On Sports

Former Providence Journal sports writer Mike Szostak blogs regularly with news and analysis about sports in Rhode Island.

The Patriots did not lose to the Broncos Sunday because kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a point after attempt in the first quarter.

Allow me to repeat.

THE PATRIOTS DID NOT LOSE TO THE BRONCOS SUNDAY BECAUSE KICKER STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI MISSED A POINT AFTER ATTEMPT IN THE FIRST QUARTER.

All last week, Sports World focused on the rivalry between quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Brady vs. Manning. Manning vs. Brady. Their 17th, and possibly final, game against each other when Brady and the New England Patriots tackle Manning and the Denver Broncos Sunday for the AFC Championship and a trip to Super Bowl 50.

Call them The Questionables because there was just a 50-50 chance they would play in their AFC divisional playoff game Saturday.

Questionable Rob Gronkowski, he of the back and knee injuries, caught seven passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns and recovered an onside kick with 1:13 to play. Questionable Julian Edelman, he of the broken foot, grabbed 10 passes for 100 yards. Questionable Chandler Jones, he of abdomen and toe issues and a shirtless foray to the Foxboro Police Department six days prior, forced a Chiefs fumble that became the Patriots’ third touchdown.

Yellow caution flags should flutter over Gillette Stadium Saturday when the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs kick off their AFC divisional playoff game. Why worry? Let us count the reasons.

The Chiefs, winners of 11 consecutive games, are the hottest team in pro football. They launched their postseason run last weekend with a 30-0 rout of Houston, a convincing performance by the seventh-best defense in the NFL.

Deflated footballs proved more newsworthy than a Super Bowl trophy, NCAA hockey championship hardware and the bill of sale for a beloved minor-league baseball franchise this year. Eleven months after the New England Patriots used underinflated footballs in the first half of the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts, Deflategate drags on. That’s why it is without question THE sports story of 2015 in Rhode Island and the rest of New England.

After two consecutive losses, the second their worst performance in years, the Patriots are back. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be.

Bill Belichick teams do not lose three games in a row, which they proved Sunday night in Houston with a convincing and inspiring performance that produced a 27-6 victory over the Texans.

University of Rhode Island

Providence College basketball coach Ed Cooley had to be joking when he suggested this week that the PC-URI basketball showdown Saturday night is not a rivalry game and that it should be played at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence every year.

Providence College and the University of Rhode Island not a hoops rivalry? You gotta be kidding me! Tell that to the 8,000 basketball fans who will cram into the Ryan Center in Kingston for the 7 o’clock start.

Another college football season is winding down, and I’m wondering why this new Division I playoff system has me feeling the old way might have been better. Remember when media voted in the AP poll, coaches voted in the UPI/USA Today poll, each determined a national champion, and when they differed, national debate ensued? Talk about fun!

Oh, the agony of interceptions, the pain of lost fumbles, the hurt of blocked punts and field-goal attempts, the ache of failed PATs.

Oh, the sting of ensuing defeat.

Rhode Island’s four college football teams, plus undefeated and nationally ranked Harvard, paid dearly for their errors on a blustery Saturday afternoon.

Western New England is the place to be for championship football on Saturday. Yes, it’s Division III, but I doubt you will find more appealing matchups than Salve Regina and Western New England in Springfield for the New England Football Championship and Amherst and Williams in Williamstown for the Little Three title and, for Amherst, sole possession of the New England Small College Athletic Conference championship.

College football has gone wacky. Why else would Northern Illinois have played at Toledo on Tuesday night and Ohio University have traveled to Bowling Green on Wednesday night? College football on a Tuesday night the first week in November? College football on a Wednesday night? I’m kidding, right? Sadly, no.

Brown university will honor one of its greatest coaches Saturday afternoon when it renames its soccer field for the retiring women’s soccer coach Phil Pincince.

Already named for the iconic men's soccer and lacrosse coach Cliff Stevenson, the pitch will be renamed Stevenson-Pincince Field in a ceremony before the Bears final 2015 home game at 3:30 against Penn.

With apologies to Florida and Georgia, hosts of the world’s biggest cocktail party every autumn, the best college football game in America this weekend will occur Friday night in Boston.

Undefeated Harvard and undefeated Dartmouth will kick off at 7:30 at Harvard Stadium. Each is 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the Ivy League.

Everybody has heard of Notre Dame. You know, South Bend, the Fighting Irish, Knute Rockne, The Four Horsemen, Frank Leahy, Paul Hornung, Ara Parseghian, Joe Theismann, Joe Montana, The Golden Dome, Touchdown Jesus.

Has anybody heard of the University of God’s Chosen? The Disciples? Demetrius Hollingsworth?

I always thought the Fighting Irish were God’s Chosen, but I guess not. The Disciples are now.

Do you remember Oct. 21, 1975? Game 6 of the World Series? Reds versus Red Sox? Carlton Fisk’s 12th-inning home run that ended what many baseball observers still consider the most exciting game in World Series history?

It was 40 years ago tonight – and tomorrow morning – yet for those who were there or watched on television or listened on radio, it was yesterday.

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