FOXBORO - No Patriot had a greater hand in the building of the New England dynasty than Troy Brown. And no player more regularly elevated his play to an even greaterlevel when games of import came around. As a proud Patriots alumni, Brown's seen the Patriotscrack under pressure in2009 and 2010. But this year, he seesa change. "I think this team is different this year," said Brown. "Some guys like (linebacker Jerod) Mayo who've been around three or four years, I think they've matured some. They understand that you can't play in the shadow of(the great teams)anymore but can learn from what they did and how they carried themselves."Brown will be one of four honorary captains for the Patriots on Sunday in the AFC Championship against Baltimore. The Patriots haven't yet announced the other three. The fact Brown played in 19 postseason games for New England starting in 1994 (he didn't play in the 2007 postseason) and was a central figure in some of the biggest moments of the 2001 Super Bowl run made him a natural. He explained that he still gets a weird feeling when the NFL postseason comes. "I was talking to Deion Branch just now and talking about the way players should feel this time of year," said Brown. "I didn't get that feeling from this football team a couple of years ago that they had really pushed that button to go to the next level. "They should all be feeling different right now, there should be a sense of urgency, a different type of feeling in the locker room," said Brown. "I told (Deion) that, 'I still get those feelings today. When the playoffs start, for whatever reason I feel different. I feel like I've pushed a button myself.' " And you do. This is the time of year when I feel like, 'If I had one more game...' This is the time of year I want to play in."The 2009 team had some malignant personalities on it and rolled over against the Ravens. The 2010 team seemed a little wide-eyed in their loss to the Jets. "I don't think in the past they were pushing that button and going to the next level," Brown explained. "This is a whole 'nother season. The excitement of the game, the focus on the game. There's three types of tempo. There's preseason tempo, there's regular season tempo and there's postseason tempo. Then you have Super Bowl tempo too. But there's all different levels and everybody can't hit that switch. And they all have to be on that page when they do that."Given the 45-10 win over Denver Saturday night, it's hard to arguethat Brown's off-base. It was the team's most complete performance of the season in its biggest game. But the next game - and the one after - willdetermine whether this team is simply different from 2009 and 2010or quite similar to the 2001, 2003 and 2004 teams.
BOSTON — Even before Mookie Betts wrist flared up and Eduardo Nunez re-aggravated his knee Monday, the Red Sox’ health situation looked tenuous heading into the final week of the regular season. Particularly when it came to position players. Dustin Pedroia was out of the lineup Monday after a 1-for-26 road trip.
Now the scene turns scary. Consider that every other American League team that has clinched a postseason spot (or in the case of the Twins, is expected to) is one of the majors’ top five teams in runs scored per game: the Astros, Yankees, Indians and Twins. The Sox are 10th.
The Sox lineup lacks firepower to begin with. Losing any more at this time of year is a recipe for a rough October.
"It sucks. It sucks," Nunez said. "Especially this time of year when it's close to the playoffs. It sucks."
The regular-season results show the Sox have adapted well overall when guys like Pedroia and Nunez have missed time. But that’s the regular season, and adding Betts to the mix is just disquieting.
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Nunez on Monday returned to the lineup for the first time in 16 days. Now he isn’t expected back until during the Astros series, his right knee injury re-aggravated.
But there’s room for good news yet. Betts is to get his left wrist examined Tuesday. A positive prognosis there, and there should be a sense of a crisis averted. On Monday night, he expected to be fine, but he also didn't know what was going on.
Farrell before the game made clear Nunez wasn’t exactly full go yet.
“[His return is] quicker than what it possibly could have been. You’re talking about a ligament damage to the PCL [posterior cruciate ligament] and I know it’s less severe than an ACL/MCL, but still it’s about pain tolerance,” Farrell said. “It’s about managing it. His body has to recondition to take care of that. His muscles have to respond in a different way. … If he feels a little bit of a zinger, that’s going to go away. He’s not putting himself at further risk.”
Farrell said after the game the feeling is Nunez didn’t do any new damage, but nonetheless, it’s easy to think now the Sox should have waited longer
Meanwhile, Pedroia’s been managing a left knee injury all season and didn’t play.
“When the knee starts to talk back to him a little bit, we’ve all got to listen to it and give him a down day,” Farrell said. “I would expect him to be back on the field tomorrow.”
Farrell thought it reasonable to connect the knee to Pedroia’s recent poor performance hitting wise.
All year, resiliency has been a buzzword for Sox because of their propensity for late-inning comebacks. Sunday’s eighth-inning rally against the Reds was the latest example, leading to the Sox’ 42nd come-from-behind win.
How they’ve dealt with a variety of health situations adds another layer to their reputation for handling adversity. Per spotrac.com, the Sox have had the fifth most disabled list days this season, 1,601.
The Indians were doubted going into last year’s postseason because of health situations with their pitching. They did pretty well. But it’d also be foolish to minimize the importance of injuries to Pedroia, Nunez and Betts, and how they look heading into October.
BOSTON — First Mookie Betts right hand was bothering him. Now his left wrist is acting up to the point he was pulled from Monday's 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays in the eighth inning and is headed for an exam to find out what's going on Monday.
"I’m not really that concerned. I think I’m going to be fine," Betts said. "Just a couple days ago. I just took a swing and felt it. It’s just been kind of painful for swings, but that’s just the part of the season."
Betts felt it again on a swing Monday.
Betts, who's always a calm guy, didn't seem to be particularly worried. But when he was asked to describe the sensation, it sounded far from pleasant.
"Just like a sharp pain," Betts said. "I can’t really move my hand for a little bit, but I think, again, I don’t really know what’s going on. We’ll find out tomorrow."