Talib, Lloyd gearing up for first career playoff game

944021.jpg

Talib, Lloyd gearing up for first career playoff game

FOXBORO -- If they were on different teams, cornerback Aqib Talib would most likely have the duties of covering wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.
Instead, both players are Patriots. And both will be participating in their first career playoff game on Sunday.
Both Talib and Lloyd knew what they were getting into when they came to New England. They knew that they'd be getting a chance to make the playoffs.
Before then?
"I'd be at a Sundance Film Festival, on my way to the Bahamas, you know, all kind of different stuff," said Lloyd with a smile on Thursday, when asked what he usually does during the NFL playoffs.
Lloyd didn't go out of his way to watch the games he would rather be playing in.
"Unless it was on the television in the hotel lobby or something," he said.
Now, Lloyd's right where he wants to be, in position to get to a Super Bowl. Which is why he signed with New England in the first place.
"It was part of the decision," said Lloyd. "Ever since you're a kid, the ultimate goal is to play in the Super Bowl. And the only way to get to the Super Bowl is to make it to the playoffs."
Talib was traded to the Patriots during the season, so it wasn't necessarily his choice. But now that he's here and it's finally time to make his playoff debut, he believes he's ready.
"You see that intensity turned up in practice some," said Talib on Thursday. "Meetings turn up. So it definitely feels like a playoff week.
"Just prepare, man," he added. "As much as you prepared for the regular season, just prepare a little bit more for the playoffs. The game's going to speed up a little bit.
Talib said he expects the action to speed up, but that doesn't mean he's going to change what he does.
"I don't play scared," said Talib. "So I'm going to play my game. I'm going to read and react. Read my keys, and I'm going to react. I don't play scared though."
Just because Talib and Lloyd are big names, that doesn't mean their first seasons in New England were going to work out. Just ask, oh I don't know, Chad Ochocinco.
Talib and Lloyd had to fit in. The Patriots organization is run differently than any organization in the league. Players realize that the second they enter the building.
For Talib, he walked onto a Patriots defense that needed a shutdown corner. He didn't need to do too much to fit in with the team on the field. But previous off-the-field issues may have been a cause for concern for some.
Not for the Patriots.
"It's funny, as soon as he got here he was kind of just like one of the guys," said cornerback Devin McCourty. "I don't know if it's just with athletes in general, but it seems like anytime we get a new guy on this team -- even a guy like Marquis Cole that came in the offseason -- it seems like he's been here for years. There's always a lot of transition in the NFL. I think guys know each other from playing against each other, some guys know each other from college, guys come in and it seems like they just fall right into the group. And I don't think there's a group that has more fun than us, in the secondary, just being around each other in the locker room, cracking jokes and doing things like that. He's fit in well."
Lloyd has had to prove himself in an offense that has plenty of weapons, or at least, a lot more than other teams.
On Thursday, Lloyd said his on-field success with Tom Brady is still a "work in progress," as he's said all season long. But he also filled everyone in on just how different it is playing with someone like Brady, during a game, as opposed to some of the other quarterbacks he's played and prepared with.
"It's been different than the past, just because of the organization," said Lloyd. "It's been different than the past because of Tom Brady and his style of preparation. But it's been similar in the sense that, you have to put the work in during the week, in all the weeks, and during the camps. And then we go into the game, and that's when we really find out about one another. That's what makes it similar.
"In playing with the less experienced quarterbacks, like in St. Louis I was playing with Kellen Clemons, it would be different. When he was thrown into the starting lineup, it was more of a situation where I was like, 'Where do you want me to be? I'm not going to tell you where I'm going to be. You tell me where you want me to be, and then I'll do my best to get there.'
"And with Tom, we have a little bit of give and take," added Lloyd. "Some plays I have that freedom, and then there are some plays where I can say, 'Hey, I'm going to be here.' And then he'll work it out. And then other plays he'll say, 'You need to be here.' And then that's the way the plays go. So it's similar and it's different. But it's equally rewarding."
Lloyd believes the presence of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has certainly helped the process move forward.
"I think the bridge with Tom is Josh, because Josh gives me credibility," said Lloyd. "Being with Josh the last three seasons, that's what gave me the credibility to come here and be accepted as a productive member of this team."
Both Lloyd and Talib have been productive in their own separate ways at different times of the season. Now, they'll both need to be productive at the same time. Because both share the same goal.
Get to New Orleans.

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins

price_what_we_learned-overlay-master.png

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins

Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins . . .

1) David Price isn’t having fun

Boston’s $217 million-dollar arm had another rough outing -- this time against a team that already has 60 losses.

Those are the team’s he’s supposed to dominate.

“It’s been terrible,” Price said on how his season has gone following the loss. “Just awful.”

Price’s mistakes have often been credited to mechanical mishaps this year. Farrell mentioned that following his start in New York, Price spent time working on getting more of a downhill trajectory on his pitches.

But Price doesn’t think his issue is physical.

So it must be mental -- but he doesn’t feel that’s the case either.

“Honestly I don’t think it’s either one of those,” Price said when asked which he thought was a factor. “It’s me going out there and making pitches. “

But when it comes down to the barebones, pitching -- much like anything else -- is a physical and mental act.

So when he says it’s neither, that’s almost impossible. It could be both, but it has to be one.

His mind could be racing out on the mound from a manifestation of the issues he’s had throughout the season.

Or it could just be that his fastball isn’t changing planes consistently, like Farrell mentioned.

Both could be possible too, but it takes a certain type of physical approach and mental approach to pitch -- and Price needs to figure out which one is the issue, or how to address both. 

2) Sandy Leon might be coming back to Earth

Over his last five games, Boston’s new leading catcher is hitting .176 (3-for-17), dropping his average to .395.

A couple things have to be understood. His average is still impressive. In the five games prior to this dry spell, Leon went 7-for-19 (.368) But -- much like Jackie Bradley Jr. -- Leon hasn’t been known for his offensive output throughout his career. So dry spells are always tests of how he can respond to adversity and make necessary adjustments quickly.

Furthermore, if he’s not so much falling into a funk as opposed to becoming the real Sandy Leon -- what is Boston getting?

Is his run going to be remembered as an exciting run that lasted much longer than anyone expected? Or if he going to show he’s a legitimate hitter that can hit at least -.260 to .280 with a little pop from the bottom of the line-up?

What’s more, if he turns back into the Sandy Leon he’s been throughout his career, the Red Sox will have an interesting dilemma on how to handle the catching situation once again.

3) Heath Hembree has lost the momentum he gained after being called up.

Following Saturday’s contest, the right-hander was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket after an outing where he went 1/3 of an inning, giving up a run on three hits -- and allowing some inherited runners to score.

Hembree at one point was the savior of the bullpen, stretching his arm out over three innings at a time to bail out the scuffling Red Sox starting rotation that abused it’s bullpen.

His ERA is still only 2.41 -- and this has been the most he’s ever pitched that big league level -- but the Red Sox have seen a change in him since the All-Star break.

Which makes sense, given that hitters have seven hits and two walks against him in his 1.1 innings of work -- spanning four games since the break.

“He’s not confident pitcher right now,” John Farrell said about Hembree before announcing his demotion. “As good as Heath has been for the vast majority of this year -- and really in the whole first half -- the four times out since the break have been the other side of that.”

Joe Kelly will be the pitcher to replace Hembree and Farrell hopes to be able to stretch him out over multiple innings at a time, as well.