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Tim Hasselbeck on D&C: Starting Johnny Manziel made Browns ‘worse on that side of the football’

12.15.14 at 9:31 am ET
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ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the Patriots’€™ win over the Dolphins and other news around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots allowed the Dolphins 10 consecutive points at the end of the half, which cut the New England lead to 14-13. Hasselbeck said the locker room environment probably wasn’t angry, but one that looked to correct any issues from the first half.

“I don’€™t think it’€™s accusatory,” Hasselbeck said of the locker room. “I think what happens is you look at what [the other team is] doing. Really, what you try to do is you try to gather as much information as you’€™re able to gather. Usually, there’€™s some type of process where you’€™re going to the bathroom, the players do whatever they need to do. Guys, they go to the bathroom, they just switch their cleats. Whatever they need to do, grab a snack, whatever it is, they take their time to do that. The coaches will go and meet. The process of the coaches€™ meeting together, they’€™ll come up with a plan and say, ‘€˜Hey, look. These are the runs we think work. This what their kind of blitz du jour is for this week on third down. This is what where we’€™re having an issue with matchup-wise. This guy’€™s giving us a problem, so we need to help him.'”

Continued Hasselbeck: “They devise a plan and then you go talk about what the plan is for the second half going forward based on what did well and what you didn’t do well in the first half for whatever the reason. Whether it was a penalty situation, getting behind down and distance or whether it was a matchup thing. That’€™s really what happens, and I don’€™t think in an environment where you’€™re up one point there’€™s any situation to panic. I think you look at some of the maybe missed opportunities and things that you try to take advantage of in the second half.”

Rob Gronkowski was not involved in the offense in the first half, but when he grabbed three passes and touchdown in the second half, New England took off and ran up the score. This had many wondering why he wasn’t involved in the offense from the outset.

“People come in with a plan,” Hasselbeck said. “And then it’€™s kind of what I talked about with halftime and you start to adjust and you start to say, ‘OK, well this what we’€™re going to do formation-wise, so they’€™re not able to do that, so they’€™re not able to beat him up off the line of scrimmage.’ That type of stuff. And I think in the second half you saw that. Great example of something similar: You look at last night’€™s game, Cowboys and the Eagles. The first three third downs, [the Eagles] are dealing with Dez Bryant and they’€™re rolling somebody over the top to Dez, and Jason Witten has got one-on-one coverage and he’€™s not getting impeded off the line of scrimmage. In each of those third downs, Romo hits Witten for a first down. So, then Philadelphia is like, ‘€˜All right, enough of that. We can’€™t let him beat us.’ They start playing cover-1 single-high safety, bringing guys down so that there’€™s more traffic, congestion in the middle of the field. Well, then you isolate Dez Bryant and the game’€™s over at that point because Bradley Fletcher can’€™t cover him. So there’€™s elements and there’€™s that type of it’€™s either this or that when you’€™re starting to deal with guys that play inside the numbers vs. guys that are playing outside and how you’€™re defending it. I can’€™t say for sure that’€™s exactly what happened without going back and watching it closer, but I certainly get a sense that has something to do with it.”

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Tom Brady on D&C: ‘I don’t think we ever take the pedal off the metal until there’s no time left in the game’

12.15.14 at 9:19 am ET
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Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show on Monday morning, a day after the Patriots clinched their 11th AFC East title in 12 seasons with a 41-13 rout of the Dolphins. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Brady completed 21-of-35 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He also scrambled for a first down in the third quarter to spark the offense after an unimpressive first half.

“I found a little space there,” Brady said of his run. “They’ve been doing it to us the last few times that we played them where they really focus the coverage on a few guys and it leaves definitely some places to run. When I felt like I had the look, I kind of wanted to pull the trigger, and I saw some space and got some great blocks down field. So it ended up being a big play in the game.”

That 17-yard run was a hot topic after the game.

“Well, it’s pretty atypical. I guess when it happens once every seven or eight years then yeah, it can definitely be talked about,” Brady joked. “But I thought there were a lot of great things to be talked about. Certainly, a lot of guys played really well yesterday. Our defense is playing as well as I can ever remember. They really set the tone for us the last bunch of weeks.

“I’m glad we were able to put some things together there in the second half. But it’s a good defense. They’re the fifth-rated defense in the league. They got guys that can rush, they got guys they can cover. We made some plays there in the second half, which was great to see.”

After being tackles, Brady got up and was very vocal in the direction of Dolphins safety Walt Aikens.

“I don’t remember [what was said]. No, I don’t remember much,” Brady said. “He gave me a good little pop. Normally I’m always going down or getting out, and I was pretty close to the goal line. But there’s a reason why they’re called safeties and they’re the last line of defense. He definitely didn’t let me get any farther than I wanted to go.”

Asked if he took the hit in an effort to light a fire under the team, Brady said: “Well, I said after the game that I wasn’t in the best of mood at that time. So I think when I got there and I was into the secondary and surveyed some things and then I saw him coming, I just figured, why not? I don’t take those too often because usually those don’t go to well for me or for many players when they’re not used to getting hit. And he was bigger than I thought he was. I wish I would’ve stayed on my feet. But it was good play, it was a play that we needed. A lot of guys made a bunch of plays that we needed. I was glad to be able to contribute.”

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Rob Gronkowski suffers ‘nothing more than a charley horse’ in running over Dolphins

12.14.14 at 11:22 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It was a hit that brought back many horrible memories for Patriots fans.

On second-and-4 at the Miami 41, Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski on his third big seam route of the second half, good for 35 yards down to the Dolphins 6. But the bigger hit on the play came from Dolphins safety Jimmy Wilson. He came in like T.J. Ward did in Nov. 2013 and hit Gronkowski just above his surgically repaired right knee.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft was one of the first to visit Gronk after the game at his locker. Gronk assured the concerned owner, “It’s just a charley horse,” Gronkowski said in a smiling, assuring manner.

Later, the tight end added to, “it was just a stinger on the thigh. Get them all the time.”

Brady opened the second half with a 34-yard connection to Gronkowski on a seam route. The play was big for several reasons. It was Gronkowski’s first catch. It put Gronkowski over 1,000 yards on the season and it was a play that appeared to finally give the Patriots some offensive rhythm. Gronkowski was held without a catch on just two targets in the first half.

“Just got to start off with just one play, just one play to get the drive going and get the first down and get going and start clicking from there,” Gronkowski said. “It just takes one play at a time, do what you got to do, and just keep on going from there.”

The first offensive play after a interception by Patrick Chung, it was Brady again on a seam to Gronkowski for 27 yards and a touchdown.

“It was a good throw by Tom, good protection, and just a little play action and I just had a seam route, so I just ran up the seam and Tom had a nice pass and we just completed [it] and scored,” Gronkowski said. “It was just good execution as a whole on offense.”

Gronkowski, like everyone else on the field, had an opinion on Brady’s 17-yard scramble on third-and-11 on the first drive of the second half.

“€œI kind of saw it. I was out there,” Gronk said. “It was a nice run, so you got to give props to him and he made a very nice play to get the first down and we eventually scored on that drive, so huge props to Brady on that run, it was huge.”

Gronkowski said he doesn’t often see Brady take off, even in practice, but he’ll take it.

“Whatever it comes down to win he’€™ll do, so he saw the opening, he ran, and, what was it for ‘€“ 17 ‘€“yards and a first down? That was huge,” Gronkowski said. “Huge props to him and he does anything to win.”

Gronkowski finished with those three catches on eight targets for a touchdown and 96 yards in the 41-13 AFC East-clinching win. It wasn’t a monster game but Robert Kraft and the rest of the Patriots will take the tight end getting through the game healthy as a nice tradeoff.

Read More: Gronk, Jimmy Kelly, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots

Special teams continue to be a ‘difference maker’ in another Patriots win

12.14.14 at 10:55 pm ET
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Stephen Gostkowski became the Patriots' all-time leader scorer in Sunday's win. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Stephen Gostkowski became the Patriots’ all-time leader scorer in Sunday’s win. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Once again, special teams matter.

As has been the case in many games this season, including twice in as many weeks, special teams have played a major factor in a Patriots win.

Last Sunday in San Diego, Brandon Bolden blocked a punt and punter Ryan Allen had a terrific day to earn AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. This week it was a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown to set the tone in the Patriots’ 41-13 win over the Dolphins to clinch their sixth straight AFC East title.

After the Dolphins drove down the field on their opening drive, but then stalled, Caleb Sturgis came on for a 43-yard field goal attempt. The athletic Jamie Collins was able to block the kick and Kyle Arrington alertly scooped up the loose ball and ran it 62 yards for a Patriots touchdown.

“It was a good — that’€™s kind of what the outside guys are looking for,” coach Bill Belichick said of the play. “They’€™re looking for a block to put themselves in a position, which he did, to be able to attack the ball. That’€™s the kind of situation where there really aren’€™t too many guys on the other side of the ball that can tackle or are very good tacklers. If you can just get it up and get going ‘€“ a bunch of offensive linemen, a couple specialists. Kyle is a fast guy. Once he got a little bit of space, I don’€™t think there are too many guys who can run him down. But it was a good — he did his job. He was in position and took advantage of the opportunity and turned it into points. It was a heads up play.”

It was the third blocked field goal of the season for the Patriots, which ties a franchise record. Chandler Jones had one in Week 2 against the Vikings, and Chris Jones had one in the closing seconds of Week 7’s game against the Jets. Overall, the Patriots have blocked four kicks this season, including three field goals and a blocked punt. The four blocked kicks are the most for the Patriots since 2002.

The touchdown wasn’t the only special teams accomplishment in the win, as kicker Stephen Gostkowski became the Patriots’ all-time leader scorer in the game. With five extra points and two field goals, the kicker now has 1,165 points, which passes Adam Vinatieri‘s 1,165 for the franchise lead.

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Julian Edelman loves to watch his ‘Clydesdale’ Tom Brady run like Michael Vick

12.14.14 at 9:58 pm ET
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FOXBORO — When Tom Brady took off on his memorable tone-setting 17-yard jaunt in the third quarter, Julian Edelman had a couple of visions flash though his mind.

“It’s always fun to see the Clydesdale run,” Edelman said. “He’s been working hard on his little mobility stuff. He takes that to heart. It always fun to see him get fired up after a run. I call him Brady-Vick. He’s always had unbelievable pocket awareness. It’s always great to seeing the big dog out there moving the chains.”

Told the third-and-11 run was 17 yards, Edelman was incredulous.

“It was 17 yards? That was the slowest 17 yards I’ve ever seen in my life,” Edelman said.

Of course, the first half was no laughing matter. The Patriots were spinning their wheels. They led 14-13 over the Dolphins but couldn’t put a lot of plays together.

“I can’t answer that question, ‘Why it didn’t work in the first half?'” Edelman said. “But I can answer that it was a little better in the second half. We definitely have to go out and work on starting it faster, plain and simple, because now each and every game has a little more value. We’ll definitely have to work on that and I’m sure that’ll be a focus with our coaches.
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Read More: Julian Edelman, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Tom Brady

Chandler Jones says it ‘got a little emotional’ in return after missing 6 games

12.14.14 at 7:41 pm ET
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Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones

FOXBORO — It had been almost exactly two months to the day since Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones last played in a game.

Sunday, Jones returned to action for the first time since suffering a hip injury Oct. 16 against the Jets and made his return memorable, as he finished with seven tackles and 1.5 sacks in the Patriots’ 41-13 blowout win over the Dolphins.

“€œI felt great,” said Jones. “The coaches did a great job of mixing me up and switching in-and-out with different guys. It also felt really good to be back out there with my teammates.”

By our count, Jones played 48 snaps and didn’t seem limited in any way. He lined up both as a defensive end, and in a 3-point stance with Akeem Ayers and Dont’a Hightower sometimes outside of him.

Jones returned to practice the week of the Green Bay game, two weeks ago, but eased back into things before being active for the first time on Sunday.

“€œI was just listening to what Coach [Bill] Belichick told me and the doctors and the trainers, taking it a day at a time,” said Jones. “I know you guys heard Bill say we’€™ll take it day-by-day-by-day, and that’€™s what we were doing. Like I said, it felt good to be back out there with my teammates. Just a few months ago I was on crutches. So for me to be out there running with my team, I got a little emotional, but it felt good to be out there.”

It was the first extended period of time the defensive end has missed since missing some time in his rookie year, so before the game when he was getting back into his pregame routine was when he started to become emotional.

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Mike Petraglia, Chris Price detail how Patriots flipped the switch to beat Dolphins, clinch 6th straight AFC East

12.14.14 at 7:23 pm ET
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FOXBORO —’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price detail how the Patriots were able to flip the switch and beat the Miami Dolphins, 41-13, Sunday at Gillette Stadium, clinching their sixth straight AFC East title. The Patriots led by only a point, 14-13, at the half before outscoring the Dolphins, 27-0, in the second half.

Read More: AFC East, Chris Price, Miami Dolphins, Mike Petraglia
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