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Check out the first meeting of the top two passers in the NFL, Tom Brady and Cam Newton

09.19.11 at 4:59 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The folks at Under Armour have to be loving this — the first two weeks of the season, its two marquee pitchmen (Tom Brady and Cam Newton) are a 1-2 in the league in total passing yards. Brady has 940 yards through two games, while the rookie out of Carolina has 854 yards. Here’s the video of their first meeting:

Read More: Cam Newton, Tom Brady,

The next day, the Patriots talk about the ‘funky looks’ they showed San Diego’s Antonio Gates

09.19.11 at 4:45 pm ET
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FOXBORO — When it came to prep work for Sunday’€™s Patriots-Chargers game, the New England defense was presented with a simple choice: tight end Antonio Gates or wide receiver Vincent Jackson?

The Patriots decided to dedicate their efforts to stopping Gates, using multiple series of coverages against the All-Pro tight end. As a result of the work of a series of defenders, New England held Gates without a catch for the first time since Dec. 4, 2008, when he was shutout by the Raiders. (A stretch of 34 games.) After the game, Gates talked about the variety of ‘€œfunky looks’€ the Patriots showed him.

‘€œThey would put a corner and a safety on me, or two safeties ‘€¦ they did a lot of different things to take me out of the game,’€ said Gates, who had eight catches for 74 yards in a 24-17 win over Minnesota the previous week. ‘€œI kept working at it, kept trying. The end result was I couldn’€™t get the ball to come my way.

‘€œThey had a tremendous game plan and they executed well. They gave us different looks, a combination of things, making it difficult for me to release off the ball. With the defensive end, linebacker and the safety dropping down to help once I released. They made a lot of funky looks.’€

One of those ‘€œfunky looks’€ came the one time that San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers only threw in his direction once all afternoon, a second-half pass attempt where the ball was picked off by New England defensive back Sergio Brown. On that play, Gates wasn’€™t jammed off the line (as he had been for much of the afternoon) but was allowed to pass into the secondary unabated before Brown picked him up.

‘€œWe tried to mix it up,’€ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday afternoon when he was asked about the interception. ‘€œBetween jamming receivers, doubling them off the line with a jam, not doubling, doubling them downfield. We had various degrees of success with each. We tried to keep them off-balance and change up coverages.

‘€œIt wasn’€™t anything revolutionary.’€

In the end, while Jackson had 10 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns (most of which came at the expense of cornerback Devin McCourty, who was left in single coverage with him while the rest of the defense shadowed Gates), the tight end was a non-factor.

‘€œI think looking at the final stat sheet says a lot,’€ said safety Josh Barrett of the work they did on Gates. ‘€œGuys really did a good job, especially on the back end and even with the linebackers and even the defensive ends, getting hands on him early, and it was just keeping him somewhat contained. It was a great team effort doing that.

‘€œWe put an onus on it, and coach made sure that we had a scheme that was going to be able to kind of lock down what we had to do with him.’€

Read More: Antonio Gates, Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty, Josh Barrett

Transcript of Tom Brady on D&C: ‘I won’t ever say that again’ about drinking before games

09.19.11 at 1:32 pm ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady checked in with Dennis & Callahan for his Monday morning conversation, following Sunday’s 35-21 victory over the Chargers.

Brady created a controversy last week when he encouraged fans in Foxboro to get “lubed up” before Sunday’s late-afternoon start so Gillette Stadium would be loud and rowdy. He said Monday that he regretted how his joke played out.

“I hope there was nobody that was drinking irresponsibly,” Brady said. “I was trying to just make a very subtle joke. But for a guy that doesn’t even drink — me — it gets a lot of attention. I think that I won’t joke like that anymore. That wasn’t the best thing for me to say. I won’t ever say that again.”

Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

In my humble opinion, the most significant play yesterday is a play where nothing happened. The hit to your knee early in the third quarter could have been devastating. It was not. What’s your recollection of that moment in the game?

I’m glad I had a knee brace on. Those are scary, man, when you’ve been through those ones before. He got me in a good spot, and I’m glad the knee brace took the brunt of the force. Why I never wore a knee brace before, I have no idea. Why every quarterback doesn’t wear one on their left knee, I have no idea. It’s just so unprotected.

But we were able to kind of withstand those literally and figuratively, the different blows from San Diego. We made some good plays out there in all three phases. That was really a great complementary game by all of us in a team win. It’s a very good San Diego team. And really, if you remember last year, that was a tough game that we played against them last year. Had we not gotten the turnovers last year in San Diego, we didn’t do anything offensively. So, to come out and play this way offensively against a very good defensive team was I think very encouraging for all of us.

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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Bill Belichick, Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch

Jerod Mayo, Deion Branch on M&M: Practice key to Patriots’ success

09.19.11 at 11:42 am ET
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Linebacker Jerod Mayo and wide receiver Deion Branch joined the Mut & Merloni show live from Gillette Stadium on Monday, one day after the Patriots posted a 35-21 victory over the Chargers.

The game featured four turnovers created by the Patriots defense, plus a goal-line stand.

“When training camp started, we always said we’ve got to be tough on the goal line,” Mayo said. “I think it really paid off us yesterday — and the week before.”

Mayo said the defense benefits from practicing against the Patriots’ high-powered offense.

“Just going against our offense I think really helps us out,” Mayo said. “We’re still a young defense, and going against [Tom] Brady and Deion and those tight ends is good practice for us each and every day.”

Following are more highlights from the discussion. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Branch on young tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski: “I enjoy watching those two young guys practice each and every day. What they’re doing in the game is what they do in practice. It’s amazing. [Hernandez] truly thinks he’s a receiver. ‘€¦ The guy has so much confidence, and it’s good. He’s still learning, he still has a lot to learn. But both of them, Gronkowski and, true enough, the younger brother, Dan [Gronkowski], is another great one. Hopefully, we can get the opportunity to start to get him a lot of exposure as well.”

Branch on the failed third-down pass from Brady in the end zone: “It’s just a little miscommunication. Stuff just happens so fast. We were on the 4-yard line, so everything is so condensed. It’s going to happen fast. That’s something that we can always go back and look at after the play. Once we think about it, hey, I probably should have slowed down. ‘€¦ Going into the game, we want to make every play. You can’t just make every play. San Diego’s got some great players, great coaches, they had a great scheme.”

Mayo on Vince Wilfork‘s interception return: “It doesn’t get any better than that. You saw that head cock back, you know that back got a little tight on him. I think Devin [McCourty] made a great play as far as chasing that guy down, even though he got the penalty. Vince had that head back. He didn’t feel that guy behind him, trying to pop the ball out. We don’t want that.”

Mayo on filming a cameo this summer for the upcoming Farrelly brothers movie: “I had a little role in ‘The Three Stooges.’ I’m not going to tell you [about it], because I’ll probably get sued. My role is that pivotal in the movie.”

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Deion Branch, Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo

Boomer Esiason on D&C: Chad Ochocinco has made ‘mockery of his career’

09.19.11 at 11:07 am ET
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CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to discuss the Patriots’ fast start.

Esiason said Sunday’s 35-21 victory over the Chargers made him think of the successful Patriots teams of the previous decade.

Said Esiason: “It reminded me of their Super Bowl teams, where the opposing offenses would go up and down the field ‘€¦ and then all of a sudden, somebody like Ty Law would come up with a big play, or Rodney Harrison would come up with a big play, Mike Vrabel would knock a ball down. It would be a key fumble recovery by Vince Wilfork. And lo and behold, what did we see yesterday? It was the same thing. It was great offense, tremendous special teams, a couple of gaffes here and there on defense, but at the end of the day four turnovers. The most key stat of all in the NFL is turnovers. And when you have a plus-four, the score is going to look like it did yesterday.

“And when your quarterback is comfortable, he’s playing maybe better than he ever has — and I can’t believe I’m saying that, after taking a look at what he did in 2007 then again in 2010 — can he play any better? I think defenses have got to start adjusting. I think they have to start blitzing, they have to start hitting him. ‘€¦ Defenses have got to get after him. They can’t just let him sit back there.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

On the key to the Patriots’ offensive success: “No pressure. No pressure whatsoever. I know Tom [Brady] took a shot there at the beginning of the third quarter, but or the most part, when you watch their games, the last two games, the offensive line has been unbelievable. And I think teams have decided, OK, we’re going to play zone, we’re going to put eight men in the secondary, and we’re not going to pressure Tom. When a quarterback is in the zone or a quarterback is doing what Tom is doing right now, you have to get after him. You have to put him on the ground. I don’t care if it leads to a big play down the field.

“If there’s one thing that maybe the Patriots are missing, it’s the big-play, Randy Moss-type wide receiver down the field. I don’t know if [Chad] Ochocinco will become that. I don’t know if there’s anybody that can cover [Rob] Gronkowski or [Aaron] Hernandez down the field. But you can’t let him just sit back there. ‘€¦ If there’s no pass rush, he’s going to rip you apart.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, boomer esiason, Chad Ochocinco, Ryan Fitzpatrick

Tom Brady and the definition of greatness

09.18.11 at 10:40 pm ET
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‘€œI mean, he’€™s a good football player. Period. Brady is Brady, I’€™m not going to sit up here and stroke the player, you know? He’€™s exactly what we thought he was going to be ‘€“ nothing more, nothing less. That’€™s Tom Brady.’€

- Takeo Spikes

Measuring greatness is a tricky thing. It’s almost impossible to define.

But here’s a pretty good rule of thumb: If a guy completes 31-of-40 passes for 423 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions and it isn’t anything close to a surprise to anyone we’ve officially entered Quarterbacking Greatness.

There is that rarefied air of greatness with quarterbacks (we know the names) and there is something else. And Tom Brady is now at Somewhere Else, Population 1.

In his last 10 regular-season games Brady has thrown 29 TD passes and one interception. We’re spoiled (seven titles in 10 years will do that) but we all understand that isn’t supposed to happen, right? Forty-three touchdowns against five interceptions since the start of the 2010 season? His passer rating in those 10 games? 117.4, 123.1, 158.3, 148.8, 113.4, 110.2, 107.0 (his worst rating came in a game where he had three TD passes and zero INT’s — did I mention Population 1?), 145.6, 121.6 (Miami on Monday) and 135.7 (vs. San Diego on Sunday). Put it another way: This isn’t Luke McCown we’re talking about (McCown had four interceptions in 19 attempts on Sunday, or one fewer than Brady in his last 580 attempts).

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Jerod Mayo and Patrick Chung make sure goal line is Patriots property

09.18.11 at 10:19 pm ET
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FOXBORO — For the second straight week, the Patriots defense made a key, game-changing goal line stand. And for the second week in a row, the offense responded with a 99-yard touchdown scoring drive after Jerod Mayo and Patrick Chung stopped Mike Tolbert at the Patriots 1 in the second quarter.

“We said ever since training camp that the goal line has to be ours,” Mayo said. “That mental toughness really shows up down there.”

Last week, the Patriots stopped the Dolphins at the 1 in the fourth quarter and Tom Brady hit Wes Welker for a 99-yard touchdown pass on the next play. This week was Mayo reading a key in the Chargers’ defense.

“[Randy McMichael] motioned over and he’s their run-blocking tight end and they had a heavy guy on that side as well, so I knew if they we’re going play-action, they would play-action to Gates’ side and throw the ball to him but on that side there really was no pass threat so I played the run real hard,” Mayo said.

The Patriots allowed 378 yards passing to Philip Rivers, including 10 catches by Vincent Jackson for 172 yards.

“We still have to work on the yardage and third-down defense and things like that but we showed great mental toughness by coming up with turnovers, huge turnovers and playing complimentary football,” Mayo said. “Just stopping the run and doing things on the goal line really shows toughness and I think the defense really showed that tonight.”

Read More: Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots, nfl, Patrick Chung
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