|Julian Edelman has nothing but respect for Browns: They are ‘a good team’||12.06.13 at 6:25 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It’s been the common theme this week at Gillette Stadium. Sure, the Cleveland Browns are 4-8 but they are a “good” 4-8 with a defense that ranks fifth overall in the NFL in yards allowed.
The Browns have no playoff potential but only the hope of playing the role of spoiler for teams with much bigger aspirations. Well, the 9-3 Patriots are fully aware of this, including receiver/returner Julian Edelman. He doesn’t look at the record but rather the talent on the roster, a roster that includes former first-round draft pick and shutdown cornerback Joe Haden. The cornerback was selected seventh overall in the 2010 draft out of Florida.
Haden has four interceptions this season, including two in one game against Andy Dalton and the Bengals on Nov. 17.
“Joe Haden has all the tangibles,” Edelman said Friday. “He’s fast, he can jump, he gets in and out of breaks well. He was drafted high for a reason. Joe Haden is a really good football player. If you don’t use your techniques, he’ll exploit you. We’re going to have to get ready for those kind of match-ups.”
But that game on Nov. 17 in Cincinnati is a classic example of what’s gone horribly wrong for the Browns this season. They jumped out 13-0 and could’ve easily been ahead, 21-0. They held Cincinnati to 1-for-14 on third down and out-gained them, 330-224. But they were intercepted three times and had two punts blocked and lost, 41-20.
“The Browns are a good team,” Edelman said. “They’ve been in a lot of close games that just haven’t gone their way, much like last week. Their defense has been playing real well. They have some cornerbacks that are really athletic, that are playing their scheme very well. They have a D-line that can stuff the run. It’s just sometimes things aren’t going your way when it’s close. And that’s kind of what they’ve been in and they’re a very tough team. If we don’t execute the way we have to, they can come in here and beat us up.
“Situations like third down, red area and ball security and all that kind of stuff are all very huge when it comes to tough opponents like this, stout defenses and defenses that live and die on that. We have to go out and prepare for those situations and execute them to the fullest of our abilities on Sunday.”
If the Patriots do that, they’re likely to come out on top and win, which could give them the AFC East if the Dolphins lose at Pittsburgh. The Patriots clinch a playoff spot with a win and a Baltimore loss or tie.
“If that happens, that happens,” Edelman said. “All we can do is control what we have to do and that’s go out and playing against the Cleveland Browns and worry about doing what we have to do to beat them. Everything else will come if it does, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. If we can control going out focusing on them, that’s what we can control.”
|Bill Belichick on Stevan Ridley benching: ‘There’s no sending a message’||12.02.13 at 1:03 pm ET|
FOXBORO — After quickly dismissing the question in his post-game comments Sunday after a 34-31 win over the Texans, Bill Belichick was somewhat more effusive and forthcoming about his decision to sit Stevan Ridley Sunday after his three-game bout with fumblelitis.
Belichick was asked Monday in his conference call about the decision to bench Ridley when Julian Edelman has fumbled five times this season (including twice on one punt against Denver), recovering three of them. Ridley has four fumbles this season and hasn’t recovered a single one. Ridley has nine fumbles over three seasons.
How do Belichick determine when a player sits after fumbling and when he doesn’t?
“Well, that’s easy,” Belichick said. “We always do what we feel is best for the team in every situation. That’s the way it’s always been and that’s the way it will always be as long as I’m here. I have to do what I feel like is best with any decision, in any situation, with what I feel is the overall best decision for the football team. That’s what drives every decision I make, on everything: plays, players, you name it. I have to do what I feel like is best for the team.”
So, it’s never about sending a message?
“If I have a message to send to somebody, I’ll just sit down and talk to them and tell them what it is,” Belichick said. “I can have a conversation and do have a conversation with anybody on the team that I need to have a conversation with. That’s not a problem. There’s no sending a message. You sit down and talk to somebody man-to-man and talk about the situation so that we’re all on the same page as to whatever it happens to be and what the direction is going forward. That’s easy. There’s not sending a message. You just have a conversation with somebody. This isn’t cryptic. We’re just trying to win a football game, that’s all.”
Did Ridley specifically not play on Sunday because of his fumble issues?
“The inactive players every week are based on, in part injuries and ultimately what we feel like for that particular game is the best decision for the football team in that game to try to win,” Belichick said. “Along with every other decision on the team that I make, it’s made with what gives our team, in our opinion, the best opportunity to win on Sundays. That’s what all decisions are based on.”
Belichick was also asked whether he read the comments of Houston defensive lineman Antonio Smith, who was very suspicious of the adjustments the Patriots made to Houston’s defense after trailing at halftime Sunday, 17-7.
“Yeah, I saw them. I don’t have any comment on them. I think that’s a league matter,” Belichick said.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, joining Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning for his weekly conversation, dismissed the insinuation by Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith that the Patriots somehow cheated in order to gain an advantage in Sunday’s 34-31 comeback victory in Houston.
The Patriots trailed by 10 points at halftime but turned things around in the second half. Smith questioned how New England could have figured out what the Texans were doing defensively and made the necessary adjustments so quickly and seamlessly.
Brady said the players learned of Smith’s comments after their plane landed back home Sunday night.
“Truthfully, we just played a little bit better in the second half,” Brady said. “We’ve kind of been through a lot of this before, so I don’t really think much of it, truthfully. I just kind of have moved on. I’ve already started work on the Browns and trying to figure out a way to play those guys better and get off to a better start.
“Houston was a really good team and they played well. We certainly didn’t play well in the first half to get us in that deficit. They’ve got a good defense, they’ve got good cover guys. With [J.J.] Watt and Antonio Smith they can really rush the quarterback. It was a tough game, but we found a way to win on the road, which was something that we talked about all week.”
Brady explained that the Patriots did not make major adjustments until halftime, but he said the turnaround had more to do with performance than strategy.
“If you have a bad first drive, you don’t really come over to the sideline and go, ‘All right, guys, we’ve got to change everything. Let’s scrap all the crap we’ve been practicing all week and just start making stuff up on the fly.’ But I think by halftime you have really a good enough sample size to figure out how the game’s being played, the matchups that go in our favor and the matchups that don’t go in our favor, maybe there’s some new things that they’ve done that we’ve got to adjust to,” he said.
“But ultimately, after halftime when you get a chance to kind of evaluate and say, ‘OK, well, how did that half play out?,’ you’ve got to be able to say, ‘Well, let’s stick with it and stick with what we’re doing,’ kind of what we did against Denver, or last week we said, ‘OK, these are some of the things that we’re going to get to and these are some of the matchups that we like, and we’ve got to start making the plays that we’re capable of making.’ You can call the perfect play against the perfect defense, but if I make a crappy throw, it doesn’t matter. It’s a nonproductive play. I know it’s boring, but execution is the name of the game.
“I thought we did a good job there in the second half of trying to figure out — they had a few new things that they had implemented for our game, and they definitely did some different things than we were expecting, but nothing that really blew our mind. It just was different, and we had to adjust. Then the execution ultimately was better in the second half than it was in the first half, obviously. I think that was the major difference.”
|Julian Edelman comes through again in clutch for Patriots||11.25.13 at 7:06 pm ET|
As a free agent, he didn’t inspire the same passion as any of the other big names who were coming or going from Foxboro this past offseason. But Julian Edelman has had just a big an impact in 2013 as any one of the free agent moves that impacted the Patriots.
Edelman, who signed a one-year deal to come back to Foxboro after taking exactly one free-agent visit — the Giants — has been immense for the New England receiving corps this year. Through 11 games, he has a team-high 61 catches (tied for 11th in the league) for 610 yards and four touchdowns, all of which represent career-highs for the former college quarterback.
But it’s not just the numbers that are impressive — it’s how they’ve been compiled. Time and again on Sunday night, when the Patriots needed to move the chains, Brady went to Edelman. The former college quarterback responded with nine catches for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns, his second two-touchdown game of the 2013 season. That stat line includes four of the 10 longest plays from scrimmage against the Broncos, with the capper coming on a 43-yard reception in the third-quarter where he got two Denver defenders to bite on a fake work himself into the open.
“He’s been so dependable and consistent all year for our team,” quarterback Tom Brady said of Edelman, who has accounted for 24 percent of all of Brady’s completions through 11 games. “He’s been the one veteran player on our offense that’s been in there and has been around. He always does a great job. He’s tough, smart, disciplined. It’s fun to see him do well because he deserves it.”
Which means that despite the resurgence from tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back Shane Vereen and wide receiver Danny Amendola — and even though his numbers have taken a small hit since he started the season on a red-hot pace — Edelman figures to play a sizable role in the passing game going forward.
“[Sunday], my number was called a few times and I was able to have a couple opportunities and I just try to take advantage of them,” said Edelman. “A couple games back it was [Kenbrell Thompkins], [Aaron Dobson], Danny [Amendola.] That’s our job – our job is to be able to get open and catch the football, and I was able to do that a few times.”
Edelman, who has seen 28 of his 61 catches go for a first down, not only has tremendous offensive value, but is really distinguished by his work as a punt returner. He’s averaged 11.7 yards per return over the course of the first 11 games, and has become one of the most consistent returners in the league the last few seasons — he has one of the best career averages in the history of the NFL when it comes to return yardage.
Against the Broncos, he had three returns for 39 yards, including a 20-yarder. He wasn’t immune to the fumble issues that plagued everyone on Sunday because of the wind and cold — he muffed a punt return of his own in the early going before corralling the ball.
The conditions made it a rough one for everyone.
“I fumbled a punt after I muffed one, so that’s not that good,” Edelman said. “[The wind had] a pretty decent effect in the kicking game, more so than the passing game. But I mean, both sides had to deal with it. I mean, we muffed one, so I’ll probably get yelled at for that one, so we’ll see.”
Even if he does hear it from the coach when it comes to post game film review, there’s the very real likelihood he’ll also hear some good things.
“Julian did a great job,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said after the game. “First of all, he did a good job of handling the ball, especially in the third and fourth quarter there. Made a couple good runs with the ball in his hands, also got open, caught the ball. The end route he got there gave us the field position in the overtime, it was a big play.
“Julian is a tough competitor.”
|Tom Brady on D&C: ‘We were a pretty mentally tough team, and that’s what it took’ to beat Broncos||at 10:37 am ET|
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning, following Sunday night’s 34-31 overtime victory over the Broncos.
The Patriots trailed 24-0 at the midway point but rallied in the second half, then capitalized on a Broncos turnover late in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal.
“It was a great win,” Brady said. “Anyone couldn’t really have expected the way that one would go. It was pretty sweet.
“We really got off to such a poor start and then stormed back, and then kind of played a little bit of defensive football there in the fourth quarter and in overtime, and got a good break there at the end. It was a great team win, everybody contributed. We were a pretty mentally tough team, and that’s what it took last night. We’ll enjoy it, then we’ve got to get back to work, ’cause that’s the way it is in the NFL.”
While the Patriots were being dominated on the scoreboard in the first half, Brady said the team didn’t lose confidence, because Denver’s points were the result of Patriots mistakes.
“We had 200 yards of offense at halftime. So it wasn’t like we had 70 yards of offense and we weren’t doing anything,” Brady said. “You make those critical errors like fumbling the ball and putting the ball on the ground like we did, and we’re not going to score a lot of points. We knew if we took better care of the ball that we’d have a better chance.
“Weather played a factor. We punted to them before halftime and it ended up being a turnover; we got it, we didn’t do anything anything with it. Then late there in the game, just tough to field some of those plays and we got a few bounces. That was really a great way to win the game.
“It was a tough battle, it was two good football teams. It obviously could have gone either way, but I’m glad it went our way.”
Brady said the team did not overreact at halftime, nor were there a lot of tweaks that had to be made to the game plan.
“I think we always take our cue from coach [Bill] Belichick as a team,” Brady said. “There wasn’t much to be said, truthfully, because we had done nothing. It wasn’t like there was a bunch of adjustments. We kind of thought the game — they played the game the way that we thought they would play it, and we just weren’t doing anything to execute.
“We just talked about making some good plays and seeing if that could turn into something. It turned into one touchdown, then it tuned into two touchdowns, then in turned into a field goal, it was another touchdown. We got the ball rolling, and that’s what we needed at that point.”
|How return of Rob Gronkowski will affect Patriots offense||10.18.13 at 12:19 pm ET|
FOXBORO — While the reports Friday that Rob Gronkowski has been medically cleared to play do not necessarily mean he’s going to be back to his 2011 self, his mere presence on the field would change the face of a Patriots offense that has struggled at times over the first six games of the regular season.
Here are five ways things will change for the Patriots with the return of Gronkowski to the lineup.
1. New England will again be able to rely on the tight ends to carry a sizable burden in the passing game.
Through the first six games of the 2013 season, Michael Hoomanawanui, Matthew Mulligan and Zach Sudfeld (before he was cut loose) primarily were utilized as blockers, and only intermittent parts of the passing game, rising up to chip in as needed. Mulligan caught a 1-yard touchdown pass against the Falcons, while Hoomanawanui had a career-high four catches (on four targets) for 57 yards in last Sunday’s win over the Saints. Through the first six games, the group had nine catches on 15 targets. By way of comparison, through six games last year the Patriots found the tight ends 45 times on 68 targets. Expect those targets to the tight ends to increase.
2. Accordingly, the offensive opportunities for the rest of the offensive skill-position players will decrease.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman has caught 41 passes through the first six games — that’s 30 percent of Tom Brady‘s total completions. (He’s already set a career mark for receptions in a season, and there’s still 10 games left on the schedule.) While it shouldn’t necessarily be taken as a symbol that Brady’s confidence in him is waning — after all, there are only so many passes to go around — his numbers likely will take a hit. The same is true for rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. There also may be fewer chances in the running game. Again, the inclusion of a talent like Gronkowski means that there will be fewer chances for everyone else across the board.
3. While there might be fewer opportunities in the ground game, the running backs should get a clearer path with Gronkowski back in the lineup.
Provided there are no ill effects from the forearm issue, Gronkowski’s blocking style will be a welcome addition along the New England offensive line. Hoomanawanui and Mulligan have done yeoman’s work, but a healthy Gronkowski would change the face of the Patriots running game. According to Pro Football Focus, last year the Patriots ran the ball 68 times off tight end for 311 yards. Contrast that with this season — through six games, the Patriots have run the ball 19 times off tight end and have picked up 34 yards. In addition, while the rest of the pass-catchers might not be able to have the same number of opportunities, Gronkowski’s presence will open things up for them. The master of the seam route, he can draw double coverage down the field, allowing things to open up underneath in that small sliver of real estate between the defensive line and the linebackers for Edelman and Danny Amendola.
|Get Julian Edelman’s perspective when it comes to fielding punts, courtesy of Google Glass||10.17.13 at 12:06 pm ET|
This is pretty cool — Julian Edelman teamed up with Google Glass to show what it’s like to catch punts from Ryan Allen.
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