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Bill Belichick on D&H: End of half was ‘big turning point in the game’ against Bears 10.27.14 at 6:37 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined the Dale & Holley show on Monday to discuss his team’€™s 51-23 win over the Bears. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

During the victory, New England played a well-balanced game that saw the team get positive play in all areas of the game. From Tom Brady to the defensive line, the team’€™s overall effort made Sunday’€™s game a blowout.

Said Belichick: “I thought we had our moments. But we did get contributions in all three phases. The sequence at the end of the first half where we were able to score, have good kickoff coverage, have a good punt return, score, turnover on defense. That was obviously a big turning point in the game after they’€™d cut it to 17-7. You get something that skews the game a little bit, I think it was more competitive game that that. But I think our guys, we had a lot of energy. We were able to score first, get it back, get some points on the board early, score on eight of nine possessions offensively, had couple of turnovers on defense. There were good contributions everywhere.”

Brady had one of his best offensive performances this season Sunday when he completed 30-of-35 passes for 354 yards and five touchdowns. He spread the ball around, as six players had at least one catch. Belichick said he doesn’t look as much at what his quarterback does, but rather how the team as a whole performs.

“In evaluating how our team does, it’€™s points is the name of the game — scoring and giving them up,”  Belichick said. “Nothing more important than that. … Move the ball between the 20s, and then not be able to convert in the red area. It’€™s good, but it’€™s not good versus being able to get the ball in the end zone, and finish the drive and complete it. Whether that’€™s on a big play or whether it’€™s on a conversion in the red area, low red area, whatever it happens to be, those are the plays that end up resulting in points and make a difference.”

Continued Belichick: “I’€™d say Tom made a big jump from ’01 to ’03 in that two years. I think he’€™s continued to make jumps. I think he continues to improve, he works hard. He’€™s always working on little things, situational things, technique things, reading defenses, finding matchups, all of those things. He works very hard at it. I don’€™t think that’€™s ever been a weak point, but it continues to get stronger.”

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Read More: Akeem Ayers, Bill Belichick, Jonas Gray, Peyton Manning
Tedy Bruschi on D&H: ‘Don’t think [a Vincent Jackson trade] is the right move at all’ for Patriots at 4:11 pm ET
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ESPN NFL analyst and former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, in his weekly interview with WEEI’s Dale & Holley show, offered his view on New England’s blowout victory over the Bears, the challenge that lies ahead in game-planning for Peyton Manning and the Broncos and the embarrassing season-ending injury for Bears linebacker Lamarr Houston, among other topics.

Bruschi noted that the Patriots offense appears to be in a tremendous rhythm, with the performance of the offensive line in combination with the return to full Gronkitude by Rob Gronkowski combining with the emergence of wide receiver Brandon LaFell to give Tom Brady a tremendous number of weapons. That being the case, Bruschi suggested that pursuing Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson in a trade would be an ill-advised course.

“I think you look down the road and consider if it would help. I think you consider it for a moment because that’s what a good general manager would do. But in terms of this situation right here with the New England Patriots, I don’t think it’s the right move at all, especially with the development of Brandon LaFell,” said Bruschi. “You see the development. You see the progression. Ever since that first drive of the Cincinnati Bengals game is when I think this offense truly woke up and said, OK, let’s go. From that point, they started rolling and rolling.

“I just don’t think you want to put in another element into it that you may have to spoon-feed things to. You can’t give him the entire plate right now because he couldn’t handle it right now. He probably couldn’t digest the entire plan right now. So you spoon-feed him a little. But when you do that to one player, it has a trickle-down effect to others along the line,” added Bruschi. “Jobs are going to be different for other people down the road. Say Vincent Jackson comes in and you say you can only play this position. It messes up this offense. You’ve got to know how to play every single receiver’s spot along the front so they can have that flexibility that they want. You wouldn’t have that off the bat with him. Would you have some growing pains along the line to develop that? I think you would. I think you roll with what you’ve got right now.”

To listen to the complete interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page. Here are other highlights of Bruschi’s interview:

On whether Sunday against the Bears was as well as Bruschi had seen Brady play: “No, I don’t think that’s the best I’ve seen him play just because of the quality of competition he was going up against yesterday. There were some young defensive linemen who really didn’t know what they were doing for the Bears. The linebackers, oh my gosh, they looked lost at times. I’m still waiting for them to read play-action. They still can’t find it. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: lamar houston, Peyton Manning, Rob Gronkowski, Rob Ninkovich
Short week won’t get in the way of Patriots-Jets rivalry: ‘Everything goes out the window when you play these guys’ 10.13.14 at 9:13 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With just three days in between games when playing on Thursday Night Football, it might be tough to get up for your next opponent.

Not this week for the Patriots and Jets, as the AFC East division rivals will meet for the first time this season Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.

“I think records go out the window when you play these guys,”€ special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “Everything goes out the window when you play these guys and you don’€™t have a problem getting up for them because of the history that is there. We will be ready as well.”

Even though the Jets come into the game 1-5 — losers of five straight — they are coming off a game Sunday where they were competitive right until the end with the Broncos, ultimately falling, 31-17. It is also their first division game of the season.

Having limited time to prepare, it does help facing a team you’€™re familiar with.

“Obviously every year teams are different,” Slater said. “We have new players, they have new players so there is still a sense of urgency when I comes to getting to know them, but it does help that we know some of their tendencies and we know their coach. We know kind of what to expect.”

After getting back from Buffalo late Sunday night, the biggest thing for the players is to try and get their bodies back to full strength after the beating they took Sunday afternoon, while also trying to become familiar with the game plan as quickly as possible with only two days until the game.

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Read More: Matthew Slater, New York Jets, Rob Ninkovich,
Patriots supporting Jerod Mayo following season-ending injury: ‘Hopefully we can play well for him’ at 7:57 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Sunday’€™s win over the Bills came with a big price.

The Patriots lost running back Stevan Ridley for the season with a torn ACL and MCL and also their leader on defense — captain Jerod Mayo to a ‘€œsevere lower right leg’€ injury, also reportedly ending his season.

It’€™s the second straight season Mayo has been lost for the year in Week 6 after he tore his pectoral last season and it gets no easier for his teammates, both coping with the injury as well as replacing him in the middle of the field at his middle linebacker position.

“With that happening yesterday, it was a blow,”€ fellow captain Matthew Slater said. “You can’€™t try and pretend it’€™s one of those things you can pick up and move on from because you feel for a guy like Jerod. I came in with Jerod, we were rookies together and to see him go down I know took a toll on me, but we have to do the best we can to bounce back.

“A lot of guys have to step up because a guy like that is hard to replace — not only what he does on the field, but who he is in this locker room. His leadership, the man that he is. A lot of guys can emulate and imitate because of who he is. Hopefully we can play well for him the rest of the year, but like I said there is no replacing him with one guy, it’€™s going to take a lot of guys stepping up.”

With all the season-ending injuries the defense had to deal with last season — including Mayo’s — defensive end/linebacker Rob Ninkovich was forced into playing much more than he was accustomed to and played quite well. Once again, it will take efforts like that to replace Mayo.

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Read More: Jerod Mayo, Matthew Slater, Rob Ninkovich,
Rob Ninkovich on long snapping: ‘It’s something that I’ve always worked on’ 09.01.14 at 2:55 pm ET
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Rob Ninkovich could be an option at long-snapper if Danny Aiken doesn't return. (Getty Images)

Rob Ninkovich could be an option at long-snapper if Danny Aiken doesn’t return. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Sometimes the hidden skills of an NFL player are forgotten.

Take Rob Ninkovich. Long before he became one of the better edge rushers in football and a perfect fit in the Patriots defense, he found his way onto an NFL roster through his special teams skills. Namely, Ninkovich perfected his long snapping skills.

With Joliet Junior College and Purdue University and then in the NFL with the Saints and Dolphins, Ninkovich proved his worth by not only rushing the passer but perfecting his long snapping skills, working on punt, extra point and field goal units.

“Snapping? I’ve been doing it for a long time now,” Ninkovich said. “That’s something that I’ve always worked on, constantly worked at and been able to use that, have that in my back pocket whenever there’s an issue [like] if a snapper hurts his hand or something, I can go out there and get the job done. Again, that just comes with doing it [in high school], doing it [in college] and it’s just another one of those things that can help the team.

“You can’t just expect to snap a football and not have done it or practiced it. I work on it all the time. Again [it's about], the more things you can do, and the more things you can help your team out with.”

Ninkovich was spotted before the third preseason game with the Panthers working on his long snapping, though unlike Tom Brady, he did not make a special teams appearance during the preseason.

As Bill Belichick conceded Sunday in a conference call with reporters, Ninkovich could definitely be ‘an option’ for the Patriots as long snapper after the release of Danny Aiken as part of the cuts over the weekend.

“Whatever it is I’m doing, we all have multiple roles,” Ninkovich said. “I’m going to focus in on playing defense. Special teams, I’ve done it in the past. It’s something where if ever there’s opportunity for me to go out there and do it, I could do it. I’ve done it before.”

The Patriots did sign long snapper Charley Hughlett on Monday but that was to the practice squad. So, for right now, the active player on the roster with long snapping experience is Ninkovich.

“I don’t want to get into what I am doing and what I won’t be doing,” Ninkovich said. “Whatever I am doing and whatever they ask me to do, I’ll do it to the best of my abilities.

“I’ve been in that position before. It’s one thing about this league, you never know what’s going to happen. I understand the anxiety that comes with that day. You just feel for those guys that weren’t able to stick around because there are a lot of good football players that don’t have a job. You just hope that they get another opportunity and go somewhere else and make the best of it.”

Read More: Charley Hughlett, Danny Aiken, New England Patriots, Rob Ninkovich
Bill Belichick indicates Rob Ninkovich ‘an option’ if Danny Aiken doesn’t return as long snapper 08.31.14 at 12:41 pm ET
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Rob Ninkovich could be an option at long-snapper if Danny Aiken doesn't return. (Getty Images)

Rob Ninkovich could be an option at long-snapper if Danny Aiken doesn’t return. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick loves versatility in his players and Sunday he hinted at using one of his best pass rushers as a long snapper if Danny Aiken doesn’t find his way back onto the Patriots roster.

“I think there are a lot of things that are potentially in transition with the number of spots on our team,” Belichick said Sunday in his conference call with reporters. “I’€™m not saying they will or won’€™t change, I’€™m not sure. We’€™re looking at different options and we’€™ll just do the best we can to put it together in the best way we feel like we can and go from there.

“There are a lot of things that we need to see between now and I’€™d say next Wednesday. We’€™ll just have to see how it all plays out. I wouldn’€™t commit to anything one way or the other on your question and frankly on a number of other positions. We’€™ll just have to see.”

Before the preseason game with the Eagles, Ninkovich was on the field practicing long snaps with Danny Aiken, Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen. He has not performed in a game like Tom Brady did as the holder on an extra point Thursday against the Giants. Would Belichick consider Ninkovich as long snapper at this point?

“He would be an option,” Belichick conceded.

Aiken, picked up before the 2011 season opener after the Bills released him, was cut Saturday as part of the move to mold the 53-man roster for opening day but that roster could still change some in the time leading up to next Sunday in Miami and the 2014 season opener.

Of course, with the trade of Ryan Mallett to the Houston Texans Sunday, this opens up a roster spot for Belichick and the Patriots to bring back Aiken if he clears waivers.

As for another special teams area, Belichick admitted that the role of the kick returner has been diminished somewhat with the number of touchbacks occurring over the course of a game. Josh Boyce and Roy Finch, two players who served that role in the preseason, were cut on Saturday.

“There just aren’€™t as many of them as there were going back a couple years and obviously well before that which also plays into your kickoff coverage unit as well,” Belichick said. “Again, not saying that those aren’€™t important but I’€™d say they’€™re not as important in terms of frequency as they were at other times in this league so I think it’€™s a little bit of consideration. You certainly can’€™t ignore it because you’€™re going to have to cover them and return them. So, it’€™s not like a situation that isn’€™t going to happen but the frequency is lower than what it’€™s been so it’€™s somewhat of a consideration, yeah.”

LeGarrette Blount returned just one kick during the preseason in 2013 before being moved into that role fulltime during the regular season last year.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Danny Aiken, New England Partriots, Rob Ninkovich
Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich benefiting from strong Patriots secondary 08.23.14 at 1:27 am ET
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Chandler Jones

Chandler Jones

FOXBORO — Not only can a very good secondary limit what opposing quarterbacks can do against a defense — it also can help the other members of the defense get after the quarterback.

The Patriots finished with three sacks in their 30-7 win over the Panthers, all in the first quarter against starting quarterback Cam Newton — defensive end Chandler Jones had two and outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich had the other.

“œThe first play of the game was definitely a coverage sack,”€ Ninkovich said. “I was just trying to mirror the quarterback and make sure he didn’€™t get out of the pocket. I was just collapsing and collapsing and I was able to get to [the quarterback]. That goes to the secondary.”

The Patriots secondary now has arguably the best cornerback in the game in Darrelle Revis, as well as Pro-Bowl safety Devin McCourty to go along with rising-star corners Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan — as well as the former member of the Seahawks Legion of Boom secondary, cornerback Brandon Browner. (Although it should be noted, he is suspended for the first four games of the season and didn’€™t play until the fourth quarter Friday night).

All those players stepped onto the field together for the first time this preseason and were able to give the entire defense some added energy and boost to their games.

“€œ[We] had a tremendous time. Football is fun,” Jones said. “We’€™re out there in the preseason we get a chance to go against a different team. Whether it is in practice, going against the Redskins or the Eagles. We got an opportunity to go out in our third preseason game and execute and we went out and did a good job.”€

The defense played very well, with the starters playing a little over a half, holding the Carolina offense — which made the postseason last year — to just 94 total yards in the first half.

“It’€™s just working hard throughout camp, and all week, trying to prepare and knowing that we were going against a good team and a good quarterback that was able to scramble around and get out of the pocket,”€ Ninkovich said. “It was a good game all around.”

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Read More: chandler jones, Panthers, Patriots, Rob Ninkovich
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