Brady won't receive warm homecoming in Oakland


Brady won't receive warm homecoming in Oakland

By Mary Paoletti Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
FOXBORO -- New England's upcoming matchup against the Oakland Raiders is its second road game in as many weeks. For quarterback Tom Brady and seven other Patriots, it's a free flight home.

Not like that will make the assignment easier.

"It's been a while since I've been there," Brady said Wednesday. "Last time I played there was '02, so I think my parents are the most happy. They don't have to come very far this week. For us, it's a road game, it's an important one. So we've got to go out there and try to win."

The teams last met in 2008, when the Patriots inflicted a 49-26 beating on the Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. But the offensive firestorm -- the four touchdown passes on four opening drives -- is credited to Matt Cassel; Brady's bum knee wrote it as such. He hasn't faced the Raiders since a 30-20 win September 8, 2005. And he hasn't visited The Black Hole since November 17, 2002 -- a 27-20 loss.

"We haven't played them -- I haven't played them -- in a while, so it's been kind of a crash course the last few days in getting to know them, getting to know their personnel, their schemes. But they're very good. They play well at home. They're very physical. They're tough. They're big. They're fast. It's always a certain type of player out there: big, tough, fast . . . It's a good front. They're good in the secondary. ... It's going to be a big challenge."


The Raiders haven't had a winning season since 2002; last year's 8-8 record was a boon. But, as it was said about the Bills in Week 3, this team might be different. Oakland's 2-1, coming off a 34-21 win over the Jets. The triumph, which started with a no-huddle first snap and two minute, 24 second 76-yard touchdown drive, was demoralizing for New York. Cornerback Darrelle Revis said Oakland's opening "had us on our heels." Nose tackle Sione Pouha called the game "embarrassing" and "humiliating."

Raiders running back Darren McFadden plowed through the Jets for 171 yards and two touchdowns, abusing one of the AFC East's top teams upped his average to 131 yards rushing per game.

If the Patriots don't want to be pushed around by the "bully" Hue Jackson is building, they can't just lean on their quarterback. Brady's 1,327 passing yards through 2011's first three games is an NFL record. But 387 were wasted in last week's loss to Buffalo. Mark Sanchez's 339 -- part of 439 total yards of offense for the Jets -- weren't good enough to beat the Raiders.

A more complete game will need to be played in Oakland.

"I think the goal is to be pretty balanced in what we're doing," Brady said. "Just based on how the game's played out, it's kind of dictated a certain style of play. When we do run it we need to run it efficiently and effectively and when we throw it we have to do the same. We can't turn the ball over. So whatever we need to do to get the ball in the end zone, we've got to do it well."

Brady throwing four picks, as he did in Buffalo, is unlikely. New England's defense giving up a 21-point lead would be less surprising. The Patriots give up a league-worst 468.7 total yards per game, a stat McFadden must be drooling over. Their 377.0 average passing yards allowed also tops the NFL's naughty list.

Better to look ahead, then.

"I think it's really a fresh week for us," Brady said. "Like I said, there's nothing that we can do about what's happened. We're trying to bring a fresh, new plan, new energy, we're trying to put it together against a damn good football team. We're going to learn more about going on the road and playing a tough opponent than anything. ... We're trying to get a win.

"We've moved on from Sunday and we're focused on what we need to do in our preparation," Brady continued. "I think we've been studying the different challenges Oakland presents to us and we're going to prepare hard like we always do and try to go out there and play well. There's nothing we can do about last week. Certainly nothing we can do about next week. The only thing you can really do is focus on what we have ahead of us today."

From here it looks like one hell of a homecoming.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

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


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.