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Bill Belichick reminisces about how ’01 Patriots were ‘a springboard for Boston sports’, takes jab at NFL 12.04.16 at 9:20 pm ET
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Dec 4, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks on from the sidelines during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick looks on as his team improved to 10-2 Sunday in a win against the Rams. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick didn’t need to go all David Ortiz – or Troy Brown – for that matter in recalling the 2001 Patriots after Sunday’s 26-10 win over the Rams at Gillette Stadium.

Still, Belichick’s G-rated version of praise for the team that started all the winning of the past two decades was heartfelt.

Belichick was asked about his special feelings of appreciation for the Saturday night banquet that owner Robert Kraft threw for the 40-some members of the 2001 team that beat the Rams, 20-17, in Super Bowl XXXVI.

“Very special, absolutely. That was a great night for a couple of hours just to be able to see those guys again,” Belichick said. “A lot of them looked good. A lot of them looked like they could still play a couple of downs anyway. It was a lot of fun. It was great to see them. It was just a great opportunity to enjoy each other and reflect back on a great year.

“I would say not only what they did for the Patriots and the program and this organization but it was kind of a springboard for Boston sports over that decade. Not that we had anything to do with the Red Sox or the Celtics or the Bruins or anything else, but it was just the first one of many with those three great organizations. You kind of feel proud that we were the first one and that they all followed. And the [Boston] Cannons – throw them in there, too.”

Naturally, Belichick would include a lacrosse team in his historical reference.

Before Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yarder split the uprights in New Orleans, the city of Boston hadn’t celebrated a major championship since the Celtics won their 16th NBA title in 1986. The Bruins hadn’t won since 1972. The Red Sox were still mired in the 1918 Curse of the Bambino. And the Patriots, well they of course had never won it all. Since then, the Patriots have won three most Super Bowls. The Red Sox have won three World Series titles, the Celtics and Bruins have won one each while getting back to their respective finals once more. And yes, the Boston Cannons won the MLL title in 2011.

Can the ’01 team (5-5 at one point) possibly inspire his current 10-2 Patriots? Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, Super Bowl XXXVI,
Snap Judgments: Tom Brady earns record-setting win No. 201, Patriots take care of business, beat Rams 12.04.16 at 4:00 pm ET
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Dec 4, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) carries the ball to score a touchdown during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

LeGarrette Blount (29) rambles 43 yards for a first-quarter touchdown Sunday against the Rams. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — The Patriots can be grateful they were playing the Rams in the first game without Rob Gronkowski.

Tom Brady completed 33 of 46 passes for 269 yards, connected on a touchdown pass to Chris Hogan and recorded his 201st career win as a starting quarterback in a 26-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams at Gillette Stadium. Stephen Gostkowski added four field goals and LeGarrette Blount ran for a 43-yard touchdown. Brady snapped a tie with Peyton Manning to establish a new standard for NFL quarterbacks.

But on a day when they were clearly the better team, their offense never looked like it was fully in sync against a Rams unit that gave up 555 yards and 49 points a week earlier in New Orleans.

It wasn’t the most glamorous or spectacular day by any means for Brady, who was going up against a defensive line that is regarded as one of the most physical in football. With Gronkowski going on IR Saturday, Julian Edelman caught eight passes on 12 targets for 101 yards.

But offensively, the woeful Rams played like a team making a cross-country trip, with little energy and no chance of putting up any kind of fight. The Patriots sacked rookie Jared Goff four times and held the Rams to 1-for-12 on third down.

The win puts the Patriots (10-2) three games up in the AFC East with four weeks left, as the Dolphins (7-5) lost in Baltimore Sunday.

The game started as expected, with the Patriots taking the opening drive of the game and marching 80 yards in eight plays.

On 4th-and-1 at the Rams 43, Bill Belichick decided to go for it and was rewarded when LeGarrette Blount ran up to the right side of the line and then bounced outside. He had mostly green turf in front of him. He turned around a defensive back on his way to his 13th rushing touchdown of the season.

The Patriots made it 14-0 when Brady hit Hogan with a perfect back shoulder pass in the left corner of the north end zone from 14 yards out. The drive was set up when Malcolm Butler picked off a Jared Goff pass at the Rams 37 and returned it to the 30. It was New England’s first interception since Butler intercepted Landry Jones on the first drive of the game in Pittsburgh on Oct. 23.

Not everything was smooth, however, as the Patriots were building up their first-half lead. Namely, rookie Cyrus Jones continues to look extremely shaky handling all kicks.

The Rams won the toss and deferred. On the opening kick, Jones bobbled the ball four yards deep before taking it out to the 20, five yards shy of a touchback spot. Then on the Rams’ second punt of the day from Johnny Hekker, Jones muffed the punt and was saved by Patrick Chung, who raced in and recovered at New England’s 19.

Danny Amendola filled in for Jones on punt returns before getting slammed to the turf on a punt late in the third quarter. He got up hobbling, not able to put much weight on his right leg. He was seen by the medical staff and Bill Belichick on the sideline before hopping to his feet and making his way down the steps to the tunnel. The team later announced he was out with an ankle injury. Eric Rowe was also dinged up in the game with a hamstring injury.

Closing Time noteThe Patriots reached double figures in wins for the 14th straight season.

[For a full box score and stats, click here.]


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Read More: Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady
Jonathan Kraft: Patriots are going to push off a return to mediocrity ‘for as long as we can’ 12.04.16 at 1:13 pm ET
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Jonathan Kraft

Jonathan Kraft

FOXBORO — Jonathan Kraft remembers what the bad old days were like in Foxboro.

That’s why, with 2001 Patriots back in town for a reunion, the team president says he and his father are going to do everything in their power to make sure they don’t fall back there anytime soon.

The 2001 Patriots have been honored all season in the 15th anniversary of the Super Bowl win over the Rams. Several members were are in town this weekend for the festivities. On Saturday night, there was a gala dinner of sorts where everyone got together to reminisce.

“Bill made a very emotional speech about that [Saturday] night,” Kraft said on the team’s pregame radio show.

“When we saw we were playing the Rams and noticed it was a multiple-of-5 [years], it was a special time in the country, the last time a team played in Foxboro Stadium. We gathered 35-40, guys just relaxed and a handful of other people. A lot of reminiscing and story-telling. It was really fun to listen to. There were a bunch of guys that had been with us since the mid-90s on, and that really started the cultural change. Guys like Willie [McGinest] and guys like Drew [Bledsoe] and Ty [Law], Lawyer [Milloy] and Tedy Bruschi.

“As Teddy Johnson said to me, ‘I remember when I started playing here, no one cared about pro football in this town. It feels really good when I come back here now, the place pro football has. It was fun to celebrate it.

“I remember sitting on a lot of empty days at [Foxboro] Stadium and watching a lot of losing football There are cycles in the NFL and teams win and lose but it felt like… nothing ever really went all that right. That’s not to criticize anybody. That’s not directed at anybody. I do remember what that’s like and we do think about that all the time here and if you’re on edge, you can get back there pretty quick. It’s a not a place you want to revisit. You want to push it off. Eventually, you might have to but we’re going to avoid it for as long as we can.”

Kraft also sent out his best wishes to Rob Gronkowski and insisted the team considers the tight end a vital part of their future.

“You’re not happy,” Kraft said of the injury news this week. “Rob works as hard as anybody as we’ve talked about before. You really feel for Rob. it’s terrible. He loves football. It’s awesome to watch him play and he’s just a bigger than life personality, on and off the field, and you feel for him. He’s gone through a lot physically and you just feel for him.”

Kraft said there was a specific reason the team and the Gronkowski family issued a joint statement.

“I think for both sides, sometimes there’s this misperception in the public about what the relationship is,” Kraft said. “The relationship is between Rob and his family and Drew Rosenhaus [and the team] is a very strong relationship but when you’re a player of Rob’s caliber and stature, not just in New England but across the NFL, there’s a different level of attention and the conspiracy theories. Both sides remained in communication the whole time.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Drew Bledsoe, Jonathan Kraft, Los Angeles Rams
Scene-setting: Crisp and cool for Patriots-Rams as Pats look for 10th win 12.04.16 at 10:45 am ET
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File Dec 04, 10 42 43 AM

The GAMEDAY program inside Gillette Stadium for Patriots-Rams, commemorating the Super Bowl XXXVI. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — It figures to be a festive day at Gillette Stadium.

The matchup between the 9-2 Patriots and the 4-7 Rams will feature a 15th anniversary tribute to the first Patriots’ Super Bowl-winning team. Several members of the team will be on the field for a halftime celebration. The reunion is the culmination of a season-long celebration of the 2001 Patriots.

Among those expected on the field are Drew Bledsoe, Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy and Antowain Smith.

As for the game itself, the Patriots will be playing their first game following the season-ending back surgery to Rob Gronkowski.

The Patriots will have the services of Tom Brady, Chris Hogan, Martellus Bennett and Julian Edelman, all of whom were questionable but are expected to play. Alan Branch will be available to play after his four-game suspension for marijuana use was thrown out on Saturday by the league after it was determined that his positive finding came from a earlier test and not his most-recent submission.

For the Rams, they are likely to be without two key pieces. On the defensive line, defensive end Robert Quinn is in concussion protocol and not expected to be cleared for the game. Offensively, wide receiver Tavon Austin is doubtful with a chest injury after not practicing this week.

The weather will be seasonably cold for the first Sunday of December. Temperatures are expected to be in the lower 40s with little wind for the 1 p.m. kickoff with no chance of precipitation.

Chris Price has the full scouting report for the game while Ryan Hannable has 10 fun facts to consider heading into the contest.

With a win, the Patriots will clinch their 14th consecutive season of double-digit wins.

Before the game, it was reported that embattled Rams coach Jeff Fisher was given a two-year contract extension. Earlier in the week, it was Fisher, a 22-year veteran NFL head coach (Titans, Rams) who was chided on social media for not being able to name New England’s active running backs. Fisher, who also caught grief for kicking hall of fame running back Eric Dickerson off the Rams’ sideline, is three losses away from passing Dan Reeves for most losses as an NFL head coach.

The Patriots are playing the Los Angeles Rams for the first time since losing 14-0 in Anaheim on Sept. 13, 1992. Since then, the Patriots have beaten the Rams of St. Louis four times in six meetings, including Super Bowl XXXVI.

Read More: Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, Super Bowl XXXVI,
Dion Lewis has a secret to his success (and survival): Make them miss me 12.03.16 at 6:10 pm ET
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November 20, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis (33) during the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. The Patriots defeated the 49ers 30-17. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Dion Lewis has hit the ground running in his return to the NFL this season. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Dion Lewis is ready to show everybody he’s back for real.

In two games back, the running back who led the 2015 Patriots in yards from scrimmage before his ACL tear on Nov. 8, 2015, has eased his way back into the rhythm of the Patriots offense. Now with Rob Gronkowski out for the season following back surgery, it’s Lewis who might be called upon to finally get up to speed and pick up some of the slack.

Against San Francisco, he played 21 offensive snaps. Last week against the Jets, he played 23. Against the Niners, he carried the ball five times for 23 yards. In the passing game, he was targeted five times, caught three passes for 26 yards.

Last week, he carried the ball six times for 24 yards. He was targeted by Tom Brady seven times, catching four passes for 34 yards. Perhaps most telling is how Lewis has been used in the red zone. Inside the 20, he ran three times. He’s been targeted in the passing game in the red zone once each against San Francisco and the Jets.

“I think Dion has gotten better progressively each practice, each week,” Bill Belichick said. “Based on watching him practice for a couple weeks before we activated him, we felt comfortable playing him, and that’s part of his game, obviously, is his quickness, his change of direction, his acceleration. I think all of those things were evident. I think they’ve gotten better, but I think they were all evident when he returned to practice after the original – I’d say the initial break-in period.”

Lewis jokes about his 5-foot-8 stature and his ability to take the hits in the NFL game.

“I wouldn’t say survival. I would say survival for them,” Lewis joked this week. “Nah, I don’t mind getting hit but I’m not going to let somebody get me. If I can avoid getting hit, I’m definitely going to try and do that. I try to use my lower center of gravity to my advantage.”

Ironically, it wasn’t a hit that ended his 2015 season. He made a cut back to the inside on a run to the right edge against the Redskins in the first half. His left knee gave and he went down. A year later, he’s ready to finally pick up where he left off.

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Read More: Dion Lewis, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski,
Tom Brady says Rob Gronkowski injury ‘tough news for everybody’ but train doesn’t ‘stop for anybody’ 12.02.16 at 2:33 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady has been down this road before.

He’s lost his favorite tight end target to injury in 2012, 2013, last season and even one time already this season. So when the news that Rob Gronkowski would be lost for the rest of the regular season and likely until the Super Bowl, Brady tried to keep a philosophical “next-man-up” attitude.

“That was tough news to hear for everybody because he’s such a big part of our team and what we do and his enthusiasm and energy for the game and what he means to us on the field because he’s such a great player and the kind of leader he is off the field and in the locker room,” Brady said Friday. “It’s a tough loss but we’ve still got a big challenge ahead and we’re going to try to do the best we can do. We’ve got a lot of good players and we’ll be focused on what our job is, which this week is a big test playing the Rams, their defense and what they can do. Everyone is going to have to step their game up.”

Brady admitted that seeing Gronkowski need a third back surgery hits him as a person first and then a teammate.

“He’s been through a lot over the years and he always comes back strong with a great attitude and a great mindset,” Brady said. “I think that’s what everybody expects from him. He’s a great guy. He’s a great teammate. He’s a great friend. He’s a tough guy. He always battles back. And we’ll keep battling without him. We’ve got a lot of tough guys in the locker room, still. See if we can make it a season. We’re off to a good start. We’ve got to keep it going. This is the time of year where we have to play our best football.”

Now Brady must turn to the likes of Martellus Bennett, Malcolm Mitchell, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and running backs Dion Lewis and James White to pick up the slack in the passing game.

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Read More: Gronk, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski
Bill Belichick sheds little light on Rob Gronkowski: ‘We’ve talked about everything we can talk about here’ 12.02.16 at 10:34 am ET
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FOXBORO — When the Patriots and the family of Rob Gronkowski issued a joint statement Thursday night about the status of the star tight end, it was the document that gave Bill Belichick the reference point he needed to answer all questions.

In his weekly Friday morning press conference at Gillette, Belichick made the most of it.

“Obviously, we’re all disappointed,” Belichick noted in his opening remarks before taking questions. “Nobody’s worked harder than Rob and been a better teammate and all that. So hopefully things will work out positively as possible with him. All the information we gave you, really that’s all we have for now. I’m sure there’ll be more coming in as we go through the next few days. Just take it as it comes. It’s an unfortunate situation for him. That being said, we’re turning our attention to the Rams.”

Then the questions began:

Are you fortunate to have Martellus Bennett to help fill the void? “Happy to have all the players we have.”

With the loss of Gronkowski and his contributions, how big a blow is this to the team? “Again, we appreciate all our players.”

But Gronkowski has meant so much: “You want to rank them. They’re all important. They’re all important. Rob’s a great player. They’re all important.”

Might the Patriots look outside the organization for depth? “We’ll always do what we feel is best for the football team.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Gronk, New England Patriots, nfl
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