Morning Sports Update

Rob Ninkovich explained how Bill Belichick will game plan against the Browns

"I feel like I've played this game already."

Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick before the Patriots' win over the Panthers. AP Photo/John Bazemore

The Bruins lost to the Oilers on Thursday night, 5-3. Boston led 2-3 going into the third period, but allowed three unanswered goals.

Tonight, the Celtics host the Bucks at 7:30 p.m.

Rob Ninkovich on Bill Belichick: Heading into a pivotal Week 10 matchup against the Browns, the Patriots have a chance to extend the team’s current three-game winning streak and keep their momentum going.

Of course, Cleveland—even if multiple running backs are missing due to positive COVID-19 tests—still presents a difficult test for Bill Belichick’s defense.

Former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich tried to paint a picture of how New England will go about stopping Cleveland during an ESPN appearance on Friday morning.

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“I feel like I’m in the building, I feel like I’ve played this game already,” Ninkovich explained. “Bill is up at the front of the team meeting room, he’s got a podium in there. He usually starts out the week—Wednesday especially—he comes up in front of the team and he actually pounds on the podium [saying], ‘Set the edge, set the edge, start fast.’

“I guarantee this week it’s, ‘Stop the run, stop the run, set the edge, play from ahead.’ They’re going to pound that. You have to stop the run first, keep Cleveland in longer down-and-distances. If it’s second-and-10, third-and-10 plus, that is where [the Browns] don’t want to be. They want to be in third-and-five, third-and-four, that’s where Baker can actually function. If it’s third and long, he has a hard time throwing the ball beyond 10 yards.”

Trivia: Before last season, the Browns had not won a playoff game since New Year’s Day in 1995, when Bill Belichick’s Browns beat Bill Parcells’s Patriots, 20-13 on Wild Card weekend. Who was the Patriots’ leading rusher in that loss?

(Answer at the bottom).

Hint: He started that day despite not recording any carries during the 1994 regular season. He played only three years in the NFL (all of which came in New England) from 1993-1995.

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Bruins postgame soundbites:

On this day: In 2006, the Patriots lost to Eric Mangini’s Jets, 17-14. Aside from the ongoing feud between Mangini and his former boss, Bill Belichick, it was also the final Gillette Stadium game that was played on natural grass.

Played in rainy conditions, the field—which had already required major attention a week earlier after a loss to the Colts—again deteriorated quickly.

“The field was a mess,” said Jets running back Kevan Barlow after the game. “One play, I almost took it to the house, but the mud got me.”

Patriots players increased what had become a steady stream of complaints, and as a result, the grass was torn out. Synthetic turf was installed in its place, and—with a few updates over the years—it has (basically) remained ever since.

While this hasn’t had a major impact on the Patriots (who were dominant at home both before and after the 2006 switch), another team playing at Gillette Stadium has continuously felt the effects.

The Revolution, who (like the Patriots) have played at Gillette Stadium since its opening, have acclimated to playing soccer on the turf over the years, though it hasn’t been without incident.

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In 2020, New England head coach Bruce Arena—noting his team’s poor record at home—cited the turf as a reason why visiting teams played defensively.

“I think more or less the surface, because teams know it’s difficult to play on and they get into a defensive mode,” Arena explained. Of course, his team turned things around at home in 2021 (going a league-best 12-2-3).

But it remains a factor more than 15 years after it was installed, and it all began thanks to a muddy day against the Jets.

Daily highlight: UC Riverside’s J.P. Moorman stunned Arizona State with a seemingly impossible buzzer-beater to win it, 66-65.

Trivia answer: Corey Croom

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