Ninkovich fumble recovery comes at perfect time

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Ninkovich fumble recovery comes at perfect time

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @dannypicard
FOXBORO --Bill Belichick isnt afraid to go for it on fourth down.Everyone in New England and the rest of the football world knows that.

And the Patriots coach proved that to be true once again onSunday at Gillette Stadium against the San Diego Chargers.

Clinging to a 20-14 lead with just under 12 minutes left inthe fourth quarter, Belichick decided to keep Tom Brady and the rest of theoffense on the field for a 4th-and-4 at the San Diego 49-yard line.

Bradys attempted pass to Deion Branch was incomplete, andNew England turned the ball over, while giving the Chargers pretty good fieldposition and a chance to take the lead. After the game, Belichick acknowledged that the decision to go for it was tied to the health of his punter, Zoltan Mesko, who was injured earlier in the game.

But still, they went for it on fourth down, and they failed to convert.

Three plays into San Diego's ensuing drive, runningback Mike Tolbert was stuffed in the backfield by Jerod Mayo, and lost theball, leading to Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich recovering the fumble at theNew England 39-yard line.

Oh yeah, it was big, said Ninkovich after the game. Rightafter that fourth down, we didnt make it, and we had to go out there and makea stop. That was a big play in the game for us, and then the offense went downand scored with that. So it was a big turn for us in that game.

Brady drove his troops 61 yards down the field and capped itwith a 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski, giving the Pats a28-14 lead after the two-point conversion, with 8:40 left in the game.

New England went on to win 35-21, but had Ninkovich neverrecovered Tolberts fumble and the Chargers went on to score a touchdown fortheir second straight possession, then many would be talking about Belichicksdecision to go for it on 4th-and-4 from midfield.

Its all hypothetical. But the bottom line is, New Englandsdefense bailed out the rest of the team on that San Diego possession thatfollowed a failed fourth-down conversion.

Ninkovichs fumble recovery was just one of four turnoverscaused by the Patriots defense in Sundays win. But given the circumstancesand timing, it was the most crucial.

It was great, said Patriots safety Sergio Brown after thewin. Like we said, we went into the game trying to get turnovers, and it feltlike all of them were perfect timing. We felt good about it, and were glad wewere able to come up with it.

Its huge for us, said Patriots wide receiver Wes Welkerabout his defense causing turnovers. Any time we can get stops, its an extrapossession for us, and I think we need to take better advantage of thosechances and make sure were putting points on the board and playingcomplementary football out there with each other.

Danny Picard is on twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

Funeral for ex-Patriot Ron Brace scheduled for Monday

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Funeral for ex-Patriot Ron Brace scheduled for Monday

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Former New England Patriots defensive lineman Ron Brace is being laid to rest in his home town.

A celebration of his life will be held at St. John's Congregational Church in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Monday morning followed by a noontime funeral service. Burial will follow at Oak Grove Cemetery.

Brace died at his family's home April 24. He was 29.

Police say his death was not suspicious and appears to be have been caused by a medical condition.

Brace grew up in Springfield and attended Burncoat High School in Worcester, Massachusetts. After a standout career at Boston College, he was drafted by the Patriots in the second round of the 2009 draft and played four years with the team.

He is survived by his parents and six siblings.

What positions were not addressed by Patriots in draft?

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What positions were not addressed by Patriots in draft?

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss the negatives for the New England Patriots in the NFL, including not selecting a running back and not adding depth for linebackers.

Diving deeper on Patriots UDFAs: WR/RB Foster an intriguing weapon

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Diving deeper on Patriots UDFAs: WR/RB Foster an intriguing weapon

FOXBORO -- Few teams in the NFL can boast the kind of success that the Patriots have had with undrafted players during Bill Belichick's tenure as head coach.

David Andrews, Malcolm Butler, Brandon King, James Develin, Josh Kline, LeGarrette Blount and Danny Amendola have all played significant roles in recent Patriots winning seasons -- and those are just the players on the roster as it currently stands.

In the hours following the end of this year's draft, the Patriots added new list of undrafted free agents to their rookie class. By the very nature of their path to pro football, it will be an uphill climb for any of them to make the Patriots 53-man roster. But judging by the track record that Belichick and his coaching staff have compiled with players that never saw their name scroll across the bottom of a TV screen on draft day, it would come as no surprise if one or two made some kind of impact in 2016. 

Here's a quick look at the nine undrafted players the team has signed thus far, according to NEPatriotsDraft.com

V'Angelo Bentley, CB, Illinois
At 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Bentley doesn't possess prototypical NFL size for a defensive back, but he was a productive tackler in college and he holds the distinction as the only player in school history to score on a punt return, kick return, interception return and fumble return. 

Devonta Burns, CB, Texas A&M
According to the Aggies website, Burns (6-feet, 211 pounds) played in 12 games last season and made 13 tackles. At his pro day he ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and jumped 33 inches in the vertical. 

DJ Foster, RB/WR, Arizona State
A college teammate of Patriots seventh-round pick Devin Lucien, the 5-10, 193-pounder was the only FBS player to enter last season with 1,500 career yards rushing and receiving. He finished his career at Arizona State with 666 total touches for 4,813 yards and 32 touchdowns. He ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash at his pro day and had one of top three-cone times among receivers at the combine (6.75 seconds). 

Woodrow Hamilton, DT, Ole Miss
Helped by a solid pro day workout, which was attended by area scout Brandon Yeargan, Hamilton was projected by some as worthy of a late-round draft pick. At 6-5, 312 pounds, he recorded a 4.8-second short shuttle, a 26.5-inch vertical leap, and he did 29 reps on the 225-pound bench press. 

CJ Johnson, LB, Ole Miss
With a diverse playing background as both a defensive end and a middle linebacker in the SEC, it's no shock the 6-1, 234-pounder landed in New England. Though plagued by knee and ankle injuries in his career, Johnson was consistently productive whenever he was on the field. At linebacker, despite missing a month to a torn meniscus, he made 43 tackles and two picks. 

Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn
A four-year starter for the Tigers, Jones racked up 125 tackles and seven picks in his career. He was named a second-team All-SEC honoree as a junior, and he popped at the combine with a 4.33-second 40-yard dash -- the fastest among all corners at the combine. Though his size (5-9, 186 pounds) may limit him to playing in the slot as a pro, he has the athleticism to match up with NFL receivers. 

Cre’Von LeBlanc, CB, Florida Atlantic
He's not the fastest (4.65-second 40-yard dash) or the tallest (5-9), but LeBlanc is a strong corner who tips the scales at 194 pounds and plays with good aggression. He also has good quickness and an ability to change direction without slowing down, which he exhibited with a 6.91-second three-cone drill at the combine. 

Steven Scheu, TE, Vanderbilt‚Äč
Sort of a 'tweener at tight end, Scheu may not have the size to be a pure blocking tight end as a pro, and he didn't play as a true "move" tight end at Vanderbilt. The 6-5, 250-pounder was an AP All-SEC selection in 2014, and he was a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy (also known as the "Academic Heisman"). 

De’Runnya Wilson, WR, Mississippi State
At 6-5, 224 pounds, Wilson has the size to present any corner with a mismatch. He's able to wall off defenders with his frame, and he has the concentration and the hands to make contested grabs. Still relatively new to the sport -- he was named Alabama's Mr. Basketball and only played football as a senior in high school -- he has improved each season he's been on the field.  He was productive in the SEC last year, making 60 catches and scoring 10 touchdowns on his way to second-team All SEC honors. Though he's a good athlete -- he actually played basketball at Mississippi State for one season -- his speed may limit him in the NFL. He ran a 4.85-second 40-yard dash at the combine.