Curran: Patriots battle with 'Fins good preparation for Texans


Curran: Patriots battle with 'Fins good preparation for Texans

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. Next up, Houston.

And the way things went down on a warm, windy Sunday in South Florida was excellent preparation for the battle that awaits the Patriots against the AFCs best team.

After winning their past four games by an average of 27 points, the Patriots had to grind on Sunday to emerge with their 23-16 win. Grind hard.

There wasnt an easy throw out there, said Tom Brady after soldiering through a game in which the Dolphins front-seven cuffed him around for the final three quarters.

The weekly worry about whether Brady might get dented while playing at the end of a blowout was put on the back burner this time as the Patriots needed Brady and the rest of the offense to twist the screws on Miami in the final eight minutes.

A 16-play drive that ended with a field goal to make it 23-13 with 70 seconds left did the trick. That possession, even though it didnt end with seven points, can serve as a confidence-builder for what awaits when the Texans come to town. Even though Houstons been a little more permissive on defense over the past month, they are still one of the NFLs most disruptive groups. And if the Patriots are going to hand the Texans their second loss of the year, they will probably find themselves in a closeout situation similar to the one they faced Sunday.

That was a grind right there, said Donald Thomas who was again holding down the left guard spot as Logan Mankins calf continues to heal. Youre sore during the game and youre feeling it and youre into it and its not gonna come easy. It wasnt like the past few weeks where we were scoring at a rapid rate. It was more of a dogfight. We knew before the game started. We knew it wasnt gonna be (easy). Theyre a good team. This team, I know theyre not gonna lay down and just give it to us . . . That drive was exactly what we needed. I think we had eight minutes when we went out there, we gave it up with less than two minutes. It was a seven-point game, then once we got into field goal range the focus was on getting a touchdown but the main thing was eating up clock and getting a score and giving our defense time to breathe.

The Patriots offensive line needs its best guys back out there. Mankins at left guard, Dan Connolly at right guard and Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle. Sunday was a little messy up front and the way the Patriots offense stagnated through the second and third quarters cant be repeated against a Houston team which will put up points a lot faster than the Dolphins could.

Mankins participation in practice will be a story to watch this week. He needs to get his wind and his mobility back before going up against that Houston front. The Patriots will have to sweat the availability of Connolly as well. He left Sunday with a back injury and, after Nick McDonald struggled to replace Connolly, Marcus Cannon stepped in for McDonald. Vollmer, who said after the game that he was feeling good, is playing with a back injury as well. He was a game-time decision on Sunday and while he mostly kept Cameron Wake in check, hes not at full strength, it seems.

But the Patriots were still able to summon enough to impose their will on the ground with Stevan Ridley and a dash of Shane Vereen on the Patriots last drive.

When you run the ball like that its somewhat on the O-line, the running backs and receivers, Vollmer explained. It feels good. Sometimes you gotta do that and we were able to do that today and it was big. We ran seven minutes off the clock and that was necessary. Hopefully we continue to do that.

Even though New England has two more losses than the Texans, the Patriots are still the conference gold standard. And Houston wont just be playing to solidify their hold on the No. 1 seed but also to get an appraisal of where they are.

We know were gonna get the best shot from every team we play and thats what Miami did, said Jerod Mayo.

Asked when the Patriots will turn their attention fully to the Texans, Mayo thought for a moment, smiled and said, Tomorrow.

Tomorrow is now today. And the Patriots are facing their toughest opponent of the season in a week. Its good that they got their nose bloodied a little bit on Sunday.

Because the grind is on.

Beyond the numbers: The dual threat of Avery Bradley


Beyond the numbers: The dual threat of Avery Bradley

BOSTON – Another year, another season in which Avery Bradley plans to showcase a new and improved skill that will benefit the Boston Celtics.
But with each improved skill, Bradley moves just that much closer to being an all-around, two-way talent that creates problems for teams at both ends of the floor.
We all know about Bradley’s defense, which was good enough to land him a spot on the NBA’s All-Defensive first team last season. He also gets props for steadily improving his game offensively in some area every summer, but defenses might have their hands full more than ever with Bradley.
According to NBA stats guru Dick Lipe, the 6-foot-2 Bradley was the only guard in the NBA last season to shoot better than 70 percent in the restricted area among players who took a minimum of 200 field goal attempts.
He is among a list that includes Los Angeles Clippers big men DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin; Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; current teammate and former Atlanta Hawk Al Horford; San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge; Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Atlanta big man Dwight Howard.
But if you’re thinking about keeping him away from that part of the floor, Bradley also made the 3-point shot a bigger part of his offensive game last season; as in, 40 percent of his shots came from beyond the 3-point line.

Having that kind of diversity makes him a difficult player to get a clear read on how to defend. And because of that, it may open things up even more so for his teammates.
Bradley can shoot from the perimeter; he can score close to the rim. His ball-handling skills have improved in the offseason to where it no longer looks as though it’s a major weakness.
And he defends at a level few players in the league can match.
Collectively it makes Bradley one of the many challenges awaiting teams whenever they face the Celtics, a player who is poised to showcase his diverse set of skills beginning tonight against the Brooklyn Nets. 

Wednesday's Patriots-Bills practice participation/injury report: Same names for Pats


Wednesday's Patriots-Bills practice participation/injury report: Same names for Pats

FOXBORO -- When Dion Lewis wasn't spotted at Wednesday's practice, we had to make it clear when we mentioned his absence: He had only, as far as we knew, missed the start of practice. Though unlikely, there's always the chance a player emerges from the locker room once practice has started and goes through the remaining periods of the workout. 

Now that we have the injury report for Wednesday, we know that wasn't the case for Lewis. He did not show up on the report as a limited participant, meaning he didn't participate at all. 

There were no surprises on Wednesday's injury report, with nine players listed as limited, including tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle), linebacker Jamie Collins (hip) and receiver Julian Edelman (foot).

For the Bills, running back LeSean McCoy (hamstring) did not participate. Bills coach Rex Ryan explained on Wednesday that McCoy aggravated his hamstring injury against the Dolphins on Sunday, but he did not rule him out for the Patriots game this coming weekend.

Wednesday's practice participation/injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Bills game:


TE Martellus Bennett (ankle)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Jamie Collins (hip)
WR Julian Edelman (foot)
DL Woodrow Hamilton (shoulder)
LB Shea McClellin (concussion)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring)
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle)
DL Vincent Valentine (back)


LB Lorenzo Alexander (non-injury related)
LB Zach Brown (illness)
DT Corbin Bryan (shoulder)
TE Charles Clay (knee)
TE Cordy Glenn (ankle)
WR Marquise Goodwin (concussion)
RB LeSean McCoy (hamstring)
LB Lerentee McCray (knee)
DT Adolphus Washington (illness)
S Aaron Williams (neck)

DT Marcell Dareus (hamstring)
RB Mike Gillislee (foot)
T Seantreal Henderson (back)
LB Jerry Hughes (hand)
G John Miller (shoulder)
WR Robert Woods (foot)