Brady continues to thrive in foul weather


Brady continues to thrive in foul weather

By Mary Paoletti

They are the Greatest Show on Snow.

Sunday's 36-7 mauling of the Chicago Bears improved the Patriots' record to 10-0 in the snow during the Bill Belichick Era. And make no mistake, they did it behind offensive plow Tom Brady. The New England quarterback was stellar in the win. As expected.

Brady's personal mark is now 19-2 in games played in snow, ice or below-freezing temperatures. He's the best cold-weather quarterback in NFL history since 1960.

Remember last season's whiteout? Patriots fans, covered up on all but their eyeballs, hung tough during a 59-0 home-field mauling of the Titans. Despite a suffocating 45-0 halftime lead, they never retreated for warmer quarters because they wanted to be there for Brady. They wanted to witness him set an NFL record with five touchdown passes in a single quarter and six total.

"This is football,'' he said after 2009's winter weather win. "This is how it should be.''

More records were approached, reached and broken by Brady's arm this Sunday:

The Patriots scored the second-most first-half points in franchise history against the Bears in Chicago.

Brady now has six straight games with at least two TDs and zero picks, tying Don Meredith's record.

He has thrown 268 straight passes without an interception, 40 short of record-holder Bernie Kosar.

Deion Branch caught eight balls from Brady for a new career-high 151 yards.

Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski for the tight end's seventh touchdown reception of his first season. Gronkowski's now tied for third in NFL history among rookie TEs.

The scoring was impressive early. New England's first two touchdowns came from 12- and 11-play drives under the blustery, unclear skies. And Brady just kept going.

Against one of the NFL's toughest defenses -- against Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers -- Brady completed 13 of 21 passes for 195 yards in the first half. The Patriots posted 273 total yards and 12 first downs.

The second of his two touchdowns caught the Bears completely off guard. With four plays the Pats moved the ball from their own 20 to the 41 in 1 minute and 33 seconds. Only five seconds remained before the half and New England was up 27-0. One 59-yard bomb to Deion Branch later, the score was 33-0.

"I think at one point the coach was telling us to take a knee,'' Branch said with a laugh. "I'm looking at Tom like, 'Take a knee.' And he looked at me like, 'No.' He called a route and I was like, 'All right, good. That's a good route.' So, I'm thankful it happened. We took a shot at it -- it worked."

Nothing was working for Jay Cutler. His first half (against one of the league's worst-ranked defenses) amounted to just four completions on eight throws for 21 yards. The quarterback's Bears managed just 33 total yards and moved the chains twice in the game's first 30 minutes. Insult-to-injury? He got sacked twice.

And don't forget the context. This was the new-and-improved Jay Cutler. Chicago's QB entered Week 14 riding a five-game win streak where he was fantastic in that stretch. Yet Cutler couldn't get anything started on Sunday. He looked inept.

It was not easy to score at Soldier Field this weekend.

Not unless you were Tom Brady.

"I don't think it really bothers him what the weather is,'' Belichick said in the postgame. "Whatever it is, he does the best he can and tries to make it work."

The QB's final tallies were 27 of 40 passes completed for 369 yards. He had recorded his fourth 300-yard game of the year and third in a row with 15 minutes left to play. Same old, same old excellence.

The story would almost be more interesting if he hadn't played well. Can you imagine Brady throwing into triple coverage all night the way Cutler did? That'd be new and surprising. There's just no way it was going to happen Sunday, though. While it's true that Brady thrived again in bad weather, he was playing like the NFL's MVP coming into this game.

"It was a fun day," he smiled. "We'll remember that one."

The Bears will have a hard time forgetting it too, unfortunately. Images of Brady seem burned into their brains. "Check the stats, man,'' said matter-of-fact Chicago cornerback Tim Jennings. "He's very good, man. He threw it to every receiver he had."

They were contented receivers on Sunday night. Wes Welker took the podium postgame, his stat column brimming with 8 catches and 115 yards, and he joined Branch in the Tom Terrific love-in.

Good move by Welker. The last time two wideouts had 100-plus yards in a game was that Oct. 18, 2009 whitewashing of Tennessee.

"He's definitely playing well. I mean, I think it's pretty evident,'' the receiver said. "He's confident in the guys around him and confident in himself to spread it around and everybody doing the right thing and making plays and staying on top of everything. But he's definitely playing really well for us, which we need him to."

The coming weeks are especially important. With the win over Chicago, New England clinched a berth to the 2010 playoffs. And despite owning the NFL's best record, the Patriots still have work to do. Who better to believe than Brady?

"There's a long way to go,'' he said. "I don't think anything's really been accomplished yet. We're working hard to make improvements. I don't think we've got every problem solved. There's plenty of defenses that have kicked us around a bit this year, so we don't sit here and think we've got it all figured out.''

There's at least one thing for sure. Despite all other variables, it's a fact that Brady will be relied upon for stability as the Patriots continue their run. And he'll probably deliver, no matter who the opponent, where the arena, or what the weather.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Friday Bag: What might the Patriots get for Garoppolo in a trade?


Friday Bag: What might the Patriots get for Garoppolo in a trade?

FOXBORO -- Every Friday we take your Patriots questions on Twitter and answer them as a joint mailbag -- or a Friday Bag, as we call it. Typically Tom E. Curran and Mike Giardi join me in this endeavor, but I'm flying solo as those two get ready to head down to Pittsburgh. 

If you ever have any questions for us, feel free to tweet at us using the hashtag #FridayBag, and we'll get to as many as we can. 

On to the Bag...

PP: Roberts has been kind of a revelation. It began with his performance against the Browns, when led the team in tackles, and it continued against the Bengals as he was a crucial piece in the Patriots' second-quarter goal-line stand. Not bad for a sixth-round pick who Bill Belichick hadn't even heard of until he popped in the tape of last year's Houston-Navy game and noticed the undersized linebacker making impact plays. I think his future usage will be based on 1) the health of Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower, and 2) the types of offenses the Patriots face moving forward. On Thursday, I wrote about just how infrequently the pair has been on the field. If that trend continues, the No. 3 linebacker in New England will essentially see starter snaps even though the team has moved to what is primarily a two-linebacker defense. Against run-heavy teams (like Cleveland, or probably Pittsburgh without Ben Roethlisberger), Roberts could see more time, whereas pass-happy clubs may get a heavier does of Barkevious Mingo. Roberts has been on the Patriots injury report this week with an ankle issue.

PP: It's an interesting question, John. For a couple of reasons, actually. The first -- and maybe you had this in mind -- is the fact that Stephen Gostkowski has become less-than-automatic this year. If the extra point isn't a given, why not go for two? At least I could see that being your logic. The second is that the Steelers are known to be a team that is as willing to run two-point plays as often as any other team. Bill Belichick said this week, that his team will prepare more for that play than they would normally, which in and of itself, other than the obvious scoring advantage, is an argument to run more two-point plays. If it makes your opponent's work week a little more difficult, go for it. The reason I think the Patriots have not tried more two-point plays under Belichick is twofold: They trust their kicker, and I don't think they'll shy away from using Gostkowski moving forward, despite his recent struggled; I also think they might like to hold onto the two-point plays they do have drawn up to save them for critical situations. 

PP: I do think there will be some kind of trade made, Miguel. The Patriots have obviously been willing to wheel and deal during what is otherwise a pretty monotonous trading deadline when compared to the other three major sports in this country. The position? That's tough. It will depend on the team's overall depth at that point in time, which will be based in large part on whatever injuries they incur between now and then. If I had to guess right now? I'd say tight end. Specifically a blocking tight end. They obviously love to stock up on that position, and it's one that isn't all that deep on the current roster. After Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett, there's AJ Derby and...that's it. The team recently placed tight end Greg Scruggs on injured reserve -- after choosing to keep him on the active roster over guard Jonathan Cooper, mind you -- and haven't filled his roster spot with another player at that position. 

PP: Thanks for the question, Paul. If you listen to what Devin McCourty has said on Quick Slants over the course of the last few weeks, he'll tell you that third down comes down to matchups. The Patriots are primarily a man-to-man team, and I think their defensive backs could do a better job of plastering to their receivers in those situations. But coverage and pass-rush are always linked, and the Patriots pass-rush has to come into focus when discussing third down because -- particularly in third-and-long situations -- that's when they should be creating havoc in opposing backfields. The Patriots have pressured less of late as they've gone up against athletic quarterbacks who are dangerous outside the pocket, but sooner or later they're going to need more from their front. Jabaal Sheard (24 total quarterback pressures this season) and Chris Long (20) have been consistent, but as a team the Patriots are tied for 19th in the league with 11.0 sacks.

PP: When considering a Patriots trade involving Jimmy Garoppolo, I think a good place to start might be the Sam Bradford deal executed between the Eagles and Vikings. Minnesota sent a 2017 first-rounder and a 2018 conditional fourth-rounder in order to pick up the former No. 1 overall pick. Garoppolo doesn't have near the game experience Bradford had at the time he was traded -- he had thrown for 14,790 yards, 78 touchdowns and 52 interceptions in 63 career starts -- but even in just six quarters of play, it was relatively apparent that Garoppolo could successfully run a complicated scheme. I would not be surprised if another team was willing to cough up a first and a third or better in order to acquire Garoppolo as their next franchise guy. Teams are that hungry. If it works out, and if a team finds someone it can trust for the next 10 years, that's a small price to pay. If the Patriots decide to deal Garoppolo, when they do so -- will it be with a year left on his deal, will it be with Garoppolo on the franchise tag, will it be mid-season? -- will impact the price. As far as Belichick's eventual retirement impacting the quarterback decision . . . I don't think it will. I think even after Belichick is gone, he'll want the franchise to be in good shape because he knows that will be a reflection on his work and therefore a part, however small, of his legacy. I don't see him selling out -- ie trading Garoppolo to get value now -- if he doesn't think that's the best decision for the team. 

PP: Given the offensive output the Patriots have posted over the course of the last two weeks, and given the players around him, I'd say James White has been more than enough. If the Patriots needed more from that position, having a healthy Lewis would be their best option. He can simply do things that neither White nor most other backs in the league can when he's at his best. But right now? With Gronkowski, Bennett, Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan around to see the bulk of the targets, Lewis would be more of a luxury than a necessity. For that reason, not only is White enough, but I'd imagine that the Patriots would be incredibly cautious about bringing Lewis back. He's been in and around the locker room of late, but the six-week window for Lewis to begin practicing only just opened, and I would not be surprised if the team wanted to use most of it to buy Lewis as much time as possible. Once he begins practicing, the Patriots will have three weeks to decide if they want to activate him, meaning it could be as late as Week 15 when he makes his return. If healthy, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better end-of-season addition. 

PP: I had a chance to speak with Jones at length earlier this week and he's a player who clearly understands that he needs to show the coaching staff more in order to re-gain a role. He said he didn't know if his ejection in Cleveland had anything to do with the decision to make him a healthy scratch, and so I don't know if it did, either. It couldn't have helped his chances at more playing time, though. Jones admitted he needed to be the bigger person in that scenario, even though Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins lunged at his legs. For Jones to come from Alabama, get to this level, and not contribute off the bat has been a bit of a surprise for Jones, I think. While he's frustrated he hasn't been able to do more, he understands he's not where he needs to be. From a locker-room standpoint, his teammates like him, and he's saying all the right things. I'm not sure that's enough to make him active for this week -- Eric Rowe played well in his debut, and Edelman and DJ Foster showed up as returners -- but it's a sign he's approaching his situation with a positive attitude and trying to do the right things. 

PP: Hey, David. Just based on recent history, and based on which team I think has the better defense right now, I'd have to say Denver. Mile High has been this team's own personal house of horrors for a long time. Players will tell you Buffalo is a little underrated in terms of how difficult it can be to play there, but I don't see the Patriots getting swept in the regular season by Rex Ryan's club.

PP: I think what we're seeing from Edelman is simply what should be expected from a player coming back off of multiple foot surgeries. He may not be quite as sharp getting in and out of breaks, but keep in mind he was doing that at an elite level before he went down last season. Even if he's negatively impacted by the procedures he's undergone, he's still been able to get open and make plays with the ball in his hands. He was highly-effective as a punt returner against the Bengals, returning a free kick 16 yards, and taking back three punts for an average of 16.3 yards. His receiving statistics over the last couple of weeks have looked a off (nine catches on 16 targets for 65 yards), but Brady has misfired to Edelman on a couple of notable occasions -- once over the middle last week, and once deep down the middle of the field in Cleveland -- when he was open. Connections on either of those plays could've made for bigger numbers and resulted in fewer concerned Patriots fans. Edelman's not exactly himself -- he was added to the injury report on Oct. 6 and has been limited in practices ever since -- but he's still a viable option in the passing game and an effective blocker. He's played in 117 of 144 snaps (81 percent) since landing on the injury report. 


Blount, Edelman, Gronkowski each fined $9,115 for actions in Bengals game


Blount, Edelman, Gronkowski each fined $9,115 for actions in Bengals game

Patriots LeGarrette Blount, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski were each fined $9,115 by the NFL for their actions in the game against the Cincinnati Bengals, won by New England 35-17 on Sunday in Foxboro.

The fines were first reported by ESPN’s Mike Reiss. 

Earlier this week, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict was fined $75,000 by the NFL for stomping on Blount after Blount’s touchdown late in the game. Gronkowski was given a 15-yard taunting penalty for his altercation with Burfict earlier in the game. 

Blount's fine was for unnecessary roughness and Edelman's was a result of a facemask penalty. 

Burfict was not fined for what appeared to be an intentional dive at the legs of Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett earlier in the game. 

Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was earlier fined $9,115 by the league for his unnecessary roughness against the Patriots.