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Mike McCoy compares a ‘fiery’ Tom Brady to his own sparkplug Philip Rivers

12.03.14 at 8:50 pm ET
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Tom Brady and Philip Rivers have met in big games before, like here in the 2007 AFC championship. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and Philip Rivers have met in big games before, like here in the 2007 AFC championship. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Mike McCoy knows a fierce competitor when he sees one.

The Chargers head coach certainly has one in quarterback Philip Rivers. But when he looks across the field on Sunday, he’s going to have to prepare for a competitor every bit as intense as his own.

“He’€™s a winner,” McCoy said Wednesday of Tom Brady. “From the very first time he’€™s stepped in the huddle there they’€™ve won football games. Anytime you have a franchise quarterback like that you have that opportunity. All the players on your football team have [all] the confidence in the world.

“You love the way he plays the game — his fiery approach to the game. You see how excited he is, the leader he is. He’€™s just so efficient — he knows the game inside and out. [He’€™s] one of the best of all time. It’€™s great to play against guys like that. You always want to play against the best, and he’€™s one of the best of all-time so we have to do a great job on Sunday against him.”

The Patriots are going to have to contend with a quarterback who is no stranger to Bill Belichick, and a signal-caller who is getting hot at the right time again. Since the worst start of his career, a 31.0 QB rating in a 38-0 loss in Miami, Rivers has responded by beating the Raiders, Rams and Ravens, throwing five touchdowns with two interceptions. He has 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season. Behind Rivers, the Chargers are 8-4 with their sights set on the suddenly winnable AFC West.

“I think Philip has been one of the best in the business for a long time,” McCoy said. “You love the way he works ‘€“ his preparation week-in and week-out has been outstanding. He’€™s a winner. He’€™s great to have as the face of your franchise. Having a franchise quarterback like who he is, he goes out and earns everything he gets. It’€™s great to have him on our football team. He’€™s been very efficient. He’€™s done a great job of leading not only the team, but the offense week-in and week-out.”

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Read More: New England Patriots, Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, Tom Brady

Bill Belichick gets emotional making a Hall of Fame pitch for Junior Seau

12.03.14 at 8:02 pm ET
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Junior Seau pictured here in his final NFL game of a 20-year career, a playoff loss to the Ravens at Gillette Stadium. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Junior Seau pictured here in his final NFL game of a 20-year career, a playoff loss to the Ravens at Gillette Stadium. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick doesn’t often show emotion but when he does, it’s usually for very good reason.

Of all the players who have played for him, few touched him the way Junior Seau did in parts of four seasons (2006-09). Belichick was asked Wednesday to reflect on the life and times of the late linebacker who is up for Hall of Fame nomination this year.

“Tremendous. [I] loved Junior and his family,” Belichick said to reporters in San Diego. “[I] was out here for the funeral and it was very emotional. Nobody loved the game more than Junior did. Nobody would be more deserving to be in the Hall of Fame than Junior Seau. [He’€™s the] all-time leader in tackling [1522 in 20 seasons], but more than stats, his love of the game, his passion for the game, and the high level that he played at at a very difficult position. I mean, him, Clay Matthews [Jr.], guys to play as long as they did at that position as well as he did is phenomenal. He is so deserving. I hope it happens.”

Seau was one of those chosen to speak to the rally of Patriots fans in the snow at Gillette Stadium before the team went out to Glendale, Arizona for Super Bowl XLII. It was in that perfect regular season of 2007 that Seau recorded the final 3.5 sacks of his career. He finished with 56.5 sacks over 20 NFL seasons.

It’s hard not to be reminded of Seau this week, as the former great linebacker grew up in San Diego.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Junior Seau, New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers

Aaron Dobson misses Patriots practice in San Diego, 10 players limited

12.03.14 at 7:15 pm ET
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Aaron Dobson

Aaron Dobson

It seems like last week’s Patriots-Packers game was a physical one, as the Patriots have a packed injury report this week leading up to this Sunday’s game against the Chargers. The Patriots held practice at the University of San Diego, as they will be spending the week in California.

Wide receiver Aaron Dobson (hamstring) missed the session, as he had to leave Sunday’s game with the injury suffered running a deep go route up the sideline. The only other player to miss the practice was linebacker Chris White (ankle). White missed Sunday’s game after being added to the injury report in the middle of last week.

After taking another big hit on his thigh in the game, and missing a few plays because of it, receiver Julian Edelman headlined the limited players. Chandler Jones (hip) was once again limited after being limited all last week, but wasn’t active for the game. His progress is worth monitoring this week, as there is a possibility the defensive end could be ready to play Sunday night.

Long snapper Danny Aiken (concussion) did practice after missing Sunday’s game, but reportedly wore a red non-contact jersey. Another addition was cornerback Kyle Arrington with a hip injury. He left the game Sunday, but did return.

Also added to the injury report this week was linebacker Dont’a Hightower (shoulder). He was seen grabbing his shoulder late in the game, but did return to action.

Tom Brady (ankle) and Marcus Cannon (hip) were full participants.

Here is the full practice report:

Did not participate

WR Aaron Dobson (hamstring)
LB Chris White (ankle)

Limited participation

LS Danny Aiken (concussion)
CB Kyle Arrington (hip)
G Dan Connolly (ankle)
DE Dominique Easley (knee)
WR Julian Edelman (thigh)
T Cameron Fleming (ankle)
LB Dont’a Hightower (shoulder)
DE Chandler Jones (hip)
WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder)
RB Shane Vereen (ankle)

Full participation

QB Tom Brady (ankle)
T Marcus Cannon (hip)

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Red Hot: Patriots’ defense posting improved numbers when backed against goal line

12.03.14 at 7:07 pm ET
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Chris Jones and the rest of the Patriots defense have played well in the red zone as of late. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Chris Jones and the rest of the Patriots defense have played well in the red zone as of late. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Despite the fact that the Patriots fell to the Packers on Sunday by a 26-21 count, one positive that stood out for New England was the red-zone defense. Green Bay got inside the Patriots’ 20-yard line on four different occasions, but the Packers had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns.

In their last three games, the Patriots defense has held opponents to just two touchdowns in eight red zone appearances. (That includes 0-for-5 in the last two games.) Overall, the Patriots are 13th in the league in red-zone defense, having yielded touchdowns on 51.4 percent of the possessions — 19 touchdowns on 37 possessions in all. From a percentage standpoint, that’s an improvement for a defense that was at 58.6 when it came to red-zone scoring a month ago.

Asked about the level of success New England had against the Packers, Bill Belichick said it simply comes down to execution.

“We were able to make a few plays,” Belichick said of the Green Bay game. “They took some shots in the end zone, hit a couple of them, missed a few of them. We ran into trouble down there too at the end.

“That’€™s what the red area is: it’€™s a lot of very highly contested plays with very little margin for error either way,” he added. “Offense doesn’€™t need much space and defense doesn’€™t have much territory to defend and it’€™s all just a little bit tighter down there. So you need really good execution on both sides of the ball to be successful. It’€™s just really a game of inches down there. It’€™s tight. We made a few; they made a few. It’€™s probably the way it’€™s going to be most weeks in the NFL ‘€“ it’€™s going to be real competitive and tight down there.”

“I think just higher awareness,” said defensive lineman Chris Jones when asked for reasons behind the red-zone numbers. “This year we’€™ve done a great job of realizing where we’€™re at, we’€™ve studied the situations, and we’€™re very disciplined when we get there. I think that’€™s what helps us out a lot.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Chris Jones,

Michael Hoomanawanui: ‘You’ve got to be ready for your opportunity’

12.03.14 at 6:59 pm ET
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Michael Hoomanawanui

Michael Hoomanawanui

Lost in the shuffle at tight end at times for the Patriots is Michael Hoomanawanui.

Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright get most of the headlines, but Hoomanawanui has actually played 43 percent of the team’s snaps this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Most known for his blocking, Hoomanawanui caught a Tom Brady pass for a big 23-yard pick up in the second quarter, which led to Brandon LaFell’s first touchdown catch, and the first Patriots score of the game on Sunday in Green Bay. It was Hoomanawanui’s third catch of the season. Even though he rarely is targeted, he knows he has to be ready in case his number is called.

“You’€™ve got to be ready for your opportunity because you’€™re one play away from playing,” said Hoomanawanui on a conference call Wednesday. “Whether its five plays a week or 60 plays a week, you’€™ve got to be ready whenever your number is called and take advantage of the opportunities that are given. That’€™s how you put yourself into position to make [plays].”

It’s one thing to be ready for your opportunity, but when you only get some few, it’s important to make the most of them. This is team-wide thing, as we’ve seen it with Jonas Gray a few weeks ago against the Colts, and this past week with Brandon Bolden against the Packers.

“We’€™ve got a lot of great playmakers that are going to show up each and every week,” Hoomanawanui said. “Even more importantly, whether it’€™s me or somebody else like [Brandon] Bolden, we’€™ve just got to take those opportunities and capitalize on them like you said and make the most of them and hopefully they can help us win. That’€™s the ultimate goal no matter who it is.”

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Read More: Michael Hoomanawanui, Rob Gronkowski, Tim Wright, Tom Brady

Report: Bill Leavy will work as referee for Patriots-Chargers

12.03.14 at 6:09 pm ET
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Bill Leavy will work as the referee for Sunday's Patriots-Chargers game. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Bill Leavy will work as the referee for Sunday’s Patriots-Chargers game. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Bill Leavy has been assigned to work as the referee for Sunday night’s Patriots-Chargers game, according to

This marks the second New England game of the year for Leavy and his view — he was previously the lead official for the Nov. 16 game in Foxboro between the Patriots and Jets.

Leavy gained a small measure of infamy for his performance in Super Bowl XL (which he later apologized for). He was also part of a minor flap last weekend when Cincy head coach Marvin Lewis threw an illegal challenge flag at the end of the Bucs-Bengals game in hopes of drawing Leavy’s attention to the fact that Tampa had 12 men on the field.

Leavy has worked in the league as an official since 1995, and was promoted to referee in 2001.

Here’s a look at who has worked as the lead official for each New England game this year, and the corresponding penalties for each game, not counting the flags that were offset or declined.

Sept. 7 at Miami: Walt Anderson — 9 penalties, 100 yards (Dolphins — 4 penalties, 26 yards)
Sept. 14 at Minnesota: Tony Corrente — 15 penalties, 163 yards (Vikings — 7 penalties, 58 yards)
Sept. 21 vs. Oakland: Pete Morelli — 6 penalties, 59 yards (Raiders — 6 penalties, 49 yards)
Sept. 29 at Kansas City: John Parry — 3 penalties, 30 yards (Chiefs — 4 penalties, 35 yards)
Oct. 5 vs. Cincinnati: Jerome Boger — 12 penalties, 114 yards (Bengals — 4 penalties, 37 yards)
Oct. 12 at Buffalo: Walt Coleman — 9 penalties, 60 yards (Bills — 8 penalties, 107 yards)
Oct. 16 vs. Jets: Bill Leavy — 9 penalties, 64 yards (Jets — 7 penalties, 70 yards)
Oct. 23 vs. Bears: Brad Allen — 7 penalties, 38 yards (Bears — 5 penalties, 41 yards)
Nov. 2 vs. Denver: Walt Anderson — 9 penalties, 71 yards (Broncos — 10 penalties, 72 yards)
Nov. 16 at Indy: Pete Morelli — 5 penalties, 53 yards (Colts — 4 penalties, 27 yards)
Nov. 23 vs. Lions: Tony Corrente — 11 penalties, 89 yards (Lions — 9 penalties, 54 yards)
Nov. 30 at Packers: Ed Hochuli — 4 penalties, 25 yards (Packers — 4 penalties, 22 yards)
Dec. 7 at Chargers: Bill Leavy

For more on Leavy’s work as a referee, check out his page at Pro Football Reference. For more information on this week’s assignments, click through to the always reliable Football Zebras. And for more Patriots news, check out

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Florida is closing in on a new head coach and it’s not Josh McDaniels

12.03.14 at 4:37 pm ET
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Patriots fans can stop worrying about whether Josh McDaniels will be distracted by the Florida head coaching job.

A source tells FOX Sports that the Gators are closing in on a deal with Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain to take over for the ousted Will Muschamp starting in 2015. Muschamp went just 10-13 in the last two seasons in Gainesville. Yahoo! Sports first reported that the school and McElwain were closing in on an agreement on Tuesday.

This would be a return to the SEC for the 52-year-old McElwain, who spent four seasons on Nick Saban‘s staff at Alabama as the offensive coordinator. He has spent the past three seasons revitalizing the Rams program, going 4-8 in his first season to 8-6 in 2013 to this year’s 10-2 mark. One of those 10 wins was a 24-21 come-from-behind victory over Boston College on Sept. 27 at Alumni Stadium.

Florida AD Jeremy Foley has publicly listed several requirements for Muschamp’s replacement, saying his next coach had to have high integrity, character and needed to be a fit at Florida. This is the second straight season McDaniels’ name came up in rumors about a head coaching vacancy. Last January, he interviewed with the Cleveland Browns to replace Rob Chudzinski and was considered a leading candidate before turning them down.

Florida was rumored to be interested in speaking with McDaniels but nothing ever materialized.

McElwain’s pro-style offense has led the Rams to eye-opening numbers this season. They are No. 3 in the nation in passing efficiency, No. 7 in passing offense and No. 7 in third down offense. The Gators struggled badly on offense in the Muschamp era, which included quarterback Tyler Murphy in 2013 before he transferred to Boston College this season.

Read More: Cleveland Browns, Florida Gators, Jim McElwain, Josh McDaniels
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