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Patriots defense hasn’t really been tested this season

Rookie Rams quarterback Jared Goff (four sacks, two interceptions) was swallowed up the Patriots in Week 13.matthew j. lee/globe staff/Boston Globe

Picked-up pieces while waiting for Thursday night’s Celtics game in Cleveland . . .

■   Why do I feel like I’ll still be saying I’m not sold on this Patriots defense when the duck boats are parading down Boylston Street Feb. 7?

■   Stat geeks and Patriot toadies are twisting themselves into knots to tell us that the Patriots really didn’t have an easy schedule this year, but we know what we saw. We saw them play a bunch of bum quarterbacks and almost zero elite offenses.

When the season ends Sunday, the Patriots will have played half their games against teams in the bottom third of the league in offense. They faced none of the top six offenses. Here’s hoping they are ready if they face a competent QB/offense in the playoffs. Matt McGloin, Tom Savage, and Matt Moore no doubt have Bill Belichick lying awake at night.


■   Since Belichick took over as head coach of the Patriots, the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets have had 23 head coaches and interim head coaches. The list includes legends such as Perry Fewell, Joe Philbin, Chan Gailey, and Dan “Tomato Can” Campbell. Over the same 16-year span, the second-best quarterback in the division is probably Chad Pennington.

■   Don’t be fooled by these “early returns” on baseball’s Hall of Fame voting. Folks who track such things believe Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds have a chance this year because they are trending toward the required 75 percent on ballots that have already been published. It’s a faux sample. Like Dixville Notch, N.H., Roger and Barry are gaining ground, but their numbers will be south of 75 percent when the results are announced Jan. 18.

■   LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey declined to play in meaningless bowl games to avoid injury and preserve their future NFL earnings. Swell. We get it. The kids are treating football like a business, which is exactly how they will be treated when they get to the NFL.


But I have a little trouble applauding the move. It’s still quitting on your school and your teammates. Those “meaningless” bowl games will be the final football games for most of the senior players. Forgive me if I’m not in favor of Fournette and McCaffrey reminding everybody that they are special and more important than their college teammates.

Where does the special treatment stop? Should these elite players be encouraged to make decisions throughout college that will enhance their NFL value? “Sorry, coach, I’m not going over the middle to catch passes. I might get hurt, and I plan on being in the NFL when the rest of these stiffs are working at advertising agencies.’’

John Calipari, the guy who tells his fans that getting players drafted is more important than winning the NCAA championship, must love the actions of Fournette and McCaffrey.

■   New Hall of Famer Bud Selig is getting plenty of heat for being the “Steroid Commissioner.’’ Lost in this convenient narrative is the gigantic role that the Major League Baseball Players Association leadership played in the PED mess.

It was the union that fought testing. The late Marvin Miller told us that steroids were not that bad, and brilliant counsel Gene Orza was quick to insult those who challenged the almighty PA.

The recently deceased Bill Usery was considered a competent labor mediator by no less than four presidents, but when he pitched a settlement proposal to the MLBPA, Orza came back with, “What do I tell the ballplayers? Do I tell them you’re senile?’’


This was the intransigent labor climate that kept drug testing out of baseball for so many years.

■   Kevin McHale was the third pick in the NBA draft in 1980. Michael Jordan was the third pick in the draft in 1984. Today the third pick gets you Jaylen Brown, who may someday be a fine player but is not close to a finished product.

This is nobody’s fault. But it’s reality. The 20-year-old Brown played four scoreless minutes against the Grizzlies Tuesday and is averaging less than 5 points and 2 rebounds per game. This is why it’s OK if the Celtics move a Nets pick instead of waiting for the next lottery and draft.

■   Passengers on a Las Vegas-to-Boston JetBlue flight this month were surprised when Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy started walking up the aisle handing out free tickets to a Tampa game at Fenway next summer.

■   This little paragraph in Tom Verducci’s Dec. 19 Theo Epstein profile in Sports Illustrated should say a lot about the Red Sox of 2010: “That season, he [Epstein] had an epiphany while attending the funeral of a long-time team employee. Funeral pamphlets included the Red Sox’ logo. The deceased rested in a Red Sox casket. ‘I remember thinking, I really don’t want this to be me,’ he says.”


■   Count me as one who hates the growing practice of NBA stars getting a night off in back-to-back situations. Earlier this month, the Cavaliers left LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love at home when they flew to Memphis to play the Griz on the second night of a back-to-back. Imagine if you’re a Grizzlies fan and you bought a ticket to see the Cavaliers’ one visit to Memphis this season.

Teams who leave stars at home should be fined, and the fine money should go to the ticket buyers in the arenas that are affected by the trendy practice. The Cavs are 0-3 when LeBron “rests” this season. Trust me when I tell you K.C. Jones never left Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish back in Boston on the second day of a back-to-back.

■   The Edmonton Oilers’ 19-year-old Connor McDavid is the youngest full-time captain in NHL history.

■   The Patriots lead the NFL with 27 fumbles. They have recovered 18 of their own fumbles. Truly amazing.

■   The most odious clause in the new baseball labor agreement might be the one that insists each ballplayer get two seats on any spring training bus trip. Wish the Fung Wah had that policy.

■   Kudos to Belichick for giving props to longtime college football coach Barry Gallup (Boston College, Northeastern) this week: “It would be impossible for me to say enough good things about him and what an outstanding person and coach I think he is and how much he has meant to so many young people that he has interacted with. I think everybody that knows him feels a real love and personal friendship with him.’’


Amen. Gallup forever will be a local treasure.

■   In David Price, Rick Porcello, and Chris Sale, the Red Sox have three of the six pitchers who threw at least 220 innings in 2016.

■   The death of Howard Bingham was way underplayed. Humble and ever a true gentleman, Bingham was Muhammad Ali’s personal photographer and often the last line of defense for those who wanted to connect with the Champ. In 1998, Sports Illustrated ran a cover story on Bingham that featured a photo of Bingham and Ali with the headline “Who’s That Guy with Howard Bingham?’’

■   Anybody ever notice the Sandy Koufax statue on Cabot Street in Newton?

■   Happy 32nd birthday to the most courageous guy any of us know: Pete Frates.

Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.