|Randy Moss: I still have a lot of love for Patriots, but I’m with Niners now||12.12.12 at 9:17 pm ET|
Randy Moss said Wednesday he’s still got fond memories of his time with the Patriots, but now, he’s a member of the 49ers.
The former New England wide receiver, who called Foxboro home from 2007 until the early stages of the 2010 season, said that he didn’t want to compare the two organizations “because whatever I say is going to be the wrong thing to say,” but said that the Patriots still hold a place in his heart.
“Basically, I’ll leave it at that I still got love and respect for the New England Patriots and everything we did as a team. But now, I’m a 49er, so hopefully, like I said, we go up there Sunday night and give it a good game,” said Moss, who caught 259 passes for 3,904 yards and 50 touchdowns in 52 regular-season games with the Patriots.
“Hopefully, we can complement our defense, [but there’s] no telling what’s going to happen,” he added. “But like I said, we have to play complementary football, and I think if we do that and try and not let Tom [Brady] and the [New England] offense run the score up on us, I think it’ll be a good game.”
Through 13 games, the 35-year-old Moss has 21 catches (on 37 targets) for 326 yards and two touchdowns for San Francisco. His best all-around outing of the year came in the season opener against the Packers, when he had four catches (on four targets) for 47 yards and a touchdown. Despite the dip in his numbers, the Niners praised Moss on Wednesday, with San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh saying he’s been a “great teammate.”
“He’s a good teammate,” said linebacker Aldon Smith. “He’s a guy I looked up to as a kid growing up, and being able to be in the locker room and sit next to him is cool. It’s a dream come true.”
“He’s done a nice job,” said Harbaugh. “He’s been a contributor, he’s produced, and he’s been a great teammate.”
He’s also getting a lot of respect in New England. Safety Devin McCourty spent training camp and the initial stages of the 2010 season as a teammate of Moss, and recalled Wednesday how the veteran receiver helped him grow up on a daily basis as a young defensive back.
“He’s still a very, very good receiver,” said McCourty. “I learned a lot just going against him when he was here. You see him out there, and he’s still able to make plays. I think one of the special things about him is that he’s still able to get vertical and run by guys. I guess one good thing is that we have some familiarity with him, and that can help us a little bit. But he’s still a very good receiver.”
“He does a great job of reading defenses,” said Wes Welker. “He knows when he’s about to get the ball and he knows when to kick into high gear and get open and make plays. He really understands defenses, how they’re trying to play them and how to attack them.”
“I think Randy looks like Randy. He’s the greatest deep ball receiver I think that’s ever played,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “Nobody runs better patterns or has a better feel over the deep part of the field like Randy Moss. I still see him doing that. Because of his ability to do that, it certainly opens up a lot of other things as well because you have to respect the ability to stretch the field and go deep and get behind you.”
Former Patriots receiver Troy Brown said this week on Mut & Merloni that Patriots fans shouldn’t worry about former New England great Randy Moss giving the Pats trouble when the 49ers come to town Sunday. The reason? Because Bill Belichick won’t let him.
“If there’s somebody on that team that will beat the Patriots on Sunday, it will not be Randy Moss,” Brown said. “He will not score a touchdown on Sunday night.”
Brown explained that Belichick makes a point of it to limit his former players when they play again him.
“Just from what I know, when [Belichick] plays against former [Patriots] that have played for him, those particular players will not beat him,” Brown said. “I saw him put two guys on Terry Glenn when he came back with Dallas to play here. We were going to win the game. It was just the fact that he didn’t want Terry to catch a touchdown or make a big play.”
Brown knows Belichick better than most people, and going through the game logs, it’s pretty clear he has a point. Glenn, who made a name for himself in New England before talking his way off the team, had his least-productive game of the 2003 season when he played the Pats as a member of the Cowboys, catching just one ball for eight yards in a 12-0 Patriots win.
That stat line (one catch for eight yards and no touchdowns) was repeated by Moss when he played the Pats after they traded him to the Vikings in the 2010 season, suggesting that perhaps Belichick does indeed game-plan around star players who had played under him in New England. Here’s a look at how some of the more notable Patriots from the Belichick era have fared against him after leaving New England.
-Nov. 3, 2002: 28/45, 302 yards, TD, INT
-Dec. 8, 2002: 32/51, 328 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT
-Sept, 7, 2003: 17/28, 230 yards, TD, INT
-Dec. 27, 2003: 12/29, 83 yards, INT
-Oct. 3, 2004: 18/30, 247 yards, TD, INT
-Nov. 14, 2004: 8/19, 76 yards, 3 INT
-Sept. 7, 2003: 5 combined tackles (3 assisted), sack
-Dec. 27, 2003: 8 combined tackles (4 assisted)
-Nov. 14, 2004: 15 combined tackles* (5 assisted)
-Oct. 30, 2005: 3 combined tackles (2 assisted)
-Dec. 11, 2005: 8 combined tackles (4 assisted)
-Nov. 16 2003: 1 reception, 8 yards
-Dec. 4, 2005: 5 combined tackles (1 assisted)
-Dec. 26, 2005: 2 tackles, interception returned 74 yards for TD
-Nov. 13, 2008: 3 tackles
-Oct. 7 2007: 2 assisted tackles
-Oct. 31, 2010: 1 reception, 8 yards
-Oct. 2 2011: 3 tackles
It appears Brown has a point, as a couple of strong showings from Milloy and a pick-6 for for Law are the only bright spots on a rather lengthy list of games from star players. As for Belichick not letting those players beat him? Brown was right about that, too: In those games (there’s some overlap due to Bledsoe and Milloy’s time with the Bills), the Patriots went 11-2. Neither of those losses were the direct result of former Pats’ big games, though Milloy sacked Tom Brady in the memorable 31-0 drubbing Buffalo gave the Pats to open the 2003 season, a game in which Bledsoe only needed a mediocre performance (17/28, 230 yards, TD, INT) thanks to Brady’s four-interception day.
As the Patriots prepare for the 49ers, it’s safe to say that Moss isn’t the same player he was when he set the single-season touchdown reception record in 2007. He can “still run,” as Brown noted, but history shows it should be a quiet night for him on Sunday.
|Rob Gronkowski continues his march into history||10.28.12 at 9:59 pm ET|
As Rob Gronkowski marched in the end zone, his attempt to pay homage to the Changing of the Guard — in his words to reporters, “That little nutcracker dude that’s guarding the house” — more closely resembled a mechanical toy soldier. And in some ways, his mechanical march perfectly embodied what the third-year tight end has become.
Simply put, he is a touchdown machine. In 2½ NFL seasons, he’s established himself as one of the foremost scoring threats in league history, someone who has assumed end zone residence as no one else at his position in the modern history of the game.
That notion was underscored on Sunday against an overmatched Rams team, as Gronkowski delivered one of the most dominating games of his career. He matched a career high with eight catches and two touchdowns while amassing 146 receiving yards, the second most of his career. He nearly had a third score, in fact, getting touched down at the 1-yard line on a tremendous diving catch at the end of the first quarter.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the performance — aside from the celebration and charming absurdity of its explanation — was the fact that it was almost unremarkable. It simply represented what has become a characteristic romp over NFL defenses, which have yet to identify a defensive grouping — defensive linemen are too big and slow; linebackers too small and slow; safeties and defensive backs too small — to prevent Gronkowski from getting to the end zone.
The result? Gronkowski has scored 34 touchdowns in 40 games in his career, and he now is marching through end zones and into history books in a fashion befitting his robotic Sunday celebration.
Gronkowski now has 11 games with multiple touchdown catches in his career. He joins Jerry Rice as the only players in NFL history with that many multi-TD games in his first three seasons; but Gronkowski, of course, still has eight games left this year to set a new standard. No tight end has come remotely close to such a figure. Read the rest of this entry »
|Wes Welker: ‘You have to be able to put it away’||10.14.12 at 9:05 pm ET|
What should’ve been entertaining talk about one of the great streaks of his career and another chance to poke fun at his head coach turned into Wes Welker trying to explain how the explosive Patriots offense suddenly went cold in a 24-23 shocking loss to the Seahawks in Seattle.
The Patriots put up over 300 yards of passing in just over two quarters of football. Welker, himself, had seven catches on eight targets in the first half from Tom Brady. He had 102 yards of receiving and a 46-yard touchdown pass under his belt as the Patriots went to the locker room with a 17-10 lead.
That lead grew to 23-10 on a pair of Stephen Gostkowski field goals but the Patriots certainly had the sense that they were leaving way too many points on the field.
There was the blown opportunity from the Seattle 24 with 40 seconds left in the first half that ended with Brady taking the first of his two intentional grounding calls in the game, as the Patriots got greedy and turned down the sure field goal and looked into the end zone. There were the two Brady interceptions in the second half, one coming in the red zone. And there was the second intentional grounding near midfield that forced the Patriots into third and long and eventually, a punt.
For a team that prides itself in being the very best offense in the game, they were an unacceptable 1-for-6 in the red zone, with an incompletion, an interception and three field goals to go along with Brady’s one-yard TD pass to Aaron Hernandez.
Now, the stat they’re going to hear all week and in their sleep is four points, the combined margin in New England’s three losses this season. With a chance to beat the Cardinals at home, Gostkowski hooks a 42-yard field goal wide left in the final seconds. Leading the Ravens, 30-21, in the fourth quarter, the Ravens find a way to score the final 10 points and beat New England at the gun on a disputed field goal.
And now Sunday, a rookie quarterback throws a pair of fourth-quarter TDs as Brady and the Patriots offense can’t convert key first downs and protect a 23-10 fourth-quarter lead.
“We talk about playing a good 60 minutes of football and we seem to come up a little bit short,” Welker said. “These close games like this, especially when you have the lead in the fourth quarter, you have to be able to put it away. We weren’t able to do that today.”
Welker finished with 10 catches and 138 yards, becoming the first Patriots receiver since Randy Moss in 2007 amass four straight games of 100 yards receiving. But instead of talking about that, Welker and the Patriots are wondering how and why they are 3-3.
“Right now, it’s really frustrating,” Welker said. “We just have to get back to work and really work on these things and make sure we’re pushing through and win the games in the end.”
|Deion Branch on why he stayed in New England: ‘First and foremost, my family’||09.19.12 at 3:24 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Everyone in and around the Patriots locker room figured Deion Branch returning to the team was a mere formality of when, not if.
So, when over 20 reporters descended upon his locker – which remained in tact since his release on Aug. 31 – Branch was asked what it was like to be back with the team he’s had so much success, including MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX.
“Across the board, whether it was here, I always had to weigh my options,” Branch said. “That’s what I’m going to do first and foremost, weigh my options for my family and myself. But to get the call, besides some of the other calls, I think this was more important here.”
Branch acknowledged that other NFL teams indeed did reach out to him but he wanted to return to the Patriots. Why?
“First and foremost, my family is first,” Branch said. “Doing the things right by my family and put myself in the right position.”
Branch and Bill Belichick spoke about why he was cut at the time and how he might be used in coming back to New England for a second time in three years. The Patriots traded him in 2006 before being re-acquired in 2010 from Seattle, shortly after Randy Moss was shipped off to Minnesota.
“I’ll keep that between coach and myself,” Branch said. “It was very understanding. I think, overall, if you play this game long enough, I’m pretty sure every guy in this building will go through it. And I mean that, every guy. And that comes with time, most of all you’re a team player, the team’s going to do what’s best for the team, and me personally, I’m going to do what’s best for Deion.”
Branch said he’s not going to worry about how the Patriots choose to use him.
“That all depends on the game plan and whatever the coaches have for me,” said Branch. “I’m going to do whatever they ask of me, whether that be special teams, offense, defense, I’m going to do that. As far as within the offense, that comes with the game plan.”
Branch has been busy taking care of his kids, leaving some time to keep up on the Patriots but not a lot.
“I watched the first game, and caught the second half of the second game,” he continued. “When you have kids, there ain’t too much free time.”
Branch had five touchdown receptions and 702 receiving yards last season. He became a free agent after the season and re-signed on March 22.
|Fantasy Football: Week 1 starts, sits||09.07.12 at 10:24 am ET|
Here are Rotobahn’s Week 1 starts and sits. These rankings are based on 12-team leagues and performance scoring. We’ve done our best to highlight players who may be either available or on the lineup bubble. After all, we all know we need to keep Tom Brady active.
If you are looking for more in-depth roster rankings, join us at Rotobahn.com, where we break things down even further.
Jay Cutler, Bears
Now well stocked with weapons, Cutler is a solid value this year. Start him in Week 1 if you have the need. We think he’ll post starter’s numbers.
Robert Griffin, Redskins
Griffin is the real deal and can play for you right away. His receivers are underrated, and TE Fred Davis is a plus option as well.
Joe Flacco, Ravens
Flacco is a guy you might find on waivers in small leagues, and he can post starter’s numbers in Week 1.
Stevan Ridley, Patriots
Ridley is going to get the rock a lot this week, so we see the big back as a good Week 1 play. Shane Vereen has been absent and the Law Firm has moved on to Cincinnati. This is Ridley’s time.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
The Buccaneers, who host Williams’ Panthers on Sunday, have to prove that they can stop the run. They have been very vulnerable to speed in recent years, and Williams is looking very speedy these days. Throw in a banged-up Jonathan Stewart and you have a solid recipe for success.
Michael Bush, Bears
If you are looking for an option, Bush could help. We like his chances against Indianapolis’ front seven, and we like Chicago’s chances of putting up some numbers. He’s a good flex option in bigger leagues.
|Welcome back: Patriots getting reacquainted with Josh McDaniels||05.31.12 at 11:53 pm ET|
FOXBORO — While the return of Josh McDaniels to the New England offense has looked relatively seamless from the outside in the two OTA sessions the media has had access to, Patriots players say both sides are still going through a getting-to-know-you process.
“There’s always getting up to speed when certain things have changed — what he’s done the last three or four years and certainly things we’ve changed,” acknowledged Patriots quarterback Tom Brady following Thursday’s OTA session. “But [McDaniels’] competitiveness is still there, his willingness to do whatever it takes to win is still there and he loves football. I think that’s why we get along so well.”
McDaniels was in the New England system from 2001 through 2008, working as the quarterbacks coach from 2004 through 2008, and adding offensive coordinator to his title those final three seasons. He left the Patriots following the 2008 season to become the head coach in Denver and spent nearly two seasons in charge of the Broncos. Last year, he was the offensive coordinator in St. Louis before returning to the Patriots staff at the end of last season.
According to wide receiver Deion Branch — who says that McDaniels “has thrown a lot of different wrinkles at us” during the OTAs — it’s clear that the experiences McDaniels had while he was away from New England have shaped his coaching style in his second tour with the Patriots.
“You can look at it and say that,” Branch said. “The thing is, I had him as an offensive coordinator, so now that he’s been through the transition of being a head coach and back as an offensive coordinator, it’s totally different. [But] him being a players’ coach, for one, is always a plus.”
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