dan shaughnessy

Don’t forget about the Patriots’ mojo factor

Pittsburgh, PA 12-16-18: The final score is visible as the final seconds tick off the clock in New England's 17-10 loss. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12,left) heads to midfield to meet with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, with teammate J.C. Jackson (27) is at right. The New England Patriots visited the Pittsburgh Steelers in a regular season NFL football game at Heinz Field. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

jim davis/globe staff

Just when all hope is lost, the football gods shine on the House of Kraft.

Ben Volin | on football

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/12/17/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/davispatslose16Aspts.jpg What’s wrong with the Patriots this year?

Why are they limping to the finish line? Here are five areas that help explain their struggles.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) looks to the sideline before huddling with teammates in the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Nick Wass/Associated Press

BEN VOLIN | ON FOOTBALL

The Patriots better watch out for the teams below them in the AFC playoffs

The Ravens, Colts, and Titans are all 8-6, and the suddenly wide-open AFC race is where we start our Week 15 Review.

Boston Bruins goaltender Jaroslav Halak (41) stops Montreal Canadiens left wing Tomas Tatar (90) during first period NHL hockey action in Montreal, Monday, Dec. 17, 2018. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)

Bruins 4, Canadiens 0

There wasn’t much for the Bruins to complain about after this one

Joakim Nordstrom, Colby Cave, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand scored, and Jaroslav Halak stopped 22 shots

Bruins notebook

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/12/18/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/Halak%2082f76c4a7c894d97a56aa5db98-47264682f76c4a7c894d97a56aa5db98-0.jpg Jaroslav Halak was barely challenged by the Habs

The Bruins goalie played his first four NHL seasons in Montreal.

Pittsburgh, PA 12-16-18: Steelers running back Jaylen Samuels looks for an opening as he gains some yardage. The New England Patriots visited the Pittsburgh Steelers in a regular season NFL football game at Heinz Field. (v)

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

jim mcbride | patriots film study

Breaking down the Patriots’ struggles defending the run

One play early on was a microcosm of New England’s troubles slowing opposing ground games.

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/12/18/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/94e93df3807942f5bdb54a06b90409c2-94e93df3807942f5bdb54a06b90409c2-0.jpg Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara expected to return to practice Wednesday

Assuming he is cleared for contact, Bergeron (rib/sternoclavicular) could play this weekend.

tara sullivan

/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/12/17/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/Tara_Sullivan%20copy-25067.tif There are no easy conclusions in debate over Tom Brady’s performance

For every charge against him, there is a countercharge in his favor.

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 14: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics talks with Marcus Smart #36 during the game between the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden on December 14, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

ADAM HIMMELSBACH

Seven things the Celtics should still be concerned about

Boston still has imperfections and concerns that may have been masked by the eight-game surge. Here are some of them.

Patriots notenook

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/12/18/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/line%20flags%20896e-ce2015b2fd5a4b91b5474f406de7896e-0.jpg Watching back all the penalties was painful for the Patriots offensive line

The 14 penalties called against the Patriots were one shy of the most in any game in the Bill Belichick era.

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/12/17/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/davisnepitt3spts.jpg Tom Brady explained what happened on the final plays against the Steelers

“We just had too many missed opportunities,” said Brady of the loss in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh, PA 12-16-18: Patriots defenders (left to right) Devin McCourty (32), Jason McCourty (30), Malcolm Brown 990), Patrick Chung (23) and Jonathan Jones (31) are pictured after Steelers WR Antonio Brown (84, backround) had just caught a touchdown pass against them. The New England Patriots visited the Pittsburgh Steelers in a regular season NFL football game at Heinz Field. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Chad Finn

Should Patriots be worried about the Bills and Jets?

After losing two in a row, the Patriots cannot afford to overlook anyone right now.

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/12/17/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/davisnepit14spts.jpg Patriots-Steelers was highest rated NFL game of the season

The game earned a 16.5 household rating and 32 share nationally.

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/12/17/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/davispatslose1spts.jpg Patriots can kiss No. 1 seed goodbye, but there is a silver lining

If the Patriots finish as the No. 3 seed in the AFC, they wouldn’t have to play the Chiefs or Chargers until the AFC Championship.

Ben Volin | On Football

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/12/17/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/davisnepitt5spts.jpg How the Steelers (finally) wrangled Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady

The Steelers’ defensive backs were aggressive and the team threw a few new wrinkles at Tom Brady in a huge victory.

DAN SHAUGHNESSY

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/12/16/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/shaughnessy.jpg Is this the end for Patriots dynasty?

Have we reached the expiration date on this fantastic run?

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/12/17/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/934a822f6d7e42c49a4d9a2a7c9f6386-934a822f6d7e42c49a4d9a2a7c9f6386-0.jpg Stevan Ridley ‘definitely won’t forget’ beating the Patriots

Ridley made it clear how much he enjoyed beating his former team, and how his night was only getting started.

Nora Princiotti

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/12/17/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/1074301138.jpg The Patriots’ issues stopping the run have been stark

Rookie Jaylen Samuels (19 carries, 142 yards) led the Steelers’ 158-yard rushing onslaught against New England’s suddenly-porous defense.

BROOKLINE, MA - APRIL 16: Sarah Sellers of the United States crossed the Boston Marathon finish line in second place with a time of 2:44:04. Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Sarah Sellers among top American women entered in 2019 Boston Marathon

The surprise runner-up joins defending champion Desiree Linden on the John Hancock US Elite Team.

Frank Dell’Apa | SOCCER NOTES

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/03/10/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/lee_031018_revolution1_spts.jpg What you need to know about Juan Fernando Caicedo, expected to be the Revolution’s next signing

Caicedo can perform as a “No. 9” target forward, as well as striker, adept at finishing and also setting up teammates

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

joe sullivan | ON college basketball

‘This team has really surprised me’: How Penn has become the Ivy League favorite

Projected to finished second in the Ivy, the Quakers exceeded expectations with a 9-2 record, an upset of Villanova, and a decisive win over Miami.

MONDAY’S SCHOOL ROUNDUP

Rachael Johnson’s halfcourt prayer lifts Coyle & Cassidy girls’ basketball over Nauset

Johnson capped an end-of-game 13-3 run for ninth-ranked Coyle & Cassidy with her last-gasp 3-pointer in a 56-55 win over No. 6 Nauset.

18bhoopnotes - Belmont Highs Danny Yardemian (right), with coach Michael Crotty, after winning MVP honors in the Comcast tourney. (Marauder Basketball Association)

Marauder Basketball Association

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL NOTES

Belmont’s Danny Yardemian setting a fast pace

The 5-9 point guard plays, officiates, and coaches, too.

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/10/26/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/davis_drspre1_spts.jpg Tim Neverett will join the LA Dodgers broadcast team

He will call a select number of games on radio and television.

Saints 12, Panthers 9

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/12/18/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/1074342516.jpg Saints clamp down on Panthers

The Saints (12-2) took a one-game lead in the NFC over the Rams.

Foxborough MA 9/21/18 New England Revolution Juan Agudelo has the ball slide tackled away by Chicago Fire Bastian Schweinsteiger during second half action at Gillette Stadium. (photo by Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff) topic: reporter:

matthew j. lee/globe staff

Juan Agudelo signs multi-year contract with Revolution

The 26-year-old has scored 32 goals and 14 assists in 128 games with New England.

NFL notebook

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/12/17/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/Gore%207be8a1c26765-0.jpg Dolphins’ Frank Gore may be done for year

The NFL’s leading active rusher, who suffered a sprained foot Sunday, has played in 126 consecutive games

Sports Log

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/12/17/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/accd12e1fa67438e999d0d480e7d9cba-accd12e1fa67438e999d0d480e7d9cba-0.jpg Flyers fire coach Dave Hakstol, name former Boston College star Scott Gordon interim coach

GM Chuck Fletcher announced the move Monday after the Flyers had lost four in a row and 11 of their last 14 games.

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens calls a play during a timeout in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons in Detroit, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Gary Washburn | On basketball

How the Celtics sketched out a blueprint to future success during their eight-game winning streak

Despite a 113-104 loss at Detroit on Saturday, the Celtics discovered offensive cohesion and defensive tenacity.

CHRISTOPHER L. GASPER

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2018/12/16/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/Gasper.jpg These Patriots are not who we thought they were, and they’re not going to be

This loss speaks to a diminished team holding the flag for the dynasty.

Foxborough MA 11/30/18 North Andover team after they defeated King Philip 6-0 capturing the MIAA Division 1 State Championship at Gillette Stadium. (photo by Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff) topic: 01schbowl reporter: Nathaniel Weitzer

Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Here are the Globe’s 2018 fall All-Scholastics

We highlighted the athletes and coaches who stood out above the rest this fall.

Kevin Paul Dupont

/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2014/03/05/BostonGlobe.com/Sports/Images/dupont-13978.tif More from Dupont

Read his recent “On Second Thought” columns and more features from the longtime Globe writer.