Hernandez comes up big after fumble

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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: Brady-less Patriots ‘just really focused on Buffalo’

Belichick: Brady-less Patriots ‘just really focused on Buffalo’

FOXBORO -  A verrrrrryyyy long time ago, the Patriots targeted September. There were t-shirts and everything printed back in 2002 as the Patriots came off of their first Super Bowl title.

The names of that season’s first four opponents – Steelers, Jets, Chiefs and Chargers – were all listed on a bullseye.

How’d that work out? Well, they hit the bullseye for most of September, winning the first three. Then they lost four in a row and the notion of “targeting” a segment of the schedule around these parts went the way of the Dodo bird.

Which may be why, as truly remarkable as this September’s been, Bill Belichick isn’t taking any bows after three damn wins.

“We’re just really focused on Buffalo,” Belichick told me Friday morning when I asked about whether winning the first three in the face of some adversity was a point of pride. “I don’t really care about last week. I don’t really care about two weeks ago. I don’t really care about last year. I don’t really care about four years ago. I don’t really care. I think we’re just trying to get ready and compete against Buffalo. That’s our challenge this week.

“The rest of it – it’s in the books. It is what it is,” he said. “So write whatever you want to write about it. It’s good, it’s bad, I mean I don’t really care. It’s done. We’ve got to do a good job of what we have here with Buffalo. We can’t live in the past. And I respect where you’re coming from, I really do. It’s not like I’m trying to be dismissive of it, but I really don’t care. It doesn’t really matter. Nothing that happened last year, last week, last month really has anything to do with this week.”

Things change after Sunday. The best player the franchise has ever had rejoins a team that – in spite of the adversity – flourished without him. Even though the competition wasn’t what one would call “stiff” compared to challenges Brady faced as recently as last January, it’s still remarkable.

Asked about Brady’s looming return, wide receiver Julian Edelman also redirected.

“We got a game before that,” he pointed out. “When he comes back we'll obviously be happy but we got a job ahead of us with the Buffalo Bills.” 

Asked if there’s some pride taken in the beginning, Edelman replied, “It’s just having pride in your job in general. Really just focusing every week and trying to improve. I say it every week on these cameras, if you try to get better and you get better every week, you're gonna do these things. 

“It tells you that you have a mentally tough team that goes out there and works hard and prepares hard and does the extra things,” Edelman added. “I've been around here a little while and that's just the mentality we've always had and continue to have. We have a tough one against the Bills and we'll see how it tests out against these guys.”

 

 

Patriots-Bills injury report: Garoppolo, Brissett listed as questionable

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Patriots-Bills injury report: Garoppolo, Brissett listed as questionable

The inury report for Sunday's Patriots-Bills game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

OUT
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

QUESTIONABLE
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
TE Charles Clay (knee)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)