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Shane Vereen, Chandler Jones not spotted at Friday Patriots practice 10.24.14 at 12:02 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Shane Vereen joined Chandler Jones Friday as missing at Patriots practice in sweats and shells on the upper grass fields.

Jones has missed all week with a hip injury suffered against the Jets, and will reportedly be out of action for the next 4-6 weeks as he heals. Vereen, meanwhile, has not been on the injury report at all this week. The team will disclose its final injury report later Friday afternoon. The Boston Herald reported via a source that Vereen was given the day off due to an illness.

Newcomer Akeem Ayers was on the practice field again as the team tries to determine if the linebacker – acquired this week in a trade with the Titans – is ready to play in a game. Free agent defensive lineman Alan Branch was not on the field. Branch was in this week to meet with the players and was spotted in the team’s locker room on Thursday.

“I don’€™t know. We work out a lot of players around here over the course of the season,” coach Bill Belichick said Friday morning. “So, the ones that we bring on the roster and sign we work with and the ones that we don’€™t are there if we decide to do it.”

Friday’s practice was the fourth in a row this week as the team prepares to take on the Chicago Bears this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Vereen’s brother Brock is a safety for the Bears and Vereen’s parents are expected in town this weekend to spend time with their NFL sons.

Read More: Brock Vereen, chandler jones, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots
Mike Petraglia, Chris Price look ahead to how Patriots will deal with Matt Forte, Bears 10.22.14 at 5:03 pm ET
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FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price detail how the New England Patriots will overcome injuries to Jerod Mayo and Chandler Jones to come up with a defensive game plan for Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Read More: Chris Price, Matt Forte, Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots
Family Feud: Shane Vereen ready to mix it up with brother Brock as Patriots meet Bears 10.21.14 at 9:33 pm ET
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FOXBORO — When it comes to providing a scouting report on the Bears, Shane Vereen is better prepared than most of the Patriots.

When he lines up Sunday against Chicago, the New England running back will get his first crack at his brother — Bears rookie safety Brock Vereen — for the first time as professionals.

“I’m looking forward to it — it’s exciting,” Shane said after practice Tuesday. “It’s definitely going to be a good time for me and my family. But at the same time, you have to get down to the basics. It would mean more if we just came out on top and won the game as a team.

“Growing up, we talked about it a lot. But we were never on the field together at the same time because of our age difference. Now, we finally get that chance, and we’re both really excited about it.”

While he was interviewed by the Patriots prior to the draft, Brock ended up going in the fourth round to the Bears, and has 12 tackles in seven games in his first year with Chicago. The 5-foot-11, 199-pounder, who said he was looking to put a big hit on his brother when he reached the NFL, said in February that Shane was a big help to him throughout the pre-draft process.

“€œI’€™€ve been very fortunate as to always to have an older brother at the level I was trying to get to,”€€ said Brock in February. “When I was in high school, he was already in college, and now, the situation here. Just to have that insight, and to understand the ins and outs of certain things that some people might not find out until they’€™€™re actually in the NFL, it’€™€™s definitely a blessing.”

Of course, there’s also the chance to put a hit on your brother.

“I have not been hit by my brother. Not in pads,” said Shane with a smile on Tuesday. “I definitely think he is looking forward to it. So am I.”

Shane said there will plenty of family in attendance, but he said Tuesday that their mother, Venita, isn’t going to tip her hands as to who she’ll be rooting for.

“Last time I talked to my mother, she said she was going neutral — no colors,” Shane said. “We’ll see. I think that’s going to change.”

Read More: Brock Vereen, Shane Vereen,
Tom Brady: ‘It feels good to be where we’re at’ 10.17.14 at 3:01 am ET
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Tom Brady and Shane Vereen connected for two touchdowns Thursday night. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and Shane Vereen connected for two touchdowns Thursday night. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — What a difference 18 days makes.

Following the Patriots’€™ Week 4, 43-17 loss to Kansas City on Monday Night Football they were 2-2 and not trending in the right direction. Fast forward to Thursday night, New England now has reeled off three straight wins — outscoring opponents 107-64 — and is looking like the team many thought it would be entering the season.

“We started the year off 0-1, so 5-1 since is not bad considering where we’€™re at,”€ Tom Brady said. “€œHopefully we can be a lot better. We’ve got to make the plays, got to make the improvements, got to execute it when it matters. But, it feels good to be where we’€™re at.”

Brady had another strong game against the Jets Thursday going 20-for-37 passing for 261 yards and three touchdowns, while not throwing an interception. He has now thrown 372 touchdown passes, which ties Drew Brees for the fourth-most in NFL history. Thursday’€™s win also marked his 41st straight regular season home win over an AFC opponent.

The offense got off to a good start as they scored just 1:29 into the game on a 49-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Shane Vereen. Vereen ran right past the defenders and was wide open on the right side by the goal line and Brady found him for an easy score. It was the second time this year the Patriots have scored on the opening drive of the game.

Following the opening drive, the Patriots went three-and-out on their next two possessions as the Jets dominated time of possession in the first half, as the Patriots held the ball for just 7:57.

“We scored quick and hen we got crushed on time of possession,”€ Brady said. “€œWe’ve got to do a better job staying on the field, making the plays, executing the plays on first down, second down, third down so we can stay on the field and keep our defense off the field. If the defense is out there as much as they were tonight, it’€™s going to be tough for them. We’ve got to help them out by playing a lot better offense.”

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Read More: Danny Amendola, Shane Vereen, Tom Brady,
What we learned: Patriots escape with narrow win over Jets 10.16.14 at 11:29 pm ET
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Tom Brady and the Patriots held on down the stretch for the win over New York. (Getty Images)

Tom Brady and the Patriots held on down the stretch for the win over New York. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — The Patriots held on down the stretch Thursday night to pick up a 27-25 win over the Jets at Gillette Stadium. Chris Jones blocked what would have been a game-winning 58-yard field goal as time expired.

It wasn’t a pretty game, but in the end, New England did enough to hold on down the stretch. The Patriots took the lead for good on a 36-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski with 4:10 left in the third and held on late, building what proved to be a decisive advantage with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Danny Amendola with 7:49 left in the fourth to make it 27-19.

The Jets added a late touchdown, but missed out on the two-point conversion when quarterback Geno Smith’s throw for Jace Amaro was off the target.

Brady finished the game 20-for-37 for 261 yards with three touchdowns. Shane Vereen added 12 carries for 47 yards. He also had five catches for 71 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

On the other side of the ball, Smith was 15-for-27 for 178 and one touchdown, while Jets running back Chris Ivory came away with 21 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown.

Here’s what we learned about the Patriots on Thursday night:

Tom Brady was a mixed bag against the Jets defense

The quarterback hit on some nice throws early, including a 24-yarder to Brandon LaFell and a 20-yarder to Gronkowski. His deep ball on the first touchdown of the night — a 49-yard scoring strike to Shane Vereen — would have been overthrown if Vereen didn’t do a terrific job laying out for the pass. There were a few others that were off the mark, including the 19-yarder to Amendola in the fourth quarter, a ball where the receiver made a great play on the ball. In the end, he did enough to pick up the win in his 200th career regular-season game, finding Vereen twice and Amendola once for touchdown passes. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brandon Browner, Danny Amendola, Shane Vereen, Tom Brady
Breaking down the runs to daylight of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen 10.10.14 at 5:34 pm ET
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Stevan Ridley and the running game will get their shot at Buffalo Sunday. (Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Stevan Ridley and the running game will get their shot at Buffalo Sunday. (Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Much has been made this season of the Patriots’ running game in their wins and the lack of it in losses. In three wins, they’ve run for 446 yards (148.7 yards/game). In two losses, they’ve run for 166 yards (83 yards/game). As a matter of fact, the Patriots are unbeaten in their last 25 games with a 100-yard rusher. That streak continued Sunday night as Stevan Ridley had 113 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown.

On Sunday night against Cincinnati, the Patriots were able to get both Shane Vereen (9 carries/90 yards) and Ridley into a rhythm early. Some of that came from the fact the Patriots were able to get the lead and play with the advantage the entire game, thus dictating tempo.

Some of that simply came from both backs reading the field and executing their runs to perfection. The latter was what Bill Belichick chose to focus on Friday. Belichick was asked how patience and vision factor in a back’s ability to run to daylight.

“It’€™s kind of probably a hard thing to put into words and define,” Belichick said. “But I think patience, a key to it is knowing when you have time to set blocks up and use the blocking scheme ahead of you to pull defenders one way or the other and cut off them and when you don’€™t and you just have to hit it and get through there because there’€™s just not enough time. That’€™s an instinctive thing that backs I’€™m sure learn through experience and some have better than others. When you have that ability to have a little bit of space and you have the patience to set up those blocks and force a defender to declare one way to set the block for whoever it is – lineman, guard, center, tackle, whoever it is – and then be able to cut off, that’€™s really ideal.”

As he did on Wednesday, Belichick spoke of two key runs in the game, one by each back. Vereen broke off a 19-yard run in the third quarter on a 3rd-and-16 that led to a first down, and eventually a Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski touchdown. Ridley ran outside for a big 43-yard gain in the third quarter when the middle of the line looked clogged.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley
Difference maker: Play-action could play major role in Sunday’s Patriots-Bills matchup 10.09.14 at 6:31 pm ET
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Using play-action this week could be beneficial for Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. (Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

Using play-action this week could be beneficial for Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. (Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

Buffalo’s new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has turned the Bills defense around so far this season, especially when it comes to defending the run.

Buffalo was 28th in the league in run defense last season and now are second this season, allowing 71 yards per game.

Their dedication to stopping the run does though make them vulnerable for one thing — play-action.

According to our count, when using play-action this season, opponents are 21-for-26 passing for 221 yards against the Bills — highlighted in Week 1 as Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was 6-for-7 for 66 yards, and then in Week 4, when Ryan Fitzpatrick of Houston was 7-for-9 for 75 yards.

Like Bills opponents, Tom Brady and the Patriots have also been successful when using play-action. Our numbers have Brady 26-for-37 for 353 yards and a touchdown with zero interceptions in the first five games this season. Brady’€™s best week using play-action was this past week when he went 6-for-9 for 103 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals.

Bill Belichick noted this week how the Bills use some eight-man fronts, which set them up well in defending the run — but, with that they can be susceptible when teams throw play-action at them and they get caught biting.

“They have a lot of guys that are hard to block,” said Belichick. “Mario [Williams] is hard to block. Kyle [Williams], [Marcell] Dareus, [Jerry] Hughes has done a good job for them. They do a good mixture of eight-man fronts.

“But they mix them down there whether that’€™s [Da'€™Norris] Searcy or Duke Williams coming down on the box. Linebackers all run well. We all know they play the ends wide. It’€™s hard to get outside so you have to deal with the linebackers and the inside defensive linemen. They do a good job with that — tackle well.”

A number of play-action plays against the Bills have ended up by being thrown to running backs out of the backfield, which would work out well for running back Shane Vereen — who does most of his damage catching passes, rather than running the ball.

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Read More: Buffalo Bills, Jim Schwartz, Shane Vereen, Tom Brady
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