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Tom Coughlin: I don’t think we’re overconfident

02.03.12 at 1:28 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Friday he has no problem with what his team has said over the course of the week.

Many Giants have expressed confidence that they are going to beat the Patriots on Sunday, with defensive lineman Chris Canty going so far as to say that Giants fans should expect a parade through New York the Tuesday after the Super Bowl. Asked about his team’€™s confidence level heading into the game and the statements that have come down, Coughlin said he has no issue with what’€™s been said, comparing them to the statements Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made at a pep rally at Gillette Stadium before New England departed for the game. He said he doesn’€™t feel that his team is overconfident.

‘€œI don’€™t. I’€™m not sure what you’€™re referencing,’€ the Giants’€™ coach said during his press conference. ‘€œI mean, I know there are one or two quotes out there, but to be honest with you, I don’€™t know either one of them is any different than Tom Brady’€™s.’€

Coughlin said he wants his team ‘€œHumble enough to prepare, confident enough to perform. That’€™s the way we look at it.’€

‘€œI think it’€™s just a matter of our team has played good football against great football teams,’€ he added.

Read More: Chris Canty, Tom Brady, Tom Coughlin,

Bill Belichick: I’m not thinking about retirement

02.03.12 at 10:38 am ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Friday morning that even if New England wins on Sunday, he’€™s not thinking about retirement.

Responding to a question about whether or not a win on Sunday would make him decide that it would be an appropriate time to call it a career, Belichick, who has been head coach of the Patriots since 2000, said he’€™s enjoying things too much to ride off into the sunset.

‘€œI enjoy all the aspects of the job,’€ said Belichick, who will turn 60 in April. ‘€œI enjoy the team-building, the drafting, the free agents, team acquisitions — those kind of things. I enjoy bringing in the young players and working with guys who haven’€™t been in the NFL and teaching them the basic fundamentals in how to become a professional football player for the New England Patriots.

‘€œAnd I enjoy working with the veteran players, the Tom Brady‘s and the Vince Wilfork‘s and the Wes Welker‘s and all those kind of players that can do really special things because of their not only talent, but experience. And I enjoy the competition on a weekly basis. Not just on Sundays, but the preparation leading up into the game. So I enjoy all of it. It beats working.’€

Several Super Bowl-winning coaches have decided to walk away after winning it all. Belichick’€™s pal Jimmy Johnson did it with the Cowboys, and Bill Parcells did the same thing with the Giants (although both would eventually return to coaching with different teams). In addition, Bill Walsh, Vince Lombardi and Dick Vermeil also retired after winning Super Bowls.

But that doesn’€™t sound like the case with Belichick, who could win his fourth ring as a head coach on Sunday and sixth overall.

‘€œRight now, I’€™m really thinking about, ‘€˜What’€™s the best thing I can do to help our football team on Sunday against the Giants?’€™ I want to really try to do a good job in the job that I have,’€ Belichick said.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, Bill Walsh, Dick Vermeil

Super Bowl Nuggetpalooza, Part 2: When the Patriots have the ball

02.03.12 at 9:18 am ET
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We’re just two days from the “Big Game” and as promised, here’s part two of my Super Bowl Nuggetpalooza:

WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL:

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* – Against the Ravens, the Patriots won for the first time in their postseason history despite a turnover margin of -2 or worse. It was their 10th such postseason game, including their 2009 loss to those same Ravens.

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* – The Patriots have not scored in the first quarter in any of their four Super Bowls in the Belichick era, but they have either led (three times) or been tied (once, against the Giants) at halftime in all four.

Note this: In those four New England Super Bowls, there have been 92 points scored in the fourth quarter (both teams combined). In the first three quarters? Only 82 total points (both teams combined). The Giants (157) and the Patriots (142) ranked first and third during this regular season in fourth quarter points scored.

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* – Stephen Gostkowski went 3-for-3 on field goal attempts from 40 or more yards during the 2006 postseason, including the Patriots’ only postseason make from 50+. Sine then, he’s attempted only one kick from 40+ in the playoffs, and failed on that attempt. Over the last two regular seasons, Gostkowski and the Patriots are 12-for-15 from 40+ yards, a respectable 80% conversion rate, above the league average of 73%.

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* – The Patriots tight ends gained 136 receiving yards against the Giants in Week 9, one of four times during the regular season that the G-Men allowed 100 or more yards to opposing tight end combos. No team allowed 100+ yards to opposing tight ends more than the Giants this season (the Panthers also allowed 100+ yards four times). The 136 yards picked up by Gronkowski and Hernandez were the most against the Giants this (regular) season and the second most against them since the 2000 season (184 by Jason Witten and other Cowboys in 2009).

Note this: Vernon Davis’ 112 receiving yards was the most ever by a tight end against the Giants in a postseason game. Included was a 73-yard touchdown reception, just the third play of 70 or more yards by a tight end in NFL postseason history (Shannon Sharpe, 96 yards in ’01 and John Mackey, 76 yards in ’71).

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Super Summary: Friday morning roundup of all things Super Bowl on WEEI.com

02.03.12 at 9:03 am ET
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The game is nearing and the players will soon be cloistered away from the media, and so the focus of the game is transitioning from the exchanges between players and media to the reality of X’s and O’s.

One fascinating thing to keep in mind: The greatness of Tom Brady is front-and-center as a factor in this game. The fact that the Patriots are favored is a direct reflection of widespread belief in the future Hall of Famer’s abilities. Yet as Craig Meyer notes, this year has soon something that has been extremely atypical of Brady’s career, chiefly that he has not been rising to the occasion in clutch contests.

To today’s links:

THE DAILY DOSE OF GRONK

— Gronkowski “did some things” in practice in what Patriots coach Bill Belichick deemed a “good test” of how his high ankle sprain is doing. A report suggests that Gronkowski will indeed play on Sunday.

— No one can be sure how much Rob Gronkowski will play or at what level, but we do know this: If he scores a touchdown, the earth will shake. Rob Bradford offers a tremendous look at how Gronkowski’s grenade-like spike evolved.

— One day earlier, it is worth mentioning, the New York Times explored the complete history of the spike in NFL lore.

THE GAME BREAKDOWN

Chris Price says that the Patriots’ no-huddle offense represents a potentially decisive vehicle against the Giants. Need evidence? The lowly Seahawks were able to beat the Giants in New Jersey on the strength of that offensive style.

— Who will have the first word about the outcome of Super Bowl XLVI? That would be Zak DeOssie, who already has a gameplan for the opening coin toss.

Gary Marbry offers a statistical breakdown of the game like none other in Nuggetpalooza. Thursday’s edition focused on what happens when the Giants have the ball.

Stephen Gostkowski is ready if the game is on the line. He blames the fact that he has had few opportunities to show his ability in pivotal moments on an offense that is too good to provide him many such opportunities.

Kirk Minihane gets all bottom-line in his column and explains why he expects the Giants will win on Sunday.

SUPER BOWL TRASH-TALKING STATEMENTS

Chris Canty, one day after exhorting Giants fans to “get ready for a parade,” said that his statement was not the stuff of bulletin-boards. He then went on to proclaim the bulletin board an anachronism in the world of metal white boards and magnets.

— Though likely nonplussed by Canty’s comments, the Patriots bit their collective lip and suggested that their response to any brash Giants proclamations would come on the field on Sunday. That said, receiver Deion Branch couldn’t help but note of Canty’s comments, “Philadelphia said that, too,” prior to losing to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX.

— Giants defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul, who went out on a limb on Wednesday to say that Tom Brady is not God, followed up on Thursday by suggesting that Brady was spooked by New York’s pass rush in the regular season Giants-Patriots game to the point where he was feeling a phantom pass rush.

SUPER BOWL FASHION STATEMENTS

— Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports made a compelling case that Bill Belichick is the NFL’s ultimate anti-establishmentarian. The hoodie, of course, is part of that, as is the fact that you won’t see Belichick’s name in Madden ’12. Arielle Aronson examines those claims while offering a visual tour of hoodie-ism.

Mike Petraglia says that Rob Ninkovich is ready to shed his formidable winning streak beard.

Victor Cruz may have gotten Madonna’s attention with his salsa dancing end zone celebrations, but Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez might be ready to one up his Giants counterpart.

REMEMBERING SUPER BOWL XLII

The memory of the Patriots’ 17-14 loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII remains unshakable as the two teams prepare for their Super rematch.

Rodney Harrison told Dennis & Callahan that he lost sleep over the David Tyree catch for months after the Super Bowl. “I blew it,” he said regarding the signature catch. For more of Harrison’s comments, click here.

Allen Iverson may not care much for practice, but Troy Brown noted that the Patriots had perhaps the worst week of practice he has ever seen in the buildup to Super Bowl XLII. That being the case, Brown (in his appearance on Mut & Merloni) was impressed that this edition of the Patriots seems like it’s having a much better run of preparation building up to Super Bowl XLVI.

YOU KNOW IT IS THE SUPER BOWL WHEN…

The New York Post is publishing the emails of supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who exhorted her friends to “send positive energy” to her husband, Tom Brady.

An anatomy of a spike: How Rob Gronkowski came to deliver his signature celebration

02.02.12 at 11:54 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — It doesn’t classify as Grade A Super Bowl trash talk, but Ahmad Bradshaw has issued something of a challenge.

“I like Gronk,” the Giants running back told WEEI.com Thursday, “but I think I can beat him out.”

Before thoughts of guaranteed victories, or even touchdown predictions, enter into the conversation, understand what Bradshaw was referring to — spiking a football.

While the declaration might not seem like much, when you consider how Rob Gronkowski’s execution of celebrating each touchdown is revered around the NFL, Bradshaw’s claim qualifies as a big deal. As teammate Ryan Mallett explains it, “When Gronk spikes, the ground shakes. You can feel it from the sidelines. It’s nuts. I’ve never seen a human being do that.”

Adds Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins, “You see a lot of guys spike the ball, and then you see Rob spike it and it’€™s totally different. I think he hit a cameraman recently.”

When listening to Gronkowski explain how the practice of spiking the ball evolved, it’s understandable that such exuberance is behind each scoring punctuation.

“It started when I got to the NFL,” Gronkowski explained. “I always wanted to do it in a game but you couldn’t do it in high school or college because of the rules, so I finally got to do it in the NFL. It felt good. It was pretty cool.”

That first celebration came on Aug. 26, 2010, when the then-rookie tight end hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady with 1:52 left in the second quarter of a preseason game against the Rams. Gronkowski broke free of his euphoric teammates and let fly his first-ever spike.

“I just knew,” Gronkowski said. “When I finally had a chance to do it, I was doing it. I wasn’t thinking twice.”

Of course, since then the tight end has let loose with approximately 30 spikes, perfecting his craft with each display of force.

“Sometimes I’€™m glad I’€™m a lineman, way behind the play. It’€™s funny when you see him spike it, you see the referee or [Wes] Welker duck away. It’€™s pretty amazing the way he does it,” Mankins said. “He was good out of the gate, but he’€™s gotten better the way guys duck for cover when he’€™s getting ready to do it.”

“I would say so,” said Gronkowski when asked if he had improved. “I know how to tilt a ball to make it go in a direction.”

While it’s debatable if Gronkowski has any peers in the NFL when it comes to spiking, the 22-year-old said he has the market cornered when it comes to competing against those who saw the first wave of spikes — his brothers.

“That wouldn’t be a challenge,” he said. “I would destroy them.”

Read More: Rob Gronkowski, spike,

Is Tom Brady still Mr. Clutch? Stats show a different story

02.02.12 at 10:09 pm ET
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In sports, there are revered and fundamental truths, statements and realities that are unquestioned and rarely debated.

Principally among them, especially in New England, is this: Tom Brady will always find a way to perform and help put his team in a position to win with the game on the line. In short, Brady is a clutch player and it’€™s that simple.

It is a reputation that Brady has deservedly built over the course of his distinguished career, with late-game heroics in big-game, high-pressure situations cementing his legacy as a winner.

But statistics from the 2011 season paint an entirely different picture of the revered quarterback. If anything, they show a decline in Brady’s late-game statistical performance from years when the Patriots captured the Super Bowl.

In the 2011 season in games decided by 0-7 points, Brady has completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions, all of which add up to a 90.8 passer rating, a mark that places him below Aaron Rodgers (119.2), Tony Romo (98.1), Matthew Stafford (98.0), Drew Brees (97.5) and Eli Manning (92.9).

Brady’s passer rating in games decided by 0-7 points is also down from three of the four years in which the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl.

The problem hasn’€™t even just been when Brady’€™s production has dipped. It’€™s also been when it’€™s spiked, as he has performed significantly better in games which the Patriots have won by 15 or more.

Compared to his 90.8 rating in closely-contested games, Brady has a passer rating of 119.0 in games that the Patriots won by more than two touchdowns.

While it’€™s easy to assume that a quarterback performs better when his team is firmly in control of the game, Brady has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 1.6-to-1 in those 0-7 point games. As for that number in games decided by 15 or more? 13-1.

That contrast in performance is in fact a contrast to the rest of Brady’€™s career, at least in the Patriots’€™ most successful seasons.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Joe Montana

Scott Pioli and Thomas Dimitroff talk Patriots on Big Show, Pioli denies bugging Chiefs rooms

02.02.12 at 3:45 pm ET
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Former Patriots executives Scott Pioli and Thomas Dimitroff, now general managers of the Chiefs and Falcons, respectively, joined The Big Show in Indianapolis Thursday. The two discussed their days with the Patriots and what they hope to achieve with their current franchises.

Bill Belichick has been more friendly with the media since arriving in Indianapolis for the Super Bowl, to the surprise of many. Neither Pioli nor Dimitroff are surprised to see this side of him.

“Bill and I worked together for 16 years, and I’ve known him since 1987,” Pioli said. “That’s the Bill I know. Maybe it’s not shown that often publicly.”

Dimitroff said that neither he nor the city of Atlanta are strangers to Belichick’s perky persona.

“What I know of Bill is last year he came on one of our local radio stations and was waxing poetic about the Grateful Dead and Bon Jovi, and we had a half-hour talk,” Dimitroff said. “It’s not that new for me I guess.”

Said Pioli to Dimitroff: “Maybe getting rid of you and me is lighting him up a little bit. With the two of us not being around, we don’t wear him out as much.”

Pioli said he isn’t surprised to find Belichick still making it to Super Bowls, as he feels the Patriots organization, from Robert Kraft down, has set a standard from which they haven’t strayed.

“A large part is consistency,” Pioli said of what makes the Patriots such a good franchise. “It’s stability and consistency. It starts with Robert, Jonathan [Kraft] and Bill quite honestly. ‘€¦ It’s a matter of consistency and being the same people every day. Everyoone knows what to expect. When you know what to expect in the work place, whether you’re a player, a trainer, an equipment guy, a video guy, the entire [organization], everyone knows what to expect. The leadership, they’re the same people every single day, and that just makes for a great work environment. It allows people to do their jobs more efficiently and better.”

While the people and the philosophies have remained constant for the most part, Dimitroff said that one of Belichick’s best qualities is the ability to constantly analyze his decisions and find others who do the same.

“I think what’s very, very impressive about Bill and about Scott and I hope, hope me, when we’re putting together our teams and our groups of guys, whether it’s the players or the personnel or the coaches, that we’re getting the people that are their harshest critics themselves,” Dimitroff said. “That’s what I think is very important. Bill, it seemed, never had to really go around the people and lay into people, nor did Scott. We all beat ourselves up more than I think anyone else would beat ourselves up.”

Added Pioli: “And you try to surround yourself with people with that [mindset]. You don’t want them to be necessarily like-minded, you want them to have similar values and similar pride, quite honestly.”

The three haven’t been afraid to deal with one another since Pioli and Dimitroff departed New England, as major trades, such as the Matt Cassel trade to the Chiefs in 2008 and the trade of Tony Gonzalez from the Chiefs to the Falcons in 2009, have gone down between the executives. Dimitroff and Pioli noted that they stay in close contact and talk shop, and that the trust they’ve built over the years pays off in the workplace.

“Before we ever get to the point of criticizing one another, with Thomas and I, what absolutely happens is Thomas will call me and say ‘Scott, what do you think about this? I think I might have made a mistake,’ and I do the same thing with him,” Poilio said. “‘€¦ I don’t need Thomas to criticize me, because I’m throwing it all out there. ‘€¦ I don’t mind that he sees the core of what I am and the mistakes I’m making, because I know whatever feedback I’m going to get is real.”

The Chiefs fired coach Todd Haley in December, after which a Kansas City Star piece ran saying Haley believed Pioli was bugging rooms at the team facility.

“I read that,” Pioli said. “[Chairman and CEO] Clark Hunt and [President] Mark Donovan said it at the time and I’ll say it again: Unequivocally, completely, totally untrue.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, Scott Pioli, thomas dimitroff
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