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Broncos S Darian Stewart: Patriots taking ball to start AFC title game was ‘disrespectful’

01.27.16 at 2:51 pm ET
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Darian Stewart felt "disrespected" by the Patriots taking the ball to start the game. (Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)

Darian Stewart felt “disrespected” by the Patriots taking the ball to start the game. (Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)

The Patriots taking the ball to start the AFC championship after winning the opening coin toss was a little surprising, as they have almost always have deferred to the second half.

Not only was it surprising, but apparently the Broncos felt it was “disrespectful.”

“That was disrespectful,” Broncos safety Darian Stewart said after the game, via USA Today. “We knew that going in we felt disrespected. We knew what we had to get done, we wanted to play this game two days ago. We had the fire. Our reaction was just like ‘€˜Really? OK.’€™ That’€™s the way we were. You can get riled up for these games.”

The Broncos beat the Patriots in both meetings this season, something Stewart was proud of, especially preventing them from going to another Super Bowl.

“€œ[The Patriots] just win all the damn time,” he said. “They’€™ve got a hell of a QB in Tom Brady, that’€™s why they do it. It was nice to see [their sadness]. I’€™m just happy we got the win, to hell with them.”

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, Darien Stewart,

Grass stain: Do Patriots have problems away from turf?

01.27.16 at 12:59 pm ET
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The Patriots are 3-9 in their last 12 games played on grass. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

The Patriots are 3-9 in their last 12 games played on grass. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Whether it is pure coincidence or not, the Patriots have an issue playing on grass.

Over the last three seasons, including the playoffs, the Patriots are 3-9 when playing on grass. That includes going 0-3 this season.

For whatever reason, it also has had an impact on the offense’s production as in those 12 games, the Patriots have scored more than 24 points just twice.

According to NFL Network research, over the last three years including the playoffs, the league average is 22.3 points per game on grass, and 22.2 points per game on turf — not a big difference at all from a league perspective.

It’s worth noting a few factors. One, the games are all on the road (except Super Bowl XLIX) and two, the opponents. Three of the losses came to the Broncos and three of the losses came to the Dolphins.

Tom Brady hasn’t seen his numbers dip much, as over the 12 games his completion percentage is 61 percent and he is averaging 277.5 passing yards per game. There is a bit of a noticeable impact in his touchdown to interception ratio, as he’s thrown 20 touchdowns and 10 interruptions — a bit above his usual average.

The thing that stands out most is the sacks. Brady has been sacked at least once in all 12 of these games for a total of 24 — an average of two a game. Again, it’s worth looking at who these games were against — as the Dolphins and Broncos both can get after the quarterback — but it should be acknowledged that sacks have been a commonality in games on grass.

Here is a look at the last 12 games played on grass:

November 18, 2013: Panthers 24, Patriots 20

This game was most remembered for the non-pass interference call in the end zone on Rob Gronkowski on the last play of the game. The Patriots trailed 10-3 at the half, but came back in the second half and nearly won the game. New England actually led 20-17 late in the fourth quarter, but a 25-yard Cam Newton touchdown pass with 59 seconds left was the difference.

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Rodney Harrison on OM&F: Broncos defense had ‘perfect game plan’

01.27.16 at 12:28 pm ET
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Rodney Harrison made his weekly appearance on Ordway, Merloni & Fauria on Wednesday to share his thoughts on the AFC championship game and what the future might hold for the Patriots. To listen to the interview, go to the OM&F audio on demand page.

The Patriots struggled to move the ball against the Broncos, and much of that has been attributed to Denver’s defensive coordinator.

“From a pure offensive standpoint, I felt like Wade Phillips had a perfect game plan. I saw him really changing up a lot of the coverages, and it looked like Brady was confused,” Harrison said. “When you have that type of pass rush from the inside to the outside, and the inability for guys to get open, and really no one else stepping up outside of [Rob Gronkowski] and [Julian] Edelman, that’s what happens. I was sitting at home watching the game and I was just shaking my head. It’s crazy, because it just seemed like Wade Phillips really did a great job of scouting them and coming up with a great game plan.”

Throughout the game there were several peculiar decisions made by coach Bill Belichick. One of them came right at the beginning of the game, when the Patriots elected to receive the opening kickoff rather than defer as they typically do.

“Belichick, he’s unpredictable, and we see it a lot of times with coaches when they go against the Patriots. They always do things that are kind of uncharacteristic of what they normally do. You never know with Belichick, but it’s one of those things where you’ve got to give Denver credit. They went out there and they kicked the Patriots’ butt,” Harrison said.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Peyton Manning, Rodney Harrison, Tom Brady

Who was Tom Brady’s No. 1 target in passing game in 2015 postseason?

01.27.16 at 12:17 pm ET
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Julian Edelman was Tom Brady's top target in the 2015 postseason. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Julian Edelman was Tom Brady‘s top target in the 2015 postseason. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely 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 or coach might have in said pass catcher. Here’s a look at the complete target breakdown for the New England passing game for the two playoff games (by way of comparison, here’s a look at the target breakdown for the 2015 regular season):

Julian Edelman: 17 catches on 29 targets
Rob Gronkowski: 15 catches on 23 targets
James White: 7 catches on 19 targets
Danny Amendola: 7 catches on 11 targets
Brandon LaFell: 3 catches on 5 targets
Keshawn Martin: 2 catches on 5 targets
Brandon Bolden: 3 catches on 4 targets
Steven Jackson: 1 catch on 1 target

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Report: Patriots LB Jerod Mayo had surgery Tuesday to repair torn pectoral muscle

01.27.16 at 11:06 am ET
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For the third straight season Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo finished the year on injured reserve and two out of those three years it was because of a torn pectoral muscle.

According to Dan Roche of WBZ-TV, Mayo had surgery on Tuesday to fix a torn pectoral muscle. Roche adds Mayo should be good to go for training camp. Mayo suffered the injury in the divisional round win against the Chiefs.

Mayo had a decreased role this season with Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower seeing significantly more playing time than him and even Jonathan Freeny at times.

The linebacker wrapped up his eighth season in the league and finished the year with 47 tackles, the fewest of his career. He likely will need to get his contract restructured, or he could even be flat out released as his cap hit is $11.4 million next season.

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Pete Prisco on D&C: Bill Belichick ‘cost his team a chance to win’ with late-game mismanagement

01.27.16 at 10:19 am ET
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Pete Prisco

Pete Prisco

CBS Sports senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco, who correctly predicted a Broncos victory over the Patriots in the AFC title game, checked in with Dennis & Callahan with Minihane on Wednesday and questioned Bill Belichick‘s game management. To hear the interview, including Prisco’s defense of CBS analyst Phil Simms, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Prisco said Belichick hurt the team with his late-game clock management, mainly by going for it on fourth down rather than attempting a field goal with six minutes remaining and his team down by eight points — something Belichick repeated four minutes later (with the Patriots again coming up short).

“Once again we had an end-of-the game botching of the clock and everything else with the points by none other than the genius,” Prisco said of Belichick. “Look, I love the guy. I think he’s arguably the greatest coach of all time. It just goes to show you that none of these guys are any damn good in situational coaching. None of them. They all blow it.”

Added Prisco: “He cost his team a chance to win that football game by not going for that field goal. … The one at six minutes was really bad. Really bad.”

Prisco also questioned Belichick’s decision to fire offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, noting there just isn’t much there to work with.

“I don’t think it’s a reaction to the one game, but you’re making chicken salad out of chicken dunk. That’s basically what it is,” Prisco said. “Take a look across that line, seriously, the line that went in there and played the other day. Now, [Bryan] Stork, everybody likes to prop up Stork. Stork’s solid. He’s nothing more than that. [Shaq Mason]’s a kid at right guard. I talked to people that were with him at the Senior Bowl who said they didn’t think he was very good. [Josh] Kline’s a below-average player. [Sebastian] Vollmer looked like a shell of himself. And Marcus Cannon, God only knows what he could do. And then they put [Cameron] Fleming in for the extra lineman and he looked like a turnstile over there on that one play. So really, where’s the talent on that offensive line? That’s what I’d like to know.”

Added Prisco: “Maybe you fire your evaluation skills. What have they drafted, two offensive linemen in the first two rounds in the last decade, I think? Someone’s got to address that.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Pete Prisco, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady

What pundits were saying about Patriots-Broncos: ‘Special moment’ between Bill Belichick, Peyton Manning

01.27.16 at 8:00 am ET
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On Tuesday’s edition of “Inside the NFL” on Showtime, the panelists discussed the Patriots-Broncos clash in the AFC title game, as well as the postgame exchange between Bill Belichick and Peyton Manning. Here are some of the highlights of that discussion:

Brandon Marshall on the AFC title game: “The Patriots seemed very methodical. The Denver defense came out swinging. It reminded me of the first couple rounds of a heavyweight fight. Where one guy is behind and my only way to win this game is to throw everything I have at him. But the thing I love most about our game is strategy. Most people think we spend a lot of time on the field, but we spend more time in a meeting room.”

Phil Simms on the AFC title game: “Early in the game, to give somebody like Peyton, who’s looking for confidence and to get that rhythm, all quarterbacks are, they let him get that. And Denver didn’t let Tom Brady have any easy completions.”

Marshall on the postgame exchange between Manning and Belichick: “When I talk to guys outside of the league or guys who played in the league and now moved on to do other things, the number one thing that always comes up, is the relationships that you built while in the NFL. And that shows it right there.”

Eddie George on the postgame exchange between Manning and Belichick:
“The mutual respect that was there, that was a special moment. Right after a heartbreaking loss by New England, for him to share that moment with Peyton knowing that it might be his last ride, that was pretty special.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Marshall, Eddie George, Peyton Manning
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