On Vacation

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I’ve got a quick stop in San Francisco and then Claudia and I will be making our way to Punta Cana to celebrate our 1-year anniversary.

While I know I’m on vacation, I figure this is as good a time as any to relay some stories and thoughts from the past year, both personal and work related. I’ll be doing that in the coming days. So, if you’re interested, stay tuned.

Boston Globe wins Pulitzer prize for breaking news

Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory salutes his staff for their work during the Boston Marathon, noting that it was such a trying period.
Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory salutes his staff for their work during the Boston Marathon, noting that it was such a trying period.
The Boston Globe won the Pulitzer prize yesterday for breaking news coverage of the Boston Marathon. While I’m glad to have played a part in the coverage, I’m so sorry I had to.

We’re now at the one-year anniversary of the tragic bombings that took place. It’s a good time to reflect on what an honor like this means and to keep it in perspective. So many people spent countless hours reporting, editing, and updating the public on every single piece of information that came across our paths. And over time, as the accolades have piled up, the awards continue to be a somber reminder of what has taken place, both for those who were intimately involved in the coverage of the tragedy and those who were only on the periphery. Three people were killed — Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu and later Sean Collier — while more than 260 others were injured.

That somberness, despite any hint of joy or pride in the recognition bestowed, remains. It won’t leave us. And if there were a better way to win an award, I would take it. I can only speak for myself in that sense. But that sentiment was shared widely yesterday in the newsroom after the awards were announced.

“There’s nobody in this room that wanted to cover this story. And each and every one of us hopes that nothing like it ever happens again on our watch,” Globe editor Brian McGrory said.

How we covered the Marathon in the very beginning

Boston.com was truly a pivotal part of the Marathon coverage for the Globe and was a prominent portion of the Globe’s entry to the administers of the Pulitzer prizes at Columbia University. As the leading web portal in New England, we were first with the news online and we truly were a 24-hour news operation going forward. In those immediate hours, I was manning the desk with then Boston.com sports editor Matt Pepin. We were putting together projects and photo galleries from the day’s race and were getting ready to wind down from the cranked up nature of the Marathon. That changed when the first tweets and photos came from the finish line. Matt and I culled those tweets together together before one of our producers, Steve Silva, sent his first dispatch.

What many people don’t remember about the Globe’s coverage is that those first tweets and photos were posted in Boston.com’s live race blog before we transitioned to the actual live coverage of the bombings. We ran both live blogs for a period of time because there were so many of our online readers — a substantial amount actually — who were on our site for the race coverage. Those numbers only increased dramatically in our race blog before we switched over completely. Maintaining both was seen as the right thing to do for our readers until it was no longer feasible.

This is where the quick thinking of Adrienne Lavidor-Berman, the Globe’s social media editor, came into such great use. She was able to deftly handle the transition and set us up for success. Matt and I handled the race blog (the sports guys) and Adrienne handled the bombings blog. We made sure to cross post until we finally made the split.

Also worth remembering was that both Boston.com and BostonGlobe.com, because of heavy internet traffic, were down for a period of time. During that period, the Globe actually had our live blogs hosted by ScribbleLive’s servers, which enabled us to keep publishing live and keep our readers informed. ScribbleLive describes this in full here.

You can only imagine all of the technical, emotional, and logistical difficulties that arose during that time. In that sense, it was remarkable we were still able to produce the content we did. So I think it’s important to note that while the reporting on the ground was pivotal, there should be quite a bit of recognition to our developers and web staff for being able to traverse such a difficult set of circumstances.

Again, I’m really proud of what we were able to accomplish, but I’m really sorry that such a tragedy is what caused it. And as what was noted yesterday by the Globe’s sports editor, Joe Sullivan, when a stressful, adverse, and unwelcome situation arises, you never know how you’re going to react. The staff of the Boston Globe and Boston.com reacted by doing its job. I think the Pulitzer just recognizes that.

Have you seen the re-designed mobile site for Boston.com?

A screenshot of the new mobile site for Boston.com.
A screenshot of the new mobile site for Boston.com.

As part of the change that is occurring at Boston.com and the Boston Globe, the site is going through a re-design.The mobile portion of the site launched last week. You can catch a glimpse of it above or visit mobile.boston.com.

The cool thing is the site also has responsive design, just like BostonGlobe.com. So it’s built in the mold of new-ish sites BetaBoston.com and BDCWire.com.

Here’s some sample screenshots.

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Change is coming

So I’ve been meaning to address a number of professional changes for me for some time. The tricky thing is you never know how much you can say and who is gonna throw a fit because you said it. (And then after awhile you just lose track of the time.)

No mas!

About two weeks ago, we had a major shakeup at Boston.com that will help the site better differentiate itself from the Boston Globe. For all of my friends and family that are wondering, yes, there is a difference between the two sites. While Boston.com has been the portal site of the Boston Globe newspaper since 1995, that relationship between the paper and the site changed significantly when the paper decided to launch BostonGlobe.com in September 2010 (it went live just a year later). When the site went live, we began the company’s two-site strategy, with one site remaining free (Boston.com) and the other subscriber based (BostonGlobe.com). Obviously that confused everyone involved because multiple pieces of content, whether they be stories, photos, or video, were on both sites.

I can’t tell you how many times I tried to explain to Claudia what the difference was between the two sites. Let’s just say she never fully understood.
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Tons of free agent possibilities for the Patriots – Boston.com

Reinforcements are on the way, but that doesn’t mean the Patriots can’t improve through free agency.

The Patriots don’t necessarily need to revamp. After a 12-4 season, and only one win away from a Super Bowl berth, they have the players in place to make another title run. And considering that seven players, five of whom were starters, were placed on injured reserve over the course of the 2013 season, relief is expected to come in the form of health.

That’s right. Reinforcements are on the way.

But that doesn’t mean the Patriots don’t have an opportunity to upgrade at key positions, including but not limited to the team’s tight ends group, its inside linebackers, interior defensive linemen, wide receiver, and cornerback. Production was abysmal without Rob Gronkowski. The run defense was hobbled without Vince Wilfork. The secondary was one Aqib Talib injury away from being rebarbative. And outside of Julian Edelman, a free agent himself, the Patriots were less than threatening in the passing game.

Here’s who the Patriots can target in free agency that will change that. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll be playing in Super Bowl XLIX.

Editor’s note: See the list of possible free agents on Boston.com, Patriots free agent targets.

So which Patriots players are on the bubble? – Boston.com

Patriots wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins is going to have to prove he belongs with the Patriots one more time in 2014. (Elise Amendola / AP photo)

If the Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl, they have to upgrade a select number of positions and bring in some capable competition.

A cursory look at New England’s roster will show that two positions immediately need revamping: defensive tackle and wide receiver.

That’s where the 2013 Patriots underachieved the most.

But that doesn’t mean all of the players in those positions should fear for their jobs. Just some of them.

And there are others, too, who should be concerned about their standing going into 2014. The Patriots tinker quite a bit with the bottom half of their roster in the offseason with hopes of creating a competitive environment come training camp. There are a select number of players on the team, either because of their performance or because of their contract, who have to face the fact that they are sitting on the bubble.

That includes:

Kenbrell Thompkins — Given a 3-year, $1.493 million contract with $5,000 guaranteed after winning a job out of training camp, he was less than stellar in an injury-riddled season. He caught 32 passes for 466 yards and four touchdowns. But he also had a number of drops (5), plays that kept him off the field while coaches favored fellow rookie Aaron Dobson. He had two fantastic games, catching the final touchdown against the New Orleans Saints and tearing up the Atlanta Falcons for 127 yards and a score. There’s also the issue of the number of bodies for Thompkins. He still has to compete with Dobson, Josh Boyce, and Julian Edelman for snaps, all of whom were outside wide receivers. Edelman is the only free agent of the bunch while Dobson and Joyce are Patriots draft picks, making the other rookies much more valued commodities.

Editor’s note: See the entirety of this post on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

What the Patriots can learn from the Seahawks – Boston.com

Seattle Seahawks coach built a winning team by favoring defensive linemen. (Ted S. Warren / AP photo)

Outside of stealing Seattle’s talent, there’s quite a bit to learn from former Patriots coach Pete Carroll’s Super Bowl-winning Seahawks in terms of the value he has placed on position players.

Culturally the Seahawks are as sound as they come, benefitting from a young and hungry group of players that average only 4.1 seasons of NFL experience on their 53-man roster. None had ever participated in a Super Bowl prior to Sunday’s massacre of the Denver Broncos. With such a large infusion of youth, the Seahawks were able to establish a loose and fun atmosphere where competition was routine and no job was ever safe. It bred camaraderie.

That’s eerily close to how the Patriots operate, with less emphasis publicly placed on how those competitions fare. You won’t hear about “Competition Wednesday” here.

Editor’s note: See the rest of this post on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

5 takeaways from the Seahawks-Broncos Super Bowl

A key to Seattle’s huge victory over Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII was the Seahawks’ pass rush, particularly Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons. (Charlie Riedel / AP photo)

What happens when an unstoppable force hits an immovable object?

Well, now we know.

The Seattle Seahawks flattened the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, 43-8, proving that the top defense in the NFL could manhandle the league’s No. 1 offense — historically the league’s most prolific offense — with ease time and time again. The Seahawks then took the beatdown to historic heights, causing us to question whether the Broncos would be the first team to be shut out in Super Bowl history.

That’s the anticlimactic end to a year that coach John Fox, quarterback Peyton Manning, and the rest of the Broncos were not expecting. Fox is now 0 for 2 in the Super Bowl. Manning is 1-2. Their legacies are shaken.

So how did it happen? How did the Seahawks win so convincingly and the Broncos play so poorly when everything that matters was on the line? Let’s recap with one final “5 takeaways.”

1. All-around awesome — The Seahawks got contributions from all three phases of the game. That’s one we hear in New England quite a bit, given Bill Belichick’s penchant for peppering the press with those very same remarks. On Sunday it was clear what that talk means when put to action. The Seahawks scored by safety, two field goals, a rushing touchdown, a defensive touchdown on an interception, a kickoff return for a touchdown, and two passing touchdowns. No other Super Bowl team in history had scored in every phase of the game — and in every possible way. Describing it as a team effort doesn’t really catch the enormity of what was accomplished. The Seahawks were opportunistic, aggressive, and successful in everything they attempted to do. That kind of dominance is rare and most certainly unforgettable.

2. The pass rush was key — The Broncos accounted for four fumbles (two lost) and two interceptions. It was a bad day at the office for Manning (one lost fumble, two interceptions), wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (one lost fumble) and center Manny Ramirez (fumbled into the end zone, causing the safety) when looking at the turnovers alone. But a number of the game’s turnovers, particularly Manning’s interceptions, were the cause of pressure up front by Seattle’s Cliff Avril and others. Manning didn’t really see a clean pocket in the first half. When the Broncos quarterback got his first sustained drive going in the second quarter, he got hit by Avril while looking to throw the ball downfield to Knowshon Moreno. That pass was intercepted by Malcolm Smith, who promptly brought the interception back for a 69-yard touchdown. Avril was a nuisance all game. The Seahawks’ defensive line had tremendous penetration with three tackles for a loss. Given the pedigree of the Broncos’ offensive line, which had allowed the fewest hurries and sacks all season, the Seahawks’ front seven proved it could do what so many other teams had failed to do: get to Manning. Avril and Chris Clemons (1 sack), were the jewels of the bunch.

3. Ball control was on point — Russell Wilson’s first pass to Zach Miller was high and uncatchable, a sign of the second-year quarterback’s nervousness on the NFL’s grandest stage. But it didn’t take long for Danger-Russ Wilson to settle down and show exactly why Pete Carroll fell in love with him. He showed escapability, he made the easy throws, he ran it well, and he never put the Seahawks in a bad position. Between Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, and Seattle’s receivers, there were no boneheaded mistakes with the football. It is, and always will be, the No. 1 key to winning football games: taking care of the ball. The Seahawks had zero turnovers while forcing four. And Wilson, despite his wayward pass, did not offer any lame duck passes for his opponents to snatch away. It was symphonic effort.

4. Playmakers seized the moment — Percy Harvin played in only one regular season game for the Seahawks. On Super Bowl Sunday, he showed up big time. Harvin had two carries for 45 yards, caught a pass for 5 yards, and returned a kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown. He took advantage of his opportunities and he wasn’t the only one. Wide receivers Jermaine Kearse (4 receptions, 65 yards, 1 TD) and Doug Baldwin (5 receptions, 66 yards, 1 TD) both made a little something out of nothing. Kearse bounced off three tacklers before running in a 23-yard touchdown. Baldwin avoided two tacklers to get in the end zone on a 10-yard reception. Running back Marshawn Lynch plowed his way into the end zone for a tough 1-yard score. There was a quality of grit and determination by each of Seattle’s playmakers to gain that extra yard and to make that extra move in order to seize the moment.

5. Perspective on history — Everything went downhill for the Broncos when they fumbled their first offensive snap of the game, which ended up becoming a safety. The Broncos were trailing 36-0 before they scored their first touchdown, a 14-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas to end the third quarter. That’ll help explain why Manning ended the game with an NFL-record 34 completed passes (34 of 49 for 280 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 1 fumble). The Broncos were forced to throw going into the second half down 22-0 and then down 29-0 on the Seahawks’ opening kickoff return in the third. So add an asterisk there because they abandoned the running game. They ran the ball five times in the second — twice to run the clock out in the waning moments. Demaryius Thomas’ 13 receptions are also a Super Bowl record. But it seems to all come back to the dire situation in which the Broncos found themselves. No playoff team wants to throw the ball 49 times. And similarly, no Super Bowl winner is going to only have 27 yards rushing.

Extras — One thing we’re not going to be talking about is Richard Sherman, who suffered a high ankle sprain in the fourth quarter. He had been a source of hefty chatter ahead of XLVIII with the hopes that he’d do something or say something that could live up to his outsized personality. Sadly that moment didn’t come. But he certainly forced Manning to look the other way for three quarters, so it wasn’t like his presence wasn’t felt. … Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith truly played a fantastic game. He recorded 9 tackles (five solo), an interception returned for a touchdown, and a fumble recovery. He joined Ray Lewis and Chuck Howley as the only linebackers to ever win Super Bowl MVP honors. And he’s also the youngest defender to ever do it at 24 years old and 212 days. … Former Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker is now 0 for 3 in Super Bowls. … Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who coached the Patriots from 1997-1999, became the third coach in NFL history to win a Super Bowl and a national college championship. He joins Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer to hold that distinction.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.

I’ll take the Seahawks over the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII

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Lo and behold, the Seattle Seahawks are right where I thought they would be at the beginning of the season.

Let the chest beating begin.

Back in September, the Boston.com staff tried to forecast the New England Patriots record while offering their proposed Super Bowl matchup. Yours truly correctly called a 12-4 season for the Patriots and proffered a Seahawks-Bengals title matchup.

Obviously I must’ve been moved by Cincinnati’s appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”

But the Seahawks have lived up to everything I have expected, minus the turbulence Russell Wilson has provided. The defense has been monstrous, holding opposing offenses to a league-low 4,378 yards in the regular season, a league-low 2,752 yards passing, and a league-low 14.4 points per game. Stars like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, and Michael Bennett have made this a formidable group that doesn’t back down from the competition. Just look at how they handled the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship.

But they face one of the top offenses in NFL history with the Denver Broncos. It all starts with Peyton Manning and a quartet of fantastic wide receivers. Manning threw for an NFL record 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. Demaryius Thomas (14 TDs), Eric Decker (11 TDs), Julius Thomas (12 TDs), and Wes Welker (10 TDs) are his four horsemen. The Broncos running game is nothing to smirk at either, with Knowshon Moreno (1,038 yards, 10 TDs) and Montee Ball (559 yards, 4 TDs).

In my view, this is an opportune game for the Seahawks to match up their star defenders with the Broncos’ playmakers. Sherman on Demaryius Thomas for starts, forcing Decker and Welker to have extraordinary games. I presume both the NFL’s top defense and top offenses to be rather average Sunday.

Instead, the Broncos defense, led by the likes of Terrance Knighton, Danny Trevathan, and Shaun Phillips will have to prove they can stop the fourth-ranked rushing attack in the NFL. Marshawn Lynch, who has broken more tackles than any other running back in the league (75), is bound for at least one game-changing run.

I also expect Wilson to make a few plays with his feet, a possible weakness for the Broncos. So I think you get the drift where I’m headed. And yes, there’s still quite a bit of chest beating to be done.

Seahawks (+3) vs. Broncos (-3)
My pick: Seahawks

Postseason: 3-3
Regular season: 123-133

Zuri Berry can be reached at zberry@boston.com. Follow him on Twitter @zuriberry and on Google+.

5 takeaways from the Patriots 2013 season

DENVER — With an offensive explosion by the Broncos — and a key defensive injury — the Patriots’ hopes of a Super Bowl title were dashed Sunday against a team with superior offensive weaponry.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. The 2013 Patriots were depleted on defense and offense, they lacked a pass rush against the league’s top quarterback, they were down two of their top linebackers, and played without their top cornerback for the final two and a half quarters of their AFC title bout.

It marks the ninth year in a row in which coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady either couldn’t reach, or couldn’t complete, their ultimate goal.

But that shouldn’t take away from the accomplishments this team has had. With a season worth of memories to go on, here are our five takeaways from the 2013 Patriots.

1. Bloodied but unbowed — Go back to the second cut day, Aug. 31, 2013. That’s when the bleeding started. The Patriots placed safety Adrian Wilson — long forgotten — on injured reserve. The veteran safety was supposed to be a boost for the secondary. Things only got worse when Vince Wilfork, the team’s monster nose tackle, went down with an ACL injury against the Atlanta Falcons Sept. 29. Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, who had already been nursing a knee injury, was placed on IR Nov. 2. He was supposed to be the team’s other run stopper. Top linebacker Jerod Mayo (Oct. 16) and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (Oct. 29) were both shelved with season-ending injuries. In another blow to the offense, All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a devastating hit to the knee against the Cleveland Browns Dec. 8 after only playing seven games. It didn’t stop there. Wide receiver Josh Boyce (ankle) was placed on IR Jan. 2 and linebacker Brandon Spikes was put on IR, reluctantly, four days later. Despite all of this, Belichick was able to lead the Patriots to the AFC Championship without five of his projected defensive starters and two of his top offensive starters. That’s miracle work. It shouldn’t be surprising that the best offense in the history of the NFL was able to get a jump on the Patriots, let alone pile up 507 yards total yards. What the Patriots were able to accomplish, often hobbled every week with the players that remained active, is an astounding feat to be proud of.

2. The Patriots found different leaders each week, never quitting — The injuries created an adverse situation for New England, but calls for the “next man up” rang loudly in Foxborough, with each player passing the torch on a week to week basis. Against the Falcons, the Patriots could’ve wilted in the Georgia Dome. But Tom Brady and Aqib Talib were not having it. Shane Vereen, who missed eight games with a broken hand, played through the very same injury in Week 1 to help the Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills. It was seismic effort, much like the team’s come-from-behind win against the Broncos in Week 12. Or their come-from-behind wins against New Orleans, Cleveland and Houston. Kenbrell Thompkins caught a game-winning touchdown pass against the Saints. Danny Amendola caught one against the Browns. Stephen Gostkowski made three game-winning kicks. Logan Ryan had a key interception and sack against Baltimore. LeGarrette Blount came on as a force to be reckoned with in Week 17. And Julian Edelman proved to be a workhorse throughout. The Patriots never allowed themselves to be taken out of a game, with their greatest margin of defeat at six points. Nine of the Patriots’ 16 regular season games were decided by four points or less. There was a feeling, all the way up until Sunday’s loss to the Broncos, that each game would go down to the final possession. There was no such thing as quit for this team.

3. Youth in action — It wasn’t anticipated, certainly because of injuries, but the Patriots featured one of the youngest teams in the postseason. Seventeen players had never played in the playoffs before hitting the field against the Indianapolis Colts. A number of them were expected to just provide depth and develop this year, but were thrust into regular action. Rookie wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins were expected to be integral parts of the team’s passing attack despite frequent injuries. Between them, they totaled 69 receptions for 985 yards and eight touchdowns. Defensive backs Logan Ryan (35 tackles, 5 interceptions, 1.5 sacks) and Duron Harmon (31 tackles, 2 interceptions), both out of Rutgers, helped shore up the team’s secondary as injuries took out defensive leaders Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory in spurts. And with Wilfork and Kelly out, Chris Jones, Joe Vellano, and Sealver Siliga worked extensively as the team’s interior pass rush. Jones had six sacks, Siliga had three, and Vellano finished with two. Linebacker Jamie Collins, who was kept to special teams duty for most of the regular season, exploded onto the scene in the playoffs as one of the team’s top linebackers. He had an interception and a sack against the Colts along with six tackles. He had seven tackles against the Broncos. They were all pivotal players in a season when none of them were expected to be.

See the rest of my takeaways on Boston.com’s Extra Points blog.