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Pete Carroll: ‘It was a really big deal being’ in New England, but I’ve moved on

10.10.12 at 4:23 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Pete Carroll will go against his old team this weekend when the Patriots visit Seattle. It’ll be the first time Carroll — who coached New England from 1997 through 1999 before moving on to a stint at USC — will face his old team as a head coach, and he said Wednesday that while he relishes an opportunity to go “against people that I like and that I know” like Bill Belichick and Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, it will still be a “regular game” for him.

“It’s a regular game for me that I look forward to because of coach Belichick and [Tom] Brady and the relationship with Robert. I’ve always liked playing against people that I like and that I know — it always adds something a little bit special to it,” he said on a Wednesday afternoon conference call with New England reporters. “The fact that I was there — I know that’s what you’re asking — it’s not a big factor. That was a long time ago for me. But I’m aware of it. I know what you’re asking. I don’t think it’s a big deal. But I’m so excited about the opportunity to play such a good team, that’s drawing all my focus.”

Carroll certainly had an interesting tenure as coach in New England, and said Wednesday that one of his favorite memories was getting a chance to represent Patriots’ fans.

“I loved living there and representing those fans — I thought they were awesome,” said Carroll, who took over as coach in Seattle in 2010. “They were so intense and loved the team so much — in all the sports, not just football. Whether it was basketball, hockey, baseball … this is a great fan base, and I loved being connected with them. And I appreciated it more the tougher they got on us, because I knew how much they loved it and how much they cared about it.

“It was a really big deal being there. I regret not being able to get it done the way we wanted to. We did some really good things and we were close, but I learned so much coming out of that experience that it changed me. I’ve had a lot of good stuff since then, and I’m grateful for that, but I wish I would have been able to … I’m never going to give up on a situation — I’d have loved to been able to fix it and finish it, but we didn’t get to.”

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Former Seahawk Deion Branch talks Seattle, Pete Carroll

10.10.12 at 2:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Deion Branch knows a thing or two about both teams as the Patriots prepare for the Seahawks this Sunday in Seattle.

After establishing himself as Tom Brady‘s favorite target in his first four seasons in the league with New England, a contract dispute forced the Pats to ship him to the Seahawks, for whom Branch played the next three-plus seasons before a trade back to New England.

Branch played the Patriots once as an opponent, when Matt Cassel led New England to a come-from-behind victory over the Seahawks in 2008. Branch shined against his old team in that game, catching four passes for 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Asked Wednesday what he remembered from that performance, Branch replied, “The loss. Not the game that I had. I think just overall the loss.”

Though he only played four regular-season games under him in 2010, Branch said he enjoyed his time working with former Pats coach and current Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. Though the respect for both coaches is obvious, veteran receiver had a hard time keeping a straight face as he spoke of the similarities and differences between the highly energetic Carroll and the often monotone Bill Belichick.

“They’re different coaches,” he said. “I think both of these guys have proven they get a lot out of their players. Those are the similarities, and I think the differences [laughs] ‘€¦ they’re different.”

Asked if the difference is seen in the coaches’ energy levels, Branch replied, “Oh yeah, you can see that. You see that with coach Carroll, man. I enjoyed him and he’s a great guy. A great guy.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Deion Branch, Pete Carroll,

Patriots running backs have made Tom Brady’s work easier

10.10.12 at 1:38 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady joked Wednesday that the pressure is rarely off him as quarterback of the Patriots, but he’ll be the first to admit that his life has been made easier by the Patriots’ multi-faceted running game this season.

Stevan Ridley has emerged as one of the league’s most effective runners, as the second-year back is fifth in the league with 490 rushing yards. Ridley has rushed for 100 or more yards in three of New England’s five games this season, while rookie Brandon Bolden has also been able to produce more than expected (206 yards) and Danny Woodhead has continued to be valuable in both the running and passing game.

Both Ridley and Bolden have broken runs of 20 yards are more, giving the Pats a greater threat on the ground that they’ve had in recent years.

“I think we’re doing a great job of changing field position handing the ball off,” Brady said Wednesday. “It’s different handing the ball off and getting four yards or six yards, which is a good run, but it’s different when you hand off and get 25 and you say, ‘Man, that was easy. Let’s do that again.’

“You get backed up against your own goal line, you run it out there, you’re on the seven yard line 1st and [goal] and you run it for a touchdown like we did, I think we were on the nine yard line. That’s good football. That’s hard to stop. If you can run it and force them to tackle you and force them to get their run fits and worry about run support and then ‘Bam!’ You play action pass on them, I think that’s what makes good football.”

On Sunday, the Pats will go up against one of the league’s stingier run defenses in Seattle. The Pats are third in the league with 165.4 rushing yards per game, but the Seahawks‘ 66.6 rushing yards allowed per game makes them third in the NFL against the run.

“We’ve just got to continue to do it,” Brady said. It’s only been five weeks, and we’re certainly doing great in the running game, but it really means nothing if we don’t do it this week.”

Read More: Brandon Bolden, Stevan Ridley, Tom Brady,

Tom Brady ready for a noisy first trip to Seattle

10.10.12 at 1:20 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It isn’t often that Tom Brady plays in a stadium for the first time these days, but the 35-year-old signal-caller will do just that Sunday when the Pats take on the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

Brady did not make the trip when the Pats last played in Seattle during the quarterback’s lost season in 2008, a game in which Matt Cassel led the Pats to a come-from-behind victory in the fourth quarter. Sunday will mark Brady’s first time playing in Seattle, a stadium known for being loud above all else.

“I think any time you go on the road you expect it to be loud,” Brady said. “We’ve been practicing for that. I know [Seattle] gets some attention around the league for how loud it is, so I’m actually excited to get out there and play in a place I’ve never played.

“I think what makes it loud is they’re very good. When they make plays, the crowd is into it and they get a lot of support,” Brady said of the 3-2 Seahawks. “They’ve certainly been making a lot of them this year at home. They beat two very good teams at home in Dallas and Green Bay, and it’s going to be a big challenge for us. I’m excited to go out there and see what we can do.”

To prepare for deafening atmospheres such as Seattle’s, the Patriots have had practices with music turned up and no communication with the offense.

“[Practice gets] as loud as it could possibly be because you’re not really communicating,” Brady said.

The Patriots are 2-1 on the road this season, with both wins being blowouts in a 34-13 Week 1 victory in Tennessee and a 52-28 Week 4 win in Buffalo. It’s in games such as those that the Pats have seen an atmosphere go from loud and daunting to rather quiet. It’s that silence that the Pats strive for as the away team.

“That’s the fun part of being on the road,” Brady said. “There’s nothing better than being on the road like in Buffalo a few weeks ago, there were more of our fans there at the end than their fans. We’ve done that in Pittsburgh, we’ve done that in some very loud environments, and this place will be really loud. Deion [Branch] said that in opening warmups, just with the way this stadium’s built, it feels like there’s a lot of energy and a lot of sound, certainly on the field there is.”

Come Sunday night, Brady will be able to cross another stadium off his list, and he hopes he’ll have his team’s fourth win as well.

Said Brady: “There’s probably not many that I haven’t played in at this point, but this will be fun.”

Read More: Tom Brady,

Catching up with … the Jets

10.10.12 at 12:39 pm ET
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The Jets are a mess. They’€™re 2-3 (their same record through five games in 2011) in a weak division with an easy schedule down the stretch, but a mess all the same.

Speculation over the Jets’€™ offensive issues following a dreadful preseason has turned into reality, with the subpar play of quarterback Mark Sanchez and the season-ending injury to top wideout Santonio Holmes. Meanwhile, hints that the team’€™s once-elite defense could suffer from increased age and lack of pass rush have come to fruition as well, not to mention the fact that they’€™ve now lost cornerback Darrelle Revis for the season.

Still, the Jets showed they can beat the league’€™s lesser teams during their 2-1 opening stretch, particularly in their 48-28 win in the season opener against the Bills. And as Monday night’€™s narrow loss to the 5-0 Texans showed, the Jets still have enough on the defensive side of the ball to hang with some of the better teams.

It’€™s going to take a few weeks to sort this team out and whether they’ll be even stay in contention in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here’€™s what we do know about the Jets.

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Read More: Mark Sanchez, New York Jets, Tim Tebow,

In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

10.09.12 at 4:59 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the regular season, we’€™ll present a list of the Patriots’€™ ‘€œoffensive touches,’€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Five weeks into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2012:

RB Stevan Ridley: 107 (102 rushes, 5 catches). 11 negative runs.
RB Danny Woodhead: 41 (36 rushes, 5 catches). 2 negative runs.
RB Brandon Bolden: 39 (37 rushes, 2 catches). 7 negative runs.
WR Wes Welker: 38 (0 rushes, 38 catches). 1 negative reception.
WR Brandon Lloyd: 28 (0 rushes, 28 catches).
TE Rob Gronkowski: 23 (0 rushes, 23 catches).
WR Julian Edelman: 12 (2 rushes, 10 catches). 1 negative reception, 1 negative run.
QB Tom Brady: 10 (10 rushes, 0 catches.) 12 sacks and 5 kneel downs.
TE Aaron Hernandez: 7 (1 rush, 6 catches).
WR Deion Branch: 3 (0 rushes, 3 catches)
RB Shane Vereen: 3 (2 rush, 1 catch)
TE Kellen Winslow: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
TE Daniel Fells: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
TOTAL: 314 touches (190 rushes, 124 catches): 23 negative plays, plus 12 sacks.

By position
Running back: 190 touches (177 rushes, 13 catches). 20 negative runs.
Tight end: 33 touches (1 rush, 32 catches).
Wide receiver: 81 touches (2 rushes, 79 catches). 2 negative receptions, 1 negative run.
Quarterback: 10 touches (10 rushes, 0 catches)

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Bill Belichick and Patriots ready to face noise of Seattle

10.09.12 at 4:00 pm ET
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Seattle’s CenturyLink Field is accorded as one of the loudest places in the league, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday that they will spend the week trying to prepare themselves for the raucous atmosphere.

“I think it might be the loudest stadium that we’€™ve been in — and we’€™re in a lot of loud ones,” Belichick said on a conference call. “I’€™ll put that one right up there. Their fans are vocal, it’€™s really loud. When we were out there before, four years ago, their record was 2-10, it wasn’€™t very good and there was a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, a great atmosphere for football. The crowd is totally into it. They do a great job of being loud, causing false start penalties and things like that on the offense.

“Seattle has historically played very well at home. It’€™s a huge home field advantage for them. Record-wise, their record at home has been among the best in the National Football League really. They’€™re right up there with the Packers in the NFC. Absolutely, that will be another big challenge for us. The long trip out there and then the environment, the hostile crowd we’€™ll be facing. Yes, all that is certainly part of the whole preparation and Seattle week.”

It was a point echoed by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

“[Seattle] is an incredible venue to play at. I’€™ve had an opportunity to be there three or four times, and it never disappoints in terms of how loud and how vocal they’€™re going to be,” McDaniels said. “I think it’€™s a great environment to play in and certainly for us on offense it will be important for us to do a good job of communicating and paying attention to all of the little details, so that we make sure that we can work together and try to execute our assignments the best we can.

“Certainly they make it difficult, but I think that the best way for us to do that is to practice with the noise here and do the best we can here; focus on our assignments and our execution and hopefully go out there and play well. If we do that we give ourselves the best chance to be successful.”

Here are some other highlights from Tuesday’s conference call with Belichick:
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