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Fun Facts: 10 things to know heading into Patriots-Steelers

10.22.16 at 8:34 am ET
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Rob Gronkowski can tie, break a Patriots all-time record on Sunday. (Stew Milne/USA Today Sports)

Rob Gronkowski can tie, break a Patriots all-time record on Sunday. (Stew Milne/USA Today Sports)

In what was supposed to be a matchup between the two best teams in the AFC, Sunday’s Patriots-Steelers game will now have Landry Jones going up against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, as Ben Roethlisberger needed knee surgery on Monday. Pittsburgh enters the game 4-2, while the Patriots are 5-1.

(As always, thanks to the Patriots media relations staff for the help with some of these from this week’€™€™€™€™€™s media guide.)

1. In his past five starts against the Steelers, Brady is 134-for-189 (71 percent), for 1,667 yards with 17 touchdowns and no interceptions.

2. With a touchdown on Sunday, Rob Gronkowski will tie Stanley Morgan (68) for the most touchdowns all-time by a Patriots player.

3. The Patriots have the best kickoff unit in NFL when it comes to opponents starting field position, as the average opponents drive has started at the 22-yard line — the best mark in the entire league.

4. LeGarrette Blount leads the NFL in running plays that have been stuffed with 16. (A stuff is defined by a play stopped at or before the line of scrimmage.)

5. Gronkowski is averaging 21.69 yards per catch, the second-most in the NFL. Sammie Coates is No. 1 at 22.16 yards per catch. The Patriots tight end is also tied for first in the NFL with five first-down catches on third-and-7 or longer.

6. Something to watch as the Steelers are known to blitz a lot, is Brady’s quick release. Last season in Week 1 he had his fastest time of season at 1.85 seconds against Pittsburgh.

7. The Patriots have the second-best first half defense in the NFL as they have allowed just 6.2 points in the first half this season. The Seahawks are the best as they have allowed an average of just five points.

8. Since 2010 in the regular season when scoring first, the Patriots are 50-6.

9. Since 2000 the Patriots are 51-17 in the month of October, the best mark in the NFL. The Steelers are next at 46-19.

10. The magic number is 23. Including the playoffs, New England is 169-14 when scoring 23 or more points under Bill Belichick.

Read More: Fun facts, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady,

How Tom Brady handles the noise at Heinz: ‘Make them defend every blade of grass’

10.21.16 at 6:38 pm ET
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Sep 10, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) during the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady will renew his rivalry with the Steelers Sunday at Heinz Field. (Stew Milne/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO —  There aren’t many places in the NFL that can affect a veteran quarterback like Tom Brady.

But Heinz Field is certainly one.

In 2004, their NFL-record 21-game winning streak came to an end in a 34-20 Steeler win that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Their last trip there ended in a 25-17 loss where the offense stalled badly at the end.

The Patriots quarterback has certainly had his fair share of success, like in Jan. 2005 when the Patriots went there and hung up 41 points on the vaunted Steelers defense in their house in a 41-27 win in the AFC championship. In 2010, the Patriots scored 39 points on a Sunday night and beat the Steelers 39-26.

The Terrible Towels will be out in force again late Sunday afternoon in an atmosphere that will feel like January football in October. That means one thing to Brady: Make sure you have a good silent count before the snap.

“Well, again I think it’s just always being on the same page. Whatever we do in terms of the count and so forth, it’s all about us trying to make sure – it could be, at home, it’s verbal communication, on the road, it’s nonverbal communication, and we work on those things pretty hard,” Brady said. “We practice them all week and we’re going to need to really utilize this week because it’s going to be a tough environment.”

Brady said while it may seem at times that he tries to throw to a receiver like Rob Gronkowski and expect the tight end to fight off a defender for the ball, that is usually not the case. And it certainly won’t be the case in a hostile environment like Pittsburgh, where managing risk-reward is everything.

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Read More: New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tom Brady,

Rob Gronkowski, LeGarrette Blount fined $9K for actions vs. Bengals

10.21.16 at 5:24 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski

Vontaze Burfict wasn’t the only player fined by the NFL for his behavior in last Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium.

LeGarrette Blount was docked $9,115 for an unnecessary roughness penalty he received after getting stepped on by Burfict. Blount reacted by shoving Burfict and getting in the face of Bengals defensive tackle Pat Sims. Burfict was fined $75,000 by the league for stomping on Blount’s leg after the all-22 coach’s film clearly showed the Bengals linebacker committing the act.

Rob Gronkowski was also fined $9,115 after being flagged for taunting in the fourth quarter. Gronkowski was flagged came when he caught a pair of passes on a field goal drive and yelled at Burfict. Gronkowski was upset with Burfict diving at the back of the left knee of Martellus Bennett earlier in the drive. Gronkowski was pulled from the game and received a dressing down from Bill Belichick.

Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was also finded $9,115 for grabbing Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman’s facemask during a tackle in the fourth quarter. Kirkpatrick said Edelman grabbed his facemask first and that he did nothing wrong.

Read More: Cincinnati Bengals, Dre Kirkpatrick, LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots

Jamie Collins (hip), Julian Edelman (foot) among 9 Pats questionable for Sunday vs. Steelers, DeAngelo Williams (knee) out

10.21.16 at 4:37 pm ET
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Jamie Collins

Jamie Collins

FOXBORO — The Patriots head to Pittsburgh in relatively healthy shape.

The team did officially announce Friday afternoon that nine players are officially questionable for Sunday’s game, including linebacker Jamie Collins, who missed last Sunday’s game against the Bengals with a hip injury.

Collins practiced all week leading into the Cincinnati game but was ruled out Sunday morning. Collins was limited all three days in practice. Also listed as questionable are Julian Edelman (foot) and Brandon Bolden (knee). Edelman was limited in practice all week while Bolden was limited Wednesday and Thursday before missing Friday.

This week, the team took the opportunity to take several players off the injury report altogether, including Rob Gronkowski with his hamstring issue, Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and LeGarrette Blount (hip). The move indicates that both players fully participated in practice and are expected to be available at full strength for Sunday.

For the Steelers, not only will they be without Ben Roethlisberger (left knee), running back DeAngelo Williams (knee), defensive end Cameron Heyward (hamstring) and receiver Markus Wheaton (shoulder) will all be unavailable after being ruled out Friday.

Here is Friday’s complete practice report.


RB Brandon Bolden (knee) QUESTIONABLE


TE Martellus Bennett (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
LB Jamie Collins (hip) QUESTIONABLE
LB Shea McClellin (concussion) QUESTIONABLE
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
DL Woodrow Hamilton (shoulder) QUESTIONABLE
WR Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE
DL Vincent Valentine (back) QUESTIONABLE
WR Julian Edelman (foot) QUESTIONABLE

Read More: Jamie Collins, Julian Edelman, New England Patriots, nfl

NFL Weekend Notes: Roger Goodell has lost confidence game

10.21.16 at 1:50 pm ET
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Roger Goodell's actions have caused an erosion of faith in the NFL leadership. (Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports)

Roger Goodell’s actions have caused an erosion of faith in the NFL leadership. (Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports)

1. Do you have any faith anymore that, when faced with a crisis, Roger Goodell will do the right thing?

As a football fan, you want to feel good about the state of the game, and you want to have some confidence that those who are running the show have the best interest of the game at heart. When presented with a challenge, they’ll figure it out. The NFL has survived for almost 100 years and gone from dirt fields and leather helmets to a billion-dollar industry because there have been smart, talented people at the helm who all find a way to make it work.

But over the last dozen years, watching Goodell and his team bungle things like domestic violence policy, player safety, or the wildly inconsistent disciplinary process — all against the backdrop of declining TV ratings and the #boycottNFL hashtag — it’s clear that, to paraphrase veteran receiver Steve Smith, “the system is broken.” The latest example? The ghastly Josh Brown case. It’s hard to imagine an investigation being mishandled worse than what the league and the Giants did when it came to their kicker and the charges against him.

Make no mistake: This is not some New Englander viewing Goodell through a local prism. There’s no Deflategate-related axe to grind, although Smith did adroitly note that when it comes to comparing Tom Brady’s four-game ban and Brown’s situation, the league has “valued the amount of air in a ball but yet devalued when a person or persons may have been harmed and fail to put forth necessary actions of energy and time in which far less important things have taken precedent!”

The bottom line? I can’t recall a time where so many fans and players — no matter their background — have had so little confidence in a sitting commissioner. Never is this more aptly shown than when, on the few occasions where Goodell comes down from his ivory tower to address the media — hat’s when social media turns into an episode of “Mystery Science Theatre” where players gleefully take their shots at the commissioner.

I wasn’t around for much of his reign, but from talking to people who were involved in the NFL during his tenure, you had faith that Pete Rozelle would always find a way to do the right thing. There were missteps, but no one did a better job growing the game than Rozelle. There was almost always some measure of faith in Paul Tagliabue and his decision-making process. There’s none of that anymore. Zero. Of course, you can argue that Goodell has never had that sort of backing from the public to begin with. But even if he did have it at some point, after his decisions over the last decade or so, it’s gone, and never coming back.

At the end of the day, the commissioner doesn’t need the approval of the fans. He doesn’t need a thumbs up from the NFLPA. The only people he needs to keep happy are the 32 NFL owners. And as long as the money keeps flowing, they probably won’t be making a change anytime soon. But like Smith said, the system is broken. Whether or not the league makes the fix could ultimately end up determining the course of the game for the next 100 years.

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Brandon Bolden not spotted at Friday Patriots practice

10.21.16 at 12:28 pm ET
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Brandon Bolden

Brandon Bolden

FOXBORO — Brandon Bolden was the only player standing between the Patriots and three straight days of perfect attendance at practice in advance of their Sunday showdown with the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

The running back and special teams core member was not spotted at shorts and shells practice on the upper grass fields Friday, after being limited on Wednesday and Thursday.

Bolden injured his knee against the Bills on Oct. 2 and has missed the last two games.

Practice squad linebacker Trevor Reilly, who replaced wide receiver Shaq Evans, was at practice for a second straight day. Reilly had played 29 games over the last two seasons with the Jets.

Dion Lewis, Tre’ Jackson and Sebastian Vollmer (all still on PUP) were again absent from the session. They did not practice at all this week. The PUP players could begin practicing again next week and then have 21 days to be activated to the active roster. They have until Week 11 to start practicing.

The Patriots play the Steelers at Heinz Field at 4:25 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

Read More: Brandon Bolden, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers,

Bill Belichick delivers epic 30-minute press conference, touches on Mick Jagger, Lou Gehrig, Bill Russell

10.21.16 at 11:40 am ET
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Bill Belichick was in rare form Friday. (Mike Petraglia/

FOXBORO — There are days when it appears the last place Bill Belichick wants to be is at podium, in front of a microphone, fielding questions.

Friday was not one of those days.

In a wide-ranging Q and A session with the group of reporters Belichick refers to as “hard core,” the Patriots coach spent 29 minutes and 45 seconds talking on a remarkable wide range of subjects, showing enthusiasm and a sense of humor just two days from leading his team into hostile Heinz Field to take on the 4-2 Steelers.

Belichick was already 16 minutes into his presser, about a minute beyond the scheduled time, when a member of the Patriots media relations staff attempted to end it.

But the Patriots coach, after delivering a five-minute answer on Chuck Noll and the 1970s Steelers, wasn’t ready to leave quite yet.

“I’ll take a couple more if you want. I had a couple of long answers in there. That’s usually a problem with me. Just going on and on,” Belichick joked.

Belichick used the time to detail how Duron Harmon is a “silent leader” in the Patriots locker room, how Elandon Roberts came out of nowhere at the University of Houston with one great year to catch the eyes of NFL scouts and how Jack Lambert did the same at Kent State when the player ahead of him at linebacker dropped out to work security for Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones.

“That’s a tough one because you’re like, ‘If this guy’s so good, then why did he not play? Why wasn’t he out there?’ [Rob] Gronkowski same thing,” Belichick said. “[Rob] Ninkovich same thing. One year of production, Elandon, kind of the same thing. Got into the starting lineup, played and was very productive,” Belichick said. “That’s a great question. Is that production circumstantial? Is this guy real? Is this guy really on the way up or was that the peak and then he’s going to come back down?”

What made Friday so special was Belichick offering his own personal perspective and experience. Nick Saban is one of Belichick’s closest friends in football. Saban played football at Kent State at the same time Lambert was making a name for himself before the Steelers drafted him to become a centerpiece of their 70s defense.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Jack Lambert, lou gehrig, Mick Jagger
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