New England Patriots – Press Herald Fri, 24 Nov 2017 09:00:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Patriots notebook: Brady misses practice Wednesday Thu, 23 Nov 2017 02:40:36 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady sat out practice Wednesday with what the team says is an Achilles tendon injury.

Brady has started all 10 games this season for AFC East-leading New England (8-2). He also has yet to miss a game because of an injury since 2008, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opening game.

The 40-year-old has thrown for 3,146 yards, 22 touchdowns and just two interceptions this season.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski (illness), receiver Chris Hogan (shoulder), center David Andrews (illness), offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (ankle), and safety Patrick Chung (ankle) also missed practice on Wednesday.

New England has won six games in a row and hosts Miami on Sunday.

THE PATRIOTS cut defensive end/linebacker Cassius Marsh on Wednesday and signed defensive lineman Eric Lee off the Bills’ practice squad.

It was a bit of a surprising move considering New England traded two draft picks to acquire Marsh this preseason, but Marsh had struggled in run defense in recent games.

Why did the Patriots make the move? Patriots Coach Bill Belichick kept his answer simple.

“We felt like that was the best move to make for the football team,” Belichick said.

The Patriots saw Lee this preseason during joint practices with the Houston Texans. Belichick said their experience with Lee was not necessarily a significant deciding factor in the move, but helped them collect information on the player.

“He kind of played outside linebacker for Houston, defensive end in their sub package, so there’s some relevance there for us, similar to the position that was vacated,” Belichick said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Good showings by linebackers Marquis Flowers and Trevor Reilly in recent games may have affected New England’s decision. Flowers was another preseason acquisition, while Reilly looked strong in a Patriots uniform as a practice squad player last season.

“Trevor was here last year and Trevor, I think, did a really good job for us,” Belichick said. “We were pretty healthy last year and never really had an opportunity to move him up. When an opportunity came for him to be a roster player and play in games and so forth, he took that. But I think that he was playing at a pretty good level last year. We just didn’t have the spot. This year it was a little bit different. … I wouldn’t say I’m surprised at the way he’s performed. He’s done a good job for us. He probably would’ve done that last year for us if we had the opportunity to get him in there, but we had other guys that we don’t have this year and so, as I said, we just didn’t have room.”

THE PATRIOTS have to be happy with what Brandin Cooks has brought to the team in his first season in New England. He is tied for fourth in the NFL in receiving yards (786), third in yards per reception (17.5) and has four touchdowns on the season.

And Cooks has no reason to complain about his time in New England. It looks as though he will reach similar statistical marks to what he had in New Orleans, and he continues to grow as a member of the Patriots’ offense.

Perhaps that’s why he told that he hopes to stick around here.

“The goal is to play the rest of my career here,” Cooks said. “That’s God willing. I don’t know what the future holds, but this is a special place.”

Cooks is 24 years old, and just entering the prime of his career. While he is likely to earn a big contract next season, the offseason trade that brought Cooks to New England appears to have worked out.

PENALTIES CONTINUE to be a problem for Miami – and one that needs a rapid remedy if the 4-6 Dolphins, 16½-point underdogs, are to have any chance Sunday at New England.

“It’s something we can fix,” Coach Adam Gase said.

They haven’t fixed it yet. And the Dolphins have dropped four in a row. They’ve been flagged for 42 infractions during the skid, including 17 last week, one shy of the franchise record.

Their season total of 84 penalties ranks second behind only the Seattle Seahawks, and they’re on pace to set a team season record.

Infractions cost Miami a season-high 123 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That might have been the difference in the outcome, given that the Bucs kicked a field goal to break a tie with 4 seconds left.

“I wouldn’t say we’re playing undisciplined,” defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. “I’d say we’re making mistakes in tough situations.”

MATT MOORE was under center when the Dolphins practiced Wednesday with starting quarterback Jay Cutler still in concussion protocol, according to Gase.

It remains unknown when Cutler might return to practice or whether he’ll be able to play Sunday. Gase said Monday that Cutler would remain the starter if he’s healthy.

“I’m sure there will be a point I make a decision,” Gase said. “I don’t really know what the timetable is right now. I’m just kind of taking it day by day right now.”

Gase said the decision, ultimately, is out of hands.

“When you’re in the protocol, as coaches, we remove ourselves and let that process kind of take care of itself.”

]]> 0 England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes under pressure from Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa during the first half Sunday in Foxborough, Mass.Wed, 22 Nov 2017 21:48:26 +0000
Court denies appeal over photo used in erotic fiction about Patriots’ Gronkowski Wed, 22 Nov 2017 22:06:01 +0000 CINCINNATI — A federal appeals court has spiked an Ohio couple’s case against companies that distributed an erotic fiction book about a woman’s desire for New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling Tuesday upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the case against, Barnes & Noble Inc. and Smashwords filed by a couple referred to as John and Jane Roe.

The couple says an engagement photo that shows them embracing was pulled from their photographer’s website without their knowledge and used on the cover of “A Gronking to Remember.” The book was self-published using the defendant companies’ online services by a male author writing under the pseudonym “Lacey Noonan,” according to court records.

The couple’s lawsuit describes the 2014 book as raunchy and distasteful and says their privacy rights were violated.

The book began showing up in Gronkowski’s media appearances, including at the Super Bowl media day in 2015 and in a jocular reading he gave on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”Court records indicate that the “Gronking” author changed the cover at least twice, first to remove images with the Patriots’ trademarks after the NFL club complained, and then again after hearing from the Roes.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rose in Dayton ruled against the couple last year, saying the corporate defendants were book distributors broadly protected by the First Amendment because their self-publishing services were the “next logical step after the photocopier.”

The three-judge appeals panel said the couple failed to show the companies were aware of any photo rights issue.

]]> 0 couple sued after their photo was used for a book about lusting for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.Wed, 22 Nov 2017 18:11:34 +0000
Commentary: Patriots’ defense no longer a big weakness Tue, 21 Nov 2017 00:25:30 +0000 MEXICO CITY — If people needed more convincing about the New England Patriots defense, about whether this unit could be trusted down the road, there was plenty more evidence supplied Sunday.

Let’s just say it’s getting harder and harder to find reasons to doubt the defense.

The Patriots merely held Oakland’s offense to eight garbage time points.

Better still?

We saw the return of an opportunistic defense that made its biggest plays at the game’s most important times. Sure, the Raiders aided and abetted by dropping a ton of passes during the 33-8 drubbing in the thin air at Azteca Stadium.

But the bigger story was the turnovers the Patriots created and the momentum-changing plays that were reminiscent of championship defenses of old. Pick holes in the stats if you want, but the numbers keep adding up to a defense that’s getting the job done and setting the table for Tom Brady and the offense.

Six straight wins against a variety of quarterbacks and offenses shouldn’t be overlooked. On Sunday, it was Derek Carr’s turn to get swallowed up by a bend-but-don’t break defense that’s now forcing turnovers and making plays.

“We knew coming in, we were going to have to make a lot of plays,” said cornerback Stephon Gilmore. “Derek Carr’s a gunslinger and he has a lot of great receivers. We knew we (were up to) the challenge, so it feels good. Everyone’s getting better and better. We just gotta keep it going. We didn’t play perfect, but we made the plays we needed to win.”

The first four weeks of the season, all the big plays were going against them. Now, they’re the ones coming up with the game-changers.

The first such play Sunday came in the opening quarter. On third down with the Patriots up 7-0, safety Duron Harmon intercepted a pass that bounced off receiver Seth Roberts’ helmet. Cornerback Jonathan Jones was on the coverage.

Late in the second quarter, with the score 14-0, the defense came up big again after Carr completed a pass to Roberts at the 3. Jones was involved in this one as well, as he had his arms wrapped around the receiver. That allowed linebacker Marquis Flowers to alertly punch the ball away, and safety Patrick Chung recovered at the 7. The Patriots quickly moved into field-goal position and got three points when Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 62-yard field goal.

“Those plays were huge,” said Harmon. “Marquis’ play, in the red area, him not quitting on the play. We talk about it all the time, him running to the ball, he finished the play. Thirty seconds left, we still get three points … we talk all the time about turnovers being a big part of a team’s success.”

So are other key plays that stem the tide or change momentum. The defense made quite a few on third down, with the Raiders converting just 7 of 15 chances. Cornerback Malcolm Butler made a terrific open-field tackle on Amari Cooper in the second quarter to prevent a big gain and a first down.

Then in the third quarter, with the Patriots up 27-0, and the Raiders desperately looking for something, Coach Jack Del Rio went for it on fourth-and-1. Jamize Olawale was stuffed up the middle for no gain, with Chung making the stop.

Compared with where this defense was in September, it’s night and day. This marked the sixth straight game in which the defense has allowed 17 points or fewer.

“We did a good job of preparing,” said defensive captain Devin McCourty. “They made some plays, but we executed our game plan and did exactly what we wanted to do.”

Butler, Gilmore and Jones did a great job handling Michael Crabtree (six catches, 51 yards), Cooper (three catches, 28 yards, TD), and Roberts (five catches, 36 yards). Chung also was immense covering Carr’s favorite target, tight end Jared Cook, who was limited to two catches for 36 yards.

“At the beginning of the year, we were good, but we’d give up a touchdown and one chunk play,” said Harmon, “but now, we’re more consistent with the big plays. We’re more consistent with our run game, our pass game. Everything is more consistent.”

Butler said it’s just par for the course for the defense. They’re just now hitting their stride.

“We always start slow every year, and midway through the season, we just start bonding and making plays and getting better as a group,” said Butler. “It’s just happening now.”

They’re keeping the points down, they’re creating turnovers, they’re limiting big plays. Basically, they’re just rounding into form for the real games down the road.

]]> 0 England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty breaks up a pass intended for Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) during an NFL football game between the Oakland Raiders and the New England Patriots, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Mexico City. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)Mon, 20 Nov 2017 20:29:58 +0000
Former Patriots receiver Terry Glenn dead after Dallas-area wreck Mon, 20 Nov 2017 18:45:35 +0000 DALLAS – Former NFL receiver Terry Glenn, who caught Tom Brady’s first touchdown pass with the New England Patriots in 2001, died Monday following a one-vehicle rollover traffic accident near Dallas that left his fiancée slightly injured, officials said. He was 43.

Glenn died shortly before 1 a.m. at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, according to the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office. Irving police are investigating the cause of the wreck at 12:18 a.m. on eastbound Highway 114, said Chelsey Jones, a police department spokeswoman.

Glenn, a former Ohio State star who lived in the Dallas area, was driving when the vehicle left the highway, struck a concrete barrier and rolled, authorities said. Glenn was ejected.

Jones said his fiancée was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries. Her name and further details weren’t released. Jones had no immediate information on whether the couple wore seatbelts.

Glenn won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top college receiver in 1995, piling up 1,411 yards and 17 touchdowns in his only year as a starter for Ohio State to set the stage for a pro career. Glenn played 12 seasons in the NFL, from 1996 to 2007, including six with the Patriots, five with the Dallas Cowboys and another year in Green Bay. He finished his career with 8,823 yards receiving and 44 touchdowns.

The Patriots drafted Glenn seventh overall in 1996 when Bill Parcells was coach, and Glenn set an NFL rookie record with 90 catches for a team that reached the Super Bowl, losing to the Packers.

Brady’s first touchdown pass was a 21-yarder to Glenn in a 29-26 overtime win over San Diego the year that Brady took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe and led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title. The 40-year-old Brady is in his 18th season and has won five championships.

Glenn was suspended from the 2001 team for the playoffs for multiple unexcused absences from practices and meetings. The club also withheld a bonus payment because of off-field issues that included an arrest over an incident with the mother of his 5-year-old son. The woman recanted the charges.

“I was pretty close with Terry,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who was in his first year as an assistant with the team when Glenn was a rookie. “I think he was, deep down inside a good person with good intentions and a good heart.”

Glenn came to the Cowboys when Parcells was hired in 2003 and had a career-high seven touchdowns along with 1,136 yards in 2005. In 2010, Glenn was arrested in Irving for auto theft in what his attorney said was a mix-up over a car rental. A year earlier, he was arrested at an Irving hotel on charges of public intoxication and marijuana possession.

“Terry was someone that we all enjoyed very much in his time with the Cowboys,” owner Jerry Jones said. “He was a gentle and kindhearted young man. Too young and too soon.”

Glenn spent his one year in Green Bay after leaving the Patriots following the tumultuous 2001 season.

“Terry was one of the most gifted receivers we have ever had,” New England owner Bob Kraft said. “For so many Patriots fans, his rookie season will be remembered as one of the most impactful in franchise history.”

Former Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe expressed his sorrow via social media .

“Loved this man. My son asked me a decade ago who my favorite receiver ever was because he wanted that jersey for Christmas. He got a Terry Glenn jersey from Santa,” Bledsoe wrote. “TG overcame horrible adversity to become a really good man. May your soul rest in peace my friend.”

]]> 0 England wide receiver Terry Glenn looks back after catching a touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Bledsoe against the Buccaneers in Tampa, Florida, in 1999. Officials say Glenn died following a one-vehicle rollover traffic accident near Dallas that left his fiancée slightly injured.Mon, 20 Nov 2017 16:00:16 +0000
Patriots easily handle Raiders in Mexico Mon, 20 Nov 2017 00:40:06 +0000 MEXICO CITY — The chants of “Brady! Brady!” started as soon as the New England Patriots got their first third-down stop, and the fevered fans at Azteca Stadium awaited Tom Brady’s first appearance in Mexico.

The chants kept up for most of the day as Brady felt right at home in the new environment.

Brady threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns to the delight of an adoring crowd, and the Patriots beat the Oakland Raiders 33-8 on Sunday.

“That was very much a surprise, especially seeing some of last year’s game they were very pro-Raider,” Brady said. “Seemed like there were a lot of Patriots fans here, so that was good to see.”

Brady completed his first 12 passes and picked apart Oakland’s suspect defense. The large contingent of Patriots fans in the well-divided crowd for a Raiders “home” game had plenty to cheer about as New England (8-2) dominated from start to finish.

After winning their debut trip to Mexico City last year against Houston, the Raiders (4-6) were completely overmatched in their return. The offense failed to score until Derek Carr threw a TD pass to Amari Cooper in the fourth quarter with Oakland trailing by 30 points.

“They don’t do anything special, they just do everything right,” Carr said. “You sit there and in the first half they don’t have any turnovers, I don’t think they had a penalty, and they do the little things right.”

Oakland’s defense was victimized by short passes by Brady and then beaten on a 64-yard TD to Brandin Cooks on the third play of the second half that gave New England a 24-0 lead.

“It was just a fiesta all over the field,” Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said.

There was a festive environment at the famed stadium, with loud cheers for both teams from the crowd of 77,357 fans and a notable buzz throughout the early portions. Much was made heading to the game about the differing approaches to playing in an elevation of 7,200 feet above sea level. The Patriots spent the week at the Air Force Academy practicing at an elevation of 6,621 feet, while the Raiders stayed home and opted to limit their time at high altitude.

In a game this lopsided, it probably didn’t play much of a factor, although the thin air might have helped Stephen Gostkowski set a New England record with a 62-yard field goal at the end of the first half that was tied for the sixth-longest field goal in NFL history. Two of the five longer kicks, including Matt Prater’s record 64-yarder for the Broncos in 2014, were at high elevation in Denver.

Gostkowski added three field goals in the second half.

“We came a long way to win the football game,” Coach Bill Belichick said. “We came down here to win a game and that’s what we did. It was a great crowd tonight, a lot of energy, a great stadium and great environment. It was exciting to play here and coach here.”

Brady went 9 for 9 on the opening drive as the Patriots used an up-tempo offense and short passes to keep the Raiders on their heels. He capped it with a 15-yard pass to Dion Lewis to take a 7-0 lead.

Brady added a 5-yard TD pass to Amendola midway through the second quarter.

The Raiders appeared in position to score late in the first half before Marquis Flowers knocked the ball out of Seth Roberts’ hands inside the 5. Patrick Chung recovered with 33 seconds left at the New England 7. The Patriots moved 48 yards in four plays and ended the half with Gostkowski’s long kick. The Patriots have now scored in the final minute of the first half in seven straight games.

“That was a 10-point swing right there,” Raiders Coach Jack Del Rio said. “That was a tough one to swallow.”

Brady became the first quarterback with 300-yard games in three countries, having also done it twice in London and 79 times in the United States.

]]> 0 quarterback Tom Brady releases a pass under pressure from Raiders linebacker NaVorro Bowman. Brady went over the 300-yard mark for the sixth time this season, leading New England to a 33-8 win in Mexico City.Sun, 19 Nov 2017 22:08:05 +0000
NFL Week 11 preview Sun, 19 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Patriots this week

Patriots (7-2) at Raiders (4-5), 4:25 p.m. (CBS)

Outlook: The NFL visits high-altitude Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Tom Brady could play wearing a sombrero and he’d still throw for 350 yards against a Raiders defense that’s the worst in NFL in opponent passer rating and completion percentage.

Spread: Patriots by 7

Prediction: Patriots, 38-23


Eagles (8-1) at Cowboys (5-4), 8:30 p.m. NBC

Outlook: One team has the best record in the NFL. The other is a marquee franchise. The Cowboys are a very tempting home underdog but are seriously diminished by the absence of RB Ezekiel Elliott and LB Sean Lee. Take Philly, but hedge on the Cowboys at home with that added half-point on the line.

Spread: Eagles by 31/2

Prediction: Eagles 30-27.


Rams (7-2) at Vikings (7-2), 1 p.m. (FOX)

Outlook: It’s Jared Goff vs. his old teammate Case Keenum in a matchup that also could have been our game of the week. These teams have won nine games in a row between them. These are two comparably solid defenses, but on offense, while the Vikings are pretty good, the Rams are great.

Spread: Vikings by 21/2

Predictions: Rams 28-23.

Other games

At Dolphins (4-5, even) over Buccaneers (3-6), 21-20: Against a Bucs squad that is 0-4 on the road, look for the Dolphins to shake their lapse into awfulness and get back to being average.

 Lions (5-4, -3) over At Bears (3-6), 24-20: The 175th meeting will be another close one, but Detroit is 3-1 on the road and Matthew Stafford has his offense humming while Chicago’s sputters.

Jaguars (6-3, -71/2) over At Browns (0-9), 21-13: Jacksonville safety Tashaun Gipson, an ex-Brown, angered and likely inspired Cleveland by predicting they’d go 0-16. But he may be right. The Jaguars’ big-sacking ‘D’ will be a big problem for the Browns in expected sleety weather.

At Packers (5-4, +2) over Ravens (4-5), 19-17: The Ravens arrive off a bye and their pass defense will be a big test for Brett Hundley, but the gut says pick the Packers.

At Saints (7-2, -71/2) over Washington, 34-24: This should be an entertaining pointfest. New Orleans has won seven straight but Washington, though injury-wracked, is 4-1 vs. the Sean Payton-coached Saints.

Chiefs (6-3, -101/2) over At Giants (1-8), 27-23: Andy Reid teams are 16-2 following a bye and Kansas City catches the Giants unraveling. The hunch is it’s a competitive game anyway. The Chiefs have been nothing special since their 5-0 start, and New York will respond to Ben McAdoo’s call-out team meeting.

At Texans (3-6, -1) over Cardinals (4-5), 20-17: Tom Savage has been awful at QB for Houston but Arizona will likely be down to third-string arm Blaine Gabbert. Defense carries the Texans at home.

At Chargers (3-6, -41/2) over Bills, 23-20: The Chargers’ sackers will make it a tough first start for QB Nathan Peterman. But still give Buffalo a big shot, especially with L.A. down to Kellen Clemens if a concussion ends Philip Rivers’ streak of 194 straight starts.

At Broncos (3-6, -21/2) over Bengals (3-6), 24-20: Denver has lost five straight and its once-stout defense has sagged, but the Broncos are much better at home, and the Bengals’ O-line is a shambles.

At Seahawks (6-3, -3) over Falcons, 24-20: Monday night gets a good show from Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan. CB Richard Sherman’s injury lessens the Legion of Boom, but that’s offset by Atlanta’s missing RB Devonta Freeman.

Week 11 byes: Colts, 49ers, Jets, Panthers

Last week: 11-3 overall, 5-9 vs. spread

Season: 83-63, 58-79-9.

– Greg Cote, Miami Herald

]]> 0 Tom Brady is confident the Patriots' second-half troubles on offense will be rectified.Sat, 18 Nov 2017 16:07:22 +0000
Patriots ready for unique experience Sun, 19 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000 ALAMEDA, Calif. — From the thin air and the long climb from the field to the locker room to the party atmosphere in the stands that included a distracting laser pointed at the quarterback’s eyes, the Oakland Raiders’ first trip to Mexico City offered a unique scene.

With the Raiders (4-5) set to make their return to Azteca Stadium on Sunday to take on the New England Patriots (7-2), the hope is that going through the experience a year ago will be beneficial this season.

“It’s always an advantage to know where you’re playing and what to expect,” fullback Jamize Olawale said. “I just remember the atmosphere and excitement was electric out there. It was awesome to see. It was like a true home game.”

The Raiders will have some elements of home at the game, including the torch to honor late owner Al Davis. But as the experience showed last year when Oakland beat Houston 27-20, it is a completely different feel from a game in the U.S.

There was the homophobic cheer on kickoffs, the lasers fans used to try to distract Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler, and more constant noise than in a typical game.

“It’s loud,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “There’s a hum, there’s a buzz throughout the game for offense or defense. Especially when we’re on defense, it gets really loud. They want us to win. You can tell by looking in the stands how many Raider fans there were there that it’s definitely a home game for us.”

The Patriots have a big following in Mexico as well, and figure to get good support, too.

“It’s always cool to change up the atmosphere,” tight end Rob Gronkoswki said. “It always gets you excited heading into a new atmosphere not knowing what to expect exactly, so it’s going to be something different. It’s going to be something fun.”

Here are some other things to watch:

ACCLIMATING TO ALTITUDE: While the Raiders followed the same plan they used last year and arrived the day before the game to limit their exposure to the thin air at 7,200-feet elevation, the Patriots spent the week getting used to it.

After winning in Denver on Sunday night, the Patriots took a bus to Colorado Springs, where they spent the week practicing at the Air Force Academy, which is 6,621 feet above sea level.

COOK’S CATCHES: Raiders tight end Jared Cook has been a major part of the offense the past few weeks. He leads the team with 39 catches for 499 yards, with 18 catches for 290 yards the past three games. The Raiders hope Cook’s production will create more opportunities on the outside for Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree to make plays.

GRONK STOPPER: The Raiders used a second-round pick this year on safety Obi Melifonwu with the hopes that his size and athleticism would make him the perfect player to match up with opposing tight ends. Melifonwu missed the first eight games with a leg injury and played only seven snaps on defense in his debut at Miami two weeks ago. He will be counted on this week to match up with Gronkowski, who ranks second among tight ends with 583 yards receiving this season.

IMPROVING D: Despite allowing a league-worst 6.45 yards per play, the Patriots have been showing signs of improvement on defense of late. New England has allowed 17 points or fewer in the past five games, after allowing 32 per game the first four weeks.

SHORT KICKS: Stephen Gostkowski has the leg to kick the ball through the end zone, but he has been kicking short and letting the coverage team take over from there instead of giving the opponent the ball at the 25. New England opponents start their average drive after a kickoff at the 22 for the second-worst mark in the league.

]]> 0 tight end Rob Gronkowski is hit by Broncos strong safety Justin Simmons during the second half of their game in Denver last Sunday. Gronkowski is likely to be covered by Raiders safety Obi Melifonwu, a second-round pick, on Sunday.Sat, 18 Nov 2017 16:08:53 +0000
NFL notebook: Missing players leave Patriots hurting on offensive line Sat, 18 Nov 2017 01:34:19 +0000 MEXICO CITY — The New England Patriots said Friday that right tackle Marcus Cannon and center David Andrews will be sidelined Sunday for a game against the Oakland Raiders at Azteca Stadium.

Cannon, who had an ankle injury and also missed last Sunday’s game at Denver, and Andrews, who has an illness, represent 40 percent of the offensive line. LaAdrian Waddle is expected to replace Cannon and Ted Karras should take over for Andrews.

Also, wide receivers Chris Hogan (shoulder) and Matthew Slater (hamstring) were ruled out after not practicing all week.

Listed on the team’s injury report as questionable were wide receiver Danny Amendola (knee), tight end Martellus Bennett (shoulder/hamstring), defensive tackle Malcom Brown (ankle), defensive end Cassius Marsh (shoulder) and cornerback Eric Rowe (groin).

CHIEFS: Pass rushers Tamba Hali and Dee Ford were ruled out Sunday against the New York Giants, and defensive lineman Allen Bailey also was ruled out, all with injuries.

Wide receiver Albert Wilson also was ruled out for the third straight game because a bad hamstring.

BUCCANEERS: The NFL is investigating an allegation that Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston groped a female Uber driver in 2016. Winston denied the allegation on his social media accounts.

The driver said the incident was from a 2 a.m. ride in Scottsdale, Arizona, on March 13, 2016.

SEAHAWKS: Quarterback Russell Wilson said he had to wear a specialized mouthpiece in the days after a 22-16 win over Arizona on Nov. 10 to put his jaw back in proper alignment. Wilson said he underwent X-rays and there was no fracture, but a hit from Karlos Dansby required Wilson to limit the amount of speaking and eating he could do.

CHARGERS: Quarterback Philip Rivers is listed as questionable for the game Sunday against Buffalo because of to a concussion.

COWBOYS: Linebacker Sean Lee was ruled out of Sunday’s game against Philadelphia because of a hamstring injury.

JAGUARS: Jacksonville could be without running back Leonard Fournette, who has an ankle injury, Sunday at Cleveland.

CARDINALS: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert will get his first start Sunday for Arizona when it plays at Houston.

Receiver Larry Fitzgerald signed a contract to return to Arizona for a 15th season, if he decides to play at all.

DOLPHINS: Receiver Kenny Stills is questionable for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay because of a back injury that forced him to leave practice this week.

]]> 0, 17 Nov 2017 20:54:37 +0000
Dion Lewis beats the odds to be Patriots’ top running back Fri, 17 Nov 2017 02:42:03 +0000 AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Not too long ago, Dion Lewis was down the bottom of the running back depth chart. It seemed like he was the odd man out when it came to the Patriots’ offense.

Lewis was supposedly an expendable part, a player the Patriots could easily live without. He was talked about as trade bait. At least, those were the whispers.

Bill Belichick never shipped him out.

That’s because Belichick understood the value of Lewis. He knew Lewis is a rare breed. He knew if he kept him healthy, used him correctly, he’d be a terrific weapon for not only Tom Brady and the offense, but for special teams as well.

So Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels were careful, and didn’t give him many snaps given their arsenal of backs. But Lewis is the type of guy who leaves you no choice. He’s that good. He’s that determined to prove his worth.

Whenever he gets the chance, he’s going to show he belongs. A fumble by Mike Gillislee during the Jets game opened a door for him in Week 6, and Lewis hasn’t surrendered the top spot since.

Between essentially becoming the lead back of the group, occasionally catching the ball out of the backfield and taking kickoffs, he’s moved way up the importance meter.

Lewis is a forgotten man no more.

“It feels good (now),” Lewis said, following practice at the Air Force Academy, where the Patriots are training this week. “I just have to continue on. If things don’t go your way, you just have to keep fighting, no matter what it is. That’s what I try to do. Whenever I get an opportunity, I try to make the most of it.”

Does he ever.

Lewis always knew his time would come, and that he would shine when given the opportunity. He has that type of confidence in his abilities. He has made big plays, both in the running game and kicking game. His 103-yard TD kickoff return set the tone in Sunday’s 41-16 blowout over the Broncos at Mile High. He also had a rushing touchdown.

The Raiders, next on the docket in Mexico City on Sunday, haven’t fared well against the run or the pass. Given how well the Patriots have done with a more balanced attack, there’s no reason to think they’ll abandon handing the ball off to Lewis and using their backs to set up the passing game.

Lewis can also be effective catching the ball out of the backfield. We’ve only seen that in glimpses. He says he’s healthy, now completely back from the ACL injury he suffered during the 2015 season. He certainly has been making would-be tacklers miss, but others who have watched him believe there’s even more to come.

“With all the stuff he’s overcome injury-wise, his can’t-quit attitude, from all the different stuff they ask him to do, I would say there’s a lot of respect and a lot of trust from Bill (Belichick) toward him, and that’s valuable,” said NFL Network analyst Heath Evans. “That’s something that comes over time, and it comes from making big plays in big moments, and doing the right thing even if the ball’s not in your hands.

“I honestly think week to week during the season, we’re going to see more of him. We haven’t seen quite what we saw two years ago, before he got hurt,” Evans went on. “We haven’t seen that type of crazy athleticism, those type of crazy plays. I think those will only come as he gets more touches and as he gets more involved.”

Lewis has said he feels “night and day” better than he did last year when he first came back from the ACL surgery on his left knee. He feels more comfortable moving and cutting on the knee.

“I feel good. I’m running around making plays,” he said. “My body doesn’t really hurt. I’m just trying to get better each week. I still can get better at a lot of things. Hopefully I keep getting better.”

Taking the ball 103 yards and outracing the Broncos down the left sideline to the end zone was a good sign. Cutting, shifting, and slipping into the end zone on an 8-yard run was another.

It’s all been good for Lewis this season. The trick is keeping him healthy for the long haul.

“Hopefully, he’s saving the best for last. I mean, I’m sure the knee is perfect, but (2015) was like a highlight reel. I was like, who is this kid?'” said Evans. “But then you research his history and find out about the injuries, and see he really hasn’t had an opportunity to shine.

“Last year, he was a spot player. This year, it was hit and miss, but now he’s got it. Sunday was huge.”

]]> 0 Lewis breaks free of Denver strong safety Justin Simmons en route to a second-half touchdown in New England's 41-16 victory Sunday night.Thu, 16 Nov 2017 21:43:47 +0000
Patriots take training to new heights Thu, 16 Nov 2017 01:10:59 +0000 AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The tunnel leading down to the Falcon Stadium football field is dotted with warnings that a “lack of acclimation to altitudes above 6,000 feet has proven to cause serious illness.”

Just before reaching the field, there’s an overhang with a sign that warns of a “lack of oxygen” at 6,621 feet above sea level.

Meant more for intimidation than information, the signs still serve as a stark reminder of the Rocky Mountains’ lung-piercing thin air. Which is exactly why Bill Belichick decided to keep his team in Colorado after the Patriots (7-2) destroyed the Broncos 41-16 Sunday night.

Up next for Tom Brady & Co. is a trip to Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium (elevation 7,200 feet) to face the Oakland Raiders (4-5) on Sunday. Rather than head home, the Patriots bused an hour south to train at altitude this week.

“You can feel it for sure,” said tight end Rob Gronkowski, noting his skin was dry. “A lot of people are getting their nose super dry, their mouth super dry. So I’m just glad to be here to prepare for what Mexico City will be, at the same altitude. So it’s good training and I’m glad we’re doing it.”

Belichick also brought his team to the Academy for its attitude.

The Patriots heard about survival training from cadets who had to hunt wildlife in the mountains; they listened to Falcons football coach Troy Calhoun talk about molding the next generation of military leaders; and they got to see paratroopers cap off Wednesday’s workout on the Falcons’ practice fields.

“Which was super cool,” Gronkowski said.

Belichick was first introduced to military and football formations as a youngster at the Naval Academy, where his father, Steve, had a 33-year run as a football coach and scout for the Midshipmen.

“I have a lot of respect for all the service academies – but Navy first,” Belichick said. “But a lot of respect here. These guys do a great job. … This is a great, great institution. The discipline, the leadership they have here. I hope some of it rubs off on me this week.”

Gronkowski said this week has been a training camp-like bonding experience for the Patriots, who have toured some of the sites on the sprawling mountainous installation.

“It’s good to have an understanding of where you are and what happens at an institution like the Air Force Academy,” Belichick said. “We only have one guy that can really relate to that.”

That’s long snapper Joe Cardona, who attended the Naval Academy and knows firsthand the rigors of a military school.

This week he’s harking back to his college days as the Patriots bond with one another.

“Being together as a team is great. You’re surrounded by each other and it’s great for building the team, and I can’t think of a better way to do it than at the Air Force Academy,” Cardona said. “Well, maybe at the Naval Academy. But it’s great to be here.”

Even in the thin air.

“I would be remiss to say I play enough plays to really have my lungs burning,” Cardona said, “but there were a few times in practice that I had to breathe a little deeper, try to get the oxygen in.”

Even though he knows all about the effects of altitude from his days as Denver’s defensive coordinator, Raiders Coach Jack Del Rio is taking the opposite approach. He’s keeping his team at sea level this week just as he did last season in the lead-up to Oakland’s game against Houston at Azteca Stadium, which the Raiders won 27-20.

“We’re going in as late as possible, and they’re spending the week training at altitude in Colorado,” Del Rio said. “So, two contrasting approaches to it, and we’ll see how it works out. We did this last year. We went the day before like we’re doing this year and that seemed to work for us. I know that there are several theories out there in terms of how you best handle the altitude and we just do the best we can to prepare our squads, and then we go compete.”

The only college stadium that’s higher than Falcon Field is Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium, at 7,215 feet above sea level.

For one Patriots player, this is nothing, however.

Tackle Nate Solder grew up in Leadville, Colorado, which is 10,152 feet above sea level.

]]> 0 of heading home after a win at Denver, Patriots Coach Bill Belichick took his team to Air Force Academy, Colorado, to prepare to play 7,200 feet above sea level in Mexico City.Wed, 15 Nov 2017 20:26:31 +0000
To sign with Patriots, Martellus Bennett beat the system and got what he wanted Tue, 14 Nov 2017 18:11:55 +0000 The typical NFL player will never decide anything about his employment, unless he wants to quit the league altogether. An average NFL career lasts shorter than a rookie contract, and for the vast swath of players who are not Kirk Cousins, NFL teams use the enticement of security and a slight raise to sign players to extensions before their rookie contract is up. Most players are either bound to a team until that team is through with them, or otherwise financially incentivized to stay with that team as long as the team wishes. There is free agency for players in the NFL, but by and large, teams control player movement.

Many in the NFL reacted to the unusual case of Martellus Bennett with a raised eyebrow, directed at Bennett and his new/old team, the New England Patriots. Bennett signed with the Green Bay Packers this offseason, and he played for them for nine unhappy and unproductive weeks before he told them he wanted to have shoulder surgery, which led the Packers to release him.

New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett (88) carries the football past Denver Broncos free safety Darian Stewart during the first half Sunday. Associated Press/Jack Dempsey

Only Bennett never had that surgery. He instead signed with the Patriots, with whom he won a Super Bowl last season, and suddenly materialized Sunday night. He provided a familiar option for Tom Brady and a complement to Rob Gronkowski, catching three passes for 38 yards. “I love having Martellus on our team,” Brady said.

In Bennett’s telling, his move to the Patriots happened on a lark, through a series of unintended coincidences. After the Packers waived him, Bennett told his agent to let teams know he intended to have surgery and retire, so don’t bother claiming him. Except that Coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots claimed him, anyway, after Bennett fell to them in the claiming order because other teams believed he was not playing.

“When Bill called after they claimed me, I was [forget] it, and then he was like ‘What’s going on?’ ” Bennett told reporters, per the Patriots’ official website. “I told him, and then we had a quick conversation, and then I told him I’ll think about it and I’ll call you back. Even then it wasn’t just ‘Hey, you want to come play?’ It was, let me just call you back in a few minutes and let me think about it and regroup because I don’t even know if I went through the seven stages of grief yet, I’m probably on step three, but I think the group of guys on this team couldn’t be a better place for me in what I’m going through right now and my situation. It couldn’t have been a better place, all of the familiar faces and things like that and it’s good to have those guys around.”

In Bennett’s telling, he decided on a whim to postpone the shoulder surgery and continue his career. In the views of many within the league, he orchestrated both his exit from Green Bay, where Aaron Rodgers had been injured and he wasn’t catching many passes, and his arrival in New England. In effect, the Patriots acquired Bennett in a trade after the trade deadline, without having to give anything away.

It’s unclear if the league believes Bennett really landed in New England through happenstance, and not some kind of backchannel. The NFL did not respond to a request for comment.

Any anger in the league will focus on the Patriots getting another one over on their competitors, again. But the remarkable thing about the saga is how Bennett managed to control his own situation and get what he wanted. It may cost him part of the signing bonus Green Bay gave him, but Bennett figured out how to get out of a situation he didn’t want and into one he knew and liked.

Bennett then provided instant help to the Patriots. He arrived in New England on Thursday, practiced Friday morning after some goading by Belichick and traveled to Denver with the Patriots. By Sunday night, he was lining up and catching passes from Brady.

“He worked really hard and was here early and stayed late trying to catch up on the assignments and terms that are different than last year, things that were different than the way he remembered them or things that we’re doing differently that we didn’t do last year,” Belichick said. “He worked really hard and made several good plays, in particular a good catch and run there a couple times. It’s good to have him back and good to have him contribute.”

Bennett may win another Super Bowl, but his impact has already been made. In the NBA, players force trades all the time, as a matter of routine – Eric Bledsoe got out of Phoenix just by tweeting he didn’t want to be there. In the NFL, teams control player movement. Bennett worked the system in his favor. Even if it really happened indirectly, he decided the terms of his employment. No matter how the Patriots’ season ends, Bennett has already won.

]]> 0 England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett (88) runs as Denver Broncos free safety Darian Stewart defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)Tue, 14 Nov 2017 16:45:09 +0000
Commentary: Brady’s beatdown of Broncos at Mile High gives Patriots fans reason to breathe easier Tue, 14 Nov 2017 03:26:15 +0000 DENVER — The last time the New England Patriots played before Sunday night, Jimmy Garoppolo was riding shotgun behind Tom Brady. He was supposed to be the heir apparent.

But with Garoppolo shipped out to San Francisco and the Patriots essentially acknowledging that Brady is still on his game at age 40 and their man for the foreseeable future, No. 12 responded as only he can.

Brady kicked some serious butt and did it at a venue where he’s had some of his worst games.

Not that he had to show anyone, but if there were any lingering doubts about the Garoppolo trade, Brady wanted to make people at ease.

Does he still have his fastball? You bet he does. That was the post-Garoppolo message delivered in a three-touchdown effort, as Brady hit nine different receivers on 25-for-34 passing for 266 yards in a 41-16 rout of the Denver Broncos.

Mile High Stadium has been a House of Horrors for Brady. He was 3-7 heading into Sunday’s game, and without one of his favorite receivers – Chris Hogan.

No matter. After a bit of a slow start, Brady cranked it up toward the end of the first half, then buried the Broncos in the second half.

“It was fun for me to watch,” said his new backup, Brian Hoyer. “People ask me since I’ve been back what’s changed. I think Tom’s pretty much the same. So for me, it’s great to be out there on the field with him, and watch him perform and execute the game plan.

“He did such a great job. I had a smile on my face the whole time being back … watching him play. It was fun.”

Past trips to Mile High weren’t as fun, thanks to Denver’s Von Miller and others pressuring him and making his life miserable. Brady was running for his life much of the time. The past two trips, however, the Patriots have been able to neutralize Miller. LaAdrian Waddle, playing right tackle in place of the injured Marcus Cannon, did yeoman work with occasional help against the Pro Bowl linebacker.

With time in the pocket, Brady eventually was able to pick apart the secondary using his backs, tight ends (including newcomer Martellus Bennett) and wide receivers. Running backs Rex Burkhead and James White caught touchdown passes. Even tight end Dwayne Allen got into the act, catching his first touchdown pass.

“I don’t think it’s perfect. We have pretty high expectations for what we’re trying to do offensively,” Brady said. “When we play well, it looks pretty good. It’s probably been more uneven the first eight games.

“Tonight was a really good night for us. Hopefully we can build on this and gain some confidence in all three phases.”

Brady will continue to be in the discussion for MVP, along with Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz also whipped the Broncos’ defense in a 51-23 win a week earlier. The three TD passes give Brady 19 for the season, and he leads the NFL in completions with 231 and passing yards with 2,807.

“It was a fun win for us tonight,” said wide receiver Danny Amendola. “We have a lot of good players around Tom, and everyone came to play tonight.”

Rob Gronkowski, who caught four passes for 74 yards, hasn’t seen a difference in Brady since the first day the tight end walked in the door in 2010.

“He’s always fired up,” said Gronkowski. “He’s always practicing hard … he’s always on top of his game. It’s great. He just keeps going.”

For how much longer is anyone’s guess. Brady does make errant throws here and there. But by and large, he’s still amazing and cranking out near perfect performances.

His passer rating was 125.4 Sunday night. Denver’s Brock Osweiler was 72.9, just as a comparison.

“I do really love the game,” said Brady. “I love practicing and playing. I love being with my teammates and working hard. It is fun for me. I plan on doing it for a long time.”

]]> 0 Brady now has more regular-season road wins – 86 – than any quarterback in NFL history after beating Denver on Sunday.Mon, 13 Nov 2017 22:41:04 +0000
Patriots notebook: Bennett back with Pats and playing with vengeance Tue, 14 Nov 2017 02:21:09 +0000 DENVER — Martellus Bennett made up his mind when he was in Green Bay. His 2017 season was over and he was going to get surgery to fix his shoulder. He thought the logical step was to be placed on the injured reserve.

The Packers had other ideas when they waived the veteran on Wednesday. Bennett admits he was hurt, but thought surgery was still the next thing on the table so he informed his agent to tell teams not to claim him.

That’s when the Patriots stepped up. Bennett was shocked on Thursday when Bill Belichick called him and informed the tight end the Patriots had claimed him. At that moment, he decided against surgery. Still angry with the Packers, Bennett decided to play and suited up on Sunday night in Denver.

“It was one of those things I felt like I should get fixed and then after trying to get it fixed and getting waived, you just get that vengeance in your heart,” Bennett said.

Bennett finished with three catches on three targets for 38 yards. The circumstances surrounding Bennett’s departure from Green Bay took a strange turn last week. That fact that he was active with the Patriots only adds to this odd story.

The tight end has reportedly been dealing with a torn rotator cuff and torn labrum. After talking with the Packers’ staff, it was thought that Bennett would undergo surgery and head to the injured reserve. He’s also been talking about retiring after this season, so it was possible that Bennett’s career was over.

That all changed when the Packers waived him with a “failure to disclose injury” designation. According to the NFL Network, Green Bay plans to go after some of Bennett’s $6.3 million signing bonus, saying the tight end had a pre-existing condition before signing his contract last March.

“At first I told my agent to tell no teams to claim me because I was still trying to get the surgery,” Bennett said. “When Bill called and said they claimed me, I was like, ‘No (expletive) way.’ Then he was like, so what’s going on?’ I told him and we had a quick conversation.”

Although he was leaning toward surgery, prior to being claimed, Bennett figured he’d visit with several NFL teams after the waiver wire process. He had several calls with other NFL clubs while weighing the shoulder procedure.

For the two days he was home, following his release, Bennett was upset. On one hand, he got to hang out with his daughter, Jett, and drop her off at school. On the other, he’d never been released or waived before. When the Patriots traded for the tight end in 2016, he found out while at Disney Land. On Thursday, the experience was a little different.

“This time, I was just sitting on a bean bag literally feeling sorry for myself,” Bennett said. “You go from Disney Land to a bean bag. It’s a nice bean bag, but at the same time, I was like, ‘What am I going to do?’ I had no idea. I’ve never been in that situation before so I was just trying to figure it all out.”

On Friday, Bennett went off on the Packers team and doctor saying his shoulder was cleared when he signed in March and that he suffered the injury this season against the Dallas Cowboys. He also criticized the Packers team doctor, Pat McKenzie, saying he didn’t trust him and now he was “trying to cover his own ass.”

That comment made several Packers players upset as Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rogers took to social media to defend McKenzie.

“I got criticism from all of my former organizations,” Bennett said. “At this point, it’s like I’m rubber and you’re glue, anything you say bounces off me and sticks back to you. At this point, there’s nothing else anyone can say to me and my career that could make me feel any way toward myself because the team that I’ll always have is my wife and my daughter.

“They’re always rooting for me no matter what. I may wear different jerseys but I’m still the same man with my family. That’s all that really matters. Like I told the guys, ‘in order for the Phoenix to be reborn, he must first turn to ashes.'”


When it came to Patriots tight ends on Sunday, the return of Bennett was the main story. On this night, however, the emergence of another tight end also came into focus – Dwayne Allen.

The veteran has admittedly been laboring through his first season with the Patriots. On Sunday, in Denver, he finally caught his first pass of the 2017 season. For Allen, it felt good that it also happened to be a touchdown.

“I hope it’s a lesson for a lot of young guys, honestly,” Allen said. “I came into this league wide-eyed and bushy tailed and thought everything was going to be given to me. You come here to a winning football club and you learn that it takes self-sacrifice. You have to give up yourself for the benefit of the team. That’s what it’s all about. Sometimes, you’re awarded a touchdown.”

The 11-yard score with 25 seconds left in the first half was a sign that even with the signing of Bennett, Allen still has a spot on this Patriots team. For the 27-year-old, getting on the same page with Tom Brady hasn’t been the easiest. A starting tight end in his previous five seasons, Sunday night’s performance was a step in the right direction.


Stephon Gilmore tried to pick up right where he left off.

After missing three straight games with a concussion, Gilmore was back Sunday. The last time we saw him play, he was locking down All-Pro Mike Evans. On this night, Gilmore was back at it. His assignment was All-Pro Demaryius Thomas.

Gilmore had a solid night. Thomas caught five passes on eight targets for 44 yards and a touchdown. On the first Denver drive, Gilmore deflected a pass and said that gave him some momentum for the rest of the game.

]]> 0 Bennett was prepared to have surgery and told his agent to tell teams not to claim him. The Patriots did anyway and he had three catches for 38 yards on Sunday night.Mon, 13 Nov 2017 22:20:58 +0000
Patriots get 12th straight road win with 41-16 trouncing of Broncos Mon, 13 Nov 2017 04:51:46 +0000 DENVER — Denver is no longer Tom Brady’s House of Horrors and the Broncos sure don’t scare anybody anymore.

Brady threw three touchdown passes and the New England Patriots matched their own AFC record with their 12th consecutive road victory, pummeling the Broncos 41-16 on Sunday night.

Brady’s 86th regular-season road win broke a tie with Peyton Manning for most all-time.

“It’s always hard to win in the NFL, certainly on the road,” Brady said. “We found a way to do it last year and we’re off to a good start this year.”

Not so the Broncos.

These teams have represented the AFC in the last four Super Bowls, and the Broncos (3-6) were hoping a visit from their rivals would help shake them from their funk. Beat Brady, suggested Aqib Talib, and “the swag, the energy in this locker room, it’ll skyrocket.”

Instead, the Broncos fizzled.

They lost their fifth straight game, their worst skid in seven seasons, and they dropped back-to-back games to the Patriots (7-2) in Denver for the first time since 1966.

Avoiding Von Miller all night and throwing for 266 yards on 25-of-34 passing, Brady improved to 8-9 against the Broncos, the only team he has a losing record against, and he won for just the fourth time in 11 trips to Denver.

The Patriots also won a dozen consecutive road games from 2006-08. The NFL record is 18 set by the Joe Montana-led San Francisco 49ers from 1988-90.

Speaking of historic, the Patriots for the first time since 1979 had a special teams takeaway , a blocked punt and a kickoff return for a touchdown , a trifecta that fueled a comfortable 27-9 halftime lead.

The Patriots went three-and-out to start the game but rookie Isaiah McKenzie’s muffed punt led to Brady’s 14-yard TD toss to running back Rex Burkhead.

“That’s not the first punt McKenzie has muffed this year,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.

Indeed, it was his fifth fumble, including four muffs.

“It puts us in a big hole,” McKenzie said. “I put the blame all on me. If I would’ve caught that first punt, did anything with it, besides turn it over, then probably … things would’ve changed for us.”

The Patriots had five touchdowns and a pair of field goals before they’d punt again.

“We knew McKenzie had muffed a couple so we told our gunners to get down there and make it tough on him,” Patriots DB Devin McCourty said. “Then we get the blocked punt return.”

He’s getting ahead of himself, but who could blame him?

After kicking a 39-yard field goal, Brandon McManus failed on the ensuing kickoff to get in front of returner Dion Lewis, whose 103-yard return down Denver’s demoralized sideline made it 14-3.

“How are you supposed to win against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots when you’re starting off” like that? wondered Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe. “You can’t.”

Then, Burkhead sliced through the line to block Riley Dixon’s punt at the Broncos’ 30-yard line, leading to Stephen Gostkowski’s second field goal and a 20-6 lead.

“I have not,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph replied when asked if he’d ever seen a worse special teams performance. “That wasn’t the only issue we had. We were 1 for 4 in the red zone. We moved the ball better tonight but we didn’t score touchdowns. And defensively they scored on seven straight possessions.”

When the Broncos finally forced another punt in the fourth quarter, they were whistled for 12 men on the field, giving the Patriots a fresh set of downs. Brady took advantage of that gaffe by throwing a 6-yard touchdown pass to James White, capping both the blowout and a 16-play, 94-yard drive that ate up more than seven minutes.

“Besides that first series, we couldn’t stop them,” Miller said.

BROCK ON: Brock Osweiler hooked up with Emmanuel Sanders five times for 114 yards in the first half but Denver stalled twice in the red zone and also at the Patriots 21, settling for field goals while the Patriots were scoring touchdowns. Sanders finished with six catches for 137 yards.

Joseph refused to say if Osweiler (18 of 33, 221 yards) would stay the starter.

“We’re going to watch the tape tomorrow as a staff and determine who the quarterback is next week,” Joseph said.

BENNETT’S BACK: Tight end Martellus Bennett was active – and productive – for New England just a few days after he accused the Green Bay Packers of pressuring him to play through a shoulder injury. Green Bay waived Bennett with the designation that he “failed to disclose a physical condition,” but Bennett said the Packers were aware of his balky shoulder when they signed him. He said it got worse during the season and he elected to have surgery. When the Packers waived him, the Patriots grabbed him.

His first catch covered 27 yards and he finished with three catches for 38 yards.

“He did a great job to have come in on Friday,” Brady said. “I love having Martellus on our team. He adds a lot, he’s a great player, and he was for us last year.”

MILESTONE WIN: Belichick moved into a third-place tie with Tom Landry on the all-time head-coaching list for wins, with 270. He trails only Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324).

INJURIES: Patriots special teams ace Matthew Slater went out in the first half with a pulled hamstring.

Broncos tight end A.J. Derby was knocked out with a shoulder injury.

Umpire Jeff Rice was carted off in the third quarter after hitting his head on the ground when Patriots linebacker Trevor Reilly bowled him over on during a Denver punt.


Patriots: At Raiders at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca (elevation 7,280 feet). The Patriots are staying in Colorado all week, practicing at the Air Force Academy (elevation 6,621) feet to acclimate to the altitude.

Broncos: Host the Cincinnati Bengals.

]]> 0 McKenzie of the Broncos fumbles a punt under pressure from New England's Jonathan Jones during the first quarter Sunday night in Denver. The turnover set up the game's first touchdown, and the Patriots never trailed in a 41-16 victory.Mon, 13 Nov 2017 13:09:51 +0000
NFL notebook: Bennett questions Packers’ handling of injury Sat, 11 Nov 2017 01:55:29 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Martellus Bennett is disputing the reason the Green Bay Packers cited in releasing the tight end this week.

The New England Patriots claimed Bennett on Thursday, a day after he was waived by the Packers. The team cited a “failure to disclose a physical condition” as the reason for the move.

Bennett said in a lengthy post Friday on Instagram that the Packers examined his shoulder when he signed as a free agent in March and cleared him. Bennett says his shoulder got worse during the season and that he asked to have it checked after the 35-31 win on Oct. 8 against the Dallas Cowboys.

Bennett says he chose to have surgery, but the Packers’ team physician, Pat McKenzie, “didn’t make me feel safe and was pushing to play.” Bennett says he got three other opinions who said that he needed to have the shoulder fixed.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his right collarbone on Oct. 15 against Minnesota, a potential season-ending injury that hurt the Packers’ Super Bowl hopes.

During the bye week after the Oct. 22 loss to New Orleans, Bennett posted a message on Instagram that indicated that he was contemplating retirement.

Bennett says he went off anti-inflammatory medicine during the bye week and asked to have his shoulder examined his first day back. He took part in the first practice after the bye, but went on the injury report at midweek before the Packers’ loss Monday night to the Detroit Lions. He did not play in the game.

Bennett says the Packers “panicked” thinking that he was trying to go on injured reserve and “be on their books next year. … This was all about money.”

“I chose my health over my ‘team.’ They chose money over me,” Bennett wrote.

Bennett practiced Friday on his first day with his new team as a limited participant. He is listed as questionable for the Patriots’ game Sunday night against Denver.

JETS: Matt Forte has been waiting for the swelling in his surgically repaired right knee to subside.

Instead, it has only gotten worse.

The 31-year-old running back will sit out the Jets’ game at Tampa Bay on Sunday because of his ailing knee. He didn’t practice all week after having a season-high 77 yards rushing against Buffalo last Thursday night.

“I’ve been playing with swelling in my knee for a while,” Forte said. “It just got to a point where it’s getting significantly worse. Obviously, coming from a Sunday game to a Thursday game, there’s less recovery time and it just got worse on me.”

Forte had just 7 yards on four carries in New York’s 25-20 loss to Atlanta on Oct. 29. After the game, he questioned offensive coordinator John Morton for straying from the run-heavy plan.

]]> 0 Bennett, who was waived Wednesday by Green Bay and claimed Thursday by the Patriots, is listed as questionable for Sunday night's game at Denver.Fri, 10 Nov 2017 21:11:45 +0000
Patriots claim Bennett off waivers Thu, 09 Nov 2017 23:24:52 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass — In need of some more offensive firepower and red zone help, thethe New England Patriots claimed Martellus Bennett off waivers Thursday, bringing back the fun-loving tight end after a successful season with the Patriots in 2016.

Bennett became available after the Green Bay Packers released the veteran on Wednesday with a “failure to disclose physical condition” designation. The 30-year-old has been dealing with a shoulder injury that’s caused him to miss the last two weeks. In seven games this season, he has 24 receptions for 233 yards and no touchdowns.

Last year Bennett caught 55 passes for 701 yards and a career-high seven touchdowns in his only season in New England. That performance was big for the Patriots, since Rob Gronkowski spent most of the season on the injured reserve. Bennett was also a hit in the locker room. Although he played loud music, and sometimes strange music, his teammates seemed to enjoy the eccentric tight end from Texas.

Bennett signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Packers this offseason. The Patriots now assume the remainder of the tight end’s contract. This season the Pats are on the hook for $423,529. Bennett is owed $13 million in 2018 and 2019 although none if it is guaranteed. If he sticks around next season, he’ll be on the books for $6.45 million and then $6.5 million in 2019.

There’s also a possibility that Bennett hangs up his cleats after this season. Last month, Bennett, on Instagram wrote, “After conversations with my family I’m pretty sure these next eight games will be the conclusion of my NFL career. To everyone who has poured themselves and time into my life and career. These next games are for you. Thank you.”

Regardless of whether he plays in 2018 or not, the Patriots have bolstered their offensive firepower around Tom Brady at a perfect time. With Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell on the injured reserve, the Patriots were already hurting. Currently, Chris Hogan has his right arm in a sling and hasn’t been practicing. Danny Amendola has also been limited with a knee injury.

Bennett could also help in a couple of other areas – tight end depth and in the red zone. This season the Pats are tied for 20th in the NFL in converting their opportunities in the red zone. Also, the team’s depth behind Gronkowski has been lacking. Bennett’s replacement, Dwayne Allen, is still searching for his first catch of 2017. Rookie Jacob Hollister has just three catches for 37 yards.

This move also gives the Patriots a chance to use a more power two tight end combination. When Bennett was traded to the Patriots, in 2016, everyone seemed excited for the Gronk-Bennett combo. Due to injuries, the duo only played seven games together.

]]> 0 end Martellus Bennett celebrates with cheerleaders after the Patriots won the AFC championship on Jan. 22, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots defeated the the Steelers 36-17 to advance to the Super Bowl. Bennett left for Green Bay in the offseason, but came back to the Patriots on Thursday.Thu, 09 Nov 2017 19:07:24 +0000
Patriots notebook: Pats facing a struggling quarterback Thu, 09 Nov 2017 02:07:31 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass — In a way, Brock Osweiler can thank the New England Patriots for his biggest payday in the NFL. After the Denver Broncos’ quarterback beat the Patriots in 2015 – New England’s first loss that year – Osweiler picked up a $72 million contract in the offseason with $37 million guaranteed from the Houston Texans.

After a terrible year and a trade to the Cleveland Browns, Osweiler was cut, setting up a return to the Broncos. Unfortunately for Denver, Osweiler still isn’t very good.

Osweiler took over at quarterback for the Broncos last week, throwing for just 208 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in a loss to Philadelphia. His turnovers helped the Eagles take a huge lead, and his only touchdown – a 1-yard pass to Demariyus Thomas – came after his team trailed, 44-9.

Since Peyton Manning retired, the Broncos haven’t had much of an answer at quarterback. Trevor Siemian was mediocre in his first season as a starter last year (3,401 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, 10 interceptions in 14 games). After throwing 10 interceptions and fumbling five times through seven games this season, the Broncos handed the keys to Osweiler in a desperation move.

Osweiler is hardly a savior. Since the beginning of last season, he’s thrown more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (16). He’s completed just 58.3 percent of his passes and has only averaged 5.8 yards per attempt. He isn’t particularly mobile, and has poor accuracy on deep passes.

But while the Broncos are 3-5 overall, they are 3-1 at home.

IT DOESN’T look like New England will get any reinforcements for its linebacker corps.

Shea McClellin wasn’t activated off the injured reserve at the team’s 4 p.m. Wednesday deadline.

“We won’t be activating Shea to the roster,” Coach Bill Belichick said.

According to multiple reports, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound McClellin suffered a setback after returning to practice 21 days ago. McClellin, who missed multiple games because of a concussion last year, was placed on IR in September because of another head injury.

McClellin would have been eligible to play Sunday in Denver and his return was coming at the perfect time, coinciding with Dont’a Hightower’s going down with a season-ending pectoral injury. Although McClellin doesn’t play at the same level as Hightower, he would give the Patriots another veteran piece at a time of need.

The setback hurts the Patriots in a few different ways. Now they’ll move on with Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, David Harris, Marquis Flowers and Trevor Reilly at linebacker.

A Boise State product, McClellin was the Bears’ first-round pick (19th overall) in 2012. He signed with the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent in 2016 after spending four disappointing seasons in Chicago.

Appearing in 14 games with the Patriots in the 2016 regular season, McClellin had 39 tackles, one sack and recovered a fumble he returned for a franchise-record 69 yards. He appeared in all three of the Patriots’ postseason games with two tackles in the Super Bowl victory against Atlanta.

THE PATRIOTS  signed defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois to fill the spot on the 53-man roster that opened up when Hightower was placed on injured reserve.

Jean Francois, 30, is a seventh-round pick out of Louisiana State in 2009. The 6-foot-3, 313-pounder was released Nov. 1 by the Green Bay Packers.

]]> 0 England Patriots outside linebacker Shea McClellin speaks with reporters in the team's locker room before an NFL football team practice, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)Wed, 08 Nov 2017 21:14:14 +0000
Commentary: Road breakdowns just don’t happen for the well-oiled Patriots Thu, 09 Nov 2017 02:02:21 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Playing in Denver rarely is much fun for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

They’ve left the Mile High City losers more times than not since No. 12 came on the scene.

That’s no secret.

But Coach Bill Belichick’s team has some good road karma going.

The Patriots (6-2) actually have been better playing away from Gillette Stadium. They have a 11-game road winning streak, going 3-0 this season entering Sunday night’s game in Denver. One more road victory would tie the AFC mark they set almost a decade ago, winning 12 straight away games from December 2006 to October 2008.

In this case, the last time they lost on the road was during the 2015 season. The venue? Well, technically it was Sports Authority Field at Mile High. It was the AFC championship game. They lost twice in Denver that season, once with Brock Osweiler at quarterback, once with Peyton Manning. But playoff games aren’t counted in the record run.

The last time the Patriots lost a regular-season road game, which technically is the mark, was Week 17 of that year, was to Miami in the final regular-season game. That’s the one that counts in the record books, so it’s been awhile.

With a tough stretch of games ahead – five of the next six are away from Gillette – it would serve as a great jump-start to take out the struggling Broncos at Mile High before heading to Mexico City to take on the Raiders, with trips to Buffalo, Miami and Pittsburgh to follow.

“We know how tough it is to go on the road to play against any team,” safety Duron Harmon said. “Going to Denver, it’s going to be a hostile environment and a challenge for us. We just don’t let any of that bother us and get to our brains. We know we’re there to play football. At the end of the day any stadium is any stadium. We’re playing football. We just have to go out there and execute.”

It’s hard to put a finger on a common theme to the streak other than Brady, Belichick and having good teams that know how to block out the noise. The last streak spanned their unbeaten 2007 regular season but also stretched into 2008 when Brady was hurt and Matt Cassel took the snaps. They played bad teams and good teams during both runs.

“We do talk about it, how tough it is playing on the road and how you need to be ready,” safety Devin McCourty said. “Me personally, I enjoy it. Having a new atmosphere, different things like that. But I think we don’t sit here and act like it’s the same as playing at home. (Belichick) talks about it. He’s already talked about the environment of going to play in Denver. He said they’ve sold out the last 47 years or something. We talk about it. So we’re prepared for what we’ll see when we go in these hostile environments.”

If they get through the final five road games, they’ll be at 16 wins, two away from the NFL record by the Joe Montana-led San Francisco 49ers (1988-90).

Given how well the Patriots have played on the road, there’s no reason to believe they’ll lay an egg in the altitude of Denver regardless of their past struggles. While the Broncos have won seven of the past 10 meetings at Mile High, the Patriots did beat them there last year, reversing the trend with a 16-3 victory.

At this juncture the Broncos are struggling mightily. They’ve lost four straight for the first time with John Elway running the front office. The defense still is formidable but the offense is a mess. With Osweiler expected to start his second game in place of Trevor Siemian, who was benched, the Patriots should keep the road wins coming.

“We know we haven’t done well there in the past but we talk about beating the odds,” McCourty said. “Last year it was big for us to go there after two or three straight losses there and play well. We’ve talked about the same thing this year, going out there where it’s hard to play and to try and get a win.”

Twelve straight.

That’s the ticket.

]]> 0 have been times that Tom Brady has left the field in Denver with his head hung low. But things have changed and the Patriots should win there Sunday night.Wed, 08 Nov 2017 21:14:20 +0000
NFL notebook: Patriots put Hightower on injured reserve Wed, 08 Nov 2017 02:42:30 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots placed linebacker and defensive captain Dont’a Hightower on injured reserve on Tuesday.

Hightower left in the second half of New England’s win over Atlanta on Oct. 22 with a right shoulder injury.

A person familiar with the situation said last month that Hightower would need season-ending surgery on his shoulder. The surgery was for a torn pectoral muscle, the person told The Associated Press.

Hightower had 14 tackles and two sacks this season. In March, he signed a four-year deal worth $35.5 million.

New England also announced it has signed veteran defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois.

The Boston Globe reported that linebacker Shea McClellin, who was placed on injured reserve with a “designated to return” label at the end of training camp, will not play this season.

McClellin signed a three-year deal with the Patriots in 2016. He had 39 tackles with a sack, a fumble recovery and a blocked field goal last season. The 28-year-old linebacker’s injury has not been revealed by the team.

JAGUARS: Running back Leonard Fournette apologized for violating a team rule that prompted Coach Doug Marrone to make him inactive against Cincinnati.

Fournette also offered some insight into what may have been a reason for his benching. The rookie vowed to be on time for Jacksonville’s next game Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Marrone declined to say exactly what Fournette did to be deactivated for the game.

GIANTS: The Giants reinstated cornerback Janoris Jenkins from suspension.

Jenkins was suspended indefinitely last week for missing a workout on Monday and not informing Coach Ben McAdoo that he would be absent.

The Giants re-acquired linebacker Deontae Skinner, who was with the team earlier in the season and was most recently on the Oakland Raiders’ practice squad.

Three players who were on the field for Sunday’s 51-17 loss to the Rams were removed from the roster. Defensive end Jordan Williams and defensive back Tim Scott were waived. Both were signed off the Giants’ practice squad last week. Linebacker Nigel Harris (ribs) was placed on injured reserve.

BEARS: The Bears have placed tight end Zach Miller – recovering from surgery to save his left leg – on injured reserve.

Miller had surgery in New Orleans to repair a torn artery he suffered while dislocating his knee during a loss to the Saints on Oct. 29. He was injured when he landed in the end zone trying to make a touchdown catch.

Miller was released from the hospital on Monday.

TEXANS: The Houston Texans signed free-agent quarterback Josh Johnson and released Matt McGloin.

The moves come a day after Coach Bill O’Brien said they had discussed the possibility of adding Colin Kaepernick in the wake of a season-ending knee injury to rookie Deshaun Watson.

Instead of adding Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback who began the protest movement by kneeling during the national anthem last season, Houston chose Johnson to be its third quarterback.

The 31-year-old Johnson has been with the Giants, Bills, Colts and 49ers over the past three seasons, but hasn’t appeared in a game since he played two for the Bengals in 2013. He spent his first four seasons with Tampa Bay where he appeared in 26 games from 2008-11.

McGloin was signed on Friday to be Houston’s third quarterback behind Tom Savage and T.J. Yates, but was inactive on Sunday.

]]> 0 Patriots put linebacker Dont'a Hightower on injured reserve on Tuesday. Hightower hurt his shoulder in an Oct. 22 game against the Falcons.Tue, 07 Nov 2017 21:58:01 +0000
Stephon Gilmore remains a question for Patriots Tue, 07 Nov 2017 23:20:02 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Coach Bill Belichick was asked a day after the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 8 if the decision to sit cornerback Stephon Gilmore for a third straight game was a medical or coaching one.

Belichick indicated it was a medical decision. He pointed out Gilmore, who has seriously struggled this season, was listed on the injury report with a concussion and an ankle issue, and had been a partial participant at all three practices prior to facing the Chargers.

“I think when he’s ready and able to play, and able to do everything, then I’m sure he’ll be able to help us,” Belichick said. “We’re working towards that point. We’re getting closer and we’ll see when we get there.”

It would seem Gilmore has arrived “there.”

The Patriots returned to work Monday after getting the previous four days off during their bye week and Gilmore noted, “I feel good” physically. Did that mean he would be good to go Sunday night when the Patriots face the Broncos in Denver?

“Yes sir,” the soft-spoken Gilmore said without hesitation.

Perhaps sensing honesty isn’t always the best public policy with the clandestine Patriots, he later hedged his availability in a second interview, noting, “Just trying to take it day to day. It’s a process.”

That goes for adjusting, learning and performing as well as healing.

The Patriots signed Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million deal on the first day of free agency in March. The transition from Buffalo, where he spent his first five seasons, to New England hasn’t gone smoothly.

Gilmore bottomed out when he was benched in favor of Eric Rowe at halftime against the Carolina Panthers in Week 3. But Rowe suffered a groin injury on the first play of the third quarter and Gilmore was back.

It didn’t end well.

Gilmore was penalized for illegal use of the hands with just over two minutes left in a tie game. The penalty negated an 11-yard sack by Deatrich Wise Jr. on third down and gave the Panthers a first down.

The Panthers took advantage and continued a drive that ended with a 48-yard field goal by Graham Gano as time expired to depart Foxborough with a 33-30 victory.

All told, Gilmore has a team-high four defensive penalties even though he’s only played five games. He has one interception – it was gift wrapped – and an additional pass defensed.

Not numbers to be expected of a player with the third-highest base salary on the team.

With few options, the Patriots started Gilmore four days later in a 19-14 road victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Despite dealing with an ankle injury, he responded with his finest effort as a Patriot, making five solo tackles and bottling up receiver Mike Evans, who was a second-team All-Pro last season.

“I feel like I got better and better every game, probably like everybody,” Gilmore said. “I felt comfortable that game, getting better and better, so just got to prepare like I was doing.”

But Gilmore was a surprise scratch against the New York Jets the following game due to a concussion.

He hadn’t been listed on the injury report with a head injury that week and had been a full participant in practice two days before the comeback victory against the Jets.

While Gilmore hasn’t played since Oct. 5, he’s tried to prepare as if he would.

“I’ve still been locking in, just trying to study and going over the game plan like I’m playing,” Gilmore said. “So it’s good. I’m able to see how the guys played and go from there.”

What the guys on defense have done is play better with Gilmore out and Johnson Bademosi in. Bademosi isn’t as talented a cornerback but competes harder.

The Patriots have allowed an average of 12.3 points in the three games Bademosi has started. It was 28.4 in Gilmore’s five starts.

“Every game we’ve gotten better and the more games we play we’ll get even better,” Gilmore said.

Gilmore may very well be good to go against the Broncos. How good the Patriots feel about using him remains to be seen.

]]> 0 wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins catches a pass in front of cornerback Stephon Gilmore on Sept. 24, a common sight in a disappointing Patriots debut season for Gilmore.Tue, 07 Nov 2017 19:50:50 +0000
Patriots report card: Room for improvement Tue, 07 Nov 2017 02:48:44 +0000 The New England Patriots have been far from perfect over the first half of the season, starting with a stunning, season-opening setback to the Kansas City Chiefs that quickly quelled the preposterous prediction of going 19-0.

What they have been is pretty resilient when it comes to dealing with adversity, be it a lack of communication on defense or a lack of continuity on offense. That has them sitting at 6-2 during their bye week, good for first place in the AFC East and tied for tops in the conference.

But it’s not a stretch to think they could be anywhere from 2-6 to 5-3.

Perhaps Brandin Cooks doesn’t make that phenomenal, winning catch against the Houston Texans. Maybe the New York Jets are the recipient of a favorable call rather than the Patriots. Or the Atlanta Falcons or Los Angeles Chargers don’t take themselves down with self-inflicted wounds.

With that in mind, let’s hand out the midseason grades:


Tom Brady leads the league in attempts (309), completions (206) and yards (2,541). He’s tied for second in fewest interceptions (2), tied for third in touchdowns (16) and is fifth in completion percentage (66.7). Those are super stats. But Brady stunk against the Chiefs and was so-so against the Jets and Chargers with under- and overthrown passes. For some reason, he has frequently hung Chris Hogan out to dry with high balls, and were it not for inept defensive backs, he’d have another three or four picks.


James White leads the team and ranks second among the league’s running backs with 43 receptions. He has also excelled in pass protection. Dion Lewis hardly played in the first four games, but has since emerged as the lead back and is averaging a robust 4.7 yards a carry. Rex Burkhead missed four games with injured ribs, but nonetheless has 12 receptions and looks like a keeper. Not so for fellow newcomer Mike Gillislee, who has been undependable in short-yardage situations despite rushing for four touchdowns.


The depth of talent at this position has been on full display, with Julian Edelman out for the season and Malcolm Mitchell yet to play. Cooks (33 catches), Hogan (33) and Danny Amendola (31) are a true triple threat. Cooks is averaging 17.1 yards per catch, good for fifth in the league among those with 20-plus receptions. Hogan has five touchdown receptions, tying him for sixth. Amendola has caught 74 percent of his targeted passes and produced a first down on 65 percent of his receptions.


Split grade here. Rob Gronkowski is back to his usual defense-destroying self after undergoing back surgery last season. Despite missing a game, he’s tied for fourth in receptions (34) and is second in yards (509), touchdowns (5) and yards per catch (15.0) among all tight ends. Give him an A-minus as he’s had penalty issues and a couple of drops. Dwayne Allen, whom the Patriots erroneously traded for rather than re-sign the productive Martellus Bennett, has no catches. Give him a D-minus as his blocking has been OK.


The chemistry returned from last season. The consistency has not. The Patriots are tied for 21st in the league in yards per carry (3.9) and have struggled in short-yardage situations. Some of that is on the backs; much of it is on the line. Brady has been sacked 21 times, the good news being only five times in the last three games. Left tackle Nate Solder has struggled in pass protection, and right tackle Marcus Cannon only regained his All-Pro form in mid-October before being felled by an ankle injury.


Lawrence Guy has been a pleasant surprise at tackle. The same can’t be said for the frequently underperforming tandem of Alan Branch and Malcom Brown. Plenty of pressure was placed on third-year DE Trey Flowers entering the season. He hasn’t wilted, collecting 36 tackles, 31/2 sacks and 91/2 additional quarterback hits while expending high energy in playing 91 percent of the defensive snaps. Rookies Deatrich Wise Jr. (3 sacks, 10 QB hits) and Adam Butler (sack) easily have exceeded early expectations.


Dont’a Hightower was misused early, being deployed at end. Then he got injured, returned and shined in the middle – notably improving communication – before suffering a season-ending injury. All in all, it was a wasted year. Kyle Van Noy is second on the team in tackles (55), tied for first in sacks (31/2) and hardly ever leaves the field. That makes him the best of an average lot by default. Elandon Roberts continues to be injury prone and a liability in pass coverage. David Harris has been a disappointment.


The secondary improved in October when it came to communication and coverage after a dreadful September, so there’s hope yet. Stephon Gilmore has obviously been a high-priced bust, unable to adapt to the Patriots’ game-plan approach. Conversely, the hustling Malcolm Butler has overcome a shaky start to pile up 32 tackles, 2 interceptions and 5 additional passes defensed. Safeties Devin McCourty (57) and Patrick Chung (34) rank 1-4 on the team in tackles, but surprisingly have had lapses in coverage.


The kick and punt coverage units rank sixth and seventh in the league. They’ve provided the Patriots with the edge in field position. Amendola is tied for fifth in punt returns (11.2 average) and Lewis, on the strength of a 71-yarder, is seventh in kick returns (24.2). Cassius Marsh and Lawrence Guy blocked field goals, and Brandon King recorded a safety. Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 58-yard field goal, but missed three FGs and an extra point. Punter Ryan Allen has had his share of shanks.


Bill Belichick and his staff have adjusted as well as can be expected following season-ending injuries to Edelman and Hightower. And there’s no doubt the Patriots improved defensively from September to October. However, the offense regressed during that time. Despite having months to prepare, the game plan was a mess in a season-opening loss to the Chiefs that could be costly come the playoffs. Then there are low marks for the failure to coach up Dwayne Allen and Gilmore.


RB White: The hero of Super Bowl LI has continued to star this season – when given the opportunity, as White inexplicably had a supporting role against the Chiefs, Texans and Jets.

DE Flowers: The 6-foot-2, 265-pound Flowers only knows one way to play, and that’s all out. He’s a true impact player. There is some concern he’ll wear down in the second half.


TE Allen: Allen played 56 percent of the offensive snaps and caught 35 of 52 targeted passes for the Colts last season. He’s at 33 percent and 0 for 6 with the Patriots.

CB Gilmore: By all accounts, Gilmore works hard. It just hasn’t worked out thus far. It’s imperative that changes because there are $65 million reasons why he isn’t going anywhere soon.

]]> 0 back James White, signaling a first down during the second half of New England's win over San Diego on Oct. 29, has been one of the Patriots' standouts in the first half of the season, despite somewhat limited opportunities.Mon, 06 Nov 2017 22:04:50 +0000
Commentary: The Patriots have obstacles to avoid in 2nd half of the season Tue, 07 Nov 2017 02:04:33 +0000 Given all that’s transpired, having lost two of their most indispensable players in Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower to season-ending injuries, the New England Patriots can’t have too much to complain about at the midpoint of the season.

At 6-2, they’re pretty much on schedule, sitting in good position atop the AFC, tied with the Chiefs and Steelers for the best record in the conference. They also have a little breathing room in the division, thanks to the Jets bullying the not-ready-for-prime-time Bills. The Pats have two games to play against both the Bills (5-3) and Dolphins (4-4).

So as they get set to embark on the second half, we thought we’d focus on five obstacles they must overcome in order to get back to defend their Super Bowl title:

1. The killer injury: The season-enders have to stop. Two is enough. Edelman and Hightower were in the top-five list of players the Pats could least afford to lose. They just can’t lose any other key players because right now, there’s no margin for error.

It almost goes without saying there’s an even greater emphasis on protecting Tom Brady now, and keeping him healthy, especially without Jimmy Garoppolo as the safety net. All the eggs are in the Brady basket. But even when Jimmy G was on the roster, this team isn’t as stacked as we thought at the outset. Some of the offseason moves have yet to pay off. Add in the injury losses, and the health of Brady becomes that much more important. So the offensive line, which has done a better job of late, must continue in that mode.

2. Red zone failure: The Patriots can’t be settling for field goals over touchdowns when they get inside the opponents’ 20-yard line in December and January. They need to remedy that situation. Before leaving for the break, the offense held a meeting and specifically discussed the red zone issues. The players and coaches came away with a positive take and believe they’ll improve. “We have a strong belief that we can make something that hasn’t been necessarily a strength of ours into a strength in the second half of the season through a lot of hard work,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said last week. “Our guys are committed to it.”

The Patriots are ranked 18th in the league in red-zone touchdown percentage, having converted just 50 percent of their opportunities into touchdowns. That’s not a very Patriot-like statistic, especially with Brady and Rob Gronkowski healthy and on the field.

3. The heavy road toll: The Pats start the second half of the season with 5 of 6 games on the road. They begin in Denver with a prime-time meeting with the Broncos, then play Oakland in Mexico City the following week.

The plan is for them to stay in Colorado, training there in preparation for the altitude in Mexico. Defensive captain Devin McCourty believes that time away can be a useful bonding experience. That’s what happened with the 2014 team when it spent a week in San Diego prior to playing the Chargers after playing the Packers in Green Bay.

“It’s often a good time for teammates and us as a team to just bond,” said McCourty. “It kind of turns back into college being in the dorm rooms and football practice and straight to hanging out with each other in the dorms. The only plus is we don’t have to go to class.”

They’ll return home Thanksgiving week, playing the Dolphins at home that Sunday, before traveling to Buffalo, Miami and Pittsburgh. Getting through that block of games will be key.

4. The Stephon Gilmore question: The $65 million man has missed the last three games due to a concussion. Whenever he returns to the lineup, the Patriots need to get more from their investment. While he was singled out as the poster boy for many of the big plays that killed the team in the early going, it would be more helpful if he was the catalyst for the defense completing its turnaround, especially late season. Gilmore did have his best game against Tampa, which is the last time he played. He was admirable in marking Mike Evans. But he just can’t be a one-trick pony. He can’t just take on guys one-on-one, which was pretty much how it was simplified for him vs. the Bucs. He must also be able to adapt to the Patriots’ zone schemes going forward.

5. Path to the top seed: The Patriots have already lost to the Chiefs, and have a date with the Steelers down the road at Heinz Field. Right now, those two teams appear to be their main competitors for the AFC’s top seed. Their final eight games are all within the conference, so they’re doubly important. Five of those are on the road.

“We know what the schedule is,” wide receiver Danny Amendola said. “We know what we’re getting into . . . (but) it’s one week at a time, focus all our energy on the task at hand.”

Of course, the way Bill Belichick typically works it, he always seems to have his team playing its best down the stretch, and fighting to gain home field and that top seed. His players certainly buy into that.

“I don’t think we’ve played our best football yet. I’d like to think it’s ahead of us,” Amendola said. “We’re all working really hard to play our best football, and to prepare to play our best football.”

We’ll see how it shakes out.

]]> 0 Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (99) sacks New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)Mon, 06 Nov 2017 22:05:11 +0000
Commentary: At least for now, Brady’s standing pat Wed, 01 Nov 2017 23:47:18 +0000 Tom Brady understands athletic mortality even as he resists it, as he has created a brand and a life devoted to defeating it.

He proselytizes about muscle pliability, measures the alkalinity of the food he eats and sleeps in special pajamas.

At an age when almost every other quarterback in history had retired, Brady is improving. He plans to play football into his mid-40s. Brady is Ponce de Leon in shoulder pads.

Still, he realizes the reality of professional football. Brady grew up a San Francisco 49ers fan in San Mateo, California, and he was 16 when the 49ers traded Joe Montana to the Kansas City Chiefs. Brady earned his opportunity when the Patriots dismissed Drew Bledsoe, at that point the best quarterback in franchise history. He’s seen Coach Bill Belichick expel some of his best teammates – Lawyer Milloy, Richard Seymour, Willie McGinest, Deion Branch. In the NFL, especially on the Patriots, nobody is indispensable.

“I don’t ever want to play for another coach. I don’t want to play for another owner,” Brady said last winter. “But this is professional sports. I’ve seen some of the best players I’ve ever played with on other teams. I’ve seen Jerry Rice play for the Raiders, Joe Montana play for the Chiefs, Brett Favre play for a lot of teams. You never know. That’s why I want to keep taking care of what I need to take care of. That’s what it comes down to.”

The chances Brady will play the remainder of his career in New England increased Monday night when the Patriots traded his possible replacement, Jimmy Garoppolo, to the 49ers for a second-round draft pick. The Patriots now have no heir for Brady; when they made the trade, they didn’t even have a backup. Brady is 40. He is also, for the Patriots, the future.

Brady staved off Garoppolo, which was never a given. The Patriots drafted Garoppolo in the second round in 2014, when Brady had just finished his age-36 season. “We all know” Brady’s age and contract status, Belichick said. It was a clear message from coach to superstar: We just drafted your replacement.

Brady just would not allow it to happen, with his combination of will, work and skill. If Belichick believed for one second Garoppolo was the better player, Brady would be somewhere other than New England. Brady would not permit it.

But that is not a permanent state. Brady is on track to become the first 41-year-old Week 1 starter in NFL history next season, a year after he became the first 40-year-old. We all still know Brady’s age. Brady has defied age with more elegance and force than perhaps any athlete in history. And yet time will win someday, probably more suddenly than he can see coming.

Belichick is prepared. Even on the day after trading Garoppolo, Belichick reiterated his obligation to evaluate Brady on an ongoing basis. He just traded one possible replacement, which only means the search for the next replacement will begin.

“I’d say when a player gets to a certain point in his career, and that varies from player to player and position to position, but … at some point it becomes year-to-year,” Belichick said. “So the expectations aren’t over a long period of time or longer window like they are with a player coming into the league, where you look at a player’s growth in three to five years or two to four years or that type of a window where a player is young and improving, and physically developing and gaining experience and skill and so forth.

“When you get players that have reached a certain point, then it’s their ability to maintain, although they can work to improve on little things and techniques, and little skills like that. I’m not saying there aren’t things players can do to improve but it’s more of a maintenance and maintaining that high level of play, their maximum level of play, wherever that level is that they’ve reached to sustain that. Trying to predict that is not something – I don’t think it’s easy. It’s not something I try to do a lot of. I look at it as year-to-year. I learned that a long time ago and I’d say that advice has served me well.”

In the immediate aftermath of Garoppolo’s trade, it became easy to think something had changed for Brady and the Patriots. It meant Brady would retire a Patriot, and a charmed career would meet a charmed end, the rarest of all NFL outcomes. In the light of day, after listening to Belichick, it became clear nothing had changed. Brady will be the Patriots’ quarterback until the Patriots can find someone better. Maybe it will be when Brady is 45 and decides he’s had enough. Maybe it will be next season.

It won’t be Garoppolo who replaces Brady. That only means the Patriots will find another quarterback for him to outlast, and another after that, until Brady cannot outlast the opponent he can’t beat.

]]> 0 Brady struggled in the season opener against the Chiefs, but he looked as good as ever Sunday against New Orleans, passing for 447 yards and three touchdowns.Wed, 01 Nov 2017 20:32:59 +0000
Patriots notebook: Brian Hoyer returns to back up Brady Wed, 01 Nov 2017 16:30:58 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady didn’t go without a backup for long.

The New England Patriots signed former 49ers quarterback Brian Hoyer to a three-year deal on Wednesday, a day after Hoyer was released by San Francisco following its acquisition of Jimmy Garoppolo in a trade with New England.

Hoyer began his career as Brady’s backup in New England in 2009 and has spent time with seven teams during his nine-year career.

He started the first six games this season for the 49ers before being benched for C.J. Beathard. Hoyer now returns to back up a quarterback in Brady who has been one of the most durable in the league.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said he anticipates Hoyer will take full advantage of New England’s bye week to get up to speed on the playbook.

“Brian’s a smart guy. He’s got obviously some years in our system and our terminology,” McDaniels said. “It will be kind of a cram session here but I don’t expect that to take forever.”

Hoyer, 32, who has played in 55 games with 37 starts, has completed 833 of 1,404 passes (59 percent) for 9,853 yards with 48 touchdowns and 30 interceptions.

McDaniels said he wishes nothing but the best for Garoppolo.

“Every player wants to play. I understand that,” he said. “He had a few opportunities here and he did a good job with them, which is why he’s earned the opportunity that he has now.”

Now the Patriots will move forward with Hoyer.

“He’s a really smart kid,” McDaniels said. “He’s a football kid. He’s all about football and loves the game, cares about playing quarterback the right way, smart guy, works hard, good teammate, so there’s a lot to like. I spent a short amount of time with him. Looking forward to working with him here going forward in the second half of this season.”

Nonetheless, losing Garoppolo stung. McDaniels enjoyed working with him and saw his potential up close.

“We understand the business side of it, but the human element is you had a guy in your room that you really enjoyed being around,” McDaniels said. “I wish him nothing but the best. I really, really think a lot of this guy. He’s got a bright future, he’s a great person and I hope he does well for himself out there.”

IT DIDN’T look good when receiver Chris Hogan left the locker room Sunday with his right arm in a sling, suffering a shoulder injury following a reception with 3:21 left against the Los Angeles Chargers.

But the news Tuesday was about as encouraging as could be expected: An MRI on Monday revealed Hogan, per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, reportedly “does not need surgery for his shoulder injury,” just rest and rehabilitation. The expectation is Hogan will be out a couple of weeks, although he’ll be re-evaluated next week.

Not counting special teams captain Matthew Slater, that leaves the Patriots with three healthy receivers on their 53-man roster in Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola and Phillip Dorsett. They do have the option of activating Malcolm Mitchell off injured reserve, assuming his cranky knee is OK.

Now in his fifth season, Hogan has only missed one game in his NFL career. That was for a bad back last season, his first with the Patriots.

Hogan has appeared in all eight games this season, making seven starts and playing 90.2 percent of the offensive snaps. He’s tied for third on the team in receptions (33), is third in receiving yards (438) and tied for first in receiving touchdowns (5).

Hogan has been especially impressive on third down and in picking up first downs. He’s tied for 11th in the league with 12 receptions, including two for touchdowns, on third down, and 22 of his 33 receptions (67 percent) have gone for first downs.

]]> 0, 01 Nov 2017 20:56:07 +0000
Commentary: Patriots put their trust and faith in Brady Tue, 31 Oct 2017 23:47:27 +0000 Tom Brady is the main man now. And he’s still going to be the Patriots’ top gun two or three years from now, perhaps beyond.

If the message wasn’t clear before, Bill Belichick hammered it home by shipping Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers. Brady might be 40, and while quarterbacks are supposed to be on their way out at this point, the Pats are going to roll with the legend.

The four-time Super Bowl MVP was asked during Monday night’s Chiefs-Broncos game if he thought this was a sign the Pats were committing to him long term.

“I don’t know what that means. This is a week-to-week league,” Brady said. “Things go quickly from week to week, year to year.

“I’m going to bring it every single day, like I’ve tried to do for the last 18 years. I’m focused on this season, and I’m sure that’s where everyone else in our organization is focused.”

Even if Garoppolo was headed for free agency after the season, that’s the immediate takeaway from this surprising transaction. It’s going to take time to find Brady’s heir in the draft and get him ready.

In other words, it’s time for a new succession plan. The old one just flew out the door to San Francisco. Brady is the present and the future, for now.

Given what the Pats reportedly turned down, they seemed intent on keeping Garoppolo as insurance for Brady.

They invested nearly four years in Garoppolo, allowing him learn at Brady’s side. He looked like the chosen one. When Belichick waved off the Browns, who were talking in April about dealing first-round picks for Jimmy G, it looked like the Pats were just buying time.

Garoppolo fit this offensive system and played well during Brady’s suspension last season. But then he got hurt against the Dolphins. Still, he seemed to show enough to convince the team he could follow Brady whenever the legend rides off into the sunset. But with Brady still going strong, plus Garoppolo’s contract status, something had to give.

The Pats could have kept Garoppolo with a franchise tag, but paying the backup QB more than the starter would have been awkward. It also wouldn’t make fiscal sense to tie up so much money in one position.

So Belichick chose one.

Brady has defied time and logic this season, soldiering through a left shoulder injury and leading the NFL in passing yards (2,541). He’s also second in passer rating (106.5).

Some believe the situation was on a collision course for the offseason, when Belichick was going to decide between the two QBs.

Belichick certainly is cold-blooded enough to trade a man who’s helped him win five Super Bowl rings and is arguably the greatest QB of all time. The move would have required owner Robert Kraft’s blessing, and it’s doubtful he would rubber-stamp dealing Brady. Talk about a move that would send shock waves.

But there’s no trading the GOAT now, and probably not ever.

Garoppolo probably has been watching Jacoby Brissett, who was the No. 3 with the Pats, lead the Colts, and that must be killing him. So, no way he’d sign to stay on as Brady’s backup.

Garoppolo had to go, and to a far-away place in the NFC West. The Patriots rarely see the 49ers, so it’s unlikely he’ll come back to haunt them.

Maybe Garoppolo turns out to be a great QB. Or maybe he’s ordinary. It’s possible the Pats decided he wasn’t going to be great after watching him the past four seasons, but the news here is Belichick is going to ride Brady until he drops. They have no backup, but that’s just a formality. They’ll get one.

There’s no succession plan. It’s just more of the same. All Brady, all the time.

]]> 0 Jimmy Garoppolo is going to be a free agent after this season, and it would not have made much sense for the Patriots to sign him.Tue, 31 Oct 2017 19:47:27 +0000
Analysis: Jimmy Garoppolo trade only the beginning for Patriots Tue, 31 Oct 2017 14:16:14 +0000 The New England Patriots seem to operate at a different frequency than the rest of the NFL, keeping their biggest plans secret and making their biggest moves bold. They stunned the league again Monday night, shipping coveted backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2018 second-round pick.

Now, the NFL must wait to see what else Bill Belichick and the Patriots have in store before the trade deadline arrives at 4 p.m. Tuesday, because trading Garoppolo is only the start of New England’s plans. The second-round pick adds to an already hefty draft capital in 2018, and the Patriots have incentive to turn those future picks into present assets. They made a league-shaking move Monday night, but it may only be setting up another one Tuesday.

The Patriots entered the season as a runaway Super Bowl favorite, a juggernaut supposedly without weakness. Injuries and underperformance have created clear needs at wide receiver, pass rusher and cornerback. They now need a backup quarterback, too, now that Tom Brady is the only quarterback on their roster.

The backup quarterback part will be easy – the 49ers released former Patriots backup Brian Hoyer as a ripple effect from the blockbuster, and New England figures to scoop him up. But that second-round pick may not remain in New England’s possession for long, instead used as capital for another trade.

Trading Garoppolo now, for the Patriots, makes the most sense as part of a larger plan. If they wanted to maximize value, they could have dealt him last offseason. If they wanted to hoard assets, they could have kept him and used the franchise tag on him. But if they recognized they have a Super Bowl team with holes in need of patching, then dealing a sought-after backup quarterback and eventually turning him into a needed piece adds up.

For the Patriots, both needs and options abound. They have been lacking at wide receiver all year after a season-ending injury to Julian Edelman. New England traded third-stringer Jacoby Brissett to the Colts for Phillip Dorsett, but Dorsett has yet to make an impact. The Patriots’ receiving corps may have been further thinned Monday, when Chris Hogan left Gillette Stadium with his arm in a sling.

The Patriots could turn in several directions for a wide receiver. If the Dolphins can stomach sending their divisional tormentors a star, Jarvis Landry could be had. Landry will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and Miami’s season veered toward the ditch last Thursday in a 40-0 loss at Baltimore. Landry’s toughness, competitiveness and ability to run precise inside routes make him a receiver Belichick would love.

An even bigger name the Patriots could chase: Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals’ season was going nowhere even before Carson Palmer broke his arm. Fitzgerald’s credentials are impeccable, but beyond his Hall of Fame career, he is the kind of versatile, cerebral wide receiver Belichick prizes. It may be difficult to see the Cardinals willingly let Fitzgerald, the best player in their franchise’s history, play out the end of what could be his final season in a different uniform. But they could also see it as a parting gift, a chance to let Fitzgerald chase his first Super Bowl.

While the Patriots could use a wide receiver, their most pressing holes to fill, especially if the Patriots have an optimistic view on Hogan, are on defense. They learned last week they had lost bedrock linebacker Dont’a Hightower for the season, and their pass defense has been atrocious. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, whom the Patriots signed to a megabucks free agent deal this offseason, missed his third straight game Sunday, and when healthy he’s been mostly disastrous, slow to pick up on New England’s schemes and communication.

If the Patriots want to bolster their defensive backfield, they may consider the Colts’ Vontae Davis, whom Belichick knows well from his years with Miami. Perhaps the Broncos, clearly out of it this season after Monday night’s loss in Kansas City, could be talked into considering former Patriot Aqib Talib, who was excellent for the season-plus he spent in New England, even though he has two more years on his contract after this season.

Whatever direction the Patriots move, they will have adequate assets to swing a deal. The Patriots will send either a third- or fourth-round draft pick to the Eagles, depending on how much Eric Rowe plays this season. But with compensatory picks and trades, the Patriots now have nine draft picks in next April’s draft, including two second-round picks. They also may include cornerback Malcolm Butler, who wants a new contract and could be this year’s version of Jamie Collins.

The trade opened up possibilities for both the Patriots and 49ers, for whom the trade could become a particular boon. If they finish with a top-three pick, they should have a chance to recoup that second-rounder by trading down, which they’ll almost certainly have an opportunity to do, since the quarterbacks at the top are so coveted.

But those considerations are far in the future. In the present, the Patriots are a Super Bowl contender with immediate needs and additional ammunition to solve them. We can only wait to see what happens next.

]]> 0, 31 Oct 2017 11:47:50 +0000
Patriots running backs lead the way in the passing attack Tue, 31 Oct 2017 01:20:19 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It has long been a staple of Bill Belichick’s offenses in New England.

For all the angst caused by Troy Brown and Wes Welker in the slot, Randy Moss down the sideline or Rob Gronkowski down the seam, few elements of New England’s offense have been as consistently maddening to opposing defensive coordinators as the pass-catchers out of the backfield.

Checkdowns to J.R. Redmond won a Super Bowl and swing passes to Kevin Faulk kept every drive alive for about six seasons. Shane Vereen and James White have delivered double-digit receptions in two other Super Bowl wins.

But in Sunday’s grind-it-out, a win-is-a-win 21-13 victory over the Chargers, New England’s backs did something they’ve never done before under Belichick: two backs tallied more than 50 receiving yards.

James White and Rex Burkhead were New England’s two leading receivers. Facing a defense propelled by one of the league’s best pass rushes and defined by a zone scheme that helps prevent the big play, the Pats knew entering the game that their backs would be a big part of the game plan.

“We knew we’d get a lot of targets,” said White, who’s third on the team in targets halfway through this season. “They play a lot of zone coverage, and their linebackers and everybody drop deep. We knew if the ball was checked down to us to get as many yards as possible.”

“We knew there would be opportunities for the running backs in the passing game the way they play their zone,” said Dion Lewis, who contributed a pair of catches for 10 yards to go along with 44 yards on the ground. “Guys definitely made a lot of plays given that opportunity.”

Los Angeles’ defense excels at getting after the quarterback and limiting the big play. The duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram entered Sunday with 16 sacks – second-most for any pair of teammates in the game. The Chargers had allowed just two plays all season of more than 50 yards.

And so the Patriots worked methodically down the field, matriculating as it were between the 20s through swing passes and checkdowns to their backs.

New England had five drives of 10 plays or more; the Pats had 11 in their first seven games combined.

“They don’t give up big plays. It’s not going to be one big play,” White said. “Just get the ball out quick and put us in space. We always want to have good open-field runners. We have a lot of those guys who can do it. Get the ball out quick, make people miss and get as many yards as possible.”

White ended the day with five catches for 85 yards and Burkhead six for 68. It was the second-most receiving yards by a backfield duo in an NFL game this season, and the first time a team got 50 or more receiving yards from two different backs in the same game since the Raiders did it in Week 11 last year.

“Everyone was involved,” Burkhead said. “Being involved in the pass game opened up some other things in our offense.”

That ability to create in open space saved Tom Brady and the Pats routinely on third down on Sunday.

Three of New England’s seven third-down conversions through the air came on passes to the backs – and two of them weren’t short conversions. A swing to White on 3rd-and-13 went for 27 on the Patriots’ only touchdown drive of the day, and later another pass to White gained 11 on 3rd-and-10.

On third downs in the game, Brady was 5 for 5 when targeting backs for 67 yards.

“He does such a great job,” Brady said of White in particular on third downs. “He’s so dependable and consistent. He’s just a great player.”

“(White) has a unique skill,” Gronkowski said. “Ever since he’s been here, I’ve always said I wanted his quickness. The way he can move side to side is unreal. It’s not surprising at all to see how he gets open on linebackers on third down. Just dump it to him and he makes guys miss.

“It’s a big part of our game.”

That ability to convert on third downs not only kept New England’s drives alive but limited Los Angeles’ touches. The Chargers ran just 52 plays Sunday – 30 fewer than the Patriots and the third-fewest New England has allowed an opponent this decade.

“We had a lot of production out of our running backs,” Belichick said. “They all had a role.”

]]> 0 running back James White caught five passes for 85 yards as New England relied heavily on its running backs in the passing game against the Chargers' defense.Mon, 30 Oct 2017 22:27:07 +0000
Patriots trade Garoppolo to 49ers, leaving Brady without a backup Tue, 31 Oct 2017 01:06:54 +0000 SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers acquired their quarterback of the future on Tuesday by trading for New England backup Jimmy Garoppolo.

The Niners agreed to send a 2018 second-round pick to the Patriots in the deal that will be official once Garoppolo passes a physical. He is expected to be introduced at a news conference later Tuesday.

San Francisco (0-8) had been expected to either draft a quarterback high in the first round next year or try to acquire a proven starter like Kirk Cousins in free agency.

Instead, coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch decided to strike early and put the fate of their franchise in the hands in a quarterback who has started just two games in four NFL seasons.

“We are thrilled for Jimmy to join the 49ers family,” Lynch said. “Jimmy is a player we have researched extensively since Kyle and I joined the 49ers. I am extremely pleased this came together today and we all think it is a big win for our organization. Albeit in limited game action, Jimmy has displayed the characteristics and traits that we believe are vital to being a successful quarterback in this league. He has had the rare opportunity to sit and learn from a future Hall of Fame quarterback in a championship atmosphere.”

Garoppolo, a second-round pick in 2014, is in the final year of his contract. By acquiring him now, San Francisco gets a head start on negotiating a long-term deal to keep him or can use the franchise tag on him in free agency.

Garoppolo won those two starts in place of a suspended Tom Brady at the start of the 2016 season. He completed 42 of 59 passes for 496 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He got hurt in the second quarter of his second start and has thrown just four passes since then.

“Jimmy was a great teammate and a great friend and he always will be,” Brady told Westwood One in his weekly spot during halftime of the “Monday Night Football” broadcast. “I want nothing but the very best for him. He’s earned the trust of his teammates and the respect of his teammates and that is all you can ask for as a player.”

The Niners hope Garoppolo can be the quarterback to lead the franchise out of its recent cycle of losing that started when Jim Harbaugh was let go as coach following the 2014 season. San Francisco won seven games the past two years with Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert sharing QB duties.

The 49ers are off to the worst start in franchise history this season in coach Shanahan’s first year at the helm. Veteran Brian Hoyer, who also began his career as Brady’s backup in New England, started the first six games and third-round rookie C.J. Beathard has struggled as the starter the past two weeks behind a patchwork line.

Beathard has completed just 52.7 percent of his passes in his limited time, averaging 5.9 yards per attempt with two touchdowns, three interceptions and a 65.2 passer rating.

He has been sacked 11 times on his 110 pass attempts and hit several others, with the Niners’ injury-riddled line giving him little time to succeed.

Garoppolo is the second backup quarterback to be traded by the Patriots this season. They dealt Jacoby Brissett to Indianapolis last month for receiver Phillip Dorsett. New England now has no backup on the roster for the 40-year-old Brady and no quarterback of the future for whenever Brady decides to retire.

The Patriots could try to bring back Hoyer. A person with knowledge of the 49ers’ plans tells The Associated Press that the team will release him following the trade. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the move had not been announced.

]]> 0 report indicates Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be staying with the team, despite numerous trade rumors. The backup appeared in six games last season, completing 43 of 63 passes with a 113.3 passer rating.Tue, 31 Oct 2017 10:35:39 +0000
Patriots beat Chargers, 21-13 Sun, 29 Oct 2017 20:11:44 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — With his final attempt to bring his team back failed, Philip Rivers pulled off his helmet and flung it toward the Gillette Stadium turf. It bounced back perfectly into his waiting hands.

It was one of the few things that a Los Angeles Chargers player executed well Sunday in their 21-13 loss to the New England Patriots.

Tom Brady passed for 333 yards and a touchdown, and Stephen Gostkowski made four of six field-goal attempts to help the Patriots (6-2) hold on for their fourth straight victory.

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Chargers.

New England got its touchdown on a 2-yard toss from Brady to Rob Gronkowski in the second quarter. The Patriots went 1 for 4 in the red zone, but were able to cobble together the Gostkowski field goals and a safety.

The Patriots’ defense, which gave up 30 or more points three times in the first four games, has allowed just 51 points over the last four. And New England did it this time without linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who sat out Sunday’s win and is expected to miss the remainder of the season following shoulder surgery.

“We just wanted to come out here and play for him,” linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. “It’s always rough when you have a season-ending injury. … We just want to show our support that we’re holding it down for them.”

Los Angeles (3-5) got on the board first when Melvin Gordon found a seam on the outside and rumbled down the sideline for an 87-yard touchdown run. But the rest of the game was marked by Chargers mistakes and their inability to move the ball.

The Chargers cut the Patriots’ lead to 18-13 with 8:30 remaining on a 24-yard pass from Philip Rivers to Travis Benjamin but missed the 2-point conversion pass. They got the ball back a final time after Gostkowski’s fourth field goal and drove to the Patriots 28, but Rivers’ pass with 1 second remaining was intercepted at the goal line by Jonathan Jones.

Rivers finished 17 of 30 for 212 yards.

Los Angeles’ mistakes were highlighted in the second quarter when Benjamin muffed a punt inside the 15, recovered it and retreated all the way to the goal line while trying to reverse field. He was corralled by a Patriots group that included Brandon King, Matt Slater and Jones, then finally wrapped up by King and tackled in the end zone for a safety.

“We weren’t going to let him escape,” Jones said.

Rivers had a similarly head-scratching play early in the third quarter when he rolled to the outside to escape the pass rush but had the ball slip out of his hands for a fumble. He recovered, but the play resulted in a 20-yard loss and a sack credited to Van Noy.


Chargers: Linebacker Hayes Pullard left the field after a collision late in the fourth quarter.

Patriots: Right tackle Marcus Cannon left in the first half because of an ankle injury. … Wide receiver Chris Hogan was sidelined because of a shoulder injury from the collision with Pullard.


Other than Gordon’s touchdown run, the Chargers were mostly ineffective offensively in the opening 30 minutes. They ran 19 total plays. By comparison, New England passed the ball 26 times in the first two quarters.

“We fought our way back to at least give ourselves a chance,” Rivers said. “Not a lot of room for error down the stretch if we want to accomplish all our goals we still have out there. But certainly, everything is still in front of us.”


“We prefer to win.” – Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, on if he minds the defense taking the lead over the past four wins as the offense has struggled in the red zone.


Gordon’s 87-yard touchdown matched the longest run in Chargers history. Paul Lowe had an 87-yard run against the Dallas Texans in 1961.

]]> 0 England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes under pressure from Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa during the first half Sunday in Foxborough, Mass.Sun, 29 Oct 2017 19:42:01 +0000
Patriots notebook: Linebacker Hightower to miss rest of season Thu, 26 Oct 2017 15:07:49 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — If the Patriots are going to win a sixth Super Bowl, they’ll have to do it without one of their key defensive pieces.

On Thursday, Dont’a Hightower had season-ending surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle. The linebacker is expected to be back for the 2018 season, but the news is devastating for a Patriots defense that’s been improving over the last three weeks.

The injury occurred on Sunday night against Atlanta. Hightower was ruled out with a shoulder injury, but on Thursday morning, it was confirmed that the linebacker also suffered a torn right pectoral muscle. The defense will now need to move on without one of their captains and leaders.

“That’s terrible news for a guy like Hightower to go down with that injury and be out for the year,” linebacker David Harris said. “Knowing what he means to this defense, he’s one of the captains to the team and knows the defense like the back of his hand. To lose a guy like that is a huge blow for the team. At the linebacker group, we have to step up and try to fill his place, which will be tough to do.”

Hightower suffered the season-ending injury at 3:06 of the third quarter on Sunday. As running back Devonta Freeman ran up the middle, he cut left. At the same time, Hightower was running to his left, but overcommitted so he reached out with his right arm and fell on his right side. He grabbed Freeman with his right hand, but the back kept moving up field. Immediately, Hightower looked like he was in pain. He stayed in for one more play, but then left the field and was ruled out.

The 27-year-old captain is one of the Patriots best defensive players. He’s by far the Patriots best linebacker and was named to the Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro last season. That’s one reason why they signed him to a four-year, $35.5 million contract extension in March. The sixth-year veteran, however, has a lengthy injury history..He’s only played a full 16-game season once, but has never played less than 12 games. Unfortunately, for the Patriots, his season ends after playing only five games this season, which he totaled 14 tackles and two sacks.

“It’s a tough loss,” safety Devin McCourty said. “He’s a guy who’s been out there for a lot of years now. Played multiple roles on the defense, different spots. Communication everything, he’s a huge part of what we do. We’ve been out there for a couple games without him. We know what that’s like, but it’s always the same thing when a guy like that goes down. A bunch of guys have to step up and kind of try to fill that role. In this case, a bunch of different roles. It’s a tough loss for us defensively, but it’s something we’ll have to overcome.”

This season, Hightower started at left defensive end. After missing two games, with a knee injury, he was moved back to middle linebacker against Tampa. It was there where the defensive started to turn things around. Multiple defensive players said Hightower’s move back to the middle had a calming effect on the unit.

The team now moves forward with Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Harris, Marquis Flowers and Trevor Reilly at the position. Shea McClellin is eligible to come off the injured reserve in Week 10 against Denver.

“I mean, it’s going to take a full unit. Dont’a (is) a special player. He does a lot for this team. It’s going to take a group effort,” said Van Noy. Communication is “definitely getting better. It’s going to take a whole group to do it. He’s a leader of this team and the defense. We know what we have to do to fill his spot.”

In the event the Patriots want more help, the NFL trade deadline is next Tuesday.

“As a team, we’ll always figure it out,” McCourty added. “I firmly believe our coaching staff spends lot of hours figuring out what we need to do personnel wise, who needs to play here. What works, what won’t work. We’ll figure it out. Whether that takes a quarter or two quarters, it’ll happen.”

Danny Amendola returned to practice after missing the previous day’s session because of a knee injury. The Patriots were still without Malcom Brown (ankle) and Eric Rowe (groin).

With the news regarding Hightower, seeing Amendola at practice was a positive sign for the Patriots. Rowe isn’t expected to be back anytime soon, and it’s unknown how long Brown will be out after leaving Sunday’s game because of a lower body injury.

The Patriots added a new practice squad player – receiver Jake Kumerow. The 6-foot-4 undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin-Whitewater spent parts of the last two seasons in Cincinnati, where he was released on Sept. 22.

He’s the cousin of Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa.

]]> 0'a Hightower, who helped the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl in February, has reportedly signed a four-year contract to return to New England. He was one of the most coveted linebackers avalable in free agency. (Associated Press/Gregory Payan, File)Thu, 26 Oct 2017 22:12:13 +0000
Commentary: Brady’s going deep, more than ever Thu, 26 Oct 2017 02:09:51 +0000 As a 40-year-old considered the greatest ever at his craft, the possessor of the latest Super Bowl MVP award and five Lombardi Trophies, Tom Brady entered this year with little reason to modify his performance. In a ranking of humans with the least incentive to change, in fact, Gisele’s husband would rank somewhere near the top.

And yet a close inspection of Brady during another MVP-caliber year reveals a quarterback amid personal evolution. Brady burnished his legend with short, precise passes to quicksilver receivers darting over the middle. He became a master of manipulating defenses and spewing quick throws. This year Brady has turned gunslinger, heaving bombs with greater frequency than at any point in his 18-year career.

Brady’s penchant for deep throws is nothing short of a stylistic transformation. Last year he attempted 49 passes thrown at least 20 yards in the air all season, according to data tracked by Pro Football Focus, which uses the 20-yard barrier to define deep passes. This season he’s already tossed 40 deep passes, the most in the NFL.

Brady has thrown 15.3 percent of his passes more than 20 yards in the air, the third-highest total in the league behind Deshaun Watson and Tyrod Taylor. His previous career high came in 2006 at 13.4 percent. In the past four seasons, Brady’s frequency throwing long had ranged between 10.5 and 11.3 percent, ranking in the bottom half of the league. Compared to his peers, Brady relied heavily on short passes. This season he’s chucking it deep.

Last season, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Brady’s average target was 8.6 yards downfield, which put him in the middle of the pack, just below average among NFL quarterbacks. This season he’s averaging 10.1 yards in the air per attempt, fifth in the NFL.

The shift has not diminished Brady’s excellence or efficiency. He’s completed 18 deep passes, most in the NFL, despite two drops. His 8.4 yards per attempt is the second-best total of his career, and he’s completing 66.8 percent of his passes, the third-highest total of his career.

The sudden change has come in response to several factors, starting with receiving personnel. When Julian Edelman suffered a season-ending injury in preseason, Brady lost one of the option-route artists in the NFL, his favorite target on quick passes.

The loss of Edelman came as the Patriots added Brandin Cooks, who gave Brady his best outside deep threat since Randy Moss. Brady’s average pass to Cooks has traveled 14.3 yards, longer than any Patriots receiver last season. Edelman’s loss also meant more targets for Chris Hogan, a long strider whose best routes are run up the field.

Defensive schemes also played a role. More teams are using the blueprint Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton provided in Week 1, gumming up the middle of the field and forcing Brady to make deep throws down the sideline. Brady has responded by showing it doesn’t work.

As a young quarterback, the biggest knock on Brady was his ability to throw deep. At 40, amazingly, he’s doing it better than ever.

Meanwhile, health and continuity on New England’s offensive line has meant more time in the pocket for Brady to let deep patterns develop. Five offensive linemen – Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon – have all started at least 21 of 23 games since the start of last season. Under esteemed offensive line coach/guru Dante Scarnecchia, it has become one of the best lines in football.

Brady became the best ever playing a specific style, and now he’s the best in the NFL playing quarterback a different way. That he’s a marvel is something nobody needed to be reminded of. His ability to adapt and improve, at an age when most every other quarterback had retired, with a legacy already secure, only reinforces his singularity.

]]> 0 offensive line experienced with playing together has given Tom Brady the time needed to find his receivers farther down the field than ever, and it's paying off this season for the New England Patriots.Wed, 25 Oct 2017 22:13:33 +0000
Patriots notebook: Amendola on long list of injuries Thu, 26 Oct 2017 00:19:06 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots got some help back Wednesday but the injury list keeps growing.

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore returned to practice after missing two games with a concussion, but Danny Amendola was a surprise addition. He didn’t practice Wednesday with a knee injury. Also missing from practice: Dont’a Hightower, Malcom Brown, Eric Rowe and Harvey Langi.

Amendola finished Sunday’s game and hasn’t been listed on the injury report. Rowe (groin) and Langi (back) aren’t expected to be back any time soon.

The return of Gilmore is a boost for the defense. Both Hightower and Brown left Sunday’s game with injuries. Hightower suffered a shoulder injury against Atlanta and Brown left the game after suffering an injury to his ankle.

Coach Bill Belichick loves talking about the best football players of his era. He could go on for several minutes about players like Lawrence Taylor, Ed Reed and Peyton Manning, explaining what made them great and how they played the game.

Ahead of the Patriots’ matchup with the Chargers, Belichick was sure to give similar treatment to quarterback Philip Rivers. Belichick coached Rivers at the 2007 and 2011 Pro Bowls, and learned plenty about him then.

“Phil’s a tremendous player,” Belichick said. “Great competitor. Really smart player. Met him at the Pro Bowl. Got to know him a little bit out there. He’s got a real thirst for knowledge, not there’s a lot of scheme at the Pro Bowl.

“I’m not saying that. The conversations beyond that was on how to attack different schemes and so forth. He’s a real football guy like Tom (Brady), like Peyton (Manning). Guys like that. He’s into it.”

Rivers is a 10th all-time with 47,649 passing yards. His ability to read defenses and break them down is something the Patriots will be particularly wary of Sunday.

“(Rivers) has a ton of experience,” Belichick said. “He does a great job of making adjustments on the line of scrimmage whether it’s changing protections or he sees a certain coverage, he can get into a play that will attack that coverage.

“Being able to disguise our coverage and not really tell him what we’re in, that’s really suicide because he’ll just chew it up. We’re going to have to do a good job of not declaring what exactly we’re in so he doesn’t get to the perfect play every time. I have a lot of respect for him.”

]]> 0 Amendola never seems to drop the ball when he gets his opportunity with the New England Patriots, which this year includes receiving and returning punts.Wed, 25 Oct 2017 20:21:54 +0000
On Football: Patriots defense – yes, the defense – comes up huge in win over Falcons Mon, 23 Oct 2017 15:27:46 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady spent Sunday afternoon at home carving pumpkins with his children. He spent Sunday night leading the New England Patriots to a 23-7 victory over the Atlanta Falcons at foggy Gillette Stadium, with his parents (Tom Sr. and Galynn) watching from the stands.

“That made for a pretty perfect day,” he said.

That it did. The Patriots served notice to the rest of the NFL Sunday night that they are, still, the Patriots, the defending champs, the preseason choice by many to repeat as Super Bowl champion. Their early-season struggles, the two home losses already, suddenly seem long ago.

They are 5-2, winners of three in a row. And the reason for this optimism and confidence is … the defense.

Yes, a defense that entered Sunday’s game as one of the worst, if not the worst, in the NFL, allowing nearly 325 passing yards and 27 points a game. That defense was without two of its top three cornerbacks, as Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe were once again out with injuries. Yet they throttled the Falcons and Matt Ryan – who incredibly became the first quarterback this year to NOT throw for 300 yards against New England – and sucked all the drama out of the hype that was the Super Bowl LI rematch.

Unlike that championship game played eight months ago, when the Patriots rallied from a 25-point deficit to win 34-28 in overtime, they Patriots didn’t need any historic comebacks this time.

No, the Patriots reached back into their championship formula and won this game in throwback fashion: running the ball (162 yards), special teams (a blocked field goal by Cassius Marsh) and defense.

The Patriots continually turned back the Falcons whenever they threatened. The Falcons were only 2 for 9 on third down, 1 for 3 on fourth down. Cornerbacks Johnson Bademosi, Jonathan Jones and Malcolm Butler blanketed game-breaking receivers such as Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel.

“We didn’t make all of the plays,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “But when big plays came up we were able to make those plays.”

It was a most impressive – and unlikely – performance against one of the more dangerous offenses in the NFL.

“We knew what we were always capable of,” said second-year defensive tackle Trey Flowers. “We just had to put it together.”

“Play in, play out, 11 guys were on the same page,” said safety Devin McCourty.

New England lost its shutout with a garbage-time, 1-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Jones, who plucked the ball out of Butler’s hands in the end zone. Ryan threw for 233 yards, but 66 came on that final drive, with the Patriots leading 23-0.

“We’re just better,” said safety Duron Harmon. “We continue to improve each week. From the Panthers game (a 33-30 home loss) on until now, we just continue to get better each and every week. We continue to come to work, work together, try to find the best combination of players that we can put out there and everybody that goes out there continues to do a great job and just work hard.”

It started early. Atlanta had a first-and-10 at the Patriots 19 late in the first quarter. After Butler came flying up to cut down running back Tevin Coleman for no gain, Ryan threw two incompletions. Matt Bryant came in to kick a 37-yard field goal but Marsh came in from the right to block it, keeping the game scoreless.

The Patriots went on to score a touchdown on the ensuing drive. Then the defense forced a three-and-out by the Falcons. The Patriots went in to score again, on a 29-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.

New England then stopped Atlanta on a fourth-and-7 from the New England 48, Ryan’s pass to Sanu incomplete, with Jones in coverage. The Patriots drove down to go ahead 17-0 on Brady’s 2-yard pass to James White.

The defense stepped up in the third quarter, forcing the Falcons to try another field goal by Bryant. This one hit the left upright.

Then in the fourth quarter, with New England up 20-0, the Falcons had a fourth-and-goal from the New England 1. The Falcons went with a jet sweep to the right by Gabriel. Flowers, seeing Gabriel coming in motion toward him, busted through to knock Gabriel off course, and linebacker Kyle Van Noy came in the finish him off for a five-yard loss.

“The D kept making plays, and we kept going out there and chipping away,” said Brady.

The defensive backs cited communication, physical play and sticking to the game plan. They knew they had to stand up to Atlanta’s receivers. They never gave them any breathing room.

“We all just came out fighting,” said Jones. “It’s like a domino effect. You come out with good energy, make one stop and they keep adding up. Get up on them early and keep at it.”

That’s the way the Patriots won championships in the past. That’s the way they need to play going forward. Brady – as good as he still is – can’t will them to a victory in every game.

But this wasn’t just the defense’s best game of the season. It was the Patriots’ best complementary game of the season: offense, defense, special teams. Everyone contributed. This was the Patriots at their best. And they need to keep moving forward.

“As a team, we’re happy as far as how we managed the game,” said Flowers. “We’re going to look at the film and see that we missed some opportunities here and there. We can always be better, but this was a step in the right direction.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

]]> 0 defensive tackle Adam Butler, right, sacks Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan. New England allowed Ryan to pass 233 the first time this season an opposing quarterback has not surpassed 300 yards against New England.Mon, 23 Oct 2017 21:49:38 +0000
Patriots keep Falcons in a fog, roll over Atlanta in Super Bowl rematch, 23-7 Mon, 23 Oct 2017 03:34:03 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The rematch was a mismatch.

The New England Patriots’ much maligned defense, missing two of its top three cornerbacks, came up with its best effort of the season to throttle the Atlanta Falcons 23-7 Sunday night at foggy Gillette Stadium in a rematch of Super Bowl LI.

The Patriots, who entered the game allowing nearly 27 points and 325 passing yards a game, completely shut down Matt Ryan and the Falcons to improve to 5-2 on the season. Ryan was held to 233 passing yards – the first time this season a quarterback has failed to throw for 300 against the Patriots this season.

Last February, the Patriots rallied from a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to defeat the Falcons 34-28 in overtime in the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. Much of the hype leading into this game centered on that game. But the Patriots defensive effort took all the drama out of this one.

Much of the second half was played in a heavy fog that enshrouded the field, making it difficult to see anything.

Tom Brady threw for 249 yards and touchdowns to Brandin Cooks (11 yards) and James White (2 yards) in the second quarter. Dion Lewis rushed for 76 yards. Stephen Gostkowski kicked three field goals.

And the defense came up huge.

Cassius Marsh blocked a 37-yard field goal attempt by Matt Bryant with 1:05 left in the first quarter to keep the game scoreless.

And linebacker Kyle Van Noy made a huge stop on a fourth-and-goal for the Falcons from the New England 1 early in the fourth, with New England leading 20-0. After Trey Flowers busted up the play, Van Noy tackled Taylor Gabriel for a 5-yard loss.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Patriots got their offense untracked in the second.

They got the scoring started with 12:26 left in the second quarter on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Cooks. It was actually a very short shovel-pass in the backfield, and Cooks followed tight end Rob Gronkowski around left end to the end zone.

Rex Burkhead came in on the next drive, his first appearance since a rib injury in the second game, and sparked the Pats to a 29-yard field goal by Gostkowski with 4:42 left to make it 10-0.

The Patriots defense then stood up, forcing a Ryan incompletion on a fourth-and-6 from the New England 47 with 1:55 left in the half.

Brady then completed a 2-yard touchdown pass to White with 21 seconds remaining in the half.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

]]> 0 wide receiver Brandon Cooks follows Rob Gronkowski, who blocks Atlanta's Robert Alford, to finish an 11-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter of the New England's 23-7win Sunday in Foxborough, Massachusetts.Mon, 23 Oct 2017 11:35:20 +0000
Patriots notebook: Burkhead provides spark in return Mon, 23 Oct 2017 03:16:59 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Running back Rex Burkhead was signed as a free agent in the offseason by the New England Patriots, who hoped his versatility would boost their running attack.

But he has had little impact this season, sidelined since he suffered a rib injury in Week 2 in a 36-20 win at New Orleans, with just 18 yards on five rushes and four catches for 49 yards.

He returned to the lineup Sunday night at Gillette Stadium against the Atlanta Falcons and immediately provided a jolt.

The former Cincinnati Bengal came in for the first time in the second quarter and sparked the offense, leading to a 29-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski that gave New England a 10-0 lead.

Burkhead’s first run went for 9 yards. In fact, he had three 9-yard runs on the drive and had 31 of the Patriots’ 64 yards on the drive.

The Patriots led 17-0 at halftime and Burkhead’s 31 rushing yards were second to Dion Lewis’ 34 in the first half.

NEW ENGLAND’S maligned pass defense, entering the game last in the league in yards allowed and missing two of its top three cornerbacks, had a tremendous first half, limiting Matt Ryan to just 110 passing yards.

LINEBACKER ELANDON Roberts was out of the lineup for the first time this season.

Roberts suffered an ankle injury last week and was not able to recover sufficiently to play. That meant veteran David Harris, who was a healthy scratch for two of the last three games and didn’t play in the third, was back in the lineup against the speedy Atlanta running backs.

Other players on New England’s inactive list were cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (concussion/ankle) and Eric Rowe (groin), linebacker Harvey Langi (back), offensive linemen Cam Fleming and Cole Croston and defensive lineman Geneo Grissom.

THE PATRIOTS honored their three Pro Football Hall of Fame members at halftime.

Guard John Hannah, cornerback Mike Haynes and linebacker Andre Tippett were introduced to the crowd by owner Robert Kraft.

TOM BRADY’S parents, Tom Brady Sr. and Galynn, were part of the pre-game Crucial Catch ceremony, the NFL’s cancer awareness campaign. Galynn Brady’s fight with breast cancer was revealed in the lead up to last season’s Super Bowl. Also joining the ceremony were former Patriot guard Joe Andruzzi, a cancer survivor, and Nate Solder’s wife Lexi and son Holden. NBC reported during the game that Holden has resumed chemotherapy treatment for a rare pediatric cancer.

THE PATRIOTS players and coaches donated 200 tickets for military members to attend the game. They stood behind the Patriots’ end zone during pregame warmups, with many Patriots players greeting them. Patriots owner Robert Kraft went down the line shaking their hands.

THE SANFORD Police Department honor guard was part of the pregame ceremonies, presenting the colors during the national anthem along with the honor guards from police departments in Watertown, Massachusetts; Cranston, Rhode Island; Windsor, Vermont; and the Connecticut State Police.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

]]> 0 Sun, 22 Oct 2017 23:21:26 +0000
Tom Brady’s mom, Galynn, tells her story of facing cancer last season Mon, 23 Oct 2017 01:37:33 +0000 If an NFL season and a Super Bowl can have an untold story, the tale of Galynn Brady’s journey to watch her son last February was one.

Tom Brady and her family kept it that way all through the season – through Deflategate, through the four-game suspension, through the conspicuous absence of Galynn and her husband at Patriots games.

Now, Galynn Brady is sharing the story of what was going on behind the scenes, the story that her son only hinted at. In an interview with the NFL Network’s Andrea Kremer, Galynn Brady tells of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2016. It was a “fast-growing, aggressive” cancer. There were lumpectomies and then five months of chemotherapy.

“He wanted to know what was happening,” Brady Sr. says.

“He was in touch with us on an extraordinary regular basis. He knew our frustration of not being able to be back there with him and he said, ‘Oh, you’ll be ready for the Super Bowl.’ He told us that in the middle of the season. We did have it charted out that the end of her five months was going to be two weeks before the Super Bowl.”

Over the intervening five months, “we Face-Timed a lot” Galynn, who lives in the Bay Area, said of her son. “Losing my hair was hard for me. I’d have my bandanna on and he’d say, ‘Oh, Mom, you look beautiful, you look so beautiful.'”

Bouts with pneumonia and shingles left her ability to travel to Houston for the Super Bowl in doubt until just the day before. And then, when the Patriots were in a 28-3 hole to the Atlanta Falcons, she was ready to leave.

“I said to Tom, ‘I just want to go home,'” Galynn said with a laugh. “She probably said it 60 times,” her husband admitted. “I was,” she added, “just heartbroken for Tommy.”

For “Tommy” and the Patriots, though, the mantra all season and on the sideline was to win for Brady’s mom and that’s just how it worked out. “It was great,” Brady, the game’s MVP, said emotionally the day after the game. “She’s been through a lot. Way harder than what I went through last night, way harder than what our team went through last night.”

Galyn called the feeling “euphoric” and even got a Super Bowl ring of her own, which seems pretty fitting. “I’m so glad that I decided I would go and just put cancer aside for that weekend.”

]]> 0 quarterback Tom Brady, right, kisses his mother Galynn after winning the Super Bowl last February.Sun, 22 Oct 2017 21:44:23 +0000
NFL Week 7 Sun, 22 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 GAME OF THE WEEK

Falcons (3-2) at Patriots (4-2)

8:30 p.m. (NBC)

Outlook: A rematch of last season’s Super Bowl, which saw either the greatest comeback ever or the most embarrassing collapse. Can’t it be both? Oddly the rematch finds neither team especially dominant thus far in 2017. Atlanta just lost at home to the Dolphins and Matt Ryan has been a long way from great, while New England might be 3-3 right now if not for the good fortune of officiating that really hurt the Jets last week. Figure an advantage in revenge motivation will be offset by the Pats’ home-field edge. I don’t believe I ever will pick against Tom Brady at home, except when a lack of sobriety might be my only excuse.

Spread: Patriots -3

Prediction: Patriots, 31-26


Saints (3-2) at Packers (4-2)

1 p.m. (Fox)

Outlook: If ever I needed an Upset of the Week pick to count on the home field and the power of intangibles, it’s here. It’s more than Aaron Rodgers being out because of a broken collarbone. The Packers are beat up beyond that, especially on the offensive line, making this a foreboding first start for Brett Hundley. And the Saints are no longer awful on defense, while Drew Brees shows no signs his prime is leaving him. But the hunch in the gut won’t go away. Hundley will be good enough, Green Bay’s defense will arise bigly, and Rodgers will end the game with a sideline smile.

Spread: Saints -5

Prediction: Packers, 27-23

Other games

At Dolphins (3-2, -3) over Jets (3-3), 23-17: If Adam Gase’s game plan is on point, Jay Ajayi should have a big, clock-dominating day against a Jets run defense allowing a fat 4.6 yards per carry. That’s why the Jets should lose.

 At Bills (3-2, -3) over Buccaneers (2-3), 21-17: Ryan Fitzpatrick is on call because Jameis Winston will play with a sprained shoulder, which is the perfect reason to favore Buffalo in a defensive scrum.

 Panthers (4-2, -3) over At Bears (2-4), 23-16: The Panthers are 3-0 on the road and playing with extra rest. Their run-D will limit Jordan Howard and force the game into Mitch Trubisky’s green hands.

 Titans (3-3, -51/2) over At Browns (0-6), 27-23: I give the Browns a big shot at home despite their astonishing run of 25 losses in 26 games and DeShone Kizer (again) at QB.

 Jaguars (3-3, -3) over At Colts (2-4), 24-16: Home underdog in a division game tempts, but the Colts don’t have much to offer other than a propensity to blow leads.

Cardinals (3-3, +31/2) over Rams (4-2), 31-23: L.A. is the home team for this breakfast game, but it’s in London. Arizona is strong against division rivals, and a revitalized Adrian Peterson should find leg room vs. the suspect Rams run defense.

 At Vikings (4-2, -51/2) over Ravens (3-3), 19-13: Jerick McKinnon should make his fantasy owners happy again vs. a bad Baltimore run defense.

 Cowboys (2-3, -6) over At 49ers (0-6), 24-20: San Francisco has lost five straight by three points or fewer, an NFL record. The Cowboys are coming off a bye, though, and facing first-time starting QB C.J. Beathard.

 Seahawks (3-2, -5) over At Giants (1-5), 20-17: Not sure Seattle is all that special this year, particularly on the road, but they still have enough defensive might to stop the depleted Giants.

 At Steelers (4-2, -5) over Bengals (2-3), 24-20: Cincinnati has won two straight and is coming off a bye, but Pittsburgh’s No. 1-ranked pass defense will cool surging Andy Dalton.

 Broncos (3-2, even) over At Chargers (2-4), 19-17: Denver needs embattled Trevor Siemian to reassert himself. San Diego has won two straight, but I still trust the Broncos’ D more than the Chargers’.

 At Eagles (5-1, -41/2) over Washington (3-2), 27-21: Both QBs – Carson Wentz and Kirk Cousins – are flying high. But it’s Wentz who’s won four straight and has the offensive pop.

Week 7 byes: Lions, Texans

Last week: 8-6 overall, 7-5-2 vs. spread

Season: 47-44, 36-49-6

– By Greg Cote, Miami Herald

]]> 0 Sat, 21 Oct 2017 17:44:44 +0000
On Football: Unforgettable Super Bowl remains unbelievable Sun, 22 Oct 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Eight months later, I’m still not sure I believe what I witnessed on the night of Feb. 5 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

I mean, we all know what happened – 28-3 and all that – but I’m still not sure I believe it happened.

The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons will reacquaint themselves Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, two teams forever linked in the greatest comeback/collapse in Super Bowl history. And I still don’t believe it happened.

How does a team come back from a 25-point deficit, from being completely dominated for nearly 40 minutes? How does a team lose a 25-point lead, and become completely dominated, in the final 20 minutes?

We all saw it happen. We all shared various stages of disbelief, anger, disbelief, elation and then more disbelief.

Here’s all I know: I’ve watched the Patriots play in seven Super Bowls, each one coming down to a fateful final few seconds, and New England’s 34-28 overtime victory over the Falcons that night is the one that everyone will remember.

New England’s first Super Bowl championship, that stunning 20-17 upset in New Orleans of the St. Louis Rams and the Greatest Show on Turf in the 2001 season, will always be the Patriots’ finest hour. It changed the direction of the franchise from sometimes-lovable/often-irascible losers to perennial championship contenders. But Super Bowl LI is unforgettable for its improbability.

Julian Edelman’s finger-tip catch? Improbable.

James White scoring three touchdowns? Improbable.

Julio Jones’ finger-tip sideline- tight rope catch? Not only improbable but impossible for anyone else.

New England scoring two two-point conversions? Improbable.

As a writer, sitting in the press box and watching the game unfold, it was certainly obvious that the Falcons were going to win, especially after Tevin Coleman beat Rob Ninkovich to the right corner of the end zone with 8:31 remaining in the third quarter to give the Falcons a 28-3 lead.

So, with a tight deadline facing me, I started writing my column. Heck, every writer from New England who was there started writing the same story: The Patriots were overmatched by a younger, faster, more athletic, better-coached team. It was obvious, right?

So we thought. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I wasn’t even paying much attention to what was happening on the field as I wrote about 800 words. All I needed to do was throw in the score, maybe a quick quote (if I had time) and I’m done. Finally, I thought, a Super Bowl that doesn’t come down to the last play. Too bad the Patriots were going to be on the short end.

And then Stephen Gostkowski kicked a field goal early in the fourth quarter to bring the Patriots within 16. Three plays later, Dont’a Hightower strip-sacked Matt Ryan, the Patriots had the ball at the Falcons 25.

“I’ve seen this movie before,” I thought. “This game is going down to the final seconds, to one last possession.”

I stopped writing my column, sent my editor a text message that sort of shared those concerns (the exact words will remain secret though I remember them well). “Don’t worry,” he replied. “The Patriots still have to score two touchdowns and two two-point conversions.”

Five plays later, Tom Brady throws a touchdown pass to Danny Amendola. Then James White slams in for a two-point conversion and it’s an eight-point game.

I take another deep breath. I’m starting to get a little sweaty, knowing that my work is just beginning.

I start rewriting the column. My boss sends me a text, now sharing my thoughts (the exact words will remain between us).

The Falcons have a chance to put this game away. Jones makes one of the most spectacular catches you’ll ever see, giving Atlanta the ball at the Patriots 22. All the Falcons have to do is kick a field goal and that’s it. The Patriots won’t have enough time to come back.

Instead, on second down, Ryan drops back to throw and is sacked by Trey Flowers. Then there’s an offensive holding penalty, pushing the Falcons back 10 more yards and out of field goal range.

The Patriots get the ball back with 3:30 remaining at their 9. You know what happens. Brady is magnificent, Edelman makes his catch, White runs in for the touchdown with 57 seconds left to bring New England within two. Brady passes to Amendola for the two-point conversion and it’s tied at 28.

All this time, I’m sitting in the press box, mesmerized by what’s happening, unable to write because I’m not sure I can put into words what I’m seeing.

All I’m thinking is, “I’m watching the greatest game I’m ever going to see in my life, and I don’t know what to say.”

Overtime comes, the Patriots win the toss and you knew the Falcons weren’t going to stop Brady. They didn’t. White scored. Confetti flew.

And I went to work. Not thinking, just writing and listening to Patriots players talk over the speakers in the press box.

Here’s what I wrote.

Nothing I will ever cover again will match that night. Eight months later, I’m still not sure I believe it.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

]]> 0 engineering a most improbable victory last Feb. 5 in Houston, Pats quarterback Tom Brady could turn his back on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.Sat, 21 Oct 2017 17:44:34 +0000
Plenty of room remains for Patriots to grow on offense Fri, 20 Oct 2017 01:12:05 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady’s expectations for himself have been high from the moment he made his first NFL start back in 2001.

It reached its latest high watermark in February when he became the most-decorated Super Bowl quarterback in NFL history by leading the Patriots to a historic comeback win over the Falcons to earn his fifth ring.

But as the Patriots prepare for Sunday’s rematch with Atlanta, Brady believes he’s yet to play his best this season, despite ranking among the league’s passing leaders at age 40.

“This year I don’t think we’re really where we need to be,” Brady said Wednesday. “We’re certainly 4-2. I think there’s a lot of things we wish we could know better and we’re still working to improve. That’s where we’re at. We’re focused on playing a great team.”

After being forced to sit out four games to serve his Deflategate suspension, Brady was virtually unflappable in his first six games last season, throwing for 1,915 yards, 16 touchdowns and only one interception.

Through six games in 2017, he leads the NFL with 1,959 yards passing and is tied for second with 13 touchdowns. He’s thrown two interceptions but has a 106.9 passer rating that is second only to Kansas City’s Alex Smith.

That production, though, has come at the expense of Brady taking a lot more punishment.

He’s already been sacked 16 times and taken 37 hits in the pocket. In 16 games last season, the Patriots’ offensive line allowed all three of its quarterbacks – Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett – to be sacked just 24 times and take a total of 73 hits.

New England’s line made progress in last week’s win over the Jets by not allowing Brady to be sacked for the first time this season.

But he is expecting to feel lots more pressure this week from a Falcons team that is ranked 10th in the NFL in total defense.

While the Patriots have found themselves playing from behind more this season, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said “there’s no one thing” that’s holding the offense back.

“We’ve done some different things during the course of the year where we’ve executed well and had stretches where we’ve done a lot of good things, and certainly have had stretches where we didn’t,” McDaniels said. “We talk a lot about our best football being in front of us, and we need to start playing that way.”

One of the most promising signs that Brady and the Patriots could be turning a corner was how much tight end Rob Gronkowski was involved in Sunday’s win.

A week after sitting out with a thigh injury against Tampa Bay, he had a pair of touchdown catches. It was his first game this season with multiple scores.

Brady and Gronkowski have combined for 71 touchdown passes, the second-most in NFL history by a quarterback and tight end.

“He’s a big focal point of our offense,” Brady said of Gronk.

“When he gets going, it’s great for everybody. … He’s obviously a guy that’s been super consistent when he’s been out there for us, and he’s really played that same role this year.”

James White, one of the key offensive stars from February’s Super Bowl win, said the offense knows it has yet to execute at a high level for a complete game.

Their recent successes aside, Brady has made sure the pursuit of that has remained a priority.

“If we put together a solid 60 minutes, (and) execute well every single play, the sky’s the limit,” Gronkowski said.

]]> 0 his first six starts, Tom Brady has similar stats to last season when the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl, but he has taken more punishment and knows the offense must continue to improve.Thu, 19 Oct 2017 21:27:53 +0000
Commentary: Patriots have opponents down but rarely out Thu, 19 Oct 2017 01:27:25 +0000 Quarterback Tom Brady hasn’t been able to hide his frustration on the sidelines in recent weeks. Sure, the Patriots are winning and the bottom line is what ultimately matters. But the performance of the offense is still driving him slightly crazy.

Why? Check the fourth quarter.

The past two games the offense has had the opportunity to do what it usually does best. Against the Jets and Buccaneers, it was set up and primed to put the game away, but couldn’t.

That failure led both opponents to be in a position to win or tie, and the defense was forced to make a final stop. While those two games resulted in victories, some of Brady’s agitation stems from the fact the offense isn’t executing when it needs to the most.

That’s such a rare concern. The offense doesn’t usually disappear at key points, particularly the fourth quarter.

So what’s missing? Why haven’t the Patriots been able to put games away?

Let’s start with the obvious. While they’ve managed pretty well, the loss of Julian Edelman always will be a factor.

Every short-yardage, third-down scenario they don’t make in the fourth quarter, just picture Brady stepping under center with an empty backfield. Then imagine Edelman firing out and getting open for the necessary yards. Now see Brady taking two steps back and hitting him. Just like that, boom, first down. How many times did that happen last year? A lot.

Edelman led the NFL in third-down receiving yards (431) last year and was second with 28 catches. He’s always been their chain-mover.

His loss and impact is felt every game, but especially during vital moments.

Danny Amendola has done a terrific job converting 10 of 12 third-down chances and one on fourth down. He’s been clutch in so many ways.

But the dagger still was missing Sunday at the Jets.

After Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 28-yard field goal on a drive that carried into the fourth quarter to put the Pats up 24-14 with 14:13 left, that was it for the offense.

They had two chances to bury the Jets in the fourth quarter and couldn’t even get a first down.

On the first series, a holding penalty on Marcus Cannon negated an 18-yard run by Dion Lewis. That put the Pats in a hole. Penalties have been a killer throughout the season – one more factor contributing to the problem.

In the Tampa Bay game, the Pats led 16-7 after three quarters. In the two possessions they had in the fourth, they managed two first downs, punting twice. They did kick a field goal but that was after recovering an onside kick. They didn’t get a first down on that possession.

Rob Gronkowski, who is a reliable option to move the chains (10 of 12 on third down), didn’t play against Tampa Bay. Brandin Cooks hasn’t quite delivered in those must-have situations. He’s been great on the long ball but coming across the middle for those short quick slants, he doesn’t have that brand of crazy that Edelman and Amendola possess.

He’s just 3 of 10 on third-down targets.

“You have to execute what you’re doing, whatever that may be,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “Run, pass, pass protection, routes, throws, whatever the play is in that situation. If you want to finish the game on offense, which is what we always try to do, you’re going to have to get first downs and possess the ball. The defense is trying to get the ball for their offense. There’s usually going to be a lot of tight coverage … we have to do a better job of executing in those situation so we can finish the game with the ball, which is always a goal of ours when we have the lead. So yeah, it’s frustrating when we don’t do that.

“All of us can do better. I can do better. Every position group can do better to impact those situations in a positive manner.”

Running back James White, who leads the team with 33 catches, can be used more. Another issue has been the absence of Rex Burkhead, who missed the past few weeks with a rib injury. He’s another option as a chain-mover. Plus, tight end Dwayne Allen has been an absolute dud in the passing game.

Last year, Martellus Bennett was helpful in extending drives and burying opponents late. Allen hasn’t done much of anything in that regard.

“We’ve had stretches where we’ve executed well and had stretches and done a lot of good things. We’ve certainly had stretches where we didn’t,” McDaniels said. “We’re in the process of trying to improve and get better.”

]]> 0 Tom Brady is confident the Patriots' second-half troubles on offense will be rectified.Wed, 18 Oct 2017 21:33:32 +0000
Wife of Patriots linebacker – after both are injured in a car accident – posts emotional video of reunion Wed, 18 Oct 2017 20:34:42 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The wife of Patriots rookie Harvey Langi posted an emotional video from a local hospital this week. On Cassidy Langi’s social media page, she writes about the car accident that hospitalized both her and her husband, a rookie linebacker.

“Friday the 13, 2017 was date night for Harv and I On our way home we stopped at the light to turn to our house, when all of a sudden a SUV rammed straight into us,” Cassidy Langi wrote. “I completely blacked out and don’t remember anything, while Harvey remembers seeing me, his wife, laying lifeless and gushing blood. It’s been 3 days since that moment and we were finally reunited.”

The video shows Harvey Langi walking into his wife hospital room with the aid of crutches. Patriots safety Jordan Richards can be seen in the background as the linebacker, with two braces on his legs, slowly makes his way to his wife.

After the accident, Langi and his wife were taken to separate hospitals, but have since reunited.

Friday the 13, 2017 was date night for Harv and I ????On our way home we stopped at the light to turn to our house, when all of a sudden a SUV rammed straight into us. I completely blacked out and don’t remember anything, while Harvey remembers seeing me, his wife, laying lifeless and gushing blood. It’s been 3 days since that moment and we were finally reunited. We have been in the hospital for a few days and still have a few days to go. We are so completely blessed to have each other to lean on through all of this craziness. We are so grateful for all of our family and friends who have taken the time to come visit us, reached out to us, prayed for us, and have shown us their love and support. Our hearts are completely full right now ❤️ I just want my husband Havea to know how blessed I am to be your wife. I know this is a huge trial we will be facing but I know we can get through this together, day by day. Thank you for always loving me and staying by my side through it all. I love you with all my heart babe ????????

A post shared by Cassidy Lynn Langi (@cassidylangi10) on

]]> 0 England Patriots player Harvey LangiWed, 18 Oct 2017 16:47:09 +0000
President Bush’s Super Bowl socks, photo to be auctioned at Portland Diocese event Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:45:09 +0000 President George H.W. Bush is donating the patriotic socks he wore at this year’s Super Bowl 51 to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland’s Harvest Ball Friday.

The colorful socks will be auctioned off, along with a photo of his Super Bowl appearance with former first lady Barbara Bush, at the Harvest Ball, which funds Harvest, the magazine of the Diocese of Portland. The photo is autographed by both Bushes.

Bush performed the Super Bowl’s ceremonial coin toss in February before the opening kickoff of the game, in which the New England Patriots came back from a 25-point deficit in the third quarter to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 34-28, in overtime. It was the Patriots’ fifth Super Bowl win.

The winning bidder will also receive a personalized letter of congratulations from Bush.

]]> 0, 18 Oct 2017 11:56:13 +0000
Commentary: Shades of not-so-good old days in Patriots’ struggles Mon, 16 Oct 2017 23:42:18 +0000 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It’s as though the Patriots have hurtled back in time to the pre-dynasty days, to the days of just hoping to string enough victories together to make the playoffs and then, maybe, make a run.

Consider what happened Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Sure, the Patriots emerged with a 24-17 victory over the New York Jets, but it was a victory that included a ton of mistakes, a late first-half sideline outburst by Tom Brady that was a tick above his normal in-game ranting, and, yes, a late-in-the-day call by the officials that worked to the Patriots’ advantage and had Jets fans screaming that it was old-fashioned highway robbery.

You saw the play: With New England leading 24-14 midway through the fourth quarter, the Jets’ Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Josh McCown – except that a long, laborious review by the officials turned that touchdown into dust.

And it was even worse than that for the Jets, as it was also ruled that Seferian-Jenkins lost control of the ball while driving for the pylon. He regained possession while falling out of bounds but in the refs’ view it was a fumble out of the end zone and, hence, a touchback. The Patriots were given the ball – literally, and, if you’re a Jets fan, figuratively.

Had this been the other way around, angry New England fans would this very moment be storming NFL headquarters with torches and pitch forks. That it happened to work for the Patriots, and that it played a key role in their awkward victory over the Jets, is a perfect example of how this season has been … and how it’ll likely continue to be.

Get used to it, folks. These are not your big brother’s daunting, swaggering, run-it-up Patriots. The Tom Brady Patriots? In the early stages of Sunday’s game, when Malcolm Butler gambled and lost the farm in coverage on Jeremy Kerley’s 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give the Jets a 14-0 lead, the day seemed lost.

Suddenly they were the 1990 Tommy Hodson Patriots, trailing 14-0 early and punting the ball away. But … no. A 1-yard run by Dion Lewis with 5:19 remaining in the half made it 14-7, and Brady tossed a short one to Rob Gronkowski to tie it with 26 seconds to go.

And to think that, just a minute earlier, Brady could be seen chewing out the world after throwing an incomplete pass to Brandin Cooks on third-and-10.

“I’m always a little edgy out there for one reason or another,” Brady said. “It’s just an emotional game. I don’t know what it was today.”

Hmmm. Here’s a thought: These Patriots are not those Patriots. Remember when a few well-meaning knucksters from the cheap seats were guaranteeing an undefeated season for this bunch?

It was dumb then, and it’s dumber now just to think about it.

Here’s Brady’s best quote from Sunday: “I wish we could have done better, but we won.”

That, as of right now, is the new bumper sticker for the 2017 Patriots.

And if you don’t like that one, how about this one from Gronkowski: “Every win’s not pretty. You can always improve.”


Even Bill Belichick seemed to be speaking from a different era when he addressed the media following Sunday’s game. It’s simply not 2017 Bill for the Patriots’ boss to say something anecdotal and non-X’s-and-O’s immediately following a game, win or lose, but he came shockingly close to painting a veritable word picture in explaining his take on the overturned call.

“That was an interesting play but, you know, when Malcolm (Butler) came off the field the first thing he told me was he thought the ball was out. I thought they were reviewing whether he had crossed the goal line or not, but Malcolm obviously had a really good look at it and was sure it was out. It was the first thing he told me.”

Now that’s not exactly a campfire story by Scoutmaster Bill, but it was still good stuff. It was information, a genuine behind-the-scenes look at the biggest play of yesterday’s game, and it was … wow.

The 2017 Patriots season has turned into Throwback Sunday. It’s all one big opposite sketch. Down is up, up is down. It has become a season in which fans should not wring their hands over a 4-2 record; they should celebrate it.

The Patriots are 4-2! They have a shot at the playoffs!

That’s the way it used to be around here. And that’s where we are now.

]]> 0 England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass as he is falling to the turf as New York Jets defensive end Ed Stinson (97) closes in during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)Mon, 16 Oct 2017 20:00:32 +0000
Brady sets wins record as Patriots hold off Jets, 24-17 Sun, 15 Oct 2017 20:42:29 +0000 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Tom Brady set the NFL record for regular-season victories by a quarterback, getting his 187th as the New England Patriots held on for a 24-17 win over the New York Jets on Sunday to claim first place in the AFC East.

The Patriots (4-2) were playing their first game in 10 days after beating Tampa Bay 19-14 on Oct. 5, and appeared a bit rusty early as they fell behind 14-0 in the second quarter against the surprising Jets (3-3).

New York had a chance to tie the game after getting the ball back with 1:53 remaining, but the Patriots’ 32nd-ranked overall defense held on – forcing Josh McCown to throw incomplete on a desperation heave on fourth-and-17 from the 50, and ending the Jets’ three-game winning streak.

Brady, who broke a tie with Peyton Manning and Brett Favre for the record, got going just before halftime as the Patriots tied it at 14 with 9 seconds left in the second quarter.

Brady then marched the Patriots down the field on their opening drive of the second half, going eight plays and 75 yards to give New England its first lead at 21-14 with a 33-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski.

Brady finished 20 of 38 for 257 yards with two touchdowns to Gronkowski and an interception. Dion Lewis also had a 1-yard TD run.

After Stephen Gostkowski’s 28-yard field goal made it 24-14 50 seconds into the fourth quarter, New York appeared to make it a one-score game again on its next possession as Austin Seferian-Jenkins took a short pass from McCown and reached over the goal line for a 4-yard touchdown.

But officials reviewed the score and said the video replay showed that Seferian-Jenkins slightly lost control of the ball as he went out of bounds on the side of the end zone, resulting in a touchback – despite the ball never hitting the ground. That gave the Patriots back the ball, with the Jets’ sideline irate.

But after the Patriots went three-and-out, the Jets were able to cut it to a one-score game on Chandler Catanzaro’s 28-yard field goal with 3:40 left. But their last-minute comeback attempt fell short.

The Jets talked all week about starting faster and McCown got things going right away in this one, capping a 13-play, 88-yard opening drive with a 1-yard TD pass to Seferian-Jenkins.

New York converted three third-down situations on the drive: a 23-yard pass to Robby Anderson, a 16-yard run by McCown and an impressive 30-yard grab by Jeremy Kerley, who went up for the ball and fought off a defender to come down with it at the Patriots 1.

The Patriots’ second possession ended on a fumble by Mike Gillislee, who had the ball punched out from behind by Darron Lee. Buster Skrine recovered, giving the Jets the ball at their 22.

New York turned that into another score. McCown connected with Jermaine Kearse for 16 yards on third-and-5 from the 47 and then floated a pass over the outstretched arms of Malcolm Butler and right to Kerley, who leaped over the cornerback to snatch the ball and then skipped into the end zone untouched to make it 14-0.

It marked the first time New England trailed by 14 or more points in the first half since Week 4 of the 2014 season at Kansas City. According to the Jets, the last time they led the Patriots in the second quarter by 14 or more at home was the last regular-season game of the 1998 season, when New York was up 17-0.

Brady then led the Patriots on a 93-yard drive that was capped by Lewis’ 1-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 14-7 with 5:19 left in the first half. Skrine nearly picked off Brady early in the drive, dropping a pass intended for Gronkowski. A few plays later, rookie safety Jamal Adams was called for pass interference on Gronkowski, putting the ball at the Jets 1.

Gostkowski was later wide right on a 47-yard attempt – his first miss after making 12 straight.

McCown finished 31 of 47 for 354 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Seferian-Jenkins had a career-high eight catches for 46 yards.

ROAD WARRIORS: The Patriots have won six of the last seven meetings with the Jets and 11 of the last 13. They have also won 11 straight road games, the second-best streak in team history since they won 12 in a row from 2006-08.

INJURED: Jets leading rusher Bilal Powell was out after missing practice all week with a strained calf. Matt Forte, however, returned and finished with 22 yards on nine carries and eight catches for 59 yards.

Patriots cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (concussion) and Eric Rowe (groin) sat out, as did rookie linebacker Harvey Langi, who was hospitalized following a car accident in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Friday night.

]]> 0, 16 Oct 2017 00:17:27 +0000
Patriots notebook: Jets are coming for Brady Sun, 15 Oct 2017 01:02:23 +0000 FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Leonard Williams and the rest of the New York Jets defense have studied the film and know exactly what they need to do against Tom Brady.

Get pressure. Sack him. Force him into rushing throws.

“We have noticed that Tom Brady holds onto the ball a little bit longer than he usually does,” defensive end Leonard Williams said. “They’ve given up more sacks at the start of the season than they did all of last season, so for us, that’s definitely giving us something to look forward to, getting after the quarterback.”

Williams is right about the sack total. Brady has gone down 16 times after being sacked just 15 times in 12 regular-season games last season.

“I think everybody in this league knows what they’ve got to do to beat Brady,” defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said. “You know, he’s been beaten, so I’m sure pretty much everybody has watched the film of guys and what they do good against him.”

The Patriots star has also been a bit banged up, sitting out two practices with a sore left shoulder before returning Thursday on a limited basis.

“We know that he’s the head of the offense,” Williams said. “So, if we can get to him and affect him as much as possible, we can affect the game.”

It certainly sounds simple enough. But Brady remains one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the NFL, despite those high sack numbers. Through five games, Brady leads the NFL with 1,702 yards passing and ranks second with a 112.0 passer rating. The Patriots offense still ranks No. 1 in total yards and passing yards. New England will certainly pose perhaps the toughest test for New York’s defense.

“So far this year, it’s not even close,” defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said. “There’s so many problems (to defend).

Stopping the Patriots run game will also be crucial for the Jets defense. New York has struggled against the run this season, ranking 30th in the NFL in that category.

“The more we let them run, the more Tom Brady is going to be able to stand back there when it’s time to pass,” Williams said. “We have to make them one-dimensional and make them pass.”

New York has allowed just four touchdowns in its past three games and appears to be playing better lately – and looser. Just in time for Brady and Co.

HARVEY LANGI, New England’s rookie linebacker, and his wife were involved in a car accident Friday night in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Injuries to Langi and his wife Cassidy are considered “serious” but not life-threatening.

Langi, 25, was signed by the Patriots this spring after he went undrafted out of BYU. He’s played in one game this season and recorded one tackle.

ALAN BRANCH feels like he had another “pretty good” week of practice.

Will that lead to a return to the game-day lineup? The Patriots defensive tackle still doesn’t know.

“I control what I can control,” Branch said. “I go out there and practice, and (Coach Bill Belichick) makes the decision. The reasons why, I don’t know.”

Branch was left home last week when the Patriots traveled to Tampa. The team told him the benching was for performance-related reasons, according to a source.

This has been an ongoing story for Branch. He played just six snaps in Week 2 against the Saints, by far his fewest in four seasons with the Patriots, and 12 in Week 4 against the Panthers. More than half of Branch’s 81 snaps this season came in the opening loss to the Chiefs (42).

“Basically, it’s not my call, man,” Branch said. “That’s the only thing I can say. If you want to know the reason, you’ve got to ask the person that makes the choice. That’s all I can say.”

]]> 0 lineman Leonard Williams, right, and the Jets defense are confident they can get to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in Sunday's game. And it might happen. Brady has been sacked 16 times through five games after going down just 15 times in 12 games a season ago.Sat, 14 Oct 2017 21:19:41 +0000
McCourty’s tackling a bright spot amid Patriots’ defensive struggles Sat, 14 Oct 2017 00:33:41 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It was third-and-2 at the Tampa Bay 11 when Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston took a shotgun snap with 9:53 left against the Patriots in Week 5.

Winston hit DeSean Jackson in stride with a short pass over the middle, and the super-swift receiver quickly zipped through the New England secondary. Jackson was going, going … but not gone.

Devin McCourty made sure of that.

The eighth-year safety’s relentless, high-speed pursuit paid off as he made a touchdown-saving tackle of Jackson at the New England 48 to mitigate the damage of the 41-yard catch-and-run. The drive ultimately ended with a missed field goal, and the Patriots eventually hung on for a 19-14 victory.

“It was an extremely outstanding hustle play for Devin McCourty, and that’s what he does,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “Devin runs all over the field. He plays extremely hard the entire game. It’s certainly something that as a teammate and as a coach you’re looking at and you really appreciate, and you really try to strive to play that same style.”

That was one of 11 tackles – one off his career high – McCourty made against the Bucs, pushing his season total to 42. He’s on pace to finish with 134 tackles, which would obliterate his career high of 94, set in 2011.

McCourty is tied for seventh in the league in tackles and is one of three defensive backs in the top 20. He’s tied for the league lead in solo tackles with 37.

“I’ve always truly believed that in the secondary most of your tackles are going to be open-field or one-on-one,” McCourty said of those solo shots. “You have to break down and get a guy down any way you can, whether it’s grabbing a leg or wrapping him. So I’ve always tried to focus on that at both the college and pro level.”

For the 5-foot-10, 195-pound McCourty, it’s anyway, anyhow, anywhere.

“Honestly, I don’t believe tackling is something you work on,” he said. “You just have to understand leverage and get a guy down. If you look at most of my tackles, they’re not the highlight, prettiest tackles you’ll see. It’s just getting in front of a guy, getting him down and making sure he doesn’t escape and break away.”

Part of the reason McCourty, who had 78 tackles in 16 games last season, has seen a surge in his stats is because he has been deployed closer to the line of scrimmage this season, affording him more opportunities. He typically had played in the middle of the field since moving from cornerback to safety in 2013.

And McCourty, a seven-time team captain who has been selected to three Pro Bowls, has fully capitalized on those opportunities, as generally has been the case since the Patriots drafted him 27th overall in 2010.

“Well, Devin’s a very good tackler, always has been,” Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said. “He’s got good quickness, good playing strength and a good feel for the ball. He’s fast. He’s made some of those tackles in space pursuit from behind (like on Jackson) that a lot of other guys might not make because of his excellent speed at the position.”

Belichick compared McCourty and fellow safety Patrick Chung favorably with Rodney Harrison, placing them a notch below Harrison, who played here from 2003 to ’08 and is being touted by Belichick as worthy of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“They’re very dependable,” Belichick said. “They’re very good in space, which those are hard tackles sometimes when good runners have space to operate. They do a real good job there, not just running backs with size, but receivers with speed and quickness. They get opportunities with a lot of different types of players. Devin’s done a great job for us.”

The Patriots have a number of defensive problems, but one they won’t have to solve is McCourty when it comes to tackling.

]]> 0 England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty speaks with reporters following an NFL football training camp practice at Gillette Stadium, Sunday, July 27, 2014, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)Fri, 13 Oct 2017 20:42:04 +0000
Patriots notebook: New team, new role for Harris Fri, 13 Oct 2017 02:55:02 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Sunday will be strange for David Harris as he returns to MetLife Stadium.

It’ll be weird when he’s in the visiting locker room. Then the game will start and he’ll be on the opposing sideline watching the New York Jets and several players he still calls friends.

After spending 10 seasons with the Jets, this veteran linebacker finds himself on the other side of the rivalry.

That’s the NFL,” said Harris. “Have to put personal feelings behind you and go out there and try to do your job.”

For Harris, he hopes for a chance to get on the field and do his job. So far, the 33-year-old’s impact hasn’t been seen on the field.

The linebacker has played in three games, logging just seven defensive snaps and one assisted tackle. It’s a far cry from what Harris was used to as one of the most productive linebackers in the NFL over the past decade. Last year, he made 95 tackles on 900 defensive snaps for the Jets. Over the past 10 years, Harris made 1,087 total tackles.

“I’m trying to do everything I’m asked to do and trying to be ready if my number is called,” Harris said. “That’s all I can do as a professional player.”

Although Harris hasn’t been on the game field the last two weeks, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t helped off the field. Dont’a Hightower says the knowledge that he’s brought has been invaluable, and despite the limited playing time, Harris remains positive around his teammates.

“I think that says a lot about him, not just as a football player, but a person as well,” Hightower said. “A younger kid tries to take food out of his kids’ mouth, but David doesn’t see it as that. He’s taking it as a Patriot. He’s taking it for what it is and what it’s worth.

“It’s a long season. You never know what’s going to happen or when his name is going to be called. One thing’s for certain, whenever his number is called, David is going to be ready.

“It’s not going to be ‘can he still do it’ or ‘is he capable of doing it?’ Everything is there. He’s keeping a positive mindset. I know myself and the younger guys appreciate what he does and what he brings to this team.”

Harris is behind Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Marquis Flowers on the depth chart. His role is different this season, but according to Hightower, Harris has been like another coach off the field to the younger players.

“I’m saying like defensive coordinator-type stuff,” Hightower said.

The last time Harris wasn’t a full-time starter was his rookie season in 2007. He still finished with 127 tackles and five sacks.

He said despite his lack of playing time, he has enjoyed his time in Foxborough.

“It’s been amazing just seeing how everything works here and just how everybody works hard,” Harris said. “Everybody is dedicated to winning. You always heard different things about the Patriots from the outside, but it’s a lot different once you are actually here and a part of it. Attention to detail is amazing here, and I appreciate that.”

The Patriots added some experience to their practice squad on Thursday, signing tight end Will Tye and linebacker Trevor Reilly.

Tye started this season with the New York Jets, catching four passes for 38 yards in three games. He played all 16 games last season with the Giants, finishing with 48 receptions for 395 yards.

Reilly was on the Patriots’ practice squad last season before being claimed by the Miami Dolphins.

]]> 0 running back Ameer Abdullah looks for yardage during a preseason game as he is pursued by New England linebacker David Harris, who has seen limited action in his first season with the Patriots but has been a big help off the field.Thu, 12 Oct 2017 23:03:48 +0000
Commentary: Patriots are lacking a finishing touch Fri, 13 Oct 2017 01:51:44 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots have developed a bad habit. It’s a trend uncharacteristic of a team that won the Super Bowl eight months ago, and something that’s going to have to be rectified.

The 2017 Patriots have performed better in the first half than the second. They’ve come out of the gates pretty well, only to wilt when it counts.

That won’t bode well if it continues. Maybe the Patriots can get away with going cold in the second half against teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whom they beat last Thursday. And maybe they can do it against the New York Jets on Sunday. But looking down the road, it probably won’t work next week against a revenge-seeking Falcons team who will want to pile on the points from start to finish.

Like their penchant for taking stupid penalties and their continued communication issues, this is another trait that just doesn’t compute. It’s so un-Patriots-like, but the numbers don’t lie.

The Patriots have scored 97 first-half points with a mere 51 in the second half. They’ve been scoreless once in the third quarter, once in the fourth, and produced only a field goal in those quarters four times.

Quarterback Tom Brady thinks it’s a small sample size and the problem will work itself out.

“We scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter in the Carolina game. The Houston game, I would say, wasn’t a great second half. We didn’t play very well in the (Kansas City) game at all. So I just think there’s still a lot of football left, and hopefully that may or may not even out over the course of a year,” Brady said.

“I don’t think, really, things change for us. I mean, we’re trying to go out and execute at a really high level and sometimes we don’t really get the job done. So our inconsistency has maybe led to some of those (numbers) but we’d like to score all the time.”

The Patriots still rank third in the NFL in points, but it’s hard to overlook the fact they come out like gangbusters in the first half before going into a second-half malaise. Opponents must be adjusting, and the Pats haven’t been able to counter as well as they have in the past.

It’s not like they’ve been going to a ground-and-pound style in the second halves of games, running the ball more and slowing things. That happened in New Orleans and to some extent against Tampa Bay, but not in any other game.

“It’s a point to be made that we can start fast and just need to maintain that the whole game,” receiver Danny Amendola said. “That’s what you have to do to win games. You have to sustain, you have to score throughout the game. It’s two halves. Everyone knows that . . . it’s definitely on us. It’s on everyone on offense to make adjustments themselves and try to get points on the board as much as possible.”

As for defense, there hasn’t been much positive except for showing some signs of improvement against the Bucs. Then again, the Pats almost lost in the closing seconds. After holding Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston in check most of the game, he threw for 228 yards in the fourth quarter.

Winston had just 106 yards in the first three quarters.

Had Nick Folk not missed three field goals, it might have been a different story.

The Pats are being outscored 71-51 in the second half, 51-28 in the fourth quarter. As Coach Bill Belichick would say, that’s not what you’re looking for.

“Yeah, the biggest thing we talk about is the fourth quarter and wanting to be better,” defensive captain Devin McCourty said. “But you can put all that together, coming out of halftime, playing in the fourth quarter. That last game (against the Bucs), yards-wise, we gave up a third of our yards just in the fourth quarter. Bill’s been harping on our conditioning. But to put your finger on exactly what it is, I’m not sure.”

The Patriots typically pride themselves on conditioning and being able to outlast opponents physically and mentally. If you watched the “Do Your Job 2” documentary, one of the significant elements brought to light was their constant hill running.

Have they lost that edge?

“When you talk about playing in the fourth quarter, that factors in conditioning, being able to finish a game,” McCourty said. “So we’ve talked about that, too. (Belichick) always pays attention to things like that. The only thing we can do is try to improve.”

The Jets are a good place to start.

]]> 0 Tom Brady is confident the Patriots' second-half troubles on offense will be rectified.Thu, 12 Oct 2017 21:59:22 +0000
NFL notebook: Brady downplays injury to left shoulder; set to play Sunday Wed, 11 Oct 2017 21:05:05 +0000 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady told New England fans not to worry about his left shoulder injury, even though it has kept him out of the team’s first two practices this week.

Brady did not participate in practice on Wednesday, according to the team’s injury report, although he was spotted on the field during the portion that was open to reporters. Brady was absent from the open portion of practice on Tuesday and reportedly received an MRI on his non-throwing shoulder.

Asked about the procedure, Brady said he would be on the field for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets with first place in the AFC East on the line.

“I’ll be there Sunday. Don’t worry about that,” Brady said. “I’ll be there.”

The 40-year-old Brady leads the NFL with 1,702 passing yards. He has thrown for 11 touchdowns with one interception and another pick-6 that was officially ruled a fumble.

He’s also been sacked 16 times, more than in all 12 games he played in last year.

“It’s a physical sport, so I think everyone is dealing with something,” Brady said. “Everyone’s running around and they’re big and they’re fast and they hit hard. You have bumps and bruises, but you just deal with them the best you can and try to get ready for the next week.”

Brady said one reason for the extra hits he’s been taking is that the team has fallen behind more than usual.

“If you have a three-touchdown lead in the third quarter, it’s different. You’re probably much more balanced on offense, and we’ve been a part of those quite a few times,” he said. “If you’re losing by two scores, you’re just throwing it every down. You’ve just got no choice; they can’t sack you if you’re handing the ball off.”

Also missing practice on Wednesday were tight end Rob Gronkowski (thigh), defensive back Eric Rowe (groin) and offensive lineman Nate Solder (not injury-related).

DOLPHINS: Miami’s offensive line situation deteriorated this week from inconsistent to intolerable, and now Coach Adam Gase is dealing with the fallout.

Gase hit the reset button Wednesday by hiring Dave DeGuglielmo as senior offensive assistant. He’ll help fill the void created by the departure of offensive line coach Chris Foerster, who resigned Monday when a video surfaced that appeared to show him snorting a white powder while sweet-talking a Las Vegas model.

There’s no evidence any issues involving Foerster involved others in the organization, Gase said.

“To me it was an isolated incident,” Gase said. “There were a lot of people who were just a little surprised.”

MIKE DITKA has apologized for saying he wasn’t aware of any racial oppression over the last 100 years in the United States.

The famed Chicago Bears coach came under fire for making the comments during a radio interview Monday about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. He issued an apology the next day, saying he was talking about professional football and not society as a whole.

“I have absolutely seen oppression in society in the last 100 years,” the Hall of Fame tight end and Super Bowl-winning coach said in statement to WGN-TV in Chicago. “The interview was about the NFL and related issues. That’s where my head was at.”

The interview aired before the Chicago Bears played the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.

TITANS: Quarterback Marcus Mariota says he feels a lot better than a week ago. Whether he plays Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts remains to be seen and will depend on how much Mariota can move around.

Mariota did not play last week in a 16-10 loss to Miami because of a strained left hamstring.

The Titans (2-3) practiced Wednesday taking advantage of an extra day, and Mariota says he was able to participate in a good amount of the session. But Mariota says he wasn’t able to do everything.

GIANTS: New York indefinitely suspended Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie after the cornerback left the team’s facilities before practice on Wednesday.

Coach Ben McAdoo announced the suspension after practice. The second-year coach had met with Rodgers-Cromartie on Tuesday and told him that he would not be active for this Sunday’s game in Denver because of something the 31-year-old either said or did during Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

COLTS: Andrew Luck will be back on the practice field Thursday and Saturday. Coach Chuck Pagano gave the update during a conference call Wednesday.

Pagano described Luck’s progression as “coming along good.”

The Colts’ quarterback returned to practice last Wednesday, the first time he’s worked out with his teammates since having surgery on his throwing shoulder in January.

A lawsuit filed in Minneapolis accuses former Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson of defaulting on a $2.4 million loan.

]]> 0 England quarterback Tom Brady looks to throws a pass as he is pressured by Tampa Bay defensive end Robert Ayers on Thursday. Brady missed practice earlier this week with a shoulder injury but returned to practice on Wednesday.Wed, 11 Oct 2017 22:02:46 +0000
NFL notebook: Brady sits out practice Wed, 11 Oct 2017 00:39:27 +0000 New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady missed practice on Tuesday with a sprained left shoulder, according to multiple reports.’s Ian Rapoport tweeted Brady suffered “what is thought to be an AC joint sprain in his left, non-throwing shoulder, a source said.” Rapoport added that Brady should play for the Patriots against the Jets on Sunday.

Brady has been sacked six times in the last two games. ESPN’s Mike Reiss reported that Brady had undergone tests for the injury, but is expected to play through it.

In five games this season, Brady has thrown for 1,702 yards with 11 touchdowns and one interception.

RAIDERS: The Raiders signed cornerback Demetrius McCray, who filled the roster spot that opened after defensive tackle Darius Latham was suspended for four games for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse.

McCray had spent training camp with Seattle and was waived with an injury designation last month.

VIKINGS: Another MRI on quarterback Sam Bradford’s left knee revealed no additional injury after he was pulled early from the game at Chicago because of continued discomfort.

CARDINALS-SAINTS: The Arizona Cardinals, with the worst rushing game in the NFL, acquired running back Adrian Peterson from the New Orleans Saints in exchange for an undisclosed 2018 draft pick.

Peterson has rushed for 11,828 yards and 97 touchdowns in his 10-plus pro seasons. He signed a two-year contract with the Saints during the offseason after spending his first 10 NFL seasons with the Vikings.

Peterson has played sparingly with little success for New Orleans. He’s gained 81 yards in 27 carries, an average of 3 yards per attempt with a long run of 11.

BEARS: The Bears placed outside linebacker Willie Young on injured reserve because of a triceps injury.

Young was injured against Green Bay on Sept. 28. He has seven tackles and two sacks this season. Young has 26 sacks in four seasons with Chicago and 32 in eight years with the Bears and Detroit Lions.

BROWNS: Revealing he was scared for his life amid another drug relapse, suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon is making his case to be reinstated by the NFL.

Gordon detailed years of substance use, the depths of his addiction and his determination to turn his life around during a 13-minute video released on the website Uninterrupted.

The former All-Pro who led the league in yards receiving in 2013 was indefinitely suspended by Commissioner Roger Goodell two years ago following another violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.

He’s had numerous stints in rehab, most of which he said he didn’t take seriously. The 26-year-old Gordon can re-apply to the league this fall.

GIANTS: Three-time Pro Bowl receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had surgery for a broken left ankle on Monday night in New York.

Mike Ditka: Former Chicago Bears star and coach Mike Ditka, an adamant critic of National Football League players kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial discrimination, said in a national radio interview that this country has been free of oppression for at least a century.

“All of a sudden, it’s become a big deal now, about oppression,” Ditka told Jim Gray on Westwood One’s pregame show ahead of the Bears’ “Monday Night Football” loss to the Vikings. “There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of. Now maybe I’m not watching it as carefully as other people.”

Setting aside what’s going on today, the discrimination and bigotry Ditka’s Bears teammates faced in the mid-1960s was memorably depicted in the much-beloved 1971 TV movie “Brian’s Song,” starring James Caan as Brian Piccolo and Billy Dee Williams as Gale Sayers, the team’s first interracial roommates.

The Civil Rights Act wasn’t passed until 1964, the Voting Rights Act came the next year. The last 100 years in the United States have included efforts to eradicate decades of Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation and their legacy. Discriminatory practices in housing, hiring, education, transportation, the armed forces, public accommodations and even pro sports have been fought.

Civil disobedience was a catalyst for some of the progress that has been made, but Ditka repeated his criticism of NFL players demonstrating during the national anthem before games.

“Is that the stage for this? If you want to protest, or whatever you want to protest, you’ve got a right to do that, but I think you’re a professional athlete, you have an obligation to the game,” Ditka said. “I think you have to respect the game. That’s what I think is the most important thing. I don’t see a lot of respect for the game. I just see respect for their own individual opinions. Opinions are like noses, we all have one. Some are good. Some are bad.”

]]> 0 Brady has been sacked six times in the last two games and missed Tuesday's practice with a sprained left shoulder, according to reports. Brady is expected to play Sunday against the New York Jets.Tue, 10 Oct 2017 23:58:52 +0000