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Heath Evans on M&M: Monday’s game more important for Panthers than Patriots

11.18.13 at 2:40 pm ET
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Former Patriot Heath Evans joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to talk about New England’€™s matchup with the Panthers and his take on the bullying scandal in Miami.

Monday’€™s game is a surprisingly good matchup as quarterback Cam Newton has led his team a 6-3 start to the season. With the Saints winning on Sunday, Carolina moved to 1½ games behind New Orleans in the NFC South.

‘€œI think this is definitely more important for the Carolina Panthers, and [coach] Ron Rivera,’€ said Evans, who works with the NFL Network and the NFL on Fox.

Newton has played well this season, but the reason for the turnaround from a 7-9 record in 2012 revolves around the strong play of the Panthers defense. Second-year pro and Boston College product Luke Kuechly leads the team from his middle linebacker position. Evans compared Kuechly to former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi.

‘€œLuke Kuechly, and I think Tedy would probably agree with me, is more physically gifted than Tedy,’€ Evans said. ‘€œThis kid just gets it. ‘€¦ There’€™s literally not a weak point to this kid’€™s game, and it’€™s just going to get a lot better.’€

New England ran the ball during its last game against the Steelers, but achieving the same level of success against Kuechly and the Panthers’€™ impressive defensive line will be a daunting task.

‘€œYou’€™ve got a lot of pieces here where, if you can run the ball, this offense can grow into a Patriots offense that we’€™ve never even seen before that could maybe even be more spectacular than what we’€™ve seen in the past,’€ Evans said.

Evans, a member of the Dolphins in 2005, took on the issue of the Jonathan MartinRichie Incognito bullying saga.

‘€œJonathan Martin, if you’€™re having mental issues, and you have to step away from the team, what are you doing at a Stanford game the other night, on national TV in front of hundreds of thousands of people?’€ Evans said. ‘€œWhen everything that will be exposed is exposed, I’€™m sure we’€™re probably going to see Jonathan Martin in a different light, we’€™ll probably see Richie Incognito in a different light, so to speak.’€

To hear the full interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Cam Newton, Heath Evans, Jonathan Martin, Luke Kuechly

Reports: Tom Brady’s wedding bodyguards found guilty of attempted murder for shooting at photographers

11.18.13 at 11:49 am ET
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Two bodyguards who had been providing security for the 2009 wedding of Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen in Costa Rica were found guilty of attempted murder for shooting at paparazzi who were trying to photograph the event, according to multiple reports.

In a unanimous verdict, three judges sentenced Miguel Solis and Alexander Rivas to five years in jail. The bodyguards, who refused to testify during the trial, also were ordered to pay $10,000 each to the two photographers, who had the rear window of their vehicle shot out as they were fleeing. A third bodyguard, Manuel Valverde, was acquitted.

Photographers Rolando Aviles and Uri Cortez said they were taking pictures of the event from a neighboring property when three guards approached them and demanded the cameras’ memory cards. When the photographers instead returned to their car to drive away, shots were fired.

“The bullet went between us, missing our heads. If the bullet had been a little more to the left or right, it would have killed one of us,” Aviles told the London Daily Mail. “I said, ‘They’re going to kill us,’ and that’s when I hunched down to cover myself. When the glass broke, that’s when my friend started driving really fast.

“I could have lost my life for the sale of some pictures that Gisele didn’t want published. Are they insane?”

Neither photographer suffered physical injuries in the incident.

Brady denied the account at the time, insisting: “It’s absolute B.S. We found two guys on our property, and we told them to get out. Our security didn’t even have guns. There were no shots fired.”

Read More: Gisele Bundchen, Tom Brady,

Adam Schefter on D&C: Panthers’ Luke Kuechly arguably NFL’s best ILB

11.18.13 at 9:26 am ET
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ESPN’€™s Adam Schefter joined Dennis & Callahan Monday to discuss the Patriots’ matchup with the Panthers and news from around the NFL.

New England and Carolina square off on Monday night in Charlotte, N.C. The Panthers, backed by a stellar defense, enter the bout with a surprising 6-3 record. At the helm of that defense is middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, the former Boston College standout.

‘€œI think if Luke Kuechly were to be in the draft again today, I think he’€™d be a top-three pick, not a top-nine pick,’€ Schefter said. ‘€œThe way he’€™s played and his upside has exceeded what some people thought he might do, to the point now where you could easily make the argument, I believe, that he’€™s the best inside linebacker in the game.’€

Kuechly, the 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, leads the team with 75 tackles, and he has three interceptions.

‘€œEveryone in the Boston area knows how great he was at Boston College, and he’€™s just picked up right where he left off in the NFL and taken it to another level,’€ Schefter said. ‘€œAnd the Patriots are going to taste that tonight.’€

The Panthers sit 1 1/2 games behind behind the Saints in the NFC South and hold the first wild card spot.

‘€œI haven’€™t seen it enough to feel confident where I say, ‘Yes, Super Bowl contender, legitimate,’ ‘€ Schefter said. ‘€œNow if they go and beat the Patriots tonight, my answer 24 hours from now might be a little different than today, but I can say they’€™re a legitimate playoff team, a strong team, a team I’€™m very impressed by, but I don’€™t know if I can group them with the rest of those other teams right now.’€

After the Patriots face Carolina, they will begin to prepare for one of the most anticipated regular-season games of the season, a matchup with the Broncos. The game features a number of intriguing storylines: arguably the best two teams in the AFC; Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady; and Wes Welker possibly facing the team he departed this offseason.

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Read More: adam schefter, Jonathan Martin, Luke Kuechly, Peyton Manning

Report: Tom Brady reached out to Ed Reed

11.18.13 at 7:07 am ET
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There have been conflicting reports about the level of the Patriots’ interest in Ed Reed after the veteran safety was released by the Texans last week. According to a story Sunday by Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Tom Brady texted Reed to encourage him to sign with New England. However, the Patriots brass did not show the same level of interest.

Reed eventually signed with the Jets, who came on strong in their courtship. Coach Rex Ryan texted him and set up a visit right after Reed cleared waivers, La Canfora reported. After a meeting with general manager John Idzik on Wednesday night and passing a thorough physical Thursday, Reed signed with New York and was active for Sunday’s game against the Bills.

The Jets are hoping Reed can provide veteran leadership and a presence in the defensive backfield, although he wasn’t able to offer much help in Sunday’s 37-14 loss to the Bills.

Read More: Ed Reed, Tom Brady,

10 things you have to know about Patriots-Panthers

11.18.13 at 1:09 am ET
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Here’€™s everything you need to know about Monday’€™s Patriots-Panthers game.

Our three favorite matchups on the evening:

1. Cornerback Aqib Talib vs. wide receiver Steve Smith

The 34-year-old Smith is not the receiver he used to be (he’s still got 42 catches for 450 yards), but the 5-foot-9, 185-pounder is still feisty enough — and talkative enough — to find his true counterpoint in Talib, a corner who is known to do some woofing between the lines. Talib will be coming off three straight weeks on the shelf because of a hip injury he suffered in the Week 6 win over New Orleans, so there’€™s bound to be a little rust. While Smith isn’€™t the sort of elite receiver Talib has gone against over the first month-plus of the season, when they do go head to head on Monday, there should be some fireworks.

2. Tight end Rob Gronkowski vs. linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis

This is not to suggest the Panthers will be using one of them in single coverage on Gronkowski, but on paper, this looks to be one of the only linebacker combos that have the speed and strength to hang with the big fella. Kuechly is aggressive enough in coverage to be dangerous (he leads Carolina with three picks on the season) and is a high-end playmaker who will likely be asked to slow down the New England tight end, while Davis (a converted college safety) is also considered one of the best coverage linebackers in the league. Carolina has done well over the first half of the season when it comes to facing some of the best tight ends in the league — over the last two weeks, San Francisco’€™s Vernon Davis and Atlanta’€™s Tony Gonzalez have combined for seven catches and 83 yards against the Carolina defense. With Gronkowski getting back to something approximating 100 percent, it will be interesting to see how this matchup goes down.

3. Defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones vs. quarterback Cam Newton

As was the case when the Patriots faced some of the other mobile quarterbacks earlier in the season — Josh Freeman, Geno Smith, EJ Manuel and Ryan Tannehill included — when it came to the front seven, the priority wasn’€™t so much on sacking the quarterback but keeping him contained in the pocket and making sure that things don’€™t break down. Gap discipline and maintaining the edge will be absolutely paramount when it comes to slowing down Newton, a practitioner of the read option who has shown a real ability to tuck the ball away and take off on his own. It’€™s up to Ninkovich and Jones to make sure that he isn’€™t able to bounce it outside — instead, you want to force him to the inside where linebackers like Brandon Spikes and Dont’€™a Hightower will be waiting to try and slow him down. Ninkovich said this week they can take a lot from their experiences with read-option quarterbacks like Michael Vick (who they faced in the joint practices in the summer) and Colin Kaepernick last year.

4. Under-the-radar opponent Patriots fans need to know

The Carolina secondary doesn’€™t get near the same amount of respect that the front seven garners, but it has quietly emerged as an important piece of Carolina’€™s scheme over the first nine games. The Panthers rank fourth in the league against the pass and have only allowed seven touchdown passes this season, and 5-foot-8, 186-pounder Captain Munnerlyn is a big reason why. The South Carolina product has 26 tackles, leads the team with seven passes defensed and had a pick thrown in for good measure. (One other note — he has four pick-sixes in his five-year career.) As a team, the Panthers have 13 interceptions on the season.

5. By the numbers

The Patriots have won their last five appearances on Monday Night Football by an average score of 40-12.

6. Quote of note

‘€œThe hard thing about this team, watching this team, is that there are a lot of guys that have been hurt or are coming back from being hurt. So, it’€™s hard to really get a good gauge as to who they are or what they are going to be as we get ready for this football game.’€ — Panthers coach Ron Rivera on preparing to face the Patriots, who are expected Monday for the first time all season — in the 10th game of the year — to have Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Aaron Dobson all available for the same game

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Reports: Wes Welker suffers concussion, status for Patriots game in doubt

11.18.13 at 1:03 am ET
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Wes Welker reportedly sustained a concussion in Sunday’s Broncos game. The former Patriots receiver, in his first season with Denver, took a serious hit going over the middle on a fourth-quarter pass play against the Chiefs, and left the game later in the second half as the team announced he was being evaluated for a concussion.

However, reports surfaced after the game that he did indeed suffer from a concussion, which would certainly throw his availability for next Sunday’s Patriots-Broncos game in Foxboro in doubt — going forward, Welker won’€™t be able to practice or play without separate clearances from an independent neurologist.

In his first season with the Broncos after six seasons with New England, Welker has 61 catches for 648 yards and nine touchdowns.

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

Read More: Wes Welker,

Breaking down Sunday’s action from Patriots perspective

11.18.13 at 12:21 am ET
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Taking a look at the Sunday action through a Patriots prism:

Bills 37, Jets 14: A Saturday night trip to Dave & Busters did no good when it came to building consistency for the Jets, as Buffalo was able to rise up at home and knock off New York. The Jets have now alternated wins and losses over the first 10 games of the season on the way to a 5-5 mark, and while they still sit in that No. 6 playoff spot, New York needs to start displaying some consistency down the stretch if it wants to be taken seriously as a playoff contender.

Bears 23, Ravens 20: More good news for New England, as the fact that Baltimore slips even further behind in the playoff chase means it is a step closer to elimination from the postseason picture. Considering the fortitude the Ravens showed down the stretch last season in fighting their way through December and into the playoffs, they should never be discounted. At the same time, they’re now one of six teams in the AFC sitting at 4-6, a game behind the Jets for that No. 6 playoff spot.

Bengals 41, Browns 20: Cincy moved to 7-4 and took another step toward the AFC North crown with a relatively win over its interstate rivals. The Bengals, who snapped a two-game losing skid that saw them drop back-to-back overtime decisions, currently sit at No. 4 in the playoff picture, and are just a game behind New England in a suddenly close race. (Indy, which beat the Titans on Thursday, sit a half-game behind the Patriots.) The Browns are part of the morass at 4-6.

Dolphins 20, Chargers 16: The embattled Dolphins (we should think about collectively replace “Miami” with “embattled” going forward, considering that’s how everyone identifies them these days) posted an impressive win after a relatively miserable week, hanging on to beat the Chargers. Their win combined with the Jets loss to the Bills, has both teams sitting at 5-5, 2 1/2 games in back of the Patriots heading into Monday night’s action. Meanwhile, the Chargers join the whole host of AFC teams at 4-6, sitting just outside the current playoff picture.

Broncos 27, Chiefs 17: Denver dealt Kansas City its first loss of the season Sunday night in Colorado, leaving both teams theoretically tied for the top spot in the AFC playoff race with identical 9-1 records. The Broncos will take the No. 1 seed because of their Sunday night win over the Chiefs, which means the Chiefs (because they’re in the same division as the Broncos) are bumped all the way down the list to No. 5, and a wild card spot.

For the complete AFC playoff picture, this is an excellent page worth bookmarking.

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