Belichick gives Red Sox pre-game talk

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Belichick gives Red Sox pre-game talk

It's no secret: The Red Sox need to turn the page from 2011. Badly.

Who better to talk to the team about moving forward than Bill Belichick? He's Mr. It Is What It Is, the world's most reluctant rehasher, the man whose gaze is constantly focused on the week ahead and nothing else?

Bobby Valentine brought in the Patriots head coach to address the team at Fort Myers before their game on Tuesday night.

"I think he used a little reference to when things dont go right, you can turn the page," Valentine said after the game. "New years are new years, make the best of them that you can make.

"He follows our team. It's not like he just dropped out of Mars to say, 'Hey how you doing?' He kind of gets it.''

Valentine left tickets for Belichick after Belichick explained that he was in the area and looking to see the game. Valentine and Belichick have known each other since Valentine was with the Mets and Belichick was with the Jets so it didn't take a whole lot of convincing to get Belichick to talk to the team before the game.

Belichick is an avid baseball fan and very good friends with former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. He wore a La Russa jersey as he walked through the Patriots locker room one day during the World Series to show his support.

Belichick was close with Terry Francona and sorry to see him leave the Red Sox, but he was also excited for Valentine to get the managing gig at Fenway.

"Love Bobby. Great guy," Belichick said soon after hearing Valentine got the Red Sox job. "Great baseball guy. Love to talk to him. He's got a lot of energy.

"Don't get me wrong, I love Terry Francona. I had a great relationship with Bobby in New York. I went to several Mets games and stuff like that, watched Keyshawn Johnson throw out the opening pitch and all that. Bobby is a wonderful guy. I look forward to catching up with him and seeing him here."

On Tuesday night Belichick sat in the front row behind the screen and stayed for six innings.

Patriots defense carried chip on its shoulder all the way to the Super Bowl

Patriots defense carried chip on its shoulder all the way to the Super Bowl

FOXBORO -- It's a list that's been cited time and again as the Patriots defense rolled into the AFC title game: Brock Osweiler, Matt Moore, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bryce Petty, Trevor Siemien, Joe Flacco, Jared Goff, Colin Kaepernick. 

Those are the quarterbacks the Patriots have faced since their last loss, a Week 10 defeat at the hands of Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. None of them ranked in the top 16 in quarterback rating during the regular season. None of them ranked in the top 19 in yards per attempt. 

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

The Patriots defense finished the season ranked No. 1 in points allowed, and since their last loss, they'd allowed just 12.9 points per game. Still, there were those who wondered if it was a unit that would hold up against Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown on Sunday night. 

Not only did Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense hold up. It dominated. 

"They held this team to nine points for 50 minutes," Belichick said after the game during the presentation of the Lamar Hunt Trophy. "Pretty good."

The 36-17 victory may have been the defense's best effort of the season due to the competition it faced.

For many, it was a performance that will legitimize the season the unit has had. But for Patriots players, it was a performance that showcased their ability, a performance that might shut up those who cited that list of mediocre (and worse) quarterbacks as an indicator of what they hadn't done this season.

"It's not validation," said corner Eric Rowe. "We hear the reports. 'Not a great quarterback. Not a great offense.' Someone said the Chiefs have a better defense than the Patriots so the Steelers should be able to have their way. We took that chip on our shoulder so that all week and we prepared . . . We definitely prepared better than we did last week against the Texans, I know that. We kind of took that chip, and it all just came together tonight."

Even when it wasn't perfect, the Patriots were able to recover quickly. At the end of the first half, they bent but didn't break as they put together a goal-line stand that held the Steelers to a field goal after they had a first-and-goal at the one-yard line. They stood firm again in the fourth quarter by recording a turnover on downs with the Steelers deep in Patriots territory. 

That "bend-but-don't-break" label that the Patriots defense wears is one they actually wear with pride. 

"I kind of like it," safety Duron Harmon said of the description. "It just shows the type of toughness and mental toughness we have. Even when the situation might seem terrible or might seem bad, we have enough mental toughness to come out and make a positive out of it. Right then and there (during the goal-line stand in the second quarter), a lot of people are thinking that's seven points. But that's a four-point turnover basically."

Execution in those critical moments, against an offense that's loaded with Pro Bowl talent, may allow the Patriots to be more widely respected. But they've known what they've had for some time, and so has their quarterback. 

He said after Sunday's AFC Championship Game victory that he's based his readiness on how well he's been able to practice against a unit that he knows is right up there with the best he's seen this season on game days. 

"There's a lot of noise, always," Brady said when asked about the chip on the defense's collective shoulder. "Sometimes you don't always have it figured out four games into the year. There's a lot of moving parts . . . I practice against those guys every day, and it's hard to complete passes.

"I know if I can complete it against our defense, then we should be fine on Sunday because our guys do a great job in the pass game. So many great pressures they got . . . They got a lot of good schemes. They got a good defense. We got a good defense. To slow down an offense like that was pretty great."