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Scouting Report: What you have to know about Rams-Patriots

12.03.16 at 12:07 pm ET
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Tom Brady and Martellus Bennett have the Patriots holding firm at the No. 2 spot. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

With no Rob Gronkowski in the lineup, Tom Brady and Martellus Bennett will be working closely together down the stretch. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

Here’s everything you have to know about Sunday’s game between the Patriots (9-2) and the Rams (4-7) at Gillette Stadium.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL

New England now features three primary backs, not counting “Brandon” and “Danny,” as part of its ground game. The between-the-tackles work will continue to be done by LeGarrette Blount (212 carries, 869 yards, 12 TDs), while Dion Lewis (11 carries, 47 yards) and James White (28 carries, 112 yards) will offer support, as well as a third-down option for Tom Brady. Blount still figures to be the man, especially if the game gets out of hand early. He’s 138 yards from tying his career-high for yards in a season, and while he probably won’t reach the milestone Sunday against Los Angeles, he’s got a good chance of at least nearing the mark. Look for the occasional two-back set of White and Lewis. We saw it occasionally last week against the Jets, and could be an intriguing combo going forward. Overall, Los Angeles is 20th against the run (112.3 rushing yards allowed per game), and has struggled as of late, allowing an average of 149 rushing yards per contest in the last three games. That includes yielding a season-high 209 rushing yards last week in a loss to the Saints.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL

With no Rob Gronkowski in the lineup anymore, Brady (68 percent completion rate, 2,201 yards, 18 TDs, 1 INT, 116.7 passer rating) and the Patriots passing game will change its focus to more of a spread look with an emphasis on multiple (three and four) receiver sets. That’s not to say we won’t see plenty of work for Martellus Bennett (42 catches, 54 targets, 540 yards, 4 TDs), who will be asked to continue to produce at a high level in the wake of the loss of Gronkowski. It’s only to suggest that it’ll be the likes of Julian Edelman (64 catches, 100 targets, 617 yards, 2 TDs), Danny Amendola (20 catches, 25 targets, 213 yards, 4 TDs), Chris Hogan (23 catches, 35 targets, 461 yards, 2 TDs) and Malcolm Mitchell (16 catches, 27 targets, 235 yards, 3 TDs) will get more targets going forward. That doesn’t even begin to take into account the White/Lewis combo, which caught eight passes last week out of the backfield and will continue to account for a sizable portion of the passing game the rest of the way.

Los Angeles is actually pretty good when it comes to pass defense (seventh in the league at 227.5 yards per game). Aaron Donald is a terrifying presence along the interior, and one of the best young linemen in the league. The 6-foot-1, 285-pounder will present a sizable challenge for New England’s offensive line — he has 35 tackles (28 solo) this year, to go along with a team-high six sacks. Defensive end Robert Quinn has four sacks on the year, while ex-Patriot Dominique Easley has 2.5 sacks of his own. Los Angeles is middle of the pack when it comes to forcing turnovers (13 takeaways are tied for 19th in the league). Linebacker Mark Barron leads the team with two picks.

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Read More: Aaron Donald, Brian Quick, Dominique Easley, Jared Goff

DT Alan Branch reportedly wins appeal, no longer suspended 4 games for violating NFL drug policy

12.03.16 at 11:32 am ET
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Alan Branch

Alan Branch

It doesn’t look like the Patriots will be playing without Alan Branch after all.

According to Field Yates of ESPN, Branch has won his appeal for violating the NFL’s drug use policy and he will not be suspended four games.

[UPDATE 12:30, p.m.: Branch’s agent confirmed the news via Twitter.]

Branch was originally suspended early last week for allegedly using marijuana, but appealed the suspension and thus was able to play against the Jets.

Now that he has won his appeal, he will play on.

The defensive tackle is having one of his best seasons as he currently has 39 tackles and a sack.

New England did add a defensive tackle earlier this week in Darius Kilgo, claiming him off waiver from the Broncos.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

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Rob Gronkowski provides post-surgery video of him with walker

12.02.16 at 10:11 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski posted a video to Instagram on Friday night — apparently after his back surgery — with a walker making his way gingerly down a hallway.

Rehab day 1! "Can't nobody hold me down… Oo no I got to keep on movin"

A video posted by Rob Gronkowski (@gronk) on

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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Martellus Bennett, Tom Brady, Julian Edelman among 9 Patriots questionable vs. Rams

12.02.16 at 4:12 pm ET
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This is a 2016 photo of Martellus Bennett of the New England Patriots NFL football team. This image reflects the New England Patriots active roster as of Wednesday, May 25, 2016 when this image was taken. (AP Photo)

Martellus Bennett

FOXBORO — It’s a lengthy injury report for the Patriots this week leading into Sunday’s game against the Rams.

Two players were ruled out on Friday in Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Richards. Gronkowski is having back surgery Friday, while Richards missed practice all week with a foot injury.

There are nine players listed as questionable, including Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan.

Elandon Roberts popped up on the injury report with a jaw injury and is questionable. After missing Friday’s practice, Matthew Slater is questionable with a foot injury. He missed last week, but practiced Wednesday and Thursday.

After missing Wednesday and Thursday, Nate Ebner was limited Friday with a concussion.

Here is the complete Patriots injury report.

OUT

S Jordan Richards (foot)
TE Rob Gronkowski (knee)

QUESTIONABLE

QB Tom Brady (knee)
TE Martellus Bennett (shoulder/ankle)
S/ST Nate Ebner (concussion)
WR Julian Edelman (foot)
DL Trey Flowers (shin)
WR Chris Hogan (back)
DL Woodrow Hamilton (illness)
LB Elandon Roberts (jaw)
WR Matthew Slater (foot)

Read More: Julian Edelman, Martellus Bennett, Tom Brady,

DL Darius Kilgo admits being released by Denver was surprising, hoping to make impact with New England

12.02.16 at 4:00 pm ET
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Darius Kligo was claimed off waivers this week from the Broncos. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

Darius Kligo was claimed off waivers this week from the Broncos. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Darius Kilgo seemed to be having a good year with the Broncos, playing in nine games and totaling five tackles, but the team released him on Nov. 25.

Potentially needing another defensive tackle because of the potential suspension of Alan Branch, the Patriots signed Kilgo on Nov. 28.

“It caught me off guard a little bit, but hey, it’s just part of the business,” Kilgo said Friday. “At the end of the day, they had to do what they had to do and I have to do what I have to do. It worked out for the best.”

Added Kilgo: “It was surprising. Coming from Denver and being able to come to another great organization like the Patriots unbelievable. So to have this opportunity to be here is great.”

Kilgo was a sixth-round pick of the Broncos last year out of Maryland. He’s listed at 319 pounds, but looks much thinner, saying he’s down to around 300 pounds. As an interior defensive linemen, he said he will do whatever the team asks.

“Whatever,” he said. “I am just preparing myself for whatever they want to use me as.”

Although Bill Belichick worked him out at Maryland’s Pro Day, Kilgo said he doesn’t know anyone on the Patriots, but they are making him feel welcome.

“It’s been good,” he said. “Everybody here is great. To the players all the way to the administration and coaches. I feel like I walked in and I am welcomed. I feel pretty good.”

Kilgo does know someone the Patriots are very familar with — Aqib Talib.

“He’s a character,” he said. “He might be one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met before. Talib is definitely a character.”

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Tom Brady says Rob Gronkowski injury ‘tough news for everybody’ but train doesn’t ‘stop for anybody’

12.02.16 at 2:33 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady has been down this road before.

He’s lost his favorite tight end target to injury in 2012, 2013, last season and even one time already this season. So when the news that Rob Gronkowski would be lost for the rest of the regular season and likely until the Super Bowl, Brady tried to keep a philosophical “next-man-up” attitude.

“That was tough news to hear for everybody because he’s such a big part of our team and what we do and his enthusiasm and energy for the game and what he means to us on the field because he’s such a great player and the kind of leader he is off the field and in the locker room,” Brady said Friday. “It’s a tough loss but we’ve still got a big challenge ahead and we’re going to try to do the best we can do. We’ve got a lot of good players and we’ll be focused on what our job is, which this week is a big test playing the Rams, their defense and what they can do. Everyone is going to have to step their game up.”

Brady admitted that seeing Gronkowski need a third back surgery hits him as a person first and then a teammate.

“He’s been through a lot over the years and he always comes back strong with a great attitude and a great mindset,” Brady said. “I think that’s what everybody expects from him. He’s a great guy. He’s a great teammate. He’s a great friend. He’s a tough guy. He always battles back. And we’ll keep battling without him. We’ve got a lot of tough guys in the locker room, still. See if we can make it a season. We’re off to a good start. We’ve got to keep it going. This is the time of year where we have to play our best football.”

Now Brady must turn to the likes of Martellus Bennett, Malcolm Mitchell, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and running backs Dion Lewis and James White to pick up the slack in the passing game.

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Read More: Gronk, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski

Mike Petraglia, Ryan Hannable examine where Patriots go from here on Rob Gronkowski

12.02.16 at 12:46 pm ET
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FOXBORO — What’s the very latest on the Rob Gronkowski injury? How are the Patriots responding? WEEI’s Mike Petraglia and Ryan Hannable have the very latest inside Gillette Stadium.

Read More: Gronk, Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski
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