Thursday, January 24, 2013

Half A Sports Chowdah Update- Nevermore, Ravens Second Half is Patriots' Undoing in AFC Title Game; Something Bruin in the Air- B's Begin Shortened Season

Usually in October, I enjoy a phenomenon that I like to refer to as the 'joyous overlap' where more than one of my favorite sports are playing concurrently- the end of the regular season for baseball as well as the start of the playoffs, about a month into the NFL and NCAA Football season and the very beginning of the NHL season.

Of course, this past October was a different and this less enjoyable for myself and many other New England sports fans. While the Patriots ended up winning the AFC East, the Red Sox were wrapping up their worst season in 50 years and the NHL was in the very beginnings of a prolonged labor dispute that cut the season in half and resulted in the cancellation of the New Year's Day Winter Classic and the All Star Game.

This year, the 'overlap' phenomoenon lasted barely 24 hours.

Steven Senne photo

NFL- There was no 'hand of Myra' this time around. After taking a 13-7 lead into halftime, the Patriots were shut out of the second half of the AFC Championship Game on Sunday by the Baltimore Ravens.

The Patriots got on the board first on a Gostkowski FG in the 1st before Baltimore countered with a Ray Rice TD run to put the Ravens up 7-3 in the 2nd quarter. On the next posession, the Pats started off on their own 21 and the 5 minute drive was capped by a short TD catch and run from Brady to Welker to put New England back on top. The Patriots ended the first half with another Gostkowski FG to make it 13-7.

But the second half belonged to Baltimore, taking the lead on a Joe Flacco TD pass to TE Dennis Pitta. The Ravens would add to that lead late in the 4th thanks to another TD pass from Flacco to open up the 4th as well as no less than three Patriots turnovers [this includes a Vereen funble recovered by Baltimore at the Patriots 39 and an incompletion from Brady on 4th and 4 at the Ravens 19- NANESB!].

Baltimore scores 21 unanswered points in the second half of the AFC Championship game to win it by a final of 28-13 and secure their first Super Bowl berth since 2001. Linebacker Ray Lewis, who announced his retirement after this season last month, is the only remaining link to the 2001 team.

Fellow Ravens LB Terrell Suggs [who I'm pretty sure will be begging the Patriots (or anybody else) for a shot at making the roster in a few short years- NANESB!] took the high road in victory, calling New England arrogant, accusing them of cheating and taunting opposing players by shouting 'Have fun at the pro-Bowl! at the end of the game.

Ravens QB Flacco was 21-36 with 240 yards and 3 touchdowns- all three of them coming in the 2nd half while Brady went 29-54 with 320 yards, a TD and two interceptions.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL- The NFC Championship Game, which took place at the Georgia Dome, was a much closer affair, but also didn't end well for the home team.

After jumping out to an early 17-0 lead against the San Francisco 49ers in the first half, Atlanta Falcons fans watched nervously as their one-time NFC West opponents whittled away the lead, making it a 14-17 game with just under two minutes to go in the first half. However, with less than 30 seconds to go in the half, Boston College alum Matt Ryan gave the Falcons some breathing room after competing a 10 yard TD pass to TE Tony Gonzalez to give Atlana a 10-point lead at the half.

Like the game that would kick off after it, the home team was shut out in the second half, with San Francisco once again closing it to within 3 points on a Frank Gore rushing TD in the 3rd before San Francisco took their first lead of the day on a another Gore TD run to make it 28-24 49ers.

The Falcons would get the ball back with 8:23 left in the 4th quarter and advance as far as the San Francisco 10 with just over a minute remaining, but Ryan threw an incomplete pass on 4th and 4, giving the 49ers the ball back.

The 49ers would go on to win by a 28-24 final, earning them their first Super Bowl appearence since the Steve Young era.

NHL- The NHL season is pretty young, but so far the Boston Bruins are off to a good start.

AP Photo/Kathy Willens
After winning their home opener against New York Rangers, the Bruins last two games went to OT, with the black and gold beating the Winnipeg Jets at the Garden in a shootout on Monday and then falling to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

Their 2-0-1 record currently has them in 2nd place in the Northeastern Conference, one point behind undefeated Ottawa. The B's will return to the Garden to face the New York Islanders on Friday evening at 7PM ET.

Interesting side note- usually at the start of the MLB, NBA or NHL season, their respective league provides a free preview of the out-of-market games avaialble if you sign up for some sort of season-long package. I was on the phone with my sattelite provider (DirecTV) for an unrelated matter on Wednesday and I asked how long the free trail/preview of the NHL season would go on. After the woman on the other end checked around, she told me that it was good for the rest of the month.

Given the damage done to the NHL brand after the lockout, I would be very surprised if DirecTV was the only cable or sattelite provider that was doing so this season- it might be worth a call to check and see about your provider.

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