Curran: 42 lines on 21 issues

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Curran: 42 lines on 21 issues

Forty-two lines on 21 topics: I really, really hope I'm wrong because I like Bill O'Brien a lot. But this ain't gonna be pretty at Penn State. This is not a football job. It's a renovation, reclamation, resuscitation of one of America's great programs and the restoration of self-image for the university, its alumni and a region. And Penn State turns its lonely, post-Paterno eyes to a guy they may have never even laid eyes on until O'Brien wasbeingrestrained while screaming at the greatest quarterback of his generation a month ago. Yow. O'Brien's a football coach who's never been a head coach. And he's led the cloistered, monklike existence of a Patriots' assistant in which every syllable is parsed by Bill Belichick for tone and appropriateness. O'Brien serves up organization-approved pablum and non-answers on his conference calls every week. Neither he nor Nick Caserio stray from the Patriots' talking points. This Penn State job? It's everything but football right now and if the school or O'Brien have deluded themselves otherwise (and here's proof they have) then O'Brien's about to be fed into the wood chipper. Fortunately for Penn State, O'Brien is smart as hell, genuine and a terrific communicator. He will present exceedingly well in his introductory press conference, I guarantee that. But this job needs a Tony Dungy-type right now and O'Brien is a fire-and-brimstone football guy who, inevitably, is going to lose patience with the persistence of the media. Unlike what he goes through now, this isn't going to be eight people on a Monday conference callhalf-assedly askingwhy Chad Ochocinco hasn't been a bigger factor. This is NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, SNL, Jon Stewart, the NYT, the BBC and every other organization with air time and bandwidth to fill and a stomach-turning scandal that is going to go on and on as it moves through the judicial system. Nobody's going to care much about the route tree. And never mind recruiting in a Pennsylvania living room when file footage of Sandusky in his Nittany Lions gear pops on the screen, have you heard the reaction of the football alumni? Said former linebacker Brandon Short: I dont want to be affiliated with the university if they dont choose a Penn State guy because of our standards, our graduation, all the things that have been important . . . its no longer Penn State, so we might as well be in the SEC. They are intent on turning it into a booster culture. Ira Lubert went out and purchased a national title with wrestling and hes under the illusion that he can do that in football. Well, ask (Redskins owner) Dan Snyder about that. Penn State is a family and it is real and if they choose to get rid of Bradley and not hire a Penn State coach, then theyve turned their backs on our entire family. I don't think Bill O'Brien's going to get a fair shake there. But I hope - I really hope - I'm wrong. Meanwhile, as Bill Belichick asked in 2010, "Who's been wrong more than Charlie Casserly." Good question. I'll take the Texans over the Bengals in the first AFC Wild Card game. I'm going with the Broncos over the Steelers in a seismic upset in the second one. In the NFC, Saints rout the Lions. And the Giants take out Atlanta. I think the Saints are playing the best football of anyone right now. Their road to Indy - Detroit, at San Fran and probably at Green Bay - is so hard they won't likely get there, though. A little non-football? Marquis Daniels does curious things on the basketball court for the Celtics. Hoop game for my son's seventh-grade team on the Vineyard on Sunday. Only been over there once in my life and never been to Nantucket (landlubber). Everyone's invited to the Renaissance Patriot Place on Monday at 6:30 p.m. for Comcast SportsNet's pre-playoff party. Food, drink, a Q&A, special guests and the Patriots cheerleaders to count you down to the BCS National Championship game between LSU and Alabama. Last May, after 11 years of minivan driving, we traded that mess in for a pretty nice SUV. We miss the minivan. "She sounds hideous." Favorite commercial these days - in a rout.

Brady comes off the bench to throw TD in his preseason debut

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Brady comes off the bench to throw TD in his preseason debut

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - There will be a moment in the days between September 3 and October 3 when Tom Brady stops what he’s doing, sets his jaw and mutters, “*$%^## Derby…”

During his first – and perhaps only action of the 2016 preseason – Brady had some very good plays, was let down by a few drops (like Derby’s on a third-down toss) and had a near pick on a downfield throw to Martellus Bennett.

Brady was in for four possessions, entering the game after Jimmy Garoppolo ran the team on the Patriots first three series.

Brady missed the first preseason game then plunged trainer’s scissors into his thumb just prior to the second preseason game and missed that one as well.

With a fair amount of buildup to this game, Brady’s first pass was a deep in-cut to Aaron Dobson that went for 37 yards after Dobson stepped out of a tackle.

That was followed by a crossing pattern drop by Julian Edelman and a high throw to the end zone on third-and-5 that doinked off the left hand of tight end Bennett under the goalpost. Seemed like a mistimed jump on the high throw over the hands of a couple defenders.

On Brady’s next series, a pair of Tyler Gaffney runs gained 20 before Brady dropped a fade in to the hands of Chris Hogan for a 32-yard touchdown. It couldn’t have been placed any better if Brady had been allowed to walk to Hogan and hand it to him.

Brady’s conversion pass to Dobson was incomplete.

The Patriots got another chunk play from LeGarrette Blount to start their next drive and Brady then hit Edelman for 6. But his throw to the left sideline on third-and-4 was bungled by Derby, ending the drive.

Brady’s final series was bleak. His first throw was batted down by Kawann Short. His second one, a deep throw across the field to Bennett after Brady stepped up in the pocket, should have been picked by Kurt Coleman. Brady was sacked on third down.

Garoppolo came in for the final two series of the first half and started the third quarter.

Brady spent much of the first quarter apart from the offense when it was on the sidelines, standing with arms folded. When the offense was on the field, Brady mostly sat by himself on the bench. There wasn’t any significant interaction between he and Garoppolo, who huddled with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels after his series’ ended. Brady did the same after he came off the field with Garoppolo hovering nearby.

Brady finished 3-for-9 for 76 yards and a touchdown. As a team, the Patriots were 0-for-7 on third down in the first half. 

First half Patriots observations: Brady and Long up, Garoppolo and Solder down

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First half Patriots observations: Brady and Long up, Garoppolo and Solder down

The Patriots had their share of good and bad in the first half of their preseason game with the Panthers on Friday. Here's who we saw as some of the team's top performers, as well as some of the players who may have to make some corrections in the second half. 

* Tom Brady was only 3-for-9 in his four series, but he completed his passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown pass to Chris Hogan might have been the best throw of the preseason for any Patriots quarterback as he hit Hogan in stride, over the shoulder, for a 33-yard gain. Brady was close to having a second touchdown pass, but it glanced off the out-stretched hands tight end Martellus Bennett in the back of the end zone. Brady was nearly picked on his final drive, again trying to hit Bennett. He was sacked on his final play of the half.

* Jimmy Garoppolo had a difficult time early in this one. He was 5-for-9 for 37 yards, and he picked up an intentional grounding penalty. Garoppolo also was strip-sacked by Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, but James White recovered. Garoppolo was nearly picked by Luke Kuechly early in the first quarter when there was an apparent miscommunication between Garoppolo and Julian Edelman. 

* Chris Long had a standout half with two pressures, a pass-breakup that led to a Devin McCourty pick, and he drew a hold. The veteran defensive end has shown a good motor and a knack for getting to the quarterback in each of New England's first three preseason games. 

* Logan Ryan also had a strong first half in his preseason debut. His first five targets in coverage resulted in no completions, an offensive pass interference penalty and an interception. His former college teammate Duron Harmon also had a pick of Panthers backup Derek Anderson.

* Nate Solder allowed the pressure that eventually led to the sack of Brady by Kony Ealy. He also was flagged for a false start. Being that it's the third preseason game -- when starters typically go deep into the game -- he'll likely have a chance to redeem himself in the second half.