Hernandez comes up big after fumble


Hernandez comes up big after fumble

FOXBORO -- If the failure of Chad Ochocinco to become an important cog in New England's offense isn't as big a deal as you may have expected, it's because there's no lack of offensive weapons on the field when the Patriots have the ball.

One of those weapons is Aaron Hernandez.

The second-year tight end is coming into his own this season, even after suffering an MCL injury which put him out of action for two weeks.

To those paying attention in training camp, Hernandez' production should be no surprise. He was Brady's go-to guy, it seemed.

Through six weeks of the regular season, Brady doesn't have just one "go-to guy." He has multiple. But through six weeks, Hernandez has certainly been near the top of his list.

"Hes done a lot of good things," said Brady after Sunday's 20-16 win over the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stdaium. "Hes really become a dependable player. He runs very good routes. Coach Bill Belichick always says, A receiver should get open, catch the ball and then do something with it after they catch it. And Aaron has really done all three of those things. Hes really made a big jump from his first year to his second year and thats why hes out there at the end of the game."

Against the Cowboys, Hernandez had a team-high and career-high eight receptions for 68 yards, which included the game-winning touchdown with 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

It marked his second game back from that MCL injury, and as a result, his second-straight game wearing a knee-brace.

But even with the brace, Hernandez hasn't been a liability. He did, however, cough up a ball late in the third quarter of a 13-13 game against the Cowboys. It didn't result in any points for Dallas, but it was something the young tight end knew he had to put in the past quickly, considering his importance to the offense in a close game.

"Everyone's going to have drops, and you've just got to keep your head up," said Hernandez. "And I tried to keep my head up this week and make a play for Tom Brady.

"As a young player, you tend to think about it and be down about it," added Hernandez on his turnover. "But you have people like Tom and coaches that say, 'Forget about it, let's keep going.' And I just forgot about it, kept going, and Tom threw a great pass, and I just made a play for him."

That "great pass" capped a two-minute drill that led to a Patriots win, as Brady found Hernandez in the back-middle of the end zone for the touchdown.

"He was able to redeem himself today," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "Luckily, he got that chance. That opportunity doesnt always come again. Weve just got to do a better job of taking care of the ball, period. Two fumbles, two interceptions youre not going to win many games with four turnovers. We were fortunate today, but we wont last doing that."

If Hernandez can continue to be a dependable receiver, the sky's the limit. His tight-end size, combined with his wide-receiver speed makes him as dependable as they come in the NFL.

And in case you weren't counting, he's not the only tight end on the Patriots' offense that's dependable. Rob Gronkowski is also deserving of being called another one of New England's dangerous offensive weapons.

Gronkowski had 7 catches for 74 yards on Sunday. And he's just one of the reasons Hernandez is able to get open so often.

"We've just got a lot of good players out there," said Hernandez. "We've got Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Ocho, me, Gronkowski. So many weapons, and it's tough to cover all of us, especially when you've got a quarterback who's going to put it in the right spot.

"Gronkowski can do so many things, he makes it easy on me," added Hernandez. "We work off each other. He gives me energy. I give him energy. When they double him, I'm open, and when they double me, he's open. So it's just a great combination."

And both Brady and Hernandez are taking full advantage of it.

Belichick: Kickers are like golfers; have to hit driver, sand wedge, 5-iron


Belichick: Kickers are like golfers; have to hit driver, sand wedge, 5-iron

In searching for answers on what might be going on with Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, coach Bill Belichick was asked on Monday if there was any chance that Gostkowski's mechanics on kickoffs may be affecting his field goals. With the new touchback rule encouraging the Patriots to use more "pop-up" kicks to the goal line this season, might Gostkowski's swing have been altered?

Belichick said that the two plays are separate and that the Patriots expect Gostkowski to be able to execute a whole series of different types of kicks as part of his job.

"Well, I think they’re definitely different," Belichick said on a conference call. "I don’t think there’s any question about that. I mean, it would be like a golfer. You’ve got to be able to hit a sand wedge. You’ve got to be able to hit a five-iron. You’ve got to be able to drive. You’ve got to be able to putt.

"That’s what kickers and punters do. There’s plus-50 punts, there’s field goals, there’s kickoffs, there’s backed-up punts, there’s punts against a heavy rush, there’s punts against a six-man box where the gunners both are getting double-teamed. And just like golf, there’s wind conditions and not wind conditions and so forth. So it’s not like like you’re standing out there in a driving range and just banging the ball away every time. Especially on place kicks, you’re dealing with a center and a holder and timing on the play. It’s not like you’re just placing the ball down there on a tee and kicking it like you are a golf ball or a kickoff.

"Yeah, they’re definitely different, and whether it’s a punter or a kicker you’re talking about, they have to master different skills, different kicks, different types of kicks, different things that are specific to their position, just like every other player and every other athlete, for the most part, has to do. If you’re a basketball player, you just can’t shoot free throws. You’ve got to be able to make some other shots, too. That’s part of the position, being able to do the things that are required of that position, and they’re not all the same. I don’t think they’re all the same for anybody."

Belichick was also asked about how Gostkowski is coached. There are position-specific coaches with every NFL franchise, but when it comes to special teams, there is typically a special-teams coordinator and little else. There is no kicking coach, generally, nor a position coach dedicated to punting or snapping. 

Belichick said that he feels the team has enough support in place, starting with special teams coach Joe Judge, in order to help Gostkowski through his difficult stretch.

"I think Joe’s very knowledgable about the techniques of kicking," Belichick said. "I know when I became a special teams coach and coached special teams for many years as an assistant coach, and I continue to be involved with it as a head coach, that’s one of the things I had to learn. I had to learn how to coach those individual specialists, the snappers, the kickers, the punters, the returners. I don’t think it’s any different than coaching any other position. Things you don’t know, you need to learn. The things you do know, you need to be able to teach to the players, however you acquire that information.

"Some of that certainly comes from the players, especially when you coach good players at the position that you’re coaching, you can learn a lot from them, just like I learned a lot from many of the players that I coached. Going back to people like Dave Jennings as a punts or Carl Banks or Lawrence Taylor or Pepper [Johnson], guys like that, as linebackers with the Giants. However you acquire that information, you acquire it and you have to be able to convey it and teach it to the players and recognize technique or judgment.

"There’s a whole host of things that go into performance, but all the things that are related to those; be able to figure out which ones are the most important and which ones need to be corrected and so forth. I think Joe’s very knowledgeable on that, as was Scott O’Brien. I have a lot of experience with that myself. That’s what coaching is. You don’t know, then you’ve got to find out. Nobody knows everything. No coach knows everything about every position. Maybe a guy’s played it for a decade, he might be well-versed in that position. But I’d say for the most of the rest of us that haven’t done that, things you don’t know, you’ve got to learn, you’ve got to find out, you’ve got to figure them out."

Giardi's stopwatch: Brady quick vs. Steelers


Giardi's stopwatch: Brady quick vs. Steelers

How quick was Tom Brady's release in the New England Patriots win over the The Pittsburgh Steelers? Glad you asked. 

On average, Brady took 2.11 seconds to release the ball. That’s not as quick as he was against Cleveland, when averaged 1.86 seconds, but still pretty flippin' quick.

2.05 - Gun. Edelman crosser 9 yards
0.80 - WR screen to Edelman - 2 yards
5.34 - Gun. Flushed. 13 yards to White
2.04 - Gun. Edelman crosser. 6 yards
1.59 - Gun. Screen to White. 19 yards. TD
1.65 - Gun. Edelman at the hash. 9 yards
1.72 - Gun. Edelman crosser. 11 yards
3.17 - Gun. Hogan outside the numbers. 13 yards
2.25 - Play action. Incomplete short left to White
1.24 - Edelman right flat. 6 yards
2.37 - Gun. Deep in to Gronkowski. 13 yards
2.20 - play action. Happy feet, Incomplete to Bennett
2.90 - Gun. Bolden drop
1.53 - Gun. Incomplete to White at the numbers
1.79 — Gun. Edelman crosser. 7 yards
1.36 - Gun. Short right to Blount. 7 yards
1.66 - Gun. Edelman drop 
3rd Quarter
3.44 - Gun. Awful backhanded flip throw. Incomplete to White
2.25 - Gun. Crosser to Bennett. 5 yards
1.39 - Gun. Short right to Edelman. 3 yards
2.18 - Gun. Ground seam. 36 yards. TD
1.59 - Gun. Short middle to Edelman. 11 yards
1.33 - Gronkowski. short right. 7 yards
3.16 - Play action. 37 yards to Gronkowski
3.89 - Gun. Pressure. Incomplete deep left to Mitchell