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Patriot Celebration Ended With Pregame In Loss to Chiefs

Bob George
September 8, 2017 at 8:32 am ET

FOXBOROUGH – Time once again to ask the coach if the quarterback position will be evaluated this week.

Purely to keep the previous trend going, of course.

As most fans likely recall, the last time the Patriots suffered a huge loss to the Kansas City Chiefs actually turned out to be a good thing. Beginning with the press conference question from Hades, the “We’re on to Cincinnati!” presser extravaganza was the linchpin to an eventual win in Super Bowl XLIX. Now, three years later, the Patriots got spanked once again by the Chiefs, Tom Brady looked less than immortal in the loss, and one now has to wonder where the Patriots go from here.

Things may be different this time. In 2014, that Patriot team was a talented bunch which merely ran into a hot Chief team in their home stadium which normally is a tough place for the visiting team to win. This year, you have a Patriot team which seemed more into celebrating their championship, but also looking like a team decimated with injuries, perhaps too many to overcome.

Kansas City unveiled a new running back named Kareem Hunt, who bludgeoned the Patriots on both the ground and in the air. Tyreek Hill showed that he is much more than just about kickoff returns. Alex Smith had a near-perfect game passing, and the Chiefs ruined the banner celebration with a 42-27 win over the Patriots on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.

All night long, except for perhaps the opening possession, the Patriots seemed both over-matched and disinterested in the game. The Patriots were for the most part out of sync, Brady seemed lost without Julian Edelman out there, the Patriot defense gave up several long plays, two of them for long touchdowns, and now seem in trouble with Dont’a Hightower and Danny Amendola being knocked out of the game with injuries. Those who were healthy to play seemed to have no answer for Smith, Hunt, Justin Houston, and Eric Berry.

On several occasions, the Chiefs actually tried to give the Patriots the game and the Patriots wouldn’t take it. The Chiefs were penalized 15 times for 139 yards, many of them undisciplined plays. Twice the Patriots had fourth down and short, twice they went with Mike Gillislee, and twice they were stopped. Instead of the usually reliable Brady sneaks, the offensive line could not open up holes for Gillislee on either play. Hunt fumbled away his first carry of the game, but the Patriots did not capitalize on it with the first of the fourth down stuffs, and Hunt went off the rest of the evening.

Offensively, it seemed that Brady never established a rhythm, and it seemed painfully obvious that he missed Edelman. Brandin Cooks did have one catch for 54 yards, but other than that he had no other catches of consequence. Rob Gronkowski was blanketed all night long by Berry, who played well all game long until leaving the game late with an Achilles injury. Amendola was the leading receiver for the Patriots, with 6 catches for 100 yards before he left the game in the second half on concussion protocol.

Gillislee, despite not being able to convert on two fourth down and short carries, scored all three touchdowns, all of them 2 yards or less. He finished with 45 yards on 15 carries and had some nice runs, and two of his touchdowns were done by running through Ramik Wilson and Derrick Johnson respectively. But his failure on the two fourth down carries proved decisive.

On defense, the Patriots miss the retired Rob Ninkovich, and literally capsized when Hightower was lost for the game with a knee injury in the third quarter. Hill caught a 75-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter when he blew by Stephon Gilmore, and Devin McCourty could not get over in time to help. Hightower’s injury forced more playing time from Cassius Marsh, but Hunt took a flat pass in the fourth quarter with Marsh in futile pursuit for a 78-yard touchdown to give the Chiefs the lead for good.

But the Patriots had absolutely no answer for Hunt all game long. The rookie from Toledo, making his NFL debut, had the best first NFL game by a running back since Billy Sims for Detroit in 1980. Hunt blew past tacklers all game long, and obviously caught the Patriots by surprise. Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia were most likely bent on stopping Hill and Travis Kelce, daring the Chiefs to beat them running the ball. If this is the real Kareem Hunt, defensive film watchers across the league have some watching to do.

Smith had an atypical game, throwing for over 300 yards for only the sixth time in his career. He finished 28 of 35 passing for four touchdowns and a 148.6 rating. Hill had seven catches for 133 yards, Hunt had five catches for 98 yards. Hunt finished with 148 yards on 17 carries.

Brady was only 16 of 36 passing for 267 yards, no touchdowns, and a rating of 70.0.

The 42 points given up by the Patriots equals the most in the Belichick era. The Chiefs gained 537 total team yards, the most ever given up by a Patriot defense in the Belichick era. It was only the third time in Gillette Stadium history that the Patriots lost a game despite leading in the fourth quarter, the last previous time coming last year against Seattle.

It was as un-Patriotic a game as it gets. The joyous pregame show, featuring the unveiling of the fifth championship banner, rang completely hollow by night’s end. In his postgame press conference, Brady talked about a change in attitude, which supports why the team seemed more into the celebration and not the game. Belichick agreed, saying, “Whatever he said, go with it.”

This game never came down to late game clock mismanagement by Andy Reid. His Chief team was the more motivated team, and deserved the win. The Patriots will head back to the classroom, watch the tapes of the game, and get on to the next game.

To those of you who expected a 19-0 breeze of a season, get over it quickly, like your favorite team will also have to do.

Five Takeaways From “Do Your Job 2”

Ian Logue
September 4, 2017 at 11:53 am ET

For fans in New England, Sunday night was a rare treat as NFL Films allowed an incredible opportunity to get a look behind the curtain at the greatest comeback in Super Bowl History.

The hour-long special, “Do Your Job 2”, which aired nationally on NBC, was even better than expected.  It provided plenty of insight into how the team overcame that seemingly-impossible 25-point deficit against Atlanta, showing just how much planning and preparation had gone into the game.  When you look at all the situations, all the film breakdown, there were a variety of factors that were all accounted for and many of those ultimately played a critical role in their historic comeback.

What was even more fitting was the fact the entire country was subjected to it.  Instead of running on NFL Network, it ran on every local NBC affiliate, hopefully providing some insight to opposing fans of exactly why this team has managed the incredible run they’ve been on.

Considering the season started with Tom Brady sidelined thanks to DeflateGate, how it ended was definitely poetic.  And for fans who followed last year’s entire run, it was a terrific look into why they continue to be the bar opposing teams are still trying to reach, and yet another reminder of just how lucky we are to be a part of what will someday likely go down as the greatest era in franchise history.

That being said, here are a few thoughts on the special (spoiler alert – don’t proceed if you haven’t seen it yet).

1) Ernie Adams Remains a Secret Weapon – Sunday night featured a couple of spotlights on Ernie Adams, who remains one of the most important components of Belichick’s coaching staff.  The thing that was interesting about Adams is just how involved he is in the game planning and in-game adjustments, as well as his pregame evaluations.  One of the moments that stood out included Adams spending some time down at field level watching Atlanta go through warm ups, with Adams noticing some tendencies that the club used during the game.  Another included the fact that Adams seems to always be thinking ahead, with most suggestions from Adams up in the booth being accepted without question by Belichick.  It’s a big reminder of how important he is and how much trust their are between them, even though you almost never hear his name.

2) Nick Caserio May Be the Most Versatile GM In Football – It’s not very often you see an NFL general manager in the coaching box during a game or taking snaps in practice, but Caserio’s involvement all the way around is certainly a little larger than expected.  Belichick talked about how unique Caserio’s role is and the fact he’s such a big part of practice as well as up in the booth on game day is clearly a big reason why he has such an amazing understanding of how the team operates.  When you’re that immersed, it certainly makes it easier to understand the personnel needs and that obviously explains why he’s seemed so dialed in given some of the /moves he’s made in recent years.

3) The Foresight of Belichick is Incredible – Everyone obviously knows what a terrific coach Belichick is, but hearing about the foresight he had when it came to preparing additional two-point plays is pretty remarkable.  Clearly losing previous postseason games hasn’t sat well with Belichick, with one of the things pointed out in the special being how the veteran coach went into the match-up expecting it to be a high-scoring affair between the two clubs.  That being said, another thing he reflected on was how the team had lost the year before on a 2-point play in Denver that cost them the game.  As a result, the team had actually prepared two additional two-point plays, which played a key part as the Patriots ended up using three of them, with two of them being used to tie the game, and the final being used on James White’s game-winning touchdown.

4) Hard Work and Conditioning Was the Difference – Most professional athletes aren’t fans of working too hard, which is one of the things that tends to separate out the players who thrive here in New England compared to those who tend to find themselves being released.  Seeing the players running hills in December was yet another reminder of the work that goes into each week of practice, with conditioning in the second half being something Belichick talked about when it came to overcoming their deficit to Atlanta in that final quarter.  The coaching staff spotted the fact the Falcons were gassed, with the pass rushers wearing down as the Patriots eventually wore them down during their comeback.  Some players might feel that it’s an overrated requirement and it might seem cliche, but for the players who have gone through it, it was obviously a key part of New England ultimately completing the comeback.

5) The Amount of Scouting that Goes into a game is Remarkable – Preparation is a word that is preached throughout the year and the coaching staff definitely sets the bar about as high as you can get.  Listening to Josh McDaniels discuss all of the things they look at when breaking down film and the tendencies they target was certainly one of the more interesting parts of the special.  When you look at the meeting room, one thing that stood out was the fact that NFL Films blurred out all of the writing that covered the walls, which obviously included all of the plays and scouting reports that went into the game plan.  When you have coaches who are that thorough, it obviously gives the players plenty of confidence that they’ll be put in the right situations.  It also explains why many players who leave don’t go on to the same success because not every NFL staff works this way.  What happens in New England is definitely unique, and Sunday night gave some terrific insight into all the hard work that goes into it.

When you mix in hard work and preparation, it’s certainly a solid formula for success.  Other fans might believe there’s another reason why this team hasn’t finished with a losing season in nearly 17 years, but Sunday night hopefully helped them understand why this club remains a perennial contender.

And for fans in New England, it was an opportunity to enjoy 60 minutes to relive one of the most remarkable games in the Belichick/Tom Brady era.  His assistants joked about the two continuing to dominate for another 20-years.  For now, fans can just hope they’ve simply got a few more left in them.

If you did miss it, “Do Your Job Part 2: Bill Belichick and the 2016 Patriots” will be re-airing on NFL Network Wednesday, September 6th at 8pm est.

Belichick: For Young Players, Making The Team is Like “A Castle in the Sand”

Ian Logue
September 3, 2017 at 3:13 pm ET

Players who have been through the Patriots’ program and have moved on to other teams have repeatedly talked about how difficult it is to play for this program and the high expectations that come with it.  That’s part of what comes with playing for a winning program, and it’s obviously not an easy place to play given the amount of work they’re required to put in.

Those who make it through an entire training camp likely sit with incredible anticipation wondering if opportunity will knock and they’ll get a chance to continue, or if they’ll instead end up trying to catch on somewhere else.

For those who receive the incredible news that they’re on the team, it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work and effort that they’ve put in to give them the opportunity to play for Bill Belichick’s football team.

The only problem is, they’re just getting started.

As Belichick said during his press conference on Sunday, as nice as it is for the players who have carved out a spot on the roster, that journey will only continue as long as they continue to grow and improve.  If they don’t, they’ll find out that the joy and elation they felt when they made the team will disappear just as quickly.

“Well, the reality of it is this is the National Football League and there are plenty of guys that are going to be on rosters today, tomorrow and Week 1 that won’t be on them in Week 3 or Week 4,” explained Belichick.  “That’s the National Football League. You keep your job by earning your job on a day-to-day basis.”

“I think that’s one of the things sometimes that players, younger players especially who don’t have a lot of experience in the league, can make a poor judgment on. They work hard in training camp. They make the roster, make the practice squad, or earn playing time or whatever it is, and then feel like they don’t have to do as much or that they’ve kind of arrived at a certain point, and a few weeks later other players pass them by and their situation changes. That’s not uncommon at all.”

One of the things Belichick pointed out is that the NFL season is a long road and it’s generally when you really find out who is able to sustain a consistent work ethic, and who eventually falls off.


Belichick’s high expectations are the reason why they’re a perennial winner.

“I think that’s hard to sustain a high level of performance in this league, so you start at the end of July and sustain it all the way through preseason games and training camp practices and all of that, but the season hasn’t started yet,” said Belichick. “Mental toughness, consistency, resiliency, dependability, being able to do it day after day after day at high level – the competition level is moving up now, not down. The players that aren’t NFL players are off rosters and the guys who are on them are theoretically better than the ones who are off them. The competitive level is higher weekly in practice. It’s higher in games. Some players will rise with that, that competiveness. Competition will push them up. Some of them, it doesn’t work that way. If that’s the case, then they’re going to be replaced.  If they don’t know that and they make that mistake, they’re going to find out the hard way.”

Belichick also went on to say that one of the things he reminds his players is that as nice as it is that they’ve made the roster, it could all change very quickly if they let up.

“Yeah, as much as you want to say “Nice job. You made the team,” they’re not a permanent fixture on the team,” said Belichick. “They’re here until as long as they’re doing their job and they’re dependable, and reliable, and consistent and improving. Once that curve starts to head the other way, I would say it probably isn’t going to last too long. If they can’t figure that out then they’re probably going to suffer the consequences.”

“Look, that’s the NFL. That’s the way it is here and really that’s the way it is on every team I’ve been on. I imagine it that way on every team in the league. I know what you’re saying – it’s a good moment, but it’s a castle in the sand. It could be gone very, very quickly.”

“I hope none of our players, young players, guys who this is the first time they’ve been on this team, take that attitude. I think that would be a big mistake on their part. Hopefully, they won’t do that.”

Their season begins on Thursday, and we’ll find out in the coming months who of the names who are currently on the roster are still there once the dust settles.

Belichick Sends Well Wishes to Victims Of Hurricane in Houston

Ian Logue
September 1, 2017 at 9:12 am ET

In true Bill Belichick fashion, he surprised everyone Thursday night when he arrived at the podium wearing a University of Houston hat in honor of a city that suffered serious devastation thanks to hurricane Harvey.

Belichick appeared in front of the media following Thursday night’s 40-38 loss to the Giants and immediately took a moment to send his thoughts out to the city where the team won their fifth championship back in February.

“I want to give a little shout out to Houston,” said Belichick as he opened his press conference. “We had a great experience down there in February, a lot of great relationships with the Texans and the University [of Houston] down there. We’ve got some players with some family down there, so we just want to let them know we’re thinking about them.”

Patriots at Texans: For Better or Worse, Players Who Stood Out

Ian Logue
August 20, 2017 at 1:11 pm ET

The Patriots dropped their second preseason game of 2017, putting them at 0-2 for the first time in the exhibition season since the 2008 and 2007 preseasons, the only times during Bill Belichick’s entire tenure they’ve started out winless over the first two weeks.

Given that this is only preseason, the final outcomes obviously don’t matter since it’s more about evaluating individual players and trying to build a roster.  Saturday night saw some starters back in the line-up, with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman among players who saw action.  They held the edge against the Texans’ first team defense and played well, and then things began to drop off a bit from there and it became a back-and-forth effort that Houston eventually won as the Texans came away with the 27-23 victory.

Here’s a quick rundown of some players who made some noise Saturday night.

THE GOOD:

Tom Brady – Brady looked relatively sharp, finishing 6-of-9 for 67 yards along with a touchdown, which came on their second offensive series.  He spread the ball around, finding four different receivers on his six completions, hitting newcomer Brandin Cooks (7 yards), James White (4 yards), Danny Amendola (6 yards) and Rex Burkhead (catches of 16, 12 and 22 yards [TD]) during the two offensive series he was in for, which saw him engineer a touchdown drive on his final one.

It wasn’t all perfect, as Brady attempted a deep sideline throw to Chris Hogan on the first play of his final series, with Andre Hal leaping up and making a great play on an interception as the ball was slightly out of bounds.  Fortunately for Brady, Hal didn’t have full control of it heading out of bounds and the play was overturned.  Brady capitalized, marching the team 75-yards on 10 plays, which ended with a 22-yard touchdown to Burkhead.

Rex Burkhead – He had a strong showing in his first outing, picking up 20 yards on 7 carries while catching 3 passes for 50 yards including his 22-yard touchdown.  What stood out about Burkhead is his quickness and the power he hit the hole with, with him powering through several tight creases when it looked like he might not pick up much.  He was also terrific in the open field, showing great acceleration and shiftiness with the ball in his hands. If this is any indication of what he’s capable of, Patriots fans should be looking forward to seeing more from him.

Lawrence Guy – Guy played well, making some noise early on after he registered a sack on Texans quarterback Tom Savage on the opening drive to put the Texans in long yardage on that series of downs. It was a key play because it came right after Houston made a big play following Savage’s completion to receiver Bruce Ellington for a 37-yard gain, which got them down to the Patriots 12-yard line.  He also killed the drive when Houston went for it on 4th-and-6 from the Patriots 8-yard line, stopping Lamar Miller for a 2-yard gain and turning the ball over on downs.

Patrick Chung –  Chung had a decent night and made a little noise after he registered a bone-crushing hit on Texans running back RaShaun Allen, forcing an apparent fumble.  Unfortunately, while the play was overturned to an incompletion, it was still a nice moment for Chung, who fired up the defense after the third down play and it will likely be one that stands out in the film room for the veteran safety.


Jones finally had a strong performance in the return game. (USA TODAY Images)

Cyrus Jones – For the first time in his entire tenure with the team, Jones finally showed some confidence in the return game and really had a solid night returning kicks.  He finished the night with one kickoff for 17-yards but had 4 punt returns for 58-yards, including a 32-yard return that played a big part in putting the team in Houston territory and lead to a 38-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski and put the Patriots up 10-7 at the time.

Defensively, it wasn’t perfect, but it was better than last week.   Jones wasn’t beat deep but he had an ugly moment after Houston running back D’Onta Foreman caught a pass over the middle and then broke away from the first set of defenders, and  Jones made a half-hearted effort to wrap him up as Foreman powered away from him and went on to gain 63-yards.  The play lead to a 2-yard touchdown by quarterback Deshaun Watson, putting Houston back up 17-16 after the Patriots had built a 16-10 edge.

Kenny Moore –  Moore made a play to get noticed after he made a key stop on third down, coming up with a terrific 3rd down tackle in the fourth quarter where he read the play perfectly and brought Houston receiver Riley McCarron down for a 2-yard loss on a 3rd-and-14.  He also made a key fumble recovery on a punt return after Justin Coleman never saw where the ball was and it bounced off of him, making it a live ball.  Fortunately, Moore bailed him out.

D.J. Foster – Foster built off his performance from last week and this time played mistake-free after turning the football over last week against the Jaguars.  Foster, once again, showed great hands and explosiveness out of the backfield, rushing for 34-yards on 7 carries (4.9 avg) and catching 4 passes for 52 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown.  His touchdown was impressive, with Foster showing great burst as he busted into the endzone on his 25-yard touchdown catch and run that, at the time, put the Patriots back up 23-20 just minutes into the fourth quarter.

James O’Shaughnessy – O’Shaughnessy played well, catching 5 passes for 41-yards and looking pretty comfortable in the offense.  He’ll probably be a little sore today after taking a big hit in the fourth quarter following a reception, which saw him fumble the ball and fortunately it went out of bounds.  But overall, it was a relatively good night for him.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD:

Elandon Roberts –  Roberts had a rough night.  He had a bad missed tackle on the opening drive,  and then later suffered an injury late in the 3rd quarter and was seen holding his right side as he was carted off the field.  Early reports seem to indicate Roberts suffered a rib injury that reportedly isn’t serious, which is good news for a player who overall is still growing in this defense.


Butler had a rough night on Saturday in Houston.

Malcolm Butler – It’s not often you see Butler in this category but he’s likely feeling pretty frustrated after a rough night.  It started early in the game after he and Nate Ebner both lost Ellington after he broke away for a 12-yard pickup, and then he got beat on a deep pass to Ellington again after the receiver went up over Butler and high-pointed the ball and kept his feet in bounds.  One of the tougher plays against him came later on when he got beat on the next drive after Jaelen strong broke free from him for the Texan’s first touchdown.

Nate Ebner – He struggled on both defense after the aforementioned play above, and even on special teams where he was spotted with his feet planted on Houston’s kick return following New England’s first drive.  It’s odd to see from the normally reliable special-teamer, although like Butler, it’s better to have an off night now instead of when it really matters.

Justin Coleman –  Coleman had a special teams mistake after he wasn’t paying attention during a 3rd-quarter punt return where Lechler kicked a short punt and the ball came down and hit his right hand, making it a live ball that the Texans nearly recovered.  Fortunately, Moore was able to get it back for the Patriots and it was a big break for the team, and one Coleman needs to be mindful of moving forward.

Jimmy Garoppolo – It was an unusual night for Garoppolo, who wasn’t as sharp as he normally is. He finished 15-of-23 for 145 yards and a touchdown, but he made a significant mental error in the fourth quarter that essentially won the game for the Texans.  On the first play from scrimmage at their own 38, Garoppolo was under pressure and made a half-hearted sideline attempt to Jacob Hollister as he was falling back and it was picked off by Houston defender Denzel Rice.  Rice then took off 39-yards the other way before center James Ferentz finally ran him down at the 4-yard line.  Houston went on to score a touchdown to take 27-23 edge, which ended up being the final score.  

That would be Garoppolo’s final pass of the evening before he was replaced by Jacoby Brissett on the ensuing drive.  Again, if there’s ever a time to make an error like that, preseason is the best time to do it, and it will likely be one that will motivate him when he gets back to work this week.

OTHER QUICK NOTES: 

Kony Ealy – Had a Neutral Zone infraction on first down on the Texans’ opening drive.

Kyle Van Noy – Made a great play to get to Savage on a 2nd-and-3 to force an incompletion, but then he undid that positive play by keeping Savage wrapped up and driving him to the ground and drawing a roughing the passer penalty.

Harvey Langi – Played relatively well, finishing tied for the second-most tackles with four on defense.  However, he had one untimely error after he was called for illegal use of hands on a 2nd-and-7, which gave Houston a first down and two plays later, they scored on Strong’s touchdown.

Vincent Valentine – Valentine limped off the field late in the second quarter after getting shaken up.  Fortunately he came back and finished the game and would have even had a sack on Watson had offsetting penalties not wiped it off the stat sheet.

Jamil Douglas – He was shaken up in the third quarter for New England, but left the field under his own power.

The Patriots will now get back to work this week as they prepare to take on the Lions in their third preseason game in Detroit Friday night at 7:00pm ET.

Reports Concerning For Rookie Derek Rivers’ Status for 2017

Ian Logue
August 18, 2017 at 11:49 am ET

With the retirement of Rob Ninkovich, the Patriots were in need of another player to step into the former defensive end’s role heading into the future.

For 2017, it sounds like rookie Derek Rivers might not be part of an immediate solution.

According to ESPN’s Field Yates and Mike Reiss, the Patriots sent Rivers back to New England for a MRI following an apparent knee injury suffered by the rookie on Wednesday and the outlook appears to be grim.

The two report that the team fears that Rivers’ status for this season appears to be in jeopardy, which could end the former standout from Youngstown State’s season before it even got started.

Rivers reportedly suffered the injury on special teams during a kickoff drill where he went to change direction and his knee buckled.

If he’s lost for the year, the team is already thin at the position, with Trey Flowers as the sole player who has played well enough to be at the top of the depth chart.  From there the team has just Kony Ealy, Geneo Grissom, Deatrich Wise Jr. (who suffered a concussion last week vs Jacksonville) as possible candidates, as well as long-shots Caleb Kidder and Keionta Davis.

It’s a tough early blow to a team that for the most part had avoided any serious injuries thus far during camp.  Now they’ll have to switch gears and it should make the next couple of weeks interesting to watch as they begin figuring out how to move on should Rivers’ season come to an end.

Belichick: No Surprise in Vrabel’s Coaching Success

Ian Logue
August 16, 2017 at 5:30 am ET

When it comes to playing for Bill Belichick, one of the things that typically shows a player’s football IQ is their ability to play a multitude of positions in New England’s complex system.

For Mike Vrabel, over the course of his career, he was one of New England’s most valuable assets as he did about everything that could have been asked of him.  During his terrific career playing under Belichick here in New England, the former linebacker played offense, special teams and according to his former coach, pretty much every position on the defensive side of the ball.

Vrabel, who also scored 10 regular season touchdowns over his NFL career along two during their Super Bowl appearances, was known by his teammates as a “Swiss Army Knife” during his tenure as a Patriot because he could do so many different things.  Belichick even went so far on Tuesday to call him “underrated”.

“Mike was a tremendous player,” said Belichick.  “He was a very smart player, astute, played all the positions – special teams, defense, used him on offense. He really works at the game. He’s a grinder, tough, hard-nosed, good football coach, good football player, probably an underrated player, a great player. He’s done a great job in his role at Ohio State and then down here. He’s working with a lot of great people like Romeo [Crennel] and Billy [O’Brien].”

“Mike played a lot of positions on defense – played all the positons in the kicking game, played obviously tight end for us offensively and scout team,” Belichick added.  “He played safety. He played every position on defense, literally. He loved football, practiced and played hard, was a pleasure to coach, a great football mind. He’s got a lot going for him.”

After his career came to an end, Vrabel started his coaching career at Ohio State as a defensive line coach back in 2011 and earned the respect of his players, including a moment that his wife pointed out when Vrabel got so amped up prior to a match-up against Michigan that he head-butted a player (who was wearing a helmet) and suffered a significant gash, to the point where the wound required stitches.

From there he took the next step and joined the Texans coaching staff in 2014 and already he’s been a part of helping build a defensive unit that was ranked third in 2015 and number one in 2016.

That group gave the Patriots a tough time on Tuesday and ironically Vrabel’s now pushing players through a time of year that didn’t used to be his favorite.  He said during an interview in 2007 that camp wasn’t his favorite time, but it’s a necessity.

“I’m not really thrilled about training camp. But once we start now, I’m in a good mood and I’m ready to go,” said Vrabel via the late Dan Pires. “I don’t mind practice. I don’t mind practicing, working and preparing. Training camp, I think, just wears on you a little bit, but it’s a necessity.”

Now it seems like Vrabel is having fun being on the other side of things and he’s handled the transition well.  The results speak for themselves and should Houston’s offense eventually catch up with the success they’ve had on other side of the football, it won’t be any surprise if the Texans to continue to be a team in the mix in January in the coming years.

Myths And Facts About Patriots Preseason Opener

Bob George
August 14, 2017 at 11:07 pm ET

FOXBOROUGH – After some six months of waiting, the biggest deal to come out of the Patriot preseason opener was that the reviled NFL commissioner was in attendance.

Three unassuming Patriot fans got duped into having their picture taken with Roger Goodell. The picture hit the Internet. Goodell got some phony and undeserved goodwill for the picture, giving the totally false impression that Patriot Nation has buried the hatchet. Nobody sells himself or his brand like Goodell.

Of course, Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys are now next in line to attack Goodell and his leadership, which could turn DeflateGate into a huge footnote. But that’s another story for another day.

In the end, the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Patriots, 31-24. If this were the real deal, the Patriots would have killed them. Jacksonville has never beaten the Patriots in the regular season, and the one win the Jaguars have over the Patriots was a playoff game with Scott Zolak as the starting Patriot quarterback. Zolak, who is approaching Jerry Remy status in the broadcast booth with Bob Socci, was filling in for an injured Drew Bledsoe and Jax defeated the Patriots 25-10 in a 1998 postseason game at AllTel Stadium.

But the Patriots rested most every starter. Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett, Dion Lewis, Brandon Boldin, LaAdrian Waddle, Elandon Roberts, Jonathan Freeny, Jordan Richards and Cyrus Jones were the only players who have had any sort of previous time with the Patriots that you have likely heard of. Otherwise, the real dealers sat on the bench and watched. No chance at anyone of consequence getting hurt.

That said, here are some myths and facts that you can take away from Thursday night’s game.

Myth: What a ridiculous comment from rookie Jaguar running back Leonard Fournette:

The NFL game, he said, “isn’t as fast as I thought.” He went on to say that the SEC is much faster than the NFL. To quote NESN’s Dennis Eckersley, “Yuck!” If Fournette was a Patriot, Mr. T. could not possibly enact more pity on this guy at his next Patriot practice. Of course, Bill Belichick would have probably coached him up enough to shut him up and not let such slop come out of his mouth.

Once Fournette starts playing against top NFL defenses, instead of the JV squad he faced Thursday night, he might back off that statement a bit.

Fact: Cyrus Jones had better learn the NFL game, and soon:

Jones is fast becoming the worst Patriot second round draft pick since Chad Jackson, a Florida wideout taken in 2006. Twice on Thursday night he was burned on long plays, a 97-yard bomb in the second quarter to Keelan Cole, and a 42-yard strike to Dede Westbrook in the fourth quarter. Either no or inadequate safety help was provided on either play, but Jones was clearly over-matched and badly outplayed on both plays.

On the 97-yard play, Zolak said on the radio broadcast that “he has to compete better than that!” No doubt Belichick thinks much the same. Combine that with the kickoff return he attempted from six yards deep in the end zone, and Jones is skating on thin ice. Those who know him say that he a smart player and wants to succeed. But when Zolak makes that kind of an observation, that’s not good.

Myth: Austin Carr will be this year’s Malcolm Mitchell in Super Bowl LII:

Carr, who was the Big Ten reception leader out of Northwestern, has become the training camp darling so far in 2017. The undrafted free agent has received rave reviews from those who have seen him, and he strutted his stuff on Thursday night on the final drive of the first half. He made a nifty sideline catch, not quite like Julio Jones, but good enough for all to take notice. Then he caught a nine-yard scoring pass from Garoppolo just before halftime, a leaping grab at the back of the end zone. Garoppolo put it in a place where only Carr could catch it, and Carr made a beauty of a catch.

But it will take someone getting injured for Carr to even have a speck of a chance to make this team. Maybe Carr can learn how to tackle in kick coverage. Otherwise, he’s like Ray Ventrone, Bam Childress, or the pride of Brown University, Sean Morey.

Fact: If Garoppolo wants a fulfilling NFL career, it will have to be somewhere other than Foxborough, Massachusetts:

One has to wonder how much longer Garoppolo can stand the situation he is in. Of course, he can always accept the franchise tag next season, and receive north of $20 million to hold a clipboard. But as long as Tom Brady chooses to continue his NFL career, he is the starting Patriot quarterback.

There is no question Garoppolo should be starting somewhere in this league. However, if anything should give Garoppolo pause on “should he leave the Patriots”, one need only look back at Matt Cassel. Brady’s 2008 fill-in, Cassel emerged quite dramatically and led the Patriots to an 11-5 record in his one and only season of glory. The 11-5 record didn’t get the Patriots into the postseason that year, but it did establish Cassel as a legit NFL starter. At season’s end, the Patriots dealt him to Kansas City, and he has been a shell of his 2008 self since. Would the same happen to Garoppolo? If Garoppolo thinks he is wasting his prime years in New England and wants to leave that badly, he needs to think about Cassel and the good reasons to stay put, if he is still the heir apparent to Brady.

Myth: Stephen Gostkowski needs someone to come into camp and do for him like Garoppolo did for Brady when he was taken in the second round of the 2014 draft:

Brady has been a maniac since Garoppolo’s arrival. Does Gostkowski need the same? Since the missed extra point in the playoff loss at Denver in 2015, Gostkowski has not been as automatic anymore. He missed badly on a 56-yarder on Thursday night. He doinked an extra point in Super Bowl LI, which necessitated two two-point conversions instead of one in the historic comeback. He missed five conversions in 2016.

Gostkowski is fine. He has some margin for error. Conversions are now 43 yards as of last year, in case that was lost on some of you. He has a great team around him to work out his yips. Besides, his kickoffs did as much to win the Super Bowl as everyone else’s heroics. He has become a master at kicking the ball just not quite into the end zone but deep enough to prevent returns beyond the 20-yard line. Keep him and let him get mentally right in his due time. Physically, he’s still the great kicker he has always been.

Fact: Belichick, Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels have a ton of work to do with talent evaluation and sorting out who will make the final 53-man roster:

Along with Jones, you had Richards, Waddle and newcomer Kony Ealy who might be playing themselves out of roster spots. Why did Lewis see so much action at running back on Thursday night when all the others grabbed a ton of bench? On that 79-yard touchdown run by Corey Grant, Jason Thompson whiffed badly on a tackle at the first level, then Richards took a hideous angle on Grant at the second level, sending him on his long touchdown gallop. Patricia was often seen with his head in his hands, saying “Oh, my gosh” or other more colorful words.

The nice thing is that this game serves just this purpose. All the locks to make the team as starters saw no action. This was all about evaluation. The Jaguars won’t rip off runs like that or hit bombs like they did if this game meant anything. Put your bubble guys out there and see what they do, or don’t do, or can’t do. Seeing Grant run like that through the Patriots won’t matter come opening night against Kansas City. You’ll see more of these players as the preseason wears on, and most likely you won’t see these players when it’s time to unfurl another banner and play for real.

Another thing you won’t see when the regular season begins is more Patriot fans getting duped into having pictures taken with Goodell. He will be there, safely tucked away in the press box, being more heavily guarded than the President. NBC will show him just to be nice, and then the commish will be on his way, gearing up for when he has to take on the Dallas Cowboys in federal court in the future.

Wilfork Finally Calling It a Career: “Peace-out.  I’m outta here.”

Ian Logue
August 7, 2017 at 9:02 pm ET

If you’ve followed former Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork over the course of his career, the way he handled his retirement announcement was fitting.

Wilfork announced the end of his NFL career in a Tweet on Tuesday, Tweeting a video in partnership with his sponsor, Kingsford Charcoal.

The video features the veteren defensive tackle sitting in front of his locker, removing the tape from his cleats and hanging them up by the laces on a hook as he turns and reaches for barbeque tines.

From there, Wilfork begins shaking his butt, as he’s now free from all the dog days of camp and the grind that every other player deals with this time of year.

“No more cleats,” Wilfork said a happy Wilfork in the video. “I’m moving on to smoke meats, fellas.”

“Peace-out.  I’m outta here.”

The former first-round pick out of New England was selected 21st overall back in 2004 and played 11 seasons, with the final two ending with Houston with the Texans. His last game ended in a loss in the postseason against his former team last January in the Divisional round, with Wilfork’s career fittingly ending in front of all of the fans at Gillette Stadium.

Overall, he finished with 559 tackles, 16 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions over the course of the 189 regular-season games he was part of, with most fans likely familiar with this memorable moment by the big defensive tackle.

As for Wilfork, he also said we’ll see him again, but not on the field.  The video concludes with him revealing he’ll be holding a “farewell tailgate” on September 7, 2017.

 

Daily Notebook: Tuesday Patriots News and Notes 6/13

Ian Logue
June 13, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Here’s a look at today’s top stories.

Amendola Gives Insight on Being a Patriot – Danny Amendola has arguably been one of the most important secret weapons during each of New England’s two championship runs, having quietly established himself as one of the more underated assets during his tenure with the club.

During a recent interview with Keith Gordon of Maxim magazine, Amendola offered up an opportunity to let fans in on some of the reasons why the Patriots have continued to be so successful. One of the things that Amendola talked about is that he doesn’t believe the average fan has any real idea just how hard they work every day.

“I wish the average football fan knew how much we run every day—it’s miles and miles of sprinting against the top athletes in the world, Monday to Friday,” explained Amendola during the interview.  “It seems all they want to talk about is fantasy football numbers and targets and catches. How about this: Go outside and try to keep up with the cars on the highway until you puke. And then do it again. And again. And again. Day after day. And then I’ll have your grade. I agree that they pay us well, but that’s why we do it and you don’t.”

Amendola also offered up his thoughts on what it’s like to play with someone like teammate and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who he enjoys watching embarrass opposing defenders when they’re on the field together.

“Gronk is one of the best teammates and best football players ever to walk the earth,” said Amendola. “He’s our heart and soul when he’s on the field, and he’s the hardest to defend. His football IQ is off the charts, and his athletic ability compares to that of LeBron or Messi. His ability to take over is comical to watch when he’s running by you on the field. He makes grown men quit.”

As for what it’s like to play for Belichick and whether or not the coach is all business all the time, Amendola admitted that there are times when Belichick lets himself enjoy the moment.

“Bill is always serious. Unless you’re at a winning Super Bowl after-party,” said Amendola. “Then he smiles.”

ESPN Predicts Patriots and Cowboys in Super Bowl 52 – While many here in New England believe the Patriots have a good shot at getting back to the Super Bowl, oddsmakers have apparently also made their opinion known about who will get there from the NFC.

According to ESPN.com, the oddsmakers at the Golden Nuggett are predicting that the Dallas Cowboys will join New England next February, establishing odds of 7-1.  The other favorite along with Dallas is Green Bay, with 8-1 odds.

As far as a rematch is concerned, the Golden Nuggett also has the Falcons in the mix to meet the Patriots again, but at 10-1 odds.

When it comes to winning another championship, the Patriots are 3-1 odds as the favorite to win it all.


Lewis faces some tough competition in training camp next month. (USA TODAY Images)

Despite Competition, Lewis Enjoyed Minicamp – Patriots running back Dion Lewis finds himself in a crowded backfield heading into training camp this year, but the prospect of competition hasn’t dampened his enjoyment on the field so far this offseason.

Lewis, who has looked strong through minicamp, admitted that competition is just part of the game and it comes with the territory.

“Every year there’s turnover in the NFL,” Lewis told the Providence Journal. “Every year, you’re in training camp with eight running backs, so it doesn’t matter who the names are who they bring in. You’ve only got to worry about how well you compete. You’ve got to be ready to compete. That’s all that really matters. You can’t think about who they bring in and why did they bring them in. You’ve got to compete against those guys and do the best you can and try to get yourself a role on the team.”

Lewis is coming off of a year where he finished with 283 yards rushing on 64 carries (4.4 average), along with 17 receptions for 94 yards during the regular season.  But he carried the football 25 times during the postseason for 79 yards along with a touchdown and also hauled in 5 passes for 33 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield.

As a result, Bill Belichick obviously knows what he’s capable of.  Despite the fact he brought in Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead this offseason, he put this group together to build competition but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s hopeful Lewis can go out and perform well when the club opens training camp next month.

“I think Dion’s building on his last however many weeks of the regular season it was last year — six or seven or whatever it was — and the playoffs, so he’s had a good offseason,” Belichick said via the Providence Journal. “He’s built on that. I mean, he really worked hard to get back for the end of last year, and then this year, he’s been able to improve on that. Again, anxious to see him in training camp, but he’s done a good job out here.”


Gronkowski has the perfect gift this father’s day. (USA TODAY Images)

Gronkowski’s Offers Up A Special Father’s Day Gift – Rob Gronkowski took part in a humorous campaign in advance of this year’s father’s day, with a video showing what he believes might be the perfect gift for his father, Gordon.

Gronkowski recently starred in a video for Oberto beef jerky, where he revealed the “Jerky Tie”, which is a tie made out of the company’s beef jerky that Gronkowski believes will make him the favorite among his brothers this year.

See the video below:

https://twitter.com/ObertoBeefJerky/status/874341182817652737

Wondering how to make your own?  Oberto posted instructions via their Facebook account to walk you through the process so you can be a hero with your own father.

Want to become your dad’s favorite child? Follow Gronk & Sherm’s lead and make him a #JerkyTie for Father’s Day. Share…

Posted by Oberto Beef Jerky on Monday, June 12, 2017