|12.22.14 at 4:14 pm ET|
Here’s what the national pundits were saying about the Patriots before and after their win over the Jets Sunday.
Deion Sanders on NFL Network after the game: “[The Patriots] offensively and defensively, are poised to win it all. They have the quarterback, they have the corners, they have a running game, they have a couple guys that can catch the ball … and there is no answer for [Rob] Gronkowski in the NFL.”
Rodney Harrison on NBC Sports after the game on possible concerns about the Patriots: “If I had one concern about the Patriots, it would be at the strong safety position, and maybe even at the linebacker position, covering tight ends down the field. Patrick Chung gave up a touchdown to an average tight end, and that’s been the theme the entire year.”
Tony Dungy on NFL Network after the game on if the Jets provided a blueprint to beat the Patriots: “The blueprint is, if you can put the pressure on Tom Brady and rush. The Jets do it [with] creative rushes, and they make things uncomfortable.”
Shaun O’Hara on NFL Network before the game on if Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are the greatest coach-quarterback combination in NFL history: “When you look at the way the game has changed now with free agency, with the salary cap implications [and] with the parity that goes on around the league, the fact that they’ve been able to win 12 [division titles] and the consistency that they’ve had up there, yeah absolutely I’ll say that they are.”
|12.22.14 at 3:52 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Despite the fact that if Cincinnati finds a way to beat Denver Monday night — which would clinch the top seed in the AFC for New England — a few of the Patriots said they don’t plan on spending too much time wrapped up in the Bengals-Broncos game.
“I don’t even think I’m watching the game tonight — I’ve actually got a birthday party I’ve got to get to,” confessed running back Brandon Bolden in the locker room Monday afternoon. “Nobody is really talking about it. Everybody is still trying to recover from the Jets game, the war we had yesterday, so I think everybody is going to take the rest of the day to try to just recover.
“If they watch football, they do. But I don’t think anybody is rooting for anybody.”
If Denver beats Cincinnati, that would mean New England’s regular-season finale against the Bills next Sunday at Gillette would still be in play as a meaningful contest as it relates to the playoff chase. As far as tight end Tim Wright is concerned, the focus on Buffalo is the bigger priority for the Patriots.
“It’s going to be a good game,” said Wright when asked about Bengals and Broncos. “[But] we’re not really looking past what has to go on with the Bills — what’s coming up next for us. But it’s going to be a good game for them.
“[We’re] just focused on the Bills.”
|12.22.14 at 3:46 pm ET|
FOXBORO — With the Patriots trailing 13-7 with 6:39 left in the third quarter Sunday against the Jets, and only totaling 61 yards of total offense on their first seven drives, they needed a spark, something to ignite the offense.
The team went to a no-huddle offense on their eighth drive of the game with Shane Vereen at running back, Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright at tight end and Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola as wide receivers. The change up worked as the Patriots gained some momentum by going 81 yards in 13 plays before settling for a 24-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal, cutting the Jets lead to 13-10.
Even though the Patriots didn’t record a touchdown, the change of pace gained the offense some much needed momentum.
“I guess it did. Guys got into a rhythm,” Wright said on Monday. “We’ve got great players in the locker room, great players that can step in and get the job done. I guess once they got the confidence going, it got going well for us.”
On the following Jets possession, Jamie Collins picked off Geno Smith and then the Patriots continued to utilize the up-tempo offense on their eight play, 38-yard drive capped off by a Jonas Gray 1-yard touchdown run less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, which put the Patriots on top, 17-13.
On the two scoring drives in the second half where they primary went no-huddle, the Patriots totaled 119 yards. This is compared to the other nine drives in the game where they totaled only 112.
|12.22.14 at 3:05 pm ET|
The Patriots announced Monday the possibility of Sunday’s game being flexed to a later time because of the NFL’s flex scheduling.
If Denver beats Cincinnati on Monday night, Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game at Gillette Stadium would be moved to 4:25 p.m.. This is because Denver plays at 4:25 p.m. and the two games would have playoff implications. With a win the Patriots would clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but if the Patriots were to lose and Denver were to beat Oakland, Denver would earn the No. 1 seed.
If Cincinnati wins Monday night, the Patriots would clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC and Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game would remain a 1 p.m. game, as it would not have any playoff implications.
The Patriots are currently 12-3 and Denver 11-3, but because the Patriots beat the Broncos earlier in the year, they hold the tiebreaker.
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|12.22.14 at 2:04 pm ET|
One of the immediate takeaways from Sunday’s game was the priority the Patriots put on rotating their offensive linemen in tackle eligible formations. Left tackle Nate Solder covered Marcus Cannon in the first half and even switched over to the right side to cover Sebastian Vollmer on occasion.
On Monday, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was asked when and how he decides when to use an extra offensive lineman as a tight end.
“Each week is a little different based on the matchups,” McDaniels said. “The Jets have a very good front, big guys on the edge plenty of the time, so you just look at what you can do to put your personnel in position to be successful so that you can run effective plays on offense. We’ve used different guys, obviously, throughout the course of the season.
“[Cameron] Fleming has done it. [Josh] Kline has done it. Obviously, Nate [Solder], Marcus [Cannon] has done it at times as well. We felt good about all our tackles that we put in the game, so when Marcus is in there, we have confidence in him, so when Nate goes to the tight end position and Marcus comes in at tackle, we feel like we’ve got good players at a lot of spots. Part of the game plan was to go ahead and do some of that yesterday. We had some mixed results, but some production from it as well.”
When running tackles in and out of the game, the no-huddle and hurry-up offensive formations take a back seat. But in the second half, McDaniels turned more up tempo with a good deal of success.
After the game, Tom Brady was asked why the team doesn’t use hurry-up more often throughout a game when they appear to have so much success with it.
“That’s a good question. I think there are definitely times we do a good job of it,” Brady said. “I don’t know. That’s a good question. We do it at different times and sometimes it works. I don’t know.”
McDaniels was asked about the continuity factor along the offensive line and how much that impacts his play and formation calls, especially when one look is clearly more productive.
“Continuity is definitely important up front,” McDaniels said. “If we felt like the best thing to do is just to stay with status quo the entire game, then we will do that, which we have done that many times in the past. Again, yesterday, there is usually a specific purpose for what you’re doing. You’re not trying to do it just to do it.”
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|12.22.14 at 1:52 pm ET|
Aaron Hernandez appeared in Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River on Monday in one of the final hearings before his trial next month in the killing of Odin Lloyd, and prosecutors said the trial is expected to last 6-10 weeks and include the testimony of about 45 witnesses.
Hernandez, who pleaded not guilty to Lloyd’s 2013 murder as well as the shooting deaths of two men in Boston in 2012, has one more pre-trial hearing scheduled on Jan. 6, three days before jury selection begins.
Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, had a hearing in the same courtroom earlier. She pleaded not guilty to lying before a grand jury that was seeking evidence about Hernandez’s role in the murder.
Hernandez’s attorney, Michael Fee, requested the right to question potential jurors during the selection process in court, but the judge denied it.
|12.22.14 at 1:35 pm ET|
The film confirmed for Bill Belichick what he thought during Sunday’s game against the Jets. The offense wasn’t very good.
But Belichick didn’t single out any particular area, like the offensive line. The Patriots head coach, instead, chose to put everyone in the same boat.
Asked for his assessment of the offensive line’s struggles, he said the problems were more a result of execution than communication, though both played a factor with the absence of starting left guard Dan Connolly to a neck issue. The first example of the execution and communication problems came on the very first drive, when left tackle Nate Solder and Connolly’s first half replacement Josh Kline appeared to miscommunicate on inside and outside responsibilities. The breakdown allowed Calvin Pace to rush outside and David Harris to rush inside, with both getting to Tom Brady.
“I think we had a lot of communication – or I’d say execution issues on offense,” Belichick said in a Monday conference call. “We just didn’t execute very well, I’d say, in any part of the game. All the players were involved, all the coaches were involved. We just didn’t execute very well. We had mistakes everywhere, multiple mistakes everywhere. You could point to any spot and find some because they were everywhere.
“We just have to try to correct them today and move on. But I don’t think there was any one single thing that I would point to. I think it was an accumulation of a lot of lack of execution plays. That being said, there were a lot of times good things that happened on the play, but one part of the play that was poorly executed and I thought we didn’t have much to show for it. But we didn’t execute the passing game very well. We didn’t execute the running game very well, blocking, passing, catching. It was just [that] none of it really was very good.”
Adding to the complexity, the Patriots rotated their line frequently with tackle-eligible formations. In the second half, the Patriots moved Ryan Wendell from right guard over to left guard and moved Marcus Cannon to right guard. Belichick saw some improvement with those changes, as the Patriots put together a fourth quarter go-ahead drive and killed the final five minutes of the game with an effective run game.
“There were times when we were OK, there were times when we weren’t,” Belichick added. “You could put any player’s name into that question offensively and the answer would be the same. We need all of our players to play better. We need our good players to play better. We need to do a better job of coaching. We need to do a lot of things better. Fifty yards of offense in the first half, that’s not going to win many games. We were lucky to even be in the game.”
In a repeat of the Oct. 16 game at Gillette, the Jets were dominating the stats. The Patriots had just 52 total yards on 25 plays while the Jets had 176 yards on 35 plays. Still, the Jets led just 10-7 at the break.
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