Patriots

Julien: 'You can never say enough' about Bergeron

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Julien: 'You can never say enough' about Bergeron

BOSTON -- There was little doubt Patrice Bergeron was going to insert himself into Saturdays win against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The two-way center finished Bostons 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers with 21:02 of ice time, and was involved in nearly every game-winning play. He was winning one-on-one battles in all three zones and won 12-out-of-17 face-offs to keep the puck on his teams stick, and he created the teams second goal when he fed Tyler Seguin cutting toward the net.

Claude Julien was attempting to recognize the entire team for their group effort following the victory, but he couldnt help but credit Bergeron after the center managed four shots and a pair of blocked shots.

Its not fair to point out just one guy because Bergeron sticks out a little more because of what he brings to the team, and I think everybody did a pretty good job. But Bergie is one of those guys that, Ive said that numerous times, you can never say enough about the player, said Julien. You can never say enough about the person because hes great at both ends. Hes a real good team player, good person. You never see a negative thing come out of his mouth, and if he gets mad, hes mad at himself."

He demands a lot, and he expects a lot out of himself. I dont know that theres that may players that take as good of care of themselves off the ice as he does. He really cares about his job, and he wants to be the best every day. He comes to practice, and he wants to be the best guy on the ice on practice day; he wants to be the hardest-working guy, and those guys end up getting rewarded for that. Those guys stick out in times of need. You see them bring their A game to the table, and theyre always one of the best players on the ice.

But the true capper came in the shootout when Bergeron followed successful scoring shots from David Krejci and Tyler Seguin, and won the game for Boston with another successful shot over Ilya Bryzgalovs glove hand. The fact that hes done it all while playing through significant pain in his left knee made it all the more impressive.
Bergeron actually came up with the game-winning shootout attempt while firing stick-side after both Krejci and Seguin had luck going glove-side high on the Flyers goaltender in the shootout.

I asked David Krejci before and he said the blocker side wasnt open, but still when I went in I thought it was open. I was actually thinking about glove side when I was going in at first for the first couple of strides because they told me it was glove-side open, said Bergeron. But when I got in I thought he cheated more to his glove side maybe because he got beat there twice. I felt like the hole was on the blocker side so I went with it.

The Bruins coach is always fond of stating that his teams best players have to be at their best in the biggest games: Bergeron was that and then some as the Bruins finally broke free of their season-worst four-game losing funk.

Energized Patriots defense forces 'critical swings' with turnovers

Energized Patriots defense forces 'critical swings' with turnovers

“We’re a blue-collar team…”

Devin McCourty didn’t hesitate when asked about the Patriots’ identity. Moments prior, McCourty and his teammates had just stomped the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City, 33-8, to run their win streak to a half-dozen games. The Pats are tied for the best record in the AFC with the Steelers

“We played at a high level,” said McCourty. “They made some plays, but I thought we executed our game plan and did exactly what we wanted to do today.”

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After surrendering a 100-points per game through the first month (ok, it was only 32), the Pats defense has flexed their muscle during this stretch, allowing 12.5 points per game, which would be the best in the NFL were this a season-long thing. We’re not looking at the same unit even though the personnel is largely the same. If anything, from a talent-level, this defense has less skill than it did when the season started. Their best player, Dont'a Hightower, is out for the year, lost during the first win of this 6-game streak. They’ve also survived three-game absences from $31-million cornerback Stephon Gilmore and their most consistent interior defender, tackle Malcom Brown. Yet the defense keeps showing up, keeps improving and its confidence is growing by leaps and bounds.

“We’re just playing together…we’re kind of figuring that out,” said McCourty. “We’re understanding how we need to prepare, how we need to practice, whether it’s a hard, full-padded practice, whether it’s a walkthrough, we know what we need to do on each of those days and when we do that, we give ourselves a chance. You’re seeing that on Sundays. Everyone running around, everyone knows their job and it’s all about execution.”

“I thought our players gave a great effort tonight,” said Bill Belichick. “We came out and performed well early, throughout the game and played really good situational football.”

The Pats were opportunistic, forcing three turnovers, including one in a huge spot, when Marquis Flowers stripped the ball from wideout Seth Roberts as the Raiders were knocking on the door. It was 14-0 at the time, and Oakland had life. Second-year cornerback Jon Jones battled Roberts, Flowers popped the ball free and safety Pat Chung pounced on it. Instead of milking the clock and heading into halftime up two scores, the Pats turned that fumble into points, driving to midfield before Steven Gostkowski kicked a career-long 62 yarder. That further energized a Pats team that was already surging.

“It’s something we talk about every week,” said McCourty. “We’re playing solid defense, executing the game plan, but changing the game with turnovers - you know, even Duron’s interception was a third down so it was kind of like a punt. The energy that brings - when the offense takes the field after we get a turnover - that’s huge. And then with them driving again in the red area before the half is what we talked about, getting that stop.”

“We had some real critical swings with those turnovers,” admired Tom Brady, a chief beneficiary of those change in possessions.

Earlier this week, I asked McCourty if he got a sense that the team was coming together at the tail end of their stay in Colorado Springs. He smiled and joked initially, but you could sense the veteran safety can see and feel what the rest of the league is now a witness to.

“I hope so. I mean, it’d probably be terrible if I say yeah and then we go on a five-game losing streak. I can see the headline: ‘McCourty was wrong.’ So, no, I think we understand how the season starts to pick up. You know, each game means more. We understand that seven wins (now 8) doesn’t mean anything. We have to continue to get better. So, I think why we end up usually improving is because it’s the understanding of there’s no tomorrow.”

The defense ordered that Code Red after losing to Carolina in Week 4, and since then, they have worked harder, worked longer and cleaned up so many of the issues that ailed them that opening month. It’s a credit to the players, “they won’ the game tonight,” said Belichick, and the coaching staff as well. if you’ve followed this team over the years, you know even now, they’re not satisfied. There are “things to work on” added Belichick and they’ll start that work on the flight home from Mexico City to Foxboro. 

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No doubter: Gostkowski knew he wouldn't be short on record-setting kick

No doubter: Gostkowski knew he wouldn't be short on record-setting kick

The Raiders gave Stephen Gostkowski plenty of time to think about the 62-yard kick he was about to line up when they called a timeout just before the end of the first half. Didn't matter. Gostkowski returned to his spot, watched a good snap turn into a good hold, which turned into a Patriots record.

It was the longest field goal in Patriots history, making it the longest in Stephen Gostkowski's career as he bested his previous record of 58 yards set earlier this season. It was also the perfect exclamation point to a perfect day for Gostkowski, who went four-for-four on field goals and three-for-three on extra points in his team's 33-8 win over the Raiders in Mexico City. 

When asked about the half-ending kick, Gostkowski credited his teammates for putting him in position to kick it. They got from their own seven-yard line with 33 seconds left to the Raiders 45-yard line with five seconds remaining. A 20-yard run by Dion Lewis and completions to Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski did the trick. 

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"I think every time I kick a long kick, it's Gronk who makes the catch right beforehand," Gostkowski told reporters. "It's a nice little polish connection. It was cool. You can wait your whole career and not get a kick like that. It's a very opportunistic job. You're only as good as the opportunities you get. I got a good opportunity, and I'm glad I took advantage of it."

The longest kick Gostkowski tried in warmups was from 60 yards away but he had no concerns about trying to make something longer. Having kicked at altitude all week at the Air Force Academy, he knew his range would be better than it usually is. 

"I don't usually go past 60 in warmups," he said. "I hit one and I made it by a good bit. I knew that coming up short -- if I hit it good -- probably wasn't going to happen. Warm weather, altitude, the ball is going to fly. I just tried to concentrate on getting a good foot on it , making sure it stayed straight enough. Got the opportunity, took advantage of it. It's exciting for the whole team."

Gostkowski also used the extra oomph he had in Mexico City to boot six of his seven kickoffs for touchbacks, keeping the NFL's leading return man Cordarrelle Patterson (30.8 yards per return) from burning the Patriots in that phase.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE