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Category: football

How’ Bout Them Cowboys! Can Dallas Return as the Team to Hate?

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

Credit Twitter

America’s Team has a new coach.

He is not a wunderkind such as Kliff Kingsbury, who got fired from his college job (Texas Tech) and barely had time to update his resume before being hired by the Arizona Cardinals. Nor is one of the NFL’s perceived young studs – 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh or Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In a stunning departure from how and who NFL franchises are hiring, the Cowboys marched to their own tune. Whether it turns out to be a celebration parade or a funeral march is impossible to predict.

What is almost certain is this: If Mike McCarthy doesn’t succeed, America’s Team might become as abstract as a central American country, say Uruguay or Paraguay. And owner Jerry Jones might not get another crack at hiring a head coach.

Of paramount importance to Giants fans, and the rest of the NFL, is the former. The Cowboys, by most talent evaluator’s assessment, have the most impressive roster in the NFC East. Many of their stars are in the prime of their careers and could form an immovable object for the rest of the division.

Considering that Jones hasn’t been a trigger-happy owner when it comes to firing coaches suggests that McCarthy, who reportedly will get a five-year deal, will be given time to succeed or fail. If he fails, the Cowboys might go another decade without getting to an NFC Championship game.

At first glance the hiring of McCarthy seems curious at best. After compiling a 125-77-2 record with a 10-8 mark in the postseason including one Super Bowl victory, two NFC title game appearances, McCarthy was fired late in the 2018 season when the Packers were 2-7-1.

Of course, the bigger issue was the reported estrangement between McCarthy and all-world quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The quickest way for a coach to get hired, or fired, in today’s NFL, is his relationship with the quarterback.

It seems as if Adam Gates got that part right. We’ll see.

By not getting hired in 2019, McCarthy, accurately or not, got a rep as being too old school, which is a nice way of saying out-of-touch or over-the-hill, euphemisms for ageism. Now comes word that McCarthy, suddenly a youthful 56, is a renaissance coach, one into analytics and has been hosting a meeting of the McCarthy Group, a convent of ex-coaches that are re-evaluating their craft.

Now word comes that Bill Belichick, at a 2015 owners meeting, reportedly said McCarthy is one of the best coaches he ever went up against. Now comes word that Brett Favre says McCarthy is very bright, very understandable and can relate to players the way Daboll does.

Of course, there are many that believe all those criticisms of McCarthy are legitimate and he’s little more than a more successful Jason Garrett. There are legions of Cowboys haters, led by the irrepressible Stephen A. Smith, who are thrilled that Dallas made a hire that has absolutely no sex appeal but might have success appeal.

Look, this could be exactly what the NFL needs. The Patriots dynasty, if not over, is gasping. The NFL needs a team to hate, Who better than, “How ‘Bout Them Cowboys!’”

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The Patriots Have a Decision to Make And Its Name is Tom Brady

File photo Patriots QB Tom Brady looks to pass to tight end Ben Watson, right. Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

The end?

Does Tom Brady’s illustrious career end with a pick six that sealed the Tennessee Titans’ stunning 20-13 upset victory on Sunday?

  The greatest quarterback of all time said it’s “pretty unlikely, hopefully unlike,’ that he will retire at the age of 42 after 20 seasons. But maybe the Patriots should consider where they are after the 2019 season and ponder the unthinkable:

Maybe they’re better off moving forward without the GOAT?

Heresy you scream?!

Perhaps. We are talking about an athlete who has been nothing short of remarkable, set a new standard for the position and has been a great, albeit, demanding leading. But no player is indispensable. No organization is more cognizant of this than New England.

File Photo Patriots head coach Bill Belichick Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra

Bill Belichick has a roster of former Patriots that he let go in order to maintain the New England dynasty – Richard Seymour, Chandler Jones, Brandon Cooks, Malcolm Butler. No New England player is untouchable. Belichick was always looking two, three years down the road, which made the trading of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo such a lightning rod move.

New England had its heir apparent to Brady. Whether or not Brady forced the trade, or there was some friction among owner Bob Kraft, Belichick and Brady won’t be answered until all are out of football, if then.

So here sit the Patriots with a roster that suddenly seems to have more questions than at any time in the recent past. We’ve known all season that Pats desperately needed another outside weapon for Brady and the offense. Rookie N’Keal Henry is applying aloe vera gel to the burns he got from being on the receiving end of Brady’s fury, if not his passes.

But the lack of another weapon wasn’t the only wart we saw yesterday.  The defense, which had been so good early in the season, got steamrolled by Derrick Henry and the Titans. Henry gashed the Pats for 183 yards on 34 carries.

The Pats inability to score took a toll on that defense throughout the season, including Sunday. They were often worn down. Henry became the first running back to rush for 100 yards against the Pats in the playoffs since 2014 when Marshawn Lynch gained 102 in Super Bowl XLIX

The offensive line was solid, only giving up one sack, but Brady was forced off his spot on many occasions. Unlike many of the quarterbacks that played on Wildcard Weekend, Brady doesn’t offer a run threat.

 Led by Lamar Jackson, NFL teams are looking for mobile quarterbacks, even if that just means the ability to slide in the pocket. The Patriots need to take a hard, uncomfortable look at their quarterback heading into the next decade.

 Brady’s contract voids on March 18, the turn of the NFL calendar. The Giants acknowledged wasting $23 million in cap space by giving Eli Manning to extend his time in New York.

“Everybody’s situation on the team is different,’’ Belichick told reporters Sunday morning. “There are no two that are exactly the same, but the future’s the future for all of them just like it is for Tom and anybody else you want to bring up.

“Certainly Tom is an iconic figure in this organization and nobody respects Tom more than I do. I respect all the other players and all the other coaches in this organization, too. I think that everybody that is part of it is an important part of it and I want to give the proper attention and communication and detail and thought into my input into those decisions, but any decision that’s made, it’s not an individual decision.”

New England has a first-round pick, three third-round picks, a fourth-rounder, four sixth rounders and a seventh rounder. There’s a package to be made if New England wants to move up in the draft to take a quarterback.

Or England can decide to stay the course with Brady under center. They can draft a receiver and bolster both lines. This is the easiest decision to make from afar and the most difficult to make inside New England’s practice facility in Foxborough.

“I love the Patriots,” Brady told reporters after the game. “I would say it’s pretty unlikely, hopefully unlikely (I’ll retire). I love playing football. I don’t know what it looks like moving forward.”

Maybe the Patriots don’t know as well.

Giants Need Stability With A Coach To Get this Right

File photo /The New York Extra /New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur

Pat Shurmur was not the answer. The Giants have lost a lot of games since 2017, (36) more than any other NFL team and now they are searching for their fourth head coach in the last six years.

And so it goes.  The Giants have become a revolving door of head  coaches and stability is important when it comes to winning ball games. You see this too often when a team fails in any sport.

However, the NFL is different and 16 games can determine the faith of a franchise. Though in this case, GM Dave Gettleman, at the helm since 2017, stays where he is.

Gettleman took over to rebuild a franchise. Two years later, the Giants start all over again to rebuild. It is now in the hands of this GM to restructure and get this franchise back to respectability.

Basically, it starts at the top. The Giants are in that position, in the largest market, the biggest media market. Shurmer, this time was the culprit and his successor will also confront a similar situation. 

So, who will now attempt to get this storied franchise back on track? That will be determined by Dave Gettleman. With a reprieve, he will now be analyzed and has another year to get this right.

Perhaps, and a prevailing opinion, ownership does believe the GM  made the right choice in drafting Daniel Jones to succeed Eli Manning and that was the difference. 

And in due time, Jones will amount to be that successor, though we can be asking too much for him to duplice two Super Bowl championships that Manning delivered as the franchise quarterback. 

The issue here,  minimal tolerance with that lack of stability as to who guides this franchise on the sidelines.  The Ginats fan base is angered and in New York this is so important. We have seen how it works in this market and use the Yankees as an example.  

Joe Torre and Joe Girardi, their long tenures as managers got the support of management, then again, they had the players and resources to be successful.

It starts at the top and the GM and new coach need this lasting relationship to make it work. The Giants need that stability to guide them. 

So where do the Giants stand? Their loyal fan base wants to see a winner. 

Sam Garnes, 5th round draft pick of the Giants in 1997 and later played a year with the Jets, offered an opinion to nyextra.com.  

“I look forward to seeing who the next coach is just like everyone,” said the former defensive back. “I think great defense and complimentary offense is what gets this fan base excited.”

Oh, that fan base is looking for the proper direction. Immediate names that could appease this fan base are Mike McCarthy- a Super Bowl winner with the Packers.

 Ron Rivera, recently released with the Panthers, took his team to a Super Bowl, regardless there has to be stability and more than two years for a coach to guide this franchise on the sidelines. 

But, after two seasons, 9-23, will show there needed to be another change. 

 Giants co-owner John Mara said the GM “is the right person to lead us going forward. Dave has a long record of success. We think he’s capable of putting a great team together and he’s going to get that opportunity.”

Apparently Pat Shumer wasn’t the answer. Neither was  Steve Spagnuolo or Ben McAdoo. They could not fill the shoes of their predecessor, Tom Coughlin and his two Super Bowl championships.

This is in the hands of Dave Gettelman. He got the vote of confidence. And that confidence begins with stability, and getting the right coach with experience who can turn this darn thing around.

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Changes in the NFC East Mean the Giants Must Get it Right

File photo Pat Shurmur

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

If nothing else, the Giants acted swiftly and decisively, firing coach Pat Shurmur even before the Cowboys and Jason Garrett parted ways and less than 24 hours after the Browns made the easiest coaching change since Ray Handley.

Once one of the most well-run, classiest operations in all of sports can now be found at your local toy store in the form of a Big Blue piñata.

No NFL team has lost more games since 2017 than the Giants, who have had four coaches in the last six years. Only White Island has been more unstable.

Despite this Mess at the Meadowlands, the Giants predicament is not nearly as bad as it could be. The NFC East has been the perfect home for any franchise hoping to win the division at 9-7, as the Eagles just did.

But that’s about to change.

The Redskins, under racist, one-tenth-of-one-percent owner Dan Snyder, have taken a giant step forward with the firing of president of suits Bruce Allen and the imminent hiring of former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. Rivera is as respected as it gets.

It’s still unknown if the Redskins have a quarterback. Dwayne Haskins played worse than most rookie QBs do and Alex Smith’s leg remains a question mark. But the Skins have some talent and they’ll get more with the No.2 pick (Chase Young) in the upcoming draft.

The Cowboys have the most talented roster in the division but Garrett, a truly standup guy, was never able to get them to a Super Bowl. For the first time ever the Cowboys have gone two decades without an NFC Championship game appearance.

 Jerry Jones, for whatever you think, certainly gave Garrett the time and resources. If the Cowboys get it right and score a touchdown with their hire (Urban Meyer? Matt Rhule?) the Giants will face a more dangerous Dallas team in 2020.

Philadelphia won the division almost by default. The Eagles were the Yankees of the NFL this season, parading injured players to the treatment room and back. But Philly has a proven coach in Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz played almost every snap of every game.

It’s a safe expectation that the Eagles won’t go through a second season of injury plague and if they shore up their secondary, Philly also will start 2020 ahead of the Giants.

Never has it been more crucial for the Giants to get it right than now.

The other three teams in the division are about to improve significantly. The Giants can’t be searching for another coach in two or three years. Saquon Barkley, the exquisite running back, might be battered into mediocrity by then. The rest of the division might be too far ahead.

No, the Giants have to get it right now.

Rhule is an intriguing proposition and he might choose the Giants over the Cowboys because he has New York roots and was an assistant line coach with Big Blue for a cup of coffee.  But objectively, which roster would you rather inherit – New York or Dallas? ‘Nuf said.

There’s also been call for the Giants to cut ties with GM Dave Gettleman. More coaches want a greater say in the draft process and roster building. Gettleman inherited a depleted roster and an inflated salary cap – the one-two knockout punch of NFL GMs.

Whether by luck or skill or both, he’s given the Giants Barkley, Daniel Jones, Will Hernandez, Dexter Lawrence, etc. There are 32 head coaching jobs in the NFL and if Gettleman’s presence pushes away a candidate, so be it.

Gettleman faces the decision of his professional career. He can’t get this wrong.  The Giants are battered and wobbly but they’re not out of their weight class.

 If the Giants don’t get this hire right, they could be the Bengals, or, well, the Bengals.  The Giants could find themselves buried so deeply that they’ll have to turn to a 76ers-like rebuild.

When has New York ever turned to Philly for anything other than a cheesesteak for the road?

Michigan State Had The Plan And Takes The Pinstripe Bowl

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson did not have a successful Bronx homecoming at Yankee Stadium Friday. The former head coach at Fordham University built a program up a few miles away at Rose Hill for three years and moved on before taking over at Wake Forest in 2014.

“This is the palace; this is the most famous place in the Bronx,” he said this week about coaching at Yankee Stadium leading up to the 10th annual New Era Pinstripe  Bowl against Michigan State. 

But the Palace did not treat him well. There was a moment when his Demon Deacons had control and appeared to be going home with their fourth consecutive bowl victory coached under Clawson.

Michigan State had other ideas as their defense came up strong. And  Brian Lewerke, in his final game, threw for 320 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a score and copped MVP game honors in leading Michigan State to a 27-21 victory. 

“They did a good job of pressuring us,” said Clawson. “I thought their defensive line did a good job of rushing the passer. We just didn’t get open on the perimeter. We didn’t make enough plays. Credit to them, they did.”

Clawson was proud of his players. Not every team gets that opportunity to compete in a late December football game at Yankee Stadium, and this Pinstripe Bowl has become a premiere event.

Syracuse, Penn State, Rutgers, and Notre Dame have been there. They also battled on the turf at Yankee Stadium in previous years in the Bronx. 

 Clawson and his team knew this was going to be a struggle against that Spartans defense and a historic program that appeared in their 29th Bowl game. 

“I’m proud of the way our players competed, battled,” Clawson said. “ We got really thin. That was a little bit the story of our season. I think when we were a healthy football team, we could play with pretty much anybody in the country.”

Yes, Clawson had to battle and keep his players on the field during a 8-4 season, 32.8 points per game that was second in the ACC.

Junior quarterback Jamie Newman, an all ACC honorable mention selection, second in the conference with 289.1 yards of total offense per game, threw three touchdown passes in the first half.

But his team with 250 yards offense in the first half could only compile 101 in the second. That also told the story of this 2019 Pinstripe Bowl.

“I thought we missed some throws,” Clawson said. “ We ran that little speed-out a couple times. Didn’t throw that well. We had opportunities to make plays. We’ll go back and watch that film. We’ll have a hard time sleeping for a couple of days.”

Similar to his days at Fordham, when his team lost to good teams in the Patriot League, Clawson provided the proper analysis ro this loss.

“There were chances to win that game,” he said.” I think as we became one-dimensional, we played from behind, they did a pretty good job rushing the passer. Again, credit to Michigan State. They’re a good football team. Sometimes when you don’t make plays, the opponent has something to do with it. I certainly want to give them their credit and their due.”

Michigan State finished the decade 92-40, though they finished 7-6 two straight years.  And they were able to contain Newman in the second half, which also contributed to their win.

And for Mark Dantonio, the Spartans’ all-time winningest coach, this was his sixth Bowl Game victory that goes with three Big 10 championships.

“ I thought we did a pretty good job rushing their tackles back into the quarterback’s lap pretty much, cut down his running opportunities,” Dantonio said. 

About Newman, he said, “A good football player. To look at it, 17 rushes per 112 yards for their quarterback. He threw the ball down the field effectively, as well. Good football player. We needed to contain him.”

 This wasn’t the Penn-State 31-30 thriller and win in overtime against Boston College in 2014. But this was a good one as the college football tradition continued at Yankee Stadium and Michigan State took home the George M. Steinbrenner III Trophy.

“Obviously when you win the football game, it’s sort of icing on the cake,” Dantonio said. “We had a great experience here.”  

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Jets and Steelers,A photo gallery by David Pokress,Staff Photographer,The New York Extra

Some Holiday NY Sports Cheer

So it goes. Another holiday season is here and from yours truly to yours a Merry Christmas and Happy holidays.

There were the usual highs and lows during the 2019 sports year in New York. From the abysmal Knicks, to the continued regression of the Jets and Giants, the Yankees failure to close the decade without another championship. 

And the Mets, of course, awaiting the check book of billionaire Steve Cohen as they try to contend and deliver.  Hockey is healthy as the Rangers and Islanders are at a pace to be contenders for playoff position.

With all of this, and more, here is that annual Christmas list for the New York sports fan. A little of everything and not being naughty but nice.

Yankees: The Gerit Cole signing to a record nine-year $324 million contract is the missing piece, so says the Yankees hierarchy. Though, as mentioned on  these pages,a pitcher with that long term deal is expected to deliver.

 The Yankees, as that holiday gift for their fans, got them Cole. It means the supposed best pitcher in baseball is expected to deliver, and at a risk in this long range plan to end their decade drought without a World Series championship.

Though, the appropriate gift of cheer for the Yankees is to get the timely hits in the postseason, which was more of the contributing factor of their failures to go deep in another postseason series loss to the Astros.

METS: The gift has been Michael Wacha and Rick Procello, two pitchers at low cost that add to their depth. If anything, rookie manager Carlos Beltran has been granted some flexibility. 

Seth Lugo, the Mets most reliable reliever, can stay in the bullpen as does Robert Gsellman. The need was to revamp a bullpen that was second worst in baseball to the Red Sox in 2019.

The gift this holiday season for the Mets, another bat in the lineup before Opening Day and possibly a healthy Yoenis Cespedes in his final year of a revamped contract.

Most of all, the best gift here? A turn-around 2020 out of the pen for Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz. Late inning outs and saves cost the Mets in 2019. Familia and Diaz could be a difference maker, along with Justin Wilson in the mix.

Giants: Yours truly will be the first to admit this is not an area of expertise. However, it is easy to comprehend that stability on the coaching end is important, why it is important to give another year to Pat Shurmur.

There are signs of progress. No more Eli Manning. Daniel Jones is improving, five touchdown passes Sunday against the Redskins.  The gift is acquiring a top draft choice, improve the defense. We haven’t seen Saquon Barkley at his best and healthy. 

Jets: Same situation with the Giants and that’s coaching stability.  Adam Gase? He needs another year. Disagree, of course Jets fans would. You see the continued development of a quarterback, Sam Darnold, and how he can control the ball out of the pocket. 

Again, a gift here for the Jets is patience. They are close. And the draft picks will be significant as the long and championship reign of the Patriots is on a decline, which makes the Jets a team to be enthused about in the AFC East.

Knicks: Sell the team. This is not a coaching situation. The answer is get rid of Dolan. A gift of joy for every Knicks’ fan is becoming that franchise champion again that takes the court in the “Mecca” of Madison Square Garden, and having the appropriate basketball personnel to run the show. 

NETS:  Did you say, can’t wait for Kevin Durant?  That 26.0 points per game is a void and a difference maker.

Rangers:   Sunday, Henrik Lundqvist made his first start in a week and stopped 19 of 20 shots that prevented the Rangers from losing their fourth straight. And that is the difference, because the veteran in goal can lead this team in his final years. 

You want to see a good old NY rivalry on ice with the Rangers and Islanders. It can get there again, of course it begins with the consistent play in goal from the veteran.

Islanders: All good in Nassau County and Brooklyn. The Islanders are leaving a gift this season and striving to become another dynasty before moving to their new digs in a few years over at Belmont Park.

NYRA:  Can we get another Triple Crown winner at Belmont Park?

NYCFC: Two years of semifinal and final conference elimination for an MLS CUP. The gift is go another step. The added gift is securing a stadium they can call home as the Yankees kick them out of the ballpark to avoid disrupting their sacred field during playoff time. 

Boxing: The sports deserves more championship fights in New York. Barclays Center in Brooklyn is in survival mode as a host for major fights and Madison Square Garden, well the “Mecca” always finds a place for the big fight.  Then again, the sport is healthy but no longer in that category of mainstream.and deserves a gift of returning to the heyday of Ali, Frazier, Holmes, Hagler, Hearns, and Leonard.

There you have it. Just some thoughts. From all of us at TheNYExtra.com a healthy and happy holiday season with the gift of joy and a championship. 

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

A Giants Vision of the Future: Barkley and Jones

ROBBINS NEST

File Photo Neil /The New York Extra

By Lenn Robbins

There were so many warts on the Giants’ 41-35 overtime victory against the Redskins Sunday in Landover, Md. it could keep a dermatologist working through Christmas.

Big Blue led 28-14 at halftime and 35-21 with less than 15 minutes left in regulation. The defense allowed Washington, behind fourth string (give or take a string) quarterback Case Keenan, to rally the lowly Redskins to a 35-35 tie with 29 seconds remaining.

The Giants allowed the Redskins to go 99 yards on that possession – 99!

 The Giants allowed the team with the worst offense in football, averaging a meager 268.8 yards per game, to gain 361. And the Giants gave up 35 points to a team that was averaging 15.4.

Yet it might be the most beautiful win Giants fans remember if their team wins a fifth Super Bowl in the near future. The Giants (4-11) saw their top draft choices in 2018 (RB Saquon Barkley) and 2019 (QB Daniel Jones) turn in record-breaking performances.

“I think that is what they kind of envisioned when they drafted DJ and drafted me,” Barkley told reporters after the game. “I think we both have the potential and talent to play well together and open stuff up for each other. We showed that today with the help of everyone else and we were able to find a way to get the win.”

Barkley ran for a career-high 199 yards and one touchdown. He caught four passes 90 yards and another score. He left tacklers scratching their heads.

“My job is to make that one guy miss,” Barkley said. “Sometimes they’re going to make a play, but I believe that with the ability I have, more times than not I’m going to make that person guy miss.”

File photo #8 Daniel Jones Neil Miller ?The New York Extra

Jones threw five touchdown passes, no interceptions, and orchestrated his first game-winning drive in OT. Jones joined Detroit’s Matt Stafford as the only rookie QB’s since 1950 to throw for 300 or more yards and at least five touchdowns. Jones threw for 352 on 28-of-42 passing.

After the Giants won the coin toss in overtime, Jones knew he had the kind of chance every quarterback craves.

“You see it as a huge opportunity, and you’re excited for that,” he said. “That’s kind of what you look forward to, what you play for is an opportunity to do that — to go down and win the game.”

Perhaps it was a vision of the future. Barkley and Jones are proving to be special talents. The defense needs an overhaul and by beating the Redskins the Giants might have cost themselves a chance to draft Ohio State defensive end Chase Young.

For one afternoon, it was easy to overlook the warts and not wince at what be lost on draft day. The sights worth beholding wore No. 26 (Barkley) and No. 8 (Jones). Might be worth playing those numbers. Make sure to save the winning ticket.

End Of a Dynasty? The Pats Didn’t Get the Memo

File Photo Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. / Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

When the Buffalo Bills pulled a Bill Belichick on the Patriots, a bracing Northeast wind seem to blow from Foxboro to San Francisco, from Boston to Baltimore.

Some thought it was the wind of change.

The Bills had just scored a touchdown with one second left before halftime to tie this AFC East title game, 10-10. And the Bills were set to receive the second half kickoff.

How many times in the course of 11 straight AFC East titles have we witnessed the Pats parlay late first-half points with second half score that turned a game?

That was one of Belichick’s trademarks. And the Bills were poised to turn the table on the defending Super Bowl champs. 

The Bills didn’t score on their first possession of the third quarter but they did take a 17-13 lead to the fourth. The Pats had been outgaining the Bills by an almost 2-to-1 ratio but Buffalo was able to do what the 2019 New England couldn’t do – make big plays.

So the emergency call went out – again:  New England’s dynasty was in critical condition.

File Photo Patriots QB Tom Brady looks ,Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra

The Pats have been pronounced dead on the scene more times than a fentanyl addict. Each time a surgeon named Tom Brady, or the chief of staff known, as coach Belichick worked some miracle.

Such was the case Saturday afternoon in New England’s 24-17 come-from-behind victory over the surging Bills in Gillette Stadium. Brady was precise, leading the big-play-challenged Pats to 11 fourth quarter points. Belichick’s defense was stifling, shutting out the Bills who had scored on a 53-yard touchdown pass.

This win doesn’t guarantee the Pats a 7th Super Bowl crown since the turn of the century. If the Ravens win out, they’ll have home-field until the Super Bowl.

And even the most fanatic Patriots fan must acknowledge this is a flawed offensive team. New England’s receivers averaged10.4 yards per catch. Buffalo’s averaged 16.

But the Pats still have the greatest quarterback of all time. At 42, Brady has nursed an assortment of hurts, especially an elbow injury, the most worrisome of his pains. Still, he made all the clutch throws, especially in that fourth quarter when he capped a touchdown drive with a two-point conversion dart to Julian Edelman

“He’s the heartbeat of this football team,” special teams captain Matthew Slater told reporters. “We’ve been one of the most fortunate organizations the last 20 years to have that guy at the helm. He proved it again tonight.”

The defense, as has been the case for most of the season, held at the very end. They stopped the Bills at the New England 15.

File photo Patriots defensive teammates. Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra

“Obviously they’re AFC East division rivals and that’s their consecutive whatever-it-is year winning the division,” Bills QB Josh Allen to reporters. “We’ve got to find a way to get over that hump.”

The other three teams in the AFC East have uttered similar words.

And every team in the league had hope the dynasty would end when Brady tore his ACL in 2008, or in 2017, when the Falcons led Super Bowl LI by a score of 28-3 at halftime, or in 2018, when there were reports that Belichick, Brady and owner Bob Kraft at odds.

The dynasty didn’t end then. Will end this season?

The 49ers are balanced and physical. The Ravens smacked the Patriots 37-20 earlier this season. And the Chiefs, a popular pick to win the AFC, are getting healthy for a stretch run.

So before declaring any NFL better than the Pats, remember, “The Dynasty” just won its 11th straight AFC East title. And that’s not their goal. According to published reports, in post-game locker room, the Pats wore T-shirts with these words:

“The East is Not Enough.”

It’s Our Call: Safety Over High School Football Titles

Robbins Nest

The following article, written by Lenn Robbins, Editor-in-chief of the New York Extra is not endorsed by the ownership of the publication. However, Mr Robbins has complete editorial freedom to express his views and is supported in this regard. Neil Miller,publisher and owner,The New York Extra

By Lenn Robbins

   Maybe only those that have known the most unbearable sadness can truly experience the most unfetted euphoria.

  When Riley Ward ripped off his helmet to show the face of pure, unbridled joy, when he raised his left arm and pointed his index finger skyward, when he was mobbed by teammates, many of who were ecstatically screaming, “Oh My God!  Oh My God!” did the guy next to me, also transfixed by the images of the TV say:

 “That’s God at work right there.”

 This God entity can be challenging to understand. Some would say we’re not meant to understand. Certainly faith can help us make some sense, take some comfort, in the incomprehendable.

Maybe a higher power was at work Saturday night when the high school football team from the Connecticut town where Sandy Hook Elementary School is located, won its first state title exactly seven years to the day that a madman massacred 26 people, 20 of whom were six and seven-year-old children.

 Since this is a sports column, let’s give this higher power entity the benefit of the doubt,  and discuss religion another day.

  Which begs one question:

 If God was at work Saturday night, what the hell have our elected officials been doing  the last seven years? This isn’t a question for Republicans or Democrats. It’s a question for mothers and fathers, congressmen and senators, governors and the president.

 Why has there been no significant change in this country when it comes to making it  harder to buy weapons that have nothing to do with self defense but everything to do with mass slaughter?

 The second amendment is fine with me. If citizens in upstate New York did not have the right to bare arms, the escapees from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora would have had many more places to find refuge.

 As someone who legally owned a gun when living in New Jersey, it was reasurring to have to attend a gun safety course to get that license. The instructor said (I’m paraphrasing here) if someone is intent on doing you harm and he or she doesn’t back away after hearing the chambering of a round, no gun in the world can keep you safe.

We need to keep ourselves safe which means exercising some commom sense.

 No assault rifles. No large capacity magazines. No bump stocks.

 Hopefully, prayfully, No dead children.

  What transpired Saturday night was beyond explanation, just as Mike Piazza’s home run 10 days after 9-11 was inexpicable and eternal.

  “I’m so proud of my kids for not giving up,’’ Newtown coach Bobby Pattison told reporters after the game. “We had moments in that game where it didn’t look too good for Newtown … I’m so proud of the kids. I couldn’t be happier.”

    Newtown beat Darien, 13-7, on the game’s last play when quarterback Jack Street found Riley through the fog for a 36-yard touchdown and the state LL championship.  Kudos to the Darien Blue Wave, a high school I once covered while working at the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time, which Tweeted:

  While a State Championship loss is never easy to swallow, the joy it is bringing @newtownfootball and the entire #Newtown community is certainly numbing our pain. #NightHawkPride #FootballBrothers

  Newtown linebacker Ben Pinto’s seven-year-old brother, Jack, was killed in that 2012 massacre. No one can imagine that family’s grief or the grief of any family that has lost a child, especially to gun violence because our “leaders” have shamefully gotten up every morning to their lattes instead of passing gun control legislation.

 Riley’s celebration was one for the ages. Like the late N.C. State coach Jimmy Valvano, who couldn’t find a player to hug after the Wolfpack won the 1983 NCAA Tournament, Riley, Lucky No. 13 in your books, raced through the end zone, a self-driving car that had malfunctioned.

 He was bathed in the love and joy of his teammates and townspeople. But wouldn’t it be so much better to live in a world in which a high school football team didn’t have to help a community heal because there was no manmade tragedy to recover from?

   Surely, we’d all trade a state title celebration for a state of safety for our children. Our “leaders” have no excuses. Get to work!