Patriots prepare for Round 2 of Texans' Watt

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Patriots prepare for Round 2 of Texans' Watt

FOXBORO -- All eyes will be on J.J. Watt Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Watt didn't have the game he would have liked to have the last time these two teams faced each other in December. And the Patriots realize he'll be hungry for another shot in the playoffs.

"Hes a force on every play," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Friday. "That guy can, no matter what play you have called, he can ruin it. Hes good at the point of attack. He makes a lot of plays on the backside, disrupts the ball, strip-sacks, fumbles, caused fumbles, batted balls. Hes an excellent pass rusher, hes quick, hes powerful, hes very long, he has good technique, gets off on the ball well. Hes a tough matchup against really anybody. He runs games well. He has a lot of ability, hes well coached and he has good technique. He plays hard. Like I said, hes really a factor on every play."

So how do you contain him twice in one season?

"I dont know how you can put more than one guy on him very often," said Belichick. "You have to block the other guys too. You have to block Antonio Smith, you have to block Shaun Cody, you have to block Brooks Reed, you have to block Connor Barwin, you have to block Bradie James. Who is blocking them? Somebody has to block them. You cant put three guys on Watt and cut everybody else loose. I dont think thats the answer. Whoever has to block him has to block him.

"But I think the way that they play, hell get matched up against everybody sooner or later -- the right tackle, the right guard, the center, the left guard, the left tackle. Weve watched a lot of their games. Ive seen everybody have to block him -- tight ends at times depending on what the play is or the protection. They stunt him a lot. He might line up on one side of the ball, but hell twist to the other side on certain calls, certain plays. I think everybody has to be ready for him."

Even the running backs.

"J.J. Watt's an exceptional player," said Patriots running back Stevan Ridley. "And we have to have some hats on him every down, every play, throughout the game, because he's a playmaker. And so, for us, if it's coming out of the backfield, catching him on the way out, running routes, whatever we have to do. We've got to get away from him, put two hats on him, make sure he's blocked, make sure he's covered up. Because he's the leader of their defense. If he gets momentum, we're going to have trouble on that.

"I might have to put a hat on him, man," added Ridley. "I mean, he's going to be causing chaos out there. But I have faith in our offensive line. They're going to do a great job. Buy hey, if they need us to help, that's what a team's for. We'll come through.

Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

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Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

During our series discussing the 1986 Boston Celtics, we have sat down with many players from that championship, along with members of the media that were close to the team.

This week features a few of the opponents that were very familiar with the 1980’s Celtics  - Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins, former Celtics coach (and Hawk) Doc Rivers, and Lakers great James Worthy.

Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

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Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

BOSTON -- Early in 2016 praises were sung around the league that Xander Bogaerts was the best hitter in baseball.

Rightfully so. For a good portion of the season he led the league in both batting average and hits. But between Mookie Betts’ ascension and Bogaerts’ drop in average from .331 on 7/29 to .306 after Monday night’s game, he’s taken a back seat.

But the Red Sox shortstop’s month-long dry spell hasn’t been a straight decline. Although he was held hitless Monday, Bogaerts went 6-for-13 (.462) against Kansas City.

In fact, the 23-year-old doesn’t even consider the recent month of struggles the worst stretch of his career.

“2014 probably,” Bogaerts said, “yeah I had a terrible, terrible few months -- probably three months.”

That was of course the season a lot came into question surrounding the now All-Star shortstop, so he was pretty spot on. In 2014 Bogaerts went from hitting .304 through 5/31, to .248 by the end of June, .244 after his last game in July, all the way down to .224 by the last day of August.

Bogaerts would hit .313 that September and finish with a .240 average -- but more importantly, an appreciation of what he’d experienced.

“That definitely helped me become a better person, a better player -- and understanding from that and learning,” Bogaerts said.

From that experience, he gained a better understanding of the importance of maintaining a consistent day-to-day routine.

“That has to stay the same,” Bogaerts said without question in his voice. “The league adjusted, they adjusted to me. It kind of took a longer time to adjust to them. They’ve just been pitching me so differently compared to other years.”

Bogaerts has had the point reinforced to him throughout, with Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez serving as one voice of reinforcement.

“When you have a routine from the mental side, physical side, when you struggle that’s when you really need that,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been so good with his daily preparation, it doesn’t matter the result of the game. He can always go to something that feels comfortable.”

“He’s been so comfortable and confident with his daily routine and preparation that it allows him -- when he doesn’t get the results he wants in the game -- to have some peace knowing that the next day, we’re going to go back to doing that again.”

It’s clear Bogaerts needs to maintain his daily routine to help work through slumps -- and maintain hot streaks -- but Rodriguez made it clear, consistent preparation from a hitter doesn’t magically cure every problem.

“That doesn’t mean that because you stick with the routine you’re going to have results,” Rodriguez said. “What it means is, [because] you know and believe in that routine that you know you’re going to get out of it.”

Which means in addition to sticking to his normal routine, Bogaerts also had to identify flaws elsewhere in order work through his problems. He came to realize the problem was more mechanically based than mental -- given he’d done everything to address that.

“They pitched me differently, and some stuff I wanted to do with the ball I couldn’t do,” Bogaerts said. “I just continued doing it until I had to make the adjustment back.”

Bogaerts isn’t fully out of the dark, but he’s taken steps in the right direction of late -- and is nowhere near the skid he experienced in 2014. He and Rodriguez fully believe the All-Star’s ability to maintain a clear mind will carry him through whatever troubles he’s presented with the rest of the way.

“The more stuff you have in you’re head is probably not going to help your chances,” Bogaerts explained, “so have a clear mind -- but also have the trust in your swing that you’re going to put a good swing on [the pitch] regardless of whatever the count is.”

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar.