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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Patriots eye peak performance

By MIKE SHALIN
November 19. 2017 12:55PM
Azteca Stadium in Mexico City has hosted NFL games for years, including the first regular-season game held outstide the U.S. in 2005. Today the famed venue hosts the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders. (JANET SCHWARTZ/TNS)

BUSY SUNDAY.

The Patriots made it over The Wall and should make it six wins in a row — and make Bill Belichick the third-winningest coach of all-time — despite the injuries to the offensive line. Ah, Mexico.

“I’m excited for it. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Tom Brady said Friday. “I’ve never been to Mexico City. It’s nice that it’s here. When the schedule comes out and you kind of figure out where you’re playing, this is the kind of game you look forward to, playing against a really good football team in a pretty cool environment. So, it will be very memorable.

“I think everyone’s excited. It’s been a fun week to prepare, and we’ve still got a couple days left. Hopefully we can use it wisely.

They should.

As far as playing down there — and at higher altitude than even Denver, Belichick said, “We’ll do the best we can. I don’t know. I’ve never been there before. ... Figure it out when we get there.”

No love

Yes, Martellus Bennett will be in uniform Sunday – and his former Green Bay teammates are glad he’s gone.

“At the end of the day you have to think of it as a business. Me, personally? I thought he quit on us,” safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix told the Wisconsin State Journal. “I don’t fault him, but I did think he quit on us. He let us down — as a teammate. For a guy that came in, of his caliber, his leadership quote-unquote, I expected more from him. I held him to a higher standard, me personally. But he handled it the way he wanted to handle it.

“I honestly think winning on Sunday gave us a motivation to go out every week (going forward) and compete. That was the hump we needed to get over — winning a game, first and foremost. That Marty stuff, I’m glad we got it out of the way. It’s time to move on.”

Clinton-Dix wasn’t alone.

Heartbreaking

Seeing Jaylen Brown after Thursday’s game after he played so well following the death of his best friend had to make you think about athletes in all sports. We think of them as superhuman and appreciate what they do — but you have to remember they are just people with real lives — and to do what Brown did Thursday was special.

The Boston radio host who said Al Horford should have rented a private plane to join his team in Miami after the birth of a child — the same host who ripped Roy Halladay after the Hall of Fame pitcher died crashing his plane — and other shots at athletes never take into account the human element.

“I knew exactly where the game ball was going to,” said Kyrie Irving. “I told him before the game, the physical presence that you lost, that was just the physical realm. The energy that your best friend was carrying is still with you, so don’t you ever forget that.”

Stanton watch

Our pal Ken Rosenthal said the Red Sox will be right there, and soon, with an offer on Giancarlo Stanton.

Naturally, the absurd trade offers the Sox should come up with are flooding social media. I saw one that had the Red Sox unloading the contracts of Hanley Ramirez and Rusney Castillo, along with Sam Travis and Blake Swihart. Get Stanton and let the Marlins pay for some of his contract by sticking them with two big contracts? And not give up Rafael Devers or Andrew Benintendi? Sounds fair.

Grande stats

We can always count on Celtics voice Sean Grande to come up with great stats and this week was no exception.

Prior to Thursday’s showdown with the Warriors, Grande took to Twitter to tell us: “On February 7, 2015, the Warriors (39-9) lost in Atlanta (42-9) ... it’s the only time in the last four years Golden State has faced someone with a better record (after the first 10 games). ... until tonight.”

Then, after that game, he tweeted: “The rest of the NBA is 14-89 (.136) when scoring 96 points or fewer. The Celtics are now 5-0.”

Our pal Sean Deveney of The Sporting News tells us: “First time Steph Curry went against a Brad Stevens defense, he was at Davidson and shot 6-23 (2-13 on 3s). And Curry is still trying to figure Stevens out.”

Deveney’s piece pointed to both Curry and Klay Thompson shooting below their norms in games against Stevens’ defense, which calls for physical play against the guards — something the Cavaliers figured out in Games 5-7 of the Finals two years ago.

It was only the third time Curry had been held to single-digits in the last three seasons.

Big loss

Baseball lost its last player who played in the 1930s when Bobby Doerr passed away at age 99. Naturally, tributes poured in from all over baseball. From Dwight Evans: “My experience around him, he was nothing but a role model on how to act and how to carry yourself. Everyone I knew who knew him absolutely adored him. When I was around him, he was just gentle, and a beautiful human being. We’d talk about fishing. I love to fish. He was a guide and had that boat on a river in Oregon. And he talked about hitting in simple terms, not too mechanical, but little things that would help players. The way he coached was almost like a father, not berating or anything. He was special.” Doerr is the only Red Sox player to twice hit for the cycle.

Big money

Agent Scott Boras wants over $200 million for client J.D. Martinez and big money for Eric Hosmer, pushing OPS as the route to what he calls “Playoffville? Talking about Martinez, Boras says, “He’s a superstar talent. He’s done things that few players have done.” And of Hosmer, he said, “He fits every franchise,” Boras said. Boras ripped the Mets for working on the cheap, saying, “This is not about the ability to pay, this is about the choice to pay, and what you want to provide your fans. “Our game is very healthy. The team that is cutting payroll is providing their family less protection, for winning. They don’t have the resources. They are not living in the gated community of Playoffville.”

Great atmosphere

Warriors coach Steve Kerr enjoys coming to TD Garden, saying before Thursday night’s game, “I love this crowd. There are several crowds in the league that you just kind of feel they get it. Here’s one of them. And obviously their team’s doing great. So it’s going to be electric.”

Kerr on teams gunning for his champions: “The difference is these guys have the best defense in the league, the best record in the league. So they’re coming after us with a team that’s loaded and got a lot of momentum and playing really well.”

To the choir

I received an e-mail from the Mariners the other day pushing Edgar Martinez’s Hall of Fame candidacy. No need to send it this way; he’s had my vote since his first appearance on the ballot.

They sent a string of tributes from former teammates and foes, Jorge Posada saying, “He was the best hitter I’ve ever seen. He was tough to get out. He was prepared … He gave Mariano (Rivera) a lot of trouble. He gave a lot of us a lot of trouble. He was unbelievable.”

Here and there

Joe Girardi is still the best candidate to replace Joe Girardi as Yankee manager. C’mon guys, George would have done it. … Despite being dumped, Girardi made his way to Orlando for the rules meeting. … Question: if you install a pitch count, what happens when the pitcher throws over to first base or spins and throws to second? … From @SNstats earlier this week: #Winnipeg Jets improve to 10-1-2 when (UMass-Lowell’s) Connor Hellebuyck starts this season. They are 1-3-1 when Steve Mason starts.” … Speaking of goalies, do the Bruins have a goalie controversy? Should they? … Charles Barkley had a tough night ripping the Celtics Thursday, saying, among other things, last year’s team was better than this year’s. … Jerry Jones to Roger Goodell: “If you think Bob Kraft came after you hard (in DeflateGate), Bob Kraft is a (expletive) compared to what I’m going to do.” … Finally, from Fangraphs’ David Laurila: “Free agent comparison: Over the past three seasons, Nelson Cruz has been paid $42,750,000 to hit 126 HR with a .925 OPS for the Mariners. Hanley Ramirez has been paid $65,250,000 to hit 72 HR with a .784 OPS for the Red Sox.

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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