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Bill Belichick shakes his head and wonders how to stop the ‘great’ Aaron Rodgers

11.26.14 at 10:00 am ET
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FOXBORO — Usually when Bill Belichick speaks glowingly about the opposing team or a star quarterback like Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck, he gives the usual calculated response about their amazing abilities.

But on Wednesday, in describing Aaron Rodgers, Belichick offered up the normal compliments and then just shook his head at the end.

Rodgers has thrown for 30 touchdowns and just three interceptions in a season where Green Bay isn’t just beating teams at Lambeau Field, they’re destroying them. What is it that Rodgers does so well?

“Everything, he’€™s a great player,” Belichick said. “He does a tremendous job, really at everything. He’€™s got no weak points; makes every throw. [He] handles the team very well at the line: checks and adjustments, he certainly sees the defense well. [He] uses all his weapons, makes great throws from the short ones [to] intermediate, down the field, sidelines, back shoulders, deep routes and then he has a great ability to extend plays, either sliding in the pocket or at times scrambling outside the pocket.

“They’€™ve made a lot of plays this year on things like that where he either buys extra time or just flat-out gets away from the rush and lets the receivers uncover. He’€™s a hard guy to tackle, hard guy to get and a very good thrower, very accurate thrower and has great vision. He’€™s really good.”

Rodgers has been on the roster twice before when the Patriots played the Packers but has yet to play a down against them. In 2006, he was behind Brett Favre, when the Patriots went into Lambeau and won, 35-0. In 2010, at Gillette, Matt Flynn earned a name for himself by nearly beating the Patriots in primetime, filling in for Rodgers who was nursing a concussion.

“I mean, it is what it is,” Belichick said. “Whatever hasn’€™t happened hasn’€™t happened. I’€™m not really worried about it.”

In facing quarterbacks like Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford the last two weeks, the Patriots are somewhat prepared for a mobile quarterback. But then Belichick cautioned, “not like him. Yeah, not like him.”

What makes him different?

“It’€™s just, he’€™s great,” Belichick added. “He’€™s quick, he’€™s big, he throws the ball very accurately, has great vision down the field. He finds guys that there’€™s not a lot of space, but he finds them and he hits them. He’€™s really good. I’€™m not taking anything away from anybody else, but this guy is a really good player.”

Asked to compare his quarterback with Mr. Rodgers, Belichick did crack a smile.

“They both wear 12,” the coach said.

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Patriots re-sign LS Charley Hughlett to practice squad

11.26.14 at 9:36 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots have re-signed long snapper Charley Hughlett to the Patriots practice squad, according to his agent.

Hughlett was with New England this spring and summer before being cut loose at the end of training camp. The 6-foot-4, 251-pounder has been with the Cowboys and Jaguars. As a collegian, he handled all long snapping duties for four seasons at Central Florida.

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Report: Matthew Slater signs 2-year contract extension through 2016

11.26.14 at 9:06 am ET
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FOXBORO — According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the Patriots have signed special teams specialist Matthew Slater to a 2-year, $4 million contract extension through the 2016 season. His contract was set to expire at the end of this season.

“He does a great job with all the players, not only the younger players, but with his peers,” said Bill Belichick. “He’s very well respected in the locker room, not just by the players, but by our organization just by the way he goes about his job and how committed he is to the team, how dependable he is, his work ethic, his attitude, his toughness. He’s really pretty much a model player. I’d love to have 53 players like him.”

“Matt’s improved a lot like any player would over that period of time,” Belichick added. “We drafted him as a special teams player, so decent pick for a guy with what his skills are. A little bit ahead of [Nate] Ebner, but similar with that type of role. We had a decent investment him him, we thought he’d be pretty good. He’s everything and more you could ever hope for, I’ll say that. His personality, his intelligence, his character both on and off the field, his leadership, he does it all.”

Slater, a special teams captain and the Patriots’ player representative, has been a member of the team since 2008 after being selected in the fifth round of the 2008 draft. He has made three Pro Bowls in his previous five full seasons (he didn’t play in 2010), a big accomplishment for a player who plays almost strictly special teams.

Belichick was asked of the report, but didn’t have a comment.

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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

11.25.14 at 9:11 pm ET
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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 11 games:

RB Shane Vereen: 122 (78 carries, 44 catches) 3 negative catch, 6 negative runs
RB Stevan Ridley: 98 (94 carries, 4 catches), 8 negative runs
WR Julian Edelman: 78 (8 carries, 70 catches)
RB Jonas Gray: 70 (70 carries)
TE Rob Gronkowski: 58 (58 catches)
WR Brandon LaFell: 48 (48 catches)
QB Tom Brady: 19 (19 carries), 14 sacks, 7 kneeldowns
TE Tim Wright: 24 (1 carry, 23 catches), 1 negative rush
RB Brandon Bolden: 17 (16 carries, 1 catch), 2 negative runs
RB LeGarrette Blount: 12 (12 carries), 1 negative run
RB James White: 12 (9 carries, 3 catches)
WR Danny Amendola: 11 (11 catches)
FB James Develin: 7 (1 carry, 6 catches)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 6 (6 catches)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 6 (6 carries) 2 sacks, 6 kneeldowns
WR Aaron Dobson: 3 (3 catches)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 2 (2 catches)
WR Brian Tyms: 1 (1 catch)

Notes: The Patriots had five negative plays from scrimmage on Sunday against the Lions — two negative runs from Vereen and one from Blount, as well as two negative pass plays to Vereen. … On the season, New England has run 758 plays from scrimmage, and 38 of them have gone for negative yardage (5 percent), not including kneeldowns. … Against the Lions, the Patriots ran 73 plays with 50 of them coming in shotgun (68 percent), a season-high. In addition, the game-book lists them as having run 14 of their 73 plays in no-huddle (19 percent), also a season-high. … On the season, the Patriots have run 67 of their 758 plays out of no-huddle (8 percent) and 256 snaps in shotgun (34 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. … One more note: Brady was not sacked for the second consecutive game. For all the struggles the offensive line endured at the start of the year, it’s worth noting that through 11 games this year, he’s only been sacked 14 times. Through the first 11 games of 2013, he was sacked 31 times. While that’s all not the result of the offensive line — Brady has displayed increased mobility, a greater ease with his receivers, and has had a rejuvenated Gronkowski — it’s a sizable difference, and the offensive line deserves some kudos for the better numbers.

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New Patriots defenders contributing right away because of ‘their study and their work ethic’

11.25.14 at 8:55 pm ET
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Akeem Ayers has already made his presence felt in New England. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images).

Akeem Ayers has already made his presence felt in New England. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images).

With long-term injuries to important players on the Patriots defense so far this season — Chandler Jones (out since Week 7), Jerod Mayo (season-ending injured reserve) and Sealver Siliga (short-term injured reserve designated for return) — the Patriots have had a number of players step up to fill the voids.

A few of those players weren’t even with the team at the start of the regular season.

On Oct. 21, linebacker Akeem Ayers and a seventh-round pick in next year’s draft were traded to the Patriots for a sixth-round pick, also in next year’s draft. Ayers played in that Sunday’s game against the Bears and recorded a sack and five tackles. In his four games with the Patriots, Ayers has recorded a sack in three of the four games.

On Oct. 28, linebacker Jonathan Casillas, along with a 2015 sixth-round pick was traded to the Patriots from Tampa Bay for a 2015 fifth-round pick. Casillas played in the Nov. 2 game against the Broncos and recorded three tackles, but has been most known for his contributions on special teams.

A day later, Oct. 29, the Patriots announced they had signed veteran defensive tackle Alan Branch. Branch also played in the Denver game that Sunday, and has been a major contributor in stopping the run.

With all these new players joining the team and learning a new system, it wouldn’t be a surprise for each player to take a few weeks to settle in, but that hasn’t happened — the players have fit in right away. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia says a lot of that has to do with the leaders the Patriots have on defense, and to go along with the work ethics of all three new players.

“Specifically talking about [Casillas and Ayers] I will say those guys work extremely hard,” Patricia said on Tuesday’s conference call. “They are true professionals as far as their ability to study, learn the game, understand what we are doing from the systems standpoint and have matriculated into what we are trying to do defensively fairly quickly from their study and their work ethic. They have really fallen right in line. We have great guys on defense.

“I say this all the time, but I can’€™t stress to you the importance of the leaders that we have on defense — Vince Wilfork and Dont’€™a Hightower and Devin McCourty and [Darrelle] Revis and [Brandon] Browner, the list goes on. The way that these guys approach and attack each week to try to learn the opponent, study their film and prepare themselves to play every week is really a tribute to their professionalism. I think that’€™s something that can’€™t be understated. As a group, these guys work extremely hard to get ready to compete every week. We have a difficult task every week and this week is no different than the next. It’€™s a very huge challenge for us to get ready to handle.”

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Detroit’s Dominic Raiola: No regrets about cheap shot Sunday against Patriots

11.25.14 at 7:17 pm ET
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Dominic Raiola has no regrets about what happened Sunday against the Patriots. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Dominic Raiola has no regrets about what happened Sunday against the Patriots. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Detroit offensive lineman Dominic Raiola said Tuesday he has no regrets about what happened between him and Patriots defensive lineman Zach Moore last Sunday.

In the waning moments of New England’s 34-9 win over the Lions, Raiola could be seen diving at Moore’s knees, as well as trying to punch him in the back of the head. Raiola said Tuesday he wasn’t going to be fined by the NFL for the incident.

“There’s no fine,” Raiola told reporters. “It’€™s during the game. I don’€™t know about regrets, I don’€™t live life with regrets. I didn’€™t intentionally try to hurt anybody. I didn’€™t try to do anything out of the ordinary.

“So, just play the game,” he added. “I didn’€™t make it a big deal, everybody else did.’€

Moore shrugged off what happened, while Patriots coach Bill Belichick took a swipe at Raiola the day after the incident, reminding people that Raiola was likely frustrated about what happened because he’s never beaten the Patriots in his 14 seasons in the NFL.

“€œI don’€™t really care what he said,”€ Raiola said when asked about Belichick’s comments. “Not a lot of people beat those guys. I didn’€™t make it an issue. I just finished the game.”

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Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2014 season

11.25.14 at 4:01 pm ET
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Through 11 games, the Patriots have been flagged for 95 penalties (second-most in the league) for a total of 836 yards (most in the NFL). To this point in the season, here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

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