October 17, 2011

Patriots Notebook: Tight ends emerging as Brady's favorite targets

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.- Tom Brady admittedly has numerous weapons in the New England Patriots' passing game.

Danny Woodhead, Sean Lee, Orlando Scandrick
click image to enlarge

Danny Woodhead of the Patriots takes a hit from Dallas’ Sean Lee, left, and Orlando Sandrick.

The Associated Press

Receiver Wes Welker, for example, is on pace to set an NFL record for receiving yards in a season. He has 51 catches for 785 yards in just six games. And then there's Deion Branch and the running backs and the tight ends.

More and more, Brady is going to his tight ends and it was no more evident than in Sunday's 20-16 comeback victory over the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium. Not only did Brady throw to second-year tight end Aaron Hernandez for the winning touchdown with 22 seconds left, but he threw to his tight ends more than anyone.

Brady threw 14 balls to Hernandez, who caught a career-high eight for 68 yards. He threw seven times to fellow second-year tight end Rob Gronkowski, who caught all seven for 74 yards.

Coach Bill Belichick said Brady isn't singling anyone out.

"It's taking the pattern and finding the matchups and the guys that are open," he said.

That may be true, but the Patriots' tight ends give matchup problems to many teams. Gronkowski is a sculpted 6-foot-6, 265 pounder who can run too. He simply outfights many. Hernandez, 6-1, 245, runs like a wide receiver and is often split out wide -- as he was on the winning touchdown reception.

Hernandez missed a few of games with an injury and Brady is glad to have him back.

"He's become a really dependable player," said Brady. "He runs very good routes. Coach always says a receiver should get open, catch the ball and then do something with it after they catch it. Aaron has really done all three things. He's really made a big jump from his first year to his second year and that's why he's out there at the end of the game."

Hernandez caught two passes on the winning drive -- the first and last. Running back Danny Woodhead also had two catches on the drive. Welker caught three and Gronkowski one.

"We just got a lot of good players out there," said Hernandez. "It's tough to cover us all, especially when you have a quarterback who is going to put it in the right spot."

BECKY BRYANT of Cape Elizabeth was one of 12 breast cancer survivors honored on-field before the game as part of the NFL's Breast Cancer Awareness program, "A Crucial Catch."

Bryant is a long-time participant in the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Portland. In 2010, nearly 3,000 walkers in Maine raised close to $500,000 to support the American Cancer Society.

BRADY AND Bill Belichick tied the NFL record for the most wins by a quarterback/coaching tandem since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Sunday's win was their 116th together, tying them with Don Shula and Dan Marino. ... New England is 18-1 against the NFC at Gillette Stadium. The loss came against Green Bay in the first game an NFC team played in the new stadium, in 2002. ... This was New England's 20th straight regular-season home win. The Pats are 63-12 at home since 2002.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

 

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