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Video: ‘4th & Goal’ breaks down Patriots and Ravens

01.08.15 at 4:02 pm ET
By   |   Comments Patriots writer Chris Price previews the AFC Divisional Playoff matchup between the Patriots and Ravens. Find out the keys to the game as well as Chris’ prediction.

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Ravens WR Kamar Aiken on Patriots defense: ‘You see the holes they have problems with’

01.08.15 at 2:47 pm ET
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OWINGS MILLS, MD. — If the Ravens are to beat the Patriots through the air on Saturday, it probably won’t be against Darrelle Revis or Brandon Browner.

And that makes someone like Kamar Aiken an intriguing player to watch.

Baltimore’s third receiver is hoping to fill the role that has previously gone to pass catchers like Green Bay’s Davante Adams, Buffalo tight end Scott Chandler, or Indy counterpart Coby Fleener.

With the Patriots likely to focus their efforts on stopping the Smiths –€“ Steve and Torrey — there could be an opening for someone like Aiken or tight end Owen Daniels to make a play.

“We know what the guys outside can do,” Aiken said of Revis and Browner. “We’re not going to say the inside guys are any slouches themselves, but we like our matchups better with them. Hopefully we can go in and do what we have to do.”

The other defensive backs Aiken and Co. might see include Logan Ryan, Kyle Arrington, and safety Patrick Chung.

“No disrespect to the inside guys, because they’re all pretty solid all-around,” Aiken said. “But obviously, the outside guys have the bigger names and everyone’s going to be talking about them more. As a unit, they’re a solid defense. We respect that and we’re just going to go out and do what we do.”

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Former Dolphins coach Don Shula takes shot at Bill Belichick with ‘Beli-cheat’ reference

01.08.15 at 2:32 pm ET
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Former Dolphins coach Don Shula took a shot at Bill Belichick in an interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, calling the Patriots coach “Beli-cheat.”

In an interview marking Shula’€™s 85th birthday, the former Miami coach referenced the 2007 videotaping scandal that cost the Patriots a draft pick and precipitated a $500,000 fine for the coach. (The team was also fined $250,000.) That year, the Patriots fell just short of a perfect season, losing to the Giants in the Super Bowl to end the year with an 18-1 record and leaving Shula’€™s 1972 Dolphins as the only team to go wire-to-wire without a loss. (Miami ended the year 17-0.)

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John Harbaugh on Bill Belichick recommendation: ‘It meant everything’

01.08.15 at 2:27 pm ET
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OWINGS MILLS, MD. –“ Bill Belichick needs to think about what he did. Without his phone call to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti during the winter of 2008, his greatest coaching nemesis might not have a job.

That coach, John Harbaugh, will once again try to end Belichick’s season on Saturday in Foxboro. On Thursday afternoon, Harbaugh paid tribute to the role Belichick’s recommendation played in his hiring.

“It meant everything, probably as far as getting the job,” Harbaugh said. “It probably didn’t hurt. You’d have to ask Steve and Ozzie [Newsome] if it made a difference or not. The fact that he was willing to do that at the time, I was stunned when I heard the story much later.”

Harbaugh spoke a bit more on his relationship with Belichick.

“I would describe the relationship as very good,” he said. “I have great admiration for coach. I’ve never worked with him specifically, but he’s, for whatever reason, always been willing to take me under his wing in a way and give me time and insight and things like that. A coach on their staff, Scott O’Brien, is a great mentor of mine. That’s probably the connection where it started. I feel great about it and I’m looking forward to playing the game.”

One final question for Harbaugh: think Belichick regrets making that phone call, considering that the Ravens have knocked him out of the playoffs twice since 2009?

Harbaugh laughed sheepishly, and declined to answer.

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Mueller report finds ‘no evidence’ NFL received or watched Ray Rice video

01.08.15 at 2:20 pm ET
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Roger Goodell is off the hook, at least for now.

The independent report overseen by former FBI director Robert Mueller III and commissioned by the NFL in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal was released has found the league, including Commissioner Roger Goodell, did not know of the infamous video of Rice striking his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in an elevator before its release on TMZ in September.

Further, the report “€œfound no evidence” that anyone in the league office had confirmed receiving the video, as The Associated Press had reported Sept. 7.

The report found, “(Despite) extensive investigation, we have found no evidence that anyone at the League received or viewed the in-elevator video prior to its public release. Likewise, we have found no evidence of a woman at the League acknowledging receipt of that video in a voicemail message left on April 9, 2014.”

So, Ray Rice isn’t playing this weekend but two days before the Ravens play the Patriots his story has reappeared.

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Janay Palmer, Janay Rice, ray rice

Brandon LaFell declares himself ‘fine,’ says ‘it’s go-time’ for him, Patriots this Saturday

01.08.15 at 1:44 pm ET
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FOXBORO — If you’re worried about the way Brandon LaFell left the game against the Bills with an ailing shoulder on Dec. 28, the Patriots wide receiver said Thursday to save your fears for something else.

LaFell, who missed practice during the bye week, showed up this week with shoulder and toe issues on the official injury report. He was limited on Wednesday but took part all three days.

The wideout said before Thursday’s practice that he’ll be ready to go for Saturday against the Ravens.

“I’m doing great, man,” LaFell beamed. “Doing great, resting my body up a little bit and now it’s game week, I’m ready to go out there, play and make plays.”

As for the fans who consider LaFell the best deep threat for Tom Brady and fear he won’t be at 100 percent?

“No need to hold their breaths on me,” LaFell said, before giving props to the likes of Julian Edelman, Brian Tyms, Josh Boyce and Danny Amendola. “I’m fine. But also, we’ve got guys like Brian Tyms, Josh Boyce, we’ve got Ells and we’ve got D.A., guys that have played ball around here for a long time and make plays. So don’t worry about anything.”

Not even the cold?

“Man, there’s nothing you can do for this cold weather,” LaFell said. “Just go out there and hopefully, your body will warm up sooner or later and just go out there and play fast.”

For all of the receivers practicing in the bitter cold Thursday, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, LaFell said there’s been no change in attitude or approach.

“It’s definitely is [business as usual],” he said. “You’ve got to approach this week like we approached the last 16 weeks of the season and go out here and do our job like we’ve been doing all year.”

This is LaFell’s second taste of postseason action, losing to San Francisco in the NFC divisional round last year.

“Man, I’m really excited. We had the bye week last week, got a couple of guys back on the field, did a lot of good work, worked on ourselves last week but now it’s go-time now.”

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Baltimore Ravens, Brandon LaFell, New England Patriots

Trent Dilfer on MFB owns up to early season comments: ‘I am as shocked as anybody on this turnaround by the New England Patriots’

01.08.15 at 1:35 pm ET
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Trent Dilfer defended his early season critcism of the Patriots on with MFB. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Trent Dilfer defended his early season critcism of the Patriots on with MFB. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

ESPN NFL analyst Trent Dilfer joined Middays with MFB on Thursday to defend his comments on the Patriots from earlier in the season and to look ahead to this weekend’s divisional round game against the Ravens. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

After the Patriots’ blowout loss to Kansas City in Week 4 on Monday Night Football, Dilfer went on the air on ESPN and said the Patriots were a “weak team”€ and “not good anymore.” He defended those comments and explained where the comments came from on Thursday.

“I am as shocked as anybody on this turnaround by the New England Patriots,” Dilfer said. “I have had to take a long look in the mirror on why I made those. I don’t try and be a knee-jerk guy. I don’t try to just say stuff to say stuff, particularly when I talk on TV. It comes from a lot of study and is a strong opinion because I believe it. At the time I believed that.

“Where I whiffed is player development. I think if there is an apology to be made, it is to Coach [Bill] Belichick and the entire department, the entire organization for not understanding the level of player development they are committed to.  They have developed young players that you didn’t realize at the time were going to be good players. They have done a heck of a job developing them. They have developed great schemes that enhance those players.

“Defensively, this a very, very good football team. Offensively, how they have been able to [hide] some of the personnel flaws is amazing. It speaks to the genius of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Josh McDaniels, all the offensive coaches — they do as good of a job as anybody of getting the most from the least and the best from the best.”

Dilfer was also critical of the Patriots for not surrounding Brady with enough talent. Brady was spotted talking with Dilfer before the game, and some thought it was what Brady told him that led to Dilfer making those comments. Dilfer said that was absolutely untrue.

“Tom had nothing to do with those comments,” Dilfer said. “Those comments had everything to do with how poorly the Patriots had played early on, and especially not be able to get open and pass protect and run block. That is all where it really stemmed from. Here you have one of the greatest players that has ever played he game in Tom Brady — I felt like you should have an obligation to a player like that to make as many runs to the Super Bowl as you possibly could by surrounding him with offensive personnel that could get it done.

“At the time [Rob Gronkowski] was not the Gronk we’re seeing now. He was coming off the injury and it looked as if he wasn’t going to be the same guy. You’re saying to yourself, ‘How in the heck do they line up with this offensive line, with these skill position people and think that they are going to get the best out of Tom Brady?’ Now, they have. Which, I don’t have an answer. I am blown away by the whole thing — how successful they have been with this.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Trent Dilfer
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