Branch on Vereen's performance: 'I wasn't impressed'

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Branch on Vereen's performance: 'I wasn't impressed'

FOXBORO -- Shane Vereen scored three touchdowns against the Houston Texans in Sunday's Divisional Round.

But that didn't impress some Patriots.

No offense to Vereen. Because it isn't a knock. It's actually a compliment. The Patriots -- offensive players at least -- already knew what Vereen was capable of doing on the field.

They knew he just needed an opportunity in a game to be able to show it.

"This may sound crazy, but I wasn't impressed," said veteran wide receiver Deion Branch after Friday's practice. "This guy, we see this every day out on the practice field. It's just all about the opportunity that guys get. Not only him. Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, give them the opportunity and we know that these guys can do it . . . But I've seen Vereen do those things at practice every day."

Vereen saw time lining up as a wide receiver against the Texans on Sunday. And he was targeted six times in the air, making five receptions for 83 yards and two receiving touchdowns. He also rushed seven times for 41 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Still, Patriots coach Bill Belichick wasn't willing to give up any secrets as to how much playing time Vereen would get in Sunday's AFC Championship against the Baltimore Ravens.

"Its hard to have all of them in there at once but whichever ones have been in there, theyve all done a good job and performed well," said Belichick about his running backs. "At times we go into a game with different packages or different groups of personnel. Sometimes it depends on how the game goes as to which group winds up being in there more or how it goes. So . . . I dont know, he might have a big role. Im not sure what anybodys role will be. Well have to see how it goes. One thing about Shane is he works hard, hes smart, hes well prepared and when weve called on him, hes come through for us. Im sure hell do the best he can to put himself in that position again this week."

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

NEW YORK -- It had the potential to be the most awkward celebration ever.

In the top of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, before their game was complete, the Red Sox became American League East champions, by virtue of one other division rival -- Baltimore -- coming back to beat another -- Toronto -- in the ninth inning.

That eliminated the Blue Jays from the division race, and made the Sox division champs.

But that ninth inning reversal of fortune was about to visit the Red Sox, too.

Craig Kimbrel faced four hitters and allowed a single and three straight walks, leading to a run. When, after 28 pitches, he couldn't get an out, he was lifted for Joe Kelly, who recorded one out, then yielded a walk-off grand slam to Mark Teixeira.

The Yankees celebrated wildly on the field, while the Red Sox trudged into the dugout, beset with mixed emotions.

Yes, they had just lost a game that seemed theirs. But they also had accomplished something that had taken 158 games.

What to do?

The Sox decided to drown their temporary sorrows in champagne.

"As soon as we got in here,'' said Jackie Bradley Jr., "we quickly got over it.''

From the top of the eighth until the start of the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox seemed headed in a conventional celebration.

A two-run, bases-loaded double by Mookie Betts and a wild pitch -- the latter enabling David Ortiz to slide into home and dislodge the ball from former teammate Tommy Layne's glove --- had given the Sox a 3-0 lead.

Koji Uehara worked around a walk to post a scoreless walk and after the top of the ninth, the Sox called on Craig Kimbrel, who had successfully closed out all but two save opportunities all season.

But Kimbrel quickly allowed a leadoff single to Brett Gardner and then began pitching as though he forgot how to throw strikes. Three straight walks resulted in a run in and the bases loaded.

Joe Kelly got an out, but then Teixeira, for the second time this week, produced a game-winning homer in the ninth. On Monday, he had homered in Toronto to turn a Blue Jays win into a loss, and now, here he was again.

It may have been a rather meaningless victory for the Yankees -- who remain barely alive for the wild card -- but it did prevent them the indignity of watching the Red Sox celebrate on their lawn.

Instead, the Sox wore the shame of the walk-off -- at least until they reached their clubhouse, where the partying began in earnest.

It had taken clubhouse attendants less than five minutes to cover the floor and lockers with plastic protective sheets. In a matter of a few more minutes, the air was filled with a mix of beer and bubbly.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski wore a goggles and only socks on his feet.

As the spray reached every inch of the clubhouse, David Ortiz exclaimed: "I'm going to drown in this man.''

Defeat? What defeat?