Flag confusion still on steady increase

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Flag confusion still on steady increase

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO -- The NFL's safety crackdownhas changed its on-field product so radically in that fans, media, players and coaches are now conditioned to search for flags after every hit of consequence.
Was there helmet-to-helmet contact -- intentional or not, initiated by the offensive player or not? Did a defender "lead" with his helmet -- an act which will be a fact of life until players are allowed to take ball carriers down with flying scissor kicks. Was the offensive player defenseless? Did the defensive player launch? Was the head contacted in any way?There were a number of head-scratching penalties in Sunday's Patriots-Chargers game. The one that stood out most was the 15-yard roughing the passer penalty called on defensive end Andre Carter. Carter executed what appeared to be a textbook takedown of Philip Rivers in the second quarter, putting his helmet in Rivers' sternum as he released the ball and taking Rivers to the ground forcing an incompletion. Flag. Carter was brought up on charges of hitting Rivers with the "hairline" of his helmet. He didn't hit with the "crown" which would have happened if he ducked his head and turned himself into a missle. He basically hit Rivers with his eyebrows. "There's nothing they can really explain," Carter said. "It was just a good hit. I thought it was like right in the center of his chest. In the game of football, there's only so much you can control. I understand the helmet-to-helmet. I understand they're trying to protect the players in general because concussions have been a big issue, quarterbacks are being protected. But in the name of football . . . you just gotta play ball. You can't be tentative and think, 'OK, maybe I can hit him this way . . .' I'll be a man about it if I hit him in the head. That's my bad, but . . ."It comes back to the simple question of, "How do you teach it?" If what Carter did is illegal, where does that leave you as a defender or a defensive coach. On another level of officiating gripe-airing, there comes defensive holding or illegal contact. We saw two of those calls Sunday against Leigh Bodden. The first came on a third-and-4 late in the first half when Rivers threw incomplete on the other side of the field and Bodden got flagged for defensive holding when it appeared he merely had contact with Vincent Jackson as opposed to a full-out jam. Walt Anderson's crew got him again in the third quarter on another incompletion. It was nearly an identical play. That, of course, makes one wonder why Bodden did the same thing a second time. But what he was initially flagged for didn't seem like a foul in the first place. "I don't really have a comment on those plays," said Bodden. "I just thought I played good defense. I mean, I'm a physical guy. They want to get physical with me as well. I gotta protect myself. They're gonna call it the way, they're gonna call it."With both balls falling incomplete, it must have been a sickening feeling for Bodden. That he sullenly sat and stared straight ahead during most of the conversation was an indication it was."You look and see the flag and it's on you when it was incomplete on the other side, you just feel kinda . . . it's upsetting to see a flag like that thrown," he admitted. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Brady on whether he called Trump: 'I've called him in the past'

Brady on whether he called Trump: 'I've called him in the past'

When President Donald Trump announced last week that he'd received a phone call from Tom Brady, Brady's response when questioned by reporters at a mass press conference was "Let's talk about football."

This morning, during his weekly interview on WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show, Brady shed a little more light onto the subject.

Though not a whole lot more.

"I have called him, yes, in the past," Brady said when given the chance the confirm or deny the call.  "Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call,. But, again, that’s been someone I’ve known. I always try to keep it in context because for 16 years you know someone before maybe he was in the position that he was in. He’s been very supportive of me for a long time. It’s just a friendship. I have a lot of friends. I call a lot of people.”

He also explained why he chooses to dance around this topict . . . and a lot of others.

“I’m a pretty positive person, so I don’t want to create any distractions for our team and so forth,” he said. “I just try and stay positive and actually this world could use a little more positivity. Everything’s not great in this world and everything is not great in life. But if you try and take a positive approach … I try to do that. I try to do that in practice. I try to do that with my team. I try to do that with my family. That’s how I go about life. I don’t like negativity. I don’t like a lot of confrontation. Those things don’t make me feel very good. I wouldn’t be a good talk show host."

Curran: Relentless Patriots proving that living well is the best revenge

Curran: Relentless Patriots proving that living well is the best revenge

FOXBORO -- There's a clock on the wall in the weight room at Tom Brady's house.

When the Patriots lost to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game last January, Brady's father told me his son set the clock to count away the days, hours, minutes and seconds until Super Bowl 51. That clock has just 13 days left on it now. It won't require a sad resetting this week.

Brady won't be around to see it hit zeroes. He'll be in Texas playing in his record seventh Super Bowl. As planned.

PATRIOTS 33, STEELERS 9

HERE THEY COME, ROGER

The Patriots are the last team the NFL apparatus wanted to see in Houston and now the boogeyman's at their door, proving that living well is the best revenge.

Nowhere to run to, Roger. Nowhere to hide. The rules apply to everyone and there's a rule that we all learn sooner or later is very true. What goes around comes around. We all have it coming, kid.

We imagine Brady is clearing his throat for the delicious last laugh, but he's said it a hundred different ways in the past four months: Vengeance and vindication aren't driving him. That's wasted energy. Poison.

He's focused on what's immediately in front of him while reminding himself time's fleeting. The best way for him to help his team during his four-game exile in September was to work out relentlessly, which he did so that when he returned he was as good as he's ever been.

And in his absence, his team understood the best way to honor him while he was gone was to take care of business. Which they did beginning September 12 in Arizona when, instead of playing rudderless football without their on-field leader, they began a 3-1 run with a combination of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback.

"Yeah, well we never dwell on that," Bill Belichick began when I asked him Sunday night about the obstacles the team's had in front of it beginning in September and through the rest of the season. "We take the hand that we're dealt and play the cards . . .

"You referenced the beginning of the year, but it's been true in every game, really," Belichick added. "It's a credit to those guys. It's a credit to the depth on our team and the way that those guys prepare. They work hard. They don't know if they're going to get an opportunity or not and then when it finally comes and they do get it, they're usually ready to take advantage of it and help the team win. That's why we're where we are. We have a special team, a special group of guys that really work hard. They deserve the success that they've had. I mean, it's hard to win 16 games in this league. You've got to give a lot of credit to the players and the job they've done all year week after week. It's tough, but they come in and grind it out. They sit in these seats for hours, and hours, and hours, and prepare, and prepare, and go out there and lay it on the line every week. Again, it's a good group of men."

Beginning in the offseason with the trade of Chandler Jones to the start of the season with the Brady suspension to the stunning trade of Jamie Collins, the loss of Rob Gronkowski and a defense that was scoffed at on a weekly basis, the Patriots have weathered all of it to get to this point.

"One More" is the marketing slogan this team's had affixed to it.

"Bend Don't Break" is much more apt. Because they never did.

It's a phrase that's been framed as a slight by when used to describe the New England defense this season but safety Duron Harmon had a different interpretation.

"I don't know. I kind of like it," he said. "It just shows the type of toughness and mental toughness we have. Even when the situation might seem terrible or might seem bad, we have enough mental toughness to come out and make a positive out of it."

Harmon and Patrick Chung hauled down Steelers tight end Jesse James inches short of a touchdown just before halftime. The Patriots defense held after that, forcing Pittsburgh to settle for a deflating field goal. Instead of a 17-13 lead at halftime, the Pats led 17-9.

"Right then and there, a lot of people are thinking that's seven points, but that's a four-point turnover basically," said Harmon. "Just hold them to three and that really helped us with the momentum going into [halftime]."

When one considers all the collateral damage of Deflategate and the fortunes of the antagonists and protagonists since, it's . . . well, it's telling.

The Colts canned tattletale GM Ryan Grigson on Saturday and are in disarray. The Ravens missed the playoffs again. Owners who fingerwagged and wanted to see the Patriots brought to heel like John Mara, Bob McNair, Jerry Jones and Jerry Richardson have teams that were either bounced from the playoffs or didn't even make them.

And the Patriots are headed to Houston anyway. Despite all their best efforts.

"I think it's a great story, but I think right now our focus is got to go out to Houston in a couple of weeks and try to win it," said Devin McCourty when asked about the revenge angle. "I think that makes the story even better."