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Bill Belichick moving on to next season: ‘We’re in 2014 now’ 01.20.14 at 10:55 am ET
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FOXBORO — Like a being on a treadmill, the Patriots season was going and going but then came to a sudden stop Sunday afternoon in Denver with their 26-16 loss to the Broncos in the AFC championship game.

Coach Bill Belichick now shifts his focus to the 2014 season. Belichick spoke of what that entails at his season-ending press conference Monday at Gillette Stadium, noting decisions regarding the makeup of next year’€™s team will come in the next two months.

“I would say in the neighborhood of 6-8 weeks. Free agency starts a little less than two months from now so we definitely need to be ready by then,” Belichick said. “There will be some other transactions along the way before then relative to tenders and those types of things. There are a few situations that will precede that, but I would say somewhere in the 4-8 weeks category, some sooner than others. Trying to compile all the information on players and situations as well as things like responsibilities on our staff, looking at scheme and maybe a player could fit a little bit better into a scheme, or maybe not as well into a different scheme if we are planning on making some changes along those lines. That’€™s all part of it, too.

“Some decisions need to be made sooner than others, other decisions honestly may wait. We’ve re-signed players in April, May, June and we’ve also released players in that range. I don’€™t think there is a specific timetable, but I would say somewhere in that 6-8 week range is probably when most of the decisions need to be made or at least, even if they are delayed, you’ve made that decision to delay.”

Of those decisions to be made, some of them surround the team’s free agents: Aqib Talib, Julian Edelman, Brandon Spikes and LeGarrette Blount. Belichick said he will speak to each of them as well as other players on the roster in the coming days and weeks.

“We have a number of players whose contracts are going to expire that I am going to talk to one way or another,” Belichick said. “I’€™m not saying there’€s any decision to made, but there is certainly a conversation to be had. A lot of guys on the team that I have and will talk to personally about their situation and appreciation for what they’ve done, whatever it happens to be.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Patriots,
Bill Belichick on Wes Welker’s hit on Aqib Talib: ‘It’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen’ at 9:34 am ET
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FOXBORO — Less than 18 hours after the Patriots’€™ season-ending loss to the Broncos, Bill Belichick had a chance to re-watch some of the game, including the play in which Denver wide receiver Wes Welker hit Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib on an apparent pick play across the middle of the field. The hit knocked Talib out of the game early in the second quarter.

Belichick didn’t have much to say on the hit during his press conference after the game, but he did come Monday morning in the opening statement of his end of the year press conference at Gillette Stadium.

“I feel badly for Aqib, the way the play turned out,”€ Belichick said. “I went back and watched it, which I didn’t get a chance to do yesterday. It was a deliberate play to take out Aqib. No attempt to get open. I’€™ll let the league handle the discipline on that. It’€™s not for me to decide, but it’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen. And that’€™s all I am going to say about that.”

After the game, Welker said there was no intent to run into Talib.

“It was one of those plays where it’€™s kind of a rough play, and I was trying to get him to go over the top, and I think he was thinking the same thing and wanted to come underneath and we just kind of collided,”€ Welker said. “It wasn’t a deal where I was trying to hit him or anything like that.

“I hope he’€™s OK — he’€™s a great player and a big part of their defense.”

The Patriots announced Talib suffered a knee injury on the play and his return was questionable, but he never returned to the game.

Read More: AFC Championship, Aqib Talib, Bill Belichick, Wes Welker
Aqib Talib: ‘If I could have been out there, I would have been out there’ 01.19.14 at 7:56 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib wouldn’t comment on whether or not there was anything wrong with the hit he took from former teammate Wes Welker that knocked him out of Sunday’s AFC title game, only saying that it was “very difficult” to leave the contest, a 26-16 loss for New England.

Talib left midway through the second quarter after taking a shot from Welker to the right side of his upper body on an incomplete Peyton Manning pass over the middle intended for Demaryius Thomas. He was announced as questionable with a rib injury and then, after halftime, a knee injury was added to the prognosis.

Talib left the field, and then departed for the locker room. He came back out at the start of the second half, but was unable to go the rest of the way. Following the game, Talib said “if I could have been out there, I would have been out there.” The corner said he “[couldn’t] remember how the play went,” but said that it was “very difficult” to sit and watch the rest of the game.

Asked about the hit after the contest, Patriots coach Bill Belichick acknowledged it was a “key play in the game” and added that Talib wanted back in.

“Of course,” Belichick said. “There’€™s not a more competitive guy in that locker room than Aqib Talib.”

“He is a very huge part of our success,” said running back LeGarrette Blount. “A huge part of it all the way to this point. I wish he would have been able to go back in and play, but unfortunately, he wasn’t able. It hurt us a little bit.”

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Read More: Aqib Talib, Bill Belichick, Demaryius Thomas, LeGarrette Blount
Bill Belichick takes chunk of blame for Patriots’ loss in AFC Championship Game, says he’s ‘proud to be their coach’ at 7:11 pm ET
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Speaking after his team’€™s 26-16 loss to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick took a good chunk of the responsibility for the defeat, while also reiterating an admiration for his team.

“€œI wish we could have done a little better job today, especially me,”€ Belichick said in his postgame press conference.

“Any time you lose a game like this there are definitely things you don’€™t feel great, and there are a lot of things I don’€™t feel great about. That shouldn’€™t come as any great surprise. But it’€™s in the books. You can’€™t do anything about it except look back at it, learn from it and move on. Certainly there are some calls, some plays we would like to have back. I’€™m sure everybody who competed in the game would like to have something back. It’€™s tough when your season ends this suddenly, but that’€™s the way it is. We know that’€™s the situation in the playoffs. One team moves on, one team doesn’€™t. It comes to a sudden stop.”

“€œBut again, I’€™ll say this, whatever mistakes were made in that game by me and everybody else I think were all made with the intention of doing what was best. Not everything worked out best, but it was done with the intention of doing what was best and trying our best to make it work. It didn’€™t always work, but the effort and intent to do the right thing, I definitely think that was there, and it’€™s been there all year.”

Belichick, whose team lost its four regular season games by a combined 18 points, was effusive in his praise for the approach the Patriots took throughout the 2013 campaign.

“They were very much that, physically and mentally tough,” he said when asked about his club’€™s makeup. “I don’€™t know about ranking them and all that because it’€™s different makeup of the team and the players. This team worked hard from the offseason program, through the OTAs, mini-camp, training camp, regular season, playoffs. They worked hard, daily, all day long. And I think they improved quite a bit during the year. I think that’€™s how you do improve, you take the instruction you’€™re given, you work on it and you have positive results, you build on those, you correct your mistakes, you build on your positive results and keep going. As a team I think they’€™ve done that and individually that’€™s been kind of the trademark of this team. Taking corrections, working hard, moving on, trying to get better, not getting caught up on what happened in the past but just trying to do a better job next time out. I think that improvement served us well all year.”

Belichick added, “€œI’€™m proud of the team. I’€™m proud to be their coach. I thought they played hard all year. They played competitively every single week. Some weeks they played better than others, but there was never a lack of effort or toughness. Everybody trying to do their best, and I totally respect the team for that and what they did. I’€™m proud to be their coach. That’€™s how I feel about it.”

Some of the other topics Belichick talked about included:

(On the lack of a Patriots running game): The idea is to score points and we just didn’€™t score enough points. Obviously they did some things to try and take that away. That wasn’€™t unexpected. We just weren’€™t able to score enough points and we gave up too many.

(On third-down inefficiency): We were able to hold them to some field goals defensively, but our third-down defense and our third-down offense, especially in the first half, let them get too far ahead and they were able to stay on the field. They had the ball, had field position, and even the couple of times we held them to field goals we still didn’€™t have possession of the ball and didn’€™t have a chance to do too much. We’€™re just trying to keep them out of the end zone and that’€™s OK, but it would be a lot better if we were able to stop them on third down and get the ball back and we just weren’€™t able to do that. Conversely, we weren’€™t able to do it offensively.

(On the Broncos‘€™ offensive success): They did a good job of mixing the plays and as always, he did a good job of reading the defenses. [Peyton Manning] got us in some situations that weren’€™t ideal with his astute play-calling and recognition. We disguised and I think we got him a few times, but he got us a few times too. They’€™re a tough team to match up against with all the good skill players they have.

(On when he can put this game behind him): I don’€™t know. That’€™s a good question. Unfortunately we’€™ve been here before. We’€™ve won AFC Championship games and we’€™ve lost them. We’€™ll move on. We have to. We’€™re behind a lot of the other teams in the league — all except one in the AFC, actually –€“ in terms of the offseason, so we have a little bit of catching up to do. Starting tomorrow we’€™re on to 2014.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots,
Setting the scene from the Mile High City as Patriots battle Denver Broncos in AFC championship at 1:04 pm ET
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DENVER — Mother Nature is apparently a big fan of the Broncos and Patriots.

In January weather more befitting of Florida or Southern California, sunshine and 67 degrees is expected for the 1 p.m. MT kickoff here in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, as the Patriots and Broncos do battle in ideal conditions for the AFC championship.

The temperature is expected to reach as high as 69 by halftime before cooling off in the evening.

If that holds, it will unofficially go down as the warmest outdoor game in Patriots playoff history.

On Jan. 12, 1986, when the Patriots beat the Dolphins, 31-14, the game-time temperature at the Orange Bowl was 64 degrees. It was officially 60 when the Patriots lost in the 1998 playoffs in Jacksonville. When the Patriots beat the Chargers, 24-21, in the 2006 playoffs it was only 53 and Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville was only 59.

Ironically, today’s AFC championship is the 12th anniversary of the epic “Snow Bowl” at Foxboro Stadium, a game won by the Patriots over the Raiders, 16-13, in overtime in the last game ever played at the venue.

The two biggest injury question marks coming into the game appear to be the health of two rookie receivers that could challenge the Broncos secondary deep.

Kenbrell Thompkins continues to nurse a sore hip while Aaron Dobson is dealing with a stress fracture in his left foot. Both were limited all week in practice and both were questionable coming into the game. Dobson returned to practice on Wednesday after missing the Colts playoff game.

The Broncos have won both previous playoff meetings against the Patriots in Denver, beating the Patriots 22-17 in the 1986 AFC divisional round and winning, 27-13, in the 2005 playoffs, the game most infamously remembered by New England fans by Champ Bailey‘s game-changing 100-yard interception return off a Tom Brady pass to the end zone.

The Patriots gained their revenge two seasons ago when they blew out Tim Tebow and the Broncos, 45-10, in the divisional round. Including Super Bowl XXXVIII, when the Patriots beat the Panthers, 32-29, Bill Belichick is 2-0 against John Fox in the postseason.

Read More: Aaron Dobson, AFC Championship, Bill Belichick, Champ Bailey
Tom Brady doesn’t think Bill Belichick is too demanding of the Patriots 01.18.14 at 1:58 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have never really publicly cared what the rest of the world thinks of them. And they certainly don’t care what the rest of the NFL thinks. The only image they care about is the one associated with winning.

Still, that didn’t keep Dan Hausle of WHDH-TV (7News) of from peppering Brady for a second straight day with a poll question. On Friday, Hausle wanted to know what Brady thought of a midseason poll of current NFL players that had his head coach ranked as the second-least liked coach to play for.

“I don’€™t talk to many players around the league about Coach Belichick so I wouldn’€™t know that one either,” Brady said, referring to Thursday’s poll question about why he was the least liked quarterback.

Does it surprise Brady that players wouldn’€™t want to play for a coach as successful as Belichick?

“That’€™s a good question,” Brady conceded. “I like playing for a successful coach. That means we’€™re successful and winning and ultimately that’€™s hopefully what we’€™re here for.”

Certainly, that’s what the Patriots have achieved together under Belichick and Brady. They’ve won three Super Bowls, been to two others, more than any coach-quarterback combination in NFL history. The two are a combined 18-7 in the playoffs. If Belichick wins the Super Bowl this year, he would match Chuck Noll with four, Don Shula with six Super Bowl appearances and surpass Tom Landry with 21 career postseason wins.

Brady has already tied a Super Bowl record with five appearances by a quarterback and, with a win Sunday, would surpass John Elway for the most conference championships in the Super Bowl era.

“I think success is the most important thing, no question,” Brady said. “There’€™s nothing that’€™s better than winning games as far as I’€™m concerned.”

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Read More: 7News, Bill Belichick, Dan Hausle, Denver Broncos
Patriots-Broncos predictions: Media prognosticators lean toward Denver taking close game 01.17.14 at 1:17 pm ET
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One thing is clear about the predictions coming in for Sunday’€™s AFC championship game between the Patriots and the Broncos — most believe it’€™ll be a close game. Both local and national media favor Denver, but, like the score predictions, neither team has a blowout lead.

On WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan, Gery Callahan was the only one to favor the Patriots. While Callahan thinks Tom Brady will lead New England to a 31-28 win, John Dennis (37-24) and Kirk Minihane (31-24) believe Denver will win it behind a Peyton Manning MVP effort. Minihane and Callahan predict the 49ers will take the NFC title, while Dennis projects the Seahawks will pick up the game on their own turf.

On Mut & Merloni, Mike Mutnansky is going with the Broncos, 35-28. Lou Merloni has the Patriots emerging victorious, 31-27. The two are split on the NFC game as well, with Mutnansky taking San Francisco and Merloni tabbing Seattle.

At SB Nation, the Patriots and Broncos split the panel, with Ryan Van Bibber, Jason Chilton and Stephen White leaning toward New England while Joel Thorman, David Fucillo and Matt Ufford predicting a Denver win.

ESPN‘s group of 13 panelists, on the other hand, favor the the Broncos. Merril Hoge, Adam Schefter, Mike Ditka, and Cris Carter project that the Patriots will come out with the win. Meanwhile Eric Allen, Mike Golic, Ron Jaworski, KC Joyner, Chris Mortensen, Mark Schlereth, Seth Wickersham, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson are sticking with Denver.

USA Today‘€™s panel of seven favors the Broncos 6-1, with Jarrett Bell, Jim Corbett, Lindsay H. Jones, Pete O’€™Brien, Tom Pelissero and Simon Samano favoring Denver. The lone vote for the Patriots came from Nate Davis.

Following are more predictions from around the country:

Vinnie IyerSporting News: Patriots 26, Broncos 23 — “The Patriots didn’t need to play the Bengals, and blew by the Colts. Now that they survived to get to the Broncos, it’€™s easier to trust them to advance. While the expected hype is around Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, the real matchup is Bill Belichick vs. John Fox.”

Don BanksSports Illustrated: Broncos 34, Patriots 31 “It still sounds quite strange, but I think Tony Dungy had it right when he told me on Monday that this meeting of Hall of Fame-bound quarterbacks will likely come down to the running games, and the run defenses.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, John Fox, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady



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