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More catches, less comedy for Wes Welker going forward

10.08.12 at 5:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Wes Welker might choose his words a little more carefully the next time around.

As the wide receiver plays out the season under the franchise tag, the questions of where Welker stands with the team and coach Bill Belichick going forward will continue to pop up. Welker didn’t help matters Sunday when he said it was “nice to stick it in Bill’s face” with his 13-catch performance against the Broncos after not being as big a part of the offense earlier in the season.

“I mean, it was a joke,” Welker said. “I don’t know what else to say about it. It was a joke. Bill and I, whether y’all believe it or not, have a good relationship and it was a joke. I’ll make sure to keep that in-house going forward.”

Given Welker’s situation, he admitted it’s hard for him to say anything without it receiving extra attention.

“Yeah, obviously, so you’ve just got to be careful with what you say,” Welker said. “Bill does a good job of challenging us and being a great coach and doing things necessary that he needs to do. I made a joke about it, and it won’t happen again.”

Welker has been punished for what he’s said in the past, as cryptic jabs at Jets coach Rex Ryan‘s foot fetish cost him playing time early in the Pats‘ playoff loss to the Jets in the divisional round in the 2010 season. He said he doesn’t expect any repercussions for Sunday’s comment.

“I don’t think so at all,” he said. “We’re just concentrating on Seattle this week and getting ready for the game.”

In the Patriots’ season-opening win against the Titans, Welker was thrown to just five times and had three receptions for 14 yards. He was kept quiet in the first half of the Pats’ Week 2 loss to the Cardinals, but he finished that game with five catches for 95 yards on 11 targets. His numbers have steadily increased since then (eight catches for 142 yards in Week 3, nine for 129 in Week 4 and 13 for 104 Sunday), so much so that Welker is tied with Minnesota’s Percy Harvin for second in the league with 38 receptions. Only Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez (39) is ahead of Welker and Harvin.

After all the questions of his comment and his relationship with Belichick, Welker was given the opportunity to agree that Belichick is the best coach ever, to which he responded, “No doubt he is, and that’s not a joke.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Wes Welker,

Bill Belichick on fumbles: ‘There’s nothing more important than possession of the ball’

10.08.12 at 3:43 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Though Patriots running back Stevan Ridley turned in a 151-yard performance on the ground in Sunday’s win over the Broncos, one problem of the second-year back’s reared its ugly head when he lost a fumble in the fourth quarter.

The fumble was Ridley’s second of the season, the first of which he’s lost. Ridley’s fumble in last season’s playoff game against the Broncos cost him playing time in the team’s final two playoff games, and he entered this season with concerns about ball security.

Bill Belichick didn’t single Ridley out Monday at Gillette Stadium, saying that ball security is something he focuses on with every player who has the ball.

“We work on ball security with every player who handles the ball every week every day,” Belichick said, later adding that ball security is the “highest priority with everybody.”

It should be worth noting that Brandon Bolden also had issues with ball security in the preseason, giving the Patriots two running backs who have been extremely effective thus far (four 100-yard performances between the two of them through five games), but have a history of putting the ball on the ground. Regardless of who drops it, it’s something that Belichick views as unacceptable.

“There’s nothing ore important than possession of the ball,” Belichick said. “We can’t afford to lose it. It’s as simple as that.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Bolden, Stevan Ridley,

Bill Belichick kind of responds to Wes Welker’s comment

10.08.12 at 3:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about receiver Wes Welker‘s comment about “sticking it” in the coach’s face with his 13-catch performance Sunday, a comment Belichick said he hadn’t heard.

Appearing on Comcast SportsNet’s postgame show, Welker was asked about catching his increased targets and numbers compared to earlier in the season.

“Yeah, it’s kind of nice to stick it in Bill’s face once in a while,” Welker replied with a wink. “So this is definitely a good one.”

When Belichick was asked whether he took exception with Welker’s comment, he responded, “No, I didn’t really see the comment though.”

When the reporter tried to explain what Welker had said, Belichick responded, “You should ask him what he meant by it.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Wes Welker,

Patrick Chung on M&M: ‘He was still the same Peyton’ Manning

10.08.12 at 12:02 pm ET
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Patriots safety Patrick Chung joined Mut & Merloni on Monday morning for his weekly appearance, one day after the Pats‘ 31-21 victory over Peyton Manning and the Broncos. To listen to the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Sunday was the first time the Patriots saw Manning in a Broncos uniform. Chung said the quarterback didn’€™t seem to change much since they last saw him on the Colts.

‘€œI saw a man who was commanding the offense and throwing that ball,” Chung said. “He didn’€™t lose a step. He was still the same Peyton. Still reading defenses and still getting his guys in the right position to make plays.’€

The Patriots prepared by watching film of Manning leading up to the game, but not film from his days with the Colts.

‘€œWe really just watched him this year,” Chung said. “We watched Peyton this year with the Broncos, preseason and everything. We just got a feel for the players, what kind of players they had, what kind of offense they were running. It was very similar to Indy, but when it comes down to it offense is always going to have a certain package or formation or play that we’€™ve never seen before, so we have to still be prepared for it and just get ready to execute.’€

Chung said he had solid communication with rookie safety Tavon Wilson during the game.

‘€œTavon’€™s a smart player,” Chung said. “He’€™s smart, he’€™s confident, and he’€™s still having fun. He’€™s just a player out there having fun playing football. But he’€™s smart, we had no problems out there.’€

The Patriots’ no-huddle, fast-paced offense is part of practice during the week. Chung said it helps prepare the defense for anything.

Said Chung: ‘€œNo-huddle is no joke. ‘€¦ It helps us. It gets us prepared for any situation. ‘€¦ Every situation we can practice, we’€™re going to practice it so when it comes to the game it’€™s not like a huge surprise.’€

Read More: Patrick Chung, Peyton Manning, Tavon Wilson,

Stevan Ridley on another fumble: ‘Can’t make excuses – I messed up’

10.08.12 at 1:42 am ET
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FOXBORO — For weeks in training camp, Stevan Ridley heard question after question about ball security.

He knew after the way last season ended he would be asked about his ability to hold onto the ball, especially when teams would be targeting him. For the first three games, he had 52 carries without a miscue, including a 125-yard rushing performance in a season-opening win over the Titans.

Then, in Buffalo, he fumbled for the first time since last January against the Broncos. The Patriots recovered and all was forgiven, as he ran 22 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns.

Last winter- when he fumbled against the Bills in the regular season finale – he coughed it up in the very next game and lost this one in the AFC playoff game against the Broncos. The price? Bill Belichick benched him for the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl.

On Sunday, after the greatest rushing game of his career, it happened again. Ridley had to answer questions about a fumble that nearly cost the Patriots control of the game in a 31-21 win over the Broncos Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

With the Patriots having stopped the Broncos at midfield following Willis McGahee‘s drop on a fourth-and-1 pass from Peyton Manning, the Patriots – leading by 10 -were driving to put the game away when Ridley fumbled the ball at the Denver 35. Von Miller forced the fumble with 5:27 remaining, and the Broncos drove the ball down the field before McGahee returned the favor and lost a fumble at the Patriots 14, allowing New England to hold on.

“It was late in the game,” said Ridley, who was benched for the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl after fumbling against the Broncos in the playoffs last January. “You’ve got to close it out. You’ve got to run the football and I told myself before the play [that] I had to hold onto the football. They’re getting paid to play, too. You can’t make excuses. I messed up. I’m sure coach [Belichick] is going to have something to say about it. But, there’s always another day tomorrow. So, I’ll be back to work and working ball security, high and tight. And that’s all I can do.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, nfl

Von Miller: Broncos defense ‘didn’t execute’ against uptempo Patriots offense

10.07.12 at 10:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The last time Tom Brady and Peyton Manning met was on Nov. 21, 2010 — a game where the Patriots beat the Colts, 31-28. In that one, Brady threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns, while Manning racked up 396 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

On Sunday, Manning made his first trip back to Foxboro since that loss in 2010, this time with his new Broncos teammates. Each team entered Sunday’€™s contest with identical 2-2 records, but Manning’€™s Broncos weren’€™t as prepared as they had hoped for the up-tempo pace of the Patriots’€™ no-huddle. The Patriots went ahead early and did not relinquish the lead, winning 31-21 at Gillette Stadium.

After the game, Broncos linebacker Von Miller said that his defense was prepared from watching film all week long for the fast-paced offense Brady and the Patriots ran, but his defense just didn’€™t execute well enough to come out on top.

‘€œThey’re a good offense — we knew that coming into the game,’€ Miller said. ‘€œWe were prepared for the type of offense we knew they were going to run. We didn’€™t execute — another week we didn’€™t execute — and we put ourselves in situations that we can’€™t get out of.’€

Although Manning put up solid numbers (31-of-44, 345 yards and three touchdowns), most of the damage done by him was in the second half. The key for the Patriots was a mix of effective running and passing plays — something the Broncos couldn’t accomplish. Willis McGahee finished the day with 51 yards on 14 carries and a crucial fumble inside the Patriots’€™ 15-yard line with less than four minutes left to play.

Broncos head coach John Fox said after the game that the inability to stop New England’€™s fast-paced offense was a mixture of personnel, lack of communication and lining up in the wrong positions.

‘€œIt’s not new; they have been doing this for a long, long time,’€ Fox said. ‘€œThey just have a good, solid group together doing it, so they communicate very well. And obviously [the Patriots] communicated better than we did.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Broncos, Patriots, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady

Willis McGahee: Comeback hopes ‘changed the game for us when I fumbled’

10.07.12 at 10:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It had all the makings of another Tom Brady/Peyton Manning classic down-to-the-wire finish, but any Broncos comeback was cut short on Sunday when Denver running back Willis McGahee turned the ball over in the Patriots’ red zone.

Late in the fourth quarter, McGahee carried to the 11-yard line, but was stripped by defensive end Rob Ninkovich. Jermaine Cunningham recovered, and several plays later the remaining seconds ticked away.

McGahee said after the game that he had two key plays on offense that could have changed the outcome of the game, most notably the fumble on the Broncos’ last offensive series.

‘€œThat probably changed the game for us when I fumbled that ball,’€ McGahee said. ‘€œ[Ninkovich] made a good play. I had it high and tight, but he made a good play. Still, I’€™ve got to be better than that. I think that’€™s what changed the game for us. I’€™ll take all the credit for that, just changing the game.’€

The Patriots had a 31-21 lead while the Broncos were on the threshold of the end zone, but a quick touchdown would have cut the lead to three with roughly 3:30 left to play — potentially enough time for Manning to lead a late scoring drive, even just into field goal position.

The Broncos fell to 2-3 on the season, while the Chargers (who lead the West division) are currently underway with the winless Saints. With the loss, the Broncos will have to play catch-up in the division, and McGahee will carry the burden of Sunday’€™s defeat.

‘€œAt the end of the day, [the fumble] changed the game, like I said,’€ McGahee said. ‘€œWe were trying to score. It happens; I’€™ll put it on my shoulders. I think I can handle it.’€

Read More: Broncos, Patriots, Willis McGahee,
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