Patriots look ahead to dealing with WR Bryant

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Patriots look ahead to dealing with WR Bryant

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.comFOXBORO -- In April 2010, the Patriots had a chance to draft Dez Bryant, arguably the most explosive player coming out of college. Holding the 22nd pick, New England traded with Denver to get out of that selection. Then sitting at 24, the Patriots made a deal with the Dallas Cowboys to move back to the 27th spot. Dallas took Bryant. The Patriots took cornerback Devin McCourty and, with the third-round pick they acquired, New England also grabbed Taylor Price. Plenty believed the Patriots were in more desperate need of an offensive complement than another corner. Especially after the 2009 season devolved into Tom Brady pummeling passes at Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Bryant seemed a sensible pickup.Sunday, Bryant and McCourty will match up a few times at Gillette Stadium as the Cowboys visit. Bryant has certainly had his on-field moments for Dallas -- two punt return-touchdowns in 2010, an explosive stretch from Week 6 through Week 10 where he caught 23 balls for 326 yards and four touchdowns. But he's also battled back, ankle (sprain and a break) and quad injuries that cost him games last year and made him look useless at times this year. McCourty, who was brilliant in 2010 but spotty through the first three games of this season, is back on the uptick. But Bryant will posea familiar problem to the Patriots' DBs. He's tall, strong and can leap -- the wideout type that's been hard for New England to hold in check. "Big, strong receiver," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "Catches the ball well. Had a couple of punt returns last year that went the distance. He can run, he can break tackles, he's good with the ball in his hands, big target. I don't know how you can overthrow the guy, he's built like a tight end. He's big, he's strong, he's got good speed, returns kicks."Throught the first three weeks of the season, the Patriots saw five receivers similar to Bryant in size and athleticism. Brandon Marshall, Malcom Floyd, Vincent Jackson, David Nelson and Donald Jones combined for 30 catches for 555 yards. On one hand, that's an awful track record. On the other, the Patriots corners and coaching staff should presumably improve in dealing with these types of players. "Seems like we've got one every week or more than one in some cases," Belichick agreed when asked if the treetop wideouts the team has seen help them prepare. "Through the course of the season and even through the preseason, you've probably seen the fast guys, the quick guys, the big guys, the run-after-catch guys, the guys that are real good blockers, crack blockers, reverse guys. It's good for us. We see that in practice too." All those reps in games and during practice -- Chad Ochocinco and Aaron Hernandez would be the best Patriots comps for those big receivers -- should have an impact. "We emphasize that a lot," Belichick said, referring to the practice of comparing techniques from previous gamesto the ones coming up."And that transcends every play." Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady can be his own worst critic. That's why last week, after beating the Texans in the Divisional Round to move on to the AFC title game, he wasn't thrilled. He didn't play up to his standards. The offense struggled at points. He wore his frustration like a five o'clock shadow.

Winning is not everything for Brady, most weeks. He has an idea of how he should perform, how the Patriots offense should perform, and when those ideals aren't met, he's generally displeased. 

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

On Sunday, after beating up on the Steelers, 36-17, that wasn't the case. It was a sound performance, but it wasn't perfect. It was explosive at times, but it shined a light on areas where the Patriots will need to continue to improve. 

Despite its imperfections, Sunday was no time to brood about plays missed or lessons learned the hard way. Screw it, Brady seemed to say. They were going to the Super Bowl. It was OK to smile.  

"It was a good day," Brady said. "I mean, we're going to the Super Bowl, man. [Expletive], you've got to be happy now."

The Super Bowl berth is the ninth in franchise history -- more than any other club -- and the seventh with Brady and coach Bill Belichick. By throwing for 384 yards and three touchdowns on 32-of-42 passing, Brady tied Joe Montana for the most postseason games (nine) with three touchdown passes. 

Brady will also claim the record for Super Bowls played when he and the Patriots head to Houston. And if they win, he'll tie Charles Haley for most Super Bowl wins for a player (five).

Those are lofty numbers made even more significant, perhaps, due to the fact that Brady wasn't allowed to start this season as his team's quarterback. He was asked during Sunday's postgame press conference if it was personally satisfying to get back to the Super Bowl despite having to serve a four-game suspension due to Deflategate.

"Well, that's because of the hard work of a lot of people from my coaches to my teammates to our families that support us," he said. "It takes a lot of people, a lot of hard work and a lot of effort over the course of many months. This didn't start at 6:40 tonight.

"This thing started in April. It really started before that in free-agency when we were picking up guys like [Chris] Hogan and drafting guys like Malcolm Mitchell and guy who were in rehab like [LeGarrette Blount] and [Dion Lewis] and [James Develin] and Nate [Solder]. It's a lot of hard work. There are only two teams left standing, and I'm happy we're one of them."

They're going to the Super Bowl. He has to be happy now.