5 notes from the first half


5 notes from the first half

FOXBORO - Pass. The. Eggnog. It's 17-0 Miami and the top seed in the AFC is getting planted. McCOURTY MISERY ONGOINGThings aren't getting any better for the Patriots second-year corner. On a third-and-9 in the first quarter, he allowed a 39-yard completion to Brian Hartline when he bit on a double move. On the first play of the second quarter, he allowed a 47-yard bomb to Brandon Marshall. On a third-and-12 from the Dolphins 9 later in the second quarter, McCourty got called for pass interference on a ball that was sailing over the receiver's head. Each of those drives ended in points for Miami. Additionally, McCourty had a pass breakup in the end zone on a bomb intended for Marshall thatprobably could have been picked off. Bad. Not good. PROTECTION BREAKDOWNWith Matt Light unable to go today, the Dolphins have feasted on the Patriots' patchwork offensive line. Tom Brady's been sacked three times already and the pressure has been in his face and forced hurried throws on several other plays. Brady's 7 of 19 for 87 first-half yards. The Patriots' shuffle of Logan Mankins to left tackle, Donald Thomas to left guard got punctured when Mankins started limping in the first quarter. Cameron Wake and Jason Taylor both have sacks off the edges already. Mankins has been out since the first quarter. DABOLL DEALINGThe Miami offensive coordinator - formerly a Patriots assistant, Jets quarterbacks coach and Browns' offensive coordinator - is pulling all the right levers so far. He's picking on McCourty and had a slick throwback pass from Reggie Bush to quarterback Matt Moore that drew a pass interference on Rob Ninkovich as he steamrolled Moore. The Dolphins have 255 yards of first half offense and have run for 83 on a Patriots run defense that fancies itself as stout. TIGHT END SHUTDOWNMiami has so far limited Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski to just four catches for 36 yards. Some of that has to do with the pressure being brought on Brady, some of it has to do with the coverage. PLAYOFF PRECURSOR?This Patriots' team has been one that Bill Belichick's praised for its resilience and mental toughness. The Dolphins have a playoff quality defense. How New England adjusts and what it can generate offensively in the second half is the No. 1 storyline in the second half. Second? What can the defense do to slow a Miami team with nothing to lose that should by all rights keep its foot on the gas while New England's reeling.

Moving to power forward 'presents a different challenge' for Horford


Moving to power forward 'presents a different challenge' for Horford

PHILADELPHIA – For the third time in as many games, the Boston Celtics will field a different lineup.

It will have a domino effect on Boston’s usual starters, but no one more than Al Horford who will slide over to power forward with Aron Baynes inserted into the starting lineup where he’ll be charged with trying to defend Sixers 7-footer Joel Embiid.

Meanwhile, Horford will be assigned to defend Robert Covington who is one of Philadelphia’s better perimeter scorers.


“I feel like one of my strengths is being able to play multiple positions,” Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “It presents a different challenge for me, which is making sure I do a good job of covering him out on the perimeter, staying between him and the basket.”

In Philadelphia’s 120-115 season-opening loss to Washington, Covington led all Sixers with 29 points which included him going 7-for-11 from 3-point range in addition to grabbing seven rebounds.

While Covington will be Horford’s first defensive assignment, he knows he will also be called upon at times to defend Embiid who ranks among the best centers in the NBA despite having played just 32 games over the course of three NBA seasons.

In the loss to the Wizards, Embiid had a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Horford’s defense will be critical for Boston (0-2) to get its first win of the season, but the Celtics will also need him to take advantage of scoring opportunities as well.

“We have some guys down, but that creates opportunities for other guys to step up and contribute,” Horford said. “It’s going to all of us, the veterans, the young players, all of us to get that first win.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens agreed.

“I think that’s how we have to look at it,” Stevens said. “We’re going to have to make a few tweaks on how we do things, obviously. Hey, it’s gonna be something that we’re going to have to do really, really well on the fly.”