C's showed Patriots support in AFC semifinal game

C's showed Patriots support in AFC semifinal game

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens has a tremendous amount of respect for New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and what he has built in Foxboro.

But it wasn't until Sunday’s playoff game between the Patriots and the Houston Texans did he actually see them play at Foxboro.

And while Stevens is from Indiana and is indeed an Indianapolis Colts fan, the Patriots have his support for a multitude of reasons.

“It was fun to watch,” said Stevens who attended the game with his father and his son. “When you talk about rooting interest, you root for who you know. I was definitely rooting for them. I hope they can go all the way. It was fun to watch.”

He wasn’t the only Celtic in Foxboro cheering on the Patriots who pulled away for a 34-16 win over the Texans.

Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas was there watching from a suite.

“It was a nice. They won. I got a lot of backlash for switching up,” said Thomas, a Tacoma, Wash. Native who grew up rooting for the Seattle Seahawks.

“It was good, just to be on that field and be around those guys,” Thomas said. “You can tell, they’re focused on winning a championship, winning the Superbowl. You want to be around those type of players.”

That goes for coaches as well, which is why Brad Stevens has maintained a good relationship with Belichick who has created the kind of winning atmosphere that all coaches want.

“One of the things they’ve’ created is sustainability and culture,” Stevens said. “Any coach wants to be in a position where over the course of time every single year you suit up, you got a chance. Because of the commitment of doing things the way they want to do it … they’ve created that. I can’t say enough good things about the job that he’s done. I’ve got a chance to watch him up close. You feel pretty inadequate when you walk out of that building as a coach.”

Stevens has also been impressed with the way the Patriots have handled injuries and situations where  a key player has been down.

“There’s been a ton of change in the roster and he just keeps churning out wins regardless of who is on the field. Obviously (Tom) Brady has been a constant through all of that. But at the same time, there have been a lot of changes at a lot of significant positions. They just do their job well. That’s the bottom line.

Even in defeat, Texans defense did its job against Brady and the Pats

Even in defeat, Texans defense did its job against Brady and the Pats

FOXBORO -- If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, my aunt would be my uncle.

Or something like that. Anyway, Jadeveon Clowney chose to put a hopeful spin on his team's 34-16 loss to the Patriots by playing some make-believe.

"If you take them plays away (the long passes Tom Brady completed), take the kick return away, we beat them," said the Texans linebacker.

PATRIOTS 34, TEXANS 16

Yes. Maybe they would have. There's no denying the Texans defense played very well against the Patriots and that New England was fairly fortunate to have almost every prayer of a Brady throw answered by a reception.

But they happened and the Texans are going home. Not without a measure of satisfaction on the defensive side of the ball, though.

This team that was raked over by Jacoby Brissett in a 27-0 loss in September showed how much better its defense had become in forcing Brady into a pair of picks and an 18-for-38 night.

"I think we did good," said Clowney. "Hit him when we wanted to. We were getting to him. We were messing him up disguising. Moving around. I don't think -- what was he like, three-for-something on third down? (5-for-16, actually, but still not great.) Yeah, when you're playing that good you expect to win games. [We] just didn't get the outcome that we want."

Clowney was draped on Brady a number of times. Once, he hauled Brady down after Brady threw the ball away and the quarterback was irate, asking for a flag he didn't get. Later, after Clowney tackled Brady after he'd released the ball, Clowney was flagged.

"He was rattled," said Clowney. "We [were] rattling him. Like I said, third-down conversions, what [did] they have? We had them right where we wanted them on third downs. We were getting them in third-and-longs. He was throwing the ball up, getting deep catches, man."

Those downfield throws were somewhat the result of the Texans doing a good job gumming up the short and intermediate areas.

"We understand he loves the short stuff so we just added a little extra into the coverage," said linebacker Whitney Mercilus, who was as big a factor as Clowney. "That's about it. Made him hold the ball and got a couple of sacks but that wasn't enough."

How vital was it to get heat on Brady?

"Huge," said Mercilus. "If you don't get pressure on Brady he's gonna tear you apart. But he still tore us apart in the second half. All the best to the Patriots. You gotta get pressure on Brady, if you don't he'll pick you apart. Bottom line."

The picking apart wasn't complete. There were more instances where Brady had to pick himself up. But the Patriots move on while the Texans defense can only wonder what if . . .

Lewis harps on fumbles after otherwise historic night: 'My worst game ever'

Lewis harps on fumbles after otherwise historic night: 'My worst game ever'

FOXBORO -- Dion Lewis had just made history in his postseason debut, his team was headed to the AFC title game, and he was about to Facetime with Deion Sanders for an NFL Network postgame show.

It had been a pretty good night, by all accounts. 

But after the Patriots beat the Texans in the Divisional Round, 34-16, Lewis was focused on how the night could have been -- and should have been -- even better.

"I feel like this is my worst game ever," Lewis said. "I feel like this is my worst game ever, actually. The fumbles . . . Just putting my team in a bad position. I don't think this is my best game."

PATRIOTS 34, TEXANS 16


Lewis was unquestionably one of the reasons the Patriots earned the right to move on to their sixth consecutive conference title game, scoring three touchdowns and becoming the first player in the Super Bowl era to run for a score, catch one, and return a kick for another in a single playoff game.

Yet Lewis was hard on himself was because he was also one of the reasons why the Patriots had only a one-point lead in the second quarer.

With 11:29 left in the first half, Lewis fumbled a kickoff return that the Texans recovered at the Patriots 12-yard line. Two plays later, they were in the end zone to make the score 14-13.

Lewis fumbled again with 7:37 left in the game and the hosts up 31-16. This time, Patriots guard Joe Thuney was able to fall on it to maintain possession. 

Lewis seemed genuinely miffed after the game.

"That's just how I am," he said. "I never worry about the good stuff. I'm supposed to do stuff like that. My teammates trust me to do stuff like that. I'm worried about ways to get better to keep helping my team win for next week."

Lewis vowed to have his ball-security issues fixed by the AFC Championship Game next weekend, saying he might carry a football around the team facilities next week in order to improve his game-day grip.

"I can't tell you, but I know what I have to do," he said. "It's fixable, I know that. And I'm going to do whatever I can. Because if I don't, I'm not going to play. I'll get it fixed."

Lewis was the primary back for the Patriots against what was at times a smothering Texans defense. He out-touched LeGarrette Blount -- who missed two practices during the week due to an illness -- by a margin of 15-to-8, taking 13 hand-offs for 41 yards and catching two of seven targets for 23 yards.

Lewis even got a goal-line carry, which has typically been Blount's responsibility this season, powering into the end zone with 12:16 left in the game.

"I just approach every game like I'm gonna be the guy that's going to be there every play," he said. "That's just the way I prepare, that's just the way I work."

As for his other scores, the 98-yard kick return was an opportunity for Lewis to showcase his breakaway speed rather than his ankle-breaking quickness. Getting key blocks from James Develin, Geneo Grissom, Shea McClellin, Matthew Slater and Nate Ebner, he out-ran everyone when he saw his opening.

"I saw the safety over there by himself, and I knew if I got past him, I had a chance," he said. "The only thing I was thinking about was, 'Don't get caught.' "

Lewis' water-bug quickness took center stage earlier in the game when Lewis caught a pass out of the backfield with 9:30 left in the first quarter. Finding himself in a one-on-one situation with Bernardrick McKinney, Lewis made a hesitation move, and then sped by the Second-Team All-Pro linebacker and into the end zone.

Asked about the move he put on McKinney, Lewis said, "I'm supposed to."

For Lewis, his positive plays drew the equivalent of a shoulder-shrug. Despite his historic outing, there was less an air of accomplishment about him after the game than there was an eagerness to get back to work to correct the mistakes he made Saturday night.

"I know," he said, "what I gotta do."