Patriots look to improve pass defense

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Patriots look to improve pass defense

FOXBORO It's one thing for an opponent to recognize the New England Patriots' pass defense as a weakness and try to exploit.

It's a totally different matter when they see that the Pats' defense against the pass is so bad that they don't even need their best players in order to find success through the air.

Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward, who did not play in the Steelers' 25-17 win over the Patriots due to a toe injury, said he "probably could have forced it and played" against the Pats.

But why bother?

"I wasn't really concerned," Ward told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "And against the Patriots, we felt we could exploit their secondary."

Those were Hines' words, but they could have easily have been said for just about every team, minus the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys who inexplicably tried to run more than pass against the Pats.

New England cornerback and defensive co-captain Devin McCourty said he had not heard of Ward's comments until told by the media.

"All of our focus right now is on the Giants," McCourty said. "We watched that (Pittsburgh) game so we can learn from that going forward. That's the focus right now -- is on the Giants."

If there's a lesson to take away from the Steelers loss, it's clear.

Find a way to better defend the pass.

"In this game, you have to find a weakness. Right now, our weakness is our pass defense," said New England defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. "That's not to say they're (Giants) not going to run the ball. We understand that."

He's right.

New York may look to run the ball some, but don't expect them to keep it on the ground.

For starters, New York's rushing attack is among the NFL's worst this season.

Only Tennessee (68.9 yards per game) and Seattle (77.7) have less success on the ground than New York, which averages just 85.6 yards rushing per game.

Take into account New York's lack of a ground attack and the fact that New England has struggled so mightily against the pass all season, and it's hard to imagine that the Patriots secondary should be a busy unit on Sunday.

It certainly has to bother the Patriots secondary that opponents are speaking so boldly about the secondary being such a weak part of the Patriots team.

"Of course it bothers me, but I don't really think it's important," McCourty said of the talk. "You can't control how somebody feels, and what we put out on tape is us. So if somebody looks at it and that's how they feel . . . it is what it is. That's not going to change our attitude. We're still going to watch the film and we're going to come out to play and come out to try to stop people. No matter what they say, if they're nice to us in the media and say all good things, we're still going to come out and try to shut them down. That's still our focus."

New England's secondary has taken much of the heat for the team's struggles against the passing game.

However, one of their more outspoken supporters has been Wilfork, who ranks among the team leaders in interceptions (2) this season.

"Trust me, I don't want none of our DBs to think it's their fault that we're not off the field on third-down, or they caught an in-cut 20-yards downfield," Wilfork said. "Twenty-yards down the field? That gives us a lot of time to work upfront, get to the quarterback. So, we have to take some of the blame, too. And we are."

Even if teams do look to focus more on throwing against the Pats, Wilfork believes they'll have to do more than that to win.

"One-dimensional teams shouldn't be able to beat us," Wilfork said. "We have to do a better job, all the way around. If a team wants to attack us that way, we make the adjustments and try to stop them and move forward. That's where we at."

Bryan Stork: 'Nothing but great memories' with Patriots

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Bryan Stork: 'Nothing but great memories' with Patriots

After being traded to the Washington Redskins this week, former Patriots center Bryan Stork broke his 35-day Twitter silence to say farewell to New England.

For those who are wondering, the acronym "HTTR" stands for "Hail to the Redskins," the team's fight song. #HTTR is used by the team and fans on social media.

Stork was reportedly mulling retirement after being dealt, but has decided to report. 

The Patriots informed Stork of his release early Wednesday, but the Patriots and Redskins were able to work out a deal for a conditional 2017 seventh-round pick before the move was processed.

Ratto: Kaepernick controversy touches on hot-button issues in an ugly political year

Ratto: Kaepernick controversy touches on hot-button issues in an ugly political year

Ray Ratto joins Chevrolet SportsNet Central to discuss Colin Kaepernick's decision to not stand during the national anthem before the San Francisco 49ers preseason game.

Belichick says all three QBs could use more game reps

Belichick says all three QBs could use more game reps

Bill Belichick was expansive Saturday when asked on a conference call how he'll split the quarterback reps for the Patriots final preseason game Thursday in New York.

"I think that’s a good question, it’s a fair question, it’s one that we really have to give some good consideration to," Belichick began. "As I said before, I think whatever we do will benefit whoever does it. We want to get Jimmy [Garoppolo] ready for the Arizona game. Tom [Brady] isn’t going to be playing for a while, so it’s kind of his last chance to play until he comes back after a few weeks. Jacoby [Brissett] certainly could use all the playing time that he can get. I think that whichever players we play will benefit from it and it will be valuable to them. We could play all three quarterbacks a lot next week and they’d all benefit from that and it would all be good, but we can’t."

Since they can't, Belichick said there will be situational work done with whoever isn't going to get the game reps.

"We only have one game and so many snaps, so we’ll have to, between practice and the game, put them in some situations that are somewhat controllable like a two-minute situation or things like that that you know are going to kind of come up one way or another," said Belichick. "You can sort of control those in how you want those broken down, what’s best, what does each guy need and how can we get the best we need for each guy. I need to let them get the reps that they need, but it’s how do we get the team ready for what they need to be ready for. They all need to get ready for different things.

What Jimmy’s role is in a couple weeks is going to be a lot different than what Tom’s is, and it’s going to be a lot different than what Jacoby’s is. At some point later on, those roles are going to change again. So again, there’s no perfect solution to it. We’ll just do the best we can to try to have our individual players and our team as well prepared as possible at whatever point that is that we have to deal with, and whenever those situations come up."

As I wrote earlier today, this is the sticky and uncomfortable situation arising from Deflategate. It's not a Tom Brady penalty. It's a team penalty when one considers the ripple effects. And there's no handbook to consult.