|Dolphins’ Mike Pouncey reportedly testifies before grand jury in Aaron Hernandez case||12.12.13 at 9:21 am ET|
Dolphins center Mike Pouncey missed practice Wednesday, reportedly because he was in Boston to appear before a grand jury in the Aaron Hernandez case.
Pouncey, who played with Hernandez at the University of Florida and remained close friends with the former Patriots tight end, was issued a subpoena at Gillette Stadium when the Dolphins played the Patriots on Oct. 27.
Authorities are believed to have interest in Pouncey’s knowledge about Hernandez’s alleged involvement in interstate gun trafficking.
Pouncey is expected to play Sunday when the Patriots visit Miami.
|Tom Brady on D&C: ‘People aren’t satisfied with anything less than our best every single game’||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.”
|Peter King on M&M: Matt Schaub to blame for collapse of Texans that cost Gary Kubiak his job||12.06.13 at 1:01 pm ET|
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made his weekly Friday appearance on Mut & Merloni, minutes after the story broke that the Texans had fired coach Gary Kubiak.
“I think the Texans were seriously considering firing Kubiak after the first Jacksonville loss, but the problem was the schedule that was coming up — they’ve got the Patriots and then the Jaguars in a short week,” King said, adding: “I’ve felt strongly he was going to get fired for the last two weeks. Obviously he had an opportunity to save himself, but clearly he couldn’t save himself. And that’s what today is all about. You can’t lose to the Jaguars twice in 11 days and lose 11 games in a row and keep your job. It’s ridiculous. I don’t care what injuries they had. The fact is, this is a team that vastly underachieved this year.”
Added King: “The ownership felt like it’s time, we’ve given this guy more than enough time. And they have.”
King placed the majority of the blame for Houston’s collapse on quarterback Matt Schaub.
“You saw in Houston this year how much one single player can influence your franchise. And that one single player — throwing pick-sixes three weeks in a row — was Matt Schaub,” King said. “Matt Schaub imploded. And as nice a guy he is and as much as he’s done for that franchise, he is the guy that got this team on their death spiral.”
The Texans are loaded with talent, making this an appealing job, especially with them in line for a very high draft pick.
“If you have J.J. Watt coming back, you’ve got Brian Cushing coming back from injury … you’ve got the basis of a very good defense,” King said. “And you’ve got Andre Johnson. It looks like they’ll probably lose Ben Tate, whose a good running back, but they’ve got plenty — plenty — of talent on that team to contend in 2014. If you add [Louisville quarterback Teddy] Bridgewater to that team, they’re going to be very, very good.”
|Tom Brady on D&C: ‘I don’t really think much of’ cheating accusations||12.02.13 at 9:59 am ET|
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, joining Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning for his weekly conversation, dismissed the insinuation by Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith that the Patriots somehow cheated in order to gain an advantage in Sunday’s 34-31 comeback victory in Houston.
The Patriots trailed by 10 points at halftime but turned things around in the second half. Smith questioned how New England could have figured out what the Texans were doing defensively and made the necessary adjustments so quickly and seamlessly.
Brady said the players learned of Smith’s comments after their plane landed back home Sunday night.
“Truthfully, we just played a little bit better in the second half,” Brady said. “We’ve kind of been through a lot of this before, so I don’t really think much of it, truthfully. I just kind of have moved on. I’ve already started work on the Browns and trying to figure out a way to play those guys better and get off to a better start.
“Houston was a really good team and they played well. We certainly didn’t play well in the first half to get us in that deficit. They’ve got a good defense, they’ve got good cover guys. With [J.J.] Watt and Antonio Smith they can really rush the quarterback. It was a tough game, but we found a way to win on the road, which was something that we talked about all week.”
Brady explained that the Patriots did not make major adjustments until halftime, but he said the turnaround had more to do with performance than strategy.
“If you have a bad first drive, you don’t really come over to the sideline and go, ‘All right, guys, we’ve got to change everything. Let’s scrap all the crap we’ve been practicing all week and just start making stuff up on the fly.’ But I think by halftime you have really a good enough sample size to figure out how the game’s being played, the matchups that go in our favor and the matchups that don’t go in our favor, maybe there’s some new things that they’ve done that we’ve got to adjust to,” he said.
“But ultimately, after halftime when you get a chance to kind of evaluate and say, ‘OK, well, how did that half play out?,’ you’ve got to be able to say, ‘Well, let’s stick with it and stick with what we’re doing,’ kind of what we did against Denver, or last week we said, ‘OK, these are some of the things that we’re going to get to and these are some of the matchups that we like, and we’ve got to start making the plays that we’re capable of making.’ You can call the perfect play against the perfect defense, but if I make a crappy throw, it doesn’t matter. It’s a nonproductive play. I know it’s boring, but execution is the name of the game.
“I thought we did a good job there in the second half of trying to figure out — they had a few new things that they had implemented for our game, and they definitely did some different things than we were expecting, but nothing that really blew our mind. It just was different, and we had to adjust. Then the execution ultimately was better in the second half than it was in the first half, obviously. I think that was the major difference.”
|Pats-Broncos highest-rated prime-time November game in 17 years||11.25.13 at 1:45 pm ET|
Sunday night’s Patriots-Broncos game on NBC posted a 17.0 overnight rating and 28 share, making it the highest-rated prime-time November NFL game since a Steelers-Dolphins game in 1996.
The rating peaked at 17.9/34 from 11:30-midnight, during the game’s closing minutes.
The game is the fifth-highest-ranked game in the eight-year history of Sunday Night Football on NBC, excluding NFL Kickoff games.
Denver had the highest rating of metered markets with a 48.2/71. Boston was second at 37.3/59, followed by Providence at 30.2/46.
The rating was a 26 percent increase over last year’s Season 12 Sunday Night Football game between the Packers and Giants.
|Rob Ninkovich on M&M: Bill Belichick’s decision to take wind over ball to start OT showed confidence in defense||11.25.13 at 1:39 pm ET|
Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich joined Mut & Merloni on Monday for his weekly chat, following Sunday night’s 34-31 overtime victory over the Broncos.
Ninkovich was one of the team captains who went on to the field before overtime, and he appeared confused about coach Bill Belichick‘s instructions regarding the coin toss, as Belichick went against conventional wisdom and elected to take the wind rather than the ball.
“Bill came up to each one of us and kind of explained what he wanted,” Ninkovich said. “When we won the toss, I was looking at [Devin McCourty] and I was like, ‘We want the ball, right.’ Because I thought that he was explaining we want — it was just a miscommunication between everybody when we won just of, ‘OK, Bill told us that we want to kick the ball so they’re facing the wind.’ But I guess when we won, it’s a natural instinct on overtime to be like, ‘Oh, yeah, you want the ball, right?’ ”
Ninkovich eventually looked back at the sideline to confirm Belichick’s order that the team wanted to choose the wind over the ball.
“The wind was definitely a factor. So, to have the wind at your back is definitely an advantage,” Ninkovich said. “Bill just had confidence that the defense was kind of getting into a groove there, shutting them down on their third-and-shorts, so they were trying to run those intermediate routes and stuff like that.
“It was a good call, right?”
The Broncos came into the game with the league’s leading passing offense, but they switched to the ground game for this one, with Knowshon Moreno rushing for 224 yards on 37 carries.
“I think when they realized that the wind was a factor and it was kind of difficult to get the ball down the field usually how they would normally run their offense, they just decided let’s get in third-and-manageable, like third-and-shorts so we can throw the ball maybe five to eight yards and pick up the first down,” Ninkovich said. “I think they ran the same play it seemed like 30 to 40 times. It felt like that they just ran the same inside run, inside run. It just felt like they ran it over and over again on first and second down and then they got in their spread, intermediate route type thing on third down.
“I think they might have changed their game plan once they took the field and realized that it was going to be difficult to get the ball down the field.”
Ninkovich was called for a questionable pass interference penalty during Denver’s fourth-quarter drive that led to the game-tying touchdown. On third-and-seven, Ninkovich was called for interfering with Jacob Tamme. The Broncos scored a touchdown on the next play.
“I was really surprised, because I was playing through the guy with my opposite hand to the ball,” Ninkovich said. “I was pushing through to the ball and I dove to get to the ball and the ball was thrown outside. And it almost was uncatchable, because I was right there. I didn’t feel like I tackled or grabbed the guy. I think he did a pretty good job of acting. As I tried to get to the ball, he kind of fell down.
“Again, it’s one of those things that I don’t have too many of those flags thrown on me. So, again, at the time it’s disappointing to have a good third-down stop giving them another chance to score and tie the game up.”
Added Ninkovich: “If I’m looking at the ball, and we’re both playing the ball and I’m trying to get to the ball with my hands, then there’s some contact. It happens when you’re both going for the ball. It’s not like I was just tackling him or just looking at him and he fell. I was looking at the ball the whole time. Again, it’s one of those calls that you just have to move on and move past and hope that it doesn’t affect the game to where you don’t get the win. We won, and I’m happy about that.”
|Tom Brady on D&C: ‘We were a pretty mentally tough team, and that’s what it took’ to beat Broncos||11.25.13 at 10:37 am ET|
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning, following Sunday night’s 34-31 overtime victory over the Broncos.
The Patriots trailed 24-0 at the midway point but rallied in the second half, then capitalized on a Broncos turnover late in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal.
“It was a great win,” Brady said. “Anyone couldn’t really have expected the way that one would go. It was pretty sweet.
“We really got off to such a poor start and then stormed back, and then kind of played a little bit of defensive football there in the fourth quarter and in overtime, and got a good break there at the end. It was a great team win, everybody contributed. We were a pretty mentally tough team, and that’s what it took last night. We’ll enjoy it, then we’ve got to get back to work, ’cause that’s the way it is in the NFL.”
While the Patriots were being dominated on the scoreboard in the first half, Brady said the team didn’t lose confidence, because Denver’s points were the result of Patriots mistakes.
“We had 200 yards of offense at halftime. So it wasn’t like we had 70 yards of offense and we weren’t doing anything,” Brady said. “You make those critical errors like fumbling the ball and putting the ball on the ground like we did, and we’re not going to score a lot of points. We knew if we took better care of the ball that we’d have a better chance.
“Weather played a factor. We punted to them before halftime and it ended up being a turnover; we got it, we didn’t do anything anything with it. Then late there in the game, just tough to field some of those plays and we got a few bounces. That was really a great way to win the game.
“It was a tough battle, it was two good football teams. It obviously could have gone either way, but I’m glad it went our way.”
Brady said the team did not overreact at halftime, nor were there a lot of tweaks that had to be made to the game plan.
“I think we always take our cue from coach [Bill] Belichick as a team,” Brady said. “There wasn’t much to be said, truthfully, because we had done nothing. It wasn’t like there was a bunch of adjustments. We kind of thought the game — they played the game the way that we thought they would play it, and we just weren’t doing anything to execute.
“We just talked about making some good plays and seeing if that could turn into something. It turned into one touchdown, then it tuned into two touchdowns, then in turned into a field goal, it was another touchdown. We got the ball rolling, and that’s what we needed at that point.”
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