|Bill Belichick calls on Patrick Chung to be D X-factor: ‘He’s got to be one of the best tacklers in the league’||11.21.16 at 7:45 pm ET|
The way Bill Belichick saw it coming into the game against San Francisco, the issue with the Patriots putting pressure on the opposing quarterback had less to do with getting after the QB than it did finishing the play when it was in front of them.
Insert Patrick Chung into the equation.
Bill Belichick has never been one to send a lot of pressure from the outside on corner blitzes. But on the very first series of the game and Colin Kaepernick facing 3rd-and-9 at his 26, Chung lined up on tight end Vance McDonald, who was split out wide. Chung looked right into the eyes of McDonald pre-snap but as the ball was snapped to Kaepernick in shotgun, Chung made a beeline for the Niners quarterback.
Unlike like past weeks, the Patriots would not let this chance for a big defensive play slip out of their hands in the Bay Area rain. Chung dove for Kaepernick’s ankles and held on for dear life, while Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich finished it off for a 12-yard sack credited to Chung. It was the start to a very productive day, as Chung wound up with a sack and nine tackles, topped this season only by his 11 tackles at Pittsburgh on Oct. 23.
“Patrick played well, played productively, pretty much as he always does,” Belichick said in his conference call Monday. “He gives us that week after week, makes plays in the kicking game, makes plays in the running game; makes plays in the passing game. He’s a good tackler, he’s around the ball. He’s just a productive player and it seems like it’s pretty much like that every week.It was the second of two sacks by defensive backs on the opening series. Malcolm Butler came off his man and came up to the line of scrimmage to tackle Kaepernick for a 0-yard sack on the first play of the game.”
The Patriots finished with four sacks in the first half and added one in the second half to finish with five on the day, a season high. As for selling the play at the start, Belichick said that was not as important as the finish of the play.
“There was pressure on the edge,” Belichick said. “They didn’t have it picked up. He had good patience with it and all of that, but I’d say the harder part of the play was tackling the quarterback. We’ve had a number of situations this year where we’ve been in that situation, where we’ve had players come in and block off the edge, and we just weren’t able to get the quarterback. He escaped somehow.
“So I think that’s really – Kaepernick almost got out of there on that one, too. Patrick tackled him, kind of wrapped him up around the leg or the ankle, and then somebody else, I think it might have been Trey Flowers, or somebody else was there to kind of help finish the play. But when you’re coming out of space like that, you can’t really let the quarterback outside when he’s as athletic as Kaepernick or Tyrod Taylor or guys like that. It’s a tough open field tackle on a player like that, so it was another good tackle. Chung is one of our best tacklers. He’s got to be one of the best tacklers in the league whether he’s in line or in space or whoever he’s tackling. He’s very good. I thought that was a very good tackle on the play and not an easy one.”
|Scouting Report: What you have to know about Patriots-Niners||11.19.16 at 12:35 pm ET|
Here’s everything you need to know for this Sunday’s game between the Patriots and Niners at Levi’s Stadium.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL
The numbers are really super simple: the Niners run defense is apocalyptically bad, and a sizable reason why San Francisco is allowing a league-worse 31.4 points per game. The Niners allow an average of 180.4 rushing yards per game. In four of their nine contests this year, San Francisco’s opponents have run for 190 yards or more on the ground, with the high-water mark (or low-water mark, depending on your perspective) coming when the Bills had 313 rushing yards in one game earlier this season. The numbers were better last week against Arizona, as the Cards could only muster 80 yards on the ground in a narrow win. (The San Francisco run defense narrowly avoided the honor of being the first team in NFL history to avoid yielding 100 rushing yards or more in seven straight games.) Bill Belichick said earlier this week that the biggest difference between that game and the previous eight was the fact that the Niners did a better job tackling. On the other side, LeGarrette Blount (182 carries, 678 yards, a league-leading 12 TDs) is going to get the bulk of the carries for New England, and given the breakdown, if he doesn’t get the ball 20-plus times, something is either wrong with Blount or the New England coaching staff has gotten too cute and tried to overthink things. The wild card here is Dion Lewis, who made the trip and could see his first action of the year. If he does see playing time, it might be wise to temper expectations (at least initially) for a few reasons, including the fact the Patriots still have a placeholder in James White. Regardless, this matchup is a big edge for New England.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL
The Patriots’ passing game is one of the best in the league; even with Tom Brady missing the first four games of the season, New England is at or near the top of NFL in most major passing categories. Brady (121-for-166, 73 percent, 1,635 yards, 12 TDs, 1 INT, 125.5 passer rating) won’t have Rob Gronkowski in the lineup Sunday, so expect Martellus Bennett (38 catches, 47 targets, 504 yards, 4 TDs) to go wire-to-wire in this one. In addition, Julian Edelman (48 catches, 71 targets, 451 yards, 1 TD) will see an uptick in work for a few reasons, not the least of which is that the Niners are bad at stopping No. 1 receivers. (More on that shortly.) And no Chris Hogan will mean more work for either Danny Amendola (17 catches, 21 targets, 203 yards, 3 TDs) or Malcolm Mitchell (7 catches, 15 targets, 95 yards) as the best deep threat.
On the other side of the ball, the Niners are better against the pass than they are against the run, allowing an average of 249 passing yards per contest (14th in the league). Using some Football Outsiders’ numbers, they have some very specific strengths and weakness: San Francisco is one of the best teams in the league in defending tight ends (eighth-best, per FO), but one of the worst at slowing No. 1 wide receivers (31st, per FO), and they’re not great at defending No. 2 receivers (23rd). We know the Patriots are going to tweak their offense because Gronkowski won’t be on the field, but this could mean a bigger game than usual for the likes of Edelman and Amendola.
|Bill Belichick sounds ominous warning about Chip Kelly’s 49ers: Remember last year vs. Eagles||11.16.16 at 11:03 am ET|
FOXBORO — The master motivator is at it again.
Bill Belichick takes his Patriots team across the country this week to battle a woeful 49ers team that has lost eight straight after winning its season opener against the Rams.
The Patriots were in almost the same position last year. They were coming off their first loss of the season in Denver. They were prohibitive two touchdown favorites against the Eagles and even jumped out to a 14-0 lead. Then they got cute. They tried a Nate Ebner onside kick that they failed to recover. The Patriots gave up 35 unanswered points to an Eagles team that had been blown out in its previous two games, 90-31.
The coach: Chip Kelly, the same guy that will be calling the plays for the 49ers this Sunday.
“I know a lot of people were talking about the same thing last year when the Eagles had lost a couple games by four touchdowns and coming in here with a poor record,” Belichick recalled Wednesday. “And they come in here and hammered us. Don’t put too much credence in any of what’s happened [in 8-game skid]. I think the way they played last week against Arizona is very indicative of their talent level and their ability to do things right against a good team.”
As for San Francisco’s 8-game losing streak?
“I think they’re getting better. You can see them getting better every week,” Belichick said. “The last two weeks, they’ve created a lot of explosive plays on offense, more than they’ve had.”
Indeed, the 49ers battled back from a 20-10 hole to tie the game on a Colin Kaepernick run around the left side to tie the game late in the fourth. The Cardinals won the game on a field goal at the final gun.
|5 things to know about 49ers: Patriots will travel cross-country to meet struggling San Francisco||11.15.16 at 6:27 pm ET|
Five things you have to know about the 49ers, who will host the Patriots Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium.
1. They do a good job running the ball.
When it comes to the Niners, the one positive you can say for sure is that they run the ball better than a lot of teams. Carlos Hyde (122 carries, 443 yards, six touchdowns) doesn’t have an ideal yards per carry total (3.6), but he’s gotten the bulk of the chances in the running game to this point in the season for the Niners. He just returned from a shoulder injury, which likely explains his production level (13 carries, 14 yards) last week against the Cards. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick (32 carries, 228 yards, one touchdown) is also pretty good when it comes to picking up yards on the ground; he had 10 carries for 55 yards in the loss to Arizona. Overall, San Francisco is seventh in the league when it comes to running the ball, averaging 116.9 rushing yards per game; the Niners have gone over 100 yards rushing in six of their nine contests this year, with a season-high 160 yards on the ground in a home loss to the Bucs last month.
2. Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert have struggled with consistency in the passing game.
Regardless of who is under center, the Niners have had major issues when it comes to moving the ball through the air. Kaepernick has started the last four games, and is 70-for-132 (53 percent) for 938 yards, five touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 82.2 while losing all four starts. His finest game came earlier this month against the Saints, where he finished 24-for-39 for 398 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Given the way things have shaken out for San Francisco this season, we’re going to presume that he’ll be the starter on Sunday. Jeremy Kerley (40 catches, 71 targets, 424 yards, 3 TDs) has distinguished himself as the lead option in the passing game, while Quinton Patton (29 catches, 49 targets, 345 yards) and Torrey Smith (17 catches, 39 targets, 243 yards, 2 TDs) have also flashed at times in the passing game.
3. They don’t do a good job defending the run.
This is the worst run defense the Patriots will face all year: The Niners have allowed an average of 180.4 rushing yards per game through nine games. (For some perspective, the last time New England allowed at least 180 rushing yards in one game came on Oct. 16, 2014 against the Jets, who finished that night with 218 yards on the ground.) In four of their nine games, San Francisco has allowed 190 yards or more on the ground. In an Oct. 16 loss to the Bills, the Niners allowed 313 rushing yards. The numbers were pretty good last week against Arizona, as the Cards could only muster 80 yards on the ground in a narrow win. (It was a small victory for the San Francisco run defense, as it narrowly avoided the honor of being the first team in NFL history to avoid yielding 100 rushing yards or more in seven straight games.) Bottom line? If LeGarrette Blount doesn’t get the ball at least 25 times on Sunday, something is up.
4. The Niners have a capable special teams unit: not great, not bad.
The ageless Phil Dawson (at 41, he’s one of the oldest guys in the league) is still getting it done as a kicker, going 13-for-14 from the field and 20-for-20 on extra points. Punter Bradley Pinion is pretty good, with a 45.3 average (21st) and a 40.1 net (17th). They have not had a punt blocked this season. Kerley is the primary punt returner (9.2 yards per chance on 13 returns), while they’ve had a handful of players work as kick returners, led by Chris Davis (21.5 average on six returns). Overall, they averaged 20.5 yards per kick return (tied for 24th) and 8.6 yards per punt return (20th). They do not have a return for touchdown this season.
5. They’re a cautionary tale as to how quickly things can change in the NFL.
The Niners were on top of the world a few years back. They took the Ravens down to the last minute in Super Bowl XLVII, and just missed out on a trip to Super Bowl the following year when Richard Sherman knocked away a late pass from Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree in the final minute of the NFC title game. Kaepernick was regarded as the next great young quarterback, and Jim Harbaugh was going to be the guy to usher in a new dynasty in San Francisco. Now, it’s just two-plus years later, and because of a variety of issues, the Niners are a mess of a team that will be lucky to win three games this year. The simple truth is that it’s hard to find the right formula to stay on top for an extended period of time. In some cases, the end comes fast. Enjoy it while you can.
|Martellus Bennett on NFL and social awareness: ‘How can we promote the conversation’||09.14.16 at 1:13 pm ET|
FOXBORO — After Martellus Bennett spent time talking about the Xs and Os Wednesday, he provided some fascinating insight to what he thinks can come from NFL players bringing social awareness to the football field.
In a five-minute dissertation, Bennett outlined his thoughts on Colin Kaepernick being joined by other NFL players in bringing social injustice to public light.
“It’s everybody. It’s not just blacks, it’s not just white, it’s not just cops, just not police, it takes every single person in society to do their part,” Bennett began. “And no role is too small. It just starts with one step. Start the conversation, have a conversation with our kids, have a conversation with friends so we all can bring change. That’s what it’s really about. Like how can we bring change and how can we promote the conversation so that others can try to figure out ways to bring change.
“And it’s really what I call design thinking. You’re just thinking in a way that you can design society to be a better place. And America was built on diversity and we believe that in diversity and we believe that in diversity you can find university, just basically unity with us all. And an NFL locker room is the No. 1 place to prove that because we have guys from all different walks of life and different life experiences come together for one cause and one dream and one goal. And I think the same thing can happen in society. We’re all on one team and we all want the same thing, which is tolerance, equality. Everybody just wants to be treated fairly and with justice. It’s just bringing people together really.”
Bennett and teammate Devin McCourty raised their fist Sunday night during the national anthem in solidarity with other players around the NFL.
“Really, it’s just to start the conversation, to get people take notice. Some things people just brush under the rug, water under the bridge,” Bennett said. “But it’s big. It doesn’t just affect one family, it affects all families. From the moments where you’re riding in the car, there’s a Young Jeezy song going and you hear the sirens in the background of the music and you panic and you freeze while you’re driving, when it gets to that point, then it’s like time to really start having a conversation. I mean I like Young Jeezy but, you know.”
In an appearance with ESPN Radio’s “Russillo & Kannell” on Tuesday, Patriots defensive end Chris Long offered his thoughts on a number of topics, including the recent uproar involving Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the national anthem. Check out the complete video here.
|When it comes to banners and the anthem, Bill Belichick has no time for non-football talk||09.06.16 at 10:10 am ET|
FOXBORO — Bill Belichick has zero patience or tolerance for talking about anything that doesn’t help his team get ready for Week 1 in Arizona this Sunday night.
Talking about the new Tom Brady banner on the Gillette Stadium lighthouse and whether he’s telling his players to stand for the national anthem fall into the distraction category.
Belichick was asked Tuesday about his reaction to the new Brady decoration on the lighthouse tower.
“We’re really focused on Arizona right now,” Belichick said.
But has he seen it?
“Our focus is on the Cardinals,” Belichick said. “That’s who we play this week. All the other decorative and marketing things and so forth are not really part of the team’s preparation. We’re focused on Arizona.”
As for the lightning rod that is Colin Kaepernick and what he might instruct his players to do during the national anthem, Belichick referred Tuesday morning to his previous statement when he said he’s not coaching in the NFL to talk about political commentary.
“Yeah, that’s been addressed,” Belichick said Tuesday. “That was addressed a long time ago. That’s been addressed. I’ve already talked about that.”
Kaepernick’s former boss and current Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday that he does not respect the action of Kaepernick.
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