Archive for December, 2010

The Brady vs. Manning Discussion is Over

It’s been an absolutely remarkable season for quarterback Tom Brady.

It’s been quite a year for Brady, who has certainly exceeded everyone’s expectations this season. When you take a look at what he’s accomplished, it’s even fair to say that despite the fact the comparisons over the years have centered around his performances against that of Peyton Manning, even that debate is more or less over. It’s been the debate with Brady from the time he became a winner, to the time he took it one step further and morphed his game into becoming one of the more prolific and proficient passers in the league. Over the years he’s won three out of the four Super Bowls his team has appeared in, and has one of the best postseason records in the history of the league.

But his NFL MVP-worthy performance this year has helped them overcome a lot of personnel changes, and they find themselves with just two losses through 15 games. He’s now won 27 straight regular season home games (outside in the elements no less) and now have the luxury of home field throughout the postseason. Considering how well he’s been playing over this stretch in front of the home crowd, fans should be feeling pretty confident about their chances in the coming weeks considering that each time he’s secured a bye week they’ve reached the Super Bowl.


Tom Brady has been the key reason why New England finds themselves with the number one seed heading into the playoffs. (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)

The amazing thing about Brady is the way he’s gone out and taken this team on his shoulders on the offensive side of the ball, and has helped them do what they’ve needed to do in order to overcome a young defense that needed the first part of the season to find themselves. He’s elevated the guys on the offensive side of the ball into playing mistake-free football, and has gone on to break the record for the number of passes since his last interception, which came back in week six against the Ravens on a long pass attempt to Brandon Tate. He currently leads the league with a quarterback rating of 109.8.

To take it to another level, Brady’s only been picked off in two of their 15 games all year. He was picked off twice against the Jets in week two, and twice against the Ravens. In the Jets game both interceptions came on long passes to Randy Moss – which clearly was a problem with him trying to get the disgruntled veteran the ball when he may have been better served going elsewhere with it.

When you’re not turning the football over, you tend to win games. Taking a look at the other quarterbacks, there have only been 12 of the top 32 quarterbacks (including Brady) who have played in 14 or more games that have thrown less than 10 interceptions. Of those 12, seven of them have winning records and six even have 10 or more wins.

“Well I think as much as everyone points to me for that, I think so much of that goes into what we’re doing offensively,” said Brady on his weekly radio appearance on WEEI’s ‘Dennis & Callahan on Monday. “With the protection that I get from the offensive line, you know I’m really never forced into rushing throws. Also, we’ve been ahead a lot of these games, so you really don’t need to jam the ball into those tight areas that you would if you were really desperate in the second half trying to get back.”

“It’s been pretty great — we were talking about it this morning — for the last I think seven games or something like that, we’ve gotten the ball 22 times off turnovers and haven’t given it up once. I think that’s a pretty impressive stat just from an overall team basis. All the guys work pretty hard at it. As you know, Troy, that’s something that’s preached every day, is turnovers and securing the ball. I think that’s really why we’ve been winning these games. So, that’s going to need to continue.”

His play has taken some of the pressure off of many of the rookies and young players on the defensive side of the football while they learned the system and got things down. They’ve been putting up plenty of points, scoring 28 or more points 11 times this season, and over 30 in each of their last seven games. Their only two losses this season came when they scored just 14 points, and it’s pretty obvious that there has also been some development that’s taken place on the offensive side of the ball as rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski have settled in quite nicely. As a result they’ve won their last seven straight, and find themselves in great position heading into the playoffs with the number one seed and a first round bye.

Head coach Bill Belichick said during his conference call Monday that despite the challenges his team has faced and everything they’ve been through, he doesn’t feel this year has been any more difficult than what they’ve battled through previously.

“I think every single week that I have coached in the National Football League, I have felt a huge challenge on the other side of the field from whatever opponent we were facing,” said Belichick. “I don’t think this year is any different than last year or any other year on that. We know that we have big challenges coming up,” said Belichick. “We don’t even know who they are with yet but whoever they are, anybody that is playing at this time of year are going to be good teams.”

In the end Brady has put Belichick’s club right where they need to be. With the number one seed locked up, after next Sunday New England has the luxury of a bye week to sit back and watch as they await to see which team will be visiting Gillette. If they continue to win, the road to the Super Bowl for the AFC will have to come through Foxboro, and it will only take two wins to get there. Not bad for a team who at the start of the season many thought would simply be battling just to finish with a winning record. They’re now in control of their own destiny, and should they take care of business, they could be in position to surprise everyone before it’s over.

“I think our goals for this season are still ahead of us,” said Brady. “The only thing you really have to focus on is what you have ahead of you and what you’re trying to accomplish.”

“I feel that we’re really not where we need to be, and although we’re going in the right direction, we’ve got our toughest games ahead.”

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Patriots Win Another “Hat and T-Shirt Game”

Facing an opportunity to lock up the AFC East and a first round bye, the Patriots went out on Sunday and beat up the Bills 34-3 in front of the Buffalo home crowd and essentially made it where they’ll need just two wins to make it back to the Super Bowl.

That’s all it will take – just two wins. Two wins to put them back in position to wear another T-shirt, and it will give them a shot at one more game that could get them another t-shirt and also a ring to go along with it.

It may be considered a bit too early to look that far ahead, but with just a meaningless game against the Dolphins now facing them in Foxboro next Sunday, it’s hard not to start pondering what could actually be on the horizon. After all, we’re in a year where there seems to be more parity than we’ve seen in past seasons. There’s no powerhouse team out there that heading into the playoffs you would believe they’d have no chance against. We’ve seen them hold their own against some of the better defensive teams this season, and have also seen their young defense handle some very good offensive teams. Not bad for a Patriots team that some thought would be an average one at best. A lot of the “experts” out there felt they’d battle for a postseason birth at the start of the season, but now they’re riding high with a record of 13-2. They’ve wrapped up the AFC East division and have a pretty good shot at going far into the playoffs.

We may enjoy wondering what the future may hold, but Bill Belichick as usual downplayed it after the win.

“We’re happy about it. It’s great, but we’ll just see what comes and take whatever the next step is,” said Belichick. “We’ll play Miami this week, get ready for them, and take whatever comes after that.”

What comes after that, if nothing else, will be a week of observation and a week of rest. Considering some of the injuries to their interior defensive linemen, having an additional week off is likely going to do them quite a bit of good. We saw the Bills have a fair amount of success early on in Sunday’s game running the ball, before – as usual – the Buffalo coaching staff abandoned what had been a decent game plan and put the ball into the hands of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Seven turnovers later the Bills found themselves playing in front of a home crowd in which only about 25% of them were still on hand to witness the final outcome. The rest apparently had seen enough and were heading home to beat the weather.

“It’s great to be able to take advantage of those opportunities,” said Belichick after the game on the Bills turnovers. “We had a couple where we had the ball stripped out, the ball batted up in the air – we came up with it, we caught it, we had a couple good catches. When you get those opportunities, you’ve got to take advantage of them. Certainly we’ve dropped our share. We’ll keep trying to stay after the ball and hopefully when it’s loose, we can have enough people around it to come up with it.”


Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork’s leadership has been a key reason why they’ve been able to overcome personnel losses this season. (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)

It’s pretty obvious that against some of the better teams in the playoffs, New England will need to get healthy up front and give Vince Wilfork some assistance should they face teams who have a better rushing attack. They’ve been without Mike Wright for a couple of weeks now as he continues to recover from a concussion, as well as Myron Pryor and rookie Brandon Deaderick who are both battling injuries. In their absence we’ve seen some new guys fill in fairly well, with recently signed Landon Cohen and Eric Moore doing a serviceable job this afternoon. They struggled a bit in the first series against the run when the Bills drove down and got a field goal. However, after Brady led the offense to a couple of touchdowns, Buffalo went into panic mode and melted down from there. They stopped running the ball while the Patriots didn’t let up with their own rushing attack, and finished with 217 yards on the ground on the afternoon.

“Good blocking, good running, good play calling,” said Belichick on the play of his runningbacks and the blocking that helped open things up for them. “The players are the ones who gain the yards. They’re the ones that blocked; they’re the ones that ran. Our receivers have been doing a good job in the running game.”

This may be one of the best coaching we’ve seen from Belichick during his tenure, accompanied by some great personnel decisions. Despite the loss of Kevin Faulk, Jarvis Green, Leigh Bodden, Nick Kazcur, and Stephen Gostkowski, all of whom were lost for the season thanks to injuries over the course of this season, Belichick has done a good job of evaluating different players to help fill in the holes. The Patriots lost Faulk, and have replaced him – perhaps permanently – with Danny Woodhead. He stuck with BenJarvus Green-Ellis after Fred Taylor suffered an early season injury, and it ended up being the right move. Following Sunday’s win Green-Ellis is closing in on his first 1,000 yard season and has provided New England with the running game they’ve been sorely lacking in recent years.

But one thing that can’t be overlooked has been the play of Tom Brady, who has been the main reason why they’re on the cusp of another championship run. He’s been flawless, throwing just four interceptions all season. He broke Bernie Kosar’s streak of passes without an interception on Sunday, and has accomplished this feat after the guy he was forcing the ball to was shipped out in what may be one of the most surprising moves by a head coach during a team’s regular season. Want to question whether or not Belichick is afraid of anything? The trade of Randy Moss proved that he’s not afraid to get rid of a player who he feels is a detriment to his roster, and the guys in the locker room have seen them lose just one game since he left. Meanwhile Moss found himself traded from New England and then waived by his next team in 2010, with both of the teams he’s been a part of (the Vikings and now Titans) currently sitting with 9 losses, with the latter having a 1-4 record in their most recent five games.

It’s hard to believe that’s a coincidence, and anyone who doubts Belichick’s decision making ability and how much he understands the locker room dynamic hopefully has changed their minds. Following the Moss trade there were quite a few people unhappy with what transpired. Now many of them are singing a different tune. Winning will do that, and while it’s the players that ultimately are the ones who win and lose the games, good coaching gives them the best chance to go out and achieve that success.

“Our coach is tough on us,” said Brady. “As I said earlier in the week we take the coaching from him. He’s a pretty smart coach. I think when we can understand what he is teaching us and the way that we need to do things it ends up turning out pretty good.”

It’s turned out pretty well to this point. Now here they are with one game left in the season and just three games that could help them achieve the new identity that Belichick hoped they’d find at the start of the season.

Needless to say there’s plenty of reason to be excited. There’s a new hat and t-shirt to buy and just a few games before they may be able to wear a couple of different ones. But considering the outlook at the start of the season, the fact they’re in this position has to have fans feeling pretty confident for what the future may hold in the coming weeks.

“We have a sign coming out of our stadium saying ‘Don’t believe the hype’,” said Vince Wilfork after the game. “I think that speaks for itself, from being the greatest team and then being one of the worst teams, we heard it all.”

“We’ve got a lot of work to do but at the same time with this team, you’ve got to keep getting better. There’s no doubt in my mind that we won’t keep getting better. That’s where we’re at right now.”

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Close Call: Patriots Pulled This One Out

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s a great article from Bob George, who has been writing about the Patriots for two decades and provides his thoughts on Sunday night’s win over the Packers.

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First of all, you get the Jets ruining the Patriots’ division-clinching party by winning at Pittsburgh.

Then you get a depleted Patriot team running up against a game Green Bay Packer team that turned in one of those Any Given Sunday efforts and nearly shocked the entire pro football world.

All this, and nothing has changed for the Patriots, and even if they had lost, things would have still been okay where the playoffs are concerned.

A wacky evening at Gillette Stadium concluded with the Patriots barely hanging on to defeat the Packers, 31-27 in a game where the Patriots were 14-point favorites and the Packers were without their starting quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers suffered a concussion last week at Detroit, leaving Matt Flynn as the starting quarterback for Green Bay. Flynn was literally written off as dead by most every expert, and the Patriots figured to literally coast to an easy home win.

But as you all know, that’s why they play the game. The mother of all reverse locks almost happened. The Patriots did manage to win, but the Packers should be lauded for a supreme effort in defeat.

Three issues provided the backdrop for how this game turned out. First of all, most all of Patriot Nation figured that this game would be a division coronation, as well as locking up a first round bye. But the Steelers ruined that idea by gagging at home against the Jets, 22-17. No one around these parts expected the Steelers to lose that game at home against the reeling Jets, but Gang Green righted their ship and took it to the Steelers. The Steelers still managed to clinch a playoff berth, so go figure. This turn of events may have caused the Patriots to come down a few notches in intensity.

The second issue was that the Patriot defense was hugely shorthanded Sunday night. In addition to Brandon Spikes and his suspension, the Patriots were also without linemen Ron Brace, Myron Pryor and Mike Wright. Because of this, the Packer running game was a major factor in them hanging around all night long.

And finally, the game began with Mike McCarthy borrowing a page from the Sean Payton book of coaching. The Packers won the toss, elected to defer to the second half, then shocked the Patriots with an onside kick to open the game. Nick Collins recovered the kick at the Packer 47, and that play set the tone for the entire evening.

Offensively, the Packers did a marvelous job of mixing up the run and pass. In the end, the Packers had 38 running plays and 37 pass plays. Flynn finished with 24 of 37 passing for 251 yards and three touchdowns. He finished with a passer rating of 100.2. Brandon Jackson missed the century mark in rushing by one yard, and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. Jackson made most of his hay between the tackles, the Patriots sometimes having to use Vince Wilfork at defensive end and therefore opening up a lot of inside running lanes.

The Packer defense did well also most all game long, sacking Tom Brady three times and not giving up any overly huge plays. The Patriots stayed away from Clay Matthews as much as they could. Charles Woodson did yeoman’s work against Wes Welker all game long and he was held to only three catches. Brady was held to only 163 yards passing, perhaps the best indication of how well the Packers contained the Patriot offense for most of the game.

But the Patriots did prevail in the end, and it was simply the fact that they made more plays than the Packers did.

Flynn threw one interception all evening long, but Kyle Arrington was able to return it 36 yards for a touchdown. That was a key play considering the Patriots ran only four offensive plays in the entire third quarter. The Packers followed the pick with a 13-play touchdown drive, but the Arrington interception kept the Patriots in the game and allowed the comeback in the fourth quarter.

In the decisive fourth quarter, the Patriot rushing attack helped overcome the shackles the Packers put on Brady. Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis both averaged over six yards per carry. Throw in a 16-yard reverse by Aaron Hernandez, and the Patriots as a team averaged just over seven yards per rush. Green-Ellis did rip off a 33-yard scoring run in the first quarter, but Woodhead saved the bacon in the fourth quarter.

Then there was Dan Connolly. Just after the Packers had taken a 10-point lead at 17-7 on a touchdown pass from Flynn to Greg Jennings, Connolly took the ensuing kickoff at the Patriot 25, lumbered up the middle, and then took off down the left sideline nearly to the house before he was corralled at the Packer 4. It was a 71-yard return, the longest kickoff return by a lineman in NFL history. Three plays later, Hernandez caught a two-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-14 Packers at the half.

And in the end, the Packers suffered horrid clock management issues which helped make the ending a happy one for the Patriots. With 29 seconds left and no timeouts, Flynn hit Donald Driver at the Patriot 15 on third down and 11. They needed the 14 for a first down. But Flynn brought the team up to the line slowly, and they snapped the ball on fourth down with only 5 seconds left. Flynn rolled right and was hit by Tully Banta-Cain, and the ball came out. Wilfork fell on the ball at the 15 as time expired.

The Patriots came away with a win to square their record on NBC to 5-5, the only wins coming in 2007 and 2010. They beat the Packers for the first time in Foxborough since 1995; it was the Packers who handed the Patriots their first loss in Gillette Stadium history in 2002. Despite the win, the Patriots still need one more win to clinch the division and home field throughout the playoffs, as the Jets could still mathematically win the division.

They will try and get that win next week at Buffalo, who knocked Miami out of playoff contention with a 17-14 win in south Florida. If that doesn’t work out, they get Miami at home in the season finale. One more win means that the road to the Super Bowl goes through Foxborough.

The Patriots would prefer that they handle Buffalo like they usually do, not get another nailbiter against Green Bay. The Patriots did manage to prevail on a night when they had far less than their best. But the Patriots have to assume that the Bills will play them like the Colts do, and things will then be okay.

Maybe it’s better this way. The tougher it is on the Patriots, the better.

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Best and Worst From Patriots vs. Packers

Here’s a quick look back at the best and worst performances from Sunday night’s win over the Green Bay Packers:

BEST PERFORMANCES FROM SUNDAY NIGHT:

Tom Brady – Another solid outing for the Patriots signal caller.  He finished 15-of-24 for 163 and two touchdowns and another interception free performance and a QB rating of 110.2.  He’s thrown just four picks all season, which is the lowest total among starters in the NFL.

Danny Woodhead – Had another good night running the football, and was a critical factor in the closing minutes of Sunday night’s game.

Rob Gronkowski – With his first grab of the night, he picked up 25-yards and even had Chris Collinsworth suggesting he deserves Pro Bowl consideration.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis – Green-Ellis made a 33-yard touchdown run on New England’s opening offensive possession, giving New England a 7-3 lead.  Had a great blitz pickup early in the game, and did a great job running the football throughout the contest. Overall a good night.

Aaron Hernandez – Another good night for the rookie, after he caught two touchdown passes.  He finished with four receptions for 31-yards.

Darius Butler – Made a great heads-up play to go after the ball after Julian Edelman called for the fair catch on the Packers first punt and wasn’t able to come down with the football.  Had he not recovered it, it could have been a critical turnover and allowed another touchdown.

Rob Ninkovich – Finished with six tackles along with a sack during Sunday night’s game, and played pretty well overall.

Dan Connolly – Returned the ball 71-yards on a kickoff following a Packers touchdown, taking the ball down to the Packers four yard line, which helped set up a field goal right before the half.  It was the longest kickoff return ever for an offensive lineman in the history of the NFL.

Kyle Arrington - Made a big interception to start he second half.  He picked off Flynn and took it back 36 yards for a touchdown to put the Patriots up 21-17 minutes into the 3rd quarter.

Devin McCourty – Had another great night, finishing with 10 tackles, a pass defensed, and also recorded his first ever career sack.  If he was dealing with any rib injuries, it didn’t seem to slow him down very much.

Deion Branch – Branch made a critical 17-yard pick up to give the Patriots the first down on their first drive to keep the drive going, and it lead to a touchdown after he also made a great block to set up a rushing TD from on Green-Ellis’ run.  He also made a great diving catch on a play where Brady’s arm was hit as he was releasing it, yet he still got the ball to him.  It helped set up Aaron Hernandez’ 10-yard TD reception to put them up 31-27.

Tully Banta-Cain – Banta-Cain made the game clinching strip sack after being called for a hands to the face penalty that replays showed was a bad call.  That sack sealed the win for New England, and was definitely one of the bigger plays of the night.

 THE WORST PERFORMANCES FROM SUNDAY NIGHT:

James Sanders – Sanders started shifting back and was caught completely by surprise by the onside kick the Packers tried to start the game.  Tough to get to upset with him for that one – that was quite a call by Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy.

Brandon Meriweather – Meriweather found himself out of position on the 66-yard touchdown catch by James Jones to put the Packers back up 10-7 just moments into the 2nd quarter.  On the play he took a bad angle and took McCourty out of the play, allowing Jones to get away and score.

Julian Edelman – Botched a punt return that was nearly turned over and also had a critical drop late in the contest.  He continues to struggle after having such high expectations heading into this season.

NOTES: Fred Taylor didn’t play and was listed among the inactives.  Other players out were Taylor Price, Thomas Clayton, Rich Ohrnberger, Mark LeVoir, Myron Pryor, Ron Brace & Mike Wright…Vince Wilfork had zero penalties for the year heading into Sunday night’s game, but actually ended up committing two on the evening…Devin McCourty got called for a helmet-to-helmet penalty late in the 2nd quarter, which happened in front of the commissioner who was on hand Sunday night.  He’ll likely face a fine, although the play looked incidental as he lowered his shoulder on the play but his helmet made contact.  McCourty also recorded the first sack of his career Sunday night…  The Packers did a good job keeping Brady off the field in the second half.  He didn’t even get the football for the first time with the offense until nearly 10-minutes into the 3rd quarter… Brady passed Bart Starr for 2nd place all-time for most consecutive passes without an interception Sunday night…. Matt Flynn started the game in place of Aaron Rodgers and played pretty well, and was the first backup QB to start for the Packers since 1992.

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Vince Wilfork Post Game Press Conference Transcript

Here’s the complete transcript of defensive lineman Vince Wilfork’s postgame press conference following the Patriots win over Green Bay Sunday night:

On the defense making the big play at the end of the game:

“It’s something that we always talk about, you know, going in as a defense, offense whatever – situations.  As a defender I love being in situations like that because it gives you a chance to win the ball game.  I think we came up big for us.  The game wasn’t perfect. At the end of the day, the ‘W’ – that’s exactly what counts.  I think good teams find a way to win, especially in December.  I mean Green Bay, I tip my hat to them because they came out fired up and they played a hell of a ball game.  Flynn did a hell of a job.  Looking at him this week, he actually ran the offense pretty well.  So we weren’t shocked that he was going come out and perform well.  It was all about us executing, and I think at times we did it good, and at times we didn’t.  Like I said, good football teams find a way to win.  I think you saw today people rising to the occasion.  When the offense needed to score, we scored, when we needed to make a stop, we made a stop.  Special teams came up big, so I’m not sad at a victory.  I’m not worried about how we won.  There are some things we can clean up and get better at but the fact of the matter is – we won today. You look at film, make corrections and move on because we’re going to need to win more ball games than this if we want to get to where we want to be.”

On Dan Connolly’s kickoff return:

“You know for a big guy – I mean he gets the game ball, I’m telling you that right now.  To do what he did, he got us pumped, it really got us pumped.  Just to see a big guy running down the field like that – me, I would have had to take a timeout and get subbed in or something.  But he went out, he finished the series, and the offense capped it off with seven points so hats go off to that guy and he definitely deserved the game ball in my book.”

About the fact he didn’t score:

“He got us where we needed to get, he got us seven points.  Bill, we talked about coming into this game – about field advantage.  Special teams, defense, offense, and taking advantage of situations.  At times it was shaky, but at the same time we made the plays that we needed to make at the time we needed to make them.  So I’m never going to sit here and complain about certain plays.  You play a football game, the only thing that counts at the end is ‘did you win or lose?’.  I don’t care how great you are, if you lose, you lost.  I don’t care how bad you are, if you won, you won the ball game.  We won a tough ball game.  The last couple of weeks we’ve played some good football teams, and handled them pretty well.  To give up 27 points and play a little inconsistent at times today, people may be upset.  Do I want to blow people out every time?  Yes, but it doesn’t happen like that every time.  So we got the ‘W’.  There’s some things we definitely can learn from in this game, but I’m not taking back the fact that we played our tails off.  We probably got off to a slow start, but we made plays to get the job done and now we’re sitting back with the ‘W’ and we’re going to enjoy it.”

On facing the Bills next week:

You know what?  Buffalo’s been playing some tough games all year.  They’ve put up a lot of points. They’re very explosive on offense.  Fitzpatrick, he’s throwing the heck out the ball and the receivers are catching it.  The running game – I think Jackson is probably one of the most underrated backs there is in the league.  He’s a hell of a back, so we’re going to have to play some ball – especially with a division game.  You can’t look at a record and be like, “this is a win.” You can’t do that – especially in the NFL and being a division game.  So we have to come to play, and we have to go to Buffalo.  But like I said, good teams find a way to win – especially when it’s late in the season.  We have to rally around eachother and continue to do what we’ve been doing.  Preparing well, practicing well, being good in situational football.  Just being able to execute, and it’s going to continue this week.”

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Danny Woodhead Post Game Comments

Danny Woodhead’s press conference was short following Sunday night’s win, but here was what he had to say to the media after the game.

On Dan Connolly’s kickoff return:

“That was a big play.  Maybe someone that you wouldn’t expect to have the long return, but we saw some shiftiness at the end of that run, and it was a big play and it set us up to score at the end of the first half.”

On Belichick saying that he didn’t think the team was prepared:

“We ended up picking up the win, that’s the most important thing.  Things didn’t go the way that obviously we would like them to, but we got the win, and we’re happy with the win.”

On despite the fact they didn’t play their best game but still came out the win:

“We’re happy to get the ‘W’. Anytime you work during the week and show up on Sunday, you want to make sure you get the win.  That’s the ultimate goal.  Obviously it wasn’t the most pretty game, but we ended up getting it done.”

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Tom Brady’s Post Game Press Conference

Here is the complete transcript of Tom Brady’s press conference following New England’s win over the Green Bay Packers:

On Dan Connolly’s kickoff return:

“That was the longest kickoff return ever – I’ve never seen anything happen so slow in my life.  It was an unbelievable play, I could never imagine anything like that’s going to happen.  That really was a big play in the game.  If it happens, we have to take advantage of it.  And Danny, it was a heads up play, smart – they won’t be kicking to him anymore I’ll tell you that.”

On what he tells the team in the huddle when they have to score:

“There was definitely urgency there in the second half, and I don’t think we did much to help ourselves throughout the entire game.  There were so many long yardage situations – and against a team like this, that’s one thing we talked about not doing is putting ourselves in long yardage situations.  They made it tough on us.  That’s a damn good defense, real good secondary, good defensive front – they gave us all we could handle tonight.  So you give them a lot of credit.  They’re very well coached, they play from the opening kickoff until the last play of the game.  It took all 60 minutes, so when we needed it we made the plays, and I’m glad we won.”

On what he was thinking watching the final Packers offensive series:

“You always run through the situations. I’m probably more thinking about what we’re going to do if they score and we’ve got to get the ball down the field. Those are probably more of my thoughts. Our defense has really made those plays all year at the end of the game. The Colts game was a big game where they made some plays, Baltimore – they made some big stops. We’ve been in some close games and we came out ahead. This was as much as we could handle. I think we’ve got to come in and have a very good week of practice and get ready to go up to Buffalo to play another very good defense.”

On how hard it is to execute when they were on the sideline for so long:

“Well, I think that’s a great question, and it’s hard to get into a lot of a rhythm. I wish we could, as an offense, stay out there to get us in a rhythm. Part of us not being on the field was our lack of execution. So we need to go out there and execute better in order to stay on the field and get our defense off the field. I’m sure we lost the time of possession. I’m sure we lost the field position. I don’t think we were great on third down by any stretch. It was really not a great offensive effort. I think we just – the defense, special teams made some huge plays for us and that’s what we needed today.”

On the play of his tight ends:

“Sure, and they’ve done that all year. Those two young tight ends and Alge [Crumpler], what a great group of guys, and a great group of teammates. To rely on those guys week in and week out.  One week it’s Gronk, one week it’s Aaron, Alge has been a huge factor in these games. So that’s what it’s going to take. We’re going to need everybody. There’s not a player on this roster that we don’t need and that really kind of showed up today.”

On Aaron Hernandez’ final touchdown:

“We had a play called and they were in a pretty good defense to stop it, so we checked out of it and I liked Aaron’s matchup over there on the guy that he had and threw it to him. He made a great catch and a great, really, run after catch, too, to stay on his feet like he did and get in the end zone. Just two big touchdowns for him.  So he’s been great. He works hard in practice. Practices every day, and he came up big tonight.”

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Bill Belichick Post Game Comments

Here’s the complete transcript of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s post game press conference following New England’s win over the Green Bay Packers:

Opening Statement:

“I think you have to give the players a lot of credit today for playing 60-minutes and fighting through some adversity and coming out with a win at the end – they made enough plays to win.  It certainly wasn’t one of our better games and obviously I have to do a better job of preparing the team than what I did this week.  So we couldn’t handle a lot of the basic things that they did, and that was disappointing.  But we had a few big plays, it was a game of big plays, and fortunately we were able to make a few more than they were.  We got a couple of good plays there at the end from the defense, and the offense set us up with the lead there on the drive before.  In the end it worked out, but we’ve obviously got a lot of work to do.  I think we’ve got to play better than this, or our season won’t last much longer.”

On if he’d ever seen anything like Dan Connolly’s kickoff return:

“I don’t think so.  It was a good run, he broke a tackle there on [Charlie] Peprah, Sergio [Brown] cleaned him off, kind of looked like he was looking to go down, but then they just couldn’t really find anyone to tackle him.  It was a nice job by the kickoff team, they short-kicked us all day really with the pooch kicks and the squib kicks there.  We’ve been working on those, but it was an alert play by Dan but also by the blocking to get in front of him there to at least get him started.”

On the last two sacks before the end of the game:

“It looked to me like the guard was trying to come out and get him, and he beat him off the edge.  The last couple – I think we were in a three man rush – and the quarterback, Flynn, just held the ball trying to get it down the field, and we were able to fall back.  When he stepped up in the pocket, we came back in and got him it looked like.”

On Tully Banta-Cain’s penalty, and the fact he made the play at the end to seal it:

“It’s good to win.  We had a lot of penalties.  Look, these guys call the most penalties of any crew in the league, and they called them, and we knew it was going to be a tight game – and it was.  We’ve just got to do a better job of that – I’ve got to do a better job of preparing the team.”

On if Packers QB Matt Flynn’s play surprised him:

“No, I mean that’s about the way we’ve seen him play.  We played him in preseason, he does a good job managing the game.  He’s a good quarterback.”

On what he thought they weren’t prepared for:

“All the stuff that happened, we’ve got to do a better job.  We’ve got to do a better job of getting the players ready for those things, and we’ve got to do a better job of executing them when we get a chance to do them.”

On the defense’s performance in the fourth quarter:

“Our performance was up and down all night.  That’s the way it was for all four quarters.  We had a few good plays, then we had some bad plays, we had a few good plays, and then some bad plays – that’s the way it was the whole game.”

On what he meant about the fact he had to do a better job coaching:

“If we can’t execute, then it’s got to come back to the coaching at some point.  So we’ve got to do a better job at coaching.”

On the last Arrington tackle that set up the 4th and one:

“I don’t think I really got a good look at it.  It was on the other side of the field.  I mean they ran the under route right?  So I don’t think it wouldn’t have made any difference if they got the first down or not.  They had no timeouts left, 15 seconds – I guess they could have spiked it – maybe they could have gotten another play out of it.  But just being out of timeouts and having to try to run a red area offense, they didn’t really get many plays off – which was fortunate for us.”

On how the Packers opened the game:

“Yeah, it was good execution by them, but I mean it’s terrible by us – we can’t give that up.  I don’t care if it’s well executed or not.  We’ve got to do a better job in all three phases of the game, there’s no doubt about that.  I mean we made some plays, we made plays on offense, we made plays on defense, made plays on special teams and we gave them up too – gave up a lot of them. We’ve just got to do a better job, and it starts with me.”

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Second Quarter Recap: Patriots vs. Packers

New England got caught on a tough play just moments into the second quarter, with Brandon Meriweather getting crossed up in the coverage and running into Devin McCourty – which allowed James Jones to score a 66-yard touchdown to put the Packers up 10-7.

Later in the quarter the Packers put together a big drive, which was highlighted by a helmet-to-helmet penalty on Devin McCourty which was a 15-yard penalty and gave them the ball at New England’s 30-yard line.  It lead to a field goal by Green Bay, and put them up 17-7 with just over 3-minutes to go in the first half.

So far through two quarters Tom Brady and the offense has struggled, they’ve gained 138 yards compared to 180 for Green Bay.  They’ve also seen some good play from backup QB Matt Flynn, who is 11-of-18 for 143-yards and 2 touchdowns, with a QB rating of 123.1.

However, Brady got a little help after the Packers touchdown, with offensive lineman Dan Connolly returning the ball 71-yards on the ensuing kickoff down Green Bay’s four yard line.  Connolly wrapped both hands around the ball and took off running, showing surprisingly good speed and even made a stiff arm and a great cutback on the run.  It was the longest return by an offensive lineman in the history of the NFL, and is definitely one of the more memorable highlights fans will likely remember from this season. 

The play ended up being a big one, as Brady would later throw a touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez to get them back in it at 17-14 just before the half.

His touchdown pass was his 30th of the year and the 255th of his career, tying Sonny Jurgensen for 11th all-time.  He’s also completed passes to seven different receivers so far tonight.

Comparing the two quarterbacks at halftime:

Tom Brady: 10-of-15 for 81 yards 1 TD (QB Rating 102.4)

Matt Flynn: 11-of-18 for 143 yards 2 TD (QB Rating 123.1)

Green Bay currently has the edge in time of possession, holding the ball for 17:40 while New England has had it for 12:20.

We’ll have more throughout the game, so be sure to check back for updates.

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Patriots vs. Packers – First Quarter Recap

It’s been an interesting start to Sunday night’s game against the Packers at Gillette Stadium.  They caught New England off guard after they started off the game electing to defer to start the game, and instead they tried an onside kick and recovered the football.  Backup QB  Matt Flynn started the game in place of Aaron Rodgers, and after the play he led them on an 11-play 40-yard drive, lasting 6:15 which ended with a field goal after the onside kick to give Green Bay a 3-0 lead.  He’s the first backup QB to start for the Packers since 1992. 

New England answered on their first possession, with Rob Gronkowski and Deion Branch coming up with a couple of big catches which helped set up a 33-yard touchdown run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis to put them up 7-3.  It was the longest run of Green-Ellis’ career, and is the 2nd longest run allowed by the Packers this year.

Some things worth noting: Devin McCourty did start the game, while Fred Taylor was listed among the inactives.  Other players out were Taylor Price, Thomas Clayton, Rich Ohrnberger, Mark LeVoir, Myron Pryor, Ron Brace & Mike Wright.

The Patriots did suffer an injury in the first quarterb, with DE Brandon Deaderick leaving the game with a shoulder injury. He’s currently listed as “questionable” to return.

Through one quarter Tom Brady is 4-of-8 for 55-yards, and has had some pressure put on him, including one sack.

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