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.

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

It came against a rookie quarterback. It came against an offense that averages a league-worst 15.0 points per game. It came against an offense that has fewer yards than any other. 

Still there are signs that Bill Belichick is pretty pleased with where his defense is after beating the Rams 26-10 on Sunday. One came on Wednesday when Patriots.com published its "Belichick Breakdown" for a closer look at a handful of plays from the team's most recent win.

Belichick called his team's third-and-eight stop with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter "probably one of the best good, team defensive plays we've had all year."

The Patriots show a five-man front, but linebacker Kyle Van Noy feigns a rush only to drop into coverage.

"Van Noy in here does a good job on the rush," Belichick said, "and also on the coverage on the back. Just good team defense. Good pass coverage down the field. The quarterback really doesn't end up having a lot of time, but there's no one to throw it to right away."

Belichick noted that all four rushers -- Chris Long, Trey Flowers, Dont'a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich -- all are able to pressure Jared Goff on the play. Combined with strong coverage in the secondary, the Rams nver really had a chance.

Belichick said it looked like a "tidal wave" of defenders bearing down on the quarterback.

"Long wins here . . . on the inside spin," Belichick said, "and Trey Flowers and Hightower both win on the little twist game inside. Then that's Rob with good speed-to-power on [Rams tackle Rob] Havenstein on the outside. Four good rushers. Plus a fifth guy...Van Noy getting that two-for-one on the guard and the back.

"Good team defense. That's great to see. A lot of hard work an execution on the practice field to make that happen."

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

FOXBORO -- They sounded like a couple of old pals. 

First it was Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who spoke of Ravens coach John Harbaugh during a conference call like one of his favorite fellow lacrosse dads.

"John and I saw a game a couple of years ago, a [Johns] Hopkins vs. Maryland game," Belichick said, adding that Harbaugh's love for the sport is just starting to blossom. "Yeah, I think John is seeing the light."

Belichick added that the two might be closer if they weren't competing so often, both in-season on the field and for free agents in the offseason. 

"As you know, we get into a situation like we’re in now where they have a good team, we have a good team, we’re playing a big game on Monday night," Belichick said. "Both teams are going to do everything they can to compete as hard as they can on Monday night. That’s what it is and that’s what we all signed up for. We all know that’s a part of it.

"When we’re not going head-to-head, which isn’t very often because we compete against each other in the offseason, we compete against each other to build our team and so forth, it just puts things in a little bit of a different situation."

During his press conference with reporters on Wednesday, Harbaugh echoed Belichick's sentiments. Belichick was famously one of Harbaugh's biggest supporters earlier in his career, calling the Ravens on Harbaugh's behalf when the franchise was looking for a new head coach. And if only they weren't so frequently competing against each other, they might be even closer, Harbaugh indicated. 

"I feel like we have a good relationship," Harbaugh said. "Like you said, we're probably not socializing that much, but I don't know how many coaches really do. We're all so busy. I'll see him or any coach at the Combine or at the owner's meetings, and we have a chance to talk. It's always good. I have a ton of respect for him. I really like him as a person. I think he's a great coach -- greatest coach of this generation. He's earned that title.

"And I study him. I've always studied him. I've always studied coach Belichick from when I first met him when I was an assistant at the University of Cincinnati, and he came in and just was great to be around.  [We have a] similar background with the special teams and that sort of thing. All of that kind of goes out the window when you compete against one another. It's like anything else, you want to win. I'm sure he feels the same way."

The recent history between their respective franchises is rife with emotion: There was Baltimore's irate reaction to Belichick's unusual formations in the AFC Divisional Round two seasons ago; there was the Ravens' supposed involvement in sparking Deflategate; and there was Harbaugh's subsequent denial. But Belichick and Harbaugh made it sound on Wednesday as if all's good between them.