Curran: Pats will take that as a complement

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Curran: Pats will take that as a complement

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Let's clear this out of the way first. This is NOT a love letter to the Patriots defense. They've allowed 958 yards of offense to be rolled up on them, 762 through the air and 45 points. On Sunday, the Chargers went 10 for 12 on third down. Lotta work to do before all the new additions are making the expected impact. Long way to go before the secondary is something opposing quarterbacks don't have to wipe drool off their chins while watching game film. But there were signals Sunday that the ever-present question of, "Can this defense help Tom Brady when he has an off day?" may have a positive answer. They did it twice Sunday. The Chargers have a habit of gift-wrapping games for the Patriots. In the 2006 playoffs (Marlon McCree fumble after a pick), the 2007 AFC Championship (four red zone trips, seven points), the 2010 regular season (footballs left lying on the ground). Sunday was somewhat similar with four San Diego turnovers. But at least this time around they were forced errors. And the two biggies - one of which didn't count as a turnover - helped directly on the scoreboard. In the second quarter, the Chargers had first-and-goal at the Patriots 4, threatening to go up 14-10. On first down, Josh Barett knocked Ryan Mathews out of bounds after a gain of three. On second down, Mike Tolbert got stacked up for no gain by Kyle Love. On third down, Philip Rivers' scramble got jammed up by Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. And on fourth down, Mayo came up huge with a stop of the armadillo in shoulder pads, Tolbert. "Huge," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "Spilled the ball outside, looked like we got a good push inside and the runner never really got turned up because he ended up going sideways and we were able to make the play. It was a huge play. It was a first-and-goal on the three or something like that; they were down there on all four plays, so it was huge for us."Asked about the play, Tolbert said, "It was just, things happened unexpectedly. I couldn't get around the corner."Hand the ball to Tom Brady, even with the goal line 99 yards away, and good things often occur. They did this time as well, as New England needed 10 plays before Brady stuck it in to Rob Gronkowski for a 10-yard score making it 17-7. The Patriots got it back for Brady again when Wilfork came up with a pick and long return just before the half that led to a 47-yard field goal as time expired before the break. "I think we stress complementary football and situational football, like the end of half situation that we got," said Brady. "Look, if the defense makes a huge stop like that, we have to do something with it. If they get us the ball, we have to do something with it. Honestly, there were times today that I thought we could have done a better job of that and we need to do a better job of that."The Patriots defense bailed out Brady and the offense again in the fourth. After San Diego trimmed the score to 20-14, New England was at midfield and driving with its no-huddle offense. But Brady made a quick decision at the line on third-and-4 thinking he could steal a first down with a quick throw to Wes Welker. Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips read the play and tipped the pass. Incomplete. With punter Zoltan Mesko nursing an injured left knee, the Patriots decided to go for it on fourth down. And when they didn't get it, Brady's impulse decision to go quickly on third down loomed larger as San Diego took over. But three plays later, Wilfork tripped Tolbert, Mayo stripped the ball and Rob Ninkovich recovered to get the ball back. Four plays later, Brady found Gronkowski from 17 yards out and - after the two-point conversion - it was 28-14. "It was a great challenge for us and we stepped out to the plate," Mayo said of the forced fumble. "Once again I just think it shows the confidence Coach Belichick has in us. We said that a couple of years ago with the Colts game (the infamous fourth-and-2). Same exact situation and we stepped up to the plate today."They didn't step to the plate against the Colts, though. And last season against the Chargers in a very similar situation - a failed fourth-and-1 from their own 49 with two minutes left while holding a three-point lead - they kinda failed too. San Diego picked up 17 yards and had a game-tying field goal attempt hit the upright with 27 seconds left. This time, the defense did make a play. "I tried to do too much," Tolbert lamented. "Get four yards, keep the ball in my hands. That's allI can do."But when you lose the way we did, on my hand - you got a good drive going, you can take the lead and I put the ball on the ground. You can't do that. I owe my coaches and my teammates better. I'll be better."The Patriots' defense has a long way to go. But one thing they can say they did "better" on Sunday was save the offense's bacon when it slipped into the fire. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Kraft OK with the idea of a Raiders move to Las Vegas

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Kraft OK with the idea of a Raiders move to Las Vegas

Robert Kraft doesn't seem all that concerned about the potential pitfalls of having an NFL franchise in Las Vegas.

The temptations found in that city, he says, can now be found around any dark corner of the Internet. That's part of the reason why he would be supportive of the Raiders if owner Mark Davis chose to move the team to Vegas from Oakland. 

He explained his reasoning to NFL Media's Judy Battista at the league's annual spring meetings on Tuesday. 

"I think we can put the discipline and controls in [for] whatever anyone might be worried about," Kraft said. "With the Internet and the age of the Internet and what's going on in today's world, it's so much different than when I came in 20 odd years ago. If you'd like to move there and they're supportive and Oakland doesn't do what they should do, I'm behind them."

The comments echoed what Kraft told USA Today earlier this week.

"I came into the league in ’94," Kraft said. "Back then, any exploration of that market was dismissed out of hand. I’m looking where we are today and thinking of the last 10 to 15 years, and the emergence of new media, with Google and Facebook and the like. We’re just living in a different world, technology-wise. The [sports gambling] risks in Vegas are no longer exclusive to Vegas. Whatever the risks, they are no greater [in Las Vegas] than playing a game in New Jersey."

Davis' hope to move the Raiders stems from an inability to get a deal done for a new stadium in Oakland.

"I have given my commitment to Las Vegas," Davis said this week, "and if they can get done what they're talking about doing, then we will go to Las Vegas."

Curran: Roger The Dodger continues his evasive maneuvers

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Curran: Roger The Dodger continues his evasive maneuvers

Roger Goodell is doing that damn thing again down in North Carolina this afternoon.

The NFL commissioner -- who once could carry off a press conference with a breezy, in-command air -- came off like a carrot-topped armadillo talking to reporters at the end of the May owner’s meetings in Charlotte.

Defensive, clipped and disingenuous, a monotone-speaking Goodell was asked about Deflategate and Monday’s Congressional report that alleged the NFL had lobbyists trying to pressure concussion researchers into using NFL-approved doctors.

Asked about the appeal for a rehearing of Tom Brady’s case on Monday, Goodell said, “I respect the NFLPA’s ability to appeal if they choose to do that . . . I’m not really focused on that at all.”

Goodell did not answer the second part of the question, whether or not he’d keep Tom Brady off the field if the court case was unresolved.

The answer, one can only presume would be, “Abso-friggin-lutely.”

As for the Congressional report, Goodell had the gall to answer that he “didn’t see the report.”

He then went on to disagree with what was in the report -- meaning his initial response was less than candid.

A few more minutes of short answers and the show was over with nobody much the wiser than when he began. 

Kraft on Deflategate: 'The whole thing has been mishandled'

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Kraft on Deflategate: 'The whole thing has been mishandled'

At the NFL's brief annual spring meeting, which typically lasts about 24 hours, Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft provided some equally brief remarks about his quarterback. 

Asked for some comment on Tom Brady's legal situation, Kraft told NFL Media's Judy Battista a version of what he has been saying for the last few months as it relates to Deflategate.

"We've been behind him," Kraft said, "and the whole thing has been mishandled, in my opinion. It's unfortunate, and we hope he prevails."

The NFLPA and Brady's legal team filed a petition to the Second Circuit on Monday requesting that he be granted a rehearing. The Second Circuit reinstated Brady's four-game suspension upon appeal earlier this offseason.