|11.29.10 at 9:11 am ET|
Looking at next Monday night’s Patriots-Jets showdown, Esiason said he expects the Patriots to earn a split of the season series. “I thought in the preseason that these two teams would split home and home,” Esiasons said. “I still believe that.”
Asked to describe the most impressive thing about Tom Brady‘s game, Esiason said: “I would say the poise and the accuracy. There’s no panic in his game. You don’t see any jitteriness ‘ I don’t know if that’s a word ‘ in the pocket. I also have seen a more demonstrative Tom Brady in the last four weeks than I have seen pretty much at any time in his career. ‘¦ He has certainly taken it upon himself to become I think the leader that we all knew that he is, but I don’t necessarily know that we’ve all seen it publicly.”
Added Esiason: “He’s only gotten better with age. This is one of the best runs he’s been on in a long time. And I think he’ll be able to do it Monday night.”
Esiason had praise for Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez as well, but he said the second-year pro is not yet strong enough to take advantage of the Patriots’ “questionable” secondary. “I think their quarterback ‘ while he’s on the fast track to become a really good player, and he’s certainly shown that late in games ‘ he’s still not there overall, consistently, quarter in and quarter out, where he can go out there and just throw up big numbers,” Esiason said. “I think that’s the saving grace for the Patriots in this particular game. I don’t think Mark Sanchez can go toe to toe with Tom Brady.”
Esiason has been touting the Chargers for a while, and he said the Patriots would do well to avoid having to play a playoff game in San Diego. “If they can stay away from the San Diego Chargers, I think they’ll have as good a chance as anybody of getting to the AFC championship game,” Esiason said. “Whoever has to play the Chargers in that first round or that second round, now I think you’re asking for trouble. Because assuming that they stay healthy, you saw [in Sunday night's win over the Colts], their defense is as good as anybody’s and their offense can score on anybody.”
Looking at the Josh McDaniels videotaping controversy in Denver, Esiason said McDaniels isn’t likely to survive as coach, especially with his team struggling on the field. But the former Patriots assistant’s first problem is to figure out who is leaking information. “Josh McDaniels has got a rat in the building,” Esiason said, adding: “There are some people that don’t like Josh McDaniels in Denver right now.”
|11.29.10 at 7:33 am ET|
Quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning as part of WEEI’s Patriots Monday. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Brady said despite the fact that his stellar play of late has catapulted him into discussion for league MVP, he has plenty of room for improvement leading up to next Monday night’s AFC East showdown vs. the Jets. “I could play better, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “And I really think this would be a great week for it.”
Brady said the Patriots don’t have much margin for error against their co-division leader. “It’s going to be a hell of a test,” he said. “They’re one of the best teams in the league, and they’ve got some great players that are playing well. They’ve shown they can win close games. They’ve blown teams out. It’s going to be a hell of a game. I’m excited for it.”
Brady lauded his team’s resiliency and mental toughness, traits that were not as evident last year. “Whatever coach [Bill] Belichick asks of us, guys are willing to do,” he said. “That’s really been something that’s really been talked about all offseason, all during training camp. I’m really proud to be a part of a team that’s really showed up when it matters most.”
However, Brady responded to a question about his motivational sideline speeches by saying there’s still a need for some players to be reminded about the importance of every game.
“There’s always an effort to bring energy out there,” Brady said. “I love being out there at practice. I’m always pretty much on edge. I’ve been around a little while. Look, we’re 9-2. We haven’t accomplished anything. I’ve been a part of a team that won 16 games in the regular season. And I’ve been to five AFC championship games. These games that we’re playing, yeah, they’re important. But a lot of the guys on our team have played in a hell of a lot bigger games than regular-season games. So, to me, what we’ve accomplished really is nothing to this point.
“There’s always a part of me that knows, ‘Man, you can lose. You can have a really bad game and lose.’ I’m not trying to have any of those games. And I’m trying to express to my teammates ‘ who maybe it’s their first year or second year, they haven’t been a part of it ‘ ‘Man, listen, we haven’t done anything. Literally nothing. Zero. Nine wins? Nine wins is nothing.’
“Coach always says ‘ and I said this last week ‘ ‘Football season starts after Thanksgiving.’ It’s after Thanksgiving. Now we’re going to see what kind of football team we have. We’re going to see what other good football teams are, and what it takes to be a good football team. It’s not easy this time of year. There’s a lot of guys banged up. Depth for each team now has really become an issue. Mental toughness has really become an issue. The weather’s getting colder. The games are getting bigger. This is really when you find out kind of what the heart of each team is.”
|11.28.10 at 1:34 pm ET|
Among the 26 semifinalists announced Sunday for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011 is former Patriots running back Curtis Martin.
Martin, a third-round pick of New England in 1995, rushed for 3,799 yards in three seasons with the Patriots, including 1,487 yards and 14 touchdowns as a rookie. In all, he played 11 seasons in the NFL, finishing with 14,101 rushing yards and 90 touchdowns.
Martin is is the only semifinalist with New England connections to make the cut ‘ some of the other notable semifinalists included running backs Jerome Bettis and Marshall Faulk, offensive lineman Willie Roaf, defensive back Deion Sanders, wide receivers Cris Carter and Tim Brown, as well as coach Don Coryell, owners Edward DeBartolo, Jr. and Art Modell and former commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
The list of 26 semifinalists will be reduced to 17, and from that list, the Class of 2011 will be determined at the Selection Committee’s annual meeting on Feb. 5 in North Texas the day before Super Bowl XLV.
|11.27.10 at 1:58 pm ET|
It appears ‘Spygate’ is about to be re-visited as the Patriots get ready to take on – drum roll, please – the New York Jets.
In a story full of irony, Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels and the organization have been fined $50,000 each by the NFL for taping a San Francisco 49ers walk-through prior to their game in London last month.
The team reported the league violation to the NFL. McDaniels took the fine on behalf of Steve Scarnecchia, who filmed the 49ers prior to their game on Oct. 31, a game won by San Francisco, 24-16. Scarnecchia, the son of Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, was fired as a result of the violation
“I apologize for not promptly reporting the improper conduct of our video director before our game against the 49ers in London,” McDaniels said in a statement released Saturday. “The actions of this individual are in no way representative of the values held by myself, our players and coaches, and the entire Denver Broncos organization. I understand the punishment from the NFL and support it’s commitment to the integrity of the game. We have addressed the situation internally to make sure nothing like this happens again.”
McDaniels was the offensive coordinator for the Patriots in 2007 when coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 and the Pats docked $250,000 and a 2008 first-round pick for Matt Estrella‘s illegal filming of the Jets during their season-opening win in their 16-0 regular season. Former Patriots defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, who was the Jets head coach in 2007, reported the violation.
There were also allegations by former Patriots staffer Matt Walsh that he was told by the Patriots to tape the Rams’ walk-thru prior to New England’s Super Bowl XXXVI win in Feb. 2002. The Patriots were not penalized for those charges.
What makes this all the more surreal and coincidental, Steve Scarnecchia succeeded Walsh with the Patriots. According to the New York Times, Walsh told Senator Arlen Specter that he witnessed Scarnecchia illegally tape the Steelers in 2002 and the Steelers and Cowboys during their second Super Bowl championship season in 2004.
|11.26.10 at 12:56 pm ET|
Hill alleges that during a quarterback sneak during the second quarter of Thursday’s game, he extended his arms toward the goal line and felt someone in the scrum trying to break his arm, which was broken five weeks ago.
“That’s why I eventually gave up on the ball,” Hill told reporters. “Somebody was down there [in the pile] literally trying to break my arm, which is already broken. Literally, trying. And, uh, you know, I guess wasn’t seen by officials.”
|11.25.10 at 4:58 pm ET|
Tom Brady opened his press conference appropriately enough.
“I don’t have long guys, I’m going to warn you,” Brady said, with Michigan family and friends waiting.
That was appropriate because it was exactly how the first half unfolded and one of the big reasons the Patriots were down 17-10 at halftime to the 2-8 Lions. Taking a page from Al Davis‘ handbook on quarterbacks, the Lions sent Brady down to the ground in the first half, and sent him down hard.
Ndamukong Suh sacked Brady in the first quarter and the Lions’ athletic front, led by Kyle Vanden Bosch, hit Brady hard at least five other times as Brady was held in check.
“Once the speed of the game slowed down, we got everything under control,” Brady said. “They’ve got a hell of a pass rush.”
Then the offensive line held their end of the bargain in the second half, keeping Brady upright and allowing the QB to fire four TDs, including a long, game-changing 79-yard bomb to Deion Branch, abusing poor Lions CB Alphonso Smith in the process. The Patriots went on to score a 45-24 win over the Lions in Detroit on Thursday.
“He was supposed to run and in-cut and the guy was sitting on it,” Brady said. “He threw his hand up and I threw it out there for him. He made a great run after catch. Certainly it’s not the way we drew it up. Just a great play by a great player.”
Wes Welker also had a great day, catching a pair of touchdown passes. Welker and Branch are Brady’s kind of guys.
“They’re everything you look for smart, tough. Patriots kind of guys, do whatever you ask,” Brady raved. “Right in the mold of the Troy Browns and David Pattens and the David Givens. Just spectacular players.
“We showed some resiliency, coming out playing in the second half the way we did,” Brady said. “The crowd was really into it. I think Devin’s interception was a huge play in the game. We executed much better in the second half so it was a great effort.
“I think we’ve shown improvement. We’re not where we need to be. Still haven’t played 60 minutes yet. This is a tough group. I think we’re going to fight to the end. We showed some resiliency and that’s what we needed.
|11.25.10 at 3:47 pm ET|
It wasn’t a masterpiece for the Patriots on Thanksgiving but it’ll do, as Tom Brady threw four TD passes (two each to Wes Welker and Deion Branch) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for another two scores in a 45-24 win over the Lions. The win moves New England to 9-2 on the season, for now the best record in the NFL (the 8-2 Jets host the Bengals on Thursday night).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Another big game for Brady: Tom Brady did nothing to silence those who feel he has been the 2010 NFL MVP to this point, completing 21-of-27 passes for 341 yards and four TDs. All four TD passes and 231 passing yards came in a brilliant second half from Brady, who continued to use more and more play action to set up big gainers in the game, something that has really clicked since the Sunday night win at Pittsburgh. Despite a near-constant pass rush in the first half and a couple of tough hits in the second half, Brady again managed to avoid throwing an interception. Brady hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 6.
Welker and Branch: Wes Welker found the end zone twice (now has six for 2010) and finished with eight catches for 90 yards as he continues to look more and more like the pre-injury Welker each week. But the story of the game for the Pats offense was Deion Branch, who had zero catches in the first half but exploded in the second, first hauling in a 79-yard TD pass to tie the game at 24-24 at the end of the third quarter (which included Branch abusing Alphonso Smith after the catch — Smith was also run over by BenJarvus Green-Ellis on his first TD rush) and then grabbing a 22-yard TD on a skinny post to give the Pats a 31-24 lead early in the fourth. Three catches for 113 yards and the two TDs for Branch, who last had a 100-yard game with the Patriots on October 9, 2005 (Atlanta).
Devin McCourty: The Patriots defense needed someone to step up and make an impact play on defense, and McCourty came through, intercepting Hill on the opening possession of the third quarter (nice leaping catch on a pass intended for Calvin Johnson) and returning the pick for 23 yards. The Patriots took advantage of the short field, putting together a 26-yard TD drive. McCourty collected his second INT of the game in the fourth quarter (and fifth of the season — tied for NFL rookie lead), returning it 50 yards with just over five minutes left to put the game away.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Pats O-Line was dominated early: A group that has been a huge strength for the Patriots in 2010 had a rough outing on Thursday, particularly in the first 30 minutes. Tom Brady had almost no time to make plays in the first half, being pressured six times, knocked down five and sacked once. Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch each knocked down Brady twice in the first half, as Sebastian Vollmer and Logan Mankins both struggled to contain the Lions. A much stronger effort by the O-Line in the second half, but overall the weakest performance by the group all season.
Where’s the pressure?: As has been the case all season, the Patriots defense was unable to get to the opposing quarterback, which was as big a reason as any why Shaun Hill was able to lead the Lions on a pair of long scoring drives in the first half and another in the third quarter. And even when the Patriots got close to Hill they came up short, as Rob Ninkovich, Jerod Mayo and Tully Banta-Cain all whiffed on a third-and-6 Hill run on the Lions second TD drive.
Curious Fourth-Down Call: With the Patriots facing a fourth-and-1 at the Lions two-yard-line on their second drive of the first quarter, Bill Belichick surprised everyone and elected to eschew his trademark “go for it” approach and instead send Shayne Graham out to kick a 19-yard FG that gave the Pats a 3-0 lead. The Lions were far more aggressive in the Fourth Down Department, scoring a pair of TDs on fourth-down rushes in the first half.
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