Belichick gives rookie Francis a nod Wednesday

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Belichick gives rookie Francis a nod Wednesday

FOXBORO -- You've heard about the Patriots ''Next Man Up'' philosophy before.
If one guy gets suspended, injured -- whatever it is that takes him out of the equation -- the next guy in line is expected to step up, fill in, and play well. There's no excuse for any drop-off in production; everyone should be ready.
Rookie Justin Francis is learning how it all works right now.
The undrafted defensive end was inactive for the first four games of the season, sometimes a healthy scratch, and sometimes on the injury report with a bad ankle. Week 11 was the last time Francis was healthy but inactive.
He's earned 74 snaps for the defense since.
"I think hes definitely improved," head coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday. "Hes a competitive player, he works hard. Hes got some good ability and hes, like any young player hes learning through sometimes trial an error. Sometimes experience, sometimes the hard way.
"But he works hard to get better and I have a lot of respect for that. There arent many people that work harder than he does. He competes every day in practice, both in the classroom and out on the field to learn and improve and hes definitely improved a lot, no question."
His opportunities increased further after defensive end Jermaine Cunningham was suspended four games on November 26.
Francis played a career-high 21 snaps against Houston. At times, the Patriots used him in Cunningham's role as an interior rusher.
Were the coaches impressed with his 'Next Man Up' effort? Enough to still give Francis snaps when Cunningham returns after Sunday's game in Jacksonville?
"I dont know. I cant really answer that question," Belichick admitted. "I think well just have to wait and see where things are whenever all those things, if they take place, when they take place and make the best decisions we can at that point in time."

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia was focused on winning, not streak

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia was focused on winning, not streak

BOSTON -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-3 win over the Royals:

QUOTES

“I hadn’t really thought about it. Trying to win games. It’s late in the year . . . I don’t really have time to sit back and pat myself on the back for anything. We’re trying to win as a team.” - Dustin Pedroia on the importance of the 11-for-11 stretch in his career.

“It’s fun. It’s why you go to work in December, January, February. It’s all the work you put in up to this point. It feels good to go out there and get the results you expect to get, especially against a team like [the Royals] who is hot as they are right now.” - David Price on pitching meaningful games with a playoff-like atmosphere.

“Yeah, yeah we [knew about the streak] . . .  It was an awesome roll and it was fun to see . . . Every time I went up to hit, I let Salvador Perez know.” - Xander Bogaerts on Dustin Pedroia’s 11-for-11 streak.

“I think we’ve been able to handle velocity very well. We’ve got good bat-speed in out lineup, and we’re able to handle that.” - John Farrell on the offense thriving against good pitching.

 

NOTES

* David Ortiz played in his 1,000th game at Fenway Park, becoming the fifth player to do so.

* Ortiz also became the first player ever to play 2,000 games as the designated hitter.

* Mookie Betts scored his 100th run of the season off his 29th home run of the year, joining Fred Lynn, Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams as the only players to reach 100 runs before turning 24.

* The Red Sox hit back-to-back home runs for the fourth time this season with Betts and Hanley Ramirez going yard in the fifth.

* With his 2-for-4 day at the plate, Jackie Bradley Jr. improved to 34-for-94 (.362) batting ninth.

 

STARS

1) Dustin Pedroia

Pedroia finished 4-for-5, extending his streak to 11 hits in 11 at-bats, finishing one shy of tying the MLB record.

2) David Price

Price logged his fourth straight quality start with his six-inning, two-run start. He also dropped his ERA below 4.00 for the first time since his Opening Day start with Boston.

3) Salvador Perez

Perez finished 2-for-3 with two home runs. Saturday marked only the second multi-home run game of his career.