Celtics

Patriots not expecting Week 15 Broncos

561144.jpg

Patriots not expecting Week 15 Broncos

FOXBORO -- The last time the Patriots faced the Broncos was in Week 15. New England went into Denver and quickly fell behind 16-7 in the second quarter. But the team made adjustments; they went on to score the next 27 points and defeated the Broncos 41-23.

Tom Brady's offense helped end Tim Tebow's six-game winning streak, but even after an awful start to the game by the Pats' defense, those guys eventually made some big plays when it mattered most, recovering three fumbles in the win. New England's 'D' held Tebow to 11-of-22 passing for 194 yards and zero touchdown passes.

But that was weeks ago.

The Patriots made made it a point to acknowledge that on Tuesday, saying their first meeting will have no impact on Saturday's playoff game.

"They made some changes, you can see definitely, from the last game," said Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty. "Just taking more shots down the field. They threw some balls up there and they've got guys that can come down with them and make good catches. So they definitely threw some more vertical passes.

"That last game, when you look at it, it really won't have much relevance, going into this game. Both teams have a chance to game plan. They might do some things different. They might do some things the same. So it will still be a totally different game for us, defensively."

The most noticeable changes in Denver's game came Sunday in their overtime playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tebow threw for 316 yards and had two touchdown passes, including his 80-yard strike over the middle in overtime.

Simply put, Tebow was more of a deep-ball threat on Sunday against the Steelers than he's ever been. And it caught the Patriots' eye.

"They're going to throw the ball. Let's not kid ourselves," said Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. "Everyone says they're not throwing the ball, well, I'll tell you what. Tebow had a pretty good game last game. I don't care how many times you throw the ball, but, he had a pretty good game last game. So, we know that's going to come.

"He's just a tough, tough guy to prepare for," added Wilfork. "You can speak all day about how tough he is and how elusive he is. But it really don't matter until you face him. When you face him, you really figure out, man, this dude is like a running back. He's a big dude. He's a strong guy.

"I've seen some big guys over the years, but he's probably one of the biggest and probably one of the toughest, and probably one of the strongest that I've faced. And I'm not taking credit from anyone else, but he is a special guy."

As Wilfork pointed out, Tebow's success on Sunday wasn't just due in part to his passing yardage. It also had a lot to do with not turning the ball over, something that haunted Tebow in his last three games of the regular season -- all losses.

On Sunday, he threw no interceptions and didn't fumble for the first time since Week 11.

"When you look at any team, one of the biggest of them all is turnovers," said Wilfork. "When you get turnovers, or when you give them up. Looking at the last game they played, they didn't turn the ball over. And anytime you can do that, it's huge. And it's a different offense when they don't make mistakes, or when they get the big plays, when they can be explosive, it's a different football team."

Wilfork knows this "different" Denver football team will be a tough task for his defense.

"It's always challenging to go up against an offense like this, because they can do so many things. You can't just say that when they get in this formation, this is going to happen, or when they do this, look out for that. You can't do that . . . Because you can be attacked and blindsided from so many different ways. This game is going to come down to disciplined football for us.

"This is the postseason now," added Wilfork. "I'm expecting everything. I'm expecting them to throw the kitchen sink. Because if you lose now, you go home."

WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

stream-celtics-magic.jpg

WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics host the 76ers at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview:  Celtics need to improve shooting

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Bruins put finishing touches on reeling Canadiens

cp-bruins-canadiens-celebrate-012118.jpg

Bruins put finishing touches on reeling Canadiens

MONTREAL -- The Boston Bruins weren’t about to dance on any Montreal Canadiens’ graves after it was over and done with, but they effectively closed the door on any flickering playoff hopes for the Habs this week. It all ended with Saturday night’s 4-1 win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre that finished off the sweep of all three meetings between the two arch-rivals over an eight day span, and with the reeling Montreal a stunning 13 points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.

It was a close game nearly all the way through in Montreal until David Pastrnak and Riley Nash scored in the final few minutes of the third period, but the Bruins outscored the Habs by an 11-5 margin while clearly establishing they were the better team in all three contests. It all makes sense given the opposite directions that the two hockey clubs are headed at this point in the season, and because of that the Bruins were playing it pretty cool after burying the Habs.

“It was kind of a crazy week because we were playing them three times, so we obviously wanted to play good hockey,” said Tuukka Rask, who won all three games vs. the Habs while improving his lifetime record vs. the Habs to 10-15-3 in the process. “[We wanted to] get as many points as possible, and won all of those games along with the one on Long Island. So it was a great week for us.”

Certainly it seemed like there was more genuine emotion from the Bruins in Claude Julien’s return to Boston midweek, and perhaps a little more adrenaline in last weekend’s first game at the Bell Centre where rookies like Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and Danton Heinen were dipping their toes into the storied rivalry for the first time.

But on this Saturday night it was more about a complete dismantling of the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge even as the Bruins initially fell down by a goal after a bad McAvoy turnover. Instead it was Boston’s Perfection Line that went to work with an efficient, dominant performance as David Pastrnak scored the game’s first goal and insurance third goal in the third period. They also accounted for the game-winner when Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak hemmed Montreal’s fourth line in the defensive zone, and Torey Krug eventually stepped up and rifled one short side on Carey Price.

Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak combined for two goals, six assists and a plus-8 in the resounding victory over the Habs, and had a dominant 12 of Boston’s 31 shots on net when the final horn had sounded. They simply overwhelmed Montreal with their depth, the high end quality of their lineup and the fact that Boston was rested while the Habs had to play in Washington DC on Friday night in a three games in four days stretch.

All of that allowed the Bruins to drive the final nail into Montreal’s coffin when the game was over, and it furthermore allowed Boston to keep worrying about the teams they’re trying to catch (ahem . . . Tampa Bay Lightning) rather than Eastern Conference bottom-feeders like the Canadiens.

“We talked about doing the job against them and finding a ways to push teams down while gaining ground on the teams above us,” said Patrice Bergeron. “I thought it was a great effort again. We knew that they would be ready for us, but we also knew that they had played last night. So maybe if we had a good start we could jump on them. I thought we had a good game.”

Clearly there have been ebbs and flows to the Bruins/Habs rivalry over their long history together, and both Boston and Montreal have been in the catbird seat at different times even in the recent editions of their history. But right now Boston is beating the Canadiens badly at their own skill and speed game and dominating thing with pure hockey rather than bullying, and that’s got to sting for a Habs group that simply couldn’t compete with the Bruins in three different chances to do so this week. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE