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So you want to be a coach in the NFL? Bill Belichick brings you inside his world on the sidelines

12.22.11 at 12:13 am ET
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FOXBORO — Everyone remembers Bill O’Brien and Tom Brady screaming at each other after Brady’s ill-advised red zone pass intended for Tiquan Underwood that was intercepted in Washington in the fourth quarter.

That got people thinking.

What’s it really like for de facto defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien to be next to Bill Belichick on the sidelines during a game? And what kind of responsibilities does he have during the game, as opposed to running things from the press box like many other teams do over the course of a game?

“I basically talk to those guys at the end of every series,” Belichick said Thursday. “I talk to [special teams coach] Scott [Scott O’€™Brien] in the kicking game, maybe not after every play but you know, after a series of plays or whatever ‘€“ our kickoff coverage or our punt protection or whatever it is. At the end of the series, I usually talk to Billy and Matt or other coaches, it could be Dante [Dante Scarnecchia] or it could be somebody else about the series that happened. We talk about what we need to do or what they’€™re doing and what we can do about that, whatever it happens to be. That’€™s part of the whole.

“We talk about that on the headset too. It’€™s hard on the headset too because if we’€™re on offense, we’€™re calling plays, we’€™re substituting people. That’€™s not really the time to have a philosophical conversation but when you come off the field after we’€™ve scored or we’€™ve punted or whatever the situation is, okay, next time we get out there, do we want to go no-huddle, what do we want to do the next series or what are we going to do the next time they give us a certain look or what are we going to do in the next third and medium, third and long, second and long? If there is a particular situation that we’€™re not doing well in, what are we going to do the next time that comes up? It’€™s the same thing defensively ‘€“ what are we going to do if they put three receivers in the game, what are we going to do if they tighten the formations? Yeah, we talk about that in between series.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, Chad O'Shea, Dante Scarnecchia

Target Practice: Who has been Tom Brady’s favorite receiver though 14 games?

12.21.11 at 2:57 pm ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains an imperfect stat ‘€” a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback ‘€” it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. After 14 games, here’€™s a look at the target breakdown in the New England passing game for the 2011 season:

Kevin Faulk: 7 catches on 9 targets (78 percent)
Stevan Ridley: 3 catches on 4 targets (75 percent)
Wes Welker: 104 catches on 142 targets (73 percent)
Rob Gronkowski: 75 catches on 105 targets (71 percent)
Aaron Hernandez: 68 catches on 96 targets (71 percent)
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 8 catches on 12 targets (67 percent)
Deion Branch: 48 catches on 81 targets (59 percent)
Danny Woodhead: 16 catches on 29 targets (55 percent)
Tiquan Underwood: 3 catches on 6 targets (50 percent)
Julian Edelman: 4 catches on 8 targets (50 percent)
Chad Ochocinco: 14 catches on 29 targets (48 percent)
Matthew Slater: 1 catch on 3 targets (33 percent)
Taylor Price: 0 catches on 1 target (0 percent)
Dane Fletcher: 0 catches on 1 target (0 percent)

By position:
Tight end: 143 catches on 201 targets (71 percent)
Wide receiver: 174 catches on 270 targets (64 percent)
Running back: 34 catches on 54 targets (63 percent)
Other: 0 catches on 1 target (0 percent)

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Chad Ochocinco, Dane Fletcher

Pressure Points: Which New England defenders have done the best job of getting after the quarterback through 14 games?

12.21.11 at 2:22 pm ET
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According to official NFL gamebooks, opposing quarterbacks have 542 dropbacks against the Patriots through 14 games this season, and have been hit by New England defenders a total of 76 times, to go along with 33 sacks (16th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of who has been getting to the quarterback for the Patriots through 14 games:

Quarterback hits:
Defensive end Andre Carter: 22
Defensive end/linebacker Mark Anderson: 11
Linebacker Rob Ninkovich: Nine
Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork: Seven
Linebacker Dane Fletcher: Five
Defensive lineman Kyle Love: Five
Linebacker Jerod Mayo: Four
Defensive lineman Myron Pryor: Three
Defensive lineman Gerard Warren: Three
Defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth: Two
Defensive lineman Shaun Ellis: One
Safety Pat Chung: One
Linebacker Brandon Spikes: One
Cornerback Phillip Adams: One
Defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick: One

Carter: 10 (70 yards)
Anderson: 9 (67 yards)
Ninkovich: 5.5 (48 yards)
Wilfork: 2.5 (17.5 yards)
Love: 2.5 (14.5 yards)
Deaderick: One (3 yards)
Chung: One (3 yards)
Pryor: 0.5 (4.5 yards)
Mike Wright: 0.5 (4 yards)
Warren: 0.5 (3.5 yards)

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Brandon Deaderick, Brandon Spikes

Deion Branch: ‘My numbers aren’t what I would want’ but I’m happy

12.21.11 at 2:12 pm ET
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FOXBORO — For all the talk this week about the unselfish receiving corps and Tom Brady‘s ability to spread the ball around, Deion Branch did admit Wednesday that every receiver is human and everyone on offense would like to contribute to the team’s success.

Branch has caught 48 balls this season for 665 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers don’t sound bad, especially considering he missed last Sunday with a sore groin and he has shared the load with Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker this season.

And consider Branch is averaging a full yard more than his 12.9 yards-per-catch average. He is just two catches away from his career average of 50 a season and he’s already surpassed his average of 3.8 TD catches per season in his 10th NFL campaign.

Branch, though, is expecting more. But deep down, the 32-year-old veteran receiver said it’s not that hard to think team first, especially in an organization that’s won 9 division titles in 11 years.

“It’s easy,” said Branch, who returned to practice this week and said he’s “feeling better” after missing Sunday with a sore groin. “I look at myself. My numbers aren’t what I would want them to be. But at the same time, we have these young guys playing hard, playing great. Over here, you have to put your ego to the side and the most important thing is to get the victory and not worrying about my numbers. Wes doesn’t worry about his stats, Gronk doesn’t worry about his stats, Aaron, Chad.

“Take a guy like Chad for example, this guy doesn’t worry about his stats, he wants to win, too. On the flip side, we all want to compete but the most important thing is getting the victory.”

It was Branch who felt a great deal of pride for Ochocinco, who did the “Belichick” and just trotted over to the sidelines without any fanfare after the 33-yard TD grab Sunday.

“I was very happy for him,” Branch said with a wide smile. “I did see that, I did see my guy score. I didn’t see the antics that happened off the field. I didn’t see that part.”

Antics? Celebration? Do tell, Deion.

“I heard about the same thing you all have been hearing,” chuckled Branch. “I didn’t see it.”

What was it like for Branch to watch the game at home in Foxboro?

“You can look at it and think about how good we could be, what things look like from a fan’s point of view, a spectator and the things we can improve on,” Branch said Wednesday. “You can also see where I was making some of the mistakes guys were making in the game but at the same time, you also see the continuity the guys have and the repore they have with Tom, the front line, the different calls he’s making. I know the calls but you all don’t them. But for me to see that, it’s like, ‘Man, we’re OK.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch, New England Patriots, nfl

Tom Brady: A healthy Aaron Hernandez is ‘very important’ heading into playoffs

12.21.11 at 10:25 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots on Sunday provided what could be a very important glimpse into what could be if teams double-team and “bracket” Rob Gronkowski in the playoffs.

One large holiday-heaping sized portion of Aaron Hernandez.

Hernandez was, of course, nicked up early in the season with a knee injury. But that injury seems to have fully healed and Hernandez is showing a burst both off the line of scrimmage and in his routes, allowing him to get open just enough for Tom Brady to find him.

“It’€™s very important,” Brady said. “I think the health of all the guys ‘€“ Aaron went through it last year when he struggled late in the year a little bit. Part of growing from your first year to your second year is taking better care of yourself. He’€™s certainly done that.”

A prime example of Hernandez’s newfound elusiveness came in the second quarter against Broncos when Brady dropped back and found Hernandez cutting across the back of the end zone, after Hernandez freed himself just long enough to get open.

“You look around the locker room at guys like Wes [Wes Welker], guys like Andre Carter, Jerod [Jerod Mayo], some veteran players that really know how to prepare themselves and are really professional and then you try to do like those guys do,” Brady added. “Aaron has really watched and learned and he does a great job of making sure he’€™s prepared every week. That’€™s really been a big factor in this season for us.”

With Gronkowski bracketed and getting roughed up off the line of scrimmage Sunday, Brady targeted Aaron Hernandez 11 times. How does Brady convince his receivers to deal with not knowing who is going to be “the guy” every week?

“Everybody knows that they’€™ll have opportunity in the game,” Brady said Tuesday. “It’€™s just a matter of, a guy’€™s open, he’€™s the first read on the play based on a certain coverage, he gets the ball. We don’€™t have a bunch of selfish guys where, ‘€˜Throw it to me, I was triple covered, just throw it up in the air.’€™ If guys are open, they’€™ll let me know, ‘€˜Hey, I beat him on that play,’€™ and if they’€™re not they’€™ll say, ‘€˜Yeah, I couldn’€™t get outside of him,’€™ or, ‘€˜He got his hand on me,’€™ or something like that. It’€™s a group of guys that are very unselfish, that really are happy when another guy does well.

“Believe me, no one is happier for Aaron than Rob and Wes and Chad, myself because that’€™s what it took. He had an opportunity to make some big plays for us in the game and he made them. Next week it may be someone else. I think collectively the skill players, the running backs, we’€™re all coordinated, we’€™re all in this together. If I’€™m doing my job, help get someone the ball and Wes is clearing out on a route which helps someone else gets the ball, he’€™s doing his job. He knows he’€™s going to have an opportunity where someone else is clearing out for him and he’€™s going to have his chance.”

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots, nfl, Tom Brady

Following the flags: Breaking down the Patriots penalties through 14 games

12.21.11 at 1:20 am ET
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Through 14 games this season, the Patriots have been flagged for 78 penalties (26th in the league) and 688 yards (26th). New England was called for four penalties for 30 yards on Sunday against Denver. Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots this year, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
Team: eight penalties (12 men on the field, offensive holding, illegal block above the waist, two illegal substitutions, illegal shift, delay of game), 44 yards
OL Logan Mankins: seven penalties (two offensive holding and five false starts), 41 yards
OL Matt Light: five penalties (four holding and one false start), 40 yards
TE Rob Gronkowski: five penalties (holding, false start, facemask, unsportsmanlike conduct, illegal touch pass), 49 yards
OL Nate Solder: four penalties (three holding and illegal use of hands), 40 yards
S Sergio Brown: four penalties (three defensive pass interference and one unnecessary roughness), 86 yards
QB Tom Brady: four penalties (two delay of game and two intentional grounding), 25 yards
DL Vince Wilfork: four penalties (unsportsmanlike conduct, defensive holding, two unnecessary roughness), 37 yards
OL Brian Waters: three penalties (one holding, two offensive holding), 25 yards
LB Dane Fletcher: two penalties (offensive holding, illegal block above the waist), 17 yards
LB Brandon Spikes: two penalties (holding, encroachment), 11 yards
TE Dan Gronkowski: two penalties (both false starts), 10 yards
CB Leigh Bodden: two penalties (both defensive holding), 10 yards
WR Wes Welker: two penalties (illegal motion, false start), 10 yards
S Pat Chung: two penalties (unnecessary roughness and facemask), 15 yards
WR Deion Branch: two penalties (both false starts), 10 yards
WR Chad Ochocinco: two penalties (illegal formation, false start), 9 yards
DL Andre Carter: two penalties (both roughing the passer), 26 yards
CB Devin McCourty: two penalties (illegal block above the waist, defensive pass interference), 21 yards
CB Kyle Arrington: one penalty (defensive pass interference), 35 yards
LB Rob Ninkovich: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
DL Kyle Love: one penalty (roughing the passer), 15 yards
OL Dan Connolly: one penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
OL Ryan Wendell: one penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
S James Ihedigbo: one penalty (illegal block above the waist), 10 yards
WR/DB Julian Edelman: one penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
TE Aaron Hernandez: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
OL Sebastian Vollmer: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
K Stephen Gostkowski: one penalty (illegal onsides kick), 5 yards
DE Mark Anderson: one penalty (defensive offsides), 5 yards
RB BenJarvus Green Ellis: one penalty (illegal substitution), 5 yards
OL Donald Thomas: one penalty (false start) 5 yards
CB Phillip Adams: one penalty (illegal contact), 5 yards
LB Gary Guyton: one penalty (encroachment), 5 yards

Most penalized by position:
Offensive line: 23 penalties for 181 yards
Defensive line: eight penalties for 83 yards
Tight end: eight penalties for 64 yards
Team: eight penalties for 44 yards
Safety: seven penalties for 123 yards
Wide receiver: seven penalties for 39 yards
Cornerback: six penalties for 71 yards
Linebacker: five penalties for 48 yards
Quarterback: four penalties for 25 yards
Running back: one penalty for five yards
Kicker: one penalty for five yards

Most frequently called penalties on the Patriots:
Offensive holding: 19
False start: 16
Defensive pass interference: five
Illegal block above the waist: four
Unnecessary roughness: four
Roughing the passer: four
Illegal substitution: three
Defensive holding: three
Delay of game: three
Intentional grounding: two
Unsportsmanlike conduct: two
Facemask: two
Encroachment: two
Illegal formation: one
Illegal use of hands: one
Illegal motion: one
Twelve men in the huddle: one
Illegal onside kick: one
Defensive offsides: one
Illegal touch pass: one
Illegal shift: one
Illegal contact: one

Read More: Patriots, penalties,

Mark Anderson on the loss of Andre Carter: ‘A lot of people have to step up and try and fill his shoes’

12.20.11 at 6:16 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With Andre Carter going down, expect more responsibility to fall on the shoulders of defensive end Mark Anderson.

After Carter went down with a leg injury on Sunday against the Broncos, Anderson asserted himself nicely in his place, coming away with a pair of sacks in New England’€™s win over Denver. His biggest contribution was a strip-sack of Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow and a fumble recovery on the play, one of three turnovers the Patriots forced in the second quarter in the win over Denver.

And now, with Carter done for the season — he was officially placed on season-ending injured reserve on Tuesday — the Patriots hope that Carter will continue to head in the right direction.

‘€œAndre is one of the leaders on the team, and we’€™re going to miss him. As a team, it’€™ll be a big (loss). A lot of people have to step up and try and fill his shoes,’€ Anderson said after a Tuesday walkthrough. ‘€œI’€™m going to do my best and try and do whatever I can do to help the team out. But like I said, he’€™s a big part of the team, and we’€™re going to miss him.’€

Anderson was the second-best pass rusher on the team, trailing only Carter when it came to sacks (Carter had 10, while Anderson has nine) and quarterback hits (Carter had 22, Anderson has 11). Patriots coach Bill Belichick was noncommittal when asked Tuesday about replacing Carter.

‘€œWhatever 11 guys we put out there will have to get the job done,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œWhatever (offensive packages) they put out there we have to be ready to defend them.’€

In his first season in New England, the 6-foot-4, 255-pounder out of Alabama, said he’€™s ‘€œnot sure’€ if he’€™ll get more snaps this season with Carter on the sidelines.

‘€œMost likely, but we do different schemes and have different plans,’€ he said. ‘€œWe just have to be ready. Whenever your number’s called and you have to be ready to go out there and make a play when it’€™s your time.’€

‘€œHe’€™s had a pretty good year,’€ Belichick said of Anderson. ‘€œHe’€™s been a pretty consistent player for us all year. He’€™s a good athlete. He works hard.’€

Anderson, who played four-plus seasons in Chicago and part of a year in Houston before joining the Patriots this past offseason, does have some positional versatility that will allow him to play both in a 3-4 and a 4-3. He says that he’€™s ready for both if needed.

‘€œ(There’€™s) really not a big difference,’€ he said of the difference in his responsibilities in the 3-4 or the 4-3. ‘€œWe still have to set the edge and we still have to have the ability to go out there and make plays. You still have to rush the quarterback. You still have to drop (into coverage). There are some different drops and some things like that, but overall, you just have to set the edge and make plays.

‘€œI feel comfortable. I’€™m enjoying myself every time I’€™m on the field,’€ the 28-year-old added. ‘€œI have fun when I play. This is my sixth year in the league, and there’€™s nothing new. I’€™ve seen just about everything there is to see. Now, it’€™s just going out there and executing plays.’€

Read More: Andre Carter, Bill Belichick, Mark Anderson, Tim Tebow
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