Curran: Pats' D goes from awful to awesome


Curran: Pats' D goes from awful to awesome

DENVER - At 4:45 p.m. EST, it was looking like the Patriots locker room figured to be a pretty dour place. The Broncos were ripping off yards on New England like a 3-year-old tearing through Christmas wrapping. An incredible 167 yards on the ground on just 15 carries. By 7:45 p.m. EST, Jerod Mayo was walking into the locker room demanding his AFC East champion hat and t-shirt. The turnabout came thanks to a scheme tweaking by secondary coach and de-facto defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who altered the game plan the team hatched to stop Tim Tebow and the Denver offense. The first incarnation didn't work so good. The second, much better. Denver still finished the day with 252 yards on the ground, but scored just 10 points after that first-quarter embarrassment, with the lone touchdown coming after the Patriots had expanded their lead to 34-16. Coming into Sunday's game, you figured New England would have something creative hatched to stop Tebow and the Broncos rushing attack. The week previous, the Patriots played a lot of 3-4 defense against the Redskins - a departure from what they'd done most of the year before. But New England came out with its 4-3 alignment again and got gashed. The change was subtle. In addition to going to a three-man line, the Patriots did a better job controlling the edge of the field and turning plays back in. Their tackling improved. They, quite simply, settled down. Bill Belichick wouldn't go into detail on all the changes made by Patricia but he said, "(the 3-4) changed our spacing. So whether its an odd spacing or an even spacing, theres some advantages to each. So we were in a little more odd spacing try to keep better leverage on the formation. They gave us a lot of shifting early in the game, a lot of shifting, motion change, formations, so we were able to settle down for a combination of reasons, but one of them was to try and balance out the defense and I think that helped us a little bit.Jerod Mayo went into some more detail. "In odd (three-man line), the linebackers have to play the 'bubbles' and in even (four-man line), the defensive linemen have to play the so-called 'bubbles'. The first quarter was tough but as soon as we went to the sideline, Matty P made all those adjustments and it was sort of good just to show the different looks and see how they would attack us.The reality of trying to tackle Tim Tebow was different from the film as linebacker Rob Ninkovich found out when hewas shucked aside by Tebow on the first Denver touchdown. "You can't get a look (in the classroom) as far as Tebow and the offensive line are concerned," Mayo explained. "It was pretty difficult but once we settled down, we were all right."Keeping composurein the face of getting embarassedcan't be easy. But Mayo said the sideline was tame. "It was very important (to keep their wits)," said Mayo. "It's easy for guys to just shut it down and say, 'Okay, well, we lost this game.' But everybody showed mental toughness including the coaches and we got through."That composure, said veteran defensive tackle Gerard Warren, was critical. "Don't panic. Be accountable so if you knew you messed up on the field, come onto the sideline and say so and we can fix it," explaned Warren. "It takes a real man to admit when he made a mistake. We can run around and not say anything and then we won't know what to address or what to fix." "Our coaching staff made great adjustments and we played assignment football," said safety James Ihedigbo. "We knew we had to settle down and play. There were things we practiced this week where we said, 'OK, these are going to help us win.' Sometimes you go into a game and it's a different story, and they start doing things differently and you have to adjust. It's a part of it. We had to get rid of some things and put some new things in."The things Patricia put in worked. To a T.

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivered a video message last week at the funeral of Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a Maine native and former UConn track athlete killed in Somalia on May 5.

Bill Speros of The Boston Herald, in a column this Memorial Day weekend, wrote about Milliken and Brady's message.   

Milliken ran track at Cheverus High School in Falmouth, Maine, and at UConn, where he graduated in 2001. Milliken lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Erin, and two children.  He other Navy SEALs participated in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011 where he met and posed for pictures with Brady.

Speros wrote that at Milliken’s funeral in Virginia Beach, Va., Brady's video offered condolences and thanked Milliken’s family for its sacrifice and spoke of how Milliken was considered a “glue guy” by UConn track coach Greg Roy.

Milliken had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning four Bronze Star Medals and was based in Virginia since 2004.  He was killed in a nighttime firefight with Al-Shabaab militants near Barij, about 40 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He was 38.

The Pentagon said Milliken was the first American serviceman killed in combat in Somalia since the "Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 Americans in 1993. 

In a statement to the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011. It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.

“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”