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Tedy Bruschi on D&H: Patriots-Seahawks Super Bowl would be ‘great matchup’

12.23.14 at 7:44 am ET
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ESPN NFL analyst and former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi joined Dale & Holley Monday afternoon for his weekly interview to look back at the Patriots’ win over the Jets and ahead to the postseason. To hear the full interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

With the Broncos falling to the Bengals Monday night, the Patriots have wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the AFC and now have their eyes set on making it to Glendale for the Super Bowl on Feb. 1. Bruschi feels their toughest matchup from the NFC would be the Seahawks.

“Seattle. And I say Seattle because of the complexity they have at the quarterback position,” said Bruschi. “The improvisation skill that you have in Russell Wilson. His running ability, things like that. The formula on offense to play the New England Patriots, if you have a power running game, you can hit them with a play-action pass. To have a quarterback that can improvise and you attack the Patriots in the flat to get a catch and run. The Jets tried it [Sunday] with Percy Harvin. The Packers tried it earlier in the year with [Randall] Cobb. So there are certain things that have been put on film this year, but those weaknesses I feel can be exploited best through the Seattle Seahawks team. That is their offense.

“On defense, they are good at stopping the run so the linebackers can feel comfortable that [they] don’t respect the run game that if it is stopped, and then you have four rushers that can get pressure on [Tom] Brady. [They] have a solid backfield, so that is the team that I think, if the Patriots meet them in the Super Bowl, that is going to be a great matchup because you know the type of adjustment level that they have in Gillette Stadium, inside those facilities, and to see that plan would be a lot of fun.”

In the postseason, Bruschi is looking for a guy like defensive end Chandler Jones to step up and be able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

“You have to hope for Chandler [Jones], and he’s starting to show up a little bit more making those splash plays that just that pressure turns into a sack,” Bruschi said. “It turns into a strip sack and you’re going the other way. I know that is what they are hoping for that pass rush, getting him back now. It’s going to be hard to come in the middle of the field because they have run stuffers in the middle that do a great job stopping the run and right now they are using linebackers to get up the middle pressure or [Rob] Ninkovich or Jones coming on the outside, that is where it is coming. That is what the Patriots’ plan is going to be. You hope Jones can be that difference maker in the playoffs.”

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Read More: Brandon Browner, chandler jones, Darrelle Revis, Seattle Seahawks

How have Patriots played it in past when they’ve wrapped up top seed before last week of regular season?

12.23.14 at 1:02 am ET
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With the top seed in the AFC now locked up, how will Bill Belichick and Tom Brady play it this weekend against the Bills? (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the top seed in the AFC now locked up, how will Bill Belichick and Tom Brady play it this weekend against the Bills? (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the Patriots’ win over the Jets on Sunday and the Broncos’ loss to the Bengals Monday night, New England clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs for the fifth time under head coach Bill Belichick. Previously, they held the top spot in the conference entering the playoffs in 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2011.

However, this year will mark the first time since 2010 where New England will have wrapped everything up before the last week of the regular-season. How have Belichick and the Patriots utilized their personnel in years’€™ past when they’€™ve been locked into the top spot entering the last week? With the understanding that every year is different and playing time will be dictated by a variety of things, history says the starters will likely get the call early, but expect the Patriots to give backups and other youngsters some time as well as the afternoon continues. Here’€™s a year-by-year look at what has happened.

— In 2011, the Patriots clinched the No. 1 seed in the regular-season finale with a 41-23 win over the Bills.

— In 2010, the Patriots clinched in Week 16 with a 34-3 win over the Bills in Buffalo on Dec. 26. In the regular-season finale the following week against the Dolphins in Foxboro, New England started the regulars, but yanked many after about a half. Quarterback Tom Brady actually left the game briefly in the second quarter for Brian Hoyer, but Brady was re-inserted after a few plays. Ultimately, Brady gave way to Hoyer for good with 10:15 left in the third quarter and the Patriots holding a 31-0 lead. New England ended up winning in a runaway, 38-7, as Brady went 10-for-16 for 199 yards and two touchdowns, while Hoyer ended up 7-for-13 for 122 yards and a touchdown.

One thing that certainly stood out about that game was the fact that the Patriots were really trying to help BenJarvus Green-Ellis to the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season. Green-Ellis ended up hitting the plateau in the second half (he ended with 1,008 yards), and was removed from the game after reaching the mark. That’€™s certainly something that could come into play for a variety of starters on Sunday who might be nearing personal records or other meaningful statistical milestones.

— In 2007, New England clinched home field earlier than ever under Belichick with a 20-10 win over the Jets in a cold, wet rain at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 23. However, the Patriots kept their foot on the gas for the duration of the regular-season, as they were chasing a 16-0 record. Accordingly, New England played its€™ regulars for the bulk of the last two regular-season contests, wins over the Dolphins (28-7 at home) and Giants (38-35 in North Jersey).

— In 2003, New England clinched home-field advantage with a 31-0 win over the Bills in the regular-season finale at Gillette Stadium.

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick, Brian Hoyer, Tom Brady

A history of Patriots postseason placement under Bill Belichick and how they’ve fared in playoffs

12.23.14 at 12:01 am ET
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With the Patriots win over the Jets on Sunday night and the Broncos loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati, New England clinches the No. 1 seed in the AFC for the postseason. Here’s a look at their playoff seedings during the Bill Belichick era and how they’ve fared in the playoffs.

2000: No playoffs.
2001: No. 2 seed, won Super Bowl XXXVI.
2002: No playoffs.
2003: No. 1 seed, won Super Bowl XXXVIII.
2004: No. 2 seed, won Super Bowl XXXIX.
2005: No. 4 seed, lost divisional playoff in Denver.
2006: No. 4 seed, lost AFC title game in Indy.
2007: No. 1 seed, lost Super Bowl XLII.
2008: No playoffs.
2009: No. 3 seed, lost wild card game at home against Baltimore.
2010: No. 1 seed, lost divisional playoff at home against New York.
2011: No. 1 seed, lost Super Bowl XLIV.
2012: No. 2 seed, lost AFC title game at home against Baltimore.
2013: No. 2 seed, lost AFC title game in Denver.
2014: No. 1 seed.

Overall, the Patriots have had the No. 1 seed on four previous occasions ‘€” they’€™ve won the Super Bowl once, lost a divisional playoff and come up just short in two Super Bowls. They’€™ve also had the No. 2 seed four times, and have won two Super Bowls (2001, 2004) and lost two AFC title games (2012, 2013).

Read More: Bill Belichick,

Bengals pick off Peyton Manning 4 times, beat Broncos and hand Patriots No. 1 seed in AFC

12.22.14 at 11:50 pm ET
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The Bengals had Peyton Manning on the run all night, picking off the quarterback 4 times. (Getty Images)

The Bengals had Peyton Manning on the run all night, picking off the quarterback four times. (John Grieshop/Getty Images)

The Patriots can thank Dre Kirkpatrick and the Bengals for clinching the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Cincinnati defensive backs intercepted Peyton Manning four times, including a game-sealing pick-six by Kirkpatrick with under three minutes left, to lead the Bengals to a 37-28 win over the Broncos Monday night at Paul Brown Stadium. Manning, who had been 8-0 in his career against Cincinnati, was intercepted four times in a game for the sixth time in his career.

“I have to play better,” Manning said to reporters after being picked off four times for the first time since 2010.

The win means the Patriots will have home field advantage all the way to the Super Bowl, while the Bengals clinched a playoff berth for a fourth straight season. Cincinnati improved to 10-4-1 and will play Pittsburgh next Sunday night in Pittsburgh for the AFC North title. Denver had a chance to clinch a first-round bye with a win. Now, the Bengals could finish No. 2 and earn a bye if they beat the Steelers and the Broncos lose to the Raiders.

Another result of the Cincinnati win is that the Patriots will play the Bills at 1 p.m. Sunday at Gillette since that game has no playoff implications.

Andy Dalton spotted the Broncos an early 7-0 lead when he overthrew A.J. Green on a pass over the middle. The ball went off his outstretched hands and into the arms of former Patriot Aqib Talib. The cornerback fell to the ground to make the catch, got up and returned it 21 yards for a pick-6 and a Broncos lead. Green suffered an upper right arm injury on a hit from T.J. Ward, and was extremely limited and ineffective the rest of the game.

But from there, the Bengals defense dominated the rest of the first half. The Bengals held Manning off the scoreboard while scoring 20 straight points.

Rookie Jeremy Hill broke off an 85-yard run on the first play after Talib’s interception return and the Bengals added a Mike Nugent field goal and a short 2-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to Jermaine Gresham. The Bengals held a 20-7 halftime lead when Connor Barth missed a 49-yard field goal at the end of the half.

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Read More: Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Peyton Manning

What pundits were saying about Patriots on Sunday: They’re ‘poised to win it all’

12.22.14 at 4:14 pm ET
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Deion Sanders had some nice things to say about Bill Belichick and the Patriots on Sunday. (Getty Images)

Deion Sanders had some nice things to say about the Patriots on Sunday. (Getty Images)

Here’s what the national pundits were saying about the Patriots before and after their win over the Jets Sunday.

Deion Sanders on NFL Network after the game: “[The Patriots] offensively and defensively, are poised to win it all. They have the quarterback, they have the corners, they have a running game, they have a couple guys that can catch the ball … and there is no answer for [Rob] Gronkowski in the NFL.”

Rodney Harrison on NBC Sports after the game on possible concerns about the Patriots: “If I had one concern about the Patriots, it would be at the strong safety position, and maybe even at the linebacker position, covering tight ends down the field. Patrick Chung gave up a touchdown to an average tight end, and that’s been the theme the entire year.”

Tony Dungy on NBC Sports after the game on if the Jets provided a blueprint to beat the Patriots: “The blueprint is, if you can put the pressure on Tom Brady and rush. The Jets do it [with] creative rushes, and they make things uncomfortable.”

Shaun O’Hara on NFL Network before the game on if Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are the greatest coach-quarterback combination in NFL history: “When you look at the way the game has changed now with free agency, with the salary cap implications [and] with the parity that goes on around the league, the fact that they’ve been able to win 12 [division titles] and the consistency that they’ve had up there, yeah absolutely I’ll say that they are.”

Read More: Deion Sanders, Rodney Harrison, Shaun O'Hara, Tony Dungy

Brandon Bolden, Tim Wright won’t be too wrapped up in Bengals-Broncos

12.22.14 at 3:52 pm ET
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Brandon Bolden

Brandon Bolden

FOXBORO — Despite the fact that if Cincinnati finds a way to beat Denver Monday night — which would clinch the top seed in the AFC for New England — a few of the Patriots said they don’t plan on spending too much time wrapped up in the Bengals-Broncos game.

“I don’t even think I’m watching the game tonight — I’ve actually got a birthday party I’ve got to get to,” confessed running back Brandon Bolden in the locker room Monday afternoon. “Nobody is really talking about it. Everybody is still trying to recover from the Jets game, the war we had yesterday, so I think everybody is going to take the rest of the day to try to just recover.

“If they watch football, they do. But I don’t think anybody is rooting for anybody.”

If Denver beats Cincinnati, that would mean New England’s regular-season finale against the Bills next Sunday at Gillette would still be in play as a meaningful contest as it relates to the playoff chase. As far as tight end Tim Wright is concerned, the focus on Buffalo is the bigger priority for the Patriots.

“It’s going to be a good game,” said Wright when asked about Bengals and Broncos. “[But] we’€™re not really looking past what has to go on with the Bills — what’s coming up next for us. But it’s going to be a good game for them.

“[We’re] just focused on the Bills.”

Read More: Brandon Bolden, Tim Wright,

Patriots going no-huddle gave offense ‘confidence,’ leading to Sunday’s win over Jets

12.22.14 at 3:46 pm ET
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Tim Wright

Tim Wright

FOXBORO — With the Patriots trailing 13-7 with 6:39 left in the third quarter Sunday against the Jets, and only totaling 61 yards of total offense on their first seven drives, they needed a spark, something to ignite the offense.

The team went to a no-huddle offense on their eighth drive of the game with Shane Vereen at running back, Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright at tight end and Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola as wide receivers. The change up worked as the Patriots gained some momentum by going 81 yards in 13 plays before settling for a 24-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal, cutting the Jets lead to 13-10.

Even though the Patriots didn’t record a touchdown, the change of pace gained the offense some much needed momentum.

“I guess it did. Guys got into a rhythm,” Wright said on Monday. “We’€™ve got great players in the locker room, great players that can step in and get the job done. I guess once they got the confidence going, it got going well for us.”

On the following Jets possession, Jamie Collins picked off Geno Smith and then the Patriots continued to utilize the up-tempo offense on their eight play, 38-yard drive capped off by a Jonas Gray 1-yard touchdown run less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, which put the Patriots on top, 17-13.

On the two scoring drives in the second half where they primary went no-huddle, the Patriots totaled 119 yards. This is compared to the other nine drives in the game where they totaled only 112.

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Read More: Josh McDaniels, Tim Wright,
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