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Report: Walt Coleman will work as referee for Patriots-Steelers

10.31.13 at 1:37 pm ET
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Walt Coleman will work as the referee for this weekend’s Patriots-Steelers game, according to our friends at Football Zebras.

Coleman has been the lead official in two memorable Patriots games over the last 12 years. First, he gained a small measure of fame after working as the referee for the Snow Bowl game in January 2002 between the Patriots and Raiders and calling the Tuck Rule. (He’s been a fairly regular presence in New England over the years, but hasn’t worked an Oakland game since that night.)

And second, he also worked as the referee for an Oct. 31, 2004 game between the Patriots and Pittsburgh that saw the end of New England’€™s 21-game winning streak.

This will mark his second New England game of the season — he was also the lead official for the Patriots-Falcons game in September.

For more on Coleman’s work as an official, check out his page at Pro Football Reference. And for the complete list of referee assignments for the week, check out Football Zebras.

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Stephen Gostkowski named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month

10.31.13 at 10:46 am ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski has been named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October, it was announced Thursday.

Gostkowski made all nine of his field goal attempts over the course of the month, and delivered a big kick at the end of regulation against the Jets in New Jersey on Oct. 20 to send the game to overtime. He also had a career-long of 54-yards in the 30-27 win against New Orleans on Oct. 13, and totaled 36 of the Patriots’€™ 90 points for the month.

He’s 20-of-21 on field goal attempts in 2013 and leads the NFL with his 20 field goals. His 77 overall points are second in the NFL to Matt Prater of Denver, who has 79 total points, and has made 15 consecutive field goals, including two from 50 or more yards with a 53-yarder and a 54-yarder.

The 29-year-old Gostkowski, who was a fourth-round pick of the Patriots in 2006, also won the award in October 2008.

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Perfect attendance at Patriots practice for second straight day

10.31.13 at 10:41 am ET
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FOXBORO — For the second consecutive morning, the Patriots had perfect attendance at practice Thursday, working out on the upper fields behind Gillette Stadium in full pads. New England is preparing to meet the Steelers Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

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Tom Brady shares some Halloween memories: ‘You want the candy’

10.30.13 at 4:47 pm ET
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FOXBORO — There are a lot of things that bond Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. One of them apparently, is a shared love of Halloween.

On several occasions, Belichick has confessed his love of the holiday. (“Candy and costumes. How can you beat that?” he’s said on more than one instance.) And on Wednesday, Brady shared some Halloween memories of his own.

Photographed as the Cowardly Lion at the team party earlier in the week, Brady smiled when he was asked about the outfit.

“We had fun. It was a good night,” Brady said of the party in which he attended with his wife, Gisele Bunchden, who came dressed as Dorothy.

Brady said he loved the holiday when he was younger.

“We had the perfect block for it,” said Brady, who confessed to tossing some toilet paper and some eggs on Halloween night when he was a youngster. “Now, my parents, they probably open the door at four o’€™clock and they don’€™t get a chance to close it until 10 o’€™clock at night, so it was a great neighborhood to grow up.”

As for favorite candy?

“You know the people who give the full-size bars, those are the best,” he said with a smile. “The worst is like the raisins, crap like that. You want the candy.”

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Tom Brady: Time is coming for Patriots to get some separation from rest of field

10.30.13 at 4:31 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady knows that the game changes this time of the season.

When teams hit the midway point, that’s when you start to see some separation — late October is usually when the good teams start to pull away and the subpar teams start to slide to the back of the pack. The quarterback knows that if the Patriots want to be more of the former than the latter, they need to start stringing together consistent performances, and another step in that process comes Sunday against the Steelers.

“We’€™ve been at it for awhile ‘€“ 12 weeks ‘€“ and this is when the teams start to separate themselves,” he said Wednesday. “You have mental toughness, discipline, doing the right thing, making right decisions — that’€™s when this becomes part of football season.

“I think that’€™s been a good strength of ours over the years — getting better and improving as the season’€™s gone along. Making sure you get your rest, you get the right treatments, you understand what it takes during November and December to win. Here’€™s where teams, you go one direction or the other. The good ones have something to show for it in January and the bad ones are watching in January. We have to, at this point, we’€™ll see what we’€™ve got. The weather is turning, the game changes a little bit. We have to be able to adjust and play the style that we need to to win.”

The Patriots will get that opportunity against a familiar foe in the Steelers. Brady is 4-2 against Pittsburgh during the regular season, and 2-0 against the Steelers in the postseason. He’s always done well against them in the past — in those eight games, he has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 16-3. But it’s never come easy against Pittsburgh, and the quarterback said Wednesday he has an immense amount of respect for the Steelers, as well as head coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
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Patriots list 11 as limited at Wednesday practice; Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) and Tom Brady (shoulder) also listed

10.30.13 at 4:22 pm ET
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FOXBORO — While the Patriots had perfect attendance at practice on Wednesday, they did have 11 players who were limited, including wide receiver Danny Amendola, tight end Rob Gronkowski, cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive lineman Tommy Kelly.

Two other interesting notes: one, tight end Rob Gronkowski has suffered from back and forearm issues all year in the wake of his offseason surgeries, but his hamstring was added to the report on Wednesday. And two, quarterback Tom Brady was a full participant, but was still listed on the report with a right shoulder issue. It marks the second consecutive week Brady has been on the injury report — last week, he was also listed with a right shoulder.

Here’s a look at the complete report from Wednesday:

Limited Participation
WR Danny Amendola (groin)
CB Kyle Arrington (groin)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
OL Marcus Cannon (shoulder)
WR Julian Edelman (thigh)
TE Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm/hamstring)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee)
DL Tommy Kelly (knee)
CB Aqib Talib (hip)
RB Leon Washington (ankle)
DB Tavon Wilson (hamstring)

Full Participation
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)
WR Matthew Slater (wrist)

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Isaac Sopoaga does a ‘Fast & the Furious thing’ to get to Foxboro as soon as possible

10.30.13 at 1:59 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Isaac Sopoaga couldn’t wait to get to New England.

After hearing he had been dealt to the Patriots from Philly on Tuesday at the trade deadline, the veteran defensive tackle took to the roads to get to Gillette Stadium as quick as he could.

“Ohhh. You know about the meaning of the word hectic, right?” he said when he was asked about what he went through over the last 24 hours. “When I found out yesterday, I was with the Eagles, and then, I have to drive to South Jersey to pack my stuff and get ready. You know how that feels.

“Doing your own ‘Fast and the Furious’ thing on the highway, even though it was a 50-mph speed limit. But us Samoan people, we go double the speed limit. I was going roadrunner speed.”

He showed up in time for Wednesday’s practice, and the 6-foot-2, 330-pounder figures to play a rather immediate role for a New England defense that has struggled to stop the run since veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork went down with an Achilles’ injury last month.

A run stuffer in the Wilfork mold, Sopoaga is in his 10th season in the league. The 32-year-old, who has played with the 49ers (2004-2012) and Eagles (2013), has played some defensive tackle and nose tackle in his career. He has 226 career tackles and seven career sacks. (He’€™s also played a little fullback, lining up in the backfield for a couple of plays last year for the Niners.)

“He’s basically played defensive tackle, nose tackle throughout his career,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday. “A strong guy, physical guy.”

With Wilfork and Tommy Kelly holding things down at the defensive tackle spot, the Patriots were 13th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game, yielding an average of 105 yards per game on the ground over the first four contests. But over the last four weeks, without Wilfork and Kelly (who returned to practice after an extended absence because of a knee injury), they’€™ve given up 646 total rush yards to the Bengals, Saints, Jets and Dolphins ‘€” an average of 156.5 yards per game. Going into this weekend’€™s game against the Steelers, the Patriots are allowing 130.8 rushing yards per game, 31st in the league.

Enter the former Hawaii product — the Patriots traded a fifth-round draft choice in 2014 for Sopoaga and an Eagles sixth-round pick in 2014. Sopoaga welcomes the chance to start all over again with the Patriots.

“It’s like a dream come true, to be honest,” he said. “[I] respect these guys — the last 10 years, they’ve won three times. The Super Bowl. It’s just awesome. An awesome feeling.”

Sopoaga, who spoke with reporters briefly while standing on a chair in front of his locker, gave “thanks to our gracious and heavenly father for everything He has done for us, individually and our family.” He added an appreciation for the Patriots, saying it felt like a birthday present.

“Thank you to the New England Patriots,” Sopoaga said. “Today is my daughters’ fourth birthday — I feel like today is my birthday. Yesterday was my birthday when I found out that New England called me up. Basically, I am enjoying it. I love it. Thank you.”

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