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NFL announces date and time for Pats’ playoff opener

01.02.11 at 9:35 pm ET
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The NFL has announced that the Patriots first playoff game will be played Sunday, Jan. 16, at 4:30 p.m. The Patriots, who have home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, will play the lowest seeded remaining team from wild-card weekend. Third-seeded Indianapolis will host the sixth-seeded Jets this Saturday at 8 p.m., while fourth-seeded Kansas City will host fifth-seeded Baltimore at 1 p.m. Sunday.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis: The Law Firm is all business about 1,000 yards

01.02.11 at 8:42 pm ET
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FOXBORO — BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the last Patriots player to take the podium in the press room following Sunday’s 38-7 season-ending laugher over the Miami Dolphins. And that’s completely alright with the 25-year-old running back out of Ole Miss (via Indiana University).

As a matter of fact, it was entirely appropriate since the unheralded, soft-spoken running back never seeks attention in the Patriots locker room.

But what he sought all season was a 1,000-yard season. That quest was not for himself, mind you, but for the guys who made his breakout season possible: His offensive line.

“[None] of this would be possible without the offensive line, tight ends and everyone blocking and working hard in practice,” Green-Ellis said.

Coming into Sunday, Green-Ellis needed 72 yards to become the first Patriots runner since Corey Dillon in 2004 to hit 1,000 yards. s it turned out, about the only drama left entering the fourth quarter was when Green-Ellis was going to get his number.

Entering the final 15 minutes, he still needed four yards. He picked up two yards to the Dolphins’ 19. Now, two yards away, he took a hand-off from Brian Hoyer and ran off right guard for 10 yards to the Miami 9 and he had his first big career milestone.

“It’€™s not really an individual accomplishment,” Green-Ellis said. “For one person to say that they [got] 1,000 yards by themselves they would be lying to you. Everyone worked hard, like I said. Everyone comes to practice and works hard in practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and you know, it’€™s paying off for us.”

While Green-Ellis tried to deflect the credit for the accomplishment, his teammates were happy to thrust it back in his direction.

‘€œYeah, we were aware, and that was something we wanted to get for Benny because he’€™s done a tremendous job and he got it on that last play,” Hoyer said. “I thought maybe he was going to score actually. They were all dropped back into coverage, and we handed it off to him, and he definitely got it, so we were just happy for him.’€

With 1,008 yards for the season, he was immediately taken out of the game by Bill Belichick. His teammates all patted him on the helmet to congratulate him. But there was one more person who wanted his time with Green-Ellis, the coach himself. Belichick gave him a hearty hug.

After the game, Belichick praised Green-Ellis as someone whose performance helped the team win 14 games. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick, Brian Hoyer, Corey Dillon

Julian Edelman finally takes it to the house

01.02.11 at 6:39 pm ET
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FOXBORO — This time there was no dirty laundry to clean up.

Julian Edelman returned Brandon Fields‘ second-quarter punt 94 yards for a score, setting a new record for the longest punt return for a touchdown in Patriots history. The score put his team up, 24-0, before halftime and the Patriots went on to roll the Dolphins, 38-7, Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Just four weeks earlier at snowy Soldier field, Edelman thought he had a TD on a 71-yard punt return and raced through the end zone in jubilation – only to realize that rookie Dane Fletcher had been flagged for holding, nullifying the return.

“I’m not going to lie,” Edelman smiled and admitted. “I was actually thinking about that. l was thinking I’m going to look like an idiot going up into the stands if there’s a flag out there. We didn’t fortunately and we got the touchdown finally.”

This time, the return set up perfectly with the Patriots holding their blocks legally after Fields booted a booming 61-yard punt to the Patriots’ 29.

“It was late in the half and we had a “middle” return called,” Edelman said. “The kicker, we knew we were going to get some chances this week with this punter because he was prone to out-kick his coverage. He gave us a shot.

“The middle of the field, our guys held them up real well and as a punt returner, you’re supposed to make at least one guy miss and we were fortunate enough to do that and guys held on their blocks and we executed the play. It was a good play.”

The return broke the record previously held by Mike Haynes when he returned a punt 89 yards for a TD in his rookie season of 1976.

“I knew once when I was pressing back and I was going to put my foot on the ground and cut back I knew we were going to hit the house right there,” Edelman said.

Read More: Julian Edelman, Miami Dolphins, Mike Haynes, New England Patriots

Sparano: Patriots ‘beat the pants off us’ twice this season

01.02.11 at 6:10 pm ET
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FOXBORO — In Sunday’€™s regular-season finale at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, the Patriots made their final statement before entering the 2011 postseason by dismantling the Dolphins, 38-7. The Dolphins, a team that many thought would make a serious postseason push after adding star wide receiver Brandon Marshall in the offseason, fell to a subpar 7-9 regular season finish.

The Patriots head into their first-round bye week on a high note, receiving production from all over the roster. Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer connected with Brandon Tate on a 42-yard touchdown in the third quarter that served as Hoyer’€™s first career NFL touchdown.

After the game, Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano, whose job may fall in jeopardy after the disappointing season, sang New England’€™s praises, commending them as the benchmark for the rest of the league.

‘€œThese guys do a great job spreading you out and Tom does a great job of getting them the right play,’€ Sparano said. ‘€œThey’€™re a good football team; well coached, and as long as that guy’€™s behind center, they’€™re a very good football team.’€

He added that the thing about New England he’€™s been the most impressed with while watching tape this season is their cornerbacks. Sparano said that they have made great improvements and that they compete at a high level.

‘€œI have seen great growth since the last time we played,’€ Sparano said.

Marshall’€™s first season in Miami ended well short of spectacular, as the former fourth round draft pick finished off the 2010 campaign with just three touchdown catches. It was clear of his frustration in the first quarter against the Patriots, when quarterback Chad Henne threw the ball well behind Marshall on a sideline rout, and the receiver stormed off the field, not returning for the next play. When asked about the relationship between Henne and himself, and if the two could coexist on the same field next season, Marshall declined to comment.

The Patriots defense once again built up its reputation as a clutch unit, stepping up to the challenge of shutting down playmakers such as Marshall, and holding a typically potent Dolphins running game to under 100 total yards.

Running back Ronnie Brown said after the game that the defense his team faced was an up-tempo, fast-paced unit.

‘€œAgainst a team like this, obviously you have to capitalize on the opportunities,’€ Brown said. ‘€œYou got to be clicking on all cylinders. They are just fundamentally fast and they don’€™t make a lot of mistakes, and they have guys in the right places. They can make plays when they need to.’€

The game was essentially meaningless for the Patriots, who clinched a first round bye and home field advantage all in previous weeks. But the game meant much more than just the final regular season home matchup, and a great start to the new year. Tom Brady‘€™s regular season home winning streak was on the line, since Brady was named the team’€™s starter in week 17. His understudy Hoyer made sure the game was sealed when he entered the game for good in the second half.

Highlighting another offensive achievement for the Patriots was running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who became the first 1,000-yard rusher in a Patriots uniform since Corey Dillon did so back in the 2004 season. Green-Ellis’€™ 10-yard carry at the start of the fourth quarter put him over the century mark, making him just the second running back in the NFL this season to go over 1,000 yards with at least 175 carries while not fumbling the football.

The Patriots forced the Dolphins, who have had inconsistency all season long at the quarterback position, to switch who was behind center three times on Sunday. Henne started the game, but was replaced by Tyler Thigpen in the first half after the Dolphins were already in a hole points wise. Henne reentered the game in the third, but suffered a head injury that left him sidelined for the duration. Thigpen said after the game that he was prepared to see maybe a series or two, but didn’€™t expect to get the time that he actually saw.

‘€œCoach had said be ready to go in,’€ Thigpen said. ‘€œI didn’€™t know I would get that extensive amount, but being the backup, you’€™ve always got to be prepared. I went in there for one play, I think in the second series, and then they made a decision right after that; I think it was two series later or something they decided to go with me.’€

The Patriots head into their bye week on a high note, maintaining their prolific offensive status by continuing a streak of at least 31 points scored in each of their last eight games, and will be closely watching the first round of the AFC playoffs one week from now.

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Brandon Marshall, New Englang Patriots,

Tom Brady on streak: ‘I’m glad my night is not ruined’

01.02.11 at 6:08 pm ET
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It was a record-setting season for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. His team had only five passes intercepted, tied for the fewest in NFL history. He has thrown 335 straight passes without an interception, the longest such streak in NFL history.

The fact that he continued the streak through the final game of the season was meaningful to the quarterback, though perhaps not in the way that anyone would expect.

“Interceptions pretty much ruin my night,” he said in his postgame press conference. “I’m glad my night is not ruined.”

He deflected credit for the historic run, which dates to the team’s Oct. 17 victory over the Ravens.

“I wasn’t thinking about [the streak] much to tell you the truth,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate over the course of this season. When the defense drops a ball, if they could catch it, they’d be playing offense. That’s why they’re defensive players. I’m just trying to make good reads and good throws. Guys have done a hell of a job catching the ball in traffic. Our offensive line has been protecting. We’ve been playing with a lead a bunch, too, so you don’t really have to force the ball in situations.”

Here are highlights from the rest of Brady’s comments following his team’s regular season finale, a 38-7 mauling of Miami: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Julian Edelman, Tom Brady,

Postgame Notes: Patriots 38, Dolphins 7

01.02.11 at 5:39 pm ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here are some postgame notes from Sunday’s contest:

New England head coach Bill Belichick has guided the Patriots to an NFL-best 14-2 record this season.  Belichick is the first head coach ever to win at least 14 regular-season games in four separate seasons. Only four other coaches ‘€” San Francisco’s George Seifert (3), Washington’s Joe Gibbs (2), Chicago’s Mike Ditka (2) and Miami’s Don Shula (2) ‘€” have more than one 14-win season.

The Patriots had just 10 turnovers in 2010 (5 interceptions and 5 fumbles), setting an NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season. The previous NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season was 12 by Kansas City in the strike-shortened 1982 season. The previous record for fewest turnovers in a 16-game season was 13 by the Giants and Dolphins in 2008. The former Patriots record for fewest turnovers in a season was 15 in 2007 (9 interceptions and 6 fumbles).

The Patriots had just five passes intercepted in 2010, tying the NFL mark for fewest interceptions in a single season. New England attempted 507 passes in 2010, with just five resulting in interceptions. The other teams to have only five interceptions in a season were the 1960 Cleveland Browns, the 1966 Green Bay Packers, the 1990 Kansas City Chiefs and the 1990 New York Giants.

The Patriots finished with a perfect 8-0 regular-season record at Gillette Stadium for the second consecutive season. New England has now finished perfect at home five times in team history (2003, 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2010). The Patriots are the only team in the NFL to finish undefeated at home in 2010. New England has won 17 straight regular-season home games, with its last home loss coming on Nov. 30, 2008 against Pittsburgh. The Patriots’€™ 17 straight home wins marks the longest current streak in the NFL and the second longest in franchise history, trailing only the Patriots’€™ 18 straight home wins from 2002-2005. The Patriots own a 60-12 regular-season record at Gillette Stadium since the facility opened in 2002.
Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick, Brian Hoyer, Danny Woodhead

Bill Belichick: ‘Good to end the season on this note’

01.02.11 at 4:37 pm ET
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It was a historic occasion for Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who became the first coach in NFL history to guide four different teams to a 14-win season following his team’s 38-7 romp past the Dolphins as the final note in a 14-2 season. But Belichick likely was uninterested in that milestone — just as he admitted that some of his players’ personal accomplishments, such as running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark, were far from focal points for the Patriots.

“The most important thing is just the team playing well,” said Belichick. “Individual stats aren’t our primary focus around here. We’re trying to win games.”

Highlights of Belichick’s postgame press conference are below:

Opening remarks:

I give our team a lot of credit. I think they did a great job here today. They’ve really been focused. I thought they played well in all three phases of the game today. We had big plays on offense, defense, special teams. We had some guys step up and make big plays for us who hadn’t played a lot. Good to end the season on this note. Right now, though, we’re just like everybody else. Everybody’s 0-0 at this point in the playoffs. It’s time for us to get ready for the next target, but nice way for us to end the season. I was proud of the way that everybody played. They stepped up and played like the AFC East Champions that they are.

On BenJarvus Green-Ellis reaching 1,000 yards:

The most important thing is just the team playing well. He’s done a good job for us all year. Individual stats aren’t our primary focus around here. We’re trying to win games. But he’s done a lot to help us win.

On the decision not to play Branch, Welker, Hernandez:

I would say primarily that it was (injuries).

What did you see from players such as Taylor Price?

Some guys got to play more in today’s game than they had in other games.That was good for them. We’ll take a look at the film, see how they came out. It was good to give some guys an opportunity to play. They may be playing later in the season. Who knows? That’s always good experience.

Why did you put Brian Hoyer in the game for a couple snaps in the second quarter?

That could easily happen in a game, where that comes up and a quarterback has to come in. That’s what he did.

With the three top receivers out, any question about playing Brady?

The decisions we made were the same as they always are: What’s best for the football team. We did what we felt was best for the football team. Everybody else may not see it that way. But that’s what we try to do. We try to do what’s best for the team.

Are you pleased to emerge with relatively few injuries?

It was a physical game. Some guys will have bumps and bruises coming in here tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes.

What have you seen in term’s of Green-Ellis’ growth this year?

He’s been pretty solid for us all the way through. I think that’s one of the biggest things about Ben: consistency. Training camp, regular season, preseason, all the way through, I think he’s been really consistent.

On the defensive effort:

We had our moments on defense. We gave up a few plays that we’d rather not give up. They have some quality receivers: Bess, Marshall. Good backs. I thought our defense competed well. Some things could have been better, but overall, we played pretty well.

On Tom Brady’s performance, particularly his remarkable touchdown-to-interception rate:

He’s playing well. He’s done a good job for us. The guys who are catching, they’re doing a good job of it too. The guys who are blocking, they’ve done a pretty good job. The guys who are running. When you have a good offense, it’s usually because the whole team is playing well and not just one guy. I think that’s the case on offense for us. We get good play out of multiple players. That’s what makes it run.

On Julian Edelman making plays in space:

I think he’s quick. He’s strong for his size. He breaks a lot of tackles. He has good balance. Guys hit him, he’s able to stay on his feet and keep moving.

On Rob Gronkowski’s impact in the red zone:

Rob has done a good job for us all year. He’s blocked well. He’s caught the ball, he’s scored touchdowns. He’s a big guy. Hard guy to overthrow. He’s got a big catching radius and he does a good job of positioning himself on the defender to get the ball where he can get it and the defender can’t. He’s done a nice job. He’s an instinctive receiver.

On the team’s willingness to compete in a game where the outcome had no bearing on the playoffs:

That’s what competitors do: They compete, regardless of the score or situation. You don’t control those things as a competitor. You just control your opportunity to compete, whether you have the ball on their one-yard line or your one-yard line, whether the score is 30-0 one way or the other, whether it’s the first game or the last game. When you’re a competitor, you compete. When you’ve got competitors on your team, they go out and compete. We’ve got a lot of them on this team. I’m proud of them. Glad we got ‘em.

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski
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