Patriots secondary finally shows signs of improvement

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Patriots secondary finally shows signs of improvement

LONDON For the first time in a while, a postgame locker room wasnt filled with whispered promises from defensive backs about trying to get better or working to get better.

We didnt hear those because, on Sunday against the Rams, they actually did . . . get better.

Oh, it didnt start too better. Six plays into the game, the Rams were dancing in the end zone after a 50-yard Sam Bradford to Chris Givens bomb. But that was not a harbinger of what was to come.

The trickle didnt turn into a deluge this time. This time, the Patriots defense plugged it up.

Some of it had to do with scheme. Somebody called for more blitzes safety blitzes, linebacker blitzes, twists and stunts along the defensive line although Bill Belichick said after the game he wasnt sure there really were more dialed up than normal.

Whatever the case, the secondary benefited from pressure up front and the Rams refusal or inability to challenge downfield.

For the embattled secondary it was, to quote Jerod Mayo, Huge.

Guys are weathering the storm, said Mayo after the Patriots limited the Rams to 209 passing yards, picked Sam Bradford off twice and rendered Steven Jackson a non-factor. We always talk about ignoring the noise, but sometimes you can't help but hear it. I think this game was a steppingstone for people to grow. People can continue to get better. We feel if we can put a couple of things together, we can be a pretty dangerous team.

Vince Wilfork said the change began against the Jets, even though the Patriots made Mark Sanchez look almost serviceable.

We gave up 300-some yards passing, whatever it may be. But I saw guys in that game being physical, using their hands, and sometimes being called for pass interference. But it didn't discourage them from doing what we wanted to do, Wilfork explained. Those guys being able to get the ball for our offense - those are huge plays. We always talk about when the ball is in air, think of it as ours.

Everything is not going to be perfect, reminded Wilfork. It's football, nothing is perfect. We are definitely learning. We are still learning. But we are going to continue to play better. We try to get better each weekend, and hopefully this team will be a special team.

The Rams were a little confounded about how things got so ridiculous so quickly.

You look at their defense and I think they were 30th defending the pass, said Bradford. We came into this game really expecting to move the ball.

They did. In fits and starts. But never with any sense of impending here it comes".

Considering the Patriots secondary was again without its starting safeties and lost starting corner Kyle Arrington after the first drive, its worth looking harder at why they played better. And the presence of Devin McCourty at safety continues to be a common denominator in better play back there.

I felt today I did a better job communicating, getting all those guys on the right track, McCourty explained. Actually once you have some moving parts back there, guys go down, it's important everybody lines up and plays the same defense. They put me back there, put me in charge of making sure everyone knows what they're doing. I felt I did a better job this week than last week. Things started to slow down for me back there.

Well see if McCourty sticks back there. You know the saying, If it aint broke, dont fix it.

After one competent game, its too soon to conclude the Patriots secondary is no longer broken. But the fix may be closer to being in.

Bruins sign pair of draft picks, including BC's Fitzgerald, to entry-level deals

Bruins sign pair of draft picks, including BC's Fitzgerald, to entry-level deals

Amidst the current turmoil at the NHL level, the Bruins delivered a little good news about the future today . . . with more potentially to come. 

The Bruins announced the signing of a pair of prospects/former draft picks -- Boston College forward Ryan Fitzgerald and defenseman Emil Johansson -- to entry-level contracts that will kick in next season. There will likely be another wave of signings with the Bruins from the amateur ranks once players like Charlie McAvoy, Anders Bjork and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson are finished up with their college teams in the NCAA tournament, though it remains to be seen exactly which players end up taking the NHL plunge. 

There was some uncertainty as to whether Fitzgerald would definitely sign with Boston after completing his senior season at BC, but he will immediately join the Providence Bruins on an amateur tryout agreement after signing a two-year deal. Johansson will join the Bruins on a Professional Tryout Agreement with a three-year entry level deal that kicks off next season. 

The 5-foot-10, 177-pound Fitzgerald was an alternate captain for BC in 2016-17, with 12 goals and 19 assists for 31 points in 34 games with 56 penalty minutes and a plus-14 rating. Fitzgerald is also the son of Billerica native and former Bruins forward Tommy Fitzgerald, who took to Twitter on Friday to voice his overwhelming pride over his oldest signing an NHL contract. He was a fourth-round pick by the Bruins in 2013.

Johansson, 20, completed his first season with Djurgardens IF of the Swedish Hockey League in 2016-17, establishing career highs with 7 goals and 10 assists for 17 points with 26 penalty minutes in 49 games. The B's selected him in the seventh round in 2014.

Report: Clippers' Griffin willing to consider Celtics in free agency

Report: Clippers' Griffin willing to consider Celtics in free agency

With all attention focused on overtaking the Cavs for the No. 1 seed in the East, the offseason -- trades, the draft, free agency -- is on the backburner in Celtics Nation these days.

But that pot's still simmering,

And it began to boil a little today when Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding, in the middle of a story on the Clippers being at a crossroad, threw a little accelerant on that old Blake Griffin-to-Boston flame . . .

But more and more people around the league believe he would be open to a fresh start — perhaps with the Lakers or the Boston Celtics, who have coveted Griffin for years and would offer a new chance to win. The most intriguing fit might be if he were to go home to Oklahoma to join Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, but his interests in the entertainment industry make staying in Los Angeles a priority.

Not much of a thread to grab there. But that didn't prevent cbssports.com's James Herbert from looking into it . . .  

Jumping to another contender on a max contract might not be simple. As CelticsBlog’s Keith P. Smith pointed out, Boston would have to dump Terry Rozier, waive Tyler Zeller and renounce all its free agents, including Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson, in order to even get near the amount of cap room that would be required to offer Griffin or someone like Gordon Hayward a max deal. 

Then again, Herbert says the Lakers and Thunder, Griffin's supposed other two destination spots, are even less financially flexible than the C's.

For now, it's all just a temporary diversion from the battle for No. 1.

It's also a reminder, though, that a whole new season -- the offseason -- is just around the corner.