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Top Stories of 2012, No. 1: Patriots lose Super Bowl XLVI to Giants 12.31.12 at 1:50 pm ET
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Over the final week of 2012, WEEI.com has been counting down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. This entry in the countdown is No. 1: the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss to the Giants.

Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NHL lockout
No. 9: Wes Welker’s up-and-down year
No. 8: Bruins’ early playoff elimination
No. 7: Ray Allen’s departure from Celtics
No. 6: Tim Thomas’ political controversy and sabbatical
No. 5: Celtics’ Eastern Conference finals loss to Heat
No. 4: Red Sox’ megatrade with Dodgers
No. 3: Tom Brady’s MVP-caliber season
No. 2: Bobby Valentine’s nightmare season as Red Sox manager

It wasn’€™t a perfect season that was ruined, but the second time that the Giants ended the Patriots’€™ hopes for a fourth Super Bowl title was equally as heartbreaking.

For the Patriots, hopes were high at the beginning of the postseason. That’€™s because New England won the AFC East with a 13-3 record. For the Pats, especially after the previous year’€™s loss in the divisional playoffs to the Jets, it was Super Bowl or bust.

The Giants dealt the Patriots one of their three losses on the season in Week 9. In a game that featured no scoring in the first half, the Giants came out strong after the half and put 10 points on the board in the third quarter while the Patriots were held to just a field goal. Despite two touchdown drives and a field goal in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady and the Patriots couldn’€™t overcome Eli Manning and the Giants offense, who put up another 14 points for a 24-20 victory. It was the Patriots’€™ last loss of the regular season.

The Pats trounced the Broncos in the divisional playoffs on a frosty night in Foxboro. Brady threw for 363 yards and six touchdowns, three of which were to Rob Gronkowski.

The Patriots went on to a close win in the AFC championship game against the Ravens. After Brady’€™s fourth-quarter rushing touchdown put the Pats up 23-20, the defense was able to hold off the Ravens for two drives. The Pats forced the Ravens to place their trust in kicker Billy Cundiff. Luckily for the Pats, Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field goal attempt with 15 seconds on the game clock, ensuring another Patriots Super Bowl appearance.

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Read More: 2012 Stories of the Year, Eli Manning, Mario Manningham, rob gronkowski
Top Stories of 2012, No. 2: Bobby Valentine leads woeful Sox to 93 losses, gets fired 12.31.12 at 11:30 am ET
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Over the final week of 2012, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. This entry in the countdown is No. 2: Bobby Valentine’s nightmare season as Red Sox manager.

Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NHL lockout
No. 9: Wes Welker’s up-and-down year
No. 8: Bruins’ early playoff elimination
No. 7: Ray Allen’s departure from Celtics
No. 6: Tim Thomas’ political controversy and sabbatical
No. 5: Celtics’ Eastern Conference finals loss to Heat
No. 4: Red Sox’ megatrade with Dodgers
No. 3: Tom Brady’s MVP-caliber season

In a forgettable season, the 2012 Sox finished 69-93, their worst record since 1965, and in last place in the American League East for the first time since John Henry and Tom Werner bought the team.

According to multiple reports, Bobby Valentine was not the preferred choice of first-year general manager Ben Cherington, but team president and CEO Larry Lucchino made the hire to replace Terry Francona.

As Valentine was formally introduced to Boston, nobody could have foreseen the outcome of the season.

‘€œI am honored, I’€™m humbled and I’€™m pretty damn excited,’€ Valentine said at his introductory press conference. ‘€œThis day is a special day, and it’€™s more than a special day. It’€™s the beginning of a life that I think is going to extend beyond anything else that I thought of doing. The talent level and the players that we have in this organization, I think, is a gift to anyone. And I’€™m the receiver of that gift.’€

Valentine, 62, would become the first Red Sox manager since 1934 (Bucky Harris) to be fired after just one season with the team.

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Read More: 2012 Stories of the Year, Ben Cherington, bobby valentine, Curt Schilling
Top Stories of 2012, No. 4: Red Sox complete blockbuster trade with Dodgers 12.30.12 at 9:12 am ET
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Over the final week of 2012, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. This entry in the countdown is No. 4: the Red Sox‘ megatrade with Dodgers

Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NHL lockout
No. 9: Wes Welker’s up-and-down year
No. 8: Bruins’ early playoff elimination
No. 7: Ray Allen’s departure from Celtics
No. 6: Tim Thomas’ political controversy and sabbatical
No. 5: Celtics’ Eastern Conference finals loss to Heat

It is one of the biggest trades the Red Sox have ever made. The late-August blockbuster deal that sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers will go down as a landmark moment for Sox ownership as it tries to rebuild a team that has won two World Series in the last decade.

In exchange, the Sox received first baseman James Loney and four prospects: pitchers Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr. and outfielder/first baseman Jerry Sands.

The moving of Beckett, Gonzalez, Crawford and Punto was a major shift for the Sox, who in the past years had been locking players into long-term contracts. Together, those four players represent 11 All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, three World Series rings, one World Series MVP, one LCS MVP and one All-Star MVP.

The Sox, with that trade, started the reconstruction of a team which had fallen short of expectations beginning with an epic collapse in September 2011.

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Read More: 2012 Stories of the Year, Adrian gonzalez, Allen Webster, Ben Cherington
Top Stories of 2012, No. 5: Celtics burned by Heat in Eastern Conference finals 12.29.12 at 7:55 pm ET
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Over the final week of 2012, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. This entry in the countdown is No. 5: the Celtics‘ loss to the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.

Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NHL lockout
No. 9: Wes Welker’s up-and-down year
No. 8: Bruins’ early playoff elimination
No. 7: Ray Allen’s departure from Celtics
No. 6: Tim Thomas’ political controversy and sabbatical

The Celtics were one victory away from advancing to the NBA finals. But what stood in the way, LeBron James and the Miami Heat, turned out to be more than the Big Three and the rest of the Celtics could handle.

A 101-88 defeat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals put an abrupt end to a playoff run that looked like it had legs after a comeback season from the Celtics, who were under .500 at the All-Star break of a lockout-shortened season.

The C’€™s battled injury issues all season. Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox had season-ending heart ailments. Jermaine O’Neal had his season end early, and Avery Bradley missed the Heat series. Even as the playoffs began, a sprained MCL slowed down Paul Pierce and bone spurs kept Ray Allen off the floor.

After finishing first in the Atlantic Division at 39-27, the Celtics took down the Hawks in six games in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. They went on to get by the 76ers in a seven-game series and line things up for a big series with the Heat.

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Read More: 2012 Stories of the Year, Brandon Bass, Chris Bosh, doc rivers
Top Stories of 2012, No. 7: Ray Allen leaves Celtics for South Beach 12.27.12 at 6:42 pm ET
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Over the final week of 2012, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. This entry in the countdown is No. 7: Ray Allen’s departure from the Celtics.

Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NHL lockout
No. 9: Wes Welker’s up-and-down year
No. 8: Bruins’ early playoff elimination

Heat owner Micky Arison first published the news of Ray Allen‘€™s departure from the Celtics on Twitter, signaling the official end of the Big Three era in Boston.

Its 2:30am in London and I was just woken up with great news.Welcome to the family #20!!

‘€” Micky Arison (@MickyArison) July 7, 2012

Allen made the choice to head south to Miami for around half the annual salary the Celtics were offering. In Miami, Allen would have the chance to play with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, while making a fresh start with a new team. Allen signed a three-year, $9.7 million deal in July.

Reports that Allen was unhappy in Boston began to surface. There was an apparent rift between Allen and mercurial point guard Rajon Rondo, and Allen was said to be unhappy with a lack of respect from management. A Yahoo! Sports report quoted a source as saying: “He felt he was getting respect [from the Heat] that he hadn’€™t gotten from [Celtics president] Danny [Ainge] and [coach] Doc [Rivers] anymore. ‘€¦ The [Heat] presentation was incredible.”

Ainge had placed Allen on the trading block in February in hopes that the C’€™s could get a younger player. And a deal with the Grizzlies for O.J. Mayo apparently was so close to being done that Rivers contacted Allen to let him know. That didn’t sit well with Allen.

Then Rivers inserted Avery Bradley, favoring his defensive tact over Allen’€™s 3-point shooting ability, into the starting lineup. Allen only started in the Eastern Conference finals because Bradley was out with a shoulder injury.

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Read More: 2012 Stories of the Year, Avery Bradley, Danny Ainge, doc rivers
Top Stories of 2012, No. 8: Bruins ousted in first round of playoffs by Capitals 12.26.12 at 8:42 am ET
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Over the final week of 2012, WEEI.com will count down the top 10 stories of the year in Boston sports. This entry in the countdown is No. 8: the Bruins’ first-round exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Check out our previous entries:
No. 10: NHL lockout
No. 9: Wes Welker’s up-and-down year

Coming off a Stanley Cup season, the Bruins looked poised to make another run deep into the playoffs in 2012. However, they were dismissed in shocking fashion with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

One goal decided the series, and it was Joel Ward‘€˜s overtime goal that decided Game 7. The Caps outscored the B’€™s 16-15 in the series. Four of the seven games were decided in overtime.

“It was a long year,” B’s defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said after the Game 7 loss. “We had a few ups and downs, longer ups than downs. At the end, we came out of it strong and we seemed to find our rhythm going into the playoffs. But then again, we didn’€™t play our best hockey in this series. They played us well. It was tough.

“It’€™s definitely a weird feeling. It’€™s an empty feeling. You’€™re wondering what’€™s going to happen. You don’€™t really realize it’€™s over. It’€™s summer now. It’€™s going to be a long summer. A couple of bounces here or there, it could’€™ve gone the other way. You always have to look at it from a different perspective. The next couple of days, it’€™s going to sink in, probably.”

The Bruins had 49 wins in the regular season, three more than they had during their Stanley Cup season. The Bruins put up an impressive 102 points despite the ‘€œStanley Cup hangover’€ that contributed to their slow start and grabbed the second seed.

On the other side of the ice, the Capitals finished with 42 wins and 92 points. They made an early coaching change, firing Bruce Boudreau following eight losses in 11 games while the Capitals sat at 12-9-1, tied for eighth in the Eastern Conference. Dale Hunter, a former Capitals enforcer, took over and led the team to 30 wins. The Caps won eight of their last 14 games, including two shootout wins (one against the Bruins) in their final three games.

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Read More: 2012 Stories of the Year, Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, bruins
More Jets turmoil: O-line coach says he’s being forced to play Vladimir Ducasse 11.30.12 at 1:26 pm ET
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Jets offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo said it hasn’€™t been his decision to play guard Vladimir Ducasse. And he doesn’€™t seem too happy about it.

‘€œIt’s directed from high above me,’€ DeGuglielmo said. ‘€œThat’s something higher than me.’€

Ducasse, a former UMass standout, was New York’s second-round pick in 2010. He’€™s been replacing Matt Slauson every third series.

“Nobody tells me directly where it’s coming from,’€ said DeGuglielmo, who grew up in Lexington, played football at Boston University and is in his first year coaching with the Jets. ‘€œI just get the word that this guy’s going in. Coordinator tells me what to do, I do it.”

Coach Rex Ryan later said he was the one allotting playing time for Ducasse. DeGuglielmo, however, didn’€™t seem too enthusiastic about the player.

‘€œHe’€™s played well enough to be an every third series guy,’€ DeGuglielmo said. ‘€œMaybe.’€

Slauson, a 2009 sixth-round pick from Nebraska, is more DeGuglielmo’s style.

“Slauson is a big, tough, smart, strong kid,” the coach said. “That’s what he is. There are too few of those guys in the world.”

Read More: Dave DeGuglielmo, Matt Slauson, New York Jets, Rex Ryan
49ers QB Alex Smith: ‘I feel like the only thing I did to lose my job was get a concussion’ 11.30.12 at 1:14 pm ET
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Alex Smith is baffled by the fact that he lost the starting job as 49ers quarterback to Colin Kaepernick.

Smith, who was NFC Offensive Player of the Week just one month ago, is medically cleared after suffering a concussion Nov. 11 against the Rams, but he won’€™t be playing for the second Sunday in a row when the 49ers and Rams square off.

Coach Jim Harbaugh has again named Kaepernick the starter this week.

“I feel like the only thing I did to lose my job was get a concussion,” Smith said.

Smith ranks fifth in the NFL with a passer rating of 104.1 and leads the league with a 70.0 completion percentage.

“You kind of state your case with your play and I felt like I’ve done that,” Smith said. “It’s tough. It stings the most just because I really felt there was something special going on here and you sacrifice and invest so much time. I felt like I was playing good football. I have no idea what’s going to happen from here. All I can do now is just prepare and get ready.”

Since replacing Smith, Kaepernick has completed 48-of-74 passes for 680 yards and three touchdowns with one interception, and he’s been sacked six times. He led the 49ers past the Saints and Bears.

Harbaugh says he’€™ll keep his mind open going forward about whether to use Kaepernick or Smith.

“Alex is a class act all the way,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll prepare as if he is the starter. And that’s what we would expect. And be ready to go in and play and contribute to this football team. We’ve got two quarterbacks that we feel great about as the starting quarterback. Anything’s a possibility. I would assume nothing or rule out anything.”

Read More: Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Jim Harbaugh, Rumor Mill
Report: Ravens LB Ray Lewis could return as soon as Week 15 11.26.12 at 1:20 pm ET
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The Ravens could be in for a major boost at the end of the regular season with the return of linebacker Ray Lewis, Yahoo! Sports reports.

Sources told Yahoo! Sports that Lewis, who tore his triceps in mid-October, could return as soon as Week 15 when the Ravens take on the Broncos.

“At the end of the day, you’re going to see Ray Lewis again,” said veteran linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, whose been filling Lewis’€™ role since the injury. “For the greatest player in Ravens history to be able to return from this injury and come on this championship run with us? When he was said to be down and out? Man, that’s critical mass. When he comes through that tunnel, that’s going to be be the earthquake and the tsunami.”

Lewis, who was placed on the injured reserve-designated to return list, could practice as soon as he’€™s eligible this Thursday, according to Yahoo! As long as there are no setbacks, it is almost certain that Lewis will return sometime in the next month.

‘€œI would say it’s possible,’€ Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ‘€œWe can’t put Ray out there until he’s ready to win those battles. But if it can be done, yes, we want to do it.”

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, John Harbaugh, Ray Lewis, Rumor Mill
Giants RB Andre Brown breaks fibula, out for season 11.26.12 at 10:56 am ET
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The Giants‘ impressive 38-10 win over the Packers Sunday night was made less sweet when coach Tom Coughlin announced running back Andre Brown had broken his fibula.

“Takes an awful lot off of the win, to be honest with you,” Coughlin said.

The injury reportedly will be season-ending for Brown.

Brown is not ruling himself out. He tweeted early Monday that his season wasn’€™t necessarily over.

Brown has rushed 73 times for 385 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

The Giants now will rely on Ahmad Bradshaw and rookie David Wilson to step up and fill Brown’€™s role.

“I feel bad for Andre, he’s my little brother,” Bradshaw said. “It’s heartbreaking for me just to see him so down. When I was a rookie I told David, [Derrick] Ward broke his fibula and I had to step in and be a big part of our offense. That’s what I expect from David and I told him to get right and get ready for the following weeks to come.”

Wilson said he is ready to help the Giants, who sit atop the NFC East.

“Dre played a big role in our offense running the ball, I’m definitely going to have to step up when my number is called and be prepared,” Wilson said.

Read More: Ahmad Bradshaw, Andre Brown, David Wilson, New York Giants