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Terrance Knighton: My heart told me to sign with New England 04.06.16 at 4:53 pm ET
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Terrance Knighton said his heart told him to sign with New England. (Andrew Weber/USA Today Sports)

Terrance Knighton said his heart told him to sign with New England. (Andrew Weber/USA Today Sports)

Washington or New England?

That was the decision defensive tackle Terrance Knighton faced last week, as initially Washington, the team he played for last year said they weren’t interested, but once the Patriots got involved the Redskins were back in the mix to sign him.

In the end Knighton signed with New England, as he himself announced the signing on his Twitter account last Thursday night. Knighton was born in Connecticut and is a self-noted Celtics fan.

“I just prayed on it,” he said on a conference call Wednesday. “I talked to a lot of my family and I followed my heart and my heart just told me to go to New England.”

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to play for a team that I loved to watch growing up,” Knighton said. “… [I’m excited] having a fresh new start and play for this great coaching staff and I am looking forward to meeting the guys.”

One of the biggest issues for Knighton in Washington last year was his weight, as he’s listed at 355 pounds. He said he spent a lot of time speaking with members of the Patriots about it and said it wouldn’t be an issue as there is a plan in place. He added there are weight clauses in his contract.

The 29-year-old has 148 tackles and 14 sacks in his seven years in the league and will only help the Patriots’ defensive line which already has solid, young players in Dominique Easley and Malcom Brown.

“I pride myself in playing many different styles. Obviously the Patriots are known for having a lot of different looks on defense,” Knighton said. “I’m just going to come in and work as hard as I can and try and get acclimated to the system. I know there is going to be a lot I have to learn — this being my fourth team. I will have to come in and learn the playbook, listen to the coaches, ask a lot of questions — that is what I usually do being a new guy. There will be a lot of different things and like I said, I am coming in open-minded and ready to learn as much as I can.”

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Half of Patriots team helps former teammate Aqib Talib celebrate wedding 03.28.16 at 1:13 pm ET
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Just because they aren’t teammates anymore doesn’t mean Aqib Talib and the Patriots players aren’t still close.

And while it wasn’t exactly half of the Patriots team, a number of current and past Patriots players attended Talib’s wedding over the weekend including Devin McCourty, Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Duron Harmon and LeGarrette Blount.

See some of the Instagram posts for proof:

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Read More: Aqib Talib, Jerod Mayo, LeGarrette Blount, Vince Wilfork
Julian Edelman, Vince Wilfork, Tedy Bruschi latest to praise Peyton Manning following retirement 03.07.16 at 6:57 pm ET
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Two of the toughest defensive players Peyton Manning ever faced — Vince Wilfork and Tedy Bruschi — were the latest to praise the now retired quarterback.

Appearing on ESPN Monday, Bruschi relayed a story of when he himself retired, Manning sent a card to Bruschi’s home in the name Peyton Williams Manning. It stood to Bruschi as he doesn’t know Manning well, but he still managed to get his home address and send him a card.

Manning named Bruschi in his speech Monday.

“It was an honor really, to hear that from the one opponent that I respect more than all others,” Bruschi said. “And I can honestly say this about Peyton Manning, the biggest compliment I can give him, guys, is he made me a better player.”

Besides Wilfork, Julian Edelman also took to social media to praise Manning.

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Read More: Julian Edelman, Peyton Manning, Tedy Bruschi, Vince Wilfork
Vince Wilfork calls Jerod Mayo ‘my brother,’ wishes him well in retirement 02.17.16 at 10:38 am ET
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In the hours following Jerod Mayo announcing his retirement Tuesday night, a few Patriots players took to social media to pay tribute to their former teammate and captain. That continued throughout the night and on Wednesday.

Even a former teammate paid his respects in Vince Wilfork, who called Mayo “my brother.”

A photo posted by VINCE WILFORK (@vincewilfork) on

Fellow linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins always paid tribute as well.

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Read More: Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork
Scouting Report: What you need to know about Patriots-Texans 12.12.15 at 3:56 pm ET
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Tom Brady will face a sizable challenge this week in the Houston pass defense. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Tom Brady will face a sizable challenge this week in the Houston pass defense. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Here’s everything you need to know when the Patriots (10-2) take on the Texans (6-6) Sunday night at NRG Stadium in Houston:

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL

Who knows? There’s been no rhyme or reason as to how the Patriots have approached the running game the last two contests, which means it’s anybody’s guess as to how it’s going to shake out this week. For what it’s worth, LeGarrette Blount (155 carries, 650 yards, 6 TDs, 4.2 yards per carry), Brandon Bolden (19 carries, 59 yards, 3.1 ypc) and James White (15 carries, 39 yards, 1 rushing TD) will get the work on the ground, but who knows how much that will be. On paper, the ground game figured to be a relatively good matchup against both Denver and Philly, and for whatever reason, the Patriots didn’t spend much time running the ball. It’s not clear if it was an issue with the backs, or a lack of faith in the offensive line when it comes to run blocking, or a lack of faith in the overall execution across the board, but for key stretches as of late, the New England offense was fundamentally one-dimensional. On the other side of the ball, Houston is 21st in the NFL in run defense, having yielded an average of 114.1 rushing yards per contest. That suggests that the Texans might be more vulnerable than most when it comes to slowing Blount, Bolden and White, but Houston’s run defense numbers have been up and down all year long. There were four games where the Texans allowed 135 yards or more, including an astounding 187 yards on the ground in a loss to the Bills last week. Of course, there were four games where they held opponents to under 75 rushing yards. Bottom line? It’s an offense that hasn’t made a commitment to running the ball as of late against a defense that has been inconsistent when it comes to slowing the run. It’s anyone’s guess what is going to happen Sunday.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL

This is the biggest and most important matchup of the evening. Can Tom Brady (64 percent completion rate, 3,912 passing yards, 31 TDs, 6 INTs, passer rating of 102.8) overcome the fact that he’ll be without Julian Edelman and (likely) Rob Gronkowski once again, as he goes up against the third-best pass defense in the league? The Texans allow just 218.3 passing yards per game, thanks in large part to the work of defensive lineman/all-star pitchman J.J. Watt and his ability to get after the quarterback. Watt leads the league with 13.5 sacks, but many of the Texans do an excellent job of playing off him and taking advantage of when he commands double teams. Guys like linebacker Whitney Mercilus (6.5 sacks) and old pal Vince Wilfork (who is coming off his best game of the season against the Bills) do well when Watt gets the bulk of attention. Meanwhile, Houston will rely on cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph and safeties Andre Hal and Quintin Demps on the backside to try and slow Brady. For the Patriots, it’ll be Danny Amendola 56 catches, 73 targets, 582 yards, 3 TDs), Brandon LaFell (25 catches, 56 targets, 369 yards), Scott Chandler (23 catches, 41 targets, 259 yards, 4 TDs) and White (22 catches, 32 targets, 210 yards, 2 TDs) who will be charged with getting the New England passing game through another week without its leading options. One more thing: it’ll be interesting to see what sort of role ex-Houston receiver Keshawn Martin (10 catches, 16 targets, 148 yards, 1 TD) might play on Sunday. When he’s been healthy, he’s delivered a nice dose of quickness to the Patriots’ passing attack. His working knowledge of how the Texans’ defensive backs operate could be an interesting wrinkle.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, Brandon LaFell, Brian Hoyer
The Bill Belichick-Romeo Crennel factor and how it plays this weekend 12.11.15 at 1:19 pm ET
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Romeo Crennel is calling the defense for the Texans now. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Romeo Crennel is calling the defense for the Texans now. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — There will be no one on the field Sunday night that knows Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel better than Bill Belichick.

That, of course, works the other way, too.

Before Crennel left after the 2004 season to assume head coaching duties with the Browns, Belichick and Crennel worked together for the better part of three decades, starting in 1981 when Crennel worked with Belichick on the New York Giants‘ special teams staff.

“Romeo is a great person, great guy to work with. He and I worked on special teams in New York and then defensively, he was the defensive line coach in 1990, moved up from special teams when Mike Sweatman kind of moved into that role. He did a lot of great things and he was great to work with and we always had a great working relationship. He and Al Groh and I, we were together a lot.”

And winning a lot. Crennel (5) has nearly as many Super Bowl rings as Belichick’s six, including three as Belichick’s defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl wins in 2001, ’03 and ’04.

“He does a great job and I love working with him,” Belichick said. “He’€™s coached linebackers. He’€™s coached special teams. He’€™s coached defensive line. He’€™s been a coordinator. He’€™s been a head coach. He’€™s had a lot of experience. Played for Jerry Glanville at Western Kentucky so little different type of background there but relevant, coached with Coach [Bill] Parcells at Texas Tech and obviously all the NFL stops, so he’€™s got a great background, great work ethic, lot of experience, has got a lot of poise and it’€™s hard to get him really. He stays very poised and composed and at the same time he has a lot of energy. He can really motivate players and teams well. He has a great relationship with the players. [It’€™s] a long, long list of strong points and not too many on the other side of the column.”

Fast forward to Sunday night and Belichick isn’t concerned about Crennel’s resume. He’s more focused on containing Crennel’s defense and figuring a way to keep Tom Brady safe and upright, a key to coming out of Houston with a win.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells, houston texans, j.j. watt
Tom Brady to Vince Wilfork: ‘Take it easy on me this weekend’ 12.10.15 at 7:24 pm ET
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#tbt to a special moment with a great teammate and friend. Take it easy on me this weekend, Vince!

Posted by Tom Brady on Thursday, December 10, 2015

For 11 years, the only time Tom Brady had to worry about Vince Wilfork was in practice.

That changes Sunday night when the nose tackle, in his first year with the Texans, lines up opposite the Patriots quarterback.

Brady, in a “Throwback Thursday” post on Facebook, asked the veteran nose tackle and good friend to “take it easy” on him this weekend.

The request is particularly timely this weekend as Brady has been taking a pounding of late. He’s been hit 32 times in the last three games and sacked eight games.

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