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Top Boston Sports Stories of 2013, No. 5: Patriots lose to Ravens in AFC championship game 12.28.13 at 9:24 am ET
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Over the final days of the year, WEEI.com will count down the top 13 stories of 2013 in Boston sports. This is No. 5: Patriots lose to Ravens in AFC championship game. To see the previous entries, click here.

Tom Brady congratulates Joe Flacco after the Ravens knocked off the Patriots in the AFC championship game. (AP)

Tom Brady congratulates Joe Flacco after the Ravens knocked off the Patriots in the AFC championship game. (AP)

The 2012-13 postseason looked like the Patriots’ opportunity for redemption.

One year after New England lost the Super Bowl to the Giants for the second time in five seasons, the path to Super Bowl XLVII looked relatively unobstructed. The Patriots blew away the competition in the regular season, as they finished 11-1 vs. the AFC (12-4 overall) and finished first in the AFC East for the fourth consecutive season.

After a first-round bye, the Pats began the postseason with a 41-28 trouncing of the Texans at Gillette Stadium.

More good news came when the Ravens stunned the top-seeded Broncos in overtime in Denver, meaning the Patriots would host the AFC championship game. The bad news? The game was against Baltimore, the one AFC team that beat the Patriots in the regular season.

The Ravens and Patriots faced off in the AFC championship game on Jan. 20 and Baltimore emerged victorious, 28-13, ending the Patriots’€™ hopes of their first NFL title since the 2004 season.

“They made more plays than we did,” wide receiver Wes Welker said after the game. “At the end, it just wasn’t enough for us. That’s the way it goes.”

“We’ve lost before. It takes a while to get over,” quarterback Tom Brady said.

Baltimore used a dominant second half to upset the Patriots. New England led 13-7 in the first half. Stephen Gostkowski kicked field goals of 25 and 31 yards, and Welker and Brady hooked up for a 1-yard touchdown pass. On the other side, Ray Rice scored a rushing touchdown from two yards out.

But the Ravens shut out the Patriots in the second half, while exploding for 21 points. Joe Flacco threw three touchdowns, the first to Dennis Pitta and the final two to Anquan Boldin, and the defense forced three fourth-quarter turnovers. Brady tossed a pair of interceptions and Stevan Ridley lost a fumble.

“It was pretty awesome,” said Flacco, who outplayed his counterpart, completing 21-of-36 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns. “We were here last year and thought we had it, but came up a little short. Guys came out in the second half and made plays. … We put pressure on them like that, and it worked pretty well.”

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Read More: Anquan Boldin, Boston Sports Stories of the Year 2013, Dennis Pitta, Joe Flacco
Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Alex Rodriguez amends lawsuit, says Bud Selig lacks ‘courage’ 11.27.13 at 7:59 am ET
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

WEDNESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NHL: Bruins at Red Wings, 7:30 p.m. (NESN, NBCSN)
NHL: Flyers at Lightning, 7:30 p.m. (NHL Network)
NBA: Grizzlies at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (CSNNE)
NBA: Heat at Cavaliers, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA: Knicks at Clippers, 10:30 p.m. (NBA TV)
College basketball: Minnesota at Chaminade, 2:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Arkansas vs. Gonzaga, 5 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Drexel vs. Arizona, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Saint Louis vs. Old Dominion, 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: California vs. Dayton, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Alabama vs. Duke, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Wisconsin vs. West Virginia, 9:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: Syracuse vs. Baylor, 10 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Tulsa vs. Indiana State, 11:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
College basketball: TCU vs. Alaska-Anchorage, 2 a.m. Thursday (CBSSN)
Soccer: UEFA Champions, Manchester United at Bayer Leverkusen, 2:30 p.m. (FS1)

AROUND THE WEB:

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez, apparently not content with being out of the headlines for a couple of days, filed an amended lawsuit against Major League Baseball and Bud Selig on Tuesday, and took more shots at the commissioner for his decision to pass on testifying at the player’s hearing to appeal his 211-game suspension.

“Mr. Selig chose to hide in his office in Milwaukee rather than come testify at the grievance hearing in New York. In Mr. Selig’s world, apparently the ‘buck’ does not stop with Bud,” the lawsuit reads. “Mr. Selig lacked the courage of his convictions to explain under oath the reasons for the suspension and the conduct of his investigators. His silence on these issues speaks volumes and leads to only one logical conclusion — his actions, and those of the MLB personnel he controls, were aimed at destroying the reputation, career and business prospects of Alex Rodriguez.”

As part of the 33-page filing, Rodriguez’s lawyers included a photo of Selig next to a fan wearing a shirt with “A-ROID’” printed on it.

“Sadly, this cowardly stance by Mr. Selig is consistent with his past and highly inappropriate conduct in posing, smilingly, with a young fan wearing a T-shirt with a derogatory message directed at Mr. Rodriguez,” the complain reads. “One cannot imagine the commissioner of any other professional sport — or indeed the CEO of any business — doing something similar with respect to one of his or her players or employees.”

Rodriguez’s lawyers are trying to get the suit back in New York state court, where it originally was filed. MLB had it moved to federal court and plans to ask for it to be dismissed.

• Packers offensive lineman Josh Sitton, not one to hide his feelings, really let loose about his feelings for the Lions in a radio interview Tuesday with Milwaukee radio station WSSP.

Sitton was asked whether he thought the Lions — Green Bay’s opponent on Thanksgiving — would take a penalty in exchange for a hard hit on the Packers quarterback.

“Absolutely,” Sitton said. “I don’t think there’s any question about that. They go after quarterbacks. Their entire defense takes cheap shots all the time, that’s what they do, that’s who they are. They’re a bunch of dirtbags, or scumbags. I mean, that’s how they play.”

Two years ago on Thanksgiving, Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh was ejected and later suspended two games for stomping on the arm of Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith.

Sitton, who has been with Green Bay since 2008, put the blame for the Lions’ bad behavior on the coaching staff.

“It starts with their frickin’ coach,” he said. “Starts with the head coach. [Jim] Schwartz, he’s a [expletive], too, I wouldn’t want to play for him. … Starts with him, their D-coordinator and their D-line coach. They’re all just scumbags, and so are the D-line.”

• The Ravens mixed in the wildcat offense in Sunday’s win over the Jets, but it didn’t set well with the team’s regular quarterback. Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco was not pleased with the insertion of Tyrod Taylor behind center so that Baltimore could improve its running attack against the Jets.

“I don’t like that stuff,” Flacco said Tuesday. “I think it makes you look like a high school offense. That’s just my opinion.”

Added Flacco: I don’t care how we use it in the game, I’m just not a huge fan of it. I’m the quarterback. I want to be behind the line of scrimmage, I want to be taking the snaps. That’s really the only thing. I don’t necessarily take it personally. I just think it makes us look like not an NFL team.”

Flacco said he would rather see his team perfect its regular offense than go to trickery, which includes him sometimes lining up at wide receiver as a decoy.

“I’m all for us doing things to get better, but we’re not going to be good if we just can’t get good at the basics of what we do 90 percent of the time,” he said. “We have to be good at those things or we’re not going to be good no matter what. I just want to make sure that we’re focusing on getting good at those things.”

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On Nov. 27, 1950, the Red Sox signed which future Hall of Famer from the Indians?

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Read More: alex rodriguez, bud selig, Joe Flacco, Josh Sitton
Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Alex Rodriguez booed, lifted as Yankees eliminated 09.26.13 at 7:47 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

THURSDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
NFL: 49ers at Rams, 8:25 p.m. (NFL Network)
College football: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
College football: Iowa State at Tulsa, 7:30 p.m. (FS1)
NHL preseason: Bruins at Jets, 7:30 p.m. (NHL Network)
NHL preseason: Rangers at Canucks, 10 p.m. (NHL Network)
WNBA playoffs: Indiana at Atlanta, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
WNBA playoffs: Phoenix at Minnesota, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

AROUND THE WEB:

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez

• The Yankees were officially eliminated from postseason contention during Wednesday’s loss to the Rays, and Alex Rodriguez left the game at Yankee Stadium early because of continued problems with his legs.

Rodriguez, limited to designated hitter due to a strained calf and tight hamstring, was lifted for a pinch hitter in the eighth inning after going 0-for-3 and hearing boos after a fifth-inning strikeout.

“He just told me his legs weren’t great and he was going to take care of them,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I said, OK, go take care of them.”

It might have been A-Rod’s final appearance in a Yankees uniform, as he faces a 211-game ban from Major League Baseball, with an appeal hearing slated to begin Monday.

The team has decisions to make about a number of other players, including pending free agents Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Hiroki Kuroda, Boone Logan, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, as well as the manager.

Said Girardi: “I’m not to the point where I’m looking ahead really beyond today. I don’t know what tomorrow holds or the next day holds. I’m not really worried about the future or next year. My focus is to do the job this year.”

• It’s been a rough few days for the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens. Yes, they managed to win their last two games after being embarrassed in the season opener against the Broncos, but an incident on a party bus early Monday morning that included Jacoby Jones getting hit over the head with a champagne bottle swung by a stripper has left the team in damage-control mode.

Retired Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, now an ESPN analyst, weighed in on the situation Monday night, saying the team “is missing leadership right now.” That didn’t sit well with the current players.

Responded quarterback Joe Flacco: “Ray knows better than that. Things happen. I think we’re usually a pretty good team with stuff like that. If you look around the league, there are probably a lot of leadership problems then. So, like I said, Ray knows better.”

Lewis was inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor on Sunday, but Flacco said he’s crossed over to the other side.

“Ray is one of them [in the media] for a couple of minutes a well now,” the QB said. “It is what it is.”

Some of the team’s players said they were having fun with Lewis’ comments, but they were careful not to say anything inflammatory about their ex-teammate.

“I didn’t hear the comments, but no, it doesn’t bother me, because we all understand the leadership that we have with our team guys and our team,” offensive lineman Marshal Yanda said. “Obviously, Ray, he was a huge vocal leader and stuff like that and very enthusiastic, and we all love him and miss him. But it’s going to be a different type of leadership [now], obviously. Nobody is going to be able to just jump into Ray Lewis’ role and just try to be exactly the same. But we all have a lot of really good leaders on this team, and we’re not sweating it one bit.”

• The Athletics want to move out of O.co Coliseum, which has had flooding and sewage backup problems this year. Commissioner Bud Selig wants the team to move as well, but a proposed relocation to San Jose is being blocked by the neighboring Giants.

Selig didn’t hide his frustration in an interview with CBS Radio’s John Feinstein on Wednesday.

“It’s a pit,” Selig said of the park. “It reminds of old County Stadium [in Milwaukee] and Shea Stadium [in New York]. We need to deal with that. I’ve had a committee working on it for two or three years, and there’s no question we’re going to have to solve that problem.”

Added Selig: “It’s far more complex. Look, you have one team that wants to move and the other team doesn’t want them to move, and it’s a very complicated situation. Before I leave, I’m satisfied we’ll work out something.”

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On Sept. 26, 1973, which Red Sox speedster stole his 52nd base of the season to tie Tris Speaker‘s single-season club record?

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Read More: alex rodriguez, bud selig, Joe Flacco, Joe Girardi
Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Yasiel Puig benched by Dodgers, admits ‘I wasn’t prepared’ to play 08.29.13 at 7:47 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

THURSDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Orioles at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN, MLB Network; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Angels at Rays, 1 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Indians at Braves, 7 p.m. (MLB Network)
NFL preseason: Giants at Patriots, 7:30 p.m. (WBZ-TV, NFL Network)
NFL preseason: 49ers at Chargers, 10 p.m. (NFL Network)
College football: North Carolina at South Carolina, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
College football: Tulsa at Bowling Green, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College football: Utah State at Utah, 8 p.m. (FS1)
College football: Mississippi at Vanderbilt, 9:15 p.m. (ESPN)
College football: Rutgers at Fresno State, 10:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
College football: USC at Hawaii, 11 p.m. (CBSSN)
Tennis: U.S. Open, 1 p.m., 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

AROUND THE WEB:

Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig

• Standout rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig was pulled from the Dodgers’ 4-0 victory over the Cubs on Wednesday and then had a closed-door meeting with manager Don Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti to address his behavior.

Puig failed to slide into second base on a double play in the first inning and slammed his bat after striking out in the third.

“I wasn’t prepared well for each pitch. It was a good decision,” Puig said through a translator after the game. “[Mattingly] mentioned Skip [Schumaker] could come in and do a better job.”

Added Puig: “I wanted to finish the game, but I agreed with the explanation. The meeting went well. We talked about what every player needs to do to prepare for every pitch.”

Puig also told a Spanish reporter: “I always give my best but, honestly, today there was some fatigue and I wasn’t prepared. … We have to give 100 percent on the field, even if we’re tired.”

Mattingly was evasive about the specifics of Puig’s offense (“I felt I was going to get a better effort out of Skip,” he said) or if there would be further punishment, although he did indicate Puig would play in the team’s next game, Friday against the Padres.

Puig, who is hitting .346/.406/.557 with 13 home runs and 30 RBIs in 76 games, has been criticized for his misdeeds before, and teammates reportedly are getting tired of the 22-year-old’s fundamental mistakes and bad judgment.

“What he did today wasn’t acceptable,” Dodgers pitcher Ricky Nolasco said. “He’s young, he’s going to have to learn. It’s not going to be a distraction. He’s going to help this team way more than what he did.”

Johnny Manziel will sit out the first half of Texas A&M’s opener Saturday against Rice for what the school referred to as an “inadvertent” violation of NCAA rules related to his signing of autographs.

The school announced that the NCAA agreed to reinstate Manziel after the brief suspension, and the NCAA “confirmed there is no evidence Manziel received money in exchange for autographs based on currently available information and statements by Manziel.”

Multiple memorabilia dealers have claimed that Manziel was paid to sign autographs after he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy last year. Manziel also has had run-ins with the law but appears to have escaped harsh punishment once again.

“I am proud of the way both Coach [Kevin] Sumlin and Johnny handled this situation, with integrity and honesty,” Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp said in a statement. “We all take the Aggie Code of Honor very seriously and there is no evidence that either the university or Johnny violated that code.”

• As part of the NFL’s promotion of next Thursday’s season-opening game between the Ravens and Broncos, the league has installed large banners in Denver promoting the contest, which is a rematch of last season’s AFC semifinal. Some of the banners — including one at Sports Authority Field — picture Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, and that’s not sitting well with the locals.

“It doesn’t seem to make much sense that the Denver Broncos have to have an opposing player on their stadium,” Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said.

The NFL defended the move as a promotion of the entire league and noted that the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens should have opened the season at home, but a scheduling conflict with the neighboring Orioles prevented that.

“We respect the fans’ passion and enthusiasm for the game,” said Brian McCarthy, NFL vice president of corporate communications. “This will be in many ways a Super Bowl-like atmosphere with a national audience to kick off the season. It’s a tremendous matchup, but built around it is some of our activities that you would see at a Super Bowl or you’d see at an international game where you promote both teams.”

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On Aug. 29, 2000, Pedro Martinez had a perfect game for eight innings in a game in Tampa that featured multiple hit batsmen, brawls and ejections. Which Devil Rays hitter — a former Red Sox player — ended the no-hit bid with a single to open the ninth inning?

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Read More: Joe Flacco, Johnny Manziel, Peyton Manning, Yasiel Puig
Report: Aaron Rodgers, Packers close to extension 03.28.13 at 11:18 am ET
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Aaron Rodgers

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are getting closer to a long-term contract extension, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The deal is believed to be in the $25 million-per-year range, and would make the 2011 MVP the highest-paid player in NFL history.

Rodgers currently is under contract until 2014, after signing a six-year, $65 million deal in October 2008. Both the Packers and the Super Bowl XLV MVP have been very cautious in commenting on a proposed deal, but those familiar with the talks think a deal will be done during this offseason. Rodgers’ base salary in 2013 is $9.25 million, while he is set to make $10.5 million in 2014.

Three other Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks from this decade have recently cashed in with big deals. Joe Flacco (Ravens), Drew Brees (Saints) and Peyton Manning (Broncos) all have among the richest contracts in league history. Flacco’s deal is the richest in NFL history.

Rodgers’ new contract may surpass Flacco’s six-year, $120.6 million deal that he signed earlier this month after defeating the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. Rodgers finished the 2012 season with 4,295 passing yards and 39 touchdowns, eighth and second in the NFL, respectively.

Read More: aaron rodgers, Joe Flacco,
Joe Flacco’s agent says Ravens star should be league’s highest-paid QB 02.06.13 at 2:48 pm ET
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Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco‘s agent, Joe Linta, has a higher opinion of his client than ever after the Ravens’ Super Bowl win, and said Tuesday that he thinks Flacco should be the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL.

“When you do a contract of this magnitude, you look at what is the player’s body of work presently,” Linta said in an interview with CNBC. “And what are the expectations going forward over the next four, five or six years. Joe wins on both accounts.”

Flacco didn’t have an outstanding regular season, but he passed for 1,140 yards and 11 touchdowns with zero interceptions in four postseason games this year, ultimately leading the Ravens to a 34-31 over the 49ers in the Super Bowl. He also became the first quarterback to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons. He is up for a new contract this offseason.

At 28, Flacco is younger than Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, who make $18 million and $20 million, respectively. Each has won one Super Bowl, now the same number as Flacco, and Linta said that that should justify an even bigger payday for Flacco.

Read More: Joe Flacco,
Joe Flacco tells David Letterman ‘the time has come’ for Ravens to pay him his worth 02.05.13 at 9:15 am ET
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Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco appeared on CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman” on Monday night, a day after the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII. Flacco, who earned Super Bowl MVP honors, talked with Letterman about his upcoming free agency.

Letterman asked Flacco if he had talked with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti about a new contract.

“Well, you know, actually, I only talked to him a little bit before this game, but before the New England game, you know, he just came came up to me and said, ‘Listen, this is our time, and go get ‘em. We have all the faith in you, and this is going to be your team for a long time,’ ” Flacco said.

Flacco has led the Ravens to the postseason in all five of his NFL seasons. This was by far his best postseason, setting career highs in completions (73), passing yards (1,140), touchdown passes (11), and quarterback rating (117.2). He threw 11 touchdown passes with no interceptions.

Flacco said he turned down an extension offer from the team last July.

“Well … when I wasn’t signing what they wanted me to sign, [Bisciotti] said, ‘Listen, when the time comes, I mean, you come and beat on my desk,’ and I said, ‘All right, I’ll take you up on that,’ and I think the time has come.”

Read More: David Letterman, Joe Flacco, Steve Bisciotti,
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is wearing boot but should play Sunday 11.30.10 at 3:19 pm ET
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Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is wearing a boot after re-injuring his foot Sunday in the team’s 19-16 win over the Bills. Coach Mike Tomlin said that Roethlisberger may miss practice Wednesday but is likely to play on Sunday, when the Steelers play the Ravens in an NFL North first place showdown.

Roethlisberger stayed in the game after sustaining the injury and had an 18-yard run later in the game. He missed the team’s week 4 loss to the Ravens, when Joe Flacco led a last-minute drive to lead Baltimore to a 17-14 win.

Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Rumor Mill,