Patriots Report Card: Week 4

Stevan Ridley's 97 yards, 9.7 yards per carry and first NFL touchdown made him the top performer of Sunday's Patriots victory over the Raiders. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Welcome back to Goose’s Gabs’ weekly report card for your New England Patriots! The Patriots did what they always do the week after a loss: win. Specifically, they beat the Oakland Raiders, 31-19. And with losses by the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, the Patriots are once again tied atop the AFC East (though the Bills still have the tie-breaker). For one week, equilibrium is restored in Foxborough.

Quarterback: A-

Tom Brady was not quite his usual, crisp self, completing just 53.3 percent of his passes after completing nearly 70 percent through the first three weeks. Brady seemed slightly out of sync with his receivers Sunday, always overthrowing them. Perhaps Oakland’s pass rush affected his timing more than normal. Still, Brady followed a four-interception game with a zero-interception game, throwing for 226 yards and two touchdowns. He did far, far more to help the team than to hinder it. How odd, however, to see Brady take a back seat to his running backs. Speaking of which…

Running backs: A

Three Patriots running backs ran for 185 yards and two touchdowns, including the first ever by Stevan Ridley, who also led the team with 97 yards and 9.7 yards per carry. Ridley finally showed the full measure of his speed and athleticism, spinning, whirling and leaping his way to three first downs. The Patriots wanted to take the pressure off Brady, who defenses will focus on more and more as the season progresses, and the running backs stepped up. BenJarvus Green-Ellis did the lion’s share of the rushing with 16 carries, gaining 75 yards and a touchdown in the process. Ridley and Green-Ellis have the kind of complimentary skills that could finally rebuild the Patriots’ running game. Green-Ellis has the strength to chew up yards through the middle, whereas Ridley has the speed to get around the corner and up the sidelines.

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Xaverian Brothers Pitches Dominating Shut-Out Against Somerville Football

(written, shot, edited and narrated for Somerville Patch)

Somerville High’s football team had no answer for Xaverian Brothers High School Saturday afternoon in Westwood, getting shut out, 35-0, and gaining less than 100 total yards. The Highlanders crossed midfield just once and totaled 2 rushing yards in 10 carries.

“We took a step backwards,” Somerville coach Harry Marchetti said. “We didn’t step up to the challenge of the competition.”

With a nonexistent running game Saturday, the Highlanders’ relied heavily on sophomore Phoenix Huertas passing arm, and at first the strategy worked. Huertas led the Highlanders from their 17-yard line to the 50, hitting sophomore Manasse Beaucicaut with an accurate 20-yard floater.

That drive ended, however, when Huertas overthrew his receivers and Xaverian Brothers junior DJ Pagliuca intercepted the pass.

The Hawks needed just one play to score, with quarterback Austin DeCarr faking the run, then pitching to junior Mike Brennan on the option play. Brennan slipped through the Highlander defensive line, then burst past the secondary all the way to the end zone. One play, one 49-yard touchdown run.

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Book Review: “The Best American Sports Writing 2005”

"The Best American Sports Writing 2005," edited by Mike Lupica

It’s been almost six months since I reviewed a volume of Glenn Stout’s “Best American Sports Writing” series. I’d say we’re due. So here’s 2005.

A Timely Work

More than any volume I’ve read so far, the 2005 edition closely connects its content with major sports stories of 2004. After that year’s Super Bowl and Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfuntion” ends live sports broadcasts as we know it, Richard Sandomir responds with a column (“Five-Second Delay Can’t Mute Old Voice”) written in the voice of legendary broadcaster Howard Cosell. There’s a second (not as good) Cosell story beforehand that sets up Sandomir’s, integrating enough actual Cosell quotes that you can appreciate how good Sandomir’s imitation is.

Eli Manning was drafted in 2005, so Michael Lewis writes “The Eli Experiment.” It’s not his best work, but it reads clearly in Lewis’ voice.

This edition also contains the best hard-news sports story I’ve ever read. Steve Coll’s “Barrage of Bullets Drowned Out Cries of Comrades” tells the full story of the death of Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman. Coll covers every mistake that led to Tillman’s death from friendly fire in Afghanistan, from the bad marching orders that split his troop to the over-excited soldiers who broke engagement protocols and couldn’t stop shooting. It’s a sad story, but it’s a complete story devoid entirely of bias.

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Newton South Blows Out Somerville in Girls’ Soccer Match

(written, shot and edited for Somerville Patch)

Newton South girls’ soccer players Katherine Cullen and Tori Swartz each scored twice, and dominant midfield play by Newton South led to the Lions beating the Highlanders, 5-0, Friday afternoon in Newton.

Newton South stayed on the offensive throughout the first half thanks to dominating midfield play. The Highlanders defense just could not clear the ball, with the Lions always playing the ball up to their strikers almost as soon as the ball had been kicked away. Swartz, a junior, anchored the Newton South midfield, making sharp passes and out-muscling opponents for loose balls.

Somerville freshman goalie Alyssa Hachey was under a near-constant barrage of shots Sunday, and the Lions finally converted midway through the first half. Swartz fired a shot on net that Hachey barely deflected away. Freshman Cullen immediately moved in to shoot again. Hachey blocked the first shot, but Cullen collected the rebound and scored from point-blank range.

Cullen scored again two minutes later, this time dribbling around and through the Highlander defense before scoring a tight-angle shot to put the Lions up 2-0.

“We work on possession,” Newton South coach Doug McCarthy said. “It doesn’t always happen the way we design it, but today it did. Our girls were able to control that center part of the field, and doing so, it opened up everything else for us.”

Because of strong midfield possession, the Highlanders did not get a shot off in the first half, with Lions goalie Emma Friedman only needing to leave the net four times to collect overpasses. The Lions, meanwhile, got off 11 shots.

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