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.

Gronkowsk hoping to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon

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Gronkowsk hoping to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowsi had what was, for him, an incredibly quiet game against the Texans on Thursday. He saw 14 snaps and ran just one route. He did see a target from rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett when he ran that route, but it floated high over his head and sailed out of the end zone incomplete. 

In his first game action since suffering a hamstring injury on Aug. 15, the Patriots chose to being their All-Pro tight end along slowly, but he's hoping that he'll be more involved in the very near future. 

"You’ve got to be careful with any injury, but I mean, if you research hamstrings, if you know anything about hamstrings, you’ve definitely got to be careful," he said. "You’ve got to progress. You can’t just hop back in and be full-go 100 percent. I wish it was like that. I can’t wait until I’m going freakin' crazy out there again. So I’m just progressing myself into it and feeling better every single day."

Gronkowski was back on the practice field for his team's workout in full pads on Wednesday. He was spotted running through drills and catching passes from tight ends coach Brian Daboll, and he did not appear to be visibly limited. After running around in a game, albeit briefly, Gronkowski explained that he experienced no setbacks.

"I felt good, definitely," Gronkowski said of playing under the lights. "You’re always sore no matter what after playing a game. No matter if you play 10 plays or 70 plays, [you’re] definitely sore like any other game. But no setbacks. No nothing. Feeling good and just progressing every day."

Regardless of who happens to be playing quarterback for the Patriots against the Bills on Sunday -- whether it's Jimmy Garoppolo or Brissett, both of whom practiced Wednesday -- having Gronkowski on the field and closer to his usual level of participation should help. 

"They’re doing very well, very excellent," Gronkowski said of Garoppolo and Brissett's performances with Tom Brady out. "Every single day, they’re just trying to improve and progress every day. This week, you just see everyone throughout the team, everyone is just trying to progress . . . The coaches do a great job of getting the quarterbacks prepared. If there is something there that we need to get on the same page with the quarterbacks on, we’ll talk, but the coaches do an excellent job of getting the quarterbacks ready."

McAdam: Doesn't take long for second-guessing of Farrell to resume

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McAdam: Doesn't take long for second-guessing of Farrell to resume

Three takeaways from the Red Sox' 6-4 loss to the Yankees on Tuesday night . . . 

1) Long relief may be short for the Red Sox in the postseason

The news that Drew Pomeranz won't start Thursday and is dealing with forearm soreness was ominous -- to say the least. While the Sox aren't concerned enough to order up an MRI for the lefty, it seems a fair bet that he won't pitch again this season. Pomeranz wasn't going to crack the postseason rotation and would likely have been relegated to relief duty. Now, even that seems a stretch.

Add that development to the continued absence of Steven Wright and the Red Sox are missing 40 percent of their rotation from late July and early August.

Healthy, both would have been stretched-out and available to provide multiple innings in the postseason.

Of course, most teams would prefer to not have to rely on long men in the postseason, since their very appearance in a game would signifiy that a starter got knocked out early.

When that happens, however, it's nice to have experienced, dependable arms to cover innings and not impact the bullpen's high-leverage pitchers.

Now, in such a scenario, the Sox will likely have to turn to either Robbie Ross Jr. or Heath Hembree.

2) Is Aaron Hill heating up?

In the month of September, Hill has posted a line of .381/.409/.571. On Tuesday night, he blasted a pinch-hit homer.

Admittedly, that's a relatively small sample size. But Hill has had better at-bats of late, especially against lefties.

It's doubtful that he'll take over third base -- now or in the postseason -- full-time, since John Farrell has two left-handed hitting options, with Travis Shaw and Brock Holt. Shaw certainly more power and has shown the ability to go on hot streaks at the plate.

But Hill is a veteran player, albeit one with little postseason experience (11 at-bats in the Division Series for Arizona in 2011) for a 12-year veteran.

And one other benefit: Hill is a .373 career hitter as a pinch-hitter, making him a valuable part off the bench in games started by either Holt or Shaw.

3) One loss is all it took for the second-guessing to resurface

The Sox had won 11 straight before Tuesday's loss, which quickly re-introduced criticism of Farrell.

Starter David Price had given up four runs through six innings, but the Sox rallied for two runs off Tommy Layne in the seventh to tie things at 4-4.

At 76 pitches, Price went back out for the seventh and promptly yielded a two-run homer to Tyler Austin, giving the Yanks another two-run lead.

Price hadn't been sharp in the first six. With expanded rosters, plenty of available relievers and a rested bullpen after a day off Monday, why stick with Price?

Offered Farrell: "You go with a right-hander they’re going to go with [Mark] Teixeira and [Brian] McCann with that right-field porch,” Farrell said. “Wanted to keep the (right-handed hitters) in the ballgame, (but Price) mislocated over the plate.”