Curran: Pats will take that as a complement


Curran: Pats will take that as a complement

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Let's clear this out of the way first. This is NOT a love letter to the Patriots defense. They've allowed 958 yards of offense to be rolled up on them, 762 through the air and 45 points. On Sunday, the Chargers went 10 for 12 on third down. Lotta work to do before all the new additions are making the expected impact. Long way to go before the secondary is something opposing quarterbacks don't have to wipe drool off their chins while watching game film. But there were signals Sunday that the ever-present question of, "Can this defense help Tom Brady when he has an off day?" may have a positive answer. They did it twice Sunday. The Chargers have a habit of gift-wrapping games for the Patriots. In the 2006 playoffs (Marlon McCree fumble after a pick), the 2007 AFC Championship (four red zone trips, seven points), the 2010 regular season (footballs left lying on the ground). Sunday was somewhat similar with four San Diego turnovers. But at least this time around they were forced errors. And the two biggies - one of which didn't count as a turnover - helped directly on the scoreboard. In the second quarter, the Chargers had first-and-goal at the Patriots 4, threatening to go up 14-10. On first down, Josh Barett knocked Ryan Mathews out of bounds after a gain of three. On second down, Mike Tolbert got stacked up for no gain by Kyle Love. On third down, Philip Rivers' scramble got jammed up by Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. And on fourth down, Mayo came up huge with a stop of the armadillo in shoulder pads, Tolbert. "Huge," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "Spilled the ball outside, looked like we got a good push inside and the runner never really got turned up because he ended up going sideways and we were able to make the play. It was a huge play. It was a first-and-goal on the three or something like that; they were down there on all four plays, so it was huge for us."Asked about the play, Tolbert said, "It was just, things happened unexpectedly. I couldn't get around the corner."Hand the ball to Tom Brady, even with the goal line 99 yards away, and good things often occur. They did this time as well, as New England needed 10 plays before Brady stuck it in to Rob Gronkowski for a 10-yard score making it 17-7. The Patriots got it back for Brady again when Wilfork came up with a pick and long return just before the half that led to a 47-yard field goal as time expired before the break. "I think we stress complementary football and situational football, like the end of half situation that we got," said Brady. "Look, if the defense makes a huge stop like that, we have to do something with it. If they get us the ball, we have to do something with it. Honestly, there were times today that I thought we could have done a better job of that and we need to do a better job of that."The Patriots defense bailed out Brady and the offense again in the fourth. After San Diego trimmed the score to 20-14, New England was at midfield and driving with its no-huddle offense. But Brady made a quick decision at the line on third-and-4 thinking he could steal a first down with a quick throw to Wes Welker. Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips read the play and tipped the pass. Incomplete. With punter Zoltan Mesko nursing an injured left knee, the Patriots decided to go for it on fourth down. And when they didn't get it, Brady's impulse decision to go quickly on third down loomed larger as San Diego took over. But three plays later, Wilfork tripped Tolbert, Mayo stripped the ball and Rob Ninkovich recovered to get the ball back. Four plays later, Brady found Gronkowski from 17 yards out and - after the two-point conversion - it was 28-14. "It was a great challenge for us and we stepped out to the plate," Mayo said of the forced fumble. "Once again I just think it shows the confidence Coach Belichick has in us. We said that a couple of years ago with the Colts game (the infamous fourth-and-2). Same exact situation and we stepped up to the plate today."They didn't step to the plate against the Colts, though. And last season against the Chargers in a very similar situation - a failed fourth-and-1 from their own 49 with two minutes left while holding a three-point lead - they kinda failed too. San Diego picked up 17 yards and had a game-tying field goal attempt hit the upright with 27 seconds left. This time, the defense did make a play. "I tried to do too much," Tolbert lamented. "Get four yards, keep the ball in my hands. That's allI can do."But when you lose the way we did, on my hand - you got a good drive going, you can take the lead and I put the ball on the ground. You can't do that. I owe my coaches and my teammates better. I'll be better."The Patriots' defense has a long way to go. But one thing they can say they did "better" on Sunday was save the offense's bacon when it slipped into the fire. Tom E. Curran can be reached at 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


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.