Trick play helps Packers dismantle Bears

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Trick play helps Packers dismantle Bears

From Comcast SportsNetGREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Four days after starting the season with a demoralizing defeat, Clay Matthews and the Green Bay Packers looked every bit like the team they were expected to be this season.Maybe even better, at least on defense.The Packers (1-1) pulled off a perfectly executed trick play, then rattled and robbed Jay Cutler the rest of the way in a 23-10 victory over the division rival Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on Thursday night.The win represented an impressive rebound from a season-opening loss to San Francisco. Had the Packers lost to the Bears, they would have fallen to 0-2, with both losses coming at home."Inside the facility, there wasn't any panic," Aaron Rodgers said. "Outside, I think people were worried if we lose to Chicago, you're kind of putting yourself behind the eight ball a little bit. Good win for us. We're 1-1. Again, it's one game. We need to get better on offense; defense played incredible."Especially Matthews, who was credited with 3 of the Packers' seven sacks of Cutler.With six sacks in the Packers' first two games, Matthews already has equaled his total from last season."I think the statistics speak for themselves," Matthews said. "It's always good when you get after the quarterback, get him off his rhythm and have him throw some balls up there that I'm sure he wouldn't want, or wants back."It was a significant step backward for the Bears (1-1), who were filled with confidence after steamrolling Indianapolis in their opener.Cutler threw four interceptions to go with the seven sacks. As frustration mounted, Cutler vented with emphatic gestures throughout the game, saying afterward it was simply a sign of his desire to win."I care about this," Cutler said. "This isn't a hobby for me. I am not doing this for my health. I am trying to win football games and get first downs. When we're not doing the little things or not doing things the right way consistently, I'm going to say something. If they want a quarterback that doesn't care, they can get somebody else."Cutler was particularly upset with his offensive line, a position group that did not see a significant addition during the Bears' offseason makeover of their offense."I'm not going to just walk to the sideline and act like everything's OK," said Cutler, who was 11 for 27 for 126 yards. "It's just not going to happen."The loss left at least one prominent member of the Bears wondering if their Week 1 win was something of a mirage."Maybe we're not as good as we thought we were," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "We've got a long ways to go, that's obvious. We didn't play like we did last week. Maybe Green Bay's just that good, I don't know. We just didn't play well and they played good enough to do what they did to us."The Bears also lost running back Matt Forte to an ankle injury. Bears coach Lovie Smith said the severity of the injury was unclear.Smith was impressed by the Packers' rebound during a short turnaround."You've got to give them a lot of credit," he said. "They didn't play as well as they wanted to last week and they came back this week."Smith acknowledged that his team looked "flat-footed" on the Packers' biggest play of the day, a gutsy and perfectly executed fake field goal when the Packers were facing fourth-and-26 on the Chicago 27 late in the second quarter."Good call by them," Smith said. "They executed the play to perfection. What else can I say? Normally when a fake works it's a good job by the opponent, and that's what happened tonight."The Packers lined up for a field goal, but punter Tim Masthay, the holder, flipped the ball to backup tight end Tom Crabtree, who streaked into the end zone."I had the easiest job of anybody," Masthay said. "All I'm doing is catching the snap, putting it down and flipping it to Tom. The rest of the guys were the ones doing the work. So, yeah, it was really cool."Crabtree credited the Packers' blocking."It's not really on me," he said. "I think any of you could run that play. All I did was catch the ball and run a straight line. The guys did a great job blocking. Tim had a great pitch. Like I said, I just ran a straight line. That was about it."Watching from the sideline, Rodgers at first thought something went wrong."I saw Crabby running out the back side, I couldn't believe it," Rodgers said. "That's a gutsy call. A gutsy call. You've got to score on that."The Packers' defense did the rest, holding new Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall to two catches for 24 yards.Earlier in the week, a confident Cutler wished the Packers' defensive backs "good luck" in trying to match up physically in man coverage with a new-look wide receiver corps led by Marshall. Stalked by Tramon Williams for much of the night, Marshall didn't see much of the ball. And he couldn't convert his one big opportunity, dropping a potential touchdown in the third quarter.Charles Woodson said the Packers took note of Cutler's quote."It was everywhere," Woodson said. "You know how it is. Once you make a statement these days, it doesn't take long for it to travel and get to you."Cutler shrugged off any potential fallout from his comment, noting that the Packers didn't play much man coverage."They didn't play man, so why would they say anything?" Cutler said.In all, the Packers showed they're a better team than they appeared to be after Week 1."We got kicked in the (rear end) four days ago," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "And we were motivated."

Valentine will be plunked down in heart of D-line

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Valentine will be plunked down in heart of D-line

FOXBORO – The Patriots used the 96th overall pick – a compensatory pick that came to the Patriots after losing Darrelle Revis – on a very large man. Vincent Valentine, a 6-3, 329-pound defensive tackle from Nebraska who is more space-eater than penetrator.

Though Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio said Valentine has played all over the defensive line including 5-technique (outside shoulder of the tackle), he’ll likely be an early-down, middle of the defensive line player for the Patriots at the outset. How does the team go about getting him on the field?

Currently, they are pretty well-stocked with big bodies. Last year’s first rounder, Malcom Brown, is going to play a lot for a long time. Terrance Knighton, added as a free agent, figures to be a major component of the defensive line. And aging Alan Branch showed in 2015 that he’s still got plenty of plays left in him.

The other 300-plus pound linemen in the mix are Marcus Kuhn, a free agent brought over from the Giants, and Joe Vellano, who’s been with the team for four seasons as an end of the roster player.

Valentine had an injury-plagued final season with the Cornhuskers and will need to tune up his body and conditioning for the NFL. He’s not a project but neither is he a plug-and-play type who can be expected to walk in and make immediate contributions. With the 31-year-old Branch nearing the end, it’s reasonable to expect Valentine to be the successor to him in the Patriots interior rotation when they go heavy on early downs and in short-yardage and goal-line.

Examining possible Patriots fits going into Day 3

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Examining possible Patriots fits going into Day 3

The Patriots have eight picks remaining on the final day of the draft. While they may not use all of those selections -- they currently have 80 players on the roster, leaving them with only two slots for undrafted free agents if they use all of their picks -- they still have plenty of opportunities to take chances on talented athletes Saturday. 

Here's a quick look at some of the best players available after they spent their first four selections on a corner (Cyrus Jones, Alabama, pick No. 60), an offensive lineman (Joe Thuney, North Carolina State, No. 78), a quarterback (Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State, No. 91) and a defensive tackle (Vincent Valentine, Nebraska, No. 96). 

The Patriots have one fourth-round pick, five sixth-round picks and two seventh-rounders remaining.

RUNNING BACK: KENNETH DIXON, LOUISIANA TECH

Listed as one of our top players available after Day 1, Dixon is still hanging around after nearly 100 picks have gone off the board. Perhaps his level of competition at Louisiana Tech has worked against him. Perhaps his fumbling issues have come back to bite him. Perhaps this is simply an indication of how the rest of the league considers this position. Only four backs have been drafted through the first three rounds. 

Other top running backs available: Jordan Howard, Indiana; Devontae Booker, Utah; Paul Perkins, UCLA; Jonathan Williams, Arkansas; Alex Collins, Arkansas. 

RECEIVER: DANIEL BRAVERMAN, WESTERN MICHIGAN

If ever there was a player who stood out as a potential Patriots pick, it would be Braverman. At 5-foot-10, 177 pounds, he is a prototypical slot receiver whose skill set resembles that of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola or Troy Brown. He's very shifty in and out of his breaks, he does a great deal of his work while risking big hits over the middle of the field, he catches just about everything thrown his way, and he churns out yards after the catch with speed and good vision. 

Other top receivers available: Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia; Rashard Higgins, Colorado State; Devon Cajuste, Stanford; Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa; Keenan Reynolds, Navy.

LINEBACKER: JOSH PERRY, OHIO STATE

This Buckeye seems to fit the size profile the Patriots typically like in their receivers at 6-foot-4, 254 pounds. He runs well enough to be able to track ball-carriers from sideline-to-sideline, and he has a ton of experience coming downhill to make big hits in the running game. Perry will need some work before he's a reliable defender in coverage, but on first and second downs he could be a force. 

Other top linebackers available: Scooby Wright III, Arizona; Kentrell Brothers, Missouri; Stephen Weatherly, Vanderbilt; Blake Martinez, Stanford; De'Vondre Campbell, Minnesota. 

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: HASSAN RIDGEWAY, TEXAS

A college teammate of Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown, Ridgeway is considered by many to be more physically talented than Brown was when he declared for the draft. Injuries hurt Ridgeway's productivity last season, and there are some who question his conditioning, but he understands how to be a disruptive force on the interior, both in the running game and in the passing game. If he's in shape and can maintain the level of fitness that will be expected of him as a pro, he could turn into an immediate contributor.

Other top defensive tackles available: Andrew Billings, Baylor; Sheldon Day, Notre Dame; DJ Reader, Clemson; Dean Lowry, Northwestern; Justin Zimmer, Ferris State.

Patriots hatch latest backup plan at QB

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Patriots hatch latest backup plan at QB

Tom Brady needs a Hail Mary at this point to get himself on the field for the first four games of 2016. The Patriots are more aware of that than anyone, so Friday night they grabbed a little security, using a third-round pick on North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett.

The 6-4, 235-pound Brissett was a two-year starter for the Wolfpack and had 23 touchdowns and five picks in his senior season. He’s lauded for his leadership, has outstanding physical skills and is a tireless worker.

All that said, he’s not going to beat out Jimmy Garoppolo. Brissett isn’t in Foxboro to be the long-term No. 2 in 2016. But if he shows a high level of competency between now and the end of August, the Patriots will likely go into the four-game Brady-less stretch with Garoppolo as the temp starter and Brissett as the temp backup.

When Brady returns, everybody moves back down the ladder again.

But a look at the contracts of Garoppolo and Brady shows that, after 2016, Garoppolo may become expendable. Brady is signed through 2019 and isn’t going anywhere. Garoppolo is up after 2017 and will be a free agent. If Garoppolo plays well enough to impress the rest of the league in his four-game audition, the Patriots could look to deal him prior to the 2017 season.

The return on the former second-rounder isn’t relevant right now. What is relevant is that the Patriots are going to have to carry three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster in 2016: Brady, Garoppolo and Brissett. For a team that’s always churning the end of its roster to get the best players ready for every week’s matchup, the team will have one less roster spot to deal with than it’s had in past seasons.

The only way around carrying Brissett all year on the 53 would be to release him, hope he passes unclaimed through waivers and then sign him to the practice squad. It’s likely someone would claim him. So the Patriots will be working with three quarterbacks on their 53 for 2016. Forecasting, it’s not likely they’d do that two years in a row.

The addition of Brissett is a signal that the team isn’t preparing for life after Brady, but life after Jimmy G.