Attack mode suits Patriots' defense to a T

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Attack mode suits Patriots' defense to a T

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
TAMPA BAY - Bill Belichick has long since become exasperated with questions about 3-4 vs. 4-3 and whether his defense will attack more often. He doesn't get into it and his players have clearly been coached to not talk about it either. But the game don't lie. And Thursday night in Tampa Bay, the Patriots went after Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman like he'd been dipped in BBQ sauce and they hadn't eaten in weeks. The two-gapping, read-and-react defensive style was on ice. Pressure was the name of the game. Tampa tackle James Lee was on the other side of the mayhem. "Its a little different with those bigger guys pushing upfield shooting those gaps," he explained. "They require at least a double-team. Youre talking about 350-pound guys. Its hard for one guy to get up under and move that. It causes a lot of double teams and opens holes for linebackers to flow through. And thats what was happening out there tonight.With Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Gerard Warren and Myron Pryor crushing the interior of the Bucs offensive line, Andre Carter, Eric Moore and Mark Anderson were coming off the edge hard. With no chance to stepup in a passing pocket that had been pushed into his face, Freeman was under siege. Jerod Mayo had two sacks and several more pressures. Carter was nipping at Freeman's back on at least five different plays. It was a sight rarely seen from the Patriots defense."Well take a look at it on the film," Belichick said when asked what he thought of the pressure his defense brought."Looked like we made a few plays."Mayo was at the top of that list.A tackling machine in his first three seasons in the league, he was unleashed Thursday to get upfield instead of waiting for the action to come to him. "Coach wanted to be aggressive," said Mayo, who also had two passes defensed and three quarterback hits along with the sacks. "It felt pretty good, but whatever Coach Belichick wants to do. I just like winning games and I love playing football."On the first snap of the game, Mayo lined up off the right shoulder of Carter on the blind side of Freeman. Carter attracted the attention of left tackle Donald Penn and Mayo swooped in to bring Freeman down as he released.
Later, Mayo had a sack of Freeman with a well-timed blitzup the middle."I feel comfortable," said Mayo. "Im going into my fourth year, Coach Belichick is doing different things with me."Carter - who was told by Belichick that his job would be to put his hand in thedirt and get upfield - was an eye-openerThursday night. Even if he played down his performance. "Ill leave that up to the coaches," he said when asked how he did. "Im my own worst critic. But theres definitely room for improvement. Im getting a feel for the guys next to me. I did my best to try to play fast. But Im still remaining humble and still remaining hungry."As the pass rush becomes more orchestrated, it should continue to improve. Pass rushers need to work together to set up blockers and flush quarterbacks to areas that are locked down by other defenders.
"Thats just through practice and through the games," Carter said when asked about working in concert with the rest of the line. "Any defense is always talking about fits. Where you belong and where the guy next to you belongs. Once you have that concept and understanding the skys the limit as far as making big plays, tackles for loss or sack."

It's been a while since big plays were the norm for this defense. And to think that neither Shaun Ellis nor Albert Haynesworth have been dusted off yet. It could be scary.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Three weeks removed from his team blowing a 25-point, second-half lead in the Super Bowl, Mohamed Sanu offered a possible explanation for the Atlanta Falcons losing their edge against the Patriots.

Lady Gaga.

More specifically, it was the half-hour-plus halftime show that interrupted the Falcons' rhythm, the receiver said Friday on the NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."

“Usually, halftime is only like 15 minutes, and when you’re not on the field for like an hour, it’s just like going to work out, like a great workout, and you go sit on the couch for an hour and then try to start working out again,” Sanu said.

Sanu was asked if the delay was something you can simulate in practice. 

"It's really the energy [you can't duplicate]," he said. "I don't know if you can simulate something like that. That was my first time experiencing something like that."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick did simulate it. In his Super Bowl practices, he had his team take long breaks in the middle.

Sanu also addressed the Falcons' pass-first play-calling that didn't eat up clock while the Patriots came back.

"The thought [that they weren't running the ball more] crossed your mind, but as a player, you're going to do what the coach [Dan Quinn] wants you to do." Sanu said. "He's called plays like that all the time."


 

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

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It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.