CALL IT a statement game.
Tom Brady had Chris Hogan wide open in the end zone Sunday and overthrew his target for what should have been an easy touchdown.
Brady clearly beat himself up for it. He’s not supposed to miss a receiver so badly.
But it was one of the few down notes for No. 12 as he let the world, the doubters out there, know he’s not quite done.
As we told you here, his knee hurts. He’s 41 and his knee hurts. We also told you it wouldn’t keep him from playing. And while tearing apart a Jets team that was shorthanded and mailing it in in its coach’s final game, there was a zip to Brady’s passes — a statement.
For a 41-year-old quarterback.
“I don’t think too much about it. It just feels like I’m doing the same thing I’ve always done,” he said. “So it took a great team effort today and a lot of guys made a bunch of good plays. I just love being quarterback and love playing here and love winning.”
Now, he gets to rest that left knee after his team earned a bye in the first round — a No. 2 seed the Pats had to settle for because of that ridiculous play in Miami. The Patriots, handed the annual gift of closing the season against the AFC Least, easily beat two poor teams after losing two straight. Now they rest as they await the Texans, Chargers or Ravens.
“This is different than any game we’ve played this year on a lot of levels,” Bill Belichick, asked about the bye-week emphasis, said Monday. “There are things that apply to this game that just don’t apply to any of the other 16 games or 20 games if you want to go all the way back to preseason. There’s certainly a differentiation there. Yeah, it puts it into a different category and we talk about that, explain it and try to recognize how we can use that to our advantage and get the most out of it; sure.”
Julian Edelman, who is fighting two of his three NFL fines, missed a $500,000 incentive by ONE touchdown. “Oh, that little thing,” he said Sunday. “Sometimes you get it. Sometimes you don’t. I don’t play the game for that. I play the game to try and go out and win championships.”
The Hogan miss came in a game Brady welcomed both Hogan and Philip Dorsett back into the offense — from a pass-catching standpoint. Patriots receivers always block. These two guys need to make catches as well.
Damien Cox of NESN tweets Dorsett and Brady have been successful on their last 16 targets, dating way back to Week 4. That’s a lot of games for not a lot of catches, and you can look for it to continue in the New Year, as the Patriots adjust to life without Josh Gordon.
“Whenever the ball is in his hands, he’s dangerous,” Brady told WEEI listeners about Dorsett. “Really crisp route-runner. Can play all the positions. Just so impressed with how he’s handled everything this year. I really love playing with Phil. He’s done a great job for us.”
A step back
Is it a stretch to say the Celtics were a better basketball team at the end of last season than it is as 2018 turns to 2019?
If you’ve forgotten, that was WITHOUT Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, a team that won two playoff rounds and was one win away from the NBA Finals.
This team does NOT look like a contender. While we certainly think it can change, this appears to be a chemistry thing.
Column pal Larry Rosoff thinks it’s poorer play by Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier, but I continue to go with the reduced role that has morphed Rozier into just another guy.
At the end of last year, before hearing all the rumors he could be traded before entering a contract year, Rozier was a STAR.
Rozier is averaging 8.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists this season — 7.4 points,3.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists for his career. Last year, he hit 11.3 points and added 4.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists in the regular season.
Then came the playoffs.
In 19 playoff games, all starts, the guard averaged 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game, shooting 40.6 percent from the floor and committing 1.2 turnovers per game. He had a poor game in Game 7 against the Cavs, but that was after a 28-point Game 6, his sixth 20-point game of the playoffs.
Now, he’s back to being a role player.
Brown had his best game of the season Monday in a loss at San Antonio. Tatum hasn’t been the same, either. “I think that he’s got unlimited growth ahead, and that’s a good thing and a responsibility,” coach Brad Stevens said recently. “So that’s something that comes with getting as many accolades and being as good as he is at 19.”
The Celtics won the middle game of the three-game end-of-the-year road trip but had to come from way behind to do it. They lost at Houston, where James Harden ate their collective lunch, and they suffered through San Antonio’s 46-point third quarter — the franchise’s worst defensive quarter since 2000 — to lose Monday night, dropping the record to 21-15. That’s fifth in the East, five games behind the Raptors.
Remember, this team is the favorite to get to the Finals.
Hayward clearly has a ways to go to get back from that horrific injury. Monday night, he had his first scoreless game, going 0-for-6 in 22 minutes.
Irving, who suffered a scratched cornea in the game and was wearing sunglasses afterwards, issued the latest indictment for a team that is 3-5 after winning eight straight to wipe out bad taste of a 10-10 start.
“(They) just started really driving to the basket,” Irving said of the Spurs’ third quarter. “We had no rim presence (with Aron Baynes and Robert Williams out), we couldn’t really get a rebound and they had 46 in the third. You can’t win NBA basketball playing that way.
“We have to play twice as hard because we are smaller,” Irving continued. “They are just pounding it in going at our bigs. Making Marcus Morris guard fours and Al guard these big fives and you know they’re just shooting and launching at the basket and they’re just getting offensive boards so, you know, most of our lineups are featured with four guards so it makes our job on the boards a lot tougher and it’s been showing over the last few games.”
A four-game homestand — against Minnesota, Dallas, Brooklyn and Indiana — starts tonight.
After the Memphis win, one of his best games thus far, Hayward said “I think when we are playing urgent and assertive on offense, everyone’s touching the basketball, guys are cutting, making the right reads, that’s when basketball is the most fun. I really enjoyed it.”
Alex Cora ended the calendar year with a tweet containing four pictures — one from Red Sox camp and three from postseason series wins — and the words, “Thank you, 2018.”
The message back from his followers was basically, “Thank YOU!”
The Red Sox, clearly looking for as many bullpen answers as they can find, are bringing both Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith back for another look. Remember, the fates of relievers tend to change as often as the New England weather, so don’t count either of these guys out.
Smith, of course, reinjured himself throwing his glove down in the dugout, and, as Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe quickly pointed out, blamed his manager for his latest injury.
I think Bruce Cassidy was on a fishing expedition in Tuesday’s Winter Classic. An ice fishing expedition.
Ice fishing? Yes, he was trying to catch a Tuukka Rask, a Rask he can count on the rest of the way.
It may well have worked. Rask wasn’t perfect but played a strong game in what could be a major first step in winning back his No. 1 goalie spot.
As odd as ever after the game, Rask said this might have been his final outdoor game, that he might be drinking a beer in the press box of the next one. Not clear what he meant.
Tuukka being Tuukka, which is what Cassidy was fishing for.
As one who has attended the two Winter Classics in the Boston area — and it was hard to see the ice in both — I am over these games. I understand the attraction for the tons of people who want to go, but at home it’s a hockey game I’d rather see from a real hockey rink.
That said, this one was perfect. There was no sun, no snow causing piles on the ice, no holes in bad ice. If you didn’t know it was outside, you really wouldn’t have known.
And except for the Jeremy Roenick embarrassments — like asking a Notre Dame player if his team was good — the telecast was top notch.
Oh, and the Bruins got two big points.
Finally, if you missed it, none of the five teams that defeated the Patriots this season — the Jags, Lions, Titans, Dolphins and Steelers — is headed for the playoffs.
Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.