|Can Seahawks gain logistical edge because Super Bowl is in NFC West stadium?||01.29.15 at 5:25 pm ET|
CHANDLER, Ariz. — Super Bowl XLIX will mark the first game at University of Phoenix Stadium for several members of the Patriots — it’s the first game for the franchise at the venue since Super Bowl XLII, seven years ago On the flip side, because it’s the home of the Cardinals, the Seahawks make an annual visit to the facility, as they’re NFC West rivals with Arizona.
Does that mean the Seahawks have an advantage because they might be more familiar with the surroundings? Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola — who played in the building every year for four seasons when he was with the Rams — said that it’s “something [he’s] thought about.”
“I got real used to coming here and playing,” Amendola said Thursday. “I talked to some of my teammates that haven’t been here, haven’t played here. I don’t think that’s an issue just because the fields are the same size, really. This stadium kind of resembles Wembley Stadium. It’s a bigger stadium, indoors. It’s going to be good conditions with the grass, with the roof, with whatever it may be. But I think we’ll be all right.”
“We’ll treat it just like any other away game,” said defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. “Being able to go see the clocks — where the play-clock is, scoreboards, you name it. And I think guys will take advantage of that. Especially being the Super Bowl, I think you have a lot more guys out there just seeing the whole setup of the Super Bowl, which they should so they won’t get blindsided when they take the field for the first time.”
“We deal with that every year — we go to stadiums that we don’t play at very often all the time,” said kicker Stephen Gostkowski. “There are only a few stadiums we play at every year. You just show up, you find out the conditions that day, and you kick. We practice all the time in so many different conditions. There are only so many different conditions that you can get — weather, turf and wind. No one gets more different weathers and climates and field conditions than we do in New England. It’s hot, it’s cold, it’s windy. You get it all, so you just deal with it. That’s why we’re professionals. We deal with that stuff and I really don’t think too much about it. I have a plan going in and go for it.”
|Practice makes perfect: Patriots look to avoid same problems that haunted 2007 team with good week of workouts||at 2:32 pm ET|
CHANDLER, Ariz. — One of the things that ended up derailing the 2007 Patriots from finishing the season with a Super Bowl title was the fact that, according to several players on that team, they had a miserable week of practice in Arizona in the days leading up to their title game against the Giants.
And while the 2014 Patriots still have a few practice sessions remaining over the course of the week, they all indicated Thursday morning that their first run-through at the Arizona Cardinals‘ facility on Wednesday was a productive practice session for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact they didn’t have to bundle up to guard against the New England cold.
“It was great not to have to wear two hoodies, sweatpants, thermal tights and all that,” said wide receiver Brandon LaFell. “It felt good to go out there and be in your uniform without all those extra layers. It felt like a day at training camp, really.”
“It was a great practice, honestly,” said wide receiver Danny Amendola. “To be out in this weather and run around and throw the ball. You don’t have to wear too many layers. It was fun.”
“That’s exactly what I was about to say,” linebacker Dont’a Hightower said with a smile when informed of Amendola and LaFell’s assessment of the conditions. “It felt good to be out and running around. We had a couple of days off. It felt good to get back out there. Everybody moved well and everybody looked like they were doing pretty well. It was just good to finally get a real sweat going again instead of having to wear eight layers of clothing. It felt good to be back out there.”
Defensive lineman Wilfork is one of a handful of players who were part of that 2007 team that say its dream die in the desert at the hands of the Giants. He’s still reticent to talk about that defeat — “I don’t think about it,” when he was asked about it on Thursday morning — but it sounds like he believes the team is in a better place when it comes to practice and focus in the days leading up to the game.
“It’s good. I’m very happy with where the focus is,” he said. “I’m very happy with where we sit right now as a team. I think we’re ready. We have a couple more days to be sure and sharpen up few things, but for the most part, I think we’ve gotten everything we want to do done. The guys are really excited to play, and hopefully, it’ll show on Sunday.”
While the Patriots will hold two more practices this week — sessions on Thursday and Friday before a final walkthrough on Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium — it’s more about fine-tuning at this point.
“We’re pretty much recapping at this point — we put in some red zone and some of the stuff we did last week,” LaFell said. “We’re just taking the final steps now toward where we need to be on Sunday.”
“I feel like that’s the biggest part of execution is kind of getting all the knots out now,” Hightower said. “Come Sunday, everyone knows the game plan. Everybody knows their checks. Everyone knows the game plan. They know their checks. And everybody is playing two or three steps faster than what they might be used to. But these next couple of practices will be key for us.”
|Patriots: Ball security result of good practice habits, not deflated footballs||01.27.15 at 5:03 pm ET|
PHOENIX – In the wake of the Deflategate controversy, some pointed to the fact that the Patriots have a lower fumble rate than many other teams the last few years. But several members of the New England offense said Tuesday that ball security has always been paramount with the Patriots, thanks in large part to how coach Bill Belichick operates. (Not to mention the fact that the initial data may be more than a little suspect.)
“I’ve always been told that you can’t win the game without the football,” said running back LeGarrette Blount. ‘If you give the football away you have no control of the game. We have to continue to protect it, and continue to have it in our hands as much as possible and don’t let it hit the ground and don’t let anybody else get ahold of it. You can’t win the game without the football.
“We put a heavy emphasis on keeping the football,” he added. “We practice holding the football, we have the defense punch at the football a lot extra then probably most teams do. We do everything to emphasis ball security because like I said, you can’t win the game without the ball.”
“I can definitely tell that the coaching and the drills that we do within the drill and the offseason and camp and OTAs have really paid off for a lot of guys,” said wide receiver Danny Amendola. “We take a lot of drills that we do within the week, within practice, and take them to the field. We do a lot of drills here that really benefit that too.”
|Danny Amendola ready for Seahawks Legion of Boom secondary: ‘They fly around, they play hard’||01.24.15 at 1:54 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots have shown they can beat some of the top defenses in the league through the air this season, by the way of their seven straight wins from early October to late November.
Seattle’s defense may be their toughest test yet and going up against its Legion of Boom secondary.
“They are good. They fly around, they play hard and we’re going to continue to prepare for them,” wide receiver Danny Amendola said Saturday.
The Seahawks had to earn their way to the Super Bowl as they came from behind to beat the Packers in overtime in the NFC championship game. Seattle didn’t allow a touchdown in the second half — only two field goals — in its 28-22 win.
“They are a good team. They play hard for four quarters and in their case a little longer. It’s going to be a battle for sure,” Amendola said.
Facing their own secondary in Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Devin McCourty among others in practice should prepare the Patriots receivers for whatever is to come next Sunday when they go up against Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and the rest of the Legion of Boom.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Those guys are some of the best to play that position and they play against us every day.”
Amendola caught 27 passes this season for 200 yards and a touchdown, but has picked up his play in the postseason and become a bigger part in the offense. In the two playoff games he’s caught six passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns, both coming in the divisional round game with the Ravens.
This will be Amendola’s first Super Bowl and he said he is trying to do his best to treat it like any other game.
“It’s a game, we’re going to prepare the same way we prepare for every single game,” he said. “Every game is the biggest game because it’s the game of the week, so this is the game of the week for us.”
Scoring points will be hard to come by against the Seattle defense, which allowed an average of 15.9 points per game, the lowest in the NFL. The magic number for the Patriots is 23, as they are 12-0 this season when scoring 23 or more points.
“You just have to make plays. I feel like our coaches are putting us in a position to be successful and we have to play really well, they are a great defense and we have to be ready,” Amendola said.
|Danny Amendola: ‘Special teams is like ‘Braveheart’ sometimes, but it’s a lot of fun’||01.14.15 at 5:25 pm ET|
FOXBORO — While Danny Amendola hasn’t exactly been a major fixture in the offense this year (27 catches, 200 yards in the regular season), he has emerged as the team’s main return guy, something the receiver has embraced and flourished at.
In his second year in New England, Amendola returned 20 kickoffs for 482 yards, averaging 24.1 yards per return. He’s also returned 16 punts for 132 yards.
“I love playing special teams,” said Amendola. “It’s fun, it’s like ‘Braveheart’ sometimes but it’s a lot of fun. I love every aspect of football, so getting out on the field is fun for me.”
With the wind chills in the single digits for last Saturday’s game against the Ravens and possible rainy conditions on Sunday, Amendola knows the weather will play a role in the game.
“Wind, weather, everything comes into play when you’re in the kicking game ‘ how far the ball is going to traveling in the air, where it’s going to travel with the wind,” he said. “Every play is different too.”
Coach Bill Belichick had some positive things to say about Amendola after Saturday’s game against the Ravens — a game in which he scored two touchdowns.
“Nobody works harder in practice. He’s made some huge plays for us,” Belichick said.
Amendola said working hard as always been something he’s taken pride in.
“It’s encouraging to me. It’s important to work hard,” Amendola said. “I won’t be in a position I am today if I didn’t work hard. That is the way I roll.”
|Tom Brady on D&C: Trickery against Ravens ‘part of football’||01.12.15 at 9:49 am ET|
Tom Brady, who will appear in his ninth AFC championship game when the Patriots play the Colts on Sunday, made his weekly appearance on Monday’s Dennis & Callahan show to recap Saturday’s victory over the Ravens and preview the team’s next game. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The Patriots twice trailed the Ravens by 14 points before rallying for a 35-31 victory.
“We put ourselves in a pretty tough position there twice,” Brady said. “Certainly not what we intended to do. And we talked a lot about trying to play this team from ahead. We just got off to a slow start but really rallied back. I think the guys really relied on obviously a lot of experience over the course of the season, and a lot of belief in one another, and a lot of resolve and just the mental toughness to get it done.
“I’ve said before, it’s a 60-minute game. You’ve just got to keep grinding for 60 minutes. We finally got the lead there with about, I don’t know, five minutes, 5 1/2 minutes left. Then the defensive guys made a huge play there, Duron [Harmon] with the interception really made it hard for those guys. They had to convert a fourth down on us. We put a lot of pressure on them.
“It was just a great win for our team. It was just a great win to be a part of. It was just a really special night for our team. It allows us obviously to move on, and now we’re on to the biggest game of the year.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh complained during and after the game about the Patriots lining up normally eligible receivers as ineligible and the officials not giving his team enough time to adjust.
“Let me say first that I have a lot of respect for him as a coach and obviously that team is one of the toughest we’ve faced. It’s always a tough matchup,” Brady said. “It was a play that we liked and we thought would work. We had a couple of versions of it. It’s kind of an alert play for our team, and we made three important plays on it. They all contributed to winning, and I’m sure he was always trying to figure out what to do. That’s what it looked like to me.
“We had to execute it. We had to make the appropriate calls and block it and make the plays, and I was proud of us that we were able to do that. There was a lot of execution that goes into the offensive part of making that happen. It helped us move the ball down the field and ultimately score some points. That was a good weapon for us.
“It’s part of football. You’ve got to prepare for everything. I know offensively we try to prepare for everything on defense. You talk about all the situations that come up. Josh [McDaniels] really called it at the perfect time.”
|Danny Amendola seizes opportunity, drawing high praise from Bill Belichick: ‘Can’t say enough about Danny’||01.11.15 at 3:42 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Saturday night’s 35-31 divisional round win over the Ravens may have been Danny Amendola‘s best game as a member of the Patriots.
After a reduced role in the offense for much of the season, Amendola stepped up in a big way — catching five passes on six targets for 81 yards and two touchdowns — as he played a major part in the Patriots coming back from two, 14-point deficits in the game.
The wide receiver, in his second year in New England, was involved in arguably the biggest play of the game — a 51-yard double-pass for a touchdown, as Tom Brady threw a backwards pass to Julian Edelman and Amendola ran past the Baltimore defense with no one in sight as Edelman easily hit him to tie the game at 28 in the third quarter, shifting all momentum towards the Patriots side.
‘It’s a play we’ve been working on all year,” Amendola said after the game. “Testament to Julian [Edelman] — has a great arm and [is] a great athlete. He put it on the money, that’s for sure. It was a good throw.’
Amendola scored his first touchdown in the first half — a 15-yard touchdown pass from Brady — to tie the game at 14 with 3:37 left in the second quarter.
Although Amendola didn’t score the game-winning touchdown, he played a major part in the Patriots reaching the end zone. It was third-and-6 at the Baltimore 44-yard line. Amendola caught Brady’s pass short of the first down marker, but a second-effort and missing a tackle allowed Amendola to pick up the first down and keep the drive going.