Patriots playoff rematch means looking ahead

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Patriots playoff rematch means looking ahead

On December 6, 2010, the Patriots walloped the Jets, 45-3, on a Foxboro edition of Monday Night Football. Six weeks later, New York returned to Gillette Stadium for the Divisional Playoffs and whipped the home crowd into stunned silence by bouncing New England from the postseason. 
It will sound familiar to some.
Fans were already thinking back to that experience and its parallels to the Patriots' upcoming rematch with Houston before the media could even write it. 
New England demolished Houston, 42-14, on December 10, 2012. Monday Night Football. Some five weeks later, the Texans will return to Gillette for the Divisional Playoff. It's not hard to see why more melodramatic fans and analysts are salivating over the storyline. 
But ask Bill Belichick how he feels about the drama.  
"I think there's certainly a lesson there," he said during a conference call Sunday. "But the game that we play now doesn't have much to do with the game we played before, whether it's them or anybody else. It's an example we can point out. It doesn't have to be talked about that many times . . . There are a lot of other games that don't have anything to do with this game on its own. And that is, and will always be, the case. 
"But it's an example we can point out of how little relevance each game with the same team really does have."
The Patriots can appreciate a level of familiarity that December's meeting with Houston provides. Bottom line, however, is that enough has changed that neither team will depend on the tape. 
And this isn't a lesson Belichick learned from the Jets. 
"As we all know, when you play a team twice during the season the games are totally different; they never go the same way," he said. "We'll certainly be able to certainly look at some of the match ups individually -- guys that faced each other in the game -- but as far as plays and calls and things like that, I'm sure they'll have some new wrinkles. I'm sure we'll have some, too."
A few things can be gleaned from Houston's Saturday night Wild-Card game against the Bengals. 
Why that game? Because it's the most recent one. 
Houston fell into a bit of a funk after playing the Patriots, going 1-2 in its final regular season games. Also, the addition of a few parts -- linebacker Brooks Reed, defensive back Alan Ball, tackle Derek Newton -- has changed how the machine runs since it came to New England. 
But above all, Belichick emphasized the importance of getting a fresh start. Even this weekend's game between Houston and the Bengals gives limited insight because the Texans game plan was specific to Cincinnati. The work this week will be extensive, yet tailor-made for the Divisional Playoff.
"We've got to be ready for all the things that they do," Belichick concluded. "It'll just be a full week of preparation. We'll take from the Cincinnati game what we can -- there's some good examples of things we can learn from their game -- but ultimately our match ups are different than theirs."
New England's look back to Week 14 will be brief; the one to 2010, nonexistent. 

Quotes, notes and stars: Donaldson dominates Kelly

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Quotes, notes and stars: Donaldson dominates Kelly

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays:

 

QUOTES

 

* “He had quality stuff, but the story of this one is not being able to contain (Josh) Donaldson. Big night for him . . . I though Joe had quality stuff . . . [He] wasn’t as sharp with the overall location as he was the first time out for us.” John Farrell on Joe Kelly’s second start since his return from the disabled list.

 

* “He’s such a good player and does it in critical moments.” Farrell on Josh Donaldson after his two-homerun, 4-5 performance for Toronto.

 

* “He throws hard and has a lot of sink on his ball. Not much you can do with it. Just try to put it in play and see what happens.” Xander Bogaerts on facing Toronto’s start Aaron Sanchez.

 

* “Bottom line is the results. I think there’s been a strong precedent set with that,” Farrell before the game on moving Clay Buchholz to the bullpen to make room for Eduardo Rodriguez.

 

 

NOTES

 

* Following Friday night’s performance, Josh Donaldson is now 12-20 in his career against Joe Kelly with a double, two home runs and nine RBIs.

 

* The Red Sox’ five runs brings their season total to 38 on the road, averaging 3.8 per game through ten road games. At home, Boston has averaged 7.8 runs through 18 games.

 

* Despite a rough start, Joe Kelly still didn’t record a loss. He hasn’t been on the wrong side of a decision since 7/22/15.

 

* Xander Bogaerts extended his streak to 20 games in his second at-bat against Aaron Sanchez. Boston’s shortstop now has the longest active streak in the league.

 

 

STARS

 

1) Josh Donaldson

Toronto’s third baseman dominated not only Joe Kelly, but Koji Uehara, launching two balls over the fence in a 4-5 day.

 

2) Aaron Sanchez

Although he got tired late, Toronto’s starter only had three earned runs through 6.2 innings against one of the most potent offenses in the league.

 

3) Xander Bogaerts

After teammate Jackie Bradley, Jr. saw his streak die Thursday night, Bogaerts squeaked one up the middle, bringing his streak to 20 games, against a starter who’s caused problems for him before.

Marchand: Selection to Canada World Cup 'on a different level'

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Marchand: Selection to Canada World Cup 'on a different level'

Bruins left wing Brad Marchand definitely altered a lot of people’s perceptions about him as a hockey player when he scored 37 goals this season, and embraced more of a leadership role on a B’s team getting younger by the year. The B’s agitator started to reap the rewards of those changed opinions with a gold medal at the IIHF World Championships in Russia earlier this month, and on Friday with his inclusion on a ridiculously talented Team Canada roster set for the NHL and NHLPA-organized World Cup of Hockey in the fall.

Marchand will join linemate Patrice Bergeron and head coach Claude Julien as part of the Team Canada contingent, and could even be part of a reunited Marchand-Bergeron-Tyler Seguin line if Mike Babcock and Co. are looking for instant chemistry.

Either way Marchand was excited about suiting up for his country, and being part of a World Cup tournament that will include Bruins players Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, David Pastrnak, David Krejci (who may not be available to play due to his hip surgery), Loui Eriksson and Dennis Seidenberg along with the Team Canada contingent.

“It’s an incredible honor to play for Team Canada. It’s something that I think we all take a lot of pride in, and something that is…it’s not an easy accomplishment,” said Marchand. “It’s not something you get to do very often, and to have that opportunity twice this year is very special and it’s not something I take for granted

“I think being part of a team like this is on a different level, and people may give a little more respect to that fact and may look at more of the kind of player I am, other than just the stuff they’ve seen in the past, with the hits and being a pest and stuff like that. Maybe those people will realize that I’m an OK hockey player, and I do play the game as well. But regardless, that’s not why I play the game. I play it to help our team win and just because I love the game, so however they feel, then that’s their opinion. But [earning more respect league-wide] is a possibility.”

This is the fifth time Marchand has been selected to compete for his home country of Canada in international play. The 5-foot-9, 181-pound forward tallied four goals and three assists in 10 games while helping Canada earn a gold medal at the aforementioned 2016 IIHF Men’s World Championships, held earlier this month in Russia. Marchand previously won gold with Team Canada at the U-20 World Championships in 2007 and 2008. He also earned a bronze medal with Team Canada Atlantic at the 2005 World U-17 Hockey Challenge.

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey will take place from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1, 2016 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, home of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. The two-week tournament, featuring eight teams comprised of more than 150 of the best players in the NHL, will progress from the Preliminary Round to the Semifinals and ultimately the Final. 

The involvement of so many Bruins players along with Julien will make for a spare NHL camp in Boston come September with so many important pieces out for what is traditionally the first two weeks of camp. 

First Impressions: Kelly’s setback unsettling

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First Impressions: Kelly’s setback unsettling

First impressions of Red Sox 7-5 loss to Toronto:

 

Joe Kelly still has to prove he can be trusted to start for the Red Sox.

With the demotion of Clay Buchholz to the bullpen after Kelly’s lockdown start in his return from the DL, Kelly went back to his old ways.

After mixing pitches well in his first outing, Kelly threw 94 pitches -- 70 fastballs -- in 4.2 innings. In his previous start, he threw 66 fastballs over 104 pitches.

That approach won’t fly, especially if his fastball command is as subpar as it was against Toronto.

The Blue Jays’ batters seemed very comfortable in the box, despite Kelly throwing as hard as he does with so much movement. That can’t become the norm for opposing hitters.

 

The Red Sox offense can handle any starting pitcher -- but they can’t do it alone.

After Jon Gray shut down Boston in the final game of the Colorado series, Red Sox hitters faced a familiar foe that had already had success against them earlier in the year in Aaron Sanchez.

Despite using his curveball much more than his start earlier in the season, Boston’s hitters made adjustments. He did hold them down for much of the early going, but Red Sox hitters still scraped out four runs in his seven innings.

But the pitching staff didn’t hold up it’s end, essentially letting Josh Donaldson beat Boston by himself.

 

Xander Bogaerts made sure Sanchez didn’t ruin the streak.

Now hitting safely through 20 games, Bogaerts extended his streak against the starter who had him baffled when they faced off earlier in the year. The biggest difference from their last matchups was Bogaerts put good swings in against Sanchez mistakes -- and he didn’t appear off-balance after every swing.

 

Matt Barnes will not be Carson Smith’s replacement in 2016.

Despite his upper 90s fastball and 12-6 curveball, Barnes still can’t put together dominant appearances. His lack of command -- with a straight fastball -- is the big reason. Boston will have to look elsewhere -- internally or from another organization -- to give the bullpen another reliable set-up man given Koji Uehara’s age and durability.

 

The baseball gods are on Boston’s side -- for now.

As if Jose Bautista sitting out after appealing an earlier suspension wasn’t enough, the Red Sox scored their first run without a hit. Then the red Sox tied the game in the eighth on an error, after Dustin Pedroia had reach on a double that landed because Michael Saunders and Kevin Pillar had a communication breakdown.