FOXBORO - No Patriot had a greater hand in the building of the New England dynasty than Troy Brown. And no player more regularly elevated his play to an even greaterlevel when games of import came around. As a proud Patriots alumni, Brown's seen the Patriotscrack under pressure in2009 and 2010. But this year, he seesa change. "I think this team is different this year," said Brown. "Some guys like (linebacker Jerod) Mayo who've been around three or four years, I think they've matured some. They understand that you can't play in the shadow of(the great teams)anymore but can learn from what they did and how they carried themselves."Brown will be one of four honorary captains for the Patriots on Sunday in the AFC Championship against Baltimore. The Patriots haven't yet announced the other three. The fact Brown played in 19 postseason games for New England starting in 1994 (he didn't play in the 2007 postseason) and was a central figure in some of the biggest moments of the 2001 Super Bowl run made him a natural. He explained that he still gets a weird feeling when the NFL postseason comes. "I was talking to Deion Branch just now and talking about the way players should feel this time of year," said Brown. "I didn't get that feeling from this football team a couple of years ago that they had really pushed that button to go to the next level. "They should all be feeling different right now, there should be a sense of urgency, a different type of feeling in the locker room," said Brown. "I told (Deion) that, 'I still get those feelings today. When the playoffs start, for whatever reason I feel different. I feel like I've pushed a button myself.' " And you do. This is the time of year when I feel like, 'If I had one more game...' This is the time of year I want to play in."The 2009 team had some malignant personalities on it and rolled over against the Ravens. The 2010 team seemed a little wide-eyed in their loss to the Jets. "I don't think in the past they were pushing that button and going to the next level," Brown explained. "This is a whole 'nother season. The excitement of the game, the focus on the game. There's three types of tempo. There's preseason tempo, there's regular season tempo and there's postseason tempo. Then you have Super Bowl tempo too. But there's all different levels and everybody can't hit that switch. And they all have to be on that page when they do that."Given the 45-10 win over Denver Saturday night, it's hard to arguethat Brown's off-base. It was the team's most complete performance of the season in its biggest game. But the next game - and the one after - willdetermine whether this team is simply different from 2009 and 2010or quite similar to the 2001, 2003 and 2004 teams.
FOXBORO -- Martellus Bennett is willing to admit it.
"Last week was probably my worst game as a Patriot," he told reporters in the locker room on Thursday. "But, you know, you have a bad game here and there. This week, come back grinding, and get ready."
Never was it more clear than on Sunday that Bennett has been hobbled by the injuries he's dealing with. He's coped with an ankle injury since Week 5 in Cleveland that has earned him the respect of his teammates and coaches, but against the Rams it appeared to severely impact his performance.
He saw four targets and caught two for four yards. As a blocker -- the facet of his game that stood out more than his receiving ability early this season -- he was called for two holds and had difficulty keeping his assignments in check, both in the run game and in pass protection.
Asked if he may benefit from a week off, Bennett said he planned to continue to play.
"I never thought about that. I just keep going," he said. "I'm like the energizer bunny. I just try to find a way. Sometimes it's [expletive] when you're out there playing with different injuries. You can't do a lot of things that you want to do. You have [expletive] plays. You might have a string of bad plays in a row just because youre dealing with different things . . .
"But throughout the game you kind of find a way to get the job done. I think that's the biggest point. It may not be pretty all the time, but try to figure some kind of way to get it done. Sometimes it's adjusting as the game goes on."
He added: "The thing about this sport is it's always something. You never go throuigh a season without having some kind of nick or tear, but there's a lot of guys playing with different things. But some guys are able to play through different injuries, and [with] some of the same injuries, you see guys around the league . . . go on IR and things like that. But it just depends on the person and their pain tolerance."
Bennett was back at practice Thursday after he wasn't spotted there on Wednesday. He may be helped by the long week leading up to Monday's game against the Ravens. It could mean an extra day of rest and recovery.
Sometimes, he said, it's difficult not to be out there.
"Sometimes. Sometimes it's like, thank God. I needed that today," he said. "It varies each week. . . I'll fight through whatever and I think that's something that my teammates and coaches know about me that I'm going to try to give them everything I got no matter what."
The NHL Network is terrific. Its programming is the best of any of the four major sports leagues’ channels, its talent is outstanding and it shows a lot of cool games across various leagues.
Players mess up though.
In the network’s recently released ranking of the 40 best goaltenders of all time, the Bruins were well-represented, but so too was insanity. We’re talking Jonathan Quick in the top 20 (No. 16!), Marc-Andre Fleury top 25 (No. 21!) and Corey Crawford top 30 (No. 26!). Those are just a few of the head-scratchers.
Tim Thomas was one of seven Bruins on the list, coming in at No. 27. Other Bruins ranked were Bernie Parent (No. 12), Frank Brimsek (No. 23), Rogie Vachon (No. 25), Tiny Thompson (No. 28), Gerry Cheevers (No. 29), Andy Moog (No. 36). Here's the full list, per Mark Lazerus.
Statistically, Tuukka Rask deserves a place on this list if Fleury and Crawford are going to be that high, but we’ll save the Rask arguments for literally every other second of my life.
[OK, real quick: Rask has the highest career save percentage of all time. Quick sits No. 17 and Fleury is 32nd. This doesn’t need to be completely statistics based, but it also shouldn’t be completely how-many-Cup-teams-were-on-based. Honestly, I can’t tell what this list is based on at all. Like Cristobal Huet had a better career save percentage than Fleury has.]
Anyway, everyone else hated the list, too.
The NHL Network's top 40 goalies makes more sense if you separate them into groups pic.twitter.com/9ztBvZQLkv— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) December 8, 2016
actually im the best goalie ever— ryan lambert (@twolinepass) December 8, 2016
I'm going to be muttering "Jonathan Quick and Marc-Andre Fleury ahead of Billy Smith" under my breath for the rest of the day.— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) December 8, 2016