Curran: Five thoughts from Patriots 34, Bills 3

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Curran: Five thoughts from Patriots 34, Bills 3

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com
BUFFALO - Buffalo Bills, the Beasts of the AFC East outside of Foxboro? Oh, yeah. I was buying that line of shizzle. Well, the Bills tossed up a field goal a little less than five minutes into the game and then didn't score again over the next 55 minutes as the Patriots poleaxed them for their 13th win of the year. Here's 5 reasons why.

1. HE CAME, HE SAW, HE GRONKEREDBack in his native Western New York, Rob Gronkowski played a featured role. Seven passes were thrown his way. He caught four. Two went for touchdowns. Another was a 23-yard gain off a one-handed stab. Happy? "Yeah, mad excited. Being home, kind of like a homecoming in front of the family, its just great going home and scoring twice in front of them. Its a dream come true. I wouldve never thought this was going to happen, when I was back in high school and college, this is amazing." With Aaron Hernandez unable to go (hip), Gronkowski andveteran Alge Crumpler took all the reps. AndCrumpler - mainly a blocker this season - got himself a touchdown too. That's 16 scores for the tight ends this year. "Alge's been a great leader. I love a man who leads by example with everything, its great having him on the team. Were just out there working hard, whatever role us tight ends get, were going to go out there and do our role and do our own job. Hopefully its always a significant role." It's been a major role this year." 2. MANKINS A DIFFERENCESince Logan Mankins' return, the Patriots have run the ball with authority not seen, really, since Corey Dillon was lining up in their backfield. Certainly, a lot has to do with the backs and the rest of the line but Mankins' impact week in and week out has been tremendous. Sunday was Mankins' eighth game back with the team. They're 7-1 since his return. The only loss came in his first game back (Cleveland). I asked him if he would have come back early as he did if the team had been struggling. "I'd have done it the same way," he answered. "I woulda come back at the same time. I'm a football player. I knewI was coming back then. That was the dateI had in mind the whole time." 3. IN THE BLACK BY PLENTYThe Patriots are now plus-27 in turnover differential. They haven't committed a turnover in an NFL record seven games. Buffalo turned it over seven times on Sunday. The Patriots have taken it away 36 times (24 picks). They've given it up nine (5 picks). They had a six-turnover edge on the teams tied for second in plus-minus (Pittsburgh and Philadelphia). Next week against Miami, the Patriots will likely set the record for fewest turnovers in a season (the standard was set in 1982 when the Chiefs had 12 in a strike year). "We talked about that on the sideline today, saying Those guys dont fumble; those guys dont give up the ball. Thats a great credit to our offense. Staying on the field and not turning the ball over and giving us chances on defense to go out and turn the ball over and give it back to them, so its a hand-in-hand thing," said linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. Tom Brady's amazing string of 311 passes without a pick (and counting), meanwhile, continues. Told that Brady set the record against the Bills, breaking Bernie Kosar's record of 309, Bill Belichick said, "I didnt realize. That's great. Tom does a good job . Today they didn't get their hands on too many balls like (the Packers) did last week. He does a great job of placing it. Unfortunately, itlooked like we dropped a few. Tom does a great job of managing the game and taking care of the ball, he deserves that (record)."4. BLUES TRAVELERSThe Patriots were forced to spend Sunday night in Rochester, New York as the blizzard prevented them from getting back to New England. The World Juniors hockey championships being held in Buffalo this week made it impossible for the team to find enough rooms in Buffalo. "Pretty excited about staying here," Belichick said sarcatically. Dan Koppen said this was the one week he didn't bring an extra change of clothes. Belichick, meanwhile, said the team would "rest" Sunday night. Monday is usually a day for treatment and film review. Given the fact the team isn't playing for anything other than to keep sharp next week against the Dolphins, it's not a great blow football-wise. It is tough, however, after having to pull up stakes on Christmas Day to get out of town. 5. SOLDIERING THROUGHBelichick opened his comments by mentioning how difficult a week it was health-wise for the team. "It was a tough week," he said. "I really have a lot of respect for our players. We had abunch of guys with the flu, the injuries, bumps and bruises coming off the Green Bay game. They did a nice job fighting through it." Said Brady: "I thinkevery team has those weeks where some guys are in and some guys are out. There are injuries and this week, quite a few guys got sick. I think the guys fought through it and showed some mental toughness. That's been a big word for us this year."The inevitable question now becomes whether the Patriots rest players against Miami in the finale.Brady said, "I want to play. Whatever (Belichick) asks us to do, we're going to do. Miami is a good team. We struggled with them last time offensively so hopefully we'll go out andplay better."Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Curran: Jets' 2015 tampering with Revis more extensive than NFL revealed

Curran: Jets' 2015 tampering with Revis more extensive than NFL revealed

The Patriots obviously got it right when they pushed away from the table during the Darrelle Revis bidding war in 2015. 

The once-great corner spent the 2016 season languishing on the field. He’s spending the early part of the offseason reacting negatively to backpack journalism after midnight. 

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But the alleged double KO by Revis and his buddies isn’t what prompts this submission. 

It’s the revelation from Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News that the tampering the Jets engaged in when they were prying Revis loose from the Patriots was way, way more involved than what the NFL fined them for. And that Jets owner Woody Johnson knew all about it. 

Mehta leads his piece revealing that, long before free agency opened in 2015, Revis “was ready to squeeze more money out of [Johnson] who he knew would be willing to overpay for his services again.”

Mehta reports that, “back-channel discussions with the Jets in February set the foundation for a Revis reunion . . . 

“Team officials in stealth mode communicated with Revis, Inc., through private cell phones and face-to-face covert meetings at the 2015 Scouting Combine rather than make calls from the team's landlines at their Florham Park facility. No paper trails were a must.

“Johnson, the driving force behind bringing back Revis to right a wrong in his mind, endorsed all of it.”

The Patriots -- who were in the midst of the Deflategate colonoscopy that resulted in absurd-level discipline -- lodged a complaint with the league over the Jets tampering after Revis signed with the Jets in mid-March of 2015. 

The Jets were fined $100,000 but weren’t docked any draft picks.. The tender wrist slap came, ostensibly, because Johnson moronically stated at a December press conference that he’d “love” to have Revis return to New York. 

Maybe Johnson wasn’t being a dummy. That comment provided cover for the league office -- which has a documented history of treating the two NYC franchises with kid gloves -- to let the Jets off easy. 

Mehta’s article is the latest offering from him since completing his heel turn against Revis. 

Mehta did everything but fly the plane to bring Revis to New York once the 2014 season ended. And this is what he wrote the day the Jets penalty came down: 

The NFL’s attempt to uncover any dirt was an exercise in futility, a witch hunt driven by nonsense from a hypocritical organization with no reason to feel threatened by its competitor. 

You may wonder what’s the point? 

Clearly, the Patriots got it right while the Jets cheated, got what they wanted, and are now getting what they deserved. 

And everyone already knows the league office’s investigations and operations arms under the brutally incompetent leadership of Troy Vincent are a laughingstock. 

All true. But if I don’t write this now, I may have no recollection of this particular instance of league corruption given the absolute avalanche of other incidents
 

Five Patriots listed among Pro Football Focus Top 50 free agents

Five Patriots listed among Pro Football Focus Top 50 free agents

When the free-agency period officially begins on Mar. 9, it looks like there will be several newly-minted Super Bowl champions available for hire. And judging by the list Pro Football Focus published recently, the Patriots seem primed to lose more top-end talent via free agency than any other club in the league. 

Of the Top 50 free agents scheduled to be available next month, according to PFF, five are Patriots: linebacker Dont'a Hghtower (No. 11), safety Duron Harmon (No. 17), corner Logan Ryan (No. 26), defensive end Jabaal Sheard (No. 27) and tight end Martellus Bennett (No. 28).

Though the team doesn't have a single Top 10 player, per PFF, no other club has more than four (Cardinals, Redskins, Packers) in the Top 50. 

And the Patriots probably should have had at least one other player included. 

Not LeGarrette Blount, though he set a franchise record for rushing touchdowns last season. Not Chris Long, though he led the team in total quarterback pressures as he played out his one-year deal in New England. It's Alan Branch, 32, who is coming off of arguably his best season in 10 years as a pro. 

A powerful run defender, Bill Belichick called Branch the team's most consistent interior defensive lineman, and late in the season the coach made it clear just how much value there is in having a player with Branch's stature (6-foot-6, 350 pounds) and athleticism up front.

"Alan has done a great job for us," Belichick said. "And along with his play, which is certainly significant, one of the things that’s really been impressive about him has been his play time. So in addition to his overall production he’s played a lot more than he has in quite a while in terms of number of plays. 

"From a production standpoint he’s got, again, quite a few tackles, tackles for loss. It’s hard to measure the disruptive plays but he’s certainly got his share of those. He’s played very well for us in the running game. He’s given us a presence in the pass rush of a long, physical player in the middle. That’s all been really good, and he’s played more plays so all of that is good. 

"How unique is it? I mean, yeah, guys that weigh 350 pounds and are athletic and long like he is; I mean they don’t grow on trees. They’re hard to find. Ted Washington had that kind of length and size. Ted was 6-5, but Alan moves better than Ted does, or did at that point in his career. We’ve had some other longer guys like Richard [Seymour] or guys like that, but they weren’t 350 pounds. There’s not too many of them."

Though he may not make everyone's Top 50, Branch should certainly be mentioned on any list of impact players Belichick and his staff are at risk of losing in a few weeks. It's a long one.