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What pundits were saying about Patriots on Sunday: ‘Gronk is playing the kind of football that belongs somewhere on Mars’

11.24.14 at 1:14 pm ET
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Bob Costas has been impressed by the recent run of the Patriots. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Bob Costas has been impressed by the recent run of the Patriots. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Here’s a sampling of what some of the national pundits were saying about the Patriots in the wake of their 34-9 win over the Lions Sunday:

Bob Costas after the game on NBC’s “Football Night in America”: “There is no hotter team than the New England Patriots. Not that long ago, 2-2, the sky was falling in New England. Now they’ve reeled off seven straight wins. And they’re not just beating people, they are crushing people.”

Hines Ward after the game on NBC’s “Football Night in America”: “It’s hard to believe the AFC Championship Game won’t be in New England. The Patriots offense just ran through a tough Detroit defense with ease … I think (Brandon) Browner and (Darrelle) Revis are the best cornerback tandem in the NFL.”

Tony Dungy after the game on NBC’s “Football Night in America” on the end-of-game play where Lions center Dominic Raiola dove at Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore: “I was surprised the Patriots didn’t take a knee there at the end of the game and tried to score. That still doesn’t excuse going after a guy’s knee. There’s no place in the game for that.”

Rodney Harrison after the game on NBC’s “Football Night in America”: “This is what Bill Belichick preaches from the very first day of training camp, playing 60 minutes. This is professional football. You’re getting paid millions and millions of dollars. This is not high school … (Bill Belichick) wants to lay a foundation for his younger players. That’s why he always finishes. It doesn’t matter if it’s Cincinnati, if it’s Indianapolis, if it’s the Denver Broncos, he’s preaching 60 minutes.”

Rodney Harrison after the game on NBC’s “Football Night in America” on Bill Belichick’s philosophy regarding Darrelle Revis: “He’s taken his best cornerback, Darrelle Revis, and he puts him on the number two wide receiver. And he completely shut Golden Tate down this week and last week he did the same thing to Reggie Wayne. What they’re doing is they’re taking Brandon Browner, they’re giving him help over the top, and he’s negating the number one receiver.”

Rodney Harrison after the game on NBC’s “Football Night in America”: “The strength of this team might be the defense.”

Steve Mariucci on NFL Network’s Total Access after the game on the difference with the New England Patriots since their Week 4 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs: “They’re protecting Tom [Brady] better, they’re catching the ball [and] they’re playing good defense. That secondary has the best four corners in the league and they can lock you down.”

Deion Sanders on NFL Network’s Total Access after the game on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski: “Tom Brady and [Rob Gronkowski] may be the best combination in the game.”

Michael Irvin on NFL Network’s Total Access after the game on tight end Rob Gronkowski and the New England Patriots: “This is the best [Rob Gronkowski] we have ever seen with the New England Patriots right now and they are by far the team that is rolling right. Gronk is playing the kind of football that belongs somewhere on Mars.”

Read More: Bob Costas, Deion Sanders, Hines Ward, Michael Irvin

A history of Bill Belichick’s best postgame rip jobs: ‘That’s a lot of conversation coming from a team that just lost another game’

11.24.14 at 12:11 pm ET
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In 2007, Anthony Smith talked about the Patriots and Randy Moss before the game. Bill Belichick took a shot at Smith after the contest. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

In 2007, Anthony Smith (left) talked about the Patriots and Randy Moss before the game. Bill Belichick took a shot at Smith after the contest. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick’s shot at Dominic Raiola on Monday morning got us to thinking about the moments — and they’re few and far between — where the Patriots coach has fired back at an opposing player after the game. (That means Baltimore’s Derrick Mason doesn’t qualify for this list.) In no particular order, here’s our top four:

1) Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell: The chatty pass catcher — who once told the media that he’d “like to thank my hands for being so great” — took plenty of shots at the New England secondary in the days leading up to Super Bowl XXXIX against the Patriots, saying he only knew the numbers and not the names of the New England defensive backs. (He added that he had “something special” for safety Rodney Harrison.) After New England beat Philly for the title, Belichick told Sports Illustrated: “All he does is talk. He’s terrible. And you can print that. I was glad when he was in the game.”

2) Steelers safety Anthony Smith: In December 2007, the Pittsburgh defensive back guaranteed a win over the Patriots, and dismissed the New England receiving corps: “They’ve got [Wes] Welker and Moss, but they’re not like Cincinnati.” During the game, Smith was targeted on several occasions by the Patriots, who rolled to a convincing 34-13 win. In his postgame press conference, Belichick was asked about Smith. “We’ve played a lot better safeties than him, I’ll tell you that,” he said.

3) Panthers defensive backs Chris Gamble and Chris Harris: In the wake of a December 2009 loss to the Patriots, the duo conveyed that Randy Moss didn’t go all-out in the game. That drew a harsh retort from Belichick, who said the day after the contest: “My response would be that’s a lot of conversation coming from a team that just lost another game,” Belichick said. The coach then proceeded to pile on Carolina, who dropped to 5-8 on the year with the defeat.  “You can say whatever you want,” Belichick said to the media. “That’s your job. I just told you. I have a lot of respect for Randy. I think he’s one of our best players. I think if you watch other teams defend him, you watch other teams play against him, they think the same way. Other than these two guys from Carolina after they lost another game. I guess they didn’t think that way. They haven’t won a lot of games now.”

4) Broncos receiver Wes Welker: In the 2013 AFC title game, Welker collided with Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib on a crossing pattern, knocking Talib out of the game on the way to a Denver win over New England. The following day, Belichick hammered Welker. “I feel badly for Aqib, the way the play turned out,”€€ Belichick said. “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.”

Read More: Antony Smith, Bill Belichick, Chris Gamble, Chris Harris

Bill Belichick calls Rob Ninkovich a ‘tough Croatian kid’

11.24.14 at 12:07 pm ET
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Very few players on the Patriots, and even in the NFL, have been as durable as Patriots defensive end/lineman Rob Ninkovich.

Ninkovich went wire-to-wire, playing 82 of 82 defensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus in Sunday’s win over the Lions. For the season, he has played every snap of a game in eight of the 12 games, and overall he’s played 93 percent of the snaps — also per Pro Football Focus.

“Rob’€™s a tough Croatian, tough Croatian kid,” coach Bill Belichick said on Monday’s conference call. “He’€™s strong — he’€™s really strong for his size, been durable. He’€™s athletic, play on his feet, runs well. He’€™s able to definitely take care of himself out there and play in a lot of different situations. He’€™s strong enough to play against bigger people and athletic enough to play in some space and coverage situations, whatever the requirements are. There are a lot of things that he can do.

“We were a little light at end yesterday without [Dominique] Easley. I don’€™t know how much that would have affected Rob’€™s playing time yesterday, but we were definitely light at the position going in there. Rob gives us a consistent level of play and gives us a lot of toughness and a lot of versatility. I don’€™t think anybody is looking to take him off the field.”

Among defensive ends, Ninkovich is tops in the NFL with 81 straight games played, and 60 straight starts.

For the season, Ninkovich has 29 tackles, six sacks and one interception.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Rob Ninkovich,

Bill Belichick on Lions’ center Dominic Raiola’s dirty play: ‘He’s never beaten us’

11.24.14 at 10:57 am ET
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Things didn’t go calmly in the final moments of Sunday’s 34-9 Patriots win over the Lions.

On the final snap when the Lions were taking a knee, Lions center Dominic Raiola dove at the knees of Patriots nose tackle Zach Moore. Raiola said it was “football” after the game.

Bill Belichick had his response on Monday.

“I’m sure there was a lot of frustration there for [Dominic] Raiola,” Belichick said on Monday’s conference call. “That’s obvious. He’s never beaten us. Tough day in there dealing with [Vince] Wilfork, [Dont’a] Hightower and those guys, so it was probably frustration. We saw a lot of that at the end of the game. [Tahir] Whitehead on [LeGarrette] Blount’s touchdown, [C.J.] Mosley on the personal foul on the field goal.”

Even with the win, the Patriots’ seventh in a row, Belichick is already thinking about the team’s next challenge — going into Green Bay and taking on the Packers this Sunday.

“Nobody is happier than I am when we win, but right now that doesn’t mean anything,” said Belichick. “Going into Green Bay — great football team, very well coached. Coach [Mike] McCarthy does as good a job as anybody that we play against, anybody in this league. Great quarterback and a real good football team. It will be a huge challenge for us this week.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Dominic Raiola,

Tom Brady on D&C: ‘We’ve got a lot of good things going’

11.24.14 at 9:40 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady checked in with Dennis & Callahan for his weekly chat Monday morning, following Sunday’s dominant 34-9 victory over the Lions, and talked about Darrelle Revis, Jonas Gray, Odell Beckham Jr. and Randy Moss. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

With their seventh straight win, the Patriots are 9-2 and look like they have established some separation from the pack. Brady cautioned that there still is plenty of room for improvement.

“I think it’s a week-to-week thing,” he said. “At different times over the course of the year we’ve done a lot of things really well, and you really want them to all come together on game day. I’m sure there’s always things we can get better at. I thought we did a lot of good things offensively yesterday, but I think we could have been even better. You’ve just got to go out there every week trying to improve and stay sharp and improve things that have shown up over the course of the season and we haven’t done as well consistently.

“It’s great to win, but as always when you win it’s never as good as you think, and when you lose it’s never as bad as you think. We’ll go in today and watch the film and talk about all the things we can do better. We obviously are playing well, we’ve got a lot of good things going. We’re continuing to be tested, because we’ve played a lot of good opponents here the past bunch of weeks, and now we’ve got another one coming up on Sunday.”

Running back Jonas Gray, the star of last week’s win over the Colts, sat out Sunday after arriving late to practice Friday.

“Those are always coach’s decisions to do certain things,” Brady said. “It’s unfortunate for everybody involved. You never want to see those things, because all these guys are important to us, and Jonas is a big part of our team and a big part of the reason why we won a huge game in our season. You just hate to see someone disciplined, but that’s just the way coach decided to handle it.”

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Read More: Darrelle Revis, Jonas Gray, Odell Beckham Jr., Randy Moss

Tom Brady on winning big with different offensive approaches: ‘Whatever it takes’

11.23.14 at 8:26 pm ET
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Tom Brady had another strong performance Sunday against the Lions. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady had another strong performance Sunday against the Lions. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Last week the Patriots ran for 246 yards on the ground. This week the Patriots threw for 349 yards in the air.

Despite the different styles, the results were the virtually the same — a 42-20 win over the Colts last week and a 34-9 win over the Lions on Sunday.

The ability to win different ways and play a different style of football each week depending on the opponent could go a long way as the Patriots close out the regular-season and gear up for the likely postseason.

“We did a decent job so it was good to — I thought we got off to a good start and then played from ahead,” Brady said. “We struggled a little bit there in the third quarter, but rallied there in the fourth. It was a good win. I thought a lot of guys made a lot of great plays. Some penalties really held us back from being a little bit more consistent, but it was a good game. Whatever it takes, we’€™re going to try to figure out, whatever it takes.”

Brady had another strong game Sunday, going 38-for-53 passing for 349 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. It was Brady’s 63rd 300-yard passing game of his career, which ties him with Dan Marino for third on the all-time NFL list.

The quarterback also did a tremendous job of spreading the ball around, as he has the majority of the seven-game win streak, as he completed five or more passes to five different receivers in Sunday’s win.

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Read More: Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady,

Brandon LaFell with another strong performance, feels ‘good’ after leaving with injury

11.23.14 at 7:26 pm ET
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Brandon LaFell

Brandon LaFell

FOXBORO — Although he may not get the recognition like Rob Gronkowski or Tom Brady, there is no denying a major reason for the Patriots’ seven-game win streak has been the play of wide receiver Brandon LaFell.

Over the last six games, LaFell has caught 37 passes on 53 targets for 489 yards and four touchdowns, emerging as a third option for Brady besides Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.

LaFell continued his strong play Sunday with nine catches on 12 targets for 98 yards.

“It feels great to be where I’€™m at now compared to where I was at at the beginning of the season,” he said following the game. “Going out there, putting together good games back-to-back, earning time, trust, and the coaching staff’€™s trust. And the trust of my teammates to depend on me in big-time situations like it was today; to come to me in that situation. So it feels good, but as a whole offense and as a whole team, it feels good to be in the position we are at now.”

The first-year Patriot did go down awkwardly on his last catch of the game — late in the fourth quarter — landing hard on his shoulder and did not play another snap, but LaFell says he’s fine.

“I’€™m good. If we had a game tonight, I’€™d be ready to play,” LaFell said. “I’€™m good, I won’€™t miss [any] time. My body’€™s feeling great.”

The receiver has developed a good relationship with Brady on back-shoulder throws, something Brady alluded to during his weekly press conference this week. LaFell said it is a good way to stretch out defenses.

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Read More: Brandon LaFell,
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