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Rodney Harrison on D&C: Bengals ‘just pathetic’ after latest embarrassment 11.07.14 at 10:12 am ET
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NBC NFL analyst Rodney Harrison joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday to discuss Thursday night’s Bengals-Browns game and the state of the Patriots as the team goes into its bye week. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Bengals, playing at home against their AFC North rival, struggled all night during a 24-3 loss. Quarterback Andy Dalton completed just 10 passes for 86 yards and threw three interceptions. It was the fifth-worst statistical game for a quarterback since 1960.

Said Harrison: “First of all, if I was a member of that organization, I don’t know if I would’ve went on a limb and paid [Dalton] just based off of everything that’s happening in prime-time games as well as in the playoffs. But everyone acts like it’s a surprise of what’s going on with Andy Dalton and inconsistent play. Marvin Lewis, he has to take a big responsibility, but that’s something we can talk about later. But Andy Dalton, just his performances, the inconsistencies, and we’ve seen it from this team this entire year from the Patriots and the Bears and from the Indianapolis Colts shutting them out. From the tie with Carolina to last night, it’s just pathetic.”

Continued Harrison: “You look at Marvin Lewis, and I see this team last week, he was smiling, he was enjoying the victory. But they’ve been so inconsistent, and part of that is the lack of preparation with the players.”

While the Bengals battle their own problems, the Browns have moved to 6-3 and into a first-place tie in the AFC North.

“I don’t believe in the Browns like a lot of people,” Harrison said. “It’s easy to look at a team’s record and jump on the bandwagon. Just last week, or was it the week before, where they lost to Jacksonville, then everybody kind of jumped off the Browns. Then all of a sudden they’re back. Cincinnati, it’s one of those teams that’s hot and cold. I just don’t believe in the Browns right now. I like what they’re doing, I think Mike Pettine, I mean, he’s probably on pace to be Coach of the Year, not Bruce Arians. But I look at that team still far, far away now.”

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Read More: Andy Dalton, Brian Hoyer, Rodney Harrison, Tom Brady
Patriots foursome on remarkable flag-free streak this season 11.06.14 at 12:14 pm ET
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Rob Ninkovich is one of four Patriots regulars who has yet to be flagged this season. (Getty Images)

Rob Ninkovich is one of four Patriots regulars who has yet to be flagged this season. (Getty Images)

We have taken lots of time this season to talk about the Patriots penalty woes over the first nine games of the season — as well as the new points of emphasis that have created an occasionally flag-happy environment. But on the flip side, there’s also something to be said about showing an ability to avoid penalties to this point in the year. The following players have played at least 350 snaps this season (per Pro Football Focus) and have yet to be flagged:

Defensive end/outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich — 584 defensive snaps — This is nothing new for Ninkovich, as he played 1,256 snaps last season (per PFF) and was only penalized once. In all, he has two penalties since the start of the 2012 season. PFF has him as one of two 3-4 outside linebackers in the league with at least 500 snaps and no penalties — Oakland rookie Khalil Mack is the other.

Safety Devin McCourty — 581 defensive snaps — Like Ninkovich, this is hardly a shocker, as he’s almost always at or near the top of the list in most snaps and fewest penalties. McCourty has taken just one penalty since the start of the 2013 season. (Per PFF, McCourty is one of nine safeties with at least 580 snaps who has yet to draw a penalty this season.)

Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork — 485 defensive snaps — The veteran defensive lineman had an abbreviated 2013 season because of an Achilles’ injury, but he’s on an impressive streak of 13 straight regular-season games (dating back to last season) without a penalty. That represents a seismic turnaround for the big man, who led the team with six penalties in 2012.

Running back Shane Vereen — 357 offensive snaps — The only Patriots offensive player who has at least 350 snaps who has yet to be hit with a penalty, Vereen leads a group of running backs who have yet to be flagged for a penalty this season. Remarkably, Vereen has not been flagged for a single penalty in his NFL career.

Read More: Devin McCourty, Rob Ninkovich, Shane Vereen, Vince Wilfork
Patriots defense rises to occasion against Peyton Manning, powerful Denver offense 11.03.14 at 1:34 am ET
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Brandon Browner (39) and the Patriots defense played physcial and was able to shutdown Peyton Manning and the Broncos. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images).

Brandon Browner (39) and the Patriots defense played physical and was able to shutdown Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Sunday’s win. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — It was a statement win for the Patriots in their 43-21 romp over the Broncos.

Scoring 43 points was a statement for the offense, but also overlooked is the defense, which allowed just 21 points to the powerful Denver offense that came into the game averaging 32 points a game –€“ the best in the NFL.

How impressive was limiting the Peyton Manning-led Denver offense to just 21 points?

In 56 career regular season games as the quarterback of the Broncos (including Sunday), Manning and Denver’€™s offense has scored 21 points or fewer in just six games.

“We just knew what the game plan was and if we just execute it well and communicate well, then we’€™ll be in good shape,” Vince Wilfork said. “And we did that. It wasn’€™t perfect, but at the same time, the majority of the time we did what we wanted to do and we played the game how we wanted to play it and it worked out for us.”

Although Manning threw for over 400 yards, most of the damage was when it didn’€™t matter — either in garbage time or on first and second down. When it mattered most, Manning and Denver’€™s offense couldn’€™t get it done.

The Broncos were 3-for-11 on third down and 0-for-4 on fourth down in the game, a major reason why they couldn’€™t find any rhythm offensively all game.

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Read More: Devin McCourty, Peyton Manning, Vince Wilfork,
Can Dominique Easley, Casey Walker and Zach Moore give Vince Wilfork more of a breather? 10.25.14 at 3:10 pm ET
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Dominique Easley

Dominique Easley

FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork can’t play every down anymore. Nor do the Patriots want him playing all the time anymore.

After playing 64 of 69 snaps in Buffalo against the Bills, Wilfork’s snaps fell to 78 percent (68 of 87 snaps) against the Jets. Still, Wilfork is certainly on pace to earn his 70 percent participation clause that will kick in his $3 million guarantee. He has already played 78.9 percent of his snaps this season. His 377 snaps is 162 more than Chris Jones, the next closest on the line.

But with injuries to Sealver Siliga and Chandler Jones and the departure of Tommy Kelly, there’s a need to make sure there’s insurance behind Wilfork.

This is what the Patriots had in mind when they drafted Dominique Easley and Zach Moore and signed Casey Walker off the Carolina Panthers practice squad in late September. It’s why they have brought in Alan Branch to see if they can resurrect his career after some off-the-field transgressions.

But most of the focus now is on Easley, a player like Wilfork who could make the transition from inside to outside on the defensive line.

“Easley has really played all those spots across the board from college and even back from when we had him here in the spring and then when he was able to practice in training camp,” coach Bill Belichick said Friday. “He’€™s worked all the way from outside the tight end to on the center’€™s nose, so everywhere in between: zero to two-I, three, four, five, six, seven, nine. He’€™s been at every spot.

“That is unusual. He’€™s got a unique set of skills that allow him to do that. [He’€™s] quick enough to play outside, enough playing strength to play inside, to a degree. Good instinctiveness in terms of recognizing blocking schemes. There are a lot of different things that can happen when you’€™re in there between a guard and a center or a guard and tackle compared to when you’€™re outside of a tight end. You’€™re seeing the game kind of from the inside out as opposed from the outside in. it’€™s different. I’€™d say there aren’€™t a lot of guys that comes real easy to. There are a few, but not a lot.”

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Read More: Casey Walker, Dominique Easley, New England Patriots, Vince Wilfork
Vince Wilfork says getting back to basics will help Patriots slow down Matt Forte, Bears offense 10.23.14 at 10:43 pm ET
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Matt Forte is one of the best multidimensional threats in the league. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Matt Forte is one of the best multidimensional threats in the league. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork knows there are few offensive options around the league like Matt Forte.

The 29-year-old running back is the driving element of the Chicago offense — after seven games, he leads the Bears in rushing (111 carries, 448 yards, three TDs) and receiving (52 catches, 436 yards, two TDs). The 6-foot-1, 221-pounder, who was a second-round pick out of Tulane in 2008, is the only back in the league who has at least 50 catches and 50 carries through the first seven games of the season. He’s first in the league in catches, and second in the league in combined yards from scrimmage with 884.

“He’s a threat every time he steps on to the field in a number of different ways: passing game, running game,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Forte. “He’s tough, great vision, great balance. He definitely has the ability to turn nothing into something in a hurry and he can turn something into a lot in a hurry too.

“[He’s a] hard guy to tackle, does a good job of creating space for himself and finding openings, getting to places where there are fewer defenders and then taking advantage of it. But even when he’s boxed in or guys get a shot of him, he still makes yards. He’s a terrific player; couldn’t say enough good things about him. He’s a very, very complete player.”

With Forte, the idea isn’t so much stopping him, but slowing him down. Wilfork says there “aren’t a lot” of backs out there who are as much of a multidimensional threat as Forte.

“The way he catches the ball out of the backfield, you’d think he was a receiver,” Wilfork said Thursday after practice. “He can run the ball well. You saw it last week, the first drive of the second half what they did with him getting the ball in his hands and they want down and scored. He was the one who put them in the end zone on that drive.

“I can see them doing a lot more of that coming into this game,” he added. “Trying to get that running game started so it can open up the play-action pass and get the ball down vertical to those big receivers. But we have to do a real good job up front of trying to take away their run game.”

While Forte is a threat on multiple levels, for a defense that’s yielded 190 or more rushing yards in three of their seven games to open the season, his work on the ground is what stands as the most sizable threat to the Patriots. Wilfork, who said in the wake of the win over the Jets that the issues facing the run defense were fixable, noted that many of the issues come down to fundamentals — namely, being able to tackle properly.

“Sometimes, we miss tackles and overplay some things, and that costs us. It costs us big,” Wilfork said. “We have to be sure tacklers. We have good tacklers, but we just have to put it together on a regular basis. That’s what it comes down to, no matter how you slice it. We have to tackle.

“We have to be able to get off the field in third down and in the red area — just make them kick field goals. We have to continue to play good football in the red area. I think that was one of the things that helped us last week was in the red area, just allowing them to kick field goals instead of giving up seven points. That was probably the only thing we did well. But it was just another building block for us. We have to continue to get better an execute our game plan to the highest level, especially against [the Bears].”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Matt Forte, Vince Wilfork,
Vince Wilfork ‘disappointed’ in Patriots run defense 10.17.14 at 2:05 am ET
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FOXBORO — Although the Patriots beat the Jets 27-25 on Thursday Night Football to move to 5-2 on the year and won their third straight game in the process — there are still plenty of improvements to be made — particularly when it comes to defending the run.

Not given any favors with the loss of Jerod Mayo to season-ending knee surgery this week, the Patriots allowed 218 yards on 43 carries to the Jets — including a 21-carry, 107-yard performance to running back Chris Ivory. The 218 yards were the most rushing yards the Jets have had in a game since Oct. 14, 2012 against the Colts.

This is something the defense is not taking lightly.

“I’€™m very stingy when it comes to the rush defense,”€ defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. “That’€™s the one thing I’€™m disappointed in [the run defense]. We’€™ll fix it, we always do and hopefully we can get this thing rolling consistently.”

Thursday marked the third game this season where the Patriots have allowed 190 or more rushing yards — the Dolphins ran for 191 in Week 1 and Kansas City ran for 207 in Week 4. Also, Bill Belichick has allowed more than 200 yards rushing to an opponent 13 times during his tenure in New England and two of them have come this year.

“Luckily we played well in the red area, kept them out of the end zone and kept the points down, but didn’€™t do a good enough job in the running game — didn’€™t do a good enough job on run force, didn’€™t do a good enough job on third down obviously,” Belichick said. “We just weren’€™t consistent in any phase of the game.”

The Patriots entered Thursday with the fifth-best overall defense in the league, but the passing defense carrying the group as they are fourth in the NFL defending the pass, compared to 14th against the run. This is much improved as just two weeks ago they were 23rd.

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Read More: Chris Ivory, Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Jerod Mayo
Vince Wilfork: ‘Best way to answer anything is to win’ 10.06.14 at 2:40 am ET
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FOXBORO — Six days ago in Kansas City the Patriots got manhandled in a 41-14 defeat before a national television audience on Monday Night Football.

Following the loss, it was a long week in New England with criticism going all around, no one left behind — €“ even quarterback Tom Brady got his fair share. But in typical Patriots fashion, they responded in the only way they know how — a blowout, 43-17 win of their own over the previously undefeated Bengals on Sunday Night Football.

“Best way to answer anything is to win,”€ 11-year veteran Vince Wilfork said. “If we were sitting here undefeated, everybody would be blowing smoke up us, how great we are. That’€™s why we don’€™t pay attention to anything outside of here. Our job is what we have in here, being able to put it on the practice field and put together a good game plan and try to execute. Tonight we did well. We executed well. That’€™s something that we’€™ve been lacking this season.

“We’€™ve been inconsistent, so we have to start being more consistent playing football, and I think today was a good day to get it going against a good football team, being on Sunday Night Football, Sunday Night Football again on national TV [with] everybody watching. You’€™ve just seen two different teams from Monday night to tonight ‘€“ two different teams. It just goes to show you we’€™re capable of doing it. We just have to continue to do it every day and every week just being more consistent and we’€™ll be alright.”

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Read More: Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork,
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