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Video: ‘4th & Goal’ previews Patriots-Broncos

11.22.13 at 3:15 pm ET
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WEEI’€™s Chris Price previews this week’s matchup between the Patriots and Broncos. Find out the keys to the game for New England, as well as Chris’€™ prediction for a final score.

Bill Belichick won’t be selling Trindon Holliday short in Broncos return game

11.22.13 at 1:56 pm ET
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FOXBORO — There is no returner in the game that instills fear in opposing special teams coaches more than Trindon Holliday. To say the 5-foot-5, 169-pound returner is a game-changer is selling him short.

In just two full-time seasons with the Texans and Broncos, Holliday has taken six kicks to the house, including two in one playoff game against the Ravens last January. This season, Holliday returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown in Week 2 against the Giants. He also returned a kick-off 105 yards for a touchdown in Week 4 against the Eagles.

Holliday, the shortest player in the NFL, had a difficult time getting started in football. His mother held him out of football until seventh grade, because she was afraid he would be injured. After several years of performing at a high level, his high school coaches finally let him start as a running back during his junior year. In his senior year he accumulated over 2,000 yards and over 30 touchdowns, leading his high school Northeast High [Louisiana] to back-to-back State Semi-Final appearances.

Holliday was drafted in the 6th round of the 2010 draft by the Texans. But his blazing speed didn’t help him initially. Trindon struggled on kickoff returns in the preseason. He was placed on IR because of a fracture in his thumb. September 3, 2011 he was cut then placed on the practice squad. On October 5, his practice squad contract was terminated. He was later added to the active roster, but was waived on October 25.

In the 2012 preseason week 1 against Carolina, he returned a kickoff return for a touchdown. The next week, he returned a punt for a touchdown against San Francisco. In the final preseason game against the Vikings, Holliday recorded his third touchdown in four games; this touchdown was a 76-yard punt return. Following the 2012 preseason, Holliday made the Houston Texans 53-man roster and was the starting punt and kick returner.

Holliday was waived from the Texans on Oct. 10, 2012 in a move to bolster their defense. In step the Broncos. A day later, Holliday was claimed off of waivers by the Broncos. Four days later, in his first game with Denver, Holliday fumbled and lost the ball on a punt return in the first quarter of the game. He returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown against the Bengals on Nov. 4, 2012, breaking the Broncos record for the longest play.

A week later, he returned a punt for 76 yards against Carolina. The play was ruled a touchdown despite his fumble on the 1 yard line. Remarkably, Holliday’s teams went undefeated during the regular season in 2012. He started the season with the Texans who were 5-0 when they cut him. He was the acquired by the Broncos who finished the regular season 13-3 with an 11 game win streak.

He didn’t stop there.

Holliday returned a punt in the first quarter of the AFC divisional game against Baltimore for a 90 yard touchdown, the longest punt return in postseason history. During the third quarter of that game, he returned a kickoff for a 104 yard touchdown. He became the first player in NFL history with a punt return touchdown and a kick return touchdown in the same postseason game. He had 256 total punt and kick return yards but the Broncos lost, 38-35 in double overtime.

Has Belichick ever seen a returner like him?

“I think he’€™s got a real good combination of skills. He’€™s tough, that’€™s I’€™d say the big thing. He’€™s tough, he doesn’€™t mind running up inside or taking a hit, that kind of thing. It’€™s not all just run to the sideline. Kind of like Ted Ginn is a speed guy and he tried to get a lot of his speed outside.

“Holliday can definitely get outside and he’€™s got a lot of speed, but he gets a lot of plays up inside too, where people overplay him. He’€™s quick and he’€™s tough and he’€™s fast and he’€™s got good vision. Those things are all good. He’€™s obviously not a very big guy and there are some other issues but he’€™s an explosive player that can really score on any type of return: inside return, outside return. He’€™ll run right up the middle and split the coverage as well as try to out-run them down the sideline.”

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

Peter King on M&M: ‘Denver this weekend has a few too many answers for what New England can do defensively’

11.22.13 at 12:54 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Friday to talk about Sunday night’s Patriots-Broncos showdown and the controversial ending to Monday night’s Patriots loss to the Panthers.

King said Sunday’s game is more important to the Patriots, who are in danger of finishing out of the top two seeds in the AFC.

“The most important thing at stake the rest of the year is that bye week at the start of the playoffs,” King said. “If you’re the third seed or the fourth seed, that becomes a pretty big deal, in my opinion. It makes you play that first week and everything. Obviously if you’re one of the first two seeds you get that week off.”

The Broncos are coming off a victory over the previously undefeated Chiefs this past Sunday, and they play Kansas City again a week after meeting the Patriots. King said that presents a major challenge, but he’s still going with Denver on Sunday.

“Kansas City, sandwiching this game for Denver, playing them two out of three weeks, I think that makes this a really troublesome game for Denver,” King said. “Even though I like Denver in the game, if I’m looking at this game, the thing that’s the biggest disadvantage is you’re having to face a really good team twice in 15 days, sandwiched around this game. So, I think Denver’s road is tougher. I just think Denver this weekend has a few too many answers for what New England can do defensively.”

The big story in the NFL this week was the controversial finishing to Monday’s game, when the officials picked up a flag thrown for interference on Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly on the game’s final play, giving the Panthers a 24-20 victory.

“Let’s make three points about this,” King said. “No. 1, I think that Clete Blakeman did a very bad job after the play in not explaining what happened. You owe it to the coaches in the game, you owe it to the teams in the game, and you owe it to millions of people watching on TV. All we could do was guess what the crew ruled. That was absurd to not have any idea why they ruled what it is they ruled, but to be less guessing. That’s No. 1.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Dean Blandino, Gerry Austin, John Gruden

Patriots practice Friday: Michael Hoomanawanui absent while Brandon Spikes not in shells

11.22.13 at 11:40 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots practiced in sweats and shells in the cold rain on the upper grass fields Friday morning as they made final preparations for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos this Sunday night at Gillette.

Weather could be a factor Sunday night but rain is not expected. Game time temperatures are expected to be in the low 20s and drop into the teens by the end. Wind is expected to be a factor with gusts out of the northwest expected at 25 MPH.

There were two significant absences during the media portion of practice, which including only stretching. Back-up quarterback Ryan Mallett, who has been playing the role of Manning during practice this week, was not seen. Mallett did arrive at practice as the media were escorted off the field

The only confirmed absence was tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. Running back Brandon Bolden was seen on the sidelines while the rest of the team was in running and stretching drills.

Bolden was removed this week from the injury report after dealing with a knee issue for most of the season. Mallett was not on Thursday’s injury report while Hoomanawanui injured his knee against Carolina and hasn’t practiced all week.

Linebacker Brandon Spikes was one of the very last players spotted coming out to practice and he was not in shells, only sweats, spending most of the time during stretching talking with linebackers coach Pepper Johnson. Spikes has been listed all week as limited in practice with a knee injury.

Also in attendance at Friday’s practice was the TV crew from NBC, including Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya, as the game will be on their air at 8:30 p.m.

The team will conduct a walkthrough on Saturday before taking on the Broncos Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.

Read More: Brandon Spikes, Denver Broncos, Michael Hoomanawanui, New England Patriots

Bill Belichick on Peyton Manning: ‘If you tell them what you’re in, you’re probably not going to like the way it’s going to end up’

11.22.13 at 10:44 am ET
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FOXBORO — The real chess match to watch Sunday night is not between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. It’s not even Bill Belichick against Wes Welker.

The most fascinating match-up to watch is how Belichick’s defense adjusts to Manning’s always-changing tempo at the line of scrimmage and how Belichick’s troops attempt to disguise their defense.

Belichick gave some very interesting insight Friday morning on whether he still intends to disguise his defense to a high degree.

“You have to,” Belichick said.

Why not just try to execute your defense against Manning and hope your execution is better?

“Well, you can do that,” Belichick said. “It’s just a question on whether you can hold up in it or not. But I’d say the odds of that aren’t great, to be honest with you.

“Usually, when he sees what it is, he gets to the play he wants to get to and I would say they’ve hit a lot of big plays on plays like that. He sees a blitz, calls a tear screen to Demaryius Thomas and it goes 75 yards for a touchdown. You can be in whatever you want to be in but if they have a play to beat it and it’s well-executed, which it frequently is with Denver, you’re just playing right into their hands.

“They’ve waiting all day to run the play against that situation. You tell them, ‘Here we are, we’re going to be in Cover-2 zone, go ahead run your best play.’ Well, they will. We’re going to be in “man-free” or we’re going to be in blitz or we’re going to be in “man-under 2-deep,” what are you going to do about it? Well, they can usually do something about it. I don’t really think anybody has had a lot of success playing that way.”

The Broncos have scored 398 points in their 10 games, averaging nearly 40 points per contest. They are on pace for 637 points in 16 games, which would shatter New England’s mark of 589 in 2007, a season in which the Patriots averaged 36.8 points per game.

“Now, if you just out-personnel them at every position across the board and say, ‘OK, we’re all just going to lock up on one guy. We’re going to take everybody. We don’t care that they know where we are because we’re that good.’ I just don’t anybody has been able to do that [successfully]. They’ve scored more points than anybody in football. It’s hard to do. Somewhere along the line they have a good matchup if they know exactly what you’re in. I don’t think anybody has played them that way very effectively in whatever it is they’ve tried to play, man, zone, blitz, man-free, 2-deep man, 2-deep zone, 3-deep zone, 3-man rush. If you tell them what you’re in, you’re probably not going to like the way it’s going to end up. Sometimes, it’s situational and sometimes you have to live with that but I don’t think down after down, anybody’s really had much success doing that.”

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

Fantasy Football: Week 12 starts, sits

11.22.13 at 10:28 am ET
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Welcome to the starts and sits for Week 12. I’€™ve done my best to find some options from across the spectrum while avoiding the really obvious stuff. This is the last bye week for the NFL, so things get a lot easier going forward for those whose teams are still in the thick of things. If you require more assistance or clarity, head over to Rotobahn and check out our full lineup rankings. Also, make sure you check out the Fantasy Football Podcast with Jim Hackett sponsored by our friends at Mohegan Sun. And, as always, I’€™ll be here Sunday morning for our chat to help with your Week 12 lineup decisions.



Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers at Browns

He’€™s gone off in two out of the last three games, and he’€™s worth a look based on upside alone. He probably will have his best receiver taken away because Cleveland’€™s Joe Haden is one of the league’s best cornerbacks, but Big Ben has other places he can go with the ball.

Carson Palmer, Cardinals vs. Colts

He’€™ll have his ups and downs in this weekend’€™s game because Indy can get a pass rush going sometimes, but he’€™ll have enough moments throwing to Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd to have a solid fantasy outing.

Josh McCown, Bears at Rams

He’€™s not fun to watch, but like Shaun Hill on the Lions, he gets the job done. Coach Marc Trestman has done his usual magnificent job with his quarterbacks, and you can expect some solid stats in Week 12. The Rams simply cannot match up with the size and athleticism of the Chicago receivers and tight ends. The Rams could get lit up if they fail to rush the passer, which is the strength of their defense. McCown is a solid option in 12-team leagues.

Mike Glennon, Bucs at Lions

This is a deep play. Glennon is a bit risky on the road, but I like the matchup with the Tampa receivers going against the Detroit defensive backs. I also think the Bucs can hold up better than most teams against the Lions’ nasty front four. Glennon can play for you in a 12-team league if you’€™re in a bind. The same can be said for Scott Tolzien of the Packers and and Case Keenum of the Texans.


Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins vs. Panthers

He’€™s got bad protection, broken weapons and a bad Week 1 matchup. He may get some volume stats, but you can do better in most formats. Leave Tannehill on the bench this week if you have other options.

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Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Josh McCown, Mike Glennon

Jonathan Kraft on D&C: ‘I’ve never heard Bill [Belichick] say a bad word about Wes [Welker]’

11.22.13 at 9:54 am ET
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Patriots president Jonathan Kraft checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to talk about Sunday night’s showdown with the AFC-leading Broncos and other Patriots news.

The game marks the return of former Patriot Wes Welker, who is expected to play after suffering a concussion in Denver’s last game. Kraft said he has a special place in his heart for Welker, who played six incredibly productive seasons in Foxboro.

“How do you not, as a football fan, forget just being a Patriots fan, how do you not have huge admiration for Wes?” Kraft said. “The thing I always say about him, aside from the fact he’s a wonderful guy that I’ve had the privilege of knowing, when I stand next to him — and I’m no physical specimen — there’s really not a lot of difference in terms of what you look at when the two of us are standing next to each other. And then you watch him step on a football field and do what he does, it’s indescribable. If you love the game and you appreciate what the game is, and then you look at him and you look at what he was given in terms of just the basic physical attributes, and then you watch what he does, you have to be in awe of him. And I am in awe of him.

“Unfortunately, I watch him in a different color uniform and I’m still in awe of him and what he does on the football field. It’s exceptional and amazing.”

Welker departed the Patriots under mysterious circumstances, as New England did not appear to try its hardest to sign Tom Brady‘s favorite receiver. Kraft said he has no reason to believe it was anything personal between Welker and Bill Belichick.

“I don’t believe that’s the case,” Kraft said. “I’ve seen no sign of that from Bill. ‘€¦ Bill, when he’s building a team, leave emotion out of it completely. He truly does what he feels is in the best interest of the team. And he has a dollar value in mind and structures that can work for different people. And regardless of how he feels about you personally, not as a football player, because I know as a football player he has the utmost for Wes, a huge amount of respect, not just for physical toughness that he has, but Wes gets the game of football. He’s incredibly intelligent. You saw him walk in here in 2007 and instantly get our offense and get on the same wavelength with Tommy. And I think Bill values those things highly.

“I’ve never heard Bill say a bad word about Wes. And even if he did have emotions about him as a person — and I have no reason to believe that he does — that are the way [the WEEI hosts] are describing, I don’t believe he would let that impact a decision that was good for the football team.”

Belichick famously held Welker out of the starting lineup in the Patriots’ playoff loss to the Jets in January 2011 after Welker tweaked New York coach Rex Ryan in a press conference leading up to the game. Kraft said he does not question Belichick’s decisions on matters such as that — at least not professionally.

“You’ve got to have confidence in your head coach, and you have to let him do what he thinks is right. Bill has the ability to do that,” Kraft said. “As a fan, you can sit back and question anything. That’s why all of sports are fun to watch, but I don’t think anything is more fun to watch and follow than football, because there’s so much to discuss. There are more players, there are more situations, each play is scripted.

“You have those discussions, and I understand the question, but I would never question Bill’s ability to make the right decision. Is every decision he makes right? Obviously not. No one’s perfect. But to sit back and question what he’s doing isn’t something that I do, isn’t something that anyone up here does. His track record speaks for itself. That doesn’t mean that as a fan you don’t sit there and say things, but he know what he’s doing.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady, Wes Welker



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