Resiliency? That's just The Patriot Way

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Resiliency? That's just The Patriot Way

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. Resiliency has been a hallmark of the Patriots.

Whether withstanding injuries, controversy, or their own roster mediocrity, when this team has had plausible excuses to fold or check out, it hasnt. With precious few exceptions.

Even in two crushing Super Bowl losses, they were still inches from being in position to win those games.

Even when their Hall of Fame quarterback went down in 2008, they won 11 games.

With a roster of no-names and an offense remade on the fly in 2010, they went 14-2.

Those teams dont matter now, even if there are a few holdovers left.

Each Patriots team has to reveal who it is for itself. The jersey and the helmet with the Flying Elvis decal dont cut it alone. Weve heard it time and again. Weve seen it in the symbolic removal of wall-hangings that commemorated departed Super Bowl-winning players.

Prove it or lose it.

Sunday against the Bills, the 2012 Patriots proved a little something, said Brady

We lost two in a row, we go on the road, our fifth and sixth on the road including the preseason, Brady stated. We had two really tough losses, games that we expected to win. Then you come and play against a team that we lost to last year up 21 points, and we showed a lot of heart. Thats a lot of adversity we faced and I thought we did a really good job of responding to that in the second half.

Down 21-7 early in the third, the Patriots rolled off 35 straight points. It was an astounding turnaround. You figured the Patriots might reel the Bills in a little bit and the game would come down to the last five minutes. You didnt figure 52 points and a 24-point win.

The vanquished quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, was as articulate as the victorious one in that he put his finger on the issue in a roundabout way.

We beat them last year, Fitzpatrick said when asked about struggles against New England. We were up three touchdowns last year in the other game. We were up two touchdowns in the second half this game. That is the most frustrating thing, I think, is for some reason these games especially versus these guys when they start rolling unfortunately we have not had an answer. We have to figure out why. We have to try to put a stop to that, but we did not have an answer today.

The answer may not be the Bills ineptitude as much as it is the Patriots inevitability of excellence.

Even when they lose as they did the past two weeks the lose narrowly and in crushing fashion. They do not roll over. Ever. And when they lose, they can often say with a straight face that they didnt actually lose, they just ran out of time.

Negative emotion and frustration becomes fuel for the Patriots resolve.

I think we realized we had to execute a lot better than we were executing, said Brady, who started 5-for-5, went into a 5-for-13 funk before closing the game 12-for-18 for 200 yards in the second half. We talked on the sideline, we talked about it at halftime, in order to score points we cant keep stubbing our toe. I thought we did a better job in the second half. Obviously the turnovers were huge. To get those the defense was really getting after them. The fumble before halftime was huge. We were down whatever it was, 21-7 on the road, our backs were against the wall, and I thought we showed a lot of heart. Thats what this team is made of, were going to battle until the end, I know that.

After their game-opening score, the Patriots went punt, punt, missed field goal, fumble, missed field goal, fumble, punt. Then? Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, field goal.

Levers were pulled until the right ones caused the power to go on. One of the levers was undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden who ran for 137 yards. Another lever was Wes Welker, who caught nine passes for 129 yards. The Patriots, by dint of their confidence that they will figure things out, are emboldened to try guys like Bolden when trailing 21-7 .

If the coaching staff is confident enough to pull out every stop, why wouldnt the players be? The running game was an emphasis this week and while Josh McDaniels eventually let Brady do his thing and stayed out of his lab kit of astounding plays, he made sure to be persistent with what worked. Running it.

Our line, our tight ends, our backs; they all did a good job, said Belichick. We were a little disappointed in our running production the last couple games, and we really made a big emphasis this game. We worked hard on it in practice and we were able to have some good results today. You cant say enough about the offensive line, though. These guys have a good front and we were able to block them.

We all came together as one today so we just need more of these, more consistency and moving onto next week, said Vince Wilfork.

The Bills were left to ruminate on their humiliation.

Asked if he was embarrassed by the outcome, Bills head coach Chan Gailey said, Yeah, I am. I do not like to play like that. I do not think that is who we are, but that is who we were today. You cannot sugar coat it anyway, but we are 2-2. That is who we are today. We are 2-2. The media kicked dirt on us almost after the first game, everybody was getting high after two and everybody will kick dirt on us after this week. That is just the way it is. I understand that. We have a tough road ahead of us. We understand that. Nobody understands that more than me.

The inevitability of excellence and the process of becoming a resilient team is under way in New England. Again.

Flashback: Belichick breaks down lasting impact of Buddy Ryan's '46' defense

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Flashback: Belichick breaks down lasting impact of Buddy Ryan's '46' defense

When news broke on Tuesday of Buddy Ryan's passing, it wasn't very long before the NFL community at large paid tribute to one of the most well-respected defensive minds in the history of the league. 

Ryan, a longtime coordinator and head coach, leaves a legacy that includes two sons -- Rex and Rob -- who have carved out length careers spent on NFL sidelines. His legacy also includes a defensive scheme that confounded offenses, particularly in 1985, when the Bears '46' defense dominated all comers. With eight men in the box and just three defensive backs, Ryan's defense could be as confusing for quarterbacks as it was intimidating.

On the day of Ryan's passing, we can add to the list of Ryan rememberances a long quote from a Bill Belichick press conference back in 2012. The Patriots were getting ready to play Rex Ryan's Jets, but as the topic of conversation shifted away from the game itself and toward football philosophies, Belichick explained how Ryan's '46' defense changed the game, and where it can still be seen today. 

(To see the video of the press conference, you can head here. It's a bit slow for the first six or seven minutes, but when Belichick is asked about the idea behind being a "game-plan offense" and which coaches inspired him to take that mindset into his own career, things start rolling. Belichick rattles off the names of those who influenced him, including Annapolis High coach Al Laramore, Phillips Andover's Steve Sorota, Navy coach Wayne Hardin, Baltimore Colts coach Ted Marchibroda and several others. He calls the list of coaches who educated him -- including his father, of course -- a "menagerie." If you're into those types of Belichick responses about football philosophy and his own personal football upbringing, it's a video that's worth your time.)

Here is Belichick's response to a question from Sports Illustrated's Greg Bedard, then of the Boston Globe, concerning Ryan and his '46' scheme. A tip of the hat to Chris B. Brown of Smart Football for pointing out the quote on Twitter early Tuesday. 

Q: You mentioned Buddy Ryan earlier. How come we don’t see more 46 defense? I’m not talking about for a full season – not everybody is the ’85 Bears, but in a one-game situation. Is it because of the quarterbacks and the shotgun?

BB: "A lot of the success that Buddy had with the 46 defense came in the ‘80s when there was a lot of two-back offense. It was one of the things that probably drove the two-back offense out. If you remember back in the ‘80s when Buddy was in Philadelphia, he had a lot of trouble with the Redskins and their one-back offense, a lot of trouble. There were a lot of mismatches of Art Monk and Gary Clark on the middle linebacker and stuff like that.

"I think the 46 was really originally built for two-back offenses, whether it be the red, brown, blue and the flat-back type offenses and eventually even the I-formation. I think it still has a lot of good application; a lot of teams use it in goal-line situations. They either use a version of it like a 5-3 or cover the guards and the center and however you want to quite fit the rest of it, but that principle you see a lot in goal-line, short yardage situations. You see it and some teams have it as part of their two-back defensive package.

"As it has gone to one-back and it’s gotten more spread out, if you’re playing that, it kind of forces you defensively to be in a one-linebacker set. You lose that second linebacker and depending on where the back lines up and what coverage you’re playing, then there’s some issues with that. If you’re in a one linebacker defense and you move the back over and the linebacker moves over then you’re kind of out-leveraged to the back side. If you don’t move him over, then you’re kind of out-leveraged when the back releases and that kind of thing.

"There are some issues there that, I’m not saying you can’t do it, but you have to work them out. In a two-back set, I’d say it was probably a lot cleaner and it always gave you an extra blitzer that was hard for the offense. Even if they seven-man protected on play-action, there was always an eighth guy there somewhere. You didn’t have to bring all eight; if you just brought the right one and they didn’t have him or somebody would have to have two guys and that creates some problems.

"I think that’s what Buddy, really, where the genius of that was. He had by formation a different combination and group of blitzes so depending on what formation you were in, then he ran a blitz that would attack that formation and then when you changed formations, then he would change blitzes. Now, plus the fact [he] had Dan Hampton, Richard Dent, Mike Singletary, [Otis] Wilson, [Wilbur] Marshall, that was a pretty good group there. You could have probably played a lot of things and that defense would have looked pretty good, especially when they put Hampton on the nose. That was pretty unblockable."

Amendola forced Brady to break a ping pong paddle in first week with Patriots

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Amendola forced Brady to break a ping pong paddle in first week with Patriots

Tom Brady has never been one to hide his emotions when he's on the field, and it sounds like he's not much different at the ping pong table.

When asked about Brady during an interview on ESPN's NFL Insiders show, Patriots receiver Danny Amendola recalled one story from his first few days at Gillette Stadium back in 2013.

"He's the best teammate," Amendola said. "He's so competitive . . . I remember one story, it was my first week in the building and he wanted to play some ping pong. I didn't know how to go about it. I knew I was better than him, [but] I didn't want to beat him too bad because I wanted him to throw me the ball.

"I knew I was better. Needless to say, his competitive nature unleashed a broken paddle by the end of it. It's the reason we love him, and the reason why he's the best quarterback."

That first encounter at the ping pong table didn't seem to hinder Amendola's relationship with Brady in the least. In their first game together, Amendola fought a groin injury and still ended up with 10 catches for 104 yards in a win over the Bills. Since then, when healthy -- and particularly since New England's most recent run to a Super Bowl title -- Amendola has established himself as one of Brady's most trusted targets.

Amendola and the rest of the Patriots are facing a start to the regular season without their No. 1 quarterback as Brady awaits a decision from the Second Circuit on whether or not it will rehear his case against the NFL. Should backup Jimmy Garoppolo take the reins in Brady's place, however, Amendola said he'll be confident. 

"He's a great player," Amendola explained. "He's been in the system a couple of years now and he's learned a lot. He's picked up everything that Tom has taught him and then also what coach [Bill] Belichick has to offer him. So we're all excited to see where he goes and see what the future holds for him."

Amendola says he feels 'really good' following offseason surgeries

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Amendola says he feels 'really good' following offseason surgeries

Danny Amendola did not participate in OTA or minicamp practices that were open to reporters, but that doesn't mean he's ailing. 

"I feel really good," Amendola said while paying ESPN's NFL Insiders show a visit. "I had a couple minor procedures done after the season. Everybody knows how long the season can be. I wanted to go into next season feeling as fresh and ready as I can."

Amendola joined a relatively long list of Patriots regulars -- including LeGarrette Blount, Julian Edelman, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon -- who were not spotted during spring workouts. There exists, however, some optimism that he'll be ready to participate in training camp.

Though Amendola has battled nagging injuries in three seasons with the Patriots, he's often played through them rather than miss time. The 30-year-old wideout has played in all but six regular-season games since 2013.

Amendola is coming off of his best year in a Patriots uniform, finishing 2015 with 65 catches for 648 yards and three scores. He now helps make up a receiving corps that will include Edelman, newly-acquired wideouts Chris Hogan and Nate Washington, Aaron Dobson, DeAndre Carter, Chris Harper and rookies Malcolm Mitchell and Devin Lucien.