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Offensive line’s ‘trust’ leading the way in Patriots’ 4-game win streak

10.29.14 at 1:34 pm ET
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Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork and the rest of the offensive line have protected Tom Brady well of late. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork, Dan Connolly and the rest of the offensive line have protected Tom Brady well of late. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — After Week 4’€™s blowout loss to Kansas City, the Patriots offense ranked 24th in the NFL averaging 20 points a game. After Week 8’€™s blowout win over the Bears, the Patriots offense now ranks third in the NFL averaging 29.8 points per game.

One of the biggest reasons why is the familiarity the offensive line now has with one another.

“Those guys have really dealt with a lot of change,” quarterback Tom Brady said before practice on Wednesday refercing to the unit getting a new coach in Dave DeGuglielmo after Dante Scarnecchia retired after 32 years in the NFL following last season.

“This year, it started back in the offseason, and [they] have really worked through that through training camp. And then different players have kind of come and gone and been injured from the start of the season, before the start of the season — with Logan [Mankins] and then being able to really adjust to that.”

Even though the Patriots have used three different starting offensive lines during the four-game win streak due to concussions for Bryan Stork and Dan Connolly, they have continued to rotate players in and out even within games, so everyone is ready to step in at any time and be on the same page as players who have been starting every week.

“I think those guys are really taking it as a challenge of the mental toughness,” Brady added. “At this point, [they've] really settled into kind of the group that they are and the group they want to be. They’€™re playing with a lot of toughness. They’€™re playing with a lot of commitment to what their coach is asking them to do. We’€™ve had some growing pains that we’€™re all trying to get used to earlier in the year, but I think we’€™re playing at a much better level.”

Although sacks are sometimes overrated when measuring the success or failure of an offensive line, Brady was sacked nine times in the first four games of the season, compared to only three the last four games. Sunday marked the first time Brady was not sacked in a game since Week 4 last year against the Falcons.

Brady has also been getting more time in the pocket to throw, which has allowed for the playbook to be opened up and not having to worry about Brady getting the ball out quickly to avoid pressure.

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Read More: Bryan Stork, Dan Connolly, Patriots offense, Tom Brady

Report: Walt Anderson will work as lead official for Broncos-Patriots

10.29.14 at 1:34 pm ET
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Walt Anderson will serve as the referee for Sunday's Patriots-Dolphins game. (Getty Images)

Walt Anderson will serve as the referee for Sunday’s Patriots-Broncos game. (Getty Images)

Referee Walt Anderson will work his second Patriots game of the season this Sunday, as he’ll serve as the lead official when New England meets Denver at Gillette Stadium, according to

Anderson, a retired dentist and current Big 12 coordinator of officials, worked the 2014 season opener for the Patriots, a loss in Miami to the Dolphins. In his career, he’s worked two Super Bowls, Super Bowl XXXV (where he worked as a line judge) and XLV (where he was the lead official).

Here’€™€™s a look at who has worked as referees for New England’€™€™s games to this point in the season:

Sept. 7 at Miami: Walt Anderson
Sept. 14 at Minnesota: Tony Corrente
Sept. 21 vs. Oakland: Pete Morelli
Sept. 29 at Kansas City: John Parry
Oct. 5 vs. Cincinnati: Jerome Boger
Oct. 12 at Buffalo: Walt Coleman
Oct. 16 vs. Jets: Bill Leavy
Oct. 23 vs. Bears: Brad Allen
Nov. 2 vs. Denver: Walt Anderson

For more on Anderson and his work as an official, check out his page at Pro Football Reference, and for the complete list of referee assignments, check out Football Zebras.

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Report: Alan Branch resolves DUI case as he joins Patriots

10.29.14 at 1:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Alan Branch is coming to the Patriots with a clean legal slate.

Pro Football Talk, via a source, reports that the defensive tackle, who practiced for the first time with the Patriots on Wednesday, has resolved charges connected to a DUI arrest in August that led to his release from the Bills.

The resolution wasn’t critical to the Patriots but rather the NFL, which imposed a Nov. 1 deadline to all NFL players to resolve DUI charges under the new substance-abuse policy.

Branch will still be subject to a two-game fine, with a maximum forfeiture of $50,000 but, barring the unforeseen, will not be suspended.

Read More: Alan Branch, Buffalo Bills, DUI, New England Patriots

Tom Brady says Peyton Manning has ‘always been someone I’ve really looked up to’

10.29.14 at 12:58 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady was in a joking mood talking about the 16th career meeting against Peyton Manning.

But as is usually the case, there’s a lot of truth in humor. Brady is 37 and Manning is 38. Brady came into the NFL in 2000 while Peyton Manning was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998. Brady holds a 10-5 advantage in the series, including 2-2 in the playoffs.

Brady was asked about what it is about the rivalry that gets him fired up every year.

“I’€™m pretty self-motivated,” Brady said. “He’€™s always been someone I’€™ve really looked up to, studied and admired. He is older than me. Maybe when I’€™m his age I’€™ll be playing as well as that.”

Brady then turned very serious and complimentary, detailing exactly why it is he respects Manning so much.

“Every week it’€™s so consistent, you can just count on a great performance,” Brady said. ‘€œA lot of people who have played don’€™t do it on a consistent basis. When you see someone who does it at a high level, I have a lot of appreciation for that. I understand what it takes. It’€™s not just a daily commitment, it’€™s a life commitment.

“Every decision you make is a conscious decision to try and help your team win, whether that’€™s in March, whether that’€™s in September, November. You just can’€™t flip the switch when it matters. You’€™ve gotta communicate that to all your teammates. The competition is always on. It never goes away. You’€™re either getting better or you’€™re getting worse. I’€™ve always respected him because he’€™s someone who’€™s chosen to get better.”

What was very apparent Wednesday is Brady’s understanding of his margin of error when Manning is running the offense on the other side.

“You just know you’€™re gonna get one of the best offenses in the league, so what that means to me is our offense has to be at our best,” Brady said. ‘€œYou can’€™t think you’€™re gonna go out and score 10 points and win the game. I don’€™t think any of our games have really come down to that. It’€™s really an important week for our team and all of us on offense have to play our best because we know we’€™re playing against one of the best offenses in the league.”

Does Brady ever get tired of the hype year after year when they meet?

“You wait a year to play this game,” Brady said. “You got one of the best teams in the league against us and we feel we’€™re a pretty good team. It’€™s why you play the game. Doesn’€™t get any better than this.”

Read More: Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, nfl, Peyton Manning

Alan Branch, Jonathan Casillas make Patriots practice debuts; Chandler Jones still missing

10.29.14 at 12:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Newcomers Alan Branch and Jonathan Casillas wasted no time joining their new team on the practice field as both were present at Wednesday’s practice held in shorts and shells on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Broncos.

Branch, a defensive lineman, officially signed on Wednesday morning — this after being spotted in the Patriots locker room last week. Casillas, a linebacker, was traded to the Patriots from the Buccaneers Tuesday at the trade deadline.

Linebacker Akeem Ayers switched from No. 52 to No. 55, while Casillas took over No. 52. Branch wore No. 97.

Chandler Jones was once again missing, as his hip injury is expected to keep him out about six weeks.

For more Patriots news, check out

Read More: Alan Branch, chandler jones, Jonathan Casillas,

What does DL Alan Branch bring to Patriots?

10.29.14 at 12:24 pm ET
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Alan Branch could provide depth for a New England defensive line that has been thinned by injury. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Alan Branch could provide depth for a New England defensive line that has been thinned by injury. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Alan Branch is a sizable presence in the middle, and if he’s healthy enough to play, presents as someone who could take some of the heat off a New England defensive line that’s been thinned out because of injuries to the likes of Chandler Jones and Sealver Siliga.

Branch is 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, and has been in the league for seven seasons. The 29-year-old, a Michigan product, is more of a run-stopper than pass rusher (he has just eight career sacks). He’s played both defensive tackle and defensive end — his best season likely came in 2012 with the Seahawks, when he started 16 games for Seattle and had 29 tackles, a sack and two passes defensed.

Even though he’s in his late twenties, he’s displayed a nice durability over the course of the last few seasons — he’s played in 79 of a possible 80 games over the last five years, starting 47 of those contests. If he’s healthy enough to play, he could be the sort of space-eater who could serve in a nice complementary role next to someone like Vince Wilfork or Casey Walker. In addition, he could serve as a backup or part-time defensive end while Jones works his way back from injury.

The biggest question appears as to how quickly he might be able to get up to speed. Branch hasn’t played a single snap this season, as he was cut this summer by the Bills after a drunk driving arrest. As a result, there’s a question as to his overall football fitness — he might be a candidate to play more following New England’s bye week. In addition, there’s a question as to whether or not he could still face league discipline for the drunk driving incident.

Ultimately, Branch should not be considered a defensive difference-maker, but instead a depth piece who could work extended snaps over the course of the second half of the season if he proves himself to be healthy and gets acclimated to the system in a rapid fashion.

Read More: Alan Branch,

Tom Brady goes all Rajon Rondo in wishing Celtics ‘good luck’ for the upcoming season

10.29.14 at 12:11 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady is at it again on Facebook.

On Wednesday, his page posted a photoshopped image of him from his childhood holding an old-school Voit basketball. The photoshopped part was the Rajon Rondo-esque headband.

Brady appears a bit chubby in the photo but with an endearing smile.

The post wishes the Celtics “good luck this season.”

Read More: New England Patriots Boston Celtics, Tom Brady,
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