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Snap Judgments: LeGarrette Blount makes history, Patriots capture 8th straight AFC East, first-round bye 12.18.16 at 7:21 pm ET
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Dec 18, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) rushes for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

LeGarrette Blount eyes the Denver defense on a first-half run Sunday. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

DENVER —  There was no muffed punt. There was no missed extra point. There was no last-second heartbreak this time.

The Patriots went into their house of horrors Sunday afternoon and came away with only the satisfaction of an eighth straight AFC East title and a first-round bye thanks to a 16-3 win over the Broncos at Sports Authority Field.

The eighth straight division title also set a new NFL record and secured a spot in the postseason for an eighth straight season. That marks the 18th time since Robert Kraft became owner in 1994, the most of any NFL team in that period.

It was just the third time in 10 tries that Brady walked out of Denver a winner and it was anything but pretty before the 365th straight sellout crowd in Denver. Brady finished 16-of-32 for 188 yards. Julian Edelman finished with six catches 12 targets for 75 yards.

The game-time temperature was officially 18 degrees and the bitter cold forced more than two thousand no-shows.

The Patriots (12-2) got the first big break of the game, and ironically it was on a muffed punt. Jordan Norwood was back to field a punt after the Patriots went 3-and-out to start the game.

Norwood fumbled at his own 31. After two Brady incompletions intended for James White, Dion Lewis gained seven yards on a third-down rush. The conservative approach led to a 45-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski and a 3-0 Patriots lead.

Brady and the offense again stalled after the defense forced a punt. The Broncos got their offense going when they drove 47 yards in eight plays, capped by a Brandon McManus 33-yard field goal to tie the game. The key play on the drive was blanket coverage by Kyle Van Noy on Devontae Booker’s wheel route on third down prior to the field goal. Van Noy was all alone in coverage on Booker, who was free to the end zone before the pass breakup.

Brady started the game 0-for-6 in the passing game. With runs of 14 and eight yards, the Patriots and Lewis finally got the offense in gear on their fourth possession of the first quarter. But after another incompletion on a pass intended for White, the Patriots were forced to punt. Brady finished the 0-for-6, his first quarter of play without a completed pass since 2009.

But with the Broncos driving for a go-ahead touchdown, the game turned when Logan Ryan stepped in front of Emmanuel Sanders and returned an interception 46 yards to the Denver 46.

On the first play after the pick, Brady was strip-sacked. Joe Thuney, who was beat on the sack, recovered the ball. On the next play, Brady finally completed a pass, a 17-yarder to Julian Edelman. Brady would complete three passes on the drive to Edelman for 44 yards before LeGarrette Blount barreled in for a one-yard touchdown run and a 10-3 Patriots lead early in the second quarter. It was Blount’s 15th rushing touchdown of the season, a new Patriots single-season mark, breaking the previous mark held by Curtis Martin in 1995 and ’96.

The Patriots caught a huge break on the play prior to the touchdown when Lewis reached out for the goal line on his run and fumbled the ball. He was able to retrieve it at the bottom of the pile when the Broncos couldn’t hop on it. The Patriots took a 10-3 halftime lead despite Brady completing just 8-of-16 passes for 73 yards.

The Patriots got the ball back just before the half but couldn’t move it into scoring position. The biggest moment on the drive occurred when Martellus Bennett yelled at fellow tight end Matt Lengel on 2nd-and-8 at the New England 21 with 2:44 left in the first half. Lengel was subbed out after Brady was forced to call a timeout.

Trevor Siemian completed 15-of-21 passes for 147 yards but had the one interception that changed the complexion of the half.

Closing Time noteThe Patriots set a new NFL record with their eighth straight division title.

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: AFC East, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Tom Brady
Mike Petraglia, Chris Price detail how Patriots flipped the switch to beat Dolphins, clinch 6th straight AFC East 12.14.14 at 7:23 pm ET
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FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price detail how the Patriots were able to flip the switch and beat the Miami Dolphins, 41-13, Sunday at Gillette Stadium, clinching their sixth straight AFC East title. The Patriots led by only a point, 14-13, at the half before outscoring the Dolphins, 27-0, in the second half.

Read More: AFC East, Chris Price, Miami Dolphins, Mike Petraglia
Why Bill Belichick won’t ‘waste a lot of time’ firing up his team for another AFC East title 12.09.14 at 2:59 pm ET
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Bill Belichick. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Bill Belichick is focused on the Dolphins. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Bill Belichick won’t be spending much time before Sunday’s game getting his team fired up to clinch a sixth straight AFC East with a win. That’s because his focus is getting his team to simply do a better job of playing 60 minutes against an opponent that wore them down in the elements in South Florida in Week 1.

“We wouldn’t waste a lot of time on that,” Belichick said in his Tuesday conference call. “It is what it is. It’s what the standings are. So, we’ll probably cover that in about 15 seconds and move on to Miami. That’s what we need to talk about. We need to talk about how to play offense, defense and special teams against the Dolphins a lot better than we did the last time we played them, which wouldn’t take much.”

The Patriots raced out to leads of 17-7 and 20-10 but were outscored 23-0 in the final 30 minutes as the offense misfired and the defense wore down.

“We need to do a lot better job. We need to coach better, we need to play better in every phase of the game,” Belichick said. “We didn’t do anything down there well enough to deserve to win. Those are the results. If we don’t do a better job than we did the last time then I’m sure we’ll have the same results, maybe worse. We’re going to have to do things a lot better than we did in the opener. That’s what we’ll be talking about this week: what to do and how to do it. Hopefully we can have a better game plan, do a better job preparing the team and the team can do a better job performing and playing than all of us did the last time we played them.”

There was lots of talk about the lack of balance in the first game, as Brady completed just 29-of-56 passes while running the ball just 20 times. But Belichick downplayed that on Tuesday.

“Again, when you go into the game, you have a lot of different plays and you’re ready for a lot of different situations, but as the game unfolds sometimes there’s a balance and sometimes it tilts more one way than another based on any number of circumstances,” Belichick said. “We try to do what we think is best and that’s based on all the circumstances and the most important thing is to move the ball and score points offensively. If we’re doing that, regardless of how we’re doing it, we’re doing a good job. If we’re not, then we need to find a way to do it better. Balance isn’t nearly as much of a concern for me as moving the ball and scoring points. That’s really what we’re out there for.”

When 14 weeks have passed between playing the same team, what factors into deciding to change the game plan versus deciding to just execute the game plan better based on the opportunities he saw on film?

“I think it will be a combination of both. We’ve looked at the first game. I think some of the things we did, we had some success with or we kind of felt like it was the right idea. Maybe we needed to execute it better or coach it better, but we kind of had the right idea. There were some other things that I don’t think we really want to run this time around based on where we are and maybe based on watching them play 13 games and seeing how they’ve attacked or defended different things over that period of time. Some things they’ve continued to have trouble with. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: AFC East, Bill Belichick, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots
Patriots capture fifth straight AFC East title as Dolphins lose in Buffalo 12.22.13 at 4:10 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — The Patriots were winners in warmups.

New England captured its fifth straight AFC East division crown before taking a single snap at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday as the Buffalo Bills shutout the Miami Dolphins, 19-0, Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

It is the fifth straight division title for the Patriots, the ninth in 10 seasons and 11th in 13 years for Bill Belichick. The 11 division titles ties Belichick with Don Shula for the most division titles since the 1970 merger. It also marks the 15th playoff berth in 20 years of ownership by Robert Kraft.

Tom Brady also captured his 11th division title, extending his NFL record by any starting quarterback.

With the division sewed up, the Patriots are guaranteed of a home playoff game for a fifth straight year.

The Patriots were able to soak in the satisfaction while watching the video board inside M&T Bank Stadium, which was showing the Bills-Dolphins games on one half of the scoreboard while featuring the Bengals-Vikings on the other half.

Both games had direct impact on the Patriots and Ravens.

With the Dolphins losing, the Patriots weren’t the only ones punching their playoff ticket as the Bengals clinched their third straight playoff berth with a blowout 42-14 win at home over the Vikings.

Read More: AFC East, Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, Miami Dolphins
Bill Belichick: Super second-half history has ‘no bearing’ on this week 11.28.12 at 3:09 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Fresh from his 200th win as an NFL head coach, Bill Belichick was in rare form Wednesday. That is to say, he wanted nothing to do with talking about how great his team has been or will be.

Dating back to Jan. 3, 2010, the Patriots are 19-0 in regular season games played in the second half of the season.

They are 3-0 this season and he was asked how significant that past history is in developing confidence in his team.

“I don’t think what our record was two years ago has anything to do with this week’s game,” Belichick said without missing a beat or batting an eye. “We’re just trying to focus on what we can do to play well this week.

“I don’t really concern myself too much with what happened in the past or what didn’t happen in the past. Right now we’re just worried about Miam [and] about doing a good job in going down there and playing well Sunday.”

The numbers are pretty overwhelming.

Belichick’s Patriots have posted a perfect second half in four seasons (2003, ’07, ’10, ’11) and have posted a “pedestrian” 7-1 in two more seasons. Both times they went 7-1 in the second half (’01 and ’04), they won the Super Bowl. Three of the four times they’ve gone 8-0, they’ve made it to the Super Bowl, winning once.

“We can look back at other years and talk about them,” Belichick said without even cracking a smile. “I don’t know whether that’s true this year or not. We’ll see.”

Belichick’s Patriots are on a five-game winning streak, and at 8-3, can clinch their 10th AFC East title in 12 years with a win on Sunday in South Florida. They lead the NFL in scoring with 407 points, turnover differential (+24) and total yards per game (435.8). Everything is pointing in the right direction.

“I think we’ve done some things well in the last couple of games,” Belichick said. “I don’t think that really has any bearing on this game. Different team, different match ups, different schemes. It’s all different. Whether we did or didn’t last week, or some other week, or some other year, I don’t think, any of it really matters.”

All that matters to Belichick is shortening the season while his team gets better and better. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: AFC East, Bill Belichick, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots
Tom Brady and ‘mentally tough’ Pats ready to turn up the heat in Miami for an AFC East title at 1:57 pm ET
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FOXBORO -‘€“ Tom Brady is a lot of things. All-world quarterback. Super-model spouse. And weather watcher – especially when it affects what he does on his workdays.

The forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and 80 degrees in South Florida for the 1 p.m. kickoff between the Patriots and Dolphins. Still, the Patriots chose to practice outdoors Wednesday as the begin preparations.

What’s at stake?

If the Patriots win, they clinch the AFC East by virtue of their 5-0 record in the division and a four-game lead over the Dolphins with four games remaining. They will own every tie-breaker as the Dolphins will already have three division losses.

“Well, there’€™s always motivation for us to go out there and win and this is a great opportunity for us,” Brady said. “We haven’€™t played these guys all season; it’€™s the first time getting a shot at them and we play them down there in their stadium. They won last week against Seattle, so I hope we go play well. We’€™ve been playing well since we lost to Seattle, I think, and hopefully we can keep it going. But they present plenty of challenges for us and they’€™ve beaten some pretty good teams this year. It should be a fun game.”

With a division title for the 10th time in 12 seasons, the Patriots will assure themselves of a home game in the playoffs. But of course, their sights are set much higher, like a No. 1 or 2 seed and a first-round bye.

“It’€™s very important,” Brady said. “We’€™re always trying to win every game we play and certainly playing against the Dolphins, a team we know very well playing them twice a year, it would to be a nice little day if we can go down there in Florida, which is always a tough place to play, especially this time of year when we haven’€™t really played a warm weather game in a while. So it will be fun.”

About the weather, how does he and the team go about preparing for that warm weather when it’€™s cold up out on the practice fields like Wednesday?

“I don’€™t know. That’€™s a good question,” Brady said. “We’€™re out on the grass fields in 35 degree weather; I don’€™t think it’€™s going to be 35 down there on Sunday. But we’€™ll just try to be a little bit mentally tough. I think that’€™s the only way you can do it.”

Here’s the rest of Wednesday’s Q and A with Brady in Foxboro: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: AFC East, New England Patriots, nfl, Tom Brady
Setting the scene: Patriots-Broncos 12.18.11 at 12:23 pm ET
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It will be a very mild day in the Mile High City when the Patriots take the field against Tim Tebow and the Broncos this afternoon at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

The forecast calls for sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-50s at kickoff as the 10-3 Patriots can clinch their third straight AFC East title and their ninth in 11 seasons with their sixth straight win. The Patriots also clinch the AFC East with a tie and a Jets’ loss or just a Jets’ loss at Philadelphia.

The Patriots will not have Deion Branch today as he injured his groin last week during the win over the Redskins. Branch was ruled out Saturday night by the team. Patrick Chung didn’t even make the trip to Denver, as he and his injured right foot took in the Celtics scrimmage Friday at TD Garden, staying behind as the team traveled west on Friday afternoon, heading out early to adjust to the time change and altitude.

Also ruled out by the team on Saturday night were offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer (right foot), who will miss his third straight game, linebacker Brandon Spikes (right knee), missing his sixth straight game and Shane Vereen (hamstring). That leaves just two players who will be gameday scratches, one of whom will be likely be quarterback Ryan Mallett, inactive since Week 3 against the Bills.

Safety Ross Ventrone was signed off the practice squad on Saturday and will be activated for today’s game. He takes the place defensive back Malcolm Williams, who was released this week. Coach Bill Belichick said Williams was released for this game because they felt other players could better fit their scheme this week.

While the Broncos have one of the best pass rushes in the NFL, there is reason to think the Tom Brady could pick apart the secondary. Safety Brian Dawkins (neck) reportedly did not participate in the Broncos walkthrough on Saturday while various reports indicate another safety – David Bruton (Achilles) is also expected to be out. The team signed safety Kyle McCarthy back to active roster Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: AFC East, Denver Broncos, kyle orton, New England Patriots
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