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Report: Patriots work out veteran Jake Grove

12.08.10 at 1:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots worked out veteran center Jake Grove, according to Adam Caplan of Fox Sports. The 30-year-old Grove was originally selected in the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Raiders, and spent five years in Oakland before spending the 2009 season with the Dolphins. He was cut before the start of the 2010 season.

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Dan Koppen joins Mike Wright and Jonathan Wilhite on sidelines

12.08.10 at 1:29 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Starting center Dan Koppen leads the list of names not present at Patriots practice inside the Dana Farber Field House on Wednesday as they began preparations for the Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon.

Koppen joined cornerback Jonathan Wilhite and Mike Wright as players to miss the open portion of the walkthru in Field House. Wilhite has missed the last three games with a hip injury while Wright has missed two straight games with a neck injury and concussion.

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Tom Brady: ‘Don’t think we have it all figured out’

12.08.10 at 12:14 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Sounding a tone of humility, Tom Brady said the Patriots return to practice completely focused on the Chicago Bears and not basking in the afterglow of Monday’s 45-3 thrashing of the New York Jets.

“I don’t think we have it all figured out,” said Brady, who was honored with his second straight AFC Offensive Player of the Week award. “We certainly don’t. It was a good win on Monday night but it doesn’t do anything for us.”

The Patriots have scored 45 points in each of their last two wins. Before that the Patriots scored 31 in a win against the Colts and 39 against the Steelers, prompting questions and comparisons to the 2007 Patriots, which set the NFL all-time record for points scored. Brady shot down the comparison immediately.

“I wouldn’t say so,” Brady said. “We’re not even close to that. Entirely different team in style than what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

In other words, this offense can be just as productive as the machine of ’07 without having to go deep to Randy Moss. Then again, when you don’t have Randy Moss, that doesn’t leave you much of an option. Still, the Patriots haven’t missed a single beat without him in the last month.

And it shows by how Brady has spread the wealth among his receivers. Since the loss in Cleveland, Rob Gronkowski has three TDs (all vs. Pittsburgh); Deion Branch has three; Aaron Hernandez two; and Wes Welker four.

“Anyway you can gain them,” Brady said of the yards and scoring production in the offense. “I think that’€™s really a strength of what our guys are able to do. There’€™s very good quickness by our team, by Wes, by Brandon [Tate], Aaron, Deion. All those guys can run after the catch. If you get it in their hands they’€™re very dangerous with it. We’€™ve got to continue to get the ball in their hands so they can do that. That was really something that we went into last week saying, ‘€˜Alright guys, this is what we got to do. After we catch it we got to make some yards.’€™’€

Brady, who kept his presser a bit briefer than normal, seemed focused on maintaining the rhythm the offense has found since the 34-14 pounding to the Browns on Nov. 7.

“We’€™re just trying to get the ball in the end zone,” Brady said. “That’€™s what our job is. We don’€™t go out there to punt. I always said that he doesn’€™t send us out there and say, ‘€˜Run three plays. We’€™ll send the punt team out.’€™ We’€™re trying to go out there to score and sometimes we do it and other times we haven’€™t. I think we’€™ve been the beneficiaries of a lot of turnovers by our defense, which has really helped us. Situationally, we’€™ve got to continue to do a better job as well like before the half last week, before the end of the game not really being productive there.”

Read More: Chicago Bears, Deion Branch, New England Patriots, nfl

WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 14

12.08.10 at 10:01 am ET
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For the fourth straight week, the Patriots rule in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. The Pats‘ 45-3 clobbering of the Jets makes Bill Belichick‘s team the clear-cut favorite for the No. 1 spot. Soaring not far behind are the Falcons at No. 2. The Patriots will defend their top spot against the Bears (7) in Chicago this Sunday while the Falcons have the pleasure of traveling to North Carolina to take on the Panthers (32).

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers (3)  jump back into the top five after their huge road win against the Ravens (5).  Marching in at No. 4 are the defending champion Saints.

The Colts have lost four of their last five games and continue to take a nose-dive in the rankings. Their only win in that stretch came against the 2-10 Bengals (31). Peyton Manning and the defending AFC champions drop to 14.

The bottom seven teams remain the same as all of them suffered another loss in Week 13.

1. (1) 10-2 The Patriots are in first place because they continue to win the turnover battle. Tom Brady hasn’t thrown an interception in his last seven games. The Pats are also atop their conference with a plus-14 in the giveaway/takeaway differential category. If the Pats can lock up home-field advantage and a first-round bye, it’s tough not to like their chances of reaching yet another Super Bowl. The Brady-Belichick combination is just too difficult to beat when playing in Foxboro during the playoffs.

2. (3) 10-2 Matt Ryan has led the Falcons to six fourth-quarter comeback drives. The Falcons have one of the most balanced offensive game plans in football. They can run and pass the ball effectively. Two of their remaining four games are against the 1-11 Panthers. That makes the Falcons’ chances of winning the NFC and gaining home-field advantage throughout the playoffs very good.

3. (6) 9-3 The offensive line is in shambles. The latest injury for the Steelers comes to starting right tackle Flozell Adams. He suffered a high ankle sprain in Sunday night’s slugfest against the Ravens. Roethlisberger needs better protection if the Steelers want to go deep into the playoffs.

4. (5) 9-3 The defending champs have won five straight games and are in a race for the NFC South division. They’ll also be adding more firepower to their offense. Pierre Thomas is set to return after suffering an injury in the first month of the season.

5. (4) 8-4 The Ravens crumpled in the fourth quarter and gave up 10 unanswered points to the Steelers. The loss to Pittsburgh puts them in a tough position going forward as they will likely have to settle for a wild card playoff spot.

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Ex-Patriots kicker John Smith recalls night John Lennon was killed

12.08.10 at 9:29 am ET
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Wednesday marks the 30th anniversary of the death of former Beatle John Lennon. Older Patriots fans remember that night well, as the Pats were playing the Dolphins in Miami on ABC’s “Monday Night Football.” When legendary announcer Howard Cosell informed the nation that Lennon had died, Patriots kicker John Smith was preparing to attempt a field goal with three seconds remaining in a tie game. The field goal was blocked, and the Patriots went on to lose in overtime, 16-13.

Smith got the second dose of bad news after the game when reporters let the players know that Lennon had been shot and killed outside his New York City apartment.

Smith, who now coaches area youth soccer teams and runs an indoor soccer facility in Milford, noted the irony of the fact that he was the only Englishman in the NFL and he happened to be the one on camera when the nation was told of the death of one of England’s most famous sons.

“I was a teenager in England when the Beatles became popular. We were all big Beatles fans,” he told Tuesday night. “It meant more to me than the other players. It was very sad to hear what happened to John Lennon.”

Smith, who is active with the Patriots alumni group, was in popular demand this week. ESPN called him twice to make appearances and talk about that fateful night. The second time the network called was Monday, and the contact wanted Smith to drive to Connecticut to appear at the ESPN studios. Said Smith: “I told them, ‘No way. I’m going to the Patriots-Jets game. I want to see them beat the Jets. I hate the Jets.’ ”

Click here for the video of Smith getting ready to kick while Cosell makes the announcement of Lennon’s death.

Here’s ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” piece, which includes an appearance by Smith.

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Bill Belichick on The Big Show: ‘A good game all the way around’

12.07.10 at 5:34 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick appeared Tuesday on The Big Show to discuss the Patriots’ 45-3 victory Monday night over the Jets and preview Sunday’s matchup with the 9-3 Bears.

“The players really did a good job,” Belichick said. “We had a good week of practice and preparation, and it certainly came together for the most part last night. I just think the players did a really good job; captains Jerod [Mayo] and Vince [Wilfork] on defense and Tom [Brady] and Alge [Crumpler] on offense.”

Following are highlights from the conversation. To hear the entire interview, visit The Big Show audio on demand page.

It was a good night of football last night, wasn’t it?

It was, Glenn. The players really did a good job. We had a good week of practice and preparation, and it certainly came together for the most part last night. I just think the players did a really good job; captains Jerod and Vince on defense and Tom and Alge on offense.

Kevin Faulk was around a lot this week; I think he had a lot of good things to help our football team prepare for the game and being in the right frame of mind and all that. I think those guys, along with a lot of the veteran players, really did a good job of really getting the team to a good point and we were out there able to execute well last night, and we really played a good game all the way around ‘€” got off to a fast start and we were able to sustain it for 60 minutes.

What is Kevin Faulk doing with these players since he’s not out there? How does he help or impact the team since he can’t be out on the field with them?

Well, he’s around. He’s in getting treatment and doing rehab. But he’s around and certainly brings a great well of experience and confidence, and the participation he’s had in the games and what they’re like and how to approach them and how to prepare for them and what to expect. I think it’s invaluable the insight who’s been in those situations can give the players who either haven’t played or haven’t been in very many of them. I mean, pretty much everybody on the team played the Jets in September, but it’s a little bit different this time of year, and the second time around. Kevin gives a great perspective on what’s important and how to win the game, and no player is more unselfish than Kevin is, and I think he can impart some of that wisdom and experience toward other members of the team.

You also had [Tedy] Bruschi out there, too.

Yeah, it was great to see Tedy. It’s great to see him recognized, he certainly embodies everything that the New England Patriots stand for, and his performance is excellent; his teamwork, his energy, his unselfish play, his success on the field, captainship and leadership that he’s given us throughout the years is just awesome. To have this kind of game on his night is really a great combining of forces, so it was awesome.

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The Big Nickel: What Bill Belichick told his team and breaking down the Tom Brady-Rob Gronkowski connection

12.07.10 at 4:55 pm ET
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The five most important things you need to know about the Patriots today.

1. On Monday night, it was late in the second half, and the Patriots weren’€™t letting up on the throttle. New England had scored yet another touchdown, and were set to kick off to the Jets when Patriots coach Bill Belichick gathered the entire team around him on the sideline for one very distinct message: ‘€œListen, this game isn’€™t over ‘€” we’€™re playing for 60 minutes,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œI don’€™t give a [expletive] what the score is. We’€™re playing for 60 minutes.’€

It was a clear message to a team that had suffered some defensive letdowns in the second half of recent wins against the Colts and Steelers.

‘€œThat’€™s something that we’€™ve been talking about all season,’€ quarterback Tom Brady told WEEI on Tuesday morning. ‘€œWe played ‘€” like the Steelers, for example, we had a great three quarters and then didn’€™t play well in the fourth quarter. The Colts ‘€” we had a great three quarters, didn’€™t play well in the fourth quarter. So, even though we’€™re playing well through three quarters in this game, it’€™s like, ‘€˜OK, guys, this is what we’€™ve been talking about. We’€™re not playing a great 48 minutes, 52 minutes, 59 minutes. We’€™re playing a great 60 minutes.’€™ That’€™s what he was talking about.’€

The ‘€œ60 minute’€ mantra isn’€™t new for the Patriots. It’€™s something they preached throughout the 2007 season ‘€” they even had t-shirts made up with the motto on them. Of course, if you do go hard for 60 minutes, you run the risk of saying you are running up the score (as we all saw on an almost weekly basis throughout the 2007 season). Jets coach Rex Ryan hinted darkly at it in his postgame press conference, saying, ‘€œTrust me, we will remember this.’€ Meanwhile Belichick said he never really thought about the idea of yanking his starters down the stretch.

‘€œI think about trying to win the game,’€ Belichick said on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon. ‘€œI think about a team like the Jets that’€™s come back several times this year when it looks like they were out of the game and [they] came back to tie it or win it or win it in overtime. I don’€™t think that any game is really won until you’€™re absolutely certain that the number of possessions the team has is fewer than the amount of scores that they need.

‘€œWhen you see those leads diminish in the fourth quarter ‘€“ which, unfortunately, we’€™ve seen a few times; so has everybody else ‘€“ then you look at it a little bit differently. When they don’€™t diminish, then you want to go on and talk about what the final score was, but that’€™s not the score while the game is still going on. They still have a number of possessions left in the game. Turnovers, a lot of things like that, can happen. You play to win.’€

2. As much grief as he took for the job the offense did last season, Patriots quarterbacks coach Bill O’€™Brien ‘€” who holds great sway when it comes to offensive play-calling because of a lack of an offensive coordinator ‘€” deserves to take some credit for the performance of the offense, particularly over the last four weeks when the Patriots have posted wins over Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Detroit and the Jets, and have averaged 40 points in the process.

O’€™Brien was asked if there was a time since he’€™s been doing the play calling that this offense has been more efficient and productive.

‘€œIt’€™s a process of a week-to-week. It’€™s like 16 one-game seasons. So week-to-week we look at the opponent and it’€™s been a collaborative effort between a lot of guys starting with Bill and then Dante [Scarnecchia], Ivan [Fears], myself, Brian Ferentz, Chad O’€™Shea, and the players have some input, too. We’€™ve got a lot of experienced players that have played a lot of football.

‘€œAs far as how efficient we’€™ve been and all those things, that’€™s good, but again, we’€™re going into a game this week that this is a team that’€™s third in the league in points allowed and fourth in yards allowed,’€ he added. ‘€œWe’€™ve got to put together a plan that’€™s going to be good for Chicago, and let’€™s see how efficient we are against them. Last night, we executed the game plan the way we wanted to for the most part. I’€™d say the last two drives of the first half weren’€™t real good. But for the most part, we executed it pretty well.’€

O’€™Brien and the New England offense are in rarified air: With the 45 points against the Jets, the Patriots have now scored 30 or more points in seven games in 2010 and lead the NFL with 379 points this season (31.6 points per game). In addition, the Patriots are on pace to score 505 points this season, a total that would rank second in franchise history to the Patriots’€™ NFL record-setting 2007 total of 589 points.

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