Brady focused on balance, not record-breaking

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Brady focused on balance, not record-breaking

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff ReporterFollow @mary_paoletti

OAKLAND -- You have to wonder if Tom Brady's getting used to reporters informing him in the postgame of the milestones he reaches. Last week, after the loss to Buffalo, Brady was asked to comment on his four interceptions -- a tally he's avoided since 2009.

Sunday in Oakland was probably more enjoyable.

Brady connected with Deion Branch for six yards and six points in the fourth quarter of New England's 31-19 win over the raiders. That touchdown pass was the 274th of his career and one more than his boyhood idol, Joe Montana.

It was also news to the QB.

"I didn't know that happened," he said. Then: "I'll never be in Joe's category. We throw the ball a lot more than they threw it back then. So, it's much more of a passing league than it's ever been. But, it was a good game for us. Every one of those touchdowns was important today, so it was fun. It was fun to be back out there after last week."

Brady went 16-for-30 for 226 yards, two touchdowns, and zero picks in the bounce-back. His mindset heading into Week 4 was simple.

"Just play my game. I don't think that you ever approach it with, 'I can't go out there and throw interceptions!' Look, if you're going to throw passes, you're going to throw interceptions. That's part of playing quarterback. You try to make reads, try to make good accurate throws, good fundamentals, good technique and all week in practice you work on those things and being balanced and accurate. Playing smart, playing fast.

"If an interception happens, it happens," he said. "You've got to bounce back from them that game, the following week. It's just part of the game. But we did a much better job taking care of the football today, which I think was a big part of why we won."

New England's bid against the Bills was a mess beyond the picks -- miscommunication, missed tackles, penalties, turnovers and forced offense. The ratio of first downs was 21-to-6, air to ground. In the aftermath, coach Bill Belichick challenged his team to play better, to stop giving games away.

Challenge accepted; the Patriots played a clean game on Sunday.

It helped that Oakland was careless. The Raiders committed two turnovers and got slapped with nine penalties for 85 yards, including two early fouls on former Patriot Richard Seymour.

Even more importantly, going to the ground game settled the team. Brady set an NFL record with 1,258 passing yards through the season's first three weeks, but the loss to the Bills was telling: The game plan needed to change.

New England had 11 passing first downs in Oakland and 11 rushing first downs. Explosive rookie Stevan Ridley -- who had six solid carries for 42 yards in Buffalo -- ran on the Raiders 10 times for 97 yards. Number-one back BenJarvus Green-Ellis added 75 yards on 16 carries.

It was as though Brady reached in the back of the armory and dusted off a forgotten but accurate weapon. Suddenly, he had options. Suddenly, he and the offense were even more dangerous.

"It was huge, I think, being able to be more balanced than we've been. We had some big runs. When you see us run the ball in from the 33-yard line . . . that was huge. BenJarvus Green Ellis ran great. Stevan Ridley ran great. That's important.

"It sets up a lot of things. If they can't stop the run then you're just going to keep running it and you're going to control the entire tempo of the game. If they can stop the run, then it's the passing game and that's not where you want to play offense."

Even though that's where all the records are waiting to be broken? Yeah, even though. Because the only record Brady's concerned with is housed within the Patriots' winloss column.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti.

Report: Patriots fill open roster spot with former Browns DL Hughes

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Report: Patriots fill open roster spot with former Browns DL Hughes

The Patriots opened a roster spot by waiving defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, but they won't be adding a quarterback to take his place. 

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the team has swapped one defensive tackle for another by adding former Browns big man John Hughes, a 6-foot-2, 320-pounder who played under former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Mike Lombardi when Lombardi was Cleveland's general manager in 2013. 

Hughes was released last week after spending just over four years with the team that drafted him in the third round back in 2012. He signed a four-year extension with the Browns last season that was worth $12.8 million. 

With the Patriots, Hughes figures to work in as part of the rotation on the interior of the defensive line along with Malcom Brown, Alan Branch and rookie third-round pick Vincent Valentine. Unlike Johnson, who was more of a penetrating pass-rusher, Hughes should factor in as more of a space-eating type. He has 5.5 career sacks in 53 games. 

Johnson is the latest in a long line of Browns who played under Lombardi to end up in New England. The two most notable Patriots who spent 2013 in Cleveland are defensive end Jabaal Sheard and running back Dion Lewis. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who arrived in New England in a trade this summer, was drafted by Lombardi's front office as the No. 6 overall pick in 2013.

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

There’s no way to spin rookie Jacoby Brissett starting a game rather than three-year NFL veteran Jimmy Garoppolo or future Hall of Famer Tom Brady as preferable.
 
But can the disadvantages be mitigated? Can the fact there is no “book” on a player be helpful?
 
“I think there’s always an element of the unknown when you’re dealing with a player or something you haven’t seen or scouted as much,” said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on a conference call Monday afternoon. “I don’t know if there’s an advantage there, it’s just that you don’t have as much information on a player or on some scheme that they may use, which then forces you to figure some things out as the game goes along and do some quick self-scouting as you move through the first cquarter, the first half, whatever it is, just to make sure that if it is something new you haven’t seen before, if it is a player that you haven’t played against and don’t have a lot of volume of tape on, that you have an opportunity to evaluate quickly what is going on.

"What’s happening in the game? How much of an impact is that player having? Are they trying to  do something that’s disrupting what you’re trying to do with their scheme? I think that happens a lot of weeks during the course of the year based on health and availability, new players, guys being called up, someone that just got signed and you don’t really have a lot of experience watching them play in their system. I would say that’s a common occurrence for us.”
 
With a fullback or UDFA guard pressed into duty, there’s not a helluva lot that will be altered in terms of scheme. With players like Garoppolo and Brissett, though, the Patriots' long-established offense can take on an entirely different look if different areas are emphasized.
 
For instance, jet sweep is a play the team won’t use much with Tom Brady except as a “keep ‘em honest” on the edges kind of play. With Garoppolo, quickness when he gets outside the pocket has to be respected so if he fakes that jet sweep and rolls to the outside, he’s a run-pass threat with speed and downfield accuracy. With Brissett, he’s a threat with elusiveness, size and power as a runner. Additionally, if the Patriots wanted to try the old Elway Throwback to the opposite sideline, Brissett may have more arm power than either Brady or Garoppolo.
 
McDaniels said the Patriots aren’t looking necessarily for ways to “surprise” opponents as much as they are looking for ways to accentuate players’ strengths.  
 
“We’ve got to take the guys that we get to play with, based on health and other factors, and then we consider the defense that we’re getting ready to play against, and the great players and the scheme that they use, and then we try to formulate the right plan to allow our players to go out there and play fast, play well, and do the things that suit their talents the best,” McDaniels explained. “I don’t think that our mindset has changed.

"Some of the variables have changed from one week to the next, which is always the case,  and of course, when you get a group of guys a plan and then you work so hard to get ready for Sunday or Thursday night and go out there and watch them play and execute and take care of the ball and do the things you need to do to try to win, and then they enjoy it so much, that’s really the thing that you take the most satisfaction from as a coach.”