Patriots

Patriots playoff rematch means looking ahead

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Patriots playoff rematch means looking ahead

On December 6, 2010, the Patriots walloped the Jets, 45-3, on a Foxboro edition of Monday Night Football. Six weeks later, New York returned to Gillette Stadium for the Divisional Playoffs and whipped the home crowd into stunned silence by bouncing New England from the postseason. 
It will sound familiar to some.
Fans were already thinking back to that experience and its parallels to the Patriots' upcoming rematch with Houston before the media could even write it. 
New England demolished Houston, 42-14, on December 10, 2012. Monday Night Football. Some five weeks later, the Texans will return to Gillette for the Divisional Playoff. It's not hard to see why more melodramatic fans and analysts are salivating over the storyline. 
But ask Bill Belichick how he feels about the drama.  
"I think there's certainly a lesson there," he said during a conference call Sunday. "But the game that we play now doesn't have much to do with the game we played before, whether it's them or anybody else. It's an example we can point out. It doesn't have to be talked about that many times . . . There are a lot of other games that don't have anything to do with this game on its own. And that is, and will always be, the case. 
"But it's an example we can point out of how little relevance each game with the same team really does have."
The Patriots can appreciate a level of familiarity that December's meeting with Houston provides. Bottom line, however, is that enough has changed that neither team will depend on the tape. 
And this isn't a lesson Belichick learned from the Jets. 
"As we all know, when you play a team twice during the season the games are totally different; they never go the same way," he said. "We'll certainly be able to certainly look at some of the match ups individually -- guys that faced each other in the game -- but as far as plays and calls and things like that, I'm sure they'll have some new wrinkles. I'm sure we'll have some, too."
A few things can be gleaned from Houston's Saturday night Wild-Card game against the Bengals. 
Why that game? Because it's the most recent one. 
Houston fell into a bit of a funk after playing the Patriots, going 1-2 in its final regular season games. Also, the addition of a few parts -- linebacker Brooks Reed, defensive back Alan Ball, tackle Derek Newton -- has changed how the machine runs since it came to New England. 
But above all, Belichick emphasized the importance of getting a fresh start. Even this weekend's game between Houston and the Bengals gives limited insight because the Texans game plan was specific to Cincinnati. The work this week will be extensive, yet tailor-made for the Divisional Playoff.
"We've got to be ready for all the things that they do," Belichick concluded. "It'll just be a full week of preparation. We'll take from the Cincinnati game what we can -- there's some good examples of things we can learn from their game -- but ultimately our match ups are different than theirs."
New England's look back to Week 14 will be brief; the one to 2010, nonexistent. 

Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"

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Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"

BOSTON – At the end of the day, it was simply a game where the Bruins allowed themselves to get outworked in the third period and overtime. 

The B’s held a three-goal lead in the second period and still enjoyed a two-goal lead in the third period, but eventually dropped a frustrating, futile 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Saturday night. It was clear to most speaking after the game that the Bruins eased up on the gas pedal once they’d scored their fourth goal of the game in the second period, and simply watched as the Sabres stomped all over them in the game’s second half. 

“I think we might have been a little bit too scared to play [in the third period], you know? We tried to just flip the pucks away, and didn’t make any plays trying to get it in the zone. Instead we should have just kept going like we did in the first two periods,” said David Pastrnak, who scored a pair of goals early in the loss to allow the Bruins to build up the three-goal lead. “Obviously we’re disappointed. We got one point. I think we didn’t play our game in the third period. We kind of stopped playing and they were all over us, and you know, it’s on us. We were the ones that gave them their point, but the first two periods were good. It’s just another learning session.”

To Pastrnak’s point, the Bruins were outshot by a 15-6 margin in the final 20 minutes of regulation and 21-6 overall in the third period and overtime prior to Ryan O’Reilly’s game-winner during 3-on-3 play. It was at this point the Bruins certainly missed stalwart stay-at-home defensemen Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller in the D-zone, and fell short of qualified penalty killers while trying to burn off a Brandon Carlo interference call at the end of the third period. 

All of that caught up to them once the Bruins loosened their grip on the Sabres, but certainly the feeling is that the loss should’ve been avoidable even if some of the circumstances made it difficult for the Black and Gold. It also should have been avoidable against a Sabres hockey club that was dreadful last season, and is again one of the doormats in the Atlantic Division in the early going thus far. 

“Those are the games you can’t lose. We obviously didn’t do the job there in the third and close it out, but we’re going to have to regroup and work on our game and be better for the next one,” said Brad Marchand. “We didn’t play the game we needed to play. We relaxed a bit and we started losing a few battles in the wrong areas, and you know, they just played better than we did.”

It’s mystifying that any team would need a crash-and-born loss like Saturday night in order to learn any lessons moving forward, and it certainly might have been a different story for the Bruins if they weren’t missing a few big defensive pieces. But that’s not how it went down for the Black and Gold as they sagged under rising pressure from the Sabres, and simply stopped working when the chips were on the table late in Saturday night’s game.