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Vince Wilfork on D&H: Bill Belichick haters ‘need to be punched in their face’

01.10.11 at 12:07 pm ET
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Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork joined the Dale & Holley show Monday morning at Gillette Stadium for his weekly visit as part of WEEI’s Patriots Monday. Wilfork talked about what to expect in Sunday’s playoff game vs. the Jets. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” he said. “Every game in the playoffs is tough. Especially being able to play a team three times. It gets harder and harder and harder each time. I don’t think anything we’ve done in the first games we played them this year are going to factor into this game. It’s a totally different ballgame. For us, it’s a 0-0 season, a brand new season.

“I think the approach is kind of different, because if you lose now, you go home. I think we’ll get the Jets’ best. I think everything they have to offer, we’ll get. Probably some things we haven’t seen, some things we’ve probably seen, we’re going to get it. At the same time, we’re in the same mode. Like I said, you lose, you go home. At the end of the day, we want to make sure we leave this game happy and satisfied with what we did. Hopefully we can come out with a ‘W.’ ”

Wilfork said the key for the Patriots is to have a good week of preparation. “Our main goal is going to practice and being able to practice well,” he said. “We need the best practices of the year, starting this week. If we don’t get that, there may be problems. Our goal is to go to practice and leave that practice field knowing we got better.”

Wilfork explained that Bill Belichick started working on the Patriots’ psyches last week. “He hit us as a team,” Wilfork said. “He never wants us to get complacent or get relaxed. Just because we were on a bye week, we went in and we worked. ‘€¦ Bill is the type of guy that whenever you get a chance to get better, if we agree with it or don’t agree with it, he’s going to do what’s best for the team. I think last week was a great example.”

Belichick’s decision to work the Patriots hard last week rather than give them more time off during the bye week can’t be questioned, according to Wilfork. “A lot of people might not agree with it, but like I said, the respect level that I have for this guy is unbelievable,” he said. “People who don’t respect him need to be punched in their face. The guy’s been around this game so long and been successful so long, you can’t do anything but respect him.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, LaDanian Tomlinson, Nick Mangold, playoffs

Highlights from Rex Ryan: ‘This week is about Bill Belichick vs. Rex Ryan’

01.10.11 at 11:53 am ET
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Jets coach Rex Ryan held a question and answer session with the media this morning that ran almost 20 minutes and touched on a number of Patriots-related topics, including the fact that he thinks he got outcoached in the last New England-New York contest, how he plans to coach differently, what he thinks of Bill Belichick and his thoughts on Tom Brady going to a Broadway play Saturday night instead of watching the Jets-Colts wild card game. Here are some of the highlights:

Part of his opening statement specifically on the Patriots: “We’re going back up to Foxboro and all that kind of stuff. And after really looking at it, I realize that this is … that game, I was outcoached in that game. I said it then, and I’m saying it now. That’s [Bill] Belchick. I recognize the fact that this is a Hall of Fame coach, and he’ll go down in history as maybe the greatest football coach in the history of this game. Or he’s going to be close to it. And he was at that level that week, and I was not. For whatever reason, I never had my team prepared, the way it should have been prepared, and that falls right down on me. I recognize this week, this is about Bill Belichick vs. Rex Ryan. There’s no question. It’s personal. This is about him against myself, and that’s what it’s going to come down to. When you look at both teams, they’re very even. When you look at the players, both teams are solid across the board. When you look at the assistant coaches, we’re on level ground. So this is going to be about me raising my level against Bill Belichick. Like I said, I recognize he’s the best and all that, but I’m just trying to be the best on Sunday. And I plan on being the best coach on Sunday. That’s what it is. I recognize that my level has to come up, and he’s going to get my best shot. He’s going to get everything I have on Sunday. And if he slips at all, we’re going to beat him.”

How do you raise your level? “It’s just going to be a ridiculous amount of preparation on our part, but also have recognized that my job is to make it simpler for our players. No matter how difficult that may be as a coach, that’s your job. To get your players to play at the highest level possible. And that’s taking some of the grey area. So they do a great job with their matchups and all that kind of stuff. We have to do a great job making it ‘€” whether it’s a complex plan or not ‘€” it has to be simple. Because we have to play fast and physical. That doesn’t mean we’re going to dummy it up. You dummy it up against them, you’ll get crushed. We’ve got to find that balancing act ‘€” I have to find a balancing act ‘€” by keeping our team physical.”

On that December game being too complicated for the players: “Yeah, I definitely think so. I think the play might have looked good on paper, but I think it wasn’t realistic. And when we had to make the adjustments, we couldn’t execute them. And obviously, they were, they did a great job. They were prepared. They did a great job and that was it. It really came down to coaching more than playing, and it was obvious. They were that much better ‘€” Belichick was that much better ‘€” than I was that last game.”

Is this a defining game for you as a coach? “No question. That’s fine. I think that’s true.”
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Read More: Bill Belichick, playoffs, Rex Ryan, Tom Brady

Boomer Esiason on D&C: ‘There is a pride factor that is at play here’

01.10.11 at 10:05 am ET
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CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the NFL playoffs and the Patriots-Jets matchup. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Jets knocked off the Colts in Indianapolis on Saturday night, 17-16, but it was far from a dominant effort. New York’s offensive struggles have to be a concern.

Said Esiason: “Sooner or later, Mark Sanchez is going to have to make plays. He certainly did that on the last drive of the game for the Jets against Indianapolis. Can he go toe-to-toe with Tom Brady? Tom Brady’s not going to be settling for field goals, I’m going to tell you that right now.

“Like I said earlier, Peyton Manning and his team were so beat up. The fact that the Jets, it took them all the way until the last play of the game ‘€” they lost the lead there at the end ‘€” kind of tells you that the Jets I don’t necessarily know are ready to go toe-to-toe with Tom Brady. They’ll keep the game, I believe, a hell of a lot closer than the last time. I think that was more of an anomaly than anything else. But I can see the Patriots throwing up 34. Can Mark Sanchez score 35 points? I just don’t see it.”

Asked whether heralded cornerback Darrelle Revis might be assigned more often to cover Wes Welker, Esiason said that’s not the key matchup. “Pick your poison when you’re playing the Patriots,” he said. “The Patriots have two players in particular that are going to be very difficult for the Jets to cover, and that’s going to be [Rob] Gronkowski and [Aaron] Hernandez. Those two guys down the middle of the field are, to me, again, where the weakness of the Jets lie. Their safeties are not great cover guys.”

On the other side of the ball, the Patriots have concerns as well. “The question is for them, Can they stop Shonn Greene and LaDanian Tomlinson?” Esiason said. “LaDainian looked great on Saturday night, and even he said last week that this is the healthiest he has been in a long time going into the playoffs.”

As for how the Jets will react coming off the 45-3 beatdown they took the last time these teams met, Esiason said: “You get pissed. You were embarrassed. … There is a pride factor that is at play here. If you are a prideful person ‘€” which I know that almost NFL players are that way, they don’t like being embarrassed ‘€” they are going to put their best effort forward, to be focused, to be really intense and make sure that they are ready to roll this week.

“I’m just telling you, the Jets’ mentality now, especially after beating Peyton Manning they way that they did in the second half, Rex Ryan is going to play it as if he’s a tougher team, he’s a stronger team, the Patriots are a finesse team and that’s the way that they like to play. We’re a more ground-and-pound team. I can hear it in my sleep. That’s exactly what he’s going to be telling his team behind the scenes.”

Read More: boomer esiason, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mark Sanchez, playoffs

Tom Brady on D&C: ‘I get a ton of help from our coach’

01.10.11 at 9:58 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady checked in with the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning for his weekly chat as part of WEEI’s Patriots Monday. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

With the Patriots preparing to face the Jets on Sunday, Brady said he won’t let Rex Ryan‘s backhanded insult of him last week affect him. Ryan said Peyton Manning is the most-prepared quarterback in the NFL, and Brady gets more help from Bill Belichick than he would let on.

“I think everybody’s obviously entitled to their opinion,” Brady said. “And maybe he’s right. He’s a good coach. I’ll just keep getting ready like we’ve done all year, and hopefully we’ll go out and play well on Sunday night.”

Added Brady: “I don’t think anything that people really say has bothered me good, bad or indifferent over the years. Everybody has their opinion of people and things and places. All I know is that I feel really confident with our team and the way our team prepares each week. I’m sure we’ll be prepared going into this game on Sunday.”

Brady even took it so far as to agree with Ryan’s assessment. “I get a ton of help from our coach,” Brady said with a laugh. “Of course we do. I think we have the best coach in the history of football. I think we’ve got a great offensive staff, a great defensive staff, ones that get all the players prepared. Coach talks about being a smart, tough, physical football team that plays well under pressure. Part of us being smart and prepared and ready to play is our coaches doing their homework. We use whatever we can to get ready to play.”

Much was made of the fact that Brady was attending a Broadway performance of “Lombardi” on Saturday night instead of watching the Jets-Colts game. Actually, Brady said he monitored the score on his cell phone and then got out in time to watch the second half of the Jets’ win, which he would have preferred not to do.

“I got home and watched the second half,” he said, explaining that his two best friends “suckered” him into watching football. “You know what happens to me is I get very anxious watching those games. I was watching the second half and I was actually kind of pissed that I watched it because I didn’t go to sleep ’til 3 in the morning. You just get riled up as I watch them, and then I start rooting for a team to win, and that’s not really what I want to be doing. I figure I’ll get enough, I’ll see the game. I’ve seen that game [on tape]. You know, it’s just something I wanted to do with my wife.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, playoffs, Rex Ryan, Tom Brady

Ten Patriots-related thoughts from wild card weekend

01.10.11 at 12:18 am ET
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Here are 10 Patriots-related thoughts from wild card weekend:

1. Taking a look at the numbers from Saturday’€™s wild card contest, it appears that the Jets have gotten back to what they do best. The Colts aren’€™t the best team in the league against the run ‘€” Indy allowed 127 yards a game over the regular season ‘€” but it was clear that New York stuck with what worked against Indianapolis: ground and pound. The Jets committed to the run, and they made it work. If New York is to have a chance Sunday in the divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium, it has to do the same, even if they fall behind by 7-10 points in the second half.

2. New York got great work in the kick return game on Saturday, thanks in large part to the work of Antonio Cromartie. The cornerback had a pair of great runbacks against the Colts, including a 47-yarder late in the fourth quarter that set up the eventual game-winning field goal. With the Patriots struggling on special teams recently, expect kick coverage to be a major point of emphasis around Gillette Stadium this week.

3. The Jets’€™ running game is important to their success, but New York’€™s ultimate hope when it comes to beating the Patriots hinges on their quarterback, Mark Sanchez turning things around when it comes to facing the Patriots in Foxboro. While the USC product played well as a game-manager Saturday night against the Colts (18-for-31, 189 passing yards), he has struggled in his two career games at Gillette Stadium. His line in Foxboro: one touchdown, seven interceptions and has fumbled the ball away twice.

4. As far as many New England fans were concerned, it was unfortunate to see how things ended up for the Chiefs on Sunday afternoon. Early on, Kansas City certainly looked capable of knocking off the Ravens, but the Chiefs were unable to sustain things in the second half, as former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel threw three second-half interceptions on the way to a 30-7 defeat. Kansas City has many well-documented ties to the Patriots organization ‘€” including Cassel, Mike Vrabel, the departing offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and GM Scott Pioli ‘€” but there’€™s a real belief that Sunday’€™s game was the first step on the way to bigger and better things for the Kansas City organization. (That being said, you have to believe the distraction of Weis’€™ departure had some sort of an effect on the Chiefs’€™ stagnant offense.)

5. It was a miserable afternoon for Cassel, who was making the first playoff start of his career. The former Patriots signal-caller was just 9-for-18 passes for 70 yards with three interceptions, three sacks and a 20.4 rating ‘€” one of the worst playoff quarterbacking performances in NFL playoff history. It was quite a change for Cassel, who threw just seven picks all year. ‘€œI forced a few balls in there and it did not turn out well,’€ said Cassel, who credits Tom Brady with helping him develop into an NFL starter. ‘€œAs leader of the team and a leader of the offense, I can’€™t do that. Our hats go off to the Ravens. They have a good defense. We knew that coming in. Hopefully, they do well going forward. But this one definitely hurts a little bit.’€

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Read More: aaron rodgers, antonio cromartie, Bill Belichick, Brandon Spikes

Ex-Patriots RB Curtis Martin a HOF finalist

01.09.11 at 3:36 pm ET
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Former Patriots running back Curtis Martin is one of 17 finalists who were announced Sunday as finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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, a finalist in his first year of eligibility, joins an illustrious list of finalists, one that includes fellow first-timers Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk, Willie Roaf and Deion Sanders. They will be joined by 10 others: Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Dermontti Dawson, Richard Dent, Chris Doleman, Charles Haley, Cortez Kennedy, Andre Reed, Ed Sabol and Shannon Sharpe. In addition, there are two senior nominees, Chris Hanburger and Les Richter, who were announced in August.

The Selection Committee will meet in North Texas on Feb. 5 to elect the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011. The election results will be announced at 7 p.m. during a one-hour NFL Network special, live from the Super Bowl Media Center.

Bits from Bill Belichick on the Jets: ‘The best two out of three’

01.09.11 at 3:11 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick just wrapped up a conference call with the media that lasted roughly 10 minutes. Here are a few quick highlights from the Q&A:

Opening statement: “It was a really, pretty exciting game last night. Both teams were right there at the end. It looked like it could have gone either way. Jets made the plays they had to make at the end of the game and won it, and that was kind of what we all think playoff football as being ‘€” two good teams playing right down to the wire, and so now we can get ready for them. We split with them this year and now, it’ll be the best two out of three ‘€” probably the way it should be. We’ll find out which team will advance next week. It’s a big challenge for us. I don’t the the last game or even the first game, either one of those means a whole lot. Both teams know each other well, and we’re up for a … ready for a whole new week of preparation, even though we’re familiar with them and they’re familiar with us, it seems like every time you play a team, games go a lot differently.”

What stands out to you that’s different than the Jets from what you saw on Dec. 6? “Oh, I think they’re pretty much the same team. Obviously, they didn’t have a good night that night, but they do a good job running the ball. They have some big play receivers and tight ends. They do what they do on defense ‘€” play a lot of man coverage. They’re very physical on the front line. They’re very good in the kicking game. Good return game ‘€” that was a big play for them last night on the kick return after the field goal. I think they’re a solid team. They’re record reflects that. I don’t think they’re a whole lot different than really what they’ve been all year. They do a lot of things well.”

How does the atmosphere change the dynamic of two teams who are so familiar with each other? “I think everybody knows what the importance of the game is. I don’t think it changes it a whole lot. I mean we all know this is a one-game season, so we’ll just prepare for it that way, both teams will give it their best, and we’ll see what happens.”

Is it hard for teams to change anything at this time of year, or does familiarity come into it? Are teams are who they are at this time of year? “You’ve had 16 or 17 games, whatever it is, not counting preseason. Another 100 or something practices. I think everybody’s probably got a lot of options in their playbook or in their system. It’s a question of what you want to do, what you feel like is best to choose from in the selections that you have and how you match up and how you want to play against each team that you’re up against. I’m sure everybody has a lot of options at this point.”
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Peyton Manning, playoffs, Rex Ryan
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