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Patriots have to man up to get their offense back in high gear 10.31.11 at 4:55 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It was pretty clear – and mildly surprising – to see one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL adjust his philosophy to stop Tom Brady and the NFL’s top offense on Sunday.

Dick LeBeau‘s game plan was obviously clear to Bill Belichick, too. Abandon the zone and go with almost exclusively man-to-man coverage across the board on the Patriots.

“They played us in man coverage,” Belichick said on Monday afternoon after watching the film of Sunday’s 25-17 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh. “It wasn’€™t anything that I would say we hadn’€™t really seen before, but probably a little higher percentage than what they’€™ve shown in other games. We worked on it. Again, we just have to do a better job in those situations ‘€“ protecting, getting open, having plays that maybe could make everything happen a little bit quicker, a little bit cleaner.”

But, Belichick wanted to make it clear that, publicly, he credits LeBeau and the Steelers for doing what it took to take the Patriots and hold them to their lowest point and yardage totals of the season.

“Again, I don’€™t want to get into that everything was a self-inflicted wound,” Belichick added. “I think they played well, I think they did a lot of things well. We had some plays, not as many as they did and that’€™s why the result was what it was. Obviously a competitive game that they outperformed us in.”

One game is not a trend but two games is the start of a habit the Patriots would like to avoid. The Patriots were fortunate to score 20 points in a 20-16 last-minute win over the Cowboys at Gillette, a Cowboys team that was smoked 34-7 Sunday night in Philly. Dallas held the Patriots in check for most of the game, using a lot of the same principles, man up on the receivers and allow the pass rushers to pressure Brady. DeMarcus Ware and company followed the game plan to a near upset.

Sunday, Brady was sacked three more times – understandable since the Patriots were forced to pass trailing by two scores in the second half. But when he’s had the time, Brady has appeared hesitant at times to throw deep.

There were just two deep balls even attempted, with both falling incomplete.

Brady under-threw Taylor Price on the first play of New England’s first offensive play of the fourth quarter. Then two plays later, Brady went deep over the middle, only to have Chad Ochocinco get tangled up by Keenan Lewis. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Chad Ochocinco, Dick LeBeau, New England Patriots
Transcript of Tom Brady on D&C: ‘You don’t question decisions’ by Bill Belichick at 11:50 am ET
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The Patriots came off the bye week and put up a stinker in Pittsburgh, struggling on both sides of the ball and dropping a 25-17 decision to the Steelers. In his weekly Monday morning interview with Dennis & Callahan, Tom Brady dissected the loss.

“We never could really play from ahead,” Brady said. “We never played with the balance that we needed. When you play the Steelers, you’ve got to be somewhat balanced. You’ve got to be able to run the ball efficiently. And then when you throw it, you’ve got to throw it on your terms. We were throwing it on their terms all day.

“They’ve got a good defense,” Brady added. “They have a great scheme. They have one of the best defensive coordinators of all-time [Dick LeBeau] and some incredible players on defense. Like I said, we’ve got to try to learn from it and go out there and play better this week.”

Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Should we assume that what the Steelers defense did yesterday was at least to some degree unexpected by you and the offense — that is man-to-man coverage, press at the line of scrimmage and follow your receivers everywhere they went?

They do that. That’s part of their scheme. They probably did it a little more yesterday than they’ve done in the past. But there weren’t many looks out there that we didn’t prepare for or that we didn’t think they could do. It just really came down to our execution. We didn’t do enough on third down to stay on the field. We squandered some opportunities there. And when you play on the road against good teams, you don’t have much margin for error. We certainly made too many errors that allowed them to really control the tempo of the game, to control exactly how they wanted to play us. We never could really play on our terms.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Bill Belichick, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady
Boomer Esiason on D&C: Patriots are in trouble if they have to play on road in playoffs at 9:33 am ET
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CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to pick apart the Patriots’ 25-17 loss to the Steelers.

The Patriots struggled all day Sunday to stop the Pittsburgh offense, leading to a heavily lopsided time of possession for the Steelers (39:22) over the Patriots (20:38). The Patriots gave up a total of 427 net yards, while the New England offense struggled to keep up, gaining just 213 net yards.

Esiason said New England’s defensive struggles Sunday were a bad sign for the team looking toward the playoffs.

“Yesterday, watching them play and giving up 40 minutes of possession time to the Pittsburgh Steeler offense, I think was tell-tale that this team is going to be in trouble if they have to go on the road for the playoffs,” Esiason said. “You cannot win if you cannot get the ball back, and yesterday was indicative of that.”

Esiason also weighed in on one of coach Bill Belichick‘s more controversial decisions of the game. On second-and-9 with 4:15 remaining in the game and the Patriots trailing 23-10, Tom Brady appeared to throw a touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was ruled to have been stopped at the 1-yard line. Belichick chose not to challenge the play, and it took the Patriots until 2:40 left to score the touchdown.

Esiason said he thought the Patriots should have challenged the call, and because of Brady’s actions after the play, he thought the Patriots were going to challenge the call.

“I saw Tom at the line of scrimmage,” Esiason said. “They were going into their no-huddle offense, and Tom to me was kind of taking his time. … I thought he was taking his time, because I’m wondering if someone is in his helmet telling him, ‘We’re looking at this, we’re looking at this, we’re looking at this, we’re looking at it, don’t snap the ball right away.’ Because that’s what it seemed like to me.

“Even though they were at the line of scrimmage quickly, I think the down clock went under 10 seconds before he snapped the ball. The bad thing is CBS didn’t show a replay so I don’t know if they were showing replay in the stadium or not. But without question, that red flag should have come out.”

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Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Bill Belichick, Eli Manning, Tom Brady
Setting the scene: Patriots-Steelers 10.30.11 at 11:03 am ET
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Clear skies and temperatures in the mid-to-upper 40s are expected as two of the four AFC division leaders square off on the natural grass of Heinz Field. There will no doubt be plenty of Halloween costumes in the sellout crowd at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny, just like there was on Oct. 31, 2004, when the Steelers were a nightmare, beating the Patriots 34-20, at Heinz.

The field condition on a grass surface is always of concern to Pats coach Bill Belichick. It was worth noting that after his Friday morning press conference ‘€“ and shortly after donning his Tony La Russa Cardinals jersey ‘€“ he met for several minutes with Don Brocher inside the equipment office of the Patriots locker room.

It would hardly be surprising to discover the subject of Heinz Field came up, as likely did what shoes and cleats would be best suited for the conditions.

Also remember, the field ‘€“ which has a notorious reputation around the NFL for coming apart – hosted a Big East battle between UConn-Pittsburgh on Wednesday night and Western Pennsylvania received an icy, wintry mix from the early onset of the Nor’€™easter that belted New England late Saturday night.

It is not uncommon for Brocher to make sure each player has a choice of two or three spikes. Testing the field early on will be particularly important for the visiting Patriots on this October afternoon.

It remains to be seen whether or not the field conditions impact the Patriots decision to play linebacker Jerod Mayo, who missed the final two games before the bye week with a left knee injury. The injury was initially reported as a strain of the MCL, with Mayo expected to miss several weeks to let it heal.

One wonders if the grass field at Reliant Stadium will pass through Belichick’€™s mind before kickoff since it was on that sketchy field in Jan. 2010 that Wes Welker slipped making a cut and tore his ACL.

In addition to Mayo, Belichick also has decisions to make on running back Kevin Faulk (coming off a 2010 ACL tear) and DL Brandon Deaderick, both of whom have been activated off the PUP list this week.

The field is traditionally covered by a tarp whenever inclement weather hits so the field is expected to be good at the start of the game.

The Patriots will be will be significantly shorthanded in the secondary as Josh Barrett was ruled out Saturday night with a thumb injury. Add to that the decision by the Patriots to place rookie corner Ras-I Dowling on injured reserve Saturday and the release of veteran corner Leigh Bodden on Friday, and the Patriots will have their work cut out trying to stop the aerial attack of Ben Roethlisberger. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Dan Marino, Don Brocher, Halloween
A preview of Friday’s ‘Patriots All-Access’ 10.28.11 at 4:57 pm ET
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Patriots All Access airs Friday on WBZ-TV at 7 p.m. and immediately following on Patriots.com. Some of the highlights include:

‘€¢Bill Belichick discusses getting his team ready to play after a Bye Week and looks at the overall speed of the Steelers on the Belestrator.

·Scott Zolak visits with Belichick and one of the coach’€™s boyhood idols, Heisman Trophy winner and Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach.

·Vince Wilfork was mic’€™d up in the win over the Jets.

Here’s a preview:

Read More: Bill Belichick, Roger Staubach, Scott Zolak, Vince Wilfork
Franco Harris on M&M: ‘I’m feeling good about the Steelers’ Sunday at 2:24 pm ET
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Pro football Hall of Famer Franco Harris joined Mut & Merloni on Friday afternoon, as the Patriots and Steelers prepare for their Sunday matchup. The running back for Pittsburgh during the 1970s and early 1980s, Harris is a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, four-time Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl IX MVP.

Harris gave his thoughts on the makeup of the AFC and how hard it is to decide which team is best.

“Most of the time, I tell people I really look at the second half of the season and see what happens over the second half of the season,” Harris said. “I really don’t put too much into the first half, but records count in the end, for having home-field advantage. So all these games are very, very important, especially the games against some top AFC teams.”

Harris also talked about how the game has changed, from the ground-it-out, rush-oriented offenses of his time to the the quarterback-dominated league of today.

“I think it was two games ago, when Ben [Roethlisberger] had one of his best games, he had five touchdowns passes and then with that we had a great running game, and I said, you know what, this is what it’s all about,” Harris said. “The running game game gives you so many options that it really sets up the pass in the big way. … I’m a big advocate of the running game, as I’m sure you know. But there’s no doubt that the game is now a passing game.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On if Bill Belichick should be in the conversation for best coach of all-time: “Absolutely. I have so much respect for him and what he does and the moves that he makes to always be on top. Myself, I like winners. When I hear around the league they want parity, I don’t want parity. … I’d like to have four to six other teams as powerhouses and then you look forward to battling those guys. This weekend, everybody’s waiting for that, for this game. If it was all parity you wouldn’t even look forward to it. And then the following week, we play Baltimore. Everybody’s looking forward to that game because they love these type of games when the best play the best. When you look at Belichick, he always has a great team out there.”

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Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Bill Belichick, Franco Harris,
Bill Belichick has one message for Tony La Russa: ‘Go Cards!’ at 1:52 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It has to be a pretty big deal to keep Bill Belichick up past midnight watching a baseball game in the midst of getting ready for the Steelers this Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Apparently, cheering on one of his best friends in sports qualifies as big enough.

Belichick has developed a long and trustworthy friendship with St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. So, as the Game 6 of the 2011 World Series flew well past midnight, he kept an eye on the TV. –

Then, David Freese belted a solo homer to center to end it in the bottom of the 11th, giving the Cardinals a 10-9 win and the sports world a Game 7 in the World Series.

“No, I fell asleep,” joked Belichick, who wore an authentic La Russa Cardinals home jersey in the locker room for all to see Friday. “Yeah, I did watch it. What a game, what a game. It’€™s just behind five times, whatever it was, scored in the last however many, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh? Happy for Tony and wishing him well tonight. That team has shown a lot of resiliency and physical toughness, mental toughness from being way behind in September and in the Series in various games. They’€™ve lost a couple games I’€™m sure they feel like they should have won. They’€™ve been able to bounce back from those and now it’€™s a one game season. It’€™s two good teams. The Rangers are a good team too. It’€™s two good teams. Great series.”

Funny Belichick would mention resiliency and physical toughness. Those are certainly two traits he looks for in his own team.

“We have a couple mutual friends, one in particular,” Belichick said. “It’€™s good to talk to sometimes people in other sports. Coaching is coaching ‘€“ dealing with players, dealing with coaches, dealing with other situations. There is certainly a lot of common ground there. I’€™m fortunate to have a great relationship with a person like Tony or [University of Florida basketball coach] Billy Donovan or [Johns Hopkins lacrosse coach] Dave Pietramala, guys like that that are real good coaches, different sports but again I think we share some common philosophies. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Billy Donovan, Chris Carpenter, Dave Pietramala
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