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Bill Belichick goes deep on special teams and explains why he hates the extra point 01.04.14 at 12:53 pm ET
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Bill Belichick is fond of reminding everyone who watches football that the outcome of many games is often determined by much more than the offense and defense.

In 1976, just two seasons into his NFL career, Belichick got one of his first big NFL assignments, serving as an assistant special teams coach for the Detroit Lions. He would serve the same role two seasons later for the Denver Broncos, in addition to becoming a defensive coaching assistant.

In 1979, Belichick began his 12-year stint with the New York Giants alongside head coach Ray Perkins as a defensive assistant and special teams coach.

So, whether it’€™s Jacoby Jones in the Super Bowl last year or the Troy Brown punt return for a touchdown in the 2001 AFC championship game, Belichick knows full well many postseason games between evenly matched teams come down to the kicking game. Does he anticipate seeing more of the same things over the next few weeks?

“Who knows what the difference in a game in a close game is going to be. But certainly the kicking game is always an important part of every game and any close game, especially when you have points involved, which we have with the field goals but potentially in a return game or blocked kick or that type of thing,” Belichick began. “Those are kind of bonus points. I don’€™t think you ever go into the game thinking, ‘€˜We’€™re going to get seven points from our punt return team or we’€™re going to get seven points from our kickoff coverage team to recover a fumble and run back for a touchdown.’€™

“Those are kind of bonus points you don’€™t really count on. You hope you get a couple of them over the course of the year but statistically that’€™s about what it’€™s going to be. So, a big play in that area is a huge play really because it’€™s like bonus points. I mean really I’€™ve always had a great appreciation for the kicking game. I think that I was fortunate when I grew up when Coach [Wayne] Hardin was the coach at Navy, he emphasized the kicking game a lot.

“Plays like the quick kick and some plays in the return game and so forth that kind of caught my eye as a kid and always sort of stayed interested in. I had an opportunity to coach it and I think it’€™s one of the great things about football is it brings that third element to the game besides offense and defense. It adds the kicking game, the specialists, all the different rules and strategical situations that can occur on kickoffs, punts and field goals and fakes and all those kind of things, field position plays. I think that’€™s an integral part of the game.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Denver Broncos, detroit lions, Gino Cappelletti
Stephen Gostkowski’s record-breaking season could pay dividends in postseason 12.29.13 at 10:09 pm ET
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FOXBORO — A pattern has been established. A startling 11 of the 16 games the Patriots played this season were decided by one possession, and there’s no reason to expect that the playoffs should be any different as the intensity of contests ramps up. In close games, there are few positions that are more important than the place-kicker, and the Patriots have a pretty good one in Stephen Gostkowski.

Gostkowski proved just how valuable he could be come the playoffs in Sunday’€™s 34-20 win over the Bills. Amidst a driving rain storm at Gillette Stadium, the eighth-year kicker booted four field goals, tying a career-high, and three came from 35 yards or more. Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, the 29-year-old didn’€™t let them affect him.

“It doesn’€™t get much tougher than that, as far as rain goes,” said Gostkowski. “œI don’€™t think I’€™ve ever been a part of something that sloppy, but when it’€™s like that you’€™ve just got to increase your focus and increase how you go about things. You’€™ve got to slow things down a little bit and just make sure everything goes smoothly. [Long-snapper] Danny [Aiken] and [holder] Ryan [Allen] did a great job.

“One thing that stinks about playing here, but also that’€™s good is we practice outside everyday, no matter what it is. You complain and gripe when it’€™s 35 degrees outside and it’€™s raining or snowing or really windy. It pays off though. The coaches know what they’€™re doing when they put us out there for games like this.”

Sunday’€™s regular season finale put a cap on an outstanding season for the kicker, who was voted an AFC starter for the Pro Bowl late last week. His 29-yard field goal at the end of the first half gave him 37 on the year, besting his franchise record of 36 set in 2008. He finished the year with 38. He also broke Gino Cappelletti‘€™s Patriots record for most points in a season as he finished the year with 158, topping Cappelletti’€™s 155 in 1964. The 158 points led the league in scoring and Gostkowski is now just one of five players in league history to lead the league in scoring for at least three seasons (he also led the league in scoring in 2008 and 2012).

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Read More: Danny Aiken, Gino Cappelletti, Patriots, Ryan Allen
Robert Kraft surprises Gil Santos with a HOF reward 12.30.12 at 4:42 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Gil Santos joked he had never been driven to tears. But what Patriots owner Robert Kraft announced at the end of a pre-game ceremony made the hardened veteran announcer tear up and break down.

During a pregame ceremony to honor Santos and Gino Cappelletti, Kraft announced that Santos, the legendary voice of the Patriots, would be a 2013 inductee into the Patriots Hall of Fame. Santos will become the 20th person to be inducted and just the second non-player to earn the honor as a contributor for his off-field contributions to the team. It is the highest honor the team can bestow an individual.

Santos, who overcame life-threatening health complications early in 2012 to return to the broadcast booth this year, announced his intention to retire after the 2012 season earlier this year. For 36 seasons, spanning five decades, he has earned the moniker ‘€œVoice of the New England Patriots.’€ Santos is currently tied with Philadelphia’€™s Merrill Reese as the longest tenured broadcaster for a team in the NFL. In 36 seasons, he missed just one game, a preseason game in 1971. Today, Santos is calling his 743rd career Patriots game, including his 73rd game between the Patriots and the Miami Dolphins.

‘€œThere will never be another tandem like Gil and Gino,’€ said Kraft. ‘€œThey are two Patriots icons and legendary broadcasters. I am proud to say that they will both be known as Patriots Hall of Famers. Gil has always had such a great voice. We are lucky that his radio calls will be indelibly linked to the most memorable moments in our franchise’€™s history and we are happy to preserve his legacy in The Hall for generations to come.’€

Santos began calling games for the Boston Patriots at Fenway Park in 1966. For the first five seasons, he provided color analysis alongside veteran play-by-play man Bob Starr. When the team moved to Foxborough in 1971, Santos moved into his current role as play-by-play voice of the Patriots (1971-79). WBZ lost the Patriots radio rights in the 1980s, but got them back in 1991 and returned Santos to his natural position as Voice of the New England Patriots, a position he has held for the last 22 seasons.

The veteran play-by-play broadcaster was also the sports director of WBZ News Radio in Boston, where he earned dozens of awards and honors for his reporting, sportscasting and play-by-play excellence. He retired from WBZ after 38 years in 2009 and was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame that year. In addition to his work at WBZ, the skilled play-by-play broadcaster also called basketball games for the Boston Celtics and Providence Friars, as well as football games for the Penn State Nittany Lions, Boston College Eagles, Brown Bears and Boston Breakers of the USFL.

Read More: Gil Santos, Gino Cappelletti, Merrill Reese, New England Patriots
Setting the scene: Patriots-Dolphins at 1:00 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bitter cold and blustery conditions are expected for Sunday’s regular season finale between the Patriots and Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.

The forecast called for temperatures in the mid-20s with a wind chill of 12 degrees for the 4:25 p.m. kickoff. The game was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. but was moved back by the NFL last week when it became clear that the Patriots would be playing for a possible playoff bye.

The Colts are hosting the Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium in the return of head coach Chuck Pagano to the sidelines. The Colts have never lost at home to Houston. If the Colts win in the 1 p.m. game, the Patriots can clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Dolphins. The Patriots can clinch a No. 1 seed if the Colts beat the Texans and the Chiefs upset the Broncos in Denver, a game that will be played simultaneously with the Patriots-Dolphins contest.

The Patriots may have the services of tight end Rob Gronkowski for the first time since Nov. 18, as reports surfaced Saturday that Gronk was on schedule to return. However, CSNNE.com’s Tom Curran reported Sunday morning that the Patriots were having serious second thoughts and the decision to activate him for the season finale had not been finalized.

The final decision won’t likely be known for sure until inactives are released at 2:55 p.m., 90 minutes before kickoff.

The Patriots will have the services of defensive end Jermaine Cunningham for the first time since New England’s Thanksgiving night massacre of the Jets. Cunningham was suspended the following Monday for four games for violation of the NFL PED policy. The Patriots officially activated Cunningham to the 53-man roster Saturday, waiving defensive lineman and former second-round pick Ron Brace to make room.

The Patriots also signed wide receiver Kamar Aiken and defensive back Malcolm Williams off the practice squad and they will be eligible to play in the regular season finale if active.

Some nuggets for today:

The Patriots need just one first down to set a new NFL record as they come into the game with 416 first downs on the season, 139 by rushing, 241 by passing and 36 by penalty. They enter the game sharing the mark with the 2011 New Orleans Saints. Patriots opponents have just 324. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Denver Broncos, Gil Santos, Gino Cappelletti, Indianapolis Colts
Robert Kraft: POW/MIA seat at Gillette ‘another small way’ to give thanks to military 11.09.12 at 12:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots and the Kraft Family commemorated Veterans’ Day weekend and another milestone achievement on Friday as they became the first sports franchise in North America to dedicate a seat inside their venue in honor of American POW/MIAs.

The black seat in the handicap-accessible portion of Gillette Stadium’s south end zone plaza will remain permanently empty in honor of the nearly 92,000 POW/MIAs who have given their life to the military since World War I. Officials from the Patriots and New England Revolution of MLS were in attendance as the Kraft Sports Group owns and operates both.

“What an exciting day,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. “Thank you all for coming here today. This is pretty cool and just another small way we have a chance to support all the great military folks who do so many great things for this country and in many ways are still under-appreciated in my opinion.”

Assisting in the ceremony was approximately 100 members of the Massachusetts Chapter 1 of Rolling Thunder, a motorcycle unit that rides in honor of service men and women and those who have dedicated and given their lives to the military.

Rolling Thunder arrived at the ceremony on their motorcycles and cheered loudly after Kraft thanked them for their presence. The caravan of motorcycles took a ride around the stadium on the 100 level concourse before arriving at the podium.

“I hope we roll like that Sunday against Buffalo,” Kraft said after the roar of the engines calmed to an idle.

There were two former Patriots in attendance on the platform during the ceremony who served in the military. Gino Cappelletti served in the Army from 1956-58 while and Tom Yewcic was an Army lieutenant from 1955-57.

Read More: Gino Cappelletti, MLS, New England Patriots, New England Revolution
Gino Cappelletti retires as Patriots radio analyst 07.20.12 at 2:40 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Friday that Gino Cappelletti is retiring from the team’s radio broadcast team after 32 years as an analyst. Cappelletti turned 78 in March.

‘€œThere will never be another Gino Cappelletti,’€ Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a team statement. ‘€œIn our 52-year history, Gino served as a player, coach or color analyst for 45 of those seasons. I remember watching him play as an original Boston Patriot in 1960. He quickly became one of the biggest stars of the fledgling American Football League. He retired as the league’€™s all-time leading scorer and deserves special recognition, not just for being one of the pioneers of the AFL, but for creating the foundation on which our franchise was built.

“He has been a great ambassador for the Patriots over a career that spanned six decades. His legend has grown since he retired as a player, as generations of Patriots fans have grown up listening to him provide insight and analysis of many of the most memorable games in franchise history. While he may be stepping down as a broadcaster, he will always be a Patriots ambassador and will remain one of the most iconic figures in franchise history.’€

Added coach Bill Belichick: “Going back to his days as one of the all-time great players, Gino has been such a fixture, so it is hard imagining not working with him on a regular basis. I have been fortunate to enjoy Gino’s presence and share experiences that extend well beyond the game. Around the team, he wasn’t just a broadcaster but was — and remains — truly part of the team, respected by players and coaches for representing everything good about sports. Gino is a class act, one of the true gentlemen of the AFL and NFL and I am proud to have been associated with him every week of my career as Patriots head coach.”

Cappelletti, who was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1992, played 11 seasons with the Patriots from 1960-70. A receiver and kicker, he was the 1964 AFL MVP and a five-time All-Star. One of only three players to play in every AFL game in the league’s 10-year history, Cappelletti is the AFL’s all-time leader in points (1,100) and field goals (170). He ranks second on the Patriots’ all-time scoring list with 1,130 points. He’s also second in extra points (342), eighth in receiving yards (4,589) and ninth in receptions (292).

Cappelletti started broadcasting Patriots games in 1972 and stopped after the 1978 season so that he could serve as the team’s special teams coach for three years. He returned to the booth in 1988 and has been there ever since.

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