Notes: Snowed-in Pats overcome injuries, illness

191543.jpg

Notes: Snowed-in Pats overcome injuries, illness

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

Another day, another dominating victory by the Patriots. Ho hum, right?

Not according to coach Bill Belichick.

"It was a tough week," the coach said after Sunday's 34-3 pasting of the Bills. "I really have a lot of respect for our players."

The team was without four starters -- guard Dan Connolly (concussion), tight end Aaron Hernandez (hip), defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick (shoulderflu) and linebacker Jermaine Cunningham (calf) -- in addition to another pair of defensive linemen, Mike Wright (concussion) and Myron Pryor (back). All of them were declared 'out' on Saturday, and it was the culmination of a difficult time in Foxboro.

"We had a bunch of guys with the flu," said Belichick. "And the injuries; bumps and bruises coming off the Green Bay game. We had a hard time practicing this week.

"But they did a good job and fought through it. I'm proud of them for that."

So was quarterback Tom Brady.

"Every team has those weeks when some guys are and some guys are out," said Brady. "The guys fought through it and showed some mental toughness. That's been a big word for us this year."

Brady finished 15-of-27 passing for 140 yards and set the NFL recordfor most attempts (319) without an interception. He topped the mark setby Bernie Kosar in the 1990 and '91 seasons.

"What's my reaction?" said Brady, repeating a reporter's question. "I'm glad I'm not throwing interceptions."

The snow in New England didn't reach Buffalo, but it still affected the Patriots. They're grounded in upstate New York for at least a day since they're not able to fly back to Foxboro while the storm is raging.

"Pretty excited about that," said Belichick with a sarcastic smile.

The Pats have now won 15 straight games against Buffalo. They haven't lost to the Bills since the opener of the 2003 season . . . a.k.a. the Lawyer Milloy Game.

The only two longer streaks in NFL history: The Dolphins' 20 straight victories over the Bills from 1970-79, and the 49ers' 17 straight over the Rams from 1990-98.

The Patriots have an incredible plus-27 turnover ratio this year, with 36 takeaways against only 9 turnovers.

The Patriots haven't lost a fumble or thrown an interception in seven games, the longest streak in NFL history.

Wes Welker dropped two passes Sunday, giving him a dozen drops for the year.

The Patriots scored 24 (or more) first-half points for the third time in the last four games, and for the fourth time this year.

Brady has thrown two or more touchdown passes in eight consecutive games.

The Patriots rushed for 217 yards, the second time this season they've rushed for 200 or more yards and their most rushing yards since they gained 277 at Oakland on Dec. 14, 2008.

Rob Gronkowski's two touchdown receptions lifted his season total to nine and tied the franchise record for touchdown catches by a rookie. He's tied with Jim Colclough (1960) and Randy Vataha (1971).

Art Martone can be reached at amartone@comcastsportsnet.com.

Does Butler want to be with Patriots beyond 2017? 'Whatever happens, happens'

Does Butler want to be with Patriots beyond 2017? 'Whatever happens, happens'

FOXBORO -- Malcolm Butler came off of the Gillette Stadium practice field to a gaggle of reporters who had been interested in speaking to him all offseason. There had been speculation not too long ago that he'd be traded. There was speculation he might sign elsewhere as a restrcited free agent.

What he would say on those topics might prove to be informative. People were eager to hear from him. But it was what he didn't say that may have been the most interesting part of his first back-and-forth with reporters since Super Bowl LI.

In the rain, in front of a dozen or more microphones, following his team's third organized team activity practice, Butler was asked if he would like to be in New England beyond the 2017 season, the final year of his contract. 

"Can't predict the future," he said. "Whatever happens, happens."

Butler was given several opportunities to say that he'd like to stick with the Patriots for the long term, but he was non-committal. Though his presence on the roster for this season gives the Patriots a supremely talented cornerback duo, the fact that the team gave Stephon Gilmore a lucrative long-term contract this offseason makes Butler's long-term future in New England a bit hazy.

Playing for a restricted free agent tender worth $3.91 million, Butler was asked if it was difficult to separate the business side of things from his on-field performance.

"Not really," he insisted. "Just gotta come here and just play football. You gotta earn everything you want. Gotta come here, work hard each and every day. Nobody's gonna give you nothing."

He added: "Just gotta keep working. Ignore the noise, and just keep working. No matter what. You got a job to do no matter where you're at. Glad to be here to do this job."

Butler received significant interest from the Saints during the offseason, and he made a trip to New Orleans to visit the organization's facilities there. Unwilling to provide Butler with a big-money contract offer and turn over their first-round pick to the Patriots, the Saints decided to cease in their pursuit of the 27-year-old Super Bowl XLIX hero. 

Butler said he didn't wasn't always sure he was going to be in New England for 2017.

"You never know what's gonna happen, I was just sitting back patiently waiting," he explained. "Just doing what I can do, control only what I can control. I'm here now and that's what it is."

That Butler has been at Patriots workouts and OTA practices since signing his tender is an indication that he's ready to throw himself into the upcoming season with his sights set on performing as well as possible in order to put himself in the best position possible when he's scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency at the end of the year. 

"Wasn't gonna hurt nobody but myself if I missed this," he admitted. "This is extra time to get better, and that's what I'm out here to do. To get better and have another great year. Anything to help the team. Present a positive image."