Dennard: Sometimes the quarterback 'lulls us to sleep'


Dennard: Sometimes the quarterback 'lulls us to sleep'

FOXBORO -- New England doesn't have the worst passing defense in the league. Not statistically.

No, four of the league's 31 other teams -- Tennessee, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Washington -- give up more than the Patriots' average 288.8 yards per game.

Impressive, huh?

Rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard spoke for the secondary two days after New England's latest ugly effort, a 24-23 loss to Seattle. Therein, another rook, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, was allowed six passes of 20-plus yards. The Patriots have now surrendered 33 receptions of that length.

That stat is worst in the league.

Dennard was asked Tuesday why the deep ball has been such a nightmare.

"Honestly, I'm not sure. I'd say sometimes the quarterback kind of lulls us to sleep," Dennard said. "They do a lot of running, then all of a sudden they hit you with the play action . . . big plays like that. You've got to stay focused out there."

Lulled to sleep by Wilson? Before playing New England, almost 60-percent of the quarterback's passes were of 9 or fewer yards. But his game-winning touchdown pass was a 46-yard missile.

Dennard agreed with a reporter who posited on Bill Belichick's defense being a complicated one.

"It's very tough just because you've got to stay very focused on what you have to do out there on the field. I'm not going to say you've got to be real focused on one thing -- you've got to be focused on a lot of things because there's a lot of stuff you have to learn. You've got to have your technique on point, you have to mirror the receiver, you have to know what the receiver's going to do before you go out there."

Clearly, there's still work to be done.

"It's a lot of stuff that's got to do with technique," Dennard said of his performance Sunday. "I know I messed up a lot of stuff with my technique. After watching film, there's a lot of stuff I have to work on."

He's not the only one.

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Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

FOXBORO -- Alan Branch knew he had a good case, otherwise he wouldn't have appealed. It was just a question of when that appeal might be heard. 

As of Wednesday, the Patriots defensive tackle hadnt heard anything as it related to the appeal of his four-game suspension. But by Saturday morning, according to Field Yates of ESPN, Branch had won the appeal and been cleared of the league's ban. 

Branch's agent later confirmed the news on Twitter.

Word of Branch's punishment, which stemmed from what was reported as a positive marijuana test, became public when reported by ESPN on Nov. 21. Per the league's substance abuse policy, appeal hearings are typically scheduled for the fourth Tuesday after a player has been informed of his penalty. The policy notes that it is possible for appeals to be heard on another date should the two sides be able to work out different schedule, but Branch was not optimistic that would be the case earlier this week. 

Good news came quickly, though. 

Had Branch been forced to miss any time, it would have docked the Patriots arguably their top interior defensive lineman. Branch has started every game, and he leads all Patriots defensive tackles with 457 snaps played. 

The Patriots recently waived running back DJ Foster and signed defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, seemingly as a way to build some depth on the roster if Branch had been suspended. 

By having his four-game suspension wiped away not only are the Patriots saved from having to deal without one of their top players in the trenches, but Branch saved himself a relatively hefty financial penalty.

A four-game ban would have cost him nearly $300,000 in base salary as well as four game-day bonuses adding to $100,000. He also stood to lose as much as $750,000 in season-long playing-time incentives. In all, had the suspension stood, it could have cost him about $1.1 million. Patriots salary-cap expert Miguel Benzan goes into more detail about the potential financial impact of Branch's suspension here

Thankfully for Branch, he doesn't have to worry about that any longer. With this situation in the rear view, he can now focus on helping the Patriots win games during the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.