Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 11-26, & AFC East Notes.
The Patriots and Bills game today marks the 115th time the two teams have met. And while the crowd at Orchard Park is loud and boisterous, the Patriots and specifically Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have had great success there. In the Bill Belichick era, the Patriots have owned the Bills in Buffalo, winning the last five meetings and 12 of their last 13 up there. It will be interesting to see if they can get out to fast start today that they’ve been doing well, especially in the last month.
Buffalo has been outscored in every quarter but the fourth, coincidentally, the Patriots have outscored their opponents in every quarter but the fourth, so something has to give… right?
To Remove Brady Early in Blowouts? Belichick Doesn’t Think So:
With the Patriots seemingly comfortably ahead in the win over Miami, questions naturally were being asked, if it was time to remove Brady and not risk him to injury. Dan Fouts even mentioned it on the telecast. So, after the game is over, the media did its job and asked Bill Belichick if he thought about taking Brady out. Belichick, already not happy with the somewhat at times the sloppy performance of the team, got snarky with the reporter, in this case, Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. It went down like this:
Guregian: “Did you have any thoughts about taking Tom Brady out of the game late with the score out of hand?”
Belichick: “What, on the kneel-downs? What difference does it make?”
Guregian: “What about before that?”
Belichick: “No. I mean it’s easy for you to sit there and say the game is out of hand. I mean, if you watch games in the National Football League, a lot can change in a hurry. The only time I think the game is in hand is when they’re not going to have enough possessions to get the number of points that they need. Sorry, we just see that one totally differently.”
There are certainly cases where removing Brady from the game is a good idea. And while there have been times that I’d be inclined to agree, Sunday wasn’t one of them. When Miami scored with 11 minutes to go, the score of the game was still close enough to warrant Brady remaining in. But it was a legitimate question and Guregian, was within her rights to ask. She isn’t one of those reporters who is looking to pick at anything negative. She’s one of the good guys/gals who put the work in every day at Gillette. To her credit, she asked her questions and didn’t make a big deal of it, unlike some other writers who did later.
Could Belichick have handled that question better? No doubt. One has to think he was still salty about the way the team had played in his mind as he wasn’t looking like a coach whose team had just won by 18 points. Or perhaps the way the Dolphins were playing as they seemed intent on taking as many cheap shots as they could in the second half. But wouldn’t that lend itself to removing Brady from the line of fire?
Injuries Piling Up for the Patriots in 2017:
With both Martellus Bennett and Nate Ebner being placed on IR this week, that brings the total of players on IR or on the non-Football Injury/Illness list to 13 players. Bennett’s loss was not entirely unexpected, the team knew they were taking a risk when he was released from Green Bay with his shoulder that required surgery. It was hoped that he’d be able to play thru it, and he gave them two games but it was too much to bear.
Besides the players on IR, the team has eight questionable players for the Buffalo game this week. If we saw one thing that can derail this team’s chances, it is injuries. In both 2013 and 2015, the team was beset by injuries and that had a big hand in their undoing.
They haven’t reached that tipping point yet but Sunday’s win was a costly one with Ebner, Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy, Marquis Flowers, LaAdrian Waddle and Trevor Reilly all leaving via injuries. We’ll see today if those losses last week factor into the game in Orchard Park.
Ebner Loss Difficult to Replace: Bill Belichick wasn’t at a loss for words when describing the value he, and the team placed on Nate Ebner and his role on Special Teams. Ebner was lost for the season after injuring his knee on a fake punt in the first quarter of the Miami game last Sunday.
Ebner’s role as the “personal protector” of the punter. Belichick said, was one of the most difficult spots to play.
“It’s kind of like playing quarterback,” Belichick said. “But you play quarterback for, you call 60 plays a game, 70 plays a game. You only punt five to 10 times. Somewhere in there. But there’s a lot of different variables, … a good personal protector takes all those into consideration, just like a quarterback does. A: Protect the punter. B: He’s the last line of defense. “So a lot of times, even if your protection is not right on the front, if that guy gets the right guy and does the right thing, you still could possibly save a blocked punt by just him doing the right thing, even though somebody else has made a mistake in the front of it.”
“It’s not an easy job at all if you want to do it right and get the most out of it.”
With Ebner out for the season, that job has fallen to Jordan Richards who fulfilled it on Sunday. Pat Chung has also played that position in the past.
Van Noy’s Role Has Evolved to be a Key Member of NE Defense:
Kyle Van Noy is a player that seems like a typical New England Patriots pickup. A former high draft pick that didn’t pan out with his former team, Bill Belichick picks him up in a low-key move and finds a role for the player to be successful.
Kyle Van Noy has become one of the most versatile pieces of the Patriots defense. (SBalestrieri photo)
But in Van Noy’s case, he’s morphed into much more than just a role player in the Patriots defense. Because of injuries to Dont’a Hightower, Shea McClellin, Derek Rivers and Harvey Langi and the retirement of Rob Ninkovich, he’s been moved all over the place. And to his credit, he’s responded well no matter where he’s been asked to play. He’s been the coverage linebacker, the middle linebacker calling the signals as well as the outside rush player on the edge.
“Kyle’s a smart guy,” Belichick said. “Something maybe a little bit different this week. He’s a good communicator, so he’s good at getting other people around him coordinated and in the run spot or when we need to make a call, he’ll make the call, and he’s decisive. He’ll make it with good judgment but also make it decisively so everyone has the confidence to be able to execute it. “So, he does a good job of that. That’s one of the advantages of having him in different positions. And since he’s played other spots, he understands what that person needs to know and maybe what the stress is on.”
Belichick loves players who are versatile and can do multiple things, and while Van Noy may not have been the team’s first to do certain things, [MLB, Ninkovich’s role on the edge], he’s thriving. It was thought that Rivers was going to be groomed to take over that role after being drafted by the team with their first pick in the draft. But a training camp injury sidelined him for the duration of the season. Van Noy still doesn’t get much love around the league’s media types, but Belichick sees his value and that is all that matters,
“Everybody doesn’t have to be able to do 11 different things,” Belichick said. “It’s good to have the guys who can do one thing really well. That’s great, but somewhere along the line with the variety of offenses we see and different formations … for someone to be able to have some versatility to help us handle those multiple situations, it’s a lot easier than having to send guys on and off the field and try to get them matched up and so forth. “If you can just move one or two players around to do that. Guys like Kyle and Pat Chung, Devin [McCourty], guys who give us linebacker to safety, linebacker to defensive end, those kinds of comparable spots, dependent on what we’re facing, there’s a lot of value to that.”
With Ninkovich, Hightower, McClellin, Rivers, and Langi gone, if the Patriots are going to have postseason success in 2017, they’re going to need Van Noy to step up. And he’s shown that he’s been equal to the task.
Belichick- “I’m Really Happy When We Score”: The Patriots’ Bill Belichick was miked up last week for the Dolphins game and one of the funnier scenes is the reaction of the Patriots bench when the Patriots scored all five of their touchdowns. As the players all celebrate, with the radio call of Bob Socci on the play-by-play nails down the exact time of the scores, Belichick remained stoic. He was asked (jokingly) if he was happy when the team scored.
Belichick’s response was classic Bill, “Yeah, I don’t know,” Belichick said. “I mean, I’m happy when we score. I’m really happy when we score, but there’s a decision to be made on the next play, and the next play and the next series.”
Bill Belichick addresses the media before practice. (SBalestrieri photo)
“So we have a lot of fans that come to the game,” he added. “They cheer. They do a great job. I feel like a big part of my job is decision making and planning ahead for the next play, the next series, the next situation. There is sometimes a little bit of time between a score and the kickoff when you go out on defense or how you’re going to kick the ball off or so forth that I feel like I need to do a good job at that. I don’t want to let the team down in the responsibilities that I have.”
Manning the Least of the Giants Worries: Look, there are a lot of ways to take the Eli Manning benching for the Giants. If his level of play were so awful or he completely lost the team in the huddle, then you’re forced to make a move. But his offensive line has been a sieve. The play-calling by McAdoo has been awful and their playmakers are either hurt, not producing or not utilized right.
If New York had a young QB, like a Patrick Mahomes for example, making a move now makes sense. You’re 2-9 and not going anywhere and you can see what you have in the youngster. But Geno Smith? Are there any illusions about Smith at this point? Does McAdoo really think Smith gives the G-Men a better chance of winning than Manning? Bad move Giants. One can see the entire regime being cleaned out of there as soon as this season is over.
Who Do You Like This Week NFL Week 13:
Last week 11-5 mark. Season Total: 113-63.
This week’s Thursday games I went with Washington (0-1). Now for the rest of the slate:
Vikings at Falcons – Atlanta
Texans at Titans – Tennessee
Chiefs at Jets – Kansas City
Broncos at Dolphins – Miami
Colts at Jaguars – Jacksonville
Buccaneers at Packers – Green Bay
Lions at Ravens – Baltimore
Patriots at Bills – New England
49ers at Bears – San Francisco
Browns at Chargers – Los Angeles
Giants at Raiders – Oakland
Panthers at Saints – New Orleans
Rams at Cardinals – Los Angeles
SNF Eagles at Seahawks – Philadelphia
MNF Steelers at Bengals – Pittsburgh
Next Thursday New Orleans over the Atlanta
Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Bills Have to Limit Gronkowski on Defense:
The Buffalo Bills are going to try to reverse the trend of the Patriots dominating on the Bills home turf and to do so, they’ll need a complete team effort. And part of that is the play of the defense covering tight end Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots big man has been at his best when playing before his former hometown. Last year, Gronkowski torched Buffalo for 109 yards and a touchdown on five catches in Orchard Park.
To slow down the big man will take a collective effort between the linebackers and the safeties, the Bills don’t have anyone that can cover Gronk 1-on-1. Preston Brown, on the Bills website, spoke about the difficulty covering Gronkowski.
“When you are matched up against him just try to get some pass breakups and no run after the catch,” Brown said. He always seems like he’s dragging people down the field and people are jumping on his back and he’s still running for 10 yards. No yards after the catch.”
Brown may draw Gronkowski off the line and knows he’ll need to get a good jam to slow him down. “He does everything to get open. He has the speed to get by people. He’s just a good tight end,” Brown said. “You have to find ways to slow him up any way you can. Sometimes you have to double team him. Sometimes you have a safety over top. Anything you can do to slow him down because he’s going to try and make plays, especially coming back home.”
Is Cameron Wake Going to Chase a Ring? Nope, He’s Staying with the Dolphins:
The Miami Dolphins reached the playoff last season with a 10-6 record. But the season of promise in 2017 where they thought they’d make the next step has evaporated. The team is 4-7 and not going anywhere. Not this year. While some players have plenty of time to get a shot at a ring, Cameron Wake doesn’t.
Wake will soon be 36 years old and although the sack specialist is still productive, he needs two sacks to reach his fifth season with 10 or more sacks, he knows he’s closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning or even the middle.
So, the question that was posed to him by the Miami Herald this week, would he consider leaving South Beach for a winner? The short answer was no but sometimes these situations take a life of their own. Wake was keeping his eyes on the present for the time being.
“Another team has not crossed my mind for years,” Wake said. “Legacy hasn’t. Again, I’m a laser-focused guy. I’ve got blinders on. That’s way out of left field. I couldn’t care less about that right now.”
So he isn’t considering leaving despite Miami’s lack of success, but he remains optimistic. “Every time’s a little different,” Wake said. “Last time I came back it was because obviously, I felt a tremendous amount of comfort and history here and this organization. I have belief in the players, belief in the coaching staff. The city, fans, all of the above. For me to go somewhere else it would have to be a dramatically different opportunity, and I feel like the best opportunity is right here in Miami.”
Revis Returns to NY, This Time to Face the Jets in a Chiefs Uniform:
The New York Jets face a desperate team in Kansas City today that has been free-falling after a red-hot start. The Chiefs started 5-0 and have since five of their last six. But this week, at least at the start of the game, all eyes will be on the Chiefs newest player, cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Revis was released by the Jets after the 2016 season and has been looking for a team all year. So the injury-bitten Chiefs signed him, hoping he can help their defense regain their winning ways and hold onto a division lead that has suddenly tightened up. For Revis though, returning to New Jersey holds no special motivation.
“I don’t think it’s any extra motivation,” said Revis, to ESPN. “For me throughout my career, it’s always been about timing. I just felt where I was at in my training that I was fit and ready to come back and play football.”
So, Revis was asked, is there any ill-will towards his former team?
“We have a long history … I had an awesome time there. Most of my legacy was with the Jets, so I don’t think it’s anything [personal]. I’m just on another team. This is my fourth ball club throughout my career, and now I’m focused on our team goals and what we’re trying to do as a team and accomplish.”
“For me personally, I don’t think there’s any ill will or anything to take a stab at or get back at the Jets for any reason.” His welcome may not be too warm, however.
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