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3 up, 3 down following Patriots’ 30-17 win over Niners 11.20.16 at 7:56 pm ET
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Tom Brady threw four touchdowns against the Niners on Sunday. (Kelley L Cox/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady threw four touchdowns against the Niners on Sunday. (Kelley L Cox/USA Today Sports)

At first glance, here are three up and three down in the wake of Sunday’s 30-17 win over the Niners.

3 UP
Quarterback Tom Brady: In his return to the Bay Area — his first game in San Francisco as a professional — the veteran stumbled a bit in the early going finished strong. He was 24-for-40 for 280 yards and four touchdown passes in the win. It marked the 21st time in his career he had at least four touchdown passes and no picks in a game, the most by any player in NFL history,

The backs: LeGarrette Blount topped 100 rushing yards for the fourth time this year (the most since his rookie year) on the way to 124 yards (on 19 carries) on the day. In his return, Dion Lewis had five carries for 23 yards and three catches for 26 yards, while James White chipped in with six catches for 63 yards.

Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell: The rookie did well replacing the deep ball impact of the Chris Hogan, with a career-best four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown in the win.

3 DOWN
Linebacker Elandon Roberts: There’s no denying it — the youngster had a bad day when he was asked to work in coverage. The Patriots utilized a handful of different linebackers alongside Dont’a Hightower, but still need a dependable coverage linebacker to emerge between now and the postseason.

Left tackle Nate Solder: You can blame Jeff Triplette, but the veteran lineman was flagged twice in the second quarter. One of the penalties ended up bringing back what would have been a touchdown run from Blount.

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski: The kicker was one of several across the league who missed extra points on the afternoon. He went wide right in the first quarter, marking his third missed PAT on the season.

Read More: Dion Lewis, Elandon Roberts, James White, LeGarrette Blount
Nate Solder’s absence from Patriots practice not injury related, 4 players limited 11.17.16 at 5:03 pm ET
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Nate Solder

Nate Solder

FOXBORO — The Patriots had two players miss practice on Thursday, but only one appears to be a concern.

Both Rob Gronkowski and Nate Solder missed practice, but Solder’s wasn’t injury related. Gronkowski missed his second straight practice with a chest injury and therefore doesn’t appear likely to play Sunday against the 49ers.

There were also four players limited, including Julian Edelman and Martellus Bennett.

Tom Brady once again was not listed and although not spotted when the media was present, Woodrow Hamilton was a full participant.

Here is the complete injury report:

DID NOT PRACTICE

TE Rob Gronkowski (chest)
OL Nate Solder (not injury related)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION

DL Alan Branch (back)
TE Martellus Bennett (ankle)
WR Julian Edelman (foot)
WR Chris Hogan (back)

Read More: Julian Edelman, Nate Solder, Rob Gronkowski,
Rob Gronkowski among 3 players missing from Patriots practice at 1:10 pm ET
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Nate Solder

Nate Solder

FOXBORO — Maybe the Patriots are not as healthy as first thought.

The team had three players missing from Thursday’s practice, which was held in full pads on the lower fields behind Gillette Stadium.

Rob Gronkowski (chest) was absent for a second straight day, while Nate Solder and Woodrow Hamilton were also absent. Both Solder and Hamilton weren’t listed on the injury report on Wednesday.

It appears the Patriots will be forced to go with two tight ends on Sunday in Martellus Bennett and Matt Lengel, as Gronkowski seems unlikely to play. The reason for Solder and Hamilton’s absences will come on the injury report later which comes out later in the afternoon.

The Patriots will practice Friday morning before departing for San Francisco later in the day.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Nate Solder, Rob Gronkowski, Woodrow Hamilton,
Losses of Rob Gronkowski, Nate Solder, Jonathan Cooper narrow margin for error for Jimmy Garoppolo, Patriots in opener 09.10.16 at 12:46 am ET
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Jimmy Garoppolo won't have Rob Gronkowski to throw to on Sunday night. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Jimmy Garoppolo won’t have Rob Gronkowski to throw to on Sunday night. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

No Rob Gronkowski on Sunday against the Cardinals means that the already sizable challenge facing Jimmy Garoppolo will be even greater than initially anticipated.

With Tom Brady on the sidelines, the feeling was: Hey, at the very least, the kid can always rely on Gronk. Right? Now, that element has been removed from the equation. And while defense and special teams can still provide a massive boost for the Patriots in this one, there’s simply no way of minimizing the magnitude of the test that lies ahead for the young quarterback.

Even after two-plus years in the system, Garoppolo still is something of an unknown commodity. No one is sure how he’ll react to live game reps over an extended stretch. Is he mentally tough? How will he react in a stressful situation? And with Gronkowski unavailable, how does he respond? All legitimate questions at this stage of his career.

The good news is that New England still has one pretty good tight end in Martellus Bennett. And remember when we were all wondering why the Patriots kept four tight ends on the roster? It means that while Gronkowski’s pass-catching abilities are gone for this game, New England still has enough depth to offer some of those two-tight end sets Arizona coach Bruce Arians talked about anticipating earlier this week.

Expect more of the pass-catching burden to fall on Bennett. It’s worth mentioning in the context of this conversation that the most predictive month of Bennett’s career is September — maybe he’ll start his Patriots’ career on an equally strong note. Meanwhile AJ Derby and Clay Harbor will see more action than initially anticipated as blockers. It’s also worth tossing fullback James Develin into the mix as well, as he practices with the tight ends.

The bad news? It removes the best tight end in the game from the lineup against one of the best young pass defenses the Patriots will face all year. Even when you consider that the big fella doesn’t play any preseason games — which means he usually uses the first four games of the regular season to ramp up to full speed — there’s no way of truly minimizing his loss. Former Patriots executive Mike Lombardi talked with WEEI on Friday just how important Gronkowski would be to Garoppolo and his chances for success against the Cardinals.

“Jimmy needs Gronk,” Lombardi said. “What I think people lose sight of with Gronk a little bit is Gronk’s a great indicator for the quarterback. When Gronk’s flexed away from [the line] — let’s take the Super Bowl, when Gronk lines up out there and K.J. Wright’s with him, every quarterback in the world knows it’s man-to-man. If there would have been a corner out there on him, then they know its zone.

“So Gronk’s a great indicator. It really helps a quarterback, especially when you’re playing against a team that does a lot of multiple things on defense. And not having Gronk out there all the time will affect it.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Jimmy Garoppolo, Jonathan Cooper, Nate Solder, Rob Gronkowski
Rob Gronkowski, Nate Solder, Jonathan Cooper all ruled out for Sunday in Arizona 09.09.16 at 10:02 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski

FOXBORO — Sunday’s task for Jimmy Garoppolo will be much bigger than he could’ve imagined, even at the end of the preseason.

Star tight end Rob Gronkowski and starting left tackle Nate Solder have been ruled out with hamstring injuries after not making the trip with the team to Arizona on Friday.

Also ruled out for Sunday is offensive guard Jonathan Cooper.

Gronkowski injured his hamstring in a joint practice against the Bears on August 15 and hasn’t played in the preseason. Gronkowski said Thursday that he wasn’t 100 percent but was optimistic he would be feeling fine in time for the game. Apparently, that changed Friday after consulting with the team’s medical staff.

Gronkowski did say he would consult with the coaching and medical staff before a final decision was made.

Solder was injured in the second offensive series against the Giants in the preseason finale and was replaced by Cameron Fleming at left tackle while Marcus Cannon is the other tackle on the right side.

With Cooper also out, Chris Barker not making the trip and Josh Kline released this week, the Patriots are left thin on the interior line, carrying just Joe Thuney, Ted Karras, David Andrews and Shaq Mason (who is recovering from a broken hand).

Cooper, acquired in the deal that sent Chandler Jones to the Cardinals, hasn’t played in the preseason but did speak earlier in the week. He was hopeful he could get on the field on Sunday against his former team after missing most of camp with plantar fascia issue in his foot.

Read More: Arizona Cardinals, Jonathan Cooper, Nate Solder, New England Patriots
Perfect attendance again Thursday for Patriots in final prep before Arizona 09.08.16 at 12:32 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots held another practice Thursday on the upper grass fields and once again, all players on the active roster were present and accounted for.

The only two missing were Tom Brady and Rob Ninkovich, who will spend the first four weeks on the league’s suspended list.

After a full pads practice Wednesday, the team was in just shorts and shells for the humid midday workout.

Rob Gronkowski and Nate Solder were both taking part in full stretching exercises before practice, as both were listed as limited with hamstring issues in Wednesday’s first practice report.

Cornerback Eric Rowe and practice squad linebacker Quentin Gause were both taking part in their second practices.

Thursday is the last full day for the Patriots in Foxboro, as the team is leaving Friday for Sunday night’s season opener in Arizona.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Arizona Cardinals, Gronk, Nate Solder, New England Patriots
Nate Solder: ‘So uplifting’ getting support of Patriots teammates with son Hudson 08.30.16 at 6:18 pm ET
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Nate Solder

Nate Solder

Last October was a very tough month for the Solder family.

Nate suffered a biceps injury on Oct. 11 in the Patriots’ game against the Cowboys and then just a few days later, Solder and his wife Lexi learned their three-month old son Hudson was diagnosed with bilateral kidney tumors, or Wilms tumors.

“When we were driving to the hospital, I think we both cried the entire way,” Solder said Tuesday on with Dennis & Callahan, part of the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon. “It probably was a few weeks where we just cried all the time. It was really emotional. It was really hard. The crazy thing, and the weird thing about it was, I got injured the week before the diagnosis. As crazy as it was, the injury was a blessing. I got to be with these guys and go through it without the stress and worry of the season — all those sorts of things.”

Hudson started chemotherapy two days later and since last October he’s undergone 21 chemotherapy treatments. He has them every three weeks now and the plan is for just three more.

Solder discussed how much support he received from his teammates and coach Bill Belichick.

“It was so uplifting the way my teammates have supported us this whole time,” he said. “They were putting together meals for us. They were calling us on a weekly basis. They were reaching out to us and really it went far beyond anything on the football field — just the human element. It’s been so supportive and so moving to have guys like that.”

“Coach Belichick has been amazing,” Solder added. “He really has been amazing. He’s been so supportive with anything we need with Hudson and him reaching out. He even sends me text messages and encouragement all the time.”

After missing the rest of the season last year, Solder is back with the team this season as their starting left tackle. He said football serves as a way to get away from everything going on at home with Hudson and he appreciates the game even more.

“Football has been a release from all the stress from him,” Solder said. “Football was the biggest stress in my life before and now it’s like an escape. It’s fun. I get to kind of take my mind off of things at home and things. I’ve really appreciated and enjoyed it like never before.”

(Click here to donate to the Jimmy Fund.)

Read More: Nate Solder,
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