Patriots

Curran: Super scenes from a mall

Curran: Super scenes from a mall

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- I don’t know what I expected from the Mall of America.

I guess I expected it to be a kajillion times bigger and way different from the Hanover Mall, where I spent Friday and Saturday nights in the 1980s. Back then, I’d spend an hour hanging by the fountain, slamming through the poster rolodex in Spencers, eating at Orange Julius and then I’d head to Starland to ride go-karts. That was living.

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The Mall of America isn’t that different at all. It’s a mall. It’s bigger, yeah. But it’s still a mall. It even has a Spencers. It has a Game Stop. A T-Mobile store. One of those eyebrow salons that stink like rubbing alcohol.

Radio Row is in the damn food court.

And I don’t hate it. If the Super Bowl is a uniquely American holiday, isn’t a mall -- that uniquely American gathering spot -- the kind of place that should be at the epicenter just once?

Besides, I take personal pleasure in knowing that the NFL’s self-important owners ( . . . everybody needs a Mr. before their name . . .  don’t forget it . . . ) have to walk past the Gap and Aeropostale to get to the schmooze spots on NFL Network. To see someone try to buttonhole Goodell and try to hawk him a cell phone cover would Make. My. Week.

Those guys haven’t been in a mall since they were half-billionaires. They have to give ‘em a Purell hosedown when they leave.

Even better, both the Patriots and the Eagles are staying in hotels attached to the mall. This means virtually everything except the game is going to revolve around this massive structure plopped on the site where the Vikings and Twins used to play.

Downtown is a rumor.

They keep talking using the catchphrase “Bold North” when referencing where all this is going down. I hear “Bold North,” I think Yukon Cornelius-looking motherscratchers. Not some rotund dude in a Chad Greenway jersey waiting in line at the falafel restaurant.

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I was supposed to write this column and file it Sunday night. But I didn’t because it was hard to write a “vibe of the city” column when the whole joint was vibeless. So I waited until there was a vibe. By the end of Monday, I’d gotten what passes for one.

After a library-quiet start to Super Bowl Opening Night, where fans who paid up to $70 to sit and watch people be interviewed, there were stirrings among the natives when the Eagles showed up.

The goodhearted folks of Minnesota would like to drive a stake through the collective eye of Eagles fans. They also are rooting against the football team.

Why?! Because Eagles fans were mean to Vikings fans when the teams played in the NFC Championship last week.

Revenge is a dish best served cold -- it was 4 degrees today -- and Vikings fans were mean to Nick Foles at Super Bowl Opening Night.

Foles, put on a dais with a couple of fellow Eagles captains and three Patriots captains, was booed mercilessly when he tried to spit out a few words during the awkward en masse intervierw.
Since Foles is a non-offensive and unremarkable guy who’s just the backup for crissake, it was simultaneously amusing and painful.

Meanwhile, sitting to Foles’ left, was Tom Brady. He looked like he felt bad for Foles. Which was ironic because all Foles was getting was some good-natured booing while the story of the day prior to Opening Night was the moronic, look-at-me-aren’t-I-edgy disparagement of Brady’s five-year-old daughter by WEEI’s Alex Reimer.

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By day’s end, Brady had deftly parlayed Reimer’s idiocy into a personal win, saying he didn’t want Reimer poopcanned. Which will further piss off the people who reflexively hate on everything Brady does, including charity work and helping the developmentally disabled.

Really have our finger on the pulse of the fans, don’t we?

That, to me, is one of the stories underpinning this portion of the Patriots run. The yawning disconnect between consumers who follow the team for enjoyment and people paid to talk and/or write about the team who are bored with the winning, sick of the deifying and exhausted with a perpetually persecuted fanbase.

It’s not as much New England vs. Everybody anymore. It’s New England and Vikings Fans vs. Everybody (including swaths of the New England media).

I get the Super Bowl fatigue. This isn’t the matchup we waited all season for -- Foles vs. Brady; Pederson vs. Belichick; Van Noy vs. Ajayi, and Chung vs. Ertz.

The Steelers game in early December was a bigger deal and it probably will wind up having been more dramatic.

This isn’t the Super Bowl you asked for. But it’s the Super Bowl you got.  Enjoy it. You’re gonna miss them when they’re gone. 

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Keionta Davis proving to be an intriguing pass-rush option for the Patriots

Keionta Davis proving to be an intriguing pass-rush option for the Patriots

FOXBORO -- After Keionta Davis folded up Eagles quarterback Joe Callahan for a sack in the waning seconds of Thursday's preseason game, he took a brief moment to himself. Rolling off of Callahan, Davis paused ever so quickly with his shoulders pinned on the turf before getting helped up. 

Davis couldn't be blamed for taking a short breather for himself, if that's what it was. He played more snaps than any other Patriots defender (54) -- a rare honor for a 6-foot-3, 280-pounder -- and it wasn't all in mop-up duty. 

The second-year defensive lineman started the game for the Patriots and ended it with a sack. He had 1.5 sacks on the night to go along with three more pressures and two stops in the running game. 

"Coaches just wanted me to get some reps," Davis said. "I gotta play. It's that simple."

The reason Davis has to play is that he hasn't played for quite some time. For ever player who may need a workload reduction this summer after having played a lot of football in 2017, there's a player like Davis who could use the extra work to knock off the layers of rust that have accumulated. 

Davis was signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga last summer. He was a two-time All-American as a menace off the edge, and his talent was enough to reportedly coax Bill Belichick to Chattanooga to put Davis through a private workout. He had 31 sacks in college and was projected to be a mid-to-late round pick last spring, but he went unclaimed due to a bulging disc in his neck that was found in a physical at the NFL Scouting Combine. 

According to a story last May in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Davis had no idea anything was wrong. He finished the 2016 season as the Southern Conference defensive player of the year, and he participated in the Senior Bowl before getting the news.

The Patriots signed Davis last summer, but by the time the NFL's regular season rolled around, Davis was placed on the non-football injury/reserve list, ending his year before it began. 

That's what made Thursday night all the more special for the 24-year-old. His first sack in the fourth quarter was his first since last year's Senior Bowl. In the aftermath, he clapped his hands and looked up to the sky.

"It was relief," he said. "I didn't want to celebrate. I still got work to do, man. I'm not really trying to celebrate right now . . . Let me get through the rest of camp. More work to be done."

Davis' second sack (he was only credited with half sack on the play) came after powering back guard Darrell Green en route to his target. 

On both plays, it appeared that Davis was working as a three-technique -- off the outside shoulder of the offensive guard in front of him. Though he arrived to the Patriots as a true edge defender, listed at 260 pounds at the time, Davis has bulked up and spent plenty of time working from the interior this summer. 

"There's been a learning curve," he said. "I did put on some weight, up to 280 now, but my body feels great. I don't feel a difference. Moving inside everything moves a little bit quicker. It's something I haven't done before, but I'm asked to do it so I try to go in there and master it the best I can."

With good quickness and long arms, Davis is a natural fit to work against stubbier guards and centers. Especially in New England, where Trey Flowers -- another long-armed end -- has had great success as a disruptor from the inside. 

"I'm quicker than most guys on the inside" Davis said. "Got good length, I feel like. I think it uses my strengths to the best of my ability. And then I'm just learning from the guys who play inside. Malcolm Brown. Lawrence Guy's really helped whenever I'm inside. They give me the best tips they can."

For all the learning he did during his season off, for all the tutoring he's received from the veterans around him, playing time will continue to be critical.

Belichick indicated on Friday that while he's impressed by what Davis has done to this point, his young pass-rusher needs to log more minutes of game action. 

"He still has a long way to go," Belichick said. "He still has a lot of things he needs to improve on and refine and react quicker to and so forth, but that comes from not having actively played football for a year, or a little more than a year . . . 

"Hopefully those things will come back to him and his reactions and all will continue to improve. He's done a good job. He's in good condition. He's worked hard. I like what he's been doing."

Late on Thursday night inside the Patriots locker room, Davis entertained questions from multiple reporters, smiling often as he took his time with each. Even though he knew the game's score meant nothing, even though he said he knew he had plenty of work to do to earn a roster spot, he appeared to be enjoying the moment.

He was a long way from last year. 

"It definitely wasn't promised, and they definitely took a chance on me," Davis said. "Everything just worked out. I just want to show my gratitude by going out there and playing hard, competing. Whatever role they put me in, I'll try to do my best."

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