The Patriots' excellent adventure begins again

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The Patriots' excellent adventure begins again

The Patriots have lost 42 regular-season games in the 11-year span since 2001. That's an average of less than four losses per season.

To put that in localized context, anyone over 30 can vaguely recall when the Patriots lost 61 games in five seasons (1989 to 1993). That's an average of 12 losses a year.

It's impossible to overstate how deeply entrenched the Patriots were as the NFL's laughingstock for most of their existence.

And now their excellence has become so routine that they've sucked the drama out of a question American sports fans obsess over at this time of year: "Can my football team make the playoffs; can it win the Super Bowl?"

Around here, the answers now -- and for more than a decade -- have been "Yes, definitely" and "Yes, maybe."

Like fall foliage and the Atlantic Ocean, the Patriots have become a regional privilege that we're aware and appreciative of, but no longer struck by. It's a fact of New England life.

Today, training camp opens.

The editorial staff at the region's paper of record, the Boston Globe, decided a soccer "friendly" between Roma and Liverpool at Fenway would be the centerpiece for their Thursday sports section. A scene-setting column for the London Olympics -- which begin Sunday -- was at the top of the page. Two Patriots stories -- including a column that referenced Red Auerbach, Bill Russell, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Bill Buckner and Hugh Hefner -- were wedged into the left rail.

The annual departure of the Red Sox equipment truck gets breathless coverage; the start of training camp for the AFC Champions gets a shrug and a "wake-us-in-January" feel.

Admittedly, there's a "chicken-or-the-egg" debate to why the Patriots don't rate.

They don't make it "fun." They believe in the "one-voice" theory, and that monotone and grunt-infused voice belongs to Bill Belichick. He believes a good day is one where his team is flying happily under the radar, and a scrimmage between European soccer teams gets center stage.

The 90 Patriots in training camp will sweat and run into each other from 1:30 until 4 p.m., and then come off the field and say they are "Happy to be back to work," "Working hard," "Taking it one practice at a time" and "Moving on from last year."

The actual stories are what happens on the field, not what the players and coaches don't say when they come off of it.

And there are stories. The addition of wide receiver Brandon Lloyd on offense. The pecking order at running back with BenJarvus Green-Ellis gone. The uncertainty on the offensive line because of injury and the absence of Brian Waters. The defensive transformation from one that favored wide-bodies up front to one that focuses on speed at the edges and depth in the secondary.

Watching the Patriots roll the rock up the mountain -- especially when they are at sea level -- may not be fascinating because the potential of the rock rolling back on them doesn't exist until they are near the peak.

But the process of getting the rock up there -- if you choose to look closely -- will never fail to be fascinating.

Beyond the numbers: Kings offense will test Celtics defense

Beyond the numbers: Kings offense will test Celtics defense

BOSTON – When it comes to defense, the Celtics are quick to claim that it is indeed the foundation for which their team is built upon. 
 
Still, far too often this season, we have seen cracks in their usually Teflon-tough defense, the kind that ultimately means the difference between winning and losing.
 
The Celtics’ defense will once again need to step up and play well tonight against a Sacramento squad that has shown it can fill it up offensively of late. 
 
Sacramento (7-11) has scored 100 or more points in eight of their past 10 games. In that span, their 107.2 points per game ranks ninth in the league. 
 
In that same span, the Celtics have allowed opponents to score 100.3 points per game, which ranks 10th in the NBA in fewest points allowed.
 
And when it comes to winning, limiting teams to less than 100 points has been huge in Boston’s win total. 
 
The Celtics have held eight opponents to 100 points or less this season. 
 
Their record in those games? 8-0.
 
Within that limited scoring, Boston must also make sure teams don’t get into a nice groove shooting the ball. 
 
Boston is 0-5 this season when an opponent shoots 48 percent or better from the field. 
 
While there are several things Boston must do to be successful, having the right kind of defensive disposition ranks at or near the top of that list in their efforts to play with the kind of defensive success that gave so many hope that this would the year Boston would hold court among the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

“We have to get a little more nastier on the defensive end and not let a team come in and get comfortable,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder.
 

Brady, Bennett, Edelman questionable for Sunday vs. Rams

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Brady, Bennett, Edelman questionable for Sunday vs. Rams

FOXBORO -- The Patriots injury report for Sunday's game with the Rams is out. While they'll be without one big name, but their others are still very much in play. 

Rob Gronkowski, who was scheduled to undergo back surgery on Friday, has been ruled out. Jordan Richards, who is dealing with a knee issue and has not practiced this week, will also be held out of action on Sunday. 

Tom Brady (knee), Julian Edelman (foot), Martellus Bennett (ankle/shoulder) and Chris Hogan (back) -- all of whom practiced on Friday -- have been listed as questionable for the Rams game at Gillette Stadium. Special teamer Nate Ebner (concussion) returned to practice on Friday and is also questionable, as is Trey Flowers (shin) and Elandon Roberts, who popped up on the injury report with a jaw issue Friday. 

Special teams captain Matthew Slater missed Friday's session after participating on both Wednesday and Thursday. He's been ruled as questionable. Defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton is also questionable after missing his second straight day of practice with an illness.

If Slater and Ebner are at all limited this weekend, coupled with the loss of Richards, the Patriots kicking game would be significantly impacted. Hogan took reps as the team's personal protector on the punt team earlier this week and may fill that role should Ebner miss time.