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With bye week looming, expect Patriots to dive into self-scouting process 10.30.12 at 7:18 pm ET
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With the bye week, the Patriots’€™ coaching staff will get a few extra days to do some self-scouting and examine what sort of things they’€™re doing right, as well as some things they might need some work on. According to Bill Belichick, the self-scouting process involves ‘€œa combination of things,’€ including some statistical analysis, film study, meetings with positional coaches and looking at how other teams have played them.

‘€œWe take a look at our statistical information, what we’€™ve done, how productive it has or hasn’€™t been in all aspects, see what tendencies we have created and whether we’€™re happy with those tendencies or whether we want to change them,’€ Belichick said on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon. ‘€œThen we go back and look at each of the individual plays and groups of plays and see if there’€™s something that jumps out or maybe we go into it looking for something and see what we can find.

‘€œSometimes we just look at it, and you see a group of 15 or 20 plays in a certain situation ‘€“ red area, two minute, third down, outside runs, inside runs, whatever it happens to be. Sometimes something just jumps out at you,’€ he added. ‘€œIt’€™s probably something you’€™re aware of, but maybe it’€™s a little bit more prevalent than what you expected — the self-scouting process, the film evaluation, kind of taking a look at how other teams have played us, if there’€™s a common thread there, if we’€™re kind of seeing the same coverages or the same front or the same plays or the same formations are repeating.’€

On the offensive side of the ball, Josh McDaniels said the self-scouting process is all about being able to ‘€œidentify areas that you can make some progress and/or make some improvements — or at least make your players aware of some things we need to try to do better.’€ But you also have to be mindful of the time you do have.

‘€œYou can’€™t hit everything in a bye week. It’€™s too short in terms of time that you have with the payers,’€ the Patriots offensive coordinator said Tuesday. ‘€œBut if we find a few things that we feel like can make a difference for us in some area of our games, that’€™s definitely something you try to get done. I think if you try to tackle 100 things you probably don’€™t get anything accomplished.

‘€œWe’€™re in the process now of just trying to look back over the first half of the season and maybe more specifically the last so many games here and try to focus on some things that we think can make us better heading into the last eight games.’€

According to defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, the key is to pinpoint a few areas of emphasis — not give players a series of ‘€œmass pieces.’€

‘€œObviously that’€™s a big part of this week for us certainly — to take a look at everything that we’€™re doing and see some areas where we can improve and hopefully find some areas where we are doing some things that are also OK and good, and things that we can build off of,’€™ Patricia said. ‘€œSo we’€™ll certainly take a look at that as well.

‘€œHopefully [you] try to find a couple areas once you take a look at it and show the players a couple avenues where we can really do some things better and improve that would really make a difference in our team. I think you’€™ve got to try to narrow that down — after you take a good look at all of it — and give them a smaller scope so that you’€™re not just looking at everything and try to get something done instead of just giving them mass pieces.’€

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Bill Belichick talks logistics, London with English media 10.26.12 at 12:21 pm ET
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Bill Belichick met the English media on Friday morning shortly after the Patriots landed overseas, and he touched on a variety of topics — both football and non-football. He did acknowledge that the team brought a few players who could be game-time decisions because of their health.

“We’€™ll probably have some guys that are game-time [decisions] that we’€™re not 100 percent sure about. We’€™ll have to see how that goes,” Belichick said. “We have a lot of guys who are working really hard, getting a lot of extra treatment, coming in early, staying late and doing everything they can to be ready, whether how ready they’€™ll be, what they’€™ll be able to do and all, I’€™m not sure we know that 100 percent.

“Our last practice was Thursday, so that’€™s still a half week before the game — a lot of times it takes a couple days more than that, sometimes it takes up until game time to really figure that out for sure. We’€™ll see where some of those guys are.”

While the Rams went over early in the week, the Patriots made the decision not to travel until later, touching down on Friday. Belichick decided not to practice as the team continued to adjust to the time change in anticipation of Sunday’s game against the Rams.

“We’€™ll get done what we feel like we can get done productively,” Belichick said when asked about the Friday off-day. “We got three days of practice ‘€“ Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — last week and this week so that’€™s the three days we normally have. Saturday will be a normal Saturday for us. [Friday] is kind of a transition day.”

Logistically, the trip and travel isn’t easy, but Belichick said it’s something they’ve faced in the past. In the end, the key is making sure you’re ready to go come game day.

“We have normal weeks, we have short weeks, we have travel weeks, we have home weeks, but I think you always try to get to Saturday, Sunday or the day of the game, day before the game, you try to have consistency at that point in the week,” he said. “Sometimes, you have to modify or adjust what happens before that. When you get to game day, you want that to be a fairly consistent routine that the players and the coaches and the organization are comfortable with. Hopefully the day before that, your final preparations are consistent as well.  That’€™s I think the most important part of it.

“Like I said, we’€™ve played on four-day weeks, three-day weeks, two weeks, 10 days, but in the end it’€™s the final lead-up to the game that I think is the most important part of the consistency of the week.”

Here are a few other highlights of his Q&A with the media on Friday:

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Mike Lombardi on D&C: Rams going to take their shots in fourth quarter at 10:01 am ET
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NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to preview Sunday’s Patriots-Rams game and discuss news from around the league. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Some have speculated that overseas trips help teams to bond, but Lombardi said he didn’€™t believe so.

‘€œThe Patriots, the Rams, they’€™re not Boy Scouts,’€ Lombardi said. ‘€œTrips that go away are not bonding trips. What bonds a team is what Tom Brady did at the end of that Jets game. Coming from behind, kicking that field goal, winning the game. Those are the kind of plays that bond teams. This whole going away stuff, I’€™ve never bought into it.’€

Asked whether the Patriots’ use of a conservative defensive scheme, one that doesn’€™t blitz, is partly to blame for their inability to close out games, Lombardi said the responsibility starts with the offense.

‘€œThe Patriots team this year has given up 58 points in the fourth quarter alone,’€ Lombardi said. ‘€œThey’€™ve only given up 61 points in the first half alone. Because the offense hasn’€™t extended the lead, whether it’€™s Seattle where you’€™re up 23-13, or the Jets game where you’€™re up 23-13. You’ve got a chance. Put the game away, make it a 30-13 game. They didn’€™t do it, they made it a closer game. Same thing in Seattle, same thing in Baltimore. And I think that becomes the problem for them, when the offense doesn’€™t put the game away, then all of a sudden things start to fall apart. That’€™s really what’€™s happened.’€

Lombardi predicts the Rams will attempt to take advantage of New England’s unimpressive defensive secondary by airing it out.

‘€œI think they’€™re going to,” Lombardi said. “The Rams have a unique team. What the Rams are saying when they play you is, ‘€˜We think you’€™re going to mess up. So we’€™re going to be as conservative as we possibly can be. We’€™re not going to blow this game. We’€™re going to try to get this game to the fourth quarter, we’€™re going to take our shot.’ And I think you’€™ll see them take shots up the field.

“I think they will throw it down the field if they can make a few plays. That’€™s part of what they want to do, anyway. They know they’€™re not good enough. They know their offensive line is really a work in progress, and that’€™s being polite. ‘€¦ They have to control the ball, stay in a lot of third-and-shorts, keep 10-play drives, and really the Rams don’€™t mind if you keep the ball for 10 minutes, either. They just want to keep you out of the end zone. They’€™ll let you have a field goal if you keep it for 10 minutes.”

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Bill Belichick: ‘We have a lot of respect’ for Chris Givens and his big-play ability 10.25.12 at 11:26 am ET
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FOXBORO — Over the first seven games of the season, the Patriots have yielded 38 pass plays of 20 yards or more, and on Sunday against the Rams, the guy most likely to make it 39 is likely wide receiver Chris Givens.

The rookie out of Wake Forest isn’€™t the Rams’€™ No. 1 option in the passing game — he has 10 catches for 270 yards and a touchdown in his first year in the NFL — but his speed makes him something special. He ran a 4.41 at the combine last February, and the fourth-round pick has used those jets to put together a streak of four straight games where he’€™s caught a pass of 50 yards or more.

‘€œGivens has really made some big plays for them. He really hasn’€™t had that many opportunities, but the ones he’€™s had, he’€™s hit big on,’€ said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. ‘€œThey’€™ve also used him some in the return game, so that’€™s something — they’€™ve used several different returners, so I’€™m not sure exactly who we’€™ll see, but we have a lot of respect for him and he’€™s definitely given them an element of big plays.’€

According to Belichick, the loss of wide receiver Danny Amendola — who went down with a clavicle injury earlier this month in a win over the Cardinals — has forced quarterback Sam Bradford and the St. Louis passing game to become more egalitarian. Belichick compared with the Rams have done in the passing game to what happened with the Jets, who started spreading the ball around more after Santonio Holmes went down with an injury.

As a result, the Rams now have seven players with at least 10 receptions.

‘€œThey really use everybody — they use all of their receivers. It looks like they have a lot of confidence in all of them,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œThey work the ball around pretty good. I don’€™t think they’€™re just locked into one guy — although Amendola is clearly a go-to guy for them, but I’€™d say since then, they’€™ve done a good job of spreading the ball around. Kind of similar to last week, really, to when Holmes went out, and how it balanced the offense out for the Jets. I’€™d say it’€™s a little bit of the same thing with the Rams. They seem to be really more balanced now and less of one go-to guy.

‘€œThey have an explosive team,’€ he added. ‘€œI think it’€™s a well-balanced team. They’€™re probably balance is a little better now without Amendola, although I’€™m sure they miss his playmaking skills. I’€™m not saying that. It seems like the ball now has gotten spread evenly around to everybody — tight ends, backs and receivers.’€

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Bill Belichick has a history with Rams running back Steven Jackson at 10:50 am ET
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FOXBORO — While much has been made of the struggles of the Patriots’€™ pass defense, New England has actually been very stout against the run over the first seven games of the season, allowing 86 yards per game — eighth in the league.

In that time, the Patriots have faced some of the league’€™s elite backs and held all of them under their season average, including Chris Johnson (11 carries, 4 yards), C.J. Spiller (8 carries, 33 yards), Willis McGahee (14 carries, 51 yards) and Marshawn Lynch (15 carries, 41 yards). Only one back — Ray Rice — has topped 100 yards on the ground against New England, and Sunday’€™s win over the Jets marked the fourth straight game in which New England has held an opponent under four yards per carry.

The Patriots’€™ run defense will face its next real test Sunday in the Rams’ Steven Jackson. The 29-year-old Jackson, in his ninth season out of Oregon State, has run for 380 yards on 101 carries this season for St. Louis, including 76 yards (on 18 carries) in a 17-3 win over the Cardinals. A multipurpose threat out of the backfield, he also has 19 catches on the season for 189 yards, and has 379 receptions for 3,079 yards over the course of his career.

Jackson, who was a first-round pick of the Rams in 2004, was initially on New England’€™s radar that year. With the draft looming, it was widely believed the Patriots were in the market for a running back — to that end, New England coach Bill Belichick went out to meet with Jackson in his hometown of Las Vegas to check him out.

‘€œI went out there and met with him and spent the whole day, pretty much the whole day with him out there — he was a very impressive individual,’€ recalled Belichick of Jackson. ‘€œObviously a big, strong kid that runs well, that catches the ball very well. That’€™s very good in the passing game — he’€™s a little underrated in that area. Good in blitz pickup. A smart guy. Has really had an outstanding career. He was definitely a guy we were very much interested in. Like I said, I personally spent quite a bit of time with him.’€

While the Patriots decided to go in another direction — they acquired Corey Dillon shortly before the draft and selected defensive lineman Vince Wilfork and tight end Ben Watson with their two first-round picks — that certainly hasn’€™t diminished Belichick’€™s opinion of Jackson and what he’€™s accomplished over the course of his career, particularly his durability.

‘€œIt’€™s impressive. It’€™s real impressive,’€ said Belichick when asked about Jackson’€™s durability. ‘€œHe’€™s had a 1,000 yards it seems like every year, or close to it, whatever it is. But he dishes it out. I think he probably gives out about as much as he takes. It’€™s not like that with all backs, but he’€™s got the quickness to be elusive on the second level and avoid guys and he’€™s also got the power to put his shoulder down and run through guys. He’€™s a hard guy to tackle.

‘€œHis production in the passing game is very good too. Not just screens, but route running, going out there and getting open and beating linebackers. And he’€™s a great target for the quarterback to throw to. Not a 5-foot-8 guy you’€™re trying to find out there. He’€™s a big tall strong guy who has a lot of range. A big catch radius with good hands.’€

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Jeff Fisher: Rams ‘brought a lot of energy’ in first London practice 10.24.12 at 5:43 pm ET
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In 2009, in the week leading up to the Patriots-Buccaneers contest at Wembley, there was plenty of talk about whether the Patriots were doing the right thing by traveling to London so late in the week. Tampa Bay, owned by the same Glazer family that owns Manchester United, went out early and practiced at the world-class soccer facility.

The result? The Patriots, behind three touchdown passes from Tom Brady, went out and throttled the Bucs, 35-7.

This time, it’s the Rams who are the early arrivals in the U.K. and the Patriots are hoping history repeats itself. They are having two practices in New England before hopping a plane for a red-eye after Thursday’s practice at Gillette.

The Rams – under new coach Jeff Fisher – arrived Tuesday and began practice Wednesday at Arsenal, the site of the Premier League club owned and operated by Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke.

“We talked to other clubs,” Fisher said in a conference call from London on Wednesday. “I’€™ve been over here several times in the preseason in the American Bowls and we just felt that the fact that Mr. Kroenke has a facility here, we felt that it would probably be best to come over early to put the travel behind us and the time difference behind us and get settled. That’€™s what we’€™ve done thus far. I just moments ago got off the practice field and I’€™m very pleased and proud with the way the guys have responded to the time change. They brought a lot of energy to the field; we had a great practice.”

But that’s not to say Fisher doesn’t think the world of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Quite the opposite.

“[Tom Brady] does such a great job,” Fisher said. “It’€™s so quick and obviously their terminology allows them to get up there and go. He sees things and he puts himself in the best possible position and then there’€™s so much that’€™s done after the snap too with the guys outside.

“He makes great decisions. He’€™s usually always right with the decision he makes. He has tremendous arm strength, vision, he’€™s accurate. He can extend the play with his legs. I don’€™t know what else you can say about him. He’€™s just very, very difficult to defend. Over the years, they’€™ve done a great job of surrounding him with great people.”

Fisher was asked, – in historical terms – if Brady were right there near the top with all the great quarterbacks, considering Fisher and his Titans would face Peyton Manning twice a year.

“Oh yeah, there’€™s not a doubt,” he said. “We faced Peyton twice a year for a long time. Hey, Aaron Rodgers isn’€™t bad either. I’€™d say there’€™s no doubt that Tom is probably one of the top that I’€™ve faced over the years.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Gregg Williams, Jeff Fisher, New England Patriots
Has Shane Vereen turned a corner? 10.23.12 at 1:35 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It’€™s been a long journey back for Shane Vereen.

The second-year running back out of Cal had a lost season in 2011 — unable to get into the system early because of the lockout, he struggled with injury and his spot on the depth chart. As a result, he fell short of the expectations that were placed on a second-round pick, and finished his rookie year with 57 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown.

But the 23-year-old may have turned the corner on Sunday against the Jets. Working as a regular part of New England’€™s running back rotation for the first time in his career, he got the start, and had the first three touches for the New England offense on the afternoon. He ended up with a career-high 49 rushing yards on eight carries, and added one catch for 10 yards in New England’€™s 29-26 win over the Jets.

‘€œI have to get a lot better,’€ he said Tuesday when asked what he took away from his performance against New York. ‘€œI did some good things, but all in all, there’€™s a lot of things I need to correct, and I need to get better at.’€

‘€œShane’€™s a smart kid, he has a good understanding of the game,’€ said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. ‘€œHe’€™s an elusive guy — he’€™s got good balance, plenty of strength for his size. [He’€™s] not the biggest guy, but [there’€™s] plenty of strength; he gives us some versatility there. I think he’€™s able to run inside, run in some traffic, but he’€™s a good space player, on the edge and in the passing game.

‘€œWhen he’€™s had an opportunity to play — unfortunately, he hasn’€™t had a lot of opportunities over the last year and a half — but the one’€™s he’€™s had have been fairly positive. Not that I hope anything happens to anybody else, but hopefully he’€™ll get more opportunities, because I think he can contribute for us. He’€™s done a good job when he’€™s had a chance, he just hasn’€™t a lot of opportunities.’€
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