Despite the historically bad performance by the Red Sox and the Patriots’ loss in Super Bowl XLVI, 2012 was an exciting year for Boston sports teams.
Three of the four major professional teams made playoff runs, and there were many moments to celebrate. Here’s a look at the 10 best wins posted by Boston sports teams this year:
The Patriots embarrassed their division rivals in a nationally-televised Thanksgiving night game in New Jersey. After a scoreless first quarter, the Patriots exploded for 35 points in the second quarter when they capitalized on several Jets mistakes. The Jets had three straight possessions end in fumbles, which the Patriots turned into three touchdowns in the span of 52 seconds. Safety Steve Gregory scored a touchdown on a 32-yard fumble recovery, but also forced a fumble, recovered another and picked off Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. Tom Brady finished with 323 yards passing, three passing touchdowns and a rushing score as the Patriots moved within one win of clinching another AFC East title.
New England rolled into the AFC Championship game after its first playoff win in almost four years. Tom Brady tied a postseason record with six touchdown passes, and the defense overmatched well-hyped Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow and the Denver offense. New England held Tebow to just nine completions and pressured him throughout the contest. Rob Gronkowski flourished for the Patriots with 10 catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns.
Houston entered the game with an NFL-best 11-1 record, but was quickly embarrassed by a Patriots team that overwhelmed it on offense and defense. Tom Brady improved to 13-4 all time on Monday Night Football with four touchdown passes, and sparked New England to a 28-0 lead by the third quarter. The Patriots prevented Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson from becoming a factor and held Defensive Player of the Year candidate J.J. Watt without a sack or a tackle for a loss. The win moved the Patriots one game back of Houston in the race for the top seed in the AFC.
With Lin-sanity encircling the TD Garden as Jeremy Lin and the Knicks arrived in town, an embattled Rajon Rondo put on a game-changing performance in the Celtics’ overtime victory over their division rival. Rondo scored 18 points and had 17 rebounds and 20 assists to lead the Celtics. Paul Pierce hit an improbable, leaning, contested 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds left to force overtime. Then Rondo, days after a report emerged claiming the Celtics were looking to trade him, took control in overtime to seal the win.
Pushed to seven games by upstart Philadelphia in the second round of the playoffs, the Celtics held off a late push by the 76ers to move on to meet the Heat in the conference finals. Boston’s lead shrank from 11 points to one in the fourth quarter, but Rajon Rondo (18 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) clinched the victory with 9 points in a 1:45 span as the Celtics survived the final four-plus minutes without Paul Pierce, who fouled out with Boston holding a 3-point lead. The win made the Celtics 18-4 all time in Game 7s at home.
Tyler Seguin helped the Bruins stave off elimination with two key plays, including the game-winning goal, in this Game 6 win on the road. Seguin broke up a Capitals attack in their zone in the third quarter and paved the way for an Andrew Ference goal on which he was awarded an assist. In overtime, Seguin out-foxed an ice-driven Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby with the game-winner that sent the Bruins home for Game 7.
The Celtics claimed their biggest win of the season to that point when Rajon Rondo scored 32 points and posted 10 rebounds and 15 assists in a 95-91 win over the Derrick Rose-less Bulls. The win was a statement that the Celtics, who struggled to a slow start in the new season, intended to be serious contenders in the East. The Bulls, considered one of the NBA’s best defensive teams, locked down Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, so Rondo rose up and put the Celtics on his back.
The weren’t many moments to remember for fans at Fenway Park this year, but the de facto goodbye party for Kevin Youkilis was one. Youkilis had two hits and an RBI, and was lifted after his seventh-inning triple when a deal to trade him to the White Sox neared. When infielder Nick Punto relieved him at third base, Red Sox fans roared to cheer Youkilis for his nine years of service to the team.
The Red Sox’ futility had not yet kicked into full effect when Jarrod Saltalamacchia launched a walkoff home run to beat the Rays and even Boston’s record at 23-23 in late May. The Red Sox trailed 2-1 when Saltalamacchia pinch-hit for Marlon Byrd and sent an 0-1 pitch over the Red Sox bullpen for the victory. “This is probably the best win of the year right here,” David Ortiz said.
By the end of the Bruins’ blowout win over Calgary, the local fans were chanting “We want 10.” Nathan Horton and Patrice Bergeron scored two goals each, and seven different Bruins scored goals. The win came one day after a 6-1 victory over New Jersey and less than two weeks after the Bruins beat Florida 8-0. “It’s pretty fun to watch, fun to be a part of,” said Benoit Pouliot, who had three assists. “Our goalies are the main thing, keeping us in the game. We’ve backed them up and kept the momentum on our side.”