|12.09.13 at 10:03 am ET|
ESPN’s Adam Schefter joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the potential season-ending injury suffered by Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, and the team’s third straight come-from-behind victory on Sunday.
New England scored 13 points in the final 2:39 and overcame a late 12-point deficit to defeat the Browns 27-26 at Gillette Stadium. But the win came with a gigantic loss in the big picture. Schefter reported that the team fears Gronkowski tore his ACL, an injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season.
‘There have been some reports that it’s an ACL and an MCL,’ Schefter said, adding: ‘When he’s out there, they average 32 points, without him there they average 20. They’re just a more dynamic offense, a more dangerous offense.’
The Patriots played the first six games of the season without Gronkowski, who was recovering from multiple offseason surgeries.
‘They are not nearly as formidable without Gronk,’ Schefter said. ‘This team has been resilient, it has been crafty, it has been incredibly lucky, remarkable, talented, clutch to come back the way that it has. To think that it could go beat a Denver or a Seattle without Gronk, I’m not going to say it can’t happen because it certainly can, but it just becomes that much more challenging to be able do without a guy like that.’
Gronkowski’s injury history in his young career is becoming extensive. He’s broken his arm multiple times, he’s had back issues in both college and the pros, and he just suffered perhaps the most serious injury of his football career.
‘One of the knocks on Gronk, and the reason that he slipped to the second round to begin with, was a question of his health,’ Schefter said, adding: ‘That was why someone as freakish as him was there in the second round.’
|12.09.13 at 8:58 am ET|
After leading the Patriots to a 27-26 victory over the Browns on Sunday, quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to discuss the miraculous comeback.
The Patriots trailed by 12 points with just over a minute remaining but rallied with two touchdown passes from Brady to pull out the win.
“You can’t draw them up any better than that,” Brady said. “I know emotionally it’s draining for all of us, because you ride the highs and lows and the waves of the game. But however you can get a win, you get a win, especially in the NFL. There’s teams — Carolina got beat up pretty good yesterday, Seattle got beat; everyone said they’re the best team. You just never know in the NFL.”
The Patriots appeared headed to a disastrous loss against an unheralded Browns team before turning things around late.
“We got booed at halftime,” Brady noted. “We’ve just got such high expectations for our team, and people aren’t satisfied with anything less than our best every single game. It’s just the way it is around here. We’re just trying to go out there and give our best, and whoever’s out there we’re going to try to make the plays to win the game. But it’s a tough league. You sustain injuries. We’re trying to find ways to make different combinations work.
“We’re 10-3, for God’s sake. It hasn’t been all bad this year. There’s been a few decent things in there.”
Sunday marked another late-game comeback for a team that has made a habit out of such finishes this season.
“I think there’s a sense that we’re never out of it,” Brady said. “And we’re not trying to get down, by any means. We’re trying to play well and play from ahead. We got out of it, out of rhythm early, and then we found our rhythm. And when we get our momentum going, we’re pretty good.”
The enthusiasm about the win was tempered somewhat due to an injury to Rob Gronkowski that reportedly will end his season. Asked if the Patriots could still win the Super Bowl without the standout tight end, Brady wouldn’t speculate.
“That’s perfect for you guys to talk about all day, but that’s not something that we engage in or talk about those types of things,” Brady said. “However it ends up playing out — I don’t know anything about the injury or severity of it — but we’ve got a talented group of players that are playing. Every team has players that they wish were out there every down, and if they’re not out there every down you’ve still got to find a way to win.
“Our thoughts are with him, and I know how tough he is and how much he wants to be out there with us. We’ll see how it plays out.”
Added Brady: “If there’s one thing he has, it’s mental toughness. He’ll be back, regardless of what it is, better than ever.”
|12.09.13 at 8:51 am ET|
Here’s a quick rundown of what some NFL analysts were saying about the Patriots before and after Sunday’s game against the Browns.
Sterling Sharpe on NFL Network on the Patriots, before the game: ‘If they stay healthy, nobody wants them to come to your place or certainly go to Foxborough in the playoffs’¦This football team’s going be hard to deal with down the stretch.’
Marshall Faulk on NFL Network on Patriots running back Shane Vereen, before the game: ‘[Shane] Vereen, coupled with Tom Brady, could be the best back they’ve had come out of the backfield since Brady has been there because of his ability to stretch the field.’
Michael Irvin on the Patriots on NFL Network before the game: “I say they are built for the long-haul’¦Their three losses were all by one possession; they were all tough, [hard] fought games. They would blow everybody out for years and then get in the playoffs and go up against a tough team like Baltimore [who would say], ‘We’ll just be physical with them.’ Now they have this, they have been physical.’
Tony Dungy on NBC after the game: ‘I get so frustrated watching people not know how to play situational football. But good teams, like New England and Baltimore, know how to keep their poise in the final minute.’
Deion Sanders on NFL Network on the pass interference call on Cleveland cornerback Leon McFadden in the end zone against the Patriots, after the game: “This is suspect. You can call it but it’s really not pass interference’¦You could call it, but you have to let them play because that’s going to change the game.’
Tony Dungy on NBC, who disagreed with crucial defensive pass interference call on Browns late in the game, on the officials in the Browns-Patriots game: ‘In the last two minutes, everybody has to play under pressure, including the officials. In this play, everybody didn’t do their job.’
Willie McGinest on NFL Network after the game, on the Patriots moving forward without tight end Rob Gronkowski: “It’s survival mode. They go right back into what they were at the beginning of the year before they had [Rob] Gronkowski when he was hurt; finding different ways to get different guys the football.’
Rodney Harrison on NBC after the game, talking about Rob Gronkowski’s injury: ‘It’s hard for me to think they can go very far in the playoffs without his production.’
|12.08.13 at 11:20 pm ET|
FOXBORO ‘ With already two miraculous comebacks at home this season, the Patriots may have outdone themselves Sunday afternoon in their 27-26 win over the Browns.
Trailing by 12 with just over two minutes to play in the game, Julian Edelman hauled in a two-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady making it 26-21 with 1:01 remaining and then the Patriots recovered a Stephen Gostkowski onside kick, setting up Danny Amendola‘s game-winning one-yard touchdown catch with 31 seconds left in regulation sending what was left of the Gillette Stadium crowd into jubilation.
The most significant play of their two touchdowns in 30 seconds outburst was Kyle Arrington‘s onside kick recovery.
According to author Bob Hyldburg, it was the first time in Patriots history that the team recovered an onside kick and then converted the ensuing possession into a game-winning score. The last time the Patriots recovered an onside kick was 1995 in a Wild Card game against the Browns where Bill Belichick was on the opposing sideline, but even with the recovery the Patriots fell 20-13 — this time it was a much sweeter outcome for the Patriots.
Gostkowski’s kick went to the middle of the field where it was touched by Cleveland’s Fozzy Whitaker and then Arrington alertly pounced on the ball giving the Patriots possession at the Browns’ 40-yard line.
‘It was a perfect kick by Stephen [Gostkowski],’ special teams captain Matthew Slater said. ‘I don’t think he could have kicked that any better. The way we practiced it, I don’t think he’s ever kicked it that good. What can you say about Stephen and the year that he’s had? He’s been so reliable for us game in and game out, so I’m really not surprised that he executed like that because of the year he is having. Kyle [Arrington] did a great job of being alert and getting on the ball and we executed the ball the way we ideally drew it up.’
For Gostkowski and all kickers for that matter, it’s something they practice a lot, but very rarely does it come up in live game situations.
|12.08.13 at 8:11 pm ET|
FOXBORO ‘ With the Patriots losing tight end Rob Gronksowski midway through the third quarter with a serious right knee injury after just two catches for 32 yards and the Browns limiting Danny Amendola to four catches for 36 yards, the team needed someone to step up in the passing game.
The spark they needed came from running back Shane Vereen, whose 12 catches for 153 yards set team records for a running back in the Patriots’ wild, come-from-behind, 27-26 win over the Browns.
The third-year running back out of California has made a significant comeback after playing sparingly in his first two seasons.
In Vereen’s four games since returning from a broken wrist, quarterback Tom Brady has targeted him 45 times and has been successful on 33 of them (73 percent), clearly demonstrating an increase in chemistry. In his five games overall this season, Vereen is averaging 7.2 yards per touch and is currently two rushes away from being the third running back in Bill Belichick‘s tenure in New England to reach the 40-rush/40-catch mark in a season. The other two are Danny Woodhead last year and Kevin Faulk in 2008.
‘Helping the team win,’ Vereen said of the biggest factor in his career-high for receiving yards. ‘I mean, if I had to catch the ball in order for us to win the game and make some plays throughout the year, then that’s what, hopefully, I’ll be able to do going forward. Really, it’s all about the team and it’s all about getting a victory.’
Vereen almost singlehandedly gave the Patriots a huge lift after they were seemingly knocked out late in the third quarter. After the Patriots scored their first points of the day, a 33-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski with 1:37 left in the third, the Browns immediately responded with a 80-yard touchdown reception from Josh Gordon on the next play from scrimmage making it a 19-3 game.
Then, led by Vereen, the Patriots responded just 1:19 later with a 6-yard Vereen touchdown run, which was set up by a 50-yard reception from the Patriots running back up the left side, followed by another reception for 16 yards over the middle on the next play.
For Vereen, it’s been an up-and-down first few seasons in New England after being selected in the second round in 2011. After missing time due to a few injuries, he’s now getting more action of late and is making the most of his opportunities.
‘Shane, the more opportunity he’s gotten, the more he’s been able to do for us,’ Belichick said. ‘In his rookie year, in the Kansas City game, [in] limited chances he had that year, he was productive. Last year we had some depth in our backfield. When he got an opportunity to play, he did a good job. He obviously had a great game in Buffalo and then missed the next eight weeks. When he’s been in there, he’s been pretty productive for us.’
|12.08.13 at 8:06 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Midway through the second quarter, Tom Brady had a quarterback rating of 31.7. He had completed just 7-of-19 passes for 95 yards and threw an interception to D’Qwell Jackson.
He finished 32-of-52 for 418 yards, including 153 to Shane Vereen. Brady finished with two touchdown passes and a 91.7 rating. Oh yeah, he led the Patriots to their third miraculous win at Gillette Stadium this season, this time 27-26 over the Browns.
“That was awesome. That was awesome,” Brady said after finding Danny Amendola for the game-winning touchdown with 31 seconds remaining. “What a game. I’m just proud of the guys. We fought through a lot of adversity. A lot of mental toughness. We grinded it out, so it was pretty sweet.”
Brady went from one of his worst performances of the season to one of his most clutch over the course of 30 minutes. Just like he did against New Orleans. Just like he did against Denver.
Brady was asked if he’s worried about just cutting it too close, like spotting Cleveland leads of 19-3 late in the third quarter and 26-14 with 90 seconds left.
“We’re not trying to give them those leads and certainly our execution wasn’t great, but we came through when we needed to. We’ve been playing 60 minutes all year,” Brady said. “We’re 10-3. It was a great win.”
As for the nasty injury to Rob Gronkowski, Brady, like the rest of the team, can only hope for the best but fear the worst.
“I don’t know what the circumstances are, but we’re all there with him,” Brady said. “We love him and he’s a big part of this team. We’ll see where he’s at.”
Does that temper the excitement about the win at all?
“Yeah, it hurts to see any of those guys go down,” Brady said. “Certainly with Gronk, and we’ve sustained some pretty big injuries this year with really important, critical players, so we’ve got to just keep bouncing back. No one feels sorry for the Patriots. I think we all feel sorry for Rob, but I don’t think anyone feels sorry for the Patriots. We’re with him. We support him.”
|12.08.13 at 7:12 pm ET|
“We’ve got his back, that’s for sure. Gronk’s a leader on the team. He’s one of the best. We’ve got his back whenever he comes back. It’s frustrating to see him go down. You feel for him.”
The very next play after Gronk’s injury in the third quarter, with the Patriots already trailing 12-0, Tom Brady was strip-sacked and lost the ball. The Patriots, understandably, seemed to have the emotional wind knocked out of them.
“You feel for a guy that gets injured,” Amendola said. “You play the game hard and you fight for four quarters. Unfortunately, it’s a physical game and stuff like that happens but he’ll bounce back and I’m sure he’ll be great again as soon as possible.”
One way to get a teammate’s back is to make plays and pick up the slack. That’s exactly what Amendola did on, getting open for the 1-yard TD pass reception on a Brady rollout to his right.
‘It’s a play we work on every day in practice, actually,” Amendola said. “They manned it up, and we did a good job of executing. It was a good play.
‘We found ourselves behind, and all we wanted to do was focus on executing the plays at hand, and one play at a time, and that’s all you can do at that time. You try to make as many plays as you can, try to stack them up and put a drive together.’
If nothing else, the Patriots showed – for one game – they have the mental toughness to overcome the loss of one of the best offensive weapons in the game, digging out of a 12-point hole in the final 61 seconds.
‘We just tried to execute the plays we work on in practice and tried to make as many plays as we could,” Amendola said. “Situational football, get out of bounds and stop the clock, move the ball, try to get in the end zone.’
Another player who had Gronk’s back was kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who executed the first successful onside kick by the Patriots since 1995, when Bill Parcells‘ Patriots turned the trick against Bill Belichick‘s Browns. The kick with under a minute left set up Amendola’s game-winning touchdown.
‘It was fantastic,” Amendola said of Gostkowski’s kick. “Those specialists work so hard on their craft and kicks, and I’m sure Gost [Stephen Gostkowski] was really excited about it. It was a big play ‘ play of the game.’
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