FOXBORO -- Much of New England is outfitted in winter white this Sunday, not that you would know at Gillette Stadium. There are still traces of Saturday night's snowstorm on the venue's seats and concourses, but the field turf looks pristine for the Patriots regular season finale against Miami.
Nearly a dozen Dolphins players are outside -- sweats on, hoods up -- trying to get acclimated to the 26-degree weather. Today's temperature is currently at its peak, by the way. Wind could also be a factor for both teams today as 26-mile per hour gusts are expected.
Gillette's video boards are showing the Colts-Texans game. Interesting, no?
Usually, the screens display all the day's scores via NFL Network's Red Zone. But (as you've probably heard ad nauseum) if Indianapolis upsets Houston and the Patriots win over Miami, New England will get a bye. Either outcome could influence personnel decisions for today's game.
Kickoff on this AFC East tilt is in less than two hours.
This season the Boston Celtics have shown flashes for a few minutes here and there that they were an elite team defensively.
But what they did in the second half to the Orlando?
Boston (13-9) put on a defensive clinic that overwhelmed the Magic on every level imaginable as the Celtics cruised to a 117-87 thumping of Orlando.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has been even-keeled when it comes to discussing his team’s play, win or lose.
But even he couldn’t contain how pleased he was to see the way his players defended in the third and fourth quarters.
“On defense, the second half was as good as we’ve guarded all year,” Stevens told reporters afterwards. “Really focused, really urgent. I felt good about that.”
Setting the tone for the Celtics was Avery Bradley who certainly was impressive with his scoring.
But as much as he knew the team would need a boost offensively with Isaiah Thomas (right groin) out, that wasn’t his approach to the game.
“I had a defensive mindset coming into tonight’s game,” Bradley told CSN’s Abby Chin following the win. “Just trying to get my teammates to playing the right way so we could come out and get the ‘W’ tonight. I’m happy with how all the guys played. We all played hard, and we played as a team.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Wednesday night’s game.
Bradley picked up the scoring with Isaiah Thomas (right groin) out for Wednesday, leading the team with a game-high 23 points to go with four rebounds and three assists.
Arguably the biggest spark off the bench for Boston, Brown had one of his best games as a Celtic. He finished with 13 points which included a dunk over Nikola Vucevic that quieted the Amway Center crowd and just as important, provided a nice energy boost for Boston.
He had the hot hand at the end of the second quarter, but was a non-factor in the second half as Augustin finished with 15 points – all of which came in the first half.
This was a great confidence-booster for Rozier as well as his teammates to see him have a big game and make the most of his increased opportunity to play. He finished with a career-high 16 points off the Celtics bench on 6-for-13 shooting with five rebounds.
It doesn’t matter if he starts or comes off the bench. Vucevic is always a double-double threat on the floor. He finished with 12 points off the bench along with 10 rebounds for his 13th double-double this season.
Orlando second half defense
The Celtics got pretty much whatever they wanted, when they wanted it in the second half against the Magic defense which pulled a major disappearing act. Boston shot 61 percent from the field in the second half, and 45.4 percent from 3-point range.
It came against a rookie quarterback. It came against an offense that averages a league-worst 15.0 points per game. It came against an offense that has fewer yards than any other.
Still there are signs that Bill Belichick is pretty pleased with where his defense is after beating the Rams 26-10 on Sunday. One came on Wednesday when Patriots.com published its "Belichick Breakdown" for a closer look at a handful of plays from the team's most recent win.
Belichick called his team's third-and-eight stop with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter "probably one of the best good, team defensive plays we've had all year."
The Patriots show a five-man front, but linebacker Kyle Van Noy feigns a rush only to drop into coverage.
"Van Noy in here does a good job on the rush," Belichick said, "and also on the coverage on the back. Just good team defense. Good pass coverage down the field. The quarterback really doesn't end up having a lot of time, but there's no one to throw it to right away."
Belichick noted that all four rushers -- Chris Long, Trey Flowers, Dont'a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich -- all are able to pressure Jared Goff on the play. Combined with strong coverage in the secondary, the Rams nver really had a chance.
Belichick said it looked like a "tidal wave" of defenders bearing down on the quarterback.
"Long wins here . . . on the inside spin," Belichick said, "and Trey Flowers and Hightower both win on the little twist game inside. Then that's Rob with good speed-to-power on [Rams tackle Rob] Havenstein on the outside. Four good rushers. Plus a fifth guy...Van Noy getting that two-for-one on the guard and the back.
"Good team defense. That's great to see. A lot of hard work an execution on the practice field to make that happen."