Meriweather mystified by speculation he'll be cut

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Meriweather mystified by speculation he'll be cut

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran

FOXBORO The 2011 preseason AKA the Brandon Meriweather Cut Watch concluded Thursday night. And it ended with the former first-round safety running around the field in the fourth quarter of the final fake game. This, like so many other minor personnel moves during training camp, was immediately read as a bad sign for the Big Bang Clock.

Meriweathers job security and Hurricane Irene are running neck-and-neck as the No. 1 news stories for August (we hyperbolize). A safety comes in for a workout? Meriweathers meat. Two safeties? Definitely meat. A safety gets signed? Meriweathers screwed. James Sanders is on the field instead of Meriweather? Bye-bye Brandon. So what exactly did Meriweather make of being on the field during garbage time? Is it a sign that hes headed down the depth chart? I wouldnt say that, Meriweather told me after the Patriots' 18-17 loss to the Giants. Coaches want to see me play and the other guys play too. I wouldnt say its because Im going downhill or anything like that, its when Coach Belichick wanted to play me.Its more than plausible. The Patriots are trying to enmesh players who havent been on the field much Josh Barrett and Sergio Brown. Those two spent most of the first half on the field next to Patrick Chung showing what theyre capable of. Bill Belichick and his staff know what Meriweather can do. But at the same time, that could be a bad thing. Even though Meriweathers gone to the last two Pro Bowls, his shortcomings have been highlighted. Missed tackles and coverages. The fineable hit on Todd Heap. Being removed from the starting lineup for a few games last season. And an offseason incident in Florida in which shots were fired and Meriweathers name was bandied about before he was completely cleared of being anything other than a peacemaker. His body of work here is not viewed in a positive light. I told him people in the media believe his roster spot is in trouble. Why everybody feel like Im in trouble? he asked. Hey, maybe they know something we dont. Maybe they know something that Belichick didnt tell us. He usually comes and tell us if theres something going on. Hes good with stuff like that so, you know, Im just going to keep working hard and keep playing.Ive not been a card-carrying member of the Meriweather Fan Club. But I do think the cut watch has been overblown. The story is self-propelled at this point. Hes at virtually every practice and takes almost every rep. Hes athletic enough to be a first-round pick who probably would have gone higher were it not for stupidity at the U (and who among them . . . ? ). Hes a Pro Bowler in name alone. But he isnt a stiff by any stretch. I asked him if hes aware how much heat hes taking. I dont even read the newspaper, he insisted. I try to stay from all blogs and stuff like that. Ever since I was little, its always hard for me to get something good going about myself. Ever since I was 10 years old people been finding fault with me. Im used to it.Cutdowns come Saturday so well know soon enough whether all the harbingers of doom were really that. If Meriweather is released, he wont be the only one surprised. I havent heard that and I dont feel that way either, said Patrick Chung when asked about Meriweather. You gotta ask Coach (where he stands) but yes. Yes. Hes a good player. The other stuff, thats for Coach to answer or Brandon to answer. But is he a good player? Yes, hes a good player.On Meriweathers black t-shirt Thursday night was a yellow smiley face. The smiley face had two white, gloved hands. Each hand had its middle finger extended. Meriweathers last words before leaving the locker room, Someone told me a while back: If youre in any entertainment business, the last people you need to listen to is the media.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.