Patriots 'D' goes according to script


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.

Friday, Aug. 26: Coyotes keep taking on dead money in latest deal


Friday, Aug. 26: Coyotes keep taking on dead money in latest deal

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while finally catching up on “The Man in the High Tower” on Amazon.

*The Coyotes and Panthers executed a trade sending Dave Bolland to Arizona, and it’s not exactly great news for Gary Bettman with Arizona continuing to take on a lot of dead money.

*Alex Pietrangelo was appropriately humbled to be named the 21st captain in the history of the St. Louis Blues.

*The Colorado Avalanche have a new head coach, and his name is Jared Bednar, who it is said will get the players to play hard for him.

*The footage of somebody in full goalie equipment running away from a burglary scene is something out of a movie.

*The New York Rangers can never have enough depth, and that’s why they added Brandon Pirri to the mix on Thursday.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker says Lawson Crouse brings the total package in the trade from Florida to Arizona, and he also brings a player that can take a hell of a hit as he was the guy that got rocked by Charlie McAvoy at the World Junior Showcase earlier this month.  

*It’s only 15 days until the US National Team Development Program gets going with their 2016-17 schedule: here it is in full.

*For something completely different: can you see David Ortiz’s face in this corn maze? This could be like an ink blot test.


Foster playing catch-up, could help his cause vs. Panthers


Foster playing catch-up, could help his cause vs. Panthers

FOXBORO -- When DJ Foster took the field for Patriots OTAs, he looked as advertised: quick, a crisp route-runner, and the owner of a pair of dependable hands. But that was back when players wore shorts to every practice. Since then, the undrafted rookie running back out of Arizona State hasn't had the opportunity to do much other than work on his conditioning while the majority of his teammates practiced. 

That could soon change. Though Foster has dealt with what he calls a "nagging" injury throughout much of training camp, he felt well enough this week to return to practice, and on Friday night he is likely to see preseason game action for the first time this summer.

The reason Foster's preseason debut could carry some importance is that he happens to play a position that may qualify as the thinnest on the Patriots roster right now. Because sub back extraordinaire Dion Lewis will not be healthy enough to start the season, and because coach Bill Belichick opted to part ways with veteran Donald Brown recently, the team is low on numbers in their running back room.

If Foster can capitalize on the opportunities he's given, he may make a case for a roster spot. James White, who is expected to be Lewis' primary replacement, is the other lone true sub back on the roster. Brandon Bolden can fill in at that role on an emergency basis, and Tyler Gaffney has shown he can catch the football when asked, but neither has the kind of pass-catching upside of Foster, who played receiver for the Sun Devils as a senior and racked up 222 receptions during his four-year college career. 

Foster has only so much time to prove he's worthy of a job. The Patriots have to reduce their numbers to 75 by Aug. 30. They need to be down to 53 by Sep. 3. Foster could be a tantalizing prospect to stash on the practice squad, but surely he'd like to make a push for a greater role. 

He explained this week that, despite his recent physical limitations, he won't be holding back whenever he does get a chance to prove himelf. 

"The coaches do a great job at just kind of making sure I'm OK and stuff," he said. "For me, when I'm in there, do what I can, give everything I got -- every rep, every chance I get with the reps. Stay in the playbook, stay involved in the meetings, and just try to learn as much as I can. Whenever I do get an opportunity, go out there and make the most of it."

Against the Panthers, the Patriots coaching staff will have to balance the need to evaluate players like Foster against good competition versus getting the entire team ready for Week 1. For example, they'd like to get a good look at Foster, whose practice reps were next to nil before this week. They'd also probably like to get White as many reps as possible so that he's prepared for the Cardinals. 

Who should play when? And how many snaps do they need? 

"You can’t see D.J. Foster play in this league. You have Arizona State film but that’s all you have, and some of the spring work that he did which is obviously encouraging," Belichick said earlier this week. "We still have him, but there’s just no body of work. Donald Brown, you can see Donald Brown . . . Players like D.J., it’s hard. You don’t have much to go on. But maybe he’ll be able to do more. We’ll get an evaluation of him soon, hopefully."

Friday night could be the night.