For the Red Sox, is this rock bottom?

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For the Red Sox, is this rock bottom?

From Comcast SportsNetBOSTON (AP) -- Josh Hamilton started trotting around the bases rather than trying to catch a glimpse of where his home run landed in the right field seats at Fenway Park.It may have been too far for him to really see.Hamilton's three-run shot in the eighth was one of six homers the Texas Rangers hit in an 18-3 rout of the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night.Mike Napoli hit a pair of two-run shots to lead the home run derby for the Rangers, who increased their winning streak to five straight."The ball was carrying pretty good tonight," Hamilton said.Only for the visiting club.For the Red Sox and fans hoping to get an early start on Fenway Park's 100th birthday, all celebrating ceased in the top of the second when the Rangers batted around and were well on their way to chasing starter Jon Lester in the third.The Rangers topped their four-run second and three more in the third by scoring eight in the eighth. Hamilton started it with a blast that landed about a third of the way up the seats in right. It wasn't quite as far as the red chair commemorating Ted Williams' 502-foot shots, but it was a lot closer than most others."Obviously I don't stand and watch it so I don't exactly where it hit," Hamilton said. "It felt good when it came off the bat."Hamilton matched his career high with five RBIs and finished with three hits. He was coming off a three RBI game at Minnesota, which included the winning homer in the eighth."He's a talented baseball player. That's how you describe him. He's a very talented baseball player," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "Nothing he does out there surprises me, at no time, because he's capable of doing it. It's not like that's something (where) he just gets hot and that's going to happen."Adrian Beltre followed him with a solo homer in the eighth Nelson Cruz added another later in the inning, all off of Boston reliever Mark Melancon.Michael Young was the other Texas player to homer."We're really good all the way up and down," said leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler, who had two hits and walked twice. "One through nine, we're capable of scoring runs. Tonight we were able to put all together and string a bunch of quality at-bats back-to-back."Texas finished with a season-high 21 hits, tagging Lester for eight of them before the Boston ace was pulled in the third inning."It was one of those nights where I flat out stunk," Lester said. "When I did make the adjustment and try and get back into the zone, it wasn't good enough. It wasn't a good night for me."Lester had pitched well in his first two starts, but didn't have much run support.The Rangers provided more than offense for Colby Lewis (2-0), who settled down after a shaky start and finished pitched seven solid innings.It was the most home runs for the Rangers in a game since they hit six against Detroit in August 2008."I can't describe this one," Boston manager Bobby Valentine said, adding to what has already been a difficult week.Boston star Kevin Youkilis struck out in all four of his at-bats. He did not play Monday because of a minor groin injury on a tense day at Fenway Park -- Valentine had apologized for remarks that criticized Youkilis.The Rangers scored four times in the second and added three more in the third for a 7-2 lead.They broke it open with an eight-run eighth that included a three-run homer by Hamilton and shots by Beltre and Cruz. The big inning came to an end when Beltre flied out and Boston fans gave the Red Sox a series of mock cheers.Texas chased Lester (0-2) in the third after his control struggles left the bases loaded and nobody out. Lester threw 49 pitches in the second and allowed seven runs on eight hits and walked four. His ERA more than doubled, going from 2.40 to 5.82 by the time the Rangers were done with him.The night had a promising start for Boston when the first three Red Sox got hits off Lewis. Mike Aviles led off with a single, then Dustin Pedroia homered.It was a short-lived lead.Cruz doubled with one out in the second and Napoli homered over the Green Monster. The Rangers added two more before Young, who led off the inning by striking out, ended it with a grounder to first. Young was the only Texas player not to reach base in the inning.Lewis was starting in place of rookie Yu Darvish, who was pushed back a spot in the rotation in so he could have four days of rest between starts. He allowed just the two runs on Pedroia's homer, struck out seven and didn't walk anybody."He started keeping the ball down and changing speeds and really kept them off balance," Washington said. "To recover from that first inning the way it went just goes to show you the type of pitcher that Colby Lewis is."Adrian Gonzalez added a solo homer for Boston in the eighth.NOTES:Texas 1B Mitch Moreland returned to the club after having surgery on an infected abscessed tooth, causing him to miss two games. ... Darvish (1-0) is scheduled to start Wednesday against Boston RHP Josh Beckett (1-1). ... Boston OF Carl Crawford had four at-bats Tuesday in an extended spring training game in Florida for his first playing time since having surgery on his left wrist. Valentine said Crawford walked once, made contact the other three times and felt good afterward. ... Valentine said there is no timetable for the return of CF Jacoby Ellsbury, who is out with a partially separated right shoulder. ... Valentine let it slip that the Red Sox will be wearing throwback uniforms on Friday night when they host the Yankees on the 100th anniversary of the first game major league game played at Fenway Park. The Red Sox have not announced anything about the uniforms. ... Hamilton hasn't walked in his 46 at-bats this season and Young hasn't walked yet in 45.

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.