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Bill Belichick calls on Patrick Chung to be D X-factor: ‘He’s got to be one of the best tacklers in the league’ 11.21.16 at 7:45 pm ET
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Nov 20, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) tries to hold off New England Patriots strong safety Patrick Chung (23) and defensive end Trey Flowers (98) before being sacked during the first quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Colin Kaepernick (7) could not hold off Patrick Chung and defensive end Trey Flowers as he was sacked during the first quarter Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. (Kelley L Cox/USA Today Sports)

The way Bill Belichick saw it coming into the game against San Francisco, the issue with the Patriots putting pressure on the opposing quarterback had less to do with getting after the QB than it did finishing the play when it was in front of them.

Insert Patrick Chung into the equation.

Bill Belichick has never been one to send a lot of pressure from the outside on corner blitzes. But on the very first series of the game and Colin Kaepernick facing 3rd-and-9 at his 26, Chung lined up on tight end Vance McDonald, who was split out wide. Chung looked right into the eyes of McDonald pre-snap but as the ball was snapped to Kaepernick in shotgun, Chung made a beeline for the Niners quarterback.

Unlike like past weeks, the Patriots would not let this chance for a big defensive play slip out of their hands in the Bay Area rain. Chung dove for Kaepernick’s ankles and held on for dear life, while Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich finished it off for a 12-yard sack credited to Chung. It was the start to a very productive day, as Chung wound up with a sack and nine tackles, topped this season only by his 11 tackles at Pittsburgh on Oct. 23.

“Patrick played well, played productively, pretty much as he always does,” Belichick said in his conference call Monday. “He gives us that week after week, makes plays in the kicking game, makes plays in the running game; makes plays in the passing game. He’s a good tackler, he’s around the ball. He’s just a productive player and it seems like it’s pretty much like that every week.It was the second of two sacks by defensive backs on the opening series. Malcolm Butler came off his man and came up to the line of scrimmage to tackle Kaepernick for a 0-yard sack on the first play of the game.”

The Patriots finished with four sacks in the first half and added one in the second half to finish with five on the day, a season high. As for selling the play at the start, Belichick said that was not as important as the finish of the play.

“There was pressure on the edge,” Belichick said. “They didn’t have it picked up. He had good patience with it and all of that, but I’d say the harder part of the play was tackling the quarterback. We’ve had a number of situations this year where we’ve been in that situation, where we’ve had players come in and block off the edge, and we just weren’t able to get the quarterback. He escaped somehow.

“So I think that’s really – Kaepernick almost got out of there on that one, too. Patrick tackled him, kind of wrapped him up around the leg or the ankle, and then somebody else, I think it might have been Trey Flowers, or somebody else was there to kind of help finish the play. But when you’re coming out of space like that, you can’t really let the quarterback outside when he’s as athletic as Kaepernick or Tyrod Taylor or guys like that. It’s a tough open field tackle on a player like that, so it was another good tackle. Chung is one of our best tacklers. He’s got to be one of the best tacklers in the league whether he’s in line or in space or whoever he’s tackling. He’s very good. I thought that was a very good tackle on the play and not an easy one.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Colin Kaepernick, New England Patriots, Patrick Chung
For escape artist Tom Brady, ‘it was a pretty great day’ and a great homecoming 11.20.16 at 8:58 pm ET
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Nov 20, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell (19) after Mitchell's touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the fourth quarter at Levi's Stadium. The New England Patriots defeated the San Francisco 49ers 30-17. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady celebrates with wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell after Mitchell’s touchdown against the 49ers in the fourth quarter Sunday. (Kelley L Cox/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady showed Sunday he was paying close attention when he was growing up in the Bay Area cheering for Joe Montana and Steve Young.

The Patriots quarterback adjusted to tight coverage on his receivers by scrambling and extending plays, throwing four touchdowns in a 30-17 win over the 49ers Sunday in Santa Clara.

There was no better example of this than his final two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, he was facing second-and-goal at the 49ers 5. He was falling down and found Danny Amendola in the back of the end zone. Then with just over 10 minutes left, he slid forward in the pocket, saw rookie Malcolm Mitchell breaking free and rifled a touchdown pass of 56 yards to the receiver just over the head of of a defender.

“Yeah, it was a third-down pass and he was short of sticks and when I scrambled up, he wheeled and I just saw a little separation and just tried to give him a chance. He made a great play,” Brady said. “That was a phenomenal play by Malcolm. We really needed it. It was tough conditions out there but we hung in there, fought it out and grinded it out pretty good.”

And on the Amendola TD?

“We got a little different coverage than we want and then had to buy a little bit more time,” Brady said. “Danny made a great play, finding some space. I just kind of put it up there for him. It was a great play by Danny. He shows up every day with hardhat on, ready to go to work. I’ve just been impressed with him since the day he came in. Just his personality is infectious. He’s a very positive person and made a great play today. He made a lot of great plays. He’s growing along with everybody else. It’s been great to see.”

Brady was asked if he’s modeling his game after another scrambler – Brett Favre.

“I’m trying not to do that. Truthfully, I think they were pretty good in coverage,” Brady said. “They took away some of those early reads. There’s a lot of opportunities to be made when you do that because our guys can spring free with their quickness. We had a lot of those plays. There’s a lot of times, like on the touchdown pass to Malcolm, someone said you got hit on that. I don’t remember that. You throw it and see it on film the next day.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Tom Brady,
Snap Judgments: Tom Brady (4 TDs) rescues Patriots in slop vs. 49ers at 7:30 pm ET
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November 20, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis (33) runs past San Francisco 49ers strong safety Jaquiski Tartt (29) during the second quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Dion Lewis made his 2016 debut in the rain Sunday. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady wasn’t about to let a little rain spoil his much-anticipated homecoming.

Playing his first-ever road game against his hometown 49ers in a driving rain storm, Brady was at his improvisational best. The quarterback-turned-escape artist completed 24-of-40 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns as the Patriots ran away from the 49ers, 30-17, at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

On a day they were without Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan on offense and the benched Jabaal Sheard on defense, the Patriots relied on the elusiveness of their superstar quarterback, who heard chants of “Brady, Brady, Brady” throughout the day.

Another Bay Area native, Julian Edelman from Redwood City, Calif., also had a big day. He was targeted 17 times by Brady, including on the first play of the game. He finished with eight catches and 77 yards and a touchdown. LeGarrette Blount finished the game strong with 19 carries and 124 yards, his fourth 100-yard game of the season.

The win improved the Patriots to 8-2 on the season while the miserable 49ers lost their ninth straight to fall to 1-9.

[For a full box score, click here.]

The game featured the debut of running back Dion Lewis. He was targeted five times in the passing game, with three catches for 26 yards. He added five carries for 23 yards in his first game back since tearing his left ACL against the Redskins on Nov. 8, 2015. With Gronkowski out with a chest injury, tight end Matt Lengel was active for the first time.

Another all-purpose back, James White, had an even bigger impact. He was targeted six times and had six catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.

On defense, linebacker Kyle Van Noy made his debut, taking the place of Sheard in certain situations. He finished with three tackles and a sack. The Patriots started out strong. They forced a 3-and-out from Colin Kaepernick on the opening drive.

Brady marched the Patriots down a very short field thanks to a 30-yard punt return from Danny Amendola. Brady hit Julian Edelman in the right corner of the end zone for a four-yard touchdown pass. Edelman caught the ball and got both feet down before falling out of bounds for the score.

But, as has been the case since mid-October, Stephen Gostkowski was not reliable with the extra point. He pushed it to the right on the wet turf. It was the tenth missed extra point of the day around the NFL.

The 49ers came back with a 33-yard Phil Dawson field goal to make it 6-3.

On the next drive, LeGarrette Blount broke out for a 44-yard run, thanks to some great downfield blocking from Malcolm Mitchell. Brady capped it off with a 9-yard screen pass to the left side to James White on the first play of the second quarter. White barreled over a defender for the touchdown and a 13-3 Patriots’ lead.

Closing Time note

Tom Brady recorded his 199th career victory, tied with Brett Favre for second all-time.

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Read More: Dion Lewis, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers,
As Rob Gronkowski heals, Bill Belichick explains the science of traveling an injured player across the country 11.18.16 at 10:37 am ET
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Bill Belichick speaks Friday at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/

FOXBORO — The likelihood Rob Gronkowski and his injured torso makes the cross country trek to the Bay Area to take on the 49ers is slim-to-none.

Just in case, Gronkowski did have his equipment bag packed in front of his locker when the media was allowed in the locker room at 6:45 Friday morning. And Gronkowski did walk by and greet Tom Brady before team meetings.

But making the jump from classroom attendance to playing in an NFL game a week after a serious chest injury is risky at best.

Bill Belichick takes everything into consideration when traveling his team from one end of the country to the other. Without mentioning Gronkowski by name Friday, the coach said player injury and availability is right near the top of the list of his priorities.

“I think it could have a lot to do with it. It would depend on what the player’s individual situation was,” Belichick said. “It’s certainly a lot different than being at home where you could literally wait until an hour and a half before the game and make your decision on the player. I don’t think there’s a lot of downside. We’ve certainly had discussions in the past if the player has, whatever his particular condition is, if we think it’s probably less than 50-50 that he would be able to play.

“Again, if we were playing at home it would be a bit of a different situation. If we feel like it’s probably a long shot if you will, then do we really want to put him on the plane for five hours? Do we really think that after all that the swelling is going to down or that the ‘whatever’ is going to loosen up or whatever the case, whatever the nature of the condition is, is really going to improve? Is that the best thing to do, or the right thing to do?

“And could it set us back, and now we come back after the game, let’s say the player either does or doesn’t play, and then here we are on Monday and we’re further behind than we were on Friday. Yeah, I think that’s a legitimate conversation.”

There were initial reports that Gronkowski suffered a punctured lung on the hit from Earl Thomas Sunday night. In that scenario, cross country air travel would almost certainly nullify any chance Gronkowski would play, let alone make the trip. Those reports were modified on Monday to clarify that he suffered a bruised chest. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, as he continued to heal.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Gronk, New England Patriots, nfl
Matthew Slater, Devin McCourty answer Ty Law’s ‘have some damn pride’ criticism of defense 11.16.16 at 1:19 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It’s one thing when fans or the media critique the Patriots’ defense.

It’s another when a former defensive star and Super Bowl hero chimes in and rips what he is seeing on the field.

Ty Law appeared on FS1’s “Undisputed” and ripped into what he sees as a very passive attitude from many players on the defense. He said on the show that the Patriots veterans on defense need to stand up and “have some damn pride” before it gets too late in the season.

“Play better. We can hoot and holler and yell and scream but leaders have to play better,” Devin McCourty said Wednesday. “It starts with us. If we play better, usually the whole defense plays better. Leadership comes in different forms, and at times, you have to do different things to lead. But the best way to lead is to go out there and play good football and lead the team and give them an example to follow.

“All the veteran players and the leaders on this defense have to go play better. I think that’s what we think as a team in all phases. Bill [Belichick] says it all the time: If you’re a leader on the team, it starts with you. You go out there and play well, the team will follow.”

McCourty was asked how he could calm the fears of fans who think the Patriots are a mess defensively since the trades of Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins.

“It’s simple. We’ve just got to play better. There’s nothing I can say to calm that or anything,” McCourty added. “We’ve just got to go out there and play better. That’s what everyone in our locker room and everyone on defense wants to do. There’s nothing to say. You’ve just got to go do it.”

Matthew Slater, the third-longest tenured player on the Patriots and a captain, said Wednesday that he has no worries that the leadership on the team will carry the team through any rough patches.

“I’m confident in the men that we have in this locker room,” Slater said. “I think that there is some great leadership there. Everyone leads differently, though. And that’s something that I certainly understand and guys understand that. Obviously, we all need to hold each other accountable to do our jobs at a high level. We play for one another so ultimately, everybody could do a better job when you look back at the tape after a loss. And everybody can say, ‘If I had done that, if they had done that.’

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Read More: Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers
Mike Petraglia, Ryan Hannable preview Patriots-49ers and how Pats can avoid the upset at 11:38 am ET
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FOXBORO — What could the Patriots possibly have to fear this week in San Francisco? Mike Petraglia and Ryan Hannable break it down inside Gillette Stadium.

Read More: Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots, Ryan Hannable, San Francisco 49ers
Bill Belichick sounds ominous warning about Chip Kelly’s 49ers: Remember last year vs. Eagles at 11:03 am ET
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FOXBORO — The master motivator is at it again.

Bill Belichick takes his Patriots team across the country this week to battle a woeful 49ers team that has lost eight straight after winning its season opener against the Rams.

The Patriots were in almost the same position last year. They were coming off their first loss of the season in Denver. They were prohibitive two touchdown favorites against the Eagles and even jumped out to a 14-0 lead. Then they got cute. They tried a Nate Ebner onside kick that they failed to recover. The Patriots gave up 35 unanswered points to an Eagles team that had been blown out in its previous two games, 90-31.

The coach: Chip Kelly, the same guy that will be calling the plays for the 49ers this Sunday.

“I know a lot of people were talking about the same thing last year when the Eagles had lost a couple games by four touchdowns and coming in here with a poor record,” Belichick recalled Wednesday. “And they come in here and hammered us. Don’t put too much credence in any of what’s happened [in 8-game skid]. I think the way they played last week against Arizona is very indicative of their talent level and their ability to do things right against a good team.”

As for San Francisco’s 8-game losing streak?

“I think they’re getting better. You can see them getting better every week,” Belichick said. “The last two weeks, they’ve created a lot of explosive plays on offense, more than they’ve had.”

Indeed, the 49ers battled back from a 20-10 hole to tie the game on a Colin Kaepernick run around the left side to tie the game late in the fourth. The Cardinals won the game on a field goal at the final gun.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Chip Kelly, Colin Kaepernick, New England Patriots
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