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Sterling Moore departs for Dallas

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 30, 2012 09:19 PM

Jordan Woy, the agent for Sterling Moore, has tweeted that Moore is headed to the Cowboys.

A postseason hero for the Patriots in January after breaking up a potential touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Lee Evans in the AFC Championship game, Moore played in the first eight games this season before being released and then re-signed to the New England practice squad.

Though Moore grew up in the California Bay Area, he played college football at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, so this is something of a homecoming for him.

With Dallas taking Moore off the practice squad, he must be on the Cowboys' 53-man roster for at least three weeks.

Week 13: Friday injury report - three declared out

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 30, 2012 04:00 PM

The Patriots have officially declared Chandler Jones, Rob Gronkowski and Logan Mankins out for this Sunday's game in Miami. None of the three practiced this week, so it isn't a surprise that they won't play.

A league source said Jones, who suffered an ankle injury against the Colts, is still in a walking boot.

Fifteen players are listed as questionable, including backup offensive lineman Markus Zuseivcs, who returned to practice today after missing Wednesday and Thursday with an illness.

For the Patriots
Out/Did not participate
TE Rob Gronkowski - forearm/hip
DE Chandler Jones - ankle
G Logan Mankins - ankle/calf

Questionable/Limited participation
DT Ron Brace - elbow
S Patrick Chung - shoulder/hamstring
G Dan Connolly - back
WR Julian Edelman - concussion
TE Aaron Hernandez - ankle
LB Dont'a Hightower - hamstring
WR Brandon Lloyd - knee
DT Kyle Love - knee
OL Nick McDonald - shoulder
WR Matthew Slater - concussion
LB Brandon Spikes - knee
OT Sebastian Vollmer - back/knee
WR Wes Welker - ankle
LB Tracy White - foot
* OT Markus Zusevics - illness

Probable/Full participation
LB Jerod Mayo - elbow

For the Dolphins
Questionable/Limited participation
RB Jovorskie Lane - knee

Full participation
WR Davone Bess - wrist
CB Nolan Carroll - neck
LB Karlos Dansby - biceps
QB Pat Devlin - hip
TE Anthony Fasano - hip
RB Thomas Daniel - knee/ankle
LB Austin Spitler - ankle

Removed from list
S Reshad Jones - thumb

Parcells a semi-finalist for Pro Football Hall of Fame

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 30, 2012 03:18 PM

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the 27 semi-finalists for the 2013 induction class.

Among those on the list is former Patriots, Giants, Jets and Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells. Parcells was one of 10 finalists for the class of 2012, but did not make the final five. Last year was the first year that Parcells was eligible for induction.

However, he did attend the ceremony in Canton last August: former Patriots and Jets running back Curtis Martin asked Parcells, the man who drafted him, to present him for induction.

The next step in the process is for the 44 members of the selection committee (one media member from each NFL city plus 12 at-large media members) to vote by mail ballot to pare the list of 27 to 15 finalists. Then the day before Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans the selection committee will meet to decide the class of 2013. Hall of Fame bylaws stipulate that between four and seven new members will be chosen for induction each year, though there can be no more than five modern-era players or contributors a year; the sixth or seventh member comes if one or both of the Seniors Committee nominees are chosen.

The full list of semi-finalists:

Larry Allen, G/T – 1994-2005 Dallas Cowboys, 2006-07 San Francisco 49ers
Morten Andersen, K – 1982-1994 New Orleans Saints, 1995-2000, 2006-07 Atlanta Falcons, 2001 New York Giants, 2002-03 Kansas City Chiefs, 2004 Minnesota Vikings
Steve Atwater, S – 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets
Jerome Bettis, RB – 1993-95 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 1996-2005 Pittsburgh Steelers
Tim Brown, WR/KR – 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cris Carter, WR – 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles, 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Dolphins
Don Coryell, Coach – 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers
Roger Craig, RB – 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings
Terrell Davis, RB – 1995-2001 Denver Broncos
Edward DeBartolo, Jr., Owner – 1977-2000 San Francisco 49ers
Kevin Greene, LB/DE – 1985-1992 Los Angeles Rams, 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996, 1998-99 Carolina Panthers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers
Charles Haley, DE/LB – 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys
Joe Jacoby, T – 1981-1993 Washington Redskins
Albert Lewis, CB – 1983-1993 Kansas City Chiefs, 1994-98 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders
John Lynch, FS – 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos
Karl Mecklenburg, LB – 1983-1994 Denver Broncos
Art Modell, Owner – 1961-1995 Cleveland Browns, 1996-2011 Baltimore Ravens
Jonathan Ogden, T – 1996-2007 Baltimore Ravens
Bill Parcells, Coach – 1983-1990 New York Giants, 1993-96 New England Patriots, 1997-99 New York Jets, 2003-06 Dallas Cowboys
Andre Reed, WR – 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins
Warren Sapp, DT – 1995-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Oakland Raiders
Will Shields, G – 1993-2006 Kansas City Chiefs
Michael Strahan, DE – 1993-2007 New York Giants
Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner – 1989-2006 National Football League
Steve Tasker, ST/WR – 1985-86 Houston Oilers, 1986-1997 Buffalo Bills
Aeneas Williams, CB/S – 1991-2000 Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals, 2001-04 St. Louis Rams
George Young, Contributor – 1968-1974 Baltimore Colts, 1975-78 Miami Dolphins, 1979-1997 New York Giants, 1998-2001 National Football League

Edelman: I'm feeling better

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff November 30, 2012 02:29 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- Julian Edelman has been on quite a roll for the Patriots recently. He followed up a career-best 222 all-purpose yards against the Colts (scoring two touchdowns) with two more touchdowns in a Thanksgiving win over the Jets.

But Edelman was also knocked out of the Jets game early in the third quarter when he received a helmet-to-helmet hit on an end-around rushing attempt, fumbling the ball in the process. He's been limited in practice this week, listed on the injury report with a concussion, but said after Friday's workout that he's optimistic he'll be able to play on Sunday at Miami.

"I’m feeling a day better than yesterday, so we’ll see how I feel tomorrow," Edelman said. "I’m sure the longer layoff helped everyone. Any time you get a couple extra days for rest, mentally, physically, it’s always nice."

Edelman didn't want to talk about the hit that knocked him from the Jets game -- "That's in the past, that was the last game. I’m more focused on the Miami Dolphins and executing my assignments this week" -- but was busy on Friday making sure he had the right cleat spikes for Sun Life Stadium, where temperatures are expected to be nearing 80, quite a bit higher than we've had here.

"It’s definitely going to be a different climate for us. Personally, I like playing in warmer weather," said Edelman, who has five touchdowns on the season, third-most on the team. "We’re not going to be accustomed to it, so they’re going to have a competitive advantage of playing in it. We’re going to have to adjust, adapt, and overcome."

Edelman was preparing to watch his alma mater, Kent State, play in Friday night's Mid-American Conference championship game, but was very mindful of Sunday, and what a win would bring. Beating the Dolphins gives the Patriots their fourth straight AFC East division title. Or one for every year Edelman has been with the team.

"It would be a lie to say no," Edelman said, when asked if he was thinking about the game's possible signficance, "but we’ve got to go out there like it’s any other week, regardless of what’s behind it, and do what we have to do."

Friday roll call: Mankins, Jones not spotted at practice

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff November 30, 2012 11:48 AM
FOXBOROUGH -- Guard Logan Mankins, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and defensive end Chandler Jones were not spotted at Friday's Patriots practice, which headed indoors inside the bubble as the team prepared for Sunday's game in Miami.

Assuming Mankins (ankle/calf) and Jones (ankle) don't practice today, it means they will have missed all week, leaving them out for Sunday's game with the Dolphins. Gronkowski, who broke his forearm Nov. 18, isn't expected back for a few more weeks, at the earliest.

Offensive lineman Markus Zusevics returned after missing Wednesday and Thursday with an illness.

Bill Belichick: Dolphins defense is a lot to get ready for

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff November 30, 2012 11:33 AM
FOXBOROUGH -- Patriots coach Bill Belichick was bundled up in a heavy jacket before Friday's practice, but the team was going to spend its final on-field preparation day for Sunday's game at Miami inside the heated bubble.

The Patriots were outside for practices on Wednesday and Thursday, with the temperatures in the low to mid 30s. Sunday's forecast in Miami is for a high of 78 with a 30 percent chance of rain. Does it help, then, to get out of the cold and practice in a hotter environment, if that's what you'll encounter on Sunday?

"I think it helps when you have a good team and you play well. That helps," Belichick said. "We’ve been out on the grass for a couple days, today is a good concentration day."

They'll face a Dolphins team on Sunday trying to stave off elimination in the AFC East race. A Patriots victory gives them their fourth straight division title.

The Dolphins feature a rookie quarterback (Ryan Tannehill) and dangerous skill players at running back (Reggie Bush) and receiver (Davone Bess). But Belichick was asked about Miami's defense, and any similarities he sees.

"I think their defensive style is similar to what the Bengals did," he said. "Quite a bit of secondary pressure, corners, safeties. They keep it moving. It’s a lot to get ready for."

Week 13: Thursday injury/participation report - four missing, 14 limited

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 29, 2012 04:54 PM

Offensive linemen Dan Connolly (back) and Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee) returned to practice on Thursday for the Patriots, but Chandler Jones (ankle) was again among those missing.

For the Patriots
Did not participate
TE Rob Gronkowski - forearm/hip
DE Chandler Jones - ankle
G Logan Mankins - ankle/calf
OT Markus Zusevics - illness

Limited participation
DT Ron Brace - elbow
S Patrick Chung - shoulder/hamstring
* G Dan Connolly - back
WR Julian Edelman - concussion
TE Aaron Hernandez - ankle
LB Dont'a Hightower - hamstring
WR Brandon Lloyd - knee
DT Kyle Love - knee
OL Nick McDonald - shoulder
WR Matthew Slater - concussion
LB Brandon Spikes - knee
* OT Sebastian Vollmer - back/knee
WR Wes Welker - ankle
LB Tracy White - foot

Full participation
LB Jerod Mayo - elbow

For the Dolphins
Limited participation
TE Anthony Fasano - hip
* RB Jovorskie Lane - knee
LB Austin Spitler - ankle

Full participation
WR Davone Bess - wrist
CB Nolan Carroll - neck
LB Karlos Dansby - biceps
QB Pat Devlin - hip
S Reshad Jones - thumb
RB Thomas Daniel - knee/ankle

* - change in status from Wednesday's report

Thursday roll call: Vollmer, Connolly back at practice

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff November 29, 2012 01:23 PM
FOXBOROUGH -- The right side of the Patriots' offensive line received a boost on Thursday, with guard Dan Connolly and tackle Sebastian Vollmer returning to practice.

Vollmer sat out last Thursday's game against the Jets with back and knee injuries, and also missed Wednesday's practice. Connolly played in the Jets game, but also missed Wednesday's practice with a back injury.

Four players were not spotted as the Patriots worked on the lower practice field in sweats and shells on a cold, windy day: offensive linemen Logan Mankins (ankle/calf) and Markus Zusevics (illness), tight end Rob Gronkowski (forearm), and defensive end Chandler Jones (ankle).

Game 12 preview: Plenty at stake for Patriots and Dolphins

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff November 29, 2012 01:05 PM
These aren't Don Shula's Miami Dolphins just yet. But they're not Tony Sparano's bumbling bunch either.

Head coach Joe Philbin has the new-look Dolphins (5-6) in the hunt for a playoff spot, led by explosive running back Reggie Bush and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill on offense and a defense that's played tough when it's had to this season.

With a win in Miami, the Patriots (8-3) can clinch a 10th AFC East title in the Bill Belichick era and keep their hopes alive for a first-round bye in the postseason and a possible home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Overall, the Patriots are 14-33 (.298) all-time in Miami, but they've won eight of the last 10 games against the Dolphins, including a sweep in the two meetings in 2010 and 2011. New England owns an NFL-best 41-5 record in the month of December since the 2001 season and is 19-0 in the second half of the season since 2010.

The Patriots have scored 190 points in the last four games (49, 52, 37, and 45). Miami has scored just one touchdown in its last 10 quarters. The Dolphins rank 26th in scoring.

In this week's preview video above, the Globe's Shalise Manza Young gives us her keys to the Week 13 showdown between the AFC contenders and looks into the Dolphins matchups with New England wide receiver Wes Welker and running back Stevan Ridley.

In nine career games against the Dolphins, Wes Welker has caught 75 passes for 981 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 8.3 catches and 109 receiving yards per game against his former club. Those averages are the best against any team Welker has faced more than once in his career.

Ridley needs 61 yards rushing to become the 12th Patriots player to gain 1,000 yards on the ground in a season.

"It's a different scheme than what they've done in the past," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said regarding the Dolphins defense. "So I think part of what we've done the last three or four days is to understand what they do and how they do it, when they do well, why things are going well for them, and vice-versa, so it's definitely a challenging scheme."

Patriots defenders Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty weigh in on the Patriots' staggering success in the turnover department. The Dolphins are minus-10 in turnover differential for the season, while the Patriots are a spectacular plus-24 on the season. We also hear from Pats wide receiver Brandon Lloyd on his approach to this weekend's game with an AFC East title within reach.

Inside the Playbook: Stopping Reggie Bush

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff November 29, 2012 11:51 AM

Globe NFL reporter Greg A. Bedard and former Patriots tight end Jermaine Wiggins analyze the Patriots' options for defending Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush in Sunday's game in Florida.

Watch: Patriots midweek report

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff November 28, 2012 05:35 PM




Michael Vega has the latest from Foxborough as the Patriots turn their attention toward the Dolphins for the first of two games they'll play against their AFC East rival in December.

New England ties apparent on Dolphins coach Joe Philbin's staff

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff November 28, 2012 05:28 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- The ties to New England are unmistakable if not unbreakable for Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. A native of Springfield, Philbin attended Worcester Academy and began his coaching career as an offensive line coach at Worcester Tech in 1986.

After leaving the area to work as offensive coordinator/line coach at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., from 1990-93, then offensive line coach at Ohio University in 1994, Philbin returned home to New England.

Out of work following Ohio's 0-11 season in '94, Philbin credited Barry Gallup, then Northeastern’s athletic director and football coach, for giving him a big break when Gallup hired him as the Huskies’ offensive coordinator and line coach in 1995.

"Barry Gallup, who is the associate AD at Boston College, was nice enough to give me a job when I was unemployed after going to Ohio University and we went a glamorous 0 for 11 and didn’t have any job,’’ Philbin recalled Wednesday in a conference call with the New England media in advance of Sunday’s game against the Patriots.

"I had four children and my wife was pregnant, and Barry was good enough to give me a job,’’ Philbin said. "I loved coaching every minute there and I was the offensive coordinator and Barry was excellent to work for.

"We had a winning season [6-5] -- the first time I think they ever had one there in the Yankee Conference -- in 1996, I want to say.’’

That led to another job opportunity, a similar role, at Harvard, where he spent two seasons on Tim Murphy’s staff, 1997-98.

"I was fortunate that I used to drive by Harvard every single day going to work at Northeastern and so I cut my commute down about 10 minutes,’’ Philbin said. "Tim Murphy’s done a fantastic job there as you guys know, excellent coach and the program that he has there. I really enjoyed that experience there as well.’’

His strong ties to the area help explain why Philbin turned to coaches with whom he worked at NU and Harvard to help fill his staff with the Dolphins.

He hired Jim Turner, a Braintree native and former Boston College standout who worked alongside Philbin at NU, to coach the Dolphins’ offensive line, and Lou Anarumo, a former Harvard assistant head coach during Philbin’s tenure with the Crimson, as defensive backs coach.

For coordinators, Philbin turned to Mike Sherman, the former Green Bay Packers and Texas A&M head coach from Norwood, as his offensive coordinator, and Kevin Coyle, the former Holy Cross defensive coordinator with whom Philbin became acquainted while working at the Crusaders’ football camp, to be defensive coordinator.

"We’ve got quite a few guys from the region no doubt about it,’’ Philbin said. "When I was fortunate to get this job, I knew it was going to be important to hire, No. 1, excellent coaches, but, No. 2, people I could have total trust and faith in and guys who were loyal.

"That’s the first and foremost thing, and I’m delighted about having [Sherman and Coyle] as the coordinators,’’ Philbin said. "Obviously both of them have double-digit years of experience in the NFL.

"Mike’s been a proven head coach and a great resource to have. And Kevin is a dedicated professional and made a nice contribution in 11 years in Cincinnati, an unselfish guy and a real pro. So to have both those guys on the staff, I feel very fortunate.’’

Week 13: Wednesday injury/participation report

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 28, 2012 04:46 PM

Six Patriots players did not practice today, including Chandler Jones, who continues to be out with an ankle injury suffered against the Colts, and both right guard Dan Connolly and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer.

New England had a full-pads practice today.

For the Patriots
Did not participate
G Dan Connolly - back
TE Rob Gronkowski - forearm/hip
DE Chandler Jones - ankle
G Logan Mankins - ankle/calf
OT Sebastian Vollmer - back/knee
OT Markus Zusevics - illness

Limited participation
DT Ron Brace - elbow
S Patrick Chung - shoulder/hamstring
WR Julian Edelman - concussion
TE Aaron Hernandez - ankle
LB Dont'a Hightower - hamstring
WR Brandon Lloyd - knee
DT Kyle Love - knee
OL Nick McDonald - shoulder
WR Matthew Slater - concussion
LB Brandon Spikes - knee
WR Wes Welker - ankle
LB Tracy White - foot

Full participation
LB Jerod Mayo - elbow

For the Dolphins
Did not participate
RB Jovorskie Lane - knee

Limited participation
TE Anthony Fasano - hip
LB Austin Spitler - ankle

Full participation
WR Davone Bess - wrist
CB Nolan Carroll - neck
LB Karlos Dansby - biceps
QB Pat Devlin - hip
S Reshad Jones - thumb
RB Thomas Daniel - knee/ankle

Belichick talks Dolphins

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 28, 2012 01:12 PM
Before heading out to a chilly practice, Patriots coach Bill Belichick met with media to talk about Sunday's game against the Dolphins:

On receiver Davone Bess:
He's quick, he's got good speed, good hands, he's a smart route-runner, has explosive one-step quickness, he's strong. He's tough after the catch. He's obviously smart (because) he does a lot of different things, crossing routes, options routes, things like that.

On the slot receiver position and how it differs from boundary receiver:
It's a different world out there. There's a lot more people involved: linebackers, safeties...and it's really important that the receiver and the quarterback see things exactly the same, when to slow down, when to speed up. It takes some work and the visual communication between those two players is more difficult; there are more variables inside, especially when you get to option routes. I think it takes a lot to play that position.

On Miami RB Reggie Bush and the challenge he presents:
"He's a dynamic player; you have to know where he is on every play. He can get the ball in a lot of different ways. He has good strength for his size, he's not a fullback, but he runs with good power for his size. He can run through tackles, he can run around them, sort of like (Buffalo's C.J.) Spiller. You've got to know where he is, there's no question.

On whether he'll talk with the team about wrapping up the AFC East title this week:
It is what it is. We all know that the fewer games there are, the more important they become. Each one gets bigger - 16 games is 16 games, but now there's five games left. I'm sure they'll get bigger each week as we go. We know it's a big game. Miami knows it's a big game.

On Miami center Mike Pouncey:
He's good. Very good. Strong - he's a 300-pound guy but he plays stronger than that; he has good playing strength, good hand strength, good punch, he's athletic....He's a good finisher, his shotgun snaps have improved. He's one of the best centers in the league - him, (the Jets' Nick) Mangold, they're probably the best we'll face. (Buffalo's Eric) Wood is another good center in this division.

Patriots promote Develin, bring back Ebert

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 28, 2012 12:59 PM
The Patriots have announced two roster moves:

FB James Develin has been promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster (he takes the spot that opened by Jermaine Cunningham's PED suspension). A defensive lineman at Brown, Develin has since made himself into a fullback. He was with the Bengals last year, and was among their final cuts in September. He was signed to New England's practice squad shortly after his release.

The Patriots have also brought back WR Jeremy Ebert, one of their seventh-round draft picks. Ebert is on the practice squad.

Edelman back in action at Patriots practice

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff November 28, 2012 12:34 PM

FOXBOROUGH --- The Patriots conducted their first practice of the week -- in full pads -- in preparation for Sunday's road game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium.

Wide receiver Julian Edelman, who suffered a head injury and was forced to leave the second half of last Thursday's 49-19 romp against the Jets in New York, was present during the media-access portion of practice, according to Globe colleague Michael Whitmer.

Missing from Wednesday's workout at the upper fields behind Gillette Stadium were offensive linemen Dan Connolly, Markus Zusevics, Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer. Also absent were tight end Rob Gronkowski and defensive end Chandler Jones.

Jeremy Ebert, a wide receiver who was recently signed to the practice squad, was present for his first practice with the Patriots. He wore No. 17.

Brady: Dolphins 'present plenty of challenges'

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff November 28, 2012 12:04 PM




FOXBOROUGH -- It's hard to argue with the roll the Patriots are on: a five-game winning streak in which they've scored 29, 45, 37, 59, and 49 points, an average of 43.8 per game. The team boasts the league's top-rated offense, and also leads in turnover margin.

All of those are positive marks 11 games into a 16-game season. But to hear quarterback Tom Brady tell it, those numbers don't mean a thing.

"I think we have [clicked], we have done that, but we’ve got to continue to do it, that’s the important thing," Brady said on Wednesday morning. "Last week’s game is going to have no bearing on this week’s game, that’s not the way football works. Whether you win or lose, you have to put the previous week’s game behind you and move on.

"It’s kind of a week-to-week thing. I think last week we played well, hopefully we play well this week, but I don’t think that you can just assume that we’ll play well next week. I think we have to go out and prove it: Go through our week of practice, try to execute well in practice, so that leads to confidence and anticipation going into the game."

Next up for Brady and the Patriots is Sunday's 1 p.m. game in Florida against the Miami Dolphins, the first of two meetings for the teams in a five-week span. A win over the 5-6 Dolphins would give the Patriots (8-3) the AFC East division title, which would be their fourth straight and ninth in 10 years. The only team other than the Patriots to win the division since 2002? Miami, in 2008.

Games that provide hat and t-shirt opportunities are held in high regard around these parts, so the Dolphins certainly have the Patriots' attention, especially after last week's win over Seattle, the last team to beat New England.

"There’s always motivation for us to go out there and win," Brady said. "[We] haven’t played these guys all season, it’s the first time getting a shot at them. They won last week against Seattle, so hopefully we go play well. We’ve been playing well, but we lost to Seattle. They present plenty of challenges for us, they’ve beat some pretty good teams."

His name hasn't been mentioned in MVP discussions, but Brady is having one of his better seasons statistically: he's completing 65 percent of his passes, has thrown for 3,299 yards and 24 touchdowns, with a passer rating of 105.0 and only three interceptions. It's not about individual numbers to Brady, though. That would be selfish.

"I think that’s being part of a team, and being part of our organization. It’s being unselfish and doing what’s best for the team, always," he said. "It’s not what’s best for the individual player or for the individual position, it’s how we’re going to score the most points and doing what our job is. If your job is to run through the defense and clear out for another player, then you do that as best you can.

"We’ve always found guys to be able to do those things. It’s not about rushing yards or passing yards or receiving touchdowns, it’s about winning games, that’s most important."

Inside the Playbook: Examining the turnover formation

Posted by Robert Burgess November 27, 2012 04:10 PM

Globe national football writer Greg Bedard and Jermaine Wiggins take a look at the Patriots' robber formation, which is causing turnovers.

Patriots assistant Scott O'Brien talks special teams

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff November 27, 2012 02:14 PM


By Michael Whitmer, Globe Staff


Scott O'Brien made a guest appearance on the Patriots' weekly coaches' teleconference, and the topic at hand had everything to do with special teams, which is O'Brien's specialty. He has overseen a unit this season that has returned a kickoff for a touchdown, returned a punt for a touchdown, and just last week against the Jets forced a fumble on a kickoff, which was scooped up and also brought back for a touchdown.

But it also was on a seemingly meaningless special teams play -- a point-after attempt against the Colts -- that star tight end Rob Gronkowski broke his left forearm, an injury that will sideline him for at least a few more weeks.

Why, O'Brien was asked, was Gronkowski even in the game on special teams?

"Bill [Belichick's] philosophy has always been to have players on the team fulfill roles. You need them, you look for that," O'Brien said. "We have specific roles with every phase that we deal with, and we’re committed to playing the best players at the position on every phase that we do have.

"Whether it’s the hands team, where you have starting wide receivers, or the kickoff coverage team, where maybe you have a starting safety. We really want our role players and our backup players to be the core of our special teams, that’s what we try to build, but we’re always trying to put the best players out there, because you have to play 11 players, and we’re trying to put what we think are the 11 best players out there at one time, and then kind of go from there."

Devin McCourty is responsible for the kickoff-return score, and Julian Edelman sparked the home win over the Colts by bringing a second-quarter punt all the way back. Edelman also scored the special teams touchdown against the Jets, catching a fumble that was caused by McCourty.

"I think anytime you can contribute with big plays or put points on the board for your team it’s a credit to the players on the field, what our goals are every week that we try to accomplish and to see them fulfill it is obviously gratifying to me," O'Brien said. "It’s good to see them have success because they’ve worked so hard all year."

Belichick on suspensions

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff November 27, 2012 01:38 PM

For the second time in less than three weeks, Patriots coach Bill Belichick found himself fielding questions on one of his players being suspended by the NFL for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Neither suspension, Belichick said, had to happen.

The NFL announced Monday that defensive end Jermaine Cunningham was to immediately begin serving a four-game suspension. Running back Brandon Bolden has been out since Nov. 9, and is eligible to return next week. The league does not specify what substance triggers the discipline.

"Those situations are unfortunate," Belichick said Tuesday on his weekly teleconference. "Neither one of them needed to happen, they weren’t that important, but they were violations, so they are what they are."

Belichick was asked if, as a result of Bolden's suspension earlier this month, he discussed the issue with the team.

"I address the team every day, we talk to them on a regular basis," Belichick said. "Unfortunately sometimes on these things people make mistakes, but everybody is accountable for them."

Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, following Belichick on the same conference call, talked about losing a defensive regular. Cunningham played in 62 of the team's 69 defensive snaps against the Jets on Thanksgiving night, and has two fumble recoveries and 2 1/2 sacks among his 24 tackles this season.

"Obviously it’s an unfortunate situation for Jermaine, but our main focus is really trying to move forward, put our pieces together defensively," Patricia said. "Like we do every week, when the parts do change, whatever the situation may be, we just adapt to them and move ahead. That’s what we’re focused on right now."

WR Salas claimed by Eagles

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 23, 2012 05:40 PM

The Patriots released receiver Greg Salas on Thursday in order to activate offensive lineman Markus Zusevics.

On Friday evening the Eagles announced that they had claimed the second-year receiver off waivers. A league source said that the Jets also put in a claim for Salas, but he was granted to Philadelphia because the Eagles have a worse record (3-7) than New York (4-7).

Salas was drafted by the Rams last year, where he was coached by Josh McDaniels; with McDaniels coming back to New England, the Patriots traded for Salas to reunite coach and player. He was released after the second regular-season game and re-signed to the practice squad, where he remained before being promoted to the 53-man roster before the Colts game.

While he was on practice squad, the Patriots were paying Salas well above the usual rate for practice squad players, which was assumed to be a sign that the team wanted to keep him around.

Arrington fined for hit on Luck

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 23, 2012 04:19 PM

The NFL has fined Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington $21,000 for unnecessary roughness against the Colts.

Arrington made helmet-to-helmet contact with Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck during the second half of New England's win, though there was no flag thrown on the play.

Jerod Mayo, who was flagged in the third quarter for roughing the passer, was not fined.

Dominant two games from Wilfork

Posted by Greg A. Bedard November 23, 2012 01:06 AM

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- He was only credited with three tackles on the official statistics, but Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork had his second straight dominating game in the Patriots' 49-19 victory.

Wilfork fought double teams on third and fourth down as the Jets were stopped by Jerod Mayo in Patriots territory when the score was 7-0.

Wilfork shoved guard Brandon Moore into Sanchez to cause a fumble that was returned for a touchdown to make it 21-0.

Wilfork drew a double team that freed Mayo on his sack to end the next drive.

Wilfork tossed right tackle Austin Howard like a rag doll to stop Bilal Powell for no gain after the two-minute warning.

And, finally, when the Jets had fourth and goal at the Patriots’ 1-yard line early in the third quarter, Wilfork busted through the gap Shonn Greene wanted to run through. That forced Greene back to the middle where Brandon Spikes stopped him for no gain.

“Very unselfish,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “We play him in different positions, where we feel like he’s maybe the most needed, not necessarily where it’s going to feature him or give him a great opportunity to make plays. But a lot of times it is to eat up blockers or try to disrupt plays.

“He’s an explosive guy that’s got very good football instincts. He knows where the ball is, he knows what they’re trying to do. He really responded to a lot of the different challenges or positions that we put him in. He’s done a very unselfish job and been very productive.”

Wilfork also dominated against the Colts, forcing a bad throw on the interception returned for a touchdown by Aqib Talib, batting down two passes, and wrecking several Colts running plays.

The uptick in Wilfork's play just happened to coincide with the article from ProFootballFocus.com, published two days before the Colts game, titled, "What's wrong with Vince Wilfork?"

Yes, Wilfork's wife Bianca brought it to his attention.

“I work my tail off,” Wilfork said after his press conference. “I do everything that I’ve been doing. You’re going to always have people saying some things. But I try not to pay attention to that.

“She told me about it. I think it irritated her more than it did me. I looked at it and I was like, ‘It is what it is.’ I’m going to keep doing my thing.”

More on Wilfork from me in Friday's paper.

Tom Brady: Defense, special teams huge

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff November 23, 2012 12:54 AM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N. J – It was a typical, masterfully efficient Tom Brady performance in last night’s 49-19 annihilation of the Jets, (18 of 28, 323 yards, three TDs and no interceptions) and as usual the Patriots’ quarterback was quick to dish the credit.

“The scoring plays on defense and special teams were huge,’’ Brady said, lauding the two fumble returns for touchdowns in a span of nine seconds by Steve Gregory (32 yards) and Julian Edelman (22 yards off Joe McKnight’s fumble on the ensuing kickoff. “Anytime you get one of those…we got two of them, three last week [in the rout of the the Colts]. It’s a great job on a short week against a team that knows us well. We played four good quarters.’’

Just 43 seconds before Gregory’s pick-six, Brady had hooked up with Shane Vereen for an 83-yard score that lifted New England to a 14-0 lead.

“He had a wheel route,’’ Brady said. “They carried Wes [Welker] and Brandon [Lloyd] on the outside, they just carried them up the field, and there was a lot of space, and once I threw it to him, he’s so fast, he can outrun those guys. He took it up the sideline and it was nice to see the back of his jersey.’’

Brady ended his two-minute drill with the media with a salute to coach Bill Belichick, who recorded his 200th career win (200-107-0).

“There’s no coach I’d ever want to play for than him,’’ said Brady, who has heard the coach echo a similar refrain about his quarterback. “He’s so consistent, as players, I think we really appreciate him. Even though he’s tough and he’s disciplined, that’s what we need. That’s how our program’s run. He expects us to play at a high level every week. He has high expectations in practice every day, and that’s what you look for in a coach -- someone who gets the best out of the guys he coaches, and he certainly does that.’’

Shane Vereen's catch-and-run one of many highlights in Patriots romp

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff November 23, 2012 12:46 AM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Running back Shane Vereen did his part to make up for the absence of Rob Gronkowski in the Patriots passing game.

Vereen caught a swing pass from Tom Brady near the left sideline, then sprinted 75 yards to the end zone. It was an 83-yard play that put the Patriots up 14-0 in the second quarter. Vereen was wide open when he caught the pass from Brady after another Jets defensive miscue.

"I was a little surprised," Vereen said after the game. "I thought the cornerback was on me, but the receivers ran (the coverage) off and I was able to finish the play. As soon as I turned, the ball was on me.

"I think it was a great play call. It was a swing pass and I caught the ball and I finished it off for the team... Tom [Brady] just does a great job going through his reads and he just found me

On the Patriots scoring three touchdowns in 52 seconds: "I've never seen it personally," Vereen said. "But, that's what happens when you play hard.

"Starting fast was huge for us and we were able to come out and put some drives together and the defense did a great job at turning the ball over and giving us more opportunities."

Vereen finished with 10 carries for 42 yards and had another 91 yards receiving via two receptions.

Watch: Patriots-Jets highlights

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff November 23, 2012 12:32 AM
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Take a look at the highlights from the Patriots' 49-19 victory over the Jets on Thursday, featuring a 35-point second quarter. (Hint: the second-quarter highlights begin around the 22-second mark).

Steve Gregory: 'We were real physical... trying to cause chaos out there'

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff November 23, 2012 12:29 AM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It was quite the Thanksgiving homecoming for Curtis High School in Staten Island football product Steve Gregory, who had a big night at MetLife Stadium helping the Patriots to wallop the New York Jets 49-19.

"It was a good one for me today," Gregory said from the locker room. "Some of that stuff is just the ball popping out, you being in the right place at the right time. It was a team effort. The guys did a great job up front, getting pressure on the quarterback and really hitting those guys. We were real physical tonight. I think it helped out.

"It was just a matter of us being aggressive, just going out and hitting guys and trying to really just cause chaos out there."

The Patriots' safety intercepted a pass from Jets QB Mark Sanchez to set up the first touchdown of the game. Gregory then forced a fumble on a Jets’ fourth-and-one play that set up another Patriots TD that made it 14-0. Then he recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown and 21-0 Patriot lead.

"That was a lot of points in a short period of time," Gregory said. "I think that really set the momentum for the game, it kind of turned things into a lopsided game there. They're a good football team, but I think we're a little better this year. We're excited about what we did today.

For his standout performance, Gregory was named the Madden Thanksgiving Player of the Game, along with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.

Survey: Who gets game ball vs. Jets?

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff November 22, 2012 11:12 PM

The Patriots played another one of those games that produced a slew of good choices for the game ball.

Cast your votes below.


Which Patriot deserves the game ball for the win over the Jets?

Final: Patriots 49, Jets 19

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff November 22, 2012 10:10 PM

They don't need no stinkin' Gronk. At least tonight they didn't.

It was a Thanksgiving night blowout in the Meadowlands as the Patriots crushed the Jets 49-19 at MetLife Stadium.

The Patriots passing game got off to a slow start without Gronkowski in the mix, but the offense turned it on in the second quarter and the Jets did their part to hurt themselves along the way with five turnovers on the night.

This game was essentially over at halftime when the score was already 35-3 in favor of the Patriots.

After a scoreless first quarter, Brady found wide receiver Wes Welker wide open in the corner of the end zone for a three-yard touchdown to get on the board.

Another defensive breakdown for the Jets led to the Patriots second score as no one was within 10 yards of running back Shane Vereen on a sideline pass and the Vereen scrambled 83 yards down the sideline for the score.

A broken play resulted in another second quarter touchdown for New England as Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez ran right into the back of Jets lineman Brandon Moore and coughed up the ball in the process. Patriots safety Steve Gregory picked up the loose ball and scrambled into the end zone.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Jets' Joe McKnight fumbled and Julian Edelman picked up the loose ball and scored another New England touchdown.

Then came the back-breaker as Brady found Julian Edelman wide open on another coverage breakdown by the Jets. Edelman scrambled 56 yards down the left sideline for the Patriots fifth touchdown of the half.

---

Live blog recap:

Patriots 49, Jets 12: 2:21, 4th quarter Garbage time touchdown for the Jets as Sanchez connected with tight end Dustin Keller on a one-yard TD pass. The scoring drive was 80 yards, in 6 plays. This just in: Ryan Mallett into the game to replace Tom Brady.

4:01, 4th quarter In case you were wondering, Tim Tebow has injured ribs and was not a viable option for the Jets much to the chagrin of Fireman Ed and Co. Jets have the ball back as nearly everyone is just waiting for the final bell in this knockout.

9:36, 4th quarter The Jets wasted no time in punting the ball back to New England. Tom Brady is still in there and now the Patriots look to be trying to run the game out. 455 total yards of offense tonight for New England. Four turnovers on defense and one on special teams sealed the deal early on this one.

Patriots 49, Jets 12: 11:45, 4th quarter Same old Jets. Fumble by Chaz Schilens, after being hit by Alfonzo Dennard on the kickoff, was recovered by who else but Rob Ninkovich. 38 seconds later Ridley walked into the end zone for another Patriots TD. There are less than 10,000 people left in the stadium.

Patriots 42, Jets 12: 12:02, 4th quarter Tom Brady punches it in from the one yard line for another Patriots touchdown. The drive was 87 yards in 17 plays eating 7:39 off the clock. Aaron Hernandez was called for offensive pass interference in the end zone on the drive but it didn't matter as the Patriots grinded their way in. Injury update: Edelman is out for the game with a head injury.

0:00, 3d quarter The Patriots air show is back in swing as Brady hit tight end Daniel Fells for 24 yards and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd for nine yards as the Patriots are inside the Jets 35.

Patriots 35, Jets 12: 5:59, 3d quarter Jets RB Bilal Powell busts in for the touchdown from the four yard line. Play of the night for Sanchez was a 39 yard pass to Jeff Cumberland in which Dont'a Hightower never turned back to see the ball as Cumberland ran past him. Jets scoring drive: 71 yards on four plays.

Patriots 35, Jets 5: 6:47, 3d quarter Well that's one way to score. Jets get 2 on the safety after Stevan Ridley was called for a chop block in the end zone. Jets will get the ball back.

6:52, 3d quarter Jets can't do anything right tonight. Shonn Greene stuffed by Brandon Spikes on fourth down at the one foot line. The Patriots take over. Stop me if you've heard this, but more fans are flocking to the exits. Injury update: Julian Edelman's return questionable with a head injury.

8:43, 3d quarter Jets in the red zone as they find some magic in the connection between Sanchez and tight end Dustin Keller. Keller fumbled on his last reception but Stephen Hill recovered it and the drive continues. Injury update: Jets wide receiver Clyde Gates is out of the game with a head injury.

10:34, 3d quarter The Patriots tried to get fancy with an end around pitch to Edelman but he was laid out on a helmet-to-helmet hit by LaRon Landry and fumbled the ball back to New York.

12:42, 3d quarter The Jets had the ball to start to the second half... but that didn't last long as they stalled after getting a first down and the Patriots offense is ready to go to work from their own 25 after the punt. Jets fans continue to flow toward the exits here. And the boos are growing louder from those that remain.

Patriots 35, Jets 3: halftime The Jets are on the scoreboard. Nick Folk kicked a 32-yard field goal after the Jets looked like they'd march into the end zone. The refs had trouble getting the ball down after a 4th-down completion to Hill and Sanchez found himself with just :07 seconds left after spiking the ball. The fans first mock cheered the field goal then after the kickoff they lustily booed the Jets as they headed to the locker room down by 32 points. Jets RB Joe McKnight was seen getting in Julian Edelman's face as the second quarter ended. Stay tuned for Greg Bedard's halftime analysis coming up... along with Lenny Kravitz.

1:17, 2d quarter Don't look now but Stephen Hill just caught his first pass in three weeks and the Jets are moving down the field into Patriots territory.

2:00, 2d quarter Wondering if the Jets had their turkey right before the game and the tryptophan started kicking in early, forcing them to nap on the field. More fans heading toward the exits at the two minute warning. A large Patriots fan with a Gronkowski jersey was just tossed out for acting up in the stands. He gave the salute the Jets loyalists on his way out the door.

Patriots 35, Jets 0: 3:08, 2d quarter Julian Edelman WIDE OPEN on the left sideline as LaRon Landry blew the coverage one play after stuffing Stevan Ridley and Brady hits the wide receiver for the Patriots fifth touchdown of the half. Another coverage breakdown for the Jets defense. Scoring drive: 73 yards, 4 plays, in 1:53.

5:01, 2d quarter Flo Rida's "I cry just a little" belting over the speakers here. No signs of tears in Rex Ryan's eyes just yet...

5:01, 2d quarter They're calling for Tim Tebow here in East Rutherford as it's been a disastrous first have for Gang Green. The lastest debacle for NY saw Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo rush Sanchez untouched for the sack on a third down play. Ball back in Brady's hands.

7:42, 2d quarter The Jets have to take to the air if they hope to get back into this game. The boo birds are out at MetLife because the men in green have been playing like turkeys since the opening bell. Jets moving near midfield.

Patriots 28, Jets 0: 8:51, 2d quarter It's become a comedy of errors for the Jets as Joe McKnight coughed up the kickoff and Julian Edelman picked up the loose ball and scored another New England touchdown. Immediately after the score, some Jets fans were seen hitting the exits early.

Patriots 21, Jets 0: 9:00, 2d quarter A broken play results in another TD for New England as Mark Sanchez ran right into the back of Jets lineman Brandon Moore and coughed up the ball in the process. Star of the game thus far Steve Gregory picked up the loose ball and scrambled into the end zone. That was the 10th fumble of the season for Sanchez.

Patriots 14, Jets 0: 9:43, 2d quarter A defensive meltdown for the Jets as no one was within 10 yards of Shane Vereen on the outside and the Patriots back took the pass and scrambled 83 yards down the sideline for the score. One play, 13 seconds on the drive.

9:56, 2d quarter The Jets go for it on fourth-and-one but Shonn Green was stuffed by Jerod Mayo and then fumbled the ball and Steve Gregory recovered for the Patriots. The Jets were grinding away with the running game as Bilal Powell led the way, but the drive stalled deep in Patriots territory and Rex Ryan's decision to go for it backfired.

Patriots 7, Jets 0: 14:54, 2d quarter Brady finds Welker wide open in the end zone. Jets cornerback Ellis Lankster looked confused on the play as Welker was left alone in the corner of the endzone for the 3-yard TD pass. The drive: 84 yards on 15 plays, in 6:01.

Patriots 0, Jets 0, end of first quarter Patriots, in the red zone, seem content on pounding the ball in. Tom Brady only 4-for10 passing for 44 yards so far. Ball on the Jets 4-yard line to start the second quarter. Ridley has 39 yards on the ground. Vereen has 26.

2:14, first quarter The Patriots, helped by a neutral zone infraction by the Jets, are marching down the field, at the Jets 31. Brady throws another incompletion to Welker. Not having Rob Gronkowski looks to be an issue for Tom Brady in the early going.

4:28, first quarterA counter toss pitchout to Shane Vereen results in a first down for the Patriots who are now near midfield. Brady missed Wes Welker earlier when LaRon Landry made a great tip play to break up the pass.

5:55, first quarter The Jets turn it over as Patriots safety Steve Gregory was on the receiving end of a Mark Sanchez pass, an easy pick, stopping the Jets momentum after they had a strong drive going deep into New England territory.

8:20, first quarter The Jets are getting their running game going after Vince Wilfork was called for encroachment. Jets QB Mark Sanchez comes back to his tight end Jeff Cumberland and the Jets are in Patriots territory.

10:05, first quarterThe problems for Stephen Gostkowski continue. The Patirots kicker missed left from 39 yards out. Patriots went to the no-huddle on the drive that stalled after a big play to Aaron Hernandez. Rob Ninkovich is back on the sidelines.

11:16, first quarter Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich was seen heading into the tunnel. We'll update his status as it becomes available.

12:18, first quarter The Jets go three-and-out in their first drive as well. Key play was a sack by Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower. Julian Edleman returned the punt for 30 yards and the Patriots will start at their own 36 yard line.

13:28, first quarter For only the 10th time in 113 times this season, the Patriots have gone three-and-out in their first drive as Zoltan Mesko was forced to punt.

14:48, first quarter Not a good start for the Patriots as Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson forced Tom Brady into an intentional grounding situation.

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We're just about to kick off here at relatively balmy (46 degrees, calm winds) MetLife Stadium.

The Jets have won the coin toss and have deferred, so the Patriots will get the ball to start the game.

MetLife Stadium looks to be about 80 percent capacity right now. The stadium holds 82,500 for football.

The National Anthem was performed by the Newark Boys Chorus.

Patriots 35, Jets 3: Halftime thoughts

Posted by Greg A. Bedard November 22, 2012 10:01 PM

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – A few quick thoughts at halftime as the Patriots lead the Jets 35-3:

  • I don’t even know what to say, really. Just a complete debacle by the Jets.
  • It all started with Jerod Mayo stopping Bilal Powell on third-and-2 with 10:30 left in the second quarter.
  • On fourth down, Vince Wilfork wrecked a double team and Mayo destroyed FB Lex Hilliard to stop Shonn Greene for no gain and a forced fumble by Brandon Spikes.
  • On the next play, Shane Vereen made Bart Scott look 83 years old on an 83-yard touchdown pass where he went untouched to make it 14-0.
  • Two plays later, the Jets couldn’t run a handoff correctly and then quarterback Mark Sanchez ran straight into the backside of right guard Brandon Moore, fumbled and Steve Gregory ran it in to make it 21-0.
  • On the next kickoff, Devin McCourty slammed James McKnight to force a fumble, which Julian Edelman ran back to make it 28-0.
  • On third-and-5, Jets safety LaRon Landry completely blew a coverage and Edelman on a 56-yard touchdown that gave the Patriots a 35-0 advantage.
  • Jets fans chanted for Tim Tebow.
  • Oh, the Jets got a field goal before halftime.
  • Wilfork had a completely dominating first half. He was consistently shedding double teams and making tackles. A man possessed.
  • Patriots are doing a nice job bringing some timely pressure on Sanchez.
  • In the first game without Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots stayed with their two tight-end system with 20 plays featuring two tight ends – Aaron Hernandez in his flex role, and Daniels Fells in Gronk’s Y position. The Patriots ran nine plays with one back, one tight end and three receivers.
  • This game was actually close for a while.
  • Happy Thanksgiving!

Vollmer added to Patriots inactive list; Hernandez will play

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff November 22, 2012 07:08 PM

Starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee) joins Rob Gronkowski, Logan Mankins, and Chandler Jones on the Patriots inactive list for tonight's game against the Jets.

Vollmer was a surprise addition to the inactive. He has been listed on the injury report as questionable with a back issue all season and on Oct. 10, the Patriots added a knee injury to his participation designation.

Tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle) will play tonight as speculated this week.

Here is the full list of the inactives for both teams.

Patriots inactives:
LG Logan Mankins
TE Rob Gronkowski
DE Chandler Jones
CB Marquice Cole
RT Sebastian Vollmer
OL Markus Zusevics
DE Jake Bequette

Jets inactives:
QB Greg McElroy
RB Kahlil Bell
DC Aaron Berry
DT Damon Harrison
C Caleb Schlauderaff
OG Hayworth Hicks
TE Hayden Smith

Patriots at Jets: 5 keys, prediction

Posted by Greg A. Bedard November 22, 2012 06:38 PM

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Patriots have won three straight games against the Jets, and they’ll make it four straight if they hit on these five keys tonight at MetLife Stadium:

  1. Stop the run: It’s not rocket science. The Jets want to run the ball well to keep quarterback Mark Sanchez in manageable down and distance situations. Stop them, and Sanchez has to beat you by himself with limited weapons. The Patriots did a solid job against the Jets the first time around against Shonn Greene (3.4-yard average) and James McKnight (3.3). The Jets will add Bilal Powell to the mix tonight, and he’s decent. A little more speed than Greene, and definitely tougher than McKnight. Little bit more of a challenge defending the run with DE Chandler Jones out. Jermaine Cunningham is mediocre at setting the edge. I would not be surprised if the Patriots went with more 3-4 against the Jets. It’s their best run defense.
  2. Run the ball: The Jets have gotten a little bit better against the run since NT Sione Pouha has returned to the lineup, but they’re still pretty shaky, especially to edge runs because the inside linebackers are slow and the outside linebackers don’t set the edge well. With TE Rob Gronkowski out, I think we could see a lot more of Nate Solder playing TE (maybe even catch a touchdown pass). The activation of Markus Zusevics, who can play guard and tackle but is more of a tackle, points to that a little bit (though there may be a surprise OT deactivation tonight). If you run the ball well against the Jets, that keeps Tom Brady from having too drop back all game against a Jets defense that almost always gives him fits for a good part of the game.
  3. Get physical with the receivers, especially Keller: The Patriots have not blitzed Mark Sanchez much of late (8-10 percent in three victories). If that trend continues, the Patriots need tight coverage to make Sanchez hesitate, which would allow the pressure to get there. Expect the Patriots to bang TE Dustin Keller fairly hard – he’s a security blanket for Sanchez who has played well against the Patriots. The Patriots have not done a good job against tight ends, and that needs to stop. With safety a bit solidified now (getting a true strong safety back in Patrick Chung would help more), Tavon Wilson should be back in his TE-killer role. The teams needs him there.
  4. Control Wilkerson: DE Muhammad Wilkerson been the Jets’ best player of late, and he can be dominating on the inside, especially with Pouha back. Wilkerson has the ability to have an impact against the Patriots, like Shaun Ellis used to, but the Patriots need to make sure he’s taken care of.
  5. Go fast, but pick your spots: It would be to the Patriots’ advantage to use the no-huddle because it would affect the Jets’ ability to get their pressures and coverages set, but I think it’s too much, four days after playing, to do much of it. But could be a good chance of pace.

Prediction

Outside of the 45-3 game after the Jets’ defensive quarterback, safety Jim Leonhard, broke his leg on the Friday before the game, these games are almost always tight until the fourth quarter. Nobody does a better job against Tom Brady than Rex Ryan, and not having Gronkowski will allow the Jets to concentrate on Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez. I expect there to be a post-Gronk adjustment period, but the Patriots should play better on defense this around and emerge with a comfortable victory at some point.

Patriots 32, Jets 20

Patriots-Jets Thanksgiving game preview

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff November 22, 2012 06:22 PM

MetLife Stadium

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Life without Gronk begins Thursday night for the Patriots here at MetLife Stadium, where Tom Brady and Co. will be looking for their second consecutive series sweep of Rex Ryan’s Jets.

This game marks the fifth time the Patriots will play on Thanksgiving (2-2 record). New England -- ranked first in the league in total offense -- is 4-0 in the AFC East and closing in on a 10th AFC East title in 12 years while the Jets' chances of playing in the postseason are dwindling.

Since the 2010 season, the Patriots are now a combined 18-0 in the second half of the regular season and with a win tonight, Bill Belichick will become the eighth coach in NFL history to record 200 wins. Brady is 17-5 vs. the Jets in his career as a starting QB.

Brady will miss injured tight end Rob Gronkowski, who leads the NFL with 37 touchdown catches since entering the league in 2010. The hope is that Brady’s other favorite target, Wes Welker, will help pick up the slack on the receiving end. Tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle) is active tonight for the Patriots. The Patriots also hope to get added production from the tight end trio of Visanthe Shiancoe, Michael Hoomanawanui, and Daniel Fells in Gronkowski’s absence.

The Patriots' defense has 27 turnovers, including four last week, and leads the AFC. The secondary picked off Colts rookie QB Andrew Luck three times last week and returned two for touchdowns, including one by Aqib Talib in his Patriots debut. But the Patriots defense has also given up 289.7 passing yards per game, which ranks 30th in the AFC.

On the Jets side, much-maligned quarterback Mark Sanchez is coming off one of his best games of the season, beating the Rams last week in St. Louis by going 15-for-20 for 178 yards. Five weeks ago, Sanchez threw for 328 yards against New England and nearly rallied the Jets for a win.

On the defensive side of the ball, even without Darrelle Revis, the Jets rank fourth in pass defense, giving up less than 200 yards passing per game. Cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson have stepped up and been a force in the Jets secondary in Revis’s absence.

The Jets overall are healthier than they were the last time these two teams faced off in Foxborough. Linebacker Bart Scott is on the mend after suffering from turf toe for most of the season, and Bryan Thomas is recovered from an early season hamstring injury. Running back Bilal Powell is 100 percent after missing action with a shoulder injury and Joe McKnight’s ankle injury has almost fully healed. Nose tackle Sione Po'uha has returned after missing time with a lower back injury. Wide receiver Clyde Gates is also healthy after battling shoulder issues.

The Patriots' run defense -- ranked 10th overall in the NFL – will have to contend with a healthy trio of Jets running backs (Greene, McKnight and Powell).

Kickoff: 8:20 p.m.

Records: Patriots 7-3; Jets 4-6

Recent head-to-head: Patriots 29, Jets 26 (OT) on Oct. 21, 2012; Patriots 37, Jets 16 on Nov. 13, 2011. Series record: Patriots 54-52-1

TV/Radio info: WHDH-TV Ch. 7 (Al Michaels on play-by-play. Cris Collinsworth will provide the analysis for NBC); 98.5 FM The Sports Hub (Gil Santos, Scott Zolak).

Projected starting lineups:

Patriots offense: WR Wes Welker, LT Nate Solder, LG Donald Thomas, C Ryan Wendell, RG Dan Connolly, RT Marcus Cannon, TE Aaron Hernandez, WR Brandon Lloyd, QB Tom Brady, RB Danny Woodhead, RB Stevan Ridley.

Jets offense: WR Stephen Hill, LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, LG Matt Slauson, C Nick Mangold, RG Brandon Moore, RT Austin Howard, TE Dustin Keller, WR Jeremy Kerley, QB Mark Sanchez, FB Lex Hilliard, RB Shonn Greene

Patriots defense: LE Rob Ninkovich, DT Vince Wilfork, DT Kyle Love, RE Jermaine Cunningham, LB Don’t’a Hightower, LB Jerod Mayo, CB Aquib Talib, CB Kyle Arrington, S Steve Gregory, S Devin McCourty

Jets defense: DE Muhammad Wilkerson, NT Sione Po’uha, T Mike DeVito, OLB Bryan Thomas, WILL Bart Scott, MIKE David Harris, OLB Calvin Pace, CB Kyle Wilson, CB Antonio Cromartie, S LaRon Landry/Eric Smith S Yeremiah Bell/Eric Smith

Today's inactives:

Patriots inactives: TE Rob Gronkowski, DE Chandler Jones, G Logan Mankins, CB Marquice Cole, RT Sebastian Vollmer, OL Markus Zusevics, DE Jake Bequette

Jets inactives: QB Greg McElroy, RB Kahlil Bell, DC Aaron Berry, DT Damon Harrison, C Caleb Schlauderaff, OG Hayworth Hicks, TE Hayden Smith

The National Anthem will be performed by the Newark Boys Chorus. Rocker Lenny Kravitz will provide the halftime entertainment.

Here's a list of Globe reporters to follow on Twitter during today's game:
Michael Whitmer (@GlobeWhitmer); Christopher L. Gasper (@cgasper); Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard); Shalise Manza Young (@ShaliseMYoung).

Enjoy the game. And Happy Thanksgiving!

Patriots promote Zusevics, waive Salas

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 22, 2012 05:16 PM

In advance of tonight's game with the Jets and because of injuries along the offensive line, the Patriots have announced that rookie Markus Zusevics has been placed on the 53-man roster.

Zusevics has been on the reserve/non-football injury list to this point in the season; he went undrafted after tearing a pectoral muscle at the Combine.

The 6-foot-5, 300 pound Iowa product was a two-year starter at right tackle with the Hawkeyes. He will be wearing No. 66.

To make room for Zusevics, the Patriots have waived receiver Greg Salas. Acquired via trade from St. Louis in September, Salas was released after the season opener and signed to the practice squad. He was promoted to the 53-man roster last week.

Inside the matchup: Patriots at Jets

Posted by Greg A. Bedard November 21, 2012 11:19 PM

We are very happy to have Alen Dumonjic, an x's and o's football junkie who blogs for The Score, back for another season to give us his insight on the intricacies of the game.

INSIDE THE JETS' OFFENSE

The Patriots will be traveling to New York to face old and hated rival Jets in what will be a primetime clash on Thanksgiving. The last time the two met, the Patriots were victorious, 29-26. Not much has changed offensively for the Jets since then, who are still a ball control offense under coordinator Tony Sparano.

Sparano relies on a power running game with running back Shonn Greene and most recently, second-year man Bilal Powell. Powell complemented Greene's 18 carries last week with 11 of his own in a 27-13 win.

During that game, we saw the Jets utilize 11 (one back, one tight end), 21 (two backs, one tight end) and two forms of 12 personnel: one back, two tight ends and one back, one tight end and an eligible offensive lineman. The popular and controversial Tim Tebow also got onto the field, running the ball once with the usual quarterback power run concept. These typically come in between the 30 to 40 yard lines.

Per usual, they ran various forms of run concepts that come from the base NFL package, which include toss, draw, lead, counter and toss. When they weren't running the ball, they were relying on mesh (two shallow crossers), dig-option, all-outs, double slants and slant-flat concepts in the passing game from three- and five-step dropbacks with quarterback Mark Sanchez.

INSIDE THE JETS' DEFENSE

New York's defense hasn't lived up to expectations this year, still struggling to defend the run. They’re giving up an abysmal 141.9 yards rushing per game, which ranks 30th in the NFL. A big reason why is the lack of speed in between the hashes. Linebackers David Harris and Bart Scott are having issues playing the run at times, particularly when they're asked to serve as two-gap defenders because of the Jets' double 3-techniques front.

The double 3-techniques front is only one of the multiple fronts that the Jets use. They have also spent time in four man fronts this year, relying on the 3-techniques along with the Under and Over fronts.

When they turn to their old 3-4 front, they use a variety of techniques with the defensive ends, most notably standout Muhammad Wilkerson at several techniques. Nose tackle Sione Pouha is typically a 0 (head up on center) or 1 (outside shoulder of center) technique.

Deep into the secondary, the Jets are still playing a variety of coverages, which includes but is not limited to Cover 0, Cover 1, Cover 3, Cover 4 and Quarter-Quarter-Half.

They will rotate and double rotate their safeties at times when playing these coverages, so it will be interesting if they get caught out of position. It was an issue a couple of times against the St. Louis Rams and on other occasions in previous weeks.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Mark Sanchez deep passing: Believe it or not, Mark Sanchez is top 15 in percentage of pass attempts deep. Nearly 20 percent of Sanchez's throws have come deep, which puts him 14th in the league per Advanced Football Stats. Some of these have come off of play action passing, nailing post patterns in the middle of the field while others have come outside the numbers with wheel routes by running backs and fake flanker screens.

Jets run defense: As noted, the Jets give up an abundance of rushing yards and there are three things to note here: the Jets' slow linebackers and nose tackle Sione Pouha and the Patriots' horizontal running game.

The slow linebackers of the Jets, namely Scott and Harris, have had some issues moving laterally and defending the run. They are simply not quick enough to get to the outsides and that could be a problem if or when the Patriots look to attack the edges with stretch runs like they've done in years past.

Pouha has stood out in the past for his intense run defense but when he's operating as a 0-technique, two-gap tackle, he can be vulnerable. Rex Ryan teaches his nose tackles to mirror the movement of the center when two-gapping and at times, Pouha has been misled by centers, consequently leaving backside A-gap running lanes uncovered.

Jets run offense: New York's running game is not pretty. There's no hiding it but they will rely on it in short yardage situations to move the chains and manage the down and distance for Sanchez, who throws a lot of three-step drops. The Patriots have to make sure the Jets are forced into the long third downs in order to pressure Sanchez into winning the game on his own, which he most likely won't do.

LaRon Landry deep: Since his days at LSU, Landry has had a reputation for sometimes being undisciplined, which the reason I will forever point him out as a potential target for offenses. The deep passing game against Landry can be successful when he's in the middle of the field, where you put him in a bind with two vertical routes. Force him to pick one -- odds are, you'll have at least one big play.

Patriots' pass rush vs. Jets three-step drops: The Jets’ receivers have had problems getting open underneath at times and their three-step passing game has suffered. Sanchez has had issues getting the ball out of his hands in these situations and has taken sacks as a result. The Patriots have to continue this trend, getting physical with the slot receivers who are going to be running option routes (pivots) and force Sanchez to hold on to the ball.

--

For more interesting football reading, check out Alen's blog posts at The Score, and The Sideline View. Follow Alen on Twitter at @Dumonjic_Alen, or send him feedback via email.

Greg Bedard on NFL Week 12

Posted by Robert Burgess November 21, 2012 04:12 PM




Are Tom Brady & the Patriots the favorites in the AFC to make it to the Super Bowl? CineSport's Noah Coslov & The Boston Globe's Greg Bedard discuss this and Jets vs. Patriots without Gronkowski.

Patriots injury report

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff November 21, 2012 03:38 PM

The Patriots made it official today, ruling tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive end Chandler Jones, and offensive guard Logan Mankins out for Thursday night's game at the New York Jets.

None of the three were expected to play, so the moves were a formality. Gronkowski broke his forearm last Sunday against the Colts, while Jones left the game with an ankle injury and did not return. Mankins has been out with ankle and calf injuries.

There are 13 Patriots listed as questionable, all of whom were limited in practice this week. They are: defensive linemen Ron Brace (elbow) and Trevor Scott (hamstring), safeties Patrick Chung (shoulder/hamstring) and Steve Gregory (hip), offensive linemen Dan Connolly (back), Nick McDonald (shoulder), and Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee), tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle), receivers Brandon Lloyd (knee) and Wes Welker (ankle), and linebackers Dont'a Hightower (hamstring), Brandon Spikes (knee), and Tracy White (foot).

The biggest questionable might be Hernandez, who could help fill the void of not having Gronkowski for the next 4-to-8 weeks. He's practiced the past few weeks, and coach Bill Belichick said Hernandez's availability for the Jets game could be a game-time decision.

Former Patriot Dick Felt dead at 79

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff November 21, 2012 02:39 PM

Former Patriots defensive back Dick Felt passed away Saturday in Utah at the age of 79. Felt played for the Boston Patriots from 1962 to 1966. He was an all-star in 1962 and helped the Patriots reach the 1963 AFL Championship game against San Diego.

Before turning pro, Felt starred at Brigham Young University in the 1950s, then served in the Air Force. He coached BYU’s secondary from 1968 to 1993 and also served as the school’s defensive coordinator.

Game 11 Preview: Patriots can distance themselves from pack with win over Jets

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff November 21, 2012 12:19 PM
The Patriots play on Thanksgiving for the fifth time in team history when they take on the Jets at MetLife Stadium in a prime-time matchup Thursday night.

The Jets (4-6) come into this game riding the momentum of a win over the Rams last week but they have their backs to the wall in the AFC playoff race. Meanwhile, the Patriots (7-3) are looking for their second straight series sweep against Rex Ryan's bunch and with a victory would be well on their way to a 10th AFC East division title in the last 12 years.

Since the 2010 season, the Patriots are now a combined 18-0 in the second half of the regular season, but as everyone knows, they'll have to play this one without injured star tight end Rob Gronkowski.

In this week's preview video, the Globe's Shalise Manza Young gives us her keys to the Week 12 showdown between the AFC East rivals. Manza Young looks into the challenges the Patriots passing game faces without Gronkowski and how New England will look to take advantage of a New York defense that's been weak against the run.

Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker and linebacker Jerod Mayo talk about the matchup and trying to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the AFC East contenders. Quarterback Tom Brady talks about tight ends Visanthe Shiancoe, Michael Hoomanawanui, and Daniel Fells having to get the job done now, and running back Stevan Ridley shares his thoughts about facing the Jets defense.

Patriots-Colts final review

Posted by Greg A. Bedard November 20, 2012 11:35 PM

My Patriots-Colts review will be available in the morning. Great marks for the offense, good marks for the defense, and a sterling performance from the special teams.

A look at the top- and bottom-performing Patriots against the Colts:

On top of their game

  1. Julian Edelman, WR/PR: Caught five passes for 58 yards and a touchdown, scored another on a 68-yard punt return, set up two more scores with a 49-yard return and 47-yard rush, forced a fumble on special teams, and threw the key block on the final touchdown. I’m tired typing that.
  2. Rob Gronkowski, TE: Was unstoppable in the pass game.
  3. Tom Brady, QB: With protection like that, against a secondary like that, it's almost an unfair fight. Especially when Brady was sick about hearing about Andrew Luck.
  4. Rob Ninkovich, DE: In addition to his sack/fumble, he had two half knockdowns, factored into four of the team's nine stuffed runs, and dropped into coverage well.
  5. Vince Wilfork, DT: Two hurries, half knockdown, one full stuff, two half stuffs, and two passes defensed.

Off their game

  1. Kyle Love, DT: There has to be concern about a possible injury because his pad level was way too high and allowed him to easily get shoved out of his gap. Highly unusual for him.
  2. Michael Hoomanawanui, TE/FB: He was better in this game -- he actually had one good block -- but it's still not good enough.
  3. Ron Brace, DT: He and Brandon Lloyd should start a Worm Club they're on the ground so much.
  4. Steve Gregory, S: Had a part in two 20-plus pass plays, lost a coverage, and missed two tackles. Looks miscast as a strong safety because he's not exactly seeking out contact. May have a shoulder injury.
  5. Dont'a Hightower, LB: This spot should probably go to Aqib Talib, but since he hadn't played in six weeks and didn't know what he was doing, we'll give him a pass for now. Hightower had a knockdown and pass breakup, but he's really slow on his run and pass reads. He should be a little further along by now, and more assertive. The team needs him to be.

Video: Brady on Jets preparation, missing Rob Gronkowski

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff November 20, 2012 01:29 PM
FOXBOROUGH -- Was Tom Brady sending a subtle message to his team about staying focused on the Jets during this short week?

“We’re just trying to prioritize our time, we don't have much of it,” the Patriots quarterback said during Tuesday’s Q&A session with the media at Gillette Stadium. "We have to leave tomorrow. Hopefully everyone is spending their time wisely, not playing video games and stuff like that, trying to understand our plan and what we need to do. It’s a very tough place to play. We’ve always played this team very tough. It should be a fun night."

This is the fifth time in team history the Patriots will be playing on Thanksgiving Day.

"It feels different than any game you play playing on this short of rest," Brady said. "We’re just trying to put as much as we can into it in these three or four days. There’s just no time for anything other than the Jets, so you try to watch as much film as you can. I think we’re fortunate to have played them three weeks ago, so there’s some recall from that previous game, from the preparation that we put in before that game. But it’s definitely a challenge. It’s definitely a different – like I said, it challenges your mental toughness to see how much you can put into it and still be fresh for the game on Thursday night."

Brady, who is 17-5 all-time against the Jets, also spoke about being without tight end Rob Gronkowski for the foreseeable future.

“He’s been a very productive player so other guys just have to step into that spot and do the job. That’s what it’s come down to and that’s football. Every team deals with it at one point or another. He’s a tough guy to replace but that’s what we need to do. ..

"Every player has some different strengths and so forth and you try to play to those guys’ strengths. I don’t think you go into it and you say…there’s only one Rob Gronkowski; there’s only one of those in the league. The guys that are going to be in there playing that role – Visanthe [Shiancoe] and Hooman [Michael Hoomanawanui] and Daniel [Fells] – they have to go in there and do the best they can do. That's why they're on the team and that’s why we have 53 guys on the roster: so everybody can contribute at one point or another."

The Patriots, looking for their second straight series sweep against Rex Ryan's Jets, beat New York 29-26 in memorable first meeting at Gillette Stadium in October.

"Obviously we didn’t execute very well," Brady said regarding the first game between the AFC East rivals. "I think we had some opportunities that we just didn’t really take advantage of, and they played really well. They always seem to play us well. There’s been one game where we beat them up pretty well a few years ago, but other than that, they’ve all been pretty tight games. That’s just the way it is against the Jets."

Rex Ryan calls criticism of Belichick 'absolutely ridiculous'

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff November 20, 2012 12:02 PM

FOXBOROUGH --- They may be at opposite ends of the spectrum, as well as the field, as coaches in the AFC East division arch-rivalry between the Patriots and Jets. But Tuesday Rex Ryan rose to the defense of his New England nemesis, Bill Belichick, calling criticism of the Patriots coach "absolutely ridiculous" in the aftermath of Rob Gronkowski's injury in Sunday's 59-24 victory over the Colts.

Belichick had drawn some criticism for playing his star tight end, who made seven catches for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns, as a blocker on the special teams' PAT unit that converted an extra point in the fourth quarter of a game that was well in hand.

"I mean, he's on an extra point and he's probably done it a zillion times," Ryan said of Gronkowski, who underwent surgery Monday to repair his fractured left forearm suffered on the PAT. "He's probably done it a hundred times this year for the simple fact that's how many points they score. You never see that. Every single team in the league, I mean, we have [starting left tackle] D'Brickashaw Ferguson there. Whoever the player is, you don't play the game that way.

"It's just an unfortunate thing. That's just a freak deal what happened,'' Ryan said. "Unfortunately, it's part of the game. Injuries do happen. I mean, we lost [Darrelle] Revis and [Santonio] Holmes to non-contact injuries.

"It's just one of those things and it's unfortunate, obviously."

Asked for his reaction to Ryan's comments, Belichick said, "I feel like I've got a good relationship with Rex. We want to beat each other and we're in the same division, but that's just competitiveness. I see Rex from time to time during the year, I had his brother [Rob] here on staff for four years and I've known his father [Buddy] for 30 years or so, a long time.

"He's the son of a coach, he's been around football his whole life, and I have, too, so there's a lot of things we have in common,'' Belichick said. "But this week it's about two teams trying to compete against each other. It's all it is."

Stevan Ridley on loss of Gronkowski: 'Others have to step up'

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff November 20, 2012 10:39 AM

FOXBOROUGH --- The loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who underwent surgery Monday morning to repair a fracture in his left forearm suffered in Sunday's 59-24 romp of the Indianapolis Colts, certainly left the Patriots without a huge offensive weapon.

And while it wasn't certain how the Patriots planned to respond, especially with a short week to prepare before Thursday night's road game against the New York Jets, running back Stevan Ridley said the team would have to rally around the setback to Gronkowski, who made seven receptions for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Colts.

"It's called a 'team' for a reason, man," said Ridley, who seemed to relish the opportunity to help pick up the slack with the running game. "Gronk's a vital part, but we have other teammates who have to step up and get the job done.

"That’s what we’re going to try to do, the best we can as a unit," Ridley said. "So for us, we’ve just got to keep playing football and hope that Gronk recovers quick and he’ll be back as soon as he can."

Asked how the running game might help fill the void, Ridley replied, "Man, coach can call the plays and with the personnel [we have], we're going to roll. So they’re going to make their adjustments, they’re going to do their job and we’re going to go out there and play football."

Ridley rushed for 65 yards on 12 carries in the first meeting against the Jets, a 29-26 overtime triumph Oct. 21 at Gillette Stadium. He rushed for 28 yards on 13 carries and one TD vs. the Colts.

"Some games it’s going to be there and some games it’s not," Ridley said of the rushing attack. "We’re playing a professional sport here, so for us, we just have to keep working and I think the running game will come around. It’s been fine all year and those guys have been working hard for me up front."

Rob Gronkowski at Gillette

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 20, 2012 10:17 AM
One day after undergoing surgery to repair a broken left forearm, Rob Gronkowski is back at Gillette Stadium, a source confirmed.

It should not be taken as a sign that Gronkowski is preparing to play anytime soon - the team medical staff is here at the facility, and they know his health history better than just about anyone at this point.

For now, the timetable for his return to the field is still in the 4 to 8 week range.

Patriots try to overcome short week of preparation for Jets

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff November 20, 2012 10:15 AM

FOXBOROUGH --- Although the calendar clearly indicated it was still Sunday night, Bill Belichick reminded his team after its 59-24 demolition of the Indianapolis Colts to mentally fast-forward their body clocks to Wednesday night.

Given the short week of preparation for Thursday night's road game against the New York Jets on Thanksgiving, the Patriots' coach wanted his team to be prepared to deal with the mental and physical challenges of compressing a full week's worth of preparation for an NFL game into a few days.

And so Monday became Thursday. Tuesday became Friday and Wednesday became Saturday, leaving Thursday as game day.

Got it?

''Obviously, your body's a little sore,'' said linebacker Jerod Mayo, asked about the mental and physical difficulties of preparing for a Thursday night game on the heels of playing on Sunday afternoon. "But the mental aspect of trying to cram all the information in over the last couple of games about this team is very mentally taxing.''

While Tuesdays are normally a day off for players in the league, Mayo was asked if it was difficult convincing his body that it was indeed a Friday, according to Belichick's timetable.

"Not at all,'' Mayo said. "It's like Groundhog Day for me. Every day is the same.''

Globe 10.0: How much will the Patriots miss Gronk?

Posted by Staff November 20, 2012 04:51 AM

In this episode of Globe 10.0, Kevin Dupont and Peter Abraham debate how much the Patriots will miss Rob Gronkowski.







Week 12: the rare Monday injury report

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 19, 2012 07:51 PM

Since the Patriots and Jets play on Thursday night, they are required to submit injury reports on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

However, since both teams played on Sunday, neither had an actual practice today - the Jets did hold a walkthrough - so their reports today are mostly hypothetical.

If the Patriots had practiced, Rob Gronkowski (listed as forearm/hip), Chandler Jones (ankle) and Logan Mankins (ankle/calf) would not have participated.

Jets WR Jason Hill (low back) did not participate in his team's walkthrough.

For the Patriots
Did not participate
TE Rob Gronkowski - forearm/hip
DE Chandler Jones - ankle
G Logan Mankins - ankle/calf

Limited participation
DT Ron Brace - elbow
S Patrick Chung - shoulder
G Dan Connolly - back
S Steve Gregory - hip
TE Aaron Hernandez - ankle
LB Dont'a Hightower - hamstring
WR Brandon Lloyd - knee
OL Nick McDonald - shoulder
DE Trevor Scott - hamstring
LB Brandon Spikes - knee
OT Sebastian Vollmer - back/knee
WR Wes Welker - ankle
LB Tracy White - foot

Full participation
WR Julian Edelman - hand
DT Kyle Love - knee
LB Jerod Mayo - elbow

For the Jets
Did not participate
WR Jason Hill - low back

Limited participation
DB Aaron Berry - quad
DL Kenrick Ellis - knee
WR Jeremy Kerley - heel/hamstring
RB Joe McKnight - ankle
DL Sione Pouha - low back
LB Bart Scott - toe

Full participation
TE Jeff Cumberland - wrist
DL Mike DeVito - finger
WR Clyde Gates - shoulder
WR Stephen Hill - ankle
DB LaRon Landry - heel
OL Nick Mangold - thumb
OL Brandon Moore - hip/foot
LB Calvin Pace - shoulder
RB Bilal Powell - shoulder
QB Mark Sanchez - low back
OL Matt Slauson - knee
QB Tim Tebow - ribs

Patriots sign WR Kamar Aiken to practice squad

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff November 19, 2012 05:19 PM
FOXBOROUGH --- After releasing veteran wideout Deion Branch and promoting Greg Salas from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, the Patriots Monday bolstered the ranks of their practice squad by signing second-year wide receiver Kamar Aiken.

Aiken, 23, originally signed as a rookie free agent with Buffalo in 2011. The 6-foot-2-inch, 213-pounder out of Central Florida started out his rookie season on Buffalo's practice squad before earning a promotion to the 53-man roster last November, playing in two games as a reserve.

He was released by the Bills at the end of training camp and spent time this season on Buffalo's and Chicago's practice squads before landing in New England.

Belichick pleads ignorance on Gronkowski injury

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 19, 2012 02:35 PM

Bill Belichick held a conference call with reporters a short while ago, and of course was asked about Rob Gronkowski's injury - in case you hadn't heard, the tight end broke his left forearm in the fourth quarter of Sunday's win over the Colts and underwent surgery this morning.

"No. I don't really have anything on that," Belichick said when asked about Gronkowski. "Our medical people are looking at all of our players today when they come in and assess their situation, as they always do on Monday, catch up with them."

He said essentially the same thing when asked about Gronkowski having surgery.

Belichick was also asked about Aaron Hernandez and when he'll be making a return, and did not give a specific answer.

A league source has said that Hernandez, who's been recovering from an ankle sprain, was held out of Sunday's game with an eye toward Thursday night's game against the Jets.

McCourty to stay at safety for rest of season

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 19, 2012 12:26 PM
Devin McCourty has been pressed into service at safety this year, as he was late last season, and while he seems more comfortable at the back of the defense, he also helps facilitate communication with his teammates.

Even though he was moved back to safety from cornerback this season out of necessity, he won't be leaving the position. Two league sources said that McCourty will remain at safety through the rest of this season.

Steve Gregory, who missed multiple weeks to a hip injury, has been back on the field, and Patrick Chung, who has missed time with a shoulder injury, may be back soon. Pairing McCourty with Chung may be the best safety pairing for New England, with McCourty the free safety and Chung the strong safety.

When McCourty was drafted, Bill Belichick commented that McCourty's ability to break down film and know not only what he has to do but also what all of his teammates are doing was among the best he'd ever seen in his years of pre-draft interviews. His on-field intelligence is a big plus in the deep part of the field.

The Patriots wanted to have McCourty start this season at safety after his performance there last year, but concerns over cornerback depth led the team to keep him at corner.

Now they'll be making that move.

Gronkowski underwent surgery today

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 19, 2012 11:30 AM

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who suffered a broken left forearm in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win over the Colts, underwent surgery Monday, a league source said.

While it is unclear how long at this point how long he will be sidelined, it is not season-ending, the source said.

Gronkowski was blocking on the final extra point of the Patriots’ 59-24 win when cornerback Marshay Green rushed inside Gronkowski and his arm crumpled. As Gronkowski left the field after the play, the arm just hung at his side. A few minutes later he walked off the field and to the locker room with team doctor Thomas Gill.

Gronkowski had seven catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, and was running more smoothly than he had all season; he had been hampered by back issues for most of the season.

***
Greg A. Bedard contributed

Tom Brady says Patriots will step up to compensate for Gronk’s injury

Posted by Staff November 19, 2012 09:19 AM

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said losing tight end Rob Gronkowski to a broken arm Sunday vs. the Colts means it’s time for other players to rise to the occasion.

"He’s such a great player,” Brady on his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan program. “It sucks that he gets hurt, but it’s part of this game, so he’s got to do his best to get back as soon as possible and we’ve got to go out there and win some games without him."

Brady said despite losing Gronkowski to a broken left forearm, there are other players who will have to step up if the team wants to continue its winning streak.

"He does a lot for us,” said Brady. “But I think there’s a reason you have other guys on the roster too ... Everyone’s gotta get in there and start making up for having Gronk out so that’s just part of it and you have to find ways to adjust... We still gotta go out there and win."

Brady had nothing but praise for his offensive line in the Patriots’ 59-24 win over the Colts Sunday.

"I thought our guys were playing great last night,” Brady said. “A quarterback’s only as good as the guys around you and the way the receivers played, the way the tight ends played, the offensive line makes my job so easy ... That was a great team performance and when we play like that we’re going to be tough to beat, there’s no question about it."
The Patriots will travel to New York to face the Jets on Thanksgiving Day. Brady said it’s the mental toughness of the team that will pull them through playing two games in four days.

“Our goal is to go out there and really just put them [the Jets] behind us,” said Brady. “We beat them once, it would be a huge game to beat them twice. We’d have a lot of tiebreaker advantages over them if we beat them, but that was a big win for them yesterday [against the Rams] ... It’s not easy to go on the road in the NFL and win and they did ... I have a lot of respect for that team and the way they play. They play hard; it’s always a challenging game versus them ... They’re going to give everything they’ve got, they’re going to be ready to go too and they always give us their best shot, so that’s what we’re expecting."

5 takeaways from the Patriots-Colts game

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 18, 2012 11:45 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots hung 59 points on the Colts. So much for a rivalry. Let's get right to the takeaways.

1) Gronkowski's broken forearm -- Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm on the team's last extra point attempt, according to multiple reports. It's being said that he could be out of uniform for four to six weeks, wiping away the rest of his season. He could still come back for the playoffs in that time frame. It's bad enough the team has been soldiering on without Aaron Hernandez, whose ankle still has the lingering effects of a high sprain from Week 2. While Hernandez can return as early as Thursday against the New York Jets, the situation now puts a spotlight on the many tight ends the team has left, including Visanthe Shiancoe, Michael Hoomanawanui, and Daniel Fells. Fells was a healthy scratch Sunday, while Shiancoe and Hoomanawanui were key parts of the offense against the Colts, working both as blocking tight ends. Hoomanawanui, or "Oh-oh" as he's affectionately called, also doubles as the team's fullback. In talking with both of them postgame, they expressed that they're fine with the jobs they have now, but can obviously do much more. As we've heard from a number of Patriots over the years, they're ready to do whatever the coaches ask. After this latest injury, they may be asked to do more soon enough.

2) Aqib Talib was OK, not great -- The new guy started his tenure with a bit of a bang. He intercepted an Andrew Luck pass and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Everything he does from there there is gold, right? Wrong. He gave up two touchdowns, including a 43-yard pass to T.Y. Hilton in the fourth quarter in which he was flagged for pass interference. The penalty was declined. In fact, both of Luck's touchdown passes to Hilton were with Talib in coverage, showing that the new cornerback's debut was every bit as ugly as it was beautiful. Or as Patriots coach Bill Belichick would say (insert player), there was some good, some bad, and some things he definitely needs to work on.

3) Andrew Luck isn't as polished as we thought he was -- When you throw three interceptions in a game, you usually know where the blame is going to be laid. Luck finished the day 27 of 50 passing for 334 yards, two touchdowns, and the three picks. His first two interceptions were returned for touchdowns, including an 87-yard sprint to the end zone for Alfonzo Dennard that the speedy Luck couldn't prevent. It wasn't just that he was picked off, it was that both throws were atrocious. He was targeting one place and throwing it to another. It certainly wasn't the rookie's finest game and despite his newness to the pro level diminished our view of him. He has so much potential and this may be one of his worst showings yet.

4) The offensive line is doing a great job -- Tom Brady had a relatively clean jersey at the end of the night and that's always a good thing. He was only hit twice in the game. Mostly, he's getting the ball out quickly. But when he's not, he's being given time to work on things. And that's something special to note considering the team was without both starting guards, Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly. Donald Thomas and Nick McDonald filled in ably, as they had done so when pressed into duty last week. It's comforting to note that the team has depth, something nobody believed coming out of training camp. Tom Brady put it best.

"They're coached very hard and I think the expectations are for the position, not necessarily for the players," he said. "So when Logan's not in there, you've got to go in there and play like Logan. Hopefully we get healthy at some point, but until then, that's why there are 53 guys on the roster. Each of those guys can really step in when they need to."

5) Numbers never lie -- This is the second time the Patriots have put up 59 points in the franchise history. The last time they did that was in 2009, a 59-0 win over the Tennessee Titans. It's also the most lopsided defeat the Patriots have handed the Indianapolis Colts in the series' history. Tom Brady improves to 10-4 all-time against the Colts. The team is 46-29 against Indy. Where this idea of a rivalry came from is beyond me. … The Patriots scored on offense, defense and special teams for only the second time in franchise history. The last time they did that was against the Miami Dolphins in 2010. … Sunday's game marked the ninth time the Patriots had two interceptions returned for touchdowns. The last time they did that was in 2001, when Oti Smith and Ty Law returned picks for scores. … Also in the statistical categories of "wow," Julian Edelman's two touchdowns -- one on a punt return and another receiving -- mark the first time since 1985 a Patriots player scored a touchdown both ways. Irving Fryar caught a 5-yard TD and returned a punt 77 yards for a score against the Baltimore Colts Nov. 10, 1985. The Patriots have actually done the feat three times in the team's history. In all three occasions, it has come against the Colts franchise.

What Gronkowski's injury means for the Patriots

Posted by Greg A. Bedard November 18, 2012 10:52 PM

FOXBOROUGH – Rob Gronkowski suffered a broken left forearm on an extra point late in Sunday night’s 59-24 victory over the Colts, a league source confirmed what Tom Curran of Comcast SportsNet New England reported earlier.

Let’s try to take a look at the injury, and what it means for the Patriots:

  • As far as the play where the injury occurred, it was the final extra point. Former Patriots and current Colts defensive back Marshay Green Sergio Brown rushed inside Gronkowski, and then his arm crumpled a little awkwardly. Gronkowski had been on the bench for that series but re-entered for the extra point. I don’t have a problem with that. Your field goal unit is your field goal unit. Could they have subbed him out for anybody? Yes, but it is what it is.
  • Heard from a few sources that on the previous extra point, Gronkowski got into it with a couple of Colts. Didn’t look like it carried over to the final extra point.
  • Don’t know the specifics of the injury, which are obviously needed for full context. Which bone(s) is it? Is it more of an elbow injury?
  • The true timeframe is unknown until Gronkowski is examined Monday, but he’s being told it’s somewhere in the realm of 4-6 weeks. That would almost definitely put him out for games against the Jets, Dolphins, Texans, and 49ers. After that, they’ll have to see. Some guys heal more quickly than others. And Gronkowski, being 23, has youth on his side. One thought is that if he can come back on the short end with a brace, he might not be able to block as effectively, but could be useful as more of a receiver.
  • The Patriots should be able to get a stranglehold on the division with a victory against the Jets on Thursday. Aaron Hernandez (ankle) is expected back for that game. The Patriots held him out today because the short turnaround for Thursday probably wouldn’t have been possible.
  • Gronkowski and Hernandez play two different positions in the Patriots’ offense. From my tight ends story in the season preview section:
There is the traditional “Y,” whose job requirements read: 6 feet 5 inches or taller, at least 255 pounds, can run but absolutely must be a standout blocker. He has to be a viable receiver, but not a great one.

The “F” or flex tight end is 6-3 or taller, around 235 pounds, must be able to run and be an excellent pass receiver. Does not need to be a good blocker.

  • If the Patriots want to stick with that system while Gronkowski is out, then Michael Hoomanawanui (6-4, 263) and Daniel Fells (6-4, 265) could fill Gronkowski’s Y position. Hernandez (6-1, 245) and Visanthe Shincoe (6-4, 250) are the flex tight ends.
  • Obviously Gronk is irreplaceable with what he does. The Patriots would lose a lot of their seam routes that they love to throw to him. But they can make up for it in different ways, mostly by becoming more of a receiver-focused team with Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Julian Edelman and Greg Salas. Then they could sprinkle the tight ends in.
  • Look, losing Gronkowski hurts but let’s not make it out like the Patriots’ offense can’t survive not having him. Will they have to be different? Yes, but that doesn’t mean less. They still have Tom Brady, who has done more with less before. And also remember that Gronkowski hasn’t been 100 percent this season. Perhaps the time off could be a blessing in a disguise.
  • In a perfect world, the Patriots would get a bye without him and he can come back 100 percent. It would also be helpful if the defense improves and takes some pressure off the offense.
  • The bottom line is losing Gronkowski hurts, but it’s far from a season-ender. There will be an adjustment period, but the Patriots will have to deal with it and get the job done.

Which Patriot gets game ball vs. Colts?

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff November 18, 2012 10:13 PM

Cast your vote for the Patriots player who made the biggest impact on Sunday's victory over the Colts. There were many stellar individual performances to consider.

Watch the video highlights here if you need a refresher.


Which Patriot should get the game ball vs. the Colts?

Patriots-Colts video highlights

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff November 18, 2012 09:46 PM
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Check out the highlights from today's Patriots victory over the Colts at Gillette Stadium.

Bill Belichick: 'I thought our guys on defense did a good job'

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff November 18, 2012 09:18 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- Only Bill Belichick and his players know the details of the message, and the coach wasn't about to reveal them in the aftermath of the Patriots' 59-24 win over the Colts Sunday.

But it was clear one was being delivered.

The Colts had just taken a 14-7 lead on the Patriots via Andrew Luck's 14-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton with 1 minute and 48 seconds remaining in the first quarter when Belichick decided to break out a little-used prop. Gathering the defense around him while the offense was on the field, Belichick demonstrated what he apparently wanted done by animatedly drawing it up on the white board.

Whatever he said -- and drew -- must have had the desired effect, because the Colts didn't score another touchdown until Hilton's 43-yard score at 12:32 of the third quarter. By then, the game was long in command for the Patriots -- the touchdown cut the Patriots' lead to 21, 45-24.

During his postgame comments, Belichick deflected a quest about the message he delivered, saying, "We were talking about plays that happened earlier in the game.''

Was there an adjustment made, he was asked?

"No, nothing we hadn't worked on.''

Belichick also passed on elaborating about the play of newcomer Aqib Talib, who returned an interception for a touchdown but was also beaten for a couple of scores.

"We'll have to take a look at the film,'' he said. "It was great to see him run back the interception for a touchdown but we'll take a look at everybody. I couldn't tell you."

But the coach did suggest he was fairly pleased with the play of the defensive backfield, which had three interceptions -- two returned for touchdowns -- but allowed Luck to throw for 334 yards and a pair of TDs.

"I thought our guys on defense did a good job,'' Belichick said. "We got our hands on a lot of balls -- we dropped a few, we caught some. I thought we were able to put some pressure on [Luck].

"Their receivers made some really good catches. There were five or six times where I thought we were kind of draped all over them and it didn't seem there was much space at all to get the ball in and he got it in and they caught it. Then there were other times we got our hands on the ball and didn't catch them. There were other times we got our hands on the ball and did catch them."

In those situations, at least, the Patriots couldn't have drawn it up any better.

Rob Gronkowski suffers break in forearm

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 18, 2012 09:17 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- Affable tight end Rob Gronkowski can at times seem invincible, lugging around defensive backs as easily as he catches touchdown passes.

On Sunday though, that aura of invincibility was tainted after he left the field with less than four minutes left in the Patriots' 59-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts. Gronkowski broke his arm, NFL sources confirmed to the Globe's Shalise Manza Young. The sources were unsure of his timetable for recovery.

Gronkowski's forearm was X-rayed after the game. He had caught seven passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. With his second touchdown catch, he had become the first tight end in NFL history to record three straight seasons with at least 10 touchdown receptions.

ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that the break occurred on the Patriots' final extra point attempt in the fourth quarter with 3:59 left on the clock.

The NFL Network's Ian Rapoport is reporting that Gronkowski was given a four to six week timetable for recovery.

Aqib Talib makes a splash in first game with the Patriots

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 18, 2012 08:53 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- If there's one way to endear yourself to a team and its fans, it's by making big plays. It doesn't get any bigger than a pick-six.

That's exactly what new cornerback Aqib Talib did Sunday for the Patriots against the Indianapolis Colts. Talib intercepted Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and, after making a series of nifty moves, returned it 59 yards for a touchdown, the fourth touchdown of his career.

His final stat line was 5 tackles, 2 assisted, an interception, and a pass defensed. While the interception came on what Colts interim coach Bruce Arians called one of Luck's "bad throws," it was his return that was something special. He zigzagged from one side of the field to the other before picking up a couple of Patriots blockers en route to the end zone.

"Luck overthrew the ball and kind of threw it right to me," Talib said. "Defense did a great job setting up that wall. We got in the end zone."

Talib comes to the Patriots after spending the last 4 1/2 seasons playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Patriots traded a fourth-round draft pick for him less than two weeks ago while he was serving a suspension for PED use.

"We had a good week of practice, man," he said. "We kind of put a lot of emphasis on that this week in practice, playing fast, communication and playing fast. We could have done better today. We gave up some stuff but it felt like it was all right. We can get a lot better, though."

It wasn't all hunky dory, though. Talib did give up two touchdowns in the game, something he was acutely aware of.

"On the short one, I’ve just got to undercut at the goal line," he said. "I just didn’t play good technique. I kind of let him widen me to get back inside.
 
"On the other one, I had my eyes in the wrong spot. Eyes exactly where they shouldn’t be on the quarterback, so I watched him throw a touchdown on me, that’s what I did. Got to get a lot better.
 
"It was all right," he continued. "A little sloppy. My feet were everywhere. It will get better as I get back in these pads and getting back into a little bit better shape, I think I’ll be all right."

Julian Edelman has stunning game against Colts, tries to play it low-key

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 18, 2012 08:09 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- Julian Edelman showed exactly why he was taking away snaps from Wes Welker in the beginning of the season.

In the Patriots' 59-24 blowout of the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, he racked up 222 all-purpose yards, catching five passes for 58 yards and a touchdown, returning two punts for 117 yards including a touchdown, and leading the team in rushing with a reverse that went 47 yards.

He threatened a touchdown on that play, too.

"It was unfortunate I didn't get in," said Edelman, who sheepishly tried to downplay the day he had. "But it set us up for a touchdown. We got the touchdown as an offense and it kind of put it away, so that's good."

Seven weeks ago, Edelman was at the center of controversy in New England and it was not of his own doing. Fans were upset, lighting up the call boards at the local radio stations, because Edelman was getting the majority of Tom Brady's targets and Welker was seeing a paltry number of balls thrown his way. Edelman's five catches Sunday tied for the most he's had this season in the Week 2 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

But fans had not seen the progression and athleticism he showed as a receiver in training camp, easily showing himself as one of the top receivers in camp, with the sort of overall versatility that made it OK for the team to let go of veterans Deion Branch, Donte' Stallworth, and Jabar Gaffney. Edelman was the Patriots' practice all-star.

On Sunday, he finally got things to go his way on the field.

"I had some opportunities to make some plays and was fortunate it went my way today," he said. "We executed a few plays in special teams. Defense played well. We played overall complimentary football game. It was a good, team win. We have a short week now, and we gotta move on to the Jets."

The punt return, a 68-yard scamper, was the third punt return for a touchdown in his career. It was the team's first this season after a number of good-looking attempts over the past couple of weeks.

"I'll tell you right now, we've been working real hard as a unit to get that done and create an explosion play on the punt return unit," Edelman said. "And those guys, they've been working their tail off. And they executed what they had to do, held up their guys, we got the gunners, as a punt returner you gotta make one miss, and finished blocks, and we did that. It was a good overall execution of a play."

Edelman summed up the day, acknowledging the pressure that comes with playing for the Patriots, while addressing the 59 points the team hung up on the Colts.

"We did a lot of things right, I'm sure we did a lot of things wrong," he said. "We have to watch the film and get ready for this short week. So we'll see.

"We scored on defense, we scored on special teams and scored on offense. It was a complimentary game. Like I said, we haven't watched the film yet. I'm sure there's a lot of things we can do better, and I'm sure we'll be told that tomorrow."

Tom Brady: 'That's team football'

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff November 18, 2012 08:06 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- For more than a half-hour of real time and nearly eight minutes of football time during the Patriots' 59-24 rout of the Colts Sunday, Tom Brady did not take a single snap.

Yet during that span, which ran from 12:30 of the second quarter all the way down to 5:40, 17 points where scored -- 14 for the Patriots, who turned a 14-7 deficit into a 21-17 advantage that would only grow.

How does that take place without something unforeseen having happened to the quarterback?

Start with this: a three-and-out Colts drive that culminates with Julian Edelman returning Pat McAfee's punt 68 yards down the right sideline for a spectacular touchdown.

The next possession for the Colts didn't go any better, though it was briefer. On the second play, Andrew Luck is picked off by the recently acquired cornerback Aqib Talib, who weaves 59 yards -- much more than that when his east-west yardage is tallied -- for a touchdown.

Suddenly the Patriots lead, 21-14 ... and Brady again remains on the sideline as Luck and the Colts offense takes the field again. This possession ended better for the visitors -- Adam Vinatieri's 47-yard field goal pulled the Colts to within 4 at 21-17, but it's as close as they would be the rest of the day.

"I'll take [the break] if we're scoring,'' said Brady. "It didn't matter much. The punt return for a touchdown, the interception return for a touchdown, that was awesome. When you get those types of plays, those are game-changing plays. I don't remember too many times where we've lost games when we've had returns for touchdowns."

Not that Brady and the offense didn't do their part. The quarterback was efficient and steady all day, finishing 24 of 35 for 331 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.

Edelman had 222 all-purpose yards, including 58 and a touchdown in the passing game. One week it's Danny Woodhead, the next it's Edelman ...

"That's team football,'' Brady said. "That's what it's about. Julian's been dying to get out there and make plays. He certainly did today, and next week it could be someone else.

The Colts aren't exclusive in this club, but it was evident from the early moments that they had no answers for Rob Gronkowski, had seven catches for 137 yards and two scores.

"Yeah, we got some good matchups [for Rob]," Brady said. "I try to take advantage of those where I could, and I missed a couple of other opportunities where I could have had him."

While the receivers had little trouble getting open, Brady also noted that the offensive line bought him whatever time he needed.

"It's a great effort,'' Brady said. "When they play well, we play well. The way they were blocking up front, I was able to make my reads make my throws and my receivers were really doing a great job getting open. That's what we did. [The Colts have] a defense that's very unique, and that puts a lot of pressure on our guys. They really stepped up.''

It was particularly impressive given that starters Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly were out with injuries. Donald Thomas and Nick McDonald filled in capably, just as they are expected to do.

"They're coached very hard, and I think the expectations are for the position, not necessarily the player, so when Logan's not in there, you've got to go in there and play like Logan. Hopefully we get healthy at some point, but until then, that's why there are 53 guys on the roster. Those guys can really step in when they need to.''

Patriots 24, Colts 17: Halftime thoughts

Posted by Greg A. Bedard November 18, 2012 06:01 PM

FOXBOROUGH – A few thoughts at halftime as both teams try to figure out how to play defense:

  • Both teams combined for 395 yards of total offense in the first half. That doesn’t include the 127 yards of returns the Patriots had on the Julian Edelman and Aqib Talib touchdowns.
  • It doesn’t show it on the stat sheet, but the Patriots played better on defense after a lousy start. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the defense was able to do some more things after coach Bill Belichick spent about 7 minutes on the whiteboard with the defense after the Colts went up 14-7. Indianapolis had only three points after that, though they kind of butchered the drive before halftime. Should have been in better field-goal range.
  • The defense did a much better job getting Andrew Luck off his spot to close the first half. That has been lacking this year.
  • Tremendous interception return for a touchdown by Talib. The play was made by Vince Wilfork getting pressure on Luck. Talib was in over-the-top coverage in either Cover 3 or 4. Ball was thrown right to him.
  • Talib actually did a very nice job in coverage on the two throws that were completed against him earlier, including the touchdown. Talib had tight coverage on both, the other guys just made a great play. Especially on the touchdown. That throw by Luck and catch by Ty Hilton was just awesome. Nothing really Talib could do. He was right there.
  • Talib was bailed out later by Devin McCourty when he missed a jam. McCourty cleaned it up over the top in what was a big play. Those types of plays have been few and far between so far this season.
  • The Colts have no answer for TE Rob Gronkowski. Keep feeding the big fella.
  • Would be surprised if we see DE Chandler Jones in the second half. His right ankle was heavily bandaged and he had a pretty good limp on the sidelines.

Final: Patriots 59, Colts 24

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 18, 2012 04:14 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots, spurred along by two defensive touchdowns and a special teams score, burned the Indianapolis Colts for 59-24 drubbing at Gillette Stadium, tying the franchise record for the most points it has scored in a game.

New cornerback Aqib Talib intercepted Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown, Julian Edelman returned a a punt 68 yards for a touchdown and Alfonzo Dennard picked off another Luck pass and returned it 87 yards for a score to fuel the blowout.

Tom Brady was a sterling 24 of 35 passing for 331 yards and three touchdowns while Edelman racked up 222 all-purpose yards in the win.

Luck finished with three interceptions, throwing 27 of 50 passing for 334 yards and two touchdowns.

Rob Gronkowski caught seven passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. He's the first tight end in NFL history to record three straight seasons with at least 10 touchdowns.

Final: Patriots 59, Colts 24

2:17 4th quarter: Patriots 59, Colts 24 -- A deflected pass from Colts QB Andrew Luck was intercepted by Patriots safety Tavon Wilson. It was Luck's third interception of the game. Kyle Arrington tipped the pass.

3:55 4th quarter: Patriots 59, Colts 24 -- Shane Vereen ran in untouched for a 4-yard touchdown as the Patriots went up by 35 points against the Colts.

With eight extra points today, Stephen Gostkowski tied a franchise record. The team tied a franchise record for most points scored with 59.

7:52 4th quarter: Patriots 52, Colts 24 -- The Patriots forced a punt after a three-and-out, and Julian Edelman returned the punt 57 yards, threatening another touchdown.

9:05 4th quarter: Patriots 52, Colts 24 -- Julian Edelman took a reverse and ran 47 yards before Stevan Ridley punched in a 3-yard touchdown.

Tom Brady eclipsed the 300-yard mark on the drive. He's now tied with Dan Fouts for the sixth most 300-yard passing games in NFL history. It was a seven-play, 80-yard drive over 3:27.

Edelman's run was the longest of his career.

12:32 4th quarter: Patriots 45, Colts 24 -- Andrew Luck threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton on a quick 5-play, 2:15 drive going 74 yards.

Hilton actually fended off a Aqib Talib, who was flagged for pass interference on the play, to get loose for the touchdown. It's a 21-point game again.

14:47 4th quarter: Patriots 45, Colts 17 -- Alfonzo Dennard intercepted Colts QB Andrew Luck and returned it 87 yards for a touchdown, making it the second pick-six of the game. The last time the Patriots did that was in 2002.

Dennard went untouched on his return, with only Luck close enough to even chase him.

End of the third quarter: Patriots 38, Colts 17 -- The third quarter comes to a close with the Patriots with a 21-point lead. Tom Brady has thrown for 282 yards and three touchdowns, including two to tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski has six catches for 126 yards.

3:22 3d quarter: Patriots 38, Colts 17 -- Rob Ninkovich gets a strip sack on Andrew Luck, recovering the fumble. One play later, Tom Brady hits Rob Gronkowski for a 24-yard touchdown pass to make it a three-touchdown game.

Gronkowski has now become the first tight end in NFL history to record 10 touchdowns in three straight seasons.

4:53 3d quarter: Patriots 31, Colts 17 -- The Patriots were forced to punt for the first time today, getting four plays in their last drive, failing to complete a third down pass to Wes Welker in the flat.

7:20 3d quarter: Patriots 31, Colts 17 -- Vince Wilfork batted down his second pass of the game, forcing the Colts to punt for the second time of the game. This time, there was no return.

11:07 3d quarter: Patriots 31, Colts 17 -- Tom Brady gunned a 2-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman as the Patriots opened up a 14-point lead.

Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for a 31-yard pass on the drive. Gronkowski crossed the 100-yard threshold with that catch. It was a 10-play, 76-yard drive in 3:53.

It was also announced that Colts wide receiver Donnie Avery had suffered a concussion and would not return.

Chandler Jones, the Patriots defensive rookie, was not seen on the sideline after suffering an ankle injury in the first half.

15:00 3d quarter: Patriots 24, Colts 17 -- The second half is underway. The Patriots have received the ball to start.

End of the 2d quarter: Patriots 24, Colts 17 -- Adam Vinatieri was wide left -- with plenty of distance -- on a 58-yard field goal try as time expired in the second quarter.

The Patriots go into the half with a 7-point lead, having scored in all three phases of the game. The last time they did that was Oct. 4, 2010.

Tom Brady is 13 of 20 for 181 yards and a touchdown to Rob Gronkowski. Julian Edelman returned a punt 68 yards for a score and new cornerback Aqib Talib returned an interception 59 yards for a TD.

Gronkowski leads the team with four catches for 71 yards.

Colts rookie Andrew Luck is 15 of 27 for 159 yards with a touchdown and an interception.


1:58 2d quarter: Patriots 24, Colts 17 -- On his second attempt today, Stephen Gostkowski made good. He connected on a 31-yard field goal as the Patriots took a seven-point lead. It was a 10-play, 62-yard drive.

5:46 2d quarter: Patriots 21, Colts 17 -- Adam Vinatieri kicked a 47-yard field goal as the Colts managed to respond to the Patriots' 14-point swing in the second quarter.

Devin McCourty made two huge plays on defense, breaking up passes to Dwayne Allen and LaVon Brazill. The latter would've likely been a touchdown for the Colts.

10:59 2d quarter: Patriots 21, Colts 14 -- Aqib Talib has already paid off. The new Patriots cornerback intercepted a pass from Andrew Luck that was floated over the middle of the field and returned it 59 yards, criss-crossing across the field, for a touchdown as the Patriots took the lead.

Talib certainly got some nice blocks from his teammates on the play, but he showed some good return skills as well.

12:00 2d quarter: Patriots 14, Colts 14 -- Julian Edelman returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown. It was his third punt return for a TD in his career.

Afterward, he celebrated by pretending to reel in some fish during his end zone dance. Tie ball game.

12:14 2d quarter: Colts 14, Patriots 7 -- Vince Wilfork batted down a third down pass from Andrew Luck as the Colts went three-and-out. It's the game's first punt.

12:30 2d quarter: Colts 14, Patriots 7 -- Stephen Gostkowski missed a 37-yard field goal just slightly wide right. It snapped a streak of 11 consecutive field goals he had made in a row.

The missed field goal killed the momentum of a 12-play drive. Nate Solder was called for holding twice, but the second penalty was declined after a third-down incomplete pass to Wes Welker.

End of 1st quarter: Colts 14, Patriots 7 -- That was a fast first quarter. Brady is 7 of 10 for 110 yards and a touchdown already.

1:44 1st quarter: Colts 14, Patriots 7 -- Colts QB Andrew Luck threw a dart to T.Y. Hilton for a 14-yard touchdown as the Colts recaptured the lead.

Luck had a key pass to LaVon Brazill for 25 yards on the drive. He hit Brazill's back shoulder on the pass as he was covered by Aqib Talib.

Vick Ballard also broke off a 15-yard run before Luck's touchdown toss. It was a 10-play, 84-yard drive in 5:23.

7:07 1st quarter: Patriots 7, Colts 7 -- Rob Gronkowski made his mark early in this game. He caught a three passes, including 36-yarder and a 16-yarder before catching a 4-yard touchdown to tie the game up on the Patriots' first drive.

Gronkowski's spike on the score almost hit the official in the end zone. It was a fast 8-play, 81-yard drive in 3:42.

10:49 1st quarter: Colts 7, Patriots 0 -- The Colts got off to a fast start against the Patriots. Kyle Arrington was flagged for pass interference, giving the Colts a 1st-and-goal at the Patriots' 6. Two plays later, Delone Carter ran in a 1-yard touchdown.

Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who previously played for the Patriots, was booed by the home crowd.

It was a 7-play, 80-yard drive in 4:11.

15:00 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Colts 0 -- The Patriots won the coin toss and deferred till the second half. Game on.

Pregame: We're about to get underway here at Gillette Stadium, as the Patriots host the Indianapolis Colts in a matchup billed as the old vs. the new. (I'm sure Tom Brady would take offense to that.)

We've got clear skies and cool conditions. It's 42 degrees out. There are winds from the north, northeast coming in at 14 miles per hour. With the wind chill, it's about 35 degrees. Perfect day for football.

Aqib Talib was announced as the starting cornerback for the Patriots, while Visanthe Shiancoe and Julian Edelman will get the start on offense.

Stay right here for updates throughout the game. I'll be here until the final whistle.

@zuriberry

Chung, Connolly, Mankins inactive for Patriots

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 18, 2012 02:56 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- Despite practicing all week with his shoulder and hamstring ailing him, Patriots safety Patrick Chung will miss his fourth straight game after being declared inactive by the team.

Logan Mankins (ankle/calf), who was listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts, was also declared inactive. Dan Connolly (back), who was injured in last week's game against the Buffalo Bills, is also inactive. He had missed two practices this week.

Aaron Hernandez is inactive. He's still dealing with a lingering ankle injury he initially suffered in Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals.

Justin Francis, Daniel Fells, and Jake Bequette were all healthy scratches for the Patriots.

Colts at Patriots: 5 keys, prediction

Posted by Greg A. Bedard November 18, 2012 01:37 PM

The upstart Colts have won four-straight games as they take on the Patriots today at Gillette Stadium, but Indianapolis should leave with a loss if New England executes these five keys:

  1. Shut down Reggie Wayne: The veteran receiver is the Colts’ passing offense. Not having many weapons play right into the hands of the usually assignment-sure Patriots. The Colts line up Wayne all over the place and often send him in motion. It would surprise me if the Patriots matched up CB Aqib Talib on him all over the field – that would force the other, less experienced players to be responsible for too many variables – but expect the Patriots to double Wayne with a safety over the top no matter where he is. The Patriots did it to Larry Fitzgerald without Talib, and they can do it again. And since the Colts use Wayne similar to Hines Ward in Pittsburgh around the line of scrimmage, expect the Patriots to be extremely physical with Wayne. Ward used to love the contract. Wayne does not and no team has really tested him yet in that regard.
  2. Keep Luck in the pocket: Rookie QB Andrew Luck has great feet and can keep drives alive on his own. Expect the Patriots to use a very controlled rush up the middle and on the front side of the play to keep Luck in the pocket. This will likely drive fans crazy during the course of the game, but it’s the right way to go.
  3. Spread and throw: The Colts are very thin at cornerback and the safeties are not good in coverage. The Patriots should spread the field and let Tom Brady pick them apart. As long as the blocking is sound up front, Brady should have a huge day. Spreading the defense also gives Brady a chance to see some of the pressure this Ravens-like defense will want to dial up.
  4. Block the linebackers: Everyone knows about Dwight Freeney, but Robert Mathis, who should be back from injury, is the better rusher at this point in their careers. Mathis should see RT Sebastian Vollmer most of the day, and he’s playing terrific. The one concern may be LT Nate Solder with Freeney’s spin move. Solder has a tendency to set to hard to the outside and can be beaten inside. If I’m the Patriots, I give Solder a few running back chips.
  5. Protect the ball: This is another matchup where the Patriots shouldn’t have any trouble on paper, but if they start to do dumb things like turn the ball over and give the underdog a chance to hang. If the Patriots win the turnover battle, the Colts are going to have a tough time winning.

Prediction

This reminds me a lot of the spot the Patriots were in last year when they traveled to Denver to take on the Broncos. Similar situation. The Broncos were hot but hadn’t really beaten anybody so their flaws were covered. A hot young quarterback was playing well. The defense hadn’t really been exposed by a good offense. The team as a whole was riding an emotional high. I think we’ll see a similar result here. The Patriots may have some trouble early, but the offense should be able to do what it wants all game long against a depleted secondary. And as long as the defense shuts down Wayne, the Colts should have trouble scoring touchdowns to keep up.

Patriots 30, Colts 20

Inside the matchup: Colts at Patriots

Posted by Greg A. Bedard November 18, 2012 10:56 AM

We are very happy to have Alen Dumonjic, an x's and o's football junkie who blogs for The Score, back for another season to give us his insight on the intricacies of the game.

INSIDE THE COLTS’ OFFENSE

The Colts-Patriots rivalry has been renewed now that the Colts are relevant once again with a 6-3 record. These aren’t Peyton Manning’s Colts however, they are Andrew Luck’s. Despite it being a different signal-caller under center, sometimes it’s hard to differentiate the two because of Luck's passing ability. Luck has the total package when it comes to the quarterback position, possessing arm strength, accuracy, vision, pocket presence and mobility to attack the defense all over the field.

Although he is a rookie, Luck has a lot on his plate in a multiple offense that features the 11 (1 back, 1 tight end), 12 (1 back, 2 tight ends), 21 (2 backs, 1 tight end) and 22 (2 backs, 2 tight ends) personnel groupings. Indianapolis’ offense is designed by offensive coordinator and interim head coach Bruce Arians, who previously coached Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers and has essentially brought over the entire offense.

This offense features a significant amount of stack and bunch sets with receivers and use of tight ends. It particularly works on short routes that get the receiver in space and allow him to pick up yards after the catch, such as on screens or spot routes, as well as in the intermediate and deep middle of the field. Arians’ offense uses a variety of routes in the middle of the field, such as skinny posts, deep crossing routes, curls (“all-curls” concept), option routes (“seam-read”) and dig routes. All routes, short and intermediate, are thrown from three- and five-step drops by Luck, who is often protected by five- and six-man blocking schemes that are standard throughout the NFL.

In the running game, there is a heavy reliance on Luck's legs (five rushing touchdowns), which he has used to extend drives on third down, as the true ball-carriers are struggling. The offensive line struggles to establish the line of scrimmage in my opinion and, overall, the tailbacks are not overly talented physically. The run concepts include power running and zone stretches, which Arians was known for in Pittsburgh.

INSIDE THE COLTS’ DEFENSE

Defensively, the Colts are led by defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and much of the system appears to be what he ran in San Diego as well as what head coach Chuck Pagano ran in Baltimore as its defensive coordinator.

The front seven consists of the 3-4 and 4-3 fronts and much of it is from the under and over schemes, which were typically associated in the past with primarily pure 4-3 defenses. With NFL defenses continuing to rely heavily on the 1-gap philosophy, the implementation of the under and over fronts has been significant and crucial.

Further, the under front consists of a 1-technique (outside shoulder of center) nose tackle on the strong side (to the tight end side) of the formation while the 3-technique (outside shoulder of a guard) defensive tackle is on the weak side of the set.

Conversely, the over front has the 1-technique on the weak side of the formation while the strong side has the 3-technique.

The Colts have also gone to double 3-techniques, leaving the center and both A-gaps uncovered, on passing downs. This is another front that’s been used quite a bit throughout the NFL, particularly on obvious passing downs such as third-and-long.

In the defensive backfield, the Colts have deviated from the famous (or infamous) Tampa-2/Cover-2 concept that was so popular throughout the Dungy-Caldwell era. Now the Colts utilize a multitude of coverages in the back end to show different looks to defenses and they include Cover 1 (man-Free), Cover 2 Man (man-under), Cover 3 (4 under, 3 deep) and Cover 4 (quarters).

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

  • Colts’ deep passing: The Colts like to pass the ball vertically, throwing it on 27 percent of Luck’s attempts. This is second highest in the league per AdvancedNFLStats.com and they come in different forms. The Colts will attack defenses vertically off of play action, with deep crossing routes, while also simply lining up in shotgun and throwing seam routes.
  • Patriots’ third down defense: Indianapolis is seventh in third-down percentage in the NFL and many conversions have come courtesy of Luck extending the play with his feet when avoiding pressure. He can beat the defense with his arm and legs, which would likely lead to Patriots coach Bill Belichick treating him as an additional gap to account for and which explains why he compared him to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton recently. This is going to be a significant battle to watch simply because the Colts are pretty good in this area while the Patriots’ defense is the second worst in the league on third down.
  • Colts’ third down defense: On the other side of the trenches, the Colts are good in third down defense, ranking 12th in the NFL while the Patriots' offense is second-best in converting third downs. This is going to be another big battle that will be worth watching because it will prove to be a significant factor in the Patriots’ chances of putting points on the scoreboard, which they will have to do against the Colts if they have issues with defending the deep ball once again.
  • Middle of the field: Whether the Colts’ offense runs the ball or passes it, the middle of the field will be a big factor in this game because of the aforementioned reason of Arians calling a lot of plays that work the middle of the field. In the past, Belichick has said that he builds his team to defend the middle of the field -- between the hashes to be specific -- and this will be a big test because the linebackers and safeties are going to have be disciplined in executing their assignments. The linebackers can’t have their eyes in the backfield too long, reading the run and consequently allowing the tight ends to get behind them while the safeties also can’t be cheating in the backfield or they’ll get burned vertically.

--

For more interesting football reading, check out Alen's blog posts at The Score, and The Sideline View. Follow Alen on Twitter at @Dumonjic_Alen, or send him feedback via email.

Welker expected to play; Hernandez, Connolly are not

Posted by Greg A. Bedard November 18, 2012 10:39 AM

Receiver Wes Welker is expected to play today against the Colts, but tight end Aaron Hernandez and guard Dan Connolly are not.

Welker (ankle/foot) didn't practice until Friday this week, but the team feels good about his status.

The Patriots are optimistic that both Hernandez (ankle) and Connolly (back) can return on Thursday night in the Thanksgiving matchup with the Jets.

Game 10: Colts at Patriots

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 18, 2012 09:27 AM

FOXBOROUGH -- It may feel familiar, but it's not.

The Patriots host the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, marking the 15th time the two teams have played since 2001 when Tom Brady took over as quarterback.

The two teams have played in the playoffs three times during that span, all of which were epic battles against a Peyton Manning-led team. However, quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots have the edge in those games, 2-1, and Brady is 9-4 all-time against the Colts.

Patriots-Colts rivalry history But these Colts are under different leadership. After finishing 2-14 last year, the Colts drafted No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck (2,631 yards, 10 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 79.1 QB rating) and have ridden the rookie quarterback to a 6-3 record. Of the old guard still remaining, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and Robert Mathis register on the name recognition chart, while most of the roster has seen a significant measure of turnover. Former Patriots Darius Butler and Sergio Brown are now with the Colts, along with clutch kicker Adam Vinatieri.

And as the Patriots face the Colts in Week 11, the team is going through its own set of changes. The Patriots activated new cornerback Aqib Talib, whom the team traded a fourth round draft pick for a little less than two weeks ago. It remains to be seen if Talib will have an immediate impact and whether or not he'll be inserted into the starting lineup.

The team also waived veteran wide receiver Deion Branch, who was on his third tenure with the Patriots. In doing so, the team activated practice squad receiver Greg Salas, who spent time with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in St. Louis last season. The second-year pro had 27 receptions for 264 yards in his rookie year.

The Patriots are on a three-game winning streak following a 37-31 squeaker against the Buffalo Bills. The Colts are coming off a 27-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and are on a four-game win streak.

Here are the details for today's game:

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.

Records: Patriots 6-3; Colts 6-3.

TV/Radio info: CBS (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms); 98.5-FM The Sports Hub (Gil Santos, Scott Zolak).

Projected starting lineups:
Based on information distributed to the media, practice observations, and injuries for each team.

Patriots offense: WR Wes Welker, LT Nate Solder, LG Donald Thomas, C Ryan Wendell, RG Nick McDonald, RT Sebastian Vollmer, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Brandon Lloyd, QB Tom Brady, RB Stevan Ridley, TE Visanthe Shiancoe.

Patriots defense: NT Vince Wilfork DT Kyle Love, RDE Chandler Jones, DE Rob Ninkovich, LB Dont'a Hightower, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Devin McCourty, CB Kyle Arrington, S Patrick Chung, S Steve Gregory.

Colts offense: WR Reggie Wayne, LT Anthony Castonzo, LG Joe Reitz, C Samson Satele, RG Mike McGlynn, RT Winston Justice, TE Coby Fleener, WR Donnie Avery, QB Andrew Luck, F Dwayne Allen, RB Donald Brown.

Colts defense: DE Cory Redding, NT Antonio Johnson, DT Fili Moala, SLB Robert Mathis, MLB Kavell Conner, WLB Jerrell Freeman, RUSH Dwight Freeney, LCB Cassius Vaughn, SS Tom Zbikowski, FS Antoine Bethea, RCB Darius Butler.

Inactives
(more to come)

Patriots: TBA

Colts: Vontae Davis (knee), Coby Fleener (shoulder).

Patriots activate Talib and Salas, release Branch and Williams

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 17, 2012 04:43 PM

The Patriots had until 4 p.m. today to activate CB Aqib Talib for tomorrow's game against the Colts and they have done that.

Talib was acquired from Tampa Bay on Nov. 1, but only joined the team on Monday after serving a four-game NFL suspension for performance-enhancing substances.

Additionally, the team has promoted receiver Greg Salas off the practice squad.

Salas also came to New England via trade, after playing for St. Louis as a rookie last year. He was on the 53-man roster for the first two games of the season but has been on the practice squad since. However, Salas was making $465,001 as a member of the p-squad, a sign that the Patriots wanted to keep him around (most practice squad players make $96,900 for a full season).

To make room for the two players, the Patriots have released Deion Branch and Malcolm Williams.

Branch was added to New England's injury report on Thursday with a hamstring injury. Although he is a veteran, because it is after the trade deadline, he must go through waivers and can be claimed by any team. If Branch is claimed, a team must pay the remainder of his $925,000 salary for this season, or just over $326,000.

Released by the Patriots out of training camp, Branch was re-signed on Sept. 19 and had played in all seven games since, with nine receptions for 80 yards. He had a season-high four catches against Buffalo last week.

Williams, a special teamer, was a seventh-round pick of the Patriots last year; he was promoted off the practice squad on Oct. 27 but was inactive last week against the Bills.

On the Beat: 5 questions about the Colts

Posted by Greg A. Bedard November 16, 2012 08:25 PM

We haven't seen much of this new version of the Colts, so we brought in beat writer Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star to get us up to speed. Thanks to Phil for his time:

1. Antoine Bethea still looks like a good player on tape, but how are are the Colts going to cover the Patriots with Darius Butler, Tom Zbikowski, Cassius Vaughn and Josh Gordy?

PW: "Good question. Colts beat writers have been asking each other the same question this week. My best guess is to rush five with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis at OLB and drop the rest back into coverage, giving up the underneath stuff and trying to force Tom Brady to take what's given as opposed to throwing it down the field for larger gains. Dink and dunk typically translates to death by paper cuts, based on what we've seen of pass defense cushions given in the past, but perhaps the Colts can catch a break with the old Tony Dungy philosophy that an offense might make a mistake if it has to manufacture scoring drives of 10-to-15 plays. TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Wes Welker are one-on-one mismatches. It doesn't make sense to challenge them all the time. The other school of thought, though, is to mix and match coverages and keep the Patriots guessing what they will see. Sometimes, you press. Sometimes, you drop back. But Brady is so smart and has seen it all, I don't put much stock in confusing him too often."

2. Who is the one Colts player most Patriots fans don’t know right now, but will by the end of the game on Sunday?

PW: "Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman. He's the Colts' leading tackler with 73 total stops (NFL.com), but some even in Indianapolis are still asking who he is. He played the last three years in the Canadian Football League. The first-year pro was thought to be a backup linebacker, possibly used as a nickel linebacker, but 2011 leading tackler Pat Angerer broke his foot on the very first play of the preseason opener and Freeman got promoted quickly. That sure seemed like an obvious hole that could not be filled, but Freeman has been solid in making stops and generating a few turnovers. The Colts have just eight takeaways, but Freeman is responsible for two of them with a pick-six TD return against Chicago's Jay Cutler in the opener and a forced fumble on a sack of Minnesota QB Christian Ponder. Freeman always has a knack for being around the ball and holding this defense together. He's led the Colts in tackles in every game but one, according to NFL.com."

3. What’s the biggest weakness on the Colts’ offense you expect the Patriots to try to exploit?

PW: "Protecting QB Andrew Luck has been an on-and-off concern. He's been forced to show his mobility too often because a blitzer didn't get picked up off the edge or on a surprise stunt inside. Luck has poise beyond his years for a rookie QB, but he's taken 19 sacks. He'll be the first to admit some are his fault, for holding the ball too long, but the line has leaked consistently against the better opponents. Chicago got to him with relentless pressure. Green Bay did, too. Even the woeful N.Y. Jets had several shots on him. The Colts will expect the Patriots to mix it up defensively, sometimes blitzing and sometimes dropping back into coverage to try to confuse the young passer. But the biggest concern should be pass protection on the edge, after that rusher has dropped back so many times into coverage, but then comes unexpectedly when least expected."

4. What’s the biggest weakness on the Colts’ defense you expect the Patriots to try to exploit?

PW: "Without a consistent pass rush, any secondary is exploited. But the Colts have a lot of no-name guys back there and if there isn't pressure on Brady, they won't be able to cover the Patriots' pass catchers. Too many times, also, safeties Antoine Bethea or Tom Zbikowski have been caught rotating to other spots to shore up openings and that has created opportunities elsewhere. The last-minute home loss to Jacksonville is a prime example as Cecil Shorts III (who?) burned a nickel cornerback for a game-winning TD pass. So the corner gets beat on a seam route. Sure, it happens. But protecting a lead late, it boggled the mind how both safeties were out of position to plug the gap and limit that pass to a 20-yard gain. If the safeties play back and split the field, in a classic cover-two look, Brady will be patient and wait for his chances to catch them out of position. If the Colts try to be aggressive and role these safeties to sides, look out. That's when big plays happen. Counting on these cornerbacks to play too much tight man-to-man will lead to some game-deciding gains."

5. Finally, Colts win on Sunday if …

PW: "They get pressure on Brady, force enough turnovers to enjoy at least a plus-two advantage and Andrew Luck gets enough protection to pick apart the Patriots secondary with WR Reggie Wayne, TE Dwayne Allen and WR T.Y. Hilton, among others. Yeah, a lot has to go right for the Colts to pull off an upset. Luck is gifted, but he's one man, there's only so much he can do by himself. Rookie RB Vick Ballard has been effective, but the run game can't carry this offense. Balance is ideal, sure, but Luck and the passing game is this team's strength. When he gets the chance to make plays, he's got to be on target and his pass catchers can't drop those balls.

NFL fines Patriots linebackers Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo for hits against Bills

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff November 16, 2012 04:24 PM

FOXBOROUGH --- The National Football League Friday handed down some stiff fines of Patriots linebackers Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo for their rough treatment of the Bills in the fourth quarter Sunday's 37-31 victory over Buffalo at Gillette Stadium.

According to the NFL, Spikes was fined $25,000 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, which drew a roughing the passer penalty, while Mayo was hit with a $10,000 fine for his late hit out of bounds on Bills RB C.J. Spiller, which drew an unneccesary roughness call.

Greg Bedard on NFL Week 11

Posted by Robert Burgess November 16, 2012 04:06 PM





NFL commissioner Roger Goodell visited Harvard University to address football safety and concussions. CineSports Tara Petrolino and The Boston Globe's Greg Bedard discuss this & Patriots-Colts.

Wes Welker returns to Patriots practice, but remains questionable

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff November 16, 2012 03:56 PM

FOXBOROUGH --- After missing Wednesday's and Thursday's practices, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, who injured his ankle in Sunday's 37-31 home victory over the Bills, returned to practice Friday at Gillette Stadium.

And given the nature of his injury and the fact he missed the first two practices of the week, that had to come as an encouraging sign to Patriots fans. However, while Welker said he ``felt good'' in his first day back at practice, there remained some concern about his status after Welker declined to place any kind of percentage on his health

He was listed as questionable on the team's injury report Friday along with 15 other players. Among them: tight end Aaron Hernandez, who, according to a Tweet posted by NFL Network's Albert Breer, was expected to miss Sunday's game against Indianapolis Colts at Gillette.

Hernandez, who injured his ankle in Week 2, took part in all three practices this week, but in a limited capacity.

"I don't know if anybody's 100 percent at this point of the season,'' Welker said, when asked if he felt 100 percent ready for Sunday's home against the Colts. ``I don't know where I'm at. I'm just looking forward to getting better and trying to contribute on Sunday.''

Logan Mankins, who missed all three practices this week with an ankle/calf injury, was the only player listed as doubtful. The Colts listed CB Vontae Davis (knee) and TE Coby Fleener (shoulder) as out.

Bill Belichick lauds Colts' K Adam Vinatieri as 'one of the greatest'

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff November 16, 2012 12:47 PM

FOXBOROUGH --- While it's been seven years since Adam Vinatieri last played in New England, Patriots coach Bill Belichick lauded the Colts kicker as the "one of the greatest kickers since I've been in the league'' Friday when asked if Vinatieri, who converted clutch kicks that lifted Patriots to victories in Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII, had Hall of Fame credentials.

"The longevity, the production, the performance in championships and big games? What more could he do?'' Belichick said. "Go out there and play wide receiver and catch a bunch of passes? Is that what he needs to do? I don't know.''

But, in praising Vinatieri for his body of work, which included 18 overall game-winning kicks during his time in New England from 1996-2005, Belichick was also quick to praise his own kicker, Stephen Gostkowski.

"Steve works hard. He’s been real consistent for us since the first year he got here. He’s really pretty much the same guy every day,'' Belichick said of Gostkowski, who this season has converted all 33 PATs he's attempted and made 20 of 23 field goals, including the last 11 in a row. Gostkowski converted back-to-back long kicks of 51 and 53 yards before missing a 42-yard field goal attempt in a 20-18 loss to Arizona in Week 2.

"He doesn’t get too up, too down,'' Belichick said. "He’s made a lot of big kicks for us. Kicked well, not perfect, but he hasn’t been too high on the highs or too low on the lows. He’s been very consistent with his work ethic, his discipline, his ability to adapt to different snappers, holders over the course of his career.

"That’s something you can’t control as a kicker but you have to work with. He’s done a good job of that and hasn’t let it affect him, what he can control, which is his preparation and performance.''

Friday roll call: Welker, Connolly return to Patriots practice

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff November 16, 2012 11:51 AM
FOXBOROUGH -- Wes Welker and Dan Connolly were both back at Patriots practice on Friday, leaving Logan Mankins as the only Patriot not spotted during the short portion made accessible to the media.

Players were in sweats and shells, and working on the game field inside Gillette Stadium.

Neither Welker nor Connolly practiced Wednesday or Thursday, leaving their availability for Sunday's home game with the Colts up in the air if they weren't on the practice field today. The team will issue an injury report after practice, listing players' status for Sunday's game as either out, doubtful, questionable, or probable.

Welker, who rolled an ankle late in the win over the Bills, typically speaks to the media on Friday, so we'll see if he does so after practice.

Connolly left the Bills game with a back injury. Mankins left with an ankle injury.

Tom Brady focused on Colts defense, not Andrew Luck

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff November 15, 2012 05:30 PM
FOXBOROUGH -- The conversation about the Colts has shifted from Peyton Manning to young gun Andrew Luck, but for Tom Brady, it's all about the Colts defense.

"My focus has been on what that defense does," the Patriots star quarterback said during his Q&A session at Gillette Stadium this afternoon. "It’s always the Colts defense and it’s always centered around two players and those two guys are still there. That’s really the challenge for us this week, is trying to figure out how to block that entire front. There are a lot of different looks from the last time we played them, trying to understand the scheme and how they’re doing things but they’re good and they really rush the passer and that’s a big challenge."

As far as Luck goes, Brady's not sure he'll introduce himself to the rookie quarterback before the game.

"I don’t know," Brady said. "We’ll see. Usually I don’t go out too early anymore. I tend to just keep to myself."

Brady talked about what it's like to be a rookie in the National Football League.

"It’s always challenging for those rookies," Brady said. "As a rookie, I was like fourth-string and eating nachos before the game in the stands. There wasn’t much of me thinking of playing. I always admire those rookies who can do it because it is such a challenge, whether you’re a defensive end like Chandler Jones, or Dont’a Hightower or Andrew Luck or any of these rookies who really play a big role for a certain team. It’s a real credit to them and their ability to transition and focus on all these new things that have really come about and go out there and play well."

Brady was asked about how much confidence he gained in his first start for the Patriots, which was a 44-13 victory against the Colts in Foxborough back in 2001.

"I don’t remember that long ago," Brady said. "It doesn’t seem like that long ago but it does. But hopefully everyone improves over the course of a season, whether you’re a young player or a veteran player, that’s the goal. I feel like today, had a very good practice and now finally you really start to feel like you’re in the middle, it took however many games – four preseason and nine regular season and you’ve played 13 games – and you’re like, ‘Now I really start feeling good out there on every play.’ It’s just part of the NFL season."

Brady said he had a lot more time than Luck to observe an NFL offense in action before taking the helm.

"I had quite a few, 18 months, to develop camaraderie with the guys that I played with and it was a lot of time and practice and extra coaching sessions and so forth," Brady said. "For those rookies, coming right from college to this position is very challenging."

Week 11: Thursday injury/participation report - Branch added

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 15, 2012 05:01 PM

The Patriots' injury list hasn't gotten much shorter since the bye week - it only seems to be growing.

Today the team added Deion Branch with a hamstring injury, likely suffered during practice. He is listed as limited. Otherwise, there are no changes for New England from yesterday's report.

The Colts added three players to their report: RB Donald Brown, LB Robert Mathis and NT Josh Chapman, with all of them not practicing today after participating yesterday.

For the Patriots
Did not participate
G Dan Connolly - back
G Logan Mankins - ankle/calf
WR Wes Welker - ankle

Limited participation
DT Ron Brace - elbow
* WR Deion Branch - hamstring
S Patrick Chung - shoulder/hamstring
S Steve Gregory - hip
TE Rob Gronkowski - hip
TE Aaron Hernandez - ankle
LB Dont'a Hightower - hamstring
WR Brandon Lloyd - knee
OL Nick McDonald - shoulder
DE Trevor Scott - hamstring
LB Brandon Spikes - knee
OT Sebastian Vollmer - back/knee
CB Malcolm Williams - thigh

Full participation
WR Julian Edelman - hand
DT Kyle Love - knee
LB Jerod Mayo - elbow

For the Colts
* RB Donald Brown - knee
* NT Josh Chapman - knee
CB Vontae Davis - knee
TE Coby Fleener - shoulder
* LB Robert Mathis - back

Full participation
OT Winston Justice - knee
C Samson Satele - back

Newly acquired Aqib Talib 'just excited to help' Patriots

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff November 15, 2012 04:29 PM
FOXBOROUGH -- Cornerback Aqib Talib, acquired Nov. 1 in a trade deadline deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a 2013 fourth-round draft pick, met with the local media for the first time Thursday at Gillette Stadium and expressed hope of putting his checkered past behind him.

"I just want to come in and learn as quick as possible and work hard and see what I can do to help the team,'' Talib said, smiling broadly as he stood in front of his locker.

Talib, who was serving a four-game NFL suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances, wasn't eligible to join the team for practices or meetings until after his suspension was lifted Monday. He arrived Foxborough that day and met with coach Bill Belichick, and participated in Wednesday's practice session in sweats and shells, wearing No. 31.

Asked if Belichick ever told him he was coming into a clean-slate situation, Talib replied, "We kinda just talked straight football. He didn't bring up the past and I didn't bring up the past. He didn't bring up the future. I didn't bring up the future.

"He just kind of told me to take it one day at a time.''

As for his initial impressions of Belichick, Talib said, "Getting the chance to know him, I mean, it let me have a new perspective on him. But he's a great guy and a great coach and he's about his business. He definitely knows how to win ballgames.''

Brought aboard to help a leaky Patriots secondary, Talib was asked if he was excited for the opportunity, especially with impressive rookie quarterback Andrew Luck leading the 6-3 Colts to town for Sunday's game at Gillette Stadium.

"I'm just excited to help, man,'' Talib said. "I'm excited to be a part of this organization. A great organization like this, I'm excited that Bill gave me this chance to come in here and help.''

Week 11: Thursday practice peek - three not spotted

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 15, 2012 01:21 PM

It is chilly and gray here in Foxborough - the Patriots are holding their second on-field practice as the continue to prepare for the visiting Colts.

There were three players not spotted: Wes Welker, Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly. Those were the same three players who were absent from yesterday's session.

Players were in full pads.

Thursday roll call

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff November 15, 2012 01:17 PM

Colleague Shalise Manza Young reports that the same three Patriots who missed Wednesday's practice -- guards Dan Connolly and Logan Mankins, and receiver Wes Welker -- were not spotted for the beginning of Thursday's practice, which is taking place on the lower field behind Gillette Stadium.

Players were in full pads on a cold, blustery, overcast day.

Mankins (ankle) and Connolly (back) left Sunday's win against the Bills with injuries. Welker did not leave with an injury, but rolled his ankle late in the game.

Inside the Playbook: How Talib will defend Reggie Wayne?

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff November 15, 2012 11:58 AM

In this installment of Inside the Playbook, Greg A. Bedard and Jermaine Wiggins analyze the ways in which Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib will try to slow down Colts receiver Reggie Wayne.

Patriots Game 10 Preview: Old rivalry refreshed with new-look Colts

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff November 15, 2012 09:48 AM
Meet the new Colts, definitely not the same as the old Colts.

The revamped and re-energized Indianapolis Colts (6-3) come into Gillette Stadium Sunday to face their longtime rival Patriots (6-3). Even though New England and Indianapolis have not been in the same division since 2001, this is the 10th straight season the teams will play against each other. The Patriots are 20-10 against the Colts since 1993, and have won 17 of the last 24 games.

While the Colts have a new coach, GM, and a host of young players, the biggest in the rivalry is that future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning is no longer the quarterback of the Colts, having moved on to Denver. Instead, the Patriots will face rookie phenom Andrew Luck for the first time.

In this week's preview video, the Globe's Shalise Manza Young gives us her keys to the Week 11 showdown between the AFC contenders. Manza Young looks into the challenges the Patriots defense faces in stopping Luck and venerable receiver Reggie Wayne and which Colts defender New England's offense needs to target.

Patriots defenders Rob Ninkovich and Steve Gregory also weigh in on Luck while Rob Gronkowski, Matthew Slater, and Kyle Arrington talk about taking on a different Colts team than they've seen in the past.

Midweek Report: Talib practices as Patriots prepare for Colts

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff November 14, 2012 04:48 PM




Zuri Berry provides an update from Gillette Stadium on what's happening with the Patriots as cornerback Aqib Talib joined the team as it began preparing to face the Colts on Sunday.

Patriots Wednesday practice report

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff November 14, 2012 04:36 PM

By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff
FOXBOROUGH -- Three Patriots -- offensive guards Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly, and receiver Wes Welker -- did not practice on Wednesday, according to the team's injury/practice report.

Both Connolly (back) and Mankins (ankle/calf) left last Sunday's game against the Bills with injuries. Welker appeared to roll his ankle late in the game, but was spotted in the locker room on Wednesday, and participated in a conference call with Indianapolis media earlier in the day.

Thirteen Patriots were listed with assorted injuries that limited their practice participation. Linebacker Tracy White (foot) and defensive end Trevor Scott (hamstring), both of whom missed practice last week, returned on Wednesday.

The other Patriots who were limited: defensive tackle Ron Brace (elbow), safeties Patrick Chung (shoulder/hamstring) and Steve Gregory (hip), tight ends Rob Gronkowski (hip) and Aaron Hernandez (ankle), linebackers Dont'a Hightower (hamstring) and Brandon Spikes (knee), receiver Brandon Lloyd (knee), offensive linemen Nick McDonald (shoulder) and Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee), and cornerback Malcolm Williams (thigh).

Bill Belichick on Colts rookie QB Andrew Luck: 'He's a terrific athlete'

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff November 14, 2012 03:01 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- While he has been impressive in helping the Colts right their ship with a 6-3 record, passing for 2,631 yards and 10 touchdowns, Andrew Luck's running ability will pose as much of a threat as his arm when the Patriots host the Colts Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

"Absolutely. He's a terrific athlete," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday. "This guy can really run, he's fast. There's no question about his athletic ability and running skill. He’s probably as fast as anybody we’ve played. We’ve played a couple guys that can run, but I’d put him right up there with them. He can cover a lot of ground; he’s very athletic.''

The 6-foot-4-inch, 234-pound rookie from Stanford, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, ranks as the Colts' No. 3 rusher with 34 carries for 159 yards and a team-leading five touchdowns.

"I would say [they've] featured [him],'' Belichick said, "but they've probably used more of those plays where he rolls out or not necessarily unprotected but moving-pocket-type plays where he can extend the play a little bit, get outside, and change the rush angle for the defenders and that kind of thing.

"Yeah, I think they’re doing a little bit more of that, more so than let’s say [Ben] Roethlisberger in the same offense. You didn’t see Pittsburgh doing a lot of that with him. I would say they didn’t start out doing a lot of that. Those plays just developed and he did them on his own or the play just developed that way.

"I think they’ve shown that they’ve designed some plays to get him on the move a little bit, and that’s effective because it changes the angles for the rushers and gets him out there where he’s tough in space.''

Bill Belichick sees Reggie Wayne's role with Colts comparable with former Steelers WR Hines Ward

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff November 14, 2012 02:12 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- Perhaps owing to the time Colts interim coach Bruce Arians spent as the Steelers' offensive coordinator, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday he saw the role of Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne, still productive after 12 seasons in the league, as comparable to that of former Steelers wideout Hines Ward.

"They've moved him around a little in the past, but not much," Belichick said of Wayne, the NFL's leader in receiving yards since 2001 with 12,639. "He's like Hines Ward. They motion him a lot, he's blocking, cracking, lining up close to the formation. He's in the slot. He's been doing a lot of things that Hines Ward did in Pittsburgh. It's interesting to see him in that role, but he's always been good at whatever he's done.''

Wayne, who made eight receptions for 96 yards in Indy's 27-10 victory at Jacksonville last Thursday, ranks first in the NFL with 69 receptions this season and second with 931 receiving yards.

Asked if Wayne's resurgence could be tied to the presence of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, who has completed 208 of 362 passes for 2,631 yards and 10 touchdowns for a rating of 79.1, Belichick said, "I don't see Reggie Wayne as being any different from the Reggie Wayne I saw in the past. He was good then and he's good now.

"They had some issues last year with their quarterback and the passing game and all that, but I didn't see any drop-off in Reggie Wayne as a football player. He's always been pretty good, to me.''

Welker, Mankins not spotted at Wednesday's Patriots practice

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 14, 2012 01:34 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- The Globe's Mike Whitmer reports Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker and guard Logan Mankins were missing from Wednesday's portion of practice open to the media.

The Patriots were dressed in sweats and shells.

Returning to practice were LB Tracy White, who had been dealing with a foot injury, while DE Trevor Scott was back from a hamstring injury.

Cornerback Aqib Talib was wearing No. 31 at practice.

Aqib Talib makes much-anticipated apperance at Patriots practice

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff November 14, 2012 01:29 PM

FOXBOROUGH --- Aqib Talib, the talented by troubled cornerback who was acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Nov. 1 in exchange for a 2013 fourth-round draft pick, made his much-anticipated first appearance Wednesday at Patriots practice.

Talib, who wore No. 31, was noticeably present for Wednesday's practice session in sweats and shells at the upper practice field behind Gillette Stadium, according to Globe colleague Michael Whitmer.

Guard Logan Mankins (calf/hip) and wide receiver Wes Welker (ankle) were not spotted during the media-access portion of practice.

Linebacker Tracy White, inactive for the last four games with a foot injury, returned to practice along with defensive end Trevor Scott, who had missed the last two games with an injured hamstring.

Colts' Andrew Luck sees a 'stout' defensive line in Patriots

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 14, 2012 12:35 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots didn't have their finest outing against the Buffalo Bills in Week 10, allowing 481 yards of total offense and 35 first downs. But that doesn't mean the team still doesn't get respect for its body of work from opponents, especially for its front seven that has played incredibly well.

Indianapolis Colt Andrew Luck, who will visit Gillette Stadium for the first time on Sunday, lauded the Patriots defensive line in a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon.

"I think their front four is incredibly stout," Luck said. "Obviously, Wilfork is one of the best nose tackles, interior guys in the league. And then two, they have very good pass, edge rushers on the side. So they do get to the quarterback and even if it's not a sack, it's a sort of harass, force an early throw, force the quarterback out of the pocket. So that'll be a focus all week and I'm sure our line will do a great job and it'll be a great job for them."

At the same time, the Patriots' secondary has struggled mightily. The team's pass defense is ranked 29th in the NFL, allowing 285.3 yards per game. But Luck, when looking at the defense as a whole, doesn't see that when he looks at the film.

"I think they do a great job of creating turnovers in opportune times for the offense and very opportunistic times for themselves," he said. "Whether it's in the red zone, backed up, or when teams are on big drives, so they do a great job of that. I think they're just a solid defense all the way around.

On the Patriots secondary in particular, the rookie quarterback says there's a bit of mystery to the unit.

"I think they do a great job of mixing up coverages and disguising coverages," he said. "So it's hard to get a beat on what they're doing. They got obviously some [players] banged up here and there, but they do a great job I think of getting the job done. So it'll be a very tough test for us."

Luck has taken over a Colts team at quarterback that had been led by Peyton Manning since 1998. In those 14 years, Manning waged epic battles against Tom Brady and the Patriots with the rivalry only softening with Manning's departure. But Luck was certainly tuned in to the rivalry at its zenith.

"As a young quarterback growing up, that's the opportunity to watch the two sort of benchmarks of quarterback play," he said. "Some great playoff games at both stadiums. I think Gillette had grass a while back, it'd get fairly muddy sometimes late in the year watching them play. Those were always fun for a lot of people, including me."

Patriots sign G Petrus

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff November 13, 2012 06:38 PM

With starting guards Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly leaving Sunday’s game against the Bills with injuries – the severity is unclear – the Patriots addressed a possible need on Tuesday by signing free-agent guard Mitch Petrus, who played in 23 games for the Giants, including six this season before being released.

Petrus was a fifth-round pick of the Giants iout of Arkansas n the 2010 NFL Draft, started three games last season, and worked out for the Patriots on Monday.

The team also made two minor practice-squad moves, releasing Jerrell Harris and signing Jeff Tarpinian. Both are linebackers.

Inside the Playbook: McCourty's interception

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff November 13, 2012 03:57 PM

In this installment of Inside the Playbook, Greg A. Bedard and Jermaine Wiggins analyze the factors that led to Devin McCourty's game-winning interception in the final minute Sunday vs. the Bills.

Patriots Tuesday

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff November 13, 2012 12:39 PM

Players have been given the day off, and will return to practice Wednesday as they prepare for Sunday's home game against the surprising Indianapolis Colts. Just 2-14 a season ago, the Colts are 6-3 and winners of four straight games, working their way into the playoff discussion while playing for coach Chuck Pagano, who is fighting leukemia, and being led by rookie quarterbackk Andrew Luck, the No. 1 pick in this year's NFL Draft.

Tuesday usually means a teleconference with head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. The three were asked about Luck, the Colts, Pagano, and new arrival Aqib Talib, who figures to start at cornerback against the Colts in his Patriots' debut.

A sampling of what the coaches had to say:

Belichick, asked about his team's poor tackling in a 37-31 win against the Bills, said, "I don't have any excuses for it. We've just got to do a better job of coaching it, got to do a better job of executing it. Buffalo's got a lot of good skill players, their guys are hard to tackle, but we're going to see that every week, every team's going to have players that are hard too tackle, that's what NFL offensive players are, that's why they're in the NFL. We just have to fundamentally do a better job at that, and coach it better, and hopefully we'll be able to do that this week."

Patricia said he spent some introductory time with Talib on Monday, and is anxious to get him on the field. "I had the opportunity to meet with him yesterday and kind of get caught up a little bit, so that was all good," Patricia said. "Professional, guy's been in the league, so no problems there."

As for his expectations for Talib?

"I think we'll have to wait and see, evaluate it as the week goes on," Patricia said. "But obviously, like all of our players, we expect them to come in and work hard, try to get on board with what we're doing as soon as they can, really get out there and contribute in any way that we feel is positive for the team."

For the first time all season, McDaniels had the services of tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who had been on the injured list. No balls were thrown Shiancoe's way against the Bills, but McDaniels still liked what he saw.

"The way the game ended up, we ended up with a lot more single tight end groupings, so we used Visanthe and [tight end] Danny Fells a little less than what we could have," McDaniels said. "But he went in there and handled his role. He went in there, did his job, and we'll try to build on that this week."

Talib arrives in Foxborough; Tarpinian released

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 12, 2012 04:59 PM

Cornerback Aqib Talib, whom the Patriots acquired Nov. 1 in a trade with Tampa Bay, had his four-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substances lifted today by the NFL.

Talib arrived at Gillette Stadium early this afternoon.

To that end, New England announced that linebacker Jeff Tarpinian was released. The move was almost certainly done to open a roster spot for Talib. Although the Patriots have had his rights since the trade, teams are given a roster exemption during a player's suspension.

Now that Talib is eligible to join the team, the Patriots had to make room for him on the 53-man roster.

5 takeaways from the Patriots-Bills game

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 12, 2012 07:00 AM

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Jermaine Cunningham made an impact on defense rushing Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. (Matthew J. Lee / Globe Staff)

FOXBOROUGH -- Whether it is the bend-but-don't-break defense that has you up in arms, or the resilience of those entrusted with protecting the end zone for the Patriots that sent a chill up your spine, Sunday's 37-31 win over the Buffalo Bills is a matter of perception.

For both the pessimist and optimist alike, there is something in Sunday's game that speaks to your gridiron view. Here are some thoughts on Sunday's game that speaks to both.

1) Devin McCourty happens to be a twin with two faces -- There's Devin McCourty the beatable and inconsistent cornerback, and then there's Devin McCourty the let-no-man-cross-his-face safety who suddenly has trouble tackling. Against the Bills, we watched as McCourty missed his fair share of tackles (three to my count) before he made a splash with a forced fumble in the fourth quarter on Fred Jackson at the goal line. And in the end, he was the man standing in the end zone playing catch with Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. All he had to do was make a play. For the Patriots, that can be considered good enough. He has ball skills and he's not afraid to use them. There's no shame in players that make plays at opportune times. If anything, it's the Bills' fault for making players like McCourty look better than they are.

2) Is the defense getting worse? -- Fitzpatrick passed for 337 yards and two touchdowns. We already know that secondary is not the Patriots' strength. Instead, Patriots fans have felt all warm and fuzzy inside knowing that the team's run defense was one of the best in the league. The Patriots were holding opponents to 88.6 yards per game, good for eighth best in the NFL. That ranking will surely take a hit come Tuesday. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller combined for 150 yards rushing and Fitzpatrick chipped in 12 more as the Patriots gave up a season-high 162 yards on the ground. With a healthy front seven, one has to wonder if the troubles of the secondary are affecting the team's ability to defend the run. We could chalk it up to the two explosive running backs the Patriots faced Sunday, but that doesn't hold up when compared to the team's past performance against some of the league's top running backs. Pick a running back, any running back, and each one was limited by the Patriots' defense. Some more than others. Chris Johnson was bottled up for 4 yards in Week 1. Willis McGahee finished with 51; Marshawn Lynch had 41 yards and Steven Jackson tallied 23. Sunday's effort by the Bills on the ground doesn't speak well for the Patriots defense or its future prospects, especially considering the elite running backs still on the schedule.

3) A change in the defense causes a change in performance? -- Jermaine Cunningham's 6-yard sack on Fitzpatrick in the third quarter was his second full sack of the season. His last came against the Tennessee Titans in Week 1. He also forced a holding call, recovered a fumble, and had a tackle for a loss, making Sunday's game another successful day at the office for the third-year pro. But the hybrid defensive end and linebacker has found himself lining up over guards more and more with Sunday's game as no exception. It's a pretty significant change from the purely outside pass rusher he's been known to be. Between Cunningham, Chandler Jones, and Rob Ninkovich, the Patriots have good ends that make things difficult on less athletic tackles. However, this wrinkle has Cunningham working as a backup for Kyle Love in sub packages and may have already backfired. Again, the team gave up 162 yards rushing against the Bills and a lot of that came when the team was in those sub packages. At 255 pounds, having Cunningham go toe-to-toe with interior linemen doesn't appear to be the best use of his talent.

4) Danny Woodhead must love the Bills -- Woodhead ripped off a 15-yard touchdown when no one on the Bills was looking and then weaved his way to the end zone on an 18-yard touchdown reception that crossed the goal line by a whisker. The last time the Patriots played the Bills in Week 4, he caught a 17-yard touchdown pass where he zigzagged his way through traffic before getting into the end zone. Three of his four season touchdowns are against the Bills. And to top it off, Sunday's two-touchdown effort was the first multiple touchdown game of his career.

"Now that it's mentioned, I guess, yeah," said Woodhead. "But that's not something I'm too concerned with. The team comes so far before myself and it's the win that matters. It's not myself getting two touchdowns."

5) Who's up and who's down in the Patriots secondary -- Steve Gregory finally returned to the Patriots' lineup after missing four games due to a hip injury. He played the whole game. But what was interesting was whose place he took in the starting lineup. Rookie Tavon Wilson, who had started in place of Gregory, was removed midway through the first quarter as the team opted to pair Gregory with Devin McCourty at safety. Alfonzo Dennard came in as the team's left cornerback, opposite Kyle Arrington. In nickel and dime situations, Wilson played sparingly, giving way to Marquice Cole. It's telling for a guy who has been picked on quite a bit. Despite giving great run support, Wilson has been a liability on deep passes. When Patrick Chung returns, I'm sure the rotation will change again with McCourty moving back to cornerback. Despite all the changes, there's been no improvement on performance. If the team is ever fully healthy, it might be a good idea to re-think strategy over personnel.

Patriots secondary makes key plays when needed vs. Bills

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff November 11, 2012 06:41 PM

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FOXBOROUGH -- When the Patriots broke for the bye week after a 45-7 thrashing of the Rams in London on Oct. 28, talk of the team's need for improvement centered around preventing opponents from making big plays. A deadline deal for cornerback Aqib Talib reinforced the point that the New England secondary was the unit in need of the most fine-tuning.

Two weeks later and far removed from Britain's foggy skies, a clearer picture of the solution for plugging New England's leaky secondary has yet to emerge. The focus after Sunday's 37-31 win over the Bills wasn't so much on the big play but on the methodical, dump-and-run offense of a Buffalo team that gained 481 total yards on the Patriots.

"They didn't really hit us with a lot of big plays," said Patriots head coach Belichick. "They moved the ball around, they got a lot of guys involved. ... We missed some tackles, we didn't play some of the runs real well."

Particularly problematic were Bills running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, who combined for 246 total yards both on the ground and in the air. The ground game also opened up enough airspace for Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for 337 yards, which is just 10 fewer yards of offense than the Patriots had in total. If not for turnovers, the Patriots could have found themselves on the losing end.

"We know they're explosive players," said Patriots cornerback Marquice Cole. "I feel like we just had to go out and finish the game, and make one more play than they did to win it."

That one big play was an interception by fellow defensive back Devin McCourty with 28 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Fitzpatrick made a read and then threw the ball right to McCourty, who simply had to make the catch and fall to his knees. Call it luck or call it a great read, but the Patriots escaped thanks to McCourty's last-second heroics.

"You just try to focus on the guys you know they like to throw to, with [Scott] Chandler being a big target in the middle of the field," said McCourty. "Stevie Johnson and Chandler lined up right in the middle. I knew there was a chance it was going to be some kind of play in the middle of the field. He just threw it and I happened to be right there."

At his locker after the game, Bills rookie wide receiver T.J. Graham took responsibility for the pick, telling reporters he ran the wrong route.

"That was a rookie mistake," said Graham. "I was supposed to cross his face in the front, and it was a good pass. Had I crossed the face, I probably would have made the play."

The Bills made several other costly mistakes, including Jackson's fumble at the one-yard line with 9:43 remaining in the fourth quarter with the Bills down by 10 points. The Patriots forced three fumbles and took advantage of McCourty's interception to come out on top. Forcing turnovers is something the Patriots do well, and giving up yardage throughout the game doesn't seem to phase them. McCourty was the one who forced Jackson's fumble; Vince Wilfork forced another early in the game. McCourty says Wilfork encourages each New England defensive player to seek out that impact moment.

"He always says, ‘If we could get one big play out of everybody in the game, we’ll be in great shape,'" said McCourty. "We know no matter what happens in the game there's nothing bigger than turnovers."

That's a motto the Patriots are living by, but it's also one they may die by during a week in which they fail to come out on the right side of the turnover battle. In addition to turnovers, 14 Buffalo penalties for 148 yards also negated many of the good things the Bills did on the afternoon. The ball won't always roll, and the flags won't always fly, in favor of the home team.

Boston.com's Zuri Berry contributed to this report.

Watch: Patriots-Bills game highlights

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff November 11, 2012 06:22 PM
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Through our partnership with video supplier Perform, we are now able to bring you video highlights from Patriots games. Here are this week's highlights vs. the Bills.

More NFL highlight and interview video is available on the video player located on the Patriots page and the Extra Points blog.

Survey: Which Patriot gets game ball?

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff November 11, 2012 05:54 PM

As coach Bill Belichick said in his postgame interview, the Patriots were far from perfect in their 37-31 victory over the Bills on Sunday. That makes it no easy choice to dole out just one game ball.

That's your challenge, however. Cast your vote below, or write-in a candidate in the comments.


Which player deserves the game ball for the Patriots-Bills game?

New faces introduce themselves for Patriots in win

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 11, 2012 05:43 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots don't have many members of their 53-man roster who haven't touched the playing field and contributed in some significant fashion. With injuries, everyone is likely to get a shot come game day.

On Sunday, undrafted rookie defensive lineman Justin Francis got his shot. Filling in on sub packages for Ron Brace, who was inactive with an elbow injury, he left his mark on Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. With 3:28 left in the first quarter, Francis plowed through the left side of the Bills' offensive line to lay a monstrous hit on Fitzpatrick. The Bills QB had just a sliver of a moment to jettison the ball before going down with the sack.

It was a hello, world moment for Francis, who had been inactive for the first four games, and snuck in as a sub in the last three without making a dent. Getting that hit on Fitzpatrick was Francis' first real action since playing for Rutgers Dec. 30, 2011.

"It felt good," Francis said. "I just got up and looked to see if I sacked him, actually. I didn't, but I caused some pressure. Me and the fellas caused some pressure on him. So it was a great feeling. Kinda flushed that play [though], put that play behind me and moved on to the next one. You know that's how you have to do, good or bad. You know, at the end of the day, it's a great feeling.

"It's always a good feeling to get on the field," Francis continued. "Just being out there with guys that you grind with every day and come to work with every day. And guys who, you know, I look up to. Playing next to Vince [Wilfork] and Kyle Love and Rob Ninkovich. It feels good, you know, just staying prayed up and counting my blessings and just trying to attack every play like it's my last."

Also making his first appearance for the Patriots was tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, the 10-year veteran who last played for the Minnesota Vikings. He got in the game in the Patriots' goal line package, filling the void left by tight end Aaron Hernandez, who missed Sunday's game with a lingering ankle injury. Shiancoe had a small role, but it was one he was grateful for after being sidelined with a shoulder injury for the first nine weeks of the season. He had been on the injured reserve with a designation to return list before being activated on Saturday.

"Yeah man, great to be back," Shiancoe said. "Just to get my feet wet a little bit. Thank God."

Shiancoe was a productive tight end for the Vikings, catching 208 passes and 24 touchdowns while he was there for five seasons. His role may still be determined going forward, especially if Hernandez is still hurt.

"Well you gonna have to ask Bill about that," Shiancoe said. "I know that definitely have the skills to contribute wherever he asks me to contribute, basically. Just get in where you fit in, really. Each week I guess that it all depends on the game plan, on however they plan on using me. I'll just be ready when they call me, call my number.

"Let me tell you something, I've been out of football since last season. It's definitely 100 percent exciting to be out there. Like I said, thank God, right."

Belichick: 'It was far from perfect'

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff November 11, 2012 05:19 PM

FOXBOROUGH-- Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he was happy to get a win against Buffalo Sunday, but he acknowledged that there was plenty his team could improve on.

"We had penalties, dropped balls, offsides, missed tackles," said Belichick. "We just didn't do a good job in a number of areas. It was far from perfect."

He added, "I'll take any win."

The Bills had 481 yards of total offense (New England had 347 yards) and 319 yards passing. The Patriots held on despite the yardage being skewed toward the away team.

"They didn't really hit us with a lot of big plays," said Belichick. "They moved the ball around, they got a lot of guys involved -- [Scott] Chandler, [Stevie] Johnson, of course the backs. They did a good job. In the end I think the turnovers helped us. They've got an explosive group of skill players, and they got them all involved.

Belichick's own running backs turned in solid performances against a Buffalo team that had given up 5.7 yards per carry coming into Sunday's game. Led by Stevan Ridley's 98 yards, the Patriots had 117 yards on the ground. Danny Woodhead had both a rushing and a receiving touchdown. Shane Vereen chipped in five yards on the ground as part of a group that was more shallow than usual after the suspension of running back Branden Bolden for using performance-enhancing drugs.

"We use all of our backs," said Belichick. There's no ... you guys think that every game, this guy's got all these plays, and the next game the other guy's got all these plays. We don't know. But they all played, they all contributed, they all were productive. Danny [Woodhead] made some good plays, there's no doubt about it."

Stephen Gostkowski had six touchbacks in addition to a 43-yard field goal and a 48-yard field goal. The Patriots' placekicker seems to have gained his confidence back after some big misses earlier this season.

"Steve's real consistent," said Belichick. "From the day he got here. He kicks well, he's worked hard. He's very very consistent. Like everybody, not perfect, but he works hard to continue to get better. ... I'd be hard-pressed to think of more than a handful of times when I think, 'He just didn't have a very good day today.'"

The Patriots played most of the second half without offensive lineman Dan Connolly (back) and Logan Mankins (ankle). Mankins was seen leaving Gillette Stadium in a walking boot.

"We are kind of fortunate there," said Belichick. "Most of the time we carry seven offensive lineman. We had eight today."

Belichick said he needed to watch the tape to assess their performances, but he added, "There wasn't a lot of problems, I know that."

Fitzpatrick on Spikes: 'I think he's a punk at times'

Posted by Amalie Benjamin November 11, 2012 05:16 PM
FOXBOROUGH – It wasn’t the first time the Bills had been displeased with Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes. In the first game between New England and Buffalo, Spikes laid a hard hit on tight end Scott Chandler, a hit that was still fresh in their minds when Spikes smashed into quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter.

The hit drew a roughing the passer penalty, and an expletive from Fitzpatrick directed toward Spikes. It drew an equally strong reaction after the game.

“We’re not going to back down from anybody. Spikes is an emotional player,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think he’s a punk at times. He took a cheap shot at Scott [Chandler] in the first game, and he was doing a lot of jabbering and talking and getting out there.

“Not one of my favorite players. Not high on my list.”

Center Eric Wood called Spikes a "headhunter." He added, "I guess he was trying to take Fitz out of the game."

Wilfork: Patriots knew it was going to be tough

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 11, 2012 04:55 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots surrendered a season-high 162 yards rushing to the Buffalo Bills Sunday while allowing 337 yards passing.

When it was all said and done, the defense gave up 481 total yards and still managed to pull out a win, 37-31.

The loss dropped the Buffalo Bills to 3-6 and gave the Patriots a 3-0 record against AFC East opponents. Two wins have came against the Bills, but they weren't similar.

In Week 4, the Patriots exploded in the second half en route to a 52-28 victory over Buffalo that looked more like a varsity team beating up on its junior squad. On Sunday, the Patriots were on their heels as the Bills drove down the field looking for the go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute remaining.

The contrast cuts further. In Week 4, the Patriots came up with two crucial turnovers to help spur along the rout. On Sunday, the Patriots forced three turnovers, but can only point to one, Devin McCourty's game-sealing interception, as having been critical.

For a team that sported the eighth-ranked run defense heading into Sunday, it begs the question whether or not it could have done more to prevent the Bills from making it such a close game.

"The most important thing is to walk away with a 'W,' " said defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. "That's the biggest, biggest thing, is to walk away with a 'W.' So, when you can do that against division games against division teams, it always feels good. Things weren't perfect. But we made plays when we needed to make plays.

"But we're going to have to take this with a grain of salt and keep it moving. We fought. They fought. It's just two teams that know each other very, very well. It came down to the last couple of seconds. Like I said, anytime you play a division game you have to suspect it's going to be a close game. It was. We're not disappointed at all about winning the ballgame. But some things we can do better, some things we did good out there. But at the same time, the main goal was to win."

The thought the Bills caught the Patriots by surprise was quickly shot down. Especially with running backs C.J. Spiller (9 carries, 70 yards) and Fred Jackson (16 carries, 80 yards) making a huge mark.

"We're not surprised," Wilfork said. "Trust me. We knew coming into this game [C.J.] Spiller averaging 7 yards a whop, 8 yards a whop. That hasn't been done in who knows how long. But that's a big stack, he showed tonight. Very explosive backs at the skill positions. I think they're one of the better offensive lines, coached very well and they gave us a handful. So we knew it was going to be a tough game. The thing is playing against the Buffalo Bills is always tough, a division game is always tough. You really can't look at records when you start looking at division games, and the prime case is today."

Brady says he's not worried about Welker

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff November 11, 2012 04:45 PM
FOXBOROUGH -- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady stood behind receiver Wes Welker Sunday after Welker dropped two passes against the Bills. On the first, Welker dropped what looked like a sure touchdown with 7:38 remaining in the first quarter. Welker dropped another short pass over the middle later in the game. Both balls went through Welker's hands.

"Wes is ... I'm always going to go to him," said Brady. "He's one of the best to ever play. He has the mental toughness to fight through it. He'll be fine."

Brady seemed to take exception to the question, cutting his press conference short after a couple more questions. Welker has a reception in 103 straight games. He finished as the team's leading receiver with six catches for 74 yards.

Dan Connolly leaves with back injury; Logan Mankins limps off with ankle

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff November 11, 2012 04:12 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- Patriots starting right guard Dan Connolly left Sunday's game against Buffalo with a back injury and did not return. Donald Thomas replaced Connolly during the second half.

In addition, Logan Mankins limped off the field early in the third quarter and was helped to the bench. His left ankle was looked at on the sideline, and Mankins eventually found his way to the locker room. Mankins also failed to return to the game and was replaced by Nick McDonald.

Patriots 24, Bills 17: Halftime thoughts

Posted by Greg A. Bedard November 11, 2012 02:32 PM

FOXBOROUGH – Some halftime thoughts as the Patriots wait a few minutes to score again after halftime:

  • The Patriots’ offense is a machine most days, and it really helps when Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt doesn’t have his players prepared. I mean, how can you not be ready for the no-huddle against the Patriots? Again, at times, the Bills couldn’t even get lined up. And is it really a plan to have Nick Barnett covering Wes Welker or Danny Woodhead? What about not trying to reroute Rob Gronkowski ever?
  • Bill Belchick would never let his defense take the field without being prepared to do those types of things.
  • Like the decision to start Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory at safety. Now the big question is when Patrick Chung and Aqib Talib arrive, will it stay that way? Gregory didn’t look great on the last drive, but he hasn’t played in a long time. A lot of rust to work off.
  • I know one thing, Alfonzo Dennard deserves to continue starting.
  • Nice game that Vince Wilfork and Jermaine Cunningham worked on the sack/fumble of Ryan Fitzpatrick early. They’ve been working in more of those little nuances into the defense as the season has progressed.
  • That pass interference call in the end zone against Stephon Gilmore was absurdly bad. Call holding or whatever, but the ball wasn’t even remotely catchable. In the end, it probably gave the Bills time to score before halftime. If the penalty doesn’t happen, the Patriots might have run out the clock.
  • The Patriots’ defense has been so-so. Done some nice work to take away some of Fitzpatrick’s early reads, but if the pressure doesn’t get home and he’s halfway accurate, he’ll continue to make plays.
  • But the big thing is, unless the Patriots start making mistakes on offense, I don’t see how the Bills stop them. Anything the Patriots want to do, they’re able to do it.
  • The interior offensive line started to give up some pressure late in the first half. Dan Connolly (who was not in to finish the half) and Logan Mankins will have to tighten up.

Final: Patriots 37, Bills 31

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 11, 2012 12:53 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- Despite a leaky defense and a penalty-riddled opponent, the Patriots found themselves on what appeared to be the throes of a game-winning Buffalo Bills drive.

That's until Devin McCourty stepped up and intercepted a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass with 23 seconds left in the game, as the Patriots held on for a 37-31 win over their AFC East opponent.

Fitzpatrick passed for 337 yards and two touchdowns against the Patriots. His team was hindered by 14 penalties for 148 yards.

The Patriots run defense wasn't much better, giving up a season-high 162 yards in the win, with McCourty's interception as the only gauze available for the bleeding.

Tom Brady was 23 of 38 for 237 yards and two touchdowns in the game as the Patriots moved on to 6-3 on the year and 2-0 against Buffalo.

FINAL: Patriots 37, Bills 31 -- Devin McCourty intercepted a pass intended for Bill receiver T.J. Graham in the end zone with 23 seconds left in the game to help the Patriots seal the win.

2:06 4th quarter: Patriots 37, Bills 31 -- On a third-and-goal at the Buffalo 9-yard line, feeling pressure, Tom Brady couldn't connect with Danny Woodhead in the flat. That led to a 27-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski to extend the Patriots' lead to six points.

The Patriots' 14-play, 59-yard drive that spanned 5:41 gives the Bills a little more than two minutes to come up with a possible game-winning drive.

7:47 4th quarter: Patriots 34, Bills 24 -- Ryan Fitzpatrick fired a pass over the middle of the field for a 2-yard touchdown pass to Donald Jones.

It was a quick drive for the Bills against the Patriots, going 45 yards on five plays in 1:29, putting the Patriots in a score-or-risk-losing-the-lead situation. The Bills have scored on two of their last three drives.

The Patriots have given up a season-high 161 yards rushing.

9:16 4th quarter: Patriots 34, Bills 24 -- The Patriots went three-and-out after the turnover. Wes Welker dropped a pass from Tom Brady on second down.

9:35 4th quarter: Patriots 34, Bills 24 -- Devin McCourty forced a Fred Jackson at the 1-yard line as the Patriots came up with a critical turnover. The play was initially ruled as down on contact, but after review it was reversed.

14:10 4th quarter: Patriots 34, Bills 24 -- Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 48-yard field goal as the Patriots went up by 10 against the Bills.

It was a seven-play, 50-yard drive that spanned 2:27. On 3rd-and-8, Tom Brady connected with Brandon Lloyd on a 6-yard pass.

End of the 3d quarter: Patriots 31, Bills 24 -- The third quarter comes to a close with the Patriots in a pivotal stretch to keep the Bills at a distance.

1:37 3d quarter: Patriots 31, Bills 24 -- The Bills are trying to stick around. Fred Jackson ran in a 1-yard touchdown, capitalizing on an 11-play, 84-yard drive in which the team converted on a 4th-and-4 to keep the drive alive.

Ryan Fitzpatrick completed three passes to Stevie Johnson on the drive, totaling 44 yards. Fitzpatrick found Donald Jones for a 6-yard pass to get the Bills down to the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Jackson ran it in.

7:06 3d quarter: Patriots 31, Bills 17 -- Tom Brady escaped the Bills pass rush and dumped off a pass to Danny Woodhead, who scampered 18 yards for a touchdown. The play was reviewed and upheld, showing Woodhead had just crossed the goal line by a whisker.

It was a quick, four-play drive that lasted 1:38.

This is the first time Woodhead has scored more than one touchdown in an NFL game.

8:44 3d quarter: Patriots 24, Bills 17 -- Jermaine Cunningham came up with another huge sack, as the Patriots forced the Bills to punt after four plays.

Dan Connolly has a back injury. He was was announced as questionable to return. The Patriots have subbed in Donald Thomas and Nick McDonald in place of Connolly and Logan Mankins.

10:53 3d quarter: Patriots 24, Bills 17 -- Tom Brady was sacked on a 3rd-and-5 by the Bills' Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, forcing the Patriots to punt on their opening drive of the third quarter.

On the same play, Logan Mankins appeared to be shaken up. He walked off the field gingerly with the help of the team's trainers.

15:00 3d quarter: Patriots 24, Bills 17 -- Second half is underway.

End of the 2d quarter: Patriots 24, Bills 17 -- The first half comes to a close with the Patriots allowing the Bills to scratch their way back into the game.

It's not like the Patriots haven't been getting any help, especially with the number of penalties the Bills have racked up. The Bills have been flagged 10 times for 119 yards, a mesmerizing display of ineffectiveness. Meanwhile, the Bills have rushed for 88 yards in the first half alone. The Patriots have held opponents to 88.6 rushing yards coming into today's game.

Tom Brady is 11 of 17 for 114 yards and a touchdown while Stevan Ridley has rushed 10 times for 22 yards and a score. Danny Woodhead ripped off a 15-yard run for the Patriots.

Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the Bills with 13 of 17 passing for 153 yards and a touchdown.

0:31 2d quarter: Patriots 24, Bills 17 -- Ryan Fitzpatrick connected with a wide open Scott Chandler as the Buffalo Bills closed the gap to seven points with less than a minute to go in the first half.

The Bills drove 80 yards on 11 plays, with Fitzpatrick making key throws to Chandler and Donald Jones to get into the red zone.

Patriots corner Alfonzo Dennard was flagged for unnecessary roughness for hitting Fitzpatrick as he was scrambling to the sideline.

3:54 2d quarter: Patriots 24, Bills 10 -- The Patriots benefited greatly from three more penalties by the Bills, including a dumbfounding pass interference call on a Tom Brady pass that sailed past the end zone. Two plays later, Brady hit a diving Rob Gronkowski for a 2-yard touchdown.

The Bills' three penalties cost them 67 yards. The pass interference, which was called on Stephon Gilmore who was guarding Brandon Lloyd, was for 37 yards.

6:03 2d quarter: Patriots 17, Bills 10 -- Bills running back Fred Jackson bounced off three Patriots defenders en route to a 14-yard touchdown run.

The Bills took only six plays to march 80 yards and make it a one score game. Ryan Fitzpatrick connected with tight end Scott Chandler on two passes for 23 and 17 yards while C.J. Spiller had three rushes for 26 yards.

9:09 2d quarter: Patriots 17, Bills 3 -- The Patriots are moving fast and their torrid pace is starting to affect the Bills defense. Danny Woodhead ripped off a 15-yard touchdown run practically untouched after the Bills were slow to set up on defense.

The Patriots went 83 yards on eight plays in 2:58 seconds.

12:07 2d quarter: Patriots 10, Bills 3 -- Rob Ninkovich sacked QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, finishing him off after being hurried by Chandler Jones on third down, as the Patriots held the Bills to a 41-yard field goal by Ryan Lindell.

It was an 11-play, 57-yard drive by the Bills, their first sustained attack of the game.

A couple of defensive notes for the Patriots: It looks like rookie safety Tavon Wilson has fallen out of favor. Devin McCourty is at safety with Steve Gregory, with Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington at the cornerbacks. Marquice Cole is the third cornerback off the sidelines for nickel and dime packages. It's looking harder and harder for Wilson to get on the field as Patriots become healthy.

Also, Jermaine Cunningham has found himself become a huge part of the rotation. He drew a holding penalty against the Bills in the red zone.

End of the 1st quarter: Patriots 10, Bills 0 -- The Bills have finally gotten over their penalty bug. They've put together their first potential scoring drive as Ryan Fitzpatrick has completed a 22-yard pass to Donald Jones and a 15-yarder to Fred Jackson.

Patriots DL Justin Francis has gotten his first significant play, getting a hit on Fitzpatrick. Also, Devin McCourty appears to be playing safety over rookie Tavon Wilson. Alfonzo Dennard has taken his snaps at cornerback.

3:54 1st quarter: Patriots 10, Bills 0 -- Two pass interference calls on the Bills' George Wilson following the fumble recovery for the Patriots allowed Stevan Ridley to get two chances from the 1-yard line. He punched it in on the second try as the Patriots scored their first touchdown of the game.

Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe got in on his first play for the Patriots, playing in the goal line package.

5:24 1st quarter: Patriots 3, Bills 0 -- Vince Wilfork sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick, forcing the Bills quarterback to fumble. Jermaine Cunningham recovered as the Patriots took over on the Bills' 13-yard line.

6:04 1st quarter: Patriots 3, Bills 0 -- Wes Welker dropped a potential touchdown and the Patriots ended up settling for a 43-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to get on the board first.

It was a quick first drive for the Patriots, going 48 yards on 13 plays in 4:27. But the drive was marked by two drops, Welker's and another by Deion Branch that could have been an interception had it not been dropped by the Bills' Leodis McKelvin.

10:31 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Bills 0 -- The Bills start off by shooting themselves in the foot. A quick first down, followed up by getting to a 3rd-and-1 and then the wheels fell off. They committed three straight penalties to push them back to a 3rd-and-21. The Patriots' first defensive series is a success, forcing the punt.

15:00 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Bills 0 -- The Patriots won the toss and deferred till the second half. Buffalo will receive the opening kick. Game on!

Pregame: The Patriots and Bills have a beautiful day for football upon them. It's sunny, 60 degrees out, with winds south and southwest at 12 miles per hour.

We're getting close to the coin flip. We'll have all the game updates right here. Stick around for all the fun.

Enjoy the game.

@zuriberry

Logan Mankins, Steve Gregory return

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 11, 2012 11:47 AM

FOXBOROUGH -- If there's one thing the inactives report is good for, it's confirming who is healthy enough to take the field.

All-pro guard Logan Mankins and starting safety Steve Gregory will both be returning to action for the Patriots today against the Buffalo Bills after missing some time. Mankins had missed the two last two games and three this season because of calf and hip injuries. Gregory had missed the last four games because of a hip injury.

Gregory's return could help boost the Patriots' 28th ranked pass defense. With him in the lineup, the Patriots will probably shift Devin McCourty back to cornerback and pair Gregory with rookie safety Tavon Wilson.

Mankins will assume his place at left guard, leaving Donald Thomas on the sidelines as the team's primary backup.

Hernandez, Chung out for Patriots against Bills

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 11, 2012 11:37 AM

FOXBOROUGH -- Tight end Aaron Hernandez is officially out for the Patriots after the team listed him as one of its seven inactive players for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills.

Hernandez is still nursing an ankle injury he suffered in Week 2 of the season against the Arizona Cardinals.

Also inactive for Sunday's game is starting safety Patrick Chung, who has been dealing with shoulder and hamstring injuries.

Ron Brace (elbow), Malcolm Williams and Jake Bequette were also listed as inactive.

Trevor Scott (hamstring) and Tracy White (foot) had been listed as out on the injury report Friday.

What to watch for as the Patriots take on the Bills

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 11, 2012 11:06 AM

FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots are honoring retired running back Kevin Faulk and saluting veterans during today's game against the Buffalo Bills.

Faulk, who closed a 13-year career this season, will be recognized at halftime. It's "Salute to Service" day in the NFL, where veterans and active duty military will be recognized across the NFL.

For today's game, a number of Patriots will be coming upon milestones. Here's a look at what's on the horizon statistically.

1) Double the Fouts -- Tom Brady has 50 career 300-yard passing games and needs one more to tie Dan Fouts for sixth place all-time in the NFL. If you haven't noticed, Fouts is also the color man for today's CBS broadcast.

2) Thought to be uncatchable -- Wes Welker needs one more 10-plus reception game to tie Jerry Rice for most 10-plus reception games in NFL history with 17. Welker has two 10-plus reception games this season. He's tied for second place with Marvin Harrison. Welker is on pace for 120 receptions this season, making him the first NFL receiver with five 100-plus catch seasons.

3) Winning rushing attack -- The Patriots are 4-0 when Stevan Ridley has rushed for 100 yards or more and are 1-3 when he doesn't. Last time the team faced the Bills, he gained 106 yards on 22 carries while backup Brandon Bolden (suspended for PED use) rushed for 137 yards on 16 carries in the same game.

Bedard's keys to a Patriots win, prediction

Posted by Greg A. Bedard November 11, 2012 10:19 AM

The last time the Patriots and Bills saw each other in Week 4, the Patriots had a losing record, and the Bills were on the winning side of a 2-1 mark. Things have definitely changed since then. Here are the keys for the Patriots to complete the sweep of the Bills, some of which are the same as the first meeting:

  1. Block Mario Williams: The Bills' left end is starting to get a little bit more movement in the pass game, but RT Sebastian Vollmer should still be able to handle him one on one. If he doesn't, then the Patriots are going to have trouble sustaining drives.
  2. Frustrate WR Stevie Johnson: The Patriots were able to limit Johnson's effectiveness early in the first matchup, and that played a role the rest of the game. Johnson has a little bit of Randy Moss in him in that respect. If you clamp down on him early, he loses confidence in the offense and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and he can disappear for stretches. That would be optimal because he's one of the league's top receivers with the ball in his hands.
  3. Read your keys: Probably more than any other NFL team, the Bills do more with motion, play fakes and deception. It’s like watching a finely tuned college spread offense. The Patriots’ defenders, especially the linebackers and the “money” dime player (Tavon Wilson, or Nate Ebner), have been given keys to the Bills’ plays by the coaching staff. “If player X does this, then look for this.” The Patriots need to be on point and read those keys with high efficiency, or else the Bills are going to hit on some big plays in open space.
  4. Cover tight: If the Patriots sit in zones all day, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will find the holes if he's having one of his hot stretches. What the Patriots need to do is junk their conservative coverages and get physical at the line of scrimmage with the Bills, something we've seen more of in the past few weeks. The longer Fitzpatrick has to hold onto the ball, the more it plays into the Patriots’ hands. The rush will be able to affect Fitzpatrick, and he’ll start to throw the ball into bad spots or just be his normal inconsistent self. The Bills want Fitzpatrick to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible to keep him from making mistakes. Don’t give him easy, quick reads at the snap. And furthermore, the linebackers need to tee off on any crossing patterns. Don't let them feel comfortable.
  5. Continue to use Bills' line movement against them: Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had a very good game plan with the running game the first time around. He knew the Bills like to penetrate up front with tackles Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus, so McDaniels used that against them with a lot of counters and delayed handoffs. The Patriots let the tackles get up field, and they ran right through the gaping holes. The Bills have improved with that, but there should still be opportunities to hit some big plays. They're still very undisciplined.
  6. Press the edges in the pass game: The Patriots tested first-round pick Stephon Gilmore early at RCB but quickly went away from him when he looked the part. The Bills are down to scraps elsewhere at cornerback so expect Tom Brady to test them, especially at LCB. The safeties will eventually start to cheat to the outside, which should leave room for Rob Gronkowski down the middle.

Prediction

Previously in games against the Cardinals, Seahawks and Jets, I've said that I don't see how the opposing offense can score enough to keep up with the Patriots. And I was wrong because I underestimated those defenses. The Bills are not good on defense. I don't care if Fitzpatrick plays a perfect game, Buffalo is going to have a tough time getting enough stops for a win.

Patriots 40, Bills 20

Game 9: Bills at Patriots

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 11, 2012 10:15 AM

FOXBOROUGH -- Coming off the bye week, the Patriots are historically good. They're 9-3 under the tutelage of Bill Belichick following the bye.

Against the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots are amazingly good. They're 10-0 at Gillette Stadium and have won 22 of their last 25 games, dating to 2000. Belichick sports a 22-4 record against the Bills; He's 22-3 against Buffalo with the Patriots.

The Patriots beat the Bills 52-28 in Week 4 after going down 21-7 midway through the third quarter. In that game, Tom Brady threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns while linebacker Brandon Spikes forced two crucial fumbles.

The Patriots will again be without tight end Aaron Hernandez, according to reports from the NFL Network and ESPN. Hernandez has been nursing the same ankle he injured in Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals.

This game will give the Patriots the opportunity to extend their lead in the AFC East. The Patriots are currently 2-0 against division opponents. They're 27-7 against the AFC East in the month of November.

Here are the details for today's game:

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

Records: Patriots 5-3; Bills 3-5.

TV/Radio info: CBS (Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts); 98.5-FM The Sports Hub (Gil Santos, Scott Zolak).

Projected starting lineups:
Based on information distributed to the media, practice observations, and injuries for each team.

Patriots offense: WR Wes Welker, LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, C Ryan Wendell, RG Dan Connolly, RT Sebastian Vollmer, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Brandon Lloyd, QB Tom Brady, RB Stevan Ridley, TE Daniel Fells.

Patriots defense: NT Vince Wilfork DT Kyle Love, RDE Chandler Jones, DE Rob Ninkovich, LB Dont'a Hightower, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Devin McCourty, CB Kyle Arrington, S Patrick Chung, S Steve Gregory.

Bills offense: WR Stevie Johnson, LT Cordy Glenn, LG Andy Levitre, C Eric Wood, RG Kraig Urbik, RT Chris Hairston, TE Scott Chandler, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Fred Jackson, FB Corey McIntyre, WR Donald Jones.

Bills defense: LDE Mario Williams, DT Marcell Dareus, DT Kyle Williams, RDE Chris Kelsay, SLB Nigel Bradham, MLB Kevin Sheppard, WLB Nick Barnett, LCB Leodis McKelvin, SS George Wilson, FS Jairus Byrd, RCB Stephon Gilmore.

Inactives
(more to come)

Patriots: Trevor Scott (hamstring), Tracy White (foot).

Bills: Mark Anderson (knee), Terrence McGee (knee), Erik Pears (hip), Aaron Williams (knee).

Inside the matchup: Bills at Patriots

Posted by Greg A. Bedard November 11, 2012 10:10 AM

We are very happy to have Alen Dumonjic, an x's and o's football junkie who blogs for The Score, back for another season to give us his insight on the intricacies of the game.

INSIDE THE BILLS' OFFENSE

The Buffalo Bills' offense hasn't changed much since head coach Chan Gailey was hired in 2010. They're still what I once termed as a "full blown spread offense" and the only true difference is Gailey's playcalling, which has been questionable at times. Gailey has a tendency to get pass-happy, as most offensive coordinators do, and neglect the only consistent aspect of his offense: the running game.

Gailey and his Bills are still using 11 (1 back, 1 tight end), 12 (1 back, 2 tight ends) and 22 (2 backs, 2 tight ends) and are running them from various offensive formations. The formations include 2x2, 3x1 and 3x2, with the latter aptly termed "empty" as in no tailbacks in the backfield. The majority of these formations are coming from shotgun and sometimes pistol sets.

As noted, the strength of the Bills offense is their tailbacks, who have been very good this year, especially C.J. Spiller. Spiller, a former first-round pick from Clemson, is a very dynamic runner and is spearheading a rushing offense that averages 5.3 yards per carry and a total of 140 yards per game, which ranks seventh in the NFL.

Although Spiller and his running mates have been efficient with their touches, they haven't gotten enough of them because of Gailey's preference for passing at unusual times. Buffalo's run:pass ratio checks in at 46:54, which doesn't make much sense all things considered, but such is the case.

Conceptually speaking, the passing offense is constructed as a (very) simplified West Coast Offense. Its main goal is to attack the middle of the field and create space for yards-after-catch opportunities through screen passes and route combinations. Some of the route combinations include various forms of Hi-Lo's and several outside breaking route combinations that are used to clear out space for a threat in the seam.

INSIDE THE BILLS' DEFENSE

In New England, the motto preached is "Do Your Job," but in Buffalo, it seems like it's been the exact opposite once one starts perusing the defensive statistics.

The Buffalo Bills give up nearly 170 rushing yards per game at a league-worst 5.7 yards per carry, per Pro Football Reference. They're also tied with a league-high 14 touchdowns allowed. A big reason for this is the lack of discipline on their entire defense.

From the cornerbacks' inabilities to set the edge to the defensive ends', the Bills have truly struggled in this area, and it is my belief that it is the reason they have been limited to a static 4-3 defense that primarily features under and over fronts for most of the season. In recent games, they've tried to two-gap more with the interior defensive linemen and play with a 1-gap, 3-4 front featuring a Leo, but have not had much success.

Against the pass, the Bills haven't been much better. They rank ninth-worst in the league in yards allowed per attempt, which sits at 7.8, and are sixth worst with nearly a 97 quarterback rating allowed according to Pro Football Reference. Much of the struggles have been pinned on defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt, but his players are simply not playing with strong technique whether Wannstedt has called Cover 1 (man-free), Cover 2 Man (man-under), Cover 3 or Cover 4 (quarters).

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Patriots' play action: The teams that are struggling on defense appear to struggle the most with play action, which is something that the Bills also have issues with. Their back-side defenders tend to lose their contain and crash the line of scrimmage, leaving vacant zones in the pass defense for tight ends and running backs to catch passes. This will be something to watch, especially if the Patriots can establish their running game.

Patriots' running game: Speaking of the running game, it will be important for the Patriots to run the ball. As noted earlier, the Bills are giving up a plenty of yards per carry and overall, which will give the Patriots' running backs a chance to make plays. Last week, the Bills attempted to slow down the Houston running game with eight and sometimes nine defenders in the box and still had issues.

Ryan Fitzpatrick's turnovers: The book on Ryan Fitzpatrick has been written. He simply gives the ball away way too often and the Patriots have to take advantage of it. Fitzpatrick is very loose with the ball and tends to be a poor decision maker.

C.J. Spiller: Nose tackle Vince Wilfork called Spiller a "helluva player" recently and he's right. Spiller is very dangerous with the ball in his hand, eluding would-be tacklers with ease and often outrunning angles. If Chan Gailey doesn't get in his own way, Spiller should get the ball running the ball and catching screen passes, which the Bills are adept at.

Patriots' fundamentals: A fundamental approach to the game will be key for the Patriots as they will have to be smart in taking angles and bring down ball carriers the first chance they get. The Bills' offense is designed to create yards-after-catch and the Patriots must prevent this.

Stevie Johnson: The Patriots have given up 42 plays of 20 yards or more this season and if not covered, wide receiver Stevie Johnson can add to that number. Johnson is able to attack the Patriots' defense vertically and will get isolation matchups on the back-side of the formation, where he often picks up extra yardage off of slants and square-in routes.

--

For more interesting football reading, check out Alen's blog posts at The Score, and The Sideline View. Follow Alen on Twitter at @Dumonjic_Alen, or send him feedback via email.

Patriots activate TE Visanthe Shiancoe

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 10, 2012 05:04 PM

A day after Brandon Bolden was suspended by the NFL for violating the league's performance enhancing substances policy, the Patriots filled his roster vacancy by activating tight end Visanthe Shiancoe from the injured reserve list.

Shiancoe, who was rehabbing from a shoulder injury, missed the first nine weeks of the season but was able to return after being placed on the NFL's new injured reserve with a designation to return list. He signed with the Patriots July 25 as a free agent.

With Shiancoe on the roster, the Patriots now have five active tight ends, including Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells, and Michael Hoomanawanui. Hoomanawanui has also played some fullback for the Patriots.

On the Beat: 5 questions about the Bills, Part Deux

Posted by Greg A. Bedard November 10, 2012 02:22 PM

We check in this week with Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News to find out what's been going with the Bills:

1. So the Patriots scored 45 points in the second half against the Bills the first time around. Considering no Mark Anderson, Aaron Williams or Terrence McGee, we’re going with 90 points in both halves this time around, right?

JS: "45! It still doesn’t seem possible, although I guess it should considering the Patriots have made a habit of putting up Madden numbers against Buffalo. Here’s where the Bills are at defensively: 374 yards allowed last week against Houston was seen as serious progress. First-year defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt is under serious pressure to get things right. It has to start with Mario Williams, the highest-paid defensive player in league history. He played maybe his best game of the season last week, just 12 days after left wrist surgery. The Bills will need him to improve on that Sunday."

2. Who is the one Bills player most Patriots fans don’t know right now, but will by the end of the game on Sunday?

JS: "Defensive end Kyle Moore. He got his first career sack last week against Houston and has flashed some solid pass rush ability in the past few weeks as a situational player. As mentioned above, Mark Anderson is out, and the status of Chris Kelsay – who left practice Thursday with a neck injury – is unknown, so Moore might start on Sunday. Even if he doesn’t, he’s performed well enough to see his role expand."

3. What’s the biggest weakness on the Bills’ offense you expect the Patriots to try to exploit?

JS: "The right arm of Ryan Fitzpatrick. He made some plays down the field against the Patriots in the first game, but his average of 6.5 yards per attempt underscores how much of a struggle that’s been all season. Fitzpatrick has been careless with the ball and hasn’t given defenses any reason to respect his arm and not put eight defenders in the box to slow running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller."

4. What’s the biggest weakness on the Bills’ defuse you expect the Patriots to try to exploit?

JS: "The Bills depth chart at cornerback currently reads like this: Two rookies, a second-year player, a fourth-year player on his third team who’s played in just seven career games – and was just signed by the team Wednesday -- and a fifth-year veteran who’s played his way off the defense in two straight seasons. In short, it’s a mess. Leodis McKelvin is the aforementioned veteran member of the group, but he’s only in the lineup because of injuries to Williams and McGee. Slot cornerback Justin Rogers was torched in the last matchup with New England by Wes Welker, and there’s no reason the Patriots shouldn’t be salivating about that matchup again."

5. Finally, Bills win on Sunday if …

JS: "Tom Brady mistakenly set his clock back two hours last weekend? Recent history in Gillette Stadium doesn’t give the Bills much hope. Their best chance is to follow the blueprint from their home win last year. They’ll need to win the turnover battle, improve their third-down defense, control the clock with Spiller and Jackson and get a big play out of their return game, which has been strong with Leodis McKelvin and Brad Smith. It’s a lot to ask."

Week 10: Friday injury/participation report - Hernandez among 14 questionable

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 9, 2012 06:50 PM

There are not many surprises for the Patriots on the final injury report of the week; the three players who have not practiced are listed as out (though Brandon Bolden would not be available even if healthy thanks to his NFL suspension which began today).

Buffalo DE Chris Kelsay left Thursday's practice early and did not practice today (neck); based on comments from coach Chan Gailey, it sounds like he'll be a game-time decision.

The Bills placed starting tackle Erik Pears and cornerback Terrence Wheatley on injured reserve on Thursday, ending each player's season.

For the Patriots
Out
RB Brandon Bolden - DNP, knee
DE Trevor Scott - DNP, hamstring
LB Tracy White - DNP, foot

Questionable
CB Kyle Arrington - LP, concussion
DT Ron Brace - LP, elbow
S Patrick Chung - LP, shoulder
S Steve Gregory - LP, hip
TE Rob Gronkowski - LP, hip
TE Aaron Hernandez - LP, ankle
LB Dont'a Hightower - LP, hamstring
WR Brandon Lloyd - LP, knee
G Logan Mankins - LP, calf/hip
LB Jerod Mayo - LP, elbow
OL Nick McDonald - LP, shoulder
LB Brandon Spikes - LP, knee
OT Sebastian Vollmer - LP, back/knee
WR Wes Welker - LP, ankle

Probable
WR Julian Edelman - FP, hand
DT Kyle Love - FP, knee

For the Bills
Out
DE Mark Anderson - DNP, knee
CB Terrence McGee - DNP, knee (placed on IR)
OT Erik Pears - DNP, hip (placed on IR)
CB Aaron Williams - DNP, knee

Questionable
DT Spencer Johnson - LP, ankle
*WR Stevie Johnson - LP, thigh
DE Chris Kelsay - DNP, neck
LB Shawne Merriman - LP, chest
OG Kraig Urbik - LP, foot
DT Kyle Williams - LP, ankle

Probable
DT Marcell Dareus - FP, shoulder
CB Stephon Gilmore - FP, shoulder
OT Chris Hairston - FP, knee
G Andy Levitre - FP, knee
FB Corey McIntyre - FP, back
CB Leodis McKelvin - FP, groin
CB Justin Rogers - FP, thigh
* WR Brad Smith - FP, hamstring
RB C.J. Spiller - FP, shoulder
DE Mario Williams - FP, wrist/knee
C Eric Wood - FP, knee

* - change/addition from yesterday's list
DNP - did not practice, LP - limited participation, FP - full participation

Brandon Bolden suspended 4 games

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff November 9, 2012 05:02 PM
FOXBOROUGH – Patriots running back Brandon Bolden hasn’t played since Oct. 14, leaving the game at Seattle with a knee injury that has kept him off the practice and game field since.

He won’t be able to return now until Dec. 3 at the earliest, even if his knee improves. Bolden, a rookie from Mississippi, was suspended four games by the NFL on Friday for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. The league announced the suspension, but would not specify which substance triggered the action.

Bolden is second on the team with 234 rushing yards, and his 5.4-yard average leads the Patriots. He’s added two touchdowns, providing a consistent pop in the backfield.

The suspension begins immediately, which means Bolden will miss games against the Bills (Sunday), Colts (Nov. 18), Jets (Nov. 22), and Dolphins (Dec. 2). He will be eligible to return to the team on Dec. 3, and would next be able to play in the Dec. 10 game against the Houston Texans.

Bolden, who has a base salary of $390,000 this season, stands to lose $97,500, because the suspension is without pay.

Undrafted out of Ole Miss, Bolden made the team with a strong training camp. He had his best game of the season in a 52-28 Week 4 win at Buffalo, rushing for a career-high 137 yards, the only time he’s topped 100 yards so far. He followed that with 14 carries for 54 yards the next week against the Broncos, and had rushed for 28 yards in the Seattle game when he got hurt. He’s been inactive the past two games, and didn’t practice at all this week.

The Patriots have won two straight games without Bolden, using starter Stevan Ridley at running back, plus reserves Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen.

Watch: Bedard's Week 10 preview

Posted by Robert Burgess November 9, 2012 03:19 PM




Can the Bills keep up with the Patriots on Sunday? Which coaches could be fired soon? CineSport's Noah Coslov asks The Boston Globe's Greg Bedard about this and his NFL game of the week.

Week 10: Friday practice report

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 9, 2012 11:38 AM

The Patriots are currently holding their final practice of the week on the game field inside Gillette Stadium.

Players missing are the same players who have not participated all week: Brandon Bolden, Tracy White and Trevor Scott.

Aaron Hernandez practiced for the third straight day, and given his actions and attitude in recent days, he'll likely be a go for Sunday.

Week 10: Thursday participation report

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 8, 2012 05:06 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- Today's Patriots' practice report is the same as it was yesterday; the Bills did make some changes, including adding DL Chris Kelsay and LB Shawne Merriman to their list.

For the Patriots

Did not practice
RB Brandon Bolden - knee
DE Trevor Scott - hamstring
LB Tracy White - foot

Limited participation
CB Kyle Arrington - concussion
DT Ron Brace - elbow
S Patrick Chung - shoulder
S Steve Gregory - hip
TE Rob Gronkowski - hip
TE Aaron Hernandez - ankle
LB Dont'a Hightower - hamstring
WR Brandon Lloyd - knee
G Logan Mankins - calf/hip
LB Jerod Mayo - elbow
OL Nick McDonald - shoulder
LB Brandon Spikes - knee
OT Sebastian Vollmer - back/knee
WR Wes Welker - ankle

Full participation
WR Julian Edelman - hand
DT Kyle Love - knee

For the Bills

Did not practice
DE Mark Anderson - knee
CB Terrence McGee - knee
OT Erik Pears - hip
CB Aaron Williams - knee

Limited participation
DT Spencer Johnson - ankle
* WR Stevie Johnson - thigh
* DE Chris Kelsay - neck
* LB Shawne Merriman - chest
OG Kraig Urbik - foot
* DT Kyle Williams - ankle

Full participation
DT Marcell Dareus - shoulder
CB Stephon Gilmore - shoulder
OT Chris Hairston - knee
G Andy Levitre - knee
* FB Corey McIntyre - back
CB Leodis McKelvin - groin
CB Justin Rogers - thigh
RB C.J. Spiller - shoulder
DE Mario Williams - wrist/knee
C Eric Wood - knee

Removed from list
TE Scott Chandler - groin
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick - chest
LB Chris White - back

* - change/addition from yesterday's list

Hernandez: 'I couldn't ask for my life to be better'

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 8, 2012 04:43 PM

There probably isn't anyone happier in the Patriots locker room this week than Aaron Hernandez. On Tuesday, the day he turned 23, he welcomed his first child, a daughter named Avielle.

"That’s crazy," Hernandez said. "Best birthday gift you could have, having a daughter on your birthday and especially daddy’s little girl. It’s an honor and I couldn’t ask for my life to be better at this point. My life is pretty good and thank God for that and it’s a blessing and I still feel blessed daily."

It has been a good year for Hernandez, who signed a contract extension in August, proposed to his longtime girlfriend last month, and now is a father.

He said all of it has forced him to change.

"One thing I know is it definitely changed my life and I’m going to look at things differently," Hernandez said. "I’m engaged now, I have a baby and it’s just going to make me think of life a lot differently and doing things the right way because now another one’s looking up to me, I can’t just be 'young and reckless Aaron' no more, so I’m going to try to do the right things, become a good father and be raised like I was raised."

Hernandez had a strong relationship with his father Dennis, who died when Aaron was just 16 after complications from surgery.

He was excited to head home and see his daughter after finishing up his day at Gillette Stadium -- players didn't have any post-practice meetings and were allowed to leave earlier than usual.

Hernandez, who did not make the trip to London to face the Rams Oct. 28 because he had a setback in his recovery from an ankle injury, has practiced the last two days. Asked how he's feeling, he said, "I'm feeling pretty good. And I'm happy -- you see I'm smiling."

Instead of wearing his practice jersey, he was wearing his white game jersey. When asked about his choice of attire, he said only, "Game time! Game time!"

Patriots speak to Needham astronaut on space station

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff November 8, 2012 03:30 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- Near the end of the Patriots' open locker room session today, team owner Robert Kraft, punter Zoltan Mesko, and tight end Rob Gronkowski took part in a long-distance phone conversation.

How long? They spoke for a few minutes with Needham astronaut -- and passionate Patriots fan -- Sunita Williams, who has been living on the International Space Station since July. Williams could see and hear the Patriots, but Kraft, Mesko, and Gronkowski could only hear Williams during the call.

"That was pretty cool," Kraft said, after handing the phone to Mesko.

Williams, a graduate of Needham High School, flew up to space earlier this summer from Kazakhstan, and is scheduled to return to Earth later this month. It's her second stint living on the International Space Station.

Gronkowski was the last member of the Patriots to speak with Williams, and couldn't wait to ask her a question: "Are you floating right now?"

Game 9 Preview: Patriots have had their way with Bills at home

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff November 8, 2012 01:25 PM
It's been a history of home domination for the Patriots.

The Bills (3-5) come into Gillette Stadium Sunday looking for their first road win against the Patriots (5-3) since 2000, losing 11 straight when visiting Foxborough.

In this week's preview video, the Globe's Shalise Manza Young gives us her keys to the Week 10 matchup between the AFC East contenders. Manza Young looks into the challenges the Patriots offensive line faces against the Buffalo pass rush and how New England plans to stop speedy running back C.J. Spiller, who leads the NFL with 7.2 yards per carry.

The last time these two teams met in Buffalo on Sept. 30, the Bills had the Patriots on the ropes, taking a 21-7 lead in the third quarter until New England forced four turnovers and Tom Brady led his team to six straight second-half touchdowns en route to a 52-28 romp. Brady talked this week about how the Patriots turned things around in the last matchup.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he expects the Bills to be tough on both sides of the ball and remembers the three ball strips their "ball hawk" defense caused in the last game between the two teams at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

And Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty talks about what he learned in the first matchup in Buffalo and the advantages of seeing an opponent twice in a season.

Week 10: Thursday practice report

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 8, 2012 01:02 PM

The Patriots were once again inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse for today's practice, as high winds were blowing outside. Even inside the wind made its presence known, rattling the walls and roof of the fieldhouse.

The same three players were absent today that missed practice yesterday: RB Brandon Bolden, LB Tracy White and DL Trevor Scott.

Players were in shells and sweats, though oddly, Aaron Hernandez was in his white game jersey.

Thursday roll call

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff November 8, 2012 12:59 PM

FOXBOROUGH -- Globe colleague Shalise Manza Young reports that the same three Patriots have not been spotted at practice for the second day in a row. Running back Brandon Bolden, linebacker Tracy White, and defensive lineman Trevor Scott weren't on the field for today's portion of practice that was accessible to the media.

Bolden has missed the last two games with a knee injury, while White has missed the last three games with a foot injury. Scott (hamstring) was inactive against the Rams.

With the weather turning nasty for the second straight day, today's practice was once again in the bubble.

Inside the Playbook: Blocking Mario Williams

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff November 8, 2012 07:00 AM

Greg Bedard and Jermaine Wiggins examine the factors that will determine whether or not the Patriots can successfully block Buffalo defensive end Mario Williams in Sunday's game in Foxborough.

Williams, who had surgery on his injured left wrist during the team's bye week in Week 8, had one of his best games of the season on Sunday vs. the Texans. Williams had seven tackles and a sack.

Patriots midweek report: Coming off the bye week

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff November 7, 2012 06:11 PM





The Patriots host the Buffalo Bills this weekend. On Wednesday, Bill Belichick discussed Devin McCourty's play at safety. The Globe's Zuri Berry reports from Gillette Stadium.

Wednesday practice report: Three missing

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff November 7, 2012 01:35 PM

FOXBOROUGH --- To seek shelter from the nor'easter that hit the region Wednesday, the Patriots conducted their second practice session of the week indoors at the Dana-Farber Field House where the players worked out in shorts and shells.

According to Globe colleague Michael Whitmer, three players were not spotted during the media access portion of practice, including running back Brandon Bolden (knee), linebacker Tracy White (foot), and defensive end Trevor Scott (hamstring).

Tight end Aaron Hernandez, who missed Tuesday's practice in full pads to be with his wife for the birth of their daughter, Avielle, on the occasion of his 23d birthday, was back at practice with the team.

Tom Brady hopes the offense clicks against Bills early

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 7, 2012 11:41 AM




FOXBOROUGH -- Despite a 52-28 drubbing of the Buffalo Bills in Week 4 of the season, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady doesn't want to overlook the fact that offense could do better, especially after having a played a porous first half in that game.

Down 14-7 in the second quarter, the Bills were driving in the red zone against the Patriots before Brandon Spikes forced a fumble with a crushing hit on C.J. Spiller. The Patriots went down, 21-7, in the third quarter before forcing three punts in a row. Spikes forced another fumble in that game, as the defense spurred the team along in the second half.

"I think [the offense] never really clicked," Brady said. "I think the defense clicked, I think the special teams clicked, I think everything [goes together] and it's complimentary football and capitalizing on turnovers. We didn't play very well in the first half. So we're down 21-7, it was a little bit of an adverse situation and we found ourselves a way to dig out of it. Hopefully we don't have to dig our way out of it this week."

The Patriots (5-3) are coming off the bye week, having done some self-evaluation. However, the details of which are closely guarded secrets in Foxborough.

"We've got to play better than we played," Brady said vaguely. "And hopefully that starts this week. Yesterday, we had a good day at practice. We gotta go out there, and have a few more good days. But there's a lot of things that we need to improve on."

The break did allow some time for the team to rejuvenate with several players nursing injuries.

"Once you're into the week, like we are now, it feels like a normal week of football," Brady said. "You always try to prepare as hard as you can, use all the extra time to get ready physically and mentally. There's nothing magic about it, it's just a matter of putting the work in like we do every week and going out and playing well.

"It's a nice little break for a few days," Brady continued. "It came at a good time for us. So hopefully guys used it well, and like you said come back refreshed. We had a good day of practice yesterday so guys felt pretty good out there. Hopefully we feel good on Sunday. That's the most important thing is to use the week to prepare, and not empty your tank on Wednesday and Thursday but to go out there and be ready to go on Sunday."

Brady also attended the beginning of an impromptu Aerosmith Concert in Boston Monday. Asked if he uses any of their music for motivation on gameday, he said yes.

"They have some songs that I like."

Gronkowski, Wilfork get midseason recognition

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 6, 2012 07:03 PM
The editors at Pro Football Weekly have released their annual Midseason All-Pro team, and there are two Patriots recognized: TE Rob Gronkowski and DT Vince Wilfork.

This year, PFW changed its selection a bit, recognizing four defensive linemen and four linebackers since so many teams are playing 3-4 defenses; they also dropped the fullback position and added a third receiver to reflect the current landscape on offenses around the league.

Here are the complete teams:

OFFENSE
QB Aaron Rodgers/Packers
RB Adrian Peterson/Vikings*
RB Marshawn Lynch/Seahawks
WR A.J. Green/Bengals*
WR Reggie Wayne/Colts
WR Percy Harvin/Vikings
TE Rob Gronkowski/Patriots
C Mike Pouncey/Dolphins
OG Mike Iupati/49ers*
OG Marshal Yanda/Ravens
OT Duane Brown/Texans
OT Anthony Davis/49ers

DEFENSE
DE J.J. Watt/Texans*
DE Julius Peppers/Bears
DT Geno Atkins/Bengals*
DT Vince Wilfork/Patriots
OLB Lance Briggs/Bears
OLB Clay Matthews/Packers
ILB Daryl Washington/Cardinals*
ILB Sean Lee/Cowboys
CB Richard Sherman/Seahawks
CB Charles Tillman/Bears
S Earl Thomas/Seahawks
S Mark Barron/Buccaneers

SPECIALISTS
PK Blair Walsh/Vikings
P Andy Lee/49ers
PR Leodis McKelvin/Bills
KR Percy Harvin/Vikings

HEAD COACH
Mike Smith/Falcons

EXECUTIVE/GM
John Elway/Broncos

* - unanimous choice

Inside the Playbook: Ridley's big run vs. Rams

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff November 6, 2012 03:31 PM

Greg Bedard and Jermaine Wiggins examine the factors that led to Patriots running back Stevan Ridley's career-long 41-yard run vs. the Rams in London.

Hernandez now a proud papa

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 6, 2012 01:47 PM

Aaron Hernandez, who has been working his way back from an ankle injury, was not spotted at Patriots practice a short while ago, and now it looks like we know why, and it's not his injury.

Hernandez's brother, D.J., tweeted this within the last half-hour:

Im an uncle :). Avielle Janelle Hernandez was born. Love u Aaron and Shay. Can't wait to see u all.

He included a picture of the baby girl, who was born on the same day as her father.

Congrats to all!

Patriots practice update for Tues. Nov. 6

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff November 6, 2012 11:10 AM

FOXBOROUGH --- The Patriots returned to practice Tuesday with a workout in full pads at the upper field behind Gillette Stadium.

According to Globe colleague Shalise Manza Young, tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle), running back Brandon Bolden (knee), linebacker Tracy White (foot) and defensive end Trevor Scott (hamstring) were not spotted during the media-access portion of practice.

One reason for Hernandez's absence: He was at his wife's side for the birth of their daughter, Avielle, according to a tweet posted Tuesday by his brother, D.J. Hernandez. The Patriots tight end, who turned 23 Tuesday, now shares a birthday with his daughter.

The Patriots, however, welcomed the return of safety Steven Gregory (hip) and cornerback Kyle Arrington (head).


Patriots to honor Faulk vs. Buffalo

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 5, 2012 02:01 PM

The Patriots announced today that they will honor recently retired running back Kevin Faulk during Sunday's game against Buffalo with a special halftime ceremony.

Faulk retired last month, officially closing the book on a 13-year career, all of it spent with New England. He was a second-round pick of the Patriots in 1999 and was named a member of the franchise's 50th anniversary team in 2009.

In a release announcing the Faulk ceremony, the Patriots said Matt Light, who also retired this year, will be honored during a game later this season though there was no specific date give.

Belichick has little to say about Talib

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 5, 2012 01:20 PM
Patriots coach Bill Belichick last spoke to reporters Thursday morning, about seven hours before news came that the Patriots had acquired cornerback Aqib Talib from Tampa Bay at the NFL trading deadline.

There was no official announcement from the team on the deal, no quote from Belichick on what the former first-round pick might add to the secondary.

And at noon today, when he led off the weekly conference call with himself, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Belichick still wasn't saying much about Talib.

Here's the word-for-word transcript of the questions he got about Talib:

Q: What does Aqib Talib bring to the table for your team this season and what went into the thought process of that move?


BB: Right now really, our focus is on the Bills and the players that will be preparing for the game with the team and the players that are here at this time. We'll take that as it comes. When he gets here, we'll deal with that then.


Q: When is Aqib Talib eligible to show up?


BB: When the league allows him to; it's a league suspension, it's not in our control.

Q: What did you see in Aqib Talib that drew you to him and made you want to acquire him?

BB: I think he's a good player. I think he can help our football team. That's why we traded for him.

Q: How much does the work you guys did on him coming out in the draft in 2008 play a factor in the decision making process?

BB: I think that everything that you know about a player is somewhat of a factor. Whatever that whole composite is, or wherever all that information comes from, all put together and you try to boil it down based on everything, all the information that you have.

Q: Did you feel like your time in Tampa in the preseason helped you familiarize yourselves with him or were you focused on other things at that time?

BB: No, I'd say that's part of the evaluation too, sure. Anything that you have is relevant, absolutely.

Patricia, as expected, didn't shed any light on things either.

Q: What are some things that you think Aqib Talib might bring to the table? How do you anticipate using him once he is part of this team? MP: I think we're obviously going to focus on Buffalo and who is on the team right now. He's a good player and when we get a chance to work with him, we will address those issues at the time. Right now, we're just really pushing ahead on Buffalo.

Wish we could offer you a bit more ...

Patriots-Colts kickoff moved to 4:25 p.m.

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 5, 2012 01:03 PM
Week 11 of the season is the first week that the NFL and its broadcast partners can begin shuffling games as part of flex scheduling, and the first change - and the only change for Week 11 - involves the Patriots.

The league has announced that New England's game with Indianapolis on Nov. 18 will now kickoff at 4:25 p.m.

The game was originally scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

It will remain on CBS.

This and that from Patriots position coaches

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 3, 2012 07:57 AM

The Patriots made offensive and defensive position coaches available on Thursday morning. Some of the quotes from those interviews have been used or will be used in Globe stories, but here is a roundup of some of the more interesting answers:

Running backs coach Ivan Fears
On the backs' performance as pass protectors
The guys have done a good job with it so far. Everybody has got to pass protect, I don't care who it is. Danny [Woodhead] is probably our most experienced guy back there are figuring out what's going to happen. But Shane [Vereen] and "Rid" [Stevan Ridley], they've all got to do a good job. We can't play without having a guy be able to pass protect for us. That's an important aspect of their job. All of them work at it in the drills and in the meetings and figuring out what we expect our opponent to do to us, and then they've got to get out there and see it. They've got to anticipate it and be able t pick it up. Kevin [Faulk] was great at anticipating it – figuring out what these guys were going to do. Danny is probably the best at that right now, but the other guys are doing a good job of figuring it out.

Linebackers coach Pepper Johnson
His thoughts on rookie Dont'a Hightower to this point
It was as expected. The guy is not your average rookie. He's like Vince [Wilfork] in the mindset that he came in already a professional, already fine tuned into what it takes to be a professional football player. He's young sometimes in conversation, but his approach to the game is strictly professional, so he's easy to coach to me.

Tight ends coach George Godsey
On what he teaches the tight ends and how receptive they are
I think as an offensive staff, there are a lot of points that go into each particular play that applies to each one of them differently. I think whether it's in the passing game when we go over routes as a whole with Josh [McDaniels], or when we get individually with myself or likewise in the running game with Dante [Scarnecchia], they each have different roles – Aaron [Hernandez], Rob [Gronkowski], Daniel [Fells], Mike [Hoomanawanui] – and they're different players. So it's trying to get those guys as prepared as possible for what their particular role is, and not the big picture of maybe a play that they won't be playing in.

Safeties coach Brian Flores
On devin McCourty's move to safety
It says that he's a selfless player who just wants to do whatever he can to help the team win. I think Devin is always selfless. He has all the traits: he communicates, he's a focused player, he's smart, he does a lot of things well. He can make that transition, a lot of guys can't. I'm happy to have him.

Receivers coach Chad O'Shea
On the performance of the receivers through the first eight games
Just as all facets of our team and our offense, there are areas that we definitely have to make improvements in. That's what's great about having a bye week is the opportunity to kind of address some of the things that we need to improve on, really make those points of emphasis clear to our team and to move forward. The one thing our team has done a great job of, whether it's the receivers or any other positions, is they've really taken the coaching and really handled that really well and responded well to that.

Defensive line coach Patrick Graham
On Chandler Jones's ability against the run
I think number one your job as a defensive lineman is to help stop the run and he understands that and we've made that clear in our room from day one that that's going to be part of your role and your job. He's done a good job doing that and I think he has room to improve, but we all do, just like I have room got improve on a daily basis in terms of helloing the guys prepare. But I've been pleased; he's doing a good job for us.

Cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer
On the chemistry in the secondary
I think in the back end we have a very close-knit group. I think those guys have a good chemistry together, they work very hard, they're here all the time, they watch film together, they're working to improve. There are some good things that we've done and there are some things that we need to improve on. I think those guys are all headed in the right direction. I think the key thing for them is that all of them have stayed the course, they understand what we're trying to do – we're trying to improve each day, we're trying to get better on some things. When we have some bumps in the road, they know, ‘OK, we have to try to fix this, we have to make this better.' Sometimes it's a matter of, the other team, they have good players, they'll make plays too. Sometimes we're technique-sound there, other times it's, "OK, if I just do this little thing here, maybe the result will be a little bit better."

On pace for standout season, Ridley calls it 'dream come true'

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 2, 2012 07:57 AM

ridley run.jpegAs he headed south for a long weekend away from work with plans to see his high school and college teams play, Stevan Ridley did so as the AFC's leading rusher through the midway point of the season.

The second-year back has 150 carries for 716 yards and five touchdowns in the first eight games of the season, his first as the Patriots' lead running back and a key part of a reinvigorated ground game.

Ridley's 716 yards are fourth-most in the NFL behind Minnesota's Adrian Peterson (775 yards), Seattle's Marshawn Lynch (757) and Washington rookie Alfred Morris (717), and his 4.8 yards per carry is also near the top of the list for backs with 100 or more carries.

He's on pace to run for 1,432 yards, which would be the fourth-best rushing performance in Patriots history.

The Mississippi native with the colorful personality (he's made grown-up onesies all the rage in the running backs room) said he never saw himself leading the conference.

"I never would have thought that in a million years, to be honest," Ridley said. "But I'm very fortunate and the Lord's blessed me and I just go out there and run the football and I look up right now and like you said, leading the AFC in rushing. It's a dream come true for me, to be out here every day. To say that I saw that? No, not at all, I'd be lying.

"But I've got a lot of work to do in front of me…I'm looking forward to the next eight (games) that we have."

Running backs coach Ivan Fears pointed to passion as a big part of Ridley's success, now and going forward.

"The biggest thing about Stevan is that he's very passionate about the game. Stevan loves to play and I think that's his first and biggest asset," Fears said. "There's no doubt – on a game day, he is there. He is mentally in the right frame of mind to play the game. I think as long as he's got that kind of passion for the game, he's going to do the little things that he needs to do to be physically ready to play the game. He's maturing.

"He was a young guy when he came in and he's figuring it out. He's figuring out how to be a professional athlete. He's figuring out what it takes to be a professional athlete. That's what you like to have."

Though he is on pace for 300 carries, which would make him the first Patriots running back to get the ball that many times since Corey Dillon in his record-setting 2004 season (345 carries, 1,635 yards), Ridley isn't feeling the effects of his increased workload.

"Body feels great. I'm still playing football, still on the field, so as long as I'm not missing any playing time it's 100 percent. I'm just thankful to be healthy and thankful to be in my position where I am," he said.

Though it has had its share of fourth-quarter struggles, the Patriots' offense is on pace to post yet another season of stellar numbers. But like every other player and echoing the thoughts of his head coach, Ridley sees areas for improvement.

"We're working, man. We're three games away from being 8-0, so for us we're close but some days we come up short and that's the game of football," he said. "I don't think we're really that far off at anything that we're doing but we need to improve on the small things, and that's what coach always tells us: the last few plays are the minor plays that make the biggest difference in our game. So for us that's what we have to improve on, on offense and defense."

Trade for Talib a desperate move for Patriots

Posted by Greg A. Bedard November 1, 2012 06:19 PM

When it was first announced that the Patriots had acquired Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib, it made sense for both sides.

The Patriots have a very well rounded team, but they are extremely poor at cornerback due to their own drafting and development problems. Talib, as much of a character risk he is, could be the final piece to put the Patriots over the top in the pursuit of a Super Bowl title.

And the Buccaneers had to be just about at the end of their rope with Talib, who is currently under suspension for performance enhancing drugs. Coach Greg Schiano could have released Talib after his suspension and Buccaneers fans probably would have cheered. And he is due to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

So it was a win-win for both sides. The Patriots got a rental who was instantly the most talented cornerback on the team – it was either Talib or another string of waiver wire trash – and the Buccaneers got something for a player they were going to let go after the season in all likelihood.

Now that we know the Patriots traded a fourth-round pick (and received a seventh back), I personally don’t like the deal as much. But if this season ends with a Super Bowl title, it’s obviously a terrific move. It does speak to the Patriots’ obvious desperation at the position.

“Are you kidding me?” one AFC personnel executive said when told of the terms. “A fourth-round pick for a character risk? How was Tampa Bay able to land that price? Who were (the Patriots) competing against?”

Another AFC executive said “it all depends” on if the Patriots win the Super Bowl.

“It’s a desperation move but the guy is lockdown corner, a good player,” he said. “Good press cover guy. But a complete and utter fool as a person.”

That’s why, as a low-round trade, the move makes a lot of sense. But by sending a fourth-round pick and signing Talib to a contract extension -- which is likely given the terms; you don’t send a fourth for a seven-game rental -- then the Patriots are essentially doubling down on a player who has consistently been a character problem before and after entering the league.

So we’ll have to see on final judgment of the trade. Now that Talib is here, that’s moot anyway.

What does he bring to the Patriots? Talib is a good man cover corner, which the Patriots lack. He’s big (6-1, 199) and has decent speed (4.46 in the 40-yard dash at the combine). A good athlete with good hands (played some receiver in college). His technique can be lazy, which usually points to work ethic problems.

Having Talib in the fold could lead to the Patriots leaving Devin McCourty at safety, where he has been most effective, and the team has benefited as well. A cornerback pairing of Talib and rookie Alfonso Dennard gives the Patriots a chance to play more press man. Kyle Arrington and Marquice Cole are currently the only slot corners on the roster.

As far as his character issues, several teams removed Talib from first-round consideration after he had big-time marijuana issues at Kansas. That followed on an incident in high school when he pawned a computer stolen by someone else. Had a daughter in June 2007 and said that matured him. And then his issues continued in the NFL: a fight at the rookie symposium, was suspended one game by the NFL for beating up a cab driver, had a felony warrant issued for assault with a deadly weapon (charges later dropped) and then the current suspension.

Talib instantly upgrades the Patriots’ cornerback position, which had fallen on hard times because of self-inflicted moves. If that leads to a Super Bowl title, it’s obviously a wise move.

If it doesn’t, and then the team doubles down on a huge character risk with a contract extension, then they’re playing with fire. Between Leigh Bodden, Chad Ochocinco, Albert Haynesworth and Jonathan Fanene (signing) the Patriots have not fared well lately trading for other people's trash. Talib is the next stop on the reclamation train.

It'd be easier to swallow for the rest of the year, but we'll have to see what transpires in the long term.

Patriots acquire CB Aqib Talib

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 1, 2012 04:29 PM

The new NFL trade deadline passed at 4 p.m., and the Patriots were involved in the only deal.

And it was certainly an interesting one: the Patriots acquired Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib, a talented but troubled player who is serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

The Buccaneers sent Talib and a 2013 seventh-round pick to New England in exchange for a 2013 fourth-round pick.

It seems like a high price for the Patriots, particularly since Talib isn't eliglbie to play again until Nov. 18 and will become a free agent after this season.

Listed at 6 feet 1 inch, 205 pounds, Talib was the 20th overall pick in 2008 out of Kansas. In his 58-game career with Tampa Bay, he had 53 pass breakups and 18 interceptions, three of which were returned for a touchdown.

There is little doubt that Talib is talented.

But he also has a long list of off-field issues in the NFL, which began not long after he was drafted; at the 2008 rookie symposium, he got into a fistfight with teammate Cory Boyd. He has since been arrested for resisting arrest without violence and simple battery after an alleged incident with a taxi driver.

That event led to his first NFL suspension, for violating the league's conduct policy. He wasn't allowed to play in Tampa Bay's 2010 season opener and was docked an additional paycheck.

In March 2011, police in his native Texas issued a felony warrant for Talib -- he allegedly pistol-whipped and shot at his sister's boyfriend, Shannon Billings, and was wanted for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He was released on $25,000 bond and was indicted on the charge two months later. But earlier this year, the charges were dropped because of insufficient evidence and character concerns about Billings -- at the time, Billings was in jail as a repeat sex offender.

Given his volatile past -- he has also hit a teammate with a helmet and nearly had a physical altercation with an official -- Talib is a high-risk acquisition for New England.

But the Patriots' secondary has been a problem for a couple of years, and having Talib may allow Devin McCourty to remain at safety, which the team wanted to do at the start of the season but held off on because of concerns at the corner position.

Video: Patriots midseason report

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff November 1, 2012 03:50 PM




The Patriots have lost three games by a combined four points, and quarterback Tom Brady says the team will use the bye week to work on fundamentals. Boston.com's Zuri Berry reports from Gillette Stadium.

Patriots bye week practice report: Three not spotted

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 1, 2012 01:50 PM
The Patriots are holding their one practice this week that is open to media on the single field behind Gillette Stadium (where the Revolution normally practice).

There were three players not spotted: Aaron Hernandez, Kyle Arrington and Brandon Bolden.

Hernandez did not make the trip to London as he battles back from his ankle sprain; Arrington suffered a concussion early in the game against the Rams, and Bolden has not played or practiced since suffering an injury in Seattle.

Players were in full pads. However, Tracy White (foot) did not have a helmet or pads on. Trevor Scott and Steve Gregory returned to practice after missing last week.

There was also a new player, an unnamed receiver wearing No. 16. The Patriots have not yet announced a signing, but he's very likely filling the open spot on the practice squad.

Nick McDonald, Jeff Tarpinian and practice-squad fullback James Develin were in black as practice players of the week.

Belichick talks about improvement for Patriots heading into second half

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff November 1, 2012 11:01 AM
Coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots held meetings today, as well as their one on-field practice of the week. Here's some of what Belichick said during his press conference:

Opening statement:
We're on the field here today, it's our one chance this week to work on some things that we feel like we can improve on. I'd say that’s really the theme for us this week as a staff and as a team, is to identify and then have a plan for how to work on things we feel like we can improve on, whether that's situations, plays, techniques, maybe changing a scheme, whatever it happens to be. Obviously we're not going to get it all done today, we can do some things today but also have a plan going forward and we have practice next week and in the coming weeks things that we feel like if we improve on can help our football team and there are certainly a number of those, as well as turning our attention to Buffalo. Hopefully this will be a productive week for us; I think we can use it.

Areas where he's seen improvement
I think we've improved in every area; I think we just need to improve the rate of improvement. We're doing a lot of things better than we were doing then, so are our opponents. They've improved too. That's why we practice every day. But techniques, schemes, timing, all those things, there are good things and there's room for improvement. And our opponents are getting better, so that's really the challenge is to improve faster than they do.

On how rookie players are dealing with things 12 games (four preseason plus eight regular-season games) into the year:
Absolutely. I think that's a big adjustment for a first-year player coming into this league is the length of the season, the intensity of the season. Certainly they're playing against good players every day in practice, every week on the field, whereas in college they were probably the best player on their team, one of the best players on their team, the other teams might have had some good players but it wasn't this level of competition on a daily or weekly basis, and there's lot more of it. I think those challenges – and certainly mentally it's a big challenge in terms of the amount scheme and the plays and adjustments at this level, so I think all those things combined, that's all part of the challenge for those first-year guys.

Dealing with these days off from planning for a specific opponent:
I think it's important for all of us to use whatever time we have efficiently, whether that's a regular week or a bye week, whatever it is, we have so many hours in the day, so many days in the week leading up to the game, and those are all opportunities -- each day, each hour -- they're all opportunities to do the right thing, whether it be preparation or physical rehab or rest or nutrition, so we try to make the most out of all of those opportunities, all of us: players, coaches, rookies, veterans, long weeks, short weeks, off-days, work days, whatever they are we try to make the most out of each day.

Scouting the Patriots coaches:
Well, first of all I think it's an ongoing process: I don't think you do nothing until you get a bye week and then all of a sudden here comes a big self-analysis. We do that on a weekly basis -- we look a the plays we've run, look at the production we're having, not having, and things that stand out one way or the other that are especially good or the results aren't when we want, then we try to find a reason for that and correct it, whatever that happens to be, they're all individual analyses. At the same time if we're doing a lot of one particular thing, then the evaluation of the production on that -- if we're doing a lot of it, are we getting a lot out of it or should we be doing a lot of something else and a little less of whatever this happens to be, and that involves a lot of things -- it’s plays, it’s techniques, schemes, maybe a style of play if you will, personnel groups, all those kind of things, so we try to stay on top of all that. But I think what you really look for is once you have enough opportunities to evaluate it, it's hard to evaluate a play whether it's good or bad if you only run it one time … but after you’ve had a number of opportunities to observe it, you've run it a number of times, then I think that's a fair evaluation.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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