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Poll: How far can Patriots go?

12.23.13 at 3:07 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With Sunday’s 41-7 blowout of the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens, the Patriots are 11-4 and positioned for a first-round playoff bye.

Does Sunday’s win make you feel these Patriots are more capable than ever of reaching another Super Bowl?

How much does Sunday's win over the Ravens change your expectations for Patriots?

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Bill Belichick: Sunday success in red zone came down to ‘better execution’

12.23.13 at 2:45 pm ET
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One of the keys to the Patriots’ 41-7 win over the Ravens on Sunday was an ability to convert in the red zone. New England — which has seen some of its red-zone numbers slip in recent weeks, including a 1-for-4 performance the week before against the Dolphins — was 3-for-3 on red zone touchdown chances. Running back LeGarrette Blount had two rushing touchdowns from inside the 20, while fellow running back Shane Vereen caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady to help lead the way in the blowout.

Asked about what happened against the Ravens in the red zone on Sunday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said it was simple.

“Better execution. It wasn’€™t a big new game plan or anything, like we put in a new offense down there. We just did things better,” Belichick said on a conference call with the media. “I think the way that [offensive coordinator] Josh [McDaniels] and the offensive coaches set some of the plays up to match up against the Ravens looks probably might have helped us a little bit too but we had some good blocking, good execution in the passing game, some very good running. Not anything revolutionary –€“ just good football from really all 11 guys that were out there on the field.

“That’€™s what it usually is when things go well, in any situation, whether it’€™s red area, third down, running game, passing game. If everybody is doing a good job, you’€™re going to have good results. If they’€™re not, it’€™s not going to look the way you want it to.”

Belichick also discussed the ability of rookie offensive lineman Josh Kline to step in as needed at the left guard spot — he took over late last week when Nate Solder went down at veteran Logan Mankins kicked out to the left tackle spot. He went wire-to-wire against the Ravens in his first start as a professional.

On Monday, Belichick gave credit to offensive assistant coach Brian Daboll for coming across Kline when Kline was a collegian.

“Josh was a good player in college,” Belichick said. “Brian Daboll worked him out in the spring, and I think that was part of the impetus of our interest in him. He wasn’€™t drafted, we were able to recruit him and sign him as a college free agent. He’€™s played guard in college but we also worked him some at center. He played both center and guard in the preseason. Versatile guy, he’€™s got good intelligence.

“He was kind of on and off the roster a little bit early in the year. He’€™s worked hard and steadily improved through the course of the season in every area: his versatility, run blocking, pass blocking, work in the weight room. He’€™s given us confidence in the way that he’€™s practiced. We just felt yesterday that was the best way to go with the lineup. Of course Logan is one of our most dependable players and he certainly came through big yesterday playing left tackle against some pretty good players over there and definitely holding his own, doing a good job.”

Following are more highlights from Beichick’s Q&A.

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Josh McDaniels says Pats want to dictate offensive style ‘regardless of who we’re playing’

12.23.13 at 2:25 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Kyle Arrington called it throwing the first punch. Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater said it was just matching Baltimore’s toughness.

On Monday, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said the Patriots simply wanted to dictate and not be dictated to.

That’s how McDaniels summed up the somewhat head-turning decision to take it to the Ravens on the ground Sunday, choosing to attack Baltimore’s apparent strength on defense.

The Patriots ran the ball 34 times for 142 yards, averaging 4.2 yards a pop against a defense that was yielding just 102 yards a game coming in, seventh-best in the NFL.

“We certainly want to try to do things that we feel like we can do well regardless of who we’€™re playing, and then we also want to try to factor in the different variables in terms of matchups, personnel, all of the different things that go into each player, each series in the game, you want to factor into those things too, because they can certainly give you the best chance to be successful,” McDaniels said. “You’€™re not going to trick the Ravens. You’€™re not going to beat them that way, and so you’€™re going to have to stand in there, but you know it’€™s going to be a tough, physical game, you know it’€™s going to be a situation where you’€™re going to have to fight it out for four quarters, and I thought our guys did a good job of staying in there and slugging it out with them.

“It wasn’€™t always pretty, but in the end it was effective enough for us. I thought the important things were we took advantage of the opportunities that we had in the red zone, we didn’€™t turn the ball over, and then the guys really stayed committed to making yards in the running game and giving us an opportunity to stay ahead on the sticks, and then did a good job of finishing the last drive.”

Logan Mankins said after Sunday’s game that the offensive line was very aware of the commitment to the run and wanted to give McDaniels every reason to keep grinding away on the ground.

The other area that had to make McDaniels and Bill Belichick happy was their execution in the red zone. The Patriots were a perfect 3-for-3, LeGarrette Blount running it in twice while Tom Brady found Shane Vereen in the flat for the third.

“Obviously it’€™s good to score touchdowns when you’€™re down there,” McDaniels said. “I think we only had four plays down in the red zone, maybe five, and we had three trips and only four or five plays I think total. We were fortunate to run it in twice, once on the goal line, and guys did a good job.

“That’€™s always a tough situation against a good defense. You’€™re trying to get a yard and you just bang it out, and guys did a good job of letting LeGarrette [Blount] get to the line of scrimmage, then he muscled his way in there. And then we were able to come up with a play in the passing game there with Shane [Vereen] where the guys executed well, and then we were running the ball effectively on that last drive and got it into the red zone and just stayed with that formula, and they got it in there too. Each week in the red area, it’€™s its own game. Statistics from the past, they don’€™t really determine what’€™s going to happen from one week to the next, they just kind of tell you what happened in the past. This is a week to week thing, and we’€™ve got to do a good job of preparing now for a very good Buffalo defense, and the challenge will be a little different in terms of maybe the scheme or the players this week, but again, if we do a good job then we’€™ll give ourselves a great chance, and if we don’€™t and Buffalo executes better than we do, then you could find some struggles. The guys did a good of executing, and they deserve the credit.”

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Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Josh McDaniels, LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots

Kyle Arrington on M&M: ‘Definitely want to throw the first punch’ when playing physical Ravens

12.23.13 at 11:57 am ET
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Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich and cornerback Kyle Arrington checked in with the Mut & Merloni show on Monday to recap Sunday’s 41-7 victory over the Ravens. To hear the interviews, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Ninkovich said after the game that he was confident the Patriots would win after a solid week of practice.

“I think this week we really just emphasized the better we’re prepared for this game, the more execution we do on the practice field, the more confidence and the faster we’re going to play come game time,” he explained. “I think that it really started Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. I had a great feeling about practice week. We were running around, executing well. Everyone was doing their job. That’s what it comes down to.”

Arrington agreed that the team was especially locked in, for a number of reasons.

“Looking at guys’ faces, how focused everyone was, the week of preparation, I can definitely see where Rob was coming from,” Arrington said. “Definitely had a good feeling heading toward the game. A lot of implications on the line as well. Guys really didn’t need any extra motivation for this game. Plus a team who ended our season last year. Definitely one of those games where you mark it on the schedule.”

The Patriots were coming off a disappointing loss to the Dolphins and rebounded well.

“The Miami game, we let that one go, we didn’t finish that game on defense and had a bad taste in our mouth,” Ninkovich said. “We’ve played the Ravens a lot since I’ve been here. It’s a team that we know well. You know their concepts, we’ve played them a bunch in the past. You just throw on a tape of them and see the things that they do well. Just going out there and having a good game plan, and executing the game plan, that’s what it’s all about. So again, I think having the great week of preparation helped us execute in the game.

“Also, playing those guys is motivating in itself. Just ’cause it’s not like you’re playing your best friends out there.”

The Patriots responded to questions about their ability to match the Ravens’ toughness with a strong effort on both sides of the ball.

“Whenever you play Baltimore it’s always a physical game, hard-hitting game,” Arrington said. “You definitely want to throw the first punch. I think we came out, strike fast and then never look back.”

Said Ninkovich: “Every time we play them, it’s always a physical game. I’m very sore today. It’s just the way it is. When you look at the schedule to start the season, I just knew this was going to be a tough game. We always play each other tough.

“It’s always a good game, and I was happy that we were able to go out there and perform well for four quarters.”

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Tom Brady on D&C: Win over Ravens ‘great test of character for us as a team’

12.23.13 at 10:55 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning, following Sunday’s surprising 41-7 rout of the Ravens in Baltimore. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

“It was a great win,” Brady said. “To go on the road against a team that we’ve struggled with the last bunch of times we’ve played them, really a huge win for our season. Yeah, it was satisfying. We talked about it all week, we had a pretty tough loss in Miami, and I think fought back through a long week. We put a lot into the week. There was a lot of preparation. I don’t think there were many people that thought we could go in and beat those guys. That was really a great test of character for us as a team.”

Brady didn’t deny using the Patriots’ underdog status as a motivator for Sunday, but he insisted the players try to avoid getting caught up in what the media says about the team.

“This week everyone will be picking us,” Brady said. “Across the board, everyone’s going to think, oh, Patriots over the Bills, like it’s going to be some easy win, which is so far from the case in the NFL. I just think you have to ignore all the noise because it’s all a bunch of hot air, it’s all a bunch of B.S. You just don’t want to listen to it. You want to try to focus on what you need to focus on.

“Every team presents different challenges. We went into the game feeling like we could match up against these guys. We played great defensively, we played great on special teams against one of the best special teams units in the league. And offensively we got off to a decent start. It was a good win. Now this game that’s coming up is the one that’s the most important one of the year.”

The Patriots relied more on their running game Sunday than they have in a while, rushing the ball 34 times compared to 26 passes.

“Well, we wanted to stay balanced; we always want to stay balanced,” Brady said. “It just turned out that our execution in the run game was really good all day, and our execution in the pass game probably wasn’t as good as what it’s been. As the game evolved, we got out to a lead and then tried to just play smart and play aggressive — try to play aggressive but for the most part try to force them to defend our running game, and our running game really set the tone there the whole second half. In the first half, too, we were really efficient running the ball. Our backs did a great job finding the holes. The line did a great job against a really good defensive front.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Dan Marino, Drew Bledsoe, Peyton Manning

Patriots’ slate of opponents for 2014 now set

12.23.13 at 9:16 am ET
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With the Patriots wrapping up the 2013 AFC East title on Sunday — and the AFC West and North also being decided — it allows for the 2014 schedule to come into a sharper focus. Keeping in mind that each season, each team plays the other teams in the conference that finish in the same place that they do within their division, as well as the fact that the AFC East will play the AFC West and NFC North in 2014, here’s a look at New England’s opponents for next season. (The dates and times will be announced this spring.)

Home: Jets, Dolphins, Bills, Bengals, Broncos, Bears, Lions, Raiders
Road: Jets, Dolphins, Bills, Chiefs, Chargers, Colts, Packers, Vikings

Tom Brady left hanging by his teammates … again

12.23.13 at 8:22 am ET
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Tom Brady is having a heck of a time trying to get high-fives from his teammates. First it was earlier this year …

And then Sunday …



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