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Devin McCourty says ‘angry’ Patriots defense rallied with 3 interceptions 01.15.17 at 3:04 am ET
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FOXBORO — Sometimes you have to give yourself a kick in the backside to get going.

That’s apparently all it took for the Patriots trio of Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon to pick it up after what they felt was a less-than stellar first half Saturday.

Leading just 17-13 at the half, the three Rutgers products each had a second-half interception of Brock Osweiler and helped to shut down the Texans in New England’s 34-16 win Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.

What was the key to the turnaround in the second half?

“Really, we were angry with ourselves,” McCourty said. “The first three points they got was a penalty on us that extended a drive on a third-down stop. Then, even in the red area, we held them to three on a sudden change, and then the touchdown, myself and Duron [Harmon], we could have got ourselves in a better defense.

“Going into halftime, we just looked at each other like, ‘We’ve just got to play better. Do what we’re supposed to do and make them earn it.’ We did that, we did a better job of that, but they came and they fought hard. I think they came and tried to play a complete game as a team and we had to battle through some ups and down. But that’s what the playoffs are about, finding a way to win.”

Osweiler was actually quite effective if not spectacular in the first half, completing eight of his first 10 passes before the Patriots pressure started getting to him. He finished the first half 13-of-20 for 83 yards. He was sacked twice but did throw a touchdown  –  and did not turn it over.

In the second half, the Rutgers trio flipped that script. McCourty had the first pick in the third quarter in front of the Texans sideline on a ball for DeAndre Hopkins.

“That was just a little bit of what we do coverage-wise,” McCourty explained. “I knew I had to get on him tight. He’s a go-to guy in that situation, third or second, I think it was third down. I just tried to stay tight on him and was able to make a play on the ball.”

In the fourth quarter, Ryan picked off an Osweiler pass over the middle and returned it to the Houston 6. Two plays later, Dion Lewis ran it in. And then, with the game in hand, Harmon stepped in front of a pass for tight end Ryan Griffin at the Patriots 3 with three minutes left.

“In the end we were able to take the ball away and play good in the red-area defensively,” Bill Belichick said. “That was helpful, and able to come away with more points. A big day for Rutgers, a big day for Rutgers. They all had interceptions. We love to see that, love to see them for anybody but especially when we get three of them. That was big.”

The Patriots defense may not have faced the stiffest test in the world Saturday but they started to feast on a quarterback that was wilting under their pressure in the second half and they were able to seal the deal late. That’s a good formula in the playoffs.

“Those guys have been getting after the quarterback,” McCourty said of the pressure from Ryan, Malcom Brown and Rob Ninkovich, all of whom recorded sacks. “A lot of people have said how bad we are rushing the passer, so I guess they’ll evaluate this and they’ll probably still say we’re bad at it, but we know what we can do up front, and I think it’s the back end talking to the front end, the front end talking to us, and we just keep everybody going. When they’re able to get after the quarterback and we feel that, we’re getting after it and trying to make good plays in the back end.

“Really, my interception was a ball that was behind, Logan’s was a high ball. That comes from the front. That’s the front causing pressure, making sure the quarterback’s not just back there and feeling comfortable, that’s them. That’s always – when you’re playing good in the secondary and getting interceptions, that’s usually because those front four, the front seven are doing a good job. Complementary football – that’s the way we’ve been winning and we’ve got to continue to do that.”

Read More: Devin McCourty, houston texans, Malcom Brown, New England Patriots
Tom Brady returns to Patriots practice, but 3 players missing 11.25.16 at 11:58 am ET
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Tom Brady

Tom Brady

FOXBORO — It wasn’t a typical Friday practice attendance for the Patriots.

After missing the last two days Tom Brady returned, as did Martellus Bennett after missing Thursday, but there were three players absent from the start of the session on the lower practice field behind Gillette Stadium.

Matthew Slater, Rob Ninkovich and Cyrus Jones were all absent. Slater has missed the last two days and missing all three practices this week make him unlikely to play Sunday in New York.

Ninkovich and Jones’ absences are interesting as neither have been on the injury report this week.

The final injury report of the week will come out later in the afternoon.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Cyrus Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Tom Brady,
Patriots players not up for talking presidential election 11.08.16 at 2:34 pm ET
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Matthew Slater

Matthew Slater

FOXBORO — As the Patriots returned from their bye week for their first practice, there weren’t many football questions being asked.

Instead there a lot of questions about Tuesday’s presidential election, especially following Bill Belichick writing Donald Trump a letter and Tom Brady telling Trump he voted for him.

A few players spoke in the locker room before practice and no one really wanted to talk about the election.

“I am going to refrain from commenting on any political matters at this time,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said.

“I am going to keep the political stuff out of these questions right now. We are focused on Seattle,” Rob Ninkovich added.

A follow up question to the players was if the locker room talks much about politics and Chris Hogan said it really isn’t the case.

“The locker room, I don’t think is a huge place for guys really to talk politics,” he said. “There’s always a couple of guys that will be in here butting heads or something like that.”

Both Slater and Hogan said they planned on voting after practice, but as for defensive end Chris Long, he isn’t voting at all.

“I’m not voting,” he said. “Really, that’s not a conversation I want to go down.”

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Chris Hogan, Chris Long, Matthew Slater, Rob Ninkovich
With Rob Ninkovich back, will Patriots be able to slow LeSean McCoy? 10.25.16 at 6:08 pm ET
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Oct 2, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) runs the ball against the New England Patriots in the second half at Gillette Stadium. The Bills defeated the Patriots 16-0. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

LeSean McCoy (25) was a key part of Buffalo’s 16-0 win in New England Oct. 2. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

When the Patriots and Bills met the first time this season, not only was Tom Brady finishing up his four-game suspension, one of the best edge-setters in the Patriots defense was also finishing up his four-game ban to start the season.

Now, Rob Ninkovich is back and the results have been impressive.

Against the best rushing team in the NFL, Ninkovich helped the defense hold the Browns to 27 yards on 22 carries, including Isaiah Crowell to 22 yards on 13 carries.

Against Cincinnati, the Patriots held the Bengals to 120 yards on 32 carries. And last week against Pittsburgh, New England allowed the explosive Le’Veon Bell to 81 yards on 21 carries. Bell had his moments where he jitterbugged but didn’t explode for any huge plays.

Back on Oct. 2, McCoy and the Bills ran 32 times for 134 yards. McCoy had 70 yards on 19 carries. But don’t forget – he caught six passes on six targets for 38 yards and the only touchdown of the game, a seven-yard catch in the right flat.

Then, against the Rams and 49ers, he exploded for 150 and 140 yards respectively. He had just 11 yards on eight carries last week against Miami before coming out with a hamstring injury.

“Obviously, an outstanding, outstanding running back,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said Tuesday. “Someone that is extremely quick, fast and versatile. They’re doing a good job of using him in a bunch of different runs and run packages. I would say overall with him this year [he’s] much more of an inside threat in the run game. He’s obviously always been an outside threat. He does a good job with the bounce-out runs or some of the scheme runs where they get him outside on the edge and he can use his speed.”

“He does a real good job with the C-gap [between tackle and tight end] runs, which are a lot of the runs that Buffalo likes to run kind of in their core aspect of the run game. You know, get the ball off tackle and he can hit it really at that 45-degree angle and get quick into the secondary. What he’s been able to do now, what he’s done a real good job of is downhill runs. The downhill runs, I would say out of him now, are much more dangerous and really once he breaks, he’s into the secondary or into the safeties a lot quicker.”

In other words, get him before he gets to the second level or look out.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Buffalo Bills, LeSean McCoy, New England Patriots, nfl
With Tom Brady back, Jonathan Kraft ‘can’t remember’ a bigger regular season home game 10.16.16 at 12:47 pm ET
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Jonathan Kraft

Jonathan Kraft

FOXBORO — The anticipation has been building all summer for Patriots team president Jonathan Kraft.

And the day is finally here for him and the rest of Patriots Nation.

Tickets for this week’s game against Cincinnati – the 2016 home debut of Tom Brady – were going for more than $500.

Kraft was ssked before the game if he can remember a bigger regular season home game than Brady’s return after the four-game Deflategate suspension.

“I can’t remember one but my memory isn’t what it used to be,” Kraft said on the team’s pregame radio show. “This is a pretty special one. We’ve been, since the middle of the summer and this week, just getting calls, not only from people all over the country but from Patriots fans overseas that said they wanted to be here.

“It’s going to be I think pretty special the first time the offense takes the field today.”

Kraft also pointed out that last week’s Brady return in Cleveland somewhat overshadowed the job Rob Ninkovich did in helping the defense in his first game back from his four-game ban for testing positive for a banned substance.

“I’ll tell you, it’s great to have Rob [Ninkovich] back,” Kraft said. “I think Rob really set the tone in the running game at the start of that game against a team that was the best running team in the National Football League and they made a statement as well, and having Rob back clearly made a difference as well.”

Brady threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns to Martellus Bennett in his return. Can he do it again for the home fans?

“I think all of us in New England have sort of expected a standard of what is exceptional quarterback play [and] the bar has been raised so high because we’ve been watching this guy for so long,” Kraft said. “To say I was surprised wouldn’t be accurate. You knew he would come back and be in a position to play really well. The last couple of times we had played in Cleveland, it hadn’t been good. To watch him come out, he was almost surgical. The numbers he put up, it was really in two and a half quarters. I think if we had been in a game where he was running the offense, it would’ve been [even more impressive].”

Read More: Cincinnati Bengals, Jonathan Kraft, New England Patriots, Rob Ninkovich
Rob Ninkovich happy to be away from diapers at home, helps Pats D dispose of Browns 10.09.16 at 7:48 pm ET
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Screen Shot 2016-10-09 at 7.47.41 PM

Rob Ninkovich speaks to reporters after Sunday’s game in Cleveland. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

CLEVELAND — Tom Brady wasn’t the only one relieved to be back on the field Sunday.

After serving his four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance and coming back from a triceps injury, Rob Ninkovich was back on the field with one tackle and a near-interception in a 33-13 win.

“I missed it a lot. I was ready to stop changing diapers and get back to football,” Ninkovich said. “My wife put me to work there. Just really happy to be back, happy to just come into work and just practice, little things that you miss out on. Super-pumped to back and look forward to this coming week.”

As for the contact itself on the field?

“It felt good. I hadn’t tackled anyone since the AFC Championship Game so it felt good and my arm feels good,” Ninkovich said. “I really worked hard this week and tried to get as many reps in as possible, even on scout team to try and get the football feeling back.”

Ninkovich had just one tackle but was part of a Patriots defense that limited the NFL’s best rushing attack to just 27 yards on 22 carries.

“You have to give credit to them,” Ninkovich said of the Browns rushing attack that was averaging 150 yards a game over the first four weeks. “They have done a great job running the ball this year. They really run hard and do a good job in the rushing attack.”

The Patriots forced a three-and-out on the first series of the game, setting the tempo and giving Tom Brady the ball just two minutes into the game.

“You have to start fast in this game,” Ninkovich said. “There are a lot of great football players out there, and we knew they have a good football team so we prepared well and executed today.”

Read More: Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Rob Ninkovich,
Scene-setting from Cleveland: Tom Brady finally makes his return at 9:54 am ET
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IMG_0930

Tom Brady will take the field at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland in his return to the NFL. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

CLEVELAND — The moment has finally arrived.

Tom Brady is back on the football field after serving his four-game suspension.

There is no precipitation anticipated as the forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 60s for the 1 p.m. kickoff. Wind could be a factor, with a breeze off Lake Erie at 10-12 MPH.

The Patriots will be looking to rebound from a loss, something they have mastered in the Tom Brady era. Since the beginning of 2003, the Patriots are a remarkable 40-6 (.869) following a loss.

Today’s game is also the first of three straight against AFC North opponents, as they play the Browns, Bengals and Steelers in succession, with two of those three on the road.

As a matter of fact, following their three-game homestand, the Patriots begin a stretch where three of four games will be on the road.

Chris Price has the scouting keys to today’s game while Ryan Hannable has 10 fun facts about the game.

Also returning today from a four-game suspension is defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who also is coming off a triceps injury. Ninkovich could have a big role in the defensive game plan as linebacker Shea McClellin is one of three early inactives with a concussion, sustained in last week’s loss to the Bills. Brandon Bolden will also miss the game with a left knee injury.

Ninkovich figures to have a big role in helping the pass rush as Jabaal Sheard has struggled at times to get to the quarterback. Sheard does lead the Patriots with three sacks in the first four games.

The game could also mark the debut of defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton, as he was signed off the practice squad on Saturday and takes the place of Vincent Valentine, who did not make the trip due to a back injury.

The Patriots also made room on their roster coming into the game by releasing offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper on Saturday. Cooper was the player acquired from Arizona in the Chandler Jones trade.


Read More: Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, nfl, Rob Ninkovich
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