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No Huddle: Patriots-Broncos postgame sound

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No Huddle: Patriots-Broncos postgame sound

FOXBORO -- Do you realize it took New England five weeks to get over .500? 
Well, it did, and it happened at the expense of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. 
Tale of the tape from this 31-21 win is yet another balanced offensive effort by the Patriots offense coupled with complimentary support from the 'D.' 
You can imagine who the happy and not-so-happy parties were in the postgame. 
Quarterback Tom Brady on the team's second consecutive game with 200-plus rushing yards: "Were getting a lot of nickel defense. When they put little guys out there, we have to take advantage of it. I think were playing definitely a more physical style and controlling the tempo of the game by running the football. We have to keep doing it. Its only been five games; we still have a lot of football games left. We have to be at our best."
The Patriots ran for 251 yards against Denver on Sunday and for 247 yards last week in Buffalo. Stevan Ridley did heavy damage against the Bills (106 yards on 22 carries), but outdid himself this time -- a career-high 151 rushing yards on 28 carries. That's 5.4 average yards per carry. The total effort is his third 100-plus yard game out of five played this season. 
Brady said something about "little guys" last week as well. One has to wonder if future opponents are listening. 
Ridley on if Denver was looking to strip the ball more aggressively toward the end of the game:
Absolutely. It was late in the game, youve got to close it out, youve got to run the football and I told myself before the play that I had to hold on to the football. Like I said, theyre getting paid to play, too.  You cant make any excuses, I messed up. Im sure coach is going to have something to say about it, but like I said theres always another day tomorrow.  So Ill be back to work and working ball security high and tight. And thats all I can do.
There will certainly be another day, Ridley just has to hope there isn't another fumble. His football sin came with less than six minutes to play in the game. New England's lead had just been cut to 31-21 after a Broncos touchdown. On his third carry of a three play drive, Ridley was fighting for more yards after Von Miller made contact. He spun, started to fall backward, and the ball squirted out of his grasp. 
Rookie Brandon Bolden got the rest of the running back snaps after that. 
Receiver Wes Welker on the timing he and Brady have, including the play where a ball came right at Welker's face (but was caught):  "Its very important. That one was a little bit too close for comfort, but I knew the ball was coming quick and I knew I had to press it a little deeper than I wanted to, but I knew it was coming quick and I was ready for it and luckily able to make the play."
Welker finished with 13 catches on 15 targets for 104 yards and a touchdown. This week is the third straight for the receiver to haul in 100-plus yards. 
Remember all that "phase out" talk that dominated the first two weeks of the season? Go ahead and pretend you don't. Brandon Lloyd may have been leading all receivers in targets early, but Welker is now back at the top with 52 to Lloyd's 43. 
Head coach Bill Belichick, given his respect for NFL history, on what comes to mind when seeing Peyton Manning and Brady mind in the bigger picture? "Two great players, obviously. Two great, great players. Theyre both great. Theres nobody Id rather have than Tom Brady, but Manning is a great player."
Manning actually had the better night, according to the box score. The Broncos quarterback went 31-for-44 for 345 yards and three touchdowns (116.2 rating). Brady finished 23-for-31 for 223 yards and one passing touchdown (104.6 rating). 
But as you'll see below, those numbers don't matter....
Broncos center Dan Koppen on coming back to Foxboro:
"We lost and all that matters is wins and losses. It was different, but in the end it was just a game. We lost. They ran their offense and they did it well."
Which is why Brady probably won't care about losing the passer battle to Manning.
Anyway. Dan Koppen was a Patriots draft pick out of Boston College in 2003. He played nine seasons in New England before being released in August. Yes, players come and go all over the NFL all the time, but you don't often see such long-tenured guys go elsewhere and then play his former team in his former home stadium less than two months later. 
Koppen did well to stiff-arm any drama in the post game. 
Head coach John Fox on if he feels his team was more competitive compared to the last time Denver played in New England: "Well, I think if you go by score, I think that is a fair assessment. But you know, still, being on the short end, you dont come in trying to cover or any of those types of things; you just try to win."
More on that whole "wins and losses" thing. Interesting to me, one reporter acknowledged the pointlessness of that other "moral victories" thing before asking Fox if there's any good to come from Denver's three close losses out of five games. 
The coach responded with, "You know, it just is what it is." Classic. 
Broncos free safety Rahim Moore on trying to cover Wes Welker:
"He is a bad dude."
Okay, there's more to the quote. I just thought Moore's response was funny and so singled it out. Here's the rest:
"They made good plays and we made our plays. We have to get better as a team and start off faster and once we do that we will be fine. As defensive players we have to play better because, if they don't score, they don't win." 
He's not wrong. Denver's defense is No. 14 in the league for points surrendered per game at 22.8. But there's an outlier: a measly 6-point output by Oakland in Week 4. Take out that game and the Broncos 'D' allows 27 points on average. 
Nose tackle Vince Wilfork on the Patriots defense forcing several turnovers in recent weeks:  "We practice very hard at that: we practice ball drills, interception drills, fumble drills. We put a lot of time and work into it, into going out and being able to force turnovers, getting our offense the ball back. We know as a defense, if we can continue to give our offense the ball, theyre going to move the ball and theyre going to give us some points. 
"At the end of the day, thats what its all about: scoring points and stopping guys from scoring points. I think we have a pretty good defense and I think we have a hell of a good offense. If we can continue to play together, this football team will be special."
The Patriots currently lead the AFC, and are second in the NFL, in giveawaytakeaway differential at plus-8. Their 11 takeaways (six interceptions and five fumbles) also lead the conference. 
If the offense keeps scoring at a good clip, the defense should be okay. New England is a little better than middle of the pack for total points surrendered (113) and is crushing the competition for points scored (388). 
Not that "bend don't break" is an ideal philosophy. Right? 
Anybody? Bueller? 

Rask helped off ice at Bruins practice after collision

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Rask helped off ice at Bruins practice after collision

BRIGHTON, Mass – Tuukka Rask had to be helped off the ice midway through practice Wednesday when it appeared rookie Anders Bjork crashed hard into the Bruins No. 1 goaltender in a drill. 

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Rask never returned in what looked like another streak of bad luck for the B’s. Rask is off to a slow start at 1-3-0, with a 3.30 goals-against average and .882 save percentage, but Boston can ill afford to lose their top goalie right now.

The Bruins continue to look for the right mix of players at the start of the season and they’ve called up a couple of forwards off to hot starts in Providence for a look.

Big, skilled Slovakian winger Peter Cehlarik and AHL scoring champ Kenny Agostino have both been called up while it looks like some struggling NHL veterans, perhaps Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano, might be hitting the pine.

The two call-ups, along with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson were off to a red-hot start in Providence: Agostino leads Providence with two goals and five assists for seven points (tied for third in AHL) with a plus-four rating in three games this season. Cehlarik is second on the team with two goals and three assists for five points with a plus-three rating in three games with Providence.

Patrice Bergeron was again wearing the maroon no-contact jersey at practice on Wednesday while participating in line drills, and it would appear it’s going to be a stretch for him to be available vs. the Canucks. Adam McQuaid returned to practice on Wednesday, so Ryan Spooner was the only injured Bruins regular that wasn’t able to suit up and practice with the team.

Tuukka Rask had to be helped off the ice midway through practice when it looked like Anders Bjork crashed hard into the Bruins No. 1 goaltender in a drill. Rask never returned in what looked like another streak of bad luck for the B’s. Rask is off to a slow start at 1-3-0, with a 3.30 goals-against average and .882 save percentage, but Boston can ill afford to lose their top goalie right now.

Here are the line combos and D-pairings from Wednesday afternoon’s practice with it looking like David Backes might be up for a possible return on Thursday:  
 
Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork
DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak
Schaller-Kuraly-Backes
Cehlarik-Nash-Agostino
 
Beleskey-White-Vatrano
 
Chara-McAvoy
Krug-Carlo
Miller-Postma
McQuaid
 
Rask
Khudobin
 

Butler never flips 'off' switch, even in locker-room games

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Butler never flips 'off' switch, even in locker-room games

FOXBORO -- Say this for Malcolm Butler: Since his rookie season he's proven time and again to be an utterly resilient player.

Go back to Super Bowl XLIX. He was beside himself on the sidelines after Jermaine Kearse somehow came up with an acrobatic grab on a pass he deflected in the fourth quarter. Moments later he was back on the field to make the play of life.

Against the Jets on Sunday, he had to make another -- albeit less dramatic -- turnaround.

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Early on, it wasn't pretty. He allowed a third-and-long conversion when he played well off of Robby Anderson during a first-quarter touchdown drive. He allowed 31-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley when he made a bad gamble to try to break up the throw.

Yet without Butler's interception at the end of the first half, and without his strip of Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the fourth quarter, the Patriots might be 3-3 headed into a Super Bowl rematch with the Falcons.

The competitive streak that Butler has exhibited to make game-changing moments regardless of what has happened earlier in the game is something that Bill Belichick has grown accustomed to.

"Since the first rookie minicamp," Belichick said. "He’s a very competitive player, whatever it is. Practice, games, trash ball in the locker room. Whatever it is. He’s a very competitive player."

Earlier this season, in Week 2 against the Saints, Butler was briefly demoted to the No. 3 cornerback role. After the fact, he was open about how he wasn't playing up to his own lofty standards. Since then, he's been the only regular for the Patriots at his position as Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe have dealt with injuries. 

It's been far from perfect, as moments like his breakdowns during the Jets game exhibited. But his aggressiveness rarely wanes. Even during down moments in the Patriots locker, apparently. 

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