Brady unforgiving after close Buffalo game

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Brady unforgiving after close Buffalo game

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady's Sunday evening press conference was short. He answered five questions before bluntly axing the affair.

He was not a happy man.

'Do you realize you're 20-2 against the Buffalo Bills in your career?' a local television reporter grinned.

"It was tight today," Brady retorted. "I'm glad we came away with a win. We fought hard. We certainly had more opportunities out there to score more points, but we didn't and made a great play at the end -- a couple great plays at the end."

The Patriots did win, 37-31, but they may find bullet holes in their jerseys.

With less than eight minutes to play, the Bills crept uncomfortably close to New England's 34-31 lead. Brady's offense had a chance to drive down, burn clock, and steal back its breathing room.

They got to the Buffalo 2-yard line before Stevan Ridley was tackled for a loss. On the next play, he was whistled for a false start.

Second-and-9: A Brady pass to Deion Branch fell incomplete. Third-and-9: Brady missed Danny Woodhead badly, threw it in the dirt.

New England was forced to settle for a field goal. Buffalo has two minutes to score. To win.

"We're always trying to make good plays whether it's the first quarter or the fourth quarter," Brady said of the team's failure to close out the game. "We've got to play through 60 minutes; that's the goal every week."

He sat on the bench during that final Bills drive, head bowed under the weight of a missed opportunity.

"It's frustrating when we don't play as well as we're capable of," he said at the podium. "But it's part of the game and part of mental toughness to put those things behind you and to keep playing hard, and we did that so that's why we won."

It's easier to say why New England didn't lose.

There were 23 ticks left on the clock when Devin McCourty intercepted Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The pass was announced as intended for Buffalo receiver T.J. Graham, but that was as good as wishful thinking; McCourty just jumped and the ball landed squarely in his arms.

Touchback. Bailout. Whatever you want to call it, the play didn't make Brady want to celebrate.

But isn't a win a win? Wasn't that the quarterback's sentiment after New England snuck by the Jets in a 29-26 overtime victory?

"Were trying to win every week," Brady had said, October 24. "But whether you lose by one or 30 or win by one or 30, the record is the same."

He's not wrong. And he wasn't lying. It's just that, when those words were cast out -- calmly, confidently -- it was done so from the other side of the bye.

It's easier to accept ugly play in September and October because it's cushioned by time. The bad routes, forced throws, missed tackles, surrendered yardage -- all of that can be corrected over the coming weeks.

How many times did Brady say it himself?

'There's a lot of football left to play.'

There are seven games left to play now. Just shy of half a season. Wins are still wins, but as the weather gets colder, mistakes start to appear in patterns instead of as anomalies. A team's inability to strike a late-game deathblow festers, hangs on a team

And opponents can smell it.

"We had plenty of opportunities to do something about it way before I was sitting on the sidelines," Brady said of surrendering control in the final minutes. "I had an opportunity to do something about it 50 seconds before that and the defense really saved the day."

The Patriots may be grateful for last-minute heroics, but they don't want to make it a habit.

It doesn't suit Brady to be rescued.

Gronkowsk hoping to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon

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Gronkowsk hoping to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowsi had what was, for him, an incredibly quiet game against the Texans on Thursday. He saw 14 snaps and ran just one route. He did see a target from rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett when he ran that route, but it floated high over his head and sailed out of the end zone incomplete. 

In his first game action since suffering a hamstring injury on Aug. 15, the Patriots chose to being their All-Pro tight end along slowly, but he's hoping that he'll be more involved in the very near future. 

"You’ve got to be careful with any injury, but I mean, if you research hamstrings, if you know anything about hamstrings, you’ve definitely got to be careful," he said. "You’ve got to progress. You can’t just hop back in and be full-go 100 percent. I wish it was like that. I can’t wait until I’m going freakin' crazy out there again. So I’m just progressing myself into it and feeling better every single day."

Gronkowski was back on the practice field for his team's workout in full pads on Wednesday. He was spotted running through drills and catching passes from tight ends coach Brian Daboll, and he did not appear to be visibly limited. After running around in a game, albeit briefly, Gronkowski explained that he experienced no setbacks.

"I felt good, definitely," Gronkowski said of playing under the lights. "You’re always sore no matter what after playing a game. No matter if you play 10 plays or 70 plays, [you’re] definitely sore like any other game. But no setbacks. No nothing. Feeling good and just progressing every day."

Regardless of who happens to be playing quarterback for the Patriots against the Bills on Sunday -- whether it's Jimmy Garoppolo or Brissett, both of whom practiced Wednesday -- having Gronkowski on the field and closer to his usual level of participation should help. 

"They’re doing very well, very excellent," Gronkowski said of Garoppolo and Brissett's performances with Tom Brady out. "Every single day, they’re just trying to improve and progress every day. This week, you just see everyone throughout the team, everyone is just trying to progress . . . The coaches do a great job of getting the quarterbacks prepared. If there is something there that we need to get on the same page with the quarterbacks on, we’ll talk, but the coaches do an excellent job of getting the quarterbacks ready."

McAdam: Doesn't take long for second-guessing of Farrell to resume

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McAdam: Doesn't take long for second-guessing of Farrell to resume

Three takeaways from the Red Sox' 6-4 loss to the Yankees on Tuesday night . . . 

1) Long relief may be short for the Red Sox in the postseason

The news that Drew Pomeranz won't start Thursday and is dealing with forearm soreness was ominous -- to say the least. While the Sox aren't concerned enough to order up an MRI for the lefty, it seems a fair bet that he won't pitch again this season. Pomeranz wasn't going to crack the postseason rotation and would likely have been relegated to relief duty. Now, even that seems a stretch.

Add that development to the continued absence of Steven Wright and the Red Sox are missing 40 percent of their rotation from late July and early August.

Healthy, both would have been stretched-out and available to provide multiple innings in the postseason.

Of course, most teams would prefer to not have to rely on long men in the postseason, since their very appearance in a game would signifiy that a starter got knocked out early.

When that happens, however, it's nice to have experienced, dependable arms to cover innings and not impact the bullpen's high-leverage pitchers.

Now, in such a scenario, the Sox will likely have to turn to either Robbie Ross Jr. or Heath Hembree.

2) Is Aaron Hill heating up?

In the month of September, Hill has posted a line of .381/.409/.571. On Tuesday night, he blasted a pinch-hit homer.

Admittedly, that's a relatively small sample size. But Hill has had better at-bats of late, especially against lefties.

It's doubtful that he'll take over third base -- now or in the postseason -- full-time, since John Farrell has two left-handed hitting options, with Travis Shaw and Brock Holt. Shaw certainly more power and has shown the ability to go on hot streaks at the plate.

But Hill is a veteran player, albeit one with little postseason experience (11 at-bats in the Division Series for Arizona in 2011) for a 12-year veteran.

And one other benefit: Hill is a .373 career hitter as a pinch-hitter, making him a valuable part off the bench in games started by either Holt or Shaw.

3) One loss is all it took for the second-guessing to resurface

The Sox had won 11 straight before Tuesday's loss, which quickly re-introduced criticism of Farrell.

Starter David Price had given up four runs through six innings, but the Sox rallied for two runs off Tommy Layne in the seventh to tie things at 4-4.

At 76 pitches, Price went back out for the seventh and promptly yielded a two-run homer to Tyler Austin, giving the Yanks another two-run lead.

Price hadn't been sharp in the first six. With expanded rosters, plenty of available relievers and a rested bullpen after a day off Monday, why stick with Price?

Offered Farrell: "You go with a right-hander they’re going to go with [Mark] Teixeira and [Brian] McCann with that right-field porch,” Farrell said. “Wanted to keep the (right-handed hitters) in the ballgame, (but Price) mislocated over the plate.”