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Ted Johnson has advice for protecting Tom Brady next year: Don’t ‘skimp’ on the offensive line 02.06.16 at 12:25 pm ET
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Tom Brady took a beating in the AFC championship. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady took a beating in the AFC championship. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

SAN FRANCISCO — Former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson watched like everyone else as Tom Brady was hit some 20 times in the AFC championship, including four sacks.

His main takeaway?

If the Patriots quarterback wants to keep playing at a high level and the Patriots want him as their quarterback, they need to seriously address the offensive line.

The team has already taken one step in addressing the unit with the dismissal of offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo. But Johnson believes reinforcing the unit with some fresh faces through free agency and the draft is necessary as well.

“If Tom wants to play for nine more years like he says, one area you cannot skimp is that offensive line,” Johnson told WEEI.com. “If you’re going to have him as your quarterback for a long time, you’ve got to make sure you keep him upright. In 2014, the season started out 2-2, and I’m getting calls from EEI, ‘What needs to change here for the Patriots to turn this around?’ Protect Tom Brady. Just keep him upright and they went on to win the Super Bowl so that’s the key thing. You’ve got to have an offensive line to protect him if you want him to be your quarterback for the next five-to-seven years.”

Johnson, who works in Houston as a sportsradio talk show host, believes it wasn’t all on the offensive line. He says Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was the one who made adjustments to make it very hard for Brady to consistently find open receivers.

“I give it up to Wade Phillips, who I’ve been critical of as defensive coordinator of the Texans, the team I cover,” Johnson said. “Wade never changed what he did schematically [in Houston]. He kind of ran the same type of coverages, blitzed a lot and just never changed. I kind of thought that’s what he’d do in this game. If you blitz Tom Brady, and you play a lot of man-to-man, he will eat your lunch. By blitzing him, it makes the reads simpler for Tom and the ball comes out fast.

“So when you have an offensive line that is struggling and you have a lot of backups out there, when the ball comes out fast, it really negates their deficiencies. But what Wade did was only rush three guys, four guys, flooded the zones. Tom’s back there holding the ball, holding the ball, holding the ball. He put a really good game plan together.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, New England Patriots
Brandon Stokley overjoyed Peyton Manning beat Patriots to go to Super Bowl: ‘Still got a smile on my face’ 02.04.16 at 7:34 pm ET
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Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick have knocked heads on several occasions. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick have knocked heads on several occasions. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — There’s clearly no shortage of former NFL players who can’t stand the Patriots.

Former Colts receiver Brandon Stokley, who played with Peyton Manning on the Colts from 2003-06, couldn’t have been more overjoyed that Manning beat the Patriots to get back to his fourth Super Bowl.

“You can’t imagine. He’s like a brother, so happy for him because I know what he’s put in, not only his whole career but this year. I know what he’s been though,” Stokley told WEEI.com Thursday. “I know how hard he’s worked to have a chance to get back out on the field.

“For me, watching him do it against the Patriots a week and a half ago, it didn’t get better than that.”

Why does it mean so much to see the Patriots go down?

“To beat them to go to the Super Bowl, for me, was like watching him win the Super Bowl because I don’t care for the Patriots because I could hardly never beat them. I still dislike them. It was that rivalry, that type of rivalry where I didn’t like then, I don’t like them now. I’ll never like them. So, to see Peyton beat them to go to the Super Bowl put a big smile on my face. I’ve still got a smile on my face from that game.”

Stokley, who is working for Denver’s Channel 7 covering Manning and the Super Bowl, also insists that the report on NFL.com that Manning has told close friends he’s retire “is crap.”

Like Super Bowl loser Brad Hoover of the 2003 Panthers, Stokley’s emotions and recollections of his four-year rivalry with the Patriots in the mid-2000s are still vivid. The Patriots dominated early on, but the Colts won both games in Foxboro in 2005-06 and the memorable AFC championship in Indianapolis in Jan. of 2007.

“Didn’t win a lot. That’s the biggest thing. They always seemed to have our number,” Stokley said. “I know we won one regular season game there and ’06, the AFC championship game. But they were always battles. It really was. You knew that when you played a team like that, you couldn’t make a lot of mistakes.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Stokley, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts
Aqib Talib insists playing for Bill Belichick isn’t like ‘a military school’ at 6:29 pm ET
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — This has been a week for Aqib Talib to soak it all in.

The veteran corner, who turns 30 on Feb. 13, is taking in all the vibes from his first Super Bowl experience.

“It’€™s a lot of fun,” Talib said. “You have to have the fun, lock in and work and then you have fun, lock in and work. You just have to balance it. We’€™re all enjoying it.”

He’s been enjoying himself on and off the field, as his three interceptions in practice on Wednesday would suggest.

“They have cameras at practice? [laughter],” Talib said with a big grin. “I did. I was able to make some plays on the ball. We had a good look from our offense from our scout team offense. I was able to make some plays on the ball.”

Earlier in the week, Talib gave props to Bill Belichick in New England for helping him understand and appreciate the professional approach of a winner in the NFL. But, on Thursday, the final day of player availability before the Super Bowl, he made it clear Belichick let his team have its share of fun on the field.

“It’€™s a lot similar,” Talib said comparing Belichick to Broncos coach Gary Kubiak. “It’€™s a lot similar, you’€™d be surprised. People think New England is like a military school and boy school and don’€™t talk. It’€™s not like that ‘€“ they have fun over there as well, it’€™s just a tight knit group. Bill just doesn’€™t mess with you all. He just doesn’€™t mess with the media.”

Talib let everyone in on another secret on Thursday. Belichick nearly gave him a chance to help Tom Brady.

“Actually, when I first got to New England, I think my first practice maybe, Bill kept me after practice for like 20 minutes and Tom threw me like ten routes: stop routes, fades, a couple slants the first day I got there,” Belichick said of that day in 2012. “I guess I didn’€™t look good enough because he never did it again,” Talib laughed. “I feel like I caught all of my passes though. I was working hard out there but I still want to know what happened with that, Bill. He definitely kept me after practice though and Tom threw me about a good 10 routes.”

The Patriots weren’t the first team to try Talib out on offense.

“In Tampa, I was this close, I was young too. I was young and flying around. I was this close to getting an offensive package. I came to work late on a Monday. Raheem Morris called me up to his office and said, ‘€˜I had a 15-play script for you on offense,’€™ and ripped it up (laughter). That’€™s Raheem Morris, he’€™s my dog. He was going to give me an opportunity.”

Why all the attention to offense for a guy that’s made his name as one of the best corners in the game?

“Because I used to play offense. I used to love playing offense,” Talib said. “I played offense in high school, in college, and I don’€™t get to play it in the league. So when I get the ball I have to score my touchdowns like I’€™m on offense. I just like offensive guys, they don’€™t practice tackling like that. It would be wrong to let those guys tackle me when I get the ball. That’€™s kind of how I go about it.”

Read More: Aqib Talib, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl
Peyton Manning could follow in footsteps of Ray Lewis, John Elway with retirement after Super Bowl win 02.01.16 at 1:43 pm ET
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There’s been plenty of talk about how Sunday could mark the “last rodeo” for Peyton Manning. If he finds a way to lead the Broncos to a win over Carolina and then calls it a career, he’ll join some pretty exclusive company. Here’s a look at four other players who won it all and then decided to hang them up.

Jerome Bettis: After a decade with the Steelers, the Pittsburgh running back was a part of a team that ended up dumping the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL in Bettis’ hometown of Detroit. (Did you know Bettis was from Detroit?) It wasn’t the best game of his career, but the Hall of Famer had 43 yards on 14 carries in the win for the Steelers. The running back retired at the age of 33 with 13,662 rushing yards and a Super Bowl ring.

Ray Lewis: The Ravens beat the Niners in Super Bowl XLVII, the last game for Lewis after a 17-year career with Baltimore. (That came two weeks after the Ravens upset the Patriots in the AFC title game in Foxboro.) The controversial linebacker, who may or may not have had some help getting healthy with some deer antler spray in the weeks leading up to the game, ended with two Super Bowl rings.

John Elway: The model for every other quarterback, including Manning. Elway went out like every quarterback hopes to finish his career, winning back-to-back titles at the end of the 1997 and 1998 seasons before riding off into the sunset. The Hall of Famer then came back to take over the Broncos, and he reportedly played a sizable role in convincing Manning to join the Broncos. (Manning supplanted him as the oldest quarterback to get his team to a Super Bowl, and if Denver wins on Sunday, Manning will take over Elway’s spot as the oldest QB to win a Super Bowl.)

Michael Strahan: Avert your eyes, Patriots fans — the Giants defensive end was part of the New York team that knocked off the 2007 Patriots in Super Bowl XLII in Arizona. (Like Bettis, it was his only title.) Strahan called it a career after the game, finishing with 141.5 sacks after 15 seasons in the NFL.

Read More: Andre Johnson, Bill Belichick, Jerome Bettis, Michael Strahan
Aqib Talib grateful for Bill Belichick at 9:03 am ET
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Aqib Talib (right) looks on during team arrivals at the Mineta San Jose International Airport in preparation of Super Bowl 50. (Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports)

Aqib Talib (right) looks on during team arrivals at the Mineta San Jose International Airport in preparation of Super Bowl 50. (Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports)

Aqib Talib nearly made it to the Super Bowl with Bill Belichick.

Now that the star cornerback is finally on football’s biggest stage, he is taking time to thank his former football coach.

In a story told by ESPN’s Rich Cimini, Talib sounds like a veteran who has finally found his rightful place as a leader of one of the best secondaries in football. Talib has stepped up and reminded the likes of Chris Harris Jr., Bradley Roby and T.J. Ward why it’s important to prepare the right way during the week and play the right way on Sundays.

Talib learned his most valuable lessons on leadership after being traded to New England in Oct. 2012. With the Patriots, Talib spent time with Belichick, who in turn demanded discipline if Talib was going to turn his career around with a perennial winner.

“One thing I have to say about that establishment over there: They’re very professional,” Talib said. “You go there for one season and your professionalism will go up a plus-2. If you’re at seven, you’ll be a nine.

“That definitely helped my professionalism as far as preparation for the game, how to handle the media, my behavior on the field — everything. I really learned how to be a professional over there. I went there a seven and came out a nine. I’m working on being a 10.”

The Belichick influence has been with Talib for the most part but there have been lapses, like this season when he was suspended for a game for poking Colts tight end Dwayne Allen in the eye and docked nearly $355,000 of salary.

Talib reached the AFC championship in his two seasons with the Patriots but could never get over the hurdle and reach the Super Bowl. Ironically, it was just after signing a six-year, $57 million contract with Denver, the team the Patriots lost to in Jan. 2014, that the Patriots went out and signed Darrelle Revis. It was Revis, not Talib, who reached the Super Bowl and won his first ring.

Now 29, Talib has finally made it, after his Broncos beat the Patriots in the AFC championship on Jan. 24. Will Talib follow Revis and finally earn a ring?

Read More: Aqib Talib, Bill Belichick, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots
Fun facts: 10 things to know about Patriots’ 2015 season 01.29.16 at 12:32 am ET
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In the Bill Belichick era, the Patriots are 2-7 in the postseason when scoring 18 or fewer points. (Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports)

In the Bill Belichick era, the Patriots are 2-7 in the postseason when scoring 18 or fewer points. (Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports)

The Patriots’ season came to an abrupt end Sunday afternoon in Denver when the team fell the Broncos, 20-18 in the AFC championship. The offseason is officially underway, as Bill Belichick is already at the Senior Bowl doing some scouting. New England finished the regular season 12-4 and then beat the Chiefs in the divisional round before the loss to the Broncos.

Here are 10 things you should know looking back at the 2015 season:

(As always, thanks to the Patriots media relations staff for the help with some of these all season long.)

1. Since 2001, the Patriots are 12-0 in the playoffs against a new opponent, but 10-9 in rematches from that regular season. This year, the Patriots beat the Chiefs, who they didn’t play in the regular season and fell to the Broncos, who they did play in the regular season.

2. In the Belichick era, the Patriots are 2-7 in the postseason when scoring 18 or fewer points, but 20-2 when scoring more than 18 points.

3. The Patriots have had 15 straight winning seasons. A winning season next year would tie the all-time NFL record as both the 49ers (1983-98) and the Cowboys (1970-85) had 16 straight winning seasons.

4. New England had just three players start every game this season, and just one on offense — Tom Brady. The two defensive players were Malcolm Butler and Rob Ninkovich.

5. The Patriots ended the season with five straight games of having fewer than 100 yards rushing. That had never happened before in the Belichick era.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Fun facts, Tom Brady,
Peyton Manning discusses NFL’s probe into HGH allegations, ‘last rodeo’ comment to Bill Belichick 01.28.16 at 8:28 pm ET
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Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick spoke briefly after the AFC title game.  (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick spoke briefly after the AFC title game. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said that he welcomes an NFL probe into an Al Jazeera report last month that linked him and others to human growth hormone.

“I do welcome it. It’s no news to me,” Manning told reporters Thursday after practice. “I still stand by what I said then, that it’s garbage from the first day that it came out, garbage today.”

Speaking with the media for the first time since the AFC title game against the Patriots, Manning touched on a number of other topics, including his postgame conversion with Patriots coach Bill Belichick. After the win, microphones caught a brief exchange between the two where Manning could be heard telling Belichick the veteran quarterback might be in the midst of his “last rodeo.”

“Hey, listen, this might be my last rodeo. So, it sure has been a pleasure,” he said to Belichick as he embraced him after the game.

Asked about the comment Thursday, Manning only smiled, indicating that he wasn’t going to add anything to what the microphones caught him saying.

“I don’t know if it’s been confirmed or not,” Manning told reporters. “What happened to private conversations on the 50-yard line? I guess they just don’t exist anymore. No confirmation on that whatsoever. We are on to Carolina.”

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

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Peyton Manning,
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