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Even Now, Patriots Tom Brady Continues to Prove His Doubters Wrong

Brady and his competitive attitude hasn’t changed since being drafted in 2000. (USA TODAY Images)

It’s amazing how much things change, and Tom Brady has definitely proven that what you see initially isn’t necessarily what you get.

If you looked at the former standout out of Michigan as a rookie and told anyone he’d become a Super Bowl winning quarterback just one season later, one can only imagine the reaction that statement would have garnered to anyone outside of Ann Arbor. After all, their loss to the Packers in New Orleans in 1996 had seemed like a lifetime ago and the thought of even getting back to the Super Bowl seemed far fetched. The 8-8 season Pete Carroll had just finished with in 1999 had been a frustrating year, especially after starting out at 6-2 heading into the bye week.

Unfortunately for Carroll, from there they fell apart, losing six of their final eight including three of their final four games. Carroll walked away with a win in his final game, which was a 20-3 victory over the Baltimore Ravens at Foxboro Stadium. But by then, most fans and media knew his time as head coach was over. Standing there that afternoon the buzz among those of us who were there centered on who would replace him, as after such a drastic turn it seemed extremely unlikely that he would be back.

Carroll seemed to know it too. After answering questions with reporters, he stepped down from the podium and smiled and exchanged a look with one of the reporters as if he knew it would be the last press conference he’d ever hold in New England, and then turned and headed down the hallway for the final time.

From there his chapter ended and Bill Belichick’s began, with fans mixed with their reactions on his hiring. Despite those doubts, after having had a taste of playing for a title, everyone hoped that Belichick would be the one to get this team back to a championship level. That, in itself, seemed like a daunting enough goal. Never in a million years could anyone have ever expected it would be a skinny kid out of Michigan drafted a few months later instead of Drew Bledsoe that would eventually be the one to get them there.

Back then while seeing him in the locker room each week, Brady certainly didn’t look like a future Hall of Fame quarterback. On paper he was just another late round pick, with most likely expecting him to be nothing more than just a quarterback on the practice squad. Obviously when you look at the number of college standouts that come into the league, it’s probably one of the least exact sciences out there since regardless of how much film scouts watch, the film doesn’t show you the desire or the work ethic behind the scenes that ultimately make for a great player.

For Brady, there were clearly glimpses of what he was capable of that obviously caught the eye of Bill Belichick. His rookie year Brady did just enough during the preseason after finishing with the highest completion percentage of the four quarterbacks at 68%, completing 22-of-32 for 254 yards along with a touchdown and no interceptions, giving him a quarterback rating of 102.9. Bledsoe, meanwhile, didn’t have a great preseason that year after finishing with one touchdown and three interceptions, and it foreshadowed what would end up being Belichick’s first losing season.

By the time training camp came to an end, Belichick seemingly had a difficult decision to make as keeping four quarterbacks on the active roster is generally a little unusual. Brady’s numbers weren’t staggering, but they were enough to prove to Belichick that he was worth keeping and the Patriots’ coach revealed years later that one of the reasons they didn’t waive him and attempt to put Brady on their practice squad was that he was concerned another team might have claimed him.

That was a group that included the likes of then back-up John Friesz, followed by Michael Bishop, ahead of Brady.  Back then Bishop was the one getting much of the attention, with his late game mobility and big arm having been the talk of fans in his prior preseasons.  His glitzy play in the 4th quarter against third-string players started the unrest behind Bledsoe by fans who started clamoring for a change at the quarterback position.  Bishop can’t say he didn’t get a chance, as Belichick used him in his first season as head coach when Bishop was brought in on several occasions in different situations that year.  His one big moment in New England that year was a 44-yard Hail-Mary touchdown pass he threw to Tony Simmons in week six against the Colts, which at the time knotted the score at 10-10 in what finished as a 24-16 win for New England.  One of the only five games they won that year.

Following their 5-11 season, Belichick made changes, one of which spelled the end for Bishop.  The team had signed Miami Dolphins free agent quarterback Damon Huard during the offseason, and after he and Brady had both performed well during training camp, Bishop was released in August.  From there Brady’s preseason play saw him elevate to becoming the team’s back-up ahead of Huard, and that’s how the 2001 season started.

However, everyone by now, knows how it finished.

Now here he is, with Brady in the midst of yet another season where he’s guided the team to double-digit victories.  It’s the Patriots 12th straight year of double-digit wins, 11 of which he’s responsible for, which is a staggering number.  That trails just the San Francisco 49ers, who had 16 consecutive seasons from 1983-1998 of accomplishing the same feat.

“Tom will play and we expect him to play well. I don’t think I’ll be standing here week after week, talking about all the problems Tom Brady had.” – Belichick talking about Brady following Bledsoe’s injury in 2001.
(USA TODAY Images)

One of the biggest things that has always set him apart is the fact that he’s had to work hard to get where he is and to stay at the top of his game.  As a former 6th round pick (Bishop was actually a 7th rounder), he knows what it’s like to battle his way up from the bottom of the depth chart.  He also knows what it’s like to have to fight to keep his job once he gets there.

Despite beating out teammate Drew Henson for the starting job in 1998 and 1999 in college at Michigan, his college career was somewhat rocky. Brady actually set Michigan records for most pass attempts and completions in a season (214) during his first year as a starter, and the following year won the Citrus Bowl in 1999. But the 1999 season saw him in a battle with Henson to remain the team’s starter, yet Brady never faltered and it showed a lot about the type of player he really was.

“He had a very challenging, arguably unfair, shake during his period,” former Michigan QB Jason Kapsner later said. “He had to always over-prove himself. I think it sums it up: He never complained, he just persevered through a lot of unnecessary obstacles and challenges.”

That’s obviously what sets guys apart. Each year guys with big arms and even bigger reputations come into the NFL, but the majority of them end up being just a name on past team rosters as the years go on. Most of those high draft picks end up making more noise coming into the league than they do once they get there.

Fortunately for the Patriots and their fans, Brady doesn’t fall into that category.  Now in his fifteenth season, Brady’s obviously become one of the NFL’s elite and there’s no questioning the fact he’ll end up in Canton some day when his career comes to an end.  However, despite his success, very little has changed.  He’s always had a good sense of humor, and one of the things that was discussed about Brady early on after Bledsoe went down with an injury were the debates in the media about things they had heard about  in terms of how much more approachable Brady was and that he was more like “one of the guys” when compared to Bledsoe.

Part of that started even before training camp began that season.  In Mark Stewart’s “Heart of the Huddle” book about Brady, the second-year quarterback was a perfect 60-for-60 in on-time attendance at training camp during the summer of 2001, landing himself a key parking spot for his yellow Jeep Wrangler.  According to Stewart, over that period Brady took on something of a leadership role and had taken unofficial charge of team workouts while trying to make sure things were going smoothly for all the first-and second-year players.  He also took it upon himself to talk to team veterans to try and learn every player’s responsibility on each play.

That likely caught the attention of many players in the locker room, and after Bledsoe’s injury, Belichick’s comments were telling considering the confidence he already seemed to have following Brady’s 5-of-10 46 yard performance in the final minutes of the Jets game following the infamous Mo Lewis hit.  Belichick told the media that he believed Brady would be a consistent player week-after-week and that he didn’t expect to be talking about persistent issues on a weekly basis.

“He did OK with [the situation] he had there,” Belichick said at the time. “Tom will play and we expect him to play well. I don’t think I’ll be standing here week after week, talking about all the problems Tom Brady had.”

Looking back, given Belichick’s normal reputation of downplaying any one player’s performance, that was quite a vote of confidence.

During Brady’s rookie season and the following year in 2001, Brady’s local off the field appearances were handled by a Rhode Island marketing agent, who also handled the same role for players like Tedy Bruschi, Adam Vinatieri, Lonie Paxton, Joe Andruzzi, and several others.  Each player had their own website, which had a little about themselves and Brady actually would even occasionally send a late night email ribbing his teammates.  He was a fun-loving guy then, and it’s pretty obvious that not much has changed years later. One thing that will probably never change is the fact he still really appreciates the relationships in the locker room that makes each year so special.

“I always feel like I’m the same guy. I feel like I’m still the kid from Portola Drive,” Brady told’s Erik Frenz in November. “I know probably from the outside-in, it’s different, but from the inside out it’s the same. A big part of playing this game is the relationships that you have with your teammates. Winning is great. Seeing all those guys come back that I played with — Roman Phifer and Tom Ashworth and Willie [McGinest] and Ty [Law] and Richard [Seymour], and all those guys who’ve been such an important part of my life — the guys now are an important part of my life, because we all make sacrifices for one another.

“We see each other at our most vulnerable moments. When you lay it on the line like that, you develop a really special bond with those guys. That’s nothing that I think about, it’s just probably part of who I am and it’s probably why I love the game so much, it’s why it’s a really natural thing. I don’t think I ever have to force those things. Hopefully I chose the right occupation for that.”

His relationship with the fans seems to also have grown this season. Despite some who questioned his ability after the Kansas City loss, far more expressed their gratitude of who he is and what he’s accomplished, including the chants of “Brady!, Brady!” that were heard when the team blew out the Bengals 43-17 the following week and really haven’t looked back since. He’s been on Facebook for a while now, but this season it seems like he’s been more active than he’s ever been.  He hasn’t joined Twitter just yet, but Facebook seems to be a place where he’s become more comfortable and he’s posted quite a few updates this season compared to past years, allowing him an even stronger connection with the fans who appreciate what he does on the field each Sunday.  His former back-up, Brian Hoyer, still can’t believe Brady’s on social media, seemingly because Brady seemed a little behind the times when it came to new technology.

“I still can’t believe he’s on Facebook,” Hoyer told MMQB recently.  “I remember when Twitter first came out. He would be like, ‘How does it work?’ We’d give him s— for being the old guy.”

He’s settled in quite well on Mark Zuckerberg’s website, including posting a video of himself blowing a kiss to fans while thanking them for the “unbelievable support from Patriots nation” in San Diego during their Week 14 win.

Now here he is, trying to finish strong in a month where he’s 42-8 overall over the final four regular season games during his career, the most of any starting quarterback since the 1970 merger.

He’s certainly come a long way from where he began to get to this point and it’s definitely been quite a road for the 37-year old quarterback.  He’s no longer a 23-year old kid fighting the odds. Now he’s a future Hall of Fame NFL quarterback, a 3-Time Super Bowl Champion, a husband, a father, and the barometer of any player coming into the league.  It’s the perfect story for any player coming into the NFL, especially guys who believe they’re a long shot. There are so many who don’t believe in themselves enough that they can be anything other than that, but it’s the ones who never quit and believe all they need is just one opportunity to prove everyone wrong that make it.

Fortunately that’s exactly what Brady has done, and each week just adds another chapter.

STAT CHECK: Brady’s Red Zone Numbers Have Dipped a Bit

Brady should be fired up for this rematch with the Jets on Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)

After a midseason tear, things have cooled a bit down in scoring territory for the the Patriots passing game in recent weeks, which will be something to keep an eye on over these final two games.

Over the past four games quarterback Tom Brady hasn’t quite been himself down in the red zone compared to the previous four weeks, which has seen him throw about half the number of touchdowns and has also included a couple of interceptions.

Here’s a quick look at the numbers:

PREVIOUS 4 WEEKS: 16-of-23 (70%) 11 TD’s and no INTs.
LAST 4 WEEKS: 10-of-23 (43%) 6 TD’S and 2 INTs

Overall Brady’s 41-of-69 (59%) with 24 touchdowns and 2 interceptions inside the opponents’ 20-yard line at this point in the season, and actually ahead of where he was at this point in the year in this category in 2013.  Last season through 14 games he was 36-of-76 (50%) with 18 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.

In their previous meeting earlier this season against the Jets at Gillette Stadium, Brady completed 3-of-6 passing with two touchdowns inside the 20 during their week seven 27-25 win.

The bigger concern is the fact the Patriots have obviously struggled down in New York, where Brady is 2-2 overall at MetLife Stadium and where New England lost 30-27 in overtime last season.  Brady didn’t have a red zone attempt in that game, which was also Rob Gronkowski’s first game back after missing the first six weeks.  The two were out of sync for most of the contest after Brady finished just 8-of-17 targeting him, including a miserable 3-of-7 looking his way in the fourth quarter.  That contributed to the paltry 7-of-18 (39%) Brady finished with in the final quarter of regulation, and the Patriots ended up with the loss.

The good news is that Brady’s recent red zone struggles haven’t necessarily kept them from scoring points. New England was 11-of-18 (61%) overall in red zone efficiency over the last four weeks and 3-of-5 in the Red Zone on Sunday, which included a 27-point second half against the Dolphins.

The one thing to consider is the fact that the Patriots have played some pretty strong teams over that span with some pretty good defenses, and even more important is obviously that they still managed to win three out of those four games.  The hope now is that New England starts hitting their stride and that they start playing more consistent football, as both of these games should be tough and they’re still in a battle for the number one seed.

It won’t be long before the postseason arrives, and with two games left hopefully we’ll see this team iron out some of their remaining issues before they start facing teams that will require better efforts.

STAT CHECK: Rob Gronkowski Making Big Plays For Patriots

Gronkowski currently leads the Patriots in big plays for 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has certainly settled back into where he had been prior to the devastating knee injury he suffered in 2013, and as the Patriots head into the final two weeks of the season the veteran is starting to hit his stride just in time for the postseason.

Going back over the numbers following Sunday’s win over Miami, Gronkowski has been the guy who has made things happen in recent weeks, especially when it comes to making big plays in the passing game.

Gronkowski had three plays of 2o-yards or more on Sunday, bringing his overall total to a staggering 15 on the season.  That’s nearly double from that of the next closest player, which is Brandon LaFell, who has seven.

Here’s a quick run down of players who have caught passes from that distance or beyond at this point in the season:

Rob Gronkowski: 15
Brandon LaFell: 7
Julian Edelman: 6
Shane Vereen: 4
Tim Wright: 2
Danny Amendola: 1
Michael Hoomanawanui: 1

Gronkowski also leads the team in passes of 30 yards or more with five on the season.  From there it’s Edelman (4), LaFell (3), Vereen (2) and Tyms who round out that list. You can also see the full breakdown of Patriots receivers by distance and more in our Patriots Stats Database.

Needless to say while it would be nice to have a receiver who could stretch the field on the perimeter, at least they have a guy who is athletic enough to make them a threat down the field.  Hopefully we’ll see him make some plays over these final weeks, as well as even more during the playoffs.

Gostkowski Sets the Mark For Future Players to Reach in New England

Replacing an elite player is never easy. It’s even safe to say that it’s probably a little tougher when you’re an NFL kicker, especially considering all the responsibilities that go along with it.

After all, they’re the guys who are in the spotlight more so than many other positions and have the most pressure on them to perform essentially kick-to-kick. It’s not like other positions where even a quarterback can have a series of bad throws. If a quarterback misses five or six straight passes, they generally have an opportunity to battle through it and bounce back. If a kicker misses five or six straight kicks, they’re usually looking for work.

When Stephen Gostkowski arrived in New England he was replacing an incredibly consistent player in Adam Vinatieri, who had already made enough clutch kicks to endear him to a fan base that had seen him come through in so many key situations. Those were some big shoes to fill, and after battling his way into the league as an undrafted free agent in 1996, the former standout from South Dakota unseated a well-known kicker for the Patriots at the time in Matt Bahr, who was also a yet another consistent kicker for then head coach Bill Parcells.

Vinatieri was with New England for a decade, amassing 1158 career points as the Patriots’ all time leading scorer before leaving via free agency in 2006 and signing in Indianapolis. It was a good move for Vinatieri, who moved to a team where he could kick indoors and it likely helped extend his career, as he’s still there today at the age of 41.

Losing Vinatieri meant the Patriots needed someone to replace him, and the team selected Stephen Gostkowski in the fourth round of the NFL draft with the 118th overall pick. At the time it was hard to imagine someone taking over the kicking duties and performing any where near the level of Vinatieri, yet here he is all these years later and he’s now eclipsed Vinatieri as the all-time leading franchise scorer with 1,160 points following his 35-yard field goal in the third quarter of Sunday’s win over Miami.

Gostkowski is now the Patriots all-time leading scorer.
(USA TODAY Images)

A lot of coaches in the league generally don’t have the luxury of having two guys who played so well for so long, and Bill Belichick acknowledged after the game Sunday how fortunate he is to have Gostkowski on his roster.

“Steve’s done a great job for us,” said Belichick. “We all know that this area of the country and this division’s certainly not the easiest to kick in. He does a very good job of handling the conditions, he’s got a good leg so he’s got range on kickoffs and long field goals, with good height on the ball. Good team player, always there to support his teammates, everybody in the locker room likes him, he has a good rapport with everybody.

“You’re right, I’ve been really lucky. Adam [Vinatieri], Steve, Shayne [Graham] came in here, didn’t miss a kick the half a year that he kicked or whatever it was. Since I’ve been here they’ve all done a great job, but Steve, those are big shoes to follow there with Adam and he’s never blinked. He’s always kicked with a lot of confidence, a lot of poise, a lot of focus. He’s kicked with a lot of different holders, different snappers, not the easiest conditions, but he does his job. He’s very focused, and he’s been a really dependable player for us. I love having him on the team. He’s a great asset to this football team both on and off the field, the locker room and productively when we need him, of course.”

Gostkowski told ESPN Boston following Sunday’s win that his family was on hand to see him achieve the milestone, and that they don’t generally come to many games. Fortunately they picked a good one to be at on Sunday.

“It was cool. It was a special game for me,” Gostkowski said. “It is my son’s birthday tomorrow. The whole family is in town. Just a coincidence of something like that happening at home with a lot of people in town. It was cool because my family doesn’t come to many games, just happened to come to this one and made it a little more special.

“I looked over [at my family] after they announced it and my family was really excited and they were jumping up and down.”

It’s an incredible achievement and Gostkowski has certainly been a valuable player since he’s been here. At the age of just 30-years old he likely still has plenty of football left in front of him, which is good news for Patriots fans who will hopefully see him continue to add to his franchise point total in the years ahead. It’s amazing when you consider the fact that all the talk centered around how he’d be able to fill Vinatieri’s shoes when he got here and live up to those expectations. Now he’ll someday be the player mentioned each time the Patriots bring in someone else when his days of kicking here come to an end.

For now the recognition is something he said he appreciates, and he also said he’ll be more excited about what he’s done once his career is over.

“Something like that doesn’t really set it,” Gostkowski said. “I’ve said this before, any accomplishment that I make will be something that I will look back on when I’m done playing and be excited about and probably brag to my kids and grandkids about.”

Hopefully for the team’s sake, that won’t be for a long time.

Brady’s Bad Mood Helped Spark Patriots 24-Point 3rd Quarter

Heading into the locker room at the half, the Patriots were coming off of having just allowed what could have been a game-turning play to the Dolphins after Miami scored a quick touchdown with eleven seconds left in the 2nd quarter.

After punting away the football with just twenty-five seconds to go in the first half, Miami made two key plays that got them back into the game.  The first came after the Dolphins returned Ryan Allen’s punt 32-yards, which seemingly put them in field goal range with a chance to cut the Patriots lead to 14-9.

Looking back, that’s probably what the Patriots would have preferred.  Instead, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill hit a perfect throw to Mike Wallace over the outstretched arm of Patriots defensive back Malcolm Butler in the corner of the end zone, with Wallace making an unbelievable one-handed grab where he somehow managed to stay in bounds as he came down with the football.  After initially being ruled incomplete, the play was reviewed and overturned, with the officials ruling it as a touchdown.

Tom Brady arguably made the play of the game thanks to his 17-yard run that helped begin their 24 point third quarter.
(USA TODAY Images)

Just like that it was a one-point game as the Patriots clung to a 14-13 edge heading into the half, which likely had Miami feeling pretty good about their chances heading into the second half.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady admitted after the game that inside the locker room at halftime there was a lot of frustration about how they had played, and he didn’t have the best half of football himself.  He finished 8-of-15 for 82 yards along with an interception, while Tannehill and the Dolphins had put up nearly 200-yards passing as well as 74-yards rushing to that point.  

The only solace for New England was the fact that despite their struggles offensively, the Patriots’ defense had kept them in the game. Now it was up to Brady and the offense to get something going after being frustrated by a Dolphins’ defense that only yielded only one offensive touchdown in the first half.

That frustration boiled over for New England when they got the ball to start the third quarter and Brady had seemingly had enough.  He looked like a different player as they started the drive, firing a strike on their first play from scrimmage to Rob Gronkowski that picked up 34-yards, and then a couple of plays later he hit another one for 14-yards to Brandon LaFell that got them deep into Dolphins’ territory at Miami’s 19-yard line.

On first down Jonas Gray was caught for a one-yard loss, and on 2nd-and-11 he fired a perfect strike to Julian Edelman, who was all alone on the right side of the field at the first-down marker, but the ball went right through his hands and off his chest before falling to the ground for the incompletion.

On the play, Brady took a good shot from linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, knocking him to the ground.  At that point facing a 3rd-and-11 and in need of a spark, the veteran took matters into his own hands.

On the snap Brady dropped back and after seeing the Dolphins drop into coverage, he looked to the right and found a massive opening and began to take off downfield.  With Shane Vereen five yards in front, Brady faked a throw to Vereen which spun around linebacker Philip Wheeler, and Brady darted past him for the first down.

But he wasn’t done.

After getting the first down, Brady could have slid.  He could have given himself up and went out of bounds.  Instead, the veteran was looking for a little contact and opted to drop a shoulder and take on defensive back Walt Aikens.  The two collided pretty hard and Aikens got the better of the exchange, knocking Brady down but not before he had gotten the ball down to the 3-yard line after the 17-yard gain. A fired up Brady got up and exchanged some words with Aikens before heading back to the huddle, and the crowd on hand at Gillette Stadium erupted after the collision as well as Brady’s intensity.

Brady admitted afterward that he was riled up coming out at the half, and that was the reason he was looking to hit somebody.

“I think it was a play we needed to make so it was good to make it at that time,” said Brady. “I was going to slide, but I was pretty pissed off at that time, so I figured I wouldn’t slide and wish I wouldn’t have gotten knocked down, but that’s the way it goes.”

One play later LeGarrette Blount was in the end zone and the Patriots were up by eight points, leading 21-13.  They wouldn’t look back from there after scoring a total of 27 unanswered points, 24 of which came in that third quarter.

However, that run seemed to be what got everything started, and despite the shot he took Brady has no regrets.  Although the quarterback said that had he not gotten into the secondary and had been taking on a bigger guy, he might have thought differently.

“No, I could have slid. [Laughs] But I wasn’t in the best of moods at that time,” said Brady.  “I think if it was a bigger guy I would have thought really hard about sliding, but once I was in the secondary … things happen pretty quick for me out there, I’m not the fastest guy out there so things close down pretty quick.”

Fortunately it ended up being the play that got everything started, and as a result the Patriots walked away with their sixth straight AFC East title while improving to 11-3 on the season.  This is obviously just the beginning as the team has loftier goals, but it’s not one that Brady said they’ll take lightly.

“Every year is a different year for us and every year we have a great opportunity to try to accomplish something,” said Brady.  “It doesn’t start this morning, it started back in March. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it and I don’t think you ever take winning for granted, I certainly don’t because I know how hard it is to win. I think we appreciate it.”

With two games to go they’re right where they want to be.  The road has been a tough one and this team has faced a lot of adversity over the course of the season, but as usual they appear to be peaking at the right time.  The good news is they were able to get a little redemption against the team that was part of their rocky start.  Now they just have to finish the job over these final two games.

“We had a great opportunity to go out there and play a lot better than we did the last time,” said Brady. “It’s great to win, it’s a great feeling.”


“It’s always good to be able to walk up here after we’ve won an AFC East Championship. Good feeling today, I think our guys really finished the game strong, 27-0 second half. Didn’t play very well in the first half, obviously, but they did a good job in the second half and we were able to get some points on the board, get a little momentum, get some turnovers, Danny had a good play on the punt return that set us up in good field position. We were able to hit some bigger plays, so it was a good second half, played 30-minutes of good football offensively and had our moments on defense and special teams in the first half. It’s good to be in this position and hopefully we can play our best football going forward. That will be our goal.”

On the end of the first half if it was a tough decision deciding what to do when they were at the 15-yard line and just ended up punting the football away:

“It wasn’t our call.”

On his thoughts on the return of Chandler Jones:

“It was good to have him back.  He’s practiced a little bit kind of sparingly the last couple weeks and then this week he was able to take a lot of reps and certainly looked like he was ready to go from a practice standpoint, a conditioning point.  I’d say this week he kind of looked like Sealver  [Siliga] looked last week relative to being ready. Different play styles, I’m not saying that.  So it was good to get him back out there.”

On his thoughts on the defense today situationally and the fact that in the first half they kept them in the game:

“You know, some good, some not so good.  We were up and down.  We were up and down.  Made some plays in the second half, able to keep them out of the end zone but we gave up a lot of yardage in the first half, played a lot of plays.  Didn’t really do much to help our offense other than the interception.  We just didn’t play well in the first half offensively.  Obviously weren’t coached very well either.  It just wasn’t very good.”

On the run by Tom Brady and the fact that after he was hit going out of bounds it seemed to light a fire under the offense:

“I thought it was a good run.  It was a third and long play, third and nine, third and ten, whatever it was.  Did a good job of seeing that in the pass rush, that’s something we’ve talked about this week.  He made a big play on that last year against them on like on a fourth and five or fourth and four, something like that where he had a scramble play in that situation.  An alert play on his part, and it was a key first down for us and we were able to punch it in after that.  But at that point in the game, that was a big third down conversion, one that you usually don’t expect to get that way, but a heads up play on his part and ran well.”

On the fact the Dolphins did score before halftime and if there was anything they did to adjust going into the second half:

“There was a lot of things we had to adjust in the second half.  We didn’t really do much of anything the way we wanted to do it in the first half other than we made a couple of big plays, but other that, I just didn’t think we played the way we needed to play.  We did a much better job in the second half of blocking, tackling, throwing, catching, defending, covering, returning, I mean, just about everything in the second half was executed better than it was in the first half.”

On his thoughts on Jamie Collins:

“Jamie continues to make big plays for us on the defensive side of the ball and in the kicking game he’s got real good length for a linebacker, tall with long arms, great jumping ability, his ability to knock down passes and reach into passing lanes or block a kick in this case.  Very obviously athletic, we all know that.  He just keeps playing faster and faster each week it seems like.  He gets a key and he’s able to make plays, whether it be in the kicking game running through, making tackles for a loss in the running game or tackles in the open field on receivers and backs.  So he’s playing well.  He’s strung together quite a few weeks here of good football for us.”

On his thoughts on now that Chandler Jones is back, how his pass rush is coming together over the final month of the season:

“Well, we’ll see.  It was certainly a good opportunity for us to rush in a game where we were ahead in the second half. That wasn’t the case in the first half and we didn’t generate that same kind of pressure so I think the score had a lot to do with it.  And we rushed well when we had the opportunity, I mean it was kind of the reverse of the game down there when they got ahead and put pressure on us, then today we got ahead and they had a hard time blocking our pass rush.  So I think the score situation has a lot to do with that.  But of course it’s good to have him back out there, it was good to get Siliga [Sealver] back last week, it was good to get Chandler [Jones] back this week.  So hopefully that will just make us stronger going forward.”

On the play Kyle Arrington made on the scoop and score on the blocked field goal:

“I mean that’s kind of what the outside guys are looking for, they’re looking for a block to put themselves in a position, which he did, to be able to attack the ball. That’s the kind of situation where there really aren’t too many guys on the other side of the ball that can tackle or are very good tacklers, so if you can just get it up and get going, a bunch of offensive linemen, a couple specialists.  Kyle’s a fast guy, once he got a little bit of space, I don’t think there’s too many guys who are going to run him down.  But he did his job.  He was in position and he took advantage of the opportunity and turned it into points.  It was a heads-up play.”

On his thoughts on Stephen Gostkowski becoming the all-time leading scorer:

“Steve’s done a great job for us.  We all know that this area of the country and this division’s certainly not the easiest to kick in.  He does a very good job of handling the conditions, he’s got a good leg so he’s got range on kickoffs and long field goals, with good height on the ball.  Good team player, always there to support his teammates, everybody in the locker room likes him, he has a good rapport with everybody.  You’re right, I’ve been really lucky.  Adam [Vinatieri], Steve, Shayne [Graham] came in here, didn’t miss a kick the half a year that he kicked or whatever it was.  Since I’ve been here they’ve all done a great job, but Steve, those are big shoes to follow there with Adam and he’s never blinked.  He’s always kicked with a lot of confidence, a lot of poise, a lot of focus.  He’s kicked with a lot of different holders, different snappers, not the easiest conditions, but he does his job.  He’s very focused, and he’s been a really dependable player for us.  I love having him on the team.  He’s a great asset to this football team both on and off the field, the locker room and productively when we need him, of course.”

On what it means to him to be in the same sentence with Curly Lambeau with 229 career regular season/postseason wins:

“It’s flattering, very flattering.  Curly’s one of the great founders, really, of the National Football League.  Spent the year at Notre Dame, brought the Notre Dame offense into the NFL, ran the box, had Championships in Green Bay, really kind of started the passing game with [Don] Hudson and Cecil [Isbell], so he was certainly not only one of the founding fathers of the league, but really one of the innovators of the league in his time.  So very flattering to be put into his category, in any sentence really.”

On what happens for a team to flip the switch after how things ended in the first half:

“I mean, what happened is we didn’t play very well in the first half and then we didn’t play very well in the last forty seconds, or minute, however much it was.  We just took some not very good football and made it worse.  Then we were able to do things a lot better in the second half.  But i think that whole sequence was just symptomatic of the whole rest of the half.  I mean, what was the difference?”

Brady and the Patriots won another division title on Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)

Here’s what Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had to say to the media following the Patriots 41-13 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

On how they could look so bad in the first half, and then come out and play the way they did in the second half, and how they were able to flip the switch:

“It’s a great question.  I wish I knew the answer, because we would have started that way then.  We tried to start fast and got the ball down the field and then the ball got tipped and intercepted.  Just didn’t didn’t quite go the way we wanted it to in the first half, but we did a good job responding.  So it was a great win.”

On the 17-yard run in the second half, it looked like it lit a fire under the guys and if that was the message he was trying to send:

“Well, I think it was a play we needed to make so it was good to make it at that time.  I was going to slide, but I was pretty pissed off at that time, so I figured I wouldn’t slide and wish I wouldn’t have gotten knocked down, but that’s the way it goes.”

On if he thought getting hit like that lit the guys up a little bit:

“I think the touchdown did more so on the next play. That was a great run.  But whatever it takes, I think that’s what matters.  I think all our guys responded the way we wanted to and it was good to go in there and finish them off the way we did.”

On the fact he said he was pissed off and it seems he plays better when he’s pissed off, and if it filters down to the rest of the offense:

“Yeah, and I think you’re going to have times where you play less than optimum because if you played optimum all the time, you’d score seventy five points a game, which is impossible.  So you’re going to have stretches where you get stopped on third down or you don’t convert plays you should have.  I just think it’s always good to come reassess where we’re at and I know we were all pretty pissed off at halftime.  It wasn’t the that way we … 25 plays on offense and terrible with time of possession and terrible on third down, just didn’t do anything to help our team win.  I thought we did a better job coming out there in the second half, aided by some turnovers by our defense, which our defense has just been playing incredible, which is what we’re going to need.  I’m glad we started to earn our paycheck there in the second half.  It was good to be able to do that, that was a good feeling.  We still left some opportunities out there.”

On the plays to Gronkowski:

“I wish I’d make the other throws look like that too.  He’s a big target and he makes it easy for me.  He’s just awesome.”

On the seventeen yard run and if he just didn’t slide because he didn’t want to:

“No, I could have slid.  [Laughs] But I wasn’t in the best of moods at that time.  I think if it was a bigger guy I would have thought really hard about sliding, but once I was in the secondary … things happen pretty quick for me out there, I’m not the fastest guy out there so things close down pretty quick.”

On if anyone on the sideline told him to slide next time:

“Probably tomorrow.  Yeah, probably tomorrow.  But it was a big third down and I think we, it was at that time of the game where we needed to make some big third downs and the guys gave me great protection.  They tried to … what they’ve done to us a few times is tried to rush three and double-cover some guys and I think I was pretty keyed in on that today and tried to take advantage of when they did it.  I thought we did a better job than we’ve done the last few times we’ve played them.”

On how big it was for the defense to come up big, get a couple of turnovers and turn the defense into offense for them:

“It was huge.  It was what really kept us in the game because we weren’t doing very much offensively.  They really did that last week too.  We’ve got a really good defense, so it’s good to see.  It’s good to see it.  There’s pressure to score each time we get the ball and that’s what we’re trying to do, but it’s also a good feeling knowing that if you have to punt,  you’ve got a defense that’s not going to give up points too easily.”

On his thoughts on winning the division so many times and if he thinks the fans have gotten a little spoiled:

“Well, I think it’s a … every year is a different year for us and every year we have a great opportunity to try to accomplish something.  It doesn’t start this morning, it started back in March.  There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it and I don’t think you ever take winning for granted, I certainly don’t because I know how hard it is to win.  I think we appreciate it.  I also know that we have big goals every year for our team.  This is the one that is the first one to get and it was great to be able to do it against a team that we lost to earlier in the year.  We had a great opportunity to go out there and play a lot better than we did the last time.  It’s great to win, it’s a great feeling.  That’s why we play and I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of an organization where that’s really what matters the most and to play with some really great players over the years.  I think that’s …winning and experiencing it with the players and coaches, Mr. Kraft and Jonathan [Kraft] and his family, it’s pretty awesome.”

Stat Check: Darrelle Revis in a Class All His Own

It’s no secret that Darrelle Revis has been an important part of New England’s secondary this season, and looking at the numbers it’s hard not to be an awe of what he’s done up to this point.

The most incredible number that stands out is the amount of passes he’s prevented, racking up 14 passes defensed.  That total is good for the sixth highest total in the league and is more than double of any of his teammates:

Revis has obviously been a difference maker in his first season in New England.
(USA TODAY Images)

Here are the top seven players for the Patriots in that category:

Darrelle Revis: 14
Logan Ryan: 6
Brandon Browner: 5
Devin McCourty: 5
Patrick Chung: 5
Kyle Arrington: 4
Malcolm Butler: 4

As far as how the numbers look when you look at how he’s performed on each down, here’s a quick look:

First Down: 2
Second Down: 7
Third Down: 4
Fourth Down: 1

His totals on all but first down as the highest on the team.  On first down it’s Chung who currently has the edge with 3 compared to Revis’ 2.

Revis is also 7th on the team in tackles with 41 including two tackles for a loss.  He also has two interceptions.

Back in week one the Patriots defense allowed 23 second half points en-route to a 33-20 loss to Miami.  At that time Revis was just getting started and this secondary has obviously grown a lot since that football game.  Revis told the Miami media in a conference call on Wednesday that he’s looking forward to getting a shot at redemption.

“You know what, that game was so long ago,” said Revis. “You’ve got to give them credit. Like I said it was the first game of the season, they came out fast and they had us on our heels. At that point we couldn’t stop the run and definitely we struggled in the passing game on defense. Now we get another stab at this – a second opportunity – and we can change that this week about preparing and being prepared for them this week.”

Ryan Allen Named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week

It’s Allen’s first Special Teams Player of the Week award. (USA TODAY Images)

After being a terrific player all season, Ryan Allen’s strong performance against the Chargers on Sunday night seems to have finally caught the eye the right people in the league office.

The Patriots punter has been named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, marking the first time in his career that he has received that honor.

Allen punted five times for 247 yards (49.4 average) and placed four of his punts at or inside the opponent 13-yard line. He placed punts at the 13, 10, 11 and 10-yard lines on each of his first four punts, helping to limit San Diego’s average drive start to their own 17-yard line.

It’s the third time this season that a player has earned that honor. Chris Jones was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance in the win vs. the New York Jets on Oct. 16, while Julian Edelman received the same honor for his performance in the win vs. Denver on Nov. 2

Bolden Says Film Study Helped Set Up Punt Block

Bolden’s punt block helped set up Gronkowski’s first touchdown Sunday night. (USA TODAY Images)

Patriots running back Brandon Bolden has become quite a player on special teams for New England, and it appears that his work in the film room is starting to pay off.

According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, Bolden’s punt block Sunday night stemmed from a tendency that he spotted on film by Chargers Mike Windt, which allowed him to catch the timing off the snap and helped set up an opportunity for him to make a play.

“We’ve been working on timing the snap because we knew what kind of snapper we had,” Bolden told the newspaper. “He likes to move the ball. He likes to look up and give you a little false movement idea. But we timed it up perfectly. I actually got off right as he snapped the ball, got off before he got back to where he wanted to block me, got up under (Donald Brown). And as I’m coming up under him, I just remembered looking down and was like, ‘Oh, there’s (Scifres’) leg. There’s the ball. There’s my hands.’ And I looked up and the ball was on the sideline. I realized I blocked it, but I didn’t realize it went way to the sideline.”

Bolden’s block ended up with an unfortunate injury to Chargers punter Mike Scifres, who got spun around and landed awkwardly on his shoulder and knocked him out of the game.  That lead to the Chargers being forced to turn to kicker Nick Novak, who ended up playing fairly well in his absence.

The block ended up being a key play in the game as it gave the Patriots the football at the Chargers’ 25-yard line.  Four plays later, Tom Brady found Rob Gronkowski in the endzone for a touchdown, which at the time pulled the Patriots to within a point at 14-13 with three minutes left in the first half.

The bad news for Scifres is according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the team fears the punter may have fractured his collarbone.  At the time the injury took the fun away from Bolden’s first career punt block, and he was more concerned about the well-being of Scifres who after the play was down on the turf for a while.

“It wasn’t an exciting moment for me anymore,” Bolden told the Herald when he realized the injury occurred. “My first blocked NFL punt, I was very excited at first, and when I looked back and saw when they had to bring the cart on the field, it was a totally different story. All that excitement went out the window. I had to go out there and check on him and tell him it was nothing intentional. I was not trying to hurt him.”

The play was big for the team and one his teammates were pleased that he made because it helped give the Patriots some momentum, which got them going enough to eventually come away with a win.

“Special teams can be a big momentum shifter for any team,” said Bolden.  “For this team it was that boost we needed, and when that happened everything picked up. That momentum shifted and we rode that wave, so I think we did a good job offensively and defensively after that play to stay in the ball game.”

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