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An ‘anxious’ Tom Brady ready for the ‘big build-up’ to Sunday: ‘Hopefully, we’re up for it’ 01.20.17 at 5:50 pm ET
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FOXBORO — For Tom Brady, there’s a fine line between being nervous and simply being anxious for a big game.

For the 11th time in his career, the Patriots quarterback will be playing Sunday night for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. He is 6-4 as a starter in the previous ten trips.

At Gillette Stadium, Brady has been beaten just once in five previous AFC championship games.

Brady was asked if, at the age of 39, he still feels nervous in the hours and days before taking the field for a chance to go to the Super Bowl.

“No, I think you just get anxious for games, because there is a big build-up to them and you prepare pretty hard,” Brady said. “So, you finally get out there and play, because you feel like you’ve built up the whole week on the practice field and you’ve talked about a lot of situations and you’ve just got to see how they play out. I think it’s just more anxiousness.”

Brady has certainly played his fair share of physical defenses, from the Jets and Bart Scott to the Ravens and Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs to the Broncos and Von Miller. Now, it’s James Harrison, Bud Dupree, Lawrence Timmons and Stephon Tuitt and the Steelers who will be getting after Brady.

If Brady has proven anything this season, he can take a hit and still execute. Even last week, while taking a beating from Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus and throwing a pair of interceptions, he managed to stand in the pocked and fire a pair of touchdown passes.

Is there anything that intimidates Brady?

“I don’t know if intimidate is the word. I think you always go into the game understanding what gets you beat and cautious of the things they do well,” Brady said Friday. “I don’t think it’s necessarily intimidation. I think what helps you win and lose is really good performance and execution and so forth.”

As for his teammates, Brady is not worried about his teammates being mentally ready for Sunday.

“I think a lot of guys know how to get ready to go, and coach does a good job of preparing them,” Brady said. “I think part of the veteran responsibility is to let some of those guys know anything that you might know as a player, or feel as a player going into a big game like this. So, you try to convey those messages over the course of the week of practice, and basically all the time. Wherever you are you try to let other guys know some of your experiences and how to deal with them. But a lot of people ask questions, and some people take the information and retain it and others don’t. So, you just try to do the best you can do.

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Read More: AFC Championship, New England Patriots, nfl, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bill Belichick sings praises of Bill O’Brien: ‘One of the top coaches I’ve been around, period’ 01.10.17 at 12:43 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bill O’Brien worked for Bill Belichick for five years between 2007 and 2011.

O’Brien left his job as offensive coordinator to take over a Penn State program in total turmoil after the school’s sex abuse scandal of 2011. O’Brien spent two seasons in Happy Valley, compiling a very respectable 15-9 record, before moving back to the NFL, taking over another football program in dire need of a makeover.

O’Brien is now in his third season as head coach of the Texans and has led Houston to the AFC South title in the last two seasons. The success O’Brien has had in Houston has not come as a surprise to his mentor.

“Billy is a great coach,” Belichick told reporters on a Houston conference call. “He’s one of the best coaches in this league, one of the best coaches in football. We saw that at Penn State, too. He’s got a great football mind, does a great job of motivating the players. He’s one of the top coaches I’ve been around, period. You’re not going to do much better than him. He’s solid day-to-day, week-in and week-out. Again, he does an excellent job with personnel motivation, scheme, building a good team attitude and chemistry. He really does a good job. He’s an excellent coach and I’m very fortunate that I had the opportunity to have him on my staff. We had a great working relationship. I learned a lot from him. I think he’s an outstanding coach.”

Belichick was asked Tuesday if he recalls what it was like when O’Brien first joined the Patriots staff in 2007, how he found him and came to the decision to bring him to the Patriots.

“Yeah, I remember it. I mean, I’m not that old,” Belichick quipped. “Bill and I had talked through the years, and we talked about him joining our organization at different points in time but that was kind of the right one. He and I stayed in contact for years, several years before that. I’d say it was definitely a leap of faith. He went from probably the second highest position on a staff, offensive coordinator, to a quality control position.

“But he did a great job of working with everybody, learning not only the offense, but learning an entire system and then he got an opportunity to run the offense and to be in control and he was certainly ready to do that. He had a lot of coaching experience from his other positions in college and really what he needed was just a little bit of time to become familiar with our offensive system and the things that are – the way that we do them. Again, he’s very smart, adapted very quickly, figured it out in a hurry and was a great asset to all of the staff members. He was a big asset to me and then he took over the offense.”

When the Texans beat the Raiders, 27-14, last Saturday, it marked just the third win in franchise history (which dates to 2002), and the first win over a team not named the Cincinnati Bengals.

“They’re a really impressive team, a big win last week against Oakland,” Belichick said. “They’re playing very well here at this point in time, outstanding on defense, a lot of explosive players on offense, kicking game, well-coached. Obviously, a very good fundamental team. They don’t beat themselves, don’t get penalized, don’t turn the ball over. Just a really sound football team. This will be a big challenge for us this week to be able to compete with them. That’s a big win that they had in the wild card game. I’m sure they’re coming in here with a lot of confidence, as they should.”

The Texans have never won a road playoff game, going 0-3, including a 41-28 loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 13, 2013.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, houston texans, New England Patriots
A grateful Josh McDaniels says he was humbled by latest round of interviews 01.09.17 at 12:28 pm ET
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Dec 18, 2016; Denver, CO, USA;  New England Patriots Josh McDaniels offensive coordinator reacts as he leaves the field following the win against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field. The Patriots defeated the Broncos 16-3. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Josh McDaniels could have more to smile about if he gets the chance to lead another team in the NFL in 2017. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

Josh McDaniels knows all about compartmentalizing.

He noted Monday during his conference call with reporters as the offensive coordinator of the Patriots that his job requires that each and every day.

Over the weekend, he had the chance to step out of his role as OC of the NEP and into the shoes of a candidate who is presumably highly sought as a future head coaching candidate. The 49ers, Jaguars and Rams had their chance to speak with the 40-year-old offensive guru.

“It’s humbling,” McDaniels said. “It’s a privilege to have an opportunity to do any of those things. I feel very fortunate to have an opportunity to sit in front of those people, that they would listen to me and spend time with me. Just got to do the best you can to represent yourself, your team, your organization that you come from, your family as best you can, and all the rest of it will play out how it’s supposed to play out.”

McDaniels is in a different position than defensive coordinator Matt Patricia or general manager Nick Caserio. McDaniels has 28 games on his resume as an NFL head coach, posting a 11-17 mark while in charge of the Broncos in 2009-10.

McDaniels had a chance to sell himself to the three teams over the weekend. But as soon as those meetings were over, he quickly turned his focus back on the team that still employs him.

“The profession we work in requires that each week,” McDaniels said. “We get ready for one team. We put all our focus, our time, our preparation, our energy into getting ready to do the best we can each week against a certain opponent. And the very next day, as soon as the game ends actually, our focus shifts to something different, whether that’s how we improve from what we just did to the preparation for the scouting report, the game plan for the next opponent.

“I think honestly, we’ve been trained to switch gears and really tie our focus into the thing that is at hand. If it’s a workday, we know where our focus is going to lie. It’s absolutely going to be on the Texans this week, and I’m looking forward to getting ready to go.”

Read More: Jacksonville Jaguars, Josh McDaniels, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots
Martellus Bennett has a message to fans and Patriots: ‘If you want to invest in cool, invest in me’ 01.05.17 at 9:39 am ET
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FOXBORO — Martellus Bennett is an NFL star tight end doubling as a marketing guru.

The tight end used a media opportunity Thursday during the bye week to push his latest apparel brand “Football Marty” throughout New England.

“I just figured that the NFL is making so money off of merch that if I could slide in and get a small percentage of it, I could find a niche market for myself, which you call ‘microbranding’ – you focus on the area that you’re in and then eventually those people tell other people about it then you branch out and do a little bit more so I started a little thing called ‘Football Marty’, Bennett said.

Bennett then reminded everyone – including his current employer – that he’d love to make more of an investment in New England if the Patriots make an investment in him.

“I’m moving some [merchandise], not as much as I would like to move,” Bennett said. “It’s hard being a one-year guy in the market. A lot of people don’t know if they want to invest in you because they don’t know if you’re going to be here next year or not. But I make the coolest stuff, so if you want to invest in cool, then you invest in me.”

Bennett and his brother Michael Bennett (of the new three-year extension with the Seahawks) are known for their ability to brand their image in circles in and out of the NFL.

“I’ve got some Bennett Brother gear coming out,” Bennett said. “I’ve got collaborations with multiple guys that I’m going to be making gear for.”

Bennett is in the final year of his four-year, $20.4 million deal signed originally with the Bears. Has he seen enough to feel he wants to make a long-term business plan in New England?

“Yeah, I love it here,” Bennett said. “We’ll figure it out when it’s time to figure it out. My family loves it here. I love being part of this team, this organization and this city. When it comes around, it comes around. I ain’t really tripping, like I said. I saved my money pretty good. I’ve got a good diverse portfolio so I ain’t really tripping right now.”

Read More: Chicago Bears, Football Marty, Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots
How the Patriots nearly wound up with a walk-through at a T.F. Green hangar 01.03.17 at 12:17 pm ET
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Bill Belichick has a shot at his first undefeated preseason since 2003. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick has a shot at his first undefeated preseason since 2003. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Control what you can control. Make the best of a bad situation. Make the proper adjustments.

Those are the foundations of a Bill Belichick football operation. And as they were waiting and waiting to take off Saturday from T.F. Green airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, the Patriots made the best of a not-so ideal situation.

The Patriots waited for nearly three hours to take off for South Florida as equipment and fueling issues were being resolved. The later it got Saturday afternoon, Belichick realized that having their routine Saturday night hotel walkthrough was not going to happen.

“I think the players, they got their rest on the plane, otherwise they would’ve sitting in their hotel rooms and doing [prep] if we didn’t have the walkthrough Saturday night that we normally would have,” Belichick said in a Tuesday conference call. “We did that Sunday morning. Had we been delayed a little bit longer I think we would’ve probably gotten off the plane and maybe done a walkthrough in one of the hangar areas.

“But as we were getting ready to do that, the things cleared up and were able to get moving and get underway. So it didn’t really come to that. Honestly, it’s not the way we planned it but players have handled those types of things well all year. Sometimes, things come up, you have to adjust to them. You don’t let it bother you. You control what you can control. That’s what they did. Honestly, I didn’t hear anybody talk about it. It was just something we dealt with and moved on.”

Tom Brady said after Sunday’s 35-14 win over the Dolphins that the players made the best of the bad situation, choosing to study film or rest on the plane. The players had one approach. The coaching staff and football operations had another.

“I know that wasn’t the way we planned it,” Belichick said. “First of all, everybody was pretty comfortable. That was fortunate. We had a big plane. The players rested. A lot of the coaches are working on the things that we needed for the night meeting and so forth, like we normally do. There’s quite a bit of work that goes on on the plane between the coaches and other people that are non-players that are working on the trip. We don’t really take a lot of people from the football operation area that don’t have a specific role for the game.”

The Patriots also handled the less-than-ideal field conditions at Hard Rock Stadium in the same manner. Belichick aware that he had no control over scheduling that had Florida State and Michigan squaring off on the same field just 36 hours earlier.

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, nfl,
Why have Dolphins improved so much? Start with their third-down defense 12.27.16 at 3:38 pm ET
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Sep 18, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) drives the ball for the first down against the Miami Dolphins in the second half at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Miami Dolphins 31-24.  Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Dolphins made life tough on Jacoby Brissett and the Patriots in the second half of their Week 2 matchup at Gillette. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

When the Dolphins started 1-4, not much of anything was going right for Adam Gase’s bunch. That included his team’s ability to stop teams on third down and get their talented defense off the field.

One of the issues that hurt Miami in New England’s 31-24 win in Foxboro in Week 2 was its inability to get a key stop. The Patriots were 7-for-14 in that game on third down, including 4-for-4 to start the game with two touchdowns.

Since then, the Dolphins have improved on that stat drastically. They now lead the NFL in third-down defense, allowing a stingy 34.83 percent conversion rate. (The Patriots are 3rd in the league at 35.4 percent). And a big part of that third-down defense is keeping teams in third-and-long.

“They do a lot of different things on third down,” McDaniels said in a conference call Tuesday. “But I would say the thing that they do the best is they challenge you at all three levels. They have a really good pass rush. Obviously, they have a lot of guys that can be effective in getting to the quarterback and creating pressure so you force the ball out before you really want to. They get on you tight in the secondary and really challenge your ability to get open versus man coverage, and then they have a pressure package that they have some different unique looks that they will give you and challenge your ability to pick up pressures in those types of situations, and they execute them very well.”

The Dolphins have won 9-of-10 and sit 10-5 with a playoff berth locked up.

“I think the thing that stands out to us is they have more third-and-10-plus situations than they do any other situations, and I think any time you play a defense that creates more long-yardage situations than they have shorter distances to defend, you’re usually going to find that they’re ranked highly in third down efficiency, and that is the case with Dolphins,” McDaniels added.

Because of pressure from the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, Jordan Phillips and Mario Williams, the Dolphins are one of the best teams in the NFL at forcing third down situations of 10 yards or more.
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Read More: Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins, Ndamukong Suh, New England Patriots
Bill Belichick shoots down any notion of resting starters in season finale 12.26.16 at 11:21 am ET
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Bill Belichick has a shot at his first undefeated preseason since 2003. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick has a shot at his first undefeated preseason since 2003. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Two starting quarterbacks went down Saturday with broken legs but that doesn’t mean Bill Belichick is going to play it safe with his starters going into the season finale against the Dolphins on New Year’s Day.

The reason?

Simple math. There aren’t enough players to rest starters in the regular season. The Patriots carry 53 players on their active roster. They can declare seven players inactive, leaving 46 players to play the game. Of those 46 players there’s not enough to rest all the starters across the board in all three phases of the game.

“Right. Look, I really don’t understand that question,” Belichick said. “We have – I don’t know how many starters we have but we have a lot more than … We can only inactivate seven players so this isn’t like a preseason game where you have 75 guys on your roster. This is a regular season game.

“I don’t really understand that whole line of questioning. I’m not saying I’m a great mathematician or anything but the numbers just add up for that type of conversation. So, there’s no use getting involved in it.”

One of the rites of late-season football over the last 15 years in New England has been the annual question to the Patriots coach about taking the chance to rest starters in the season finale with most of playoff position assured. He was asked Monday if he would like to rest starters as his 13-2 team takes on the 10-5 Dolphins, who are fighting for their playoff lives in the game.

Of course, the one player Belichick could choose to rest is Tom Brady but with the Patriots still needing a win to clinch the No. 1 overall seed, and learning from what happened last year in Miami when Brady played but only threw the ball four times in the first half, that’s not a likely scenario.

Brady indicated after Saturday’s win that he “expects” to play in the season finale. In the Christmas Eve game against the Jets, Dont’a Hightower (knee) and Matthew Slater (left foot) did rest and were inactive as a precautionary step.

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota broke his leg against Jacksonville and Derek Carr broke his leg in the second half against the Colts. The Titans have been eliminated but the Raiders need to beat the Broncos in Denver while hoping for a Patriots loss in Miami to clinch the No. 1 seed.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, nfl
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