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Nate Solder on touchdown catch: ‘There is no way to know that was coming’ 01.19.15 at 12:52 am ET
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Nate Solder's touchdown catch drew the praise of the entire Patriots' offensive line. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Nate Solder‘s touchdown catch drew the praise of the entire Patriots’ offensive line. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — The Patriots and their trickery were at it again.

On the opening drive of the second half, with the Patriots leading  the Colts, 17-7, it was third-and-1 on the Colts’ 16-yard line and left tackle Nate Solder reported as an eligible receiver.

The Colts expected quarterback Tom Brady to hand it off to LeGarrette Blount with the Patriots running it down their throats on the drive, but Brady faked the hand off and Solder slipped behind the defense and caught a 16-yard touchdown pass, diving into the end zone before he could be brought down.

It was Solder’s first career catch, although he did play some tight end in college at the University of Colorado.

“There is no way to know that was coming,” the humble Solder said after the game. “When the time came I did my best as anyone would’ve.”

Asked how he would rate his route on the catch, Solder couldn’t do anything but laugh.

“Just proficient,” he said. “I made it across the goal line.”

It was the second straight week the Patriots called a “trick play,” as in last week’s divisional round win over the Ravens, Josh McDaniels called a double-pass when Julian Edelman found Danny Amendola for a 51-yard touchdown strike.

“I feel fortunate to be a part of this group,” said Solder. “We have great coaches, great players. To be a part of this group is amazing.”

The touchdown electrified the Patriots’ sideline and was the start of 28 second half points for New England, including 21 in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. The biggest celebration on the sidelines and on the field was with his fellow offensive linemen.

“Those are my guys, those are my guys,” Solder said. “To be around them, the excitement that they shared with me, it was like we all did it. That was a lot of fun.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Nate Solder, ryan wendell,
Patriots offensive line at full strength vital to offense, Tom Brady’s success 01.07.15 at 7:00 am ET
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Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman — three very important pieces to the Patriots’ offense, but are they the most important?

Not be to overlooked is the Patriots’ offensive line, especially with the group likely getting back to full strength this week against Baltimore, as Dan Connolly is set to return. This will be especially important going against a Ravens defense, which finished second in the regular season in sacks with 49.

“I’€™m just excited to be back at practice,” Connolly said Tuesday after missing the last two games with a knee injury. “I’€™m going to do my best to work in and try to get as healthy as I can. But it’€™s good to be back out.”

All indications are the Patriots will get their starting offensive line back this week — (left tackle to right tackle) Nate Solder, Connolly, Bryan Stork, Ryan Wendell and Sebastian Vollmer.

Just how important is a healthy offense line for the Patriots offense and Brady to be successful?

  • Solder, Connolly, Stork, Wendell, Vollmer (7-1 record) — Weeks 5, 8-14: Brady: 214-320 (66.9 percent), 2,433 yards, 21 TDs, 6 INTs, 103.6 QB rating, 4 sacks
  • Any combination besides above (5-3 record) — Weeks 1-4, 6, 7, 15, 16: Brady: 160-263 (60.8 percent), 1,675 yards, 12 TDs, 3 INTs, 89.8 QB rating, 17 sacks

It’s pretty clear having the starting offensive line together makes a huge difference for the offense, as well as Brady in a number of different ways. The biggest difference is sacks. In the same number of games (eight) there is a 13 sack difference between when the starting offensive line is playing and when they are not. In games not started by the regular offensive line, Brady has been sacked multiple times in five of the eight, and four times twice. In games started by the starting offensive line, they haven’t allowed a multiple sack game and had four games allowing zero sacks, which will be especially important this weekend against a strong Ravens defense.

“They’€™re great,” Connolly said of the Ravens’ pass rush. “[Elvis] Dumervil has got 19 sacks. They do a great job of getting to the quarterback. We’€™ve faced a lot of good D-lines this season. That’€™s nothing new in the NFL. It’€™s a lot of pressure on us to do a good job. That’€™s what we try to do every week. It’€™s our job to make sure Tom [Brady] stays upright, so that’€™s what we’€™re going to try to do this week, too.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Bryan Stork, Dan Connolly, Nate Solder
Patriots OL needs to be better going into postseason 12.28.14 at 7:57 pm ET
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Ryan Wendell

Ryan Wendell

FOXBORO — If there is one thing to be hesitant about going into the postseason for the Patriots offense, it is the play of its offensive line.

Without starters Dan Connolly (knee) and Sebastian Vollmer (back), forcing a starting offensive line (left-to-right) of Nate Solder, Josh Kline, Bryan Stork, Ryan Wendell and Marcus Cannon Sunday against the Bills — Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo, particularly Garoppolo in the second half, were under constant pressure all game long.

Overall, the Bills hit Patriots quarterbacks six times and recorded four sacks in the game. This comes after last week’s game against the Jets where the Patriots were reshuffling their line all game without Connolly to give Brady more time, but allowed a season-high four sacks and 11 quarterback hits.

“We didn’t play very well. We just didn’t do our jobs,” Wendell said Sunday.

The Patriots did some reshuffling again against the Bills, as late in the first half the Patriots subbed out Kline, and replaced him with Wendell at left guard and Cameron Fleming at right guard. Then, just before the half Solder appeared to injure his right leg on a play he was called for holding on. He finished the last minute of the half before limping to the locker room. In the second half, Cannon moved to left tackle, so the line went: Cannon, Kline, Stork, Wendell, Fleming.

Missing key players in Connolly and Vollmer, then losing Solder in the game made things difficult to get any sort of continuity up front.

“It was a good opportunity to get some other guys some reps,” Wendell said. “We’€™re going to need everybody moving forward. You never knew who’€™s going to get called up, so a game like this was a great opportunity to get a lot of those guys more reps that they normally don’€™t get.”

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Read More: Dan Connolly, Nate Solder, ryan wendell, Sebastian Vollmer
Dominique Easley (knee) misses Patriots practice 11.20.14 at 4:42 pm ET
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Dominique Easley

Dominique Easley

The Patriots practiced outside in the cold on the grass fields behind Gillette Stadium on Thursday in advance of Sunday’s game with the Lions. Chandler Jones (hip), Dominique Easley (knee) and Cameron Fleming (finger/ankle) all missed the session.

Jones hasn’t practiced since suffering the hip injury in Week 7, while Fleming didn’t practice Wednesday after leaving late in last Sunday’s game against the Colts with an ankle injury. It was Fleming’s first action since suffering a finger injury Week 4 against Kansas City, which he is still said to be dealing with. Easley missed the practice after being limited on Wednesday. It is worth noting that Wednesday’s practice was a walkthrough and Thursday’s was held in full pads.

Offensive lineman Ryan Wendell (knee) was removed from the injury report.

On a side note, Sealver Siliga was spotted at Wednesday’s walkthrough, but his 21-day window of coming off short-term injured reserve has not started yet.

For the Lions, running back Joique Bell was limited in practice after not practicing at all on Wednesday. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive lineman Nick Fairley once again did not practice.

Here is the complete Patriots practice report:

Did not practice

DL Dominique Easley (knee)
OL Cameron Fleming (finger/ankle)
DE Chandler Jones (hip)

Limited participation

OL Marcus Cannon (hip)
S Nate Ebner (finger)
WR Julian Edelman (thigh)

Full participation

QB Tom Brady (ankle)

Read More: Cameron Fleming, chandler jones, Dominique Easley, Julian Edelman
Dominique Easley (knee) misses Patriots practice, 4 players limited 11.12.14 at 4:19 pm ET
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Dominique Easley

Dominique Easley

FOXBORO — The first Patriots injury report of the week was released following Wednesday’s practice and it came with no major surprises.

Chandler Jones (hip) and Dominique Easley (knee) were the only two players to miss the full-padded session held inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse. Jones is expected to be out at least until the Green Bay game (Nov. 30), which would be six weeks from originally suffering the injury in Week 7. Easley appeared to re-injure his knee in the last practice before the bye week — last Wednesday — as he was seen working with trainer’s during the first positional drills. The rookie has been listed as questionable with a knee injury each of the last five games, but has played in all five games.

Offensive lineman Ryan Wendell has popped up on the injury report for the first time this season with a knee injury. After not being spotted at the start of Tuesday’s practice, wide receiver Brandon LaFell did not appear on the injury report on Wednesday. The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe reported LaFell missed the practice because of step throat, as there was no Tuesday practice report since the team is only required to release three per week.

Here is the full participation report:

Did not practice

DE Chandler Jones (hip)
DL Dominique Easley (knee)

Limited participation

S Nate Ebner (finger)
OL Cameron Fleming (finger)
WR Matthew Slater (shoulder)
OL Ryan Wendell (knee)

Full participation

QB Tom Brady (ankle)

Read More: chandler jones, Dominique Easley, Nate Ebner, Patriots practice report
Bill Belichick: Patriots ‘stuck together as a team and supported each other’ 10.06.14 at 1:20 pm ET
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Emotion can often be a false flag when it comes to forecasting the success or failure of a football team, but it certainly appeared that it played a sizable role for the Patriots on Sunday night.

In the wake of last Monday’s drubbing at the hands of the Chiefs, there was a palpable sense of energy surrounding New England. Whether it was provided by quarterback Tom Brady (who played as if his hair was on fire for much of the early going), the Gillette Stadium crowd (one of the loudest in recent memory) or the collective efforts of a team trying to erase the memory of one of the worst losses in recent franchise history, it was in abundance for the Patriots in the 43-17 win.

Coach Bill Belichick wasn’t surprised to see his team respond like it did.

“When you had the result that we had Monday night as a team, I think everybody rallied around each other. I mean, who else is there to rally around?” he asked on a conference call with the media Monday morning. “That’€™s all we have: guys that can go out there and play and make a difference. Nobody else is going to make any plays unless we go out and make them ourselves.

“Of course they stuck together as a team and supported each other. That’€™s what any team should do.”

To Belichick’s point, there was more fire on Sunday night than the team had all season long. That emotion and energy level manifested itself several ways, including their best start of the year, with touchdowns on the first two scoring drives of the night.

“I thought they played hard. I think we’€™ve played hard a lot this year, but we were able to execute things a little bit better,” Belichick said. “Get off the field on third down, convert some third downs, or fourth downs, as the case may be. So, of course there was more emotion and energy as we were making plays, especially in the first — well, throughout the game, but especially in the first quarter.”

Belichick not only praised the play and preparation up and down the roster, but also had kind words for his coaches for their ability to not only digest the Chiefs’ loss and put it in the rearview quickly, but to create a game plan for a Bengals team that came into the game as only one of two unbeaten teams left in the league.

“I just think it’€™s tough when you play on the road Monday night,” Belichick said when asked about the performance of the coaches. “Get back here at whatever it was, five in the morning and then you go through the tape of the game, which was obviously a painful process. Then get ready for an undefeated team, a team that had given up three points in the first half of their first three games and been pretty dominant. To turn around and get a game plan ready and address some of the problems that we had in Kansas City and all that.

“It’€™s handling the preparation for all the situations ‘€“ with only three games, a lot of that is going back and digging through key games and situations from last year to look at tendencies or look at plays you want to run. Again I just think as a staff they did a good job of doing those things on a short week against a good football team that’€™s well coached that gives you a lot of problems on every down and every situation. I thought they worked hard and they did a good job; as did the players.”

Here are a few other highlights from his Monday Q&A:
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Read More: A.J. Green, Bill Belichick, Bryan Stork, Darrelle Revis
Patriots elect Matthew Slater NFLPA player rep, Darrelle Revis alternate 10.03.14 at 10:51 am ET
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FOXBORO — In a move that hardly comes as a surprise, Patriots players have elected special teams captain Matthew Slater as their Players Association player rep to handle all matters between the union and the team.

Two other veterans, offensive lineman Ryan Wendell and kicker Stephen Gostkowski were elected as alternates as was cornerback Darrelle Revis.

The NFLPA made the announcement Friday morning on its Twitter page.

Read More: Darrelle Revis, Matthew Slater, New England Patriots, NFLPA
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