Bills' rush attack highlights sloppy defensive day for Patriots


Bills' rush attack highlights sloppy defensive day for Patriots

After New England narrowly escaped the Bills, 36-31, this weekend, Vince Wilfork said, "The biggest stat is to win."
Well, sure; the bottom line for every team is its record. But all that stood between this team and certain Sunday doom was a Devin McCourty end zone interception with 28 seconds left to play.
It's unlikely anyone in the Patriots locker room thinks Bill Belichick skipped into his office at Gillette Stadium Monday morning.
The coach confirmed as much on his weekly conference call."I think we missed a number of opportunities in every area of the game," he said. "We couldnt get the ball in on the goal line, gave up yardage in the running game and the passing game, had a couple tipped balls that we got away with that were pretty dangerous plays, didnt do well on third down defensively. You can go through the game and pick them out. There were a number of things that we can certainly work harder at to get better."
One weak spot was somewhat surprising: The Patriots run defense.
Going into the weekend, the Patriots had surrendered just 88.6 ground yards per game. They gave up season-high 162 rushing yards to Buffalo. Though the Bills are lucky to tout the likes of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, other talented backs -- Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson, Willis McGahee, Marshawn Lynch -- have come and gone without much damage done.
Why the breakdown? And can any problems be solved before San Francisco's rushing attack, the NFL's best at 170.2 yards per game, thunders into town?
Linebacker Jerod Mayo admitted Monday that the win couldn't cover all cracks."Throughout some of the series we had some good plays, some negative plays. We had two or three sacks in the game. Guys were out there playing physical. Those are some of the things that you can take away and build on," he said. "But at the same time its hard to look at those things when you give up 30-something points in a game."
The 31 points, the 337 passing yards allowed to Ryan Fitzpatrick -- defensive shortcomings that nag and frustrate despite the final score. But Belichick was displeased with more than that."Our overall consistency in all three phases of the game There were just a number of things that we didnt do to the level that we want to or need to do them at consistently. We have to find a way to bring that up or eventually its going to cost us. It already has cost us at times this year, but it will cost us again. Were lucky that yesterday we were not really at our best but still able to win and make enough plays to win. Weve also been in a couple games kind of like that that we didnt win."
The 20-18 loss to Arizona in Week 2. The 31-30 loss to Baltimore in Week 4. The 24-23 loss to Seattle in Week 6. All games where victory was within reach. But when the win was left to a last-seconds field goal, the kick was missed; when it came down to the defense holding its ground, it handed the opponent 27 penalty yards on one go-ahead drive, and it yielded a 46-yard game-winning touchdown on another.
Each game is built on many moments, not just these few mentioned. Still, when there comes a deciding moment, a time when New England is presented with an opportunity to close out, Belichick wants his team to be able to reach out and grab it.
"You hate to leave it to come down to one play like that, have a little more control of the game than that. Thats the National Football League, too. There are an awful lot of games that come down to that one possession, one play, whatever it is. The fact that we made it against the Jets or made it against Buffalo or didnt make it against Arizona, thats kind of the nature of the NFL a little bit too."
Complete control may not be possible, but you can bet the Patriots want more than what they've had this season.

Marcus Smart upgrade to questionable for Game 5

Marcus Smart upgrade to questionable for Game 5

BOSTON –  Once considered a long shot to return by Game 7 of Boston’s first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks, Marcus Smart may be on the floor as soon as Tuesday night's Game 5 matchup.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said there was no update on Smart following the team’s practice on Monday, but the team has since upgraded Smart's status to “questionable” for Game 5 – the first time he has been listed as anything other than “out” since he had his right thumb surgically repaired last month.

In the past couple of weeks, Smart has increased his workload and made it clear that he was inching closer to getting back on the floor possibly ahead of schedule. 

Prior to Boston’s Game 4 loss, Smart discussed his potential return. 

“I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there,” Smart said at the time. “I’m just waiting for the OK.”


It appears his most recent visit to the doctor went as planned with Smart now likely cleared to practice – and with that clearance, available to play. 

The return of Smart would be a huge plus for a Celtics team that has struggled mightily in this first-round series against Milwaukee from a defensive standpoint. 

During the regular season, Boston had a league-best defensive rating of 101.5. But against the Bucks, Boston’s defense has slipped to second-to-last among playoff teams which has heavily factored into the series now being tied at two games apiece. 

You can count Boston's Jaylen Brown among the Celtics eager to get Smart back into the fold. 

“When he gets in there he changes the whole game on defense,” Brown said. “He’s definitely missed so when he comes back that’ll make a lot of our jobs a whole lot easier.”

Stevens had similar sentiments about Smart. 

“Marcus is one of our most reliable players for the last four years,” Stevens said. “No question Marcus as been a huge part of us.”

Smart has appeared in 54 games for the Celtics this season, averaging 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds while playing 29.9 minutes per game.


Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

Jaylen Brown's crucial flub in Game 4 was actually officiating error

BOSTON -- The NBA’s two-minute report on Boston’s Game 4 loss at Milwaukee revealed a trio of incorrect non-calls in the closing moments of play, two of which went against the Celtics in their 104-102 loss. 

With Boston ahead 100-99 with less than a minute to play, Jaylen Brown lost the ball on a driving lay-up attempt. 

No call was made on the play, one that Brown thought he was fouled on. 

The two-minute report confirmed “that (Khris) Middleton makes contact to Brown's arm that affects his driving shot attempt.”

Had the call been made, Brown would have gone to the free throw line with 43.5 seconds to play with the Celtics already ahead by one point. 


But on the ensuing Milwaukee possession following the non-call, Malcolm Brogdon drained a 3-pointer that put the Bucks ahead 102-100.

With 47.9 seconds to play, the two-minute report also indicated that an offensive foul should have been called against Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-minute report indicated that, “Antetokounmpo extends his arm and wards off (Semi) Ojeleye's arm, affecting his ability to contest the shot attempt.”

And with 1:14 to play, Antetokounmpo was fouled by Jayson Tatum although no call was made. On the play, the two-minute report says that, “Tatum clamps Antetokounmpo's arm and pushes him, affecting his (freedom of movement) and ability to receive the pass.

On the ensuing possession following the non-call, Tatum hit a jumper that put the Celtics ahead 100-99 with 52.4 seconds to play. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been asked about officiating quite a bit in the last few days. And his response in each instance remains relatively the same.

"I'm not going to ever say anything bad about referees because they have a really tough job," Stevens said.