Notes: Snowed-in Pats overcome injuries, illness

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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.

Quirky Super Bowl schedule this time around for Patriots

Quirky Super Bowl schedule this time around for Patriots

The Patriots schedule for the next few days in Massachusetts and Super Bowl Week in Houston is a little quirky.

Players are off on Tuesday (media has conference call access to Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia). There’s no media access on Wednesday at all as the team begins getting introduced to the Super Bowl game plan that will have been partially formulated (and subject to tweaking). The players are in Thursday, Friday and Saturday for afternoon practices and there’s media access to the players each day. There’s no media access on Sunday.

The team will fly to Houston on Monday and – in a major departure – will do its media duties at night. The NFL has repackaged media day as Super Bowl Opening Night. It will be held at Minute Maid Field (home of the Astros) with access to the Patriots from 10 to 11 p.m. EST.

Tuesday, there will be access from 1:30 to 2:30 EST to Belichick and a handful of players at the Patriots’ hotel. There will be full access to players and coaches on Wednesday and Thursday from 5 to 6:15 EST.

There’s no NFL-sponsored access of any kind on Friday or Saturday. Previously, there was a final press conference with the head coaches and a press conference with the NFL Commissioner. His name is Roger. Roger Goodell.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame committee meets on Saturday and will announce the 2017 inductees by the end of the day.

For those of you who like television - or who stream on your tiny devices – we’ll be all over this mess.

This week, look for Patriots Wednesday Live on Thursday at noon (hard to have Wednesday Live if ain’t nobody gonna be live from the team).

Mike Giardi and I will be down there Sunday so start looking for live reports and my giant nose in the great state of Texas at that point.

If we’re not live during media day in the evening, I don’t know what we’re doing with our lives. Quick Slants will be Tuesday night and Jerod Mayo will be down there.

Lotta podding planned. Lotta podding.

We’ll keep you updated.

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.