|11.28.11 at 5:46 pm ET|
FOXBORO — I wrote a little bit about the relationship between quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Deion Branch in this week’s edition of “Ten Things We Learned Sunday.” On Sunday against the Eagles, Branch finished with six catches for 125 yards, including a 63-yarder that demonstrated the eerie sense of unspoken communication between the two.
On Monday, I asked Patriots coach Bill Belichick about the depth of the bond between the two. Specifically, if the level of chemistry between Brady and Branch was just something that was naturally built over the years or something the two had to work at forging.
“It’s probably a combination of all of those,” Belichick said. “It starts with [the fact that] you have two smart guys, both very instinctive players that if something comes up that you haven’t done or talked about before, I’d say both of them probably would do the right thing — or what you would want them to do if you haven’t told them what to do; what they would do is most of the time what you would want them to do. That puts them pretty much on the same page to begin with.
“Certainly the experience and reps they’ve had together [in] practice, games and walkthroughs and talking about situations and talking about things that come up, I’m sure that’s all added to it. And of course, actually going out there and doing it on the field in live game situations, under pressure, adds to it as well.
“Deion is a very instinctive receiver. He has a great sense of timing, of when the quarterback is ready to throw the ball, when he needs to be open, how to get open. Tom, from his position, kind of has that same sense of what the receiver would expect him to do and what he should do in certain situations and that’s almost always what Deion would do. Again, we certainly have rules and kind of guidelines for all players and all situations, but inevitably things come up that either go against the grain or it’s not quite the way we’ve talked about it and the player has to make a decision. I would say those guys almost always do what — if you had gone over it — what you would have wanted them to do.”
|11.28.11 at 3:45 pm ET|
Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork made his weekly appearance on The Big Show on Monday afternoon to discuss the Patriots’ defensive effort in Sunday’s 38-20 win over the Eagles. Philadelphia scored on its first two drives of the game, but the Patriot defense stepped up its game from that point on, holding the Eagles to just a field goal for the rest of the first half and the third quarter before giving up a touchdown in garbage time in the fourth quarter.
Wilfork said the defense was well prepared and never saw the Eagles do anything the Patriots had not prepared for in practice. He did mention, however, that the Eagles neglected to do something the Patriots expected out of them.
“One thing they didn’t show that we thought we were going to get a lot of was screens,” Wilfork said. “This team is a real good screen team, and we got one [screen play]. But we were on high alert. Every time we got down on second-and-long or third-and-long, everybody was alert for a screen play because [LeSean] McCoy is such a big part of that offense. The tight end, a big, big part of their passing game.
“But we only got one. So we made the adjustment in the second half. We were going to start rushing a little more. We didn’t too much worry about the screens at the end, and I think once we did that, we started getting a little bit of more pass rush to Vince Young and we started to make some things happen.”
Wilfork also spoke, albeit indirectly, about the controversial Ndamukong Suh play from Thanksgiving Day in which Suh was ejected from the Lions game against the Packers for stomping on Green Bay offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith‘s arm.
Wilfork refused to comment specifically on the play. Instead, he shared his experience from an NFL hearing back in 2008 when Wilfork was nearly suspended for a late hit to then-Denver quarterback Jay Cutler‘s head. Wilfork avoided a suspension after his wife, Bianca went to New York and spoke with commissioner Roger Goodell, presenting him with a video that showed a less malicious angle of the play and explaining more about Wilfork’s character to the commissioner.
Wilfork said he hopes Suh has that same kind of support from those closest to him.
“My way of going about it was, I had a bunch of support from my team, from the organization, from my players, teammates, coaches and my wife,” Wilfork said. “We had a support staff in place where when we went through it, we went through it. But at the same time, it was something that we got over. We moved on. I’ve been pretty clean ever since.
“It’s however they decide to do it. I don’t take anything away from that guy’s game. He’s a hell of a player, but I hope he has someone in his corner that can just guide him in the right direction, whatever that may be. If he listens, he listens. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t. You definitely need a supporting cast. I can just only speak from what I had, from this organization down, from my coaches, from my teammates to my wife. I had the biggest supporting cast that someone can ask for when it came down to that, so I’m going to leave it at that.”
|11.28.11 at 10:53 am ET|
Following Sunday’s 38-20 victory over the Eagles, Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning.
Brady threw for 361 yards and three touchdowns as the Patriots rallied from an early 10-0 deficit for the blowout win in Philadelphia. Brady pointed to the offensive balance (104 rushing yards) as a key.
“From the start of the game we were running the ball well,” Brady said. “We didn’t throw it well the first series or two. But after we got into the flow of the game, we were running it, we could play-action and then we used some spread-out formations and our uptempo offense that really put a lot of pressure on them. Coach [Bill] Belichick, one thing he said is we’ve just got to keep the pressure on this team. We’ve got to make them earn it. I thought we did a good job of doing that and not really giving them any easy plays.”
The Patriots pulled away in the second half, allowing backup quarterback Brian Hoyer a rare opportunity to get some game action.
“To see him get an opportunity to go out there and run the team is fun for me,” Brady said. “He’s a very good player, Brian. I have a lot of confidence when he goes in there. Obviously, I want to play every snap. You never want to see someone else do your job, because you may never get it back. But I’m glad we were really kind of putting the game away there, midway through the fourth quarter, especially on the road. It’s not easy to win, especially on the road. To have a really convincing win like that two of the last three weeks has been a lot of fun for this team.”
Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
You’re up early today — or did you not go to sleep yet?
I didn’t sleep a whole lot. After the games, it’s hard for me to sleep. I figured I’d get up and get rolling.
Win or loss it’s hard for you to sleep? I mean, you played pretty well.
I think when we lose, I get a lot less sleep. It’s either a little sleep or damn near no sleep. I’ll settle for little sleep.
You got hit or sacked on almost every passing play in the first several series. And then after that, something happened and for the most part you were pretty clean and upright for the rest of the game. What happened?
We settled into the game, as we seem to do as of late. I think when you play teams that have very good pass-rushers, sometimes it just takes a series or two to understand the speed that they’re playing at. Ultimately, we find the plays on the call sheet that we feel are protecting us the best.
We’ve played some very good pass-rushing teams, from the Giants, to the Jets in their on way, to the Cowboys. We’ve played some really good pass-rushers. This was a team that really could get after the quarterback. They’re up there, leading the league in sacks. Cullen Jenkins is a phenomenal player. Trent Cole is a hell of a pass-rusher, too. They were really into it early. I thought once we really settled into the game, we handled it really well.
|11.28.11 at 10:15 am ET|
CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to discuss the Patriots’ Sunday afternoon 38-20 jaunt over the Eagles in Philadelphia. In the wake of New England’s dominance over Philadelphia, Esiason did not have much game analysis to offer, but he did weigh in on the Eagles’ burgeoning coaching controversy.
In the beginning of the third quarter with the Patriots ahead 31-13, Eagles fans expressed their frustration after quarterback Vince Young tossed an incomplete fourth-and-1 pass from the New England 2-yard line by chanting “Fire Andy” in reference to 13-year Eagles coach Andy Reid. The Eagles, who were picked to be one of the best teams in the NFL in the preseason, are now 4-7.
“As far as Andy Reid is concerned, you just never know how much these coaches have built up with their owners,” Esiason said. “And Andy has won a lot of football games in Philadelphia. I know that Philadelphia football fans can be some of the toughest in all of sports, so I think sometimes we overreact to some of that stuff. I’m not sure that [CEO] Jeff Lurie will ask for the resignation or fire him during the season, and quite frankly, I don’t know who on that staff could take over anyway. So these coaches [Reid and Chargers coach Norv Turner] will probably play the year out and then there will be a lot of questions and a lot of changes.”
While Esiason did not delve too deeply into Sunday’s game, he did mention that a play Tom Brady made in the second quarter was indicative of how Brady’s trust in his receivers benefits the quarterback, receiver and the team. On third-and-13 on his own 36-yard line, Brady improvised and completed a 63-yard pass to Deion Branch, who got the ball to the Eagles’ 1-yard line. BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored a touchdown on the next play to give the Patriots a 14-10 lead.
“We’ve been accustomed to this for over 10 years now,” Esaison said. “And we’ve watched it, and when he plays at the top of his game like he did yesterday, it really is a thing of a beauty. There’s no panic. He steps up in the pocket. He reads the defense as quickly as anybody. Yesterday I thought his throw to Deion Branch down the sideline on third-and I think it was 10 or 11, and then Deion took it all the way down to the 1-yard line, that’s what you want out of your quarterback. No panic. Don’t overreact to the pass rush around you. Show the great poise and show the great accuracy.”
|11.28.11 at 12:36 am ET|
Granted, two of them were after two of the biggest pass plays against the Patriots secondary all afternoon. Two plays after Vince Young hit Brent Celek on the game’s first play for 22 yards, Young connected with Riley Cooper on a deep post route for 58 yards before Arrington wrestled down Cooper at the Patriots’ 4.
The second big play came on the next drive as Young hit DeSean Jackson for 44 yards over the middle. Arrington again had to pull down the receiver.
Did Arrington figure the Eagles and Young were going to attack them the way they did?
“I think the Eagles offense, at first, had a lot of quick throws and they were working,” Arrington said. “I think we needed to press them more and it worked. We felt we needed to mix the coverages up more and make the Eagles earn it.”
The Patriots held the Eagles to a field goal. On that play, the Patriots seemed in disarray, with safety Sterling Moore having words with — and shoving — Arrington’s counterpart on the right side, Antwaun Molden.
But Arrington again proved to be the backbone of the secondary with the absence of Devin McCourty and safety Patrick Chung. Arrington pointed to the multifaceted Julian Edelman as an example of what can happen when role players pay close attention in practice.
“That is what practice is for,” Arrington said. “We work with different formations and different guys in there and it just works. When the guys on this team get in, they make the best of it, and it shows on the field. Injuries happen and it had to be the next guy up, ready to play.”
In the end, Young threw for exactly 400 yards against the Patriots secondary. But he needed 48 passes to do it, and he completed just 26 of them. So, does 400 yards allowed really matter when the Patriots led the game by more than 20 points for half of it?
“We are always working to just get better every day,” Arrington said, as if Bill Belichick were somewhere close by nodding in approval. “We like the way we’re playing and allowing teams not to score a lot in the past few games.”
Indeed, throw out the garbage touchdown with 32 seconds remaining, and the Patriots would’ve allowed fewer than 17 points in each of their last three wins. That number figures to improve to four with Curtis Painter and the Colts up next at Gillette this Sunday.
|11.27.11 at 11:56 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — There were no mock firings of a glock into one’s leg following a touchdown celebration. So, at least DeSean Jackson knows he won’t draw the ire of the NFL office this week before Philly’s next game Thursday in Seattle. But like Stevie Johnson in Buffalo, Jackson was the biggest single goat for the Eagles in an ugly 38-20 loss to the Patriots that all but ends their playoff hopes.
This is Philadelphia, and fans here would reply with something along the lines of: “Yo, you have to actually CATCH the ball in the end zone to have a celebration!”
Not once but twice did Jackson literally drop the ball against the Patriots on potential touchdown throws from Vince Young. The first came in the second quarter with the Patriots leading 21-10. A TD makes it 21-17 and it’s suddenly a ball game just before halftime. But no, Jackson had the ball go through his hands and the Eagles settled for a chip-shot field goal.
The second came in the third quarter. Jackson blew right by safety Sergio Brown — who tried to commit pass interference but missed. Jackson was behind everyone in the end zone and had the ball perfectly thrown to him by Young but he dropped it. The collective moan from the Lincoln Financial Field crowd was deafening.
“Yeah, things happen sometimes,” Jackson said. “As a player, I am upset about it. It wasn’t one of my best games. As far as a couple of plays, I thought I could’ve had them, but at the end of the day, I didn’t come up with them.”
Coach Andy Reid, who heard loud chants of “Fire Andy!” from the crowd in the fourth quarter, benched Jackson after the second drop.
“He has to do a better job,” Reid said.
As for those not-so subtle hints from the typically angry Philly fans?
“I really don’t hear much down [on the field]. I didn’t hear it. The way we played, I can understand,” Reid said.
|11.27.11 at 10:20 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Back in the day, the day when Kordell Stewart was revolutionizing offenses by occasionally splitting out wide as a receiver or getting under center as a quarterback or taking a direct snap in a modified offense, the Steelers and their following came up with a nickname for him: Slash. He made a name for himself in the late 1990s and it carried on through the new millennium, when he took over as Pittsburgh’s full-time quarterback.
The Patriots beat Stewart and the Steelers in the AFC championship game in January 2002, the game that vaulted the Patriots into Super Bowl XXXVI and destiny against the Rams.
Now, fast forward to Sunday, and it’s clear that Julian Edelman is becoming the most versatile player on the Patriots.
He is no longer just a trivial mention at the end of the game on defense like he was against the Jets on Nov. 13. Instead, Edelman is playing more and more in big situations and making big plays, like an open-field tackle on Vince Young at the New England 2 early in the third quarter. It led to a key goal-line stand that protected the Patriots’ 31-13 lead and kept the Eagles from gaining any momentum.
What Stewart did for the Steelers, Edelman is doing for the Patriots now, playing a multitude of roles and playing them well.
“I like to call him Slash because he’s a versatile player,” said Patriots safety James Ihedigbo, who is playing more and more with Edelman in the secondary. “He can do so much. Having him there and his ability as a receiver to know routes and, as well to cover, is great. I’m glad to have him.”
But Patriots fans are already drawing another comparison: Troy Brown — the man who played both sides of the ball toward the end of his career.
The man who has leaned on Edelman the most of late is coach Bill Belichick. With Ihedigbo fighting through shoulder stingers — receiving another on Sunday — and Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty missing another game, Belichick has asked Edelman to put in extra time during the week so that he can help the team more on Sundays.
“Julian’s worked hard on that,” Belichick said of Edelman’s work in practice. “He’s had to keep up with what’s going on on offense and also the kicking game. But he’s worked hard, spent a lot of extra time with [defensive backs coach] Josh Boyer and kind of splitting time between meetings, between offense and defense, and of course he does all the special teams stuff, too.
“He’s worked hard and he’s really been a huge help for us. We’ve been in a couple of tight spots here and we were in it again today, and we went strolling back outside at the end of the game. He’s worked hard, and he’s really helped us.”
Edelman was very low-key afterward, playing down any praise as the Patriots’ do-it-all player in all three units.
“To be honest, I do not mind whether it is offense or defense,” he said. “I just like being in on plays and doing what needs to be done to help us win.”
He nearly recorded his first career sack in the third quarter when he drilled Young as the Eagles quarterback let the ball go for an incompletion. How hard was the hit? It left Young on the ground for several seconds before the Philly quarterback got his bearings back and got back on his feet.
“It was funny because with all the rules floating around, in regards to hitting quarterbacks, I wanted to hit him but do it right,” Edelman said. “I just didn’t want to get any kind of penalty and hit him in the right zone.”
That zone was in the ribs just below the shoulders, leaving a mark on Young’s body and a message that he’s more than just a speedy wide receiver/kick returner killing time on defense.