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Next to Patriots, Celtics are road greaters

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  December 18, 2009 11:39 AM

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Once again it's time for the Patriots to pack their bags for a road game. The real baggage they will take with them to Buffalo for Sunday's game against the Bills is their lack of a real road win this season.

As all Patriots fans -- well, almost all Patriots fans (more on that later) -- know by now the team is officially 1-5 on the road this season. Even that one win has an asterisk -- or maybe that funky British pound sign -- next to it since it came in what was a neutral site game in London against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We could debate whether this counts as an actual road win or not all day. Full disclosure, I've changed my tune on this.

It certainly was a long road trip, that's for sure. But the fact remains that the Patriots' are 0-5 in road games that don't involve passports or pence and they don't have any more of those on the schedule.

The Patriots clearly need a little help when it comes to reversing their fortunes away from Foxborough. So let's go to the Boston professional sports team that has been right at home away from it -- the Celtics. While the Patriots have found the road rough, the Celtics, who are 20-4 overall, have been visiting victors, posting a 12-1 road record, the best in the NBA.

Doc Rivers's team's lone road loss came against the Indiana Pacers in Conseco Fieldhouse, a game that was played the night before and a few blocks away from the Patriots' self-immolation inside Lucas Oil Stadium. Since then, the Celtics, winners of 11 straight heading into tonight's home tilt with the Philadelphia 76ers, have won eight in a row on the road.

Rivers and Patriots coach Bill Belichick have a mutual admiration society. Rivers has borrowed Belichick's famous "Do you job" line and Belichick and many of his players have been visible at Celtics playoff games the last few years.

Does Doc have any advice for Belichick on how to wrangle a road win?

"No, I'm taking advice from Bill if I can get it. I don't think he needs any from me," said Rivers, following yesterday's Celtics practice. "They'll figure it out. The only time you need to win one is when the playoffs start, so that's the good news."

Yes, it is, but the bad news is that the Patriots won't make the playoffs if they don't score a road win in the good old US of A.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has also been known to take in a Celtics game with the missus, has already said that the Patriots can't afford to lose to the Bills and expect to make the playoffs.

A second postseason without the Patriots would be a major downer for Celtics shooting guard Ray Allen, a Patriots fan since his days at the University of Connecticut. Allen said he wasn't aware that his favorite football team was winless in real road games this season.

When advised of the situation, he took umbrage with the idea that the win over the Buccaneers in Wembley Stadium doesn't count.

"That's still on the road, though," said Allen, truly sounding like a Patriots fan.  

So, as a Patriots fan is Allen worried about the Patriots road woes? He said no, citing the quality of opponent the Patriots have faced (the Jets, Broncos, Colts, Saints and Dolphins all have winning records and the Colts and Saints are undefeated) and his belief that they're still one of the best teams in football.

So far the Patriots are getting a lot of moral support here from the Green, but not a lot of help. C'mon guys you got to have something to help your New England sports neighbors.

How about letting them take your team plane to Buffalo? You won't need it until Christmas Eve, when you go to Orlando for a Christmas Day game against the Magic. That will mark the start of a four-game road trip that will literally have you going from coast to coast with games against the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns.

"All those guys couldn't fit on our team plane. They couldn't fit on our team plane," said Allen with a grin.

How about sartorial suggestions? Forget about the "Pat Patriot" throwbacks, which the team wore the first time they played Buffalo at Gillette. Those uniforms have proved unlucky in road losses to Denver and Miami.

"Green is pretty lucky. We should just throw some green their way, put on some green jerseys," said Allen. "Put some green somewhere on their jerseys. Somebody wear some green socks. Everybody wear some green shoes or get a clover on their jersey."

The Patriots have had some, er, problems with their mascot lately; maybe the Celtics can lend them Lucky for a spell.
 
"We're keeping Lucky, that's for darn sure," said Rivers. "He's a good one."

All kidding aside, the Patriots have to do something to find a way to win on the road. They're already guaranteed of posting their first losing record on the road and worst road record since 2000, Belichick's first season as coach. They went 2-6 away from Foxborough that season.

With a win in Buffalo and in the season finale at Houston, the Patriots could finish 3-5 on the road, counting their trip to London as a road win, and the history of teams with losing road records winning the Super Bowl is not good. The only team this decade to win a Super Bowl without a winning road record is the Colts, who went 4-4 on the road in 2006. 

“We need a road win because if we want to get where we want to get we’re going to need a win on the road,” said running back Kevin Faulk.

Faulk is right. The Patriots either need to find a way to win away or in January they'll be ceding the Boston sports stage to a team that can, the Celtics.
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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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