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Adam Schefter on MFB: Patriots better off playing meaningful games to end season 12.19.14 at 12:46 pm ET
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Adam Schefter

Adam Schefter

ESPN’s Adam Schefter made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Friday to talk about the Patriots, the Jets and other NFL news. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

It’s expected that Rex Ryan is in his final days coaching the Jets, who are in last place in the AFC East at 3-11 as they prepare to host the Patriots on Sunday. Schefter said he does not believe Ryan will latch on with another team for the 2015 season.

“I think the chances of Rex Ryan staying in the NFL are slightly better than Jim Harbaugh going to Michigan,” Schefter said after predicting Harbaugh will not leave the pro game to coach his alma mater. “I think Rex Ryan is going to wind up on TV next year. That’s what I’m expecting. I think he’ll be in a studio somewhere. I think he’ll be dishing out opinions. He’ll be about being Rex. To me, just like I’m expecting Jim Harbaugh to be in the NFL, I’m expecting Rex Ryan to be in TV.”

Schefter predicted both Ryan and general manager John Idzik will be fired at season’s end, but he isn’t sure what will happen with inconsistent young quarterback Geno Smith.

“I think that they’re both going to be gone. That’s my read into the situation. I think they’re going to clean house,” Schefter said. “And depending on who they bring in as a head coach and a GM, then they can decide what they’re going to do with the quarterback. But I think that’s the direction that organization is moving right now. When you speak to people around the league, that’s what they believe will happen in New York.”

If the Patriots win Sunday and the Broncos lose to the Bengals on Monday night, that would make New England’s final regular-season game against the Bills unimportant. While it might be good for the Pats to protect some players by having them sit out the final, Schefter isn’t sure that would be the best situation.

“I think Denver wins on Monday night. Would I be surprised if they went into Cincinnati and lost? No. And you know what, I’ve got news for you: I almost think the Patriots are better off that way, with Denver winning,” Schefter said, adding: “To me, the best thing that could happen for the Patriots is that Denver wins out and New England wins out. If Denver loses and New England wins this week and you wrap up the [No. 1 seed], and then essentially you’re not playing for anything next week, and then you get a bye week, that’s three weeks [without a meaningful game].”

Added Schefter: “It just doesn’t come and go. You just can’t turn it on. You’ve got to go play. And the teams usually that fare the best in the postseason are the teams that are just rolling along at the end of the regular season and they just keep rolling into the postseason. And even the teams that start out that first weekend with a wild card win, they get some momentum going and start moving.

“So if you’re the Patriots and you wrap up home-field advantage this weekend and now you’re got a meaningless game next weekend against the Buffalo Bills, that means essentially you’re not playing a meaningful game for the three weeks. I don’t like that. That’s me. Now, Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots, they may want to sit him out, rest him and not give him any opportunities to be hurt. But every game they play is an opportunity for anyone to be hurt. That’s the way it goes. That’s the sport they play.”

Looking to the postseason, Schefter said the Patriots should feel confident against any opponent if the game is in Foxboro.

“The fact of the matter is if you’ve got them in New England, the Patriots should win every playoff game they play in New England,” Schefter said.

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Read More: adam schefter, Geno Smith, John Idzik, Rex Ryan
Rob Gronkowski, Darrelle Revis take turns talking each other up 12.18.14 at 3:02 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With the debate around Darrelle Revis and Rob Gronkowski as potential MVP candidates, this afternoon in the Patriots locker room, we decided to ask each player about the other one and what they bring to the field.

“He’s a great player,” Gronkowski said of Revis. “He’s just so great with ball skills and he’s just so relaxed out there. You don’t even think he’s trying — that’s how good he is. When you see a player like that, you’re like, ‘Man, is he trying?’ He’s just right at the ball every time. That just means he’s got a lot of skills and he’s quick on his feet. The day he can react to a ball is unbelievable. He’s a great corner. It’s great to have him on our team.”

“The same stuff you see in the game, he’s doing at practice,” Revis said of Gronkowski. “He’s humble. He’s humble about it — the way he approaches the game. He goes out and works. He works at it. Him and Tom [Brady], the chemistry they have, you see them working at it, week in and week out at practice. You just have to give them credit for what they do. They’re working hard, and the catches you see in the game are the ones you see in practice. You’re just in awe sometimes of how much chemistry they have between the two.”

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Read More: Darrelle Revis, Rob Gronkowski,
Tom Brady appreciates the ‘amazing’ Darrelle Revis and ponders what makes up an MVP 12.17.14 at 9:58 pm ET
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Tom Brady has appreciated the work of Darrelle Revis this season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady has appreciated the work of Darrelle Revis this season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Hours before Tom Brady‘s weekly pregame chat with reporters at Gillette Stadium, Rex Ryan acknowledged the greatness of Darrelle Revis but didn’t want to go overboard.

Brady had no such restrictions on him when he was asked his impressions of what Revis has meant to the Patriots’ defense and the team overall.

“He’€™s a phenomenal player and I’€™ve loved playing with him,” Brady said. “I’€™ve hated playing against him, and I’€™ve had my fair share of those opportunities. He’€™s a great teammate. He’€™s a phenomenal player. I think the thing that I’€™m so impressed with is his coverage skills without getting penalties.”

Avoiding penalties has certainly been a challenge, not only for the Patriots but everyone across the NFL. Flags are up around the league at the rate of two more per game. But Revis has been able to avoid the laundry being heaved in his direction. He has been hit with just two accepted penalties this season, both for defensive holding. Brady sees that as remarkable considering officials have been on higher alert for illegal contact beyond the line of scrimmage.

“That’€™s a rare thing to be backpedaling when the guys who are some of the best athletes in the world are running at you as fast as they can with the size and speed of the way the receivers are, and to be able to cover those guys like he does is pretty amazing.”

Brady also spoke of the growth he’s seen from Rob Gronkowski in the five years he’s spent with him. In Brady, Gronkowski and Revis, it could be argued that the Patriots have three players putting up MVP-type seasons. So, what is the difference between a valuable football player as opposed to an outstanding one?

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Read More: Darrelle Revis, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Rob Gronkowski
Tom Brady explains how Rob Gronkowski ‘has grown up a lot over the last 5 years’ at 4:23 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady have been on the same page since Gronkowski arrived in 2010. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady have been on the same page since Gronkowski arrived in 2010. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Like everybody who watches the Patriots, Tom Brady has seen the fun-loving side of Rob Gronkowski on and off the field.

But Brady also gets a chance to see the more mature side of the Patriots all-world tight end. On Wednesday, Brady said he’s seen his 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end mature into one of the hardest workers on the team.

“He’€™s grown up a lot over the last five years,” Brady said. “It’€™s been a lot of fun to see it. His football IQ and understanding of what it takes to be a professional and consistently and dependably be that type of player for our offense that he’€™s become, has been fun to see. He’€™s got the size advantage, the speed advantage, and he’€™s really becoming so aware out there of different coverages and things they’€™re trying to do to stop him.

“Now, after this time, he and I are really getting on the same page with a lot of things that are adjustments to adjustments to adjustments and that type of thing. It’€™s just been great playing with him. He’€™s a huge part of our offense, really gets us going. He’€™s a threat on third down, he’€™s a threat in the red area, he’€™s a threat on big plays any time in the game. He’€™s a great player.”

What Gronkowski doesn’t always get credit for is his attention to detail in practice and in games. Part of that comes from spending time together after practice and some of it comes from the time Gronk puts in on his own.

“Yeah, it’€™s a lot of communication. After practice and so forth, we do a lot of things after practice with a lot of guys and you’€™re always trying to work on things that you didn’€™t maybe get a chance to work on during practice,” Brady said. “Gronk typically gets a lot of balls in practice, so it’€™s usually for a lot of the other guys who don’€™t usually get a lot of balls in practice.

“But he’€™s always there willing to work on whatever he needs to work on for us to be a better team. Whether that’€™s a new type of route or a new type of concept that we’€™re trying to run, that’€™s what you’€™re trying to do. You’€™re trying to get on the same page so you can really anticipate each other and then you can make those plays that end up being really critical. We’€™ve had a bunch of them this year. The little things always become big things, and to identify what those little things are and make corrections before you get to the game day is what’€™s really important.”

Read More: Gronk, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady
Tim Hasselbeck on D&C: Starting Johnny Manziel made Browns ‘worse on that side of the football’ 12.15.14 at 9:31 am ET
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ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to discuss the Patriots’€™ win over the Dolphins and other news around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots allowed the Dolphins 10 consecutive points at the end of the half, which cut the New England lead to 14-13. Hasselbeck said the locker room environment probably wasn’t angry, but one that looked to correct any issues from the first half.

“I don’€™t think it’€™s accusatory,” Hasselbeck said of the locker room. “I think what happens is you look at what [the other team is] doing. Really, what you try to do is you try to gather as much information as you’€™re able to gather. Usually, there’€™s some type of process where you’€™re going to the bathroom, the players do whatever they need to do. Guys, they go to the bathroom, they just switch their cleats. Whatever they need to do, grab a snack, whatever it is, they take their time to do that. The coaches will go and meet. The process of the coaches€™ meeting together, they’€™ll come up with a plan and say, ‘€˜Hey, look. These are the runs we think work. This what their kind of blitz du jour is for this week on third down. This is what where we’€™re having an issue with matchup-wise. This guy’€™s giving us a problem, so we need to help him.'”

Continued Hasselbeck: “They devise a plan and then you go talk about what the plan is for the second half going forward based on what did well and what you didn’t do well in the first half for whatever the reason. Whether it was a penalty situation, getting behind down and distance or whether it was a matchup thing. That’€™s really what happens, and I don’€™t think in an environment where you’€™re up one point there’€™s any situation to panic. I think you look at some of the maybe missed opportunities and things that you try to take advantage of in the second half.”

Rob Gronkowski was not involved in the offense in the first half, but when he grabbed three passes and touchdown in the second half, New England took off and ran up the score. This had many wondering why he wasn’t involved in the offense from the outset.

“People come in with a plan,” Hasselbeck said. “And then it’€™s kind of what I talked about with halftime and you start to adjust and you start to say, ‘OK, well this what we’€™re going to do formation-wise, so they’€™re not able to do that, so they’€™re not able to beat him up off the line of scrimmage.’ That type of stuff. And I think in the second half you saw that. Great example of something similar: You look at last night’€™s game, Cowboys and the Eagles. The first three third downs, [the Eagles] are dealing with Dez Bryant and they’€™re rolling somebody over the top to Dez, and Jason Witten has got one-on-one coverage and he’€™s not getting impeded off the line of scrimmage. In each of those third downs, Romo hits Witten for a first down. So, then Philadelphia is like, ‘€˜All right, enough of that. We can’€™t let him beat us.’ They start playing cover-1 single-high safety, bringing guys down so that there’€™s more traffic, congestion in the middle of the field. Well, then you isolate Dez Bryant and the game’€™s over at that point because Bradley Fletcher can’€™t cover him. So there’€™s elements and there’€™s that type of it’€™s either this or that when you’€™re starting to deal with guys that play inside the numbers vs. guys that are playing outside and how you’€™re defending it. I can’€™t say for sure that’€™s exactly what happened without going back and watching it closer, but I certainly get a sense that has something to do with it.”

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Read More: Rob Gronkowski, Tim Hasselbeck,
Rob Gronkowski suffers ‘nothing more than a charley horse’ in running over Dolphins 12.14.14 at 11:22 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It was a hit that brought back many horrible memories for Patriots fans.

On second-and-4 at the Miami 41, Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski on his third big seam route of the second half, good for 35 yards down to the Dolphins 6. But the bigger hit on the play came from Dolphins safety Jimmy Wilson. He came in like T.J. Ward did in Nov. 2013 and hit Gronkowski just above his surgically repaired right knee.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft was one of the first to visit Gronk after the game at his locker. Gronk assured the concerned owner, “It’s just a charley horse,” Gronkowski said in a smiling, assuring manner.

Later, the tight end added to, “it was just a stinger on the thigh. Get them all the time.”

Brady opened the second half with a 34-yard connection to Gronkowski on a seam route. The play was big for several reasons. It was Gronkowski’s first catch. It put Gronkowski over 1,000 yards on the season and it was a play that appeared to finally give the Patriots some offensive rhythm. Gronkowski was held without a catch on just two targets in the first half.

“Just got to start off with just one play, just one play to get the drive going and get the first down and get going and start clicking from there,” Gronkowski said. “It just takes one play at a time, do what you got to do, and just keep on going from there.”

The first offensive play after a interception by Patrick Chung, it was Brady again on a seam to Gronkowski for 27 yards and a touchdown.

“It was a good throw by Tom, good protection, and just a little play action and I just had a seam route, so I just ran up the seam and Tom had a nice pass and we just completed [it] and scored,” Gronkowski said. “It was just good execution as a whole on offense.”

Gronkowski, like everyone else on the field, had an opinion on Brady’s 17-yard scramble on third-and-11 on the first drive of the second half.

“€œI kind of saw it. I was out there,” Gronk said. “It was a nice run, so you got to give props to him and he made a very nice play to get the first down and we eventually scored on that drive, so huge props to Brady on that run, it was huge.”

Gronkowski said he doesn’t often see Brady take off, even in practice, but he’ll take it.

“Whatever it comes down to win he’€™ll do, so he saw the opening, he ran, and, what was it for ‘€“ 17 ‘€“yards and a first down? That was huge,” Gronkowski said. “Huge props to him and he does anything to win.”

Gronkowski finished with those three catches on eight targets for a touchdown and 96 yards in the 41-13 AFC East-clinching win. It wasn’t a monster game but Robert Kraft and the rest of the Patriots will take the tight end getting through the game healthy as a nice tradeoff.

Read More: Gronk, Jimmy Kelly, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots
How have Dolphins been able to (mostly) contain Rob Gronkowski over the years? 12.11.14 at 7:52 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski has occasionally struggled against the Dolphins. (Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski has occasionally struggled against the Dolphins. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — If there’s one team that — at least statistically — seems to get the best of Rob Gronkowski, it’s Miami.

In seven career games against the Dolphins, Gronkowski has 28 catches on 47 targets for 379 yards and four touchdowns. Good numbers, but that averages out to a per game average of four receptions for 54 yard, well under his career per game averages. (By way of comparison, Gronkowski has averaged five catches, 67 yards and almost a touchdown a game in his 63 career regular-season contests as a professional.)

Arguably, his best game against Miami came in his rookie year, when he has six catches (on 10 targets) for 102 yards and a touchdown in a 38-7 win over the Dolphins Jan. 2, 2011 at Gillette Stadium. Since then, his stat lines against the Dolphins have been occasionally underwhelming, including a one-catch game as a rookie and contests in 2012 and 2013 when he had just two receptions in each of his two outings against Miami.

Miami coach Joe Philbin wasn’t taking a victory lap this week when talking about the work the Dolphins have done in the past against Gronkowski, saying “he looks outstanding” coming into Sunday’s matchup.

“The guy has 10 touchdowns — he’s averaging almost 14 yards a catch,” Philbin said. “They do a great job of utilizing him within the scheme. As we all know, number one, he moves extremely well for a man of his size, and two he catches the ball well, and number three he’s not easy to bring down. He’s one of their outstanding weapons that they utilize well, and it sure looks like he’s playing as well as ever.

“There are a lot of great players in the National Football League. Every week, it seems like the opponents have good players. Certainly, he’s one of them,” Philbin added. “He’s had production in this league for a long time and he is somebody that we’re going to have to really have focus in on Sunday.”

Part of Gronkowski’s statistical dip against the Dolphins can be explained away using situation and scheme — if there are three guys on Gronkowski and none on another potential target, it just makes sense to throw to the open man. In addition, with Gronkowski’s recent injury history, there’s likely a timing element involved. There have almost certainly been occasions over the last couple of years where Gronkowski has either been injured, or coming off a long-term injury (like this year’s opener) and been less than 100 percent.

After practice on Thursday, the big fella was asked why the Dolphins have occasionally managed to get the better of him.

“They’re a good team and a good defense,” Gronkowski shrugged. “I just have to go out there and I feel like any time I can be covered if I’m out there not doing the right technique. I have to go out there — zone, man, whatever it is — and have to do my job and do it right and make plays when my number is called and go out there and execute.”

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Read More: Dion Jordan, Joe Philbin, Rob Gronkowski,
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