I am not sure why, but I have really enjoyed rooting against New England the last two weeks, only to have them escape at the last second and get the win.
Normally, the 1972 Dolphins annoy me with their champagne celebrations that I root for someone to equal them and thus shut them up. But, I may be changing my mind.
My new sports dream as of this morning is for the Patriots to 16-0, only to lose in the playoffs, thus erasing the Mavericks from the category of biggest sports choke in sports history.
Pats sneak out of Baltimore …
The New England Patriots weren't kidding that they aren't perfect, no matter what their record through 12 games shows.
They looked mighty vulnerable Monday night, needing a late touchdown drive and some penalties that both sides complained about to beat the Baltimore Ravens 27-24 Monday night.
New England pulled off its great escape to become the sixth team in NFL history to start a season with 12 victories. For the second straight week, it was a struggle against a losing team, but the incredibly resourceful Patriots got Tom Brady's 8-yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney with 44 seconds left to win it.
The winning drive in the final minutes covered 73 yards and required two fourth-down conversions, one on a defensive holding penalty 6 seconds before Gaffney beat Dawan Landry in the left corner of the end zone.
"We made enough plays at the end," Brady said. "A lot of questionable calls and we made some plays.
"There's a lot of room to improve in the final four weeks. There's things we could've certainly done better ... we kept clawing back."
Driven to distraction by a Baltimore defense at times reminiscent of the 2000 unit that led the Ravens (4-8) to a Super Bowl victory, Brady came through late -- as he always seems to.
"Most of it for three quarters didn't go in our favor," Brady said. "On the road, tough environment against a team that has won a lot of games in the last few years. It was tough."
Eight days after edging Philadelphia 31-28, the Patriots barely kept alive their pursuit of the only unblemished record in NFL history, Miami's 17-0 in 1972.
With Pittsburgh (9-3) up next, the Patriots must recapture some of their record-setting ways from earlier in the season to keep their flawless record intact.
Well, it has been 3 weeks since the firing of Doug Armstrong. Following a successful journey east, optimism is creeping around the rink…
Let’s look at a couple numbers.
Stars before the axe-
17 games, 17 points on (7-7-3)
After the axe:
11 games, 17 points on (8-2-1)
Before the axe:
51 goals against in 17 games (3.0)
After the axe:
21 goals against in 11 games (1.9)
As last night in Columbus indicated, if your goalie is your best player, you can win a lot of games. That is all we have ever wanted out of Marty Turco, and now Mike Smith.
What Doug Armstrong being fired has to do with these numbers, I will never know, but the truth is there in the numbers. The Stars are a different team.
I am still not convinced they are a playoff team come April, but this is much more like it. What a trip!
2 more points in Columbus …
Once again, Niklas Hagman supplied a big goal for the Dallas Stars when it was most needed.
Hagman's shootout backhander powered the Stars to a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.
Hagman, the 10th player in the shootout, swooped in on goalie Pascal Leclaire and may have surprised him with his move away from the forehand.
"I've tried it a couple of times in practice," Hagman said of the move. "Maybe it's something the goalies don't expect when a guy comes right in front of you and takes a backhanded shot, five hole. It managed to go in."
It was the latest bit of heroics for Hagman, who leads the Stars in game-winning goals with five, tying him with San Jose's Jeremy Roenick for the NHL lead.
"Nobody knew what Haggy was going to do, including us, and it turned out all right," coach Dave Tippett said.
The Stars have won both meetings with Columbus this season in shootouts at Nationwide Arena - the only wins Dallas has in three shootouts this season.
Chris Conner had the Stars' goal early in the third period, matching Nikolai Zherdev's first-period goal for Columbus.
Dallas was playing its last game of a season-long six-game road trip, while Columbus
was returning home after a Western swing to start a five-game homestand.
Marty Turco had 25 saves for Dallas, with Leclaire stopping 33.
"At one point in the third period, you think, 'This is a goalie duel.' And you try to hold up your end of the bargain," Turco said. "When we talk about goaltending around here, it's all about giving the team a chance to win. Most of all, it's a team effort and doing your part. And mine was to match it and keep it at 1-1 until we could find a crack - and we did."
Mavs win in Chicago …
Josh Howard scored 27 points, Dirk Nowitzki added 25 and the Dallas Mavericks hung on to beat the Chicago Bulls 103-98 on Monday night.
The Mavericks saw a 16-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle to three when Andres Nocioni hit three free throws to pull Chicago within 101-98 with 11.6 seconds left.
Jason Terry answered with two free throws, and Chicago's Kirk Hinrich shot an airball from the corner, bringing the game to a wild conclusion.
The league's reigning MVP, Nowitzki perked up after shooting just 5-of-15 in each of the previous two games. He was 9-of-17 against the Bulls.
Howard had 10 rebounds and six assists. Erick Dampier added 10 rebounds and six blocks, and Terry scored 18 points.
The Mavericks had to sweat this one out because of Nocioni and Hinrich.
Hinrich, who was benched in favor of Chris Duhon to start the second half, scored 14 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter.
Nocioni had 14 of his 30 points in the fourth, and his two free throws and jumper pulled Chicago within 93-87 with 1:29 left in the game.
What gets you fired up for baseball season like hearing the Rangers don’t have big plans? Well, maybe they are downplaying a bold strike. If they leave Nashville with Jason Bay or Fukkodome, we will be ready to get on board a bit…
TR Sullivan’s report …
The Rangers could bring back Eric Gagne as their closer or add LaTroy Hawkins to the mix of candidates for that job.
They are one of a number of teams that have asked about Pirates outfielder Jason Bay and they are still pursuing Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. They are checking the medical records of free-agent pitchers Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Jason Jennings.
They are preparing to go to Spring Training with Marlon Byrd and David Murphy as their center-field candidates while focusing more on their corner-outfield spots.
The Winter Meetings are under way here and the Rangers are addressing a number of areas of concern. Relief pitching is one of them and general manager Jon Daniels said Monday the Rangers have interest in bringing back Gagne as their closer.
Gagne led the Rangers with 16 saves this past season before being traded to the Boston Red Sox on July 31. He is a free agent and Daniels said the Rangers would like to talk to agent Scott Boras while they are here in Nashville. The four-day meetings continue through Thursday.
"Eric is on the list of guys we have expressed interest in," Daniels said. "He's the only guy we'd be interested in to be our closer. Anybody else would be added to the mix of potential closer candidates."
Hawkins would be another possibility in the Rangers' quest to add a veteran arm to the back of their bullpen and Daniels spoke to his agent, Larry Reynolds, on Sunday. Hawkins, 35, was 2-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 62 games in 2007 for the National League champion Colorado Rockies, who declined to offer him arbitration. The Detroit Tigers are also pursuing him.
Other names that the Rangers have considered are Shawn Chacon, Luis Vizcaino, Trever Miller and Octavio Dotel. The Rangers had interest in David Riske, but he's likely to get a three-year deal to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Rangers aren't willing to go that long with any reliever. The Rangers offered Gagne a two-year deal with two option years before he was traded to the Red Sox. But Daniels said the Rangers would likely go just one year guaranteed on any deal with a free agent reliever.
Center field was another area of focus for the Rangers but that's starting to fade. The Rangers have found the cost of acquiring a center fielder either through trade or free agency is too high, so they are moving on with the idea of Byrd and Murphy filling that spot.
"More likely than not," Daniels said. "Possibly that could change, but that's likely how it's going to go."
The Rangers had extensive talks with the Arizona Diamondbacks about Carlos Gonzalez, the New York Mets about Carlos Gomez and the Chicago Cubs about Felix Pie. But the Diamondbacks wanted top pitching prospect Eric Hurley, the Mets weren't interested in trading for catcher Gerald Laird and the Cubs have decided that Pie will be their center fielder.
Marlon Byrd for CF? …
Evan Grant on the scene …
While the rest of baseball will be scurrying about at the winter meetings that will start Monday at Opryland, the Texas delegation might just be sitting around not doing much of anything.
There is no Torii Hunter contract to discuss. There is no Kenny Rogers reunion to discuss. Considering the New York Mets have traded for two catchers in the last two weeks, there doesn't seem much need for the Rangers to talk with them about exchanging Gerald Laird for a center fielder. The Rangers aren't very interested in trading any of their young prospects.
None of the other free-agent center fielders or starting pitchers really interests the Rangers. And, unless the club makes a roster move quickly, there won't even be much need to stick around for the Rule 5 draft since a full 40-man roster means they'd be unable to select a player.
"We've talked about a lot of different things with clubs," general manager Jon Daniels said Friday. "This is an expensive market. Sitting here today, I don't know
if we are going to make any significant moves [in Nashville]."
The Rangers remain interested in upgrading the outfield, first base and the bullpen depth. But with Hunter out of the picture – thanks to a five-year, $90 million deal from the Los Angeles Angels – the Rangers are refocusing on free agents that won't require giving up a draft pick as compensation. And they aren't limiting themselves to center field.
There is only one potential impact outfielder on the market that might be worthy of a long-term deal and who wouldn't cost the Rangers a draft pick: Japan's Kosuke Fukudome. But Fukudome, who would probably play right field for Texas, still hasn't committed to leaving Japan for the United States.
The Rangers will probably have serious competition from the Chicago Cubs, San Diego and perhaps Kansas City if Fukudome does decide to test the U.S. market. Daniels acknowledged an interest in having the Rangers become bigger players in the Japanese market, but he declined to speak specifically about Fukudome.
The Rangers have checked on getting involved in the trade market for both Johan
Santana and Miguel Cabrera, but are long shots to end up with either. Such a deal would probably require trading at least one young major leaguer (Ian Kinsler or Jarrod Saltalamacchia) and a passel of prospects. The Rangers would have to be assured of getting a long-term contract extension done with the acquired player.
"We've checked on any of the impact players that might be available," Daniels said. "We're not really interested in trading our younger players. But where our system is right now, our players are probably a year away from being household names. And if you are going to trade a young player, you want to make sure you get the maximum value. I don't know that we are at the same point as some other clubs."
Funny Dale Hansen stuff …
First Death in MMA …
Regulated mixed martial arts has experienced its first casualty.
Sam Vasquez, who was stopped by Vince Libardi on Oct. 20 at the Toyota Center in Houston, died Friday at the age of 35, according to a report by TheFightNetwork.com.
The Harris County Medical Examiner, which confirmed Vasquez passed at 8:15 p.m. CT, has not yet released the cause of death, the report said.
After enduring separate surgeries to remove blood clots from his brain as well as a massive stroke, Vasquez was discharged from downtown Houston's Saint Joseph Medical Center Critical Care Unit and transferred to an area hospice on Nov. 26.
On Wednesday Sandra Vasquez, the fighter's wife, told Sherdog.com, "He's about to go." Two days later, Vasquez, the father of a 7-year-old boy, lost his battle with the apparent affects of a regulated mixed martial arts fight.
Vasquez joins Douglas Dedge as the second known fighter to lose his or her life due to complications stemming from a MMA bout. Following an unregulated contest in the Ukraine on March 16, 1998, Dedge collapsed and died.
Vasquez, who was licensed to compete by the Texas Boxing and Wrestling Program, took rapid combinations and a hard right punch to the chin from Libardi (4-3) in the third round.
In his third professional fight -- each of which were promoted by Saul Soliz, a veteran trainer who has worked with several UFC champions and a host of local Texas fighters, including the fallen Vasquez -- the referee allowed Vasquez (1-2) to stand after he was dropped. When the fighter subsequently collapsed the bout was called.
Repeated attempts to reach Soliz for comment went unreturned.
Eight minutes elapsed while Texas-mandated EMTs attended to the incapacitated Vasquez, who was eventually placed onto a stretcher and supported with a neck brace. His exit from the arena to Saint Joseph Medical Center was marked with a slight, occasional seizure visible to the cage-side audience.
My new Home …
If you are tired of Favre love, this won’t make you feel better …
Brett Favre's standout season for the resurgent Green Bay Packers has earned him the title of 2007 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year.
Favre said in the cover story of the magazine's Dec. 10 issue, due out Wednesday, that leadership was about finding ways to raise his team's level of play.
"You do that by setting an example, by doing things the right way. I've always shown up, I've always been prepared, I practice every day," Favre said.
Favre, 38, has started a quarterback-record 249 consecutive games, and this year surpassed Dan Marino for career touchdown passes.
The magazine also recognized Favre's history of philanthropy, including his Fourward Foundation that has donated more than $4 million to charities in Wisconsin and Mississippi.
My son’s newest obsession