Belichick: "I'm really proud of our players"

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Belichick: "I'm really proud of our players"

The following is a collection of quotes from the Patriots - Jets post game press conferences, courtesy of the Patriots media relations staff:

Bill Belichick

BB: Its good to come in here after a win against the Jets. It always is. A division game, a hard-fought game like it always is. Im really proud of our players. We stepped up and that was a great drive there offensively to answer the touchdown, field goal. I thought we played better on defense. There were some good things to build on. Weve still got a long way to go, and well see them again in a month, as well as the rest of our division teams later on this season. Its good to win and I'm really proud of our team. They had a good week of practice, they worked hard, pushed through a lot of bumps and bruises banged up and a long trip back from Oakland and all of that, but they hung in there and I thought they really did a good job this week. It was one of our good weeks of practice, so hopefully that was reinforced by what we did in the game.

What he saw from Aaron Hernandez in his return:

BB: Aaron has really worked hard the last couple of weeks to get back out there. Hes in here early, he stays late; he's leaving when the coaches are leaving. Hes getting a lot of extra treatment. He was able to come out and practice later on in the week and handle a little more each day and kept getting better, so we felt confident going into the game and he felt confident going into the game. Again, he got behind the defense a couple times, so he obviously got his speed back. I thought he had a good couples days of practice at the end of the week and was able to carry it over into the game. He's a tough guy to match up against. Hes a good player.

Q: How the defense was overall in getting the right plays without Jerod Mayo:

BB: I didnt think we had a lot of coverage problems or defensive adjustment problems where we couldnt get things lined up or that kind of thing. I think Patrick Chung and James Ihedigbo did a real nice job. James did a great job for us today in his overall communication and of course he was pretty familiar with the team we were playing. Hes a smart guy that really works hard, communicates well and practiced well this week. I thought he did a good job when he was in there, delivered a couple big hits and played well, so he helped us with the communication as well as Gary Guyton and Brandon Spikes and Rob Ninkovich. Those guys have been playing together and especially Spikes now has had a few weeks where hes been in there, and Gary and Rob, they had a good week of practice. I think its going better. Its not perfect, but were making progress and definitely getting better.

Tom Brady
Q: How impressed he was with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and how much Green-Ellis helped the passing game:

TB: He ran great, he always does. Hes a tough runner, hes a real smart runner, hes patient, he sees the holes. That was a big part of the win. I thought we were balanced. Ran the clock out at the end, that was important. We needed that win. When we call upon him, we need him and he makes the plays. That was great.

Q: How important it was to have the threat of running the ball after you didnt last year?

TB: We need to do it. We have to run the ball. If they have a lot of DBs out there, then we have to run it. If they put big guys in, we still have to run it. You just cant throw the ball every single down against these guys, they make it too tough. I thought we could have done better with running the ball; we could have done better passing the ball. Well try to make some improvements and move onto the Cowboys.

Q: Week after week being in the spotlight with the other team raising their game to go after you and the Patriots. What it's like to have your opponents be so up against you ever week and for you to be under attack every week:

TB: We dont think about it much like that, we really dont. Whoever we play, were expecting to go out there and rise up to them also. I dont think we ever have taken an opponent lightly. Every opponent is dangerous. Were going out there to play our best every week. We expect the opponents best every week too. Were not going to expect to go out there and get six turnovers a week and win by 40. You realize its going to come down to the fourth quarter and we have to make enough plays.

Vince Wilfork

Q: Stringing together three straight three and outs and how that can help the team pick up momentum and rhythm:

VW: You know, every time we did it, and the offense went out, and then we went right back on the field. I just remember guys saying to each other Hey lets do it again.' Because we knew eventually our offense was going to get back on track and put some points up. Every week we have that offense. So, I think the better we get defensively, the better this team will be. I think it is a start in the right direction. Thats one thing we are going to need to continue to build on. Especially going forward this week with the Cowboys coming to town, we are going to need another great week of practice. I think everybody can see what two good weeks of practices can do for us. I think everybodys momentum and confidence is up. We need to start stringing it together for 60 minutes.

Wes Welker
Q: Going deep and beating the Jets' secondary:
WW: It was just one of those plays where the safety was a little over-aggressive. We run a similar type play and ran the ball and so I kind of got a feel for what that safety was doing. I went down and then kind of acted like I was going to block him and then took off on it. Tom Brady made a good throw. Hopefully next time I can just finish that out.

Q: Starting to like going over the top?

WW: Yeah, I love it. Anytime you can get the ball deep and make some big plays like that, its huge for our offense. The more you can do out there, the better off were going to be. Just continue to try and make plays every time I get a chance.

Q: How much of a factor Darrelle Revis was covering Welker one-on-one:

WW: Hes always a factor. Hes a great player. You definitely have to make sure youre very crisp with all your routes and really set up him up with stuff and be smart about it. Every play is go-time when hes across from you. He does a great job with all that. Its a little game of cat and mouse sometimes with him. You just have to keep on plugging away and hopefully get some big plays every once in awhile.

Brady, Harbaugh found common ground on plane ride back from Michigan

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Brady, Harbaugh found common ground on plane ride back from Michigan

FOXBORO -- What could have been an awkward plane ride for Tom Brady and John Harbaugh was made less so thanks to a high school lacrosse player. 

Brady and Harbaugh shared a private plane back from Michigan where Jim Harbaugh and his University of Michigan program put on an event for National Signing Day. About a year earlier, Brady told a room full of reporters that Harbaugh and his coaching staff should study the rule book and "figure it out" after hearing that they were pretty upset about the unusual formations the Patriots ran during their AFC Divisional Round win over Baltimore. 

They may not have been on the best of terms.

"I was pissed off," he told ESPN's Ian O'Connor before the start of this season. "It was uncalled for. And the rules are deeper than that, and I know the rules, and I stand by why that play shouldn't have been allowed. ... So yeah, that should never have been said."

But on the flight was Harbaugh's daughter Alison, a high school lacrosse player. When Brady took some time to share a few thoughts on competitiveness with her, he and Harbaugh found common ground.

"We had a lot of fun," Harbaugh said of the flight. "I don't know if he's talked about that at all, but we ended up sharing a plane ride along with my daughter and a couple of his people, friends of his. We just had a chance to just talk for a couple hours. And really more than anything, Alison got a chance to listen to Tom Brady talk about competing and what it takes to be great at what you do.

"And one of the funny things about it was, he was so nice to her. He gets off and they go, and we get back on the plane and we're talking, and she says something like, 'Boy, Tom really is a nice guy.' And I look at here and go, 'Tom?' I'm thinking 'Mr. Brady' would have been more appropriate. She said, 'He said to call me Tom.' I got a kick out of that.

"It was good. Lot of respect for him and a lot of respect for what he's accomplished. He's very tough to compete against. The best quarterback that's played, certainly in this era, without question in my mind. That's how I would rank him. And it's just another tough challenge to have to play against him."

Friday Bag: What’s the Patriots' future at running back look like?

Friday Bag: What’s the Patriots' future at running back look like?

Every Friday Tom E. Curran, Mike Giardi and Phil Perry will take your Patriots questions (Curran is sitting this one out) on Twitter and answer them as a joint mailbag -- or a Friday Bag, as they call it. 

Got questions? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag.

MG: Q leading off my portion of the always popular, always exciting, always (occasionally?) informative #FridayBag. I think it would be easy to think that way from the outside looking in, or knowing how callous some organizations can be, but I just don’t believe that to be the case here. Players talk. Agents talk. Hell, coaches talk. If the Pats were to operate that way, it would get around the league in a heartbeat. Then why would someone want to play here knowing they’ll be treated even more like a disposable commodity then normal? The flip side to this is actually protecting the player from himself. Guys in the last year of a deal sometimes feel compelled to play through every damn thing so they can at least say “look at me, I’m a warrior!” And on that note, I’d sit Marty Bennett next week in Denver and probably the following week against the Jets if that will help the ankle and whatever else is ailing him heal to the point where he’s a hell of a lot more effective than what we just saw versus the Rams (He was awful). Bennett’s too valuable going forward. 

MG: Lisa, my understanding is teams nominate their player and then it goes to a panel (one that includes the NFL Commish) to decide who wins for the league (It was Anquan Boldin in 2015). Can’t quibble with Rob Gronkowski being the team’s nominee this year. People have no idea how much he does for the community. Heck, we don’t even know the extent of it, but the great Don Rodman of Rodman Car Dealer fame and one of the most incredibly charitable individuals to ever grace this area said that there are few if any athletes who devote more time and effort to charitable works/foundations. I hope he wins. It would mean a lot to Gronk.

MG: You never figured you’d have to worry about the offense, did you Steve? But the season-ending injury to Gronk and now the injury to Danny Amendola does concern me. Both of those guys are incredibly reliable 3rd down targets, and in Gronk’s case, he’s usually the first or second option on 3rd down. Bennett hasn’t been able to pick up the slack because he’s clearly not healthy either. That means the Pats and Josh McDaniels will be going through a trial and error period here to best determine how to improve that number and become more efficient. I suspect more will fall on Julian Edelman, but also look for the continued evolution of the two back set with James White and Dion Lewis.

MG: Ambrose, the Pats have remained incredibly committed to the run because they don’t want to find themselves in the same spot they were a year ago, when the run game was so pathetic that neither Miami in the regular season finale nor Denver in the AFC title game paid it one mind. That means rushers pinning their ears back and smashing into Tom Brady at rates no one is comfortable with. So while I won’t be surprise if Brady throws it 45 times, I don’t think they shelve the ground game, at least in the first half. 

MG: Ok Bunk, I stole a comment of yours for the mailbag. Trying to make you famous…yes, I stand by my tweet in which I stated the Ravens and Broncos are bigger threats than the Chiefs or Raiders. Oakland’s defense would give up 40 to Brady. 45 if the Pats needed it. Or 50. I’m dead serious. As for the Chiefs, Alex Smith is not coming into Foxboro and beating this team, even with some of it’s defensive issues. And Belichick will make damn sure that rookie Hill doesn’t get many cracks at touching the football in the return game. Oh, and now the Chiefs best linebacker, Johnson, is out for the year with an Achilles. Should I continue???

MG: History tells us no, David. Brady would throw a fit and argue that he needs to play to remain sharp or iron out this problem or that problem. There’s also the possibility of a bye week looming, meaning he’d go 3 weeks without actually playing in a game. Seems like a good idea in the sense that you don’t risk a 39-year old to a blindside shot, but neither he nor Belichick would ever go for it.

PP: The running back position might be the toughest to project moving forward because there are so many injuries there and there are so many backs who come from nowhere to earn significant roles. I'll say this though: The backs they have on the roster -- not including Brandon Bolden, who has turned into strictly a special teamer after having a difficult time holding onto the football this year -- don't seem to be slowing down. LeGarrette Blount just turned 30 but is in the middle of his best season. Dion Lewis looks strong after two surgeries. James White has taken his game to a new level in his third season. I could see the same group coming back next season, but given the volatility of the position, you know the Patriots will always be scouring for talent there. 

PP: Tom E. touched on this yesterday, Big Wally. Brandon Pettigrew, who was released by the Lions on Friday, might make sense. Otherwise, there's not a whole lot out there. Zach Sudfeld? He's available. Would be an unlikely reunion, but desperate times . . . I think the Patriots will continue to roll out Martellus Bennett at less than 100 percent. I think Matt Lengel could see more work as a blocking tight end as he becomes more familiar with the system. I think we'll see more Cameron Fleming, and we could see more two-back sets with no tight ends. In my opinion, Bennett could use a rest, but I don't think it's coming any time soon. As far as Sarge's question about the hurry-up, I'm not sure we'll start to see more that. It's possible, but one of the benefits with the hurry-up is to keep a defense from substituting to shift matchups in its favor. With Gronkowski or Bennett on the field in a hurry-up situation would have even further highlighted the matchup issues they present. If either one found himself with a slow linebacker on him, the Patriots could have rushed to the line and continued...to exploit...that matchup. Without Gronkowski and without Bennett at full strength, the advantage of the no-huddle is somewhat sapped.  

PP: It's so late into the season, I'm not sure there's much in the way of opportunity for a breakout game this week, Paul. I guess the obvious choice would be Griff Whalen. If he can give the Patriots a pair of sure hands as a punt-returner, that would be a significant enough add that I might qualify it as a "breakout." Bill Belichick made it clear this morning that the team views him as more than just a returner, though, so he could see some offensive snaps in four-receiver sets and provide the Patriots with a presence in the slot. I'd deem a four-catch, 50-yard performance as a "breakout" as well. To me, that's the range of his ceiling for this week. One other name as a potential "breakout" candidate? Justin Coleman. He could be used defensively after being inactive for the last three weeks due to Eric Rowe's hamstring injury. If he's able to help slow down the combination of Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and Steve Smith, that'd be a breakout in my book. 

PP: The combined record of opponents they've beaten is actually 26-57-1, including the Browns 0-12 mark twice, but now it's out there. 'Preciate you, Dave!

PP:  There's still so much up for grabs in the AFC West that it's hard to determine the likelihood of Patriots playoff matchups and where those games will be. However, without getting into the nitty gritty details, I'll just point out that it's still possible that the Patriots end up on the road in either of these cities in the postseason. On the road, Denver is the tougher matchup. Always has been a brutal place for the Patriots to play, and Denver's defense is still good enough to cause them problems. At home? I'd say, of these two teams, Kansas City would be the one that would provide the Patriots with a slightly tougher test. In my mind, they're a little more balanced and I have more faith in Alex Smith to make plays than I do Trevor Siemien.