Patriots learn from Sunday's reality check


Patriots learn from Sunday's reality check

By Danny Picard

FOXBORO -- Before leaving Monday's film session, Patriots players came to a group understanding.

Their execution has to be better than it was in Sunday's 34-14 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

"Everybody looked at each other in that room, before we walked out," said Deion Branch after Monday's meetings at Gillette Stadium. "You could see it in the guys' eyes. Nobody said anything. Everybody was real ticked off at their play. The coaches were very critical. And they should be."

But Bill Belichick, and the rest of New England's coaching staff, didn't come in and jump down the players' throats. They showed the film. And that's really all that had to be done, to make a statement.

Because the bottom line is, Sunday was a reality check for the now 6-2 Patriots.

Their 20-point loss to the Browns was as bad a game as you'll see from this team. The reason for that? Poor execution.

And the reason for that? An even worse week of practice, heading into the game.

"We just got to come out and prepare a whole lot better than what we did last week," said Branch on Monday, while pointing out that it wasn't the coaching staff's fault.

"We killed ourselves," added Branch. "There wasn't anything, going into the game, that we didn't know about. We just weren't executing.

"It takes all 11 guys to do one job. If we run the ball to the right, everybody's got to set up and do everything right. We have to block right, if we're trying to throw the ball. If we're passing, the receiver's got to be at the right depth, when Tom's ready to throw the ball. Tom has to make the throws, we have to make the catches."

The lack of execution of specific plays was an overriding theme in the Pats' locker room on Monday. So how do you make that better? Put more emphasis on the team's base offense.

And that starts at the beginning of the week.

"Whatever you do in practice is going to show up in the game," said Branch.

"The biggest thing is just staying focused, and going out and doing what the coaches ask us to do, instead of just doing what we want to do, and just running around, making up plays, making up routes," he added.

"You would think something like this right here, we would have got this out of the way in the preseason. I think the stuff that we put on the field Sunday was bad. I mean, that was just bad football. Especially around here. You don't expect that type of play to be around here. I think you want to try and get that mess out of the way in the preseason."

Instead, the Patriots got it out of the way at the midway point of the regular season. And they left Monday's film session knowing exactly what they did wrong, and are confident that they know how to fix it.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard

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.