It's an official mess as Patriots fall

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It's an official mess as Patriots fall

BALTIMORE, MD -- The mob's cries against NFL replacement officials crescendoed Sunday night.
There are 24 penalties in the books for New England's 31-30 loss to Baltimore. The Patriots were forced to swallow 10 for 83 yards while the Ravens took 14 for 135. There was one penalty on the Patriots that was declined. So that's a total of 25 flags thrown.

"It seemed as if every ball that was thrown was a flag," said Patriots defensive captain Vince Wilfork.
"It's very frustrating. But what can you do? When you're an aggressive defense, it takes away from the aggressiveness. Things that we try to do, they take it away. You hesitate to do this, do that -- not do it, whatever. But we have to play within the rules."
Do the players feel the rules are clear this season?
"I know what the rules are," Wilfork scoffed with peaked eyebrows. "But it's not up to me. I'm not the one throwing flags."
Officials are always vilified; the replacements were doomed to fail from Day 1. Worst case scenario, though, was for them to do so beyond a reasonable doubt.
Not every game has been awful. But there have been flubs enough that last week Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis, and Bernard Pollard all hammered replacement officials. Pollard went so far as to say these stand-ins are "messing up the integrity of the league."
Bill Belichick kept quiet in his postgame press conference, but literally grasped for answers in the game's more immediate aftermath. The coachtried to engage an official after the game by grabbing him on the way to the locker rooms.
The referee ignored him. The league may not ignore Belichick making contact with an official, however.

"I'm not going to comment about that," Belichick said in the presser. "You saw the game. What did we have, 30 penalties called?"
Even when a door was opened for the game's stuttering tempo to be blamed on the officials, he wouldn't walk through.
"It's our job to go out there and control what we can control. That's what we're going to try to work on. Can't control anything else. Talk to the officials about the way they called the game. Talk to the league about the way they called it."
Wilfork was more open about being bothered.
One play in particular set him off: Baltimore's game-winning field goal. Wilfork thought the kick was so close it should have been reviewed.
"Just to run off the field... From my angle it looked very close," he said. "So I was frustrated at that. A lot of things I was frustrated about.
"They have to review it. I mean, you have to. A game like this, you have to. But they ran off the field."
That call is one the refs got right.
According to Jim Daopoulos, who spent 11 years as an NFL on-field official and 12 as an NFL supervisor of officials, field goals are only reviewable if the ball is inside the uprights.If the ball sails over, as it did in Baltimore, there's no way to check because there's no reference point.
But from Daopoulos' view at NBC's Football Night in America studio, the Patriots had other reasons to gripe.
"The players can't play the game," Daopoulos said. "Brady cant play the game. He doesnt know what the calls will be. He dont know what's going to be holding, doesn't know what's going to be pass interference. It makes it so hard for them to play the game in any consistent way."
So what do the players do? Sunday night, Wilfork shrugged. What else could he do?
"It is what it is, man," he said. "I'm not going to sit here and pick a fight with those guys. They have a job to do, we have a job to do. All we can do is play better and not be in those situations. We'll see how it goes from there."
Eyes all over the country will be watching.

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

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Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

LeGarrette Blount knows where he wants to be for 2017. Ever since he re-joined the Patriots in 2014 following a short stay in Pittsburgh, the 250-pound back has been very open about how he wants to play out the rest of his career in New England. 

Those feelings haven't changed, even as he faces free-agency after having recorded the best season of his seven-year career.

"I just want to make sure that I go to this free agency with an open mind, knowing that I definitely want to go back to New England," he told NFL Total Access on Monday. "I love it there. I love the culture. I love the players. I've become close with a lot of the guys. Obviously you know how my running back group is.

"We'll cross that bridge whenever we cross it. On that point, I feel great. I'm in amazing shape. I feel like I could play 100 more years if I have to."

Blount finished 2016 with career-highs in attempts (299) yards (1,161) and touchowns (18). His ability to help the Patriots close games in the fourth quarter was notable throughout the course of the season, and he was among the most effective goal-line backs in the league. His 18 rushing scores are a franchise record.

Toward the end of the season, as Dion Lewis worked his way back into the Patriots offense, Blount had his workload cut into, and his fumble in the Super Bowl was a near-catastrophic moment -- his devastated reaction to which was caught expertly by NFL Films. But a big-picture view of Blount's year would reveal that he  posted the most prodictive "big back" season the Patriots have had in more than a decade.

Blount signed a one-year deal with the Patriots last offseason after seeing his 2015 prematurely ended by way of a hip injury. He turned 30 in December.

Garoppolo's mom keeps him apprised of trade rumors: 'She's all over that stuff'

Garoppolo's mom keeps him apprised of trade rumors: 'She's all over that stuff'

Jimmy Garoppolo can't help but hear trade rumors that involve his name. He heard all about them during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. Now his mom's keeping him up to date. 

"My mom loves telling me the news updates," Garoppolo told ESPN's Adam Schefter, "so she’s all over that stuff, but it’s been working really well . . . 

"I’m telling you, she could be your assistant. She’s all over the place. Her and my dad on Twitter and stuff like that. I don’t even think they know how to tweet, but they always have something going on . . .

"They know what to hit me with and what to keep quiet. They know me so well that they know what I’d like to hear and what I don’t need to hear. There’s a couple slip-ups here and there, I’m not going to lie to you, but they’re just so excited about it. It’s an exciting time, and they’re loving it."

Garoppolo tried his best to deflect questions about his future as he prepared for Super Bowl LI, but he could only insulate himself so much from those conversations. After six quarters of well-played football, he's chummed the waters for quarterback-starved franchises. As the draft nears, offers are expected to hit the Gillette Stadium offices, and it will be up to Bill Belichick and his staff to determine whether they should part ways with Tom Brady's backup. 

Schefter asked Garoppolo about one team in particular that could be interested: the Chicago Bears. Their general manager Ryan Pace is an Eastern Illinois alum, like Garoppolo, and Garoppolo is a Chicago-area kid. 

"I get asked about [that possibility] all the time from my friends and family back in Chicago," Garoppolo said. "They’re good reporters, my family. But I keep telling them I really don’t know how it would feel until . . . if it was to happen, I wouldn’t know how I’d feel until it did, you know? So it’s kind of one of those things, it’s hard to say right now."

Garoppolo added: "For the most part I am just trying to stay level-headed, trying not to think about it, over think it too much because at the end of the day I am still under contract. It is not my decision if I get traded or if I don’t, so I am just trying to take it all in stride. At the end of the day, you just have to enjoy it. The NFL, it is a hard place to be, hard place to succeed and when you get an opportunity you have to go and take advantage of it."

The idea of getting an opportunity, though, is an enticing one. Before the 2016 season, Garoppolo was very open about how he looked forward to his opportunity to start with Brady suspended for the first four weeks of the season. And with Schefter, he acknowledged that there are times when it's hard not to be impatient when you're the guy behind the guy.

"There’s times," Garoppolo said. "Obviously the kickoff happens and you are ready to roll. The juices get flowing again. You get the adrenaline, the butterflies. It’s football, you have to love the atmosphere . . . 

"We all play the game. We all want to be out there on the field and get an opportunity to play. I guess we will cross that bridge when we get there is probably the best way to put it. We’re competitors at the end of the day. We want to be out there, I want to be out there competing and playing with my teammates.”