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Why Matt Patricia is really concerned with ‘double-threat’ Andrew Luck this time around 01.12.15 at 4:47 pm ET
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Andrew Luck has his team in the AFC title game against the Patriots. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Andrew Luck has his team in the AFC title game against the Patriots. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Josh McDaniels isn’t the only one expecting a much different game this time around against the Colts.

Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said Monday that he knows Andrew Luck could make it much harder on the Patriots he if gets out of the pocket and starts throwing.

There are many mobile quarterbacks now in the NFL. That’s nothing new. But what Luck presents is the ability to scramble, keep his eyes down field and throw long-range missiles at vertical targets. Patricia and Bill Belichick have no doubt seen the film of Luck’s third-quarter strike to Donte Moncrief of 36 yards against the Bengals in the wild card round.

Luck was flushed out of the pocket and was running forward to the line of scrimmage when he was caught from behind. As he was falling to the turf, he held himself up just long enough to find Moncrief breaking open in the end zone for a touchdown that all but put the game on ice.

Like Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers, the play is not over with Luck until the quarterback is on the ground.

“I mean that’€™s a huge challenge for us,” Patricia said. “This guy is not only mobile, has a very strong arm, but can move out of the pocket and keep his vision and concentration downfield and really see the entire field where he might not just be locked into one player as he’€™s trying to elude a rush or escape out of the pocket or even just move out of the pocket on their move out of the pocket plays.

“[He] does a good job of keeping the entire field open in his vision and finding pockets or seams or holes where his receivers are either uncovering or finding space to get open in their routes. Then obviously with the arm strength he can get the ball there. I think the other thing that’€™s extremely difficult about Andrew Luck is how strong he is. He’€™s a very big quarterback, he’€™s extremely strong. You’€™ll see a lot of guys that think they have him in the grass and think they can get him down and then he breaks free.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, AFC Championship, Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Matt Patricia raves about Steve Smith Sr.: ‘An extremely good player, a very smart, savvy vet’ 01.05.15 at 2:21 pm ET
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Even at 35 years old, Ravens wide out Steve Smith Sr. hasn't stopped producing. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Even at 35 years old, Ravens wide out Steve Smith Sr. hasn’t stopped producing. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Even though Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. is 35 years old and in his first season in Baltimore, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t stopped producing at a high level and playing his with usual tenacity causing fits for opposing defenses.

Smith finished the regular season with 79 catches for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns. The 79 catches were tied for the most he’s had in a season since 2007 when he caught 87.

The 5-foot-9 receiver signed with Baltimore this past offseason after he didn’t re-sign with Carolina — the team that drafted him in the third-round of the 2001 draft and the team he spent the next 13 seasons with.

He’s fit in nicely with the Ravens offense as a good complement to wide out Torrey Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta.

“Well I think obviously you are talking about an extremely good player, a very smart, savvy vet,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said on a conference call Monday. “[He’€™s] a guy that brings in a huge element of toughness out on to the field, a strong competitor. [He’€™s] a guy that really does a great job of finding the open zone, or seeing the man-to-man coverage. [He] really does a great job of getting open for the quarterback, whether it’€™s the intermediate routes, the tough catch-and-run plays, also the vertical plays downfield. The guy really has the ability to kind of hit all three levels.

“I think being as dependent as a receiver and a reliable target for the quarterback in the passing game, obviously then for Torrey Smith a lot of the vertical element is then really opened up for him when your attention really goes towards Steve Smith. I think the guy is just a tremendously tough competitor, very energetic, brings a lot of life to the offense — will go out and block. He’€™ll do the tough duty — blocking and the route running and coming through the middle and catch-and-run type plays. I think he’€™s just added a whole other element to their offense in the passing game and the run game.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, matt patricia, Steve Smith Sr., Torrey Smith
Matt Patricia: Vince Wilfork’s 2014 return after Achilles’ injury ‘true testament to him as a professional’ 12.29.14 at 12:38 pm ET
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Matt Patricia

Matt Patricia

Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia praised Vince Wilfork on a Monday morning conference call with the media, saying the fact that the veteran defensive lineman managed to come back from a season-ending Achilles’ injury in 2013 and play all 16 games in 2014 at a high level is a “true testament to him as a professional and to him as a football player.”

“I think you obviously can’€™t say enough great things about Vince Wilfork,” Patricia said of Wilfork, who finished the 2014 regular season with 818 defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. “The guy is a tremendous team player. He’€™s a tremendous football player. He’€™s an incredible athlete for a guy that size. [It’€™s] amazing what he’€™s done to be able to come back and play and play at a high level and get himself ready to go for a full NFL season.

“But that’€™s the mark of a true professional. We get a lot of guys that get injured; in the offseason guys that have whether it’€™s surgeries or rehab or whatever it is. It’€™s a part of the deal of being an NFL football player,” Patricia added. “I don’€™t think anybody comes back from injury trying to get ready for half the season or a couple games or one game. I think they’€™re trying to put themselves in a good position to play and they understand that it’€™s a long season and they have to take care of their body. He certainly does all of that.

“Vince is great from off the field, on the field, the leadership in the classroom, studying opponents, trying to get better every week,” he added. “It’€™s just a true testament to him as a professional and to him as a football player.”

Read More: matt patricia, Vince Wilfork,
Bill Belichick isn’t giving Brandon Browner (or his team) an excuse for all the penalties 12.16.14 at 5:57 pm ET
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Brandon Browner has helped spark the Patriots secondary to new heights with a physical style of play. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Brandon Browner has helped spark the Patriots secondary to new heights with a physical style of play. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

When the new emphasis on defensive holding and hands to the face was announced at the start of training camp, there was the understanding that certain players would struggle more than others adjusting.

It appears no one on the Patriots has had a harder time than Brandon Browner. As Chris Price points out, Browner has been flagged for 13 penalties (4 defensive holding, illegal contact, encroachment, 4 defensive pass interference, illegal use of hands, facemask, unnecessary roughness) 118 yards. Those 13 penalties are six more than the next closest perpetrator (Brandon LaFell, Logan Ryan six apiece).

On Tuesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked if he cuts Browner some slack for his team lead in the dubious category because of the physical style he brings to the secondary.

“Penalties have been an issue for us all year as a team,” Belichick said. “We’€™ve had a lot of penalties, more than we want, €“ way more than we want. We’€™re trying to decrease that number and the frequency. [We’€™re] certainly not there yet, but we continue to make it a priority and address it and work to reduce them. I think there’€™s definitely been some progress, but we’€™re not there yet. That goes for everybody.”

By not singling out Browner publicly, Belichick made it clear that he’s expecting cleaner play across the board.

“It’€™s everybody’€™s responsibility to play penalty free in their area, whether it’€™s the coaches on play-calling and substitution and things like that, or whether it’€™s the individual players based on their techniques and whatever the situation is that they’€™re in: offense, defense, special teams. Whatever it happens to be, it’€™s to play penalty free,” Belichick said. “That always has been an emphasis point for us, and it will continue to be one for everybody.”
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Browner, Devin McCourty, matt patricia
Third-down defense went a long way in leading the Patriots to a win over the Chargers 12.08.14 at 1:51 pm ET
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The Patriots held the Chargers to 4-for-13 on third-downs Sunday night. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

The Patriots held the Chargers to 4-for-13 on third-downs Sunday night. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Things were not looking good for the Patriots early in the second quarter Sunday night, as following an 11-play, 89-yard touchdown drive taking up 4:46 of the clock, just over two minutes later the Chargers struck again when Darrell Stuckey returned a Brandon LaFell fumble 53 yards for a touchdown, giving San Diego a 14-3 lead.

Following the score things changed in a big way for the Patriots defense, as well as the rest of the team, outscoring the Chargers 20-0 the rest of the game, and it all started with third-down defense.

“It’€™s really important to get off the field on third down,” said Belichick on a conference call Monday. “That’€™s always a big point of emphasis for us. Third downs are, on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, third downs are really kind of like turnovers in terms of the possession of the ball changing if a team can’€™t convert, whether it’€™s us or them. Those are huge plays in the game. Red area plays are huge plays in the game because they involve points. When you talk about third down in the red area, that’€™s really as important as it gets because those are kind of four-point plays, if you will.”

San Diego entered the game third in the NFL on third-down — converting 47.5 percent of the time, including 81.8 percent against the Ravens in the game prior. The Chargers got off to a good start, converting on three of the first four third-downs in the game, but the Patriots defense buckled down, as San Diego went just 1-for-9 the rest of the game, finishing 4-for-13.

The defense as a whole changed following San Diego’s touchdown drive as after the touchdown, the Chargers went: blocked punt, punt, half, punt, punt, INT, punt, punt, punt, downs. The Patriots allowed 107 total yards in the first quarter, but just 109 the rest of the game. New England also allowed 13 total first downs, their lowest allowed in a game since Dec. 10, 2010 against the Bears when they allowed 12.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, matt patricia, Patriots defense, Philip Rivers
New Patriots defenders contributing right away because of ‘their study and their work ethic’ 11.25.14 at 8:55 pm ET
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Akeem Ayers has already made his presence felt in New England. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images).

Akeem Ayers has already made his presence felt in New England. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images).

With long-term injuries to important players on the Patriots defense so far this season — Chandler Jones (out since Week 7), Jerod Mayo (season-ending injured reserve) and Sealver Siliga (short-term injured reserve designated for return) — the Patriots have had a number of players step up to fill the voids.

A few of those players weren’t even with the team at the start of the regular season.

On Oct. 21, linebacker Akeem Ayers and a seventh-round pick in next year’s draft were traded to the Patriots for a sixth-round pick, also in next year’s draft. Ayers played in that Sunday’s game against the Bears and recorded a sack and five tackles. In his four games with the Patriots, Ayers has recorded a sack in three of the four games.

On Oct. 28, linebacker Jonathan Casillas, along with a 2015 sixth-round pick was traded to the Patriots from Tampa Bay for a 2015 fifth-round pick. Casillas played in the Nov. 2 game against the Broncos and recorded three tackles, but has been most known for his contributions on special teams.

A day later, Oct. 29, the Patriots announced they had signed veteran defensive tackle Alan Branch. Branch also played in the Denver game that Sunday, and has been a major contributor in stopping the run.

With all these new players joining the team and learning a new system, it wouldn’t be a surprise for each player to take a few weeks to settle in, but that hasn’t happened — the players have fit in right away. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia says a lot of that has to do with the leaders the Patriots have on defense, and to go along with the work ethics of all three new players.

“Specifically talking about [Casillas and Ayers] I will say those guys work extremely hard,” Patricia said on Tuesday’s conference call. “They are true professionals as far as their ability to study, learn the game, understand what we are doing from the systems standpoint and have matriculated into what we are trying to do defensively fairly quickly from their study and their work ethic. They have really fallen right in line. We have great guys on defense.

“I say this all the time, but I can’€™t stress to you the importance of the leaders that we have on defense — Vince Wilfork and Dont’€™a Hightower and Devin McCourty and [Darrelle] Revis and [Brandon] Browner, the list goes on. The way that these guys approach and attack each week to try to learn the opponent, study their film and prepare themselves to play every week is really a tribute to their professionalism. I think that’€™s something that can’€™t be understated. As a group, these guys work extremely hard to get ready to compete every week. We have a difficult task every week and this week is no different than the next. It’€™s a very huge challenge for us to get ready to handle.”

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Read More: Akeem Ayers, Alan Branch, Jonathan Casillas, matt patricia
Patrick Chung making most of second chance with Patriots 11.04.14 at 10:15 pm ET
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When Patrick Chung signed with the Patriots in early April there weren’€™t very high expectations based on the way his first tenure with New England went from 2009-12.

However, Chung has made the most of his second opportunity with the Patriots — starting all nine games at safety and playing a major role in the Patriots’€™ defense, which currently is allowing 22 points a game, good for 12th in the NFL.

The 2009 second-round pick by the Patriots was not re-signed after his rookie contract in 2012 and instead signed with the Eagles. Things didn’€™t work out the way he would have wanted there — playing in 12 games, finishing with 43 tackles in 2013 before being released after just one season.

The Patriots wasted no time giving Chung another chance — re-signing him just a month after he was released by the Eagles.

“I thought he played pretty well for us in the time that he was here,”€ coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday on a conference call. “I think kind of the circumstances of the 2012 season just didn’€™t work out as well as probably we all hoped they would for a combination of reasons.

“Pat and I talked about that last year after he was released from Philadelphia. Pat and I talked about that. We had a long conversation about a lot of things. Not saying it was anybody’€™s fault, it was just one of those things that didn’€™t work out. But we both felt that we’€™d want to try to give it another shot. We were able to come to an agreement on that, contractually.”

Chung had an outstanding spring and training camp — looking better each day –€“ and won the starting safety job next to Devin McCourty. He’€™s continued to make the most of his second opportunity, as per Pro Football Focus he has played 486 of a possible 636 snaps (76 percent) through nine games.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, matt patricia, Patrick Chung,
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