Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Battle is Upon Us

The much anticipated re-match from week 17 is merely hours away.The New England Patriots bring their undefeated record(18-0) into the University of Phoenix Stadium to square off against the New York Giants(13-6).The Giants gave New England their toughest game this season and now they get another chance to spoil New England's historic season.The Patriots are heavily favored in this game but the Giants aren't going to roll over and just hand the Lombardi trophy to them.The Giants have just as much chance as New England to win this game.So lets take a look at what each team needs to do to come out victorious Sunday.

5 Things Giants Need to do to Win
#1.First and foremost, the Giants have to dictate how the game will be played.They must control the ball with the power run game and that will open up opportunities for Eli Manning to find holes in the New England defense.Although they scored 35pts on New England in week 17, they are not built as an offensive power house team.Giants will need to win the time of possession to keep Tom Brady and the explosive offense off the field.Shoot-out games are not their style so if the Giants are going to win, its will have to be a low scoring game.

#2.Do not turn the ball over to New England.The Patriot offense will make you pay if you turn the ball over.As i stated before, Giants aren't a shoot-out team and New England will capitalize on the mistakes and the Giants will be playing catch up.

#3.The defense must get after Brady and force him to get rid of the ball quicker than he wants.If they give Tom too much time he'll be able to read the field and look at all his wide receivers.Get pressure on him and they may make him force a pass and the defensive back can jump the route and get the interception.

#4.Keep Laurence Maroney to minimal gains.The Patriots have proven this post-season that they can run the ball if needed.If the Giants allow Maroney to get 5-6 yard gains, then that's going to set-up the play action passing game for New England.Maroney didn't play much during the first half of the regular season so to me, he's the healthiest running back in the league.

#5.The final thing the Giants must do to beat New England is get some points from their defense and special teams.Week 17 game Hixon ran back a kick-off for a touchdown.If they hadn't gotten that score then it would have only been 38-28 and might not have been considered such a good game.They wouldn't of have the lead by 12 points, which was the most New England trailed a team all year.

5 Things Patriots need to do to Win
#1.Same thing the Giants need to do to Tom Brady, get pressure on Eli Manning.If you allow Eli to hit his check down receivers its going to let them control the flow of the game.The check down receivers are just like a run game.

#2.Don't allow for the big play.In the first match-up on the very first play the Giants threw a deep ball to Plaxico Burress.By doing that it opened up everything in the middle.The Patriot defense works better when it can control the deep ball and the middle of the field.

#3.The third thing New England must do to win is counter what the Giants need to do to win.Keep Tom Brady on his feet and off his back.Giants are going to put pressure on him so the Patriots will need to be very sharp on thier short passes as they have been all year.Screen and short passes will beat an overly agressive team.

#4.Score quickly and often.If New England get 2 touchdowns on their first 2 possessions the Giants will have to play catch-up and that will make Eli try to force things.This will take the run game out of the game in the first half.When Eli tries to force the ball he gets his self in trouble like he did in week 17.He over threw his receiver and the pass was intercepted by New England.

#5.Get Randy Moss involved quickly.In the 2 playoff games that New England won to get to the Super Bowl,Moss had a total of 2 receptions for 32 yards and no touchdowns.Moss caught 2 or more touchdowns in 8 of the 16 games this season.He had 6 receptions with 2 touchdowns and 100 yards vs. the Giants in week 17.

Is Tom Brady The Best Quarterback Ever?

Everyone defines greatness a different way. Some define greatness through records. Some define it through championships. When you think of great quarterbacks some that come right to mind are Unitas, Montana, Marino, Bradshaw, Starr, Staubach, Elway, Farve, Manning, and, whether you love him or you hate him, Brady. On Sunday, Tom Brady has a chance to do what none of the quarterbacks on that list have done, and that is go undefeated. Some already say Brady is the greatest postseason quaterback of all-time and his resume defends that argument very well. Three Super Bowl rings, an undefeated record at home in the playoffs, and two Super Bowl MVPs. Not to mention he is the leader of what might go down as the best football team to ever step on a football field. Not bad for a sixth round draft pick out of the University of Michigan.

What It Really Means To Go Undefeated?

It means you will be glorified in history forever. Everyone knows Don Shula because he was the only coach to go undefeated. No matter how much you hate the New England Patriots, you have to admire the accomplishments that are waiting for them if they can get by the Giants Sunday. They may have "cheated", teams may have let the game slip through their hands, but they are the only team without a loss this season. Us haters may gripe and groan if in fact by the end of Sunday night the Patriots do win, but regardless of the outcome we will have seen history Sunday night. I have already explained what it means to go undefeated, but what if the all-mighty Patriots fall on Sunday? The Giants will have pulled off the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. Whatever happens its a story we can tell our kids, our grandkids, and maybe even our great grandkids. Because being perfect never happens No baseball team has won 173 baseball games, No one wins 98 basketball games, and its hard to find a team that can go undefeated in college football and they play no more than 13 or 14 games. 36 years have passed since the Dolphins went undefeated and it maybe another 36 or more before we seen another great team like the Patriots.

Where does Brady Rank as Far As Greatest of All-Time?

Right now Tom Brady is not the best quarterback to ever play the game, but he is close. I still think San Francisco great Joe Montana is the best quarterback to ever play football. To me its not all about the records, its about stepping up when the light is shined on you. Montana did that better than any quarterback I have ever seen play. He pulled last minute heroics (i:e The Catch against the Cowboys), and he shattered the competition when the experts doubted him (i:e 55-10 Super Bowl drubbing against the #1 scoring defense in Denver). Another thing Montana has four Super Bowl rings. Brady only has three. But Brady has a great chance of surpassing Montana. Why Brady has a chance is because he still rather young. Brady is only 30 years old, and is hitting his prime right now. If he stays in the NFL for 5 or 6 more years he could win more rings and could make more memorable moments. When it is all said and done Brady could be the best player that ever played the game. Thats right not just quarterback but player. In fact Sunday might be the day he passes Joe Montana, because no great quarterback has ever lead their team to an undefeated season. Tom Brady will no doubt be heading to Canton when his career is over, but we will have to wait and see if in fact he will go down as the greatest quarterback to ever play the game of football.

Nate Gonner is a guest writer for Boston's Sports Scene. He writes his columns every Monday and Thursday for Gonners View. Check his site out here

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"David Ortiz" to Big Papi"

David Ortiz, the Boston Red Sox 1B/DH has become one of the most clutch and dominant hitters in the game.Pitchers would rather pitch around him than to him.In 11 season, Ortiz known as Big Papi has increased his individual statistics each year.He spent 6 of his 11 years in Minnesota and those were the days he was known as David Ortiz.The ever popular "Big Papi" didn't come along until his Boston days.

David came into the league in 1997 with the Mariners organization, when the Mariners traded Minnesota for Dave Hollins.In his first three seasons, Ortiz only had 111 games played with 342 at bats.He had a total of 93 hits with 10 home runs and 52 runs batted in.In 200o he got his opportunity to start.That year he had mediocre, batting .282 with 10 home runs, 63 runs batted in, and 117 hits in 130 games.The following year his stats declined but he only played 89 games.His best year in Minnesota was 2002 when he was part of the team that lost the 2002 American League Championship to the Anaheim Angels.He hit 20 home runs and had 75 runs batted in.Although his average was down from 2000 (.272), his slugging percentage was a bit higher.

In 2002 the Minnesota Twins released David in December and then he was picked up by Boston in January of 2003. He wasn't placed in the starting right away but a poor performance from Jeremy Giambi opened up a spot for Ortiz.Once Ortiz got into his starting role, that's when he began to become the hitter he is now.
In only 128 games that year,David hit 31 home runs with 101 runs batted in and he hit .288.His slugging percentage went from .500 in 2002 to .592 in 2003.That year he finished 5th in the MVP voting.In 2004 David was hands down the MVP of the Red Sox when they went on to win their first World Series in 86 years.Yet again, his statistics increased from the previous year.He had 41 home runs with 139 runs batted in and hit .301.Ortiz hit the game winning home run in game 4 of the ALCS against the Yankees.The following night, Ortiz hit the game winning single to force a game 6.His performance earned him ALCS Most Valuable Player.Career highs were set yet again in 2005.David had 47 home runs with 148 runs batted in.He hit .300 which at that point was only .001from his high.Ortiz also had a career high in runs with 119.He finished second to Alex Rodriguez in AL MVP votes.In 2006 David Ortiz set a record for single season home runs by a Red Sox player.He surpassed Jimmie Foxx (51HR's) for the record with 54 home runs.His average dropped a bit but his slugging percentage was .636 and he had 137 runs batted in along with the 54 home runs.This past season, David's power numbers dropped a little, but he had his career high batting average at .332 and lead the Sox to their second World Series Championship in 4 years.

Some may argue that those numbers could come from the fact he plays in Boston and Fenway Park is known as a hitters park.Believe it or not, the home and away numbers are quite similar.Through 5 years in Boston, David has 277 runs, 92 home runs, 334 runs batted in and an average of .325.His away numbers are very close and he actually has more home runs on the road.The only real big difference is his average on
the road which is .276.Other than that, he has 246 runs which is a difference of 31 runs and has 308 runs batted in which is a difference of 26 runs batted in.David Ortiz has had 4 All-Star appearances and he continues to be a major contribute to Boston's deadly 1 -2 punch with Manny Ramirez.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Hit Heard Around New England

Sunday September 23 2001

Third and ten with 5:01 left in game 2 of the 2001 NFL season, New England Patriots vs New York Jets.Drew Bledsoe takes the snap, rolls right,runs for eight yards and then WHAM.Mo Lewis, formerly of the New York Jets delivers a blow to Drew Bledsoe right in front of New England's bench.

Drew Bledsoe suffered an internal organ injury that sidelined him for a few weeks.But as NFL fans across the country have found out, that would be the last of Drew starting games in a Patriots uniform. Although he came into the AFC Championship game vs the Pittsburg Steelers that year, that game would be the last game he would play with a Patriots uniform on.

The Patriots ended up punting the ball the play after Bledsoe got injured, but when the Patriots return to the field, in comes the back up quarterback #12 Tom Brady.At this point, Patriot fans don't realize what is to come from Tom Brady.Soon enough the fan's of New England would look back and thank Mo Lewis for that career changing hit on Bledsoe. Don't get me wrong, Pats fans weren't wishing harm to anyone, they just thank him for opening the doors for Tom.

Here we are in 2008 and ever since that incident, the New England Patriots have become a perennial powerhouse. After the "hit heard around New England" in game 2 of the 2001 season, in which the Patriots lost 10-3, Tom Brady has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL.He's lead the Patriots to 3 Super Bowl titles, being awarded Super Bowl MVP in 2 of them.This year they became the only team to have an undefeated, regular 16 game season record.The Patriots have a chance to join the 72' Miami Dolphins by achieving a perfect record by winning all playoff games and the Super Bowl. That would make them 19-0 and a top choice for the label as the greatest team ever.

However, the domination of New England has not come solely from Tom Brady. The man who has made the hoodie with the cut-off sleeves so famous, Bill Belichick. He's a defensive specialist and a preacher of the "just do your job" mentality. Not a very outspoken person when it comes to football, but he prides his self on doing the small things right. Belichick continues mix the perfect blend of youth and veteran players to carry out his distinctive scheme.In previous years,Belichick's defense has been the back bone of their winning ways. Together Brady and Belichick are 86-23 in the regular season,10-2 in the playoffs, and they have won all 3 Super Bowls they appeared in.If the Patriots win Super Bowl 42, that will be their 4Th Super Bowl title in 7 years.

What the Patriots have accomplished since 2001 is remarkable. But as we have learned in history, every empire must fall. It's only a matter if time and the clock keeps on ticking. The day will come when the once dominant New England Patriots, find themselves on the other side of the spectrum looking up.My only advice i have for my fellow Patriot fans is "Enjoy it while it lasts because there will be a time when we are talking about old Patriot glory days as if it was a lifetime ago".