Patriots put forth complete effort in 45-7 rout of Rams

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Patriots put forth complete effort in 45-7 rout of Rams

There may be better ways to head into a bye week . . . but, boy, it's hard to think of any.

The Patriots offense hummed along as usual, or maybe even a little better; Tom Brady directed scoring drives (five straight touchdowns, and then a field goal) on each of the Pats' first six possessions. But you've come to expect that, or at least something like it.

Here's what you didn't expect: The Patriots defense, after surrendering its obligatory 50-yard touchdown pass on the game's first drive, clamped down on St. Louis in its best effort since Opening Day at Tennessee. New England held the explosive Steven Jackson to a mere 23 yards rushing, took away the deep ball (the touchdown notwithstanding), and -- straight from the who'da-thunk-it? department -- held the Rams to 4-of-13 on third- and fourth-down opportunities.

The resulting 45-7 victory on a rainy evening at Wembley Stadium in London -- so one-sided that Ryan Mallett even got fourth-quarter playing time in relief of Brady, his first-ever NFL action -- sends the Pats into the bye week at 5-3, the same record they had after eight games last year. The 2011 Patriots, of course, wouldn't lose again until the Super Bowl. And the notion that the 2012 version can run off 10 (or 11) straight wins, unthinkable prior to today, may still be unlikely but . . . well, maybe just not so unthinkable anymore.

"It feels good to finally put one game together as a team," said Vince Wilfork. "Doing a lot of things correctly, just playing good football all the way around . . . Guys can see that when we play together, and don't hurt ourselves, we can be a dangerous football team."

Brady directed the Pats to 474 total yards, their record-breaking 17th straight game of 350 or more yards. It was highlighted by touchdown drives of 78, 83, 78, 56, 80 and 55 yards, not to mention:

A pair of touchdown passes from Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski, who a) caught 8 balls overall for 146 yards and b) came up with a pair of highlight-reel spikes after his two scores, one of which was an uncanny imitation of the Queen's guards.

A 127-yard rushing effort from Stevan Ridley, including a career-long 41-yard run.

Two TD receptions by Brandon Lloyd, on his only two catches of the day.

On the defensive side, the Pats got sacks from Chandler Jones and -- who else? -- Rob Ninkovich, and interceptions from Alonzo Dennard and Tavon Wilson. Ninkovich even had another fumble recovery, but it was wiped out by a penalty.

"We had a real good day today," acknowledged coach Bill Belichick.

That they did.

Buchholz may have earned a spot in the postseason rotation, and with the 2017 Red Sox

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Buchholz may have earned a spot in the postseason rotation, and with the 2017 Red Sox

NEW YORK -- Clay Buchhlz's start Wednesday night didn't result in a win for him, or even, as it turned out, for his team. But that didn't detract from the brilliant effort he turned in -- six shutout innings, one hit allowed -- on the night that the Red Sox almost unwittingly clinched the division title.

”It was good to go out (and pitch well) in this place," said Buchholz Thursday, "because I haven't ever pitched well here. So it was gratifying to throw well against a club that, historically, I haven't thrown well against."

It's widely assumed that Buchholz will be the team's fourth starter in the post-season and as the playoffs approach, Buchholz is throwing the ball better than he has all season.

"Physically, I feel good," said Buchholz. "It's been an up-and-down year for me individually. You have to learn from the time when you're not doing your job, and sometimes, you have to take a step back. Moving to the bullpen wasn't exactly what I had mapped out in my head for me to do this year, but overall, it helped me out to take a deep breath and work on stuff."

MORE BUCHHOLZ: McAdam: Buchholz now limiting, rather than fueling, big innings

It was surprising that Buchholz was lifted after just 89 pitches, but John Farrell has appeared to be reluctant to have Buchholz go much beyond that since his return to the rotation in August.

"At that moment, obviously I wanted to go back out (for more)," said Buchholz. "But the way our bullpen's thrown (of late), I'd much rather give whoever comes in a clean inning rather than giving up a couple of hits in the seventh and have someone come in the game with runners on and making their job harder.

"As far as the pitch count goes, that's why John's the manager -- he has the reins on whether I go back out or not go back out, or how many pitches I'm going to throw. But I feel good. I could have gone out and thrown as many pitches as they wanted me to."

Having endured an up-and-down season, Buchholz has a renewed appreciation for the upcoming post-season.

"There was a bumpy road for a while," Buchholz said. "There were moments a little tougher than others, but this is our job and regardless of what position you put yourself in, you still have to go out and do your job. But knowing where we are now, I think this team's built right to go deep in the playoffs."

SOME STILL AREN'T BUCHHOLZ BELIEVERS: Bertrand: Even with good start, I can't trust Clay Buchholz

Buchholz doesn't have a guaranteed contract for next year, but the expectation is the Red Sox will pick up his option worth $13.5 million.

"I understand the business side of it," he said. "That's part of the game. But if I'm healthy and throwing the ball well, I feel like I'm going to have a job somewhere. This is the only place I've ever been and I'd love for it to be here.

"That's to be decided, I guess. I'm sure we'll talk about it after all this is over and done with. But I'm going to try to have as much fun while I'm here and I hope I'm back here next year."

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

WALTHAM, Mass. – When the news came out that Al Horford was going to be a Boston Celtic, Amir Johnson couldn’t wait to meet his new teammate.

He didn’t have to.

Johnson soon found himself on plane headed to Atlanta to not only work out with Horford, but also try and work out some of the kinks that tend to come up among new teammates in those early days of training camp.

“I took it upon myself when I saw Al was part of the team, I automatically wanted to go down to Atlanta and work,” said Johnson who added that he brought his daughter along for the trip and they went to dinner with Horford’s family during the visit. “I thought it was great just to get that chemistry going. I just wanted to get to known him, make him feel comfortable.”

It’s still early in training camp, but Johnson and Horford seem to be meshing quite well on the floor. 

“The chemistry’s definitely coming along,” Johnson said. “I know when Al wants to roll or pop, and just working my way around it. Al’s more of a popper and eventually he’ll roll. It’s up to me to read whether I stay up or work the baseline.”

Johnson has been in the NBA long enough to know that often the keys to success are subtle nuances that may be overlooked by fans and spectators, but players know are essential to them being successful.

Being able to not only understand a player’s game but figure out how to play well with them, are critical to teammates being successful.

Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man which is a role the 29-year-old Johnson has been cast in the last few years he was in Toronto. Horford brings a similar set of defensive skills to the table which gives Boston a true 1-2 defensive punch along the frontline.

“It’s big time,” Johnson said. “We communicate to each other. It’s all about communication out there; just knowing he can hold it down and he trusts me to hold it down. It’s key.”

GREEN INJURY UPDATE

Gerald Green is expected to get a few more days to rest his hip flexor injury which he said on Thursday was feeling better.

The injury should keep the 6-6 wing from participating in the team’s Green-White scrimmage on Friday, but it isn’t considered serious.

Still, Green is eager to get back and return to full contact work which is why he is getting a steady diet of treatments during the day and returning in the evening for more treatments from the Celtics’ medical staff.

“It’s almost like a precautionary thing; make sure it doesn’t get worst,” Green said.

The injury occurred earlier this week but Green could not pinpoint exactly what he did to suffer the injury.

“I don’t think I stretched properly,” Green said. “I’m not 25 no more. Just try to come out there and go at full speed. Those are things I’ve got to learn now I’m in my 30s.”
Indeed, one of the many benefits of being older now is that Green sees the big picture of things better now, which is why he isn’t trying to rush back to the floor too quickly.

As a veteran, it’s a long season,” Green said. “You’re not trying to do too much to make it worst. Training camp is important, but being healthy at the beginning of the season is even more important.”

RUN, YOUNGSTERS, RUN

Near the end of Thursday’s practice, the Celtics had a full court game of 3-on-3 involving some of the team’s rookies and end-of-the-bench training camp invitees like Jalen Jones of Texas A&M. The 6-7 undrafted rookie had a dunk over Jordan Mickey, a 3-pointer and another strong, uncontested flush at the rim in a matter of minutes. He’s likely to wind up with Boston’s Developmental League team, the Maine Red Claws.

With Thursday morning’s session being the team’s fifth practice this season, head coach Brad Stevens thought it was a good idea to get some of the team’s younger players on the court.

“It was good to play some 3-on-3,” said Stevens who added that it was good for their conditioning since a lot of the running at this point involves trying to get the starters and the likely rotation players as acclimated and familiar with one another as possible. “We try to do that occasionally even through the season just to get everybody up and down.”

TURNOVERS? WHAT TURNOVERS?

Five practices in the books and there’s only one thing that really has stood out to the eyes of Isaiah Thomas.

It’s turnovers.

Apparently the Celtics haven’t committed too many thus far.

“We haven’t turned the ball over as much as teams usually do the first couple of days,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to learn the system, trying to get everybody familiar with what we do. But we’ve been playing well together. Guys are playing hard. Guys have gotten better, worked on their game.”

Ball-handling will be one of the areas to watch during the preseason as the Celtics look to find a replacement for Evan Turner (Portland) who has been one of the team’s best ball-handlers the past couple of seasons.

The Celtics were middle-of-the-pack last season with 13.5 turnovers per game which ranked 14th in the NBA.

Low turnovers often serve as a common trait among playoff teams. Just last season, eight of the top-nine teams in fewest turnovers committed, were in the playoffs.