Questions persist, answers elusive with Pats pass-D

Questions persist, answers elusive with Pats pass-D

By Tom E. Curran

Think it's maddening watching the Patriots secondary play defense.

Try pinning down the architect of that defense - or at least its overseer, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia - on why the Patriots are so relentlessly bad at stopping receivers from catching footballs all over the place.

When a question was posed to Patricia on Monday about the number of passes completed for more than 20 yards on his defense (five on Sunday, reportedly 39 in seven games), Patricia went into his verbal four corners offense.

"Were just trying to improve on everything each week and obviously trying to eliminate those to the best of our abilities ... we spend time on it like we do on every aspect of offenses that we tend to see each week. We understand it is a little bit of a copycat league, so we are prepared for those things to try to repeat from week to week and were trying to do a good job here of getting everything handled to the best of our ability."

Upshot? They're trying to get better. When it was pointed out that it is a given that every team, every coach and every player is trying to get better and Patricia was asked to explain what in particular they are trying to improve, Patricia said, "Were trying to get the guys that we have out there defensively working together and improving and trying to, like I said, get better.

"Thats really our plan," he confided. "When we take a look at it and whatever the particular play is or the particular play were seeing and those individual specifics, were just trying to manage those on each individual situation."

Patricia went to Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute. It's a hard school. He's smart. He's also 38. He became a positional coach with the Patriots in 2006 when he took over the linebackers. Last year, he was in charge of the safeties. This year, he was made the coordinator.

It may be Bill Belichick's defense, but Patricia is Belichick's hand-picked lieutenant in charge of making sure things run as they're supposed to.

Yet the inevitability of defense collapse is ever-present. Especially in the secondary. And Patricia can't or most likely won't even attempt to articulate what the barrier to competent performances is.
"Were going out there just trying to improve it every week and we take a look at it, evaluate it and try to make sure that there is some improvement in what were doing try to make sure that we understand whats happening in the back end and as a defense as a whole," offered Patricia. "So thats just what were trying to do right now."
Before Patricia got on the call, Belichick was asked about the secondary yielding big plays and the alleged improvement over the previous week in Seattle.

Now, the notion of a vast improvement against the Jets week eluded me because there were plenty of explosive plays from an offense that's deadly as a pop gun most weeks.

But Belichick was encouraged.

"Theres no defense thats designed to give up 50-yard pass completions or anything like that," Belichick explained. "Thats really the worst thing that can happen defensively, is for the offense to get all their yardage or score on one play and not make them drive the ball and execute a number of plays and third down and red area and goal line and all those situations.

"If they just get it all in one play, then thats it," Belichick added. "Its always a point of emphasis. Its never anything that we want to have happen. We emphasized it last week; weve emphasized it every week. When we had as many big plays as we did in the Seattle game, it became more of a battle cry and I want to say one of the results yesterday of that was that we had more opportunities in the red area and we made a couple defensive stops in the red area and thats good. Thats a good way to hold the points down rather than seeing it all go in one play and be a 50-yard touchdown. They have to drive it and it gives you a chance to stop them and we did that a couple times and came close to blocking one of the field goals. You make your opponent work to get their points and work to get their yardage. Thats much better than just handing it to them all in one play or one pass interference call or one play that gains a lot of yards. Its a big point of emphasis, but it always is. Last week, we probably spent even more time addressing it."

So after seven games, the Patriots' defense - which just allowed Mark Sanchez to complete 68 percent of his passes for 328 yards and put up 26 offensive points - is moving in the right direction because it allowed no 50-yard completions, just a bunch of 20-something throws.

Got it.

Hogan on facing his ex-Bills teammates: ‘Like it’s any other game’

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Hogan on facing his ex-Bills teammates: ‘Like it’s any other game’

FOXBORO – Sunday isn’t some “I’ll show them!” game for Chris Hogan. The Buffalo Bills didn’t give up on Hogan last March. They just weren’t going to extend themselves financially the way the Patriots did.

Hogan, a restricted free agent, was lured to New England by the team’s three-year, $12 million contract offer that had $7.5 million guaranteed. Buffalo, which had no cap space, made it clear before the deadline to match the Patriots offer even expired that they couldn’t keep Hogan.

So now, Buffalo enters Sunday’s game without injured wideouts Sammy Watkins and Greg Salas and must resign itself to watching Hogan run around as an opponent.

“I’m just preparing for the game just like it’s any other game,” Hogan said Friday when asked about the matchup. “[Division] opponent so it’s a big game for us. They’re going to come in here pretty excited. There’s going to be a lot of intensity out there.

“Those guys [the Bills] are all my friends still, but we’re playing a game now,” said Hogan. “Once that whistle blows, 60 minutes, I’m going to be playing football. Afterwards we can talk and do all that. My focus is on doing my job and taking advantage of all my opportunities on Sunday.”

Earlier this week, Rex Ryan spoke glowingly of Hogan, who has eight catches for 122 yards and a touchdown so far.

“It was definitely tough to lose him,” Ryan said Wednesday on a conference call. “We didn’t want to. The thing about Chris is he’s a tough guy, he’s a good receiver and things, but the thing that also impressed me is this guy, he did everything that was asked of him. From being a special-teams player and obviously being a wideout, being in the slot, being outside.”

Hogan has eight catches for 122 yards and a touchdown so far.

“It doesn’t surprise me the type of success he’s having, because he’s really a good football player,” said Ryan. “And when you look at him as an athlete, here’s a big-time lacrosse player who then decides he’s going to play one year of football [in college] and now is in the National Football League. He’s a pretty special talent.”

Hogan acknowledged Ryan’s praise, saying, “Anytime someone pays you a compliment, as a head coach in this league, you obviously take that. That meant a lot to me, especially coming from him. I will be forever grateful to them, that organization. They gave me my first chance. That’s where I really kind of made my, started my career. I was there for four years. I established a lot of relationships with those guys and to this day still do. I will always look back on my career and that’s where I started.”

Bruins looking forward to getting World Cup teammates, coach back

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Bruins looking forward to getting World Cup teammates, coach back

BRIGHTON, Mass. – With the World Cup of Hockey and Team Canada crowned as champions, the final few Bruins players involved in the international hockey tournament will be filtering back into regular training camp.

It was a brilliant tourney for Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, especially while forming the World Cup’s best forward line with Sidney Crosby. Marchand was one of the leading scorers and had the clutch game-winner in the decisive game.

As a line they combined for a ridiculous 25 points in six games and it was Marchand who scored a couple of the biggest goals in the biggest games against Russia and Team Europe.

“They did it all of last season for us, so I’m not shocked. They played well throughout the entire time they played there, so I’m really happy for them,” said Ryan Spooner. “It’s been kind of a weird camp. We’ve been missing a lot of guys, and to get all of those guys back is huge. They’re the leaders of the team, so to get them back is good.

“Marchand around the room is a funny guy, so he’s definitely missed. We miss them all.”

Zdeno Chara was a force for the surprising rag-tag group of players on Team Europe and led them to the best-of-three final series against Team Canada. Now that it’s over, the B’s teammates are looking forward to all three joining fellow World Cup participants Tuukka Rask, David Pastrnak and David Backes at camp probably at some point next week.

“It does [feel like training camp], but it will be nice to get those guys back,” said Adam McQuaid. “They are big parts of this team. We’re looking forward to having those guys back, for sure.”

That also includes getting their coach, Claude Julien, back as well after missing his presence while he served behind the Canadian bench with Mike Babcock and Barry Trotz. He’ll be rejoining the Bruins over the next couple of days, and getting through preseason road games against Detroit and Philadelphia before making some tough decisions on cuts at main training camp.

That’s when things will officially start getting back to normal for a training camp that’s felt like something was a little missing over the first few weeks of getting ready for the season.