Curran's 34 lines on 17 Patriots issues

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Curran's 34 lines on 17 Patriots issues

Sit down, because this will rock you to your core. Over the final seven games of the 2011 season, Aaron Hernandez was targeted more than eight times per game: Sunday, he saw six passes.

I think we know whats afoot. A phase out for Hernandez and an example of the Patriots evil genius where they sign a player to a huge contract or guarantee him nearly 10 million (in the case of Wes Welker) and then dont use him.

After watching the debacle authored by the Raiders backup long snapper Travis Goethel Monday night -- a ground ball on which the punt by Shane Lechler was aborted, a slow wobbler leading to a blocked punt and another ground ball leading to another aborted punt -- you can be sure of this: Its good to be an out-of-work linebacker with actual long-snapping abilities this week.

On the Ras-I Dowling pass interference in the first quarter, one of the contributing factors was at the snap. Dowling was still looking into the backfield when the ball was snapped and Kendall Wright was on Dowling and nearly past him by the time Dowling reacted.

The two biggest assets Stevan Ridley has as a running back are superior balance and the ability to make the first tackler miss more often than not. BenJarvus Green-Ellis ball control was enviable but Ridleys got far more explosiveness.

The new Nike pants being worn around the league? The players arent fans of them, saying they bunch up around the crotch and come down too easily in the back.

Josh McDaniels did a terrific job of throwing different formations, personnel and quick throws in during the opener. The Cardinals will have a ton to prepare for this week.

Jason McCourty didnt have friendly things to say to Aaron Hernandez when McCourty drove Hernandez out on the sideline in the second half. Ill (screw) you up all day (friend), was what the sideline mics picked up.

Went to the Mayo Bowl on Monday night at Kings in Dedham and saw Patriots guard Dan Connolly up and about, which is a good sign that the concussion he suffered Sunday was mild.

Also seen at the event, defensive tackle Gerard Warren who raised his eyebrows and smiled when asked if he might be back with the team. Tom Brady and wife Giselle Bundchen were there, too.

Their presence can cause chaos and, as a result, Brady says he sometimes takes a pass on public events to avoid detracting from the mission of them. That he showed up for Mayos event for the first time (I believe, not dead positive) was a nice gesture.

When I walked past Brady, he and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd were locked in football-related discussion. It just doesnt stop with Brady.

When you realize that the most times Chad Ochocinco was targeted last season was five (against the Giants in October) and then realize that Lloyd had eight balls thrown to him, the notion of a Welker freeze-out takes another hit. If one spot is getting more passes and the ball is thrown less (31 times) it stands to reason the target numbers will drop.

Lloyd wasnt too happy with me after Sundays game when I asked him if he slowed down on the first quarter deep ball from Brady. It was an incomplete pass, dont read too much into it, he said icily. When I told him its my job to read into things and then check if theyre right, he stared hard at me then asked for the next question. Weve since straightened it out. I share this because it helps readers understand the dynamic that players and reporters are in when a question that critiques performance arises. The player isn't going to like being second-guessed; the reporter isn't going to like having a legitimate question dismissed. It's a fine balance.

Is Richard Seymour a possible Hall of Fame player? Discuss.

Kevin Kolb will get the start Sunday for the Cardinals when they visit the Patriots, it appears. He was 6-of-8 for 66 yards directing the game-winning drive for the Cards against the Seahawks after John Skelton injured his ankle.

The pursuit speed of Chandler Jones continues to be the most impressive aspect of his game. On the strip sack that led to the Donta Hightower touchdown, Jones turned the corner on Michael Roos then accelerated in two huge steps to get to Jake Lockervery impressive.

Bruins acquire bottom-six forward Drew Stafford from Winnipeg.

Bruins acquire bottom-six forward Drew Stafford from Winnipeg.

BRIGHTON -- Bruins general manager Don Sweeney gave every indication it was going to be a mostly quiet trade deadline for the Black and Gold, and it was . . . right up until the 3 p.m. deadline.

Then the B’s dealt a conditional sixth-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets for forward Drew Stafford. The trade was announced shortly after Wednesday's 3 p.m. deadline.

Stafford, 31, is having a down year due to injuries and ineffectiveness and has four goals and 13 points along with a minus-2 rating on the season, and has played in only 40 games this season after being dealt two years ago to the Jets from Buffalo along with Tyler Myers. The 6-foot-2, 214-pound Stafford was a bit of a Bruins killer during his time in Buffalo and topped out with 31 goals and 52 points n the 2010-11 season. He scored 21 goals and 38 points in 78 games for Winnipeg last season, but compiled a whopping minus-23 mark.

This is a no-risk move for the Bruins, who surrender very little for a player who will give the B’s an option at wing should one of their younger players begin to struggle, or who could potentially replace someone like Jimmy Hayes among their bottom-six forwards.

Other than Stafford, the Bruins stood pat and watched as players like Radim Vrbata, Jaroslav Halak, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog didn’t move ahead of the deadline. The B's weren’t about to move their top prospects and blue-chip assets while in a rebuilding phase, and they were smart to stick to the low-risk/high-reward type move. Sweeney and Company are clearly betting on the group they’ve put together to finish up strong and power into the postseason in the final 19 games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy. 

Cassidy: 'Trying to set a standard' of being one of the NHL's better teams

Cassidy: 'Trying to set a standard' of being one of the NHL's better teams

BOSTON – The Bruins have won seven of eight games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy and are fortifying their position as the third playoff team in the Atlantic Division with each passing victory.

The 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes at TD Garden on Tuesday night probably shouldn’t be all impressive based on the Yotes standing as the second-worst team in the NHL, but it was a classic trap game coming off a long West Coast road trip. Instead of falling for the trap the Bruins exploded for three goals in the second period, energized by a shorthanded Riley Nash strike, and continue to extend the winning stretch they need in order to punch their playoff ticket.

The postseason clincher is still a long way away from reality, but Cassidy said the B’s are starting to achieve the elevated level of play they’re aiming for while finally getting the full potential out of their team.

“I just want the guys to make sure that they play confident, solid hockey and believe in themselves. And play to a [higher] standard,” said Cassidy. “We’re trying to set a standard where we’re one of the better teams in the National Hockey League. They’ve been there before, the leadership group here. That’s where we’re striving to get through in the end.”

They haven’t exactly shied away from the competition either, twice beating the first-place San Jose Sharks and shutting out the first place Montreal Canadiens in the final straw that saw Michel Therrien axed in favor of Claude Julien.

The B’s have now opened up a three-point cushion over the Maple Leafs for their playoff spot and they’ve averaged 4.13 goals per game (33 goals in eight games) while allowing just 2.13 goals per game (17 goals in eight games) in the eight games going from Julien to Cassidy. 

The challenge now is to maintain that level of play over the final 19 games of the regular season to drive home their playoff bid and finish strong at a point where in each of the past two seasons they’ve utterly imploded.