New England Patriots Report Card: Week 3

Tom Brady and his receivers get A- grades for their performances Sunday against the Ravens, but the rest of the team didn’t do nearly as well. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Before Sunday’s New England Patriots-Baltimore Ravens game, noted actor (also Ravens linebacker) Ray Lewis said, “Revenge is a dish best served cold. We on fire tonight.”

Facing a mind like that, the Patriots should count themselves lucky they just lost, as opposed to waking up tied to a chair in a basement somewhere.

But lose the Patriots did, blowing a two-possession lead in the fourth quarter and losing on a game-ending 27-yard field goal by Justin Tucker. But before Pats fans start moaning, just remember that the Ravens are a very good team, matching talent with physicality and effort. The Patriots didn’t lose this game — the Ravens won it.

With that said, and before Ray Lewis comes bursting through the door in a clown costume singing “Helter Skelter,” let’s give out some grades.

Quarterback: A-

Tom Brady looked very sharp Sunday, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 335 yards and a touchdown. He might not have gotten it done on the Patriots’ last drive, but he executed a near-flawless two-minute offense at the end of the first half, capping an 81-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman.

Thirty points usually means victory. Brady did more than enough to put his team in a position to win. Don’t hang this loss on the quarterback.

Running backs: B

Danny Woodhead and Brandon Bolden each scored a rushing touchdown, but along with Steven Ridley combined for just 75 yards, all three averaging fewer than 3 yards per carry. And with the run-game all but stopped, the Ravens began overloading on pass-defense.

Against a worse pass-rushing team, the Patriots can get away with that weak a running game. But against the Ravens? Not so much.

Wide receivers/tight ends: A-

Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd recorded over 100 receiving yards apiece Sunday. Lloyd may have made the flashier catches, but Welker handled the nitty gritty. And both starred against a Ravens secondary that tested the replacement referees’ excessive contact rules every chance it could.

Lloyd brings a dynamic element to the Patriots’ receiving corps that’s been missing since Randy Moss circa 2007. Expect big aerial numbers for Brady and his receivers this season.

Offensive line: B-

The offensive line allowed a sack four plays into the game, tightened up for awhile, then crumbled late in the fourth, allowing a key sack that killed the Patriots’ last drive, forced them to punt and ultimately led to the Ravens’ game-winning field goal.

The line also utterly failed to open up holes for the Patriots’ running game, repeatedly allowing Ravens linemen to simply move across blockers and chase down running backs from behind.

On a positive note, the O-line played penalty-free. And with Sunday’s officiating crew, that’s quite an accomplishment.

Defensive line: D

The defensive line put no pressure on Joe Flacco… literally. No sacks, no quarterback hits, only one tackle for a loss (by Patrick Chung, no less). And Ray Rice rushed for over 100 yards, a touchdown and 5.1 yards per carry.

The defensive line so struggled Sunday that Bill Belichick had to abandon his original defensive scheme, moving up a safety to help on run-defense. That left New England’s mediocre cornerbacks one-on-one with receivers — one reason why Flacco threw for 389 yards and three touchdowns.

Linebackers: D+

Jerod Mayo‘s pass-interference penalty on third down in the second quarter extended a Ravens drive that ended with a touchdown pass, but he also led the team with 11 tackles. Brandon Spikes‘ holding penalty, meanwhile, wiped out the Patriots’ only sack and gave the Ravens first-and-goal from the Patriots’ 5-yard-line.

Flacco’s third touchdown throw came on the very next play, making it a two-point game with four minutes left in the fourth. These veteran linebackers have to play better than that moving forward.

Defensive backs: C-

Too, too many penalties really hurt the Patriots secondary. Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore and Devin McCourty all gave away third-and-long situations with defensive holding penalties, and McCourty’s pass-interference penalty turned a 52-yard field goal attempt into a 27-yard chip-shot.

Despite the secondary’s inadequacies, three things picked up its grade: Chung’s fourth-down tackle, Steve Gregory‘s first-quarter interception, and the secondary’s overall high level of energy. For once, the Pats’ defense didn’t look exhausted by the fourth quarter.

Special teams: B+

Stephen Gostkowski made all of his field goals and extra points, and for the most part just kicked touchbacks. Excluding the Patriots’ two drives off turnovers, however, they lost the starting-yardage battle to the Ravens, and no one on the Patriots’ special teams did anything spectacular.

Acceptable play from special teams, but nothing distinguishing.

Coaching: B+

Belichick’s decision to leave the Patriots’ front seven to deal with the Ravens’ running game worked for awhile. But once Rice began running roughshod, Belichick had to bring a safety forward, because as good as Flacco is, Belichick knows Rice is much better.

Despite little success on the ground, Belichick continued running the ball, only throwing the ball about 53 percent of the time. Had the Patriots abandoned the running game, Brady likely would’ve taken far more than two sacks and six hits. The Patriots might have lost, but at least they left Baltimore relatively healthy (though the jury’s still out on Edelman and Arrington).

Belichick for the most part coached well, but his team just couldn’t maintain the level of execution necessary to win.

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

As I watched McAlester’s football team destroy Noble Friday night, the word “catharsis” came to mind. Negativty, frustration and sadness had been hanging over the team’s heads through the first three games, and this game released all of that in one fell swoop. As “catharsis” means the release of long-held emotional tensions, it seemed like the perfect word.

Most of my friends and family like philosophy/theology/psychology, or they just read a lot and remember good words (or both), so most already know what catharsis means. But I had a hunch far fewer of myMcAlester News-Capital readers would know it. As evidence, when I asked a few of the coaches if they’d heard “catharsis” before, they said no.

When I explained the meaning, however, they agreed that this game served as a catharsis for the team.

Continue reading Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

A full week back at work means a full week of stories! I’m definitely starting to get into a rhythm at the McAlester News-Capital, figure out what stories are set in stone each week. That in turn lets me know what days I need to find stories, so I can start looking for them earlier.

Now I just need to learn how to do everything faster.

Canadian football topples Seminole JV

Lady Savages take Tushka Tournament

Coweta outlasts McAlester softball in extra innings

New youth basketball league starts in late September

Krebs disc golf course seeks new look

Know Your Foe: Claremore

Errors cost Kiowa against Crowder

Box score: Claremore 21, McAlester 20 (OT)

Zebras stun Buffaloes in overtime

Regional Roundup: Canadian, Savanna stay undefeated

Is There Crying in Football?

Does showing a male athlete crying make him seem less manly? Hard to say. But if sadness is part of the story, it can’t be left out. (http://runaroundsues.blogspot.com)

As a beat reporter for Somerville Patch last fall, I made sure to cover Somerville High’s boys’ soccer team. That included the Highlanders’ playoff game against Chelsea, which ended dramatically in overtime.

As the Highlanders came off the field, I noticed many of them in tears. They were the most successful, highest-profile fall team at SHS, hoping to at least return to the divisional semi-finals, as they had in 2010. Instead, their postseason ended after one game.

When I wrote my first draft of the game recap that night, I mentioned the Highlanders’ post-game tears. My mom convinced me showing teenage boys crying would emasculate them, and I took the line out.

Friday night’s McAlester football game put me in the exact same scenario: a dramatic overtime loss that reduced the Buffaloes to tears. This time, I left in details about how broken up the players looked.

Though the sentence doesn’t appear in the online version (too low in the story), here’s what I basically wrote:

“Heads hung low, eyes red and watery, bodies shivering at times uncontrollably — the Buffaloes didn’t look defeated so much as broken by a victory literally snatched from them at the last minute.”

My editor changed my sentence slightly, removing the words “and watery” and starting the second half of the sentence with “Some of” (which is probably more accurate, anyway), but she left the sentiment in.

Continue reading Is There Crying in Football?

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

Between a furlough and Labor Day, this was a short week for me at the McAlester News-Capital. But because I had Saturday to work on coverage of Friday’s McAlester football game, I was able to write a whole lot more about it. The story came out better than last week’s, the video came out better – though I’m still trying to solve the games taking so long my camera fills up by the third quarter – my first stab at a box/stat sheet turned out pretty well, and I even got in touch with every other coach from around the region to discuss the other games Thursday and Friday night.

So not as many stories this week, but I’m really happy with each one!

Bunts help McAlester past Savanna softball

Box score: Booker T Washington 27, McAlester 17

Hornets shut down Buffs in second half

Regional Roundup: Hartshorne picks QB

Brian Scalabrine Returns to Boston

Celtics fans may not get to see THIS again, but Brian Scalabrine’s retirement and migration to CSN means the return of a player whose popularity defies both his own talent and logic in general. (basketbawful.blogspot.com)

Bust out the “Hope” signs. Dust off those ironic posters you used to bring with you to the TD Garden. Heck, gas up the duck boats while you’re at it.

Brian Scalabrine is coming back to Boston… sort of.

Fans hoping to see basketball’s version of the red-headed stepchild once again jogging eagerly up and down the court in a green jersey for 13 minutes or so every night are in for some disappointment: according to multiple sources, Scal’s retiring and joining the CSN broadcast team.

The decision makes complete sense. As a player, Scalabrine’s playing time dropped over eight minutes per game when he left Boston for Chicago. Averaging under five minutes a game, Scalabrine’s numbers dropped below even one basket, rebound and assist per game.

Basically, that means Scalabrine played a little defense for the Bulls every game, and that’s all. And already 34, Scalabrine knew that numbers like that wouldn’t get him anywhere near the $3.4 million salary (seriously?) he earned with the Celtics for the 2009-10 season, or even the $1.3 million (again, seriously?) he took home with the Bulls last season.

Between diminished salary prospects and the demands of an again-81-game season, Scalabrine decided to hang up the sneakers for good. Taking the route of so many ex-athletes, Scalabrine took his talents to the broadcast booth, and what better place to do it than Boston?

Few cities know and honor the totality of their sports history the way Boston does. We don’t just know the greats, we know everybody. And because of that, second- or third-tier athletes who’ve played for Boston can always come back home.

Scalabrine isn’t the first non-star to become a Boston broadcaster or analyst. Ex-Red Sox David McCarty’s gig with NESN has extended his longevity long past what a player as inconsequential as he rightfully deserves. The same could be said of ex-Celtic Dana Barros, though at least Barros’ outreach work and youth camps gives him a little more street cred.

Scal shares the same place in Celtics lore as Barros, and McCarty holds a parallel spot in the annals of Fenway. That place, for lack of a more nuanced description, is at the bottom. Arguing that Scalabrine meant little more to the Celtics than as a bench-warmer would be ludicrous.

But who cares? It’s Scal! If CSN can keep him around the only fan base that ever loved him, why shouldn’t he come back?

Continue reading Brian Scalabrine Returns to Boston

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

Football season began Friday. After two weeks of covering scrimmages, I finally got a chance to cover high school football in a town that cares about it more than any other sport.

How I cover the Buffaloes over these next two months will determine more than anything else my legacy as a sports writer at the McAlester News-Capital. So what happens seven minutes into the first game? The starting quarterback gets injured.

I can write about injuries when I have to, but I never enjoy doing so. If a pro player signs a $10 million deal and ticket prices go up because of it, then he gets hurt a week later, that’s a story worth telling. But a 16-year-old kid getting hurt? Is that anyone’s business but his family’s?

I don’t know what the exact injury is, and I won’t speculate publicly based on how little I know, but the kid fainted when he walked to the sideline. The coach said that in that situation, football becomes the last thing on his mind.

I agree with that sentiment, so writing about an injury — especially one that leads directly to a loss — always feels sketchy. The kid’s safety comes first, but as a game recap, my story by nature puts the game first. And that makes me look heartless, which I’m anything but.

So I did my best with the story, and I my editor liked it, so one week into my biggest beat of the year, things are o.k.

Here’s what else I wrote this week:

McAlester’s Selman dominates Coweta softball

Quinton softball run-rules Hartshorne

Lady Dawgs dominate with Bryn Houlton

Lester “Ripper” Wray to Race the Reaper Saturday

Know Your Foe: Stillwater

Panther bats too much for Jr. Buffs

Pioneers end Buffs home-win streak