Patriots offensive line shuffled with Mankins, Connolly out

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Patriots offensive line shuffled with Mankins, Connolly out

FOXBORO -- Coming off the bye week, the Patriots appeared to be relatively healthy and well-rested. It didn't last long.

New England's offensive line was shaken up by injuries in Sunday's 37-31 win over the Bills. Right guard Dan Connolly left the game in the second quarter with a back injury and did not return. Logan Mankins limped off the field with an ankle injury in the third quarter, and he remained out of the game as well.

Donald Thomas was called upon to replace Connolly. He said he was ready when he entered the game at right guard.

"You got to come to the stadium ready to play," said Thomas, who warmed up two hours before the opening kick with backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, snapping balls to Mallett as a center.

"You never know if you'll play or not play. You got to be ready to go and another situation happened today where I had to step in and fill the void for somebody."

When Mankins went down, Nick McDonald stepped in at left guard. McDonald has the ability to play all five offensive line spots and he too was ready when he got the call.

"You have to prepare each week as if something like that is going to happen," McDonald said. "It's unfortunate that someone goes down. You never want to see that. We're good friends and good teammates, but when they go down and your number is called you have to play just like they would, just like a starter would."

Brady was sacked once on the day and was hit a handful of times after getting rid of the ball. It wasn't a perfect performance, but the new-look offensive line did enough to help the Patriots win.

"I think, you know, what happened today, we managed the game and were able to move th ball," Thomas said. "There is always room for improvement and you can always go back and break down the film. That's any team and any player. So we take the good and the bad and move on from it and try to not make the same mistakes twice."

Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia has historically done a good job of taking cast-offs and turning them into productive players. On Sunday, after Mankins went down, New England's interior offensive line was made up of two undrafted players (McDonald and center Ryan Wendell) and a former sixth-round pick who has been cut three times in his career (Thomas).

Part of their success on Sunday was due in part the Patriots coaching staff having their backups ready.

"Honestly, it's not a big challenge," McDonald said of entering in the middle of a game. "It's just a matter of being prepared for it. That's the biggest thing. Preparing mentally as if you're going to start the game, so going into it sometimes it is hard to do that but you have to be ready just like the starters are."

Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

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Red Sox celebration quickly washes away walk-off loss

NEW YORK -- It had the potential to be the most awkward celebration ever.

In the top of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, before their game was complete, the Red Sox became American League East champions, by virtue of one other division rival -- Baltimore -- coming back to beat another -- Toronto -- in the ninth inning.

That eliminated the Blue Jays from the division race, and made the Sox division champs.

But that ninth inning reversal of fortune was about to visit the Red Sox, too.

Craig Kimbrel faced four hitters and allowed a single and three straight walks, leading to a run. When, after 28 pitches, he couldn't get an out, he was lifted for Joe Kelly, who recorded one out, then yielded a walk-off grand slam to Mark Teixeira.

The Yankees celebrated wildly on the field, while the Red Sox trudged into the dugout, beset with mixed emotions.

Yes, they had just lost a game that seemed theirs. But they also had accomplished something that had taken 158 games.

What to do?

The Sox decided to drown their temporary sorrows in champagne.

"As soon as we got in here,'' said Jackie Bradley Jr., "we quickly got over it.''

From the top of the eighth until the start of the bottom of the ninth, the Red Sox seemed headed in a conventional celebration.

A two-run, bases-loaded double by Mookie Betts and a wild pitch -- the latter enabling David Ortiz to slide into home and dislodge the ball from former teammate Tommy Layne's glove --- had given the Sox a 3-0 lead.

Koji Uehara worked around a walk to post a scoreless walk and after the top of the ninth, the Sox called on Craig Kimbrel, who had successfully closed out all but two save opportunities all season.

But Kimbrel quickly allowed a leadoff single to Brett Gardner and then began pitching as though he forgot how to throw strikes. Three straight walks resulted in a run in and the bases loaded.

Joe Kelly got an out, but then Teixeira, for the second time this week, produced a game-winning homer in the ninth. On Monday, he had homered in Toronto to turn a Blue Jays win into a loss, and now, here he was again.

It may have been a rather meaningless victory for the Yankees -- who remain barely alive for the wild card -- but it did prevent them the indignity of watching the Red Sox celebrate on their lawn.

Instead, the Sox wore the shame of the walk-off -- at least until they reached their clubhouse, where the partying began in earnest.

It had taken clubhouse attendants less than five minutes to cover the floor and lockers with plastic protective sheets. In a matter of a few more minutes, the air was filled with a mix of beer and bubbly.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski wore a goggles and only socks on his feet.

As the spray reached every inch of the clubhouse, David Ortiz exclaimed: "I'm going to drown in this man.''

Defeat? What defeat?