss the injuries sustained during the game, specifically Rob Gronkowski's.

6:23 - Holley, Giles, and Smith talk about David Price pitching his first innings out of the bullpen for the Red Sox, but Holley thinks it is a mistake that he is not starting.

11:21 - Abby Chins joins BST for a discussion about Kyrie Irving's appearance on First Take.

14:43 - We go around the NFL for week 2 of the season and talk about the most surprising and best teams in the league.