Patriots not expecting Week 15 Broncos


Patriots not expecting Week 15 Broncos

FOXBORO -- The last time the Patriots faced the Broncos was in Week 15. New England went into Denver and quickly fell behind 16-7 in the second quarter. But the team made adjustments; they went on to score the next 27 points and defeated the Broncos 41-23.

Tom Brady's offense helped end Tim Tebow's six-game winning streak, but even after an awful start to the game by the Pats' defense, those guys eventually made some big plays when it mattered most, recovering three fumbles in the win. New England's 'D' held Tebow to 11-of-22 passing for 194 yards and zero touchdown passes.

But that was weeks ago.

The Patriots made made it a point to acknowledge that on Tuesday, saying their first meeting will have no impact on Saturday's playoff game.

"They made some changes, you can see definitely, from the last game," said Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty. "Just taking more shots down the field. They threw some balls up there and they've got guys that can come down with them and make good catches. So they definitely threw some more vertical passes.

"That last game, when you look at it, it really won't have much relevance, going into this game. Both teams have a chance to game plan. They might do some things different. They might do some things the same. So it will still be a totally different game for us, defensively."

The most noticeable changes in Denver's game came Sunday in their overtime playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tebow threw for 316 yards and had two touchdown passes, including his 80-yard strike over the middle in overtime.

Simply put, Tebow was more of a deep-ball threat on Sunday against the Steelers than he's ever been. And it caught the Patriots' eye.

"They're going to throw the ball. Let's not kid ourselves," said Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. "Everyone says they're not throwing the ball, well, I'll tell you what. Tebow had a pretty good game last game. I don't care how many times you throw the ball, but, he had a pretty good game last game. So, we know that's going to come.

"He's just a tough, tough guy to prepare for," added Wilfork. "You can speak all day about how tough he is and how elusive he is. But it really don't matter until you face him. When you face him, you really figure out, man, this dude is like a running back. He's a big dude. He's a strong guy.

"I've seen some big guys over the years, but he's probably one of the biggest and probably one of the toughest, and probably one of the strongest that I've faced. And I'm not taking credit from anyone else, but he is a special guy."

As Wilfork pointed out, Tebow's success on Sunday wasn't just due in part to his passing yardage. It also had a lot to do with not turning the ball over, something that haunted Tebow in his last three games of the regular season -- all losses.

On Sunday, he threw no interceptions and didn't fumble for the first time since Week 11.

"When you look at any team, one of the biggest of them all is turnovers," said Wilfork. "When you get turnovers, or when you give them up. Looking at the last game they played, they didn't turn the ball over. And anytime you can do that, it's huge. And it's a different offense when they don't make mistakes, or when they get the big plays, when they can be explosive, it's a different football team."

Wilfork knows this "different" Denver football team will be a tough task for his defense.

"It's always challenging to go up against an offense like this, because they can do so many things. You can't just say that when they get in this formation, this is going to happen, or when they do this, look out for that. You can't do that . . . Because you can be attacked and blindsided from so many different ways. This game is going to come down to disciplined football for us.

"This is the postseason now," added Wilfork. "I'm expecting everything. I'm expecting them to throw the kitchen sink. Because if you lose now, you go home."

Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots


Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots

Marcus Cannon has had his run as a piñata. The Patriots offensive lineman is a frequent target when things go wrong up front and, usually, he’s deserved it.

A bit of anecdotal evidence? 

Sunday, I tweeted that every time I watched Cannon, he was making another good play.

On cue, about 10 tweets came back at me with variations of “Keep watching him!”

I asked Bill Belichick if he agreed with the layman’s assessment that Cannon’s playing well.

“I think Marcus [Cannon] has done a good job for us for quite a while,” Belichick began. “I mean he’s stepped in for Sebastian [Vollmer] and then last year when Nate [Solder] was out [and he substituted] for Nate. He has played a lot of good football for us.

“We extended our agreement with him off of his rookie contract which I think speaks to the fact that we want him on the team and we like what he’s doing and so forth and he’s continued to I’d say show with his performance [that he has] validated the confidence that we have in him.”

Cannon’s ending to 2015 – a poor performance (along with the rest of the line) against the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game was followed by a performance against the Cardinals that was marred by late-game holding calls.

But with Sebastian Vollmer injured (and still injured) it was sink or swim with Cannon which had plenty of people rolling their eyes.

But – as I said – every time I see Cannon, he’s either holding off a defensive end in pass protection, steamrolling downfield in the running game or making really athletic second-level or cut blocks in the screen game.

“Like every player, as they gain more experience they do get better,” said Belichick. “I think our offensive line’s certainly improved over the course of the year and playing with more consistency than we did last year. But there’s always room for improvement and the continuity that we’ve had there since (right guard) Shaq [Mason] has gotten in the last few weeks – we had Shaq over on the right side a little bit at the end of the season last year and then this year most all of the year except when Shaq was out for a few weeks there at the end of training camp and the start of the season – but our overall consistency and communication on the offensive line has been better because we’ve had more continuity there so that helps everybody.”

It can’t hurt that the lineman whisperer, Dante Scranecchia, has returned to coach the group. Cannon’s conditioning and physique looks better. He just appears more athletic and explosive. And he’s seemed more relaxed in the limited time the media’s in the locker room.

All off that added up equals nobody really talking about Marcus Cannon.
“Like any lineman, the less you call his name probably the better he’s doing,” said Belichick. “It’s probably a good thing when you guys don’t talk about him. Then that probably means they’re not doing something too noticeably wrong, right?”


Dombrowski, Red Sox making adjustments in wake of recent departures


Dombrowski, Red Sox making adjustments in wake of recent departures

In recent days and weeks, the Red Sox have lost their general manager, their vice president of amateur and international scouting, an assistant director of amateur scouting, a member of their analytics department and their mental skills coach.

But Dave Dombrowski, the team's president of baseball operations, insists that the team is not in danger of "brain drain.''

"No, not at all,'' said president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in a conference call with reporters. "We've lost some good people, but it's also a situation where we have a lot of good people and I think when you have a good organization, if you're winning and you expose people to situations, (a certain amount of exodus) happens. I think the other part of it is that we're more than capable of filling some of those roles from an internal perspective. We've got some quality people and I think the thing that's great about it is, it allows people to grow.''

Dombrowski announced that, in the wake of the departure of Amiel Sawdaye, the former VP of amateur and international scouting who left Monday to become assistant GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Sox were promoting Eddie Romero, formerly the vice president of international scouting, to the position of senior vice president/ assistant GM.

Romero, the son of former Red Sox utility infielder Eddie Romero Sr. will help Dombrowski in personnel matters and player development, while Brian O'Halloran, who has the same title as Romero, will continue to handle administrative matters including salary arbitration and contactual negotiations.

After the departure of Mike Hazen, who left to become GM of the Diamondbacks last week, Dombrowski interviewed Sawdaye and Romero as Hazen's potential replacements before determining that neither had the necessary experience yet to become a major league GM.

Dombrowski said there would be additional internal promotions and adjustments to announce in the coming weeks. He added that senior advisors Frank Wren and Allard Baird, each former general managers, would see their responsibilities increase when it comes to conducting trade talks with other organizations.

Sawdaye's departure is one of several this off-season for the front office. Earlier this month, Steve Sanders, who had been the team's assistant director of amateur scouting, left to become director of amateur scouting for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Also, Tom Tippett, a longtime member of the team's statistical analysis staff, will leave soon too pursue other opportunities. The team recently informed mental skills coach Bob Tewksbury that his contact would not be renewed, according to the Boston Globe.

Dombrowski indicated that Laz Gutierrez would be promoted to take the place of Tewksbury.

In other news, Dombrowski revealed that the entire coaching staff -- hitting coach Chili Davis; assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez; first base coach Ruben Amaro Jr.; third base coach Brian Butterfield; bullpen coach Dana LeVangie; pitching coach Carl Willis; and bench coach Torey Lovullo -- had all agreed to return for 2017.

That, of course, is subject to change since Lovullo is believed to be a target of Hazen for Arizona's managerial vacancy.

Dombrowski said the Diamondbacks had yet to request permission to speak with Lovullo, though that may happen soon now that Hazen has hired Sawdaye to fill out his front office.

When Hazen was hired by the Diamondbacks, he was limited to hiring just one member of the Red Sox' Baseball Operations staff. But, Dombrowski added, that limit didn't apply to uniformed staff members such as Lovullo, who would be leaving for a promotion.