Patriots outgun Colts, 59-24

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Patriots outgun Colts, 59-24

FOXBORO -- He looked invincible at the start, Andrew Luck did. He led the Colts on scoring drives of 80 and 84 yards the first two times Indianapolis had the ball -- burning New England's newest secondary hopeful, Aqib Talib, twice during the second -- and it seemed Luck would be a worthy successor to Peyton Manning in a suddenly rejuvenated PatriotsColts rivalry.

Then he reminded us that he's a rookie after all.

He threw not one, but two pick-sixes (and three interceptions overall) to a Patriot secondary that has spent the season making stars of the Russell Wilsons and Kevin Kolbs of the world. He botched the time management of a late first-half drive, forcing the Colts to settle for an impossible Adam Vinatieri 58-yard field-goal attempt when they still only trailed by seven. He was strip-sacked by Rob Ninkovich in the third quarter, a turnover that Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski turned into a touchdown just six second later.

Game summary and statistics

Luck's numbers in the end were decent (27-of-50, 334 yards, 2 touchdowns) as he recorded his fifth 300-yard game of the season, the most for a rookie in NFL history. But that many mistakes -- even against a defense as soft as New England's -- usually spells disaster and it did Sunday, as the Patriots pulled away to an easy 59-24 victory at Gillette Stadium.

The victory may prove to be Pyrrhic, if Rob Gronkowski (who, according to sources, suffered a broken forearm) is sidelined for any length of time. But prior to Gronk's injury it was, in the words of Tom Brady, a "fun day".

Julian Edelman (69-yard punt return, 2-yard pass from Brady) and Gronkowski (passes of 4 and 24 yards from Brady) each scored a pair of touchdowns for New England. The Pats also got interception returns for TDs of 59 yards from Talib -- more than making up for his miscues on the second drive -- and 87 yards from Alonzo Dennard; scoring runs of three yards by Stevan Ridley and four yards by Shane Vereen, and a 31-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski . . . who also tied the franchise record for extra points in a game, with eight.

The 59 points tied the franchise record for most points in a game, set in a 59-0 win over Tennessee in 2009.

"That was awesome," said Brady. "That was a team win. We got contributions from all three units."

There wasn't much of a contribution on the defensive side of the ball at the beginning. Luck shredded the Pats defense the first two times he had the ball, with a one-yard scoring run by Delone Carter capping a game-opening 80-yard drive, and a 14-yard TD pass from Luck to T.Y. Hilton finishing off an 84-yard march that made the score 14-7.

And Bill Belichick was impressed.

"There were five or six times in the game where I thought we were draped all over him; it didn't seem like there was much space at all to get the ball in, and he got it in and they caught it," said the Patriots coach. "They made some good throws and tough catches in there where I thought we had them covered pretty well, but they were still able to execute it."

The game turned quickly, however. The first time the Pats forced Luck and the Colts to punt, Julian Edelman returned it 68 yards for a touchdown, tying the score in the second quarter.

"Julian's been dying to get out there and make plays and he certainly did today," said Brady, referring to the three games Edelman missed because of a broken hand. "And we needed it."

Then it was Talib, who picked off Luck on the second play of the next drive and returned it 59 yards for the touchdown that put New England ahead to stay.

"He's a great cornerback, that's why they traded for him," said Hilton. "He was able to do some things tonight."

Adam Vinatieri (47 yards) and Gostkowski traded field goals later in the quarter, making it 24-17, but Luck's inexperience showed on the last drive of the half. Taking possession at his own 10 with slightly less than two minutes to play, he was able to move the ball downfield (passes of 19 yards to Donnie Avery and 16 yards to Dwayne Allen) and eventually got the Colts into New England territory. But the Colts didn't use their timeouts wisely and took too much time between plays, and in the end had to settle for a 58-yard FG attempt by Vinatieri. It was out of his range, and the half ended with the Patriots maintaining their seven-point lead.

And then they blew it open in the second half. Edelman's second touchdown put them in front 31-17; Gronkowski's second, after the Ninkovich strip sack and fumble recovery, made it 38-17; Dennard's 87-yard interception return on the first play of the fourth quarter gave them a 45-17 lead. After Luck threw a 43-yard scoring pass to Hilton, the Pats added the Ridley and Vereen touchdown runs for the 59-24 final.

One of the keys was their ability to put pressure on Luck, which, in turn, helped the secondary by reducing the amount of time it had to cover.

"That was the point of emphasis, get pressure on Luck," said safety Steve Gregory. "Because if you just let him stand there and throw the ball, he can pick you apart. So we wanted to focus in on getting pressure on the guy, and the guys up front did a great job of it."

The pressure forced the mistakes -- the rookie mistakes -- and the Pats capitalized for their fourth win a row. They're now 7-3, in solid possession of first place in the AFC East, and in position to maneuver their way to another first-round playoff bye if Houston or Baltimore falters in the final six weeks.

That's thinking a little too far ahead for Brady's taste.

"I think we're trying to make improvements," he said. "I don't think we're anywhere where we need to be at this point."

But where they are was more than good enough Sunday.

Brown and Rozier seize opportunity, provide spark off Celtics bench

Brown and Rozier seize opportunity, provide spark off Celtics bench

There was Terry Rozier, delivering dizzying crossover dribbles that set up open jumpers, soon followed by defenders he then beat to the rim for easy scores. 
 
“I felt like I was in college a little bit,” Rozier told reporters Wednesday night. 
 
The second-year guard is a long way from his days at Louisville, but make no mistake about it.
 
His basketball education is ongoing, but on Wednesday it was Rozier and rookie Jaylen Brown teaching the Orlando Magic a lesson as Boston pulled away for a 117-87 victory.
 
Playing without Isaiah Thomas (right groin), Rozier came off the bench to score a career-high 16 points. 
 
And Brown, whose hustle and above-the-rim play energized the Celtics most of the night, had 13 points which included a powerful, poster-worthy dunk over an unsuspecting Nikola Vucevic. 

"I didn't expect to dunk, nor did I expect him to jump," Brown told reporters after the game. "When it happened, I was just as surprised as everyone else."
 
The Celtics (13-9) were pleased with the victory which included contributions from several players. 
 
But there was added pleasure for the veteran Celtics in watching their youthful teammates step up and play well.
 
“It’s hard as a young player to come in and find yourself on a team,” Boston’s Al Horford told reporters after the win. “And those guys are really hard workers. As the season goes on, they’ll become more comfortable with what we’re trying to do.”
 
We have seen Brown put in positions where he was given an opportunity to make a major impact. 
 
His first NBA start came against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. 
 
Boston lost 128-122 to the Cavs, but Brown had a career-high 19 points, five rebounds and three steals. 
 
Brown said when he’s on the floor with Rozier, the two have a very specific agenda. 
 
“Me and Terry get in, we talk to each other and say, ‘we gotta run,’” Brown said. “That’s our focus; we’re young. We try to get up and down the floor. It makes the game easier for us.”
 
The Celtics' second unit has been in a constant state of change most of this season due to the number of injuries sustained by the preferred starting five. 

So getting more consistent play from the team’s youngsters like Rozier and Brown is huge for this team going forward especially if they will be without Thomas for multiple games which is a possibility. 
 
“It was a great opportunity; they seized it,” Horford said. “Moving forward, if they play like they did tonight; defense first, confident, I feel like there will be plenty of more opportunities to show what they have.” 

Capitals lose 3-goal lead, recover to beat Bruins in OT

Capitals lose 3-goal lead, recover to beat Bruins in OT

WASHINGTON - Nicklas Backstrom scored 1:36 into overtime, helping the Washington Capitals beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 after blowing a three-goal lead Wednesday night.

Justin Williams scored twice and Daniel Winnik also had a goal to put Washington ahead 3-0 about six minutes into the second period.

After Winnik's tally, Washington went over 26 minutes without a shot on goal. Boston dominated the final five minutes of the second period, when Dominic Moore and David Pastrnak beat goaltender Braden Holtby. Colin Miller's power-play score 8:19 into third tied it at 3.

Boston arrived in Washington 4-0-1 over its last five games with three wins in a row, including a 4-3 overtime triumph against Florida on Monday night.

Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists for the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin got his first point since Nov. 26.

Boston outshot Washington 34-20. The Capitals have won two straight following a three-game losing skid.