Brady consistent in search for improvement

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Brady consistent in search for improvement

There's something you have to understand about Tom Brady: The man plays for perfection.

"I thought it was okay."

This, the reaction to his own performance in New England's 38-20 win over the Eagles. Brady completed 24 of 34 passes for 361 yards, three touchdowns and a 134.6 quarterback rating.

Yeah. That's all right.

Of course, the Patriots were supposed to win this game. Philadelphia, missing its 100 million Michael Vick, was led by backup QB Vince Young for the second straight week. No. 1 receiver Jeremy Maclin was out with shoulder and hamstring injuries. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was active but hampered by a knee injury. Despite the league's best rush, it still doesn't exactly add up to a Dream Team.

So where was the worry?

New England -- Brady in particular -- has been starting slowly of late. There was fear that if the Eagles came out firing, the Patriots could get in too deep a hole to climb out of. And it almost happened that way.

It took Philadelphia two minutes and 17 seconds to put seven points on the board. Brady's answering drive -- leaning heavily on BenJarvus Green-Ellis -- ended on a punt. It was the fourth time the Patriots booted on their opening drive in their last five games. Eyebrows raised after the Eagles tacked on three more points.

But Brady stayed cool.

"There was a ton of football to play," he said. "Even their first touchdown drive was probably two-and-a-half minutes, it wasn't like it was an eight-minute drive, so there was a ton of football left."

New England "stemmed the tide."

BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored the team's first two touchdowns, on four- and one-yard runs. It was the first time he reached the end zone since the Patriots' October 9 game against the Jets. And with the revival of the ground game came resurrection for Patriots' play action.

Guys found gaps, they got open. Brady had options and the offense was clicking.

"I thought we ran the ball pretty effectively. That first drive I thought we did a good job running it . . . we just kind of sputtered out. We didn't make some plays in the passing game. I thought we played with a little power today. We ran the ball to really balance out the passing game, but there's plenty of yards that we left out there, too."

His debriefing doesn't match up with the stat sheet.

Deion Branch finished with 125 receiving yards. It was his best performance since Week 2 against San Diego (before Philip Rivers and San Diego spiraled into the abyss). In fact, Branch's 63-yard reception broke the game open for the Patriots.

Branch had a comeback route. As he ran, Brady scrambled. Branch stepped up then wheeled inside -- the defensive back lost him. Brady jammed it inside to Branch, who took off, cut back at around the 15, and dove headfirst to the 1.

Any momentum Philadelphia had was halted after the ensuing Patriots touchdown; after Young's interception on the following play, it was slaughtered. Yet Brady wasn't content. On the next New England drive, he started bawling about a missed third-down connection to Wes Welker. The string of sideline expletives he fired off after kicker Stephen Gotskowski's missed the 39-yard field goal attempt were as sincere as they were ugly.

"We want to score touchdowns every time we step out on there on the field," Welker said in the post-game. "I'd rather Brady be that way than, 'Aw, shucks.' "

No wonder they work so well together.

Welker had eight catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Second-year tight end Rob Gronkowski caught his 11th touchdown pass. Their contributions helped Brady tie the NFL record for most games (eight) with 350-plus passing yards, at least three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

You can't set those kinds of records and be passionless.

"I thought it was more balanced today . . . That's how it needs to be," said Brady. "You've got to run it, you've got to throw it to everybody, you've got to keep them off balanced, you've got to screen, you've got to draw, you've got to trap, you've got to downhill run, you need quick-hitters. You need all levels in the passing game."

Such thorough expectations. It's not that New England's offense will never be good enough, it's just that it can be better. For Brady, the Patriots can always be better.

Beyond the numbers: Kings offense will test Celtics defense

Beyond the numbers: Kings offense will test Celtics defense

BOSTON – When it comes to defense, the Celtics are quick to claim that it is indeed the foundation for which their team is built upon. 
 
Still, far too often this season, we have seen cracks in their usually Teflon-tough defense, the kind that ultimately means the difference between winning and losing.
 
The Celtics’ defense will once again need to step up and play well tonight against a Sacramento squad that has shown it can fill it up offensively of late. 
 
Sacramento (7-11) has scored 100 or more points in eight of their past 10 games. In that span, their 107.2 points per game ranks ninth in the league. 
 
In that same span, the Celtics have allowed opponents to score 100.3 points per game, which ranks 10th in the NBA in fewest points allowed.
 
And when it comes to winning, limiting teams to less than 100 points has been huge in Boston’s win total. 
 
The Celtics have held eight opponents to 100 points or less this season. 
 
Their record in those games? 8-0.
 
Within that limited scoring, Boston must also make sure teams don’t get into a nice groove shooting the ball. 
 
Boston is 0-5 this season when an opponent shoots 48 percent or better from the field. 
 
While there are several things Boston must do to be successful, having the right kind of defensive disposition ranks at or near the top of that list in their efforts to play with the kind of defensive success that gave so many hope that this would the year Boston would hold court among the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

“We have to get a little more nastier on the defensive end and not let a team come in and get comfortable,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder.
 

Brady, Bennett, Edelman questionable for Sunday vs. Rams

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Brady, Bennett, Edelman questionable for Sunday vs. Rams

FOXBORO -- The Patriots injury report for Sunday's game with the Rams is out. While they'll be without one big name, but their others are still very much in play. 

Rob Gronkowski, who was scheduled to undergo back surgery on Friday, has been ruled out. Jordan Richards, who is dealing with a knee issue and has not practiced this week, will also be held out of action on Sunday. 

Tom Brady (knee), Julian Edelman (foot), Martellus Bennett (ankle/shoulder) and Chris Hogan (back) -- all of whom practiced on Friday -- have been listed as questionable for the Rams game at Gillette Stadium. Special teamer Nate Ebner (concussion) returned to practice on Friday and is also questionable, as is Trey Flowers (shin) and Elandon Roberts, who popped up on the injury report with a jaw issue Friday. 

Special teams captain Matthew Slater missed Friday's session after participating on both Wednesday and Thursday. He's been ruled as questionable. Defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton is also questionable after missing his second straight day of practice with an illness.

If Slater and Ebner are at all limited this weekend, coupled with the loss of Richards, the Patriots kicking game would be significantly impacted. Hogan took reps as the team's personal protector on the punt team earlier this week and may fill that role should Ebner miss time.