No Huddle: Patriots-Bills postgame sound

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No Huddle: Patriots-Bills postgame sound

FOXBORO -- New England's 37-31 win over Buffalo had an odd aftertaste. Seeing as the Patriots won by the skin of their teeth, you'd think the locker room would be somewhat sober.

Not so. There was a lot of laughter and general joy.

On that note.

Cornerback Devin McCourty on whether he's more frustrated the game was so close or happy the Patriots won in the end:

DM: "The first thing I learned when I got to the NFL was that its hard to win each week. We never take that for granted. Its big to come out and get a win, especially against a division team. Like any other game, we have to go work on the things we need to work on. Well break the film down. We still have seven more games to go and its all going to depend on how good and how well we improve over this time. If we can keep improving all the way down to the end of the season and string good games together and string wins together, well be in good shape."

True. If the Patriots -- hypothetically speaking -- go back to the Super Bowl, nobody will be talking about the fact they almost lost to Buffalo in early November.

Unless they lost that Super Bowl. That's when every misstep from every game would get dredged up and used as testimony for what, in retrospect, was certain doom.

I'm exaggerating, but the point is, no one will deny it's better to avoid situations where late-game heroics are needed to secure a victory.

Press conferences sound like this on the other side.

Bills coach Chan Gailey on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Question transcribed verbatim: "This was a game where he seemed to be answering his critics and then, in the end, it was like Yeah, well, he is going to throw that late interception."
Brutal.

On to Gailey's answer:

CG: "Yep, I hate it for him. He played so good and then to have that happen. Ive got to help him. Ive got to make a couple better calls at the end there that might help him. So, if I do a little bit better of a job, then maybe he doesnt have to do that by himself."

Nice of Gailey to take the bullet, but Fitzpatrick can't completely duck and cover.

Yes, the numbers show a strong offensive effort for Buffalo: 481 total yards and 35 first downs, the most New England has ever allowed. Fitzpatrick completed 27 of 40 passes for 337 yards, two touchdowns, and a 99.7 rating. He and his arsenal executed 25 plays of 10 or more yards.

But that interception.

That's really what the effort boils down to in the end. When a team grants its quarterback a 59 million extension over six years, one that includes 24 million guaranteed, that team will generally frown upon game-winning touchdown passes thrown errantly to opposing defensive backs.

Generally.

Bills receiver T.J. Graham on missing the game-winning reception:

TG: It was a good pass, I should have made that play. I take blame for that one. That might be why I dont get on the field as much.

Graham is actually a strong candidate to take blame for the ball McCourty intercepted Sunday evening. From the looks of it, the 23-year old should have run across McCourty instead of toward the post. Whether or not Fitzpatrick should have fired anyway. well he did.

Maybe the play should have been drawn up for Donald Jones instead.

Buffalo's Jones on the receiving corps:

DJ: I have been saying all year as a receiving core we dont feel anyone can stop us on the outside. We were moving the ball pretty good. It was tough I didnt make that one catch and I take that one on myself. It is hard that I couldnt come down with that one. We dont feel anyone can stick with us on the outside and we will keep on playing that way.

We've already gone over Buffalo's offensive numbers, so Jones' confidence is not unfounded, even in the loss. What's interesting is the way the team attacked New England with many mid-range strikes to the outside. Opposing offenses have, to this point, had success gouging the secondary with 20-plus yard bombs over the middle.

Sunday was just the second time a team put 30 or more points on the Patriots (Baltimore scored 31 in its Week 3 win).

Fitzpatrick on the comparison between Houstons defense (which the Bill's couldn't score against last week) to the Patriots defense:

RF: "I dont want to get into the comparisons. You can look at the statistics and Houstons obviously a top five defense I really dont want to compare them."

The Harvard Guy did his homework: Houston has the No. 3 defense in the NFL, surrendering just 285.6 yards per game. Buffalo dug in for 304 total net yards against the Texans in Week 9, but went 0-for-3 in the red zone for just nine points.

On whether or not the Patriots defense is a top five defense:

RF: "If you look at the statistics theyre obviously not a top five defense, but these guys and what they do, they have a great offense and theyre going to make you earn it all the way down the field and I thought our guys until the very, very end there, made a lot of plays and unfortunately came up one play short in the end."

New England has the league's best offense at 430.3 yards per game. It has the 25th-ranked defense in terms of yards surrendered per game (382.1). It was fair of Fitzpatrick to not put that latter number alongside Houston's.

Nose tackle Vince Wilfork on the Bills rushing attack:

VW: They run the ball very well. We have two running backs like that and it is just very tough to defend those guys. Like I said, the biggest stat is to win. We can always get better and do things a little differently going forward."

How impressive is C.J. Spiller? Sunday, he looked like a much different back than the one New England saw in Week 4. Spiller started off hot in 2012 before injuring his shoulder against the Browns. He got snaps when the Patriots came to town, but had just 33 yards on eight carries. This weekend Spiller averaged 7.8 yards on his nine carries for 70 total. Fred Jackson tossed in another 80 yards on 16 carries.

The Patriots run defense was tied at seventh-best in the NFL coming into this week, giving up just 88.6 per contest. Buffalo's 162 team total was impressive.

Bills defensive end Mario Williams on the game in general:

MW: We got to play better, there are eleven guys on the field we all got to play better. Ive never seen that many penalties in a game. This is my first year playing with everybody as a group, but Ive never seen that many penalties. I dont know what was going on.
Someone was a little flag-happy.

The Bills were whistled for 14 accepted penalties for 148 yards. They were hit for 10 of them in the first half alone. One drive in particular saw Fitzpatrick go from a third-and-1 situation to third-and-21 after three straight flags.

And yes, some of the calls were questionable. I'm still waiting to hear how a guy can get hit for defensive pass interference when the ball is thrown 10-yards out of the end zone and the "intended receiver" is in a different zip code.

Head coach Bill Belichick on Stephen Gostkowski's kickoffs giving the defense good field positions today:

BB: "Right and we had good coverage on the couple they brought out and that was good. That was good. This is the best kickoff return team in the league great returner, punt and kickoff returner, and that was one of the things we needed to do: neutralize Leodis McKelvins production in those areas and we did a decent job of that."

I'm including this quote because kickers are people too, gosh darn it, and Gostkowski did have a great night.

McKelvin is indeed an explosive kickoff returner. Only two players in the league have a better return average than his 29.8 yards. But he had just one opportunity (21 yards) Sunday because six of Gostkowski's eight kickoffs were boomed for touchbacks.

Gostkowski was also a perfect 4-for-4 on extra points and 3-for-3 on field goals.

Belichick on Brissett pick: Always try to plan at quarterback

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Belichick on Brissett pick: Always try to plan at quarterback

FOXBORO -- When Bill Belichick took the podium back in the spring of 2014 to discuss his decision to draft Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round, he raised some eyebrows when he professed his belief that it was a position of need. 

"The situation we have at quarterback, I think that we felt as an organization that we needed to address that to some degree in the future, so we’ll see how all that works out," Belichick said. "I think we’re better off being early than being late at that position."

He added: "We know what Tom’s age and contract situation is. I don’t think you want to have one quarterback on your team. I don’t think that’s responsible to the entire team or the organization."

At the time, Tom Brady was about to turn 37, and his contract was scheduled to keep him in New England through 2017. The team also had backup Ryan Mallett entering the final year of his rookie deal. 

Given Belichick's reasoning, and given the team's willingness to spend a second-rounder on him, it sounded as though the Patriots were ready to plan for a future with Garoppolo taking Brady's place. 

Two years later the Patriots spent another Day 2 draft pick on a quarterback when they selected North Carolina State's Jacoby Brissett in the third round on Friday.

The situation isn't exactly the same as it was in 2014, but there are some similarities.

As was the case in 2014, Brady is still one of the top quaeterbacks in the league. And as was the case in 2014, Brady and the incoming rookie quarterback now have contracts that will run out at the same time; both players are on parallel paths to hit free agency after the 2019 season. 

Unlike Mallett, Garoppolo is not entering a contract year. He still has two seasons remaining on his rookie deal, but Brissett's addition could be an indication of New England's plans for their backup.

If Brissett develops to the point that he's ready to be a No. 2 in 2017, and if Brady remains healthy and among the best in the game, Garoppolo could quickly become a valuable trade chip. There will almost certainly be a quarterback-needy team next offseason willing to pay handsomely for a quarterback who has spent three years under Belichick and Brady and held his own in preseason action.

If the Patriots choose not to deal Garoppolo before the 2017 season, they'll end up keeping three quarterbacks on their roster for two consecutive years. That's not completely out of the realm of possibility, but for a team that turns over the bottom of its 53-man roster as often as the Patriots do, it seems like a situation Belichick might like to avoid if at all possible.

One would assume that at the end of his contract, Garoppolo would like to find a starting job -- and starter's money -- elsewhere. If he were to leave, the Patriots could receive a compensatory pick in return that might pale in comparison to whatever they would receive in a trade before the 2017 campaign. 

I asked Belichick on Saturday night if Garoppolo's contract situation played a role in the Patriots selecting Brissett at pick No. 91 overall. 

"There’s always an element of team planning, especially at that position," Belichick said. "If you can you try to look ahead a little bit. If you can’t, then take it as it comes. Things change but there’s an element of planning at all positions on your team, certainly that one."

Bottom line: It's the one position at which the Patriots never want to be unprepared. They don't want to be the 2011 Colts with Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky. They don't want to be the 2015 Ravens with Mallett, Matt Schaub and Jimmy Clausen rotating behind center. 

They want to make sure they have capable bodies to man their most important position. By drafting Brissett -- a toolsy quarterback who took care of the football in college  andwas respected as a leader -- they may have found a future backup. At the same time, they've given themselves some flexibility next offseason to seek value for Garoppolo via trade if they so choose.

May 1, 2016: With NHL draft order set, time to deal?

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May 1, 2016: With NHL draft order set, time to deal?

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after thinking Barack Obama gave Jeffrey Ross a run for his money as the Roast-master In Chief at last night’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

*The man behind the music at American Airlines Arena for the Dallas Stars’ games comes into the spotlight for a story.

 

*Don Cherry sings the praises of Joel Ward, wears a Toronto Marlies suit and said “it was time to go” for Bruce Boudreau in Anaheim.

 

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Penguins coach Mike Sullivan taking major issue with the head shot Brooks Orpik laid on Olli Maatta.

 

*The Maple Leafs secure the No. 1 overall pick in last night’s NHL Draft lottery, which will no doubt lead them to Auston Matthews.

 

*Now that the Edmonton Oilers have the No. 4 pick, Peter Chiarelli is open to trade options for those teams wanting to move up.

 

*Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is once again thriving in Ontario just a year after a major health scare.

 

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Kurz on the unique journey for Brent Burns that culminated in his Norris Trophy finalist honor this week.

 

*Spector has the roundup of rumors including plenty of speculation on Kevin Shattenkirk once the Blues are done in the playoffs.

 

*For something completely different: a couple of reporters actually got into an actual fight at the White House Correspondent’s after-party. It sounds like they both kind of deserved a punch in the face, to be honest.

Report: Patriots sign nine undrafted free agents

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Report: Patriots sign nine undrafted free agents

The Patriots have reportedly added nine undrafted free agents after selecting nine players in the 2016 NFL Draft.

DJ Foster, RB/WR, Arizona State
Devante Burns, CB, Texas A&M
De’Runnya Wilson, TE/WR, Miss State
Steven Scheu, TE, Vanderbilt
Woodrow Hamilton, DT, Mississippi State
CJ Johnson, LB, Mississippi State
V’Angelo Bentley, CB, Illinois
Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn
Cre’Von LeBlanc, CB, Florida Atlantic

Foster is arguably the highest profile player the Patriots signed and was filmed celebrating the moment.

Foster has the versatility the Patriots looks for. He played running back over his first three collegiate seasons before shifting to wide receiver. He finished his career at Arizona State with 666 total touches for 4,813 yards and 32 touchdowns.

Stay tuned for more…