|10.05.14 at 6:52 pm ET|
|10.05.14 at 6:06 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It’s no secret that Bill Belichick has always admired the teaching methods of Paul Brown.
But what’s not as well known is the personal family connections between the Belichicks and Browns, dating back to World War II.
The connection begins with Bill Edwards, a former player under Paul Brown, who also coached for him. Edwards happens to be Belichick’s godfather.
When Brown came to run the Bengals, Belichick and his father, Navy assistant coach Steve Belichick made the trip to Wilmington (Ohio) College to visit training camp.
“Obviously he remembers a lot, it’s his father,” Belichick said Friday when asked about his memories about the Brown family. “But, I talk to Mike about him plenty and have a lot of respect for that family. My dad and that family go way back, back to World War II, post-World War II days. My godfather’s relationship with Paul and the Browns and the Bengals and the Browns being at Hiram [College] and my mom graduating from Hiram and my dad coaching at Hiram ‘ it goes back a long way.
Paul Brown died in 1991 at the age of 82. Brown’s son Mike, now 79, still owns and runs the Bengals, with his daughter Katie Blackburn.
“I’d say most of the relationship with Coach [Paul] Brown was with my dad,” Belichick said. “I met him and gone to practices and those kind of things, but I was young. So, I’d say I have a much closer relationship with Mike just because we’re a little closer in age, [have] football fathers, Ohio. There are a lot of similarities there.”
|10.05.14 at 4:54 pm ET|
FOXBORO — All week the Patriots have waited for this moment. Their chance to prove to critics, the league and most importantly themselves that they are not as bad as the last two weeks would seem is finally here.
Clear skies and temperatures in the low 50s are expected for the 8:30 p.m. kickoff as they take on the 3-0 Cincinnati Bengals at Gillette Stadium. The chill in the air could drop temperatures to the mid 40s by the end of the game.
Wind should be absolutely no factor with a breeze expected out of the east at 5 MPH.
This could bode well for the passing game, and speculation will intensify before kickoff about just how much Aaron Dobson will play, if indeed he is active for the first time since Week 2 in Minnesota.
With Brandon Browner and Brian Tyms also not activated by the 4 p.m. ET deadline Saturday, Alfonzo Dennard and Dobson could have bigger roles.
The 2-2 Patriots are not the only ones trying to prove themselves on this big Sunday night stage.
The Bengals come to Foxboro trying to prove they belong in the conversation among elite NFL teams and early-season talk about Super Bowl contenders. The Bengals have not handled the bright lights of Sunday night very well. They are 3-12 in Sunday night games and 1-8 on the road, with their only win coming in 1992 at Chicago in overtime.
Their last appearance was an abject disaster last December.
They took a 9-4 record into Pittsburgh and the sub-.500 Steelers pounded them into the ground, racing out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Their punter (Kevin Huber) broke his jaw when he tried to cover a Steelers punt return. He was blindsided and missed the rest of the season. The Steelers won that game, 30-20.
The Patriots have dominated this series of late, winning 7-of-9, including a 16-13 win in Bill Belichick‘s first year at the helm of the Patriots in 2000. Cincinnati’s only two wins ever in New England have come by a 31-7 score. The Bengals won in 1972 at Schaefer Stadium and in 1986 in the same stadium. The Bengals are 0-2 at Gillette Stadium, losing 35-28 in 2004 and 38-24 in the 2010 season opener.
The Bengals snapped a four-game losing skid to the Patriots with a 13-6 win last October at Paul Brown Stadium.
|10.05.14 at 11:32 am ET|
Is Tom Brady quickly approaching a breaking point with the Patriots?
On ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” Chris Mortensen reported that Brady’s role in the offense has been diminished and he’s expressing his frustration within the organization.
“Several players, coaches and former players have rendered an unsettling picture that all does not look well with Tom Brady and the Patriots and there’s a reason for it,” Mortensen said on the show. “Even though Bill Belichick chuckled when asked Monday night about Brady’s status, others close to the team now believe that when the Patriots used that second-round pick (in 2014) on Jimmy Garropolo that they were, in fact, choosing Brady’s successor, perhaps sooner than later.
“Sources say Brady is uncomfortable with the personnel and coaching changes, the consequences have led to tensions between Brady and the coaching staff, with Brady’s input into gameplans, personnel packages, formations, pre-snap adjustments being significantly diminished.”
On Friday, WEEI.com asked Belichick about Brady’s pre-snap reads versus his ability to drop back and make progressions as in years past.
“I think every week you try to do the best on pre-snap reads that you can,” Belichick said. “Some teams disguise things better than others. Some teams have a certain look that they have [and] do three or four things out of. That’s their thing. They’re going to give you a certain look and then they have multiple combinations off that look. Sometimes formations indicate pre-snap reads. Sometimes defensive alignments indicate pre-snap reads.
“It can be a combination of one or multiple things like that. It’s always important. That’s something that we absolutely talk about every week in game planning is pre-snap identification. Now, you always have to confirm what they’re doing post-snap. Against a good defense, you just can’t say, ‘OK, here’s what it looks like,’ and that’s what it is 100 percent of the time. You still have to confirm it.
“But it can certainly indicate what a lot of times it won’t be. Like, if it could be one of four things, maybe now it’s down to one or two based on a certain key that you have. But I’d say that’s an important thing every week. It’s important this week. But I couldn’t sit here ‘ I can’t imagine sitting here before any game and saying it’s not important. I would say it’s important every week. It’s similar to pass protection, those are two of the most important things you do offensively in preparation.”
Mortensen then wondered aloud if the struggles so far this season have more to do with the personnel around Brady than Brady’s skills diminishing.
“Has the staff lost faith in Brady? Or is it simply the residue of shaky personnel decisions, including the undeniable fact that since 2002, the Patriots have used 11 draft picks on wide receivers and only two — Deion Branch and Julian Edelman — have made any impact.”
Sunday night’s game against the Bengals seems bigger and bigger by the second in answering some of these questions.
|10.05.14 at 8:56 am ET|
Join Pete Davidson of WEEI.com and Rotobahn.com for his weekly fantasy football live chat, starting at 11 a.m. Sunday. Let Davidson help you set your lineups heading into Sunday’s games. Get your questions in now …
|10.04.14 at 11:30 pm ET|
1. New England had four players (Tom Brady, Nate Solder, Dont’a Hightower, Jerod Mayo) who went into last Monday’s game having played every snap on either offense or defense through the first three games of the season. Turns out, all four had their streak broken last Monday against the Chiefs, ensuring that none of the 2014 Patriots will go wire-to-wire when it comes to playing time. With that done, we’ll turn instead to consecutive games played. Brady is far and away the leader at this point with 84 consecutive regular-season games played under his belt. Among active quarterbacks, only three signal-callers have a better streak — Eli Manning (155), Philip Rivers (133) and Joe Flacco (100). Defensive end Rob Ninkovich is second at 74, and Ninkovich is second overall among DEs. (Oakland’s Jon Condo is first at 116.) And right behind him in third place is cornerback Kyle Arrington with 73 straight games played. Pittsburgh’s William Gay leads all corners with 116 consecutive games played. (One more streak-related note — Ninkovich is first on the list of active players and consecutive starts at defensive end with 53 straight starts, one ahead of Houston’s J.J. Watt.)
2. We wrote about Matthew Slater’s work as a player rep a few weeks ago, and word from the National Football League Players Association on Friday was that the veteran special teamer was elected to serve another term as the Patriots’ player rep. One of the more interesting bits of information that came out of that vote was the fact that Darrelle Revis was named an alternate rep, along with Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Wendell. According to Pro Football Talk, Revis actually ran for the job in New England, which is interesting because Revis’ uncle Sean Gilbert is set to challenge current NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith for the top job. The player reps ultimately vote on the next executive director, and it’s not absurd to think that given the close relationship between Revis and the occasionally controversial Gilbert, he would likely get a thumbs up from the New England locker room if Revis holds the vote. Something to keep an eye on going forward.
3. There have been several other high profile players who have garnered more attention when it comes to the New England (both positively and negatively), but Hightower has had a very good start. So good, in fact, that he was the only member of the Patriots to earn a spot on the Pro Football Focus first quarter All-Star team, with PFF writing, “The more versatile Hightower didn’t look great against KC, but three much better efforts get him a spot.” The third year pro has really taken a sizable step forward this year, both as a rusher and in coverage. He’s second on the team in sacks (two), tied for first in quarterback hits with Chandler Jones (four), tied for second on the team in quarterback hurries (five) and has one pass defensed.
4. The train wreck that is Thursday Night Football wheezed on this past week, as the Packers put a 42-10 beatdown on the Vikings. In the five Thursday night games this season, the average margin of victory is 29 points. For all other NFL games this season, the margin of victory has been 12.5 points. An NFL spokesman was quick to point out that since 2006, the average margin of victory in Thursday games is 13.6 points. In non-Thursday games, 12 points. In addition, he added that since 2012, home teams in non-Thursday games have a better winning percentage than home teams on Thursdays (This Cleveland.com story has a really good breakdown of Thursday games against the rest of the week.) Despite the hue and cry that has run out across Football America for the league to do something to improve the Thursday product, it’s not likely there’s any sense of urgency at the league offices to really do much about it. After all, CBS paid the league $250 million for the early-season eight-game package, and the ratings remain robust. The whole sordid mess was neatly summed up by Ben Muth of Football Outsiders Thursday evening.
Thursday Night Football is terrible, gets big ratings, & worth a ton of money. It is right on brand with the rest of CBS’ prime time lineup
‘ Ben Muth (@FO_wordofmuth) October 3, 2014
5. It’s always tough cheering for the other team, but when the Bengals hit Foxboro Sunday night, Cincinnati’s Devon Still might deserve at least a round of applause from Patriots fans. Still’s 4-year-old daughter, Leah, is being treated for cancer, and as part of an initiative to raise money for pediatric cancer care and research, the team has started donating a portion of the proceeds from the same of Devon Still game jerseys to help raise money for pediatric cancer care and research. The jerseys cost $100 apiece, and to this point, more than $1 million has been raised. The Bengals have received orders for nearly 10,000 jerseys, and the team recently announced that the jersey sale initiative will continue through Oct. 20. Still’s daughter underwent surgery last week. You can follow him here for updates, and you can order jerseys here. For the latest on Still, check out this video segment:
We’re going to eschew our traditional 10-point format the rest of the way — instead, with one quarter of the season in the books, we’re going to look at who might have the inside track on some of the league’s most prestigious awards.
|10.04.14 at 10:58 pm ET|
According to our pal Sarah Wroblewski of Fox 25, if you’re going to the game at Gillette Sunday night, make sure you dress warmly:
— Sarah Wroblewski (@sarahwroblewski) October 5, 2014
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