|Bill Belichick walks a fine line: ‘We’re all going to make mistakes and nobody makes more of them than I do’||12.20.13 at 11:50 am ET|
FOXBORO — On Friday, Bill Belichick revealed his more humble side to make a point about the fine line he walks between correcting mistakes and accepting them as part of the game and the other side where too many can just kill a team.
The obvious best example of this on the 2013 Patriots is Stevan Ridley, the most explosive running back the Patriots have. He was benched in the Houston game after losing fumbles in each of the previous three games.
He came back against Cleveland and Miami, carrying the ball just eight times in each of the two games. He is averaging 4.3 yards per carry this season on 151 carries.
Belichick was asked Friday if there is a balance a coach has to go through between making it a teaching moment not only for him but also the other players on the roster and taking him out of the equation hurting the team. In other words, is there a balance to strike as a coach between making sure that they get the message that it’s not acceptable while not hurting the team?
“I’d say absolutely,” Belichick said. “I think that’s the perfect way to put it actually. That’s the balance they’re trying to strike. I think that’s true probably every day of the football season, let’s put it that way. Every day of the football season, including OTAs, including training camp. Everybody has to understand that there’s a below the line level. When it’s below the line, we can’t live with it. It hurts the team. Now, we’re all going to make mistakes and nobody makes more of them than I do. I understand that mistakes are part of the game. I’ve been in it long enough to know there’s no perfect player, no perfect game or practice. If you go out there and compete against high level competition, that they’re going to make some plays too.
|Aqib Talib brushes off health questions: ‘This ain’t my first rodeo’||12.19.13 at 7:51 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Aqib Talib isn’t hearing any talk about his health being an issue.
‘I feel like everybody else,” he said Thursday. “It’s Week 16, and there isn’t anybody in the NFL who is 100 percent. It’s football, man.
“This ain’t my first rodeo.’
Talib, who has struggled with hip problems on and off throughout the season, started strong but has appeared to drop off a bit as of late. There’s no telling how much of his problems are due to the hip issue (he was limited at Thursday’s practice because of the hip), but he knows he’s in for a challenge this week. The Ravens feature some of the better deep threats in the game — the Ravens have 13 pass plays of 40 or more yards this season, good for third-best in the league, trailing only the Eagles (18) and Browns (14). Torrey Smith (59 catches, 1,032 yards, four touchdowns and 17.5 yards per catch), Marlon Brown (40 catches, 443 yards, six touchdowns) and Jacoby Jones (35 catches, 433 yards, two touchdowns) all have an ability to connect with quarterback Joe Flacco when it comes to the deep ball.
Talib had plenty of good things to say about the Baltimore receiving corps, particularly the speed of Smith, who he called “one of” the fastest receivers in the league.
‘We don’t even have to talk about that. You know how fast he is. We all know how fast he is,” Talib said. “He’s up there. Put him up there with the [Mike] Wallaces and Calvin Johnsons. Man, they’re burners.’
One thing that Patriots coach Bill Belichick indicated earlier in the week was that the Baltimore offense has changed a bit since the return of Dennis Pitta — Belichick said it appears that the Ravens have favored more three-receiver sets since the tight end came back from injury. Pitta, who burned New England on several occasions in last year’s AFC title game, is still ramping back up after spending the bulk of the season sidelined, is still a factor.
‘He’s key for them,” Talib said. “[Joe Flacco] goes to him a lot over the middle, in third-down situations. That’s one of his go-to guys. He’s key for them.’
Talib and the Patriots (10-4) are looking to close out the regular season on an up note, while the Ravens (8-6) are in must-win mode — currently holding on to the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoff race, they have to win to keep their postseason hopes alive.
“It’s a big game for the both of us,’ Talib said. “So I’m sure they’re preparing like we’re preparing. It should be a good one.’
|Veteran Logan Mankins ready to tackle another new assignment if needed against Ravens||12.18.13 at 2:50 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Logan Mankins isn’t surprised by much, and so when he was asked to kick outside from left guard to left tackle on Sunday against the Dolphins, he wasn’t exactly shocked.
The 31-year-old veteran didn’t need a lot of time to get used to the new spot, taking over for Nate Solder after the starting left tackle went down with a head injury in the second half.
‘[There are] a lot of different angles — going against faster guys, I’m used to the big, powerful guys, and now, I’m going against the speed guys on the edge,’ he said after practice on Wednesday. ‘It’s just something you have to get used to and learn on the fly. It went pretty well.
‘I don’t know what our plan is this week. We have a bunch of different options, and we’ll hopefully get it figured out before Sunday.’
The 6-foot-4, 308-pound Mankins, who played left tackle while at Fresno State and served as a left tackle in a limited role in the past, said that whenever he has a question about tackle technique, he thinks about former Patriots veteran Matt Light.
‘I always watched Matt Light all those years — we’re kind of the same size,’ Mankins said of Light, who retired after the 2011 season after 11 years with New England. ‘When I’m out there, I always try to do what he did.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday that it was because of Light’s presence and steady play over the years that caused them to decide to move Mankins to left guard when he was drafted in 2005.
‘I think there’s no question that he could have played left tackle in this league, played for us,’ Belichick said of Mankins. ‘But we had Light there, we put him into the lineup right away at left guard and he and Light played together for [six] years and then we got [Nate] Solder and that was kind of the way it worked out.
‘I don’t think there was ever a thought from the coaching staff or from myself that he couldn’t play left tackle. That wasn’t it. It was more, ‘We have a left tackle and he could play guard.’’
According to Mankins, playing on the edge demands more finesse than when you’re lined up in the interior at guard.
‘You’re running around a lot more — those guys are faster,’ he said. ‘It’s not always getting someone slammed into you. You’re feet have to be a little quicker. Move a little faster.’
Solder was out for the bulk of the fourth quarter, and could be forced to sit out Sunday against the Ravens, a team known for their ability to create pressure off the edge with Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs.
‘I’ve lined up across from those guys a bunch of time, but they’re always on the tackle. They’ve both played in this league a long time, and I’ve seen them on film tons of times,’ Mankins said of Dumervil and Suggs, who have combined for 18.5 sacks on the season. ‘They’re both very good players — good at what they do. Powerful guys, and they get the job done out there. They’re good.
‘They’re very good,’ Mankins added when pressed about the Baltimore defense as a whole. ‘I think every statistic you look at, they’re right there near the top. They’re good on third down, good in the red area. They don’t give up many points on the first drive of the game. They’re a good defense and they’re playing well.’
Mankins said he practiced ‘everywhere’ on the line on Wednesday, and is pretty much ready for any contingency against Baltimore.
‘I think as the week goes on, the more and more we know, the more I’ll know in what I have to do,’ he said. ‘At this point, I’m just looking to both to see what’s going to happen. We still don’t know what Nate’s status is. We’ve got other guys who have played tackle before, so we’re seeing what’s going to happen. We’ll let it play out.’
|Bill Belichick launches his own nonprofit organization||at 1:51 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Bill Belichick has taken a big step toward a career in philanthropy.
Belichick Wednesday announced the official launch of the Bill Belichick Foundation, a nonprofit organization created to provide coaching, mentorship, and financial assistance to individuals, communities and organizations with a focus on the sports of football and lacrosse.
According to the first official press release from his foundation, Belichick’s mission is to “bring the value of the Belichick family – love of sports, coaching and team building – to the athletic leaders of tomorrow.”
‘My goal is to recognize, support and endow those with great potential who have a need for additional help and resources,’ Belichick said in a statement. ‘Mentorship has been ingrained in our family and we take a team approach to just about everything we do. We have been helped by so many people and we look forward to helping others however we can by relating our experiences and life lessons through a variety of athletic programs and services.’
For 43 years, Bill Belichick’s father, Steve, was a college football coach and scout, most notably at the Naval Academy, where he instilled the tenets of loyalty, discipline and commitment in his son. Through his association with the Naval Academy, Bill gained a profound appreciation for elite athletes, dedicated coaches and future leaders of our country.
Also at an early age, he built his knowledge and love for football, which helped propel him into a life in coaching and ultimately one of the most successful careers in the history of the National Football League. Two of his children, Amanda Belichick, Women’s Lacrosse Interim Head Coach at Wesleyan University and Steve Belichick, coaching assistant for the New England Patriots, have also forged coaching careers. Brian Belichick attends Trinity College, where he plays lacrosse. All three Belichick children have been by their father’s side for many of his career coaching milestones, as Bill Belichick was with his father.
Bill Belichick has a long history of philanthropy and supports many causes, including a scholarship fund created in 2003 at Annapolis High School for students who have improved or excelled academically while participating in athletics. Belichick grew up in Annapolis, Md. and his commitment to the area remains strong. The Bill Belichick Foundation will formally expand that mission to the New England region and beyond.
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|Bill Belichick: Executing in key situations is ‘absolutely the difference’ in finding success||12.17.13 at 2:45 pm ET|
When the Patriots and Ravens meet Sunday, chances are good that it’ll be a close game.
Eleven of the 14 games New England has played this year have been decided by seven points or less, while Baltimore has played in 10 games decided by seven points or less. On Tuesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about the traits needed to succeed in close games.
“Make the plays in the critical situations at the end of the game they need to make to win. That’s what it comes down to. That’s what this league is,” he said on a conference call with reporters. “You play for 57, 58, 59 minutes, and the game’s still not decided, and it hinges on the plays from there on out. It could be one play, it could be a series. It could be a kick or a return, fumbled punt, a pass, an interception, a sack, a short-yardage or goal line play, a stop ‘ it could be any one of a million situations.
“Being able to execute those plays in those critical situations is going to determine the result of the game. Being able to do those things as a team, along with some other things ‘ substitution, clock management, and all those other things as well, getting out of bounds, staying in bounds and making good decisions ‘ in the end, it comes down to execution in those critical situations [which] is absolutely the difference. That’s the NFL.”
The Ravens have gone 5-5 in their games decided by a touchdown or less, while the Patriots are 7-4. However, Baltimore has won their last three games by a total of seven points, which includes Monday’s win over the Lions, a contest that wasn’t decided until Justin Tucker connected on his sixth field goal of the night, a 61-yarder than lifted the Ravens to an 18-16 win.
Belichick is impressed with Tucker, who has an ability to extend the range for the Ravens on a regular basis.
“I think they’ve always been a team that wants the points and has a lot of confidence in their defense [that] they’re not going to give up many,” Belichick said. “The running the ball there at the end of the game to protect the field goal was something that they’ve done in the past. They did that against us in the AFC Championship Game a couple years ago, when they tried to run a trap up the middle, I think Vince [Wilfork] tackled him for a loss, knocked them out of field goal range and then they went for it on fourth down. I think that’s a style of play that they have and a strategy they’ve used in the past quite a bit, if that’s kind of what you’re referring to there.”
Here are some more highlights of his Q&A with the media Tuesday afternoon:
As the regular season nears its conclusion, the NFL continues to be unpredictable. Opportunities to gain ground in the conference, clinch divisions and secure playoff spots were present in Week 15, but the Broncos (4), Patriots (6), Saints (7), Bengals (9), Eagles (16), Lions (18) and Cowboys (20) squandered those chances.
One thing of which we can be certain is that the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will go through the 12th man in Seattle. One more win clinches home-field advantage for the No. 1 ranked Seahawks. The Niners (2) and Panthers (3) are right behind in a top-heavy NFC.
Meanwhile, the AFC has never been this wide open. The Broncos and Patriots both fall two spots after disappointing losses, while the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens move all the way up to the No. 5 spot.
As we head into the final two weeks there still is much to be decided across the league. Which teams will lock up first-round byes? Can the Patriots actually miss the playoffs? An exciting conclusion to the season is upon us.
1. (1) Seahawks (12-2) — Injuries and suspensions to starters can’t even slow down this Seahawks defense. Brandon Browner, Walter Thurmond, K.J. Wright and Tony McDaniel all were out of commission on Sunday, but Seattle’s D still was able to force five turnovers and get a shutout win over the Giants.
2. (5) 49ers (10-4) — The Niners are heating up at just the right time. San Fran has won four straight and is second only to Seattle in point differential in the NFC at plus-121.
3. (6) Panthers (10-4) — Cam Newton and the Panthers control their own destiny in the NFC South. If they win their final two games, the Panthers will be division champs for the first time since 2008 and will enjoy a first-round bye.
4. (2) Broncos (11-3) — The Broncos are allowing an average of 29 points in their last four games. This team has looked vulnerable of late but still has a firm grip on the No. 1 seed in the AFC with the Texans and Raiders left on the schedule.
5. (14) Ravens (8-6) — The Ravens have just as good a shot to reach the Super Bowl as the Broncos and Patriots.
6. (4) Patriots (10-4) — It’s difficult to win in this league if your offense can’t convert in the red zone. The Patriots go from one of the best teams in the red zone to one of the worst without Rob Gronkowski. If Tom Brady and Bill Belichick can lead this team to the Super Bowl it will go down as one of the tandem’s best accomplishments of their career.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined Salk & Holley on Monday afternoon to discuss New England’s disappointing 24-20 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday, the team’s injured defensive unit, as well as next Sunday’s opponent, the Ravens.
After Miami took a 24-20 lead with just 1:15 remaining in the game, the Patriots once again made things interesting, as Tom Brady orchestrated a drive that had the Patriots in the red zone with just a few seconds left on the clock. However, the Patriots were unable to pull off another comeback, as Brady was picked off by Michael Thomas in the end zone, sealing the victory for Miami.
‘It didn’t end up being our day,’ Belichick said. ‘Real competitive game, but in the end, [we] just couldn’t quite make enough plays. ‘¦ I think that all of us that participated in the game all think about one or two things we could have done better that probably would have made a difference. I know I feel that way, I’m sure everybody on the team feels that way, too.’
One player in particular who had a rough day was kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who missed a 48-yard field goal in the second half and also sent a fourth-quarter kickoff out of bounds, giving Miami excellent field position for its winning drive. Sunday’s tough showing certainly was an outlier on Gostkowski’s otherwise Pro Bowl-caliber season, as the 29-year-old kicker has converted 94 percent of his field goals, with six of those kicks coming from 50 or more yards out.
‘That’s one of the plays where we were just talking about. I’m sure he would like to have that one back,’ Belichick said. ‘We’ve all watched great golfers on the golf course hit them down the middle every drive and then miss one. Steve has been very consistent for us. He’s had a great year. I’m sure he’d like to have that back.’
Injuries once again served as a major talking point after the game, as the Patriots have lost a number of key players this season, especially on the defensive side of the ball with Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Tommy Kelly all being placed on IR earlier this season.
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