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.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Reaction to weekend protests

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Reaction to weekend protests

0:41 - Tom Giles, Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss the National Anthem protests across the NFL over the weekend and the reactions to players kneeling.

10:07 - Michael Hurley joins the BST crew to talk about the Patriots' thrilling last-minute victory over the Texans and how concerning the Patriots' issues on defense are.

18:13 - Michael Holley and Kayce Smith discuss Kyrie Irving and LeBron James' comments about one another during Media Day, including LeBron referring to Kyrie as "The Kid" instead of his name.

22:30 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Mookie Betts and Eduardo Nunez both leaving with injuries during the Red Sox's Monday night loss to the Blue Jays, and other concerns surrounding the team heading into the postseason.

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Prescott, Cowboys pull away to beat Cardinals, 28-17

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MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Prescott, Cowboys pull away to beat Cardinals, 28-17

GLENDALE, Ariz. , Dak Prescott kneeled with his teammates and team owner before the game, flipped head over heels for a touchdown in the first half and capped his night with a 37-yard TD pass that proved to be the game winner.

The Dallas Cowboys erased last week's ugly memory on Monday night, with their young quarterback leading the way.

"He just kept battling," Dallas coach Jason Garrett said.

"He kept making good decisions. Obviously he made some good plays, big-time throws, but as much as anything else he's got an amazing spirit and our players follow him."

The Cowboys (2-1), bouncing back from a 42-17 pummeling in Denver, began the game kneeling at midfield with owner Jerry Jones in a show of unity that followed widespread protests across the NFL of critical comments by President Donald Trump over the weekend.

After they kneeled, they stood and walked to the sideline and stood for the anthem.

"We planned and it was executed that we would go out and kneel," Jones said, "and basically make the statement regarding the need for unity and the need for equality."

Prescott, 13 of 18 for 183 yards, broke a 14-14 tie with a 37-yard scoring pass to Brice Butler with 11:52 to play.

"I immediately scrambled and when I scrambled Brice took the right angle and the right initiative going to the back of the end zone," Prescott said.

Arizona, with a spectacular catch by Larry Fitzgerald for 24 yards on a third-and-18 play, moved downfield but the drive stalled. Phil Dawson's 37-yard field goal cut the lead to 21-17 with 6:35 left.

Ezekiel Elliott, who gained 8 yards on nine carries against Denver and drew criticism for not hustling after a couple of late interceptions, was bottled up much of the game, but still gained 80 yards on 22 attempts, 30 on one play. He ran 8 yards for the final Cowboys touchdown.

The Cardinals (1-2), in their home opener, got a big game from Fitzgerald, who caught 13 passes for 149 yards, in the process moving ahead of Marvin Harrison into eighth in career receiving yards. The 13 receptions tied a career high.

"That's Fitz. It's Monday night," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. "He's a money player. It was a great performance by him. It's a shame we couldn't play better around him."

Carson Palmer had a big first half, completed 15 of 18 for 145 yards and finished 29 of 48 for 325 yards and two scores. He was sacked six times, a career-high three by DeMarcus Lawrence.

The Cardinals dominated the first half statistically, but were deadlocked with the Cowboys at 7-7. Arizona had a 152-57 advantage in yards and dominated time of possession 19:34 to 9:41.

Arizona took the opening kickoff and went 82 yards in eight plays. Palmer was 5-for-5 on the drive, capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown.

Before Dallas even had a first down, Arizona mounted a nearly nine-minute drive but a touchdown pass to Brown was negated by a holding penalty and Phil Dawson's 36-yard field goal try was wide right. It was the third mid-range miss for the 41-year-old kicker this season.

And the miss left the door open for the Cowboys to get back in it.

Prescott scored on a 10-yard run, flipping head-first over the goal line to tie it at 7-7 with 3:33 left in the half.

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