Brady continues to thrive in foul weather

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Brady continues to thrive in foul weather

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

They are the Greatest Show on Snow.

Sunday's 36-7 mauling of the Chicago Bears improved the Patriots' record to 10-0 in the snow during the Bill Belichick Era. And make no mistake, they did it behind offensive plow Tom Brady. The New England quarterback was stellar in the win. As expected.

Brady's personal mark is now 19-2 in games played in snow, ice or below-freezing temperatures. He's the best cold-weather quarterback in NFL history since 1960.

Remember last season's whiteout? Patriots fans, covered up on all but their eyeballs, hung tough during a 59-0 home-field mauling of the Titans. Despite a suffocating 45-0 halftime lead, they never retreated for warmer quarters because they wanted to be there for Brady. They wanted to witness him set an NFL record with five touchdown passes in a single quarter and six total.

"This is football,'' he said after 2009's winter weather win. "This is how it should be.''

More records were approached, reached and broken by Brady's arm this Sunday:

The Patriots scored the second-most first-half points in franchise history against the Bears in Chicago.

Brady now has six straight games with at least two TDs and zero picks, tying Don Meredith's record.

He has thrown 268 straight passes without an interception, 40 short of record-holder Bernie Kosar.

Deion Branch caught eight balls from Brady for a new career-high 151 yards.

Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski for the tight end's seventh touchdown reception of his first season. Gronkowski's now tied for third in NFL history among rookie TEs.

The scoring was impressive early. New England's first two touchdowns came from 12- and 11-play drives under the blustery, unclear skies. And Brady just kept going.

Against one of the NFL's toughest defenses -- against Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers -- Brady completed 13 of 21 passes for 195 yards in the first half. The Patriots posted 273 total yards and 12 first downs.

The second of his two touchdowns caught the Bears completely off guard. With four plays the Pats moved the ball from their own 20 to the 41 in 1 minute and 33 seconds. Only five seconds remained before the half and New England was up 27-0. One 59-yard bomb to Deion Branch later, the score was 33-0.

"I think at one point the coach was telling us to take a knee,'' Branch said with a laugh. "I'm looking at Tom like, 'Take a knee.' And he looked at me like, 'No.' He called a route and I was like, 'All right, good. That's a good route.' So, I'm thankful it happened. We took a shot at it -- it worked."

Nothing was working for Jay Cutler. His first half (against one of the league's worst-ranked defenses) amounted to just four completions on eight throws for 21 yards. The quarterback's Bears managed just 33 total yards and moved the chains twice in the game's first 30 minutes. Insult-to-injury? He got sacked twice.

And don't forget the context. This was the new-and-improved Jay Cutler. Chicago's QB entered Week 14 riding a five-game win streak where he was fantastic in that stretch. Yet Cutler couldn't get anything started on Sunday. He looked inept.

It was not easy to score at Soldier Field this weekend.

Not unless you were Tom Brady.

"I don't think it really bothers him what the weather is,'' Belichick said in the postgame. "Whatever it is, he does the best he can and tries to make it work."

The QB's final tallies were 27 of 40 passes completed for 369 yards. He had recorded his fourth 300-yard game of the year and third in a row with 15 minutes left to play. Same old, same old excellence.

The story would almost be more interesting if he hadn't played well. Can you imagine Brady throwing into triple coverage all night the way Cutler did? That'd be new and surprising. There's just no way it was going to happen Sunday, though. While it's true that Brady thrived again in bad weather, he was playing like the NFL's MVP coming into this game.

"It was a fun day," he smiled. "We'll remember that one."

The Bears will have a hard time forgetting it too, unfortunately. Images of Brady seem burned into their brains. "Check the stats, man,'' said matter-of-fact Chicago cornerback Tim Jennings. "He's very good, man. He threw it to every receiver he had."

They were contented receivers on Sunday night. Wes Welker took the podium postgame, his stat column brimming with 8 catches and 115 yards, and he joined Branch in the Tom Terrific love-in.

Good move by Welker. The last time two wideouts had 100-plus yards in a game was that Oct. 18, 2009 whitewashing of Tennessee.

"He's definitely playing well. I mean, I think it's pretty evident,'' the receiver said. "He's confident in the guys around him and confident in himself to spread it around and everybody doing the right thing and making plays and staying on top of everything. But he's definitely playing really well for us, which we need him to."

The coming weeks are especially important. With the win over Chicago, New England clinched a berth to the 2010 playoffs. And despite owning the NFL's best record, the Patriots still have work to do. Who better to believe than Brady?

"There's a long way to go,'' he said. "I don't think anything's really been accomplished yet. We're working hard to make improvements. I don't think we've got every problem solved. There's plenty of defenses that have kicked us around a bit this year, so we don't sit here and think we've got it all figured out.''

There's at least one thing for sure. Despite all other variables, it's a fact that Brady will be relied upon for stability as the Patriots continue their run. And he'll probably deliver, no matter who the opponent, where the arena, or what the weather.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

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.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.