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."

Celtics waive guard/forward John Holland

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Celtics waive guard/forward John Holland

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics moved one step closer towards trimming down its overcrowded roster with the waiving of John Holland.

The 27-year-old would have gone into training camp with a very slim shot at making the roster. He signed a two-year deal that would have been worth $874,636 for the 2016-2017 season.

However, the contract was non-guaranteed and would have more than likely been used as part of a potential trade.

But no such deal materialized.

So rather than have the 6-foot-5 guard/forward in training camp with the odds heavily stacked against him making the team, Boston waived him now so that he has enough time to either go to training camp with another NBA team or sign with a team overseas.

Holland, who starred at Boston University, has already played overseas in France, Spain and Turkey in addition to having played with the Development League’s Canton Charge last season.

He played in one game for the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics now have 18 players in training camp, 16 of which have guaranteed contracts.

LeBlanc's ability to play the football could help him earn spot with Patriots

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LeBlanc's ability to play the football could help him earn spot with Patriots

FOXBORO -- Not long after Cre'Von LeBlanc made a hard-to-fathom, one-handed interception in New England's preseason opener against the Saints, Patriots coach Bill Belichick labeled the play "special." Then he delved a little more deeply into LeBlanc's practice performances with the team to that point.

"Day in and day out, he's been pretty consistent for us going all the way back to the spring," Belichick said at the time. "I'd say his instinctiveness, his ability to be around the ball, his anticipation and ability to recognize routes maybe offset some of the testing numbers that aren't elite . . . Knowing how to play -- he has got some of that. He finds the ball. Or the ball finds him. However you want to look at it."

LeBlanc has seen more preseason targets (20) than any other corner in the NFL thus far, according to Pro Football Focus, and he's allowed nine receptions for 95 yards. His percentage of targets caught (45 percent) is the third-best of any corner with at least 15 targets, and he's allowed a quarterback rating of 38.5 when targeted.

The undrafted rookie out of Florida Atlantic has one pass breakup to go along with his eye-popping pick, and his ability to make plays on the football -- something he flashed in one-on-one drills throughout training camp -- is something that may allow him to earn a spot on the team's 53-man roster.

When asked to explain the value of a player who seems to have a knack for finding the football, Belichick said it can be a difficult skill to assess. It may seem, at times, like a player is fortunate to make those kinds of plays at first. But if they happen again, and again, you might just have something.

"It's a valuable skill," Belichick said. "Logan Ryan is another guy that did it in college. He has done it here. Some guys have a real knack for that, other guys not as much. Sometimes it's a little bit acquired, sometimes it's just instinctive.

"The best example I ever had was [former Giants corner] Everson Walls. He didn't technically do hardly anything right from a fundamental standpoint. You would never take another player and say, 'Look, do it the way Everson's doing it. This is the way you would want to do it.' But in the end [he had], I don't know, whatever it was, 56 career interceptions. It was a lot. It was over 50. He did things, but he could find the ball and he had a great instinct for quarterbacks, routes, pattern combinations and so forth. Certainly it wasn't a speed and measurable thing. You would have released him on those measurable. That's whyhe wasn't drafted. But as a football player he's productive.

"When I was in Detroit, Lem Barney . . . same kind of thing. Lem probably had better measurable skills coming out, but at that point he made a lot of plays and he made them on his instinctiveness, ball skills, awareness, etc.

"Ty [Law], I mean Ty was a first-round pick, but Ty had that too. There are a lot of first-round picks that don't have that and he had that.

"It's definitely an important skill, and it really probably separates good from great players or average to good players. It's not the easiest thing to evaluate, and sometimes some of those plays are circumstantial more than they are great instinctive plays. They're fortunate the way they happen. But when a guy starts making enough of them then you know it's something a little special."

Time will tell as to whether or not the Patriots believe LeBlanc has that something special. Final roster cuts are due on Sept. 3. He's been included in our latest 53-man roster projection, but he's competing in what appears to be a deep positional group that includes second-year players Justin Coleman and Darryl Roberts as well as fellow undrafted rookie Jonathan Jones.

Celtics’ Jaylen Brown voted most athletic by fellow rookies

Celtics’ Jaylen Brown voted most athletic by fellow rookies

The NBA’s 38 rookies had their annual photo shoot and were polled by NBA.com with a couple of questions about their class. When asked which rookie was the most athletic among them, the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, the No. 3 pick overall last June, won in a landslide.

Here are the results of that question:  

1. Jaylen Brown, Boston -- 38.7%

2. Brice Johnson, L.A. Clippers -- 16.1%

3. Marquese Chriss, Phoenix -- 9.7%

T-4. Malik Beasley, Denver -- 6.5%

Kay Felder, Cleveland -- 6.5%

Gary Payton II, Houston -- 6.5%

Providence guard Kris Dunn, No. 5 pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves was the freshman class’ pick to win rookie of the year honors, with 29 percent of the vote, followed by No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram of the Lakers and No. 1 pick Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Click here for the complete poll.