Patriots 'D' goes according to script

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Patriots 'D' goes according to script

PHILADELPHIA - Early? Ugly. On their first two drives Sunday in Philadelphia, the Eagles put the Patriots on notice. A 22-yard completion on the game's first play from scrimmage, a 58-yarder two plays later and - two LeSean McCoy runs later and it was 7-0. On their next drive, the Eagles did it again. A 44-yard completion on the first play of the drive led to a field goal and New England was down 10-0. But what looked to be shaping up as a long evening, turned quickly. The Eagles didn't score another touchdown until late in the fourth quarter with the game hopelessly out of reach. What happened? "Just settled down," said Vince Wilfork. "We knew this team came in with a script (of offensive plays) and we just had to settle down. Once they got through their script, we knew how they wanted to attack us and we knew how we wanted to attack them. A lot of credit goes to the defense and sticking through it even though they went up(10) points."It wasn't that long ago that the Patriots came unhinged on the road on the regular. Remember 2009 when they only won one road game in theUnited States? That thisdefense - a patchwork one without Brandon Spikes, Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung - stayedon task andsimply fixed their mistakes says something about the mentality of this team. The Eaglesare - despite the result - a dangerous team. Running back LeSean McCoy needs to be defended in a particular way. He needs to be hemmed in and controlled. Same with Vince Young and DeSean Jackson. The Patriots did that. "It was a disciplined game," said Wilfork. "We had to stay disciplined with our rushes, in the run game with McCoy and not give up big plays. We gave up big plays on the first two drives and it cost us. Once we settled down we locked in and we focused and we started rolling. Sometimes it won't be pretty."The Patriots wound up holding McCoy, the NFL's leading rusher coming into the game, to nine carries and 33 yards. Jackson, aside from his 44-yard reception, dropped two touchdown passes and wound up benched. It's worth noting that the Patriots have now allowedthree touchdowns in the last12 quarters when the game was in the balance. Are they playing against the iron? Well, not exactly. But it's hard to tell who, outside of the Green Bay Packers, really qualifies as "iron" these days. That the Patriots are playing well defensively now and that the New England offense appears to have figured some things out on Sunday recreates some of the optimism about this team's chances that we saw in September. "We prepared well on the short week but its just one step in the right direction," cautioned Wilfork. "Everyone says football starts after Thanksgiving so it started today for us. We have to be able to win ballgames at the end of November and December. One game at a time. At the end of the day that don't mean anything. 8-3? You prepare well and the results take care of themselves."And that's what's happening right now for the Patriots.

Chara probable vs. Panthers, Beleskey misses morning skate

Chara probable vs. Panthers, Beleskey misses morning skate

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- There were both expected and unexpected absences from Bruins morning skate on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of tonight’s game at TD Garden against the Florida Panthers. Matt Beleskey was the expected absence after getting knocked out of Saturday’s game with a lower body injury caused by a Tyler Fedun check to his right leg, and Torey Krug was also missing from the ice after pulling workhorse duty over the last handful of games in the absence of Zdeno Chara.

Following practice Claude Julien confirmed that Chara was “probable” to return for tonight’s game vs. the Florida Panthers after missing the last six games, and that Krug is expected to play after succumbing to the same illness that felled Patrice Bergeron over the weekend. Beleskey was being checked by doctors on Monday, and it sounds like his absence might be a bit longer term than simply a “day-to-day” lower body injury. 

Noel Acciari took part in practice, and it appears they both could be closing in on a return to the lineup. Frank Vatrano also shot the puck around a bit at the very beginning of Monday’s skate, but came off the ice as the team began their preparations for tonight’s game. 

Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings vs. Florida based on the morning skate with Beleskey and Krug both absent:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

Schaller-Krejci-Backes

Spooner-Nash-Czarnik

Blidh-Moore-Hayes/Acciari

Chara-Carlo

Morrow-McQuaid

K. Miller-C. Miller

Rask

Khudobin

Belichick on keeping Brady in: 'Seen those double-digit leads evaporate'

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Belichick on keeping Brady in: 'Seen those double-digit leads evaporate'

With 5:52 remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game between the Patriots and Rams, and with the hosts up 26-3, quarterback Tom Brady was back on the field to lead the Patriots offense. 

It was a decision that had some scratching their heads. Why risk the health of your Hall of Fame quarterback in a game that's essentially been decided? Particularly at this point in the year? Particularly just days after the team lost it's most dynamic offensive weapon to season-ending back surgery?

"Well, after the game turns out, it's easy to go back and make those suggestions," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on a conference call Monday. "I've seen a few games in this league. Seen those double-digit leads evaporate in a minute or two. I know that's not a big concern when it does happen and then when it does happen it's a major crisis and [there's] a lot of second-guessing about what should've been done or what shouldn't have been done. Trying to win the game."

The Patriots held the ball for a little over two minutes before punting it back to the Rams. By the time the Patriots got the ball back for the final time with 1:15 remaining, Brady was on the field to take two kneeldowns and wipe out the clock. 

He told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show on Monday morning that he wasn't looking for an early hook. The Rams have been accused of dirty plays in the past, and their coaching staff has a reputation for encouraging a reckless style, but Brady explained why he wanted to remain in the game late.

"All these games are close. I know yesterday, 26-3 at one point, but we’re playing for a lot here," he said. "i don’t think it’s ever right to take your foot off the gas pedal. We could use as many reps as possible, all the guys out there. There are different situations that come up in every game. You only get 16 weeks a year to try them out. You try them in practice, but there’s not the speed. There’s not the urgency. It’s not the decision-making because it’s unscripted.

"In practice you go and talk about these are the plays you’re going to run, these are the defenses you can get. Then you go into the game and they it’s all about decision-making really under pressure with everything on the line, so the more reps you can get with Malcolm [Mitchell] and [Chris] Hogan and Martellus [Bennett], guys that I haven’t played with, the better it gets."

Brady escaped his late-game reps no worse for the wear -- he completed three of four passes for 14 yards on his team's second-to-last drive -- but he did take one shot earlier in the game that had him ticked. Rams safety TJ McDonald got into the Patriots backfield untouched and drove Brady into the ground during a second-quarter drive. Brady got the ball away, but he was walloped, and when he got up he sought out McDonald for a few words.

"I think it was pretty emotional," Brady told Kirk and Callahan. "I didn’t see the replay yet, but he made a good clean hit. They were blitzing us. I knew we didn’t have him picked up and he put a little extra something on.”

Asked if the threat of a play like that late in a lopsided game bothered him, Brady said no.

"I said to my wife as I was driving home, she was like, ‘What was that?’ She wants to know about all these things and I was like, ‘I think it is all fair on the football field.’ You put yourself out there," Brady explained. "You’re up 20, you’re down 20. Everyone is playing hard and whatever happens out there is on the football field. I don’t think it was a dirty play.

"Guys love going in there and hitting the quarterback. They’ve been trained to hit the quarterback their entire careers, especially on defense. They get paid more hitting the quarterback. Their team is 4-8 so they are going to play hard 'til the end no matter what. They haven’t been in a lot of games this year so they are going to play hard to try and set them up for next year. I had no problem with that hit. I thought it was a real clean play. I was pretty pissed off for the most part yesterday because we weren’t executing as well as we could and that probably had something to do with it as well."