Curran: Porous Patriots don't go changin' after bye


Curran: Porous Patriots don't go changin' after bye

FOXBORO - Since week three, the Patriots have allowed opponents to gain - in order - 503, 438, 394, 368, 403 and 326 yards.

So the 481 total yards rolled up by the Bills on Sunday - while godawful - still falls within the realm of "less than shocking."

The Patriots didn't go on any retreats on their bye week. There were no holistic healing treatments done. Nobody went to the DB whisperer.

A bunch of coaches looked at a bunch of tape of the same guys who've done the same thing all year long - save for the 45-7 demolition of the Rams - and then watched on Sunday as the defense pretty much did it again.

The Patriots are not good defensively. They hung on - literally - as Devin McCourty this time secured a fourth-quarter interception, something he wasn't able to do way back in Week 3 in the loss at Baltimore.

Before we shrug and say, "That's what they do" as if the Patriots defense is a two-week old puppy that just took a dump in the corner, we should point out the most troubling defensive stat of the day.

The Bills ran for 162 yards on 28 carries and the Patriots tackling was the worst its been all year. One thing they've been able to hang their helmets on has been their ability to stop the opponents' ground attacks. They couldn't on Sunday.

The Bills do have two very good backs - Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller - and they won all day long against the Patriots. This didn't escape the attention of Bill Belichick.

"We missed some tackles and we didn't play some of the runs very well, but those backs are good backs and they make yards against everybody," he said. "We've got to do a better job. Give them credit: they gain a lot of yards against everybody. They do a good job. They're not easy to get on the ground, even if you play the play halfway decently, they make a lot of yards on their own."

Nobody's going to easily swallow the fact the Bills are a skilled offense. They always light up the Patriots. More so than any other team in the division. The fact the Bills backs are elusive and the Patriots tackled poorly and lost contain to the outside made things even worse statistically.

"I thought overall as a team we just didnt do a real good job of that," Belichick said of the tackling. "We had penalties, dropped balls, offsides, missed tackles. Missed tackles and dropped balls - thats pretty fundamental. We just didnt do a good job on a number of areas. I dont think it was any one thing. Overall, we made some plays and we did some things well, but there were other things that just werent as sharp as what they need to be or what they should be. Yeah, weve got to definitely do a better job on those. It was far from perfect."

Belichick clearly believed that the Bills offense deserves some credit for the proceedings, though.

"I just got through saying that I think they have a real good group of skill players that are hard to tackle," Belichick answered when asked why the fundamental breakdowns occurred. "Part of that is a credit to them, but we've got to do a better job. I dont know how else to answer the question. It's the same thing I just said."

In other words, Belichick wasn't stunned by what happened.

Neither was Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Someone inexplicably asked Fitz to compare the Patriots defense to the defense of the team Buffalo lost to last week, Houston.

"I dont want to get into the comparisons. You can look at the statistics and Houstons obviously a top five defense I really dont want to compare them," he said.

The questioner - and I don't know who it was because I just saw the transcript - pressed on, asking, "Is the Patriots defense a top-5 defense?"

Instead of asking if his interrogator had been asleep for the past 10 weeks or just grew up under powerlines, Fitzpatrick answered,"If you look at the statistics theyre obviously not a top five defense, but these guys and what they do, they have a great offense and theyre going to make you earn it all the way down the field and I thought our guys until the very, very end there, made a lot of plays and unfortunately came up one play short in the end."

The Patriots remain in survival mode. Score a bunch and then just wait for the other team to run out of time.

It works pretty well. Consider Fitz. The Bills quarterback has thrown for 1,364 yards in his past four games against New England. A little mathematics tells you if he played a full season of games against the Pats, he'd be on pace to throw for 5,456 yards, 44 touchdowns and 44 picks. And he'd be 4-12 if we multiply out the Bills' 1-3 record vs. New England in its past four games.

The most important thing is to walk away with a W," said Vince Wilfork. "That is the biggest goal, so when you can do that against a divisional team, it always feels good. Things werent perfect, we understand that but we made plays when we needed to make plays. We have to take something like this and keep it moving...

"We are not disappointed at all about winning the ballgame," added Wilfork, "but there are some things that we have to do better and there are some things we did well out there, but at the same time, the main goal was to win, and we did.

When we wade through the rubble of these games, there's always a rush to figure out whether a team took the proverbial step forward or back.

The more I think about it, the less I think that's even relevant. Every game is its own entity. Holding St. Louis to seven had no impact at all on this game. Allowing 481 doesn't mean a thing heading into the Colts game. Even with the looming addition of Aqib Talib to the secondary.

Personally, I doubt Talib has turned into an All-Pro during his month-long suspension. He will be an addition but not a solution.

The Patriots will probably play like this pretty consistently through the end of the year.

Bill Belichick is the greatest coach of his generation, arguably of all time. But the Patriots defense has played at a below-average level for a while now. It hasn't prevented his teams from posting excellent and enviable records. It has, though, made "hope" a staple of the Patriots defensive game plan right next to sure tackling and keeping contain on the edges.

The Patriots pretty much are what they are on defense. You just have to hope it's good enough.

Danny Ainge says Lonzo Ball has declined pre-draft workout with Celtics

Danny Ainge says Lonzo Ball has declined pre-draft workout with Celtics

BOSTON -- Like most NBA executives, Danny Ainge loves to get as much intel on players before picking them as he can.  
And with the No. 1 overall pick, Ainge knows he has to do all he can to absolutely get this one right.
That’s why any thoughts he had of drafting Lonzo Ball are likely out the window after the talented UCLA guard refused to work out for the Celtics.
“We tried to get him in for a workout and he politely said no,” Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show.
Lonzo Ball’s desire (or his dad Lavar Ball’s desire; hard to say who in the Ball camp wants him in L.A. the most) to play for the Los Angeles Lakers is one of the worst-kept secrets leading up to next month’s NBA draft.
And with the Lakers holding the No. 2 pick in the draft, turning down the Celtics only increases the likelihood of  Boston passing on him and instead drafting University of Washington star Markelle Fultz.
“It’s not ideal,” Ainge said of Ball's decision to decline working out for Boston. “Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. It’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them. Sometimes players don’t want to come in, not because they don’t like you, they see our roster. They think they would prefer to go to another team.”
The Celtics, like most teams, have been mum publicly as to who they would take in the draft. But all indications at this point in the process are pointing towards them selecting Fultz with the top overall selection.
And the fact that Ball, the projected number two pick even before the draft lottery order was established, refuses to work out for Boston will only increase the likelihood that Fultz will be a Celtic and Ball and his camp will get their wish which has always been to don a Los Angeles Lakers jersey.

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Game 5 is about respect for Boston

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Game 5 is about respect for Boston

BOSTON – From the outset of this season, the Boston Celtics were swimming upstream when it came to getting respect. 

No matter how many wins they racked up, no matter how many upsets they managed to pull off, they were never going to do enough to satisfy the court of public opinion which wanted one thing and one thing only from the NBA: A third installment of Golden State against Cleveland in the NBA Finals. 

The Warriors did their part by running through the West with 12 wins in as many playoff games. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will try to not just stave off elimination tonight, but continue to delay what so many believe is an inevitable Golden State-Cleveland Final.

Boston’s Al Horford understands that while the league this season has seen lots of individual success as well as teams that have overachieved, the thirst for Golden State versus Cleveland remains stronger than ever. 

“We understand that’s what everyone has been talking about since the beginning of the season,” Horford said. “For us it’s just to focus … and play the Celtic way. And just come out here and fight and we’ll take it from there.”

The Celtics did that in Game 3 with Avery Bradley delivering one of the more memorable shots in the Brad Stevens era, a game-winning three-pointer that hit the rim four times before falling with 0.1 seconds to play as Boston squeaked out a 111-108 win.

Boston did a lot of good things in Game 4 and seemingly went into the half sensing that maybe just maybe they would even up the series at two games heading back to Boston for tonight’s Game 5 matchup. 

But Kyrie Irving picked up the slack for a foul-plagued LeBron James, lifting the Cavaliers to a 112-99 win which puts them now just a win away from advancing to the NBA Finals. 

Not only have folks both in the media as well as fans who have rooted for this series to be over, even merchandise sellers like Dick Sporting Goods have anticipated this series as already being over.

“It is what it is,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “It’s been like that all year; a lot of guys counting us out. At the same time, we’re trying to put ourselves in position to win each and every game.”

While that has been the goal, it certainly hasn’t worked out that way in this series. 

Despite Games 1 and 2 being at the TD Garden, the Celtics lost both games by a total of 57 points. 

And while they won Game 3 and had the Cavaliers on the ropes in Game 4 before losing, they know their chance to play NBA Finals spoiler is just about up. 

“We know that’s the Finals that everybody wants to talk about, what everybody is looking forward to,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “We understand it. But we work just as hard as these guys. We just have to keep going out there and working. We’re not going to give it to them, and stuff like that. We just have to make it tough on them.”