Niners well aware that Pats are ultimate test

Niners well aware that Pats are ultimate test

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By Kevin KurzCSNBayArea.com

SANTA CLARA Just in case the 49ers defenders needed a reminder that their next opponent was going to provide perhaps the toughest test of the season, they got it on Monday night.

Several key defensive starters were able to catch at least a portion of New Englands 42-14 dismantling of the Houston Texans. The defending AFC champions were firing on all cylinders in front of a national audience, giving Houston just its second loss of the year.

And, the 49ers were watching. New England (10-3) has won seven straight and will host San Francisco (9-3-1) on NBCs Sunday Night Football.

They looked good. They looked real good, man, said defensive lineman Ray McDonald. Weve got to come out here really prepared for that up-tempo offense.

Cornerback Perrish Cox said: I thought it was going to be closer than what it was. Houston is a good team. You can never look past the Patriots at all. Thats one of the best teams of the past decade, and still is. Thats one of them teams you just cant look past.

Of course, the Pats offense starts with quarterback Tom Brady. The 13-year pro has thrown 29 touchdowns and just four interceptions, and is second in the league with a 104.2 passer rating, percentage points behind Robert Griffin III and a tenth of a point better than Niners backup Alex Smith.

On Monday against Houston, the 35-year-old San Mateo native was 21-for-35 for 296 yards with four touchdowns and no picks against one of the stronger defenses in the NFL.

Hes more one of those laid-back, confident quarterbacks that basically you can tell his demeanor and he knows exactly what hes doing, Cox said. Hes one of those confident quarterbacks that basically calls his own offense. Hes a vet, a very good vet thats talented.

They have a lot of different weapons, a lot of guys that can make plays, but were really fighting against Tom Brady, cornerback Tarell Brown said. He has the keys to the car, and we definitely have to stop him.

Lineman Ricky Jean Francois is hoping that pressure on Brady will lead to a more effective defense of the future Hall-of-Famer. But, thats easier said than done.

They have a great offensive line. The only way Tom Brady's going to be successful is when those guys are going to block, Francois said. For their running game to work, the O-line's got to block. You've got to take your hat off to the trenches always, first. Without the trenches, you won't have a successful offense or defense.

McDonald said: They are physical. They are a physical bunch. They work together, they're smart. Just watching them last night, they're not a finesse team. They can run the ball, too.

The 49ers corners are also likely to get a healthy dose of Wes Welker, the Pats receiver who leads the team and is ninth in the NFL with 1,116 yards.

What makes the 59, 185-pounder so effective? Cox compared him with another skilled guy that the 49ers had trouble containing earlier this year.

The breakout speed, I dont think hes really that fast, but the quickness itself, hes just like another Danny Amendola, Cox said, referring to the Rams wideout who caught 11 balls for 102 yards on Nov. 11 against San Francisco. Both of them went to Texas Tech, and I was able to play against Amendola at Tech, so theyre quite similar receivers. Like I said, I really cant answer what makes them so good, but him and quarterback is on the same page every play.

Brown said: Youve just got to make plays. I think at the end of the day, they do a lot of reads on and off the field. We have to do the same thing play with what you see, and play fast.

In what could easily be a Super Bowl preview, Brown is anxious to learn how his club stacks up against the surging Pats, who have won 20 consecutive December home games.

Yeah, its a measuring stick for all of us, Brown said. I think well all be tested and challenged throughout the game, and thats the good thing about it.

Red Wings' Vanek, Nielsen score in 6-5 SO win over Bruins

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Red Wings' Vanek, Nielsen score in 6-5 SO win over Bruins

DETROIT - Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings.

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics 'pummeled on the glass' by Knicks

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics 'pummeled on the glass' by Knicks

BOSTON – It seems to not matter whether teams go big or small against the Boston Celtics, rebounding remains a problem.

The Knicks proved that on Wednesday in handing the Boston Celtics a 117-106 loss which snapped Boston’s season-best seven game winning streak at home.

In the past, conversations regarding Boston’s rebounding problems centered around them playing against teams that just had more size and muscle in the frontcourt.

That was not the case against the Knicks (19-24) who out-rebounded Boston 57-33 despite playing smaller lineups than most of the Celtics’ past opponents.

“They were small tonight, so it’s not like that should’ve been a big excuse from a size standpoint,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Not that you should ever get out-rebounded by 24. But we weren’t much different; in fact we were bigger for most of the game and we still got … we just got pummeled on the glass.”

When it comes to rebounding with a small lineup, often it’s just a matter of who wants the ball more.

And the Celtics (26-16) had to acknowledge on Wednesday that most of Wednesday night, it was the Knicks.

“They played harder than us, they out-rebounded us, they played more physical than us,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “You’re not going to beat anybody the way they manhandled us.”

Celtics forward Jae Crowder echoed similar sentiments.

“They wanted it more than we did,” Crowder said.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Wednesday’s game.

 

STARS

Derrick Rose

It was very much a hot tub time machine kind of night for Rose, who looked very much like the dominant player who won the league’s MVP award in 2011. Rose led the Knicks with a team-high 30 points, 12 of which came in the fourth quarter.

Isaiah Thomas

While Thomas had yet another strong showing in the fourth quarter, this was one of those nights when he needed more help than usual. That said, he still led all scorers with 39 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter.

 

STUDS

Willy Hernangomez

No player better personified the struggles Boston had on the boards all game, than Hernangomez. He came off the Knicks bench to score 17 points and grab a game-high 11 rebounds – four on the offensive glass.

Jae Crowder

There were a lot of things to like about Crowder’s play on Wednesday, especially his defense on Carmelo Anthony (13 points, 5-for-14 shooting). But Crowder also delivered on the offensive end, scoring 21 points on 7-for-13 shooting with five rebounds and an assist.

Mindaugas Kuzminskas

Another unsung hero for New York on Wednesday, he had 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting with six rebounds and two assists.

Jaylen Brown

It was a rough night for most of the Celtics, but Brown did provide a bit of lift when he was in the game. He finished with 12 points on 3-for-6 shooting to go with four rebounds and a blocked shot.

 

DUDS

Al Horford

This was one of those games that Horford would be wise to forget as soon as he can. He scored a season-low five points and shot just  2-for-14 which was the worst shooting game of his career.