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Bill Belichick still critical even after 22-point win over Broncos

11.03.14 at 1:35 pm ET
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On Sunday afternoon the Patriots beat the Broncos — arguably the best team in the NFL prior to Sunday by 22 points — to now hold the best record in the AFC after Week 9. But even after such a dominant performance, coach Bill Belichick says the game was far from perfect.

“We, to be honest, still feel like we left a lot of points on the field last night in terms of our overall execution offensively — missed guys in the deep part of the field, dropped the ball, couldn’€™t convert on short-yardage and then some of the same things on defense,” Belichick said on Monday’€™s conference call. “We were fortunate that we had some third and fourth down stops and plays, which those included red area, but we gave [up] a lot of yardage in the passing game. There were a lot of open receivers. We were fortunate that the running game for Denver wasn’€™t like it was the last couple times we played them. We did a more consistent job on that, but there are a lot of things that we need to tighten up.”

Peyton Manning and the Denver offense totaled 429 yards of net passing offense –€“ although most of it came in garbage time –€“ it was still the most net passing yards the Patriots have allowed in the Belichick era.

Quarterback Tom Brady and the offense committed its first turnover since Week 4 in Kansas City and left some points on the board, settling for field goals on three occasions — once inside the red zone — and went 6-for-16 on third down.

Belichick was also critical of himself on his challenge of a potential Rob Gronkowski touchdown following his spectacular one-handed catch at the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter. Belichick thought Gronkowski was not touched and should not have been ruled down, but after looking back at the tape he admitted it was a bad challenge on his part.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Peyton Manning, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady

What national pundits were saying about Patriots Sunday

11.03.14 at 1:13 pm ET
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Here’s a quick rundown of what some NFL analysts were saying about the Patriots after Sunday’s game against the Broncos:

Michael Irvin on NFL Network after the game: “Right now, the New England Patriots are the best team in the AFC.”

Irvin on NFL Network after the game:Julian Edelman has stepped in and he’s been playing so well. I talked to him last offseason, and he said, ‘Michael, I’ve been waiting on this chance to prove my worth.’ You are proving your worth, Julian.”

Deion Sanders on NFL Network after the game on Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner: “These guys may be arguably the best tandem of cornerbacks in the game today.”

Sanders on NFL Network after the game: “There’s only several teams in the NFL who really think that they can make it to the promised land — to the Super Bowl — and [the Patriots and Broncos] are two of them.”

Marshall Faulk on NFL Network after the game:Jack Del Rio can’t just put guys out there and say go get Tom Brady. No, that’s not going to work. John Fox, being the defensive head coach that he is, they have to come up with a better game plan against a Tom Brady than they did.”

Dan Patrick on NBC’s “Football Night in America” after the game: “Extreme gamesmanship there towards the end. It looked like (Bill) Belichick wanted 50 points.”

Tony Dungy on NBC’s “Football Night in America” after the game: “He’s trying to put up points, John Fox is calling time outs, they’re throwing the ball at the end of the game. I’m not sure what all that was about.”

Rodney Harrison on NBC’s “Football Night in America” after the game: “He preaches they play 60 minutes.”

Harrison on NBC’s “Football Night in America” after the game: “This is a big win for the Patriots, not just to build confidence but … this is a win for home-field advantage. You don’t want to have to go to Denver in January.”

Read More: Dan Patrick, Deion Sanders, marshall faulk, Michael Irvin

Julian Edelman on MFB: ‘Guys were dialed in’ leading up to Patriots-Broncos showdown

11.03.14 at 12:48 pm ET
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Patriots receiver Julian Edelman and running back Shane Vereen checked in with Middays with MFB on Monday to dissect Sunday’s 43-21 rout of the Broncos. To hear the interviews, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

The Patriots, who started the season slowly, surprisingly coasted to a big win in the day’s marquee matchup. Edelman said the seeds were planted earlier in the week.

“It started with a great week of practice,” Edelman said. “We had a really good week of practice. Guys were, they were tuned in, they were focused. We had great meetings, great walk-throughs. You could just see guys were dialed in. It showed on Sunday. That’s what it all starts with. It starts with practice. We emphasize fundamentals — blocking, tackling, catching, all those sorts of things — throughout the week. It translated into executing in the game.”

Edelman had nine receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown, along with an 84-yard punt return for a TD within a four-minute span in the second quarter to turn the game in the Patriots’ favor. However, even with the Patriots taking a 20-point lead at halftime, Edelman said the team did not get too comfortable.

“Not necessarily. They had the lead on us the year before, so it was just reversed,” Edelman said. “They have an explosive offense. They’ve got good players everywhere on that team. We went in and we kind of forgot about the score and just tried to put the helmets on and go out and do work. That’s how we did it.”

Vereen, who rushed 11 times for 29 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 38 yards and another score, compared Denver’s struggles to what happened to New England in Week 4.

“I think it was a little bit of a snowball effect in Denver’s case. Something that happened to us in Kansas City,” he said. “When you’re playing tough teams on the road, that can happen sometimes. But you’ve still got to take your hat off to Denver. They’re still a very good team. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw them again down the road.”

Rob Gronkowski had a huge day for the Pats, making nine catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. His highlight was a one-handed snare at the 1-yard line that set up his TD reception.

“The guy is a stud,” Edelman said. “When he made that catch I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ He doesn’t have hands, he has like oven mitts. The ball is like a beer can in his hand, that’s how big his hands are. You see him make those plays in practice and you see him do it in a game, it’s like he’s ‘Real Deal’ [Evander] Holyfield over there.”

The game was played in very cold, windy conditions on a day when it snowed in the morning.

“We knew that the weather was going to play a factor into the game at some point, in certain situations,” Vereen said. “Coach had talked to us about that prior to the game. So we knew that that could have been a factor, we knew that certain things, going into the wind there’d be a chance for some fourth-down situations because of the kicking as far as the distances which Steve [Gostkowski] could kick it from. We knew that factor going into the game, but I don’t think it was ever too big of a problem to where we had to completely change our whole game plan or change our approach. I still think we were able to complete some passes and move the ball successfully.”

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Read More: Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen, Tom Brady

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?

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