NFL: New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans

Tom Brady

“THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS when you go cheap. You get your (butts) kicked.”

The words came from former Patriot Dion Lewis after his Tennessee Titans pounded the Patriots before New England’s bye week.

It was a high point of the season for Lewis, Mike Vrabel, Malcolm Butler and all the other Titans. A win — a very loud win — over Bill Belichick; and Lewis felt he had every right to pop off.

Perhaps he was right. But Sunday, Lewis and the Titans joined a small 2018 NFL fraternity as Tennessee was hammered by the Colts.

The Patriots have lost three games — to Jacksonville, Detroit and Tennessee. For all three, the wins over New England appear to indeed be their Super Bowls.

In September, the Jaguars followed their 31-20 win with a 9-6 loss to Tennessee.

The Jags, who have suffered through Leonard Fournette’s injury, blew a game to Pittsburgh on Sunday to fall to 3-7. They’re done.

Matt Patricia’s Lions dumped New England 26-10 Sept. 23 — then lost to Dallas the following week. Patricia worked his players out in the snow last week — even though they had four straight indoor games coming up — and then beat Carolina Sunday. That made Detroit 4-6. Likely done.

The Titans followed their big win over the Pats by getting blown out 38-10 at Indianapolis. Tennessee fell to 5-5. The Titans are one of five AFC teams at 5-5 so they’re not dead. Heck, they might even get another meeting with the Patriots.

Lewis? He ran for 24 yards on 10 carries and caught one pass for eight yards.

Gronk returning

That’s the word coming out of the bye week, that Rob Gronkowski will be back for Sunday’s game in New Jersey against the woeful Jets.

From Adam Schefter: “After missing three of the past four games with a lingering back injury, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to be able to play in New England’s next game after Sunday’s bye against the New York Jets, per sources.”

Gronk has just 29 catches for 448 yards in his seven games. He has scored one touchdown – on an amazing catch in Week 1.

Says Tom Brady, who has thrown just one touchdown pass in the last three games: “Whenever we get him back, I think everyone’s going to be excited about that. Hopefully it’s soon, but those things are really up to him and the trainers and so forth. I know he works extremely hard at preparing and I know he wants to be out there. So I think really getting everyone out there, everyone that is on the roster, that’s available, that we have confidence in, that can go out and help us win games and make plays and be productive. That’s what our goal is.”

James White, asked if this team is still searching for its identity, said, “We know who we are. We just have to be better. We’ve had splashes here and there where we’ve shown what we’re capable of. I still don’t think we’ve played a full 60-minute game. This offense has a lot of potential but it doesn’t matter how much potential you have if you don’t go out there and execute. We’ll take this bye week, self-scout, figure out what we can do better and come back ready to go.”

Sony Michel should also be at 100 percent for this Jets game, so things SHOULD be better for the offense. Playing the Jets should help.

Sunday night, Rodney Harrison said on TV, “I’m not concerned about the Patriots. They played 10 straight weeks – I just basically think they were tired. You get to a point that no matter how good you are, no matter how well-coached you are, if you’re tired you’re tired … I expect the Patriots to be right there vying for the AFC championship when it’s time.”

Great effort

The competition wasn’t among the NHL’s best, but what the Bruins did on the road Friday and Saturday —three out of four points in Dallas and Arizona— amid all the injuries, was rather remarkable.

Tuukka Rask came back strong in Dallas, Jaroslav Halak played well in Arizona. Six defensemen were missing. Patrice Bergeron missed the second of the two games. Brad Marchand threw one of his tantrums that cost him 12 minutes on the ice for one call, 18 for the game.

Still, they got three points out of four — 3-1-1 in five games in eight days. And they lost Zdeno Chara for 4-6 weeks in the middle of it.

Bruce Cassidy kept the team in Arizona until Monday before flying to Detroit. “I want the guys to go sit in the sun and enjoy themselves and get some Vitamin D or whatever it is,” he said. “It’s good for your soul. The guys have played a lot of hockey lately, so I’d like them to relax and bond a little, get to know each other.”

They earned it.

“It’s the way you win, right?” Cassidy said after Saturday night’s game. “You win a close-checking, low-scoring game and, yeah, we made some mistakes on the back end with the young group but they bounced back and did a real nice job. Obviously, you need goaltending to win and we got that.”

The week moved the Bruins from No. 6 to No. 4 in ESPN’s latest NHL power rankings.

Count former exec Brian Burke among those who have had enough of Marchand’s antics.

“I can’t stand the clown show,” he said on Canada’s SportsNet. “The licks, the kisses, the slew foots, the antics with the fans, the white towel. Why does such a quality hockey player have to engage in a clown show like this?

“It hurts the league’s image, it hurts the Boston Bruins’ image and it ruins his image, which is a shame. He’s a quality player.””

Saw it coming

I am NOT a betting man, but if I were, I might have put a few bucks on the Jazz at TD Garden Saturday night.

The Celtics, who played in Charlotte Monday night, won a very big game Friday night – and had to go overtime to defeat the Raptors. A letdown was rather inevitable. But there was more to this story.

For two reasons.

One, this team has been very up and down through the early stages of the season.

Two, a team that lives by the 3-pointer dies by the 3-pointer when the shots aren’t going in.

As to No. 1, Brad Stevens said, “I mean, that’s who we’ve been. We’ve had our moments and had other poor moments … They’re on the same stretch we are as far as number of games. They had back-to-back, they traveled last night, so absolutely no excuses other than we just got outplayed by … they’re a better team than we are; they beat us twice. They deserve that.”

The Celtics went 5-for-33 from 3-point range and 11-for-20 from the foul line. This is an outside shooting team that missed its shots. That’s why the record dropped to 9-7 heading into Charlotte.

Said Al Horford: “It’s something that we’ve been dealing with all year. I felt like we addressed it a couple times, but after the Portland game that was something that we wanted to be better and I felt like we came out the right way yesterday and for whatever reason today we couldn’t sustain the focus and the energy we needed.”

Through Saturday, the Celtics were averaging 36.4 3-pointers per game, third in the NBA – but were just 18th in 3-point percentage.

Asked if his team has a confidence issue, Stevens said, I think that that’s a – maybe there’s something there, with that, with what you’re saying. I think there’s a lot of things that it could be, but at the end of the day, you build confidence through doing hard things over and over and over, because that’s your focus. That’s your intent. Your job is your focus.

“You know what you’re supposed to do. You perform every assignment, you do it physically, you do it tough, and then all of a sudden, the ball goes in. It’s just kind of funny how it works. They game honors it. You know, I had an old friend that was one of the best NAI coaches ever and coached for 34 years in the state of Indiana, and his phrase that his team used was, ‘The game honors toughness.’ And boy, is that true. You see that. You see that over and over. And so, I would say that if we’re struggling with the ball going in the hole, that we should just lock in to do what we need to do better, and that’ll take care of itself.”

Cora rewarded

This from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale after Alex Cora had a year added to his contract the other day: “Alex Cora, who earned just $800,000 this year, and will earn $900,000 in 2019, is rewarded with one year contract extension after winning World Series for #Redsox.”

It really is a credit to Cora that a first-year manager, making more than only the youngest players on his team, was not only able to manage a team and a clubhouse, but also turn the whole thing into what appears to be a great experience for all involved.

Mike Lupica, writing for MLB.com, says Mookie Betts is the best, most complete player in Red Sox history.

Lupica wrote: “Betts is a magical player. He wasn’t just the best all-around player in his league this season, he is also the best all-around player the Red Sox have ever had. That is saying plenty. But it is true.

“The Red Sox had Babe Ruth when Ruth was young and both a hitter and a starting pitcher. He is still the greatest figure in baseball history. But even Ruth couldn’t do as many things as Betts can do on a baseball field.

Ted Williams was the best pure hitter of all time. Not only is he the last .400 hitter in baseball, but he also hit .388 the year he turned 39. Even Williams couldn’t do as many baseball things as Betts.

“Neither could the great Carl Yastrzemski, who won the Triple Crown for the Red Sox in their own magical, Impossible Dream season of 1967, one that ended one victory short of the Sox winning the World Series. In addition to everything else, Yastrzemski was a genius at playing left field at Fenway, in front of the Green Monster. It isn’t the same as playing right field at Fenway, and it certainly isn’t the same as playing right field the way Betts does.”

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