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Bob Ryan

This team still a work in progress

By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / November 8, 2011

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Catching Up With The World of Sports

1. PATRIOTS: ARE THEY SALVAGEABLE?

Given that the primary matter concerning the Patriots is playoff viability, I have gone on record as saying we might conceivably feel better about them after some of their losses than after some of their wins.

Sunday was one of those days.

The 0-0 score at the half meant something. The idea that the Giants succeeded on only one of their first 11 third-down attempts meant something. Likewise, the inability to keep Eli Manning from getting his team the winning touchdown meant something.

It meant they had passed a lot of tests before flunking the final exam.

But at least they passed a few tests.

We saw some things Sunday that we have not seen all year. At times there really was honest-to-God pressure on Manning, who was quite often forced into making passes that he did not want to make. We also saw some actual, recognizable coverage at times on behalf of the defensive backs.

Of course, the last drive was painful to watch. The minute the Giants crossed midfield you knew the game was lost. If it wasn’t Sergio Brown’s awful pass interference - lassoing the guy might have been less conspicuous - it would have been something else. When the Patriots really needed pressure, and when they really needed coverage, they couldn’t get it. So maybe I am deluding myself.

Still, I don’t see how any Patriots fan could have watched that game without feeling better about the general state of the defense, and, yes, I know that wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, running back Ahmad Bradshaw, and center David Baas didn’t play for the Giants. I would urge you not to give up on these guys yet.

As for the offense . . .

Brother Bedard covered the subject fully in yesterday’s paper. They all can do better, and that starts with the quarterback, who, since that puffball opener in Miami, has looked distressingly mortal. It’s a little scary to watch Tom Brady miss open guys.

Is he injured again? Or is he entering the inevitable transition nearly all 30-something athletes encounter, when acts that once were routine occur with less frequency? You find yourself great on some occasions, less so on other occasions

There are still eight games to play. We are going to learn a lot.

2. WHAT’S UP WITH PEYTON?

The question may not be when Peyton Manning returns. It’s whether it is advisable for him to do so.

An orthopedic surgeon of my acquaintance explains that “nerves regenerate, if they do at all, fairly slowly.’’ A shoulder injury involving nerves requires a recuperation time of 12-15 months, for example.

Then he says, “these figures are for peripheral nerves, not central nerves. Peripheral nerves are those in the arms or legs. Central nerves are those in the spinal cord area, at the neck, for instance. Central nerves recover more slowly, if they do at all.’’ He goes on to say, “Further, the distance from the neck [the point of injury] to the point of innervation is also longer in this situation, perhaps 18-24 inches [depending on the muscle], so any recovery, if it comes at all, will take a very long time. Further, if recovery does not occur in a timely fashion, nerve recovery is immaterial, because the neuromuscular junction will then never recover and the muscle will not work, no matter the status of the nerve.’’

Don’t you agree with me that it sounds as if Peyton Manning should just quit? I understand that he loves football and is a great competitor. But he is also a husband, father, son, and brother, and his general long-term health should be his No. 1 priority, not getting back on the football field. Peyton Manning is an all-time great player with nothing whatsoever to prove to anyone.

I, for one, would feel far more comfortable if he were to announce his retirement.

3. THE NBA HORROW SHOW

From an outsider’s point of view (i.e. You and Me) it is no longer a matter of Right vs. Wrong, Good vs. Evil, Fair vs. Unfair, or anything other than sheer pragmatism. If there is to be an NBA season, this thing must end now.

The owners are acting like SOBs; no question. They don’t care how they look to the world at large. They want what they want. They are classic bullies. They are conjuring up every evil stereotype boss Capitalism can provide. Having extracted massive concessions from the players already, they now have issued an ultimatum: take this deal as it now stands by tomorrow, or it disappears and you’ll really hate the next one.

The ball is in the players’ court. It is they who will now decide whether or not there will an NBA season, however abbreviated. If they reject this offer and then take the step of decertifying, there will be no season. They had better be ready to deal with the consequences.

Exactly what those consequences will be, no one can say. Perhaps the fans who are calling for a plague on both houses will welcome everyone back in 2012-13, or whenever it’s settled (there are reports some owners are prepared to miss two seasons).

Or perhaps not. Do the owners and players dare challenge them?

4. GAME OF THE NEW CENTURY

I liked it. There was no false advertising in LSU 9, Alabama 6. Defense ruled. It was perversely entertaining, a 19th-century game played with 21st-century athletes.

One, however, was enough.

Assuming LSU wins out - not exactly a given - I’ll take any of the three conceivable BCS Championship Game scenarios: LSU-Oklahoma State, LSU-Stanford, or LSU-Boise State. In that order.

If someone needs to see LSU-Alabama again, I’m sure it will be on ESPN Classic.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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