Patriots defense gaining confidence in recent weeks

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Patriots defense gaining confidence in recent weeks

FOXBORO -- In the Patriots' last three games, they've allowed 19 points to the Jets, 16 points to the Dolphins, and 14 points to the Texans -- all wins.

With each week, the scores have dropped, and with each week the defense is gaining more self-assuredness. Vince Wilfork said on Thursday that the Patriots defense has been on a roll that has turned out to be a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy: The better the defense plays, the more fun it has, and the more fun it has, the better it plays.

"One thing I see is confidence," Wilfork said. "Guys playing and having fun. That's the one thing, when you play with confidence, you can have fun. When you play stuck up, it's not fun because you scared to make a mistake. You're not sure if you're doing the right things or not."

After Monday night's game, Wilfork credited cornerback Aqib Talib with bringing a certain swagger to the defense that may contribute to its playing more loosely.

"He's brought an attitude," Wilfork said. "He don't say much, he just practice his tail off. He fit right in with everybody else. He's a physical player. Big, strong, physical player. I don't know if he brought anything to the secondary or not, but I can tell you what he bring on the practice field and what he bring in the game. He's a special player, and I'm glad we got him."

As the defense has gelled as a unit in the last month since Talib's arrival, positions in the secondary have solidified as well -- Talib and Alfonzo Dennard man the corners, with Kyle Arrington in the slot, and Steve Gregory and Devin McCourty at the safety positions. Whether that has helped contribute to an air of confidence or not, Wilfork says that he hasn't seen teammates getting disappointed after allowing big plays during this recent stretch of success.

"Other teams, they get paid, too," he said. "They play good football, too. Every once in a while they make plays, and it's not the end of the world. I think the guys do a really good job of understanding that, not getting down on themselves, trying to go out and make another play. It's gonna be like that again this week."

First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-4 win over the Angels

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First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-4 win over the Angels

First Impressions from the Boston Red Sox' 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels

* John Farrell faced a tough call with Steven Wright in the sixth.

Wright doesn't fare well in wet weather, as the Red Sox learned earlier this season when he tried to pitch in a steady rain against Houston. With a downpour, Wright wasn't able to grip his signature knuckler, and the results showed.

In the fifth and into the sixth, the rain was picking up. By the start of the sixth, the rain intensified, and Wright began to struggle. He allowed a leadoff double to Albert Pujols, hit Jefry Marte and walked Daniel Nava to load the bases.

Farrell had Matt Barnes warming, but the manager was clearly trying to get his starter through the sixth and limit the bullpen workload, having gone to the pen in the third inning Monday and the seventh inning Wednesday.

The move backfired when C.J. Cron hit a grand slam. Wright has been terrific this season, but his inability to pitch when there's any rain at all creates a unique challenge for his manager.

* Brock Holt made his presence felt right away.

Holt missed more than a month with a concussion, and admitted before Friday's game that he still wasn't 100 percent recovered.

But that hardly seemed the case Friday night. In the field, Holt fielded a line drive in the corer by C.J. Cron and fired a strike to second, cutting down Cron attempting to stretch a single into a double.

At the plate, meanwhile, Holt clubbed two doubles to left.

Holt used that same inside-out swing both times to take pitches the other way, expertly using the Wall and Fenway to his advantage.

For the past week, the Red Sox were shuffling a few outfielders, none of whom had had much experience -- or success -- at the big league level. Even if he's not 100 percent and can't be counted on every day yet, Holt could provide a nice jolt to the bottom third of the order.

* Ortiz continues to pile up records.

His solo homer in the fifth - a line shot that curled past the right field foul pole, into the box seats -- was No. 522 of his career. That enabled Ortiz to move past three Hall of Famers: Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas and Ted Williams -- with one swing.

Ortiz had been tied with the trio in 19th place for most career homers.

The homer also marked his 2,000th hit with the Red Sox. He became the seventh player to amass 2,000 hits in a Red Sox uniform. The others: Williams,  Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Bobby Doerr and Wade Boggs.

Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter: @Sean_McAdam

OFFSEASON

Danny Ainge wears pair of Kevin Durant's Nike shoes to son's engagement party

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Danny Ainge wears pair of Kevin Durant's Nike shoes to son's engagement party

Danny Ainge had Kevin Durant on his mind -- and on his feet -- while attending his son's engagement party this week.

Ainge's son, Cooper Ainge, tweeted a series of images showing that his father was wearing a pair of Kevin Durant's Nike KD 8 shoes:

We can only assume Ainge will walk into Saturday's meeting with Durant wearing a pair of these.