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Tom Brady: ‘Certainly, I wish I could’ve done more to help us out’

01.19.14 at 9:17 pm ET
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DENVER — This was not Tom Brady‘s finest hour.

He knows more than anyone that when you don’t put points up early on the road in a playoff game, you’re in big trouble.

Sunday it was the difference as the Patriots fell behind 10-0 and 13-3 at the half and could never recover as New England fell, 26-16.

Several times in the first half Brady missed open receivers, twice to Julian Edelman and once to Shane Vereen out of the backfield. Brady had Aaron Dobson deep over the middle in the third quarter but couldn’t connect for what would’ve been a momentum-changing touchdown. Instead, Brady lofted it out of the end zone from midfield.

Brady threw his first touchdown pass of the playoffs in the fourth quarter to Edelman and ran in another. But it wasn’t enough.

“Certainly, I wish I could’ve done more to help us out,” said Brady, who finished 24-of-38 for 277 yards and one touchdown pass.

“We executed a little bit better,” Brady said of the two fourth-quarter touchdowns. “I just found some spots and made some throws and catches. We found a little space in there. I just wish we could’ve done it for four quarters.”

In the first three quarters, Brady was just 13-of-22 for 142 yards. He was victimized by a drop by Danny Amendola and the Patriots had just 39 yards rushing on 13 attempts.

“I think when you play good teams, the margin of error is pretty slim all day,” Brady said. “We dug ourselves a pretty big hole there. We just couldn’t do enough. They have a good team and made a lot of plays. I give them a lot of credit.

“It’s the same it’s always been. Certainly, for the New England Patriots, we want to win every time we take the field. We did a decent job to get ourselves to this position. There are two teams that were playing and one gets to advance, and that is the team that played better today.

“They played good and have a lot of good players. I thought they made plays offensively and defensively that really helped them win.”

Read More: AFC Championship, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, nfl

Quick Hits: Mike Petraglia, Chris Price break down Patriots’ AFC championship loss to Denver Broncos

01.19.14 at 8:39 pm ET
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Read More: AFC Championship, Chris Price, Denver Broncos, Mike Petraglia

Wes Welker: I wasn’t trying to knock Aqib Talib out of game

01.19.14 at 8:32 pm ET
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DENVER — Wes Welker said he wasn’t trying to knock Aqib Talib out of the game when the two collided in the first half of Sunday’s AFC title game.

“It was one of those plays where it’s kind of a rough play, and I was trying to get him to go over the top, and I think he was thinking the same thing and wanted to come underneath and we just kind of collided,” Welker said after the game. “It wasn’t a deal where I was trying to hit him or anything like that.

“I hope he’s OK — he’s a great player and a big part of their defense.”

After the collision, Talib left the field, and then departed for the locker room. He came back out at the start of the second half, but was unable to go the rest of the way. Following the game, Talib said ‘€œif I could have been out there, I would have been out there.’€ The corner said he ‘€œ[couldn’t] remember how the play went,’€ but said that it was ‘€œvery difficult’€ to sit and watch the rest of the game.

Welker ended up with four catches for 38 yards in the win, and will advance to Super Bowl XLVIII with the rest of the Broncos.

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Aqib Talib: ‘If I could have been out there, I would have been out there’

01.19.14 at 7:56 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib wouldn’t comment on whether or not there was anything wrong with the hit he took from former teammate Wes Welker that knocked him out of Sunday’s AFC title game, only saying that it was “very difficult” to leave the contest, a 26-16 loss for New England.

Talib left midway through the second quarter after taking a shot from Welker to the right side of his upper body on an incomplete Peyton Manning pass over the middle intended for Demaryius Thomas. He was announced as questionable with a rib injury and then, after halftime, a knee injury was added to the prognosis.

Talib left the field, and then departed for the locker room. He came back out at the start of the second half, but was unable to go the rest of the way. Following the game, Talib said “if I could have been out there, I would have been out there.” The corner said he “[couldn’t] remember how the play went,” but said that it was “very difficult” to sit and watch the rest of the game.

Asked about the hit after the contest, Patriots coach Bill Belichick acknowledged it was a “key play in the game” and added that Talib wanted back in.

“Of course,” Belichick said. “There’€™s not a more competitive guy in that locker room than Aqib Talib.”

“He is a very huge part of our success,” said running back LeGarrette Blount. “A huge part of it all the way to this point. I wish he would have been able to go back in and play, but unfortunately, he wasn’t able. It hurt us a little bit.”

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Read More: Aqib Talib, Bill Belichick, Demaryius Thomas, LeGarrette Blount

Julian Edelman heartbroken and ‘not even thinking about [free agency] right now’

01.19.14 at 7:49 pm ET
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DENVER — Julian Edelman got dressed slowly in front of his locker before slowly turning around to face the media.

After Sunday’s 26-16 season-ending loss to the Broncos in the AFC championship here at Sports Authority Field, the receiver fought back tears when trying to put into words the sudden stop to their Super Bowl dreams.

“I’m very proud to be a part of this team,” Edelman said. “We fought through a lot of adversity. There’s a lot of ups and downs and it’s just very unfortunate that it had to end this way. It’s not the way we wanted to [end the season].”

As he has all season, Edelman led the Patriots with 10 catches on 15 targets and 89 yards (all team highs) while hauling in Tom Brady‘s only touchdown pass of the postseason.

He led a receiving corps that fought through the inconsistencies that come with new players (Danny Amendola) and rookies (Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce).

Even Austin Collie provided production Sunday, catching four passes on six targets. But, Brady couldn’t make it work Sunday.

“It was a pretty special group,” Edelman said. “Everyone fight to the very end, and it just didn’t go our way. They flat out beat us today”

Now comes the big decision for Edelman and the Patriots. Has Edelman done enough to early a big free agency payday? He will be one of four significant unrestricted free agents on the roster. Will the Patriots franchise him?

“I’m not even thinking about that right now,” Edelman said of his future. “I’m thinking about the fellas in this locker room, the coaches, all the hard work we put in and this season. I’ll think about [free agency] later.”

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

Bill Belichick takes chunk of blame for Patriots’ loss in AFC Championship Game, says he’s ‘proud to be their coach’

01.19.14 at 7:11 pm ET
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Speaking after his team’€™s 26-16 loss to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick took a good chunk of the responsibility for the defeat, while also reiterating an admiration for his team.

“€œI wish we could have done a little better job today, especially me,”€ Belichick said in his postgame press conference.

“Any time you lose a game like this there are definitely things you don’€™t feel great, and there are a lot of things I don’€™t feel great about. That shouldn’€™t come as any great surprise. But it’€™s in the books. You can’€™t do anything about it except look back at it, learn from it and move on. Certainly there are some calls, some plays we would like to have back. I’€™m sure everybody who competed in the game would like to have something back. It’€™s tough when your season ends this suddenly, but that’€™s the way it is. We know that’€™s the situation in the playoffs. One team moves on, one team doesn’€™t. It comes to a sudden stop.”

“€œBut again, I’€™ll say this, whatever mistakes were made in that game by me and everybody else I think were all made with the intention of doing what was best. Not everything worked out best, but it was done with the intention of doing what was best and trying our best to make it work. It didn’€™t always work, but the effort and intent to do the right thing, I definitely think that was there, and it’€™s been there all year.”

Belichick, whose team lost its four regular season games by a combined 18 points, was effusive in his praise for the approach the Patriots took throughout the 2013 campaign.

“They were very much that, physically and mentally tough,” he said when asked about his club’€™s makeup. “I don’€™t know about ranking them and all that because it’€™s different makeup of the team and the players. This team worked hard from the offseason program, through the OTAs, mini-camp, training camp, regular season, playoffs. They worked hard, daily, all day long. And I think they improved quite a bit during the year. I think that’€™s how you do improve, you take the instruction you’€™re given, you work on it and you have positive results, you build on those, you correct your mistakes, you build on your positive results and keep going. As a team I think they’€™ve done that and individually that’€™s been kind of the trademark of this team. Taking corrections, working hard, moving on, trying to get better, not getting caught up on what happened in the past but just trying to do a better job next time out. I think that improvement served us well all year.”

Belichick added, “€œI’€™m proud of the team. I’€™m proud to be their coach. I thought they played hard all year. They played competitively every single week. Some weeks they played better than others, but there was never a lack of effort or toughness. Everybody trying to do their best, and I totally respect the team for that and what they did. I’€™m proud to be their coach. That’€™s how I feel about it.”

Some of the other topics Belichick talked about included:

(On the lack of a Patriots running game): The idea is to score points and we just didn’€™t score enough points. Obviously they did some things to try and take that away. That wasn’€™t unexpected. We just weren’€™t able to score enough points and we gave up too many.

(On third-down inefficiency): We were able to hold them to some field goals defensively, but our third-down defense and our third-down offense, especially in the first half, let them get too far ahead and they were able to stay on the field. They had the ball, had field position, and even the couple of times we held them to field goals we still didn’€™t have possession of the ball and didn’€™t have a chance to do too much. We’€™re just trying to keep them out of the end zone and that’€™s OK, but it would be a lot better if we were able to stop them on third down and get the ball back and we just weren’€™t able to do that. Conversely, we weren’€™t able to do it offensively.

(On the Broncos‘€™ offensive success): They did a good job of mixing the plays and as always, he did a good job of reading the defenses. [Peyton Manning] got us in some situations that weren’€™t ideal with his astute play-calling and recognition. We disguised and I think we got him a few times, but he got us a few times too. They’€™re a tough team to match up against with all the good skill players they have.

(On when he can put this game behind him): I don’€™t know. That’€™s a good question. Unfortunately we’€™ve been here before. We’€™ve won AFC Championship games and we’€™ve lost them. We’€™ll move on. We have to. We’€™re behind a lot of the other teams in the league — all except one in the AFC, actually –€“ in terms of the offseason, so we have a little bit of catching up to do. Starting tomorrow we’€™re on to 2014.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots,

Snap Judgments: Patriots’ season comes to an end with loss to Broncos in AFC title game

01.19.14 at 6:03 pm ET
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DENVER — In a year in which the Patriots suffered wave after wave of injury issues, they hit a tipping point in Sunday afternoon’s AFC title game.

Cornerback Aqib Talib went down in the second quarter after taking a low hit from former teammate Wes Welker, and Peyton Manning and the Broncos were able to take advantage. Manning went back time and again at his replacements as Denver came away with a 26-16 win over New England, ending the Patriots’ season and lifting the Broncos into Super Bowl XLVIII against the winner of the 49ers-Seahawks game later Sunday afternoon.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady ended up 24-for-38 for 277 yards with a touchdown, while wide receiver Julian Edelman finished with 10 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown and running back Shane Vereen added four carries for 34 yards.

Manning was impressive all afternoon, going 32-for-43 for 400 yards and two touchdowns to post his second postseason win over Brady and the Pats. In addition, Demaryius Thomas added seven catches for 134 yards and a touchdown, while Julius Thomas finished with eight catches for 85 yards.

The Patriots were never really in this one, as Manning and the Broncos were in control from the jump, taking a 10-0 lead and never trailing on the day. Denver held a 13-3 edge after two quarters, but unlike their November meeting — where New England was able to climb out of a 24-point halftime hole on the way to an overtime win — there was no comeback for the Patriots in this one. The Broncos and Manning put up an impressive 13-play, 80-yard drive that took 7:08 to open the second half and effectively end the game.

New England cut the lead to 23-10 midway through the fourth when Brady found Edelman for the Patriots’ first touchdown of the day, but New England could get no closer.

Here are a few quick notes:


– The Patriots defense — which was in a 4-2-5 look for most of the afternoon — suffered a fatal blow when Talib went down with what was initially announced as a rib injury, and then later changed to a knee injury. On the play that left Talib sidelined, Welker went low on the Pro Bowl cornerback on a pick play. Manning was able to single out Talib’s replacements, including rookie Logan Ryan and Alfonzo Dennard on a series of drives late in the first half and the start of the second half. It was an ugly series for the New England secondary, and eerily reminiscent of last year’s AFC title game, when Talib went down early against the Ravens and Baltimore was able to take advantage of the situation.

– It was not the quarterback’s finest hour, as Brady had a handful of overthrows early on missed connections with a variety of targets, including Edelman and Austin Collie. Whether it was the result of play-calling, personnel or situational football, it was also a sluggish day for the New England running game, which was never able to gain any sort of traction. After rolling to 431 yards in the previous three games, LeGarrette Blount had five carries for six yards against the Broncos.

– Part of it was due to the fact that the Patriots were more inclined to drop extra defensive backs into coverage — a numbers game, really — but New England’s inability to get any sort of pressure on Manning all day played a big part in the success of the Denver quarterback. Chandler Jones and Andre Carter were able to fight through blocks and get a hand on Manning on a couple of occasions in the first half, but that was about it. Manning was not sacked on the afternoon.


– The Patriots were able to get a really impressive performance out of a handful of players. On the offensive side of the ball, Edelman was the most dependable part of the passing game, and New England worked consistently to try and get him isolated in man coverage — he was the best and most consistent part of the offense all afternoon. It worked for part of the day, but the Broncos were able to shut him out on a couple of occasions. (It didn’t help that Brady flat-out missed him on a couple of occasions, including on a key pass attempt early that would have almost certainly gone for a touchdown.)

– On defense, it was a relatively good day for the linebacking crew of Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower, who were able to make several positive plays over the course of the afternoon. In particular, Collins was active in both run and pass defense. (Collins emerged as a real force on the defensive side of the ball over the final few games.) In addition, punter Ryan Allen was able to do a good job early on when it came to tilting the field — he had three punts in the first two quarters that averaged 49 yards.

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