McDaniels, Pats need time to get in groove

McDaniels, Pats need time to get in groove

By Tom E. Curran

Coordinating an NFL offense is just like riding a bike.

Although it's like riding a bike with 10 other people. And, actually, you don't get to ride a bike at all. You have to tell 11 other people how and where to ride theirs. While 11 guys on enemy bikes try to stop you from successfully riding your bike where you want.

So, while we expect that Josh McDaniels should be able to climb astride the Patriots offense and ride it seamlessly, that's not reality.

As this past Sunday against Arizona showed, the road gets bumpy and wrong turns get made, even if McDaniels and Brady were the yin and yang of the most prolific offense in NFL history back in 2007.

Why isn't it easy to just crank it up again, as the volume of "Bring back Bill O'Brien!" tweets indicated Sunday afternoon.

"You work at it as hard as you can and at the end of the year you probably evaluate where you're level of comfort is," Brady said when asked about getting back in the saddle with McDaniels. "At this point, Josh and I are always communicating and I'm trying as a quarterback to do what I need to do and he as a coordinator is doing what he needs to do.

"When you score 18 points and it's really from not converting on third down and not being great in the red area," Brady added. "It's not that we're not moving the ball. We had quite a few yards in the last game and the first game, it's just a matter of taking care of critical opportunities on third down in the red area, putting touchdowns on the board instead of field goals. You have to be able to score touchdowns. I think that's how you eventually get into the flow of the offense is when you're getting into the end zone. "

The road remains rough this weekend in Baltimore with the Ravens in prime time.

Report: Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

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Report: Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

FOXBORO -- Alan Branch knew he had a good case, otherwise he wouldn't have appealed. It was just a question of when that appeal might be heard. 

As of Wednesday, the Patriots defensive tackle hadnt heard anything as it related to the appeal of his four-game suspension. But by Saturday morning, according to Field Yates of ESPN, Branch had won the appeal and been cleared of the league's ban. 

Word of Branch's punishment stemming from a positive marijuana test became public when reported by ESPN on Nov. 21. Per the league's substance abuse policy, appeal hearings are typically scheduled for the fourth Tuesday after a player has been informed of his penalty. The policy notes that it is possible for appeals to be heard on another date should the two sides be able to work out different schedule, but Branch was not optimistic that would be the case earlier this week. 

Good news came quickly, apparently. 

Had Branch been forced to miss any time, it would have docked the Patriots arguably their top interior defensive lineman. Branch has started every game, and he leads all Patriots defensive tackles with 457 snaps played. 

The Patriots recently waived running back DJ Foster and signed defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, seemingly as a way to build some depth on the roster behind Branch if Branch had been suspended. 

By having his four-game suspension wiped away not only are the Patriots saved from having to deal without one of their top players in the trenches, but Branch saved himself a relatively hefty financial penalty.

A four-game ban would have cost him nearly $300,000 in base salary as well as four game-day bonuses adding to $100,000. And he stood to lose as much as $750,000 in season-long playing-time incentives. In all, had the suspension stood, it could have cost him about $1.1 million. Patriots salary-cap expert Miguel Benzan goes into more detail about the potential financial impact of Branch's suspension here

Thankfully for Branch, he doesn't have to worry about that any longer. With this situation in the rear view, he can focus on helping the Patriots win games during the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.