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Bill Belichick encouraged by ‘competitive’ pass D, red zone stops 08.14.15 at 12:50 pm ET
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Robert McClain reacts after a play in the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers during Thursday's preseason game at Gillette Stadium. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Robert McClain reacts after a play in the third quarter against the Packers during Thursday’s preseason game at Gillette Stadium. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Not everything was bad for Bill Belichick and the Patriots on Thursday night in a 22-11 preseason loss to the Packers.

Perhaps one of the most encouraging developments came in red area and fourth-down defense against arguably the premier quarterback in the game not named Tom Brady.

Aaron Rodgers played the first three series. On his first drive, he handed off to Eddie Lacy, who ran through and around the Patriots defense until the Packers had first-and-goal at the 5. Chandler Jones and Jonathan Freeny combined to make a stop on Lacy on first down. Jamie Collins made a tackle of Lacy on third down and Rodgers was forced out of the pocket and threw incomplete on fourth down.

On the second drive, Jabaal Sheard made stop of James Starks on fourth-and-1 at the Patriots 34. On the third drive, Rodgers threw incomplete on third-and-7 from the Patriots 7. What was the key to success?

“I thought, with the exception of a couple of plays, overall our pass coverage was competitive and our pass rush was competitive,” Belichick said. “We just didn’t do a good enough job on — we let a few drives get extended with penalties, with a couple conversions on second-and-long, so we never got to third-and-long. But, overall in those situations, we covered fairly well. The quarterback had to hold the ball, scrambled around two or three times, got a little pressure on a couple of those plays.”

Those are significant words from Belichick since there has been so much talk this spring and summer about how the Patriots were going to replace Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner (carted off Thursday night) and Kyle Arrington. Belichick generally was pleased with Robert McClain and Bradley Fletcher, though Logan Ryan did get beat by Jeff Janis for a touchdown late in the second quarter.

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Read More: 2015 Patriots Training Camp, aaron rodgers, Bill Belichick, Drew Brees
Aaron Rodgers hopes for Deflategate resolution soon, offers support for ‘buddy’ Tom Brady at 1:46 am ET
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Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have been buddies for some time.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have been buddies for some time. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Thursday he’s hoping there’s a resolution to Deflategate sooner rather than later.

Speaking after Green Bay’s 22-11 preseason win over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, Rodgers called Tom Brady “a buddy” and sounded hopeful there would be some sort of closure on the matter before the start of the regular season.

“Tom’s a buddy, and he’s going through some stuff right now. I’m sure we’ll have resolution here pretty soon,” Rodgers said.

He added: “I don’t know enough about it to make any comment on [Deflategate]. But Tom’s a buddy, and I’d like to see it get figured out before the season.”

Rodgers touched on the bond that connects each one of the NFL starting quarterbacks.

“There’s only 32 of us,” Rodgers said. “[There are] a lot of expectations. A lot of adversity. We also have a great opportunity and platform to make a difference. I think you realize how difficult it is to play the position, the stuff you deal with every single day. You wear a lot of hats, as a leader, as an encourager. As a supporter. As a cheerleader. Disciplinarian. You lead from a lot of different vantage points. It’s also really thrilling. You know what those guys are going through and it’s fun to get to know some of the guys.”

For the record, Rodgers was asked — tongue-in-cheek — about the state of the footballs for Thursday’s contest.

“So you were OK with the air pressure in the ball tonight?” asked a reporter near the end of his postgame session with the media.

“Yeah, it was good,” the Green Bay star said with a straight face.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: aaron rodgers, Deflategate, Tom Brady,
WEEI QB Power Rankings: Training camp edition 08.07.15 at 12:16 pm ET
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Aaron Rodgers is our No. 1-ranked QB as training camp begins around the league. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Aaron Rodgers is our No. 1-ranked QB as training camp begins around the league. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Quality NFL quarterbacks are hard to come by. Just ask the Browns. A QB doesn’t even have to be that good to get a long-term contract from the team that drafted him (see Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Tony Romo, Ryan Tannehill, etc.).

The top 18 players in this edition of the WEEI QB Power Rankings all started for the same team as they did last year. Unlike running backs, tight ends and pretty much all defensive players, the roster turnover only happens at the bottom of the talent pool. Only eight (maybe nine) franchises will see a new face under center in Week 1. It will be interesting to see who wins the Sam Bradford-Nick Foles trade. On to the rankings:

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers — There’s not a lot to criticize with Rodgers. He’s in his prime (31 years old) and is coming off a season with 38 touchdowns vs. just five interceptions. His athleticism allows him to roam outside the pocket and throw lasers on the run. Also, he does it all in a cold-weather stadium, which fans around here can appreciate.

2. Tom Brady, Patriots — We’ve come a long way since that Week 4 loss to the Chiefs. The (barely) 38-year-old is entering his 15th season. His last game was against the second-best defense of the millennium and he was nearly perfect. A minor offseason distraction likely will motivate him in 2015.

3. Andrew Luck, Colts — Luck is the best of a good group of young QBs. He’s fast, can take a hit and make all the throws, but most importantly, he sees the field and reads progressions as well as anyone in the league. He needs to throw fewer interceptions, but that usually comes with age.

4. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers — Last season Big Ben threw for almost 5,000 yards, the most of his career. At 33 years old, he’s got more than enough tread on the tires to keep up the pace.

5. Russell Wilson, Seahawks He doesn’t need to throw the ball 50 times a game for the Seahawks to win. Unlike many young QBs, he’s got the benefit of an outstanding defense and stellar running game.  Teams will have a harder time stopping him now that former Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is a part of the offense.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady
Patriots officially sign Matt Flynn 06.12.15 at 3:28 pm ET
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Matt Flynn is set to join the Patriots after two stints with the Packers. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Matt Flynn is set to join the Patriots after two stints with the Packers. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — It’s official. Aaron Rodgers‘ former backup is now fighting for the same job behind Tom Brady.

The Patriots made the signing of veteran signal caller Matt Flynn official on Friday, as the Patriots give some serious internal competition to Jimmy Garoppolo for the backup role, and likely the starting job to start the season with Brady’s suspension looming.

Former SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert had been sharing reps with Brady and Garoppolo in OTA practices before his release on Thursday.

Flynn, 29, is a veteran of seven NFL seasons with Green Bay (2008-11, 2013-14), Seattle (2012), Oakland (2013) and Buffalo (2013). The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder, originally entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft pick (209th overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft by Green Bay out of Louisiana State.

He has played in 51 NFL games with seven starts and has completed 219-of-357 passes for 2,541 yards with 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Filling in for a concussed Aaron Rodgers, Flynn made his first NFL start in a Sunday Night Football game against New England on Dec. 19, 2010 at Gillette Stadium, completing 24-of-37 passes for 251 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

After serving as Green Bay’€™s backup quarterback from 2008 through 2011, Flynn was signed by Seattle as an unrestricted free agent on March 18, 2012. He was traded by Seattle to Oakland on April 1, 2013, and spent the first five weeks of the year with the Raiders before being released on Oct. 7, 2013.

Flynn was signed by Buffalo on Oct. 14, 2013 and was with the Bills for three games before being released on Nov. 4, 2013. He was re-signed by Green Bay on Nov. 12, 2013. Last season, Flynn played in seven games for the Packers and completed 8-of-16 passes for 66 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.

Read More: aaron rodgers, Garrett Gilbert, Green Bay Packers, Jimmy Garoppolo
Seahawks pull off miracle, shock Packers to head back to Super Bowl 01.18.15 at 6:34 pm ET
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Luke Willson celebrates a miraculous 2-point conversion with Jermaine Kearse as the Seahawks pulled off a miracle in the NFC championship Sunday. (Getty Images)

Luke Willson celebrates a miraculous 2-point conversion with Jermaine Kearse as the Seahawks pulled off a miracle in the NFC championship Sunday. (Getty Images)

Epic.

In one of the most shocking endings in NFL postseason history, the Seattle Seahawks punched their return ticket to the Super Bowl in miraculous fashion. Russell Wilson, who had struggled badly throughout the game, connected with Jermaine Kearse from 35 yards out just over three minutes into overtime to give Seattle a 28-22 win over Green Bay in a monumentally classic NFC championship game at CenturyLink Field.

Trailing 19-7 in the final three minutes, the Seahawks scored twice, executed a perfect onside kick and converted a miraculous two-point conversion to forge a 22-19 lead with 1:25 left. Then a hurting and hobbled Aaron Rodgers engineered a scoring drive that ended with Mason Crosby’s fifth field goal of the day, a 48-yarder, that forced overtime and prompted huge cheers from the crowd watching inside Gillette Stadium.

The overtime pushed the start time of the Patriots-Colts AFC championship back 10 minutes.

For the first 57 minutes, it appeared for all the world that Green Bay would be headed to Glendale.

Rookie defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix intercepted Wilson twice in the first half and Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass as the Packers built a 19-7 lead.

The game was a sloppy affair in the first half, as the two teams combined for five turnovers.

Wilson, who finished just 14-of-29 for 209 yards and four interceptions, seemed particularly affected by the early heavy rains that gave way to sun showers. The Seahawks quarterback had just eight yards passing while being victimized twice by Clinton-Dix, Green Bay’s first-round pick last year.

But the Packers kept the Seahawks in the game by settling for field goals on two early turnovers in the first quarter. Rodgers made it 13-0 Packers when he connected with Randall Cobb for 13 yards before the second quarter began. Mason Crosby hit his third field goal of the game in the second quarter to give Green Bay a 16-0 halftime lead.

The Seahawks generated some life late in the third quarter when they converted a fake field goal into a touchdown, as hold Jon Ryan found tackle Gary Gillam in the end zone. The Seahawks trailed 16-6 and instead of going for two points, making it a one possession game, they settled for the extra point.

The Packers came down the field and made it 19-7 on Crosby’s fourth field goal. The Seahawks couldn’t generate much offense in the final quarter until Marshawn Lynch‘s tightrope act on the right sidelines on a flare route gave Seahawks first-and-goal. Wilson’s run into the end zone with 2:09 left made it 19-14 Green Bay.

Stephen Hauschka then executed an onside kick that Brandon Bostick muffed while leaping. The Seahawks then marched 50 yards in 44 yards, capped by a 24-yard Lynch touchdown run. The Seahawks went for two and Russell Wilson appeared ready to give up when he faded back to his 25. He lobbed a pass to tight end Luke Willson, who caught it at the 1 and reached over for the two points. That conversion would prove critical as Rodgers drove the Packers into position for Crosby’s 48-yarder with 14 seconds left that tied the game, instead of giving the Packers the win.

The Seahawks are looking for back-to-back Super Bowl titles, and await the winner of the Patriots-Colts AFC championship match in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz. on Feb. 1.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, aaron rodgers, Green Bay Packers, Marshawn Lynch
Fantasy Football: Championship round daily leagues 01.16.15 at 10:30 am ET
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WEEI_FantasyFootball_2014_hdr

I hope some of you had success with last week’s DraftKings lineups. I know I did and I stuck pretty closely to last week’s recommendations. This week is an even tougher week for getting original lineups because the choices are so incredibly limited with only two games from which to choose talent.

As usual, I’ll do my best to explain my thought process as I construct my weekly lineup, and I’ll have a completed roster by the time we’re done. If you are looking for more information on players not listed in this space, head over to Rotobahn this afternoon. I’ll have my full lineup rankings posted by then.

QUARTERBACK

Last week, I was pretty clear about which quarterbacks I wanted you to play. As it turned out I was right, but I also was wrong. That’s because all of the quarterbacks stepped up and posted significant numbers. Even those who chose Peyton Manning had a chance if they played the other positions well enough.

This week is a little different. With the exception of Aaron Rodgers, I like all the options at quarterback, and even Rodgers has some merit — particularly if you want a contrarian move to differentiate your lineup a bit.

One thing that could end being a plus for Rodgers is the weather. While it’s potentially going to be wet in both Foxboro and in Seattle, it is not expected to be very cold, and that is a plus for a guy who is playing with a significant muscle pull in his calf. Rodgers may be able to get loose this week. We’ll see. Having said all that, my personal choice for quarterback is the same as last week: Tom Brady.

I’m going with Brady because I think he matches up well against the Colts, who don’t do the things that you need to do to knock Brady off of his game. I know people will be talking about the running game and how badly the Patriots have gashed the Colts in recent games. I am seeing things differently. The two reasons for this are as follows. Yes, the Patriots ran all over the Colts earlier this season, but they also demolished them from head to toe. I also think you need to consider that last year’s playoff game was a very different matchup. In 2014, the Patriots were a different offense. There was some concern about a shootout with the Colts. I don’t think those same concerns hold true with the 2014 Patriots — who probably would win a shootout with Indianapolis, and by a solid margin.

Chuck Pagano is a good coach, and I think the Colts will be ready for the ground game this week. At least they’ll be more ready than they were back in Week 11. I also think Belichick will be more aggressive with his passing game — because he can be, for two reasons. First, he has a defense than can make stops. Second, he has an offense with a healthy Rob Gronkowski. To me, for the Patriots to slow this game down is to play into Indianapolis’ hands. As the clearly better team, the Patriots should not be looking to shorten the game by simply possessing the ball.

For these reasons, I am liking Tom Brady at 8,500 units. Here are the four quarterbacks, just so you know the relative costs.

Tom Brady – 8,500
Andrew Luck – 8,200
Russell Wilson – 8,000
Aaron Rodgers – 7,800

As I said earlier, you can do well with any of these passers, but I’m going with Brady. My concern with Rodgers is the injury. My worry with Wilson, and it’s a minor one, also is Rodgers’ injury. If Seattle can knock out Rodgers, which is far more likely than normal, the game essentially will be over and Wilson could have a light day as a winner because they won’t have him running if the game is in the bag.

As for Luck, he’ll produce, but I worry about what New England can take away from him. I have a feeling that we may see more zone and combo coverage from the Patriots than folks anticipate — their primary goal being to take T.Y. Hilton off the board to some extent and to force Luck to beat them with his secondary weapons.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Andrew Luck, Daniel Herron, Marshawn Lynch
Dez Bryant, Cowboys done in by officials, Aaron Rodgers, Packers in Ice Bowl rematch 01.11.15 at 4:20 pm ET
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Dez Bryant had a key catch at the goal line reversed late as the Packers beat the Cowboys Sunday. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Dez Bryant had a key catch at the goal line reversed late as the Packers beat the Cowboys Sunday. (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Karma caught up to the Cowboys at the worst time Sunday.

A week after receiving what many feel was a gift win over the Lions in the NFC wild card round, the Cowboys were done in by a reversal of a critical catch that would’ve given them the chance at the go-ahead touchdown from the the one-yard line.

Trailing 26-21, Dez Bryant appeared to make a spectacular leaping grab with just over two minutes remaining at the Packers 1. Bryant had clear possession of the ball going to the ground but was ruled incomplete as the ball popped up in the air as Bryant collected it again while lying in the end zone.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the called and referee Gene Steratore came out and ruled that Bryant did not have possession while going to the ground.

The Packers ran out the clock and captured a 26-21 win over the Cowboys in the first playoff meeting between the two long-time rivals at Lambeau Field since the famed “Ice Bowl” of 1967. Bryant left the field with a towel draped over his head. Unlike the Dec. 31, 1967 game, when the temperature was minus-15 with a wind chill of minus-48, Sunday was a balmy 24 above zero with practically no wind chill.

The controversial officials’ reversal overshadowed a heroic performance by gimpy Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Playing with a bad left calf, Rodgers threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead strike to Richard Rodgers of 13 yards with 9:19 left in the fourth quarter, capping a comeback from a 21-13 deficit. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 playoffs, aaron rodgers, Brandon Browner, Dallas Cowboys
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