A Troy Brown Tribute

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A Troy Brown Tribute

Congratulations to Troy Brown for making the Patriots Hall of Fame.

Not that anyone's surprised by the announcement. Brown's the epitome of everything the Patriots HOF stands for. But now that it's official, the least I can do is take one post to say thank you.

So, in honor of Brown's impending induction, I asked myself: What's your favorite play of Troy Brown's career? And obviously a ton of great options came flowing through my mind.

There was the catch on the last drive of Super Bowl XXXVI that helped set up Varitek's game-winner. There was the blocked field goal a week earlier in the AFC championship against the Steelers. There was the forced fumbled in San Diego to extend the 2006 season (this footage is bad, but the reactions are priceless). There was the overtime bomb on the road against the Dolphins in 2003. For some reason, I also thought about his 68-yard punt return against the 1-15 Panthers in the last game of the 2001 season.

But for all the greatness and memories that Troy Brown delivered over his 15 years in New England, nothing (for me) will ever match a play from very early in his career.

It was December 21, 1996. Week 17. The Patriots stood at 10-5 and had already clinched a playoff berth, but needed a victory over the 6-9 Giants to earn a first round bye and second round home game. Adding to the drama, this was also Bill Parcells first time coaching against the Giants since leaving in 1991 can you imagine the NFL taking so long to schedule that rematch these days?

Anyway, things got off to an awful start, when Drew Bledsoe was called for intentional grounding in the end zone on the Pats first possession (sound diarrheaingly familiar?) and New England went into halftime trailing 22-0.

In the third quarter, an Adam Vinatieri field goal made it 22-3. In the fourth, a Terry Glenn touchdown catch made it 22-10 and Dave Meggett's punt return cut the Giants lead to 22-17.

That was the score with less than four minutes left, when the Pats were faced with a 3rd and 13 at the Giants 43. Then, this happened:

I was sitting at the kitchen table of my parents old house, and remember thinking this was one of the greatest catches I'd ever seen. And at that point, Brown, who was relatively unknown, immediately became one of my favorite Patriots. I bought his jersey the next season and wore it to every game I went to for more than a decade including all three Super Bowl wins. (The jersey was retired after the loss in Arizona).

As for that Giants game, after Brown extended the action, Bledsoe continued to drive the Pats downfield, and with 1:32 left, they faced a fourth and 7 on the 14 yard-line.

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Ahhh, Bledsoe to Coates. The Pats held on for the win, earned a first round bye, (thanks to the Broncos) TWO home playoff games, and moved on to their second Super Bowl berth in franchise history.

They lost, but without Brown's catch you have to wonder if that Super Bowl would have ever happened. Without Troy Brown you have to wonder if any of this would have happened.

He was a lifetime Patriot. A legendary Patriot. And it's hard to imagine anyone more deserving of a spot in the Patriots Hall of Fame.

So, congrats again, Troy. And thanks for everything.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Report: Patriots fill open roster spot with former Browns DL Hughes

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Report: Patriots fill open roster spot with former Browns DL Hughes

The Patriots opened a roster spot by waiving defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, but they won't be adding a quarterback to take his place. 

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the team has swapped one defensive tackle for another by adding former Browns big man John Hughes, a 6-foot-2, 320-pounder who played under former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Mike Lombardi when Lombardi was Cleveland's general manager in 2013. 

Hughes was released last week after spending just over four years with the team that drafted him in the third round in 2012. He signed a four-year extension with the Browns last season that was worth $12.8 million. 

With the Patriots, Hughes figures to work in as part of the rotation on the interior of the defensive line along with Malcom Brown, Alan Branch and rookie third-round pick Vincent Valentine. Unlike Johnson, who was more of a penetrating pass-rusher, Hughes should factor in as more of a space-eating type. He has 5.5 career sacks in 53 games. 

Johnson is the latest in a long line of Browns who played under Lombardi to end up in New England. The two most notable Patriots who spent 2013 in Cleveland are defensive end Jabaal Sheard and running back Dion Lewis. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who arrived in New England in a trade this summer, was drafted by Lombardi's front office as the No. 6 overall pick in 2013.

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

There’s no way to spin rookie Jacoby Brissett starting a game rather than three-year NFL veteran Jimmy Garoppolo or future Hall of Famer Tom Brady as preferable.
 
But can the disadvantages be mitigated? Can the fact there is no “book” on a player be helpful?
 
“I think there’s always an element of the unknown when you’re dealing with a player or something you haven’t seen or scouted as much,” said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on a conference call Monday afternoon. “I don’t know if there’s an advantage there, it’s just that you don’t have as much information on a player or on some scheme that they may use, which then forces you to figure some things out as the game goes along and do some quick self-scouting as you move through the first cquarter, the first half, whatever it is, just to make sure that if it is something new you haven’t seen before, if it is a player that you haven’t played against and don’t have a lot of volume of tape on, that you have an opportunity to evaluate quickly what is going on.

"What’s happening in the game? How much of an impact is that player having? Are they trying to  do something that’s disrupting what you’re trying to do with their scheme? I think that happens a lot of weeks during the course of the year based on health and availability, new players, guys being called up, someone that just got signed and you don’t really have a lot of experience watching them play in their system. I would say that’s a common occurrence for us.”
 
With a fullback or UDFA guard pressed into duty, there’s not a helluva lot that will be altered in terms of scheme. With players like Garoppolo and Brissett, though, the Patriots' long-established offense can take on an entirely different look if different areas are emphasized.
 
For instance, jet sweep is a play the team won’t use much with Tom Brady except as a “keep ‘em honest” on the edges kind of play. With Garoppolo, quickness when he gets outside the pocket has to be respected so if he fakes that jet sweep and rolls to the outside, he’s a run-pass threat with speed and downfield accuracy. With Brissett, he’s a threat with elusiveness, size and power as a runner. Additionally, if the Patriots wanted to try the old Elway Throwback to the opposite sideline, Brissett may have more arm power than either Brady or Garoppolo.
 
McDaniels said the Patriots aren’t looking necessarily for ways to “surprise” opponents as much as they are looking for ways to accentuate players’ strengths.  
 
“We’ve got to take the guys that we get to play with, based on health and other factors, and then we consider the defense that we’re getting ready to play against, and the great players and the scheme that they use, and then we try to formulate the right plan to allow our players to go out there and play fast, play well, and do the things that suit their talents the best,” McDaniels explained. “I don’t think that our mindset has changed.

"Some of the variables have changed from one week to the next, which is always the case,  and of course, when you get a group of guys a plan and then you work so hard to get ready for Sunday or Thursday night and go out there and watch them play and execute and take care of the ball and do the things you need to do to try to win, and then they enjoy it so much, that’s really the thing that you take the most satisfaction from as a coach.”