Matt Cassel Q&A, 11/26

Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s Matt Cassel’s Q&A with the media from earlier today:

Wednesday Injury Report

Here’s the latest:


Cassel named AFC Offensive Player of the Week

It was just announced that Matt Cassel has been named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Belichick and McDaniels Q&A, 11/25

Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here are the transcripts of Bill Belichick’s and Josh McDaniels’ Q&A with the media from earlier today:

Bill Belichick
BB: Watching the Steelers, they are a pretty impressive football team. They certainly do a lot of things well. You see their defense ranked at the top of the league in just about everything: rushing, passing, points, third down, red area. Nobody has gotten 300 yards against them and about half of their possessions are three and out. They are really solid across the board. It is no one man band. They are good at everything. The front, the linebackers, the secondary – they mix it up on you quite a bit. They are very good. Offensively, they have a lot of good players – very skilled players at the wide receiver position [and] an excellent tight end with Miller. The backs are tough. Roethlisberger brings a dimension of the game not just passing but running and staying alive in the pocket with his size and vision to go down field with scrambles. They are an excellent coverage team – they lead the league in kickoff coverage, third in punt coverage, five yards of punt return. So, they do a good job with field position and putting their defense in a good situation. Defensively, they usually hold up their end of the bargain too. It is a big challenge for us this week. There’s a lot to get ready for in all three phases of the game. The Steelers are really sound. They are well coached, they are tough and they are a hard team to beat. You have to go out there and play well and do things well against them. They are not going to make too many mistakes and make it easy for you. You are going to have to work for everything you get.

Q: How consistently are the Steelers blitzing this season?
BB: It varies, but I would say overall not as much as last year.

Q: In turn with your offensive line it seemed like you were in a lot of five man protections against the Dolphins. How do you feel the line did in protections in that passing game?
BB: I think for the most part we were ok considering the number of times we threw the ball. We mix our protections up so there is a little of everything. Sometimes we are in five-man, sometimes six-man, which there are a lot of different varieties of, and some seven man too. We use them all like most teams do, like the Steelers do. I don’t think you want to stay in one protection the whole time. Our tight ends and backs are going to be important in blitz pickup. They have been and they will continue to be, not just individually but in conjunction with everyone working together in unison so we get all the guys blocked that we are supposed to get blocked and if there are any free ones we know who they are and we account for them between the quarterback and whatever receivers are involved. That is a tough thing to get everything right on. That will be a challenge for us this week to work on all aspects of not only the communication but actually physically blocking them.

Q: You mentioned the Steelers rank first in pretty much everything defensively. How challenging is it to even find a weakness to exploit?
BB: You are going to have to work for everything. You are going to have to execute whatever play you run whether it is run, pass or play action. Whatever it is, it is just going to have to be well executed and if it’s not then you are probably not going to get much out of it. If it is sloppy you will probably turn the ball over. We’re going to have to have a real good game of execution offensively, whatever the plays are.

Q: What makes James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley so tough?
BB: They are both very athletic. They are fast and they play with good power, so they match up well against different types of blockers. They are more physical than most of the smaller guys they encounter and when they are up against bigger guys they use their quickness and athleticism to win against some of the offensive linemen they face, particularly the tackles. The scheme creates some problems too – getting the right guys on them or getting them blocked period. They bring all four of them, so you have to account for all four of them. Sometimes they spring guys free on that too. But, they are good rushers with their athleticism, their power and their quickness.

Q: With the Thursday night games becoming more prevalent in the league, is having extra time to prepare the next week an advantage?
BB: I think for most teams with the coaching staff it is an advantage because you have a little more time to not only look at the most recent games that you have broken down but the whole season and study with a little more detail. I think for the players, most teams use the extra time. We are into the season 10, 11, 12 games whenever they hit. I think most teams would use that time to try to give the players a couple extra days to heal up their bumps and bruises and get ready for the remaining games you have left with as healthy a team as you can. As compared to playing early in the season or having a bye week early in the season where you might take advantage of some extra practice time when your team is healthy and fresh. I think at this point there is not a lot of that. We had a very light practice on Friday of last week, probably closer to a Saturday practice than a Friday practice. Even though we had extra time for the Miami game and we had more meeting time, we didn’t do a whole lot more on the field than we would in a normal Sunday to Sunday week. I think from some of the other coaches I have talked to in the league that is closer to the norm than practicing five days instead of three.

Q: Does Dick LeBeau get his due credit for what he has meant to this league?
BB: Dick should. I think his respect in the league from everybody that I know is immense. He was a great player in this league and he has been a great defensive coach for a long time, whether it’s been an assistant or the head coach. I think he is as well respected as anybody in the game defensively. His overall career accomplishments – I can’t imagine there be more than a handful of people that would really be able to compare with what he has done in the National Football League throughout his entire career. He has had a great track record and has had an awesome career. It wouldn’t be overlooked by me. I don’t know who else would be grading it but it is pretty impressive to me.

Q: How will this week’s schedule differ, if at all, with the Thanksgiving holiday?
BB: Not too much. We are going to try to stay on a normal schedule and maybe move things up a little bit earlier on Thursday. We will try to do a couple of things in practice on Wednesday and a couple of things in practice on Friday that we would normally do on Thursday. We will just shorten it down a little bit, not too much. We still have to do what we have to do to get ready for the game. I think if we just push things up a little, everyone will have time to have a good day with their families on Thursday – I think that is important too. We can get done what we need to get done Thursday morning and break things down earlier than we normally do.

Q: Have you heard any follow-up from the league on the Matt Light and Channing Crowder situation?
BB: I don’t have anything to add on it.

Q: What are some of the attributes that separate Troy Polamalu from other safeties in the league?
BB: He is a very instinctive player. He has good skills. He is very fast, quick, is a tough guy, good tackler, very aggressive and is very instinctive. He really has a nose for the ball. He has a good level of anticipation on what is going to happen. Either before the ball is snapped or sometimes immediately right after it is snapped, so he is heading in the direction in a hurry. I would say that he is a guy that whenever he is on the field you have to be aware of him from an offensive standpoint. Whenever he is on the field he is moving to the ball pretty fast. He might be 50 yards away, he might be 5 yards away but he’s coming and he’s coming in a hurry. It won’t be too long before he gets there. Sometimes other guys get there first but he won’t be too far behind.

Q: Does he remind you of the vintage Rodney Harrison at all?
BB: I think there are some similarities between the players, yes. They make plays in every aspect of the game. They blitz. They tackle. They cover. They knock balls down. They intercept them. They play with great emotion, competitiveness and toughness. They take on anybody – guards, tackles – it doesn’t matter who it is. They will hit anybody, whoever is there. They will hit them just as hard it doesn’t make a difference of how big they are or what number they are wearing. I think there are a number of similarities in those two players.

Josh McDaniels
Q: How difficult is it to find areas you can exploit against the Pittsburgh Steelers when they are the NFL’s top-ranked defense?
JM: It is a huge challenge. Obviously, there aren’t a lot of weaknesses. There really aren’t any. It is a team that the scheme itself has been in place for a long time, a number of years. They have had a lot of the same players in that scheme for a long time. They really know how to play the defense. They execute it extremely well. They are very physical. They pressure you. They cover well and they try to force you into turnovers and negative plays. They have a number of very, very good players. The challenge is to try and find ways to move the ball against them and eliminate all the negative plays that they cause to disrupt you and get you in those long yardage situations where it is really hard to convert and stay on the field.

Q: What are some of the hallmarks of Dick LeBeau’s Zone-Blitzing scheme?
JM: The one thing, whenever they blitz they have good blitzers. It is not like they change all their blitzes every week. They run a lot of the same blitzes over and over. They have people that can, even if you have a guy there assigned to block, the guy that is actually coming you still have to stand in there and block him. They are not going to stop. They run through you. They run around you. They have a number of different linebackers that make multiple moves. They have secondary players like [Troy] Polamalu that come from the outside and come from the inside. It is not just about identifying who is coming; it is about actually sustaining your protection. They get a number of sacks when you actually have enough people to block them but you just can’t block them long enough. The way they rush, how physical they are and the speed with which they do it are all hallmarks of what they do and that is why they are so good at it.

Q: How do you feel the offensive line did with pass protection against the Dolphins?
JM: We did a decent job. That is an area that we are improving at and one that we are trying to improve in constantly throughout the course of this season. We emptied out the backfield a number of times on Sunday. When you do that, there are five guys to block the four our five that are coming. They really have to do a great job of identifying the fronts, who the blitzers are, who the rushers are going to be and they gave us plenty of time to throw. Matt [Cassel] had time to look and often times to go from the first to the second read and at times even further than that. It is not perfect and never is but I think that that group as a whole did a pretty good job. I think we had 45 or 46 pass attempts and didn’t allow too much pressure on him. Anytime you can do that that says a lot about the guys that are up front with how they are doing and how they are performing on a weekly basis.

Q: Was quarterback Matt Cassel’s touchdown run against the Dolphins last week a designed run?
JM: [laughter] We have multiple options on most plays and they gave us a particular look where it was a good decision to go ahead and do that. Matt made the smart play there. They were in a coverage mode on the play and were really trying to make sure the receivers were covered and we were in an empty backfield so most of their attention was being paid to the receivers. It could have gone either way and he made a good choice on it and scored.

Q: You laughed when I asked the question…
JM: It’s just that he has done it a number of times during the course of the season on his own and has had some good results with running with the football and that one actually paid off for seven points.

Q: Matt Cassel made some nice throws on the run against the Dolphins last week. What does it say about a quarterback that is able to throw on the run and how has he grown in that area?
JM: Matt is doing a good job of not necessarily escaping the pocket but at times, maybe it is a step or two in one direction or another to avoid a rush. He’s improving in that area. Then there are certain times where it is required of you to leave the pocket because the protection or the rush forces you to do that. First of all, recognizing when it is time to leave and when it is not necessary is an important factor in that. The second thing, when you are moving out of the pocket your mechanics can’t change all that much. You have to still try to have some of the base fundamentals that you use when you are in the pocket. You still have to have those when you are out of the pocket – with your shoulders being square, two hands on the ball, finishing your throws and we work on that every week. He is doing better at that. He definitely made some big-important plays when he was moving around the pocket or out of the pocket on Sunday.

Q: How patient are you going to have to be against the Steelers since they do well at limiting long pass plays?
JM: They lead the league in almost every category. In most of the top categories they are at the top of the league. That is why they are rated as the No. 1 defense in the league. They do a number of things very well, not only patience but execution in every phase of our game – taking care of the ball and you have to take your opportunities when they give them to you, whatever they may be. Whether that means to run the ball, throw it short, throw it in the immediate area or even at times to take an opportunity to go down the field. They are very sound in what they do so you have to be just as sound offensively when you play against them or else you end up making mistakes. They are capitalizing on a lot of those. You have to avoid those situations. You have to make the most of your opportunities when you get them.

Q: With Ike Taylor, the Steelers have a guy that could follow wide receiver Randy Moss around. Do they use single coverage on their receivers a lot or is there safety help? How do they approach that?
JM: They play a lot of different coverage schemes. They will play with some single safety and for the most part let the corners play one on one on the outside with the receivers. They will also roll over the top of one or both receivers at the same time. You just have to do a great job of reading the coverage once the ball is snapped and identifying where you need to go with the football. There are going to be times where they want you to go outside with it because they are trying to take away some things away inside. You have to make those situations positive for you. There are other times where they are going to try to take away those outside throws and you have to do a good job of reading everything after the snap because the safeties do a great job of trying to disguise and hold their rotation until the ball is snapped.

Q: When they are single safety high, how often is that safety Troy Polamalu? Does his range make it seem like there is more than one safety back there?
JM: He is back there at times. He is down plenty near the line of scrimmage but he is also in the deep part of the field. You can’t ever necessarily count on one or the other. He is a great player and has great range. [He has] extremely good instincts and really reads the quarterback well. He makes a lot of plays that maybe some other players might not get to or might not be as close to making because of how well he reads the pattern or the play itself. He gets to the area where he thinks the ball is going to. He is there to capitalize on those opportunities if he has read the play right. A lot of times he does. He has great instincts. He is a great player and certainly has great speed.

Q: After the success Randy Moss had Dolphins last week, is there any chance he sees single coverage this week?
JM: We played this team last year and their scheme for the most part is the same. They did a decent job of single covering him [Randy Moss] when they chose to do that last year. They are going to play their defense. They are No. 1 in the league in defense. I don’t think they are going to change necessarily what they do or how they want to attack us just because. They were fairly willing to do some of those things last year. They have done it to very good receivers this year. We will see what they do and how they chose to play us. I would expect them to play their defense because they are very good at doing it. As we have mentioned a number of times ‘why change when you have something really good going?’

Q: You guys had wide receiver Matthew Slater in on offense for a play against the Miami Dolphins last week. Are you guys integrating him a little bit more into the offense?
JM: Matt and all the rest of the receivers for that matter take repetitions during the course of the week and they are all ready to play. [Sam] Aiken played a number of snaps. Slater played that one snap. They are all ready to go and at times you may end up needing to sub people in and out because of a play that just happened. Somebody runs a longer pattern so you send in a fresher receiver at times. Slater works hard and he is getting better every week. We don’t mind having him in the game. That was just one play. One shot of evidence of it. You could see him starting to get in the mix here in a little bit. We don’t have any fear in playing any of those guys. They are all productive players and they work really hard during practice.

Q: When you guys are in a three-wide receiver set, it is normally Ben Watson in at the tight end in that package. What is it about him that you want him in on that package?
JM: Ben [Watson] gives us a lot of things. He has done a good job in terms of his run blocking in that offensive grouping. The week before [vs. New York Jets] he caught a number of balls and was open. He has the ability to do that on a consistent basis. He has been a decent run blocker on that edge and has improved in his protection. We feel like he gives us a solid presence on the edge. He has been here for a number of years and knows what to do, not that David [Thomas] doesn’t. David has been in the game also in certain situations. Ben is that guy most of the time when we are in those three-receiver sets.

Q: I am wondering when you guys are going to stop ‘babying’ Matt Cassel and let him throw for 500 yards?
JM: [laughter]Whatever works. Whatever is the best way to try and win, that is what we are all for. We are trying to figure that out right now for Pittsburgh.

Matt Cassel postgame Q&A

Thanks to the Miami PR staff, here’s a look at some postgame Q&A from Matt Cassel:

(On having two consecutive 400 yard passing games)- “I’m happy about it, there’s no doubt. I’m just happy about the fact that we were able to win and put together a great outing today and continue to move forward offensively. I think the production is starting to come around, and that’s a good thing for us.”

(On his comfort level)- “Everybody has to work together. You know, the receiver has got to run good routes. The offense line has to block, running backs have to do their job. And when it all works together and works right, it’s easy for me.”

(On not being as tentative anymore)- “I think that you just become more comfortable as you play. As I talked about earlier in the season, a lot of it has to do with game speed. You cannot simulate game speed in practice. So as much as you want to say that you’re ready and that you’ve stepped on the field ready to go, the fact of the matter is that it takes you a little time to adjust to that game speed. So now I feel like I’ve gotten a few games under my belt. I feel a lot more comfortable out there.”

(On becoming more acquainted with WR Randy Moss)- “Today we had a great day, and I’m happy to be able to go out there and have some production with him. He made some great plays out there, and we’ve got to keep doing that and keep going to them and let him do what he does best, which is make plays.”

(On being amazed by Randy’s ability)- “I’m always amazed at what Randy can do. He’s got amazing hands, his body control, and how he’s able to control the defender with his body, and then go up and get the ball. He’s a special player and those guys don’t come around much, so I’m lucky to be on the same team with him.”

(On his future as quarterback)- “I’m going to continue to move forward and continue to try to have production with this offense, and we’re just trying to win games. It’s really a one week to one week type of season for us. Next week we’ve got a big game with the Steelers coming in, and that’s what we’re going to concentrate on. But I don’t look ahead, and I don’t look to the future because it’s pointless, anything can happen.”

(On thinking about his personal career statistics during the game)- “Not really, you know. You go out and try and execute the game plan. You never really think about statistics, you just keep going out and try and execute and execute. In this game, it was back and forth and back and forth. As you can imagine, the stress level continues to increase with every series, but it just comes down to continuing to put together those drives and those scoring drives to keep yourself in the ball game.”

(On his feelings of the shot gun)- “I’m comfortable in the shot gun. It’s really whatever they call—I just try to go out there and play the game.”

(On how he’s one of the few quarterbacks who have accomplished a 400 yard passing game in two consecutive games)- “I did not know that at all, but that’s a pretty cool stat. I’m just happy that we got a win, we’ll be realistic.”

(On if he knows who the other quarterbacks are to have done this)- “No clue to be completely honest…but well there you go. That’s a pretty cool crew to be with.”

(On if he was surprised that they didn’t blitz more)- “They’re not much of a blitzing team, but then in the second half as we started getting going with the first few drives, they started increased pressure a little bit, and we were able to make a few plays so maybe that knocked them out of it.”

(On how many people didn’t even have him on their prospective rosters before the season started)- “I don’t read the papers or anything like that. Once preseason was over, I knew the feedback that I was getting from the coaches which was all positive. And a lot of people with an outsiders’ perspective had a different opinion, and it’s funny to me that a lot of people casted me out and said that ‘this guy’s not even going to make the team’ but that’s part of sports and that’s part of football and overcoming adversities and doing these kind of things…that’s what sports is all about.”

(On being comfortable with the place he’s at now in his career)- “No, I’ve got a lot of room to grow, in many different areas whether it be protection where I’m actually throwing the ball, whether it be working with Randy or Wes on certain routes and Jab as well. We’ve got to just continue to build on the things we’ve done well. We’ve had some success the last two weeks but in no way am I comfortable with where I’m at.”

(On if he sensed any frustration from his teammates today)- “I’m sure there’s a little bit of frustration, and I just try to tell the guys in the huddle be smart, it’s not worth it.”

(On if he feels any pressure as quarterback)- “Not at all. That’s what you have to do in this league. That’s what you have to do in the NFL is manage the game. That’s the first priority and first job of any quarterback is to go out there and manage the game and manage the time on the clock and do those things well.”

Bill Belichick postgame Q&A

Thanks to the Miami PR staff, here’s a look at some postgame Q&A from Bill Belichick:

(General thoughts on the game) – “It’s nice to come down to Florida and win; you know this hasn’t been a great venue for us through the years. It’s good to come out on top, a lot of player stepped up, and played hard today. Miami’s a good football team and we definitely had our hands full. Offensively, we had a lot of good production, but we had some penalties and a couple miscues, but I thought those guys really stayed after it and moved the ball effectively. Defensively, we were just trying to hang in there. They’re a good team, you know we evened it up with Miami this year; they got us pretty good up there, so we feel good about evening the score down here. We’re happy to win, and ready to move on next week to Pittsburgh.”

(On the importance of bouncing back from a loss) – “Every game’s important. It’s good to win a division game here against Miami, like I said they got us up there the first time, and at least we were able to square it up with them, and we’ll be in it right to the very end.”

(On his QB) – “Matt’s a confident guy, he’s a good football player, and every time he walks on to the practice field or into a meeting, we’re in a game and he just keeps learning and keeps improving. I don’t think there was ever a lack of confidence. I think anyone gains it, young or old. You go in there, and you’re successful, and you gain more confidence, whether a rookie or a 10-year veteran.”

(On Matt Cassel’s work ethic) – “Matt works hard, he works hard at what he does. Like I said, not just every game, but he gets better every practice and every meeting. He understands things that went wrong and he corrects them and we usually don’t have that problem again. He very seldom repeats mistakes and he usually executes the plays better the more times he runs them. But that’s everybody offensively as well, not just him. The offensive line, the receivers, it’s just not a one-man-band. That’s the way it is with every pass play. If they come after you, then you got to get more people out there to block them, if they don’t, you got to count on your protection to hold up and follow your reads. And if they drop off, and have more guys in coverage then they do in the route, then you got to find the open guy. I mean the quarterback’s got a tough job on every play.”

(More on Cassel) – “I would say that he makes good decisions. When things are covered, and the rush opens up, and he has a chance to advance the ball, he can step up there and make that decision. At times when that’s not the case, or better of just staying there a little bit longer in the pocket, and wait for something to come open, and I just think he’s made a lot of good decisions, and not just in the passing game, but in his pocket-presence, his ability to step up in the pocket sometimes, scramble and move the chains on some of those man coverage situations where the defense has their backs turned to him.”

(On Randy Moss’ performance) – “He’s been like that for a long time; he’s made a lot of good ones. He’s got how many touchdowns, hundred and whatever. Whatever it is, he’s making good plays, and he’s a great player. We’ve seen him do it time and again, and he continues to do it, he’s been doing it for a long time.”

(On outcome of game) – “Well you go into every game and you hope you’re going to move the ball and score points, hoping that you’re going to play good defense and not give up many yards or points. We would certainly like to play better defensively, had trouble in the red area. When they got the ball down there, we were able to make a couple stops, and hold them to a lot less points then they ended up getting, but they’re a good red area team and they had a couple good plays, which is good execution on their part. (Chad) Pennington’s a smart quarterback; he was able to find some openings there on the scramble, where he hit the fullback in the back of the end zone the pop-pass off the fake flip play. You know, give them credit, they’re a good football team, they score points, and they won four in a row, so they’ve been doing a good job against everybody.”

(On Wes Welker) – “Wes does a lot of things well, it’s hard to say, well, this will take care of him. You know, he’s quick, he runs well after the catch, he’s got great hands, good concentration, good feel for man and zone coverages, he’s a good technique player, as well as having good skills. He knows how to attack defenses, how to attack coverages and get open. He’s got a good repertoire and you can throw a lot of different pitches at him. So it doesn’t take just one thing to take him away, he’s got too many change ups.”

(Breaking down the halves) – “A few turnovers, and what was it, six penalties in the first half, you know we really felt like we stopped ourselves in the first half. But we really didn’t in the second half. We had a lot more consistency moving the ball, and defensively we got hurt with some big plays and some red area touchdowns. There’s still a lot of room for improvement.”

(On the Wildcat offense) – “We did a lot better then the first time. I think we tackled better, and we hadn’t worked on it in the first game. I mean we’ve seen it from other teams, but not really their version of it. I think our ability to have a chance to prepare for it, and see some of the things they’ve run in other games, at least when we got to the sidelines we could talk a lot more about it, you know, this is what we expected, this is what they’re doing, and this is the adjustment we’ve got to make. That kind of thing, and having time to prepare for it definitely helped. But it’s still hard to stop, they have some good players in there, (Ricky) Williams, and (Ronnie) Brown, Offensive line and all that, so just seeing it sometimes, if you know what they’re doing, it’s still hard to take it away.”

(On personal fouls) – “We hate to see that, that’s not anything we want to be apart of. We want to make a statement on the field with the way we’re playing, and we’ll do our talking on Sundays. We don’t need to get any fouls or penalties, or get into a verbal battle back and forth after the game. We’ll say what we have to say on the field. “

(On Wes Welker getting clocked in front of him) – “He’s a tough kid. He’s been hit a few times, but he’s a tough kid. Most of the time he seems to manage to miss those solid blows, he gets them when they’re kind of glancing, or he squirts under them, but every once and a while they tag him, but he’s a tough kid and he tends to bounce right back. So that’s pretty impressive. He’s smaller then I am, and you know those hits got to hurt, but he’s tough.”

Patriots postgame locker room Q&A

Thanks to the Miami PR staff, here’s a look at some postgame Q&A from the New England locker room:

RB Kevin Faulk
(Comments on the game) “Two teams fighting to win a football game and luckily it came out our way.”

(Did you expect to score 48 points?) “Whatever is working is what you want to keep going at it to just win the game. They had some things that were working too. A couple of plays went our way and a couple of things went their way.”

(About Matt Cassel) “What I know is that Matt is doing whatever he has to do to help this team win. If that means he has to play better, he plays better. All we want to do is keep winning games. He’s just doing enough for us to win the game, and probably even more. As a team we’re just trying to win the next game.”

(About the emotional intensity out there) “It was a division game and it’s always going to be emotional. It was one of those games that both teams had to have and we just made a little more plays than they did.”

WR Jabar Gaffney
(On how the second half went for him) “We came out, we executed pretty well. We kind of figured out what they were doing, and had some plays for it and we were able to make plays.”

(On evening the score after Miami beat them earlier in the season) “Yeah, it was really important especially this time of year. We needed this win and remembering back to what they did to us on our home our home field, we had to come back out here knowing it was a big game for us.”

(On what the intensity was like out there today, given the emotions) “Yeah it was very emotional actually. They came to our house and beat us pretty bad and we didn’t forget that. It constantly reminded us that we wanted to come out here and make a statement.”

DB Brandon Meriweather
(About his interception) “The line got a good push on them and it made him throw the ball a little high and it gave me the opportunity to catch it.”

(Was it good for the defense to win one?) “That was huge. It was huge for our defense to win one. Both offense s played very well and as you’ve all seen Miami can put up some points. They did that to us last time and they’re a great team but for us to come out and just hang on and get a win was huge.”

(Did they make the plays or did you leave some plays on the field?) “I think it’s a little bit of both. I think that they made a lot of plays but I think we left some plays out there by not playing aggressive enough and by not doing exactly what our coach told us to do. I think it was a little bit of both.”

(How important was this win?) “It was important because we were trying to do that for a long time. We’ve been trying to bounce back after a loss and it was huge for us. Now we just back trying to take it one game at a time and continue to improve every week.”

TE Benjamin Watson
(On the importance of the game) “It definitely was. We were coming off the loss in the division and going out there executing the way we did, it’s pretty satisfying to come down here and get a win.”

(On putting up over 500 yards back to back, first time in team history) “Really, I didn’t know that, but it feels good to execute. It’s an offense, you practice those plays all week and you want to get the chance to come out and make the plays and a lot of guys were making some big plays today.”

WR Wes Welker
(On how big of a win was this, coming against a divisional opponent) “Absolutely. Our division is a tight race. We just have to make sure that we’re going out each and every day and doing the best we can. Getting a win like this is good for us and we’re excited about it.”

(On the emergence of Matt Cassel) “He’s done a great job of just guiding the offense and really understanding the defenses and what they are trying to do to us and able to attack them. We’re just trying to do our job of getting open as possible, the O-line is giving a lot of time, and the backs are doing a great job providing protection as well, so we just have to keep on doing what we’re doing and keep on getting him going as the year goes on.”

NT Vince Wilfork
(Was the score surprising?) “We did what we wanted to do. Defensively we stopped the run and stopped their wildcat formation. I think for the most part we did a really good job on defense. We still had a couple of problems but overall I think it was a pretty good effort. It was a pretty tough game to come down into somebody else’s home and get a win like this. We knew it was going to be a tough ball game, we were ready for it and we prepared well. My hat goes off to them but at the same time I think that we wanted it more today because of the last outcome. All around we did a pretty good job in all three phases of the game.”

(How important was it to win this game?) “We have to have to the rest of the games that we play. We’ll start back this week and get ready for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but right now for the time being we want to enjoy this one. Like I said, anytime you can go somewhere else on the road and come away with a win is a huge win. We want to take this one and enjoy this one but at the same time we have to be ready and get going on Pittsburgh. Our focus will have to be really high with these guys because they play great football but for now we’re going to enjoy this one.”

(What does this win show about this team?) “I think it just shows the level of commitment on this football team. A lot of people counted us out this game and we know among ourselves how well we can play when we play good football. I’m not saying that today was great football, but it was pretty good football out there especially being a defensive lineman. To be able to go out there and stop the run is number one on our list every week. As a team it’s a great win. Everybody was happy and everybody prepared well. I thing we knew exactly what we wanted to do coming into this ballgame and we did it. One thing was to be more physical and it just shows you that a couple of injuries doesn’t make your team and it doesn’t make your season. We have to keep fighting and we have to keep finding ways to win. We’ve been playing some football over these past six weeks and some pretty good football in losses and in this win.”

Game Notes

Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here are some game notes from today’s Patriots-Dolphins game:

The Patriots totaled 530 net yards of offense in their 48-28 win over Miami, recording the second highest offensive yardage output in team history and the most since gaining a team-record 597 total net yards against the New York Jets on Sept. 9, 1979.

The Patriots bounced back from last week’s loss to the Jets defeat the Dolphins today, improving their record following losses to 17-1 (.944) since the beginning of the 2003 season. Over the last five-plus seasons (2003-08), the Patriots have only lost back-to-back games on one occasion (Nov. 5 and Nov. 12, 2006).

Matt Cassel threw for 415 yards today, marking the fifth time in NFL history a quarterback has totaled 400 or more passing yards in back-to-back games. Cassel threw for 400 yards against the New York Jets on Nov. 13. Cassel is the first player to achieve the feat since Tennessee’s Billy Volek did it in 2004 (426 yards on 12/13/04 and 492 yards on 12/19/04). In addition to Volek, the other NFL passers to have achieved the feat are San Diego’s Dan Fouts in 1982 (444 yards on 12/11/82 and 435 yards on 12/20/82), Miami’s Dan Marino in 1984 (470 yards on 12/2/84 and 404 yards on 12/9/84) and the New York Giants’ Phil Simms in 1985 (432 yards on 10/6/85 and 513 yards on 10/13/85).

Matt Cassel joined Drew Bledsoe as the only Patriots quarterbacks to pass for 400 yards or more in two or more games. Cassel has two career 400-yard passing games (last week against the Jets and today against the Dolphins). Bledsoe had four 400-yard passing games with the Patriots (two in 1994, one in 1996 and one in 1998). The other Patriots players to achieve the feat are Tom Brady (1), Tony Eason (1), Steve Grogan (1) and Tom Ramsey (1).

Matt Cassel’s 415 passing yards against the Dolphins today are the fifth-highest single-game total in team history, trailing only four performances by Drew Bledsoe. Cassel’s 415 yards trail only Bledsoe’s franchise-record 426 passing yards against Minnesota on Nov. 13, 1994, in addition to Bledsoe’s totals of 423 yards (11/23/98), 421 yards (9/4/94) and 419 yards (11/3/96). Cassel’s 415 passing yards against the Dolphins are the most for a Patriots player in exactly 10 years, dating back to Bledsoe’s 423 yard performance against the Dolphins at Foxboro Stadium on Nov. 23, 1998.

On his second reception of the day – a 6-yard catch on the Patriots’ opening drive – Kevin Faulk joined an exclusive club of players who have totaled at least 2,000 rushing yards and at least 3,000 receiving yards this decade. Following that catch, Faulk had totaled 2,717 rushing yards and 3,004 receiving yards since 2000. The only other NFL players to have at least 2,000 rushing yards and at least 3,000 receiving yards in the 2000s are Tiki Barber, Marshall Faulk, LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook and Michael Pittman.

Kevin Faulk had a 21-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter to give the Patriots a 31-21 lead. Faulk totaled 105 yards from scrimmage in the game (53 rushing, 52 receiving). The score was Faulk’s third rushing touchdown of the season (he had two against San Francisco on Oct. 5). Faulk also has a touchdown reception this year, bringing his total to four touchdowns this year. Faulk’s 21-yard scoring run was the longest Patriots touchdown run since Laurence Maroney had a 59-yard scoring run against Miami on Dec. 23, 2007. The 21-yard scamper was Faulk’s longest rush since Oct. 12, 2003, when he had a 23-yard rush against the New York Giants.

Randy Moss caught three touchdown passes — a 25-yard touchdown pass from Matt Cassel in the second quarter to give the Patriots a 17-14 lead, an 8-yard scoring grab in the third quarter to give the Patriots a 24-21 lead and a 29-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter to give the Patriots 38-28. The catches marked his 130th, 131st and 132nd career touchdown receptions, tying and then moving past Cris Carter for third place on the NFL’s all-time touchdown receptions list. Terrell Owens ranks second all-time with 136 touchdown catches, and Jerry Rice is the league’s all-time leader with 197 career scoring catches. Moss entered today’s game as the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions per touchdown, scoring on one of every 6.36 catches (129 touchdowns on 820 receptions entering today). Moss’s eight touchdown catches this season lead the team and are tied for the 10th highest single-season touchdown reception total in team history.

Randy Moss had three touchdown catches, marking the fifth time in his career he has had three or more touchdowns in a game. It marked the second time Moss has had three or more touchdown receptions as a Patriot, joining his four-touchdown catch performance at Buffalo on Nov. 18, 2007. Moss’s three scoring catches tie the second highest single-game total in team history, trailing only his franchise-record four touchdown catches against Buffalo (11/18/07). Today’s game marked the 31st time in Moss’s career that he had totaled two or more touchdown catches in a game. Moss’s career total of 31 games with two or more scoring grabs trails only Jerry Rice’s NFL record of 43 such games. Terrell Owens ranks third with a career total of 30 games with two or more touchdown receptions (including today’s games). Moss is playing in his second career game in Miami, and in his first game here on Oct. 21, 2007, he also caught two touchdown passes. Today’s scoring catches brought Moss’s Patriots totals to 30 scoring catches in 27 games since joining New England prior to last season.

Randy Moss had 125 yards on eight catches, marking his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season, his 13th 100-yard receiving game as a Patriot and the 59th 100-yard receiving game of his career. Moss’s 59 100-yard receiving games are tied for second in NFL history with Marvin Harrison, trailing only Jerry Rice’s NFL-record 76 100-yard receiving games.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored his fifth rushing touchdown of the season on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter. His five rushing scores lead the team (Sammy Morris, 4). Green-Ellis has had a rushing touchdown in five of the last six games. He has played in seven contests since being signed from the practice squad on Oct. 11.

Wes Welker caught a 64-yard pass from Matt Cassel in the third quarter that was the key play on a drive that ended in a 21-yard touchdown run by Kevin Faulk and a 31-21 Patriots lead. The 64-yard reception was the longest of Welker’s career, topping a 47-yard catch on Nov. 13, 2005, while playing for the Miami Dolphins against the Patriots at Dolphin Stadium.

Wes Welker totaled 120 yards on eight receptions, setting a season-high for receiving yards and marking his third consecutive game with 100 or more receiving yards. Welker had totaled four 100-yard receiving games in 71 career games prior to his current streak of three straight 100-yard games. Welker now has a total of seven career 100-yard receiving games – four in 2007 and three so far in 2008. The Patriots record for most consecutive 100-yard receiving games is four, achieved by Randy Moss in 2007 and Stanley Morgan from 1985-86.

Matt Cassel scored on an 8-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter to give the Patriots a 10-7 lead. The scoring run was Cassel’s second of the season and was the third of his career. His other touchdown this season came on a 13-yard scoring run against Buffalo on Nov. 9. Entering today’s game, Cassel had 185 rushing yards on 51 carries this season, marking the highest single-season rushing total by a Patriots quarterback since 1979, when Steve Grogan had 368 yards on 64 carries. On Nov. 13 against the New York Jets, Cassel had 62 rushing yards on eight carries, marking the highest single-game rushing total by a Patriots quarterback in 30 years.

Brandon Meriweather intercepted a Chad Pennington pass in the fourth quarter, snaring his team-leading fourth interception of the season. Deltha O’Neal ranks second on the team with three interceptions. Meriweather’s interception was also the fourth of his career since being selected by the Patriots in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft.

The Patriots scored first in today’s game and have now won 23 straight games when scoring first. The Patriots scored first against the Dolphins today on a 30-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski giving New England a 3-0 first-quarter lead. The last time New England lost a game in which it scored first was on Nov. 12, 2006 against the New York Jets.

Stephen Gostkowski boomed a second-quarter kickoff out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. The touchback was his career-best 16th of the season, topping his previous career high of 15 touchbacks, set in 2007. Gostkowski’s 15 touchbacks entering today’s game ranked third in the NFL behind Carolina’s Rhys Lloyd (19) and Denver’s Matt Prater (17). According to STATS LLC, Gostkowski’s 16 touchbacks this season are the most by a Patriots player since their single-season touchbacks records begin in 1991.

·The Patriots led 17-14 at halftime of today’s game and have now won 39 consecutive regular-season games when leading at halftime, setting a post-merger NFL record (1970-present). New England has not lost when holding a halftime lead since a Dec. 20, 2004 game at Miami. The Patriots have won 69 of their last 70 games when leading at halftime, a streak that dates back to October 2001.

·Richard Seymour sacked Chad Pennington for a 4-yard loss on third down in the third quarter. The sack was Seymour’s team-high seventh of the season. His single-season career-high is 8.0 sacks, recorded in 2003.

·Rookie linebacker Vince Redd made his NFL debut today, seeing his first career game action on a first-quarter punt return. Redd was signed to the Patriots’ active roster from their practice squad on Saturday, Nov. 22.

·Matt Cassel completed his first five passes of the game for 56 yards, driving the Patriots into position for a 30-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski to give the Patriots a 3-0 lead

·Randy Moss made a skillful one-handed reception along the sidelines for a 22-yard gain in the first quarter to extend a touchdown drive that ended in an 8-yard touchdown run by Matt Cassel.

·Matt Cassel plowed up the middle for a 6-yard gain on fourth-and-one from the Dolphins’ 43-yard line in the first quarter to extend a drive that ended in his 8-yard touchdown run.

·The Patriots lost the opening coin toss today and won a game for the first time this season when losing the coin toss. New England entered this week’s game with an 0-4 record this season when losing the coin toss and a 6-0 record when winning the coin toss.

·Jerod Mayo tackled Ronnie Brown for a 1-yard gain on third-and-three in the second quarter on a direct snap play out of the Dolphins’ “Wildcat” formation, forcing a Miami punt on the next play.

Stephen Gostkowski hit both of his field goal tries, nailing a 30-yard field goal in the first quarter to give the Patriots a 3-0 lead and a another 30-yarder in the fourth quarter to put the Patriots up 41-28. Gostkowski improved to 26-for-28 (92.9 percent) for the season. His 26 field goals are the highest single-season total of Gostkowski’s three-year career, topping his 21 successful field goals in 2007 (21-for-24, 87.5 percent). His 26 field goals this season are the most for a Patriots kicker since Adam Vinatieri made 31 field goals in 2004. Gostkowski was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October, 2008. He is the Patriots’ all-time leader in field goal percentage, having converted 85.9 percent of his kicks (67-for-78) since being selected in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft.

Wes Welker had eight receptions for 120 yards, extending his NFL record for most consecutive games with six or more receptions to begin a season. Welker has had at least six catches in each of New England’s 11 games this year, topping the previous mark of eight straight games with six or more catches to begin the season (Jimmy Smith, 2001). Dating back to last season, Welker has had six or more receptions in 12 straight regular-season games and 15 straight games including playoffs. The NFL record for more regular-season games with six or more catches is 16, achieved by Marvin Harrison from 2002-03.

Transcript of Joey Porter on ESPN’s pregame show

This is part of the transcript of Joey Porter’s interview with Keyshawn before today’s game. (Wonder if this made its way into the New England locker room….) I post this just because it made me laugh and laugh — he believes he would have had three Super Bowl rings if it wasn’t for the Patriots. In other news, Porter believed he would have invented electricty “if it wasn’t for that [expletive] Ben Franklin” and could have been voted President of the United States in the recent election “if that Barack Obama hadn’t [expletive] screwed everything up for me.” Seriously … Porter has become a walking “Onion” punchline.

Keyshawn Johnson: “Let’s switch to the New England Patriots game. Is there a big difference in that rivalry of the Miami Dolphins, New England, and Pittsburgh-New England?
Joey Porter: “Yeah, it’s a big difference…but I still got hate from when I was at Pittsburgh.”

Keyshawn: Why?
Porter: Because I got cheated.

Keyshawn: Cheated in what?
Porter: In both of them AFC Championship games.

Keyshawn: What did they do?
Porter: Come on, man. They’ve been videotaping for years, man. You cannot sit up there and honestly tell me if it wasn’t working, why was he doing it so much? You’re not going to sit up there and tell me if I’m a quarterback in my headset I know where the blitz is coming. I know where my hots and stuff is at before it happens. I know what play you’re running on defense. All you got to do is be in the right position … just catch the ball.

Keyshawn: So you feel they were cheating. You don’t feel they were just the better team?
Porter: What? No, no, no, no. Two times we could have blown them people out easily. They say, oh, he’s so smart. This is the best brainstorming coach. Yeah, because he’s cheating. He got caught. … If it wasn’t so bad, why did you destroy the tape so fast? … We want to see the tapes. When you get rid of evidence like that, there was something in it they didn’t want everybody to see.

Keyshawn: So you take it personally?
Porter: Maaan… That’s my dynasty. You know what I mean? I could be sitting up here with three rings. This is the way I look at it. I played three AFC Championships — won one, lost two. … Yeah, to me just like they want to put an asterisk on everything else, yeah, I don’t care what they say. They have an asterisk on them. … At the same time, people that played against them on the field, we know. Who they got on that team beside Tom Brady? It’s not like they’ve got a gang of dogs over there. … They have a bunch of all right guys. You know what I mean? Not no just real dogs. They’ve got some beasts on the D line and stuff like that but ….

Keyshawn: You can’t possibly think, three Super Bowls … You think they cheated in every single one of them games?
Porter: Man, I’m going to tell you, I’m taking that to the grave, man. I don’t care what nobody say…

Keyshawn: What about last year? … All the glamour, glitz and glamour, 16-0. You think they were cheating then?
Porter: I don’t know. You know, I don’t know… maybe he found a new way to do it or not to tell you the truth. The boy cold, man. He showed us, he’s cold. The boy cold, man. Hey, the boy cold, man. (laughs) He showed us man, he cold… I don’t trust him…(laughs).

Friday Injury Report

Here’s the latest:

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