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No changes in Patriots injury report as WR Aaron Dobson (foot) remains only player sidelined

01.09.14 at 3:52 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots Thursday practice report was the same as it was the day before, with rookie receiver Aaron Dobson the only player absent from the session. Meanwhile, offensive lineman Logan Mankins, safety Devin McCourty, running back Shane Vereen and cornerbacks Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard were all among the limited.

Here is Thursday’s complete report:

Did Not Practice
WR Aaron Dobson (foot)

Limited Participation
CB Kyle Arrington (groin)
S Devin McCourty (concussion)
CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee/shoulder)
LB Dane Fletcher (groin)
S Steve Gregory (finger/knee)
OL Logan Mankins (ankle)
OT Will Svitek (ankle)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip)
RB Shane Vereen (groin)

Full Participation
WR Danny Amendola (groin)
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)

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Sporting News writer Vinnie Iyer joins M&M to explain ranking Tom Brady last among playoff QBs

01.09.14 at 1:53 pm ET
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Sporting News NFL writer Vinnie Iyer, in an interview with WEEI’s Mut & Merloni show to discuss his breakdown of the eight playoff quarterbacks that ranked Patriots signal-caller Tom Brady in last place, suggested that he meant no disrespect to the three-time Super Bowl winner. Instead, he characterized Brady’s last-place ranking as a reflection of the outstanding caliber of quarterbacks who are still in the playoffs.

“I don’t think you’ve seen kind of the confluence of this type of talent ever at this stage. … One vs. eight, there’s not that much difference in my mind,” said Iyer. “I think a good comparison [to Brady] here is [Chargers quarterback] Philip Rivers. When you look all time and most seasons, Brady is better than Philip Rivers. But Philip Rivers has had an exceptional season this year. A lot of people rated him just behind [Peyton] Manning in terms of the season he’s having in that offense. When you look at the weapons around, I think that plays into it a little bit. I think the Patriots as a playoff team that can go all the way will probably have to lean a little more on the run in order to do so. I just looked at the big picture of this right now and not in the past and what the accomplishments are because of course Brady’s going to be the top guy in terms of that. But it’s just shocking to me at how much talent is out there and how confident these young guys are that they can play with the vets at this point.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: sporting news, Tom Brady, vinnie iyer,

Devin McCourty on turnovers: ‘This game we have to try to force them’

01.09.14 at 12:17 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Pat Riley was fond of saying, ‘no rebounds, no rings’ back in his heyday with the Lakers.

Well, there’s a corollary in Foxboro for the Patriots.

No turnovers, no rings.

In the last four postseason losses, the Patriots have lost the turnover battle. In last year’s AFC championship, the Patriots committed three and created none, only forcing one fumble that the Ravens recovered.

In Super Bowl XLVI, they didn’t create a turnover, forcing two fumbles that the Giants recovered. They lost the game and the turnover battle, 1-0.

In Jan. 2011, the Patriots didn’t intercept Mark Sanchez while Tom Brady was picked off once. The Patriots forced three fumbles but couldn’t recover a single one.

In Jan. 2010, Brady was picked off three times and lost a fumble in a 33-14 loss to the Ravens in the first round.

“Yeah, I think in all of our games, if you look at the games we’€™ve lost, we probably weren’€™t too effective in taking the ball away,” Devin McCourty said. “It’€™s a goal of ours. We talk about them from OTAs, minicamp and continuing throughout the season, it’€™s very important for us to get turnovers. Our offense prides themselves on not trying to turn the ball over and if we get them the ball back that’€™s how we win games, that’€™s how we score points, have big plays.

“It’€™s key for us to make sure we go out there and try to force some turnovers. I think when you look at them throughout the season, they’€™ve done a good job of taking care of the ball. This game we have to try to force them.”

McCourty and the defense know that the turnover mindset has to be there Saturday night.

“I think so. I think it changes everything,” he added. “It goes without saying, we’€™re putting everything we have into this game. We know it’€™s going to be a tough game. Sixty minutes; we’€™re going to have play good throughout this whole game to try to get a win. We feel like if we put everything into this and we come out with a win, there will be a next week and we’€™ll re-group and get ready to put everything into that week. But right now at this point in the season, there’€™s no reason to save anything. There’€™s no tomorrow for us, that’€™s how we’€™re going to go out there and play.”

Andrew Luck, whom the Patriots intercepted three times in the 59-28 win in Nov. 2012, has lowered his interceptions in his second season. What has McCourty seen?

“I think, like all players, once you play another year in the league you get a full year under your belt, you see things,” McCourty said. “Not everything is the first time you have to see it. I think that’€™s what happened for him. He’€™s a quarterback, I’€™m sure he studies a lot of film. I think now it’€™s just a progression. He gets to see more things and things aren’€™t fooling him. He understands what’€™s going on in the game. I think it’€™s harder as a rookie you have so much to worry about. Each week you’€™re playing a different team that might be doing something different.

“I think once you get a full year under your belt, you’€™ve seen more defenses, you understand more of what you want to do as an offense. I think same thing with guys on our team, some of the young rookies, you see them start playing better at the end of the season I think because they have more experience, they’€™ve seen things and now it’€™s just their natural abilities going out there playing.”

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Read More: Andrew Luck, Devin McCourty, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots

Phil Simms: ‘Even the Bill Belichick haters in the media have given up’

01.09.14 at 11:39 am ET
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CBS analysts Phil Simms and Dan Dierdorf talked about Saturday’s divisional playoff game between the Patriots and Colts on a conference call earlier this week:

Dierdorf on the Patriots: “I don’€™t know if Bill Belichick has done a better job of coaching. And I’€™m not sure I’€™ve seen a player, through strength of will, put his teammates on his back quite the way Tom Brady has done. If you love anything about a team sport, you can’€™t look at the Patriots without a great deal of admiration.”

Simms on the Patriots: “Even the Bill Belichick haters in the media have given up. Why would you bet against the Patriots? How much more information do we have to know? It’€™s been there for many, many years. It’€™s an incredible job, but I don’€™t think any of us are surprised.”

Dierdorf on the Patriots: “Are they the most talented team in this playoff tournament? Absolutely not. But I think Phil said it best, ‘€˜Would you bet against them?’€™ Well, only with your money.”

Simms on the importance of a quarterback in the postseason: “I say this about organizations. It’€™s not always just the quarterback. You have to build your organization to support him. Have a plan and make it work. We are seeing that with most of these teams that are still in the playoffs I give organizations and coaches a lot of credit, they build these guys. These big-armed quarterbacks, we saw it last year and we are already seeing it this year. It’€™s a big deal in the NFL and people overlook that and keep looking for all these magical things. ‘€˜Oh, he’€™s just got IT,’€™ and, ‘€˜He’€™s a winner.’€™ I’€™m looking for a big guy who can physically get it done. And we are seeing that in the NFL right now.”

Dierdorf on passing the torch to Andrew Luck if he outperforms Tom Brady: “Regardless of what happens this weekend I don’€™t know about the passing of the torch. Are we looking at a bright, young star in Andrew Luck? Let me just say this, I can’€™t imagine if you polled all 32 teams and said, ‘€˜You have to start your franchise today with a quarterback. Who would it be?’€™ I’€™m hard pressed to imagine that even one of those 32 teams would choose someone other than Andrew Luck. That’€™s taking into consideration Tom Brady‘€™s age and Peyton Manning‘€™s age. But I don’€™t think there’€™s any question that Andrew Luck is the guy. He is the man in terms of where the quarterback position is headed for the next decade or so.”

Simms on passing the torch to Andrew Luck if he outperforms Tom Brady: “At the quarterback position, if you are looking for Andrew Luck I wouldn’€™t wait up because there aren’€™t going to be many of those guys coming out. He’€™s a unique talent. I watch all of their games. He is the strongest. Now this is saying something in my eyes because there are some strong quarterbacks, he is the strongest quarterback in the NFL.”

Read More: Dan Dierdorf, Phil Simms,

Video: ‘4th & Goal’ breaks down divisional playoff matchup between Patriots and Colts

01.09.14 at 11:30 am ET
By   |   Comments’s Chris Price previews the divisional playoff matchup between the Patriots and Colts, set for Saturday at Gillette Stadium. Find out the keys to the game as well as Chris’ prediction.

Aaron Dobson only one missing from start of Patriots practice on Thursday morning

01.09.14 at 10:53 am ET
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FOXBORO — Aaron Dobson was the only player missing from the start of Patriots practice on Thursday, and it’s looking more and more like the rookie receiver won’t be available for Saturday’s divisional playoff contest against the Colts at Gillette Stadium.

Dobson was the only player who was absent from Wednesday’s practice, and was seen in the locker room later that afternoon with a walking boot on his left foot. He missed three games after initially injuring the foot against the Broncos on Nov. 24. He returned on Dec. 22 against Baltimore before re-injuring the foot the following week in the regular-season finale against the Bills.

The Marshall product has 37 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns in his first season with New England.

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Steve Gregory might be a future coach, but right now he’s focused on Andrew Luck

01.09.14 at 9:45 am ET
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FOXBORO — From the moment Steve Gregory joined the Patriots in March 2012, there was a sense among the Patriots that they had an extra coach in the secondary.

Now, with the playoffs on the horizon, the Patriots are leaning on Gregory, not just on the field but in the classroom as they look for ways to cover the explosive Colts passing game and hopefully confuse Andrew Luck.

“I think with Steve a lot of it is, even in the film room, when we’€™re in meetings we’€™ll have something in the defense and we’€™re watching and Steve will say, ‘€˜Why don’€™t we do this?’€™ We’€™ll all sit there and look at him and be like, ‘€˜You’€™re right, that probably would be better.’€™ I think that’€™s what makes him so good,” Devin McCourty said after practice on Wednesday.

“When we’€™re preparing for games, he’€™s not only able to watch film and see things coming but he’€™s able to go to the coaches and say, ‘€˜Why don’€™t we tweak this defense this way because it better fits what they do?’€™ I think it’€™s good, our coaches listen to everyone. Steve always has something each week we play that he sees and things we can do. That’€™s why we call him a future head coach.”

The 31-year-old Gregory, along with McCourty, are two of the key pieces in the secondary because – as safeties – they are the ones calling signals and lining up players in the right spot before the snap. And much of that preparation and recognition comes from studying film.

‘€œYeah, definitely. Just with anticipation and things like that, recognition of formations, where guys are, route combinations, things like that, understanding the schemes and stuff that we’€™re running, where help is, that all ties in to being able to play fast and play at a high level,” Gregory said.

‘€œI think it’€™s a little bit of everything. It’€™s a little bit of film work, it’€™s a little bit of studying, understanding really what the scheme is within your defense, what your job is, what other guys’€™ jobs are, and then kind of just having some instincts of football, just kind of understanding the game itself, and those things can go a long way.’€

As for his coaching career, Gregory is hoping that well off in the future and he hasn’t given any serious thought yet to what McCourty suggested.

‘€œNot really. I’€™m a player right now, so I’€™m hoping on playing for a little bit longer,” Gregory said.

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Read More: 2014 playoffs, Andrew Luck, Devin McCourty, Indianapolis Colts
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