Archive for the ‘ Commentary ’ Category

Patriots Brady Focused on Improving His Mobility

Tom Brady said this week that he’s working on using his legs to extend plays.

One of Tom Brady’s assets over the years has been his ability to move around in the pocket and avoid the onslaught of defensive players that come his way each time he drops back to throw the football.  Now it appears he’s focused on adding another facet to his game to try and give himself and his teammates more chances to make plays.

Last Thursday against the Jets Brady made a terrific throw while rolling to his left, hitting Danny Amendola from 19-yards out for the touchdown, which at the time helped extend their lead to 27-19 with 7:49 to go in the game.  That play would ultimately prove to be the game winner as the team escaped with a 27-25 win.

The fact he was able to get outside helped give him the ability to connect on that throw as when Brady moved left, Amendola spun away from his defender and was able to get behind him, which allowed the veteran quarterback to hit him for the touchdown. Brady said on Wednesday that while extending plays with his feet has never been his strong suit, it’s something that he’s trying to improve on because he feels it provides his receivers better opportunities to get open.

“If you’re able to extend the play and buy your teammates more time to get open, then it’s like a whole other play.” – Tom Brady (USA TODAY Images)

“That’s never really been something that I’ve been great at is extending plays,” said Brady.  “I see so many of these players – whether it be Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers or Jay Cutler do it, Alex Smith does it – some really mobile quarterbacks that do a great job for their team. Ben Roethlisberger has done it for a lot of years. I’m just trying to understand how I can help our team more. If I can make some more of those plays, I think it’d really help our team.

“I try to focus on that a little bit. Coach [Belichick] has talked about it. I think there could be more of those still, too. I don’t think instinctually it’s there for me yet, but I’m going to keep working at it. Because when you see when they happen, they end up being big plays, big momentum plays. Sometimes the defense has the initial part of the pattern covered, and if you’re able to extend the play and buy your teammates more time to get open, then it’s like a whole other play. It’s a great advantage for an offense. Like I said, it hasn’t really been a strength of mine. I’m trying to do a better job of it so hopefully it’s not as big of a weakness as it’s been in the past.”

The veteran admitted that the hardest part is getting past what he said is a “mental issue” of getting out of the pocket and using his legs, which is something he plans on trying to get past.

“I think for me sometimes it’s more of a mental issue,” said Brady. “I joke all the time, I said, I don’t have one cell in my body that ever tells me to run. I think I just sit there and kind of go, ‘Wow, I’ve got more time to throw than usual,’ as opposed to I see some other players that maybe their initial read isn’t open and bam, they’re on the move, and they do a great job of that.

“I think there’s a balance for both of those. Being in the pocket certainly has served me well, but I think also there are times I can definitely help our team more [by] extending plays and making the defense cover for a longer period of time than they typically cover. So I’m going to keep working at it.”

Some fans may remember the play Brady made against former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher back on Nov. 26, 2006, who Brady juked while scampering for a first down on a 3rd-and-9 play and extended a drive that ultimately turned into a touchdown and essentially won the game.  Back then he was 31, at the age of 37 he’s at the point in his career where fans likely won’t see him take off too often, but it’s still a play that he said he may be able to one day tell his kids that he made a Hall of Famer miss.

“Somehow that always gets brought up, too, when we play these guys,” said Brady.  “There weren’t many of those in my career, so it’s pretty easy to count them all on one hand when something like that happens.”

“They’re probably still too young to know that at this point,” Brady said of his children. “To figure out what dad does yet is still kind of confusing for them. One day, you’re right. He’ll be in the Hall of Fame someday, so it’ll probably be the only time I’ve made a Hall of Famer miss.”

For now he and his teammates will continue their preparation for Sunday’s game, which will be their eighth game of the season.  As they head into November it’s an important stretch, and Brady said they’ll learn a lot about their team in the weeks to come.

“This is when football season starts to really feel like football season and the mental and physical toughness really start taking a toll,” said Brady. This is where you see what your team is all about.”

Brother vs Brother: Vereen Siblings Set to Battle Sunday

Shane Vereen is excited to battle his brother on Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)

Patriots running back Shane Vereen has already seen his role expand following the loss of lead back Stevan Ridley, who was lost for the season with a knee injury in Week 6 against the Bills.

Last Thursday night against the Jets he carried 11 times for 43 yards, averaging 3.9 yards per carry in his first game as the team’s main running back.  This Sunday against the Bears, he’ll have another obstacle he’ll face as Chicago has a key player in their secondary that will be looking to make life a little difficult for him.

The Bears drafted Brock Vereen, the younger brother of the Patriots running back, in the 4th round of this year’s NFL Draft.  The defensive back was a standout at the University of Minnesota and he’s now carrying over his talents to a Bears defense that is ranked 14th in the NFL against the run.

However, many of New England’s plays tend to move Shane out of the backfield and into open space, which may see a collision or two in the open field against his brother.  Should Brock get a good hit on him, Shane knows he’ll get some ribbing for it, telling Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, “If he does get a good hit on me, I’m going to be hearing about it for a while.”

The two are obviously competitive, although the two have never been on the field together at the same time due to their age difference (Shane is 25, while Brock is 22).  That will change on Sunday when they face each other, which is something they’ve talked about for a long time.  Now they’re excited to battle on the field.

“Growing up, we talked about it a lot,” Shane told earlier this week. “We were never on the field at the same time because of our age difference, but now we’ll finally get that chance, and we’re both really excited about it.”

Brock got his first start last week at free safety with Chris Conte sidelined with a shoulder injury but Conte has returned to practice this week and seems as though he’ll be back in the line-up. However, according to the Chicago Daily Herald, Vereen should still see some playing time Sunday.

If he does, he’s excited about the opportunity but for now he’s spending this week trying to stay focused.

“It’s an exciting time for my parents and my family,” the rookie told the newspaper. “But from a personal standpoint, I’ve got to stay focused and get ready to go.”

Brock said he’s never hit his brother on the field but he obviously can’t go easy on him. Should the two square off they both know that it’s all about trying to help their respective team win, which should make for a fun story line to watch this weekend.

“(Not) with pads on,” he said when asked about it. “But we’re definitely looking forward to the possibility. I’ve got plenty of love for him. (But) on Sunday we both know we have jobs to do.”

Redemption For Chris Jones, Saves the Day With Big FG Block

There’s just something about the New York Jets that causes Chris Jones to stand out.

Last season it was in a way that he’d probably rather forget, having been responsible for a key penalty in overtime during their week seven 30-27 loss down in New York.  It was a play that ended up being the topic of discussion for a while when it came to a rule change that involved being able to assist teammates by giving them a little extra push blocking field goals.

Jones was flagged for unnecessary roughness after referees ruled he had illegally pushed one of his teammates to help block a 56-yard attempt by Folk that sailed wide left, which should have given the Patriots good starting field position out near midfield. Instead it allowed the Jets drive to continue, and they moved up and allowed Folk to hit a 42-yard try that ultimately won the game.

Chris Jones saved the day with a huge field goal block at the end of regulation Thursday night. (USA TODAY Images)

However, Thursday night he was the one who took matters into his own hands. With just over a minute to go the Jets had driven down to the New England 40-yard line, making play after play and putting themselves in position to attempt a 58-yard field goal that trailing 27-25 would have given them a much needed road win.

Considering the way things had gone to that point after the Jets were having success moving the football, along with how accurate kicker Nick Folk had been all night, the kick seemed to be a foregone conclusion and the thought of losing such a hard fought game was nauseating to say the least.  There had been some great moments by the Patriots on the offensive side of the football, but their defense didn’t seem to have any answers for a Jets’ ground game that tore them up all night and left them with plenty of problems they’ll need to solve when they get back on the field a week from Sunday when they take the field again at home against Chicago.

Needless to say everyone at Gillette Stadium held their breath during New York’s attempt, but fortunately Jones was able to get some height and got his hand up just high enough to deflect it shortly after Folk made contact.

The ball fell harmlessly to the ground, and just like that the game was over.

“Well, it was, I think probably about the game we expected with the Jets,” said Belichick.  “It’s always tough, a really grind it out game.  Obviously really happy for Chris [Jones] at the end after what happened last year.  I thought it was so fitting that he made that play.  So that was awesome.

“It wasn’t our best.  It was good enough, but it wasn’t our best.  We’ve got to do a better job in all three phases of the game all the way around.  But I’ve got to give our team a lot of credit.”

That kick was Folk’s fifth field goal attempt on the evening, with the Jets kicker having hit earlier field goals from 22, 47, 46 and 27 respectively.  He was right on the money with each one, so there was no reason to believe this time would be any different.

However, Jones managed to make what could end up being one of the biggest plays of the season, especially knowing how last year went and the fact that one win could have changed their playoff possibilities. In 2013 one more victory would have seen them battle the Broncos at home instead of on the road and it’s games like these that could end up being so important.

For now he’ll get to enjoy the fact that he was able to help his team win just one year removed from what transpired at the MetLife Stadium last year.

“A few people have told me about it, so I’ve had a chance to think about it,” Jones told the Boston Herald. “It feels good. That was last year. It just feels good to get the win this year.

“I think it really became a reality when (special teams assistant) Joe Judge came up to me and told me. I felt it then.”

Week Six Takes Patriots LB Jerod Mayo Down For the Second Straight Year

All indications seem to point to the fact the Patriots may have lost Jerod Mayo for an extended period of time after he was injured in Sunday’s win out in Buffalo. (USA TODAY Images)

Professional athletes tend to be a little superstitious as it is, but by the time the 2015 season arrives there’s probably a good chance that Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo be a little nervous heading into week six.

Mayo went down in week six against the Saints in 2013. (USA TODAY Images)

Mayo, who went down with a season-ending injury in week six against the Saints back in 2013 with a torn pectoral muscle, suffered what seems to be a significant knee injury in the second quarter after the veteran made a tackle on Bills running back Anthony Dixon.  

Replays showed that Mayo’s right knee seemingly got caught underneath him while he was making the play, leaving the veteran’s teammates left to watch in horror as they took a knee while the medical staff and coach Bill Belichick spoke to Mayo.

Moments later, the linebacker was carted off the field.

For now, while no official reports have been made, all indications seem to point to the fact his injury is severe and could potentially end his season early for the second straight year.  It’s certainly a frustrating coincidence for a player who has garnered a lot of respect for the guys he plays with not only defensively, but throughout the locker room.  According to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe, Mayo reportedly left the stadium on crutches and with a sleeve over his knee.

Bill Belichick had little to say on Mayo after the game, telling reporters, “We’ll go forward this week and see what we think the best thing to do is.”

Darrelle Revis told that having been through an ACL injury, he doesn’t wish that on anyone.  That comment would lead most to believe that’s, in fact, what Mayo is facing.

“I’ve been through an ACL injury, and I don’t wish knee injuries on anybody,” Revis said. “It’s tough — it’s a tough process of rehabbing afterwards. It’s a miserable time. You have to surround great people around you and a great support system, and I know Jerod’s got that, and he has it here as a team. We’re trying to do the best we can to make sure he has that support and just hope for a fast recovery.”

Brain Tyms made an incredible catch against the Bills Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)

There are generally a few plays each year that become memorable moments for certain players, and Sunday’s incredible touchdown grab by Brian Tyms will likely go down as one of those by the time the 2014 season comes to an end.

Tyms, who only played in a handful of snaps against the Bills Sunday, hauled in an incredible 43-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter between three defenders, including Bills defensive back Stephon Gilmore, who actually even was able to grab a hold of Tyms’ wrist as the ball got there.

The only problem was, he wasn’t able to separate Tyms’ hand from the ball and the end result was a touchdown which, at the time, put New England up 20-7 less than three minutes into the second half.

“Tom put it out there and Tim went and got it,” said Belichick after the game on Tyms’ reception. “So, nice job by Tom creating the coverage. Low safety there, put it up there and give Tim the chance for the ball and he made the play. I’ve seen him do that several times this year during the preseason. It was good to see it today.”

Tyms said after the game that it’s his job to attack the football, which will hopefully mean fans will see more of what they saw Sunday in the weeks to come.

“Gilmore is really good. I knew regardless if I ran past him, I knew he had make-up speed so I have to attack the ball,” Tyms told reporters after the game. “That’s just my M.O. I always try to attack the ball. I don’t like to let the ball come to me. There are a lot of good players in this league that can make a play. I wanted the ball more. I’m not going to run 40 yards without the ball.”

Rookie Jimmy Garoppolo Plays Well in Mop-Up Duty

Jimmy Garoppolo came in and played well in mop-up duty Monday night. (USA TODAY Images)

Generally speaking the only time you hope to see anyone other than Tom Brady throwing the football is if the Patriots firmly have the game in hand and Bill Belichick decides to be be generous enough to let the guy behind him into the game.

On Monday night it was the other way around, as the Chiefs were having a field day getting to Brady and hitting him, including two forced fumbles, one of which they recovered.  Following a 39-yard interception that was returned for a touchdown and put Kansas City’s scoring total at 41, Belichick took Brady out before it could get any worse and allowed rookie back-up Jimmy Garoppolo to make his NFL debut.

Overall Garoppolo played fairly well while he was out there, finishing 6-of-7 for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Here’s a quick run down of his numbers by down:

1st Down: 4-of-5 (80%) 22 yards, 1 TD
2nd Down: 2-of-2 (100%) 48 yards
3rd Down: no attempts

It’s tough to read too much into his play considering it came in garbage time in a contest where the game was well in hand.  Bill Belichick laughed off the notion that there’s any reason to evaluate the quarterback position, but the bigger story is the fact that he looked more comfortable out there than Ryan Mallett ever did during his tenure here in New England.

Hopefully for now, this will be the only time he sees action for the rest of the season.  The good news is Garoppolo has at least shown that should Brady ever get hurt that he can remain poised enough to lead the offense.

“Obviously, first time, there’s a bunch of learning experiences, it’s a good experience in general to get that out of the way,” Garoppolo told the Boston Globe. “We’ll go back, watch the tape, and I’m sure there’s a bunch to learn from.”

A Forgettable Night On Both Fronts For the Patriots

Tom Brady and Matthew Slater look on during Monday night’s loss in Kansas City. (USA TODAY Images)

Monday night’s loss out in Kansas City continued the ongoing theme of a Patriots offense that still can’t quite seem to get going after four weeks into the 2014 season.

Tom Brady struggled against the Chiefs, finishing 14-of-23 for 159 yards along with one touchdown and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.  He led an offense that in the first half finished with just five first downs (Kansas City had 17) and crossed midfield on only one drive, getting only as far as the Chiefs’ 42 yard line.

Brandon LaFell was one of the few bright spots for the Patriots Monday night.
(USA TODAY Images)

Kansas City, meanwhile, managed to build a 17 point lead, lead by a ground game that racked up 131-yards against a Patriots’ defense that simply couldn’t stop them.  Ten of the Chiefs 17 first downs in the first half came while rushing the football, and Kansas City put together a balanced attack that saw them rush and pass for exactly 17 attempts on both fronts when the two teams went into the locker room at the half.  Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith missed just three passes, finishing the first half 14-of-17 for 180 yards along with a touchdown and had his way against a Patriots secondary that struggled all night.  Overall he finished 20-of-26 for 248 yards and three touchdowns.

It didn’t get any better when they came back out onto the field in the second half.  The Patriots had the ball to start the third quarter but Brady had the ball knocked out of his hands on a 3rd-and-6 that fortunately the Patriots recovered.  However, they wouldn’t be so lucky on their next possession after he was hit again and this time lost it on a second down play, which gave Kansas City the ball at their own 9 yard line.

Two plays later the Chiefs scored, and with a 24-0 lead were firmly in control of the game.

From there, things went downhill quickly.  Brady threw a bad interception after there appeared to be a miscommunication between he and Julian Edelman.  His pass sailed right to Kansas City’s Husain Abdullah , who returned it 34 yards to the New England 13 and the Chiefs extended their lead to 27-0 with a field goal.

They finally answered on their next possession, largely thanks to a nice catch and run by Brandon LaFell, who caught a 4-yard pass and took off 40 yards for a touchdown, putting the Patriots on the board at 27-7 and giving them what would be their last glimmer of hope of the night.

However, 12-plays and 81 yards later the Chiefs were back in the end zone, extending their lead to 34-7 with just under 12-minutes left in the game.

The nail in the coffin for Brady came on their next drive when he tried to force a ball to LaFell over the middle that was snatched out of the air by Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah who returned it 39 yards for a touchdown, and that would be the final pass of the night by the veteran quarterback.

“I was just forcing it,” said Brady on on the play.  “Throwing it where I shouldn’t throw it.”

Jimmy Garoppolo would come in and finish the game while Brady was left to sit on the bench and wonder how things turned out as badly as they did.

“We’ve got to learn from it,” said Brady after the game.  “It was just a bad performance by everybody and we want to make sure we never have this feeling again.  We’ve all got to figure out what we have to do better.  We just couldn’t get started, got behind, turned the ball over in the third quarter and then fought in the fourth quarter, which was good to see.  But you’ve got to get ahead of these teams and play from ahead, and play our style. If you get behind to a team that’s a good team on the road, there was a lot of energy, we just couldn’t afford to do that.”

Patriots Brandon LaFell Shines in Loss to Chiefs

Brandon LaFell came up big Monday night in Kansas City. (USA TODAY Images)

On a night where the Patriots needed someone to step up on offense, wide receiver Brandon LaFell had a strong outing against the Chiefs and was one of the few bright spots during New England’s 41-14 loss in Kansas City Monday night.

LaFell finished with 6 receptions for 119 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown pass that he caught from four yards out and took the remaining 40 yards into the endzone.  He was targeted 10 times and was clearly a big part of the game plan after it was announced prior to the game that both Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins would be inactive for the contest.  That left LaFell and Julian Edelman as the Patriots’ two primary receivers, and while the Chiefs managed to keep Edelman in check (he finished with 4 receptions for 23 yards), LaFell ended up with a strong performance.

“Some great catch and runs by him and I think he’s always done a good job with that,” said quarterback Tom Brady after the game.  “He did a great job tonight, it was great to see, great to be in the huddle with him.”

His 44-yard reception matched the longest pass play of the season by New England’s offense, with Julian Edelman having had two plays from that distance in week one down in Miami, and then again in week two against the Vikings.

He caught a 37-yard reception from back-up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo after Brady came out with just under nine minutes left in the game, giving New England the ball at the Chiefs 13-yard line.  One play later Garoppolo hit Rob Gronkowski from eight yards out, and Gronk powered it the remaining five yards into the end zone for their final touchdown.

Despite their struggles Brady said after the game that LaFell was one of the guys who kept battling, which will hopefully be a sign of things to come from the veteran receiver.

“It’s not easy for any of us when we’re down like that and you face some adversity and you want to look across at the other guys and you want to know that you’re fighting with guys that are going to fight until the end,” said Brady.  “He certainly did that.”

Inside The Numbers: Edelman Has Been Flawless in the Red Zone, Solid on Third Down

Julian Edelman has once again been a big key in New England’s offense during the early part of the 2014 regular season. (USA TODAY Images)

Tom Brady talked on Monday about the performance of one receiver after the slow start the Patriots’ offense has gotten off to and looking closer, Julian Edelman has been a key component in some big situations so far through three games.

The veteran receiver is once again off to a fast start, having already accumulated 22 receptions for 260-yards along with a touchdown.  Through three games last season Edelman had 27 receptions for 201 yards and two touchdowns, so while he’s slightly behind last year’s pace, he’s still well ahead of the next closest receiver, tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has 11 receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns.

Brady talked about Edelman during his weekly appearance on WEEI, saying that so far the receiver is one of the few who has been productive to this point.

“Yeah, he’s done a good job, so that’s one,” Brady said via “We’ve got a lot of other guys on offense. There’s 22 other guys on offense, so I’m not going to sit here and say every single guy is clicking. We’ve had one individual player that’s caught some passes. Great. Does that make a good offense? I don’t think so.”

Edelman has been flawless in the red zone when Brady’s looked his way, having caught 6-of-6 along with converting three first downs and his touchdown grab.  He was just as solid at this point last year, having hauled in 4-of-5 with two touchdowns.

He’s also been a big key on third down, having caught seven passes on 10 targets, five of which have moved the chains.  He had similar success over the same span last season, having caught 8-of-8 with five first downs and two touchdowns.

Needless to say, Edelman has been doing his part in an offense that is still trying to work out their issues.  Brady admitted that if everyone was playing the way Edelman is, things would certainly be different and that’s something they’ll need to figure out moving forward.

“We’ve all got to figure out how to do a better job of that. It’s not one person. It’s not not singling any person out to say, ‘Wow, if this person were out, or if this person were in.’ I mean, if we had 11 people on the field that were producing like Julian Edelman, we’d have a pretty good offense. We’ve got one guy.”

Patriots Ridley Hoping For a Repeat Performance

Stevan Ridley has family coming to town this weekend, giving him plenty of reasons to want to go out and have a big performance. (USA TODAY Images)

Last week’s performance was a solid one for Stevan Ridley, who carried the football 25 times for 101 yards along with a touchdown during New England’s win over the Vikings.  Now he’s hoping he can go out and do the same thing when the Oakland Raiders come to town on Sunday.

The veteran running back, who grew up as a fan of the Silver and Black as a child, has a family who apparently are also fans of the opposing team this weekend.  Of course, that’s all on hold for now as they’ll get to see their son play against them when the two teams meet on Sunday.

According to the Boston Globe, Ridley’s family will be in town to watch him hit the field against Oakland, adding some additional incentive for him to play well.

“It’s going to be awesome, man,” Ridley told the newspaper Wednesday. “Personally, my dad’s old favorite team was the Raiders, until of course I became a Patriot, so we’ve got about 14 people coming up this weekend. My mom’s very excited about it and family’s going to be here, and it’s going to be an exciting atmosphere to come back to Foxborough and get in the home stadium. We’re looking forward to it and the team’s excited about not being on the road and just coming back to New England and playing some Patriot football.”

Coming off of a season where he faced criticism with holding onto the football, the focus has been better ball security this year and for the most part he’s off to a good start.  The Vikings last weekend and also the Dolphins the week before were all over him on each hit, trying to rip the ball out and being physical with him each time they made contact.

That’s likely something he can expect to deal with all season.  However, so far he’s done his job and the team even went to him in the fourth quarter when it came time to run out the clock. Ridley delivered, carrying 8 times for 47-yards (5.9 avg) down the stretch to help New England close out their first win of the season.

“It was good that they stuck with me late in the game, but really that’s the coaches’ call,” Ridley told the newspaper.  “However I get them, I just go out there and run hard, so over the course of the game, maybe get them to wear down, and that defense was tired.  The offensive line was working on them, and that’s why we have all the big boys up front that we have, is to see if they can sustain our offensive line over four quarters. We felt good about how we were attacking them toward the end, and that’s how we kept moving the ball.”

Now he’ll try and do the same thing this weekend against a team that has already allowed 400 rushing yards through the first two games.  With his family in town, he certainly has plenty of motivation to go out and have a good performance. 

“It’s going to be awesome,” Ridley said via ESPN Boston. “Personally, my dad’s old favorite team was the Raiders, but I of course became a Patriot. … Family is going to be here. It’s going to be an exciting atmosphere to come back to Foxborough and get in the home stadium.”