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Dan Koppen says there will be no added incentive when it comes to facing his old team

10.01.12 at 7:51 pm ET
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Dan Koppen says returning to Foxboro for Sunday’€™s game between the Patriots and Broncos is ‘€œgoing to be fun,’€ but when it comes to knocking off his old team, they’€™ll be no added motivation on his part this weekend.

‘€œI’€™m sure it’€™s going to be fun,’€ Koppen said on Monday when asked about facing New England on Sunday. ‘€œA little bit different, a little bit of a different view, but it’€™s still just football.

‘€œI think anytime you step on the field you’€™ve got motivation,’€ he added. ‘€œIf you don’€™t, then you’€™re in the wrong business.’€

The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Koppen, who was a fifth-round pick by New England in 2003 out of Boston College, started 120 games over eight season with the Patriots before suffering a fractured ankle midway through the 2011 opener against the Dolphins. The injury landed him on season-ending IR, and after an up-and-down camp, he was released by New England on Aug. 31.

Now with the Broncos, he got into last week’€™s game against the Raiders when starter J.D. Walton went down with an ankle injury — one similar to what Koppen suffered last season. With Walton moving to injured reserve because of the injury, Koppen looks to be the Denver starter going forward.

‘€œI’€™m just fortunate to be here and be around these guys,’€ Koppen said. ‘€œIt’€™s unfortunate that it’€™s this way — you don’€™t want to see anybody get hurt. Just go out there and try to do my job, whatever the coaches ask of me.

‘€œThey’€™ve got a great group of guys here,’€ he added. ‘€œComing in from Day One, everybody’€™s been great. [I’€™m] just trying to get acclimated to what they do and how they do things. Everybody’€™s been helpful.’€

Broncos coach John Fox said it didn’€™t appear that Koppen missed a beat when he relieved Walton last Sunday.

‘€œI thought he did very well,’€ said Fox. ‘€œOne thing about NFL football is the tape is never as good as you think and it’€™s never as bad as you think. We still have a lot of improving to do. Dan with more reps in practice and a better understanding of our offense, he’€™s capable of playing better, but he did a good job kind of on the job training just getting thrown out there quickly when J.D. went down. Considering all that, he did an excellent job.’€

‘€œI’€™m pretty familiar with [the offense],’€ Koppen said. ‘€œI think it’€™s along the same lines of what we ran in New England, which helped. Just a little bit different verbiage and all that stuff. [I’€™ll] get out there this week and try to go from there.’€

Koppen is also entering rare air — he will be the only center in league history who can boast of having worked with future Hall of Famers Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

‘€œWe’€™ll worry about that afterwards,’€ Koppen said. ‘€œWe play with who’€™s out on the field. Fortunately for me, it’€™s been Tom and Peyton. We’€™ve got good players, and it’€™s all about playing together.’€

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Rob Gronkowski on the Pats offense: ‘It’s not as easy as it looks’

10.01.12 at 6:48 pm ET
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After rolling up 35 straight points and punishing the Bills defense for 45 points in the second half, it might be worth remembering that the Patriots – even without Aaron Hernandez – still have the most toys of any offense in the NFL.

As Kirk Minihane pointed out, a lot of the credit has to go to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for the perfect mix of run and pass Sunday in the 52-28 win at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

But the largest portion of the credit has to go to the players who went out and did what was asked, as Brandon Bolden put it after the game. The Bolden, Stevan Ridley, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady produced the most balanced offensive single-game attack in franchise history, a history that includes some video game-like statistical seasons.

But the Patriots of 2007, 2009 and 2010 never did what the Patriots managed Sunday.

The Patriots ran the ball 40 times for 247 yards. They actually rushed four more times than they passed, as Brady was 22-of-36. But the Patriots didn’t give up on the ground attack, even when they trailed 21-7.

“We just made plays when they called our numbers,” Ridley said. “That’€™s all we can do, when they call our number we handle the plays. It’€™s all about trying to move the football, moving down the field to score.

“We worked on it hard this week in practice, and that’€™s what we do in and out of practice every week. When we mess up, we try and improve that as a team. The line did an exceptional job, and this wouldn’€™t have been done without them. It takes a team effort, with 10 other players out there to do what we did on the ground and I’€™m excited that those guys are doing work for us up front.”

In the passing game, Welker and Gronkowski overcame first-half fumbles to put up 100-yard receiving performances. They were each targeted 11 times. Welker caught nine passes for 129 yards while Gronkowski had a five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown on a wide open seam route over the middle.

“It’€™s not as easy as it looks,” Gronkowski said. “It’€™s the NFL, those guys are out there, they are great players, you got to work your butt off, you got to be going full speed in order to execute, in order to make plays. Overall, everyone just game together, chemistry, and worked hard, and things went rolling from the third quarter on.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Gronk, New England Patriots, nfl, Rob Gronkowski

Bill Belichick says what Peyton Manning is doing with the Broncos looks awfully familiar

10.01.12 at 5:54 pm ET
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When it comes to defending Peyton Manning, Patriots coach Bill Belichick says that it’€™s the same as it ever was.

Belichick said that what Manning is doing with his new team is very similar to what he did for several years with Indianapolis: running an offense that features two tight ends and three wide receivers. That doesn’€™t mean it’€™s any easier to defend.

‘€œHe looks good,’€ Belichick said Monday afternoon when asked about preparing for Manning, who will lead the Broncos into Gillette Stadium on Sunday for a matchup with the Patriots. ‘€œHe does a good job managing that offense: getting the ball to everybody, running it, throwing it inside, throwing it outside. All the things, they have a lot of weapons.

‘€œYou have to be careful about giving him opportunities because he’€™ll usually find them. We have to do a good job of disguising and keeping him off balance and trying to make him figure it out after the snap or as late as possible. You certainly don’€™t want to just show it to him too many times and let him take a run at it.’€

Belichick said that he’€™s not surprised that Manning — who threw for three touchdowns in a Sunday win over the Raiders — was able to pick right up after missing the entire 2011 season because of a neck injury.

‘€œI’€™m not that surprised,’€ Belichick said of Manning, who has eight touchdown passes and 1,162 yards through four games with the Broncos. ‘€œHe’€™s a pretty smart guy, he’€™s got a lot of experience, he’€™s got good skills. There have been a number of other players that have missed a year with an injury, whatever it happened to be, come back the next year and been able to play at a high level. It’€™s about what I would have expected him to be at.

‘€œHe’€™s an impact player for whatever team he’€™s on,’€ Belichick added. ‘€œI’€™m not saying that I’€™m really excited about having to face him again, but you have to play somebody. Everybody is good in this league. Everybody has good skills, good players, good coaches, good teams. It’€™s out of our control, whoever it is, it is. It’€™s [been] great, competitive with Denver and with Peyton and now those two have kind of combined, so I guess that’€™s good. But I can’€™t say this is the quarterback you really want to face. He’€™s pretty good. He does a good job.’€

Here are a few other highlights from Belichick’€™s Q&A with the media Monday afternoon:
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Peyton Manning,

Broncos coach John Fox: Patriots are ‘a very talented team’

10.01.12 at 4:29 pm ET
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Coming off a 37-6 win over the Raiders on Sunday, Broncos coach John Fox said Monday that Denver has turned the page and is on to the Patriots. Fox hopes the Broncos, who suffered a 45-10 playoff loss to New England last season at Gillette, are better prepared for this game than they were back in January.

‘€œWell, that’€™s the plan. Time will tell,’€ Fox said. ‘€œIt’€™s going to be a very tough game at their place. They’€™re a very talented team. They are good in all three phases. They just strung up 52 [points]. I think they had a 31-point fourth quarter.

‘€œThey’€™ve got a lot of firepower and they have a first-ballot Hall of Fame guy under center as well. We’€™ll see. Whoever executes the best will have the best opportunity to win.’€

He said that they will take a look back at the postseason defeat as a reference point.

‘€œWe’€™ll watch it. I mean, that’€™s all we do is watch tape,’€™ Fox said. ‘€œI’€™m sure we’€™ll look at it just for matchups ‘€” some of our players versus some of their players, just to see how that went. From my memory it didn’€™t go very well. We’€™ll look at it again I’€™m sure.’€

Someone who might be able to give the Broncos some help when it comes to preparing for the Patriots is Dan Koppen. The longtime offensive lineman, who was in New England from 2003 through 2011 before being cut just before the start of the 2012 season, is expected to start at center for Denver. (Starting center J.D. Walton went on injured reserve with an ankle injury after going down against the Raiders.)

‘€œHe’€™s got that experience, just like [QB] Peyton Manning has a lot of experience,’€ Fox said of Koppen. ‘€œWhen you get to a new offense [with] new teammates, under pressure, it takes a minute to get accustomed to it. It’€™ll be the same for him as it’€™s been for Peyton.

‘€œHe had a similar injury as J.D. just had a year ago. That’€™s why he wasn’€™t with a team. We felt really good about the addition of him because he brings top-notch experience at that position. We had the opportunity to sign him and we did and I’€™m glad we did.’€

Koppen saw his first action of the year Sunday against the Raiders.

‘€œI thought he did very well,’€ said Fox. ‘€œOne thing about NFL football is the tape is never as good as you think and it’€™s never as bad as you think. We still have a lot of improving to do. Dan with more reps in practice and a better understanding of our offense, he’€™s capable of playing better, but he did a good job kind of on the job training just getting thrown out there quickly when J.D. went down. Considering all that, he did an excellent job.’€

Here are a few other highlights from Fox’€™s Q&A with the media on Monday:

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dan Koppen, John Fox,

Ex-Patriots center Dan Koppen likely to start against New England this weekend

10.01.12 at 3:53 pm ET
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Welcome back, Dan Koppen.

In the wake of the injury to Broncos starting center J.D. Walton in Sunday’s win over the Raiders, the former Patriots center — who was signed by Denver last month — is expected to get the start this Sunday when the Broncos visits Gillette Stadium.

The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Koppen, who was a fifth-round pick by New England in 2003 out of Boston College, started 120 games over eight season with the Patriots before suffering a fractured ankle midway through the 2011 opener against the Dolphins. The injury landed him on season-ending IR, and after an up-and-down camp, he was released by New England on Aug. 31.

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Vince Wilfork on Patriots D: ‘We didn’t panic’

09.30.12 at 7:54 pm ET
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The imagery was powerful.

After one of the most physical games of his star-studded career, there was Vince Wilfork wearing a black t-shirt with two classic shots of Jimi Hendrix.

Just ask Donald Jones and he’ll tell you about the haze that Wilfork left him in after the Patriots defensive lineman crushed him in the fourth quarter of the Patriots’ 52-28 win over the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The veteran defensive lineman tipped a passed that resulted in an interception, he recovered a fumble as the Bills were going in for a touchdown before the half before demolishing Jones with a crushing hit over the middle as the Patriots used big hits and big defensive plays to turn the tide in the second half. The hit was so violent – and clean – that it knocked Jones sideways.

The Patriots trailed 21-7 after Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Jones for a 67-yard TD over the middle early in the third quarter. Then the big plays and big hits began.

“Continue to execute,” Wilfork said. “We were giving up big plays and we were shooting ourselves in the foot, offensively. Just going out in the second half, we just wanted to play better football for 30 more minutes and we got it together. We just kept our poise, and I think we showed a heart of a champion today. Being down on the road, dropped two in a row, backs against the wall and everybody kept their composure. We were poised, we executed well in the critical situations, came up with some big stops, big plays and that’s what we’re going to need going forward because it doesn’t get any easier for us. So we’re going to need to put these things together now.”

Brandon Spikes forced two Bills fumbles that resulted in two of Buffalo’s six turnovers on the day. Wilfork said it was Spikes that led the way, setting the stage for Wilfork’s huge hit on Jones.

“Anytime after a big play, you feel good, especially after a big hit,” Wilfork said. “I felt good, our defense felt good, the crowd felt good, the Patriots fans we had [in attendance behind Patriots bench]. That was a momentum swing. Sometimes, it’s not all about scoring or turning the ball over and stuff like that. It can be a simple play and it was. And once we had that play, everything fell into place for us and that’s what we’re going to need and you don’t know what it’s going to be each week. But whatever it is, we need to figure it out because I like that feeling.”

And as Brandon Bolden pointed out on the offensive side of the ball, Wilfork felt the key was composure in the second half when things were seemingly disintegrating.

“We kept our poise,” Wilfork said. “We knew coming here was going to be a tough game against a division team, especially against the Buffalo Bills [who] always play us tough, especially the first game. So, we just kept our poise, stuck together. We didn’t panic and we just executed. We did, so leaving the game with six turnovers, defensively playing well and all three phases helping one another with the field position, offense putting some points on the board and us getting some big stops. We all came together as one. We just need more of these, more consistency and move on to next week.”

Read More: Brandon Spikes, Buffalo Bills, Donald Jones, Jimi Hendrix

Brandon Bolden: In second half it was all about ‘composure’

09.30.12 at 7:30 pm ET
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Even undrafted rookie running back Brandon Bolden knew what it was going to take to get the Patriots back in the game Sunday when they trailed 21-7 in the third quarter.

“Composure,” Bolden said. “You have to keep composure no matter what happens on the field. We could have been down four touchdowns, or we could have been down 10 touchdowns. You just have to keep your composure and go out there and do your job.”

Bolden helped the Patriots make history Sunday in a 52-28 win over the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Ole Miss product gained 137 yards on just 16 carries and ran for his second touchdown in as many games helping the Patriots notch a pair of 100-yard rushers for the first time in 32 years. Bolden and Stevan Ridley — with 106 yards and two TDs on 22 carries — were part of a Patriots rushing attack that gained 247 yards on 40 carries.

“We just stuck to the game plan, and I did what I was asked to do,” Bolden said afterward. “We made the best out of every opportunity.”

Bolden was also part of NFL history as the Patriots became just the second team in NFL history with a pair of 100-yard rushers and a pair of 100-yard receivers as Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski each caught 11 passes. Welker gained 129 yards and Gronkowski gained 104. Bolden deferred all questions about the game plan to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and head coach Bill Belichick.

“You have to ask the offensive coordinator and coach because I have no idea,” Bolden said. “I was just doing what I had to do.”

Then Bolden had some fun with reporters.

“No offense, but it’s just like how you guys work to ask questions all day,” said Bolden with a smile. “Think about getting that perfect answer, and that’s how it feels. We get out there and do what we do, and it just feels great. All of that hard work.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Bolden, Buffalo Bills, Josh McDaniels
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