Julian Edelman is the type of throwback football player old-school fans love to watch.
He plays hard. He doesn’t showboat. He never takes a play off. And he has fantastic chemistry with Tom Brady.
It’s safe to say fans of the New England Patriots were exuberant to finally see the dynamic wide receiver return to the field in Saturday’s 27-20 divisional playoff win over Kansas City.
Edelman had been out since November after breaking a bone in his foot in a win against the Giants. That victory improved the Patriots to 10-0. They subsequently lost four of their final six games, which shows how vital Edelman is to the Patriots’ offense.
With Brady’s cast of wideouts healthy for the first time in nearly two months, the Patriots got back to playing Patriot-like football in dispatching a Chiefs team that had come into Foxborough on an 11-game winning streak.
Edelman did not miss a beat, catching 10 passes for 100 yards while tight end Rob Gronkowski caught a pair of touchdown passes among his eight receptions. But the one thing that stood out to me in this game was the play of New England’s much-maligned offensive line.
Brady was protected well throughout the game and he was getting the ball out quickly. Kansas City’s front seven, which includes former University of Maine player Mike DeVito, was held in check. This is a much different offense when Edelman, Gronkowski and Danny Amendola are all on the field together.
That will be the case when the Patriots travel to Denver for Sunday’s AFC Championship game. Edelman didn’t play in Denver’s 30-24 overtime win in October, and Gronkowski left that game in the fourth quarter with a bruised knee.
The Patriots should certainly be favored in what could be the final matchup between Brady and Peyton Manning. Brady may be 2-6 in his career in Denver, including 0-2 in the postseason, but we all know how tough it is to beat any team twice in a season, much less a team coached by Bill Belichick.
The Patriot Way is in full effect yet again this postseason, and Denver could very well be the next checkmark on New England’s mark for an unprecedented fifth Super Bowl championship. The way Manning struggled in Denver’s win over Pittsburgh on Sunday, the Patriots’ defense will be licking their chops.
BLACK BEARS SNAKEBITTEN AGAIN
The first Hockey East series of the second semester was a tough one for the University of Maine hockey team, as the Black Bears could only get one point against Connecticut.
Maine could’ve easily won both games, but the combination of Rob Nichols’ goaltending and failure to cash in on opportunities led to a 1-0 loss on Friday night, while the teams skated to a 1-1 overtime tie on Saturday night.
Friday’s game was particularly frustrating, with Nichols making 44 saves and the Bears missing a number of open nets. It also marked the fifth time this season freshman goaltender Rob McGovern has given up one goal in his rookie campaign, and he only has one victory to show for it. On Saturday, Maine’s penchant for failing to stay out of the penalty box cost them, with Mark Hamilton’s charging call early in the third leading to UConn’s Max Letunov netting the equalizer.
Now, the Black Bears find themselves in a position their fans are not accustomed to: The Hockey East cellar.
It does not get easier for Maine this week, as they’ll entertain the nation’s second-ranked team in Quinnipiac at Alfond Arena on Tuesday before a home-and-home with longtime rival Boston University this weekend.
Quinnipiac blanked the Black Bears 4-0 in Hamden, Connecticut, in October, and Tuesday’s game marks Maine’s final non-conference game of the season. And while this BU team is certainly not as good as last year’s national runner-up, the Terriers are coming off a 1-point weekend themselves to Commonwealth Avenue rival Boston College, so both teams will be hungry this weekend.
Friday’s game is at Alfond Arena with Saturday’s clash at Agganis Arena.
MAINE MEN’S HOOP MAKES A STATEMENT
When a team is in a rebuilding phase with a new coach, pulling an upset on a conference or national power is vital to the future of the program.
While the UMaine hockey team is still looking for a couple of those wins, the Maine men’s basketball team shocked the America East world at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Friday.
The Black Bears netted their biggest win of coach Bob Walsh’s young tenure, upending reigning conference champion Albany 81-79.
The return of freshman guard Isaac Vann, who has missed the last 12 games with an injury, gave the Bears a boost while Aaron Calixte’s free throws in the waning seconds provided the Black Bears with the winning margin.
While UMaine may not win an America East championship this winter, Walsh has his team playing hard and the uptempo brand of basketball they play is riveting to watch. Walsh has the program heading in the right direction, and Friday’s win over Albany certainly signifies that.
Maine was going for its third consecutive win in a Monday night contest with New Hampshire in Bangor.