|Bill Belichick returns the love from Gregg Popovich: ‘I love to watch that team’||12.19.14 at 10:17 am ET|
FOXBORO — On a day when Boston, New England and the basketball world is talking about Rajon Rondo heading to Dallas, Bill Belichick heaped a huge amount of praise upon Rondo’s new rival in the Western Conference.
On Friday, Belichick accepted the praise and returned the favor.
“It’s flattering he would say that,” Belichick said of the five-time champion Spurs coach. “It means a lot coming from his stature and given the amount of respect I have for him and our organization has for that organization because I think it extends well beyond me. That’s a very flattering comment.
“Tremendous respect for Gregg. I think the consistency they’ve had there, the level that they’ve played at. I love the way he coaches that team. I love to watch that team. He’s really good, really good. It’s not like I watch a hundred basketball games a year or anything like that but I think he handles himself and his team, I admire it. I really do.”
Belichick has often interacted with other coaches in Boston, like former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, ex-Celtics coach Doc Rivers, Bruins coach Claude Julien and Boston College hockey coach Jerry York. In some cases, he’s even invited them into Gillette to speak to his team.
It’s not quite at that level with Popovich, at least not yet.
“We’ve had a lot of indirect conversation. Put it that way,” Belichick said.
Reminded that Popovich’s job just got a lot tougher with Dallas acquiring Rondo in a trade with the Celtics Thursday night, Belichick showed that single-minded focus he shares with Popovich.
“Right now, I’m really worried about the Jets. I can’t worry about everybody else’s team and what their challenges are and all that,” Belichick said. “I’m sure every team has a lot of challenges. We have a big one and that’s really my job to deal with that one.”
|Tom Brady is tired of close calls vs. Jets, wants to see Pats play 60 minutes ‘for once’||12.17.14 at 12:42 pm ET|
FOXBORO — He understands the records are what they are heading into Sunday’s Week 16 showdown, but Tom Brady doesn’t want to see the Patriots biting their nails heading into the final minute if they can help it. Brady recalls, of course, the 27-25 escape against the Jets on Oct. 16 at Gillette Stadium, when Chris Jones saved the day with a blocked field goal at the end.
He also recalls last year at MetLife Stadium when the Patriots raced out to a 21-10 halftime lead, only to allow the Jets back in the game and lose in overtime when Jones was called for an illegal play at the line of scrimmage on a field goal attempt.
This year, Brady is hoping for something a little different. More like the “Butt Fumble” game of Thanksgiving 2012 when the Patriots feasted on Rex Ryan‘s Jets, 49-19.
Brady is taking no comfort in New York’s 3-11 record or the fact they’ve lost by two touchdowns in five of their 11 losses.
“I don’t know why those scores go the way they do against other teams,” Brady said. “Against us, they always seem to be close. You just don’t want to go down there and have a bunch of poor execution like we’ve done in the past. I think we really have to focus on our execution and try to go out there and play good for once. I think that’s kind of what we’ve been talking about, playing our style of football for 60 minutes and see what that looks like because we haven’t done a great job against the Jets doing that.
“It’s a great rivalry. We’ve always had some pretty interesting games against them. A lot of them come down to the wire, especially recently. They’ve got a real good defense. They’re good up front, do a great job against the run. We’re going to have to go out and play really well. I know the records are what they are but we don’t look at it like that. I think it’s a good challenge for us. We lost going to the Meadowlands last year. So, we’re anticipating getting their best game.”
The Patriots, of course, are 11-3 and looking for the top seed in the AFC, which they will get with a win over the Jets and a Denver loss in Cincinnati Monday night. But the Patriots QB knows the offense needs to get back to getting off to fast starts, a trademark during their seven-game win streak.
“It’s frustrating for all of us when we’re not scoring the type of points we’re capable of doing,” Brady said of the struggles against the Dolphins in the first half last Sunday. “I just have to focus on what I’ve got to do better, and I can certainly do better in that area, making better decisions, better throws. We’re going to need it this week against this team because they challenge you in a lot of ways. They’ve got a multitude of things that they do. They’ve always done that. They really test your communication. Certainly, execution is something that we look at all the past games we’ve played against them and think, ‘God, our execution just wasn’t very sharp.’ We have to be very sharp this week.”
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|Rex Ryan insists ‘our record is the only thing that stinks’ heading into Patriots showdown||at 11:25 am ET|
Rex Ryan knows his team is 3-11 on the season. He also knows his team is a heavy underdog this Sunday in what could be his final game as Jets coach before the New York faithful.
But for all that has been written and said about the discord and dysfunction around the Jets in another season to forget, the Jets coach insisted Wednesday in a conference call with the Patriots’ media that he loves his team and their effort.
“Anything that is swirling around inside our team, I’m proud of this team,” Ryan said. “We’ve got nothing [in terms of controversy]. Some guys’ reports are probably as far off as any I’ve ever seen. This team is tight. Our record is the only thing that stinks. We’ve got a great group of guys that care, that prepare, practice hard and it’s just obviously unfortunate that our record is what it is but it has nothing to do with the type of character in this room.”
Asked what he thinks of his place in the Patriots-Jets rivalry, should this indeed be his last game coaching the Jets, Ryan begged off, preferring instead to focus on the game at hand.
“I have no idea. We all know what’s getting ready to happen in this game. We know that both teams give their maximum effort against each other,” Ryan said. “I don’t think each team particularly likes each other but it’s on. Regardless of what the record is, we could be playing for first place, or whatever, but it’s the same effort always. It’s usually a close game and it’s usually a physical game.
“I never have to worry about them, regardless of who we play. We’re professionals and we get a chance to play a game, and it’s a game we love and we’re going to play it to the best of our abilities.”
“Well, I think their whole defense has changed quite a bit since the last time we played them,” Ryan added. “They’ve brought in a couple of big guys. Chandler Jones [hurt against Jets], a tremendous player. But the coverages and recognizing a lot of different coverages that haven’t really played in the past that they’re playing now.
“There’s a couple of different ways to play man coverage but they’re starting to do some different things in the man. It’s kind of hard to explain but we recognize it. They’re doing a good job of it, obviously.”
|Bill Belichick isn’t interested in going down memory lane with Rex Ryan||12.16.14 at 4:02 pm ET|
Ryan said Monday that he has tremendous respect for Belichick and the Patriots. And while on Tuesday, Belichick said he has respect for the Jets, he wasn’t interested in throwing a bouquet of flowers at Rex on what could be his penultimate game on the Jets’ sidelines.
“We have a lot of respect for the Jets,” Belichick said on a conference call of the 3-11 Jets. “They’re a good football team. We had a real competitive game with them earlier in the year.”
That 27-25 escape job thanks to the left paw of Chris Jones serves as a reminder that this isn’t so much about recalling past battles as it is focusing on a team that will be hellbent on spoiling New England’s bid for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
“I’m not really that concerned about what happened five, 10, 15 years ago. [I’m] more concerned about this matchup this week. They played another tight, tough game last week and beat the Titans at the end. They’ve been in a lot of close games — won some, lost some. We were in one with them and expect a tough, 60-minute battle.”
That didn’t keep the questions coming about Rex’s Jets against Belichick’s Patriots. Ryan won the only postseason match up Jan. 2011 but overall, Belichick holds an 8-4 advantage since Ryan came to New York proclaiming he wasn’t about to kiss “Belichick’s rings.”
Belichick was asked Tuesday if he’s enjoyed competing against Ryan, his teams and his scheme since 2009.
“I mean, every week we have challenges,” Belichick said. “Every team has good players, good coaches and tough matchups. This is the Jets.”
|Vince Wilfork concedes Jamie Collins is ‘pound-for-pound’ best athlete on Patriots||12.13.14 at 8:12 pm ET|
“He’s something special but I’m something special, too. He’s probably the most, pound-for-pound, athletic guy we have. The things he can do, the way he can move, the way he can jump, it’s amazing. I’ll give him that nod,” Wilfork conceded Friday.
But what’s truly amazing and appreciated by Wilfork is the linebacker’s ability to pick up the system and leadership role in just his second season. Last week in San Diego, with Dont’a Hightower out with a shoulder injury and Jerod Mayo lost for the season with a knee injury, the leadership and communication role was turned over to Collins.
“From last year to now, it’s unbelievable what we ask him to do, and he steps up every week. Last week was a big week for him. With Hightower not playing and him stepping into the role, the quarterback of the defense, he did a great job. It just goes to show you the importance that work and just being focused and coming to work and getting the defense working the right way, it just goes to show you how committed he is to being a great football player.
“We love everything about him. That’s one of the things we do around here, move guys around and sometimes when you’re called upon, you have to be able to step up and play. It’s good to have a guy like that on our squad where we can move him around in different places and get a lot of production out of him.
“It’s tougher for opponents to game plan with guys like that. That’s been a staple of our defense, being able to move guys around a little bit here and there, make the offense figure it out on the run. Sometimes, that’s tough to do. We just have to continue to play at a high level, especially now in December. You want to win ball games later in the year. It starts now. It started last week with a great road win for us. Coming home, a chance to win a division. It doesn’t get any easier, I’ll tell you that.”
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|Setting the scene: Patriots look to extend win streak to 7 against Lions||11.23.14 at 9:47 am ET|
FOXBORO — A chilly morning will give way to a seasonably comfortable day as the Patriots look to improve their top position in the AFC with an early afternoon game against the Lions at Gillette Stadium.
Temperatures are expected in the low 50s with a chance of rain. Wind is likely going to be the biggest factor on the day, coming out of the southwest at 10 MPH but gusting to as high as 16 MPH.
The Patriots are playing their first home game since beating Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on Nov. 2. They are paying tribute to America’s service men and women with several activities planned. There will be a pregame flyover by two F-15Cs from the 104th Fighter Wing, 131st Squadron from Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Mass. The F-15C is an Air Dominance aircraft. The men and women of the 104th provide around-the-clock Homeland Defense of the Northeast Region as well as providing air power around the world.
The national anthem will be performed by the Massachusetts Army National Guard “Voices of Freedom” and the color guard will be provided by the U.S. Marine Corps out of Devens, Mass.
Once the game begins, the Patriots will look for their seventh straight win, which would give them their 14th straight winning season. That streak would match the Green Bay Packers of 1934-47 for the fifth longest in NFL history. Dallas holds the all-time record of 20 from 1966-85. The 14 straight winning seasons would be the third-longest in the NFL since the 1970 merger.
The Patriots will be without pass rusher Chandler Jones for a fourth straight game with a hip injury while Cameron Fleming is out with a ankle injury. Fleming had just returned last week from a five-game absence with a finger injury.
For the Lions, they will likely be without running back Reggie Bush for a second straight week as he rehabs his ankle after re-injuring it against the Dolphins on Nov. 9. It would be the fourth time in the last six games Bush has been inactive since initially suffering the injury in a Week 5 loss to the Bills. The Lions are also without defensive lineman Nick Fairley and offensive lineman Larry Warford, both out with knee issues.
Hearing Reggie Bush is a no-go for the Lions big game in New England Sunday. Not ready to go yet. Still working to get back
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) November 22, 2014
|Tom Brady trying to be as good as Aaron Rodgers – throwing back shoulder passes||11.19.14 at 2:59 pm ET|
One of Brady’s most productive throws during his six-game winning streak is the back shoulder pass to wide receiver Brandon LaFell. He completed two of them on Sunday night alone, part of LaFell’s three catches on four targets for 62 yards. One of them came on a key third-down conversion to keep a touchdown drive alive.
Brady was asked about the level of trust it takes to let go of the ball before a receiver is turned around on back-shoulder throws.
“We’ve been working pretty hard at it for a while, Brandon and I,” Brady said. “I think it’s a big trust thing. You’ve got to trust that when the ball is in the air that they’re not going to make the play on it. And when you’re in those one-on-one situations, as a quarterback, you can only really control it until it leaves your hand. Even though the outcome may not be good, sometimes you may make the right decision. But as a quarterback, when you’re decisive and you trust that someone is going to make a positive play, it’s much easier to just let it rip. He’s really allowed me to do that. He’s been such a fun player and a fun teammate to have. He’s my locker mate, so we’ve got a great relationship. It’s been a lot of fun.”
It’s the kind of relationship Brady will see up close and personal next week when the Patriots travel to Green Bay.
“It’s all those things that amount to a good passing game. When you see certain quarterbacks play with certain receivers, like I see Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson ‘ they are probably the best at it,” Brady said. “It’s the timing of when to throw, how hard to throw. It’s when to look. If you look too early, if you slow down as a receiver, it’s a low percentage play. If you throw it too hard or too high, it’s a low percentage throw.
“It’s just a big trust throw, and both people really have to be on the same page. We’ll just keep working at it. Those are big plays. You have to throw to the perimeter of the field. And it’s 25 yards down the field and [when] you make plays like that where you can gain a quarter of the field in one throw, it’s a big momentum play. That probably got me most excited. But we need more of those. Hopefully we can make a few of those this week.”
When the Patriots signed the 6-foot-3 LaFell in March as a free agent, Brady was pumped up because he was getting a big receiver that could go up and fight for the ball on that play.
“That’s the advantage of having a big player like that, too, where you’re physically bigger than the opposing player that you’re going against, and you can use your body and your size to protect the ball,” Brady said. “I think that’s one of Brandon’s great strengths. For those to come up, it’s not a big surprise. He’s a big guy. When guys get tangled up with Brandon, they usually get the brunt of it.
“The closer you are to him, sometimes I don’t think that’s the best thing because he’s such a big presence, and he’s got really long arms and he’s got big hands to be able to make those types of plays. Those are good plays for us to make. Like I said, we’re going to need to keep making them, and as the season keeps going on and the games get bigger, we need to have those plays in our back pocket and know that we have confidence that we can go out there and hit them.”
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