Patriots

Ten most important Pats heading into 2015: Jimmy Garoppolo

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Ten most important Pats heading into 2015: Jimmy Garoppolo

Leading up to the first day of training camp, we’re going to look at the most important Patriots, counting down from 10 to 1. Yesterday, Chandler Jones got us started at No. 10. Today (dramatic pause . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . wait . . . )

9. JIMMY GAROPPOLO

Why? Because it’s quite possible Jimmy G will play an important role for the Pats, and not as the scout team quarterback (for which he got rave reviews a season ago). With Tom Brady currently facing a four-game suspension, and the uncertainty that surrounds the appeal and a possible trip to federal court, the Pats will have to get the second-year pro ready for more than a cameo. The Patriots' schedule in the first four weeks: Pittsburgh, at Buffalo, Jacksonville and at Dallas. That’s no walk in the park. The Pats can’t afford a sluggish start, which means Garoppolo is going to have do more than manage a game. He’s going to have to make winning plays.

Previous Performance: We got multiple regular-season looks at Garoppolo in his rookie year: A fourth-quarter effort against Kansas City in that one-sided Chiefs rout (6-of-7, 70 yards, 1 TD), a 3-for-3 outing for 22 yards against the Bears (Pats won, 51-23) and then a start in the meaningless regular-season finale at home versus the Bills. It was a mix of good and bad, where Garoppolo showed playmaking ability but also a tendency to hold the ball too long.

Questions surrounding the player: Experience, clearly, although Bill Belichick made sure Garoppolo got more snaps than previous Brady backup Ryan Mallett ever did. Also, it's a big leap from Eastern Illinois to the NFL. Yes, having a full year in the system helps, but now teams will game plan to take away what you do best. Can JG make the necessary adjustments? Finally, how will Garoppolo handle the constant questions when camp starts, and Brady’s situation drags on? This is far from an ideal situation, except for a coaching staff well-versed on ignoring the noise.

Overall Outlook: Josh McDaniels is a big fan of Garoppolo. Devin McCourty told us last year, somewhat wide-eyed, that Garoppolo is already really good. That’s been echoed by plenty of the skill position players. Now’s his chance to show it, and while I do believe they’ll be some rocky moments (nothing looks like Brady running this offense), the kid is confident and I don’t see the Pats emerging from that potential four-game stretch with anything less than two wins. I’d say three, but there's the matter of the Pats' revamped secondary going into Dallas . . . 

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: 'Incomprehensible' to expect same greatness from Patriots?

0:43 - Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley talk about Bill Belichick saying it’s “incomprehensible” that people expect the Patriots to be on the same level as last year at this point in the season.

11:55 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss J.R. Smith’s comments about the Celtics not being a threat to the Cavaliers.

15:38 - Abby Chin, Chris Mannix, and A. Sherrod Blakely join BST from Cleveland to talk about Marcus Smart and the Celtics failing to agree to a contract extension, making him a restricted free agent in July. They also preview Tuesday’s Celtics-Cavaliers season opener.

19:25 - Reports say Alex Cora is the frontrunner for the Red Sox managerial position, but Brad Ausmus interviewed for the position on Monday. Who is the right man for the job? Tom Giles and Michael Holley discuss.

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans end 11-game skid to Colts with 36-22 win

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MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans end 11-game skid to Colts with 36-22 win

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Marcus Mariota threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to Taywan Taylor with 5:29 left , and the Tennessee Titans beat the Indianapolis Colts 36-22 on Monday night to snap an 11-game skid tied for the NFL's longest active losing streak against one team.

Mariota didn't move around much on a cool night after missing a game with a strained left hamstring, but still managed to throw for a season-high 306 yards. He completed each of his three passes on the drive that ended with Taylor's tiebreaking score.

The Titans (3-3) also snapped a two-game skid with the win.

Jacoby Brissett tried to rally the Colts (2-4) to a second straight overtime. But Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard forced Brissett out of bounds shy of the first down marker on fourth-and-inches with 2:19 left. Coach Chuck Pagano lost his challenge.

Derrick Henry then clinched the win for Tennessee with a 72-yard TD run with 47 seconds left. Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner, finished with a career-high 131 yards on 19 carries. DeMarco Murray also scored.

The Titans looked like the NFL's worst scoring defense in the first half instead of Indianapolis, with Brissett directing the Colts to a 13-9 halftime lead. John Simon then intercepted Mariota's first pass of the third quarter and returned it 26 yards for a TD.

But the Titans forced the Colts to go three-and-out on three of their first four drives of the second half, and Avery Williamson stripped tight end Jack Doyle of the ball after a catch.

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