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How will Bill Belichick take away A.J. Green? Take a close look at DeAndre Hopkins 10.13.16 at 10:44 pm ET
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Sep 29, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) catches the ball against Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati defeated Miami 22-7. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

All eyes in the Patriots secondary will be on A.J. Green Sunday. (Mark Zerof/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick is the master of taking away the opponent’s biggest weapon. When it comes to the Bengals’ offense, that clearly is A.J. Green.

So how will Belichick go about it on Sunday?

A good look at what the Patriots did with DeAndre Hopkins is a good starting point.

No one in the NFL comes as close to matching Green’s remarkable skill set (especially his hands) than the Texans receiver. Hopkins is listed at 6-foot-1 and 214 pounds. Green is 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds.

Last December in Houston, Logan Ryan was assigned Hopkins for most of the game and allowed one catch for 40 yards on four targets with two pass breakups. Belichick also used a bracket of Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon over the top to provide some backup. What does Green expect Sunday?

“I don’t know. Every game is different. Bill is a great coach,” Green said. “Obviously, he tries to take away the best player so we’ll see. I’ll be ready for anything.”

If it is Ryan, someone who hasn’t defended Green in New England’s two previous encounters with the Pro Bowl receiver.

“He’s a big, physical guy,” Green said of Ryan. “He’ll try to get in your face so I’ve got to be ready for it. I’m going to be ready for anything. You just never know.”

On Sept. 22, it was Ryan again who was on Hopkins for most of the game and allowed an acrobatic one-handed grab as part of a four-catch night. But that one great catch went for just 16 yards Hopkins had 40 yards on the other three catches. That’s four catches on eight targets.

If that happens on Sunday, Ryan would have certainly done his job again. But it won’t be easy. In Cincinnati’s two wins, Green has been a force, catching 12 balls for 180 yards and a touchdown in a 23-22 win over the Jets. He hauled in 10 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown in a 22-7 win over the Dolphins. Of all the big receivers in the game, including Hopkins, Demaryius Thomas and Sammy Watkins, Belichick says Green might be the most elite.

“The quickest; very quick. He has good stop and start quickness, he’s a very good intermediate route runner. I’d say there is a number of those players you talked about [that] are really just two level players; short catch-and-run, and deep speed, built speed type routes,” Belichick said. “Green’s very good at intermediate routes, comebacks, in-cuts, curls, routes like that. He has great quickness at the top of his route and excellent hands so he’s able to extend and create separation with his length and his catching skills.

“He makes some incredible one-handed catches or catches where the defender is just draped all over him and he’s able to just get his hands a few inches out further than the defenders and make the play. His catch radius is exceptional. But I’d say the thing that really to me puts him at the top of the league in receivers is his ability to affect all three levels, particularly those intermediate routes.
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Read More: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals, DeAndre Hopkins, houston texans
The ‘well-coordinated’ details that make Ryan Allen and Patriots special teams so important to Bill Belichick 09.24.16 at 9:31 am ET
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Sep 22, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA;  New England Patriots punter Ryan Allen (6) holds the ball for kicker Stephen Gostkowski (3) for a field goal attempt during the third quarter against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Allen holds for Stephen Gostkowski on a field goal attempt during the third quarter against the Texans Thursday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick has always been a huge proponent of emphasizing the significance of special teams.

On Thursday, that attention to detail paid off in huge dividends as Ryan Allen pinned the Texans inside their 15 six times with punts and the kickoff coverage team forced two turnovers that led to two of New England’s three touchdowns on the night.

“Tremendous, tremendous. Field position was phenomenal,” Belichick said immediately after the game. “It seemed like they had to go 90 yards every time they had the ball. Our kickoff team, once again, came up big with field position; two turnovers. That’s a very aggressive unit. I think Joe [Judge] and Bubba [Ray Ventrone] have done a great job.

“They have a lot of leadership on that unit, a lot of pride. We punted well, we covered well, we covered our kicks well, we had a couple of chances in the return game, we converted our scoring opportunities. The entire special teams unit, the coaching staff, they did a tremendous job tonight. We obviously needed that tonight and they really delivered it.”

Allen knew coming in that with rookie Jacoby Brissett starting, one way to take some pressure off would be flipping the field and making the Texans go a long ways while keeping the field shorter for the Patriots. It worked. Houston’s average starting field position was its own 16. New England’s was its own 40. Playground slides aren’t tilted that much.

“Really at the end of the day there has been times where I, I think I’ve learned that. Steve and I have talked a little bit about that,” Allen said. “You never really know how games are going to go. There’s sometimes at the beginning of the game we’ll make a comment or two about how we feel, where we’re at as a team right before we play and we’re totally wrong most of the time. So you just really like assume you never really that’ll get you anywhere and you have to just be prepared and when you’re called go out there and do the best you can. So I think it was a good collective effort tonight.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, houston texans, New England Patriots, Ryan Allen
The anatomy of a perfect game plan from Bill Belichick: How Jacoby Brissett TD run happened 09.23.16 at 12:49 pm ET
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Sep 22, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA;  New England Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) makes an adjustment at the line of scrimmage during the third quarter against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

With great game planning, rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett was in total command Thursday. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Sometimes one play can reveal a lot about a team’s preparation on a short week.

After Thursday’s 27-0 blanking of the Texans, Bill Belichick was effusive in his praise of the coaching staff and players to get ready and execute at a high level. Belichick knows it’s hard enough on a regular week. But when the week is compressed, every detail becomes critical.

No play reflected the Patriots’ preparation better than the 27-yard bootleg run from Jacoby Brissett, a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start.

In order to make Brissett comfortable against a defense led by J.J. Watt, Belichick and his coaching staff of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia and running backs coach Ivan Fears got their heads together to scheme against former Patriots defensive coordinator and current Texans defensive guru Romeo Crennel.

On the designed bootleg at the end of the first quarter, several factors were involved. Watt lined up over left guard Joe Thuney. Linebacker Benardrick McKinney came down on the line of scrimmage to set the edge on the other side. Watt blew through but there was nothing for Watt to get at. The reason? The play was designed to run on the other side, with right guard Shaq Mason executing the key block on McKinney to spring Brissett.

“I didn’t think J.J. Watt really had anything to do with the play,” Belichick said Friday in his conference call with reporters. “He was on the other side of the line. I don’t think he would’ve had any chance at all. Jacoby just took the ball, kind of took one step back, gave a quick ball fake to LeGarrette [Blount] and just went to the edge and it was timed out well with Shaq, who cut McKinney on the line of scrimmage and got him down, kind of knocked him off balance. By that time, Jacoby is already outside. Once Jacoby got to the corner, it was really a run all the way.”

Brissett made free safety Andre Hal miss at the 5 and used a block from Malcolm Mitchell on Johnathan Joseph to dive into the end zone.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, houston texans, Jacoby Brissett, New England Patriots
Mike Petraglia, Chris Price explain how Jacoby Brissett pulled off perfect ‘complementary’ win at 1:03 am ET
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FOXBORO — How did the Patriots pull it off? Jacoby Brissett manages the perfect game and the defense and special teams play huge in the Patriots’ 27–0 win over the Texans on Thursday night. WEEI’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price have your recap from Foxboro.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Chris Price, houston texans, Jacoby Brissett
Snap Judgments: Jacoby Brissett manages big game, Patriots turn over Texans in romp 09.22.16 at 11:28 pm ET
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Sep 22, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) rushes for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Jacoby Brissett (7) rushes for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Texans at Gillette Stadium. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO – The Patriots defense and special teams made things real simple for Jacoby Brissett in his first NFL start.

Special teams forced a pair of turnovers on kickoffs and Brissett ran for a 27-yard touchdown as the Patriots blanked the Texans, 27-0, Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. It was New England’s first shutout since a 28-0 win over the Dolphins in the season finale on Dec. 30, 2012.

Brissett finished 11-of-19 for 103 yards passing while rushing eight times for 48 yards, including his touchdown.

LeGarrette Blount chipped in with his second straight 100-yard game, gaining 105 yards on 24 carries, including a game-sealing 41-yard run to the end zone with 11:00 left in the fourth.

The Patriots mastered the art of field position all night, thanks in large part to the efforts of Ryan Allen. The punter averaged 47.6 yards on seven punts and pinned the Texans inside their 15 six times. The last time was an end-over-end beauty that was downed at the 4-yard line.

The Texans didn’t get into Patriots territory until 1:25 left in the third quarter on a short pass from Brock Osweiler to Lamar Miller that put the ball at the New England 46.

The Texans didn’t run a single play in Patriots territory in the first half. They appeared ready to finally get there when the Texans finally reached midfield at the two minute warning. But on third-and-2 at the 50, Lamar Miller was stopped for no gain and the Patriots continued the defensive streak.

The biggest turning point of the first half was a Charles James fumble on a Stephen Gostkowski kickoff with 2:01 left in the first quarter. On the kick, the Patriots showed their traditional outstanding special teams skills. Clay Harbor went low to tackle and Brandon Bolden punched the ball loose at the Texans 18. The ball came out to the 22 where it was recovered by Duron Harmon.

After a false start by Marcus Cannon, Brissett ran a designed bootleg around the right side. There was no one home for the Texans defense and Brissett ran 27 yards to paydirt and his first career touchdown. On the play, which was perfectly timed, J.J. Watt shot the “A-gap” and looked to have a clear path to the quarterback. But by the time Watt was in the backfield, Brissett was gone.

Brissett finished the first half completing 5-of-8 passes for 59 yards, with his longest completion coming on a 27-yard pitch-and-catch to fellow rookie Malcolm Mitchell, a play that featured horrific tackling from the Texans. The play set up the Patriots for a 24-yard field goal that gave the Patriots a 3-0 lead.

Rob Gronkowski was used conservatively to start the game, playing roughly every other offensive snap. He was targeted in the red zone by Brissett on the play before the field goal. Brissett dropped back but airmailed a pass to the left corner out of Gronkowski’s reach. It was the only time Gronkowski was targeted in the game.

Closing Time note

The Patriots won their 7th straight Thursday game and are now 11-5 on Thursdays.

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Read More: houston texans, Jacoby Brissett, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski
Jonathan Kraft says Vince Wilfork will ‘always be a Patriot’ and Jacoby Brissett is ‘not along for the ride’ at 8:39 pm ET
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Jonathan Kraft

Jonathan Kraft

FOXBORO — As Patriots president Jonathan Kraft was doing his pregame radio interview on the team’s network, a big ovation broke out in the middle.

The crowd was paying tribute to Vince Wilfork, who was being shown on the video board in his Texans uniform, getting ready for the game. It will be the second time Wilfork has faced Belichick’s Patriots but the first time Wilfork has returned to Foxboro since leaving after the 2014 season and signing a two-year, $9 million deal.

“They should [applaud] and if we weren’t all talking, I would’ve been applauding, too,” Kraft said. “I love the guy. To me, he’ll always be a Patriot. I can’t wait till we induct him into the [Patriots] Hall because I think that’s probably a foregone conclusion. He was the heart and soul of not just the defense but that locker room for a number of years. He and Bianca were both [great]. They were everything you could want in a football player and his family, on and off the field. It’s amazing to watch what he does at his age. He’s still playing really good football.”

The tribute continued during the game, as with 12:16 left in the first quarter, Wilfork took the field for the first time with the Texans defense. A highlight video was shown and at the end of the 30-second video, Wilfork waved his hand to the crowd in appreciation.

As for when he knew about Jimmy Garoppolo not dressing for the game or when he might be ready to return, Kraft played it coy.

“I don’t know exactly. I guess earlier [Thursday],” Kraft said. “It wasn’t two days ago but to be fair, I wasn’t asking the question two days ago. Earlier today, I asked the question.”

How long might Garoppolo be out?

“We’re going to let you ask Bill that question,” Kraft said. “I might or I might now but I’m going to let you ask Bill that question.”
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Read More: houston texans, Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jonathan Kraft
Scene-setting from Gillette: Ideal weather as Pats host Texans in battle of 2-0 teams at 4:21 pm ET
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IMG_0667

The scene is set for Patriots and Texans at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO  –  At least the weather is expected to be crystal clear as the Patriots host the Texans at Gillette Stadium to open Week 3 of the NFL season.

Clear skies and a game-time temperature around 70 is expected for the 8:25 p.m. kickoff. It could be chilly by the end of the game as the forecast is calling for temperatures to fall into the low 60s by the fourth quarter.

It will be somewhat humid as the forecast is calling for a relative humidity of 60 percent. But there is no precipitation in the forecast and just a slight breeze out of the south at 5 MPH.

While the weather will be clear the forecast as to who will be the starting quarterback and who will be the backup has been downright cloudy ever since Jimmy Garoppolo’s right shoulder was driven into the Gillette Stadium turf by Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso with five minutes left in the first half Sunday.

Making things murkier is the fact the Patriots could be starting a rookie quarterback in Jacoby Brissett, who was 6-for-9 for 92 yards in his relief effort, marking his NFL debut out of North Carolina State.

There have been conflicting reports as to whether Jimmy Garoppolo could be on the sideline. Ian Rapoport and Courtney Fallon of NFL Network report that Garoppolo is expected to dress and serve as the backup. ESPN’s Mike Reiss reports it’s more likely and expected that Garoppolo won’t suit up at all and Julian Edelman will serve as the emergency backup if something happens with Brissett. Garoppolo was officially listed as doubtful on Wednesday’s final injury report.

Either way, as it appears now, Brissett will indeed make his first NFL start.

Another big storyline is expected to be Rob Gronkowski. Rapoport reported early in the day that “there’s a real chance” Gronkowski makes his 2016 season debut after missing the first two games with a strained hamstring. This was later advanced when Lisa Hughes of WBZ-TV and Adam Schefter both confirmed Gronkowski is expected to play. Gronkowski was officially listed as one of six Patriots as questionable heading into tonight’s game.

Ryan Hannable has 10 fun facts about tonight’s Thursday night game which features the “Color Rush” uniforms both teams will be wearing. Chris Price has the scouting report.

Read More: Bill O'Brien, houston texans, Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Garoppolo
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