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Pressure Points: Which New England defenders have done the best job of getting after the quarterback through 13 games?

12.15.11 at 1:21 am ET
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According to official NFL gamebooks, opposing quarterbacks have 519 dropbacks against the Patriots through 13 games this season, and have been hit by New England defenders a total of 71 times, to go along with 29 sacks (tied for 17th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of who has been getting to the quarterback for the Patriots through 13 games:

Quarterback hits:
Defensive end Andre Carter: 22
Defensive end/linebacker Mark Anderson: Nine
Linebacker Rob Ninkovich: Eight
Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork: Seven
Linebacker Dane Fletcher: Five
Linebacker Jerod Mayo: Four
Defensive lineman Kyle Love: Four
Defensive lineman Myron Pryor: Three
Defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth: Two
Defensive lineman Gerard Warren: Two
Defensive lineman Shaun Ellis: One
Safety Pat Chung: One
Linebacker Brandon Spikes: One
Cornerback Phillip Adams: One
Defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick: One

Carter: 10 (70 yards)
Anderson: 7 (49 yards)
Ninkovich: 4.5 (20 yards)
Wilfork: 2.5 (17.5 yards)
Love: Two (11 yards)
Deaderick: One (3 yards)
Chung: One (3 yards)
Pryor: 0.5 (4.5 yards)
Mike Wright: 0.5 (4 yards)

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Brandon Deaderick, Brandon Spikes

Complete transcript of Tim Tebow’s Q&A with the New England media

12.15.11 at 12:43 am ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the complete transcript of Denver quarterback Tim Tebow’s Q&A with the New England media on Wednesday afternoon:

Q: What stands out for you the most about this Patriots defense?
TT: They’€™re a very good defense; obviously very well coached from Coach Belichick. They have a lot of playmakers, they create a lot of turnovers, they get to the quarterback a lot ‘€“ just find a way to make big plays and keep teams from getting in the end zone. Might give up some yardage here and there but they always stand stout in the red area and find away to come up with some big plays.

Q: You had a pre-draft visit with Coach Belichick. What did you take out of that and how did that go down?
TT: It was just a great opportunity to get to know a great coach. All those opportunities pre-draft when I went to meet with teams and organizations I know they were trying to get a feel for me but I was also definitely trying to learn something each and every visit. Just to be around Coach Belichick and all the great coaches there in New England, I felt like it was a great opportunity to try to learn. I tried to take as much as I possibly could and learn from a great coach, one of the best to coach. It was a phenomenal opportunity for me and I’€™m very grateful they were even that interested in me.

Q: What were you able to learn during that meeting?
TT: I think it was just picking up a lot of different things just from how certain things, how they go about it, what different things he’€™s looking for, just a lot of little things that you just try to pick up as a player from demeanors to attitudes to certain things from fundamentals. I think it was just a great opportunity to learn a lot and I feel like I really did.

Q: Did your impression of Coach Belichick change once you met him? How did you guys interact? There are preconceived notions about both of you.
TT: I actually had the pleasure of first meeting him when he came to Florida early on, maybe my freshman or sophomore year, something like that. Then he came down to Gainesville and worked me out with [Aaron] Hernandez and [Brandon] Spikes and [Riley] Cooper and a bunch of us worked out for him. That was a fun day and a pleasure. Then they brought me up after that. I’€™ve had the opportunity to be around him quite a bit and what an opportunity to be around a great coach.

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Eye on the spy: Why Julian Edelman holds the key to containing Tim Tebow

12.14.11 at 3:14 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It’s sometimes considered desperation, but often times a necessary evil against a remarkably mobile quarterback: The art of employing a “spy” on an opposing signal-caller to keep containment and make sure he’s accounted for at all times, especially when he leaves the pocket.

There has to be a very special reason to take one of 11 players on defense and assign him to one offensive player at a time.

Tim Tebow is that special reason.

Twice on Wednesday, Bill Belichick mentioned Michael Vick when asked about Tebow’s mobility and versatility, and just how hard that is to replicate in practice.

“I don’€™t know another quarterback in the league who has Tim Tebow’€™s skills,” Belichick said. “Michael Vick and guys like that there are not a lot of them running around. Yeah, we won’€™t be able to get the same look that we’€™ll get on Sunday, no question.”

So, if the Patriots use a spy, who will it be?

“You need somebody that can tackle the quarterback,” Belichick said. “Depends on what the quarterback’€™s skills are. I don’€™t know if you want to spy [Ben Roethlisberger] Roethlisberger with the same guy you’€™d want to spy Michael Vick with. It depends on who the player is. There’€™s no point in spying him if you can’€™t tackle him. Whatever those skills are, you probably better find somebody ‘€“- if you’€™re going to put him on him, you better find somebody that can do it.”

Belichick will never reveal his plans, but Julian Edelman makes all the sense in the in this regard. He has the best speed on defense and has shown an uncanny ability to pursue the ballcarrier and make the tackle in the open field. All you have to do is go back to Eagles game in Philadelphia for proof. He made open field tackles on LeSean McCoy and Vince Young (filling in for Vick), with the tackle on Young coming in the open field.

“If you can get it done, then hopefully that eliminates that player as a runner,” Belichick said. “But you’€™re playing with 10 players, then you have one less guy to do whatever else you need to do. It just depends on what your priorities are.

“You can’€™t cover a receiver and spy the quarterback at the same time. You either spy the quarterback and don’€™t cover the receiver or you cover the receivers or cover a zone and don’€™t spy the quarterback.”

Something else to keep in mind, with a quarterback like Roethlisberger, Belichick has often used bigger, stronger defenders like linebackers to spy the QB. Why? Because Roethlisberger is more of a pocket passer and very hard to bring to the ground. Rob Ninkovich, Gary Guyton and Dane Fletcher are ideally suited in such cases. All three have above average speed with Ninkovich and Fletcher showing recently the ability to close on the runner.

“I think you just tell your D-line do their best to keep him contained and don’t let him out of the pocket,” Ninkovich said. “Whoever gets after him, you make sure you get after him and get him to the ground.

“Just keep him in the pocket and make sure he doesn’t get out of the pocket on you. Just know he can make plays with his feet. Keep him in the pocket and don’t let him beat you with his feet.

While Roethlisberger will certainly tuck the ball away and take off, it’s not his first choice. With Tebow, it’s just as likely he’ll call his own number on an option than stay in the pocket and look for a receiver downfield.

Of course, nothing is ever that straight forward with a Belichick defense. It will be interesting to see if Belichick employs a different version of the “spy” on Sunday and just how much he mixes it up for Tebow.

Also, don’t forget there isn’t a coach in the NFL that knows Tebow any better than Belichick. He and his staff scouted him out of Florida, where he played for Belichick’s very good friend Urban Meyer.

Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Bill Belichick, Dane Fletcher, Denver Broncos

Matt Light on Tim Tebow: ‘If it happened here, they’d be doing same thing’

12.14.11 at 2:03 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Left tackle Matt Light has been around long enough to know a thing or two about quarterback sensations. He’s been around Tom Brady since No. 12 broke onto the scene in 2001.

He saw his meteoric rise and his ability to play at an extraordinary level in the game’s biggest moments.

With the Tim Tebow craze getting bigger and bigger with every passing fourth-quarter comeback for the Broncos, Light brought some perspective on what Tebow’s been able to accomplish.

“You win that many games and put your team in position to do what they’ve been able to do, I think if it happened here, they’d be doing the same thing,” Light said. “Obviously, he’s gotten things straightened out over there and put them in a really good position.

“I think you have to go out there and prove it, first off, and they’ve obviously been able to do that. They’ve been in a lot of close games. You gain a lot of confidence and build a lot of camaraderie and everything else when you win those close games, especially the overtime games, the three overtime wins and all that stuff. I think it’s just a matter of going out there and doing it and they’ve done it.”

Just like Brady in 2001?

“I can’t remember that far back. I’ve been hit a lot, repetitively,” said Light with a sarcastically dry wit.

Light has his own priorities this week, like protecting yet another impressive pass rush. This is time it’s Denver’s duo of defensive end Elvis Dumervil and rookie linebacker Von Miller.

“They’re good players, no doubt. Von, for a rookie, came in and is a pretty talented guy,” Light said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

Light said the large number of quality pass rushers this season doesn’t faze him. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brian Waters, Denver Broncos, Elvis Dumervil, Logan Mankins

Hernandez: Tebow brought ‘a lot of energy’ to things while they were at Florida

12.14.11 at 1:02 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Aaron Hernandez and Tim Tebow were teammates at Florida from 2007 through 2009. Hernandez, who caught 111 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns in three years as Tebow’€™s teammate, isn’€™t surprised his former college quarterback is having the level of success he is this season with Denver.

‘€œHe keeps plays alive and he’€™s winning,’€ Hernandez said. ‘€œHe’€™s a good player and can do a lot of things.’€

Hernandez recalled Tebow as someone who brought a spark to things while they were together at Florida.

‘€œHe brought a lot of energy to the game,’€ said Hernandez of their college days. ‘€œWhen you have a player with energy, I think everyone [feeds off that]. He’€™s a popular player. A lot of people like him. … He’€™s a very unique person.

‘€œHe definitely was a leader. I’€™m sure he still is,’€ Hernandez of Tebow, who won the Heisman when the two were together at Florida, and now has won seven of eight games this season as the Broncos‘€™ starting quarterback.

Hernandez says the still keep in touch.

‘€œWe’€™ve talked a few times,’€ he said. ‘€œ’€˜How you doing? I’€™m doing good, how about you? Have a nice day.’€™’€

Hernandez also addressed the comparisons to Tom Brady.

‘€œ[They’€™re] two different people, so you really can’€™t compare them,’€ he said. ‘€œBut they’€™re two great leaders.’€

As for his own team, Hernandez, who suffered a knee injury earlier in the season, said he’€™s ‘€œgetting better every week,’€ said he’€™s not amazed at the season his fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski is having.

‘€œI’€™m actually not amazed. He did it all camp. He did it all year,’€ Hernandez said of Gronkowski, who has 71 catches for 1,088 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. ‘€œWe knew he was a freak of nature, and he’€™s kind of impossible to guard because he’€™s got so much size and everything. I’€™m not shocked at all. I don’€™t think anyone on this team is.’€

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Tim Tebow, Tom Brady

Target Practice: Who has been Tom Brady’s favorite receiver through 13 games?

12.13.11 at 6:03 pm ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains an imperfect stat ‘€” a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback ‘€” it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. After 13 games, here’€™s a look at the target breakdown in the New England passing game for the 2011 season:

Kevin Faulk: 7 catches on 7 targets (100 percent)
Stevan Ridley: 3 catches on 4 targets (75 percent)
Wes Welker: 100 catches on 136 targets (74 percent)
Rob Gronkowski: 71 catches on 100 targets (71 percent)
Aaron Hernandez: 59 catches on 85 targets (69 percent)
Tiquan Underwood: 2 catches on 4 targets (50 percent)
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 6 catches on 10 targets (60 percent)
Deion Branch: 48 catches on 81 targets (59 percent)
Danny Woodhead: 15 catches on 28 targets (54 percent)
Chad Ochocinco: 13 catches on 26 targets (50 percent)
Julian Edelman: 3 catches on 7 targets (43 percent)
Matthew Slater: 1 catch on 3 targets (33 percent)
Taylor Price: 0 catches on 1 target (0 percent)
Dane Fletcher: 0 catches on 1 target (0 percent)

By position:
Tight end: 130 catches on 185 targets (70 percent)
Wide receiver: 167 catches on 260 targets (64 percent)
Running back: 31 catches on 49 targets (63 percent)
Other: 0 catches on 1 target (0 percent)

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Chad Ochocinco, Dane Fletcher

Five takeaways from the Tuesday conference calls with Bill Belichick, Bill O’Brien and Nick Caserio

12.13.11 at 4:38 pm ET
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Five takeaways from the Tuesday afternoon conference calls with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Bill O’€™Brien and director of player personnel Nick Caserio:

1. Both Belichick and Caserio talked about their predraft experiences/thoughts on Denver quarterback Tim Tebow. Belichick and Tebow had a well-documented dinner together in the North End as part of Tebow’€™s predraft get-together with the Patriots.

‘€œWe brought Tim in and spent a whole day with him here, in addition to our other interactions with him,’€ recalled Belichick. ‘€œHe’€™s an impressive young man. He had great success in college. I think all his attributes are pretty well documented. He’€™s a strong guy, smart, works hard, a great leader, great football character. He made a lot of big plays for Florida and won two national championships.’€

‘€œI think any meeting you have with a draft prospect, you’€™re just trying to get as much information as you possibly you can,’€ Caserio said. ‘€œYou look at the body of the work on the field, you look at their production, then spend some time with them off the field, just go through and talk through some different things, football related. Smart guy, works hard, was a productive player in Florida. I’€™d say it was a lot like most of the meetings that we have with a lot of the players when they come out.’€

2. Traditionally, either backup quarterback Brian Hoyer or No. 3 signal-caller Ryan Mallett will play the role of scout team QB in helping the defense prepare for the opposing quarterback that week. However, because Tebow has such a unique skill set, the Patriots may look elsewhere when trying to find a scout team quarterback this week in practice.

‘€œThat’€™s something we definitely have to talk about,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œThe most important thing for our defense is to get a good look at as close to what the actual plays are going to look like as we can replicate them. However we do that, whichever players we use to try to get that look ‘€“ we’€™ll definitely talk about that and try to do it in the way that gives the defense the best look at it.’€

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, Brian Hoyer, Brian Waters



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