TB 12 back for SB 10

Well, who can be surprised Tom Brady did it again? Despite a very shaky second half, he’s headed to his 10th Super Bowl after doing what he needed to do against Green Bay to get there as usual. Though I suspect a three-pick second half vs. KC will croak him. Jimmy Garoppolo got roasted for a lot less than that when the 49ers didn’t hold their fourth-quarter lead against them in the SB a year ago. So Tom had better be careful.

That aside, the Bucs earned their trip to the big game with a 31-26 win over Green Bay, where defending champion Kansas City is waiting following a 38-24 manhandling of Buffalo. It was a fun day of football that reinforced my belief that NFL conference championship Sunday is the best sports viewing day of the year. Some of it had nothing to do with the local football team, and with Brady in the mix some of it seemed to me all about Patriots decisions, what might have been and what they need to do to get back to playing on the second to last Sunday of the NFL year.

Here are some more observations on all that.

If you’re interested, losing Green Bay had a 34:27–25:23 edge in time of possession in Game 1, while despite KC’s runaway win they had only a slight 31:09–28:51 edge over Buffalo. That’s why I don’t think it usually tells you much.

Don’t get why Matt LaFleur went for the FG with 2:37 left and Green Bay down 31-23. Isn’t getting one play from a Hall of Fame QB to win it on fourth down better odds than needing four from his defense and still needing a TD to win from much farther away?

Having said that, despite the success, I never do escape the feeling watching Aaron Rodgers in big games that there’s something missing. Can’t quite put my finger on why, but it was there again Sunday. Maybe that’s why he’s lost four of the five NFC title games he’s been in.

This weekend showed how far off the Pats are. Forget quarterback for a second. The most glaring deficiency is team speed on offense and defense. KC has blinding speed. Buffalo and Green Bay have it on the outside and while besides Antonio Brown I’m not quite sure how fast Tampa Bay receivers are, they seem to get open down the field a lot and their linebackers can run.

Attention, Bill Belichick. Josh Allen went from 20 TD passes to 40 after Buffalo traded for Stefon Diggs. It wasn’t all because of Diggs, but their pedestrian 2019 offense transformed into the league’s second-ranked O as their prized acquisition led the NFL in catches and receiving yards. I also recall something similar happening after Randy Moss arrived in 2007. That’s also why Brady went from 24 TD passes last year to a second best in his career 40 with Tampa Bay. Speed on the outside makes a big difference.

While we’re on that subject, how is it that with good old Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate and the out for the year O. J. Howard, Tampa Bay has three tight ends better than any TE the Patriots have?

Don’t buy the narrative being pushed by the Boston media Coach B didn’t have a plan for when Brady left town or retired. He did have one until Brady went up the back staircase to whine about it to the owner, who then made BB trade Garoppolo after he’d already traded Jacoby Brissett, which he wouldn’t have done if he were planning to trade Jimmy G. Then a short time after deep sixing the plan, Brady split to leave Coach B holding the bag. Basically he outmaneuvered Belichick in an act of self-preservation, so don’t make Brady out to be anything but a contributor to their QB dilemma.

But through either a strange coincidence or karma, it’s interesting that we’ll have gotten to see how the Pats QB drama played out in back-to-back Super Bowls against the rampaging Chiefs. So let’s see what Brady does next weekend vs. what Jimmy G did against them.

When Bullet Bob Hayes was called the world’s fastest human after winning gold in the 100-yard dash at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, he brought blinding straight-ahead speed to scare the bejeebers out of Dallas Cowboys opponents all through the 1960’s. And through the years people from Billy White Shoes Johnson to Wes Welker have had the short-space quickness to find daylight to get free inside a refrigerator box. But Tyreek Hill has the best combination of both I’ve ever seen. He can score on any down from any distance on any type of play from go routes to wideout screens to Jets sweeps and everything else. He must terrify game planners about to face the Chiefs.

Speaking of blinding speed: The closest approximation of Hill is teammate Mecole Hardman, whose fumbled punt on Sunday handed Buffalo its first TD. He made up for it by taking a shuffle pass up the gut for KC’s first score and with a dazzling 50-yard run on a Jets sweep to put them in position for their second TD. Those impressed by that in Patriots Nation won’t love hearing the wideout/Pro Bowl returner went 24 picks behind N’Keal Harry in the 2019 draft

After watching him average 102 catches the last three seasons and tear up the Browns and Bills the last two weeks for 23 catches, 227 yards and three touchdowns, I’m starting to think Travis Kelce may be a better intermediate-range receiver than Gronk in his prime. The big fella is still a much better blocker and used to be a better deep threat, but Kelce is good and clutch.

If you think Buffalo was a fluke, guess again. They have a good young coach and a really good young QB. Sound familiar? The Pats now have to catch up to them.

News & Notes 21/01/28

Covid-19 updateAs of January 18As of January 25
Total cases statewide57,86462,768
Total current infections statewide6,4445,627
Total deaths statewide933990
New cases5,557 (Jan. 12 to Jan. 18)4,904 (Jan. 19 to Jan. 25)
Current infections: Hillsborough County2,2621,994
Current infections: Merrimack County585420
Current infections: Rockingham County1,3621,278
Information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

Covid-19 news

New Hampshire surpassed 60,000 overall cases of Covid-19 with its daily public health update on Jan. 21, according to state officials. Despite numbers continuing to climb, state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said during a Jan. 21 press conference that overall test-positivity rates have been trending downward. “It’s at 6.8 percent, which is … at the same level that we saw back at the end of November,” he said. Hospitalizations have also been on the decline — 230 people were hospitalized as of Jan. 25, down slightly from the previous week.

With the state moving on to Phase 1B of its vaccine distribution plan on Jan. 22, opening up eligibility for roughly 300,000 Granite Staters to receive their first doses, Gov. Chris Sununu urged people to be patient during the registration process. “We put needles in arms as fast as we get them in … but we’re still only getting about 17,000 [doses] a week,” Sununu said. “As the federal government increases vaccines for the State of New Hampshire, we will add more reservation spots within our system and be able to move people up.” The online registration portal is accessed by visiting vaccines.nh.gov. As of Jan. 25, just under 200,000 Granite Staters have signed up to receive doses as part of Phase 1B, and more than 60 percent of those have already scheduled a location and time for their first shot. The first Phase 1B vaccines were administered Jan. 26. According to a press release issued by the state Department of Health & Human Services, the FAQs on vaccines.nh.gov have also been updated and clarified to note that only residents are eligible to receive the vaccine in New Hampshire.

On Jan. 22, Sununu issued Emergency Order No. 83, an order allowing local officials to postpone their 2021 town meetings and elections and to pre-process their absentee ballots due to Covid-19 concerns. The order, according to the paperwork, serves to “bridge the gap” by responding to timing challenges related to SB 2, which passed in the Senate on Jan. 6 but has an indefinite timeline for passing in the House. “The House of Representatives has scheduled a public hearing on Senate Bill 2 and expects to pass the bill in early February 2021,” the order states. “Some towns in New Hampshire have stated that an early February enactment date … would be too late for these towns to set their schedules.”

Also on Jan. 22, Sununu issued Executive Order 2021-1, extending the state of emergency in New Hampshire due to the pandemic for another three weeks through at least Feb. 12. It’s the 15th extension he has issued since originally declaring a state of emergency last March.

Details of Sununu’s emergency orders, executive orders and other announcements can be found at governor.nh.gov.

Education funding

Sixteen mayors and School Board chairs from cities across New Hampshire sent a letter on Jan. 21 to New Hampshire Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, Gov. Chris Sununu, Senate President Chuck Morse and House Speaker Sherman Packard regarding concerns over education funding. “Covid-19 has put tremendous strain on school districts across the state … and as districts begin the budgeting process for the next school year, there are three particular areas of concern that we … wanted to bring to your attention,” the letter starts. The first concern is lower enrollment in free and reduced lunch programs due to national expansion of program eligibility during the pandemic, which affects the amount of funding given to school districts. The second is that there has been an “unprecedented decrease” in school enrollment during the pandemic as many parents have chosen to send their children to private school or to home school until public schools are able to return to fully in-person education safely, the letter says. Since

adequacy aid is based on the enrollment of the previous year, districts are concerned that they will end up educating students for whom they did not receive adequacy aid. “For example, Nashua would see a reduction of $1.6M in adequacy aid in the 2022FY budget if enrollment numbers increase close to pre-pandemic levels for the next school year, as districts are anticipating,” the letter reads. The final concern is the rate increases for state retirement contributions. “This downshifting of costs from the State of New Hampshire to local municipalities and school districts will result in considerable budget shortfalls,” the letter says. The letter ends by asking the Department of Education and the state’s government to take the anticipated revenue shortfalls into account as they allocate funding.

Friends funding

On Jan. 24, the New Hampshire delegation — U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas — announced that the Friends Program in Concord has been awarded $149,811 in AmeriCorps funding. According to a press release, the funding is specifically in support of the AmeriCorps volunteers in the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, which focuses on volunteers who are 55 and older. “These federal funds make important investments in New Hampshire’s community service programming, bolster volunteer opportunities for seniors and support the Friends Program’s mission to empower Granite Staters with the tools they need to give back to their communities,” Shaheen said in the release.

FIT grant

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health has given a $20,000 grant to Families in Transition in Manchester, to support the nonprofit’s work with people experiencing homelessness, providing funding for its adult emergency shelter program. “More than ever during Covid-19 members of our community are struggling to meet their basic needs for shelter, food and social contact,” Greg Norman, MS, director of Community Health for Dartmouth-Hitchcock, said in a press release. “D-HH can help community-based organizations like Families in Transition continue to meet the safety net needs of our patients and other members of the communities we serve.”

Winter gear

On Jan. 20, Girl Scouts in Manchester placed about 180 scarves, hats, gloves and blankets around Veterans Park. According to a press release, the items were left on trees, fence posts and other places throughout the park with tags to let people know they were free to take.

Two new specialty clinics, NeuroOncology and Gynecologic Oncology, are set to open at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock location at the Catholic Medical Center’s Notre Dame Pavilion in Manchester. According to a press release, the clinics will focus on specific cancer diagnoses, including even the rarest cancers.

OLLI — the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, for people ages 50 and up — at Granite State College in Concord announced in a press release that it will offer 81 non-credit courses via Zoom during the spring term, which starts Monday, Feb. 22. There will be classes on history, politics, arts and literature, computer skills, health and food and more. Visit olli.granite.edu.

Dr. Jahmal Mosley, superintendent of the Nashua School District, has announced his resignation, effective at the end of this school year. According to a joint statement from the District and the Board of Education, Mosley has taken a job as superintendent in South Hadley, Mass. The board thanked him for the services he’s provided since 2017.

The Bedford Police Department recently issued an announcement reminding residents not to leave remote key fobs unattended in their vehicles. According to the announcement, Bedford Police have responded to three incidents in the last month where vehicle owners left key fobs in their vehicles, “allowing criminals to easily steal their vehicles.”

Lift one another up

At a religious ceremony last weekend, in the beautiful woods of New Hampshire, the priest counseled us to come together across our differences and to pray for one another. While that sentiment seemed reasonable among the small group of relatively like-minded folks gathered in the snow that morning, I realized it was directed ultimately not just to us but beyond, even nationally across our country. The challenge of that admonition was for each of us to look above what divides us to what we have in common. But in all honesty, that’s hard to do when so much of what has happened recently seems inevitably to drive us even further apart.

Tonight, as I write this, while watching the memorial service for the victims of the pandemic who were grieved at the National Mall, and especially when the 400 lights came on along the Reflecting Pool, each one casting a reflection in the shimmering water, as if to ripple out through each glistening reflection the individuality of every single tragically lost life from families across our nation, it became so very clear that that truly is what we have in common.

For regardless of partisan identity, as human beings we all grieve the loss of our loved ones.

In that other, almost religious service this evening, we were counseled, “To heal, we must remember. It’s hard sometimes to remember.” Yes, it is hard to look beyond the tragedy of our personal losses: the deaths of those who didn’t die with their families at their side, who died in the compassionate care of nurses and doctors who maybe knew them only by name and brief acquaintance, but who gave them tender ministration in our place. Yes, to hold that sorrow and look around to so many others with whom we share loss and to remember they, too, are our brothers and sisters.

Ancient wisdom tells us that “Nothing is as strong as a heart that has been broken.” Might this nation of broken hearts look up through our pain and remember who we are?

Rituals are things we do as a community at times of profound change and deep feeling. They can bind us up as individuals, but they can also urge us as fellow human beings to lift one another up. Truly, this I believe.

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