No Huddle: Patriots-Broncos postgame sound

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No Huddle: Patriots-Broncos postgame sound

FOXBORO -- Do you realize it took New England five weeks to get over .500?
Well, it did, and it happened at the expense of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
Tale of the tape from this 31-21 win is yet another balanced offensive effort by the Patriots offense coupled with complimentary support from the 'D.'
You can imagine who the happy and not-so-happy parties were in the postgame.
Quarterback Tom Brady on the team's second consecutive game with 200-plus rushing yards:"Were getting a lot of nickel defense. When they put little guys out there, we have to take advantage of it. I think were playing definitely a more physical style and controlling the tempo of the game by running the football. We have to keep doing it. Its only been five games; we still have a lot of football games left. We have to be at our best."
The Patriots ran for 251 yards against Denver on Sunday and for 247 yards last week in Buffalo. Stevan Ridley did heavy damage against the Bills (106 yards on 22 carries), but outdid himself this time -- a career-high 151 rushing yards on 28 carries. That's 5.4 average yards per carry. The total effort is his third 100-plus yard game out of five played this season.
Brady said something about "little guys" last week as well. One has to wonder if future opponents are listening.
Ridley onif Denver was looking to strip the ball more aggressively toward the end of the game:
Absolutely. It was late in the game, youve got to close it out, youve got to run the football and I told myself before the play that I had to hold on to the football. Like I said, theyre getting paid to play, too. You cant make any excuses, I messed up. Im sure coach is going to have something to say about it, but like I said theres always another day tomorrow. So Ill be back to work and working ball security high and tight. And thats all I can do.
There will certainly be another day, Ridley just has to hope there isn't another fumble. His football sin came with less than six minutes to play in the game. New England's lead had just been cut to 31-21 after a Broncos touchdown. On his third carry of a three play drive, Ridley was fighting for more yards after Von Miller made contact. He spun, started to fall backward, and the ball squirted out of his grasp.
Rookie Brandon Bolden got the rest of the running back snaps after that.
Receiver Wes Welker on the timing he and Brady have, including the play where a ball came right at Welker's face (but was caught):"Its very important. That one was a little bit too close for comfort, but I knew the ball was coming quick and I knew I had to press it a little deeper than I wanted to, but I knew it was coming quick and I was ready for it and luckily able to make the play."
Welker finished with 13 catches on 15 targets for 104 yards and a touchdown. This week is the third straight for the receiver to haul in 100-plus yards.
Remember all that "phase out" talk that dominated the first two weeks of the season? Go ahead and pretend you don't. Brandon Lloyd may have been leading all receivers in targets early, but Welker is now back at the top with 52 to Lloyd's 43.
Head coach Bill Belichick, given his respect for NFL history, on what comes to mind when seeing Peyton Manning and Brady mind in the bigger picture?"Two great players, obviously. Two great, great players. Theyre both great. Theres nobody Id rather have than Tom Brady, but Manning is a great player."
Manning actually had the better night, according to the box score. The Broncos quarterback went 31-for-44 for 345 yards and three touchdowns (116.2 rating). Brady finished 23-for-31 for 223 yards and one passing touchdown (104.6 rating).
But as you'll see below, those numbers don't matter....
Broncos center Dan Koppen on coming back to Foxboro:
"We lost and all that matters is wins and losses. It was different, but in the end it was just a game. We lost. They ran their offense and they did it well."
Which is why Brady probably won't care about losing the passer battle to Manning.
Anyway. Dan Koppen was a Patriots draft pick out of Boston College in 2003. He played nine seasons in New England before being released in August. Yes, players come and go all over the NFL all the time, but you don't often see such long-tenured guys go elsewhere and then play his former team in his former home stadium less than two months later.
Koppen did well to stiff-arm any drama in the post game.
Head coach John Fox on if he feels his team was more competitive compared to the last time Denver played in New England:"Well, I think if you go by score, I think that is a fair assessment. But you know, still, being on the short end, you dont come in trying to cover or any of those types of things; you just try to win."
More on that whole "wins and losses" thing. Interesting to me, one reporter acknowledged the pointlessness of that other "moral victories" thing before asking Fox if there's any good to come from Denver's three close losses out of five games.
The coach responded with, "You know, it just is what it is." Classic.
Broncos free safety Rahim Moore on trying to cover Wes Welker:
"He is a bad dude."
Okay, there's more to the quote. I just thought Moore's response was funny and so singled it out. Here's the rest:
"They made good plays and we made our plays. We have to get better as a team and start off faster and once we do that we will be fine. As defensive players we have to play better because, if they don't score, they don't win."
He's not wrong. Denver's defense is No. 14 in the league for points surrendered per game at 22.8. But there's an outlier: a measly 6-point output by Oakland in Week 4. Take out that game and the Broncos 'D' allows 27 points on average.
Nose tackle Vince Wilfork on the Patriots defense forcing several turnovers in recent weeks:"We practice very hard at that: we practice ball drills, interception drills, fumble drills. We put a lot of time and work into it, into going out and being able to force turnovers, getting our offense the ball back. We know as a defense, if we can continue to give our offense the ball, theyre going to move the ball and theyre going to give us some points.
"At the end of the day, thats what its all about: scoring points and stopping guys from scoring points. I think we have a pretty good defense and I think we have a hell of a good offense. If we can continue to play together, this football team will be special."
The Patriots currently lead the AFC, and are second in the NFL, in giveawaytakeaway differential at plus-8. Their 11 takeaways (six interceptions and five fumbles) also lead the conference.
If the offense keeps scoring at a good clip, the defense should be okay. New England is a little better than middle of the pack for total points surrendered (113) and is crushing the competition for points scored (388).
Not that "bend don't break" is an ideal philosophy. Right?
Anybody? Bueller?

Unlike Wakefield, Wright has helping hands with Red Sox

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Unlike Wakefield, Wright has helping hands with Red Sox

BALTIMORE -- Near the start of his Red Sox career, Tim Wakefield -- who would wind up pitching 17 years for the club and would tie for the most number of wins in franchise history -- was largely on his own.

One of Wakefield's first pitching coaches in Boston, Joe Kerrigan, regarded knuckleballers as little more than freakish performers.

When Wakefield encountered mechanical issues, Kerrigan could offer little assistance. The pitch was unpredictable, and in Kerrigan's mind, so was the pitcher. The same rules that helped Kerigan dissect and analyze a conventional pitcher's issues wouldn't work with Wakefield.

That frustrated both coach and pitcher, as Wakefield was left to fend for himself.

More than once, as Wakefield foundered, Kerrigan essentially told him: "There's nothing I can do to help you; you're on your own.''

Steven Wright has far more at his disposal, and it's one of the reasons Wright has enjoyed a run of consistency that often eluded Wakefield. There's help available, assistance that Wright readily takes full advantage of.

If throwing a knuckleball hasn't exactly developed into a science, it's certainly far more advanced than it was in 1995, when Wakefield arrived in Boston.

In the middle of a season that has seen him post an ERA of 2.45 and toss a league-best three complete games, Wright has has developed his game fully.

He regularly changes speeds with the knuckler, adding one more complicating factor to an already mystifying pitch.

Depending on the conditions, the hitter, and the score, Wright can either add or subtract to the velocity of his signature pitch. On Monday, when he limited the Orioles to two runs on four hits in a 7-2 Memorial Day victory, he offered knuckleballs as slow as 59 mph and fastballs as fast as 83 mph.

"I like it,'' said Wright, "especially against a lineup like [the Orioles]. They're a very aggressive team. In that inning they scored the two runs (the fifth), I kind of got caught up in the same speed. So I kind of went out there after that and concentrated on not throwing too many at the same speed. It kind of throws them off, because I'm hoping that if I leave one up, the difference in the speed will get them out front.''

But perhaps Wright's biggest step forward this season -- the first in which he began the season as a full-time starter in the rotation -- is the ability to detect and correct flaws within a game, sometimes within an inning. Again, this stands in stark contrast to Wakefield, who was notoriously streaky. When Wakefield was trending in a positive fashion, both he and the club could only hope that it continued. When he hit a rut, however, there was telling how long he would scuffle, unable to reverse his downhill slide.

Wright has no such issues. He can often tell -- and if he doesn't, pitching coach Carl Willis can help -- when his delivery has gone askew. Better yet, he knows what he needs to do immediately to correct it.

"Absolutely,'' agreed Wright. "It's my fifth year doing it and I've worked tirelessly with Wake and [bullpen coach Dana Levangie] and Carl and that's one thing we've concentrated on, is staying within that delivery. Because it's all about staying relaxed and repeating my delivery -- especially for me, but really, any pitcher. Because I'm getting more years, more reps, it's become a little more easier to make an adjustment pitch-to-pitch.''

"He's shown that [ability] in a number of starts this year,'' said manager John Farrell. "That's a testament to someone who knows more about himself, to have those checkpoints.''

Ironically, it was Wakefield himself -- who got so little help for periods of his own career -- who offered Wright a key checkpoint last season.

"He had me move my hands back,'' recalled Wright. "What it does is, it helps me lock my shoulders in a place so I don't get rotational. That's one of the biggest things because if I started feeling that I'm getting rotational, then there's something off.

"It could be a number of things, but I feel like that's the biggest adjustment that I made. It's a small one, but it's huge in keeping everything within reason. Because I'm not a power pitcher, I don't need to reach back and get something (extea in terms of velocity) so when I do throw a fastball, it's the same mechanical look.''

Wright seemed on the verge of becoming undone in the second inning Monday. With two outs, he walked two hitters, allowed an infield single and loaded the bases.

But from the dugout, Willis noticed that Wright was rushing with his delivery.

''I had a hard time [noticing] it,'' said Wright, "but he could definitely see it. We work tirelessly, especially when Wake is around, to try to find some mechanical things so Carl can help me out if I need it. Same thing with [catchers Ryan] Hanigan and [Christian] Vazquez -- they see it too, because I'm throwing to them all the time.''

All of which has Wright among the game's ERA leaders and tied in the complete game category with the likes of Chris Sale, Johnny Cueto and Clayton Kershaw.

"I definitely sometimes pinch myself," he said, "like, 'Man, is this real?' "

Big weekend: Timberlake likes Gronk's moves; Edelman cries 'Free Brady'

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Big weekend: Timberlake likes Gronk's moves; Edelman cries 'Free Brady'

Rob Gronkowski has never been one to keep his dance moves from the public eye. While he's received a wide range of critiques -- the body-slamming of one of his brothers in Las Vegas was not quite as well-received as his girating on a Duck Boat early last year -- the compliment he received this weekend will be hard to beat.

In Nantucket with teammate Julian Edelman, Gronkowski got on stage to dance to Justin Timberlake's new song "Can't Stop the Feeling." When the artist found the video on Twitter, he gave the Patriots tight end a social-media thumbs up in the form of the hashtag "#thosemovestho".

Gronkowski had an eventful day for himself -- with camera phones seemingly recording his every move -- as did Edelman, who began the weekend in Boston at the Boston Calling music festival to scream "Free Brady!"