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Peter King on M&M: ‘More confident right now’ in Patriots offense’s ability to win a game

10.18.13 at 2:10 pm ET
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Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Friday to talk about news from Foxboro and around the NFL.

The Patriots are coming off a dramatic 30-27 victory over the Saints that ended with Tom Brady throwing a touchdown pass with five seconds remaining, a comeback that King called “just a tremendously fun moment in time.”

King exchanged e-mails with Brady after the game and said Brady was excited to talk about the win and expressed enjoyment about the play of the new receivers.

“The one takeaway I have from that exchange is that while a lot of us on the outside probably think that he’s upset about the caliber of player who he’s playing with on offense, the skill players, how they haven’t really built up the depth at the skill positions befitting a guy like Brady, I think in a lot of ways I get a sense that he views it as tremendously fun to be able to beat a great team like New Orleans with three of the four guys on the field in the last minute of that game who he didn’t even know six months ago,” King said. “Sure, he knew [Julian Edelman]. But Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Austin Collie — that’s three of the four receivers he had on the field on the biggest drive of the season so far for the Patriots. I find that really compelling.”

Touching on the Rob Gronkowski situation, King said he had no special insight, but he’s led to believe that Gronkowski has been advised to be careful about rushing back so that he doesn’t cost himself big money in the long run.

“I think they’ve done a really good job of keeping that in-house,” King said. “But there’s just something about this story that it just leads me to believe that Rob Gronkowski and those around him do not want him to take the field with all of the money he has due in upcoming years. They don’t want him to turn into damaged goods so that he blows all this money that he’s going make starting next year. So, I think that has a lot to do with this.”

Added King: “I do think that if a guy is out practicing, and practicing at a very, very high level, which he has been doing for a month, and then not playing in the games — most often when that happens, when a guy is practicing at a very high level, he goes and plays in the games. Everybody has some form of injury, they’re hurt in some way. And again, I don’t know the whole story with him. I don’t. But the fact is, if you practice as well as he’s been practicing for a month and then don’t play, you’re obviously going to have a lot of eyebrows raised about why you’re not playing.”

King said in last week’s conversation that the Patriots could be in danger of missing the playoffs if Gronkowski does not return and injuries continue to be a major problem. However, Sunday’s win over the Saints altered his perception.

“This past week, with the winning down the stretch without so many valuable players, and coming back and beating a good team like New Orleans, you have to say that the depth they built up, I probably underrated,” he said. “We’ll see, especially on Sunday, a road game, weird things happen in Jets-Patriots games, they just do. But I feel a little bit more confident right now in the offense’s ability to win a game — and I’m not saying this is going to be a shootout — but I feel more confident after what I saw last weekend in the offense’s ability to score some points on a good defense after I saw what happened in the last minute against the Saints.”

Cornerback Aqib Talib, who has had a tremendous season, appears likely to miss Sunday’s game against the Jets with a hip injury. The good news is the injury comes at a time when the Patriots head into a softer part of their schedule, with games against the Jets and Dolphins before a matchup with the Steelers.

“When you look at their schedule — and again, I think that the Jets are an absolute total wild card — but when you look at the Patriots’ schedule coming up, you certainly think that if you have to miss Talib, you’re probably missing him at the right time,” King said. “Because you figure that you can put some pressure on young quarterbacks like Geno Smith and like Ryan Tannehill next week, and quarterbacks that really have been inconsistent. ‘€¦

“And I guess when I look at the Patriots right now, especially on defense, I think what has really helped them tremendously is that they’re getting pressure up front. ‘€¦ I think they’re playing so well in getting pressure compared to maybe past years that I wouldn’t worry about it as much. I worry about it against [Ben] Roethlisberger, but I wouldn’t really worry about it in the next couple of weeks as much as I would worry about it against [Drew] Brees, Roethlisbeger and those guys.”

There has been speculation that the Patriots could make a bid to obtain receiver Hakeem Nicks from the winless Giants, as Nicks is headed for free agency in the offseason and the Giants might want to get something for him if they can’t afford to re-sign him. King implied that it isn’t likely to happen.

“I think the Patriots would have to be aggressive in that, because I think Tom Coughlin is loathe to make a trade like that,” King said. “It makes all the sense in the world and they should do it, but [the Patriots have] done a really good right now in basically — at least they way I look at — they’ve done a really good job in making up for not having Hakeem Nicks. And clearly, if the Patriots were to acquire him, they’d obviously have whatever they were going to do in that bye week in early November, that would be a plus in getting him worked into the system.

“But again, I think the Giants, unless they get an offer that is really going to kind of blow them away, I’m not sure that they’re going to do anything with Hakeem Nicks. And the only way you could to make an offer that’s going to blow them away, in my opinion, is to sign him beyond this year. And I’m not sure the Patriots or anybody is really going to want to sign Hakeem Nicks long term without first bringing him onto your team to see what you’ve got with him.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Hakeem Nicks, Peter King, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady
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