|Bill Belichick on Pepper Johnson: ‘I’m sure he does a good job with them’||10.08.14 at 11:08 am ET|
FOXBORO — Sunday will mark the first time that Bill Belichick has faced Pepper Johnson since the two split after last season.
Johnson is now the defensive line coach of the Bills defense that coached up by former Belichick student Jim Schwartz. Johnson steps into a situation where he has bigger names along the defensive line, names like Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus.
The Bills are allowing just 71 yards per game on the ground, second-best in the NFL. Has Belichick seen any direct impact that Johnson has had on that defensive line?
“I think they’re playing well,” Belichick said. “I’m sure he does a good job with them. It looks very much like Jim’s scheme from Detroit and from Tennessee. Obviously the group is playing well. They have a very good front. They have good depth. They play the run well; they rush the passer well. They’re obviously playing good techniques and that’s a credit to all of them ‘ the players, the coaches, Jim, the defensive coordinator. They’re all doing a good job.”
Belichick will also be facing run-stopping dreadlocked linebacker Brandon Spikes for the first time, as well.
“Yeah, we know him,” Belichick said Wednesday. “I don’t think he’s changed much. Hair might be a little longer. He’s about the same.”
|Tyler Ott embraces his ‘blessed opportunity’ with Patriots||08.05.14 at 12:42 pm ET|
RICHMOND, Va. — Tyler Ott knows he has the chance of a lifetime as an undrafted long snapper out of Harvard. He also knows it won’t be easy.
This explains his extra time after practice working with punter Ryan Allen, making sure his mechanics are as close to perfect as humanly possible. He was brought in to compete with Danny Aiken for the long snapping job on the Patriots, a job Aiken has held since the beginning of the 2011 season.
Aiken was in the position in 2011 that Ott is now, and most long snappers are, an undrafted prospect signed by an NFL team, with the hope of doing enough good things to earn a roster spot, if not with the team that signed him, then another. In Aiken’s case, the Bills signed him at the end of the 2011 draft and released him in August before the Patriots snatched him up before the start of the ’11 season.
Ott is trying to do the same thing.
“It’s really a blessed opportunity. I really didn’t grasp the idea that I was going to play for an NFL team until my junior year at Harvard. Then, my senior year at Harvard, I came out to three games that season for the Patriots and then really once everything got rolling with getting an agent and hearing from coaches and teams, long snapping in the NFL was going to be a real opportunity for me.
I really didn’t have the Patriots anywhere on the map just thinking there’s 32 teams, what are the chances I could end up in Boston with the Patriots? So really, when I got that call that Saturday of the draft, it was a, ‘how did this happen?’ kind of thing but obviously I was very excited. I was with family and friends and it was just a moment you won’t ever forget.”
|Quick Hits: Mike Petraglia, Chris Price break down Patriots’ bye-clinching win||12.29.13 at 10:46 pm ET|
FOXBORO — There were only two certainties Sunday: The driving rain and the driving legs of LeGarrette Blount.
Blount established a new Patriots franchise record with 334 all-purpose yards, rushing for 189 yards and two touchdowns while returning two key kicks 145 yards to lead the Patriots to a 34-20 win over the Bills at waterlogged Gillette Stadium.
“Obviously, it was a tremendous game by LeGarrette,” Bill Belichick beamed. “Clearly, the best player on the field. He had a tremendous day. He carried the team on his back for most of the day.”
Blount, being the humble man he is, declined to accept that assessment from his coach. Instead, he chose to thank the offensive line and the special teams units that he insisted opened huge holes for him all day.
‘I wouldn’t say that,” Blount said. “On the returns that I had, I didn’t get touched for like the first thirty yards, so I tip my hat off to those guys, the core special teams guys. We have a Pro Bowler in [Matthew] Slater, so I tip my hat off to those guys. And the offensive line played amazing for both of us, me and [Stevan] Ridley and Shane [Vereen]. The offensive line played amazing, so you can’t ever give them enough credit.’
Belichick said the weather definitely turned the contest into a “running game.” Blount excelled given the chance.
‘I mean, I like touching the ball no matter what the weather is,” Blount said. “I’m not going to argue with them if they want to give it to us.
‘I feel like we had to man up and play tough football with the conditions, and whoever played better football physically is going to be the winner. It was cold and it was rainy, and it was hard for a lot of guys to keep their footing. We just went into the game with the mindset to run the football and play physical football, and that’s what we did. It’s a mindset and the will of what’s at stake and the urgency that we have to have to continue to be successful, and how important this first round bye was.’
Blount was without question the most important player on the field. In addition to his two touchdown runs, everyone saw why Belichick saw such promise in Blount as a return man way back in training camp. He returned one kick for 83 yards after the Bills cut the lead to 16-10. That led to a Patriots touchdown that made it 24-10.
The Bills came right back and made it 24-17. No worries, Blount was there again to save the day, returning the ensuing kick 62 yards and setting the Patriots up at the Bills 40. The field goal made it 27-17 and the Patriots dodged two speeding bullets.
‘It was a good feeling, man,” Blount said. “Those core guys ‘ I mean, we’ve been close a few times, but a few times it’s been us, it’s been the returners that haven’t ran the return to the point to where we could’ve broken it, and we finally got to the point where we read it perfectly, and they brought the perfect play and it broke.”
|Logan Mankins helped off field with ankle injury, returns later, Aaron Dobson (foot) won’t return||at 5:21 pm ET|
FOXBORO — In a season already marred by season-ending injuries to five starters, the Patriots watched their Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins helped off the field with an ankle injury. The Patriots listed his return as questionable. Just two series later, Mankins was back on the field.
Mankins was providing the seal block that sprang LeGarrette Blount for a 36-yard touchdown run in the second quarter when his legs appeared to buckle. As Blount was running for paydirt, several Patriots offensive lineman waved frantically for medical staff to hurry onto the field and assist.
Mankins was tended to on the sideline and then gingerly made his way to the locker room steps behind the Patriots bench and slowly down the steps into the trainer’s room.
Meanwhile, Aaron Dobson appeared to re-injure his left foot on a deep post route early in the first quarter when he sprinted for a deep ball from Tom Brady. After the pass fell incomplete, Dobson came up lame and limped off the field. Dobson missed three games after injuring his left foot in the Nov. 24 win over the Broncos. He wore a protective walking boot for two weeks before returning to practice. After initially being listed as questionable to return with a foot injury, he was ruled out of the game shortly after halftime.
FOXBORO — Steady rain and winds are expected for the regular season finale Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
The rain is expected to begin well before the 4:25 p.m. kickoff and continue throughout the game. Temperatures are expected in the low 40s before dropping into the upper 30s by the end of the game.
The Patriots clinch a first-round bye with a win and could wind up with the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win and Broncos loss to the Raiders in Oakland.
The Patriots have the best possible opponent visiting Foxboro as the Bills are 0-11 lifetime at Gillette Stadium and Tom Brady is 11-0 against the Bills lifetime in Foxboro, beating them in old Foxboro Stadium in 2001 but not facing them in 2008 due to his knee injury. Brady is 21-2 lifetime against Buffalo, with his only losses coming in 2003 and 2011.
The Bills haven’t beaten the Patriots in Foxboro since Nov. 5, 2000 in a 16-13 decision at Foxboro Stadium.
The Patriots are attempting to finish a perfect 8-0 at home at for the sixth time in team history, with all previous five coming at Gillette (2003, 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2010). The Patriots won both home playoff games in ’03, 04 and 07 but were beaten in their first home playoff game in 2009 and ’10.
This also marks the fifth time in team history the Patriots are opening and closing the season with the same opponent, beating Buffalo 23-21, on a last-second field goal from Stephen Gostkowski in Orchard Park on Sept. 8. The Patriots opened 2003 with a 31-0 loss in Buffalo before gaining revenge by the identical score in the season finale that season. It happened in 1987 against Miami, in 1981 against the Colts and in 1974 against Miami.
|Patriots Friday injury report: Josh Boyce ruled out, Devin McCourty doubtful, 11 questionable||12.27.13 at 4:28 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For a second straight week, rookie receiver Josh Boyce will miss a game with an ankle injury. Meanwhile, Devin McCourty is listed as doubtful to play after missing practice all week with a concussion. By injury report standards in the NFL, a “doubtful” designation indicates only a 25 percent chance of playing. McCourty and Boyce were both spotted in the locker room on Friday chatting with teammates but neither spoke with reporters. They were the only two players to miss practice the entire week.
The Patriots finished up practice Friday on a frigid day outside Gillette Stadium. Rob Ninkovich did participate but was limited for a second straight day and is questionable for the season finale. Ninkovich is one of 11 players officially listed as questionable.
Ninkovich, with an ice pack on his injured left ankle, did speak to reporters on Friday and said he would be “all right” to go and play Sunday in the season finale. For the Bills, Thad Lewis will start at quarterback as EJ Manuel (left knee) is doubtful while receiver Stevie Johnson (mother’s death) and safety Aaron Williams (ribs) have both been ruled out.
Here is Friday’s complete Patriots report:
Did Not Practice
WR Josh Boyce (ankle) OUT
S Devin McCourty (concussion) DOUBTFUL
CB Kyle Arrington (groin) QUESTIONABLE
OT Marcus Cannon (ankle) PROBABLE
CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee/shoulder) QUESTIONABLE
WR Aaron Dobson (foot) QUESTIONABLE
LB Dane Fletcher (groin) QUESTIONABLE
S Steve Gregory (finger/knee) QUESTIONABLE
DL Rob Ninkovich (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
OT Nate Solder (concussion) QUESTIONABLE
LB Brandon Spikes (knee) QUESTIONABLE
OT Will Svitek (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) QUESTIONABLE
RB Shane Vereen (groin) QUESTIONABLE
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