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Patriots get test in Seattle, but should pass

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  October 12, 2012 09:42 AM

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This week is not about Seattle, nor about Pete Carroll, nor about Wes Welker and his playful tweaks of the great Bill Belichick. Rather, this week is about the youngest team in Belichick's tenure as coach of the Patriots and about and its ability to build one win on top of another.

The Patriots had their hiccup in Week 3 of this NFL season. They do not need another Arizona. Barring some dramatic change in the NFL landscape, the Patriots will be expected to win in seven of the next eight weeks - the lone exception is a Week 9 bye - before their scheduled Week 14-15 matchups against the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers.

Until then, Belichick's greatest challenge may be in keeping a young Patriots team committed and focused, something that has become the hallmark of his clubs during Belichick's time in New England. Until Arizona, the Patriots had rarely slipped up against inferior teams, particularly at home. Over Belichick's last 12 years, their missteps have been few enough to count on one hand. Much of that is a credit to Belichick. Some of that is a reflection on the veteran leadership the Patriots have possessed in their locker room.

Seattle has been a nice story thus far in the surprising NFC West, but Seahawks simply cannot score. Seattle ranks 31st in the league in passing offense and 28th in scoring. The Seahawks seem ill-equipped to expose New England's greatest weakness - the secondary - unless the Patriots play the kind of game they played in, say, Baltimore.

Much of the Patriots' youth this year is on defense. At 30, Vince Wilfork is the oldest member of that squad. Beating the Seahawks should be as simple as getting a representative performance from the defense, assuming that a veteran offense led by Tom Brady remains even remotely productive against a talented Seattle defense.

* Baseball fans in Boston are excused if they have been entirely disinterested, but the American League playoffs thus far have been nothing short of terrific. Game 5 of the series between the Oakland A's and Detroit Tigers was anticlimactic in many ways, but there was greater parity in the AL this season than in a long time.

* Anyone else already starting to feel like Jared Sullinger is going to be a factor for the Celtics this year? It's early, but Sullinger looks like he has a pretty good feel around the basket and the muscle to play in the NBA.

When was the last time the Celtics drafted a player who had any real impact as a rookie?

* As we all know, the Bruins should have opened their season against Philadelphia on Thursday night, so here's a fantasy recap for the hockey nuts:

Tyler Seguin scored two goals and rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton had two assists as the Bruins defeated the Flyers, 5-3, in the season opener for both teams on Thursday. Boston goalie Tuuka Rask made 37 saves on 40 shots. Patrice Bergeron added a shorthanded score for Boston.

"They looked ready to play and we didn't," said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette.

* The Brad Ausmus interview should not surprise you. Ausmus has been getting media attention for some time and the Red Sox had their eye on him weeks (if not months) ago). Even with the current managerial openings, seven of the existing major league managers are former catchers - Ned Yost, Mike Scioscia, Eric Wedge, Bruce Bochy, Mike Matheny, Bob Melvin, and Joe Girardi. Five of them were in the playoffs.

During his career, Ausmus had the kind of reputation as a handler of pitchers that Jason Varitek possessed during his time with the Red Sox. That should tell you plenty.

* For what it's worth, the Patriots have run out of the shotgun 29 times for 94 yards, a 3.2 average that ranks among the worst in the league. With Tom Brady under center, the Pats have averaged 4.5 yards per carry, one of the best figures in the league.

* Sam Holbrook is widely regarded as an excellent and respected umpire, but it still makes no sense for an outfield ump to be calling the infield fly rule. When baseball begins to implement replay on foul-line calls, the game would be best served tom eliminate outfield umps entirely from postseason play.

* Does the presence of Donald Fehr in the NHL labor discussions scare anyone else as much as it does me?

* Maybe it's just me, but I can't help but wonder if there is any connection between the steroid era and the successful implementation of sabermetrics. During the steroid era, it just felt like player performance became far easier to predict.

Anyway, it's just a thought.

* Boy, Lance Armstrong clearly didn't make many friends, did he?

* Rooting for the Orioles and Nationals today. You?

Tony's Top 5

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5
The final chapter on Teixeira and How Red Sox pitchers work the strike zone Jan. 7, 2009 and July 17, 2009. Some actual reporting – an obsession with Mark Teixeira and the art of pitching.
4
For 2011 Red Sox, there was plenty of blame to go around Oct. 1, 2011. The disgraceful collapse of the Red Sox stoked the fire in all of us.
3
Behind Garnett and James, Celtics and Heat are digging in June 4, 2012. Improbably, the Celtics pushed the Heat to the limit.
2
Thrill is back for Patriots Jan. 30, 2012. Another Super Bowl has even Bill Belichick musing.
1
You’ve got to believe June 15, 2011. On the morning of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, we all had reason to believe.
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Updated: Mar 1, 07:24 AM

About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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