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Archive for the ‘ Football ’ Category


Outworking their opponents has always been what has made Bill Belichick’s team successful, and Saturday proved that he’s not O.K. with people questioning their integrity. (USA TODAY Images)

After a week of hearing reports with accusations and assumptions about how his team intentionally deflated footballs last week against Indianapolis to clinch another AFC Championship, Bill Belichick had clearly heard enough.

As he walked up to the podium on Saturday (fashionably late, 30 minutes past the original announced start time), he led off the press conference by letting everyone know that he had looked long and hard at the situation learning “more than he could ever imagine” about the topic as it pertains to what goes into the process of testing footballs on gameday. ¬†He spoke sternly and with purpose, bubbling with frustration about a week that was likely spent answering questions internally about things that didn’t involve a football game.

Enough was enough. ¬†At some point Saturday a meeting was held and rather than wait for the NFL to get involved, it looks like Belichick decided it was time to fire back and said he felt that as an organization, “we need to say something.”

And off he went, explaining exactly what he thought had happened. ¬†He went into great detail about a¬†study they had done to simulate the same conditions from both before last week’s¬†game and during, trying to figure out how it could have affected the air pressure in those 11 footballs. ¬†He revealed that the majority of focus when it comes to the footballs is the texture of the ball, which typically undergo a relatively vigorous rubdown (Belichick wouldn’t get into specifics on how vigorous, pointing out they’re “not exactly polishing fine China”) to prep them to get them to where Tom Brady prefers them grip-wise. ¬†They talked to people to try and get a handle on how the loss of pressure within a football could have dropped below what the league deems a legal threshold¬†in an effort to figure out accusations that¬†he¬†admitted earlier in the week were shocking, probably not realizing just how out of hand it would all get.

Granted one day removed from his own retaliation, there are already plenty of media outlets dismissing it as rubbish, although one would have to wager that if you asked them if they’ve done their due diligence of running through the same process to see if it matched what the Patriots found, the likelihood would probably reveal that none of them had. ¬†It’s much easier to sit there and continue to throw rocks at an organization that fired back with a cannon on Saturday, shooting down the conspiracy theories that made it seem as though espionage had occurred somewhere deep inside the belly of Gillette Stadium for 11 of 12 balls to drop below an acceptable level.

Meanwhile, while they’ll quickly dismiss it, it doesn’t change the fact Belichick and the Patriots went to great lengths to reach the conclusions they did. ¬†He also wasn’t speaking about theories and what he “believed” happened. ¬†He told the world what they do every week, and simulated it to try and get down to the bottom of it and the results revealed an answer that no one is going to like simply because the outcome doesn’t help the vultures who were waiting – and many still are – to go in for the kill.

This whole situation has been a waste of time and as a result, rather than being able to figure out how to contain Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch next weekend in Arizona, Belichick had to use the same approach he uses to solve every challenge he faces, and that was to educate himself fully on the situation and solve the problem. ¬†He had to waste time trying to figure out exactly what happened in an effort to ensure the organization doesn’t have to endure some ridiculous penalty by the NFL for a crime they didn’t commit.

That’s the most frustrating part of the situation. ¬†All week the league hung New England out to dry, offering up nothing other than “we’re investigating the matter” and little else while both the national and local media outlets around the country tore apart what the Patriots had done, taking what should have been a monumental achievement and tearing it to shreds.

Listening to Belichick as he got deeper into his statement, that’s the part that seemed to upset him the most. ¬†You could almost hear him getting angrier and angrier as he went on, and the normally restrained coach finally let loose, letting everyone know that he believes his team earned everything they’ve gotten and not only that, they’re the best team in the AFC both for what they did during the regular season, and both games they won to get where they are. ¬†Part of the reason why they’ve reached this point is because they’ve trained harder than anyone to get there, and that’s a point he drove home.


They‚Äôre a physically and mentally tough team that works hard, that trains hard, that prepares and have met every challenge that I‚Äôve put in front them. And I know that, because I work them every day.” – Bill Belichick (USA TODAY Images)

‚ÄúAgain, anyone who has seen us practice knows that we make it harder, not easier, to handle the ball and our players train in conditions that a lot of people would recommend that we not drive in,” said an exasperated Belichick. ¬†“That‚Äôs what they do. They‚Äôre a physically and mentally tough team that works hard, that trains hard, that prepares and have met every challenge that I‚Äôve put in front them. And I know that, because I work them every day.

“This team was the best team in the AFC in the regular season. We won two games in the playoffs against two good football teams. The best team in the postseason, and that‚Äôs what this team is and I know that because I‚Äôve been with them every day and I‚Äôm proud of this team.‚ÄĚ

This was a waste of his time. ¬†Anyone who has ever been accused of something they didn’t do knows how infuriating that is, especially in situations where they’re forced to go to great lengths before they’re exonerated, which often times leads to nothing more than getting them off the hook without even a “sorry” for being accused to begin with.

As it stands, Belichick knows they didn’t do anything wrong and it sounds like he believes they did everything well within the guidelines and shouldn’t be in this position. ¬†As a matter of fact, it sounds like he may have some issues of his own that he’ll be taking up with the league, which should be interesting in terms of seeing how that plays out.

“We feel like we followed the rules of the game to the letter in our preparations, in our procedures, and in the way that we handle every game that we competitively play in as it relates to this matter,” said Belichick. ¬†“We try to do everything right, we try to err on the side of caution, it‚Äôs been that way now for many years. ¬†Anything that‚Äôs close, we stay as far away from the line as we can.

“In this case I can say that we are,¬†as far as I know¬†in everything that I can do, we did everything as right¬†as we could do it. ¬†And we welcome the league‚Äôs investigation into this matter. ¬†I think there are a number of things that need to be looked into, on a number of levels, but that‚Äôs not for this conversation, I‚Äôm sure it will be taken up at another point in time. And this is the end of this subject for me, for a long time.”

It’s been a long week full of being fired upon from all directions. ¬†The Patriots are already in a no win¬†situation in that even with a win next weekend¬†there will be whispers, questioning the integrity of an organization that hasn’t had a losing season since 2000. ¬†It’s too difficult to imagine a group committed to sacrifice and winning and outworking everyone to get there. ¬†That makes too much sense.

However, each year Belichick figures it out, much like he figured out what happened last weekend that caused the psi in a football to drop¬†and kicked off this witch hunt. ¬† While¬†the game of football may also be considered a science and one that he’s been able to master pretty well over the years, he ended up having to study science itself to solve one more challenge that he shouldn’t have had to deal with.

But like anything else he dealt with it, and Saturday he wanted to let everyone in the media know how wrong he felt it all is. ¬†This will go down as one of the biggest moments in Patriots history simply for the fact that the coach who has established himself as the one of the best ever fought back like we’ve never seen him do before. ¬†As far as he’s concerned, don’t question their integrity. ¬†Don’t question their desire and what it took to get where they are. His team is in this position because they’ve been the best and deserve to be here, and nothing involving psi in a football had any effect on that.

End of story. ¬†We’re on to Seattle.

Here’s the full transcription of Bill Belichick’s press conference on¬†Saturday with the Patriots media.

OPENING STATEMENT:

“So I want to take this opportunity to share some information. ¬†I spent a significant amount of time this past week learning as much as I could learn, more than I could ever imagine, to tell you the truth about bladders, air gauges, stitching, pressure, game day ball preparation, rubdowns, and so forth… Trying to be as helpful as I can here and share with you what I’ve learned having coached for 40 years in the National Football League, played for several years growing up in a football family, ¬†being around this game my entire life, it’s clear that I don’t know much about this area. ¬†Over the last few days I’ve learned a lot more than I ever knew, like exponentially more. ¬†I feel like this is important because there have been questions raised and I believe now ¬†100% that I have personally and we as an organization have absolutely followed every rule to the letter and I just feel¬†that on behalf of everyone in the organization, everyone that’s involved in this organization, that we need to say something.”

“I’ve talked to and gathered a lot of information from members of our staff. ¬†I have talked to other people familiar with this subject in other organizations and we have performed an internal study of the process and I think there’s certainly other things that I can do and there’s maybe other research that can be done, but I’d say at this time I definitely have enough information to share with you. ¬†And so based on the events of today, I feel like now’s the time to do it rather than wait and so I know this is kind of an impromptu thing but that’s just the way it worked out.”

“First of all, let me start with the process. ¬†As Tom explained on Thursday, the most important part of the football for the quarterback is the feel of the ball. ¬†I don’t think there’s any question about that. ¬†And the exterior feel of the ball is not only critical, but it’s also very easily identifiable. ¬†When I feel a football, I can feel the difference between slippery and tacky. ¬†I can feel the¬†difference of the texture of the ball of¬†to what degree it’s broken in. ¬†If you put five balls out there, which ball’s¬†broken in the most, which ball’s¬†broken in the least, that’s easy to identify and that’s the essence of the preparation. ¬†We prepare our balls over time and we use them in practice, and that preparation process continues right up until the balls are given to the officials prior to the game. ¬†That’s when they are finalized – if I can use that word. ¬†I would say that in that process, I’ve handled dozens of balls over the past week. ¬†The texture of the balls is very easy to identify. ¬†The pressure of the balls, footballs, is a whole different story. ¬†It’s much more difficult to feel or identify. ¬†So the focus of our pregame preparation for the footballs is based on texture and feel, and I think Tom went into that extensively on Thursday and he obviously could go through it a lot better than I can because he’s the one that touched them, but that’s the heart of the process.”

“So we simulated a game day situation in terms of the preparation of the footballs and where the footballs were at various points in time during the day or night as the case was Sunday and I would say that our preparation process for the footballs is what we do, I can’t speak for anybody else, it’s what we do and that process, we have found, raises the psi approximately one pound. ¬†So that process of creating a tackiness, a texture, the right feel, whatever that feel is, it’s a sensation for the quarterback – what’s the right feel – that process elevates the psi approximately one pound based on what our study showed, which was multiple balls, multiple examples in the process as we would do for a game. ¬†It’s not one football. ¬†When the balls are delivered to the officials’ locker room, the officials were asked to inflate them to 12.5 psi, what exactly they did, I don’t know, but for the purposes of our study, that’s what we did. ¬†We set them at 12.5. ¬†That’s at the discretion of the official though, regardless of what we ask for, it’s the official’s discretion to put them where he wants.”

“Again, that’s done in a controlled climate. ¬†The footballs are prepared in our locker room, they’re delivered to the officials’ locker room, ¬†Which is a controlled environment, it’s whatever we have here, is what we have there. ¬†When the footballs go out onto the field into game conditions, whatever those conditions are, whether it’s hot and humid, whether it’s cold and damp, whether it’s cold and dry, whatever it is, that’s where the footballs are played with and that’s where the measurements would be different than what they are, possibly different than what they are, in a controlled environment, and that’s what we found. ¬†We found that once the footballs were on the field over an extended period of time, in other words, they were adjusted to the climatic conditions and also the fact that the balls reached an equilibrium without the rubbing process, after that had run it’s course and the footballs had reached an equilibrium, that they were down approximately one and a half pounds per square inch. ¬†When we brought the footballs back in after that process and retested them in a controlled environment as we have here, then those measurements rose approximately one half pound per square inch. ¬†So the net of one and a half, back to a half, is approximately one pound per square inch, to one and a half.”

“Now we all know that air pressure is a function of the atmospheric conditions, it’s a function of that.¬†So if there’s activity in the ball relative to the rubbing process, I think that explains why when we gave them to the officials and the officials put it at let’s say twelve and half, if that’s in fact what they did, that once the ball reached its equilibrium state, it probably was closer to eleven and a half. ¬†But, again, that’s just our measurements we can’t speak specifically to what happened because we have no way of touching the footballs other than once the officials have them, we don’t touch them except or¬†when we play with them in the game. ¬†But it’s similar to the concept of when you get into your car and the light comes on and it says low tire pressure because the car’s been sitting in the driveway outside overnight and you start it up and you start driving it and the light goes off, it’s a similar concept to that. ¬†So the atmospheric conditions as well as the true equilibrium of the ball is critical to the measurement. ¬†At no time were any of our¬†footballs prepared anywhere other than in the locker room, or in an area very close to that. ¬†Never in a heated room or heated condition, that has absolutely never taken place to anyone’s knowledge or anyone’s recollection and I mean, that just¬†didn’t happen.”

“When you measure a football, there are a number of different issues that come up. ¬†Number one, gauges, there are multiple types of gauges and the accuracy of one gauge relative to another, there’s variance there, we’re talking about air pressure, all right? So there’s some variance there. Clearly all footballs are different. ¬†So footballs that come out of a similar pack, a similar box, a similar preparation, each ball has its own unique individual characteristics because it’s not a man-made piece of equipment. ¬†It’s an animal’s skin, it’s a bladder, it’s stitching, it’s laces and each one has its own unique characteristics. So whatever you do with that football, if you do the same thing with another one, it might be close, but¬†there’s a variance between each individual football. ¬†Footballs do not get measured during the game. ¬†We have¬†no way of knowing, until we went through this exercise, that this has really taken place. ¬†So when we hand the balls to the officials, the officials put them at, whatever they put them at, but let’s just say it’s twelve-and-a-half, that’s where they put them. ¬†Then the air pressure at that point from then on until ¬†the end of the game, we have no knowledge and honestly it’s never been a concern. ¬†So what is a concern is the texture of the footballs, and again, that’s the point that Tom hit on hard on Thursday.”

“We had our quarterbacks look at a number of footballs and they were unable to differentiate a one pound per square inch difference in those footballs.¬†They were unable to do it. ¬†On a two pound differential, there was some degree of differentiation, but certainly not a consistent one. A couple of ones they could pick out, but they were also wrong in some of the other ones that they had. ¬†So you’re welcome to do that yourself and I can tell you from all of the footballs I’ve handled over the last¬†week, I can’t tell the difference if there’s a one pound difference or half a pound difference in any of the footballs.”

“Again, anyone who¬†has seen us practice knows that we make it harder, not easier, to handle the ball and our players train in conditions¬†that a lot of people would recommend that we not drive in. ¬†That’s what they do. ¬†They’re a physically and mentally tough team that works hard, that trains hard, that prepares and have met every challenge that I’ve put in front them. ¬†And I know that, because I work them every day. ¬†This team was the best team in the AFC in¬†the regular season. ¬†We won two games in the playoffs against two good football teams. ¬†The best team in the postseason, and that’s what this team is and I know that because I’ve been with them every day and I’m proud of this team.”

“So I just want to share with you what I’ve learned over the past week. ¬†I’m embarrassed to talk about the amount of time that I’ve put into this relative to the other important challenge in front of us. ¬†I’m not a scientist. ¬†I’m not an expert in footballs. ¬†I’m not an expert in¬†football measurements. ¬†I’m just telling you what I know. ¬†I would not say that I’m Mona Lisa-Vito of the football world as she was in the car expertise area, all right? And at no time was there any intent whatsoever to try to compromise the integrity of the game or to gain an advantage, quite the opposite. ¬†We feel like we followed the rules of the game to the letter in our preparations, in our procedures, and in the way that we handle every game that we competitively play in as it relates to this matter. ¬†We try to do everything right, we try to err on the side of caution, it’s been that way now for many years. ¬†Anything that’s close, we stay as far away from the line as we can. ¬†And in this case I can say that we are,¬†as far as I know¬†in everything that I can do, we did everything as right¬†as we could do it. ¬†And we welcome the league’s investigation into this matter. ¬†I think there are a number of things that need to be looked into, on a number of levels, but that’s not for this conversation, I’m sure it will be taken up at another point in time. And this is the end of this subject for me, for a long time. ¬†O.K.? ¬†We have a huge game, a huge challenge for our football team,¬† and that’s where that focus is going to go. ¬†I’ve spent more than enough time on this and I’m happy to share this information with you to try to tell you some of the things that I have¬†learned over the last week, which I’ve learned way more than I ever thought I would learn. ¬†The process, the whole thing, is much more complex… I mean there are a lot of variables that I was unaware of. ¬†It sounds simple, and I’m not trying to say¬†that we’re trying to land a guy on the moon, but there’s a lot of things here that are a little hard to get a ¬†handle on and again, there’s a variance in so many of these things.”

“So I’ll take a couple questions, and then I’m moving on.”

On if the NFL shares with him the pregame documented psi:

“You would have to talk to¬†the NFL about anything they did or didn’t do.”

On if he doesn’t know if¬†they documented it:

“Look, Tom [Curran of CNNSE], we could sit here and talk about some of this stuff for two hours. ¬†All right? ¬†You want to ask the league any questions about¬†what¬†they do or don’t do, you should ask the league. ¬†I’m just telling you what I’ve learned and the study that we’ve done and the experience that I’ve had over the last few days in looking into this matter. ¬†That’s all I can tell you. ¬†I’m not a scientist and I’m not a league official.”

On if he feels after the work he put in this week if they’ll be exonerated:

“I just told you what I think. That’s what I think right there.”

On if the game preparation has been compromised over the time they’ve spent on this:

“Well, I’ve spent a lot the week game planning, a lot of this week, yeah.”

On if he feels that any of it was compromised spending time on this:

“Look, I told you, I thought this was an important issue and we addressed it. ¬†So we did.”

On reiterating that he felt it was the atmospheric conditions and trusting that the officials filling the balls to 12.5 psi:

“Look, you take the atmospheric conditions out of it, because if the balls are measured in the same atmospheric conditions, than it’s a non-factor. ¬†But if you measure a ball in a controlled condition like this and you measure a ball on, let’s just say the night that¬†we played Baltimore, there’s no way they’re the same. ¬†You take that ball and set it outside and the ball becomes accustomed to those climatic conditions and those temperatures, there’s no way it’s the same. ¬†Now if you take it out and bring it back in and let it sit for x amount of time, then, you know, it probably is the same. ¬†So no, that’s not the issue, although depending on where balls were measured and how they were measured, I mean, that’s a whole other discussion. ¬†The situation is the preparation of the ball caused the ball to, I would say, be artificially high in psi when it was set to the regulated level and then it reached its equilibrium at some point later on, an hour, two hours, into the game, whatever it was, that that level was below what was set in this climatic condition. ¬†I think that’s exactly what happened. ¬†And I think anybody who ¬†wants to do those experiments should go ahead and do it themselves. ¬†Don’t take my word for it. ¬†But, I’m telling you, we’re trying to get an answer to this, and that’s what we have.”

On the fact he tries to err on the side of caution and stay on that side of the rules, but the videotaping, it was clear that they were pushing that:

“I mean, look, that’s a whole other discussion. ¬†The guy’s giving signals out in front of eighty thousand people, O.K.? ¬†So we filmed him taking signals out in front of eighty thousand people like there were a lot of other teams doing at that time too, O.K.? ¬†But forget about that. ¬†If we were wrong, than we’ve been disciplined for that.”

On the fact that’s clearly not trying to err on the side of caution:

“The guy’s in front of eighty thousand people. ¬†Eighty thousand people saw it, everybody’s sideline saw it, everybody sees our guy in front of eighty thousand people. ¬†I mean, there he is. ¬†So it was wrong, we were disciplined for it, that’s it. ¬†We never did it again, we’re never going to do it again and anything else that’s close, we’re not going to do either.”

On the fact he just said they always err on the side of caution:

“We always do. ¬†We always have. ¬†But I mean, anything that’s even remotely close, we’re on the side of caution.”

On if they had any science people help in the investigation:

“We talked to a lot of people.”

On how much time they spent on it:

“I don’t know, I didn’t log it.”

On if he’s relieved by what he found with their investigation:

“Look, I came in here Thursday and I told you that I didn’t have any answers. ¬†And I’m very confident in the things that we’ve talked about, the study that we did, the going through with a fine tooth comb, everything, I’m 100% confident in everything that I’ve told you. ¬†That’s what I believe, that’s what I know, that’s what it is. ¬†I’m as transparent as I can be on this one. ¬†Period.”

On if that’s a “yes” that he’s relieved by their study:

“I did what I did, no, I’m not using those adjectives. ¬†I told you what I did, that’s what it is.”

On if he thinks there’s something that happened for it to rise 1.5, did they put them in front of heaters, dryers:

“No, it was never put in front of a heater, I just said that.”

On when they’re preparing it, what made it rise:

“You rub it, you try to get the texture the way the quarterback wants¬†it.”

On the fact he’s just trying to establish…

“I just said that. ¬†And I said that in no time was the ball ever put in any type of a heated environment.”

On them rubbing the football vigorously…

“We rub it to get the ball¬†to the proper texture. ¬†I mean I don’t know what’s vigorous, what isn’t vigorous, I mean we’re not polishing fine China here. ¬†We’re trying to get a football to the proper texture that the quarterback wants it to grip it. ¬†Does that stimulate something inside the ball to raise the psi? ¬†I would say yes, it does.”

On after all the research they’ve done what they do differently moving forward:

“Well, you’re getting into another whole area here. ¬†You’re getting into a another whole¬†area as it relates to the next game. Yes”

On if they’re trying to prevent it [Inaudible]:

“That’s exactly right. ¬†And that’s exactly why this whole process was done, for that very reason. ¬†And I don’t know the answer to that question, but that’s a very important question.”

 

 

LeGarrette Blount Puts Himself in the Record Books


Blount had another big game against the Colts Sunday night. (USA TODAY Images)

Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount has to be shaking his head a little and counting his blessings knowing how differently things could have turned out.

Blount was a free agent this past offseason and¬†signed a contract with the Steelers that seemingly ended his tenure in New England. ¬†But following internal issues where Blount wasn’t “the guy” in Pittsburgh, it lead to a conflict between the two sides that eventually resulted in¬†his release. ¬†After it happened, it didn’t take long for the Patriots to jump at the opportunity to strengthen their backfield with a guy who had enough familiarity to immediately contribute.


Blount dominated the Colts in last year’s postseaoson as well. (USA TODAY Images)

Sunday night was a shining example of how sometimes things work out for the best, and the Patriots now have a player who can pound out tough yards heading into their match-up with Seattle one week from Sunday.

Blount didn’t miss a beat against Indianapolis, looking just as dominant as he was a year ago against them when he racked up 166 yards and four touchdowns in a huge 43-22 Divisional playoff win at home. ¬†Sunday night it was more of the same, with Blount piling up 148 yards and 3 touchdowns while carrying the ball 30 times, including quite a few where he lowered his shoulder and pounded defenders backward.

“He ran good,” said Bill Belichick after the game. ¬†“Really he made some great cuts in not good conditions. He found yards when there weren‚Äôt a lot there and he‚Äôs a tough guy to tackle. He‚Äôs really a quality back. He made some great runs tonight. There were several times when he took nothing and turned it into something. Then when we had something, he got it and usually a little bit more. I thought he showed a lot of determination on the goal line to get the ball in the end zone. That was really an outstanding performance.”

It was more than outstanding, and it ended up being historic. ¬†Blount’s three touchdown performance moved him into first place time all-time in franchise history for postseason rushing touchdowns, with Blount now totaling seven for his career. ¬†That moves him ahead of both Curtis Martin and Tom Brady, who had previously held the mark tied with five each. ¬†Blount also set a franchise record for rushing attempts with 30.

Blount’s also the first player in NFL history with multiple postseason games with at least three rushing touchdowns.

“I thought he ran the ball strong, tough,” said Blount’s teammate, Shane Vereen. ¬†“I wouldn’t want to tackle him. I think he ran the ball well.”

Vereen also said that Blount’s a player who is well liked, which considering the fact players in Pittsburgh pushed for his release, clearly this is a place that he feels more at home and his attitude and performance certainly reflects that.

“[Laughs] We love LG whether he has 250 yards or five yards,” said Vereen. ¬†“He’s a great player, a great teammate. He’s accepted around here and everybody loves him.”

And they’ll love him even more if he keeps running the way he did Sunday night.

Even Now, Tom Brady Still Gets Nervous, But Patriots Need Another Big Performance


Tom Brady is hoping to advance this weekend against the Colts. (USA TODAY Images)

Back in 2002 in his first playoff appearance, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady played with reckless abandon against the Oakland Raiders and didn’t appear to show much in terms of nerves.

He was confident, he was cocky, and he certainly didn’t look like a first year quarterback during their championship run that season. ¬†That approach served him well, and the result was an upset of the ages after Brady beat the Raiders, the Steelers, and eventually¬†took care of the St. Louis Rams to clinch the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.

That’s the type of player he was in 2003 and 2004, which is¬†a span that was certainly one of the more impressive runs we’ve ever seen a team have. ¬†Fast forward 10-years later, and Brady is surrounded by a group that has the team in their 9th AFC Championship and with seemingly enough talent to complete the job. There’s a great mix of veteran players and youth on this football team, and Sunday will require the veterans to help keep the younger guys focused at the task at hand.

On the offensive side of the football, Brady is that guy. While he’s surrounded by veteran players like Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell, it’s still going to come down to the 15-year quarterback to help them move on.¬†The Colts are playing relatively well offensively and are likely going to put up points, which means that Sunday’s battle against Indianapolis is going to again put Brady in the spotlight against a team that he’s dominated in past match-ups.

Obviously on paper, it’s easy to say that the Colts have no shot and to just punch the Patriots’ ticket to Arizona. ¬†One big thing that could change all that would be for Andrew Luck to come into Foxboro and play the way that Brady did in Pittsburgh during their final Super Bowl run during the 2004/05 postseason when they went into Heinz Field and stomped the Steelers 41-27. ¬†Brady played a pretty flawless game after going 14-of-21 (67%) for 207-yards and two touchdowns. ¬†It wasn’t a great game by any means, but he didn’t make any mistakes. ¬†Not to mention the fact Deion Branch had a big game while catching 4 passes for 116 yards including a 60-yard touchdown.

In that game New England’s defense played well, picking off Ben Roethlisberger three times, including one by Rodney Harrison that he returned for a touchdown. ¬† At the time the Patriots were ranked 9th defensively in the NFL while Pittsburgh had the league’s top ranked defense. ¬†The bad news for the Steelers was the fact New England turned the tables, forcing mistakes while not making any of their own against a team that many thought would knock out the Patriots. ¬†Instead Bill Belichick’s team ended up in Jacksonville, where they went on to beat the Eagles to win Super Bowl XXXIX.

The Colts could be that team this weekend, and that’s what the Patriots need to avoid. ¬†All eyes will be on Luck, who already did the unthinkable and knocked Peyton Manning out in Denver last weekend. ¬†His confidence is likely pretty high heading into Foxboro, and as much as Indianapolis would love to see him help his team advance, he also has the benefit of being a player with nothing to lose since either way that team heads into the offseason with plenty of optimism and a bright outlook heading into 2015.

That’s a dangerous combination. ¬†Brady doesn’t play defense, so the two won’t really be battling head-to-head. ¬†But should Luck’s offense start putting up points, it will be up to Brady to answer. ¬†This is going to be a critical time for Brady to play well and he’ll need to play with that same confidence and ability that endeared him to the fans here in New England.

Brady said the experience of being there in the past will help him, but it won’t matter unless he plays well.


Tom Brady admitted on Wednesday that the nerves are still there even now.
(USA TODAY Images)

“Well, I mean at some point you don’t have the experience and that’s certainly [like] when I was younger and it didn’t matter much to me when I was younger,” said Brady. ¬†“As you get older, experience is definitely good as long as you play well. It’s a game like all the other games; I think it’s just, there’s a finality to this game and obviously only one team advances. It was the same as last week, so we’re very fortunate to be in this position; to have a chance to play in it.

“I think more so than anything, you’re just excited for the opportunity to be able to do it. It’s hard to do and our team found a way to get there this year, so hopefully we can take advantage of the opportunity.”

Brady’s now 37 years old with that¬†opportunity sitting in front of him. ¬†Win, and they’re heading to another Super Bowl with a group that certainly has enough talent to compete with anyone, which they’ve shown after a rocky beginning. ¬†After starting the season 2-2 and being written off by many experts throughout the league, the Patriots went on to lose just one more meaningful game the rest of the season against Green Bay. ¬†In that game they held their own against a team that could very well become Conference champions themselves this weekend¬†should¬†Aaron Rodgers upset Seattle, and it could set up an opportunity for redemption on a neutral field.

But that will only happen if Brady takes care of business against Indianapolis, and he admitted that like last week against Baltimore, it won’t be easy. ¬†They won their first meeting in week 11 42-20, but Brady didn’t exactly have his best game. ¬†He threw two first half interceptions and New England went into the locker room up just 14-10 at the half.

Jonas Gray came out and rushed for 101 yards in the second half and Brady missed just two passes over the final two quarters after finishing 9-of-11 for 173 yards and 2 touchdowns, and it was that performance that helped carry New England to a win.

This time around he’ll likely be hoping that he’ll play a more complete game. ¬†Brady said on Wednesday that while familiarity helps, they’ll need to be at their best.

“Obviously, you want to play your best, you’ve got to be at your best physically and mentally, so whatever it takes for us to get there over the course of the next four or five days is what we have to do,” said Brady. ¬†“I just try to stress that to everybody and hopefully we can go out and execute as well as we can on Sunday.”

Regardless of how Luck plays, the Patriots need Brady to put together a solid outing. ¬†Aside from an interception toward the end of the first half last weekend against the Ravens, Brady put together a pretty good performance, and it was¬†one of the better postseason games he’s played in a while against a tough defense.

Brady admitted there will be some nerves, but the preparation they put in this week will be the difference between starting the offseason next Monday, or boarding a plane to play one more game.

“I think that’s part of playing sports,” said Brady when asked if he still had that “nervous energy”. ¬†” Being in a competitive situation like we are, I don’t think that ever goes away. You never know what’s going to happen on game day, you work as hard as you can to kind of prepare for everything and like I said, to be physically and mentally right, but no one can predict what’s going to happen.

“You have your vision of the way you want things to turn out on a particular play or scheme or something like that and if it does, great; if it doesn’t happen the way you want it to, which is most of the time, you’ve got to figure out something to do. I think that’s where a lot of the nerves come into play, the anxiousness of just the anticipation of what’s going to happen versus what we’ve prepared for, so you just have to prepare for a lot of things.”

Hopefully it will equal another strong effort on Sunday.

Belichick Doesn’t Get the Fuss on a Formation ‘That happens all the time’

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said after his team’s loss to the Patriots that Bill Belichick’s bunch used formations that “nobody’s ever seen”.

According to Belichick, maybe he should start paying better attention.

The Patriots head coach held a conference call on Tuesday and he doesn’t seem to get what all the fuss is about regarding what the team did to catch the Ravens off balance Saturday night and get them back in the game when they had four offensive lineman and split Shane Vereen out as an ineligible receiver.


As a student of the game, Belichick coached a good game Saturday night against the Ravens to advance to the AFC Championship game. (USA TODAY Images)

According to MMQB’s Peter King, it’s a formation he’s seen Alabama’s Nick Saban use and he seems to believe that Belichick may have garnered the idea from him considering the two are good friends. ¬†However, Belichick claims it’s a play that he got the idea from after seeing something from another NFL team.

“It’s a situation that I saw another team use, kind of,” said Belichick on Tuesday. ¬†“Then we talked about it and thought about ways maybe to put some pressure on the defense with that concept of having more receivers on the field than were actually eligible. To make them ineligible instead of making an ineligible guys eligible, to go the other way around. We came up with a few ideas. I’d say the origin of that play was from the NFL. What they did wasn’t [what we did], but it sparked some ideas, so we did what we did.”

When asked whether or not he might hear from the league about being prevented from using those formations again, Belichick seemed annoyed and said that this happens frequently enough where it shouldn’t be that big of a deal and that “you’re allowed to do that.”

“Like what? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Belichick. “That happens all the time. You come in on the punt team, ineligible guys report as eligible. They line up as guards and tackles on the punt team, the center up to the center’s numbers aren’t eligible players that report ineligible. Then they cover punts. We’ve seen it on offense. We’ve seen it ‚Äď particularly you see it a lot on special teams in the punting team. Not so much on the field goals because you have your linemen protecting there.

“I would say it happens in every game on the punt team. You’re allowed to do that. We did it. I don’t really understand what the question is. If you have a question about the rules, you just talk to the NFL rules people and let them tell you about it.”

Belichick went on to say that as far as he knows, he can’t remember a week going by where another team hasn’t done it in some form.

“Yeah. I think you see it every week,” said Belichick. “I’d venture to say I couldn’t remember the last time that I haven’t seen that; haven’t seen an eligible receiver report as an ineligible player in the National Football League. I’d say that happens every week.”

So there you have it.¬† Harbaugh said it’s never been done, while Belichick insists it happens each week. Either way it’s a brilliant move that has the Patriots playing in the AFC Championship game next weekend.


Brady and the Patriots have their best shot at a title that they’ve had since their championship years. (USA TODAY Images)

This has got to be the year.

It has to be. ¬†There’s just no other way to say it.

Let’s face it, we’ve seen a lot of impressive rosters in years past, but this is one of the most complete teams Bill Belichick has ever put together.

There will be some who will disagree¬†and as much as people would love to have another player or two on either side of the football, you’d be remiss to not appreciate the amount of talent this group is stacked with.

Disagree? ¬†You can try, but when you go right down the line position-by-position, the fact of the matter is, New England is heading into the postseason with the most amount of talent and firepower on both sides of the football than they’ve had since their earlier championship seasons. ¬†There is so much depth and a strong mix of veteran leadership throughout their roster that all signs point to this being their best shot at winning in Arizona a month from now.

Here are some thoughts on each position group:

1) QUARTERBACK:¬†2004 likely feels like a lifetime ago for Tom Brady, who after winning three Super Bowls in four seasons has been close twice, only to be denied by the brother of the guy who he’s continually measured against. ¬†Just getting to Arizona won’t be enough this time around, but for the first time since 2011 Brady heads into a postseason with a fully-healthy Rob Gronkowski. The veteran tight end is playing the best football he’s played since his terrific ’11 season where he caught 17 touchdowns, which was followed up with a postseason where he added three more and had it not been for Bernard Pollard, the Patriots likely could have already won their fourth title. ¬†Now they’ve added Brandon LaFell to go with Julian Edelman, and they still have additional weapons with tight end Tim Wright and an under-utilized Shane Vereen. If used correctly, there’s definitely enough firepower to get the job done.

Brady’s been itching for a chance like this for a long time. Now he’s got all of his best players healthy and he has to know that this is probably his best shot at winning that elusive fourth ring. ¬†Without Gronkowski, he’s finished with a completion percentage of under 60% in playoffs since 2011; with Gronk, nearly 70%. They didn’t finish the season strong offensively, but with two weeks to get ready until their next game, one would have to believe we’ll see a very prepared Brady when they open the Divisional round next Saturday.


For the first time in two seasons, the Patriots have a healthy Gronk heading into the postseason. (USA TODAY Images)

2) RECEIVERS:¬†As mentioned above, Gronk will obviously be a difference maker this time around, but it’s no secret that LaFell has been an impact player for this team in 2014. ¬†In fact,¬†by the time this postseason comes to an end – especially should the Patriots come away with three wins – there’s probably a good chance LaFell’s name will be a big reason why it happened. ¬†That’s another asset Brady didn’t have during the last postseason, as Aaron Dobson was the best player to fill that role but his foot injury had him inactive in the Divisional round, and he was barely able to contribute in the AFC Championship after being limited to just 21 snaps. ¬†This time around he’s on injured reserve.

But after being a player who was just trying to earn a role back in the preseason, LaFell has turned into one of the most valuable assets in this offense. The former Panthers receiver finished his first year in New England with 74 receptions, 50 of which went for a first down. That means that 68% of his receptions moved the chains, and it’s something that has made him such a great addition to this offense.

Then there’s obviously Edelman, who has had two weeks away while he recovered from a concussion and all signs seem to point to the fact he’s also healthy heading into the postseason. ¬†Everyone knows how good he is and what he brings offensively, and having Gronkowski opens things up for both of these guys to be productive. It’s a trio that has been the lifeline for Brady this season and the three led the team in terms of receptions and receiving yards.

We’ve also seen some success between Brady and Tim Wright, who has been able to come through in big moments and the playing time Brian Tyms saw in the final game could open up an opportunity for him to contribute as well. ¬†Danny Amendola is also a player who could be a factor as he’s been a player who sometimes makes the big play when you least expect it, and he’s also healthier than he was in 2013.

It would be great to have a big-name player and a high-impact guy, but this team won three championships with lesser talent. ¬†To take it one step further, it’s even difficult¬†not to argue that the combination of Edelman and Gronk may be¬†an even more talented duo than they had during any of those three championship runs.

What does it all mean?  It means this is a group that has enough talent to complete the job and it should be fun to see how it all plays out.

3) RUNNING BACKS:¬†The absence of Stevan Ridley, as much as people can try and downplay it, may become¬†a factor this postseason if they struggle running¬†the football. ¬†Ridley came into the 2014 season¬†looking¬†better than he did last season, and he was much more sure-handed than in years past. ¬†Prior to the injury he was running the ball well and his speed and quickness are attributes that his replacements just don’t have. ¬†The acquisition of LeGarrette Blount was a stroke of luck for the Patriots, and the emergence of Jonas Gray was fortunate, although it’s obvious that something negative must have happened that’s kept him off the field following his big performance after the Colts game. ¬†Granted oversleeping the following week didn’t help his cause, but he’s had single digit snaps since then and hasn’t been on the field for more than 19 plays (Week 15 vs Miami, just 29% of the offensive snaps).

Blount is a big, bruising back, but he’s had his fair share of problems carrying the football. ¬†He’s been stopped for a loss 10 times in his short stint since returning¬†to New England, more than any other player. ¬†Vereen hasn’t fared much better, with teams stopping him a team-leading 18 times for no gain. ¬†They’ve both had some good moments but their overall success as a regular ball carrier have been questionable and none of the three can be considered explosive by any means.

Are they adequate enough to get the job done? ¬†Absolutely. ¬†And the fact that Gray was held out of the final game might lead you to believe that they’re preparing to give him more opportunities this postseason. ¬†Adding Blount helps their cause, and he’s at least a big enough threat to help make the play-action passing game more effective. ¬†For Gray, it’s an opportunity to prove that what he did against Indianapolis wasn’t a fluke and a strong postseason performance could set him up for bigger things in 2015. ¬†With Ridley and Vereen set to be free agents after the season, it will be interesting to see how this position plays out during the weeks ahead.

4)¬†OFFENSIVE LINE:¬†If there’s an area of concern, this might be the biggest one heading into the postseason. ¬†Obviously protecting Brady is going to be the priority¬†but love them or hate them, it’s a group that’s performed well enough to win 12 games this season and they’re certainly good enough to have postseason success. ¬†There have been plenty of ups and downs this season, including what¬†we saw in Week 16 where Brady was sacked four times, as well as their struggles in the season finale. ¬†However, one big factor was the fact that Dan Connolly was inactive in both of their final games, and¬†all signs seem to point to Nate Solder being O.K. and avoiding a significant injury after missing the second half of last week’s game against the Bills with a knee injury, which is certainly good news. Despite the fact he’s been a punching bag recently in the media, Solder is still a solid player and definitely a better option ahead of Marcus Cannon at this point at left tackle. ¬†From there we’ve also seen a strong performance this year from Bryan Stork, who looks less like a rookie and more like a veteran at this point of the season.

Overall this is a group that allowed nearly half as many sacks on Brady this season with 21, compared to the 40 that were given up in 2013, five of which¬†came¬†in the final two¬†games. ¬†They’ll be relatively healthy when they start their playoff run, and one would have to expect that they won’t look as poor as they did in the last two weeks. ¬†This is the time of year where they’ll start facing better defenses, so hopefully they’ll start playing at a higher level.


The value of the return of Wilfork has gone under the radar and having him back makes the guys up front that much more dangerous. (USA TODAY Images)

5) DEFENSIVE LINE:¬†It’s hard to believe at the end of last season so many people thought this team would be O.K. if Vince Wilfork couldn’t return coming off of his Achilles injury, but seeing him out there this season was a strong reminder of just how valuable he is to this defense. ¬†This is a football team that went from 30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game allowed to 13th – in just one season. ¬†One of the biggest factors is Wilfork, while another has been how well Alan Branch and Chris Jones have played up front, as well as the return of Sealver Siliga, who missed 9 games but has been healthy enough to play in over 70% of the teams’s snaps over the final two weeks. ¬†He left the game in the fourth quarter of last weekend’s finale against the Bills, but told Mike Reiss after the game that he was “healthy as a rock”, which is good news.

This is a solid group up front, and one of the deepest ones in recent memory. ¬†They can stop the run, create pressure, get after the quarterback, and they’re playing pretty good football right now. After Wilfork and Tommy Kelly went down last year, it seemed to be a wake up call for Belichick, who after seeing Jones and Joe Vellano struggle during the latter half of 2013 seemed to make adding depth a priority over the offseason. Bringing in Branch and having Siliga emerge has been huge, and Wilfork’s return provides the type of leadership that will be big in the playoffs. In the postseason the competition is tougher, which will likely lead to adversity should the Patriots find themselves in a tough battle or behind. His presence is an asset that can’t go overlooked, and it’s been one of the big reasons why they’ve been so successful up front in past seasons. Now that he’s back, it’s been a great reminder of just how much he was really missed last season. Needless to say, they’re fortunate to have him, and he makes this group much more formidable heading into the playoffs.


Collins has been tremendous in his second season with the Patriots.
(USA TODAY Images)

6) LINEBACKERS:¬†Losing Jerod Mayo was a massive blow earlier this season, and he’s a guy who generally doesn’t get a lot of credit for the type of dirty work he did inside. ¬†The only good news for the Patriots is the fact they lost him last season, which ended up providing invaluable experience for Dont’a Hightower, who once again picked up the slack and he’s played even better this season. ¬†Hightower¬†finished second on the team in tackles, and was second on the team in QB hits with 13, including 5 on third down. He also finished with 4 sacks on third down, with that¬†total matching Rob Ninkovich for the most on the team.

The Patriots have also gotten contributions from Akeem Ayers, who has come on as of late. Ayers has been a player that we’ve seen have success getting after the quarterback since being acquired earlier this season, having totaled four sacks and five QB hits in just nine games. ¬†Teammate Jonathan Casillas also has a QB hit as well as a forced fumble, with both players being pleasant surprises in this defense.

But the biggest story this season is obviously Jamie Collins, who while many weren’t enamored with the selection of him when he was taken in the 2nd round last season, hopefully by now they’ve changed their minds. ¬†He’s shown freakish athletic ability and in only his second season has already garnered the respect of his peers in the locker room. ¬†Collins finished the season as the team’s leader in tackles with 115, along with two interceptions, three passes defensed, four forced fumbles (two recoveries), four sacks, and seven QB hits. ¬†He’s become quite the playmaker, with Belichick recently emphasizing the fact he’s a guy who can go from rushing the passer to playing in the deep part of the field, which is an attribute that not every player is capable of, let alone a linebacker. ¬†He was a guy who already made some key contributions in last year’s postseason, and he’ll be a key player to watch in the weeks ahead.

7) DEFENSIVE ENDS: Two names will likely decide how far the Patriots will go heading into the postseason, with Ninkovich and Chandler Jones as the two players who will be the most important keys to New England’s playoff success. ¬†The Patriots are fortunate to have Jones back considering that many initial reports regarding his hip injury had it as potentially season-ending, which would have left New England severely hamstrung in the playoffs. ¬†Instead, after sitting out six weeks, Jones is back and he looks rested and healthy, which is definitely good news for a team that still managed to win five out of their six games while he was out. ¬†He’s been terrific this season and despite his six-week absence, he still finished the season¬†tied for second on the team with six sacks and he also finished third in QB hits with 11. He also had two passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

As for Ninkovich, he’s also playing well right now and he finished the season with a team leading eight sacks and 16 quarterback hits, as well as one interception, two passes defensed, and a fumble recovery. ¬†Both he and Jones are the bookends to a defense that finished with a +12 turnover differential behind just Green Bay, but one big question will be whether or not the workload Ninkovich had this season factors into his play during the playoffs. ¬†He¬†played in 100% of the team’s snaps in 12 of 16 games this season, including seven of their final eight games and he’ll likely be one of many players who benefits greatly from having time to recover over the bye. ¬†

In the end the more important thing is the Patriots have their two best pass rushers healthy, which is definitely a huge positive for them. Hopefully they’ll have success in the weeks ahead.


Revis has completely changed this secondary and he’s made everyone around him better. (USA TODAY Images)

8) SECONDARY:¬†This is arguably the strongest group you’ll ever see back there, with Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner solidifying a group that already had Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington, both of whom have benefited greatly by having them here. ¬†Second year defensive back Logan Ryan was a mess for a portion of this season but he’s improved lately and is playing better football, as is teammate Duron Harmon. ¬†But one of the bigger surprises has been the re-emergence of Patrick Chung, who after rejoining the team looks like the player they had hoped he’d become when they originally drafted him in the second round back in 2009. ¬†Chung finished 2014 third on the team in tackles with 84, and also picked off a pass and had seven passes defensed. He’s flourished in the role they’ve created for him, and he’s become a strong addition to an already talented unit.

It’s hard to believe, but this is arguably the most talented, complete group they’ve had in the secondary during any of their championship runs and certainly much improved from last season. ¬†They finished 2014 ranked 13th in the NFL in pass defense, up from 26th in 2013, which is a tremendous improvement. ¬†Obviously¬†we know how good Revis is, and his presence has helped McCourty emerge even more so as one of the NFL’s best safeties.¬†¬†McCourty¬†picked off two passes this season and had six passes defensed and forced a fumble, and he looks like a much more comfortable player heading into this postseason.¬† Another player who deserves a lot of credit is¬†Arrington, who looks like a different player this season. Arrington didn’t finish with an interception in 2014, but he still had four passes defensed as well as two forced fumbles and one sack. He missed the final two weeks with a hamstring injury, but most reports indicate he’ll be ready to go for the playoffs.

On paper, it doesn’t get much better than this, especially considering this team is 8th in the league in points per game allowed, including holding opponents to 17 or less points during their final four games. ¬†More importantly, they’ve also shown the ability to close games out after outscoring¬†their opponents 106-62 this season in the 4th quarter.

Personnel-wise, it’s tough to imagine them ever assembling a better mix of talent. It was easy to picture how good Revis would be on his own, but he’s been even better than expected. He’s been dominant in this defense and leads the team with a staggering 14 passes defensed, twice as many as the next closest player, which is Chung with 7. More importantly, it’s amazing to see the effect he’s had and how much better he’s made the guys around him. ¬†As a result, this should be a group playing with a lot of confidence and they’ll also be aided by the fact they’ll be in front of the home crowd.

SUMMARY: Overall, while it would be great to have a big play receiver or another massive defensive end, it’s just not realistic to expect them to stock the biggest free-agent names at every position. However, when you go through each positional group, there are more than enough good players¬†on this roster across the board to get the job done. ¬†This is a team that has grown tremendously this season, and after much of the world wrote them off at 2-2, they went on a tear that saw them lose just one meaningful game over the remainder of the season.

But looking at the guys they currently have, barring any further injuries, they may never be more stacked talent-wise heading into a postseason. ¬†In the past it was always easy to look at the roster and see deficiencies, but this season after seeing the development of so many players, they don’t really have any areas that are lacking enough to feel as though a trip to Arizona and a Lombardi Trophy isn’t a realistic goal.

Belichick and Brady probably have to be aware of the potential they have with the talented group they’re taking into this postseason. They also have to know that after having locked up¬†the¬†number one seed, this is the best scenario they could have hoped for considering the state of the roster both from a health and talent standpoint and the advantage they have playing at home this time around.

Now the only thing left is to play the games. ¬†But it’s safe to say that if they can’t win it all this season with the group they have on their roster, it’s hard to imagine what other changes they could make here in the salary cap era to make this team any better.

This is their best shot, plain and simple. ¬†Now hopefully we’ll see them play like champions.

On how tough it was game-planning knowing what their fate was having secured the number one seed:

“I think we tried to go out there and give great effort.¬† You know, they’re a good team.¬† They make it tough on you.¬† They made it tough on us down there when we played them and they made it tough today.¬† So, they’ve got a good team, but, you know, we’re looking forward.¬† It’s tough.¬† We always hate losing, absolutely.¬† We didn’t make enough plays to win, but hopefully we make them in a couple weeks.”

On his comfort level with the protection he’s getting from the offensive line heading into this postseason:

“I think, everything works together.¬† It’s not only the protection, the routes and the throws and the catches, offensive football and scoring points is about great execution and if it’s anything less than that, it’s hard to score unless somebody makes really a spectacular play.¬† So if you have a breakdown on a throw, if you have a breakdown on a block, if you have a breakdown on a route, usually it doesn’t result in a good play and I think obviously the first half, we didn’t have enough good plays to score enough points.¬† We’re trying and hopefully we do a lot better job in a couple weeks.¬† That’s what it’s going to take.”

On how concerned people should be about the offense after their struggles the last couple of weeks:

“Yeah … we’re confident, I mean we have a lot of confidence as an offense.¬† We’ve been able to score points against a lot of good teams, a lot of good defenses.¬† Nothing that we’ve done this past season is going to help in two weeks from now.¬† What’s going to matter is how well we prepare this week and how well we prepare next week and how ready we are to go whenever we play.¬† So, we’ll have a lot of confidence.¬† I’m not worried about us lacking confidence, going out there and executing.¬† We’ve got a lot of good players.”

On when he goes back and looks at film if it’s about execution or if it’s about teams having a lot of film on them and taking things away:

“That’s a good question.¬† I mean, I think it ultimately comes down to, like I said, how well we execute.¬† I think we’ve played some pretty good defenses and defenses that really challenge you.¬† We’ll be challenged in a couple weeks, hopefully we’re ready to meet the challenge.¬† I’d expect us to be at our best.¬† That’s what this time of year requires.¬† We’ll be playing a great football team, whoever it is.¬† I think we’ve got a pretty good team, we’ll see where we’re at.”

On Brian Tyms and how important it was to get into a groove with him:

“Yeah, he made a couple good plays there early.¬† You know, he’s done a good job since he’s got here, trying to understand the offense and what he needs to do to really incorporate himself and find a role.¬† It was good to see him make some plays today, you know, we’re going to need it in a couple weeks.¬† Hopefully, Gronk is ready to roll and Jules [Julian Edelman] is ready to roll and all the guys up front are ready to roll, and that’s important.¬† It’s good when you have your very good football players out there, we had a lot of good football players out there today that made some plays, we just didn’t make enough of them today.¬† But we’ve got to be able to go out and do it in a couple weeks, make a lot of good plays.”

STAT CHECK: Tom Brady Passes 4,000-Yard Mark


Brady went over the 4000yd mark for the 7th time in his career Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)

Tom Brady has had quite an up-and-down season in 2014, but on Sunday against the Jets he reached a milestone that went unnoticed during their 17-16 win down at the Meadowlands.

Coming into Sunday’s contest Brady had 3,847 yards passing, and while¬†trailing 13-7 in the third quarter, Brady connected with Brandon LaFell on a 2nd-and-6 at the Jets 45-yard line for an 11-yard completion that put him over the 4,000 yards passing mark for the 7th time in his career, and for the 4th consecutive season. He did it in 2005 (4110), 2007 (4806), 2009 (4398), 2011 (5235), 2012 (4827) and 2013 (4343).

They finished the drive with a 24-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski, which at the time cut the Jets lead to 13-10.

Overall he finished Sunday’s game 23-of-35 for 182 yards against a tough Jets defense that sacked him four times in the first half and kept him under pressure all afternoon, including a staggering 11 quarterback hits as well as an interception.

Fortunately the Patriots survived and came away with the win, and after the game Brady credited the Jets for giving them another good battle, and now New England will spend the week preparing for the Bills, who will visit Gillette Stadium next weekend.

“I think this is a team that is, they do a lot of things well,” said Brady after the game. “They‚Äôve got a good scheme. They‚Äôve got good players. They‚Äôve got a good rush, good in the middle of the defense, good middle linebacker, good safeties. The corners played good today. So I just think we got their best and I think we kind of sputtered there, got out of rhythm, finally found a little rhythm there in the second half and scored enough points.‚ÄĚ

Tom Brady Post Game Transcript: ‘We’ve got to keep fighting’

On how proud he is of his team being able to make plays when they needed them:

“We made plenty of good ones in the fourth quarter to come from behind, so that was great. ¬†Defensively we played great again and I’m glad it came out the way that it did, makes for a better Christmas. ¬†It’s always tough to get a win here. ¬† They’re a good team. ¬†They always play us pretty hard and we got their best today. ¬†We obviously didn’t do a very good job there in the first three quarters. ¬†We found a little rhythm there in the second half and got some points on the board, made some plays at the end. ¬†So it’s about making the critical plays and we found a way to do it.”

On if he thinks he’s becoming too bold with running the football himself:

“I just hope I can keep doing it. ¬†If I can make one or two of those a game, it helps. ¬†I thought I had an opportunity to make¬†a couple more that I just missed on…kind of scrambled out there and I had Shane [Vereen] in the end zone open and I threw it at his feet. ¬†I would have loved to have hit that one. ¬†But they’re a good team. ¬†They challenge you in a lot of ways and certainly they have a good rush, they’ve got some real good guys, some good match-ups, they always do every week, they get a lot of pressure. ¬†Kind of kept us off balance early and we figured a way to settle it down a little bit in the second half and we played a little bit better.”

On what it does to a team to be able to keep winning close, division games:

“Yeah, they’re slim margins and I think it always comes down to the last play. ¬†I can’t … I just wish we’d play better for 60-minutes and we just haven’t figured out a way to play against these guys as well as we possibly can. ¬†So we’ve got to keep fighting. ¬†Sometimes you’ve got to grind them out. ¬†It’s tough to win games in the NFL, certainly on the road against Division opponents, Divison Rivals, but we’ve got a big one coming up next week. ¬†We’ve got to finish strong at home in the division, it’d be great to get to 5-1, especially after losing the first division game, to win four straight has been great. ¬†Five straight, it’ll be good to have four straight, got to win¬†the fifth one. ¬†I didn’t add too many times.”

On what they did by keeping a couple of guys in to slow them down in the second half:

“That was good. ¬†We got into a little rhythm there, I think it settled a few things down. ¬†But we’ve got to sustain it and get it in the end zone down there. ¬†We kind of came up short on that 3rd and one, or 3rd and two, whatever it was. ¬†We’ve just got to finish those drives, especially with key drives like that where you finally can get a little momentum, a little rhythm, but we just … You know, it was a good defense. ¬†They challenged us, had a long field all day, we got a couple good short fields that we took advantage of but the defense really stepped up when we needed it to.”

On if it’s stylistic in terms of what the Jets do in how they attacked them:

“It could be. ¬†I think this is a team that is, they do a lot of things well. ¬†They’ve got a good scheme. ¬†They’ve got good players. ¬†They’ve got a good rush, good in the middle of the defense, good middle linebacker, good safeties. ¬†The corners played good today. ¬†So I just think we got their best and I think we kind of sputtered there, got out of rhythm, finally found a little rhythm there in the second half and scored enough points.”

On if the fact they doubled Gronkowski was part of the problem:

“Yeah, we just weren’t very productive in the pass game in general. ¬†So whether it was really Gronk, or JoJo [Brandon] LaFell, or Danny, we didn’t really find a rhythm all day.”

On what Amendola was able to provide without Julian Edelman:

“Did a great job. ¬†He’s really been looking forward to this opportunity. ¬†I thought he did a great job in there in the role that he played and he’s a very good player for us. ¬†He did a good¬†job returning some great kicks and punts. ¬†It will be good to get Jules back next week. ¬†Hopefully he can get back next week.”

On the interception he threw to LaFell:

“It’s a come back, we just couldn’t hit it. ¬†Hate to do that, hate to have those things come up. ¬†I’m glad our defense held. ¬†Ended up working out for us in a weird way, but I wish those things didn’t happen.”

On the fact they have so much success going up tempo and why they don’t do it more:

“That’s a good question, and I think there’s definitely times where we do a good job with it. ¬†I don’t know. ¬†That’s a good question. ¬†We do it at different times and sometimes it works and… I don’t know.”

On if after all the sacks if he’s still concerned about the protection:

“I think they’re giving good protection, I just think our communication wasn’t great with a lot of things¬†where we just¬†all weren’t on the same page. ¬†And when you do that, especially against a team that moves a lot of guys in and out of their defensive front and they blitz linebackers and safeties and, you know, they’ve got a lot of guys coming, our communication has to be on point and it’s kind of sputtered. ¬†We’ve got to be able to do a better job of that, especially here down the stretch.”

On how happy he was to see Vince Wilfork’s hand get in the way of that kick:

“Awesome. ¬†He’s always a big time play-maker for us, so he’s a great player, and he always makes great plays. ¬†You really count on those guys, especially when the offense wasn’t doing as well, to get plays like that from Vince, Jamie Collins, Hightower, Revis, Browner, I mean all those guys in there are doing a great¬†job.”

On his thoughts on Brandon Bolden’s final run to close it out:

“Just a phenomenal run. ¬†I mean, he’s a great back. ¬†Just great to give him the ball and he’s got such great explosion, he can turn the corner, his role on special teams is huge so he’s just a great player for us whenever he gets the opportunity and his number gets called, he always takes advantage of it. ¬†He made some, just great runs tonight.”

On how many of these games are just him versus Rex Ryan mentally:

“It’s a smart defense, it’s really … quality players on the defensive line and the linebacker level. ¬†They’ve played together for a long time, they get pressure on you, they kind of get you off balance early and then you’re thinking about things all day and it just keeps you out of rhythm. ¬†I think we did some good things with the tempo to settle that down to kind of find a little rhythm, but we just didn’t score enough points, or a lot of points. ¬†We’ve got to be able to do a better job than what we did.”

OPENING STATEMENT:

“Another tough game down here. ¬†It was good to win. ¬†I felt like our team needed to make a lot of fourth quarter to win, and they¬†did. ¬†We made them in all three phases. ¬†A lot of key plays at the end that our players came through on, just one right after another. ¬†From the turnover, to the touchdown, to the sack, long field goal, blocked field goal, running out the clock, we were able to make the plays we needed to make at the end of the game and that’s a credit to the players. ¬†We’ll take this one, and move on to Buffalo.”

On with Julian Edelman being out how big Danny Amendola was for them:

“Danny did a good job, LaFell did a good job, those guys came up with a couple real big catches for us in key situations. ¬†Yeah, Danny was…you know…had a big punt return, thought that gave us a little spark there, not that we were able to do a whole lot with it but we…he gave us a spark there in the first half. ¬†So yeah, he came up big, but so did LaFell. ¬†I thought we were able to get a little more consistency offensively in the second half.”

On what it says about his team that they are able to make those plays in the fourth quarter:

“Well, that’s what a team is. ¬†We all count on eachother. ¬†Each guy’s got an opportunity to help us in one way or another. ¬†You never know when it is, or how it’s going to turn out, but when we need them, we need them and they continue to step up. ¬†Different guys, different situations, different phases of the game. ¬†But we played good complementary football in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter and that’s what we needed to do to win.”

On how important Ryan Allen has been to them:

“He’s really hit the ball well three weeks in a row. ¬†I think he’s done a real good job. ¬†We had a couple big field position plays there, there was a lot of field position in the whole first half in terms of¬†the punting game and he’s done a good job for us.”

If this was the type of game he expected from Rex Ryan and the Jets coming in:

“I mean, we’ve played a lot of games like this against the Jets.”

On with the absence of Dan Connolly and his reasoning for the offensive line rotation:

“Well, they’ve got a real good front. ¬†We used Nate [Solder] some as a tight end and [Cameron Fleming] a little bit, but mostly Nate and then kind of rotated the guard situation in there with Josh [Kline] and Cam Fleming at that right guard…well, left guard for Josh, and then right guard for Cam and [Ryan Wendell] flipped back over to the left¬†guard so we had a couple different combinations in there on the line. ¬†But I mean, look, it’s a battle. ¬†They’ve got a real good front. ¬†They’ve got a lot of good players up there. ¬†They’re well coached, they’ve got a good front that’s hard to block, and we battled them.”

On his thoughts on his special teams unit being able to get blocks, how much credit goes to Special Teams Coach Scott O’Brien, etc:

“Well, having coached special teams for a significant part of my career, I know how that goes. ¬†If¬†you see a guy block a kick or you get pressure in a certain area, you try to stop that and then that usually creates opportunities for somebody else. ¬†We’ve gotten them from different guys in different gaps and if a team concentrates too much on trying to stop one guy and leaves an opening somewhere else, then we’ve got to be able to take advantage of that. ¬†We had a stem there, we stemmed right before the snap and kind of changed our alignment a little bit. ¬†It was a long kick, kind of like the one that we had in New England. ¬†So like Chris [Jones] did, Vince got his hand up, ball was probably a little bit low, but it had to be on a long kick like that. ¬†Again, the key to blocking the kick was getting in front of the ball. Vince put himself there and made the play.”

On the fact the sack by Dont’a Hightower was a key sack in the red zone:

“It was, that was a real big play. ¬†That was a look that we hadn’t run the whole game. ¬†I thought Matt Patricia made a great call in that situation and then the sack, I wouldn’t say knocked them out of field¬†goal range, but certainly made it a much tougher field goal. ¬†It kind of looked like they were going to punt it there with the timeout…well, I mean that was the play they were going to run. ¬†They took the timeout, and then it looked like they changed their mind and went back and decided to kick it. ¬†But I think those¬†yards really probably had a lot to do¬†with all the strategy and the changes there and probably, in the end, helped us a little bit by making it a longer kick probably forced¬†a little bit lower trajectory. ¬†That was a big play. ¬†We got a¬†number of big plays today defensively and it wasn’t perfect, but we cut down on the penalty situation on defense, so that was encouraging.”

On the fact they secured a bye this week and how important this week coming up is:

“The Buffalo game?”

Yes:

“Yeah, absolutely. ¬†Every game’s important. ¬†There’s still something …. I mean every game’s important, you’re always playing for something. ¬†But Buffalo’s got a good football team, obviously they had a big win last week against Green Bay. We had a tough game with them earlier in the year. ¬†We had a lot of respect for that football team and it seems like they’ve gotten better through the course of the season. ¬†So I’m sure we’ll have our hands full next week. ¬†We’ve got to turn the page quickly and get on to them and deal with the whole, what this week is and the challenges of having the same type of preparation and so forth, but it’s the same for every team in the league so we’ve just got to do a good job with that and be ready to go. ¬†But Buffalo’s a good football team.”

 


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