Huge Statement Win for UConn Men’s Basketball

Coming into the Battle for Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas, the UConn Men’s basketball team had not faced a true challenge. They were 4-0 and had looked like a strong team early, but without a real measuring stick to determine of they are for real or just beating up on lesser talent. The Battle for Atlantis tournament field is stacked and there are tough opponents to face at every corner. After just one game in the tournament, UConn has a statement win and have put the basketball world on high alert that they are for real and can hang with the big dogs.

Let me start by saying that the #22 UConn vs #19 Auburn game was one of the best I have seen in a long time. When not playing UConn, Bruce Pearl’s Auburn Tigers are an energetic, fun team to watch. They like to get out in transition and have the ability to score in bunches, both inside and out. They are tenacious on defense and matched up well with the tough, hard-nosed UConn team that has begun to find some scoring. Both teams are well coached and have some young talent they hope will develop into stars. This game was chock-full of scoring runs, lead changes, momentum shifts, big shots, big defensive stops, and clutch plays.

It seemed like UConn had several chances to put the game away in regulation and both OTs, but Auburn kept fighting back and making clutch play after clutch play. Auburn’s full-court press forced several mistakes and turnovers from UConn and led to some quick point swings when the Tigers desperately needed them. Freshman Jabari Smith had a slow first half, but had some huge shots in the 2nd half and OTs on his way to 22pts on the night. The most impressive Tiger was K.D. Johnson, who seemed to be everywhere on offense and defense on his way to a strong 27pt performance with 5 big steals. When he wasn’t collecting a steal, he was pressing UConn into bad passes and tougher shots.

For UConn, Adama Sanogo was an absolute beast. He finished with 30pts, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks, but the most amazing sign of improvement in his game was his ability to play with 4 fouls for a long time without fouling out. Sanogo picked up his 4th foul with 7:13 left in the 2nd half and was able to play solid defense, although a bit more passive, and be a strong offensive presence for the remainder of regulation and 2 OTs. His ability to stay on the floor was huge for the Huskies and played a major factor in the win. RJ Cole and Tyler Polley added 24pts each and freshman Jordan Hawkins had 16pts in 15 minutes. He had a tough turnover that ultimately led to a 2nd OT, but overall had a strong game and showed some promise with his ability to score in bunches.

It’s only 1 game and there is no time to celebrate with a noon Thanksgiving day matchup with Michigan State less than 24 hours later, but it’s a significant W to take the Huskies to 5-0. They are already building their resume with a top 25 win and can continue to pad that in this early season with another win or two in paradise. As the younger players improve and the team begins to gel, the Huskies will continue to get better and hopefully have many more big wins this season.

Patriots Put the League on Alert with Huge Win

The start to the 2021 season for the New England Patriots was filled with optimism, but limited results. After falling to 2-4 following an OT loss to the Dallas Cowboys, it felt like Mac Jones and company were competing, but falling just short. Of their first 4 losses, only the Saints game was a 2 possession loss, the others were by 1pt, 2pts, and 6pts in OT. They were close, but couldn’t finish the job. Their only two wins were against far inferior opponents in the putrid New York Jets and Houston Texans, leading everyone to ask the question: Can the Patriots beat a decent, playoff-level team? Now, just 4 games later, the tides have turned and the Patriots look to be hitting their stride.

Of the Patriots 6 wins thus far in 2021, 4 were against far inferior opponents (Jets 2x, Texans, and the pre-Cam Newton Carolina Panthers). Those games make it difficult to judge a team, but 2 of the Patriots most recent wins were eye-openers. On Halloween, the Patriots went out to Los Angeles and pulled out a huge victory against the 4-3 (at the time) Chargers. At that point, it was the most complete game by the Pats, with a balance rush/pass attack and a defense that put pressure on the opponent and made just enough plays down the stretch. It was both a close win and a win over a high-quality opponent on the road. Then after their 3-score win over the Panthers, the Patriots had another chance to prove themselves against the Browns.

Both teams entered the game at 5-4 and were looking to make a statement. After 60 minutes of play, the Patriots made a massive statement of their strength with a 38pt victory and it didn’t even feel that close. The entire team played exceptionally well and made the Browns look like more like a 1-win team rather than a playoff contender. The Browns were without their star RB Nick Chubb due to testing positive for COVID, but even if they had a massive day from him in the lineup, the Browns would have still lost big. The Pats defense continued their trend of forcing turnovers with an INT (2nd in the NFL) and got plenty of pressure on the QB with 5 sacks on the day. As good as the defense was, the offense was the star of the game. Mac Jones had his best professional game throwing 19/23 for 198 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs. His 82.6% completion percentage and QB rating of 142.1 were by far the best of his young career against a team with the most sacks in football.

The upcoming schedule for the Pats is the continuation of a tough stretch. After a tricky mid-level game on the road in Atlanta against the 4-5 Falcons, the Pats have to play the very tough 8-2 Tennessee Titans, and then have two games against the division-leading Buffalo Bills with a game against the Indianapolis Colts sandwiched between. How the Pats perform over the next 5 games will determine whether they are playoff contenders this year or just an improving team that has future promise. The latter outcome is not a bad one given their youth at QB, but expectations in New England are always very high and a playoff game or two in Jones’ rookie season would be tremendous.

I anticipate a solid 3-2 record over the next 5 games for the Pats, putting themselves in solid playoff contention on the other side at 9-6 with games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins to close out the year. Anything better than 3-2 will escalate the conversation around whether this team can make a deep run this year. The games against the Bills will be critical for the Pats to potentially win the AFC East and avoid playing on wild card weekend. The fact that I can even write about the playoffs after their 2-4 start with a rookie QB is a credit to the entire organization and their continued improvement.

Buckle your seat belt, because the remainder of the season should be wild.

The End of the E-Rod Era for the Red Sox

Despite efforts to re-sign the lefty, the Eduardo Rodriguez tenure with the Boston Red Sox is over. It’s reported that E-Rod received a 5-year, $77 million contract with the Detroit Tigers. The $15+ million per year contract makes some sense for the relatively young lefty who has been up and down over his career in Boston, but has shown promise throughout. It’s probably in E-Rod’s best interest to get a change of scenery and see if he can finally put it all together and be consistently a top-end rotation talent.

After a career year in 2019, E-Rod sat out 2020 with myocarditis which emerged following a COVID-19 diagnosis. Thankfully, he was able to get back on the mound in 2021 and once again showed some flashes of being a top-end rotation arm. He also continued his consistent inconsistency and ended the year with a 13-8 record and a 4.74 ERA. He was able to rebound after building his ERA up over 6 in June thanks to his final 5 appearances of the regular season in which he didn’t allow more than 2 earned runs.

After a tough first outing in the postseason, E-Rod bounced back and finished his career in Boston with 2 strong outings against the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros, striking out 13 and allowing 5 earned runs over 11 innings. He declined his $18.4 million option to stay with Boston for 2022 in order to try and get some long-term stability and that bet paid off. While the annual salary is $3 million less than his option, he is now guaranteed a really solid salary until age 33.

I’m happy for him given his health struggles in 2020. His future as an MLB player was hanging in the balance and it was a really great story to watch him rebound and turn in his second highest innings total and games total this past season. That being said, I’m not sure I would have paid $15.4 million per year for his level of inconsistency. I’m not going to dig in again, but if you’re curious on my feelings about E-Rod, I wrote this back in September. To me, he’s a middle to back-end of the rotation talent at this point and the Red Sox should be able to find a replacement.

The Red Sox are obviously in need of starting rotation help going into 2022 and have several decisions to make on whether to move certain pitchers into the rotation (i.e. Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock). They reportedly had offered a multi-year deal to E-Rod, so I’m sure to some degree were waiting for this chip to fall. A quick resolution to the Eduardo Rodriguez situation will help them move on and pursue other opportunities.

UConn’s Impressive New Head Coach: Jim Mora, Jr.

When UConn announced the signing of their new head coach on Thursday, opinions began flying. The hire seemed to be met with mixed feelings, some wanting a younger coach to grow with the program and others liking the veteran hire with proven experience. My first reaction? Surprise and excitement. My feelings after sitting with it for a day or so? Surprise and excitement. Let the Jim Mora, Jr. era at UConn begin.

Regardless of your initial feelings on Mora, he comes into Storrs as the most accomplished UConn head coach of all time and the one with the most impressive resume. He joins the elite company of Nick Saban at Alabama and Jim Harbaugh at Michigan as the only active coaches who have multiple 10-win FBS seasons and were head coaches in the NFL. That doesn’t mean Mora will be successful in turning around the struggling Huskies program, but it does mean he’s been there and done that. He’s seen all levels of football and has a proven track record of developing college players and handing them off to the NFL, which is a huge bonus in recruiting.

One of the biggest knocks on Mora and a concern of mine, is that he has been out of the coaching game for the past 5 years. While that could mean he is a little out of touch with the current high school recruit, it could also mean he comes into the job renewed and refreshed, ready to take on the massive challenge of rebuilding a program that has completely lost it’s way. At 59 (almost 60), Mora comes into the job with a 46-30 FBS record in his 6 seasons with UCLA, bringing them to 4 bowl games and winning 2 in his first 4 seasons with the Bruins. That was following 4 years as a head coach in the NFL, 3 with the Falcons and 1 with the Seahawks (along with some assistant coaching work in between).

“I was brutally honest about the opportunity and the challenge. I needed to make sure he was fully committed, fully aware, fully prepared to take this on. He will come in with his eyes wide open.”

UConn Athletic Director David Benedict

Mora is coming to UConn with an understanding of the current situation. He mentioned that he started following UConn when Randy Edsall decided (was forced?) to leave and has been watching closely since. “From what I’ve watched on TV, I see a team that’s going through a really difficult transition but is continuing to fight for each other, play hard, demonstrate effort and a good attitude. That’s something we can build on.” Working with the current team, Mora understands that recruiting will take time and is critical. It doesn’t make sense to pursue top-rated players day one, but rather focus on local prospects in order to stabilize the program, taking advantage of recruiting opportunities when they present themselves.

“A team that plays with great discipline, great toughness, plays with a passion that jumps out at people whether in stands or at home watching on TV. Elite effort at all times. I want people to be proud of our football team.”

UConn Head Coach Jim Mora, Jr.

Mora has a plethora of experience on the defensive side of the ball as a defensive coordinator for 49ers and a defensive backs coach for the Seahawks, Saints, and Chargers. He will expect discipline, which is sorely needed at UConn right now, especially on defense, and will hopefully be able to develop some of the young talent on that side of the ball. My hope is that Mora will instill a belief in the players that if they play hard and within the rules, they will continue to grow and improve, even if the wins aren’t piling up in year 1 or 2. There is a reason Mora has a 5-year contract. This program will take quite a while to turn around and raise to the level we all hope and expect.

The fact that a UConn program that hasn’t had a winning record since their 2010 Fiesta Bowl season and hasn’t had more than 3 wins since 2015 can attract a name like Jim Mora, Jr. is a testament to the commitment of Athletic Director David Benedict. When he took the football program independent, there were a lot of skeptics, but he has put together some pretty impressive schedules of opponents the next few years and has now found the man to revive this program. Regardless of whether Mora was your first choice for the next head coach or not, it’s hard to argue that the Huskies are not in a better place today then they were a few days ago. There is at least some reason for optimism.

Adama Sanogo: The Reason UConn Will Make a Deep Run

There are a lot of things to be excited for with the UConn men’s basketball season opener just around the corner. Despite losing James Bouknight to the NBA, the Huskies return a strong roster and welcome 4 top-100 ranked freshman. The roster consists of potentially the deepest talent in recent history at UConn and with that, high expectations. They were picked to finish 2nd in the Big East behind perennial powerhouse Villanova and are beginning the season in the top-25 for the first time in 5 years at #24. This year will certainly be interesting and the team’s ceiling is quite high, but I believe the most important x-factor for the Huskies in 2021-2022 is Adama Sanogo.

Last season as a freshman, Sanogo showed flashes of strength. He grew into his own throughout the season and finished 4 of the final 5 games of the season, including the postseason, with double-digit points and grabbed his first career double-double with 10 rebounds against Georgetown. He had issues getting into foul trouble which limited his minutes at times, but when he was on the floor he had an impact. Overall, Sanogo shot 55.4% from the field, but in 2 games in the Big East Tournament he was much more efficient, shooting 66.7% from the field. In games UConn went on to win, Sanogo shot at a higher percentage from the field (+2.6%) and a higher rebound-per-game average (+0.75/game).

The sample size wasn’t huge considering it was one season and an odd one at that with COVID issues, but Sanogo passed the eye-test. His big, strong 6’9″ 240lb wide frame allows him to bang around down low for the Huskies and take up space in the paint. His strength makes up for his slightly undersized height down-low and that gives him the edge to play at the 5-spot this year. With the addition of experience and more time being trained by Dan Hurley, Sanogo has the potential to grow into playing a crucial big-man role for the Huskies in 2021 and beyond and early indications are really strong. According to reports, Sanogo dropped 22 pts on 8-13 shooting in a closed door scrimmage against Harvard recently and along with RJ Cole, is getting a lot of buzz for his offensive prowess as we approach the season.

With a potentially weaker offensive backcourt for the Huskies, at least to start the season, the frontcourt for the Huskies may need to carry some more scoring weight and they have the talent to do that. Along with Sanogo, Tyler Polley and Isaiah Whaley return for a 5th year and Akok Akok returns to try and redeem himself in his junior season after a tough last few years with injuries. The four in the frontcourt rotation are all athletic and 6’9″, so they provide a bit of length and flexibility. The other 2 frontcourt players on the roster are sophomore Richie Springs (also 6’9″) and freshman Samson Johnson, who comes in as the tallest of the group at 6’10”, but will likely have trouble getting playing time unless there are some injuries or he lights the world on fire.

If Sanogo can progress at the speed we hope and show more consistency (and less silly fouls), he can become a major factor in UConn’s success this season. I believe that if the Huskies are to make a deep run into the tournament this season, Adama Sanogo will be a big reason why.

Buenos Noches, Jerry!

On Sunday morning, word spread throughout Red Sox Nation that Jerry Remy had finally lost his battle with lung cancer. At his passing, my birthday buddy was just 10 days shy of his 69th birthday and in his 33rd season as a Red Sox broadcaster while battling his 7th recurrence with the terrible disease over 13 years. It was a challenging stretch for Remy, but the Massachusetts native was a fighter and tackled each reoccurrence head-on, even when things weren’t looking great. Remy love being the voice of the Red Sox and was a Bostonian through and through. He will be sorely missed.

After a few years playing for the California Angels, the Somerset, MA native was traded to the Red Sox in 1977. Growing up a Red Sox fan, the trade made Remy “ecstatic” and his play on the field benefited from the move as 1978 became one of his best seasons, including an All-star selection. The trade worked out pretty well for him beyond 1978 also, because he played a solid 7-seasons with the Red Sox and parlayed his fan-favorite persona into a 33-year broadcasting career for his hometown team. Once he was traded back home, he never looked back.

“I was ecstatic. How many people get a chance to come back home and play for the team that they grew up watching, adoring, and loving? I couldn’t believe I was going to be playing with guys like [Carl] Yastrzemski — he was my idol as a teenager — [Carlton] Fisk and [Jim] Rice, [Dwight] Evans, [Fred] Lynn, all those guys.”

Jerry Remy talking about his trade to the Red Sox in 1977

The past few days have resulted in countless people talking about Remy and his strong, positive presence. One of his broadcast partners and favorite people to banter with, Dennis Eckersley, recalled his favorite quality of Remy: his laugh. “Man, I loved his laugh. When he’d get rolling and couldn’t stop himself from laughing, you know? I tried like hell to get him to laugh just to hear it.” Another of his longtime broadcast partners and friends, Red Sox fan-favorite Don Orsillo, credited Remy as the one who “Showed me the right MLB way.” The messages are different, but all have a common theme: Remy was a respected, genuine and special human being.

The man most commonly know as RemDawg has left a deep legacy and a significant positive mark on a franchise that has had so many greats over the years. His voice will be forever linked with the Red Sox, having called the darker depths of the tail end of an 80+ year championship drought, triumphantly celebrating four world series titles, and contributing to numerous other critical moments over three decades on the microphone. His ability to tell stories and go off the rails in blowouts and his honest, straight forward analysis of a tough situation are unrivalled. His voice will truly be missed on the NESN telecasts.

Watching Remy get a standing ovation from a packed Fenway Park as he took a golf-cart ride around the stadium to throw out the first pitch of the 2021 AL Wild Card game was a moment I won’t forget. It felt reminiscent of the Ted Williams golf-cart ride at the 1999 All-Star Game, just a few years before the legend’s passing. It was a final hurrah for a man that devoted damn near his entire life to the Red Sox franchise and poured his heart and soul into his job.

To me, there is only one way to end the RemDawg era in Boston, by using the line he said hundreds, maybe thousands of times over his career when introducing the ability to watch the broadcast in Spanish. Buenos Noches, Jerry.

All in on the Arm Barn

In one of the most click-baity, attention-grabbing moments of the past week, PETA decided to take on the MLB in the most bizarre way: by attacking the bullpen. PETA claims that the term bullpen refers to the area in which cows are held before slaughtered, thus is offensive to animals, or people, or something? I guess their attempt to grab attention worked because I’m writing about it, so mission accomplished. For me, the most interesting part of the whole story is the new name they suggested for the bullpen, the “arm barn.” While I don’t really care for the reason it was suggested, I love the name.

We have yarn barns for sewing supplies, shoe barns for footwear, and bedding barns for all things sleep-related, why not have arm barns for pitchers? It’s catchy and fairly accurately describes what it’s like when you put a group of men in their 20s and 30s together in a small space for 3+ hours nearly every single night. In an animal barn, when the door opens, all the animals stand and hope they are going to get some attention from the person or people entering. In the arm barn, the phone rings and all the pitchers on the bench perk up and look with anticipation to see whether their name will be called to warm up and come into the game.

Just like animals in barns, the confined space can get to pitchers after awhile. Around hour 2 or 3 of a baseball game, you’ll see pitchers stand and stretch, pace around the few feet they have, and grab a drink of water. Pitchers all dream of someone opening the door and letting them run through into the larger, still fenced in grass area. When the time comes, they burst through the door and sprint 200+ feet like they’ve been held captive, because, well, they have been in a small rectangular space for hours and hours with only each other.

Now close your eyes and imagine the PA announcer saying, “Now warming up in the arm barn, Adam Ottavino” or Dennis Eckersley saying on the TV broadcast, “Sale is starting to lose command of his cheese, time to get the arm barn going” or “The Red Sox have one of the best arm barns in all of the MLB.” If that doesn’t bring a smile to your face, then I don’t know what will.

It’s a perfect solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, which is what we all need. We don’t need to address the actual issues with the game of baseball, because the arm barn is the priority. The “speciesist roots” of the term bullpen is a joke (and I’m not 100% convinced it’s not a actual joke), but now I can’t imagine going forward without making the change. The time is now to ‘raise’ the arm barn.

Outside of Mac Jones, Rookie QBs are Struggling

Heading into the draft this year there was a lot of attention on the top 5 QBs to come off the board. All 5 QBs came off the board in the top 15 picks, including the top 3 picks, and they were all considered to be potential franchise changers. Just 7 weeks into the season (6 games for the Jets and Jaguars), there have been some surprise performances from this group, mostly on the negative end of the spectrum. Of those 5 QBs, #1 Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), #2 Zach Wilson (BYU), #3 Trey Lance (North Dakota State), #11 Justin Fields (Ohio State), and #15 Mac Jones (Alabama), only Jones has over 1,500 yards passing and a completion percentage above 60%. It’s been a struggle for the other 4 higher-drafted QBs thus far in 2021.

Of the 5 QBs, 3 were handed the starting job in week 1 – Wilson, Lawrence and Jones. Fields has now been given the starting job in Chicago and has 5 starts, but appeared in all 7 games, while Lance has started just one game due to a Jimmy Garoppolo injury and appeared in 4 games. I’m putting Lance aside for this next bit because he hasn’t had enough time on the field to really be analyzed yet, although his 1 start and 3 other appearances left a lot to be desired.

Wilson, Lawrence, and Fields are a combined 4-13 when starting with 1 win each for Wilson and Lawrence and 2 for Fields, while Jones has led the Patriots to a 3-4 record on the young season. On the QB performance side, Wilson, Lawrence, and Fields all have more interceptions than TDs (combined 13 TDs compared to 23 INTs) with just 4 TDs for Wilson and 9 INTs, which is tied for the worst in the NFL. On the flip side of that group, Jones has a positive TD to INT ratio with 9 TDs and 6 INTs. While 6 INTs is still high, mistakes are expected with younger QBs, ideally they are outweighed by the positives.

To me, the most glaring difference amongst the group is in completion percentage and what that says about the QBs, their teams, and their maturity. Wilson, Lawrence, and Fields all have completion percentages between 57.3% and 59.7% which are well below the league average of 65.9% thus far, while Jones has the 4th highest completion percentage in the NFL this season at 70.4%, only behind Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott, and Russell Wilson. Jones has shown veteran maturity when making decisions about when and where to throw and that’s reflected in his percentage, while the others have struggled a bit more with consistent decision making.

Because Wilson, Lawrence, and Fields are being asked to do more on the field than Jones, you would expect to see them throwing down field more often and completing fewer low-percentage passes than Jones, but the stats don’t bear that out. Wilson, Lawrence, and Fields are ranked #27, #29, and #31 in yards per attempt this season, while Jones is 8 spots ahead of the group at #19. Both Jones and Lawrence are averaging around 36 pass attempts per game, while the other 2 are at 30 or below. Jones is completing the shallow-to-mid passes at an incredibly high rate, while the others are not.

The other area I anticipated a bigger advantage for the other QBs over Jones is in the run game. Fields and Wilson especially showed off their athleticism in college and proved to be dual-threat QBs when needed. Thus far, no one in this group has earned a dual-threat crown despite being super athletic. Lawrence and Fields are averaging about 20 yards on the ground per game, while Jones has just over 6 yards per game and Wilson has just under 4 yards per game. None of them are exactly lighting it up on the ground just yet and I’d say it’s mostly a wash.

There are certainly other factors involved in the success of a young QB including offensive line protection, receivers to throw to, quality of the running game, etc, but it’s interesting to see that outside of Mac Jones, none of the rookie QBs are really matching expectations at this point. Jones came into the league the most polished and game ready, but the intangibles and athleticism of the other QBs in the class were expected to make them significantly better. Over time that may be the case, but through 7 weeks that narrative has failed to come to fruition.

To be fair to Wilson and Lawrence, their teams are terrible, which certainly doesn’t help them settle in and learn the NFL game, but most everyone expected more from them regardless. It is an extra long NFL season and it’ll be interesting to revisit the QB conversation when each of these players has had more experience under center. It will also be interesting to see if the 12-game college season vs a 17-game NFL season causes some deeper struggles in the last few games of the season.

The End of an Improbable Run for the Red Sox

The season is over for the Boston Red Sox, much later than nearly everyone predicted. An unreal, improbable deep postseason run was bonus baseball in a year following an absolute dud of a season in 2020. There are a lot of things to reflect on at this moment: defensive woes, offensive bi-polar production, a play here or there in the ALCS, but the thing that hurts the worst? This team never had a chance, but made us all believe a championship was possible.

Coming into the season, everyone expected a rebound for the Red Sox who were coming off of a 24-36 shortened-season last place finish in the AL East season. The general consensus was a .500 season was likely, somewhere around the 80-82 win threshold, missing a spot in the postseason. After an absolutely torrid first half of the season, expectations began to shift, but then reality hit and the Red Sox came back to earth. They needed every bit of 162 games to sneak into the postseason and and win their 92nd regular season game.

The playoffs began with a huge win over the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card at Fenway Park and it felt like that was a big accomplishment regardless of what came of the ALDS against the 100-win Tampa Bay Rays. After a tough first game offensively, the production began and the Red Sox won 3-straight games to send the Rays packing. Shockingly, the Red Sox were one of 4 teams still remaining in the postseason. Once again the Red Sox offense wasn’t good enough in a game one, but turned it on for games 2 and 3. Once the Red Sox won game 3, it felt like this team had a special quality and was peaking at the right time. The mentality was to win the next two at home and never have to return to Texas, but obviously that didn’t happen.

We all believed that despite the up-and-down season and the struggles offensively in the final week of the season when everything was hanging in the balance, in October this team could beat anyone. At times, they showed us that their offense was all-powerful and could hit anyone, at any time and then other times they made opposing pitchers look like Cy Young winners. We built ourselves up to believe that this team had an x-factor and was a runaway train barreling down the tracks with nothing that could stop the momentum. Just when we felt the magic and believed, this team showed us exactly what we saw down the stretch of the regular season: inconsistency and an inability to put anyone away. It was never gone, just took a short break.

This team was never good enough to win a championship, but I certainly believed they could and I know I’m not alone. The pitching staff was held together with glue and duct tape and Cora was able to squeeze every last ounce out of each person on the roster to even get to an ALCS game 6. This may be one of the greatest managerial performances of the last decade, but it will be overshadowed by not making the World Series. Alex Cora did what he could with the roster he had, and it wasn’t enough, but it was damn close.

The future is certainly bright in Boston. Several young players made significant contributions to this team and will only continue to improve next year and beyond. In 2022 the Red Sox will have one of their strongest rotations in a long time if everything shakes out as expected and the rookie arms continue to improve. The offense needs to fill a few holes and gain greater depth on the bench, but overall is pretty close to being great without much work. The defense needs to be a huge priority this offseason, because they handed opponents run after run this season with bad plays and errors.

There will be a lot of commentary this offseason on this team, some positive and some negative (and a lot of it from me), but despite feeling the hurt of a tough series loss, I wouldn’t trade this improbable run for anything. Just 114 days until pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers.

Not All is Lost in 2-4 Start for the Patriots

On late Sunday afternoon the Dallas Cowboys came to town and the matchup was filled with big plays, interesting and quick momentun turns, and extra football. The Cowboys came into Foxborough at 4-1 with a high-powered offense that was averaging 34 pts per game and 40.3 in their past 3 contests, tied for the best in the NFL. The Pats defense had their hands full and they needed a lot from Mac Jones and the offense and they got a solid performance from the rookie. Ultimately, after overtime the Cowboys are flying home happy and the Patriots are sitting 2-games below .500, but it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom in New England.

One of my takeaways from Sunday was the Patriots run-defense and their ability to limit running backs Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard. In his last 3 games, Zeke was averaging 116 yards per game on just over 19 carries per game. On Sunday, the Pats held Zeke to 69 yards on 17 carries, just 4.1 yards per carry which is nearly 2 yards per carry below his average the last 3 games. The more limited run game forced a much larger pass game which was absolutely electric, but it’s nice to see the big front line for the Patriots limiting the run game.

The other main takeaway: Dak Prescott is at the top of his game and the Pats secondary is, well, not. Dak was able to put the ball in tight windows and make some huge throws on big 3rd and 4th downs to keep the Cowboys driving. He was able to read the defense and make the right decisions throughout the game, especially in crunch time in the 4th quarter and overtime. He finished the game with an incredible 445 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT, the most passing yards against a Bill Belichick coached team. It was his 2nd 400+ yard passing game this season and his 5th game with a passer rating above 101. In 6 games, he now has over 1,800 passing yards, 16 TDs and 4 INTs. His 74% completion percentage coming into the game was 2nd best in the NFL amongst regular starters and that will stay high after this 70.5% performance against the Patriots.

While Dak was impressive, it does raise a glaring flag in the Pats secondary which is now officially without Stephen Gilmore going forward after his trade to the Carolina Panthers. Jalen Mills was beat repeatedly throughout the game, including badly on the game-winning TD to CeeDee Lamb, who had 149 yards on 9 catches on the day. The secondary is coming off a terrible performance against rookie David Mills and the Houston Texans where they allowed 312 yards, 3 TDs and couldn’t grab an interception and they didn’t look much better against the elite QB. Beyond Mills, JC Jackson didn’t have his best game and committed a really costly pass interference penalty in the end zone that led to a Dallas TD in the 2nd half. It was a rough day all around.

On top of that, the Pats offensive line has more holes than swiss cheese. Between injuries and COVID-list stints, they were more intact than last week, but still thin. They got T Isaiah Wynn back this week, but he allowed a few really bad pressures/sacks and was benched at one point and moved around on the line. They did an OK job in the run game, but were incompetent at times in pass protection allowing a few awful hits on Mac Jones, which is not how you want to take care of the face of your franchise. Jones blamed himself for not getting the ball out quickly on those plays, but he can’t be expected to have 1 second of protection on every pass play. In spite of the line, Mac had a solid game.

The good news for the Pats is that they get the 1-4 New York Jets coming off a bye week at home next week, before taking a tough trip out west to play the Chargers on the road. Following the Chargers, they have a string of winnable games against the Panthers, Browns, Falcons, and Titans. They have a real chance to finish that 6-game stretch 4-2, which would return them to .500 heading into 2 games against the powerful division leading Buffalo Bills in 3 weeks.

For now, it’s time to get back to work and improve before next Sunday. I’m not sure how the Pats fix the secondary and offensive line, but if they can tweak and improve a little each week, then the team can get back to winning on the regular. It’s not great right now, but there is a long way to go in this season.