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Matthew Slater on M&M: Patriots receivers taught to run pick play, but ‘we’re always going to play within the rules of the game’

01.20.14 at 1:07 pm ET
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Patriots receiver and special teams Pro Bowler Matthew Slater checked in with Mut & Merloni on Monday to offer his take on Sunday’s loss to the Broncos in the AFC championship game and the controversy surrounding Wes Welker‘s off-the-ball hit on Aqib Talib. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick started off his Monday morning press conference by calling out Welker for what the coach called “one of the worst plays I’ve seen.”

Said Slater: “Obviously Aqib is so important to this football team, what he brings to the table. So for us to lose him in that type of situation was tough. Obviously coach saw something on the film that he didn’t deem fair, and I’m sure he had just reason to feel that way. I haven’t seen the play. If he felt that way, I’m sure that that’s what it was. But there’s nothing that we can do about it now.

“I hope Aqib is OK and on the mend and we can get him healthy and have a healthy offseason. That happens in football and there’s nothing that we can do about it now.”

With the Patriots losing so many key starters this season, Slater said Talib’s injury was just another challenge to overcome.

“We’ve been put in that position so many times this year that we didn’t give it a lot of thought,” he said of the team’s initial reaction. “We just thought we’ve got to continue to play on. But obviously, just like those other guys, looking back in hindsight, when you lose a guy like that it’s going to have an impact, especially in a game like that. But during the time, we didn’t think about it.”

The hit happened while Welker appeared to be running a pick play to free up a teammate, and he collided with Talib as the ball was arriving in Demaryius Thomas‘ hands (Thomas dropped the pass).

“With a lot of man coverage being played in the league, there’s certain things that you have to do to be creative to get your guys open. But you’ve got to do it within the rules and regulations,” Slater said. “When we’re taught to run those routes, we’re taught to still run to get open, not just go in there and set a basketball pick. You’ve got an attempt to get open and make it look like you’re getting open, because the rules state that you have to do that. So, we’re taught to do that, obviously, but within the rules of the game. We’re always going to play within the rules of the game.”

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Read More: Aqib Talib, Bill Belichick, Matthew Slater, Wes Welker

Tom Brady on D&C: ‘It’s a very abrupt end’ to season

01.20.14 at 11:15 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his final appearance of the season on WEEI’s Patriots Monday with Dennis & Callahan and discussed the team’s disappointing performance in Sunday’s AFC championship game. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Brady was not at his best as the Patriots’ season ended with a 26-16 loss to Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver.

“They played a lot better than we did yesterday,” Belichick said. “We certainly didn’t make enough plays to win. There’s a lot of plays that impact the outcome of the game. We didn’t make enough good plays to impact the outcome in a positive way for us. It’s unfortunate for our season to come to an end like this. But I would say Denver earned it. They played a lot better than we did yesterday.”

Added Brady: “It’s a very abrupt end,” Brady said. “And it’s that for 30 teams, really. It comes to really an abrupt end for all the guys that don’t make it to the playoffs. Then you have the wild card round and the divisional round and then the championship, and there’s only two teams left. Those two teams really earned it. They’ve played good over the course of the whole season.

“One or two breaks that we get, maybe we’re playing that championship game at home, and maybe that has a difference. That’s why Denver really kept the pedal to the metal all season. They scored a lot of points. They overcame some adversity, too. When you look at a team like that, they certainly earned it. I tip my cap to them, because I understand the challenge it is to do that. They have  a lot of mentally tough guys. That’s why they’re going to represent the AFC.”

Brady acknowledged that the game might have had a different feel had it been played in Foxboro rather than Denver.

“Yeah, of course it would have been different,” Brady said. “There’s a lot of things that play into these types of games. You’re right, you look at those games, you look back at the Cincy game and the Jet game, those games that we lost, and all of them mean something. It means something in September, they mean something in December. The good teams play well over the course of four months. And we played good, we played good enough to get the second seed. We didn’t play good enough to get the first seed. Then we would have needed to play a lot better than we played yesterday.

“It was more of how we played and not where we played yesterday. It’s a tough environment to play in when you go on the road. But look, we’ve won games on the road in tough environments. We got to a game yesterday where we needed to play really well, and we just didn’t play well enough. And Denver played a really good game. They were pretty flawless. They didn’t have any penalties, they didn’t turn the ball over. They played pretty good on third down on both sides of the ball. We just couldn’t force them into making many bad plays on either side of the ball.

“Special teams were really a nonfactor for both teams with the balls that were kicked into the end zone; there wasn’t much in the punt game. So it came down to offense and defense, and they got the best of us in both of those phases, and that’s why they advanced.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Richard Sherman

Bill Belichick moving on to next season: ‘We’re in 2014 now’

01.20.14 at 10:55 am ET
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FOXBORO — Like a being on a treadmill, the Patriots season was going and going but then came to a sudden stop Sunday afternoon in Denver with their 26-16 loss to the Broncos in the AFC championship game.

Coach Bill Belichick now shifts his focus to the 2014 season. Belichick spoke of what that entails at his season-ending press conference Monday at Gillette Stadium, noting decisions regarding the makeup of next year’€™s team will come in the next two months.

“I would say in the neighborhood of 6-8 weeks. Free agency starts a little less than two months from now so we definitely need to be ready by then,” Belichick said. “There will be some other transactions along the way before then relative to tenders and those types of things. There are a few situations that will precede that, but I would say somewhere in the 4-8 weeks category, some sooner than others. Trying to compile all the information on players and situations as well as things like responsibilities on our staff, looking at scheme and maybe a player could fit a little bit better into a scheme, or maybe not as well into a different scheme if we are planning on making some changes along those lines. That’€™s all part of it, too.

“Some decisions need to be made sooner than others, other decisions honestly may wait. We’ve re-signed players in April, May, June and we’ve also released players in that range. I don’€™t think there is a specific timetable, but I would say somewhere in that 6-8 week range is probably when most of the decisions need to be made or at least, even if they are delayed, you’ve made that decision to delay.”

Of those decisions to be made, some of them surround the team’s free agents: Aqib Talib, Julian Edelman, Brandon Spikes and LeGarrette Blount. Belichick said he will speak to each of them as well as other players on the roster in the coming days and weeks.

“We have a number of players whose contracts are going to expire that I am going to talk to one way or another,” Belichick said. “I’€™m not saying there’€s any decision to made, but there is certainly a conversation to be had. A lot of guys on the team that I have and will talk to personally about their situation and appreciation for what they’ve done, whatever it happens to be.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Patriots,

Bill Belichick on Wes Welker’s hit on Aqib Talib: ‘It’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen’

01.20.14 at 9:34 am ET
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FOXBORO — Less than 18 hours after the Patriots’€™ season-ending loss to the Broncos, Bill Belichick had a chance to re-watch some of the game, including the play in which Denver wide receiver Wes Welker hit Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib on an apparent pick play across the middle of the field. The hit knocked Talib out of the game early in the second quarter.

Belichick didn’t have much to say on the hit during his press conference after the game, but he did come Monday morning in the opening statement of his end of the year press conference at Gillette Stadium.

“I feel badly for Aqib, the way the play turned out,”€ Belichick said. “I went back and watched it, which I didn’t get a chance to do yesterday. It was a deliberate play to take out Aqib. No attempt to get open. I’€™ll let the league handle the discipline on that. It’€™s not for me to decide, but it’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen. And that’€™s all I am going to say about that.”

After the game, Welker said there was no intent to run into Talib.

“It was one of those plays where it’€™s kind of a rough play, and I was trying to get him to go over the top, and I think he was thinking the same thing and wanted to come underneath and we just kind of collided,”€ Welker said. “It wasn’t a deal where I was trying to hit him or anything like that.

“I hope he’€™s OK — he’€™s a great player and a big part of their defense.”

The Patriots announced Talib suffered a knee injury on the play and his return was questionable, but he never returned to the game.

Read More: AFC Championship, Aqib Talib, Bill Belichick, Wes Welker

Peyton Manning’s ‘Omaha’ calls raise $24,800 for charity

01.20.14 at 9:31 am ET
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A week after he said “Omaha” 44 times, Peyton Manning raised $24,800 for his charity when the Broncos faced the Patriots in the AFC championship game.

Eight Omaha-based businesses donated to Manning’€™s Peyback Foundation after it became clear that the quarterback’€™s call was free advertising for the city, according to The foundation’s mission is to promote success among disadvantaged youth.

“This has been terrific for us,” said Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce president and CEO David G. Brown. “Before Friday, we had calculated that news coverage of Omaha had generated the equivalent of about $10 million in advertising.”

The chamber made a video last week that combined the city’€™s attractions with Manning’€™s “Omaha” call in the background.

Omaha Steaks, Mutual of Omaha, FNB Omaha, CenturyLink, ConAgra Foods, Union Pacific, DJ’€™s Dugout and Cox Communications committed to donate a combined $800 every time the word was said at the line of scrimmage.

“This is really great for Omaha as a community and for the businesses that are embedded here,” said Omaha Steaks senior vice president Todd Simon. “Who knows whether any of this will translate to the bottom line, if ever, but it can’€™t hurt.”

Manning, who said “Omaha” 31 times during Sunday’€™s tilt with the Patriots, explained his use of the word Wednesday.

“I know a lot of people ask what Omaha means,” Manning said. “Omaha is a run play, but it could be a pass play or a play-action pass, depending on a couple of things: which way we’€™re going, the quarter, and the jerseys that we’€™re wearing. It varies, really, from play to play.”

According to Brown, the city assumed Manning and his foundation would accept the donation, but they did not have contact with the quarterback or his representatives. Front Row Analytics, a sponsorship evaluation firm, said the city made the equivalent of $150,000 in advertising for each verbal mention of the city.

Read More: Peyton Manning,

Poll: Which free agent should Patriots prioritize?

01.19.14 at 10:57 pm ET
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Which Patriots free agent should be the team's top priority to bring back?

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Richard Sherman celebrates Seahawks’ win over 49ers with flurry of crazy

01.19.14 at 10:05 pm ET
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After helping his team beat the 49ers in the NFC championship game, 23-17, Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman used his postgame interview with Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews to verbally attack San Francisco wideout Michael Crabtree.

For a complete recap of the game, click here.

Read More: NFC Championship Game, Richard Sherman, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks
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