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Bill Belichick running on ‘good fumes’

11.15.10 at 5:38 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Anytime you win in the NFL and do so under difficult circumstances, like on the road on Sunday night in a very hostile environment, you’ll take the consequences of sleep deprivation.

That’s what Bill Belichick and his Patriots staff had to deal with Monday following the 39-26 win in Pittsburgh. But Belichick wore a smile as he greeted reporters late Monday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

“We had a short night so, coaching staff-wise, we’re running a little bit on fumes but it’s good fumes,” Belichick quipped.

The Patriots have little time to savor the win since they have Peyton Manning and the 6-3 Colts visiting Foxboro on Sunday afternoon at 4:15 p.m.

Unlike the last two years, there will be no questions this week about how the Patriots need to contain Dallas Clark since he is out for the season with a hand and wrist injury.

“Each week is it’s own new week so we’ll see,” Belichick said. “It all starts all over again today. So, I’m sure when it comes down to us and the Colts, the team that has the best week of preparation, that’s able to execute the best out there on Sunday, that’s able to take advantage of the other team’s mistake or take advantage of the opportunities that are out there, that’s the team that will come off the field victorious.

“I don’t know what that’ll be. I know we have a lot work to do and hopefully, we’ll be able to do a little bit more than they will but that will be tough.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots

Vince Wilfork on D&H: Tom Brady ‘wants everybody to be as competitive as he is’

11.15.10 at 1:44 pm ET
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Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork called in to the Dale & Holley show Monday afternoon to take part in his weekly conversation as part of WEEI’s Patriots Monday. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Following the bad week of practice leading into the Browns game, the Patriots rebounded last week with better preparation leading into Sunday night’s game vs. the Steelers, and it paid off.

Said Wilfork: “Going into this past week, it was like, ‘Let’s get a good start.’ Once we saw the film of Cleveland, we made the corrections, we put it behind us. I think everybody got off to a great start with practice. We had good practices last week and it showed yesterday. I think everybody took it upon themselves to do their job and try to play the game we needed to play. We all said we needed to play physical and we need to be aggressive against this football team, this Steelers football team. They don’t know how to play no other way but physical and aggressive. We knew we had to match that intensity if we had a chance, and I think we did a really good job of that.”

The Patriots unleashed an aggressive defense on the Steelers, and one of the byproducts was five sacks of Ben Roethlisberger. Wilfork said he was excited when he saw the game plan last Wednesday. Said Wilfork: “When we got this game plan, it was like, ‘Man, I love it. I love it.’ Like I said, it allowed us to play physical and play aggressive. And that’s how we played.”

Defensive end Mike Wright had a solid game for the Pats on Sunday night. Wilfork said Wright earned it. “Mike’s been doing it for a couple of years now,” Wilfork said. “When his number is called, he’s ready to play. ‘€¦ He works his tail off. And it shows on Sunday. He’s definitely underrated, but we know what type of player he is. That’s why we put him in those certain situations. He always seems to come up big for us. Hat’s go off to that guy. He works his tail off.”

Wilfork said he missed Tom Brady‘s emotional outburst on the Patriots sideline, but he’s not surprised that the quarterback did his part to fire up his teammates. “Tom, he plays with a lot of emotion,” Wilfork said. “He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s so competitve, I just think he wants everybody to be as competitive as he is.”

On a lighter note, Wilfork said he still plans to have a footrace against Brady, rekindling the trash-talking they did in their respective WEEI interviews earlier this season. Wilfork said as long as the race is 40 yards or less, he won’t lose to the QB. “Anything under 40, he will not win. I guaranteee that one,” Wilfork said. “The longer it goes, the advantage is him. Look here: Anything after 40 yards, I don’t need to be running that. I’ll tell you that right now. But anything under 40 yards, he’s in trouble.”

Read More: Mike Wright, Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork,

Brandon Meriweather on D&H: ‘We want to be physical’

11.15.10 at 12:44 pm ET
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Patriots defensive back Brandon Meriweather made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Monday morning. Listen to the interview at the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Meriweather said a fast start was one of the keys to a 39-26 victory over the Steelers. “We came out, we started fast,”  Meriweather said. “We started early. We didn’t wait to see how the game was going to go.”

Meriweather said the team’s physicality was a huge factor, especially given the hard-hitting nature of the Steelers. “Coach always tells us we have to be physical,” Meriweather said. “The physical team is going to win nine times out of 10. That’s something we try to take into every game, we want to be physical. I’m happy that we started early yesterday.”

When he was asked about the challenges of preparing for multiple weapons in the receiving game, Meriweather emphasized the focus still revolves around the quarterback. “It’s more of taking on their quarterback,” Meriweather began, before directing his comments toward Steelers receiver Mike Wallace, who torched the Pats for 136 yards and two touchdowns Sunday night. “Wallace is the fastest dude in the league, so you always have to be ready to cover the deep route and get him off something where he can’t catch it in stride and outrun everybody.

“Other than that, it’s more of facing Ben [Roethlisberger] that’s the problem, that the Steelers give you the problem with,” continued Meriweather. “Because he’s so hard to bring down to the point where the receivers get out of coverage. Nobody can cover somebody forever, eventually they are going to get open. Whenever Ben can scramble around and give them a little extra time to get open, it’s hard to beat them.”

While on the subject of quarterbacks, Meriweather was asked for his thoughts on a pretty decent one who’s coming to town next Sunday: Peyton Manning. Rather than get nervous about the tall task of facing another elite quarterback, Meriweather welcomes the challenge. “I’m excited,” Meriweather said. “Any time you get to play against Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, anybody in that caliber, you get excited to play them. I’m very excited to play them. I can’t wait until Sunday.”

Although the secondary has and will be challenged by some of the best quarterbacks in the league, Meriweather believes preparing against Tom Brady every week makes the task far less daunting. “That’s true. That is true. We always have somebody to play against, but going against Tom every day, it makes it so much easier,” he said.

Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Brandon Meriweather, Mike Wallace, Peyton Manning

Boomer Esiason on D&C: ‘Patriots offense can play with anybody’

11.15.10 at 8:57 am ET
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CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly Monday morning appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show to dissect the Patriots’ impressive victory over the Steelers on Sunday night. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Esiason commended the performances of Tom Brady, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead for their efforts in piling up points against the vaunted Pittsburgh defense. “That was startling, because that was supposed to be one of the best ‘€” if not the best ‘€” defenses in football,” Esiason said.

Esiason said he puts the Patriots offense up with the Chargers offense as the best in the league. “I think the Patriots offense can play with anybody, will play with anybody,” he said.

Asked how much role emotion plays in an NFL game, Esiason said: “There is a lot to emotion, there’s a lot to focus, there’s a lot to being in the face of the opponent. ‘€¦ Out of all these games that get played, this game is the most emotional and it’s the most competitive. Especially when you play a rough team like the Steelers in their building. I think everybody’s antennas go up, I think everybody has to play sharper, everybody has to play quicker. Last night, for whatever reason, the Patriots had their best game of the season, I thought.”

With the Patriots and Jets both 7-2 and tied atop the AFC, Esiason was asked which team is better. “I’ll take the quarterback and the coach for the Patriots, but I’ll take the rest of the team for the Jets,” he said. “The Jets are a pretty good football team. … This is really, really close.”

Looking around the NFL, Chiefs coach Todd Haley refused to shake hands with Josh McDaniels Sunday after the Broncos rolled to a 49-29 victory, apparently upset about Denver running up the score. “It’s professional football,” Esiason said. “We’re men, we act like men. If we’re getting our ass kicked, you know what you do? You just shut up, you shake the guy’s hand, go into the locker room and try to figure out how you can be better next week.”

Read More: boomer esiason, Todd Haley, Tom Brady,

Postgame Notes: Patriots 39, Steelers 26

11.15.10 at 1:30 am ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here are some postgame notes from Sunday night’s contest:

Since the beginning of the 2003 season, the Patriots are 25-2 (.926) in games following a regular-season loss. Over the last seven seasons (2003-09), the Patriots have only lost back-to-back games on two occasions, once in 2006 and once in 2009.

Rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski recorded his first NFL three-touchdown game. His three touchdowns increased his 2010 total to six touchdowns for the season. The six touchdowns are a record for most touchdown catches by a rookie tight end in Patriots history. The previous record was held by Russ Francis (four touchdowns in 1975) and Don Hasselbeck (four touchdowns in 1977). He scored on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady in the first quarter, a 9-yard touchdown in the third quarter and a 25-yarder in the fourth quarter. He is the first Patriots player to have three touchdowns in a game since Randy Moss had three vs. Jacksonville on Dec. 27, 2009.

Gronkowski finished with his first NFL three-touchdown game. Last week at Cleveland, Aaron Hernandez had two touchdown catches the previous.
Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Patriots, postgame notes, Steelers,

Steelers left to ‘lick our wounds’ after ‘butt-whupping’

11.15.10 at 1:23 am ET
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The Steelers could not sugarcoat what took place. On a night when they trailed by as many as 20 points, and when the Patriots proved a physically more imposing team on both sides of the ball en route to a 39-26 victory, the Steelers could do little but rue their own effort while praising that of their opponents.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said flatly that the Patriots were the superior team on Sunday, and that Pittsburgh had to improve if they hoped to compete against such a squad.

“Give credit to New England. They beat us soundly tonight in all phases of the game, honestly,” Tomlin told reporters. “We weren’€™t good enough tonight to compete with these guys. We acknowledge that. We need to look at it in great detail tomorrow to make the necessary corrections and hopefully learn from this experience, be better for it if given an opportunity … to be in this kind of a game again. Big game tonight. We didn’€™t come through. We’€™ve got to acknowledge what their guys did, tip your hat to them.

“We’ll lick our wounds and move forward.”

And there were wounds to lick. Most notably, wide receiver Hines Ward sustained a concussion at the end of the first quarter. His streak of 186 consecutive games with a catch ‘€” third in NFL history at the start of the night ‘€” came to an end with the crushing hit from James Sanders. Yet while the absence of one of Pittsburgh’s key playmakers no doubt played a part in Pittsburgh’s offensive struggles (the Steelers had just three points after three quarters), the losing squad could not point to a single factor as the cause of its demise.

We stunk,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “Offensively, we flat out stunk. I stunk. It wasn’€™t fun.

“I was bad. We were bad,” the quarterback added. “You’€™ve got to give them credit. I don’€™t think they did anything to confuse us or anything like that. I think they just flat out beat us. Truth be told, I think we got a good old-fashioned butt-whupping. You never like that when it’€™s at home.”

Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Mike Tomlin,

For Patriots, road to redemption began with good week of practice

11.15.10 at 1:07 am ET
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PITTSBURGH ‘€” It was a long week for Vince Wilfork and the Patriots.

In the wake of last Sunday’€™s ugly loss to the Browns, the days couldn’€™t come off the calendar fast enough. After a defeat like that one, the feeling is that the quicker you get back out on the field, the quicker you get a chance to put that last one behind you.

Wilfork said that the return to dominance began with a good week of practice.

‘€œWe just wanted this game to hurry up and get here,’€ said Wilfork, who finished with a pair of tackles. ‘€œWe got off to a good start this week in practice, and it showed today. I think we prepared well this week. I think everybody’€™s focus was on the Steelers starting in practice and we showed it today.’€

When asked about the difference between this past week of practice and the week the Patriots had in the days leading up to the Cleveland loss, Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn’t mince words.

“[This week] was definitely better,” he said with a small smile. “That wouldn’€™t take much.”

That preparation paid off in the form of a 39-26 win over the Steelers on Sunday night at Heinz Field. The Patriots jumped to a 23-3 lead against Pittsburgh and never looked back, dominating the Steelers in all three phases of the game on the way to their sixth win in the last seven.

‘€œI think everybody did a real good job of coming to work and putting the Cleveland game behind us and focusing on the Steelers,’€ Wilfork added. ‘€œAnd we did well. We prepared well. Guys came to work ready to work. We were just ready to get to this game and get this game started just because we could get the bad taste out of our mouths from last week. It worked well for us today.’€

On the offensive side of the ball, the guy who couldn’€™t wait to put last week’€™s loss to Cleveland in the rearview mirror fast enough was rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski. The Arizona product fumbled on the Browns’€™ goal line, committed a special teams’€™ miscue that led to a turnover and dropped some catchable balls.

But Sunday against the Steelers, he finished with a career-high three touchdown catches and 72 receiving yards.

‘€œIt definitely feels good,’€ said Gronkowski, who now has six touchdown receptions on the season. ‘€œWe practiced hard all week as a team. I just had to go out there and do my job, and everyone else did their job, and we just played as a team. That’€™s what we did, and we got the ‘€˜W’€™ and it feels a lot better.’€

‘€œHe’€™s a great player,’€ wide receiver Wes Welker said of Gronkowski. ‘€œIt’€™s great to see a guy really bounce back from something like that and do such a great job. He plays hard and he works hard. I’€™m glad it really paid off for him. He had a better week.’€

Read More: Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork, Wes Welker,
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