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Broncos tight end Noah Fant has the catches, but not the big-play production through four games



Broncos tight end Noah Fant has the catches, but not the big-play production through four games

The eye contact between Broncos tight end Noah Fant and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater meant both knew what would be available.

Fant was lined up in the left slot on the second offensive play of the season opener against the New York Giants and running back Melvin Gordon was outside of him. The Giants’ defense appeared confused.

“A busted coverage and I found the open space,” Fant said. “Teddy and I were on the same page.”

The easy pitch-and-catch over the middle gained 15 yards and Fant’s third year was off to a productive start. But through the opening four games, that kind of chunk gain has been in short supply for him. Entering Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh, Fant’s 18 catches are tied for the Broncos’ lead with receiver Courtland Sutton, tied for sixth among NFL tight ends and tied for 39th overall.

But Fant is tied for 224th in yards per catch (8.7).


“I wouldn’t draw many conclusions after four games,” coach Vic Fangio said.

Maybe so, but a passing game without Jerry Jeudy (ankle) for another few weeks and minus KJ Hamler (ACL) for the rest of the year needs to get Fant more involved in general and more involved downfield in particular.

“For me, I feel like it’s been kind of clunky,” Fant said. “Some plays go really well and some plays don’t go the best. Just trying to figure out where I fit in. I feel like that’s what our whole offense is doing, just trying to figure out how we can all fit in seamlessly with each other and get going in the right direction.”

Two days after that bit of self-evaluation, Fant visited with The Denver Post.

The first question: Where does he fit in?

“My fit is doing whatever they need me to do,” Fant said diplomatically. “They’ve asked me to do a lot of different things in the blocking game and passing game so that’s been my biggest thing with the coaches, making sure I do what they ask and go from there. Just trying to be versatile.”

Running shorter routes

Fant has been the Broncos’ intended receiver on 27 pass attempts, second on the team behind Sutton’s 28.

A charting of the throws shows how Fant isn’t being prioritized down the seams, where he can use his speed as a moving target. Nineteen of his targets, including 14 catches, haven’t traveled more than five “air” yards downfield per The Post’s analysis. Fant has only two catches on passes that traveled at least 10 “air” yards (gains of 15 and 25 yards against the Giants).

Down the field, he has been the target of only three passes of at least 16 “air” yards (all incompletions).


“Sometimes it is,” Fant said. “But we all know it’s going come (my) way eventually. It’s not like the coaches can control how the defense plays. We’re just trying to move the ball and get points. Especially if things aren’t going well, it gets frustrating, but you have to keep going.”

By game, Fant has eight targets/six catches (Giants), six/four (Jaguars), three/two (Jets) and 10/six (Ravens).

The average “air” distance of his targets is only 5.9 yards.

Last year, Fant had 13 explosive catches (gain of at least 16 yards), but has only one this year, a 25-yard gain against the Giants.

“It’s just the way the coverages and reads have come,” tight ends coach Wade Harman said. “I’m sure (defenses) are conscious of him. We had a shot (19 yards) down the field (against Baltimore) and it hit the defender in the back. It will come. I don’t think you can force them. When they’re there, you take them. He’s had the opportunity to catch and run and has broken some tackles.”

Defenses had to respect Jeudy all over the field and Hamler on his vertical routes. The ripple effect is more attention paid underneath to Fant.

“Definitely,” Harman said. “When you have speed on the edges, it definitely takes the top off and gives you more room down there.”

Patience required

Listed at 249 pounds, Fant’s best course is catching Bridgewater’s passes while moving forward so his speed can allow him to run by linebackers and through the tackle attempts of cornerbacks and safeties.

The yards-after-catch opportunities haven’t materialized — only 72 of his 156 yards. Fant’s best work this year has been on the move.

Looking at a reporter’s iPad before practice Wednesday, Fant reviewed three of his top plays.

The first play was the aforementioned catch against the Giants when Fant operated from the slot.

“It’s definitely different,” he said of lining up in a stand-up position. “You can see things a little better. It gets muddy sometimes when you’re in a three-point stance, but I’m able to do both and I enjoy doing both and trying to figure things out from there.”

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Celtics Notebook: Udoka asks Tatum, Brown to think differently about offense



Celtics Notebook: Udoka asks Tatum, Brown to think differently about offense

As evidenced by the swings in the games of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown from game to game — witness their fluctuations from the two-game Indiana series to combining for 12 turnovers against Philadelphia Friday night — all’s not always smooth in adapting to how Ime Udoka wants his offense to function.

But as the Celtics coach admits, weaning his two young stars off iso-heavy basketball will take time. He’s asking them to think differently about the game.

“It’s been obviously one of the main goals coming into this season is to get them to do more than just score,” the Celtics coach said before Saturday’s game against Chicago. “At times we look really good doing it and at times we get rattled and kind of revert back to some things that make us less successful.

“So whether it’s referees or individual matchups getting, caught in that or whatever the case may be, or poor scoring in general,” said Udoka. “Sometimes they take the onus on themselves sometimes and I think just being consistent as far as that and not reverting back to some old habits obviously makes us a better team so that’s the challenge every night and an area they’ve grown. We’ve seen flashes, now it’s just putting it together more often than not.”

Joel Embiid said following the Friday loss that the Celtics, because of their isolation tendencies, are simpler to defend. Udoka said all concerned are working to change that reality.

“Obviously we do run stuff through them and it’s a matter of how teams are defending on a night to night basis,” he said. “Every game isn’t going to be a duplicate of the previous night but we do want to see that ball movement, we do want to see the team, more team aspect than isolations. If they have the advantages, take those, but it was the truth.

“It was a night where, even ourselves against Indiana and then last night were two different teams offensively. Did enough poor things defensively as well but offensively the lack of scoring and guys just taking it on their shoulders instead of continuing to stay with what worked in the past,” he said. “We all know teams that go iso are easier to guard, easier to defend, you know unless you have a Kobe Bryant or Jordan you can put it in his hands and get 50, every team doesn’t have that so you want to play to their strengths but also encourage team basketball which makes us a much better team as we’ve seen.”

Smart remains in protocol

Marcus Smart, the first Celtic to test positive for COVID-19 — indeed, one of the first players in the league to test positive two seasons ago — was the only Celtic on ice Saturday night. He’s also the 14th Celtic to enter health and safety protocol this season.

He now needs two negative tests to return to action. In the meantime, the Celtics started Dennis Schroder at point guard in Smart’s absence.

Poor shooting

As evidenced by the recent struggles of players like Schroder and Al Horford from the floor — the latter went into Saturday’s game shooting 28% from 3-point range — the Celtics haven’t been getting much offensive support behind Tatum and Brown. But Udoka’s message remains the same. Move the ball.

“You can’t base decision-making on if guys are going to make or miss,” said the Celtics coach. “I think we’re asking them to do the right thing and that’s been a little bit of a story of this year at times. I think I mentioned other than Josh (Richardson) and probably Grant (Williams), guys in general are shooting below their career averages, so you expect some of that to balance out.

“Dennis, I take that with a grain of salt. He missed some shots early and him as well as the team never got in a huge offensive rhythm (against Philadelphia),” he said. “Al hasn’t shot it as well as he has in previous years, so it’s a matter of mixing in, not just settling for those shots, getting some offensive rebounds, getting out in transition, getting some easier baskets, and not just settling for threes, which he has done at times when his shot is not falling. He’s driven it and attacked the basket as far as that, so be confident when the open shots come but also mix in some other things to help yourself get going.”

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Martin Luther King: His life and legacy



Martin Luther King: His life and legacy

Fifty-three years after his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be observed Monday to honor his life and legacy as a civil rights leader at a time when the nation remains racially divided.

“Dr. King and those civil rights activists who stood with him paved the way for some of the social justice activism we see today,” said Bishop William E. Dickerson II of Greater Love Tabernacle Church in Dorchester. “But we still live in a country where, for the most part, we’re judged by the color of our skin and not the content of our character.”

If King were alive today, Dickerson said, “He would be shocked by the number of Black people, particularly Black men, who are incarcerated.”

The bishop called on people to “stop ignoring racism, violence and poverty, and deal with the economic and health disparities in our nation, especially among the marginalized and disadvantaged.”

Edith Bazile, a former Boston Public Schools teacher and administrator and former president of the Black Educators Alliance, said she sees the nation “going backwards” in the fight for racial equity.

“We’re still at the bottom of the caste system,” she said. “We can begin to change that by teaching the true history of this country.

“It has never been acknowledged,” Bazile said. “Racism is perpetuated through miseducation…Martin Luther King called for dismantling racist structures in every facet of society. We are still fighting the same fight. Schools have not had a candid discussion about race because they don’t want to.”

The Whittier Street Health Center in Roxbury marked the holiday in advance with a Martin Luther King Day of Service last Thursday.

“As Dr. King said, our legacy is what we do for others, especially in health care,” said Frederica Williams, the center’s president & CEO. “So we are aware that while there are high rates of illnesses, especially during the pandemic, high mortality and morbidity rates, there are also a lot of social issues. People are lacking basic necessities. So at our day of service, we give out food through our food pantry.”

“We give people COVID-19 rapid testing kits, but we also get them coats, gloves, hats and socks,” she continued. “What we are seeing through the pandemic is the gaps that existed. Wealth gaps, health gaps, social gaps have widened. So whatever we can do, especially in honor of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, we do it to make sure that we can inspire hope in people.”

Events marking the holiday include the 52nd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast on Zoom. The keynote speaker will be historian, Harvard Law School professor and New York Times bestselling author of “On Juneteenth,” Annette Gordon-Reed. People can register at

Boston University, the New England Conservatory and the city of Boston present “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community,” a virtual celebration of the lives and legacies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. The event is free, and attendees do not need to register. Go on Monday at 2 p.m. The event will stream on Boston City TV.

From 1 to 5 p.m., the Museum of Fine Arts will host its 20th annual free open house to commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required.

The Institute of Contemporary Art and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum also will offer free admission on Monday.

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Buffalo Bills rout the New England Patriots 47-17 behind Josh Allen’s 5 touchdown passes



Dolphins’ Brandon Jones to miss second straight game; Jaelan Phillips active vs. Giants

Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills erased any doubt of who now rules the AFC East.

Allen set a team playoff record with five touchdown passes, including two to Dawson Knox, and Devin Singletary ran for two scores in the first half of a 47-17 throttling of the division rival New England Patriots in a wild-card playoff game Saturday night.

Allen finished 21 of 25 for 308 yards in a game the Bills scored on each of their seven possessions that didn’t end with a kneeldown.

“That sounds like some Pop Warner stuff,” defensive tackle Harrison Phillips said.

Added Allen: “We had guys coming out here, we were ready to play. Good week of practice. Lot of preparation went into this one.”

The Bills beat the Patriots for a second time in three weeks and rebounded from an embarrassing 14-10 loss at home on Dec. 6 in which the Patriots attempted just three passes while finishing with 222 yards rushing to counter the blustery conditions.

And don’t think for a moment Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes forgot. He recalled how reporters specifically questioned safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde as being embarrassed.

“It was a little bit on my mind,” Hughes said, accusing the media of antagonizing his teammates and a defense which led the league in fewest yards and points allowed.

“There was a lot of disrespect coming toward our defense. And so we felt like the only way to shut people up is to go out there and play football and let you guys sit and watch and talk. And that’s what we’re doing right now, playing football.”

The margin of defeat was the largest in the playoffs for the Patriots in coach Bill Belichick’s tenure, which began in 2000.

Though the winds were relatively calm Saturday, the Bills were hot in frigid conditions with a game-time temperature of 7 degrees.

The third-seeded Bills advanced to the divisional round to host either the Cincinnati Bengals, who beat the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19 earlier in the day, or travel to Kansas City, Mo., depending on the outcome of the Chiefs game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. A trip to Kansas City would feature a rematch of last year’s AFC championship game, which the Chiefs won 38-24.

The Bills gained 300 yards of total offense, had 19 first downs and built a 27-3 lead at halftime. The 30-point margin of victory and 47 points scored were the second most by the Bills in a playoff game behind a 51-3 win over the Los Angeles Raiders in the AFC championship game on Jan. 20, 1991.

“I think we feel good,” Allen said. “There’s some things that we can clean up and work on. But at the end of the day, we moved on, we’re on to the next one and it doesn’t matter what we did today. It’s what we do next week. We’ve got to put our foot forward and be ready for the next one.”

The Bills rolled into the postseason by winning their final four games to clinch their second consecutive division title. After losing 35 of 40 meetings to the Patriots from 2000 to 2019, the Bills have defeated them in four of the last five meetings, coinciding with Tom Brady’s departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Patriots limped into the playoffs by losing three of their last four and were effectively outclassed in rookie Mac Jones’ postseason debut.

“Get ready to go next year. There’s nothing we can do now that can change the outcome of what happened tonight or whatever, the last, since December,” center David Andrews said. “It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing. Missed opportunity. It’s fleeting.”

The Patriots’ previous worst playoff loss under Belichick was a 33-14 defeat to Baltimore, also in the wild-card round on Jan. 10, 2010.

Jones struggled in finishing 24 of 38 for 232 yards with two touchdowns to Kendrick Bourne, including a 4-yarder in the final two minutes. Jones also was intercepted twice in closing his season with a combined seven touchdowns passing and seven interceptions in his final five outings.

The Bills put the Patriots on their heels from the opening drive, with Allen patiently waiting in the pocket before scrambling to his right and avoiding a sack. Before stepping out of bounds, Allen lobbed an 8-yard pass to a wide-open Knox in the back-right corner of the end zone.

The Bills defense then snuffed out the Patriots’ opening drive with Micah Hyde having the speed and angle to make a leaping interception in snatching the ball away just before Nelson Agholor was about to catch it in the end zone. Jones was also intercepted on the Patriots’ opening drive of the second half, when his pass intended for Hunter Henry was deflected by linebacker Matt Milano and picked off by Levi Wallace.

“Guys made some unbelievable plays — offense, defense, special teams,” Allen said. “We started off really fast with the touchdown. Micah with the unbelievable play there in the end zone. We just kept the momentum rolling all day today.

“We were happy to get this one.”

No series was more indicative of the Patriots’ flat-footed performance than allowing Singletary to score on a 16-yard run to cap a four-play, 89-yard scoring drive to put the Bills up 27-0 with 1:53 left in the first half. Allen placed a perfect 45-yard pass to Stefon Diggs, who had a step on top defensive back J.C. Jackson, a Pro Bowl selection, up the right sideline. Two plays later, Singletary eluded the entire Patriots defense in reaching the end zone.

The game was the fourth-coldest in Bills history with a game-time temperature of 7 degrees, and the wind-chill making it feel like minus-4.

The coldest game was played 28 years ago to the day in Buffalo’s 29-23 win over the then-Los Angeles Raiders 29-23 in a divisional playoff game en route to the Bills make their fourth consecutive — and last — Super Bowl appearance. The game-time temperature was zero, with the wind-chill making the conditions feel like minus-32.

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