Mitch's Sports Report: New England Patriots Headed To A Record Ninth Superbowl
Heading back to the Superbowl for a seventh time, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have already made history, but the quarterback, head coach, and the entire New England Patriots organization want to make more.
No head coach or quarterback have ever appeared in seven Superbowls, but after a 36-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers to capture the AFC Championship at Foxboro, that record is now in the books. If the Pats beat the Atlanta Falcons two weeks from now, Brady will stand alone as the quarterback with the most championship rings in league history, breaking the tie he's in now with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. The Patriots as a franchise will be appearing in their ninth Superbowl, and that's the most of any team in league history.
All these records were made possible with yet another dominating offensive performance, and a not too shabby turn by the defense as well in last night's win. Chris Hogan had a game for the ages, the wide receiver hooking up with Brady for 180 yards and two touchdowns, the fanciest coming off a perfectly run flea-flicker, the fake run sold perfectly by Dion Lewis, who pitched the ball back to Brady, who calmly found Hogan in the corner of the end zone. The 180 yards by Hogan sets a new Patriots franchise record for most receiving yards in a playoff game. Brady got into the Patriots record books, too, completing 32 of 42 passes for a playoff-best 384 yards and three touchdowns.
On defense, Logan Ryan had an interception but the biggest play was actually a series of downs when Pittsburgh had first and goal on the Patriots one yard line and could not punch the ball in, settling for a field goal instead. At the time, it was still a close enough game, the Pats leading 17-6, and had the Steelers scored a TD it could have changed the complexion of the game. Instead, it allowed the Pats to take a 17-9 lead into half time before blowing things open in the second half. The Steelers lost their star running back Le'Veon Bell in the first half to a groin injury and he did not return, but even before he left he wasn't doing much damage against a tough Patriots run defense led by Alan Branch.
And let's not forget that this season began with Tom Brady missing the first four games due to the NFL's railroading over under-inflated footballs. League commissioner Roger Goodell chose to attend the NFC title game instead of being at Foxboro yesterday (big shocker there), but he'll have nowhere to hide in Houston come the Superbowl, and while they'd never admit it publicly, nothing would give Brady and the Patriots more satisfaction than Goodell being forced to hand over the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Brady in front of millions.
That won't be easy, of course, because the Atlanta Falcons are very much for real, and their easy 44-21 dispatch of the Green Bay Packers yesterday is exhibit A. The Falcons will come into Houston boasting the league's most proficient offense, and quite possibly the league's best wide receiver in Julio Jones, while the Patriots will have the defense that's allowed the fewest points for the season, so this should be a pretty great game. The Falcons will be making just their second Superbowl appearance in the 51-year history of the franchise and they haven't won yet, but quarterback Matt Ryan is in talks for MVP of the year, and Jones is a game-changing receiver who had a 73-yard jaw-dropping catch and run TD against the Pack yesterday. Job one for Belichick will be coming up with a game plan for containing Jones.
The Pats are early 3-point favorites, and that sounds about right. I wouldn't bet against Brady or the Pats at this point, especially with a collective bee in their bonnets over the grossly unfair league-mandated suspension of Brady and loss of a number one draft pick based on little to no actual evidence of any wrongdoing, but the Falcons have their own motivation to prove they belong in the title game, and it could come down to special teams play or an X-factor player no one's paying much attention to now.
There were other sports played yesterday but the less said about the Boston Bruins 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins the better. The B's have now lost four games in a row and were soundly thrashed by a superior team in every facet of yesterday's game.
The NY Rangers scored the only goal of their game against the Detroit Red Wings in overtime, a J.T. Miller strike that gave the Blueshirts 1-0 win. Henrik Lundqvist got the shut-out, the 61st of his career in a 21-save effort.
Over the weekend the Dartmouth Green ski team won the St. Lawrence Carnival, finishing with 961 overall points to beat out second place finisher UVM with 830. Paula Moltzan did pick up her first career win for the Catamounts, capturing first place in the women’s slalom race. UNH came in third overall with 647 points. The next Carnival competition takes place in New Hampshire next weekend.
Meanwhile the Castleton women's alpine ski team picked up its first slalom victory of the season yesterday, taking the top spot at West Mountain. The Spartans were nearly six seconds faster overall than second place Clarkson. Kirsten Kruk won her second straight slalom race for the Spartans with a best top time of 1:48:50. The Castleton men finished second overall at West Mountain, with Babson taking first.
At the Australian Open, with the world ranked mens' number one and two players in Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic out, number nine Rafael Nadal is in action as we speak. Nadal has won the first two sets against France's Gael Monfils. The number one womens' player Serena Williams is still alive in the tournament heading into the quarterfinals.