Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cup Half Empty Edition of Sports Chowdah- Pats Withstand Late Charge; O No! Sox Swoon Against Baltimore; Mo Sets Record; Star Sets on Modano's Career

NFL: Well now- the home opener was almost as gratifying as the season opener in Miami. The San Diego Chargers managed to keep Tom Brady to under 500 yards on Sunday, but not by much.

After a pre-game ceremony honoring the late Myra Kraft, New England was able to march the ball down the field for a TD on their opening posession. San Diego quarterback Phillip Rivers was able to answer in kind on the Chargers second posession.

With things knotted up at 7-7 early in the 2nd, New England was once again able to drive deep into Chargers territory, although the San Diego defense would hold them to a Gostkowski FG to make it 10-7 New England. On the following posession, the Chargers started out on their own 39 yard line and managed to move all the way down to the goal line, but were unable to punch it in, turning the ball over on 4th and 1. That set up a situation eerily reminiscent of Monday night's game in Miami where Brady connected with Welker, although this time around it was a pickup of a mere 12 yards. That would be the beginning of a 10 play, 5 minute and 99 ½ yard drive culminating in a 10 yard pass from Brady to TE Rob Gronkowski to put the Patriots up 17-7.

What happened on San Diego's next posession when they had moved the ball down to the New England 29 yard line was undoubtedly the highlight of the game for many.

330 lb Defensive Tackle Vince Wilfork got a paw on a Rivers pass and managed to bring it in, rumbling back for nearly 30 yards before being brought down (altho' 10 yards would be brought back on a penatly after the INT). And as a Patriots fan, do you know what the best part was? There was more to Wilfork's INT and runback than the novelty of seeing one of the big linemen running like the chuckwagon was on the other end of the field and he just happened to have the ball. Nope- thanks to two very quick strikes from Brady with 9 seconds left in the half, New England was able to move to within FG range. And as time expired in the 1st half, Gostkowski nailed a 47 yards FG attempt to put San Diego up 20-7. So as novel as Wilfork's INT and return was, the pivotal thing was that the Patriots got points off of his efforts.

After a scoreless 3rd quarter, the Chargers pulled to within a touchdown after Rivers connected with TE Vincent Jackson to make it a 20-14 game. After moving the ball to midfield on the ensuing posession, the Pats failed to convert on 4th and 4, handing the ball back to San Diego mid-field. Three plays into the San Diego drive, the Chargers coughed up the ball on a Mike Tolbert fumble at the Pats 39 yard line.

Brady would then connect with Deion Branch and Wes Welker to move the ball to the San Diego 17 before connecting with Gronkowski again for a 17 yard TD reception. Danny Woodhead would then go on to make good on a 2 point conversion to put New England up 28-14.

The Chargers would then start off from their own 20 and march downfield to find paydirt on a 3 minute drive where Rivers connected with Vincent Jackson on a 26 yard pass to make it 21-28 New England and to bring San Digo to within a TD.

Not merely content to let the clock run out on a long, sustained drive, the Patriots started off from their own 20 and handed off to the Law Offices of Ben Jarvus Green Ellis more than once as well as a 29 yard connection between Brady and Gronkowski to put the ball on the Chargers 24. After a short run from Green-Ellis and a Chargers penatly, the running back of many names (all of them his) would go on to find the end zone from the Chargers 16 to make it a 35-21 game.

And that is the final the Patriots in their 2011 home opener by. Tom Brady went 31-40 with 423 yards and 3 TDs and was sacked twice while on the other end of the ball, Phillip Rivers went 29-40 with 378 yards, 2 TDs, 2 sacks and 2 INTs. Deion Branch had the most yardage for a New England reciever (10 catches for 172 yards), while Rob Gronkowski hauled in 4 catches for 86 yards and two TDs.

Next week, the 2-0 Patriots will travel to Orchard Park, NY to take on the 2-0 Buffalo Bills who are coming off a dramatic 4th quarter win against the Oakland Raiders at their home opener in Orachard Park last weekend.

Currently, three out of the four teams in the AFC East are off to a 2-0 start this season, as the NY Jets manhandled the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

MLB: The way the Red Sox have been playing in September, I almost want to go on forever about the Patriots first two games.

After Beckett's strong start on Friday night, the Red Sox dropped two straight to the Tampa Bay Rays to close out the season series, with Tampa closing the gap in the Wild Card chase. The gap narrowed even further when the Red Sox split a doubleheader on Monday between the Baltimore Orioles (Boston won game 2 by a 18-9 margin) before the offense squandered a number of offensive opportunities and the bullpen imploded, including Papelbon coming on early only to give up a bases-loaded double in the top of the 8th in Tuesday night's 7-5 loss to the O's.

Wednesday night's game will close out the regular season at Fenway with Beckett (13-5; 2.50 ERA) going up against Baltimore's Tommy Hunter (4-4; 4.81 ERA) with first pitch at 7:10 ET.

ELSEWHERE IN MLB: The Yankees pursuit of the AL East pennant was almost an afterthought on Monday when Mariano Rivera closed out a 6-4 win over the Minnesota Twins for career save #602. That save put him past former San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman for all-time saves. In 2010, Hoffman became the first MLB closer to reach the 600 saves mark, closing out a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on September 8, 2010. Rivera's save against the Twins on Monday in the Bronx is the 43rd of the season.

NCAA FOOTBALL: Where have you gone, Steve Aponavicius? As bad as September has been for the Red Sox, at least they've won a few games. However, I cannot say the same about the Boston College Eagles, who were trailing late against Duke University at Chestnut Hill 20-19 on Saturday afternoon. With 2:32 left in regulation, the Eagles managed to drive down the field all the way to the Duke 5 yard line where they failed to convert on a 3rd and 1. With 47 seconds left, the field goal unit came on for a chip shot FG attempt- bascically a point after attempt- which subsequently bounced off the upright, giving the Blue Devils the ball back to run out the clock for their first win of the season.

This sets up an intra-state meeting with the 2-0 UMass Minutement in Chestnut Hill on Saturday. The Minutemen are coming off a 36-21 road win against Rhode Island on Saturday.

NHL: The puck drops on the Boston Bruins preseason Wednesday night north of the border. The Ottawa Senators host the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Center at 7:30 PM ET.

OTHER NHL NEWS: After 21 years in the NHL, former Dallas Stars C Mike Modano has called it a career. With 561 career goals and 1374 points, the Michigan native was the highest scoring American born player in the NHL. Modano was the last active member of the Minnesota North Stars to play in the NHL- the team moved to Dallas in 1993 and won the Stanley Cup with Dallas in 1999.

Modano married singer/songwriter Willa Ford in 2006 and opened up a resturaunt in Dallas with former teammate Brett Hull in 2008. In 2010, Modano played briefly for the Detroit Red Wings- for the first time, departing the Stars/North Stars organization.

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