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Rodney Harrison on D&C: Patriots ‘have to win’ with Broncos closing in on top spot in AFC 12.05.14 at 10:07 am ET
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NBC NFL analyst Rodney Harrison joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the Patriots’ game this Sunday against the Chargers. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots are coming off a tough loss to the Packers and are looking to right the ship in San Diego. With the Broncos breathing down the Pats‘ necks for the No. 1 spot in the AFC, Harrison said this Sunday’s game is a must-win.

“I think they have to win,” Harrison said. “If you look at the Broncos‘ schedule, I think they’re going to win out, so it’s going to put a lot of pressure to pretty much have to win each and every week. But, trust me, you talk about all of that travel, this is a nationally televised game, the Chargers know their schedule, what they’re up against. Philip Rivers — he’ll be ready. He wants to show the world he’s just as good as Tom Brady, if not better. And trust me, the San Diego Chargers, they’re a very competitive team. They’re not just going to come out and say, ‘You’re the mighty Patriots.’ They watched the tape, they see some holes in the Patriots, they could probably take advantage of it.”

Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner have provided the Patriots with one of the best cornerback tandems in the entire league. Going against a pass-heavy offense in San Diego could potentially be a good matchup for the Patriots. Harrison, however, said Rivers’ receivers are better than people give them credit for.

“I disagree with you, they do have a lot of great weapons,” Harrison said of the San Diego offense. “I believe Keenan Allen is a top-10 receiver in this league. Eddie Royal‘s been a guy when he’s been there and healthy, he’s been very productive. And you look at Antonio Gates, one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game, is still a very productive guy. You’ve got Malcolm Floyd, he’s a [6-foot-5] deep threat. So they have a lot of weapons. Ryan Matthews, he’s played halfway decent. He didn’t play a great game last week, they didn’t run the ball enough last week against the Baltimore Ravens. But they’re more than capable of putting up points. And like I said before, you’re going to see a team that’s very competitive, they’re not afraid of the Patriots.”

Continued Harrison: “You talk about the cornerbacks and being good, but it’s not about Darrelle Revis and Browner. It’s about the third and fourth cornerbacks: [Kyle] Arrington and Logan Ryan. And it’s also about Patrick Chung being able to match up against Antonio Gates.”

Rivers might have the receivers to compete against the Patriots, but he has lacked the consistency to sustain a long run of success. He closed out November with a 383-yard, three-touchdown performance against Baltimore, but he started the month with three interceptions in one game in Miami. Harrison couldn’t offer a clear answer for Rivers’ inconsistencies.

Said Harrison: “I don’t know. It’s the same thing as why some players are really great. Whether it’s ability, whether it’s study habits, whether it’s the talent around him, whether it’s coaching, whether it’s a comfort level, some players can just play like that. That’s what makes Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady and Peyton Manning three of the all-time greats — just the consistency in which they played and mental preparation and just having great coaching. Philip Rivers, he’s had a great career and we’ll see what happens. I can’t answer it definitively. I like Philip Rivers. For whatever reason, he’s put up big numbers, just hasn’t been able to win the big one.”

Rodgers gave the Patriots defense a tough test because of his mobility. Rivers plays a different style, mostly staying around in the pocket.

“You’ve got to get there,” Harrison said of the defense attacking Rivers. “It’s up to those guys in the middle. Obviously, you have those edge rushers. But [Bill] Belichick and Matt Patricia do a good job of running some tackle-end stunts to put some pressure right up the middle. Philip Rivers, the one thing I watch when I watch tape, he has a tendency to really stay in the pocket and hold on to the ball. And times he’s very careless with the ball. But he has a lot of confidence in his arm, he’s a big guy, he’ll stand in the pocket, he’s tough as nails and he doesn’t care if he gets hit, he’s going to try and deliver the ball down the field.”

Read More: aaron rodgers, Darrelle Revis, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady
Rodney Harrison on MFB: Patriots can ‘play with any team’ in the NFL 12.02.14 at 12:57 pm ET
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NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Tuesday to discuss the Patriots-Packers game and look ahead to this Sunday’s game against the Chargers. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Even though the Patriots had their seven-game winning streak snapped Sunday against the Packers in a 26-21 defeat, Harrison says he would not be worried if he was a Patriots fan, as he feels the Patriots and Packers are the two best teams in the NFL.

“It’s one of those things where you have to just shake the other guys hand and say you guys beat us today. You were the better team today,” Harrison said. “But, I know [Bill] Belichick talked about the team playing hard and hanging in there and when you’re on the road in tough conditions you’re going to have to face adversity. They just made more plays than the Patriots, but if I am the Patriots I am not discouraged at all. I can learn from this definitely, and this team can play with any team in the National Football League. I still think the two best teams are the Packers and the Patriots, with Seattle being a close third.”

A major key in the game was the Packers picking on Patriots third cornerback Logan Ryan, as Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner were focused on stopping Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Davante Adams led the Packers with 121 receiving yards on six catches, mostly coming against Ryan and Kyle Arrington. He also had a tie for a team-high 11 targets.

“I just finished watching the game, and that is exactly what I said,” Harrison said. “[Darrelle] Revis did a good job, he moved from the slot, he went outside, played a great game. Gave up that one play to Jordy Nelson — that has to be expected. The third cornerback Logan Ryan — I mean, they went after him. That was an excellent game plan by coach [Mike] McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers, they went after the third cornerback. Logan [Ryan] can be a good cornerback. I think at times, his technique just as well as [Kyle] Arrington, his technique breaks down. He puts himself in bad positions. When he got beat on the deep ball, he looked in the backfield, by Davante Adams. He looked, I mean, it was like third-and-2 and he looked in the back field. As soon as you look in the backfield you create a little separation and you lose sight of the receiver. It’s basic fundamental things that can be taught.”

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Darrelle Revis, Logan Ryan, Rodney Harrison
Tim Hasselbeck on D&C: ‘I would probably feel good about New England’ in possible Patriots-Packers Super Bowl matchup 12.01.14 at 10:09 am ET
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ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the Patriots’ loss to the Packers and other news from around the league. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Sunday’s game was hyped as a possible Super Bowl preview. The game was close and lived up to a lot of the excitement going in, as the Packers came away with a 26-21 win. Hasselbeck said he would be stunned if these two teams aren’t playing each other for a championship come February.

Said Hasselbeck: “I would be surprised because I agree with your assessment of the teams. I think two really well-coached teams, as you said the quarterback play is outstanding for both sides. I think for some reason in this kind of era of if a team loses then they can’t be the best team in their conference at Sunday. And I don’t know that that’s true. But I thought that was a very good, competitive contest yesterday that was really only separated by a few key plays. So ultimately you look at it, I don’t think New England should be, and certainly don’t believe in these moral victories or things like that, but I don’t think New England should really be discouraged about how it went because I think there are some things they would do differently the second time around.”

If the two teams did end up facing each other for the Super Bowl, Hasselbeck said he might be inclined to pick a different winner.

“I think in a neutral environment with the preparation, if this were in fact going to be a Super Bowl rematch, I think I would probably feel good about New England because as I said I think they would do things differently,” said Hasselbeck. “I’ll give you an example: you look at the opening drive of the second half, they get a holding penalty on first down, [Tom] Brady is about to get hit. They actually got two guys open, but Tom’s forced to throw it early because Mike Daniels gets up the field. … And this after Green Bay scores to end the first half. Really a bad sequence there for New England, and I think how they would approach some of that play-action stuff may be different. Defensively, on third down they played a bunch of two-man. And they even at times would use [Rob] Ninkovich to try to spy Aaron [Rodgers] because Aaron definitely, when he saw two-man was eager to get out and run or eager to move around and buy some time. And I think they would approach that differently because Aaron really made them pay when they did that.”

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Tim Hasselbeck, Tom Brady,
Poll: What hurt Patriots most in Sunday’s loss to Packers? 11.30.14 at 9:31 pm ET
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There’s no question the Patriots gave it their best effort in Sunday’s 26-21 loss to the Packers in Green Bay. They did a number of things well, including keeping the Packers out of the end zone in four red zone trips, but there were some things that went wrong and had an impact on the final result.

A major issue was the Patriots’ third-down defense. New England allowed Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense to finish 10-for-17 in the game, including 6-for-9 in the first half, when the Packers scored 23 points. The biggest third-down conversion of all came just prior to the two-minute warning on third-and-4 from the Packers‘ 43-yard line. With the Patriots trailing by five and having used all their timeouts, the game was on the line. After getting a good amount of time in the pocket, Rodgers found Randall Cobb in a tight window for seven yards. Green Bay was able to kneel out the clock following that conversion.

Before that sequence, the Patriots had their chance to take the lead as they were driving into the red zone trailing by five points, following a key fourth-and-3 conversion from midfield earlier on the drive. Once inside the red zone, on third-and-9 from the 20-yard line with 3:25 left, Tom Brady was sacked back to the 29. Stephen Gostkowski came on and missed a 47-yard field goal, which set up the Packers‘ final drive and biggest third-down conversion of the game.

Green Bay came into the game with the 30th-ranked run defense in the NFL, but the Patriots finished with just 84 yards rushing on 18 carries. LeGarrette Blount led the way with 58 yards on 10 carries, while Jonas Gray had only one carry for four yards, and he didn’t get on the field until the final seconds of the third quarter. The Patriots only had nine rushes for 36 yards at the half, and just four carries for 14 yards for Blount. It seemed for a stretch of time in the middle of the game that the Patriots went away from the running game, highlighted by just three runs on 15 plays in the third quarter.

After the Patriots scored with just over a minute left in the first half to cut the deficit to 16-14, the Packers answered quick and in a big way, as on third-and-2 from the New England 45-yard line Rodgers found Jordy Nelson, against Darrelle Revis, on a slant route across the middle of the field for a 45-yard touchdown that sent the Packers into the locker room with a 23-14 lead. So instead of trailing by two at the half, the Patriots found themselves down nine.

What hurt the Patriots most in Sunday's loss to the Packers?

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Green Bay Packers, Tom Brady,
Tom Brady: ‘You live your life for moments like this and you come up short’ at 8:54 pm ET
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Tom Brady came up just short against Green Bay Sunday. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Tom Brady came up just short against Green Bay Sunday. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

No one was more disappointed or frustrated by Sunday’s 26-21 loss to the Packers than Tom Brady.

Brady was outplayed on this cold afternoon by Aaron Rodgers. By Brady’s own admission, Rodgers made the big plays that he and the Patriots couldn’t, especially late, allowing the Packers to escape and putting an end to New England’s seven-game winning streak.

“When you only score 21 points against a good team like that, you have to dig deep. Twenty-one points isn’t good enough. We have another tough [team] coming up,” Brady said, referring to the team’s trip after the game from Green Bay to San Diego for next Sunday’s game in prime time.

Rodgers was 24-of-38 for 368 yards and two touchdowns. Brady was 22-of-35 for 245 yards and two touchdowns. The difference, according to Brady, was Rodgers’ ability to pick up big plays, like third-down conversions, in big situations while the Patriots couldn’t.

Brady had the Patriots first-and-10 on the Packers 20 on their final drive and appeared ready to go in for a touchdown. Then a near-miss to Rob Gronkowski was followed by his only sack of the day. Stephen Gostkowski pushed a 47-yard field goal wide right and the Patriots saw a golden opportunity go down the tubes.

“You live your life for moments like this and you come up short,” Brady said. “I like to win and I like to go out there and compete and couldn’t ask for anything more than this opportunity.”

Brady’s frustration boiled over when Rodgers connected with Randall Cobb on a 7-yard pass over the middle on third-and-4. The first down just before the two-minute warning sealed New England’s fate and sent Brady into an F-bomb tirade on the sideline.

“Yep, yep, we had our chances,” Brady said, acknowledging the tirade. “Wish we would’ve done something when we had our chances at the end. We fought hard. We hung in there. We didn’t make enough important [plays].”
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Read More: aaron rodgers, Green Bay Packers, Julian Edelman Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Bill Belichick praises Packers after loss: ‘A really good football team, they have good everything’ at 8:33 pm ET
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Bill Belichick had nothing but praise for Mike McCarthy and the Packers team following the game. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick had nothing but praise for Mike McCarthy and the Packers team following the game. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Normally after losses, coach Bill Belichick gives the standard “We need to be better in all areas of the game, and it starts with me” comment to open to his postgame press conference.

On Sunday after the Patriots’ hard-fought, 26-21 loss to the Packers in Green Bay, Belichick wasn’t his usual self. He was all praise for the Packers and the team they have and said barely anything negative about his team — a sign he believed the Patriots gave it everything they had.

“Credit coach [Mike] McCarthy, Aaron [Rodgers], Packers, they played a good football game,” Belichick told reporters following the game. “That’s a good football team and in the end they made a few more plays than we did tonight. I thought both teams competed hard. I’m really proud of the way our guys hung in there, fought right to the end. We just couldn’t quite make enough plays in the end to come out on top. And they did. Give them credit.”

The Patriots fought the entire game, trailing 13-0 at the end of the first quarter and then 16-7 before making it a 16-14 game with just over a minute left in the first half. The Packers then scored a back-breaking touchdown with 23 seconds left in the half to take a 23-14 lead at the break. After no scoring in the third quarter, the Patriots scored again early in the fourth quarter to make it a two-point game with 13:51 left.

Following a few huge defensive stands, the Patriots had a chance to take the lead with less than five minutes remaining, trailing 26-21, but Tom Brady was sacked on a third down inside the 20-yard line — the first time in 162 pass attempts — forcing a Stephen Gostkowski field goal attempt from 47 yards out. The usual reliable Gostkowski missed and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers picked up a first down to run out the clock.

“I thought our team competed hard for 60 minutes. Everywhere,” said Belichick. “Just came up a little bit short.”

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Bill Belichick, Green Bay Packers, Mike McCarthy
10 things you have to know about Patriots-Packers 11.29.14 at 5:11 pm ET
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Sunday will mark Tom Brady's fourth career start against the Packers. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Sunday will mark Tom Brady‘s fourth career start against the Packers. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Here’s everything you need to know about Sunday’s contest between the Patriots and Packers:

Our three favorite matchups on the afternoon:

1. Running backs LeGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray against the Packers run defense: When the Packers have been pushed in close games, they’ve struggled to stop the run. Green Bay has held opponents to less than 100 yards rushing only twice in the last 18 games, dating back to last year. (In all, three teams ran for at least 150 yards against Green Bay this season, including the Saints, who had 193 rushing yards in an Oct. 26 win over the Packers in New Orleans.) This is a contest that certainly set up to be a winnable matchup for the New England ground game, which has been bolstered by the addition of Blount. As long as the Patriots aren’t forced to become one-dimensional early — more on that shortly — it could be a very big day for Blount and/or Gray.

2. Cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner against wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb: After last week’s win over the Lions, Browner offered up a small bit of insight into the philosophy of the New England secondary when it comes to facing a passing attack with two talented receivers. He said that when it comes to choosing how the Patriots deploy both him and Revis, he said that he usually gets the bigger guy, while Revis is assigned the smaller, shiftier receiver. Looking back over the last few weeks, this has rung true. That’s not to suggest that the Patriots are going to follow the same game plan this week, but based on the success they’ve had over the last few weeks, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Browner working against the 6-foot-3, 217-pound Nelson (with help over the top from veteran safety Devin McCourty) and Revis against the 5-foot-10, 192-pound Cobb. Expect slot corner Kyle Arrington and safety Pat Chung to play a sizable role as well when it comes to mixing and matching in zone coverage. But if the Patriots’ defensive backs can slow down the Nelson/Cobb combo, it’ll go a long way toward a New England win on Sunday. (For what it’s worth — the last time Aaron Rodgers faced a team with cornerback Darrelle Revis in the secondary, he completed his lowest percentage of passes of any start in his career. Meanwhile, the Nelson/Cobb combo has 38 catches for 763 yards and eight touchdowns in their last four games at Lambeau Field.)

3. Linebacker Clay Matthews against the Patriots offense:
It seems a little open-ended to pit Matthews against the whole New England offense, but the Packers have shuffled him around this season a lot, bumping one of their best pass rushers from outside linebacker to inside in hopes of improving the Green Bay run defense. Regardless of whether or not he’s rushing or dropping from inside or outside, the 6-foot-3, 255-pounder needs to be accounted for on every down — he’s a defensive difference-maker who can make plays all over the field.

4. Under the radar opponent who Patriots’ fans need to know:
It feels weird to call Julius Peppers an under-the-radar type of presence, but the big pass rusher is still getting it done, even at the age of 34. After the Packers moved Clay Matthews inside, Peppers has become Green Bay’s most consistent pass rushing presence who is playing solely on the edge. In his first season with the Packers, the 6-foot-6, 283-pound Peppers is the only guy in the league with at least five sacks and two interceptions (both of which have been returned for touchdowns.) He’s not the big-time presence off the edge he used to be, but he’s still good enough to make it a long day for New England’s offensive line.

5. By the numbers (tie) — 165:35.
The amount of time in game action that Tom Brady has gone without being sacked. The last time Brady was sacked was with 35 seconds left in the first quarter of the win over the Broncos. Since then, he’s gone three quarters against Denver, four quarters against Indy and four quarters against Detroit without being sacked. In all, he’s been sacked 14 times through the first 11 games. (In something even more impressive, 10 of those sacks have come in the last 10 games.) That represents a sizable decrease when stacked against last season — through the first 11 games of the 2013 season, Brady was sacked 31 times.

67: In his five games at Lambeau this year, Rodgers is completing 67 percent of his passes, is averaging 284.8 passing yards per game and has 18 touchdowns and no picks, to go along with a passer rating of 138.1.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Green Bay Packers, Jordy Nelson, Tom Brady
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