No Huddle: Patriots-Dolphins postgame sound

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No Huddle: Patriots-Dolphins postgame sound

MIAMI GARDENS, FL -- The Patriots had a subdued celebration Sunday night after beating Miami, 23-16.
The victory awarded New England the AFC East title, but at Week 13, there are still plenty of hurdles left to clear.
Hence the celebration-lite.
But let the quarterback tell you what it's all about.
Quarterback Tom Brady on the season starting now:
TB: "This is when the best teams really start to separate themselves. Your depth is challenged, your mental toughness is challenged, fighting through the bumps and bruises of a long season is a challenge and getting contributions from a lot of people is a challenge. That's what you need this time of year. You have to continue to get better, and better, and better and string games together so when you need it the most you have it in the bank."
New England does have a knack for getting better at the right time.
It's hard to believe this is the team that went 3-3 through its first six. That Week 2 loss to 4-8 Arizona looks even uglier in December's cold light. The Patriots haven't lost a game in the second half of the season since 2009. Have they had the AFC's No. 1 team and NFC's No. 2 team to play back-to-back in the last two years? No. But it's not like anybody knew how the chips would fall when the schedules were made.
It will be fun to see how this team handles the next two weeks.
On injured tight end Rob Gronkowski:
TB: "He hates being out. He's as competitive as anybody so it's hard to really match what he's able to do for us offensively, but the guys who have been in there have done a great job. They've really stepped up to the challenge. No one was quite sure what was going to happen or how we were going to react because it's the first time he's been out, but the guys have responded well. We need to continue that; we have as tough a game as we've played all year coming up next Monday night."
New England's 23-point output was its lowest since the 24-23 loss to Seattle in Week 6. But the team can still create offense, and Wes Welker is a big reason why. The receiver had 12 catches for 103 yards on Sunday. Last time he had double-digit receptions happens to be Week 6, by the way. When Brady needs someone he goes to Welker, and we were reminded of why this weekend.
Welker on if he still feels disrespected in the league despite his success:
WW: I dont know. I dont think about it or anything like that. I just go out there and do my job to the best of my ability.
It would probably be a better story if Welker played angry. And maybe, sometimes, he does. But when the receiver was asked about the size of the chip on his shoulder, he rolled his eyes ever so slightly. The story of Welker going undrafted in 2004, being picked up then discarded by the Chargers, helping Miami for two seasons before being traded to New England, and rising from those ashes to become one of the league's best has already been written. A couple of times. Probably even once by me.
But he's not the player people saw him as in 2004. There's no debating his production with the Patriots, like four seasons with plus-100 catches and five of plus-1,000 yards.
Know who didn't go off against Miami?
Head coach Bill Belichickon receiver Brandon Lloyd having only one catch despite NE being shorthanded at receiver:
BB: Ah no. No particular reason.
And there you have it -- a whole lot of nothing.
Lloyd had just one catch one one target against Miami. The week before, he had three catches on five targets. The week before that? Four on seven. I know you're smart enough to notice the trend: Less Lloyd of late. While offensive schemes change from game to game, this one might be worth keeping an eye on. Especially with Gronkowski out and more targets to go around.
Since we're talking about receivers...
Tight end Aaron Hernandez on if he felt like he was a little off after dropping a pass early in the game:
AH: No, its just frustrating at the time. You just want to make plays, especially just getting back into the groove, but drops happen and as a player you just have to forget about it and come back stronger.
Some of Brady's early throws to Hernandez felt a little forced.
On the season, Hernandez has caught 11 of the 14 passes he was targeted for. That's an almost 79-percent conversion rate. Sunday he had eight catches on 13 targets -- 61-percent converted. The difference isn't crazy, but the two drops Hernandez had were uncharacteristic. One was a potential touchdown ball on a corner route in the first quarter.
Running back Stevan Ridley on the game plan and running the ball well in the second half:
SR: The game plan was awesome. I love our coaches. I love what they do for us every Sunday and we just have to come out here and execute. You know it was a tough battle. They didnt want to just give it to us. We had to go out there and play for it and thats what we did today.
After Sunday's 19 carry, 71 yard performance, 23-year old Stevan Ridley eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards on the year. Not bad for 12 games. And not a bad follow-up to the 441 yards he gained his rookie season. He said he hoped to be "The Guy" once BenJarvus Green-Ellis was traded to Cincinnati. Well, "The Guy" he has become.
But back to the Dolphins game.
Ridley had just four rushing yards at the break; he had 46 on New England's final drive of the game. It was a fantastic series. With 8 minutes, 28 seconds left, the Patriots basically took their four-minute offense and doubled it. By the time Miami got the ball back -- after New England tacked a field goal onto its lead -- there were just 70 ticks on the clock and 10 points to make up. Great play-calling, great running.
Let's throw one in for the defense, shall we?
Linebacker Jerod Mayo on how he feels the defense is playing at this stage of the season:
JM: Obviously there is things that we could do better, but were getting the balls off the grass, trying to turn over the ball, trying to steal possessionswe still have a lot of work to do in the run game, in the pass game, getting off the field on third down, but were heading in the right direction.
They're making plays when they need to: Three sacks of Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, including two from replacement DE Trevor Scott; seven tackles for loss; three forced fumbles (one recovered). Even more impressive was the defense holding Miami to a 23-percent conversion rate on third down.

Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina national team

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Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina national team

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Lionel Messi says he is quitting Argentina's national team.

Argentina and Messi lost a final for the third year in a row, with Chile winning the Copa America 4-2 on penalty kicks following a 0-0 tie Sunday night.

His nation's career scoring leader with 55 international goals, Messi sent Argentina's first penalty kick over the crossbar.

Messi tells the Argentine network TyC Sports "the national team is over for me. It's been four finals, it's not meant for me. I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn't get it, so I think it's over."

Messi and Argentina lost to Brazil in the 2007 Copa final and to Germany in extra time in the 2014 World Cup final. They lost last year's Copa final to host Chile on penalty kicks.

The 29-year-old Messi has led Barcelona to four Champions League titles.

Perry's Patriots 53-man roster projection

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Perry's Patriots 53-man roster projection

With New England Patriots organized workouts finished until next month, Phil Perry puts together another 53-man roster projection.

View the gallery here