In the name of Tebow


In the name of Tebow

Yesterday in DC, the Pats won their fifth straight game, yet there remains a healthy level of uneasiness around New England.

For the second week in a row, the Pats looked far-from-perfect against a God awful team. The offense was inconsistent. The secondary was porous. They failed to crush a very crushable opponent.

While there's no such thing as a bad win in the NFL, there are inspiring wins, and for the second straight week, the Pats weren't even close. As a result, less than a month before the playoffs, we're not sure where to set the bar. We still don't know if they're good enough.

That's beyond frustrating, not something to which we're accustomed. But then again, is it any surprise?

We knew what was in store when the Pats kicked off this last leg of the season.

In short: A lot of games against really bad teams.

In slightly longer: Very few opportunities for the Pats to prove themselves.

And that's exactly how it's played out. But through all the frustration, they've still a) won games and b) stayed relatively healthy. What else can you ask for? What were you really going to learn from them beating the Colts and Redskins?

(Devin McCourty was clearly favoring his shoulder down the stretch yesterday, and Jerod Mayo didn't look great coming off the field after the game-clinching interception, so that could change. But for now, I'll remain optimistic.)

So yeah, I'm not worried yet. I'm not booking hotel rooms in Indianapolis, but anything's still possible.

Through 13 games, the Patriots defense has allowed 30 points only once. Meanwhile, yesterday marked the 10th time the offense has scored 30. I know it's not that easy, or even close, but read that again. Things aren't that bad. While the last few weeks have been uneventful and uninspired, the Pats are still 10-3. They're still one of only three or four teams with a chance of winning the AFC. And let's be thankful for that.

But more than anything questionable segue alert let's be thankful for Tim Tebow.

Not for his inspiration, charity and unquestionable healing powers. Not for his ridiculous comebacks and mind-blowing post game interviews.

But for injecting life back into the Patriots season.

For most of this year, we looked at this Sunday's matchup with Denver in the same light as the other December cake walks. Indianapolis, Washington, Denver, Miami and Buffalo. Some were better than others, but there was no real distinction. At best, they were just different kinds of garbage.

But thanks to all that Tebow's accomplished these last few months, the Patriots now have an unexpected challenge. There's finally something to prove.

Certainly Denver's not perfect. There are many ways to question and discredit this amazing run. Regardless, they've won seven of eight. They have a strong defense, the NFL's No. 1 rushing attack and an unbelievable home field advantage. By beating the Broncos, the Pats can make statement that we never imagined would be there. Or they can lose, and go a long way to reinforcing some of our fears.

Either way, for the first time since Week 10 against the Jets, Patriots fans have something to look forward to.

Tebow Week begins . . . now.

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Bradley supporting Olynyk as he returns from shoulder surgery


Bradley supporting Olynyk as he returns from shoulder surgery

WALTHAM, Mass. – Avery Bradley had just returned to the Boston Celtics lineup after having had surgery on both shoulders, eager to put his injury-riddled days in the past.

Then-Celtics assistant coach Tyronn Lue had suffered a similar shoulder injury a decade earlier in 2003, so he knew all too well what Bradley was going through.

“I remember Tyronn Lue took me to the side and said, ‘you’re going to struggle,’” Bradley recalled. “When he said it to me, I was like, ‘what is he talking about?’”

The words of Lue, now the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, were indeed prophetic. And now that current Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk is back to practicing after having surgery on his right shoulder, Bradley plans to be there for Olynyk the way Lue was there for him.

Bradley, who missed the first 30 games of the 2012-2013 season recovering from the injury, recalls struggling with his shot for the first couple of weeks.  

His first game back was Jan. 2, 2013. For the next two weeks, Bradley shot 40.6 percent from the field (28-for-69) and 28.6 percent (8-for-28) on 3s, both below his career averages in those respective categories.

Bradley is hopeful Olynyk doesn’t struggle as much as he did upon his return to the lineup from shoulder surgery.

But just in case, Olynyk knows he has a teammate who literally knows what he’s going through right now in trying to get back on the floor and play good basketball.

“It’s our job as his teammates to help keep him confident in himself,” Bradley said. “I told him, ‘you’re going to have your days when you come in and you might make shots. Then you’ll have your week where you don’t make a shot.’ You just have to stay confident.”

But Bradley admits it’s a lot easier said than done, especially when you’ve had success shooting the ball and now all of a sudden the shots that you normally make in your sleep keep you up at night wondering why they no longer going in.

“It just happens. The muscle memory, you have to get it back,” Bradley said. “It’s just reps; that’s what it took. It took like maybe a good month before my shot felt good again. It’ll probably be the same for Kelly; hopefully not. If it is, I’ll be there to make sure he’s positive and knowing it’s a process and he has to continue to get shots up.”

But there’s more to returning to the game when healthy.

While the body may be ready to go, the mind more often than not hasn’t totally cleansed itself of the injury.

“It’s still in the back of your mind, thinking it’s going to happen again,” Bradley said. “You may not want to drive it to the basket as much or box out the same way or be aggressive. But like I said, we have to give him that confidence and he has to do his work as well, staying in the weight room, making sure he’s strong. We’re here to help.”

And no one is offering the consistent assistance that Bradley has to his injured teammate.

“I’ve taken him to the side like five times already and I told him, ‘I’m here bro. Whatever you need,’” Bradley said. “I’m just happy that he’s back."