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Bill Belichick on Akeem Ayers: ‘He’s done a real good job’

11.03.14 at 11:10 am ET
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Chicago Bears v New England Patriots

Akeem Ayers has made big impact in just two games with the Patriots. ( Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Patriots linebacker Akeem Ayers had only been a member of the Patriots for just 12 days prior to Sunday’s game against the Broncos, but he looked like it had been years as he played a significant role in the Patriots’ 43-21 drubbing of the Broncos.

Ayers played 77 of a possible 83 defensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus and finished with four tackles and a sack — the only sack of Peyton Manning on the night — a bone-crunching hit in the second quarter.

“He’€™s done a real good job,” Bill Belichick said of Ayers on Monday’s conference call. “He’€™s picked things up quickly. He’€™s a sharp kid. Works hard, very attentive. He really wants things to get things done right and tries to do them and communicates well with the defense.”

The linebacker was traded to the Patriots along with a seventh-round pick from the Titans for a sixth-round pick on Oct. 21.

Ayers was a second-round pick in 2011 and had a good first couple of seasons, but injuries and a fallout with current Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt led to him not being the same player the last couple of seasons.

In his rookie year Ayers totaled 76 tackles and then 104 in his second year, but in 2013 he only had 49. Ayers had offseason knee surgery on both knees and was active for just two of the first seven games for the Titans this season.

Since being traded to the Patriots he has nine tackles in two games and is settling in nicely with the New England defense.

“Akeem played quite a bit his first three years in Tennessee, I think he was somewhere around the 80 percent playtime range,” said Belichick. “He’€™s been on the field a lot, he played a lot of snaps — not so much this year. So, whenever you get a player you don’€™t know — it wasn’€™t like when we brought Deion Branch in from Seattle, it wasn’€™t that kind of situation at all, we didn’€™t really know Akeem — we’€™ve to get him into our system and work with him in practice and so forth.”

Read More: Akeem Ayers, Bill Belichick,

Tim Hasselbeck on D&C: Peyton Manning ‘wasn’t the reason’ Broncos lost to Patriots

11.03.14 at 10:05 am ET
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ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the Patriots’ surprisingly convincing win over the Broncos. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

As it was before the game started, most of the conversation after it was centered on Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Manning has been maligned for his poor performances in New England, and Sunday’s game made the hosts think even more that playing against the Patriots on the road gets in Manning’s head.

Said Hasselbeck: “I don’t know what’s in his head, but what I can tell you is that he got fooled on the [Rob] Ninkovich interception — it happens to guys all of the time. They were playing zone coverage, he thought the fourth rusher was coming from Ninkovich’s side, it wasn’t. So he got fooled. It happens to guys all of the time. That’s exactly what happened there. When you look at in terms of how he played, the win-loss, I don’t know what’s in his head. But I know that when Julian Edelman runs back a kick to make it 20-7, you think, ‘Wow, this is interesting how this is going to play out.’ The get to a fourth-and-6, which in my estimation is the biggest play of the game. It’s fourth-and-6, I think they had missed a field goal at that point, so they’re going for it. I think the direction that they were going, it maybe was a wind-related decision because of the kicking game. The Patriots decide to rush three, and Akeem Ayers sacks Peyton Manning on fourth-and-6 when he had the ball for about 3 1/2 seconds.

“To me, you look at that situation, what is Peyton Manning going to do? He wasn’t covering the kick on Julian Edelman, he wasn’t blocking three guys in front of him. … It’s one of these situations for him where it wasn’t his best game. He wasn’t the reason they lost.”

Some already are looking toward a possible AFC championship game between the same two teams. If it does happen, and it’s played in Foxboro, Hasselbeck said New England would appear to have the advantage.

“If the game’s in New England, I’ll most likely like New England,” Hasselbeck said. “Now there could a lot that happens between now and then. Gronkowski not healthy, I don’t know how I feel about it. … How they’re running the ball could change things. Look, I think there’s a lot that can happen between now and then in terms of how you feel about that game. Remember, the last time it was played in Denver the Broncos ended up winning that game.”

Continued Hasselbeck: “Here’s the deal with Peyton: The thing that has diminished in Peyton’s game is his arm strength. No question about it, his strength has diminished. In adverse conditions, throwing into the wind, if it’s really wet out, when the ball is not going travel naturally, as fast it would normally travel, if you’re playing in a dome or high altitude, that’s a problem for him — period. There’s no question about it and it’s not debatable.”

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Read More: Julian Edelman, Peyton Manning, Rob Gronkowski, Rob Ninkovich

Tom Brady on D&C: ‘We’ve always just kind of believed in each other’

11.03.14 at 8:28 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to talk about Sunday’s decisive 43-21 victory over the Broncos and discuss the team’s turnaround after the slow start to the season. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Brady played down the importance of Sunday’s game as compared to any other, although he acknowledged it was a nice win for the Patriots.

“They all count. They do. They count the same in the end,” Brady said. “When you play one of the best teams in the league, I think there’s a sense of urgency that’s created by that. Everything can cost you the game, in practice, in the week of preparation, the meetings. There’s such a heightened sense of really accountability. You’re playing a team that can score on defense, they can score on offense, they can put in the 40s and 50s in points. You’ve just got to do as well as you possibly can all week, and then you go out there and you see where you’re at.

“They’re a very good football team. They didn’t play their best yesterday, obviously. I don’t think we played our best, either. But it was a great win for our team. It was one that we really needed. When you play these games at home, you’ve really got to take advantage of it, and we really did yesterday.”

Added Brady: “We got off to a good start. We played from ahead, the way we talked about playing. And we were able to make some plays there in the second half to close it out. But they’ve got a good football team. They’ll be a force to be reckoned with down the stretch.”

Following the Monday night blowout loss to the Chiefs that left them at 2-2, the Patriots have made a dramatic turnaround. Brady credits Bill Belichick for keeping the team from getting too high or too low.

“We’ve always just kind of believed in each other and believed in what we’re doing,” Brady said. “It’s a great lesson, and coach talks about it: ‘Ignore the noise.’ And I think for a long time when he says it, it’s because we’ve won a lot of games, and people — whether it’s family or friends or people who support you and love you and watch you — they tell you how great you are and all these things that are really positive things. If you get caught up in that, then, yeah, maybe you lose your urgency.

“The other part of that is ignore the noise when things aren’t going well. That’s when people tell you you’re the worst team and you’re the worst players and the worst everything. You’ve got to ignore those things also. None of those things are going to affect the outcome of the game. What really affects the outcome is what we do on a weekly basis, showing up to work and believing that we’re doing the right things to help our team improve.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady, Wes Welker

Poll: Who has better offensive weapons, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?

11.03.14 at 8:18 am ET
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An interesting debate cropped up on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning: After watching the Patriots rout of Denver, which quarterback has better offensive weapons to work with, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?

What are your thoughts?

Who has better offensive weapons?

View Results

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Patriots defense rises to occasion against Peyton Manning, powerful Denver offense

11.03.14 at 1:34 am ET
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Brandon Browner (39) and the Patriots defense played physcial and was able to shutdown Peyton Manning and the Broncos. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images).

Brandon Browner (39) and the Patriots defense played physical and was able to shutdown Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Sunday’s win. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — It was a statement win for the Patriots in their 43-21 romp over the Broncos.

Scoring 43 points was a statement for the offense, but also overlooked is the defense, which allowed just 21 points to the powerful Denver offense that came into the game averaging 32 points a game –€“ the best in the NFL.

How impressive was limiting the Peyton Manning-led Denver offense to just 21 points?

In 56 career regular season games as the quarterback of the Broncos (including Sunday), Manning and Denver’€™s offense has scored 21 points or fewer in just six games.

“We just knew what the game plan was and if we just execute it well and communicate well, then we’€™ll be in good shape,” Vince Wilfork said. “And we did that. It wasn’€™t perfect, but at the same time, the majority of the time we did what we wanted to do and we played the game how we wanted to play it and it worked out for us.”

Although Manning threw for over 400 yards, most of the damage was when it didn’€™t matter — either in garbage time or on first and second down. When it mattered most, Manning and Denver’€™s offense couldn’€™t get it done.

The Broncos were 3-for-11 on third down and 0-for-4 on fourth down in the game, a major reason why they couldn’€™t find any rhythm offensively all game.

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Read More: Devin McCourty, Peyton Manning, Vince Wilfork,

Mike Petraglia, Chris Price explain how Tom Brady, Patriots manhandled Peyton Manning, Broncos

11.02.14 at 11:31 pm ET
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FOXBORO —’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price break down Patriots’ 43-21 romp over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are playing better than any passing tandem in football right now as the Patriots posted their fifth straight win and head into their bye at 7-2.

Read More: Chris Price, Denver Broncos, Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots

Julian Edelman says beatdown of Broncos shows Patriots are ‘mentally tough’

11.02.14 at 11:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Before Sunday’s game turned into a one-sided blowout of Peyton Manning that has almost become routine in Foxboro, there were some nervous Patriots fans wondering if the Broncos were going to finally put their foot down and end New England’s 33-game home win streak against the AFC.

The Broncos assumed a 7-3 lead when Ronnie Hillman skirted inside the left pylon with 3:54 left in the first quarter. The Patriots only answer was a 29-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski that cut the lead to 7-6.

Then Julian Edelman stepped forward. After a Rob Ninkovich interception set the Patriots up at the Broncos 34, the Patriots drove into the red zone. Another field goal would not cut it.

He made a sliding grab in the end zone on a five-yard pass from Tom Brady to put the Patriots up for good, 13-7. Then, as part of a 24-0 explosion in the second quarter, he returned a punt 84 yards on an electrifying run through the Broncos’ special teams unit. Edelman appeared to score a third touchdown of the quarter but replay took away his catch in the back right corner of the end zone. Two plays later, Shane Vereen picked him up and it was 27-7 Patriots at the half. The Patriots cruised to a 43-21 win and Edelman’s play in the second quarter was a huge reason why the Patriots are 7-2 at the bye.

“I learned that we have a team that, you know, prepares hard, is mentally tough, is physically tough, and that continues to try and get better, so as long as we keep on playing like that, continually trying to improve, we’€™ll be all right,” Edelman said.

As for his punt return, it almost didn’t happen. Brandon Bolden nearly blocked the kick of Britton Colquitt at the Denver 31 after Colquitt fumbled the snap.

“The guy dropped the ball, [Britton] Colquitt ‘€“ I was like, ‘€˜Is he going to punt it?’€™ and he punted it, and it was kind of low, and it didn’€™t turn over, and I set up some blocks, and I turned, and saw Tim, Timmy Wright, and he hit someone and I bolted the way we were supposed to go, and went this way, and I just saw a bunch of guys out there blocking their tails off and, you know, we got in the end zone, so it was a great team play,” Edelman said.

Now Edelman and the Patriots have a little extra time during the bye to savor their efforts in the last five weeks that have turned a team in chaos to a team with the best record in the AFC at 7-2.

“I’€™m not going to sit here and sugarcoat that one,” Edelman said. “When you go into a Bye Week, you get a week, and you don’€™t want to have that taste [of a loss] in your mouth, and you know, it makes things a little easier.”

Read More: Denver Broncos, Julian Edelman, New England Patriots,
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