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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Patriots display balance

By MIKE SHALIN
October 23. 2017 9:23PM
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady greet each other after the Patriots defeated the Falcons 23-7 during their Super Bowl rematch on Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Don't look at the relatively close final score. The Patriots hammered the Falcons in the fog Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.

No, the home team wasn’t perfect. But the Pats owned Atlanta the way they did after falling behind by 25 points in the Super Bowl.

“I thought we did a great job staying balanced tonight and we ran the ball really well, really efficiently,” Tom Brady said after the running game helped the Patriots have the ball for 34:05. “Guys ran hard and we really needed it. So, it was great to hand it off and see those guys rush the way they did, the way the lineman were blocking. It was a great way for our team to win.”

The defense didn’t force a turnover, but special teams did produce a blocked kick — and the game was never really in doubt as the Falcons were again not ready for prime time.

“I thought Bill (Belichick) said it best this week. He said it was about time we played complementary football for four quarters,” said Devin McCourty. “He said at times, we played really well on offense. At times, we played really well on defense. At times, we played really well on special teams, but we hadn’t gotten it all together. I thought tonight we did a good job of that.

“The longer the offense is on the field, on the sideline, defensively we’re talking about getting on the field and getting back off. Once our offense gets in the groove, we want to get them back on the field. That’s why I’m saying third down was huge for us, guys just making plays. We weren’t able to get a turnover, but, you know, you get fourth-down stops and third-down stops, those are just like takeaways.”

One bit of concern has to be the hits Brady took Sunday night. Two of them were extremely heavy, but, again, he didn’t seem worse for it after the game.

Cora the man

The Red Sox have a manager. Alex Cora is currently busy with the Astros in the World Series but he has been hired to run a contending team. Good choice? Obviously, we won’t know until we see the results, and even the results don’t always matter.

Here’s the thing: Cora has never managed. He played in Boston so he knows what the media is like but he was never the kind of player who was under any kind of scrutiny — certainly nothing like what he will experience when Jonny Miller and the rest of the local press corps jump him in Fort Myers, Fla. — after his introductory meetings up here.

Now that Dave Dombrowski has HIS manager, he can go about fixing what’s broken now that the local fans can’t blame John Farrell for everything. This team needs a thumper and if reports are true that the Red Sox are ready to hurdle the luxury tax, stay tuned.

Not so kind words

Kyrie Irving hasn’t had the smoothest introduction to Boston. Obviously, the Gordon Hayward injury put extra pressure on the new guard in town and things should get better as early as tonight’s visit by the Knicks. But in the last two games, he has gone 14-for-42 from the floor, 3-for-11 from 3-point range. Oh, and then there’s the incident in Philadelphia.

A fan had the audacity to heckle him by asking where LeBron James was and Irving snapped back with an invitation to have the fan come down and perform a sex act on him.

For some reason, the NBA didn’t like that, and Irving was slapped with a $25,000 fine.

Asked if he regretted what he said, Irving said, “Hell no. He (the fan was) man enough to record it on video, then that’s all him. I’m glad he got his (social media) name out there and then, kinda, five seconds of fame and it going viral. That’s the social media platform we live on. I take full responsibility (for) what I said, and excuse (me to) the kids at home and you move on.”

OK.

Bad stumble

It’s early, but the Bruins have already shown this ability to just stop playing for huge portions of hockey games. Saturday night, the Sabres, on the back end of a back-to-back, trailed 4-1 and wound up winning the game in overtime.

The Bruins stopped playing — and gave a point away.

“Obviously we’re disappointed,” said David Pastrnak, who has reacted well after signing his new contract and had two more goals Saturday. “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.”

The Sharks and Kings visit Thursday and Saturday, giving the Bruins eight of their first nine games against the Western Conference in a very strange schedule twist.

Knights golden

Got home in time to see the end of the Vegas Golden Knights game Saturday. They raised their record to 6-1 with their third overtime win.

They won 3-2 and Reilly Smith had a goal and two assists and Colin Miller a goal and a helper. Names sound familiar? Malcolm Subban was in goal and was ahead 2-1 as he tried to go to 3-0 with his new team — when he got hurt.

The Knights were already missing Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) and now Subban is gone for a month with a groin injury. That left the goaltending to 23-year-old Oscar Dansk, who was beaten on the first NHL shot he saw but then stopped the last 10 Blues shots and won the game.

Here and there

Tedy Bruschi is working as an assistant at Bishop Feehan in Attleborough, Mass., and Caleb Fauria, the son of the former Patriot, caught a 17-yard touchdown pass the other night. … Fan spotted Sunday night wearing a Falcons jersey with No. 25 and “We Led By” on the back (28-3). … Pro Football Hall of Fame president Dave Baker said Sunday he expects Robert Kraft to be enshrined someday. … Belichick Monday on the fog: “It affected us a lot this morning, because it’s hard to see the game. Fourth quarter pretty much close to whiteout.” … Our buddy Bill Madden of the New York Daily News on the firing of Dusty Baker: “Nationals should be ashamed. As if firing another manager is going to finally get them to the WS. They were hardly the best team.” … With pitching coach Mickey Calloway leaving Cleveland to manage the Mets, does Farrell go back to work for Terry Francona if Farrell doesn’t land another managerial job? … Calloway sounds like Tito. … Boston College’s football team has scored 86 points in surprising road wins at Louisville and Virginia and the Eagles host Florida State Friday night probably already having saved coach Steve Addazio’s job. … Browns tackle Joe Thomas’ streak of 10,363 straight snaps (think about that) ended with a ruptured bicep tendon Sunday. Surgery could end his career. … Finally, the Dolphins have contributed $30,000 to the family of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, one of the four soldiers killed in Niger, for a GoFundMe scholarship account, which had cleared $700,000 of the $1 million goal by Monday afternoon.

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com.


Sports columns Patriots/NFL Red Sox/MLB Celtics/NBA Bruins/NHL

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