Brady: We know what to do without Gronkowski

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Brady: We know what to do without Gronkowski

Though Rob Gronkowski's season-ending arm injury eliminates one of the Patriots' most dangerous offensive weapons from the equation going forward, the fact that the Patriots have played without him at full strength for essentially seven weeks now makes dealing with his loss somewhat easier since they're accustomed to playing without him.

Tom Brady explained on Monday morning what it will be like moving forward without the team's big tight end.

"I think we put much more time in this year than we . . . for example, like last year, when we played the Super Bowl, it was our first game without him in two years," Brady told WEEI's Dennis and Callahan Show. "Not that that's any excuse because there are no excuses, but there's an uncertainty of how guys are going to play and step in. Well we know now, we know the types of packages we'll use and what we'll do and the different ways we'll try to find some weakness in the defense based on our groups and so forth."

The team has plenty of other weapons with which to work. In games this season without Gronkowski (including last night's win over the Texans when his injury made him essentially a non-factor) the Patriots have averaged 35.3 points per game. Brady is confident that the offense, led by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, will continue to find ways to be effective.

"That's what Josh does better than anybody else that I've been around; his ability to adjust like he's done all season," Brady said. "That's just the way it's gone. I think we've played a bunch of games now, we've never really been fully healthy, and obviously now won't be, but you know what? We've still got a very good team and there's different guys that step up and make those big time plays, whether it's Wes (Welker) or Brandon (Lloyd) or Deion (Branch) or Shane (Vereen) or Stevan Ridley or Danny Woodhead, Aaron Herandez had another big game. They've got to stop all of us, and that's what we've got to continue to do this week."

The Patriots will have their work cut out for them on Sunday at home when they face the Ravens in the AFC Championship game for the second year in a row. New England lost to the Ravens back in Week 3, and Brady noted that the Patriots are familiar with some of what Baltimore does because the two teams have played so frequently over the last few years.

"We learn from Week 3," Brady said. "But like I said last week, it's just more of a few matchups and so forth. I think you get a feel for some coverages, but we've played them enough where we know the players, we know their strengths, we'll just work hard to see what they've done since our game. There's a lot of tape to be watched, but they're playing their best football right now.

"The way their offense played (against the Broncos in the Wild Card game Saturday), I did see a few of those Torrey Smith catches and those were incredible," he continued. "He had a great game against us and he had a great game on Saturday. They've got a very good offense, very good defense, they've got some Pro Bowl special teams guys, they've got a great team and they're very well coached. That's why they're in the same position that they were last year. I feel the same way about us. I feel we've got the best coaching, we've got a lot of mentally tough players, physically tough players that are going to be facing our toughest challenge of the year. I know we'll be ready for it when we kickoff next week."

Ravens special teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo made comments on Twitter Sunday night accusing the Patriots of using dirty tactics when they go to their hurry-up offense. Brady didn't respond directly to the comments -- Ayanbadejo later apologized -- but he did insinuate that the hurry-up would continue to be a part of their game plan as they've used it all season.

Weve had a lot of people comment about our team and our players this year. I think the best thing that we do is we ignore the noise, we go out and we try to prepare, Brady said. Nothing really that anybody says or does is going to affect whats going to happen next Sunday. I think its best for us just to focus on what we can do, and thats prepare and work and do what weve done all season. People want to say things or write things, they have the liberty to do that, but it doesnt really have any bearing on what we do.

Brady explained what goes into the hurry-up further, and how the team has to execute while moving at a quick pace. Moving quickly without the execution can end a drive in the blink of an eye.

Like Ive said before, it does no good to go fast and not do your job," Brady said. "It starts with us executing well, being able to do our job effectively. I think as long as we can stay on the field and make a few first downs, then weve got a great tempo and momentum to the drive. And its hard to stop us at that point. Weve just got to get into the drive, and once were into the drive we feel like were going to put points on the board.

Ultimately it comes down to our execution. Its throwing, catching, running, blocking, playing penalty-free, not turning the ball over. I think I was most proud that it was a very clean game in terms of penalties and turnovers. Thats when we needed it the most. You cant afford to give up those possessions, put yourself behind in these long-yardage situations against good teams, because they take advantage.

Here are some of the other highlights from Brady's interview:

On Wes Welker, who had eight catches for 131 yards, including one 47-yard one-handed catch in the second quarter
Wes did an unbelievable job getting his hands on that ball and making the play. Its not like Wes has triple-XL hands. Wes isnt the biggest guy in the world, but hes got the biggest heart. That makes up for a lot of the size difference, is his mental toughness, his physical toughness. Theres just nobody like the guy.

We probably havent practiced that three times all year, throwing the ball down the field to Wes like that. When it matters the most, Wes comes up with it. Wes has his opportunities and he always take advantage.

On passing Joe Montana's record for career postseason victories
There was a lot of Joe Montana and a lot of Steve Young memorabilia in the Brady house. Those were my two favorites. To grow up as a kid in the Bay Area with the 49ers winning all those games is probably a lot like the kids in New England growing up now. I think thats really where my love for football started. My parents loved football and loved taking me to the games. There was nothing more fun for me than to go to Candlestick Park. Our seats were about on the 10-yard line, about eight rows from the top of the stadium. There was just so much excitement every week because the team won. Those two quarterbacks really set the bar for how the position is to be played. Ive always admired both those guys. I have a good relationship with those guys.

I just feel very blessed to be a part of such a great Patriots organization. To play for Mr. Robert Kraft and Jonathan and the Kraft family. And to play for coach Bill Belichick. Ive been very fortunate in my life. Like I said last night, I never take it for granted. Im just very grateful. I think thats how I really feel.

On officiating in the postseason
I always feel like the calls even out over the course of a game. Sometimes they get them right, sometimes they get them wrong. Were used to that. Weve always done that. Thats how its been since we started playing this game in high school or some of us in peewee football. The refs miss calls. Thats just part of it. The best team usually ends up winning. The refs I think do a great job in the playoffs. You see, they let us play a little bit more, which I think the players enjoy. Theres not the ticky-tack calls. I think they let us play, and thats how the players probably typically like it. You see who the toughest guys are, you play physical, its a physical game. Then you see whos the best team after four quarters of football.

Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

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Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

NEW ORLEANS - Devonta Freeman practically wore out the Superdome turf with one long gain after another, Tevin Coleman wouldn't be denied near the goal line and the New Orleans Saints hardly looked like the team that made an emotional homecoming nearly 10 years ago to the day.

Cheers turned to boos, and many fans filed out early.

Coleman rushed for three touchdowns, Matt Ryan passed for two TDs and Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a score to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the winless New Orleans Saints 45-32 on Monday night.

"It was real fun. Everybody was doing their job and everybody was playing for each other," Coleman said. "Everything clicked, and we got it done. It's a real big win for us to beat this team here."

The game coincided with New Orleans' celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Saints' memorable return to the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006, 13 months after Hurricane Katrina. But there would be no reprise of New Orleans' dominant and emotional 23-3 triumph over Atlanta a decade ago.

The Saints' depleted defense struggled to slow Freeman, who rushed for 152 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards. Coleman also was effective in the passing game out of the backfield, with three receptions for 47 yards to go with his 42 yards rushing.

"We have to stop the run better," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "They were over 200 yards in situations where you knew the run was coming, even at the end of the game."

Ryan finished with 240 yards passing for Atlanta (2-1), which did not turn the ball over and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Drew Brees put up his usual big numbers - 376 yards and three TDs passing - and hit tight end Coby Fleener seven times for 109 yards and a TD. But Brees' tipped pass that resulted in Jones' TD return early in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 45-25 lead that proved too much for New Orleans to overcome.

Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

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Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

BOSTON, Mass. – There’s a long way to go toward a complete resurrection from last season’s misdeeds, but Jimmy Hayes made a nice little statement that he’s learned some lessons in Boston’s preseason debut. The Bruins lost the game, 3-2, in the shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Hayes scored one of the two goals for the Black and Gold as one of the few veterans in a very youthful lineup for Boston.

The Hayes goal was a nice give-and-go with Jake DeBrusk at the end of a nice transition play in the second period, and was the highlight of a night playing on the right wing with DeBrusk and center Austin Czarnik. The score and a team-high four shots on net for Hayes represent a good start for what he hopes is a gigantic rebound season after last year’s disappointment.

Clearly Hayes heard some of the unflattering chatter about him on sports talk radio and otherwise last season, and may even understand how his difficult season in his home city of Boston -- whether he actively expressed it to him or not -- might have been a factor in his buddy Jimmy Vesey ultimately choosing New York over Boston.

It appears the former Boston College standout is looking to change the conversation in Boston. 

“Yeah, sure am. I’ve got a lot to come out here and…[there were] a lot of comments about myself, but I know I’m a good player. I got to this level for a reason,” said Hayes, who dropped from 19 goals and 35 points with the Panthers to 13 goals, 29 points and a career-worst minus-12 for the Bruins last season.

“To be able to play at the NHL level and continue to play at that level on a consistent basis is what I expect out of myself. I do it for myself and our teammates, and to help our team win. I’ll continue moving forward.

“It’s funny being the old guy on the line. It’s nice to see those young guys and see how excited they are, and how excited I am to get back out there. That’s what I said to the guys, they still have the jitters and they still have them for the first preseason game. It shows that these guys want it and it’s been a lot of fun skating with those guys. They’ve got a lot of speed and to keep pushing the pace. Trying to keep up with them has been a lot of fun.”

There is still a long way to go for the 26-year-old winger, and his willingness to stick around the danger areas on Monday night was a welcomed one for a Bruins team that needs his 6-foot-6 body in front of the net. Hayes paid the price with stitches and a fat lip after taking a Dalton Prout high-stick to the mouth in front of the Columbus net that went uncalled on a Bruins PP at the end of the second period.

That’s all part of the big man’s game on the ice, however. It’s also the kind of battle and determined fight that Hayes will need to show much more consistently in his second season with the hometown Bruins if he’s truly looking to bounce-back from last year’s mediocre performance.