Boston Celtics

Defenseless Patriots hang on for 37-31 win against Bills

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Defenseless Patriots hang on for 37-31 win against Bills

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick stated it as simply as it can be stated.

"I'll take any win," the Patriots coach said. "Take any win."

And that's about all the Patriots can really say about Sunday's 37-31 victory over the Bills: It was a win.

Because make no mistake. This was Webster's definition of winning ugly.

The defense surrendered nearly 500 yards to an offense that ranks in the bottom half of the league in most categories. It gave up points on five of seven possessions during one stretch, and only kept the Bills off the scoreboard on the sixth because Fred Jackson fumbled on the Patriots' 1-yard line. The offense, for as prolific as it was in scoring 37 points, couldn't punch it in from the Buffalo 2 in the final 2 12 minutes and had to settle for a Stephen Gostkowski field goal, which nearly set the stage for a game-winning Bills drive in the final two minutes.

But Ryan Fitzpatrick (27-of-40, 337 yards, 2 touchdowns), after driving his team from its own 20 to the Patriots 15, threw a game-ending interception to Devin McCourty in the end zone with 23 seconds left . .  the last in a series of Buffalo miscues that, ultimately, cost the Bills the game.

It was a series of miscues that saved the Patriots from themselves.

"We had penalties, dropped balls, offsides, missed tackles," said Belichick. "You know, missed tackles and dropped balls, I mean, that's pretty fundamental. We just didn't do a good job in a number of areas. I don't think it was any one thing, but . . .

"We made some plays, we did some things well, but there were other things that were just not as sharp as what they need to be or what they should be. We definitely got to do a better job on those."

"It was far from perfect."

Luckily for New England, the Bills -- for as well as they played in keeping it close -- were even farther from perfection. In addition to a ridiculous number of penalties (14, for 148 yards), they committed three fatal turnovers:

New England led 3-0 in the first quarter when Wilfork sacked Fitzpatrick and forced a fumble that was recovered by Jermaine Cunningham on the Buffalo 13-yard line. Three plays later, Stevan Ridley ran it in from a yard out to put the Patriots in front, 10-0.

In the fourth quarter, with the Pats clinging to a 34-24 lead, Jackson broke off a 12-yard run that got him to the New England 1. McCourty, however, knocked the ball loose as Jackson was falling to the ground and Kyle Arrington recovered. The Pats would go three-and-out and Buffalo would score on its next possession, but the fumble took about three minutes off the clock . . . minutes that would prove crucial when the Bills were driving for the game-winning TD with time winding down.

And finally, Fitzpatrick fired the ball right to McCourty in the final 30 seconds.

"There's nothing bigger than turnovers," said McCourty. "I think throughout any level of football . . . a lot of times if you just win that turnover ratio, you end up winning the game."

It was about the only statistical edge the Patriots had Sunday. They were outgained, 481 yards to 347; had only 27 first downs to the Bills' 35; had fewer rushing (162-117) and passing (319-230) yards than Buffalo, and controlled the ball for nearly eight fewer minutes. In addition, the Bills' offense ran off an incredible 25 plays of 10 or more yards against the hapless Patriots defense.

"They gave us a handful," said Vince Wilfork.

But the Pats, who got a pair of touchdowns from Danny Woodhead and single scores from Stevan Ridley and Rob Gronkowski, along with a pair of Gostkowski field goals, never trailed -- they held leads of 3-0, 10-0, 10-3, 17-3, 17-10, 24-10, 24-17, 31-17, 31-24, 34-24 and 34-31 before getting the final field goal -- and, in the end, many of them took a bottom-line satisfaction in the afternoon . . . especially since it raised their record to 6-3 and increased their lead over second-place Miami to two games in the AFC East.

"The most important thing is to walk away with a 'W'," said Wilfork. "That is the biggest goal . . . "

"It's always a joy to get a victory in the NFL," said Gronkowski.

Considering how it happened, though, Tom Brady (23-of-38, 237 yards, 2 TDs), took solace in something else.
 
"It's frustrating when we don't play as well as we're capable of," said Brady. "But that's part of the game, and part of the mental toughness of the game is to put those things behind you and to keep playing hard.

"And we did that. And that's why we won."

No longer the little team that could, Celtics may need time to jell

No longer the little team that could, Celtics may need time to jell

Fireworks have been ablaze in the NBA all summer long, with the latest electrifying salvo being tossed by the Boston Celtics in trading for Kyrie Irving from Cleveland in exchange for a package of playerscentered around Isaiah Thomas and a first-round pick centered around Isaiah Thomas. Without question the Celtics were among the biggest winners this offseason as they went about transforming their roster significantly despite having the best record in the East while advancing to the conference finals. But good wasn’t good enough, a similar mantra by a number of teams in the NBA. We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin!

BOSTON – Expectations for the Celtics this season are the highest they've been in the Brad Stevens Era.
 
The past couple of years, Stevens’ crew was seen as a scrappy bunch.
 
That all changed Tuesday night when the Celtics pulled off a blockbuster trade in acquiring Kyrie Irving from Cleveland for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the rights to the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

MORE ON THE KYRIE IRVING BLOCKBUSTER:

 
Acquiring the four-time All-Star would have made this offseason one of the best ever for the Celtics. But prior to landing the 25-year-old point guard, Boston was able to sign Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $127.8 million contract after he spent his first seven seasons in the NBA with the Utah Jazz.
 
The new guys join a Celtics team that returns just four starters, a group led by Al Horford, who stands as the lone returning starter from last season’s squad which finished with the best record in the East (53-29) while advancing to the Eastern Conference finals before losing in five games to Cleveland.
 
Adding a pair of All-Stars to the mix will certainly benefit the Celtics for this upcoming season. But for their continued growth, they will also need to get more from their youngsters.
 
Second-year forward Jaylen Brown had a strong offseason and is poised to build off of a rookie season in which he was named to the All-Rookie second team. Boston will also look to get quality play from rookie Jayson Tatum who was selected by Boston with the third overall pick in the NBA draft.  
 
For Boston, the biggest concern has to be chemistry.
 
There’s no question there’s more talent on this roster from top to bottom.
 
But with this being the first go-around for most of the players, it remains to be seen just how long it will take for all of the core players to get on the same page and find success.
 
That challenge won’t be easy, especially with the Celtics opening with seven of their first 11 games on the road.

Even with all the new faces and a challenging schedule out the gates, that won’t diminish the heightened level of expectations for a team that will surely have a bull’s-eye on its back all season for a journey that should result in yet another deep playoff run.
 
Key free agent/trade additions: Kyrie Irving (from Cleveland); Gordon Hayward (from Utah); Aron Baynes (from Detroit); Marcus Morris (from Detroit).
 
Key losses:
Avery Bradley (traded to Detroit); Amir Johnson (Philadelphia); Jonas Jerebko (Utah).
 
Rookies of note:
Jayson Tatum; Semi Ojeleye.
 
Expectations:
60-22 (First in the Atlantic Division, first in the East)

CSNNE SCHEDULE

BST PODCAST: What grade would you give the Celtics trade for Kyrie Irving?

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BST PODCAST: What grade would you give the Celtics trade for Kyrie Irving?

0:41 - What grade would you give the Celtics for their trade for Kyrie Irving? Michael Holley, Kayce Smith, Tom Curran, break it down and give their grades.

4:32 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakley discuss how Kyrie Irving will fit in the Celtics system and how Brad Stevens will handle the roster with new egos.

8:50 - We take a look back at the Pierce and Garnett trade to the Nets that landed the Celtics multiple 1st round picks. Are you pleased with how the Celtics used those picks? Is Danny Ainge a Hall of Fame executive? Michael Holley, A. Sherrod Blakely, and Tom Giles discuss.

14:30 - Our BST crew talk about the Red Sox getting the win over the Indians, Eduardo Nunez being hit intentionally by Corey Kluber, and if Chris Sale will retaliate.