<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Sports]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Sat, 31 Jan 2015 12:36:39 -0500 Sat, 31 Jan 2015 12:36:39 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[WATCH: Ernie Banks Memorial ]]> Sat, 31 Jan 2015 12:01:02 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Ernie-Banks-Chicago-Cubs.jpg

Fans got the chance to say goodbye to Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks during a memorial service and procession Saturday morning.

On Friday, those fans paid their respects to Banks during a visitation at the Fourth Presbyterian Church.

Banks, the Chicago Cubs great who was affectionately known as "Mr. Cub," died last Friday at the age of 83 after suffering a heart attack.

Among the attendees at the service were Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who both spoke.

"Ernie Banks is not Mr. Cub because we loved him. He is Mr. Cub because he loved us back," Ricketts said.

Gov. Rauner reminisced about the summers he spent watching Ernie Banks on TV and praised him for his sunny disposition.

"Ernie, he always looked at the bright side. He was an eternal optimist, like we all should be," Rauner said.

Since Wednesday, fans have been flocking to Daley Plaza, where a statue of the Hall of Famer was placed and will remain through Saturday.

In lieu of flowers, the team suggested fans make a donation in Banks’ memory to Cubs Charities, at www.cubs.com/give.

Banks is the most beloved and famous player in Cubs history. He was the first African-American to don a Cubs uniform, and it was the only one he would wear. In his 19-year career with the Cubs he hit 512 home runs and was twice voted the National League's Most Valuable Player.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Why the Patriots — or the Seahawks — Will Win]]> Sat, 31 Jan 2015 00:42:00 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/byllnbradee.jpg

Both the Seahawks and Patriots have won Super Bowls before. So who will win Super Bowl XLIX Sunday in Glendale, Arizona? A case can be made for both:

Why the Patriots could win

It’s a dynasty. New England has won three Super Bowls in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era, which qualifies for as much of a dynasty as the NFL has right now. The coach and QB have come up big when it counts before, so they’ll find a way to win a fourth.

The “evil genius” factor. Belichick may not be well-liked these days (or maybe ever), but he’s found a way to reach five of these championship games and win three. The personnel has turned over and the staff has changed, but Belichick knows his Xs and Os and is known for figuring out ways to limit the effectiveness of his opponents’ best players. Certainly he’ll come up with something special to stop Marshawn Lynch and limit Russell Wilson’s impact as a runner.

LeGarrette Blount. Since the running back joined New England after his release by the Steelers in November, the Pats’ running game has had an explosive, workhorse ballcarrier to keep defenses honest. If the Seahawks defense spreads out and focuses its efforts on stopping tight end Rob Gronkowski or wideout Julian Edelman, Blount should be able to gash them with power runs.

Special teams superiority. Both teams are solid in all areas, but New England’s punt-return, kick coverage and field-goal blocking abilities are a tick better. One big play could be the difference.

Brady-to-Gronkowski. The passing combination may be the hardest to stop in the NFL when Gronk is healthy, and he’s been healthy and very productive.


Why the Seahawks could win 

Karma. The flip side to the “evil genius” factor. The Patriots have been caught bending the rules before, so the whole “Deflategate” scandal from the AFC Championship Game is just the latest chapter. Remember, the Patriots went into Super Bowl XLII in February 2008, trying to complete an undefeated season, when they were upset by the Giants -- after the whole “Spygate” controversy first surfaced. That was Karma I. This could be Karma II.

Pete Carroll. The Seattle head coach has managed to get his team to peak at the right time for two seasons now. The Seahawks play hard for him, and Carroll’s defense was No. 1 overall and No. 1 vs. the pass this season. After surviving a scare against Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game, all the mojo is on the side of Seattle's upbeat coach.

Kam Chancellor. The Seahawks’ All-Pro safety will be the man tasked with containing Gronkowski, and he seems ideally suited for the job. He’s big, strong and athletic and should be up to the task. If Seattle can take away Brady’s No. 1 target, the Pats will be playing with one hand tied behind their back.

Russell Wilson. The Seahawks’ young quarterback just wins. He’s not the best passer in the league -- until crunch time. Then he simply finds a way to make plays with his arm and his feet. He has a 6-1 playoff record, including five straight wins. In a meeting of the teams in 2012, Wilson led two late touchdown drives as the Seahawks pulled out a comeback victory.

Marshawn Lynch. If the Seahawks can get “Beast Mode” in gear early, they can control the game’s tempo. And it will help open up other avenues for the Seattle offense. Plus, after a week of Lynch vs. media shenanigans leading up to the game, wouldn’t it be perfect for Lynch to win the MVP award and get yet another chance to be interviewed on national TV? “I’m just here so I won't get fined… and to get my trophy.”




Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Richard Sherman's Dad Loves Life as LA Garbage Man]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 07:55:00 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/204*120/1-29-15-Richard+Sherman+Kevin+Sherman.JPG

He's had boots on the ground without fail for 20 straight years.

Day after day at the break of dawn, Kevin Sherman is on a mission to keep the streets of LA clean and provide for his family.

Growing up in Compton, the only goal for his children was education and to make sure they end up in a better position than he. And in 2010, his youngest son Richard graduated from Stanford, where he also played football.

You might know him: Richard Sherman, the dominant cornerback for Super Bowl-bound Seattle Seahawks, one of the best known and most outspoken players in the NFL.

The NFL's biggest trash talker received his most important life lessons from a canny trash man.

"Don't change for anybody," Kevin Sherman said. "Be yourself. Right, wrong, indifferent, nobody can never say you're not yourself."

Despite losing an eye in a teenage go-karting accident, he taught his kids to never quit, which is why the father of the star athlete is still hard at work and two years shy of retiring and earning a pension.

"My son is an NFL player, but I don't want my son taking care of me the rest of my life," he said.

All the while, Kevin Sherman remains in the background collecting memories — Super Bowl rings.
 



Photo Credit: Neil Torres]]>
<![CDATA[Belichick, Carroll Coach Super Bowl From Different Angles]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 11:42:58 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Super-Bowl-Coaches.jpg

Put Bill Belichick behind a microphone and he's C-SPAN — minus the information.

Pete Carroll is more like a Lifetime movie. Or, as defensive lineman Michael Bennett puts it, "He has that Benjamin Button effect on everyone."

The Super Bowl coaches approach their obligations to the public and media from opposite ends. Belichick, coaching for his fourth championship in New England, is dry, offers little to no insight and rarely makes anyone laugh. Carroll, looking for his second straight title, is a high-fiving, fist-bumping extrovert who started one of his news conferences this week with a welcoming, "What's up?!?"

Different styles have produced similar results, though.

Belichick is making his sixth Super Bowl appearance as a head coach and his Patriots are as close as there is to a dynasty in the current NFL. Carroll's team is being mentioned as a possible dynasty, as well, and that notion will only gain steam if the Seahawks win Sunday and become the first back-to-back champions since, who else?, New England in 2003-04.

Dissimilar as they are, they have both built their teams on a foundation of unflinching candor inside their locker and meeting rooms — a quality Carroll brings to some of his public speaking, but one that Belichick eschews.

"What you see on TV is what you get, pretty much, from the two," said Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner, who previously played for Carroll in Seattle. "They have similarities too, though. Their football IQ is way up there. They are so different, but at the same time they're the same. That's why they both have succeeded at this level."

Over his 15 years in New England, Belichick has made it increasingly difficult for anyone outside of Patriots Nation to love him. Nobody likes a boring cheater, and that is how he's sometimes portrayed. It's all summed up in his handling of the controversy of Super Bowl week — Deflategate — a subject he has refused to talk about since Saturday, when he held a news conference to deny wrongdoing and announce he was moving on. "We're just focused on Seattle this week," he's said, repeating some version of that time and again.

A much fuller picture of the coach was painted in the 2013 NFL Network production "A Football Life," which gave an inside and genuinely absorbing look at the coach — miked up and behind the scenes during what turned out to be a disappointing 2009 season.

"Hard not to get choked up about it," Belichick said, barely controlling the tears as he toured his old stomping grounds, the old Giants Stadium, where he won his first two Super Bowl rings as New York's defensive coordinator. "I spent a lot of hours in that room."

One trait his old boss, Bill Parcells, turned into an art was figuring out how to get the most from each of his players by treating them individually.

It's not a trait Belichick shares, at least in the sense that no one seems to get the Superstar Treatment in New England: High-priced cornerback Darrelle Revis got sent home one day for being late for a meeting. Jonas Gray ran for 201 yards in a win against Indianapolis but has barely been heard from again after showing up late for a meeting.

"He's done a good job of treating everybody fairly, treating everybody the same," said Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich. "If something goes wrong, he makes sure we know about it. It's all about knowing how to get the best out of everybody."

Carroll does the same thing — just differently.

Quirky as they come, he once said a book that guided many of his core philosophies was, "The Inner Game of Tennis," a 1974 self-help manuscript by W. Timothy Callwey that is about finding "the state of 'relaxed concentration' that helps you play your best."

It's also about tennis, but "the stuff really resonated," Carroll said in an interview while he was coaching Southern California.

In keeping with the touchy-feely theme, he has repeatedly made it clear this week that he respects the individuality of his players — from Richard Sherman, who is willing to speak on just about everything, to Marshawn Lynch, who doesn't want to talk about anything.

The coach's willingness to bend, however, does not mean he deviates from the consistent routine he established when he came to Seattle after nine years at USC. Wednesdays are "Competition Wednesdays." Thursdays are "Turnover Thursdays." And so on.

"He's got a philosophy he stays true to," said offensive line coach Tom Cable. "For a lot of us who've coached a long time, we've been around a lot of great teachers, but their philosophies can go up and down. For him, he's the way he is every day."

Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who hired Carroll back in 1997, then Belichick in 2000, called his former coach, "pretty special to be around. A lot of fun."

He feels he set Carroll back by not giving him the full control he wanted, and the owner adjusted his style when he made the next hire.

Everyone benefited: Belichick and the Patriots — and Carroll and Seattle.

There's no big mystery to all this coaching success, Belichick insists.

"It's about players making the plays that your team needs to win," he said. "I think as a coach, you want to make sure you don't screw that up."



Photo Credit: The Associated Press
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<![CDATA[Big Red Tape Ball]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 04:37:57 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/tapeballpix.JPG The UConn women's basketball team is hoping to roll through the NCAA tournament with the help of a little known member of their practice team. It's round, it's red, and it weighs 21 pounds.]]> <![CDATA[Maya Moore Heads to Olympics]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 01:38:55 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/100daystoOlympics_722x406_2225022826__894674.jpg Time Square was transformed into an Olympic Village has the countdown to London kicks off and we caught up with former UConn superstar Maya Moore.]]> <![CDATA[5 Unexpected Stars Could Be Super Bowl MVP]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 22:15:57 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/171*120/Gostyformvp.jpg

In Super Bowl V, the Cowboys' Chuck Howley was voted the game’s Most Valuable Player – even though his team lost.

In Super Bowl XII, Dallas defensive linemen Harvey Martin and Randy White shared MVP honors, despite the presence of such Hall of Fame teammates as Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett.

And in last year’s Super Bowl victory by the Seahawks, under-the-radar linebacker Malcolm Smith shined brighter than Legion of Boomers Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas – by returning an interception for a touchdown and getting a fumble recovery – to be named MVP in the victory over Denver.

While usually the Super Bowl MVP winds up in the hands of a star quarterback, running back or wide receiver, occasionally the MVP goes to a surprise contributor or defender.

Given the matchup of the Seahawks and Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX, here are five players who – under the right circumstances – might join the list of surprise MVPs:

Doug Baldwin, Seahawks wide receiver

When the Patriots and Seahawks last played in 2012, Baldwin had a big impact. He caught just two passes, but one was a 24-yarder for a touchdown, and the other went for 50 yards. Obviously, he’s not intimidated by the Patriots (though the personnel has changed some over two seasons). Plus, Baldwin is coming off a big NFC Championship Game performance, with six catches for 106 yards.

Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots kicker

No kicker ever has won game MVP, but Gostkowski could be just the man. The Seattle defense was the best in the NFL this season, so TD opportunities could be limited for New England. Even if Tom Brady & Co. move the ball up and down the field, Seattle is strong in the red zone. That could mean a lot of field-goal attempts for the reliable Gostkowski, in his ninth season with the Pats. This season he was 35-of-37 on field goals with a long of 53 yards.

Julian Edelman, Patriots wide receiver

The Seahawks defense will be acutely aware of tight end Rob Gronkowski, and containing him will be its No. 1 goal in the passing game. Edelman, however, is a consistent, elusive receiver who often seems to be effective even when defenses are well aware of him. After 92 regular-season catches, he’s had 25 in two playoff games. Plus, Edelman is a dangerous punt returner, with four taken all the way back for TDs in six seasons.

Bruce Irvin, Seahawks outside linebacker

This week, Irvin called Seattle one of the “top defenses to ever play” in the NFL because of its depth and talent. While Irvin is a big contributor, he’s overshadowed by some of the bigger names on defense. At 6-foot-3 and 248 pounds, Irvin – in just his third season – has long arms, an ability to get to the passer and a knack for making big plays. This season he had 6½ sacks and two interceptions, scored two TDs and was in on 37 tackles. He could be a focal point of whatever scheme defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has to put pressure on Brady.

Jonas Gray, Patriots running back

In recent games, LeGarrette Blount has been New England’s go-to back, and he’s been exceptional. But the Patriots believe in going with matchups, hot hands (or feet) and a committee approach. Gray is one of three Pats backs with more carries this season than Blount, and he averaged 4.6 yards per attempt this season. At 5-foot-10 and 225 pounds, he’s a rugged back, a bit like Blount, and could keep getting the ball if he gets off to a good start. Earlier this season, Gray rushed for 201 yards in a win over the Colts.

 

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Super Bowl Commercial by "No More"]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 20:01:42 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/footballs.jpg

No celebrities or NFL players facing the camera, saying "No more." This ad simply depicts a 911 call of a woman pretending to order a pizza while calling police with her attacker still in the house.

The Super Bowl commercial by No More, the group trying to end domestic violence and sexual assault, is a stark contrast to ads in recent months bringing attention to the issue that has become central for the NFL since Ray Rice was suspended for punching his then-fiancee in a casino elevator.

The new ad has become a topic for discussion around the Super Bowl.

American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, daughter of former NFL player Phillippi Sparks, said what the NFL has gone through with domestic violence has helped publicize where women can call for help or find a safe haven. Sparks said it's great that people aren't being silent about domestic violence anymore.

"So it's unfortunate all the way around for whomever is involved in those sorts of things and for the teams having to deal with the media and all of those different things," Sparks said. "But at the same time for other domestic violence victims to know they can speak up that's all that's important, that's all that matters."

In the ad, the 911 call is a reenactment inspired by true stories of women using the tactic of disguising their calls while reaching out for help. No actors are seen in the stark ad; video shows only a house where a hole has been smashed in a wall, with books and photos knocked to the floor.

The ad concludes with the phrase: "When it's hard to talk, it's up to us to listen." It had already more than 482,000 views on YouTube by Wednesday.

The ad will air Sunday just after the second quarter between Seattle and New England. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said it can only help by bringing more attention to the issue.

"I think anytime you talk about domestic violence it is going to have a meaningful effect, you want to eliminate that as part of society," Sherman said.

Seattle linebacker Heath Farwell said the ad is key to better communication.

"Guys realizing this (is) an issue, and you know it's not just football, it's across this county, these are the issues we have to address and to get better at," Farwell said.

Domestic violence has been a critical issue for the NFL for nearly a year since Ray Rice was arrested Feb. 15 over an altercation at an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino. The Baltimore running back initially was suspended two games, then indefinitely after video from inside an elevator surfaced showing him hitting his now wife, Janay.

An arbitrator threw out the indefinite suspension in December. He was released by the Ravens and has not signed with another team.

NFL players have been featured in ads from No More since October airing weekly.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said New England supports the league's efforts against domestic violence. Belichick said it has been a priority for New England owner Robert Kraft since he was hired. The Patriots gave up their draft rights to defensive tackle Christian Peter a week after taking him in the fifth round in 1996 because of questions about his history with women

"So it's always been that way for us, for our organization, and obviously we support everything in that area," Belichick said. "But what the league decides to do relative to things like that, you know, it's not really my pay grade."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Timelapse: Super Bowl Field Laid]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 13:23:30 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/univofphx-grass-superbowl_1200x675_391108675509.jpg Watch as this timelapse video shows workers sliding the grass field into place prior to Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.]]> <![CDATA[Fun for Super Bowl Fans in Phoenix]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 18:34:37 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/160*120/kevfans012915.jpg Kevin Nathan talks to Patriots and Seahawks fans in Phoenix to see what they are doing for fun leading up to the Super Bowl.]]> <![CDATA[Super Bowl-Bound? What Not to Pack When You Fly ]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 16:25:42 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP401070192235_TSAwaiting.jpg

The TSA has some packing tips for the lucky fans flying into Phoenix for Sunday's Super Bowl XLIX: leave your propane tanks and blow horns at home.

The Transportation Security Administration posted on Thursday to its TSA Blog a number of helpful hints for traveling into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which they say ranked as the 15th busiest airport for passengers screened in 2014.

With the Super Bowl and a major PGA golf tournament both wrapping up on Sunday, the flood gates may open at the airport gates. On Monday, up to 80,000 are expected to travel.

With that many people standing in baggage and security lines, the agency plans to deploy 90 extra screening officers and open additional security lanes in Phoenix. But the other do's and don'ts released this week could keep lines running smoothly and make sure you aren't that one person caught with a air horn or flask in your carry-on luggage:

Unfortunately for those looking to raise their noise game in the stands, air horns are prohibited in both carry-on and checked baggage.

Flasks of any kind are banished, though you can still bring small amounts of tailgating tipples like tequila and vodka aboard the plane if you wish. Packed in a carry-on bag, you are allowed as many 3.4 ounce bottles that fit into one quart-sized, clear plastic, zip-top bag. But if you want to bring your whole handle of vodka, you need to check your bottle, packed away, curbside or at the desk. Just make sure it is 140 proof or less — anything higher needs to be left at home.

Can't imagine hitting the pre-game tailgates without a nice, juicy hamburger or hot dog? While you'll need to leave your propane tanks at home, you are allowed to check some tasty burger toppings, such as BBQ sauce and swiss cheese. Salsa, cheese dips and salad dressings are OK in your checked bag, too.

With Sunday forecasted to be 72-degrees and sunny around Glendale's University of Phoenix Stadium, according to The Weather Channel, you should have no problem meeting TSA rules mandating you leave your gas heaters and stoves behind. You can still tailgate at the stadium, just minus those items.

In addition to checking to make sure you don't have prohibited items in your luggage, the TSA urges all travelers to get to the airport with more than enough to spare. Because whether you’re rooting for the Patriots or the Seahawks this Sunday, it’s easy to agree that airport travel is best when checked baggage and security lines run quickly and stress free.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Super Bowl XLIX Bingo]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 14:04:30 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bingo-th.gif

Super Bowl Sunday is one of the most competitive days of the year. We've created a Bingo Board for those of you who aren't huge sports fans, but want to embrace the game day spirit of rivalry. As you watch the Super Bowl, you can click on a square with the corresponding event that happened, whether it's about a player, fans, or during the halftime show. We've thought of it all! No two boards are the same, so you can play against your friends. And for those of you who like to play Bingo the old fashion way, you can even print out the bingo sheet B4 the game starts. See what we did there? Good luck and may all your footballs line up! 


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<![CDATA[Big Passing Mistakes Can Be Super Costly]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 13:21:53 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/petecarooly.jpg

Back in January of 1971, the Baltimore Colts pulled off a miracle.

In a game later dubbed by some as the “Blunder Bowl,” the Colts beat the Cowboys 16-13 in Super Bowl V while also committing seven turnovers, the third-highest total in Super Bowl history.

In fact, the game was a monument to mistakes, with both teams combining for 11 turnovers.

But not one of those Colts turnovers was an interception returned for a touchdown. If it had been, Baltimore would have been doomed. In fact, if it happens to either the Seahawks or Patriots Sunday in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz., history says that team also has no chance of winning.

As ESPN.com’s Gregg Easterbrook pointed out this week, teams that have returned interceptions for touchdowns in the 48 previous Super Bowls are 12-0. It all started when Green Bay's Herb Adderley returned an interception 60 yards in the Packers' victory over the Raiders in Super Bowl II.

“Get a pick-six, win the Super Bowl,” he wrote. “It’s pretty much that simple.”

If that’s the case, give the Seahawks the edge going into the 49th Super Bowl.

The Seahawks – who had the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL this season -- have returned three interceptions for touchdowns this season. The Pats have zero. And in their careers, Tom Brady (2) has thrown more pick-sixes than Russell Wilson (1) – though Brady has played 15 seasons and Wilson is in only his third.

Both teams have been very careful with the football this season, however. In the 16 games of the regular season, the Patriots threw nine interceptions; the Seahawks threw just seven. On defense, New England picked off 16 passes, three more than Seattle.

Both head coaches, Pete Carroll of Seattle and Bill Belichick of New England, are defensive-minded coaches who preach the value of takeaways – but also drum it into their offensive units to take care of the football.

So, seemingly, a pick-six in Sunday’s Super Bowl might appear an unlikely prospect. Brady hasn’t won three Super Bowls by making careless mistakes in big games. Wilson, too, has developed a reputation for strong decision-making and winning close games.

Then again, Carroll’s ball-hawking ‘Hawks in practice and games are always out not only to make stops but “Get the Ball!” – one of the coach’s favorite phrases.

Said Carroll of his defensive philosophy with the Seahawks: “The defense can balance out a mistake or two by an offense by taking the football away. So it’s the No. 1 emphasis in the program.”

If the Seahawks do that Sunday, taking a Brady pass all the way back for six points, figure Carroll's bunch will be in line for their second Super Bowl rings.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Super Bowl Set-Up Time-Lapse]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 17:50:45 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/WNBC_000000005950803_1200x675_390886979585.jpg Check out this awesome time-lapse video of the construction of Super Bowl Central, produced by the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee.]]> <![CDATA[Wilson: Do You Really Want to Bet Against Him?]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 12:58:49 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/192*120/usa-fletcher-cox-philadelphia-eagles-russell-wilson-seattle-seahawks-nfl.jpg

What’s less likely: that Tom Brady didn’t have something to do with deflate-gate, or that he would go a decade without winning a fourth Super Bowl after grabbing three Lombardi trophies in four years back at the start of the 2000s? On Sunday, Brady goes for that elusive fourth title, and the conventional wisdom is that the Pats will get the W largely because of Brady’s will. At age 37, in his 15th NFL season and having somehow, someway, lost two Super Bowls to the Giants, it’s widely believed that Brady simply won’t let another one slip through his fingers.

It’s a compelling argument. Brady has most of his career behind him, while his counterpart from Seattle, Russell Wilson, is basically where Brady was a dozen years ago. Wilson can’t possibly share his much older opponent’s sense of urgency, can he? Well, at this point, having made the astonishingly improbable journey to where he is today, do you really think the 26-year-old Wilson takes anything for granted?

Less than four years ago, Wilson was a college QB without a team. Lightly recruited out of high school, the 5’11” Wilson started under center for three seasons at N.C. State, where he threw 76 touchdown passes before his senior year. However, Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien had eyes for Mike Glennon, the highly touted 6’7” prospect who’d turned down Florida State, among many others, to play at N.C. State. Wilson made the decision easier for O’Brien when he decided to play baseball during spring practice before what was to be his final season at QB for the Wolfpack, which wasn’t that surprising a move considering he was an absolute nonentity in the eyes of NFL scouts.

Wilson transferred to Wisconsin from N.C. State in 2011, where he had a remarkable year while leading the Badgers to an 11-3 2011 season before getting ready for the 2012 NFL Draft.

Yes, we all know he was chosen 75th overall by Seattle, but he easily could’ve slipped as far as Brady did years before. After all, the general consensus was that Seahawks GM John Schneider drafted Wilson too high. Then, Pete Carroll made as bold -- and prescient -- a personnel decision as any NFL head coach ever has: giving Wilson the starting job as a rookie, over high-priced free agent acquisition Matt Flynn.

How’d that turn out? Over the past three years, a 36-12 regular season record, an even more impressive 6-1 postseason mark, and two Pro Bowls for Wilson on the strength of a career passer rating of 99 and nearly 2,000 rushing yards. Has anyone, in any major pro sport, ever gotten off to a better start?

Many have bet against Russell Wilson in the Super Bowl, just as most did last year, when the favored Broncos were destroyed by Wilson’s Seahawks, who took the Big Game by a five-TD margin. They’ve been betting against Wilson for years, and have almost always been wrong.

Would you bet against him? 

]]>
<![CDATA[Patriots Super Bowl Quiz]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 11:29:20 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Patriots_Super_Bowl_Quiz_1200x675_390848067549.jpg Take the Patriots Super Bowl Quiz]]> <![CDATA[Maritime Aquarium Seal Picks Super Bowl Winner ]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 17:03:07 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Polly+the+harbor+seal+1200.jpg

Polly the seal’s friends have not had any luck picking the winner of the Super Bowl, but today it was her turn.

Much to the disappointment of many New Englanders, Polly's pick went to the Seattle Seahawks.

Polly, a 27-year-old Harbor Seal at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, is trained to leap straight out of the water and touch a suspended yellow ball with her nose, but today she picked between pennants for the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks.

"They do have a thick blubber layer – often mistaken for linebackers," joked Maritime Aquarium animal trainer Ellen Riker. "I did hear that Polly was up last night watching video.

Everyone is weighing in on “deflategate,” and Maritime Aquarium notes that both yellow balls were measured in advance to be sure that they’re not under-inflated.

While it’s fun to watch, the Maritime seals have a better record of entertaining guests at the aquarium than picking which team will get the Lombardi trophy.

To date, they are 0-3. Rasal picked New England over the New York Giants in 2012 and Orange chose the 49ers over Baltimore in 2013 and the Denver Broncos over the Seahawks in 2014.

That may be good news for Patriots fans!



Photo Credit: Mystic Aquarium]]>
<![CDATA[How to Spot Counterfeit NFL Merchandise]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:40:42 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/counterfeit+NFL+merchandise.jpg

Selling counterfeit merchandise is a serious crime, and the Super Bowl is a prime location for these criminals.

In a townhouse development in Glendale, Arizona, a team of federal agents had a sting for illegal merchandise.

"The merchandise has an invoice attached with all of it. And it's very clearly marked. It's coming from China," said ICE New England spokesperson Dan Modricker.

Counterfeit NFL jerseys, along with NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball apparel, were all seized in an early morning search warrant.

How big of a business is this? Federal agents at the Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, or IPR Center, are tasked with cracking down on the $200 billion annual counterfeit network.

Modricker is in town this week for Super Bowl XLIX.

"Our main point of being out here is to educate the consumer. And to make them realize that this isn't a victimless crime," Modricker said.

This haul here, worth about $100,000, is just from greater Phoenix and from the past few days.

So how does a consumer to spot a fake jersey while in Glendale?

"Their main goal is to make money. So they're going to crank these things out as quickly as possible. And so, you'll see that they don't even bother to lift the needle when they go from one letter to the next. So you'll see the cross-stitching from one letter to the next to the next. It's all one seam," Modricker said.

It's not just stitching; there is also shoddy coloring and rip-off holograms. Authorities also warn that some of the material used for this knock-off merchandise can be potentially harmful to your body. Modricker pointed to a pair of fake NFL team earrings.

"When you look at it, you have no idea who made this, what materials they used. I know lead is a lot cheaper than silver. So you don't know what you're putting into your body," he said.

Plus, Modricker says, it's crushing the economy, since up to 1.4 million Massachusetts jobs rely on intellectual property.

One man is in custody facing felony charges in Wednesday's sting. 



Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Australian Open: Sharapova Cruises Into Finals]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 07:37:58 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP80796916905.jpg

Maria Sharapova has reached the Australian Open final for the fourth time, beating fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-2 in a lopsided semifinal on Thursday.

The second-ranked Sharapova needed 10 minutes to hold in her opening service game, fending off two break points. She responded to the only service break against her in the first set by winning six straight games to take the match away from the 10th-seeded Makarova, who had only taken one set off her in five previous matches.

She will next meet the winner of the all-American semifinal between top-ranked Serena Williams and 19-year-old Madison Keys.

Sharapova won the Australia Open title in 2008 and lost finals in 2007 and 2012. She opened the season by winning the Brisbane International title.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Patriots Players Quizzed Ahead of Super Bowl]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 23:23:21 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/gronk+quiz.jpg ]]> <![CDATA[NYC Man Among Finalists in $1M Super Bowl Doritos Ad Contest]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 02:53:17 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/dorito+add.jpg

You might see a Doritos commercial during the Super Bowl on Sunday featuring a couple of 20-somethings dancing on a rooftop in Astoria, Queens.

The ad starts in the apartment of Alex Pepper, a 25-year-old dancer and actor. This was his production, so he had an inside track on the starring role. He plays a guy who -- with his friend’s encouragement (and bag of Doritos) -- works up the courage to introduce himself to the neighbor he’s had a crush on.

Watch for yourself, here. It doesn’t end well for the budding lovebirds.

But the real-life ending could be a dream come true for Pepper.

His spot was selected as one of 10 finalists in PepsiCo’s annual Dorito’s Crash the Super Bowl contest, which has already earned him $25,000 and a trip to watch the game at University of Phoenix Stadium this Sunday.

He found out in a surreal phone call from "The Hunger Games" actress Elizabeth Banks.

Alex says the $25,000 is more than he made last year as an actor and dancer. And the whole experience is more than he could’ve imagined when he was sitting on the couch watching Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium last February.

“I saw this contest was happening at last year’s Super Bowl and thought, ‘Oh, that’s really cool. Would love to do that sometime,'” says Pepper.

Two weeks before the entry deadline, he decided that "sometime" should be now. So he called a few friends, asked his girlfriend to shoot with his Nikon D800 camera, and set a budget for the project: $80.

“Low budget,” he laughs. “And a lot of that went to duct tape.”

Duct tape?

Watch the end of the spot -- these amateur video producers managed to pull off a pretty slick industry editing trick. They needed duct tape to make a dummy that would stand-in for actress Morgana Phlaum, the star’s would-be crush.

She agreed to the shoot without hesitation, even after Pepper explained the ending.

“Can I throw you off a roof? And she was like, ‘Okay, yeah, sounds good!’”

Pepper’s resume includes theater and an appearance on NBC’s "Saturday Night Live." And the script was inspired by Pepper’s real-life professional nightmare: accidentally dropping a dancer during a move.

"There’s a lot you can’t control -- the floor lights get in your eyes or something like that -- and we took that idea and turned it into a commercial," Pepper said.

And if it airs as the grand prize winner on Super Bowl Sunday, Pepper will earn $1 million, along with a one-year "dream job" at Universal Pictures.

Worst case scenario? He’s headed to Phoenix with his girlfriend to watch the Super Bowl in person.

"The worst case scenario here is already pretty amazing,” he said.

Voting closes at midnight. You can vote for a finalist here.



Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Out for Rest of Season]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:14:20 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-shoulder-injury.jpg

Kobe Bryant underwent successful surgery on a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, the Los Angeles Lakers announced on Wednesday, and the 19-year veteran expects to miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season.

Wednesday's news came with little shock, but it still carried with it great meaning. Bryant had now suffered season ending injuries in three successive seasons. At the end of the 2012-13 season, Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon. In the 2013-14 season, Bryant lasted only six games before suffering a fracture in his knee. For 2014-15, Bryant completed 35 games and waited until the halfway mark in the season before his shoulder gave out.

The expectation that Bryant would go under the knife and end his season leaked out of the Los Angeles Lakers' offices on Friday, Jan. 23. Later that day, the team sent a news release that confirmed Bryant's torn rotator cuff and specifically made mention of surgery as an option.

The news release also stated that Dr. Neal ElAttrache would examine Bryant on Monday. After Monday's meeting, Bryant decided that surgery would be required. ElAttrache previously performed Bryant's Achilles surgery and also operated on LA Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke's broken collarbone. The world famous surgeon performed both those operations within 24 hours of one another. No surprise, ElAttrache performed Bryant's latest shoulder operation, along with Dr. Steve Lombardo.

Over the weekend, Bryant released a dramatic video that all but confirmed his season had ended and surgery was on the horizon. In a video clip for an upcoming documentary film which placed cameras in the room, Bryant underwent his initial examination with Lombardo. In the clip, Lombardo clearly announced that Bryant's muscle had detached from the bone. Although not explicitly stating that the Lakers' superstar required surgery, the video appeared to show Bryant coming to terms with the severity of his injury.

To ease Bryant's mind on missing the remainder of the season, the Lakers lost their ninth game in a row to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. The defeat was the Lakers' 12th in the last 13 games, and LA's 34th defeat in 46 contests the season. Currently holding firm as the fourth worst team in the NBA, even a miracle would not save this team.

If the Lakers miraculously win every remaining game on their docket, they would finish with 48 wins. A season ago, the 2013-14 Dallas Mavericks finished with 49 wins and entered the playoffs with the eighth and final spot. Effectively, these Lakers have already been eliminated from the postseason.

For Bryant, the decision to get surgery should not have been difficult when considering the current standings and the nature of the injury. Ending the season rehabbing an injury should be an unwelcome familiar feeling, but Bryant's contract calls for only one more season. For Bryant's sake and for the sake of the fans, hopefully he can finish his Hall-of-Fame career on a healthy note.

At the moment, Bryant's involvement in training camp in Hawaii, which would be Bryant's last, remains unclear. According to the Lakers, Bryant will be out for approximately nine months and is expected to make a full recovery.

“I expect Kobe to make a full recovery and if all goes as expected, he should be ready for the start of the season,” ElAttrache said in the Lakers' official press release.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Debuts 1st Anti-Domestic Violence Super Bowl PSA]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 19:12:13 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/footballs.jpg

The NFL will air its first public service announcement against domestic violence as part of its No More campaign during the Super Bowl on NBC on Sunday.

A 30-second ad will air for $4.5 million, but the NFL has already released a chilling 60-second version. The ad is based on a real 911 call a domestic violence victim made in October.

The unsettling video starts out showing a disheveled home, with an unmade bed, books thrown on the floor, a sink piled up with unwashed dishes and a fist-sized punch in the wall. A woman is speaking in a rushed tone with the 911 dispatcher, pretending that she is ordering a pizza.

The dispatcher soon realizes the woman is unable to speak openly in her house because her abuser will hear. The final scene shows a framed picture of a woman torn from the wall and left by the trashcan.

The screen fades to black, and a message appears in white: “When it’s hard to talk, It’s up to us to listen.”

“The goal of the PSA is to activate and engage the vast audience of men and women across America in saying NO MORE to domestic violence and sexual assault,” No More director Virginia Witt told Today.com.

The NFL has faced a number of high-profile domestic abuse allegations involving its players, most notably Ray Rice.

That case inspired many women to speak out on social media using the hashtag #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft and restarted debates about the NFL's history of players accused of domestic abuse.

“Public awareness is the first, essential step toward changing the culture into one where domestic violence and sexual assault no longer happen,” said Witt.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[FAA: Super Bowl Is Strictly a “No Drone Zone”]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 11:10:46 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/drone+123114.jpg

If you are going to the Super Bowl, make sure you leave your drone at home.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement Wednesday that the unmanned aircrafts are barred from flying over or near the game.

"Many familiar sounds are associated with the Super Bowl," the FAA wrote. "Cheering fans. Referee whistles. The spectacular halftime show. Booming fireworks. But one sound you shouldn’t hear is the whirring of an unmanned aircraft overhead. The Super Bowl is strictly a 'No Drone Zone'."

The restriction also applies to airplanes, hang gliders, hot air balloons, model rockets and most other flying machines. Violators of the ban could end up in jail for "careless and reckless" operation of an aircraft.

The warning came just two days after a federal government employee said he accidentally crashed a drone on the grounds of the White House. The man, who was off duty at the time, called the Secret Service after the crash and is cooperating with authorities in a probe of the incident.

The New England Patriots are set to take on the Seattle Seahawks live from the University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona on Sunday, Feb. 1, airing on NBC.


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<![CDATA[New Britain Company Makes "Deflategate" Soda]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 17:10:25 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Deflated+ball+brew+dm+1200.jpg

Deflated footballs might be a controversy the New England Patriots are facing as they head to the Super Bowl, but the so-named "Deflategate" is a scandal with flavor that Connecticut soda company is drinking in with its trademark humor.

"It's more fun to play with squishy balls" is the tag line on New Britain-based Avery's soda's new limited edition soda, Deflated Ball Brew.

The soda, produced just in time for Super Bowl Sunday, is a citrus fusion of grapefruit, orange and lime.

A customer asked about creating the soda last week and the company thought is was a great idea, so they came up with a soda that would be taste on its own, but also work as a mixer with alcoholic beverages.

Like the air reportedly missing from 11 of 12 Patriots-provided footballs in the AFC Championships against the Indianapolis Colts that drew scrutiny, Avery's Deflated Ball Brew has "a little less carbonation than normal," the company said on Facebook, and one out of every 12 sodas is made to be flat.

However, as the Pats head to Arizona to play the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, the soda company says "this soda is guaranteed to pump up any party."

Avery's is selling the Deflated Ball Brew at its New Britain bottling plant and at Stew Leonard's in Newington.

The company has even put together recipes for adult beverages that you can serve at your Super Bowl party, including Pigskin Punch, Gridiron Grog, Touchdown Tonic, Midfield Margarita and Squishy Ball Sangria.

In case anyone wonders where the company's loyalties lie, they said they will be rooting for the Patriots on Sunday.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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<![CDATA[PHOTOS: Memorable Halftime Shows]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 12:02:19 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/superbowl-halftime-01-160625501.jpg These performances rocked at the Super Bowl halftime shows. See more photos.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The 14 Most Heartbreaking Super Bowl Moments]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 15:11:53 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/edt-upsets.jpg The 49-year history of the Super Bowl has seen its fair share of shocking upsets, horrendous blunders and lopsided routs.

Photo Credit: NFL]]>
<![CDATA[Tiger Woods Explains Tooth Incident]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:22:08 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tiger+woods6.JPG

Tiger Woods finally explained how he lost his tooth while watching his girlfriend Lindsey Vonn capture her record 63rd World Cup title in Italy a week ago.

The golf champ’s publicist previously told The Associated Press that after the Jan. 19 competition, “a media member with a shoulder-mounted video camera pushed and surged toward the stage, turned and hit Tiger Woods in the mouth.”

“I had my mask on, so no one knew who I was, trying to blend in because there is not a lot of brown dudes at ski races, OK?,” Woods told reporters after playing at the Phoenix Open. “That was the whole idea of why I wore the mask." 

“I was looking down, and all the camera guys are below me on their knees or moving all around, trying to get a picture because she's hugging people, saying congratulations to the other racers as they are coming down,” Woods explained.

“Dude with a video camera on his shoulder, right in front of me, kneeling, stood up and turned and caught me square on the mouth,” Woods said. “He chipped that [tooth], cracked the other one. And so then, you know, I'm trying to keep this [mask on] so the blood is not all over the place. Luckily, he hit the one I had a root canal on.”

Woods said he was in a lot of pain after the incident.

“The flight home was a joke," Woods said. "I couldn't eat, couldn't drink until he fixed them, put the temporaries on. I couldn't have anything touch it. Even breathing hurt, because any kind of air over the nerve, the tooth that was still alive, was cracked.”

When asked if the cameraman felt bad about the incident, Woods said, “He didn’t care.”

Vonn won a super-G competition, breaking a 35-year-old record of 62 World Cup wins with a flawless run down the Olympia delle Tofane course.



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Wholesome, Less Racy Super Bowl Ads Expected]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:36:32 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/super-bowl-commercials-AP322500772403.jpg Advertisers are spending record amounts of money on this year's Super Bowl commercials, hoping to score big with sports fans and consumers. After a string of domestic scandals in the NFL, analysts say expect to see more hopeful, positive ads.]]> <![CDATA[Super Bowl Preview: Seahawks v. Patriots]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 09:55:35 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/brady-wilson-2.jpg Just ahead of Super Bowl XLIV, here are five things you may not know about the history behind the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.

Photo Credit: Getty images]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Seahawks Coach on What Richard Sherman Should Name His Baby]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 11:57:12 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/WNBC_000000005961142_1200x675_391459395811.jpg Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll joked that cornerback Richard Sherman should name his baby "Petey." Carroll was asked about the possibility of Sherman's pregnant girlfriend going into labor before the Super Bowl. The lighthearted moment came during a press conference with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Friday, Jan. 30. ]]> <![CDATA[Seahawks' Big Task: Stop Gronkowski]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 15:08:18 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP326652112586.jpg

This week’s Sports Illustrated cover features the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom secondary. Cornerback Richard Sherman stands front and center with a big smile, flanked by big-hitting strong safety Kam Chancellor, nickel corner Jeremy Lane, free safety Earl Thomas and corner Byron Maxwell.

All look relaxed and confident. And why not?

In 2014, the Seahawks had the No. 1 defense in the NFL overall and were the top-ranked group against the pass. As they head into Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX matchup against the New England Patriots in Glendale, Ariz., they know they’ll present Tom Brady and the Patriots with the best defensive unit they’ve seen all year.

But one Patriot has the Seahawks very concerned: tight end Rob Gronkowski.

At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, Gronkowski is not only bigger than most tight ends, but also is more athletic, runs better routes and has better hands than most. And, his chemistry with Brady is strong. Gronkowski is Brady’s go-to receiver, especially in crucial situations. Other teams have trouble blanketing him.

In two playoff victories, Gronkowski has 10 receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns. This, after he had 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 TDs in 15 regular-season games.

If the Seahawks want to win a second straight Super Bowl, they’ll have to contain Gronkowski and limit the damage he can do. But that’s difficult. He’s bigger than most corners and able to outmaneuver most safeties.

Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus wrote this week that Gronkowski may be “the single most dominant and unstoppable offensive weapon in the game.” He said the Seahawks’ defense of him will be one of the key matchups.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this week that Gronkowski has “all of the elements that you’re looking for from a big-game tight end.” He added that he’s been spending plenty of time watching film of Gronkowski, searching for the best way to neutralize him.

The Seahawks may employ a variety of coverages on "Gronk," with several players assigned to him, depending on situations. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is faster than most, and may help, but he’s six inches shorter than Gronkowski. Carroll said outside linebackers K.J. Wright (6-foot-4) and Bruce Irvin (6-foot-3) also are “pretty tall and long” and could be in the mix.

But the No. 1 Seahawk assigned to limit Gronkowski Sunday will likely be super-athletic safety Kam Chancellor, whom Carroll calls “about as big a strong safety as you can find.”

Wright told reporters in Arizona that he’s confident Chancellor – selected All-Pro this season along with his safety mate Thomas – can do the job.

“Our best against their best,” Wright said. “Of course I’ve got my money on Kam. He’s an All-Pro, he’s the captain of our defense. I expect him to win every battle.”

Chancellor is 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds, known for his ability to hit, support the run defense with ferocity and leap over tall buildings (or at least the line of scrimmage in attempts to block kicks).

Chancellor told the Boston Herald he’ll be up for the task.

“He’s definitely a big, physical guy,” Chancellor said. “But it’s just big on big. You play big on big.”

Chancellor says the Seahawks have great coaching and game planning and prepare players to succeed. Sunday should be no different. He’s confident Seattle can do what it needs to do to slow Gronkowski.

“One thing we do is practice fundamentals,” Chancellor told the Herald. “We practice man coverage. We practice defense. So any situation they throw at us, any situation that occurs, we’re prepared for it and we’re ready for it.”

 

 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Boatright Helps UConn Down USF]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 14:42:05 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/uconn+kentucky+win+6.jpg

UConn led USF by just two points with 12 minutes to go when Ryan Boatright decided enough was enough.

The Huskies' senior guard took the game over, scoring 19 of his 28 points down the stretch and leading the defending national champions to a 66-53 win on Sunday.

"I just told myself I'm going to be aggressive the rest of the way, and that's what I did," he said. "They gave me shots and I created some shots for myself and I knocked them down."

Rodney Purvis added 17 for the Huskies (11-7, 4-2 American) who beat the Bulls (7-13, 1-6) for the second time this month.

Nehemias Morillo had a career-high 18 for South Florida, which lost for the fifth straight time, a streak that began with a 58-44 loss to the Huskies in Tampa. Corey Allen Jr. added 11.

Connecticut led by 10 points at halftime and by 12 early in the second half.

But the Bulls used a 9-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Anthony Collins, to get back into the game and had a chance to tie trailing 39-37 with 12 minutes left.

But Amida Brimah blocked a layup attempt by Allen and the Bulls would not get that close again.

Purvis made a pair of free throws on the other end and then Boatright scored the Huskies' next 13 points. His second 3-pointer during the stretch put the Huskies ahead 54-43.

"When you're as talented as he is and he gets a little groove going, it's hard to stop the floodgates," said USF coach Orlando Antigua. "We tried to change up defenses and give them different looks and they did a great job adjusting."

The team's combined for 41 fouls, 23 of them by the Bulls whose big men spent much of the game in foul trouble. Collins fouled out and Bo Zeigler picked up his fourth foul just two minutes into the second half and played just 23 minutes.

UConn made 22 of its 29 foul shots. Boatright hit 10 of his 11 attempts from the line and Purvis was 8 of 12. USF was 10 of 16 from the line.

"Game like that, you're going to have, tit-for-tat," Purvis said. "Our main thing is just to stay aggressive."

The Huskies shot 46 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Bulls 35-18.

Daniel Hamilton had 10 rebounds and Kentan Facey added 9. Brimah finished with six boards and five blocked shots.

UConn, which fell behind by seven points in the teams' first meeting, had a better start in this one. The Huskies used an 11-1 run to take an early 18-9 lead.

South Florida managed just six field goals in the first half and the teams combined for just 15 before intermission, getting everything else from the free-throw line.

The Huskies improved to 7-3 at home this season and 4-1 in Hartford.

____

TIP-INS

USF: The Bulls played without starting forward Chris Perry, who was hospitalized on Saturday with chest pains. He was on the bench for the second half Sunday and team spokesman Steve Schoon said he will undergo more testing back in Florida.

UConn: Ryan Boatright moved up the school's all-time scoring list. He now has 1,491 career points, passing Kevin Freeman (1,476) for 18th place. Freeman is now the school's director of basketball administration.

UP NEXT

USF faces SMU at home on Wednesday.

UConn travels to Ohio for a game with Cincinnati on Thursday night.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[5 Key Factors for Super Bowl XLIX]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 14:24:14 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/170*120/jussbritt.jpg

Everyone knows the stars who’ll be playing in Super Bowl XLIX, and what kind of impact they can have on the outcome of this Sunday’s matchup between the Seahawks and Patriots in Arizona.

But beyond Tom Brady, Marshawn Lynch, Rob Gronskowi and Richard Sherman there are other lesser-known players, units and factors that could be key. Among these are:

1. Justin Britt, Seahawks right offensive tackle

The rookie from Missouri, a second-round pick, showed great promise his first season. The 6-foot-6, 325-pounder played every offensive snap of the regular season. And, the Seahawks running game ran more often off right guard and right tackle this year, with Lynch often getting big chunks in that direction. But Britt – who missed the NFC Championship Game with a knee injury – has been a liability as a pass blocker. According to the Washington Post, citing Pro Football Focus, Britt ranked dead last as a pass blocker among right tackles in 2014 and was fourth worst among all tackles. If the Patriots see Britt as a weakness – he’s reportedly fit again and will start Sunday – they could scheme to attack him in new and varied ways to exploit his deficiencies, which could be a big problem for Seattle’s passing attack, especially if the Seahawks fall behind.

2. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots offensive tackles

Both blockers are solid, with Solder at left tackle and Vollmer on the right side. But they anchor an offensive line that will be tested by the Seattle pass rush, particularly defensive ends Michael Bennett (seven sacks in 2014) and Cliff Avril (five). For the Pats passing offense to work efficiently, Tom Brady will need time and Solder and Vollmer will need to seal off the outside pass rush, whether it be against Bennett and Avril or blitzing linebackers or defensive backs.

3. Patriots special teams

It was the Seahawks who made big news on championship game Sunday by pulling off a fake-field goal play for a touchdown that started their comeback and then recovering an onside kick. But in a duel of special teams, the Patriots’ units are stronger, and in a game as close as this one is expected to be, that could be the difference in the outcome. The Patriots’ special teams were ranked No. 3 in the NFL in 2014 in the annual special teams analysis put together by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, behind only the Eagles and Bills. The Seahawks were 17th. The Pats blocked three field goals and one punt this season. Julian Edelman was fifth in the NFL in punt-return yards and averaged 11 yards per return. Matthew Slater – the son of former Rams Hall of Fame tackle Jackie Slater -- is a four-time Pro Bowler on special teams and a coverage and tackling star.

4. Bobby Wagner, Seahawks middle linebacker

He doesn’t look imposing as NFL linebackers go, at 6 feet and 241 pounds, and he's overshadowed by Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and the overall Legion of Boom defense. But the third-year pro from Utah State was selected first-team All-Pro this season and was NFC Defensive Player of the Month for December. He was a key to the Seahawks defense countering the Denver Broncos’ offense in last year’s Super Bowl and will be the man to counter Brady’s play-calling and audibles Sunday. After missing the first five games of this season, Wagner has been the catalyst to the Seahawks defensive revival. His wide-ranging speed, smarts and ability to rush the passer can destroy even well-designed plays. The Patriots will need to find a way to counter his effectiveness via blocking schemes or misdirection.

5. Turnover and penalty problems of the Seahawks

Seattle is a ball-control offense, with a strong running game. But the Seahawks – who usually take good care of the football – didn’t in the NFC Championship game against Green Bay. They had five turnovers, a problem they can’t repeat against the Patriots, who finished tied for second in the NFL this season with a plus-12 on the takeaway/giveaway charts. Seattle was right behind, tied for fourth at plus-9, so the NFC title game implosion wasn’t usual. But they can’t afford another flood of mistakes. Meanwhile, the Seahawks were the most-penalized team in the NFL, getting flagged 144 times for 1,112 yards while – and here’s the strange part – being the beneficiary of just 80 penalties against their opponents, the lowest total in the NFL.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Patriots Owner Strongly Defends Team]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 23:32:55 -0500 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Robert+Kraft1.jpg

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft made a strong defense Monday night of his team's actions and integrity regarding the NFL's investigation into under-inflated footballs being used in the AFC championship game.

At times sounding angry, Kraft said he expected an apology from the league once the Patriots are found to be not guilty of breaking any rules.

"I believe unconditionally that the New England Patriots did nothing wrong in this process that was in violation of NFL rules," Kraft said at the team's first media availability in Arizona.

Kraft also said it "bothers me greatly" that the reputations and integrity of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have been "called into question, and by association our team."

He added that in 15 years together with Belichick and Brady, they had never lied to him.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>