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."

HEISMAN: Lousiville's Lamar Jackson wins College Football's highest award

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HEISMAN: Lousiville's Lamar Jackson wins College Football's highest award

NEW YORK -- Lamar Jackson leapt over a loaded field of Heisman Trophy contenders early in the season and by the time he slowed down nobody could catch him.

The sensational sophomore quarterback became the first Louisville player to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, beating out preseason favorite Deshaun Watson of Clemson despite some late-season struggles.

Baker Mayfield finished third and Oklahoma teammate and fellow finalist Dede Westbrook was fourth. Michigan's Jabrill Peppers was fifth.

For more clicke here . . .

Bruins lose third straight with 4-1 loss to Leafs

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Bruins lose third straight with 4-1 loss to Leafs

BOSTON -- The Bruins’ season has gone in extreme swings both up and down thus far through the first couple of months, and that was the case as they lost their third game in a row to the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

The Bruins couldn’t only scratch for one goal despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by a 32-20 margin, and fell by a disappointing 4-1 score to the young and talented Toronto club at TD Garden.

The Bruins never enjoyed a lead in the game against the Leafs, and were flirting with danger after failing to score in the first period despite out-shooting Toronto by an 11-2 margin in the game’s opening 20 minutes. Instead it was a David Pastrnak neutral zone turnover in the second period that was picked off by William Nylander, and ended with Auston Matthews firing a rocket over Tuukka Rask for his 12th goal of the season.

Toronto extended the lead with five minutes to go in the period when Zach Hyman tipped a wobbly Jake Gardiner point shot past Rask, and made it three games in a row that the Bruins have dug themselves a considerable hole. Brad Marchand got one goal back at the end of the second period on a nice hustle play as he sealed off Frederik Anderson’s clearing attempt and then stuffed the puck past the Leafs goalie on a second chance bid.

That’s the way the score remained until the third period when the Bruins couldn’t convert on a couple of offensive chances -- included a bang-bang shorthanded bid for Austin Czarnik in front of the net -- and then James van Riemsdyk scored in front as a Toronto power play expired. That was the backbreaker for a Black and Gold bunch that continues to scrap for goals, and has now scored two goals or less in 20 of their 20 games this season.

Connor Brown added an empty netter in the final two minutes of the game to truly put it out of reach for the Bruins.