Patriots defense 'is what it is'

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Patriots defense 'is what it is'

FOXBORO -- In New England, everything "is what it is." The saying is a Bill Belichick favorite, a standard retort to nearly any question regarding his football team.
And it kind of works. The Patriots defensive effort Sunday night? It is what it is.
New England surrendered 425 yards to the Texans in this weekend's Divisional Playoff. Matt Schaub completed 34 of 51 passes for 343 yards (just the second time he passed the 300-yard mark in 18 games this year), two touchdowns, and one interception.
But Houston lost, 41-28, so all that offense is what it is: A bunch of numbers that don't add up to making Schaub feel better about the day.
It is another night the Patriots gave up a bunch of scores and didn't lose.
"I think guys have that attitude that no matter what happens, usually we're on the end where our offense is putting up a lot of points," cornerback Devin McCourty said after the game. "If things go wrong, somebody returns a kick of anything like that, we just want to hold guys out of the end zone. We want to make plays down there and just try to play great defense. We know if we can hold teams to three points our offense will do the job and put seven on the board."
McCourty was referencing the opening kickoff.
Texans safety Danieal Manning was back to receive. After the catch, Manning took off and ran 94 yards before being brought down by a sprinting McCourty. It was a nightmare open to the game.
But Houston couldn't capitalize. Running back Arian Foster got the only gain on the drive -- a 3-yard run -- before Schaub burned the final downs on incomplete passes. The ensuing field goal provided Houston's only points for nearly two full quarters.
And there -- a positive for the Patriots defense: The Texans punted on four straight drives in the first half.
Another positive: Houston converted just four of 15 third down attempts.
"It just comes down to team defense good pass rush, good coverage and keeping the yardage longer by playing better on first and second down," said defensive captain Vince Wilfork. "I thought we did a good job in the running game until we got to the last drive in the second quarter and running back Arian Foster hit a couple long runs to the weak side on us. They scored right before the half. Because we were able to hold off a few of those runs, that put them in some third-and-long situations."
"It was good team defense; I dont think its any one guy. Third down obviously is critical for us and our red area stop was big too."
The third down numbers, the red zone stop, those are the things that surface in the wake of a win. All those yards surrendered -- 90 rushing and 63 receiving to Foster; 95 on nine catches for receiver Andre Johnson -- will come out later in the film's dissection.
Before facing Baltimore in next weekend's AFC Championship, those things will be addressed. The Patriots will look at why Houston went three-for-four on fourth (two of which conversions eventually led to touchdowns) and try to fix what went wrong.
It's not like the defense thinks it's perfect. It is grossly opportunistic.
The Patriots entered Sunday's game at a plus-25 turnover differential. They forced 41 turnovers (21 fumbles, 20 interceptions) in the regular season's 16 games.
Defensive end Rob Ninkovich added another big play to the pile with a third quarter interception. It was on one of those third-down plays that Houston left on the field.
New England made the most of the pick, as it tends to do. Just like McCourty said, once the ball was back in Tom Brady's hands the offense put up seven more points, and the Texans looked a little less threatening on their next drive.
Bend, Don't Break isn't a perfect plan. It does work for New England most of the time, however.
Vince Wilfork was asked if he thinks the defense, as it stands, is good enough for what's ahead.
"No," the nose tackle answered. "We can get a little better. We can get a lot better.
"But overall, this defense is taking the right steps. That's the only thing you can ask for is taking the right steps, especially in this point in time. The goal, right now, is to win. No matter how you win, that's the goal. You lose, you go home."
That is exactly what it is.

CSN's Buckets List: Some weak(s) to remember

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CSN's Buckets List: Some weak(s) to remember

Each Monday through the Final Four, our own Robbie Buckets -- known in some circles as Rob Snyder, associate producer at CSN -- will take a look at the world of college basketball: Games to watch each week, players who might be on the Celtics' radar come draft time, what's going on locally . . . and, of course, power rankings (which will eventually morph into bracketology). Enjoy!

The shakeups continue! UCLA's defensive deficiencies gor the best of the Bruins at home against a newly minted Arizona lineup. West Virginia had a brutal week. Meanwhile, injury issues are piling up around the country: Creighton lost star point guard Maurice Watson for the season with a torn ACL, Indiana lost NBA prospect OG Anunoby for the season with a knee injury, and Oregon lost Dillon Brooks for the near future with a lower leg injury. The Top 15 has never looked so fragile. So let's look at each team's weaknesses this week, shall we?

1. Villanova (19-1) - The Wildcats have two major issues that could keep them from winning back-to-back titles for the first time since Florida did it in 2006-07:  1) They don't have an offensive post presence, and, more importantly, 2) they play seven-deep and are clearly getting tired at times during games.

2. Kansas (18-1) - It's no secret the Jayhawks' depth in the frontcourt is (gulp) underwhelming.  When Landen Lucas goes to the bench, Kansas' defense goes into the toilet. 

3. Gonzaga (19-0) - Hard to find a weakness with an undefeated team, but here's the problem: The 'Zags face extremely weak competition, and will continue to do so until March. Their lack of a big test for two-plus months will hurt.

4. Kentucky (17-2) - As athletic and offensively solid as Kentucky is, this is one of the worst defensive units that John Calipari has had. The 'Cats also play very uptempo, and will sure be tested in a half-court atmosphere come March.

5. Baylor (18-1) - The Bears continue to impress, but their guard play and consistency shooting the ball from deep could haunt them in March. They need guard play in the tourney.

6. Oregon (18-2) - Health. How long will Dillon Brooks be out?  His injury early in the season hurt them, and it will certainly hurt again. He's their best player. No question.

7. Florida State (18-2) - Crazy that the 'Noles are in this position and not playing close to the defensive efficiency they're used to playing. That, combined with the fact that they're playing a crazy high pace, is going to make March games feel a lot tougher.

8. Arizona (18-2) - The Wildcats are riding high after upsetting UCLA in Westwood and getting Alonzo Trier back on the same night. Chemistry is now what 'Zona will need to develop.  

9. UCLA (19-2) - The Bruins are super-talented. However, they sport the kiss-of-death weakness: High tempo combined with horrific defensive efficiency.

10. North Carolina (18-3) - UNC is like UCLA. Super-talented but with the habit of playing down to bad competition and also going through defensive lapses.

11. Creighton (18-2) - The Bluejays issue used to be defensive efficiency., which has been a problem all year. Now, however, it's the fact that Maurice Watson is done for the year. Killer injury.

12. Butler (17-3) - The Bulldogs are a solid team all around, but lately they haven't shown up at all in the first half of games and have struggled to get easy baskets. They may have peaked too early.

13. Notre Dame (17-3) - ND has very few issues and is a really solid squad.  However, defense is a problem for the Irish at times, as they rank fairly low in defensive efficiency, and their very good offense has stalled in the half-court at times.

14. West Virginia (15-4) - The Mountaineers are boom or bust on defense. Their press forces the most turnovers in the country by far, but when their press is broken, they give up a ton of points. They are also incredibly high-tempo and frantic, which leads to a high-turnover offense as well.

15. Virginia (15-3) - The 'Cavs are very good on defense, but they lack a true go-to scorer and go through waves where it seems like scoring is incredibly difficult.

LOCAL FLAVOR

Rhode Island (12-6) - The Rams hold steady with a nice win over Duquesne, but what I said last week holds true: Win the conference tournament, or else . . . 

Providence (13-8) - Nice road win over Georgetown followed by a loss at Villanova which is nothing to worry about. However, the Friars still need at least two signature wins, and those opportunities are passing them by.

WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK

  • Tuesday, January 24 -- Kansas at West Virginia; Virginia at Notre Dame
  • Thursday, January 26 -- Xavier at Cincinnati
  • Saturday, January 28 -- Kansas at Kentucky
  • Sunday, January 29 -- Virginia at Villanova

POTENTIAL FUTURE CELTICS TO WATCH

Malik Monk - This kid is a bonafide scorer.  He is averaging 21.7 points in under 30 minutes per game and he's doing it in a variety of ways.  He can get to the rim, but he also shoots a lot of 3's and a lot of mid-range jumpers. Sounds like a recipe for a high-volume, low-efficiency scorer, right?  But get this: Monk is shooting 50.7 percemt from the field and 41.4 from 3-pt range. That's pretty nuts considering his shot selection.

Lauri Markkanen - This kid is about to skyrocket up draft boards.  He will absolutely pass Jonathan Isaac and will be the top big man in the 2017 draft.  He's got some Kevin Love to his game with more size.  The 7-footer is averaging 17 and 7, while shooting a crazy 52.4/50.0/83.5 split.  Stud.

Follow me on Twitter @RobbieBuckets for college hoops musings and off-the-cuff sports takes.

Alarm-puller: ‘I’m drunk. I’m stupid. I’m a Pats fan’

Alarm-puller: ‘I’m drunk. I’m stupid. I’m a Pats fan’

Intentionally or otherwise, the guy who allegedly pulled the fire alarm at the Steelers’ hotel Sunday morning may have also provided the average Bud Light-loving Bostonian a new motto. 

“I’m drunk. I’m stupid. I’m a Pats fan,” Dennis Harrison told police after he was arrested, according to the Boston Globe.  

Citing the State Police report, the Globe wrote Monday that Harrison was talked into pulling the alarm while at a party in Revere, with a friend driving the 25-year-old to the Boston Hilton Logan Airport hotel Sunday morning. 

Harrison reportedly walked up to the second floor and pulled the fire alarm before returning to the car, but his friend and the keys were gone. He was then picked up by police while walking away from the hotel. 

According to the Globe, Harrison pleaded not guilty to charges of disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and setting off a false fire alarm Monday and was released on personal recognizance.