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Tim Hasselbeck on D&C: ‘I certainly would favor New England’ for home-field advantage 11.17.14 at 11:41 am ET
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ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the Patriots’ win over the Colts and other news from around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The victory over Indianapolis gives the Patriots six consecutive wins after a slow start to the season. Now that they are in command of first place in the AFC East, there is talk of them securing home-field advantage in the postseason.

“They’re playing very good football, and you trust the head coach, you trust the quarterback, you look at the different ways they’ve won,” said Hasselbeck. “Defensively, they’ve been impressive. And they have a history of having success this time of year and going forward. I look at their schedule, and still think they have a difficult schedule. They’re going to play good teams, teams that I think most people would think New England is better than, but that doesn’t mean you always win the game. Look, if I have to pick who’s going have home-field advantage throughout based on how teams are playing right now, I certainly would favor New England.”

Before Sunday night’s game, running back Jonas Gray was not a well-known commodity. But that was not the case after the game when he finished with 199 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Even Hasselbeck admitted he was not all that familiar with Gray.

Said Hasselbeck: “I’ve heard of him probably mostly because I do a decent amount of fantasy football stuff. You’re forced to learn the guys that get four touches a game prior to being thrust into that role. I knew his name, but certainly didn’t think he was going to rush for about two bills against the Colts.”

The hosts were surprised that Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano did not make many in-game adjustments to stop Gray.

Said Hasselbeck: “You look at the game last year and how [the Patriots] jammed it down [the Colts’] throat. It could be a thing where it was a little bit of as you get ready during the week and you try to identify who the Patriots are this year versus who they were last year with the backs that they had healthy at that time. They probably weren’t anticipating it. They were probably weren’t anticipating that was going to be the group that were going to be facing for a majority of the game. And I think the offensive staff did a nice job in terms of the runs that they had dialed up, with the angles that it put them in to get into position to make blocks. And then you have to give Gray credit for how hard he ran.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Jonas Gray, Peyton Manning, Tim Hasselbeck
Rams help Patriots by pounding Broncos, Peyton Manning into submission 11.16.14 at 6:25 pm ET
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The Rams had Peyton Manning and the Broncos on the run all day. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The Rams had Peyton Manning and the Broncos on the run all day. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS — The stage is set for the Patriots to grab complete control of the race for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. And they can thank the St. Louis Rams for their help on Sunday.

Rookie running back Tre Mason had 113 yards on 29 carries and Kenny Britt caught four balls for 128 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown to power the Rams over Peyton Manning and the Broncos, 22-7. Greg Zuerlein added a career high field goals on five tries.

Manning was 34-of-54 for 389 yards with two interceptions. His only touchdown was a 42-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders, ending a streak of 15 consecutive games with at least two touchdown passes.

The Rams beat up the Broncos physically, as Julius Thomas sprained his ankle and will reportedly undergo an MRI on Monday. Emmanuel Sanders suffered a concussion in the third quarter, further slowing Manning’s passing game. On a day when they needed him, Wes Welker had four catches for just 28 yards.

If the Patriots could beat the Colts here at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday night, they will not only have the tiebreaker over both Broncos and Colts, they will have one-game edge on the Broncos and a two-game lead on the Colts in the AFC race. The Kansas City Chiefs beat Seattle and now stand 7-3. They would be New England’s biggest concern down the stretch as they beat the Patriots, 41-14, in Kansas City on Sept. 29.

Read More: Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning, St. Louis Rams,
Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski and Matthew Slater among top Pro Bowl vote-getters 11.13.14 at 8:30 am ET
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Rob Gronkowski leads all tight ends in Pro Bowl voting. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski leads all tight ends in Pro Bowl voting. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the first wave of voting complete, three members of the Patriots lead Pro Bowl voting at their respective positions.

Rob Gronkowski leads voting among tight ends with 166,066 votes, while kicker Stephen Gostkowski (67,814 votes) and special teamer Matthew Slater (36,679 votes) are also currently leading their groupings.

As for quarterback Tom Brady, he’s fourth among quarterbacks with 254,807, behind only Peyton Manning (359,598), Andrew Luck (284,575), Aaron Rodgers (280,394). He’s fifth overall, as he’s just nudged out by running back DeMarco Murray (263,097).

Despite the fact that Brady is near the top of the voting totals, don’t expect him to make it, even if the Patriots are able to play. The quarterback has been voted to the Pro Bowl in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, but the last time he actually went to the Pro Bowl was 2004.

The Pro Bowl will be played on Jan. 25 in Arizona the week before the Super Bowl.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Andrew Luck, Matthew Slater, Peyton Manning
Tom Brady says Andrew Luck ‘does a lot of things I wish I could do’ 11.12.14 at 11:42 am ET
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FOXBORO — This week would not be a good time for the Patriots to take their foot off the gas of their high-powered offense.

And no one knows this better than the man at the wheel of the machine. Tom Brady and the Patriots are averaging 40 points a game in their five-game winning streak. Not surprisingly, that’s better than any team in the NFL over that stretch. They came within a touchdown against the Broncos of scoring 50 points in back-to-back games for the first time in their history.

But now comes the hard part. They have to do it on the road, against a Colts team led by the most prolific passer through nine games in NFL history.

Andrew Luck, in his third season out of Stanford, has already passed for 3,085 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Luck has thrown for 300 yards in seven straight games, dating back to Week 3, breaking the record of Peyton Manning (5 in 2009). The NFL record is nine set twice by Drew Brees in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

“Well, he’s a great player,” Brady said of Luck. “He’s in his third year and has had a lot of success. Their offense is doing a great job this year. They score a lot of points, especially at home. He’s kind of the ring leader. He does a lot of things I wish I could do.”

Such as?

“He’s big, fast, shrugs off blockers,” Brady added. “He makes a lot of extended plays. He’s a great passer. I think they’ve thrown for more yards at this point in the year than any other team in history. I think it speaks to what they’re doing offensively. It’s a big challenge for our defense.”

Then came a warning from Brady to his offense.

“We’re going to have to score a lot,” Brady said. “I think when you play another great offense, you’re going to have to put up a lot of points, similar to our last game. We realize we have a big job, too.

“My focus is on the other side of the ball but you also know you’re not going to be able to score 13 points and win the game.”

Read More: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Peyton Manning
Tom Brady on D&C: ‘I was kind of fast and loose’ during early part of NFL career 11.10.14 at 7:32 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning and talked about living it up in his early days in the NFL and how his lifestyle habits have changed through the years. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Brady said he enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with his wife and kids during the off week.

“My family and I got away for a couple of days,” he said. “It was really nice to be with our kids. They get, not neglected this time of year, but there’s just not as much time. So it was nice to get a way for two or three days.

“Yes, I did watch football yesterday. Not really the whole day, but bits and pieces, certain games, seeing what happened in our division, which was great for our team, and a little bit of the game last night. It’s a thing to be a spectator. There’s not too many weekends where we’re really spectators — really once a year. It’s fun to just kind of sit back and watch a little bit.”

According to a recent report, teammate Julian Edelman raved about Brady’s worth ethic and noted that the QB goes to bed around 8:30 most nights.

“I do go to bed very early, ’cause I’m up very early,” Brady acknowledged. “I think that the decisions that I make are always, they always probably center around performance-enhancement, if that makes sense. So whether that’s what I eat, or what decisions I make, whether I drink or don’t drink, it’s always football-centric. I want to be the best I can be every day, I want to be the best I can be every week, I want to be the best I can for my teammates.

“I love the game and I want to do it for a long time. But I also know that if I want to do it for a long time I have to do things differently than the way that guys have always done it, because you hear stories of people when they get older this declines or this declines. I don’t really believe those things, so I have to kind of take a different approach, so strength training and conditioning, how I really treat my body, it’s important to me. Because there’s really nothing else that I enjoy like playing football. I want to do it for as long as I can. And that’s what a lot of the decisions that I make that hopefully does affect my teammates, because I know a lot of my teammates have the same goal. And a guy like Jules who’s more dedicated than anybody, he’s very much the same way. Those are the type of guys you love to play with, that are going to do everything they can to help the team, that are going to be their best all the time, in the offseason when the lights aren’t shining, that’s when it matters the most.”

Looking back on when he was just making a name for himself with the Patriots, Brady said he was able to enjoy the experience off the field.

“The 25-year-old Tom Brady had a great time. [Laughing] I probably wouldn’t change much from those days,” he said. “It was a different time than it is now, because there’s so much attention now. I don’t know how these young players do it. I was kind of fast and loose back then. I was still a responsible person. I’ve always had certain responsibilities that I’ve always felt. But I’d say more so now. When you have obviously a wife and kids, your life transitions into other things. So it’s simplified in a lot of ways. Now it’s just football and it’s being with my family, and that’s the most important stuff. I wouldn’t change anything when I was 25. I wish it would have lasted a little longer.”

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Andrew Luck, Darrelle Revis, Julian Edelman
What we learned Sunday: Bills, Dolphins blow chance to make up ground on Patriots at 12:32 am ET
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Kyle Orton and the Bills had the Chiefs on the run Sunday, but couldn't close the deal. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Kyle Orton and the Bills had the Chiefs on the run Sunday but couldn’t close the deal. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

1. The Bills missed out on a golden opportunity to edge closer to the Patriots

Buffalo was at home and controlled the pace for most of the first three quarters, but 14 fourth-quarter points from Kansas City were enough to upend the Bills and come away with a 17-13 win in Orchard Park. Buffalo had a ton of chances all afternoon and appeared to be on the verge of blowing out the Chiefs at one point, but they ended up settling for a pair of field goals after an early touchdown, and added some ill-timed turnovers to make things even worse. The first came on the opening drive of the second half when running back Bryce Brown — three steps from the end zone and posting a touchdown that would have made it 16-3 in the third quarter — had the ball punched away by a Kansas City defender and out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. The second one came when the usually sure-handed punt returner Leodis McKelvin muffed a return attempt in the fourth quarter that paved the way for what would ultimately be the game-winning touchdown, an 8-yard run from quarterback Alex Smith that put the Chiefs ahead for good. With the win, Kansas City has returned to the thick of the AFC playoff picture. Meanwhile Buffalo, which entered the contest 1 1/2 games behind New England in the division, now falls to 5-4, a full two games back of the Patriots.

2. So did the Dolphins

Miami faced a steeper hill to climb, going into Detroit to try and take down the Lions. And like the Bills, they were in control for most of the game. Despite only finishing with one offensive touchdown, the Dolphins built leads of 13-10 and 16-13 in the second half. But with 29 seconds left, Matthew Stafford delivered an Uncle Rico-esque sidearm sling to Theo Riddick, an 11-yard scoring strike to lift the Lions past the Dolphins for the 20-16 win. Ryan Tannehill finished 27-for-38 for 207 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Something to keep in mind when the Patriots meet the Lions in a few weeks in Foxboro — Detroit has become quite adept at winning close games. Sunday’s victory against Miami was the fourth straight win for the Lions, with their last three wins coming by a combined six points.

3. With the losses by Buffalo and Miami, the divisional picture became even clearer

The Bills and Dolphins both fell to 5-4, a full two games in back of the first-place Patriots. And while there’s a lot of football still to be played (seven games for all three of the team in the division that still have a pulse, to be exact) and Buffalo and Miami still have yet to visit Foxboro this season, it’s starting to appear less and less likely that either team will be capable of overtaking New England down the stretch. That matters because if the Patriots are able to wrap up the division between now and the final three games of the season, the visits from both the Dolphins (Dec. 14) and the Bills (Dec. 28) could be far less impactful that initially believed, at least from a divisional standpoint. In addition, if either Miami or Buffalo has little to play for at that point in the year, it would make it a lot easier for New England to finish up the season with a flourish if there’s home field on the line, or even a first-round bye. (For what it’s worth, the Bills and Dolphins play Thursday in Miami, and the loser will most likely write off any hopes of making the postseason, at least this year.)

4. The Jets helped the Patriots with a win over the Steelers

The Steelers went into MetLife and were shocked by the Jets, 20-13. In what will undoubtedly go down as the high point of the season for Gang Green, New York held Pittsburgh to just three points through the first three-plus quarters. Meanwhile, the Steelers defense — which had shown plenty of signs of improvement over the previous three weeks — were unable to do much to contain Michael Vick and the Jets. The veteran quarterback threw two touchdown passes and became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for more than 6,000 yards in the win, which avoided a franchise record for consecutive losses.

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Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Brock Osweiler, Bryce Brown, Leodis McKelvin
Bill Belichick still critical even after 22-point win over Broncos 11.03.14 at 1:35 pm ET
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On Sunday afternoon the Patriots beat the Broncos — arguably the best team in the NFL prior to Sunday by 22 points — to now hold the best record in the AFC after Week 9. But even after such a dominant performance, coach Bill Belichick says the game was far from perfect.

“We, to be honest, still feel like we left a lot of points on the field last night in terms of our overall execution offensively — missed guys in the deep part of the field, dropped the ball, couldn’€™t convert on short-yardage and then some of the same things on defense,” Belichick said on Monday’€™s conference call. “We were fortunate that we had some third and fourth down stops and plays, which those included red area, but we gave [up] a lot of yardage in the passing game. There were a lot of open receivers. We were fortunate that the running game for Denver wasn’€™t like it was the last couple times we played them. We did a more consistent job on that, but there are a lot of things that we need to tighten up.”

Peyton Manning and the Denver offense totaled 429 yards of net passing offense –€“ although most of it came in garbage time –€“ it was still the most net passing yards the Patriots have allowed in the Belichick era.

Quarterback Tom Brady and the offense committed its first turnover since Week 4 in Kansas City and left some points on the board, settling for field goals on three occasions — once inside the red zone — and went 6-for-16 on third down.

Belichick was also critical of himself on his challenge of a potential Rob Gronkowski touchdown following his spectacular one-handed catch at the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter. Belichick thought Gronkowski was not touched and should not have been ruled down, but after looking back at the tape he admitted it was a bad challenge on his part.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Peyton Manning, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady
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