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

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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.

Smart: 'We can’t just depend on Isaiah to save us'

Smart: 'We can’t just depend on Isaiah to save us'

TORONTO – Marcus Smart and the Boston Celtics aren’t all that different than most Celtics fans.

When the fourth quarter rolls around, they too take a glance at their watches and think … it’s Isaiah Thomas Time.

He was on the floor in the decisive fourth quarter for the Celtics, but you would not have known it by his inability to do what he has done for so much of this season which is dominate play.

And with Thomas unable to take over in the fourth like he’s accustomed to doing, the end result was an all-too-predictable night of late-game struggles as the Toronto Raptors pulled away for a 107-97 win.

Thomas still led the Celtics with 20 points, although only four – that’s almost seven below his league-leading average - came in the fourth quarter.

“Every time I came off a pick, they had two or three guys on me,” Thomas said. “Their point of emphasis was probably to stop me in the fourth quarter and they did a good job of that. They played harder than us in the second half.”

Boston led by as many as 17 points in the first half with solid contributions coming from several players.

But more important, they held their own on the boards while not allowing Toronto many second or third-shot opportunities.

That all changed in the second half.

Toronto became more aggressive defensively, taking away the air space of seemingly every Celtics shooter.

And offensively, DeRozan got hot and when the Celtics took away his drives, he found teammates open for shots that were relatively wide open looks due to them collapsing to help out on DeRozan who led all players with 43 points on 15-for-28 shooting.

Smart had 19 points off the bench on 6-for-15 shooting. Jae Crowder also had 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting for Boston (37-21). And then there was Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown chipping in with 13 points.

Despite their numbers, there was sense that Thomas was getting very little help offensively.

And when you combine that with the team’s overall struggles to play solid defense and rebound the ball, it put the Celtics in a predicament where the clearest path towards victory would once again be Thomas coming through in the fourth quarter.

For those watching the game on CSN, it was an ideal time for Thomas to do what we’ve seen him do time and time again.

But there was a problem.

Apparently too many of his teammates did their share of Thomas-watching down the stretch as well.

“We can’t just depend on Isaiah to save us,” Smart said. “He needs help; other guys need to step up and relieve Isaiah. When he does get that shot, he’s open. They have to watch out for us. We can’t just put it all on Isaiah’s shoulders. Sometimes we get caught doing that instead of helping Isaiah.”

Stars, studs and duds: Things get a bit heated between Celtics and Raptors

Stars, studs and duds: Things get a bit heated between Celtics and Raptors

TORONTO – While no one would go so far as to say that the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors have a full-fledged rivalry, things got a bit testy on Friday.

No play better exemplified this than the Isaiah Thomas drive to the basket in the second quarter that was initially ruled a foul by DeMarre Carroll only to be upgraded to a flagrant-one penalty.

And then less than a minute later, Thomas was called for a flagrant-one penalty when he made contact with DeMar DeRozan.

Thomas was clearly upset with the Celtics losing 107-97, a defeat that included a slew of plays that bothered Thomas but none more than the flagrant foul committed by Carroll.

“It was intentional, did you see it?” Thomas said when asked about it afterwards. “That’s not a basketball play by any means. Guys who aren’t factors in games do that; it is what it is. That was not a basketball play whatsoever.”

That play added to what had been a night of struggles for Thomas who finished with 20 points which barely kept his streak of games with 20 or more points alive which now stands at a franchise-record 42 games.

“We gave this game away. We had it,” Thomas said.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.

 

STARS

DeMar DeRozan

He was an All-Star starter this season, and played like one on a night when he needed to carry and even heavier scoring load than usual with Kyle Lowry (right wrist) a last-minute scratch from the starting lineup. DeRozan led all scorers with 43 points, doing so on an efficient 15-for-28 shooting in addition to dishing out five assists and grabbing five rebounds.

 

STUDS

P.J. Tucker

The numbers don’t begin to speak to the impact that Tucker made on this game. His defense, switching and physical play were all factors that contributed heavily to the win. In his first game as a Raptor, he had a near double-double of nine points and 10 rebounds.

Jaylen Brown

You look around and he was the only rookie for either team to get on the floor, let alone make an impact. Brown did a lot of good things for the Celtics, scoring 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting.

Serge Ibaka

Well it looks like the Raptors got the O-K-C Ibaka and not the one who struggled mightily in Orlando. He had 15 points in his Raptors debut on 7-for-12 shooting while grabbing seven rebounds.

Jae Crowder

After being in a shooting funk for most of this month, Crowder delivered a strong performance on Friday with 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting which included 4-for-9 on 3’s.

 

DUDS

Celtics’ second-half defense

This was not one of Boston’s finer moments, as the Raptors turned up the intensity at both ends of the floor and the Celtics never were able to match it. Toronto shot 52.4 percent in the second half, outscored Boston 26-12 on points in the paint and held a 12-5 advantage in second-chance points while keeping the Celtics scoreless in the second half in fast-break points.