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Video: ‘4th & Goal’ breaks down Patriots and Broncos

10.29.14 at 9:19 am ET
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WEEI.com Patriots writer Chris Price previews the Week 9 matchup between the Patriots and Broncos. Find out the keys to the game as well as Chris’ prediction:

5 things you have to know about the Broncos

10.28.14 at 10:57 pm ET
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Peyton Manning will lead the Broncos into Foxboro this weekend. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Peyton Manning will lead the Broncos into Foxboro this weekend. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Here are five things you have to know about the Broncos, who will travel to Foxboro this weekend for a game against the Patriots.

1. Their receiving depth will present the greatest challenge of the season for the Patriots

No team New England will face all season will feature the sort of depth in the passing game that the Broncos do. Denver has three legitimate threats in wide receivers Demaryius Thomas (47 catches, 767 yards, six TDs) and Emmanuel Sanders (47 catches, 634 yards and four TDs), as well as tight end Julius Thomas (30 catches, 327 yards and nine TDs). If you’€™re doling out defensive assignments for the Patriots — with the understanding that it won’€™t be purely man coverage all afternoon — it might come down to Demaryius Thomas-Darrelle Revis and Sanders-Alfonzo Dennard (if healthy), while the bigger Brandon Browner could be assigned to try and slow down the sizable tight end Julius Thomas. (Linebacker Jamie Collins has struggled in coverage for much of the year, and had plenty of issues trying to slow down Thomas in last year’€™s AFC title game.) Everyone knows Peyton Manning‘€™s greatness (2,134 passing yards, 69 percent completion rate, 22 TDs and only 3 picks through seven games), but on the flip side, if there’€™s a pass defense in the AFC that can slow down the Broncos, it just might be this one. This year, through eight games, the Patriots remain the only team that has yet to allow a pass play of 40-plus yards. They’€™ve allowed 210.9 yards per game passing this year (second-fewest in the NFL) compared to 239.0 (18th in the NFL) last year. Also, passes of 20-plus yards are down significantly — 74 in 2012 (worst in NFL), 55 last year (tied for 20th), 23 this year (tied for 15th). Simply put, the Patriots went out and got Revis and Browner for games like this. They are difference makers, and need to play as much on Sunday. (One more idle thought: Will we see the Patriots try and imitate Seattle’€™s Cover 3 approach on Sunday, going with press coverage off the line and a single safety deep? Food for thought.)

2. They are really good against the run

The best way to beat Manning is to keep him off the field, and New England can accomplish that with some extended drives. At the same time, don’€™t expect anything like the 15-play scoring sequence it had last week against the Bears, the longest scoring drive of the season, because when you’€™re talking about the Patriots trying to control the tempo against the Broncos, it’€™s easier said than done. New England has lead back Stevan Ridley sidelined for the season, while the Broncos are the No. 1 run defense in the league, having yielded an average of 72.4 rushing yards per game. (Over the last four games, Denver has allowed 191 yards on 67 carries in that stretch — 2.9 yards per attempt.) It’€™s understandable that the Patriots probably don’€™t want to go toe to toe with the likes of Terrence “Pit Roast” Knighton, so there could be some misdirection when they try and run the ball with a cast that will include Shane Vereen, Jonas Gray and Brandon Bolden. There’€™s also the possibility the possibility of utilizing the short passing game, trying screens and quick outs with short and intermediate routes. It would help Brady get the ball out as fast as possible, keep the tone and tempo in the hands of the Patriots and keep Manning and the Denver offense on the sidelines as long as possible.

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Read More: Bryan Stork, Darrelle Revis, DeMarcus Ware, Demaryius Thomas

In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

10.28.14 at 5:53 pm ET
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Jonas Gray

Jonas Gray

Every week, we list the Patriots’€™€™ “offensive 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. Here’€™€™s a breakdown of the 2014 New England offense after eight games:

RB Stevan Ridley: 98 (94 carries, 4 catches), 8 negative runs
RB Shane Vereen: 85 (58 carries, 27 catches) 1 negative catch, 2 negative runs
WR Julian Edelman: 51 (6 carries, 45 catches)
TE Rob Gronkowski: 40 (40 catches)
WR Brandon LaFell: 30 (30 catches)
RB Jonas Gray: 20 (20 carries)
TE Tim Wright: 18 (1 carry, 17 catches), 1 negative rush
RB Brandon Bolden: 17 (16 carries, 1 catch), 2 negative runs
QB Tom Brady: 15 (15 carries), 13 sacks, 5 kneeldowns
RB James White: 12 (9 carries, 3 catches)
WR Danny Amendola: 7 (7 catches)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 6 (6 catches)
FB James Develin: 5 (1 carry, 4 catches)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 4 (4 carries) 2 sack, 4 kneeldowns
WR Aaron Dobson: 3 (3 catches)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 2 (2 catches)
WR Brian Tyms: 1 (1 catch)

Notes: Not including kneeldowns, the Patriots had two negative plays from scrimmage on Sunday –” one sack of Garoppolo and one negative run by Wright. That ties a season-low — they had two in the September win over the Vikings. … On the season, New England has run 531 plays from scrimmage, and 30 of them have gone for negative yardage, not including kneeldowns. …  Against the Bears, the Patriots ran 71 plays, with 21 of them in shotgun (30 percent). … In addition, 6 of their 71 snaps (8 percent) were no-huddle. … On the season, the Patriots have run 39 of their 531 plays out of no-huddle (7 percent) and 151 snaps in shotgun (32 percent). By way of comparison, over the course of the 2013 regular season, the Patriots were in shotgun for 42 percent of their offensive snaps and they ran no-huddle on 11 percent of their snaps.

By way of comparison, here’s a breakdown of the Patriots’ touches through eight games in 2013.

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Patriots officially announce acquisition of LB Jonathan Casillas, release OL Chris Barker

10.28.14 at 5:20 pm ET
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The Patriots have officially announced the trade for linebacker Jonathan Casillas. To make room for him on the roster, they have released offensive lineman Chris Barker.

Here’s a portion of the statement from the team on the moves:

Casillas, 27, is in his sixth NFL season with Tampa Bay (2013-14) and New Orleans (2009-12). The 6-foot-1, 227-pounder, originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent out of Wisconsin with the New Orleans Saints in 2009. He has played in 55 games with 15 starts and has registered 138 total tackles, three sacks, five passes defensed, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and 26 special teams tackles. Casillas has also played in four postseason games with the Saints, including Super Bowl XLIV. After four seasons with the saints, Casillas signed with Tampa Bay as an unrestricted free agent on March 14, 2013. He played in five games with three starts for the Buccaneers in 2014 and accumulated nine total tackles.

Barker, 24, was signed from the practice squad to the 53-man roster prior to the Jets game on Oct. 16 and played in the game on special teams. He was inactive for the Bears game. Barker was released by the Patriots on Sept. 1, 2014, and signed to the practice squad on Sept. 3. The 6-foot-2, 310-pounder is in his second NFL season after spending the entire 2013 season on the New England roster. Barker was claimed off waivers and awarded to the Patriots from Miami on Sept. 1, 2013. Barker was originally signed by Miami as a rookie free agent out of Nevada on May 3, 2013, but was released on Aug. 31, 2013.

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What does LB Jonathan Casillas bring to Patriots?

10.28.14 at 4:51 pm ET
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Linebacker Jonathan Casillas was acquired by the Patriots at the deadline on Tuesday. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Linebacker Jonathan Casillas was acquired by the Patriots at the deadline on Tuesday. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Jonathan Casillas, who was acquired Tuesday in a trade deadline move by the Patriots from Tampa Bay, projects as an undersized linebacker who could have several roles in the New England system.

The 6-foot-1, 227-pounder — who finished last year on injured reserve with a knee issue — presents himself as a prospect who has gained a small measure of success working as a cover linebacker, as well as a special teamer. (His biggest turn in the spotlight in his five-plus years in the NFL came when he recovered the surprise onside kick as a member of the Saints to start the second half of Super Bowl XLIV.)

His best season likely came with the Saints in 2011 when he finished with 43 tackles, three sacks and two passes defensed in 13 games (five starts). In his five-plus years in the NFL, he has played in 55 games (20 starts), and has 138 tackles, three sacks and five passes defended.

(In a development that is not at all surprising, Casillas has a history with Bill Belichick’s friend Greg Schiano. The former Bucs and Rutgers coach — who is serving in some sort of undefined role with the Patriots this season — has known Casillas since the linebacker was in high school, and tried to recruit him to Rutgers. Casillas instead went to Wisconsin.)

With the Patriots, his playing history tells us that he will likely work as a special teamer, as well as someone who could contribute on passing downs (perhaps at the expense of another linebacker or defensive lineman) as a linebacker who might be capable of running with tight ends or running backs on occasion.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Greg Schiano, Jonathan Casillas,

Report: Patriots, Bucs finalizing deal to bring LB Jonathan Casillas to New England

10.28.14 at 4:02 pm ET
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The Patriots and Buccaneers are reportedly finalizing a deal that will send linebacker Jonathan Casillas to New England, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

Casillas is a 6-foot-1, 227-pounder out of Wisconsin who is in his sixth season in the league. He’s played for Tampa Bay and New Orleans, and had his best year with the Saints in 2011 when he finished with 43 tackles, three sacks and two passes defensed in 13 games (five starts).

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Jonathan Casillas, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers,

Bill Belichick: Peyton Manning has no weaknesses

10.28.14 at 3:47 pm ET
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Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick have knocked heads on several occasions. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick have knocked heads on several occasions. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

As far as Bill Belichick is concerned, when it comes to Peyton Mannng, it’s pretty simple.

“I don’t think there are any weaknesses in his game,” Belichick said on a conference call with the media Tuesday afternoon.

The 38-year-old Manning, who has thrown 41 touchdown passes in his career against the Patriots, will get a chance for a few more Sunday when he leads the Broncos into Gillette Stadium for another clash with the Patriots.

“I think it doesn’t really matter who is out there with him,” added Belichick, who — when teamed with Tom Brady — is 10-5 as a head coach against Manning. “Whoever it is, he finds a way to utilize them. He’s had different players at different positions and different combinations and guys have been out and other guys have been in and all that. But no matter who it is out there, he does a good job of finding ways to utilize the skills of the particular group that is out there relative to their defensive matchup.

“It seems like he causes every defense a problem every week for the last 15 years or however long it’s been. You have to know who the other people are out there. Everybody has to do their job to defend them. You can’t just stop one guy or one thing. But he does a great job of utilizing his players, his resources relative to what the defense is giving him and what looks best — a combination of his personnel versus where the defense is soft. He’s good because he does everything good.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady,
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