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Patriots’ difficult practice style pays off in games following bye week

10.06.15 at 4:02 pm ET
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Josh McDaniels and To Brady have had a great deal of success in games following the bye. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady have had a great deal of success in games following the bye. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Through the first three games of the season, the Patriots have scored 119 points, a franchise record after three games of a season, and Tom Brady has thrown nine touchdown passes.

With their bye week occurring in Week 3, the first possible week, some thought this might slow down the offense’s momentum.

Going back to past games following bye weeks and the way the Patriots conduct practices, this shouldn’t be an issue.

In games following the bye week with Brady as quarterback (doesn’t include 2008 season), the Patriots are 10-3 and have averaged 28.3 points per game along with averaging 343 yards of total offense. This includes last season’s 42-point, 503 total yard performance in their rout of the Colts.

Some of this should be credited to the way the team practices, as their practices are some of the most demanding in the entire league.

“Practice is tough and we try to purposely make it difficult on our players, on whatever it is that we are trying to do during the week to get ready for that opponent so that we see the most difficult looks, so that we make our players aware of the things that could certainly affect the game in a negative fashion,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said on Tuesday’s conference call. “There are days where we practice well. I would say very few days where we go out there and everything is perfect, and that’€™s designed that way. We challenge our guys and challenge what we are trying to do for the game plan and make sure we feel good about it going into the weekend.”

“During the bye week, coming off the bye week, the most important thing for us is not looking back in the past. We have things we want to work on,” McDaniels added. “At the same time we have an opponent that we don’€™t know very well, a group of players that we don’€™t know very well, a totally different scheme than some of the things we’€™ve seen in the first three games that we need to familiarize ourselves with pretty quickly. Our time is going to be spent really focused on working on trying to improve on some of the areas that we need to get better in and at the same time really doing a good job of trying to familiarize ourselves with Dallas, their personnel, their schemes, how they play and how they’€™ve been effective against other teams’€™ offenses.”

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Read More: Greg Hardy, Josh McDaniels, Rolando McClain, Tom Brady

Bill Belichick explains why Patriots players likely would have known illegal bat rule from Seahawks-Lions

10.06.15 at 1:49 pm ET
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Bill Belichick went into great detail on how he makes sure his team knows all the rules in the rule book. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick went into great detail on how he makes sure his team knows all the rules in the rule book. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

By now, everyone knows what happened at the end of the Seahawks-Lions game on Monday Night Football.

Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson was reaching for the goal line and a go-ahead touchdown with just under two minutes to go when he was hit and the ball bounced into the end zone. Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright, unaware that it’€™s illegal to hit a ball out, did just that.

Yet instead of Detroit retaining possession at the 1-yard line because it was illegal, there was no penalty called and Seattle was awarded the ball at the 20 and went on to run out the clock to earn the win.

On Tuesday’s conference call, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about the play and how much emphasis he and the coaches educate the team on the rules and gave a very expansive answer.

“I try to keep the team — I talk to the team on a regular basis on situational plays, which involves officiating, timing, utilization of timeouts and so forth and so on,” Belichick said. “So that is probably on a regular basis from training camp all the way through the end of the season. Probably once a week or something like that, probably in that vicinity. Sometimes it’s more than that, but I’m always trying to keep our team aware of situations and a lot of times we change the situation a little bit to extend the conversation about a play.

“So this is what happened, but something else, or they didn’t have timeouts or the ball was here, the ball was there, you know just to try and understand and comprehend totally what we’re doing from a team standpoint or an individual situation. The whole sideline, ball security, whistle, all those kind of ball possession plays, those are all very important for everybody to understand and we stress those a lot in knocking the balls loose, like was in last night’s game to try and make sure they understand what they can do and what they can’t do.”

Belichick said it goes beyond him, as the positional coaches go over rules as well during spring practices and training camp where it’s good to get the players in a smaller setting to speak to them about rules specific to that position.

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Rodney Harrison on OM&F: Patriots ‘definitely have enough’ to beat Cowboys

10.06.15 at 11:50 am ET
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NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison made his weekly appearance on Ordway, Merloni and Fauria on Tuesday to discuss the Patriots matchup with the Cowboys and other matters from around the league. To hear the interview, go to the OM&F audio on demand page.

Following their Week 4 bye, the Patriots will take on the Cowboys Sunday in Dallas. The Patriots may be catching a break as Dallas will be without Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, as well as likely their leader on defense in linebacker Sean Lee. Harrison said the Patriots should be able to take advantage.

“I think if you’re New England, you kind of look on that defensive side of the ball and without Sean Lee, every time he goes out, the last couple weeks, that defense is in complete disarray,” Harrison said. “The lack of communication, guys look confused. Sean Lee is really the anchor of that defense and unfortunately he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. That defensive line can’t stop the run. Atlanta had a lot of success. You kind of look in the fourth quarter and when your team has the lead and they are able to keep it because the defense is giving up big plays. That has to be a concern.

“If I’m [Tom] Brady, if I’m the Patriots, I come out with my same game plan. Run the ball, pass the ball, obviously you have to be concerned about [Greg] Hardy when he comes back, but I think overall the Patriots definitely have enough to beat this team.”

A lot has been made from Monday night’s Seahawks-Lions game when there was an “illegal bat” in the end zone at the end of he game. It appeared the Lions coaching staff as well as the referees weren’t aware of the rule. Harrison said Bill Belichick definitely would have known and pointed out the mistake.

“Of course. Bill Belichick knows everything,” Harrison said. “That is why he is the smartest, why he gets the most out of his players and when he is in a situation where any coach has to second guess anything, he knows everything.”

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Read More: Peyton Manning, Rodney Harrison, Sean Lee,

Fantasy Football: Week 5 waiver wire

10.06.15 at 9:48 am ET
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Is it really Week 5 already? The NFL moves fast and as a fantasy GM, you need to keep up. I’€™ll endeavor to put some wind in your fantasy sails with today’€™s waiver wire. And remember, this morning’€™s addition is not the end of it. As a dedicated film geek, I watch every NFL snap every week. As soon as I post this, I will get back to the games. So head over to my free site, Rotobahn, this afternoon for my expanded wire. It will feature more players for deeper leagues and some matchup defenses for Week 5.

I’€™ll be back on Friday with the starts and sits, plus another DraftKings bonus article on Saturday that will delve into the best values for DraftKings lineups in Week 5. Also, check out the Fantasy Football Hour if you haven’€™t already. Jim Hackett and I are live every Sunday morning from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m and to keep pace with all my fantasy football content, follow me on Twitter.

The rates of ownership listed below are sourced from Yahoo!.


Marcus Mariota, Titans, 68 percent
Sam Bradford, Eagles, 63 percent

Neither should be available, but they are in some leagues. Both can be weekly options in 12-team leagues or matchup plays in 10-team leagues.

Jameis Winston, Buccaneers, 23 percent

His numbers for fantasy are not that bad and they are going to get better the rest of the way as he settles in. Winston’€™s remaining schedule is very favorable and he has the weapons to put up big numbers.

Alex Smith, Chiefs, 25 percent

He has a nice home matchup with the Bears this week so he’€™s a solid short-term pickup. Smith is doing his thing. He gets the ball out of his hand and lets his playmakers make plays. He’€™s a functional bye week replacement in any league.

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Read More: Alex Smith, Fantasy Football, Jameis Winston, Michael Vick

Tedy Bruschi on D&H: ‘At times it looks like [Ndamukong Suh] doesn’t care’

10.06.15 at 9:26 am ET
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Former Patriots linebacker and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi joined Dale & Holley with Thornton on Monday to discuss the AFC East and where things stand through four games of the season. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

The Dolphins fell to 1-3 with their loss in London to the Jets and on Monday they fired head coach Joe Philbin. Bruschi said a major issue with Miami is defensive end Ndamukong Suh, who the team signed as a free agent this offseason.

“Here’s the worst thing I can say about Ndamukong Suh — at times it looks like he doesn’t care,” Bruschi said. “My gosh, if you know me, that’s a huge insult to not care when you’re on the field. Watching that game [Sunday] and the Miami Dolphins, I mean they looked like they didn’t care, especially Suh at points in time. Jarvis Landry, he was out there playing his butt off. He was out there trying to win the game by himself. It was so noticeable because everyone else on that team wasn’t. If everyone played like Jarvis Landry, from what I saw based on yesterday, they would have been alright. But, you have a leader in the clubhouse that was supposed to be the free agent signing of the offseason that you’re all supposed to look to for the example. He’s showing that example and it seems like everyone else is falling in line based on his false leadership.”

Another team struggling in the AFC East is the Bills, especially when it comes to penalties. Through four weeks they have committed a league-high 47 penalties. Rex Ryan defended the penalties following the game, but Bruschi said there’s a fine line in doing that.

“A part of me understands and I know where he’s coming from and if you know coaches like Rex Ryan and people like Rex Ryan that just really say what they mean at that particular time,” he said. “Do you want that type of trait in a head coach? I think you have to think about that as an owner and as a player and as an organization. This is a guy that is going out there — I mean he said it was ridiculous, yes for all the penalties that they had. For me, the two different situations you have in the AFC East right now in Miami and [Joe] Philbin losing his job and then the Buffalo Bills and Rex Ryan — there’s two things, two very huge traits a coach has to be able to do.

“A coach has to motivate his team, that’s one thing. That’s one thing you have to do. But, another thing that has to go along with that is your players have to be made clear that there will be consequences for poor play and poor decision making. That is a fine line because you can just motivate a team.”

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Read More: Joe Philbin, Rex Ryan, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tedy Bruschi

Michael Williams is ‘looking for a lot more’ in Patriots passing game

10.05.15 at 10:48 pm ET
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Michael Williams worked out with a tight end in Detroit but never made it to the field. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Michael Williams worked out with a tight end in Detroit but never made it to the field. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — After six weeks in the system, Michael Williams is still working hard to get comfortable with the Patriots.

Listening to Bill Belichick Sunday during a conference call, the hard work is paying off. Belichick credited Williams’ transition from offensive tackle to tight end as a reason for feeling comfortable enough to deal Michael Hoomanawanui to the Saints last week for defensive end Akiem Hicks.

While many of his teammates were spending a good portion of their bye week resting and getting away from football somewhat, Williams was busy using the extra time to learn the offensive scheme since being dealt to the Patriots from the Lions on Aug. 25.

“Study. It’s taken a lot of my free time away,” Williams told Monday. “Had two weeks in the preseason and up till now to learn as much as I can and as much time as I can working with [tight ends] coach [Brian] Daboll every day. Just learning and studying and repetition. Repetition is big for a player for a player like me. I like to be able to do it. I learn in that type of way by doing. Just repetition in practice helps me learn things better.”

Ironically, Michael Hoomanawanui, the biggest teacher in the learning process for Williams, is now gone to New Orleans because Williams proved himself valuable enough as a third tight end.

“Honestly, Hooman was my biggest help,” Williams said. “He was a very smart player. All my questions were to Coach Daboll or him. He’s helped me to get to this point where I’m at. I’m sad to see him leave but it’s part of the business. But he was a really big help for me.”

As for Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler, Williams says it’s helpful to be around two veterans that know what is expected from the tight end position in the Josh McDaniels offense.

“Gronk is Gronk, best tight end in the league, just a monster,” Williams added. “You can’t do some of the things that he does. He is able to help you in learning the system. Chan is a wily vet who just has been around, knows his way, knows how to play the position. Just an all-around great room to help people learn, help young guys like me learn the offense.”

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Read More: Alabama, Brian Daboll, Michael Hoomananwanui, Michael Williams

New DL Akiem Hicks: ‘Bunches of fun’ to join Patriots

10.05.15 at 10:08 pm ET
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Akiem Hicks meets the media for the first time with the Patriots. (Mike Petraglia/

Akiem Hicks meets the media for the first time with the Patriots. (Mike Petraglia/

FOXBORO — Things weren’t working out for defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, the 2012 third-round selection by the Saints.

Hicks was benched against the Buccaneers in Week 2 and then played sparingly in Week 3 against the Panthers before being traded to the Patriots for tight Michael Hoomanawanui last week.

Clearly, things weren’t going well for Hicks in New Orleans and when he spoke for the first time as a Patriot Monday, he was all about his new team and didn’t want to discuss his time with the Saints.

“I look forward to taking my step forward here,” Hicks said.

And when he was asked what that next step would be?

“Back to playing football,” he simply stated.

The 6-foot-5, 324-pounder has totaled 66 tackles and 6.5 sacks over his 48-game NFL career. The 25-year-old has only had one practice with his new team, but seems to be taking things in stride, saying it’s “bunches of fun” to now be in New England.

The Patriots liked what they saw in Hicks during joint practices with the Saints this summer and those sessions played a role in the team wanting to trade for him.

“Great organization,” Hicks said. “Both sides have a lot of respect for each other, and I really admire the coaching style and the style of play, and (the joint practices) were a good experience overall.”

“It’s always a positive when a team welcomes you into their building with open arms, so I definitely take it as a positive and I look forward to my time here,” he added.

Hicks will add depth to the defensive line behind Alan Branch, Sealver Siliga, Malcom Brown, Dominique Easley and Khyri Thornton. He can play anywhere on the defensive line, not just the interior, and is hoping to help out in any way he can.

“I definitely want to be as versatile as I have been in the past,” Hicks said. “Just look forward to playing in this new scheme. I don’t have a hold on it yet, but I look forward to what I’ll learn as the year goes on.”

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