5 notes from the first half

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5 notes from the first half

FOXBORO - Pass. The. Eggnog. It's 17-0 Miami and the top seed in the AFC is getting planted. McCOURTY MISERY ONGOINGThings aren't getting any better for the Patriots second-year corner. On a third-and-9 in the first quarter, he allowed a 39-yard completion to Brian Hartline when he bit on a double move. On the first play of the second quarter, he allowed a 47-yard bomb to Brandon Marshall. On a third-and-12 from the Dolphins 9 later in the second quarter, McCourty got called for pass interference on a ball that was sailing over the receiver's head. Each of those drives ended in points for Miami. Additionally, McCourty had a pass breakup in the end zone on a bomb intended for Marshall thatprobably could have been picked off. Bad. Not good. PROTECTION BREAKDOWNWith Matt Light unable to go today, the Dolphins have feasted on the Patriots' patchwork offensive line. Tom Brady's been sacked three times already and the pressure has been in his face and forced hurried throws on several other plays. Brady's 7 of 19 for 87 first-half yards. The Patriots' shuffle of Logan Mankins to left tackle, Donald Thomas to left guard got punctured when Mankins started limping in the first quarter. Cameron Wake and Jason Taylor both have sacks off the edges already. Mankins has been out since the first quarter. DABOLL DEALINGThe Miami offensive coordinator - formerly a Patriots assistant, Jets quarterbacks coach and Browns' offensive coordinator - is pulling all the right levers so far. He's picking on McCourty and had a slick throwback pass from Reggie Bush to quarterback Matt Moore that drew a pass interference on Rob Ninkovich as he steamrolled Moore. The Dolphins have 255 yards of first half offense and have run for 83 on a Patriots run defense that fancies itself as stout. TIGHT END SHUTDOWNMiami has so far limited Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski to just four catches for 36 yards. Some of that has to do with the pressure being brought on Brady, some of it has to do with the coverage. PLAYOFF PRECURSOR?This Patriots' team has been one that Bill Belichick's praised for its resilience and mental toughness. The Dolphins have a playoff quality defense. How New England adjusts and what it can generate offensively in the second half is the No. 1 storyline in the second half. Second? What can the defense do to slow a Miami team with nothing to lose that should by all rights keep its foot on the gas while New England's reeling.

Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

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Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Tuukka Rask made 35 saves to help the Bruins hold off the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Saturday

David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron scored to give Boston a 2-0 lead and the Bruins improved to 3-0-1 in their past four.

Evander Kane scored his first goal of the season for Buffalo. Robin Lehner returned after missing one game with a hip injury and made 32 saves.

The Sabres combined for nine goals in their previous two wins but the NHL's lowest-scoring team reverted to form from the first 21 games, when star center Jack Eichel was out of the lineup with a high-ankle sprain.

Krejci got the Bruins on the scoreboard with 5:50 left in the first when he deflected Brandon Carlo's slap shot from the point off the right post and into the net.

The Sabres appeared to tie the game late in the second period but replays determined Brian Gionta kicked the puck into the net.

Bergeron made it 2-0 at 7:10 of the second at 7:44 of the third when he knocked on the rebound of his own missed shot. Bergeron initially hit the puck with his forearm on the left edge of the crease and skated around the net to chase down the puck and slip a backhand past Lehner.

The Sabres answered two minutes later, scoring on Rask for the first time in 109:12 this season. Sam Reinhart's feed off the rear wall set up Kane for a wrist shot from the slot that bounced in off Krejci. Reinhart has five points in his last four games.

NOTES: Bruins F Matt Beleskey was escorted to the dressing room in the final minute of the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. ... Sabres D Josh Gorges did not play after injuring his foot blocking a shot in Thursday's win over the New York Rangers. With Dmitry Kulikov (lower back) and Zach Bogosian (MCL sprain) also out, the Sabres were down three of their top four defenseman and recalled 19-year-old Brendan Guhle from the minors to make his NHL debut. Guhle hustled back to thwart a breakaway by Krejci late in the third period. ... F Anton Blidh became the seventh Bruin to make his NHL debut this season after being recalled from the minors on Friday. ... The Bruins scratched F Jimmy Hayes. D Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' captain, missed his sixth straight game with a lower-body injury. ... Rask got a shutout in Boston's 4-0 win over Buffalo on Nov. 7.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Florida on Monday.

Sabres: At Washington on Monday.

 

© 2016 by STATS and The Associated Press.

Gronkowski put on IR, officially ending his season

Gronkowski put on IR, officially ending his season

The Patriots have placed Rob Gronkowski on injured reserve, officially ending the injured tight end's season. 

The Patriots have added running back D.J. Foster to the 53-man roster. 

Gronkowski underwent surgery on his back Friday in Los Angeles. There was some hope he might be able to return if the Patriots reached the Super Bowl, but this move ends that.

More to come...