Curran's Mailbag: How mentally tough are the Pats?

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Curran's Mailbag: How mentally tough are the Pats?

Often, I get queries on Twitter.

Some are variations of, "Why am I following you again?" or "Are you always this stupid?" My therapist says those take me to a sad and angry place and my response should be quietly muttering personal affirmations to myself.

Other questions are good ones. A successful Twitterer would answer those questions immediately. But I am lazy. So they are fodder for my Mailbag!

Q. Would really like to see Tebow as a Patriot next year, thoughts?
Salim Mathew @salheem

A. I bet you would. As for my thoughts on Tebow becoming a Patriot? It seems the Jets haven't found a spot to maximize Timmy's talents. Or they haven't found Timmy's talents. Given he played significant time for the Broncos last year, this is inexcusable unless they didn't bother to look at film (a possibility) or only hired him as a publicity stunt (even more possible). Either way, I have no doubt Bill Belichick would be intrigued at the challenge of turning Tebow into a contributor to the Patriots so as to grind the Jets' noses further in their own ineptitude. And Belichick genuinely likes Tebow. While he may not be able to provide Tebow a concrete role, I believe there's a good chance the Patriots at least explore bringing him to town.

Q. Super Bowl 36 on ESPN2 with commentary by you! With those old rules how bad would the 01 team beat up on the current squad?
Tyler Massey @tmass41 A. That would be a fascinating matchup because of the ferocity of the Patriots secondary. Ty Law would render Brandon Lloyd a non-factor at the line of scrimmage. Tebucky Jones would be an interesting physical matchup for Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and Terrell Buckley and Otis Smith would get tortured by Wes Welker. The 2012 team is more talented; the 2001 team had captured lightning in a bottle and would play harder and with more confidence and abandon because they have nothing to lose.

Q. Hope you & your family had a great holiday, Tom. With two spots now open, one for Jermaine Cunningham, one for Jabar Gaffney maybe?
Greg Bruno @GBruno526

A. Thanks Greg! We did. Since you asked, the Patriots did indeed return Jermaine Cunningham to the active roster. It will be important this week for Cunningham to get his game legs under him. It will also be interesting to see how Cunningham's return impacts the use of Justin Francis and Trevor Scott. Francis in particular has shown an ability to get off the line and bring pressure in the offensive backfield. As for the other spot(s) - two are open - the likelihood seems greater they'd haul someone up from the practice squad who's been practicing with the team rather than sign Gaffney, though I understand why you'd ask about bringing a veteran in now.

Q. Any news on whether Tom Brady has started his playoff beard yet? Is that too much to ask?
chris lynch @ALargeRegularA. No definitive news yet. It's not too much to ask, just haven't noticed. I am more attuned to his accessorizing - glasses, hats, etc.Q. Tom, I am confused, last night you said to Borges you where worried about this teams mental toughness, tonite you are not?
Rob P @0_LayDX
A. I apologize for causing you confusion. In the aftermath of the Jacksonville game, I mentioned on Sports Sunday that there were some lackluster efforts in that game. I alleged that players needed to power through things at this time of the year (easy for me to say, as I noted at the time). Particularly unimpressive effort plays came from Donta Hightower and Aaron Hernandez. By Monday, the conversation had morphed into one that wondered whether the team as a whole was mentally tough. I mentioned that the way they closed the Jacksonville game was a sign of growth from earlier in the season. I also think the period of time from Seattle through San Francisco - given all the travel, questions, injuries and pressure playing on a team that's driven very hard by its head coach - showed they are indeed pretty tough mentally relative to the rest of the league. Compared to the 2001-2004 Patriots, they are not there. But who is?
Q. Why did Hernandez even take the field? Looked hobbled on his first few plays.
PatriotsXLVII @PatriotsXLVIII A. He sure did. Necessity, I think. Fortunately, Michael Hoomanawanui performed well in the Gronk role to take some tight end heat off of Hernandez but 81 continues to not be himself on the majority of snapsQ. How many more times are you going to post this?VFN28 @vfn28 A. Probably just a few more.
Q. Do Pats rest the banged up starters next week or let em play and finish strong?Eric Paulson @epaulson89 A. I really believe that some key players need to recharge. Not be shut down entirely but Wes Welker, for instance, could use a quiet Sunday. He's handled the ball 134 times this season on receptions, punts, kickoffs and carries. He's been targeted an additional 53 times on balls that were incomplete. Through 16 games in 2011, do you know how many times Welker handled the ball? 140. An additional 51 passes in 2011 went his way that fell incomplete. So the hope of reducing Welker's workload in 2012 didn't work out, thanks mostly to injuries around the offense and Welker's own effectiveness.Q. I don't know what to make of the Pats, Tom. They might get beat in 1st round of playoffs or they might go to the Super Bowl. Who knows?Laurence King @larryking97748 A. I hear ya, Larry. Q. Does this mean Seattle is better than SF & Pats?? I'm confused
Headstomp @Headstomp2k

A. The line starts behind Larry. You're behind me, Headstomp. And I don't want to find out why they call you that. Wait...Albert...is that you?

Quick Slants Podcast: Antonio Brown’s betrayal; Matt Light; eyeing up Pittsburgh

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Quick Slants Podcast: Antonio Brown’s betrayal; Matt Light; eyeing up Pittsburgh

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss the aftermath of Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live video. Curran interview Matt Light ahead of the AFC Championship. They dissect the press conferences of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and look at how to beat the Steelers.

SUBSCRIBE iTunes | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | AudioBoom

2:29 Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live aftermath

13:14 Stopping Le’Veon Bell

27:16 heywassyonumba? with Patrick Chung and Kyle Van Noy

32:30 Injury report updates for AFC Championship

36:51 Brady and Belichick’s press conferences

44:50 Matt Light interview

Belichick asked if playing at home helps: 'Go ask Dallas and Kansas City'

Belichick asked if playing at home helps: 'Go ask Dallas and Kansas City'

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick knows that how you play, not where, is what matters most. 

That's why when he was asked on Wednesday about the advantage the Patriots will have by playing at Gillette Stadium in the AFC title game, he wasn't willing to go all-in on how a comfortable environment will positively impact his team.

"I don’t know," he said. "Go ask Dallas and Kansas City."

The Patriots apparently thought enough of home-field advantage that they played their starters throughout their regular-season finale win in Miami, exposing their best players to potential injury in order to maintain their positive momentum while simultaneously ensuring a better road to the Super Bowl. 

The Patriots fans in attendance on Sunday will help when the Patriots take on the Steelers, Belichick acknowledged. But there's much more to it than that. 

"Yeah, of course," he said, "but the game is won by the players on the field. That’s who wins football games – the players. And they’ll decide it Sunday night."

And if you needed any further proof, just ask the Cowboys and Chiefs how helpful their home crowds were in the Divisional Round.