It should never get old

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It should never get old

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

On Sunday afternoon, during the third quarter of the Pats games, I flicked over to the Red Zone channel knowing that there was a good chance I wouldnt be back for a while.

At this point the outcome of the game was no longer in question, and really, hadnt been since the first quarter. The Pats were beating up on a team that just had no business sharing the field with them. They were methodically confusing the Bills offense and bulldozing their defense; they were making solid, unexciting work of an inferior opponent. What else were they supposed to do, right? It was Week 16 and they still needed a win to secure home-field advantage. It wasn't time to mess around. So slowly but surely, they strangled the life out of the Bills.

In past years, we'd be forced sit through this kind of merciless beatdown and when I say that, I'm not suggesting that watching the Pats win isn't a ton of fun. It's just that by the second half in Buffalo, it wasn't about the Pats winning; they had already won. They were literally just bleeding the clock.

Meanwhile, a few hundred channels down the digital dial, the rest of the NFL playoff picture was unfolding in real time. I couldn't resist. There was too much great football going on. So, a possession after Rob Gronkowski's touchdown made the score 34-3, I said goodbye to the boring Bills, and hello to Red Zone mayhem.

Ah, there you are Scott Hanson! Been a week already? So, what do you have for us today?

Rams vs. 49ers:

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Of all the dynasties throughout NFL history, the 1980s 49ers are the group who I've always considered to be most similar to the Patriots.

Not identical, of course. But if you had to make the comparison, the Niners probably deserve the nod. Part of that might be due to the lack of other options. After all, the Patriots weren't nearly as mean as those Steelers of the '70s. They didnt have the drama of the '90s Cowboys. And they had a much stronger identity than Joe Gibbs' Redskins. But regardless of that, theres still an undeniable connection with San Francisco.

For one, the BelichickWalsh comparison is interesting. Even though they worked on opposite sides of the ball, they were both evolutionary thinkers, who ultimately changed the way the game was played. They're not your stereotypical, loud, enigmatic coaches. They wereare, for the most part, silent and cerebral. Both built their teams for the long-term success, and never jeopardized the big picture for temporary satisfaction.

Other than the coaches, the BradyMontana comparison is irresistible. Brady is Montana. He grew up watching Joe win Super Bowls. He's carried so much of Montana with him, and its still evident in his game.

Those two pairs, BelichickBrady and WalshMontana, make it work.

The more detailed you get, there are obviously further differences between the two franchises at their peaks. Among them, there's that the Niners won four titles in their decade, while the Pats only won three. The Niners were also a somewhat smoother team; an offensive juggernaut playing up in Northern California, while the Pats were a grittier crew that liked to beat people up in the snow. Most importantly, there's that San Francisco eventually extended its dynasty well into the next decade.

When it was all said and done, starting with their first title in 1981, the 49ers won five Super Bowls in 13 years with two different head coaches and two starting quarterbacks. And even without the Super Bowls, they still competed every year. After that first title, San Francisco made the playoffs in 17 of the next 21 seasons. At one point, they had 16 straight seasons of 10 or more wins. It ended in 1999, when Steve Young suffered his career-ending concussion, but the Niners were back in 2001 and 2002. They were contending again and you wondered if this run would ever end.

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Which brings us back to the Red Zone my distraction from a boring Pats game where the Rams are hosting the San Francisco 49ers.

And this isn't just any 49ers team. This is a 5-9 (now 5-10) team that has become the joke of the most laughable division in the NFL. A team that's eight years removed from its last winning season, and hasn't been to the playoffs since that 2002 campaign. A team which, over that time, has gone a combined 45-82, started 10 different quarterbacks and is now on the prowl for its fifth different head coach. It's a team in disarray.

They were the best. They were the Pats. How far away do those five Super Bowls feel now? And how about those 18 playoffs appearances in 22 years? Is this even the same franchise? With the same, history, hardware and legions of devoted fans and little kids like Tom Brady who grow up dreaming of putting on the uniform?

It is, it just doesnt feel even close. Everythings changed.

Sooner or later, it always does.

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I actually ended up going back and forth between the Red Zone and the Pats game for most of the third quarter, and a little bit of the fourth as well. But down the stretch I got caught up in the Jets, and Jaguars and, yes, even the 49ersRams game, and completely turned my back on Buffalo.

"Pshh, all theyre doing is clinching the AFC East for eighth time in 10 seasons, not to mention home-field advantage throughout the playoffs . . . I need to see which awful team wins the NFC West!"

So I sat, and I watched, and I'm not going to lie: It was a pretty entertaining 30 minutes of football. I didn't feel guilty at all.

But still, when the early games ended I clicked back for the Pats press conferences. I didn't want to miss any of Belichicks fancy zingers.

Anyway, during Tom Bradys presser, someone asked him about all the division titles; what it meant to do it for the eighth time in 10 years:

"It never gets old," he said. "I'll tell you that. We never get tired of winning. Thats what we have been preparing for all offseason and training camp."

He wasnt just saying this, either. This wasn't a tray of crap he was serving up for the microphones. This was genuine emotion. I mean, you'd think that after seven division titles, the eighth wouldnt have much of an effect.

"Oh nice, another division title! Hey, will you do me a favor and just throw it over there with the other ones?"

But that wasnt Tom Brady. Obviously, he knew that the Pats still had an unbelievable amount of work to do, but for him, winning the AFC East meant as much as it did in 2001. To Brady, nothing about that Bills game was uneventful or monotonous. It was all about taking care of business, enjoying every moment of success, taking pride in every worthy accomplishment, but never being satisfied.

It was around this time that I realized my missteps from earlier in the day; when I realized something that Tom Brady clearly already had:

That we better enjoy and appreciate every second of this now, because at some point whether it's 5, 10 or 22 years from now it will come to an end.

Brady should know, too. Just look at his Niners.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Patriots select Arizona State WR Lucien in seventh round

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Patriots select Arizona State WR Lucien in seventh round

The Patriots haven't had a ton of success drafting wide receivers in recent years, but one of their few home runs came in the seventh round back in 2009. 

No one will expect Devin Lucien to produce at the same level as Julian Edelman, but if he can provide the Patriots with some measure of depth after being selected with the No. 225 pick overall on Saturday -- the team's final pick of the draft -- it would be considered good value. 

The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder transferred from UCLA to Arizona State for his final collegiate season when he recorded 66 catches for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns. In his last three games, he racked up 534 yards and five scores, firmly establishing himself as a draftable prospect. 

Pro Football Focus game Lucien a third-round grade going into the draft and said he "may have the best hands" in the class. According to PFF, he dropped just five passes in the last two seasons. 

Though he has good size and he tested well at his pro day (4.42-second 40-yard dash), he's considered to have underwhelming speed. Still, given his collegiate numbers and his dependable 10-inch mitts, he was certainly worth a flier late on Day 3. 

Lucien joins Malcolm Mitchell of Georgia (fourth-round) as the two receiver prospects selected by the Patriots in this year's draft class. The pair will compete for time with veterans Juilan Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Keshawn Martin, Nate Washington and second-year wideout Chris Harper. 

Ortiz provides magical moment for young fan

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Ortiz provides magical moment for young fan

David Ortiz has hit 507 career homers during the regular season. Some of them have won games. Some have come in extra innings, sending the Red Sox to immediate victory.

But it's doubtful that Ortiz has hit a homer that's meant more to an individual fan than the one he hit Friday night against the New York Yankees.

Former teammate Kevin Millar told Ortiz about a young boy named Maverick who has been battling a life-threatening illness. The two sent Maverick a video before Friday's night game that closed with Ortiz pointing to the camera and saying: "I'm going to hit a home run for you!''

Then, in the eighth inning, with the Red Sox and Yankees tied 2-2, Ortiz did just that, driving a first-pitch curveball from New York reliever Dellin Betances into the Monster Seats in left field.

"I would say this is just God putting his hands on things like that,'' Ortiz said, "because we all know that it is not that easy to come through like that. I've been able to get things done like that on a few different occasions. I guess I've been lucky.

"I would say God is the one who takes over this stuff.''

Said manager John Farrell: "It's a storybook situation. You can say that the legend of David Ortiz is far-reaching. I don't know if players fully understand their impact and how far-reaching their impact can be. But to have it play out like that is really a cool thing.''

Ortiz recalled a similar situation from a few years ago, when he visited a young girl dealing with brain damage at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital.

"When she got a little better,'' Ortiz recalled, "she came to Fenway and we celebrated her birthday here in the family room. We lit up some candles with the cake, sang Happy Birthday to her and that day I told her I was going to hit a home run for her. And I ended up doing it.''

Once the game began, Ortiz was focused on his at-bats. The fact that he was facing Betances in the eighth inning, against whom he was 0-for-7 lifetime with four strikeouts, didn't make it any easier.

"Everyone knows how good Betances has been through his career,'' Ortiz said. "When things like that happen, it makes you believe that there's something special out there that we should believe in.''

Ortiz said he wasn't focused on hitting the homer during the game.

"Listen, the promise is not a guarantee,'' he said. "This is baseball. This is not, 'I'm going to shoot a free throw' when no one's playing defense on you. Or 'I'm Steph Curry and I'm going to shoot a three-pointer.' You know that's going to happen regardless. This is baseball. What you're trying to do was make Maverick feel better, have that connection with him. And you throw that out there to make sure he has a friend that he can count on right here.

"But while the game is going on, I'm not thinking about it, to be honest with you. But I can get away with it because I'm a power hitter and if I put a good swing on it, it can happen. But everybody on planet earth understands that it's not that easy. But that when it happens, everyone understands. Me personally, I'm a huge believer in God and I think he had a lot to do with this.''

In fact, it wasn't until Ortiz rounded the bases, crossed home plate and was trotting back to the dugout that he saw Millar and Millar's own kids sitting right next to the dugout that he recounted his pre-game video to Maverick.

"That's when I started thinking about it,'' said Ortiz.

Maverick sent a video back to Ortiz -- via Millar -- after the game-winning homer.

"After the game,'' Ortiz recounted, "Millar came to me and he was crying when he showed me the video that Maverick sent. It was very touching. I started thinking about it right after. When I got home, I was like, 'I can't believe this really happened.' Millar told me that his parents haven't seen (Maverick) him that happy in a long time. He has been very sick. But I always say there's something special out there. I'm a huge believer in God.

"I'm crazy about kids. When you see a sick kid and see what he's going trough I can't imagine. I don't think I'm prepared to see my child struggle like that. It's good. It's a good thing when you can put a smile on a child."

Patriots add pair with special-teams relevance in late rounds

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Patriots add pair with special-teams relevance in late rounds

The Patriots added a good-sized safety from Jimmy Garoppolo’s alma mater in the seventh round, Kamu Grunier-Hill. The 6-1, 215-pounder from Eastern Illinois selected with the 208th pick will have his first relevance as a special teamer then will try to find a spot in the regular defense.

With his size, he figures to be a who can play some box-safety when the Patriots go to six DB sets. He’ll do well to keep an eye on Patrick Chung because Chung – a much smaller player – is very skilled playing at the linebacker level. Grunier-Hill has great measurable – a 4.45 40 and 38.5 inch vertical.

The Patriots are deep at safety with Devin McCourty, Chung, Jordan Richards and Duron Harmon. Grunier-Hill wasn’t a highly-analyzed prospect in the process leading up to the draft so the Patriots’ interest level in him may have been higher than most. It’s very likely he finds his way to the team’s practice squad.

Right after taking Grunier-Hill, the Patriots got a similar-sized player named Elandon Roberts at 214. The 6-foot, 235-pounder comes in as a linebacker out of the University of Houston. He’s not the explosive athlete that Grunier-Hill is but he’s a hugely productive player who had 88 solo tackles for the Cougars last season. Regarded as a great leader, Roberts is another guy who’s going to have to make hay as a special teams guy first.