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Josh McDaniels explains why Patriots are rotating so many offensive linemen

12.22.14 at 2:04 pm ET
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Nate Solder. (Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

Nate Solder was moved around the line to provide extra protection Sunday against the Jets. (Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

One of the immediate takeaways from Sunday’s game was the priority the Patriots put on rotating their offensive linemen in tackle-eligible formations. Left tackle Nate Solder covered Marcus Cannon in the first half and even switched over to the right side to cover Sebastian Vollmer on occasion.

On Monday, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was asked when and how he decides when to use an extra offensive lineman as a tight end.

“Each week is a little different based on the matchups,” McDaniels said. “The Jets have a very good front, big guys on the edge plenty of the time, so you just look at what you can do to put your personnel in position to be successful so that you can run effective plays on offense. We’ve used different guys, obviously, throughout the course of the season.

“[Cameron] Fleming has done it. [Josh] Kline has done it. Obviously, Nate, Marcus has done it at times as well. We felt good about all our tackles that we put in the game, so when Marcus is in there, we have confidence in him, so when Nate goes to the tight end position and Marcus comes in at tackle, we feel like we’ve got good players at a lot of spots. Part of the game plan was to go ahead and do some of that yesterday. We had some mixed results, but some production from it as well.”

When running tackles in and out of the game, the no-huddle and hurry-up offensive formations take a back seat. But in the second half, McDaniels turned more up tempo with a good deal of success.

After the game, Tom Brady was asked why the team doesn’t use hurry-up more often throughout a game when they appear to have so much success with it.

“That’€™s a good question. I think there are definitely times we do a good job of it,” Brady said. “I don’€™t know. That’€™s a good question. We do it at different times and sometimes it works. I don’€™t know.”

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Read More: Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,

Prosecutors say Aaron Hernandez trial should take 6-10 weeks

12.22.14 at 1:52 pm ET
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Aaron Hernandez appeared in Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River on Monday in one of the final hearings before his trial next month in the killing of Odin Lloyd, and prosecutors said the trial is expected to last 6-10 weeks and include the testimony of about 45 witnesses.

Hernandez, who pleaded not guilty to Lloyd’s 2013 murder as well as the shooting deaths of two men in Boston in 2012, has one more pre-trial hearing scheduled on Jan. 6, three days before jury selection begins.

Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, had a hearing in the same courtroom earlier. She pleaded not guilty to lying before a grand jury that was seeking evidence about Hernandez’s role in the murder.

Hernandez’s attorney, Michael Fee, requested the right to question potential jurors during the selection process in court, but the judge denied it.

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Bill Belichick not very happy with his offense Sunday: ‘We had mistakes everywhere’

12.22.14 at 1:35 pm ET
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Bill Belichick. (Mike Petraglia/

Bill Belichick did not like what he saw Sunday, even though the Patriots were able to pull out a win over the Jets. (Mike Petraglia/

The film confirmed for Bill Belichick what he thought during Sunday’s game against the Jets. The offense wasn’t very good.

But Belichick didn’t single out any particular area, like the offensive line. The Patriots head coach, instead, chose to put everyone in the same boat.

Asked for his assessment of the offensive line’€™s struggles, he said the problems were more a result of execution than communication, though both played a factor with the absence of starting left guard Dan Connolly to a neck issue. The first example of the execution and communication problems came on the very first drive, when left tackle Nate Solder and Connolly’s first half replacement Josh Kline appeared to miscommunicate on inside and outside responsibilities. The breakdown allowed Calvin Pace to rush outside and David Harris to rush inside, with both getting to Tom Brady.

“I think we had a lot of communication –€“ or I’€™d say execution issues on offense,” Belichick said in a Monday conference call. “We just didn’€™t execute very well, I’€™d say, in any part of the game. All the players were involved, all the coaches were involved. We just didn’€™t execute very well. We had mistakes everywhere, multiple mistakes everywhere. You could point to any spot and find some because they were everywhere.

“We just have to try to correct them today and move on. But I don’€™t think there was any one single thing that I would point to. I think it was an accumulation of a lot of lack of execution plays. That being said, there were a lot of times good things that happened on the play, but one part of the play that was poorly executed and I thought we didn’€™t have much to show for it. But we didn’€™t execute the passing game very well. We didn’€™t execute the running game very well, blocking, passing, catching. It was just [that] none of it really was very good.”

Adding to the complexity, the Patriots rotated their line frequently with tackle-eligible formations. In the second half, the Patriots moved Ryan Wendell from right guard over to left guard and moved Marcus Cannon to right guard. Belichick saw some improvement with those changes, as the Patriots put together a fourth quarter go-ahead drive and killed the final five minutes of the game with an effective run game.

“There were times when we were OK, there were times when we weren’€™t,” Belichick added. “You could put any player’€™s name into that question offensively and the answer would be the same. We need all of our players to play better. We need our good players to play better. We need to do a better job of coaching. We need to do a lot of things better. Fifty yards of offense in the first half, that’€™s not going to win many games. We were lucky to even be in the game.”

In a repeat of the Oct. 16 game at Gillette, the Jets were dominating the stats. The Patriots had just 52 total yards on 25 plays while the Jets had 176 yards on 35 plays. Still, the Jets led just 10-7 at the break.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, New York Jets,

Josh McDaniels takes hit for his quarterback getting hit: ‘We can definitely do better than that’

12.22.14 at 11:41 am ET
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Tom Brady was hit early and often in Sunday's win over the Jets. (Getty Images)

Tom Brady was hit early and often in Sunday’s win over the Jets. (Getty Images)

Back in Foxboro a day after their 17-16 escape against the Jets, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels stepped up and shouldered a big load of responsibility for the rough day Tom Brady and the Patriots offense had getting on track.

Brady completed 23-of-35 passes for just 182 yards and was sacked four times, all in the first half. He was hit and hurried several times in the second half as the Patriots did just enough to walk out of MetLife Stadium with their 12th win.

“I don’t think we had our best day in total on offense,” McDaniels said in a Monday conference call. “I don’t think anybody played or executed or coached particularly well, starting with me. I think there were definitely some things we did well at times and then certainly the Jets gave us some issues.

“They have a good defense, a good front and a good scheme and they’re well-coached and they deserve credit for creating some issues for us. And at the same time, we feel we can coach and play better. That onus is on us. We’ve got to do better and hopefully we can do that going forward.”

“I don’t think they did anything we haven’t seen before, and certainly didn’t do it for that many snaps. Overall, they played better than we did. Our guys fought and battled and made some plays in some critical situations to help us win the game but we can definitely do better than that.”

As for the 11 hits on Brady, McDaniels said the film showed breakdowns all over.

“Like I’ve said before, there’s a lot of things that go into good pass protection,” McDaniels said. “There was more than one issue [Sunday] in terms of protecting the quarterback. We had issues in the front, we had issues at tight end, we had issues at running back. So, the issues aren’t just in one spot. I think the solution is definitely an execution thing.
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Read More: Buffalo Bills, Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots, New York Jets

Tom Brady on D&C: Jets ‘certainly played their best’ Sunday

12.22.14 at 7:40 am ET
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Coming off an ugly 17-16 victory over the Jets that clinched a first-round playoff bye, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning and talked about why the Pats have so much trouble vs. their division rivals. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Brady was 23-of-35 for 182 yards with one touchdown, one interception and four sacks in Sunday’s game as the Patriots struggled to turn away the 3-12 Jets. Afterward, New York coach Rex Ryan said his teams give Brady and the Patriots “the biggest challenge.”

“I think the last four games we’ve played against them we haven’t played very well, and they’ve all kind of come down to the last possession,” Brady said. “It’s frustrating to be in those situations where we’re just not playing to the way we’re capable. But it’s hard to win in the NFL and it’s hard to win on the road against a good division rival.

“It was a great win for our team. I thought our defense really made some huge plays. We made a couple plays there in the second half to help us win. I would loved to have played a lot better in the first half and put a lot of pressure on those guys. But they did a good job kind of keeping us off balance and ended up making it a pretty tough game.”

Asked what the Jets do to give the Patriots trouble, Brady pointed to a number of factors.

“They’ve got a good team,” he said. “They’ve got a good defensive front. They put pressure on the quarterback. They’ve got good guys in the middle of the defense that get things coordinated. They’ve got a good scheme and they keep you off balance. They give you a lot of looks, and we know them really well. They’ve been in a lot of close games with us, so they have a lot of confidence they can play us well. And certainly after the first half, us being down 10-7, they feel like they’re in the game and they’ve got a great chance to win.

“I know their record was what it was, but they certainly played their best yesterday. When you watch them play the Bills and get beat by 38 points, I don’t really think we played the same team. Like I said, we kind of sputtered early and gave them a lot of confidence, and that’s never a great thing to do. But like I said, I’m glad we made some pretty key plays there in the fourth quarter.”

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Read More: Jim Harbaugh, Julian Edelman, Rex Ryan, Tom Brady

After going down with injury, Nick Mangold has ‘utmost respect’ for Vince Wilfork

12.22.14 at 6:30 am ET
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A number of players from both teams sent their well wishes to Jets center Nick Mangold before he was carted off with a lower left leg injury. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

A number of players from both teams sent their well wishes to Jets center Nick Mangold before he was carted off with a lower left leg injury. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It was an unfortunate day for Jets center Nick Mangold.

After walking onto MetLife Stadium field wearing an NYPD hat to honor the two fallen officers from Saturday’s horrible event, he left the field on a cart with what looked like a serious lower leg injury.

Early in the second quarter, the 2006 first-rounder got his leg rolled up on and he went down in serious pain before having to be being carted off the field. Before the cart took off, virtually the entire Jets sideline and a good number of Patriots players went over to the cart to give Mangold their best wishes. He had X-rays and said more tests will be needed to be done Monday, but he was moving around the locker room afterwards on crutches.

The player closest to the cart may have been a member of the Patriots, Vince Wilfork, as the two have been battling against one another for close to a decade going back to college when Wilfork was at the University of Miami and Mangold at Ohio State. It has only continued as the two have been division rivals since entering the league with there always being a good battle in the trenches when the two teams meet with Mangold at center at Wilfork at defensive tackle.

“Vince and I, we’ve been playing against each other for, shoot, it goes back to college,” Mangold recalled. “We played against each other. We’ve had some great battles and I have the utmost respect for that guy. … Very appreciated.”

“That was greatly appreciated,” Mangold added of the support. “Even though I wasn’t in the best of moods at the time as a player your team behind you and even the other team, that leaves you with a deep appreciation.”

As for wearing the NYPD hat prior to the game, Mangold was doing anything he could to show his support, saying he decided on the gesture Saturday night.

“Those two officers, it’s a shame. That’s tough,” Mangold said. “Those guys, they do a great job. I’ve been here nine years. Every one of those guys that’s out there, that risks their lives every day, to go out there and keep the community safe, protect the community — for that to happen, for those two guys, for their families, that’s a raw deal.

“If wearing that hat gives a little bit of comfort or shows support for those folks, I’m happy to do it.”

Read More: Nick Mangold, Vince Wilfork,

Danny Amendola stepping up in Julian Edelman’s absence: ‘Everyone has a job to do, just trying to do my job’

12.21.14 at 7:38 pm ET
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EAST RUTHERFORD N.J. — With wide receiver Julian Edelman downgraded to out Saturday night with a concussion/thigh injury, someone was going to have to step up and fill the void left by a guy who has 92 catches and 972 yards on the year.

That guy was Danny Amendola.

Amendola entered the game Sunday with 15 total catches this season, and finished Sunday with eight catches for 63 yards. At times the sixth-year veteran looked like the best Patriots player on the field in the first half. He also was able to provide a spark in the return game as he finished with 91 yards on five kick returns, and 63 yards on three punt returns, including a 39-yard return in the first half, which led to a Rob Gronkowski touchdown, the Patriots’ first score of the game.

“Absolutely,” when asked if he was looking forward to Sunday. “It’s a rough game. Some guys go in, some guys go out. Everyone has a job to do, just trying to do my job.”

The wide out played a total of 43 snaps by our count, his most since Week 9 against Denver. His season-high was 61 in Week 1 against Miami. He was part of the grouping that sparked the Patriots in the second half when they went no huddle with he and Brandon LaFell as the wide receivers, Tim Wright and Gronkowski at tight end and Shane Vereen in the backfield.

“He did a great job, and he’s been really looking for this opportunity,” Tom Brady said. “I thought he did a great job in here in the role that he played. He’s a very good player for us. He did a good job returning some great kicks and punts. It will be good to get Jules [Julian Edelman] back next week. Hopefully he can get back next week.”

Even with not being as productive as he was with the Rams, Amendola is keeping his confidence up and making sure he’s ready when called upon.

“You have a job to do every week,” Amendola said. “You have a role on the team if you’re suited up. You have something to do within the game plan. You have to do your job. Whatever it is, never doubt yourself.”

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