Patriots 'D' makes a statement vs. Texans

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Patriots 'D' makes a statement vs. Texans

FOXBORO -- The Texans came into Gillette Stadium as the NFL's second-best offense. They left embarrassed after running into the Patriots defense for four quarters.

With a chance to prove on national television that the strides it had made in recent weeks were not thanks to the unimpressive offenses it had faced of late, New England's 'D' stood firm and thoroughly dominated Houston in a 42-14 win on Monday night.

"I finally feel like we put together four quarters of football," said Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo. "Obviously, we came into this game with a chip on our shoulders, everyone talking about the Houston Texans. And I think our defensive line went out there and played well today Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, all those guys, Trevor Scott those guys played very well today and kept us going in the back end."

Mayo went out of his way to laud his defensive line after hearing listening to the deification of Houston defensive lineman JJ Watt for the better part of last week.

In particular, Vince Wilfork's play showed why he needs to be in the conversation when discussing the game's best at that position. He had three tackles, including one for a loss, a strip sack that pushed Houston back 20 yards in the first quarter, and a pass defensed -- one more than his counterpart, Watt, who in two years in the NFL has helped build his reputation on an ability to deflect throws.

"From the first quarter on, he was making plays," Mayo said of Wilfork. "Making tackles, batting balls. He had a little J.J. Watt swat there at one point in the game and it was good for us. He went out there and played from the first snap on and you cant ask for anything more."

Wilfork explained that he cared more about the win than proving to the world how he stacks up against Watt.

"Win," Wilfork said. "Win. That's what it's all about for me. I could care less about stats. The biggest stat to me is Ws. Plain and simple. There's nothing to it. You win, I'm happy. Lose, I'm not happy. I'm happy tonight."

A significant part of what made the Patriots defense so successful on the field Monday was their ability to get off of it. Before Texans backup quarterback TJ Yates took his team's snaps for its final two drives, the Patriots only allowed Houston to convert on a paltry two of 12 third down plays.

"We always talk about improving third down and getting off the field," Mayo said. "Any time we can get the ball in our offenses hands, we feel like theyll go out there and score 40 points like they did today. So it was a good third down conversion rate and something to build on."

The Texans pointed to their struggles on third down as one of the biggest reasons for their primetime letdown.

"They just out-played us," said Texans running back Arian Foster. "We didn't execute when we had chances to. We had a couple thid downs we could have done better executing on. That's part of the game. You want to make those plays and that is the type of plays you make if you want to be a championship team."

"We did not make any plays, and against a team like that you have to make plays on third down," said Texans receiver Andre Johnson, who last week called this the biggest game in Texans franchise history. "We did not make any plays on third down. They scored a lot of points and they converted on their third downs and kept our offense off the field."

The Texans got into New England territory three times in the second half but the Patriots still kept Houston scoreless for the better part of three quarters. On two of those drives, they stopped the Texans on fourth down.

On the third Texans drive into Patriots territory, Devin McCourty intercepted Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in New England's end zone in the first quarter. With the pick -- and without a turnover of their own -- the Patriots are now plus-25 in turnover differential, best in the league in that category.

"I think they're very opportunistic," said Texans coach Gary Kubiak. "I think they do a good job busting some protection schemes and they do a good job of getting their hands on the ball . . . McCourty's interception was a great example of the kinds of plays they make."

Gillette Stadium was a difficult place to play for the Texans on Monday. If the Patriots defense can continue to turn the ball over and have success stopping teams on third down, it won't get any easier for the 49ers, who come to town for a game this upcoming Sunday night.

"To be honest with you, we just take it one game at a time," Mayo said. "But when you go out there and perform the way you do, I think coming to Foxboro is going to be a tough place for any team to win."

Quotes, notes and stars: Swihart flashes power and speed

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Quotes, notes and stars: Swihart flashes power and speed

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 10-3 win over the Colorado Rockies:

 

QUOTES

"I felt a little cramp. I'm fine. I appreciate John and everybody looking out (for me). We obviously don't want anything to happen like last year, but I'm good.'' - Dustin Pedroia, who left the game in the fifth after experiencing some tightness in his right hamstring.

"It's nice to be able to get deep into the game. That's my goal every time. My goal is nine innings, so if I don't get nine innings, I'm a little disappointed because I want to be able to go out there and pitch as many innings as I can.'' - Steven Wright.

"I think my release point was just a little off. That definitely makes it hard, especially when it's moving, because it's not a consistent release point.'' - Wright on the early-inning unpredictability of his signature pitch.

"Even when I was catching, I pride myself on running. I want to be an athlete back there. I want to run the bases, steal bases, things most catchers aren't known to do.'' - Blake Swihart, who hit two triples.

 

NOTES

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 29 games.

* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 18 games.

* David Ortiz tied Paul Molitor for 12th on the all-time doubles list with 605.

* Ortiz has driven in multiple runs in three straight games

* Dustin Pedroia has a career batting average of .340 in interleague play, the highest ever for someone with 500 or more at-bats.

* Travis Shaw drove in three runs and now has 68 RBI in his first 111 games since Fred Lynn and Jim Rice in 1974-75.

* Blake Swihart became the third Red Sox hitter this season to post two triples in the same game.

* The Red Sox clinched their fifth straight home series win.

* The Sox are 21-8 since April 24 and are 13-2 in their last 15 home games.

 

STARS

1) Steven Wright

Backed by some rare run support, Wright evened his record at 4-4 with seven-plus innings and his eighth quality start this season.

2) Travis Shaw

Shaw produced two hits and knocked in three runs, making him the fourth Red Sox player this season to reach 30 RBI.

3) Blake Swihart

Swihart got to flash both his power and his speed by hitting two triples to the triangle, motoring around the bases.

 

Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

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Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

BOSTON -- A day after the Bruins announced a much-maligned four-year contract extension for defenseman Kevan Miller, B’s general manager Don Sweeney held court with the media to equal parts explain/defend the $10 million deal. Sweeney pointed to the very high character of a hardnosed player in Miller, and the relatively low mileage given that he’s played only 159 games at the NHL level.

There was also mention made of the room to grow in Miller’s game, though it’s difficult to imagine a much higher ceiling for a 28-year-old player than what the former UVM produced showed in 71 games last season.

“Kevan brings incredible character. His signing provides us with the necessary depth on our defense that all teams need. His relative low-mileage, having just played 160 games, we identified that we think Kevan has room for continued growth and development,” said Sweeney. “We certainly saw that in his play this year when he had an expanded role. Relative to the free market place, very, very comfortable with where Kevan fits into our group, and this provides us with the opportunity to explore the marketplace in every way, shape, or form, in having Kevan signed.”

Here’s the reality: Miller is a 5-6, bottom pairing defenseman on a good team, and a top-4 defenseman on a team like last year’s Bruins that finished a weak 19th in the league in goals allowed. The five goals and 18 points last season were solid career-high numbers for a player in the middle of his hockey prime, but he barely averaged 19 minutes of ice time per game as a front top-4 defenseman. Miller struggles with some of the fundamental needs in today’s NHL if you’re going to be a top-4 D-man: the tape-to-tape passes aren’t always accurate, there’s intermittent difficulty cleanly breaking the puck out of the defensive zone and Miller was exploited by the other team’s best players when paired with Zdeno Chara at points last season.

Certainly Miller has done some good things racking up a plus-55 rating during his three years in Boston, but executives and officials around the league were a bit surprised by the 4-year, $10 million contract extension. It’s viewed as a slight overpay in terms of both salary and term, but it’s more the redundancy of the contract that’s befuddling to some.

“Miller is certainly a rugged guy, but you already had one of those at roughly the same value in Adam McQuaid. I believe that you can’t win if you have both McQuaid and Miller in your top 6 because they are both No. 6 D’s in my mind,” said a rival NHL front office executive polled about the Miller contract. “You look at the playoffs and the direction that the league is headed in, and you need to have big, mobile defenseman that can quickly move the puck up the ice. You have too much of the same thing with Miller and McQuaid, and I think you can’t win with that in this day and age.”

The one facet of the four-year Miller contract that might make it okay for some Bruins fans: the tacit connection to the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes. According to several sources around the league, the Bruins taking care of Miller now will very likely have a positive impact on their chances of landing Vesey when he becomes a free agent on Aug. 15, and makes them the front-runner for the Harvard standout’s services. Both Miller and Vesey are represented by the same agent in Peter Fish, and those are the kinds of behind-the-scenes connections that many times factor into free agent signings and trades around the NHL.

So many, this humble hockey writer included, may owe Sweeney a slight apology if paying a $10 million premium for a bottom-pairing defenseman in Miller now pays dividends in landing a stud forward like Vesey that’s drawing interest all around the league.