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Thinking out loud: Were Patriots lucky to beat Ravens?

12.16.16 at 3:25 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to Kirk Cameron.

— Were the Patriots “lucky” to beat the Baltimore Ravens? It depends on what you consider “luck.” If luck to you is turning the ball over twice in your own red zone, giving up two easy touchdowns, blowing a 20-point lead and still managing to win – then the Patriots are certainly a little bit lucky.

— But the Patriots also have Tom Brady pitching, and guys like Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan catching – and compared to last year at this same time, it’s a major difference in depth and playmaking ability for this team.

— The unsung hero on the offense, for my money, is LeGarrette Blount. A career year in rushing yards, but for the life of me, why does this team insist upon throwing the ball from the 2-yard line – when they surely could get two yards on four tries at pounding the line with BFT (Blount Force Trauma), couldn’t they?

— That’s on the offensive line. While improved, no doubt, over a year ago – they’re not particularly strong up the middle. It’s why you see runs bounce to the outside so often. There’s not much room between the tackles, and when there is room, it doesn’t last long enough to get there.

— Overall however, the Patriots have a much better run game (7th in the NFL) than this time last year (27th) going into Denver. The above-mentioned depth and the running game (the Denver “D” Achilles heel this year) should be enough beat the Broncos – as long as you don’t turn the ball over in the red zone.

— The AFC East is all but over, and with a win at Denver the Patriots will claim the division for an 8th straight season, and the 14th time in the last 16 years. They can also clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs with two weeks still to play. Is that a good thing for this team, or not-so-good? Discuss amongst yourselves and get back to me on that one, will ya’?

— TB12 is not only the NFL MVP for this season, he’s also the NFL (and worldwide) poster boy for sucking it up, taking your (unnecessary) medicine/punishment and then unleashing fury thereafter. Yes, if there is a true football god, he will force Roger Goodell into presenting the Lombardi trophy AND the Super Bowl LI MVP award to Brady.

— And smile while doing it.

— Our pigskin pal Kerry Byrne from Cold Hard Football Facts has laid down some pretty impressive TB12 stuff recently. Like the fact that Seattle’s Russell Wilson – who is a pretty good QB, last week’s result aside – has 61 career wins in 4 ½ seasons. He would have to average 12 wins per season for the next 13 years (through 2028) to match Brady’s current career total of 201 victories. And Brady’s not even through yet.

— The entire Pittsburgh-New York Giants and “Deflategate II” story makes me ill, probably because we’ve been hit over the head, in the stomach and in the a** with it so much over the past two years.

— But the short of this latest episode is – Patriots’ fans may have the right to feel a bit persecuted here, because it sure looks as if their team was, indeed, singled out by the NFL. As I have said previously, the entire Deflategate debacle was largely payback from the owners for Spygate in 2007, who felt New England wasn’t punished enough then, and needed another spanking now.

— I’m reminded of the appropriate lines in the movie, Animal House, with the NFL assuming the role of Omega pledge captain Douglas C. Niedermeyer (he’s the NFL): “Assume the position. Whack!” Pledge Chip Diller, portrayed by Kevin Bacon (as the Patriots): “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

— The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy opined this week on Deflategate “Truthers,” and he’s right about this – something happened within Patriot circles that wasn’t on the up-and-up. I do happen to believe science played a big part here that has been ignored or discounted, but there’s simply too much from the texts in the Wells report to completely ignore or discount their validity. And as far as the league’s quoted “chain of command issues” they referred to this week, when comparing Deflategate II with the first go-round?

— It’s a complete slap in the face, pointed sharply at New England, by the NFL. The answer to all theories, like everything else in life, is always somewhere in the middle. The Patriots did, indeed, get spanked. We’re onto Denver.

— But is Josh McDaniels onto L.A.? Rumors persist the Patriots’ offensive coordinator could seriously entertain the thought of taking over in Tinseltown for the fired Jeff Fisher. Honestly, I could see him there. But does he believe QB Jared Goff can develop into anything close to Tom Brady? That ought to decide the issue, right there.

— Sad news this week to learn of the passing of an iconic TV dad, Alan Thicke. Recently, you may have heard his radio ad campaign for a tax relief company, but at age 69 he was still very active and reportedly died of a heart attack after playing ice hockey with his youngest son. He was best known as Dr. Jason Seaver on the “Growing Pains” sitcom of the ‘80’s, and he also composed the theme songs to two other very popular ‘80’s sitcoms – “Diff’rent Strokes” and “The Facts of Life.”

— You’re welcome for today’s earworm. Go ahead, hum along. You know those tunes if you’re anywhere close to my age.

— Have you ever had a song stuck in your head, and you just can’t get rid of it? That’s an earworm, and my buddy “Big E” sez the only way to get rid of it is to purposely sing that song in your head over and over and over again – so much so, that your brain ends up ejecting it from your conscience.

— Unless, you made the song up. If that’s the case, sorry, you’re stuck with it. Or, you could spend thousands of dollars and get the stupid song recorded professionally, play it over and over and over again, and then throw up. That might work, so I’m told.

— Kyron Cartwright is 2nd in the Big East in assists per game (7.7) heading into the weekend, behind Creighton’s (and ex-BU Terrier guard) Maurice Watson. That number also places Cartwright 5th nationally. His ability to see the floor – no matter where he is – is one of the big reasons for the Friars’ surprisingly strong play through 10 games.

— When these Friars keep their mistakes (turnovers) to a minimum, they are very difficult to score on. They’re 9th nationally in scoring defense. It’s a calling card that will get a supreme test with three straight road games coming up after the current six-game home stand is completed next week against former RIC coach (and ex-PC assistant) Bob Walsh and the Maine Black Bears.

— Finals’ week was this week, and you simply don’t know how student-athletes will react to the week off from play. Some are relieved, some are stressed, some are fired up when they learn they’ve got a full month to hoop with no school. Wagner should be a good test for this team, coming off of the break.

— Not for nuthin’, they did beat UConn in the Huskies’ home opener at Gampel Pavilion, the first time UConn has ever lost a home opener in Storrs since the building opened in 1990.

— PC athletic director Bob Driscoll updated us this week on the recent Big East meetings, completed with nothing earth-shattering to report, except for the extreme happiness over the league start to the 2016-17 men’s basketball season. The Big East has been #1 or #2 in the conference RPI since tip-off, and looks poised to remain that way. Six and seven teams have been mentioned as NCAA-worthy, including the Friars.

— The latest RPI numbers have the Friars rated 26th nationally, as five Big East programs are in that Top 26 as of mid-week this week. Seton Hall and Marquette are charging hard from the outside to reach that group – which means conference play this year could be as entertaining and competitive – as well as nerve-wracking – as ever.

— Two transfers this past week – Yankuba Sima left the St. John’s Red Storm, and Traci Carter has departed from Marquette. Sima’s playing time had diminished of late, and in Carter’s case, it was an apparent desire to return closer to his home in Philadelphia. Carter led the Golden Eagles in assists last season and is the 2nd player to leave the program since the current season started, following Sandy Cohen.

— ESPN’s Jeff Goodman put out a note from the NCAA this week, as Grand Poobah Mark Emmert named former Friar assistant coach and Bryant athletic director Dan Gavitt to the position of Senior Vice President for Basketball. Gavitt had been overseeing NCAA Tournament operations, but now is totally in charge of hoops – for men and women, in all three divisions – and overseeing all college basketball issues.

— Somehow, a Gavitt should be in charge of basketball, don’t you think?

— URI’s Hassan Martin is still hobbled by a quad injury, and after losses in four of the past six games, the Rams are beginning to resemble last year’s similarly-stunned squad. Yes, they need Hassan back. But they also can overcome some of his loss with others stepping up – which hasn’t happened yet.

— Holy Cross on Sunday and William & Mary next week before Atlantic-10 play begins are must-wins. Time now to focus on winning the league, because it might take that to receive the dance invite come March.

— The A-10 is rated 7th (out of 32 conferences) in the RPI, but has not shown up well in non-conference play against the six leagues ranked ahead of them – 8-25 against the Big East, Big 12, Big 10, ACC, SEC and Pac-12. Multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament from within will be difficult to find.

— Did you hear the story this week of the Wake Forest radio announcer who was fired for leaking game plan information to Louisville earlier this year? And he was an alumnus, and a former player and coach in the football program. Whoa! I know as well as anyone that coaches are usually very guarded with what they consider proprietary information, but to betray that kind of internal trust is bad for the entire sports broadcasting industry.

— Note to coaches (are you listening, Coach Cooley?) – not everyone you deal with is going to squeal on you. More often than not, the home team winning a game benefits the home announcer, too. This is all about relationship-building, and if everyone is doing the job they’re paid to do, you’ll know quickly whether trust is inherent in that relationship.

— Announcers, whether they’re paid by the school or another entity, are always identified as school guys. They represent the logo, the colors, the brand – and the overwhelming majority of men (and women) in the industry know this. And they also do it with class. Coaches, sometimes, forget this – probably because they don’t often get to hear the broadcasters “do their job,” if ever.

— In the Wake Forest case, the guy apparently had a grudge over his dismissal from his previous coaching position. One rotten apple does not spoil this entire bunch, I can assure you, just like in every other job on the planet that’s out there.

— Brad Stevens said this week the Celtics are “in a much better place” than they were a month ago. Have they died and gone to heaven? Or have they finally learned to play defense again?

— So sad to learn of Craig Sager’s passing. I originally met Sager in the mid-‘80’s, in and around coverage of the ’84 Olympics in Los Angeles, as he was up-and-coming as a radio guy-turned-TV reporter. His fight against leukemia wasn’t a battle lost – it was very much a battle won, in how the battle was fought. Dignity. Grace. Determination. Courage. I last saw him at the Final Four this past April in Houston, and said he looked good. He did, especially for what he was going through. God speed, Craig.

— Is it just me, or is it just as cold now as it was when we were kids? Back then, whoever heard of a “polar vortex?” It was just cold. Still is. The “vortex” thing is just someone’s pseudo-scientific way of stating things to make us all feel a little bit colder, amiright?

— Bye, Koji. Bye, Junichi. 87-year-old relief pitcher Koji Uehara signed a free agent deal with the Chicago Cubs this week, in case you didn’t notice. I kid about the 87, I think. Junichi Tazawa also signed a 2-year, $12 million deal with Miami. Still, that someone is willing to pay them millions of dollars (and not in Yen) is a tribute to their ability.

— Watched one of my all-time favorite Christmas shows this past week, the claymation special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. A classic, if there ever was one. Is there anyone else besides me that would absolutely LOVE to have the water pistol that shoots jelly – you know, from the Land of Misfit Toys? C’mon, man. Just sayin’.

— Kirk Cameron played Mike Seaver on the “Growing Pains” sitcom that Alan Thicke also starred in, during the mid ‘80’s to 1992 on ABC television. Portrayed as somewhat of a teenage “ladies man,” Cameron was actually nominated for two Golden Globes for his portrayal of the Mike Seaver character. He was convincing – no doubt. These days, Cameron is an evangelical minister and trainer, while also remaining active in acting. Somewhat ironically, perhaps, during the early filming of the TV series – Cameron was also considered an atheist.

— Matt (@gronklefan87) Tweeted this week, on the Patriots’ pick-up of receiver Michael Floyd: “So this MFloyd waiver claim is very interesting. Not ready to see him contributing until maybe the playoffs? Your thoughts?” Matt: The waiver wire is a strange thing. In the sports world, it truly is “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Why not take a shot on a guy like Floyd, who was star-crossed at best in Arizona? The Patriots need depth at the position, and I’ve been hearing steady rumbling about Danny Amendola possibly being out for the rest of the year. But how much he contributes depends upon any (and all) trust TB12 puts in his ability. End of story.

— Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to john.rooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke …

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