|Tom Brady explains why Aaron Rodgers is ‘obviously one of the best players ever to play’ quarterback||11.26.14 at 4:14 pm ET|
Earlier in the season, both were struggling to get their high-powered offenses in gear. Both were warding off speculation that this may not be the year for them after many years that the top of the quarterback roll call.
After a 19-7 loss to the Lions in Detroit, the Packers were in a similar situation to the Patriots when they were rolled by the Chiefs, 41-14, in Kansas City. Rodgers famously told the local ESPN Radio affiliate in Wisconsin, “Five letters here, just for everybody out there in Packer land, R-E-L-A-X. Relax. We’re going to be OK.”
The Packers won their next four games, put up 50 points in back-to-back wins over Bears and Eagles and are considered the hottest team in the NFC. As for the Patriots, they of course haven’t lost since.
Both teams have red-hot quarterbacks. Rodgers has 30 touchdowns and just three interceptions this season. Brady has thrown 20 touchdowns while getting intercepted just twice in that span. And on Wednesday, Brady admitted that he’s followed Rodgers’ career very closely.
“I’ve known Aaron for a long time,” Brady said. “We always enjoy seeing each other, and that’s what both of us love to do is talk football. I’m always trying to learn from him.”
What are those conversations like? What do the two No. 12s talk about?
“Football. There’s a lot to talk about,” Brady said. “I don’t know if there are so many specifics other than I’m probably trying to get into his brain a little bit and he’s trying to get into mine. I think there are a lot of things that they do offensively that are really good. Read the rest of this entry »
|Mr. Consistency: TE Tim Wright setting new standard for reliability in Patriots passing game||at 10:26 am ET|
FOXBORO — Tim Wright is in some rarefied air.
In his first season with the Patriots, the tight end has proven himself to be an eminently reliable part of the passing game — he has 23 catches on 26 targets. Even with the understanding that one of the targets was a throwaway by quarterback Tom Brady (an uncatchable ball), that’s an 88 percent catch rate, the best on the New England roster when it comes to players who have been targeted by Brady at least 20 times.
If he continues at his current rate, he’ll set a new standard for the Patriots. Since 2006, no member of the Patriots who has been targeted at least 20 times has a reception rate of better than 80 percent.
Of course, none of this is particularly new for Wright — last season with the Buccaneers, he proved equally sure-handed, as he caught 71 percent of the passes (54 receptions on 76 targets) that were thrown his way. But his target numbers this year — combined with his six receiving touchdowns (second on the team to fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski), have made him one of the surprise success stories when you’re talking about the 2014 Patriots offense.
Part of Wright’s success is rooted in the fact that most teams are solely focused on stopping Gronkowski, and have usually dedicated at least two defenders per play in hopes of trying to slow down the big fella. But it’s another thing altogether to take advantage of the opportunities when they’re presented to you, and Wright has done just that.
“Every time we throw to him it’s a touchdown — we’ll try to find him more down there,” Brady said after Wright’s two-touchdown performance against the Lions. “He does a great job in the coverage and finds the open spots.”
While the touchdown ratio is impressive — more than one-quarter of his catches have resulted in touchdowns — his work as a reliable target has really distinguished him from the rest of the field. Since 2006 — when targets were first tallied, on five different occasions, a New England pass catcher who was targeted at least 20 times caught 77 percent of the passes that were thrown in his direction. The latest high-level connection came in 2010 when running back Danny Woodhead caught 34 of the 44 passes that were thrown his way.
Prior to that, veteran running back Kevin Faulk did it three times: Faulk caught 58 of the 75 passes thrown his way in 2008, while both wide receiver Wes Welker (112-of-145) and Faulk (47-of-61) hit the 77 percent mark in 2007. And Faulk caught 43 of the 56 passes thrown his way in 2006 to reach the same plateau. (While Welker was targeted more than any other receiver between 2007 and 2012 and was consistently over 70 percent between 2007 and 2011, he never topped the 77 percent mark.)
According to Wright, the key to being a good target is simple.
FOXBORO — Usually when Bill Belichick speaks glowingly about the opposing team or a star quarterback like Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck, he gives the usual calculated response about their amazing abilities.
But on Wednesday, in describing Aaron Rodgers, Belichick offered up the normal compliments and then just shook his head at the end.
Rodgers has thrown for 30 touchdowns and just three interceptions in a season where Green Bay isn’t just beating teams at Lambeau Field, they’re destroying them. What is it that Rodgers does so well?
“Everything, he’s a great player,” Belichick said. “He does a tremendous job, really at everything. He’s got no weak points; makes every throw. [He] handles the team very well at the line: checks and adjustments, he certainly sees the defense well. [He] uses all his weapons, makes great throws from the short ones [to] intermediate, down the field, sidelines, back shoulders, deep routes and then he has a great ability to extend plays, either sliding in the pocket or at times scrambling outside the pocket.
“They’ve made a lot of plays this year on things like that where he either buys extra time or just flat-out gets away from the rush and lets the receivers uncover. He’s a hard guy to tackle, hard guy to get and a very good thrower, very accurate thrower and has great vision. He’s really good.”
Rodgers has been on the roster twice before when the Patriots played the Packers but has yet to play a down against them. In 2006, he was behind Brett Favre, when the Patriots went into Lambeau and won, 35-0. In 2010, at Gillette, Matt Flynn earned a name for himself by nearly beating the Patriots in primetime, filling in for Rodgers who was nursing a concussion.
“I mean, it is what it is,” Belichick said. “Whatever hasn’t happened hasn’t happened. I’m not really worried about it.”
In facing quarterbacks like Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford the last two weeks, the Patriots are somewhat prepared for a mobile quarterback. But then Belichick cautioned, “not like him. Yeah, not like him.”
What makes him different?
“It’s just, he’s great,” Belichick added. “He’s quick, he’s big, he throws the ball very accurately, has great vision down the field. He finds guys that there’s not a lot of space, but he finds them and he hits them. He’s really good. I’m not taking anything away from anybody else, but this guy is a really good player.”
Asked to compare his quarterback with Mr. Rodgers, Belichick did crack a smile.
“They both wear 12,” the coach said.
|Tom Brady to Randy Moss on early season media criticism: ‘Great opportunity for me to dig deep’||11.25.14 at 6:00 am ET|
What a difference two months makes.
Obviously a lot has changed since that Sept. 29 game, led by Brady’s play, as the Patriots have rallied with seven straight wins to now have the best record in the AFC at 9-2.
In an interview with old friend Randy Moss on the FOX pregame show prior to last Sunday’s game, Brady spoke of the criticism — acknowledging it may have been the first time he was criticized during his 15-year pro career.
“Really for my career I’ve never had a lot of criticism,” Brady told Moss. “We won the first year that I played and then we won two more shortly after that. This was really the first time people came down on me. I took it in stride and I thought it was really a great opportunity for me to dig deep. I think I’ve always had that chip on my shoulder and there probably always will be because I was a sixth-round draft pick — that never goes away. I was the one no one really wanted in college. They really didn’t want me in the pros. Now I am always like, ‘Why do they want me to go away so quick?, Why do they want me to go away so quick?’ I just have fun playing.”
Brady is now 37 years old and in his 15th season in the league. Moss, who is now retired, asked Brady how much longer he has left playing and why he has a desire to play for as long as he can.
“I think there is nothing I’d rather do,” said Brady. “I don’t have a lot of hobbies. There’s something in my DNA that loves this game because I feel like I am 27. I just want to keep doing it. I’m having a lot of fun. We get to play football for a living and what would be any better than that?”
|Tom Brady on D&C: ‘We’ve got a lot of good things going’||11.24.14 at 9:40 am ET|
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady checked in with Dennis & Callahan for his weekly chat Monday morning, following Sunday’s dominant 34-9 victory over the Lions, and talked about Darrelle Revis, Jonas Gray, Odell Beckham Jr. and Randy Moss. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
With their seventh straight win, the Patriots are 9-2 and look like they have established some separation from the pack. Brady cautioned that there still is plenty of room for improvement.
“I think it’s a week-to-week thing,” he said. “At different times over the course of the year we’ve done a lot of things really well, and you really want them to all come together on game day. I’m sure there’s always things we can get better at. I thought we did a lot of good things offensively yesterday, but I think we could have been even better. You’ve just got to go out there every week trying to improve and stay sharp and improve things that have shown up over the course of the season and we haven’t done as well consistently.
“It’s great to win, but as always when you win it’s never as good as you think, and when you lose it’s never as bad as you think. We’ll go in today and watch the film and talk about all the things we can do better. We obviously are playing well, we’ve got a lot of good things going. We’re continuing to be tested, because we’ve played a lot of good opponents here the past bunch of weeks, and now we’ve got another one coming up on Sunday.”
Running back Jonas Gray, the star of last week’s win over the Colts, sat out Sunday after arriving late to practice Friday.
“Those are always coach’s decisions to do certain things,” Brady said. “It’s unfortunate for everybody involved. You never want to see those things, because all these guys are important to us, and Jonas is a big part of our team and a big part of the reason why we won a huge game in our season. You just hate to see someone disciplined, but that’s just the way coach decided to handle it.”
|Tom Brady on winning big with different offensive approaches: ‘Whatever it takes’||11.23.14 at 8:26 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Last week the Patriots ran for 246 yards on the ground. This week the Patriots threw for 349 yards in the air.
Despite the different styles, the results were the virtually the same — a 42-20 win over the Colts last week and a 34-9 win over the Lions on Sunday.
The ability to win different ways and play a different style of football each week depending on the opponent could go a long way as the Patriots close out the regular-season and gear up for the likely postseason.
“We did a decent job so it was good to — I thought we got off to a good start and then played from ahead,” Brady said. “We struggled a little bit there in the third quarter, but rallied there in the fourth. It was a good win. I thought a lot of guys made a lot of great plays. Some penalties really held us back from being a little bit more consistent, but it was a good game. Whatever it takes, we’re going to try to figure out, whatever it takes.”
Brady had another strong game Sunday, going 38-for-53 passing for 349 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. It was Brady’s 63rd 300-yard passing game of his career, which ties him with Dan Marino for third on the all-time NFL list.
The quarterback also did a tremendous job of spreading the ball around, as he has the majority of the seven-game win streak, as he completed five or more passes to five different receivers in Sunday’s win.