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Devin McCourty still struggling with concussion

12.25.13 at 6:41 pm ET
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There was no practice for the Patriots on Wednesday, but per league rules, they were still required to issue a simulated practice report.

To that point, wide receiver Josh Boyce (ankle) and safety Devin McCourty (concussion) would not have been able to practice if the Patriots were on the field Wednesday. McCourty left Sunday’s game against the Ravens with a head injury in the second half, and did not return. In addition, Boyce has been nagged by an ankle issue he’s been dealing with since a loss to Miami earlier this month.

Meanwhile safety Steve Gregory (finger/knee) and running back Shane Vereen (groin) would have been limited — both also left Sunday’s game against Baltimore early because of injury.

Here’s the complete report:

Did Not Practice
WR Josh Boyce (ankle)
S Devin McCourty (concussion)

Limited Participation
CB Kyle Arrington (groin)
OT Marcus Cannon (ankle)
CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee/shoulder)
WR Aaron Dobson (foot)
LB Dane Fletcher (groin)
S Steve Gregory (finger/knee)
OT Nate Solder (concussion)
LB Brandon Spikes (knee)
OT Will Svitek (ankle)
WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip)
RB Shane Vereen (groin)

Full Participation
WR Danny Amendola (groin)
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee)
CB Aqib Talib (hip)

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Devin McCourty, Josh Boyce, Shane Vereen, Steve Gregory

Why Bill Belichick isn’t taking 6-9 Buffalo lightly

12.24.13 at 3:00 pm ET
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Much more than lip service, Bill Belichick said on Christmas Eve that he is in no way taking the 6-9 Bills lightly when they come calling this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

There’s good reason for that, too.

The Bills just dealt the Dolphins a potentially devastating blow in a 19-0 win at Ralph Wilson Stadium. After wishing everyone Happy Holidays, Belichick began to detail just why his Patriots better be ready for Buffalo’s best under first-year coach Doug Marrone.

“Well, it seems like a long time since we opened the season with Buffalo,” Belichick said, referencing New England’s 23-21 Houdini act in Week 1 in Western New York. “I guess that’€™s because it was. I’€™m really impressed with the way they’€™ve been playing, obviously the way they played last week against Miami. It’€™s a good football team; explosive offensively, second leading team on the ground in the league, doing a good job. They’€™ve got a lot of explosive players. We know about [C.J.] Spiller and Stevie Johnson, those guys, [Scott] Chandler; a good complementary group. Defensively a very strong unit up front, a lot of disruptive players: rush the passer, turn the ball over, second in the league in interceptions, first in the league in sacks. It’€™s been a highly productive group.

“Obviously they know our division well from Mike [Pettine] being down there with the Jets and all that. [They’€™ve] played well in the division: lost to us on the last play, lost to the Jets on the last possession, won three games in the division. I think it’€™s a good football team that’€™s played hard, that’€™s playing well and they’€™re tough, they’€™re well coached. I think Doug [Marrone] has done a really good job with them fundamentally. They don’€™t make a lot of mistakes, you have to go out there and beat them. When you make mistakes, they take advantage of them. We can’€™t afford to make too many.”

The Bills also have two defensive weapons they didn’t have in Week 1, defensive backs Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd.

“I think the big thing for them has really been the whole quarterback situation. They’€™ve had transition at that position multiple times. I think their offensive line has played well. They got [Doug] Legursky back around the fourth, fifth week of the season. That group has had a lot of continuity and consistency, I’€™d say, relative to in the past. They’€™ve been pretty ‘€“ other than the quarterback position ‘€“ pretty healthy, I would say, offensively. Defensively, obviously they lost [Alex] Carrington but they have a very disruptive front. [Jerry] Hughes is playing great for them, [Marcell] Dareus, Kyle Williams, Mario Williams and [Kiko] Alonso has had a good year for them. They’€™ve gotten back two significant players in the secondary that we didn’€™t see in Gilmore and Jairus Byrd.

“Aaron Williams has done a nice job for them. He had to go out and play some corner for them earlier in the year. Once they got to the midseason spot, the New Orleans game, seventh, eight week, whatever it was, they got Gilmore back, they got Byrd back. I think that really solidified their secondary. They’€™re able to play Williams in there at strong safety with Byrd and that’€™s been a good combination for them. Even though [Jim] Leonhard and [Da’€™Norris] Searcy have come in there and given them good snaps as well. Certainly a big surprise has been the nickel corner [Nickell] Robey. He’€™s done a real good job for them. Kind of came out of nowhere and had a good preseason. He’€™s played all year there. He had two sacks last week. Explosive player off the edge; he’€™s played well for them too. They’€™re young in the kicking game, got a lot of young guys but they’€™re aggressive, they’€™re athletic. I think things have come together for them all the way around, to tell you the truth, in all three areas of the game. I’€™m sure they’€™d like to have more continuity at quarterback. I’€™m sure they’€™ve had to juggle a couple situations there, even at the beginning of the season. Here we are at the end of the season, I’€™m not sure that that’€™s 100 percent set for them but other than that, they’€™ve gotten guys back and they’€™ve gotten pretty consistent.”

Belichick remembers two years ago when, on the way to the Super Bowl, the Bills jumped out to a 21-0 first half lead before the Patriots scored 49 unanswered points in a 49-21 season-ending win that propelled them into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed. The same is at stake this week if the Patriots take care of business and the Raiders upset the Broncos in Oakland.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Buffalo Bills, Doug Marrone, New England Patriots

Tom Brady: ‘As the season goes on, the games only get bigger’

12.24.13 at 2:14 pm ET
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Even though its the Bills coming to town during Christmas week, the Patriots know they cannot afford a letdown.

Tom Brady acknowledged Tuesday that while the holiday presents some logistical challenges in terms of preparation — the players will get Wednesday off before returning to work on Thursday — there’s too much at stake to risk losing focus.

“We’€™ve worked too hard for too long to get to this point,” the quarterback said Tuesday. “We’€™ve got a great opportunity ahead of us, and you just don’€™t want to go out there and not give it your best and put out an effort that’€™s less than 100 percent of what you’€™re capable of — because, like I said, it’€™s been 11 months of work to get us back to this point.

“We always say as the season goes on, the games only get bigger and bigger and bigger, and I think that is this week too,” he added. “I mean, it is Christmas week, and there’€™s nothing that anyone can do to change it, this is just the way it is. But every team is dealing with it to a certain degree, so it’€™s just, when we’€™re here, the mental and physical preparation needs to be at its best.”

Brady and the Patriots are fully aware of the fact that a win over the Bills would at least guarantee the No. 2 seed in the AFC. (If they beat Buffalo and Denver loses to Oakland, that would give New England the top seed.) However, a loss, combined with a Bengals win, would drop the Patriots to No. 3.

“It’€™s going to be a huge game for us, so I think we’€™ll need our best effort,” said Brady. “I think we showed last week what we’€™re capable of if we can play four quarters of football, and that’€™s what we’€™re going to try to do this week, that’€™s what it’€™s going to take.

“We’€™re playing one of the best defenses in the league, a team that’€™s sacked the quarterback more than anybody in the whole league. They’€™ve got, I think, [the] second-most interceptions, so they put a lot of pressure on you offensively, and we’€™re going to have to find ways to answer, because they do a really great job.”

Brady has enjoyed great success in his career against the Bills — he has a 21-2 mark against Buffalo, including 11-0 at home. In those 23 games against the Bills, Brady has averaged the following stat line: 21-for-32 for 248 yards, with 2.3 touchdowns and less than one pick per game.

Despite those numbers, there’s no sense that Brady is taking this game for granted.

“There’€™s a lot to prepare for, no question,” Brady said of the Buffalo defense. “It’€™s one of those defenses that does a lot of different things. Similar to how when we played the Jets; they’€™ve got a lot of calls and a lot of looks, and they try to confuse you. They’€™ve got a lot of coverage looks, a lot of front looks, a lot of blitzes, so they put pressure on you in a lot of areas.

“I think it’€™s just ‘€“ you’€™ve got to study what they do, kind of like we do every week. It’€™s just a lot of mental preparation, and it’€™s the holiday season, but at the same time, it’€™s the most important game of the year. So I think when we’€™re here, we’€™ve really got to focus on what we need to do, which is play our best game and be on top of things right from the kickoff all the way through the fourth quarter.”

Here are some other highlights from Brady’s Tuesday Q&A:
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Josh Boyce, Devin McCourty missing from walk-through

12.24.13 at 1:26 pm ET
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Safety Devin McCourty and wide receiver Josh Boyce were missing from a Tuesday morning walk-through at the Dana-Farber Field House, according to reports. McCourty left Sunday’s game against the Ravens in the second half after suffering a head injury, while Boyce is dealing with the effects of an ankle injury he suffered in a loss to the Dolphins earlier this month.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Devin McCourty, Josh Boyce,

Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for the 2013 season

12.24.13 at 11:30 am ET
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Through 15 games, the Patriots have been flagged for 65 penalties (tied for second-best in the league) for a total of 594 yards (third-best in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

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Pressure Points: Which New England defenders have done best job getting after QB in 2013?

12.24.13 at 10:15 am ET
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Every week over the course of the 2013 season, we’€™ll provide a look at the Patriots pass rush numbers. While sacks can be overrated, when evaluated as part of a bigger picture that includes quarterback hits and quarterback pressures (the latter courtesy of Pro Football Focus), it should provide a good picture as to which defenders are consistently able to get after the quarterback. Through 15 games, the Patriots have 44 sacks (tied for sixth in the league), 85 quarterback hits and 163 quarterback hurries. Based on the official NFL game books and PFF, here’€™s a quick look at some pass-rush numbers for the Patriots to this point in the 2013 season:

Quarterback sacks
DL Chandler Jones: 11.5 (74 yards)
DE Rob Ninkovich: 7 (34 yards)
DL Chris Jones: 5 (36 yards)
DL Tommy Kelly: 2.5 (15 yards)
LB Dane Fletcher: 2 (19 yards)
DL Joe Vellano: 2 (18 yards)
DE Michael Buchanan: 2 (15 yards)
DL Sealver Siliga: 2 (13 yards)
DE Andre Carter: 2 (12 yards)
CB Kyle Arrington: 2 (11 yards)
CB Logan Ryan: 1.5 (14 yards)
LB Jerod Mayo: 1.5 (5 yards)
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 1 (9 yards)
DL Isaac Sopoaga: 1 (8 yards)

‘€¨’€¨Quarterback hits (per NFL game books)
DE Chandler Jones: 22
DE Rob Ninkovich: 16
DE Andre Carter: 7
DL Chris Jones: 7
DL Tommy Kelly: 6
DE Michael Buchanan: 5
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 5
DL Joe Vellano: 4
LB: Dane Fletcher: 3
CB Kyle Arrington: 2
DL Sealver Siliga: 2
LB Jerod Mayo: 2
DL Vince Wilfork: 1
DE Jake Bequette: 1
CB Logan Ryan: 1
S Steve Gregory: 1
DL Issac Sopoaga: 1
LB Jamie Collins: 1

Quarterback hurries (per PFF)
DE Rob Ninkovich: 42
DE Chandler Jones: 33
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 13
DL Joe Vellano: 11
DL Chris Jones: 12
DL Tommy Kelly: 6
LB Brandon Spikes: 6
DE Michael Buchanan: 6
LB Jamie Collins: 6
DE Andre Carter: 4
DL Sealver Siliga: 5
LB Dane Fletcher: 4
DL Vince Wilfork: 3
DL Isaac Sopoaga: 3
LB Jerod Mayo: 2
CB Devin McCourty: 2
CB Marquice Cole: 1
CB Kyle Arrington: 1
DE Jake Bequette: 1
CB Alfonzo Dennard: 1

By way of comparison, here’s a look at the pass rush numbers through 15 games last year.

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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players

12.24.13 at 9:00 am ET
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Every week over the course of the regular season, we’€™ll present a list of the Patriots’€™ ‘€œoffensive touches,’€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Fifteen games into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2013:

RB Stevan Ridley: 176 (166 rushes, 10 catches), 15 negative rushes, 1 negative reception, 4 fumbles lost
RB LeGarrette Blount: 131 (129 rushes, 2 catches), 9 negative runs, 2 fumbles lost
WR Julian Edelman: 98 (2 rushes, 96 catches), 6 dropped passes
RB Shane Vereen: 86 (42 rushes, 44 catches), 2 negative runs, 6 dropped passes
RB Brandon Bolden: 76 (55 rushes, 21 catches), 4 negative runs, 1 negative reception
WR Danny Amendola: 54 (1 rush, 53 catches), 1 negative reception
TE Rob Gronkowski: 39 (0 rushes, 39 catches)
WR Aaron Dobson: 36 (0 rushes, 36 catches), 1 negative reception, 7 dropped passes
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: 32 (0 rushes, 32 catches), 7 dropped passes
QB Tom Brady: 27 (27 rushes, 0 catches), 36 sacks, 16 kneeldowns, 3 fumbles lost
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 12 (0 rushes, 12 catches)
WR Josh Boyce: 9 (0 rushes, 9 catches), 2 dropped passes
FB James Develin: 6 (2 rushes, 4 catches)
WR Austin Collie: 6 (0 rushes, 6 catches)
TE Matthew Mulligan: 2 (0 rushes, 2 catches)
RB Leon Washington: 1 (1 rush, 0 catches)

Some offensive notes: The Patriots ran 62 plays on Sunday against the Ravens and 23 of them were in the shotgun, 37 percent. To this point in the season, the Patriots have been in shotgun formation on 466 of their 1,070 offensive snaps, a rate of 44 percent. (Last year through 15 games, the Patriots were in the shotgun for 554 of their 1,164 plays, a rate of 48 percent.) ‘€¦ Against the Ravens, the Patriots were in no-huddle for two of their 62 snaps. On the year, the Patriots have operated in a no-huddle on 117 of their 1,070 plays from scrimmage ‘€” 11 percent of the time. ‘€¦ New England has run 1,070 offensive plays this year in 15 games. Not counting kneeldowns, 74 have been for negative yardage. Of the 62 plays against the Ravens, four went for negative yardage ‘€” two sacks of Brady and negative runs from Ridley and Blount.

By way of comparison, here’s a look at the offensive breakdown through 15 games last year.

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