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Patriots using San Diego trip earlier this year to prepare for weeklong stay in Arizona 01.25.15 at 7:00 am ET
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James Develin

James Develin

FOXBORO — This coming week’s trip to Arizona won’t be the first time the Patriots have spent a week preparing for a game away from their usual confines of Gillette Stadium, as the team spent a week in San Diego in December prior to their game with the Chargers.

New England played Green Bay in Green Bay on Nov. 30 and then the Chargers the following Sunday night. Instead of traveling back to New England and then across the country again a few days later, the team instead went right to San Diego and spent the the week there.

Fullback James Develin said the experience could help the team a bit for what is to come this week in Arizona.

“I think so,” he said. “It’€™s always valuable to have some kind of experience like that –€“ going away for a long period of time, but really, we’€™re just looking at this week and just trying to prepare for it the best we can and just try to get ready for Seattle because they’€™re a very good team.”

New England played one of their better games of the season after their week out West — a 23-14 win over the Chargers.

For kicker Stephen Gostkowski he doesn’t care where the Super Bowl is and where the team has to spend a week — as long as his family gets there, that is all that matters to him. He said the things will still be the same as the Patriots will still need to have their old saying, “Ignore the noise.”

“I mean, we don’€™t think about that stuff,” Gostkowski said. “We just worry about the game and the people who handle the logistics deal with that and we just worry about making sure our family and friends get down there safely and we enjoy the experience. At the same time we have a job to do and it’€™s all focus on the game, really. We could be playing in Missouri and we wouldn’€™t care. It’€™s the Super Bowl, it’€™s exciting, we’€™ve stayed at hotels before, nothing is different. There’€™s just going to be a big spotlight on it and we’€™re just going to deal with the distraction and ignore the noise.”

Cornerback Kyle Arrington joked how getting away from New England at time of the year is good no matter what, but having their families with them, unlike in December, will be a positive thing.

“Well, ideally, it’€™s nice to go somewhere warm this time of year and not be in Foxboro, but it was a good experience being out in San Diego for a week and being away,” Arrington said. “This time a lot of guys will have their families out there in Arizona, so it will make it less difficult.”

Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, James Develin, Kyle Arrington, Stephen Gostkowski
No question about it: The answer that convinced Patriots they could move on from Adam Vinatieri 01.15.15 at 10:44 pm ET
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Stephen Gostkowski passed Adam Vinatieri as the franchise's leading scorer this season. (Jerome Davis/Getty Images)

Stephen Gostkowski passed Adam Vinatieri as the franchise’s leading scorer this season. (Jerome Davis/Getty Images)

Three Super Bowl titles, including game-winning field goals in two of them. Ten years of service with an 82 percent success rate on field goals. Eighteen game-winning field goals with less than one minute remaining, including the postseason. A franchise-leading (at the time) 1,158 points.

Those were some of the biggest things the Patriots were replacing following the 2005 season when they didn’t place the franchise tag on Adam Vinatieri and moved on from the franchise’s leading scorer, who then signed with the Colts.

Kickers are rarely taken in the NFL draft. In fact, since 2006 just 16 place kickers have been selected. In the 2006 draft just two kickers were selected, but the Patriots selected one of them in the fourth round — Stephen Gostkowski out of the University of Memphis.

Gostkowski’s numbers were pretty good his senior season — connecting on 22-of-25 field goals, including 10-for-10 from 40 yards or more. There were other talented kickers out there, and the Patriots could have looked within the league for their next kicker, but it was an answer they got from Memphis coach Tommy West that set Gostkowski above everyone else.

“He’s a tough guy. He’s a great competitor. That is what you want,” West, the current defensive line coach at Middle Tennessee State University, said via phone earlier this week. “I remember one question from one of the New England people, ‘Can he take hard coaching because coach [Bill] Belichick is. Is anyone hard on him?’ I said, ‘Oh, I promise you. He can take hard coaching. He’s used to that.’ ”

His special teams coach at the time, Tyson Helton, now the offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky, said that hard coaching, very similar to Belichick, was the best thing that could have happened for Gostkowski, who started at Memphis with a baseball scholarship and walked on to the football team.

“The greatest thing for Stephen Gostkowski was he had a head coach at the University of Memphis in Tommy West,” Helton said over the phone earlier this week. “Tommy West is a players coach, but Tommy treated Stephen and coached Stephen like he would any one of our players and he was hard on Stephen. He put Stephen into a lot of hard situations. Tommy is one of those guys that when you meet him you go, ‘Gosh, this guy is an intimidating person,’ but Tommy is a great guy. He cares about his players but is one of those figures that you go, ‘Man, this guy is intimidating.’

“He was hard on Stephen in the sense that he knew he was very talented and wanted to get the most out of Stephen and he knew Stephen could handle the pressure. I think being coached by Tommy for those four years really helped Stephen to say, ‘It doesn’t matter who I kick against, what level I’m at, or what arena I am put in, I am going to perform,’ because I think he gave Stephen that confidence and really developed into a guy that can handle pressure, and handle confrontation and handle stressful situations. I think Tommy did a tremendous job.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Adam Vinatieri, Stephen Gostkowski,
Five Patriots named to Pro Bowl, including QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski and CB Darrelle Revis 12.23.14 at 8:12 pm ET
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Tom Brady has been named to his 10th Pro Bowl. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Tom Brady has been named to his 10th Pro Bowl. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Quarterback Tom Brady, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, tight end Rob Gronkowski, cornerback Darrelle Revis and special teamer Matthew Slater have been selected to represent the Patriots in the 2015 Pro Bowl.

Players will later be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft during the week leading up to the game, which will be played on January 25, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona, site of Super Bowl XLIX. (If the Patriots are one of the two teams involved in the Super Bowl, they’re excused from playing in the game.)
Here’s a portion of the release issued by the team:

Brady was named to the Pro Bowl for a franchise record 10th time in his 15-year career. This year’s selection moves Brady ahead of Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Hannah, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection. It is Brady’s sixth consecutive selection to the all-star game. He was voted to the Pro Bowl after each of the following seasons: 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and now, 2014. Brady heads into the final week of the season with 4,029 yards and 33 touchdown passes. He joined Drew Brees (9) and Peyton Manning (14) as the only NFL players to have at least seven seasons with 4,000 passing yards. Brady also guided the Patriots to their 12th division title of his career, the most by a quarterback in NFL history.

Gostkowski was named to the Pro Bowl for the third time in his career and for the second straight season. He enters the final week of the season with an NFL-leading 147 points. He has led the NFL in points in 2008, 2012 and 2013 and can become just the third player to lead the NFL in points in at least four seasons. Gostkowski became the Patriots’€™ all-time leading scorer vs. Miami (12/14) and currently has 1,170 career points. He is 32-of-34 on field goals in 2014 for a 94.1 field goal percentage. If he stays on pace, that will be the highest field goal percentage in team history for a season.
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Read More: Darrelle Revis, Matthew Slater, Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski
Special teams continue to be a ‘difference maker’ in another Patriots win 12.14.14 at 10:55 pm ET
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Stephen Gostkowski became the Patriots' all-time leader scorer in Sunday's win. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Stephen Gostkowski became the Patriots’ all-time leader scorer in Sunday’s win. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Once again, special teams matter.

As has been the case in many games this season, including twice in as many weeks, special teams have played a major factor in a Patriots win.

Last Sunday in San Diego, Brandon Bolden blocked a punt and punter Ryan Allen had a terrific day to earn AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. This week it was a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown to set the tone in the Patriots’ 41-13 win over the Dolphins to clinch their sixth straight AFC East title.

After the Dolphins drove down the field on their opening drive, but then stalled, Caleb Sturgis came on for a 43-yard field goal attempt. The athletic Jamie Collins was able to block the kick and Kyle Arrington alertly scooped up the loose ball and ran it 62 yards for a Patriots touchdown.

“It was a good — that’€™s kind of what the outside guys are looking for,” coach Bill Belichick said of the play. “They’€™re looking for a block to put themselves in a position, which he did, to be able to attack the ball. That’€™s the kind of situation where there really aren’€™t too many guys on the other side of the ball that can tackle or are very good tacklers. If you can just get it up and get going ‘€“ a bunch of offensive linemen, a couple specialists. Kyle is a fast guy. Once he got a little bit of space, I don’€™t think there are too many guys who can run him down. But it was a good — he did his job. He was in position and took advantage of the opportunity and turned it into points. It was a heads up play.”

It was the third blocked field goal of the season for the Patriots, which ties a franchise record. Chandler Jones had one in Week 2 against the Vikings, and Chris Jones had one in the closing seconds of Week 7’s game against the Jets. Overall, the Patriots have blocked four kicks this season, including three field goals and a blocked punt. The four blocked kicks are the most for the Patriots since 2002.

The touchdown wasn’t the only special teams accomplishment in the win, as kicker Stephen Gostkowski became the Patriots’ all-time leader scorer in the game. With five extra points and two field goals, the kicker now has 1,165 points, which passes Adam Vinatieri‘s 1,165 for the franchise lead.

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Read More: Jamie Collins, Kyle Arrington, Stephen Gostkowski,
Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski among leaders in Pro Bowl voting 12.10.14 at 1:56 pm ET
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With a week to go in voting for the Pro Bowl, the Patriots have two leaders at their respective positions — tight end Rob Gronkowski and kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

Gronkowski (421,318) leads all tight ends, with Denver’s Julius Thomas (312,698) more than 100,000 votes behind, and Gostkowski is tops among kickers with 158,555 votes. Meanwhile, Matthew Slater is second among all special teamers with 83,496 votes, trailing only Cleveland’s Johnson Bademosi (123,858). And quarterback Tom Brady (627,135 votes) is third in voting at quarterback, trailing Denver’s Peyton Manning (753,689) and Green Bay‘s Aaron Rodgers (711,972).

Balloting will conclude on December 15. and the Pro Bowl players will be announced on December 23. Players will later be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft during the week leading up to the game, which will be played on Sunday, January 25, 2015 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona, site of Super Bowl XLIX.

Read More: Matthew Slater, Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski, Tom Brady
How Bill Belichick views the 2-minute drill and why it matters 11.14.14 at 1:14 pm ET
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Stephen Gostkowski (3) converts a preseason 60 yard field goal at the end of the first half. (Getty Images)

Stephen Gostkowski (3) converts a preseason 60 yard field goal at the end of the first half. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — No one in football has scored as often in the two-minute drill like the Patriots have this season. At least, the two-minute drill before halftime.

But as we learned from Patriots coach Bill Belichick Friday, there’s a big, big difference in his mind between scoring in the final two minutes of the first half and scoring when the game is on the line.

In nine games, the Patriots have scored 12 times in the two minutes before halftime. They scored three times against the Bears when Jay Cutler and company gave them the game. They scored twice apiece against the Bills and Bengals. (It should be noted that the 12 times includes the blocked field goal return against the Vikings by Chandler Jones and a 15-yard fumble return against the Bears by Rob Ninkovich).

As the clock winds down to :00, the Patriots have been particularly deadly, kicking three Stephen Gostkowski field goals as time expired while scoring six times under 10 seconds.

But the truth of the matter is the Patriots have not been tested with the game on the line. Only two games have come down to the final possession and in both cases, against the Raiders and Jets, the Patriots held on because of a lack of execution by the opponent.

“The two-minute at the end of the half is a lot different than the two-minute at the end of the game,” Belichick said. “They’€™re two, really completely different situations. I mean, I know everybody talks about them like they’€™re the same, but to me they’€™re not anything the same. You don’€™t have to score at the end of the half. I mean, if you have to score at the end of the game to win the game, then that’€™s a totally different situation.”

Time will tell if Belichick’s team can handle that situation at the end of a game. This week, as has been well-documented, features two clutch kickers in Adam Vinatieri and Gostkowski who have been extremely dependable.

“If you don’€™t score at the end of the half, then you haven’€™t lost the game,’€ Belichick added. “Do you want to score? Yeah, you want to score every time you have the ball, that’€™s why you put the offense out there, but it’€™s just different at the end of the half.

“Try to take what you can get, if not, you don’€™t want to put yourself at more risk than you have to. At the end of the game you’€™ve gotta do whatever you’€™ve gotta do to move the ball and get in position to win the game. So if you have to take chances, if you have to do things you may not want to do in order to have an opportunity to make the plays you need to make, then you’€™re willing to do that. But it’€™s dictated by the situation.”

Field position can dictate, more than anything at the end of the first half, whether a team wants to go down and do everything possible to score. But there’s the fine line of not wanting to give the opponent another chance.

“I think field position is part of it, but so is everything else: time, timeouts, how you match up in that situation,” Belichick said. “I think it’€™s all part of it. I think there are a lot of factors in that, in what you call and what happens in the sequence of plays that you call. Each one is different. Obviously, there are some common threads, but I think each situation each week is different based on the matchups and based on whatever the specific situation is: time, timeouts, field position, playing conditions, etcetera.”

Read More: Adam Vinatieri, Bill Belichick, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots
Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski and Matthew Slater among top Pro Bowl vote-getters 11.13.14 at 8:30 am ET
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Rob Gronkowski leads all tight ends in Pro Bowl voting. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski leads all tight ends in Pro Bowl voting. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the first wave of voting complete, three members of the Patriots lead Pro Bowl voting at their respective positions.

Rob Gronkowski leads voting among tight ends with 166,066 votes, while kicker Stephen Gostkowski (67,814 votes) and special teamer Matthew Slater (36,679 votes) are also currently leading their groupings.

As for quarterback Tom Brady, he’s fourth among quarterbacks with 254,807, behind only Peyton Manning (359,598), Andrew Luck (284,575), Aaron Rodgers (280,394). He’s fifth overall, as he’s just nudged out by running back DeMarco Murray (263,097).

Despite the fact that Brady is near the top of the voting totals, don’t expect him to make it, even if the Patriots are able to play. The quarterback has been voted to the Pro Bowl in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, but the last time he actually went to the Pro Bowl was 2004.

The Pro Bowl will be played on Jan. 25 in Arizona the week before the Super Bowl.

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Read More: aaron rodgers, Andrew Luck, Matthew Slater, Peyton Manning
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