Paoletti: Patriots cornerbacks need to tighten up


Paoletti: Patriots cornerbacks need to tighten up

By Mary Paoletti Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti

FOXBORO -- New England's defense had a lot to do with the team's 35-21 win Sunday evening.

But all the positive plays -- the second-quarter goal line stand, two interceptions, two sacks and two fumble recoveries -- must be digested along with a bitter pill: The secondary is not solid.

Last Monday in Miami, Chad Henne (30-for-49, 416 yards) connected with Brandon Marshall seven times for 139 yards. This weekend, Chargers wideout Vincent Jackson caught 10 balls for a career-high 172 yards. Though both are tough targets -- Marshall is 6-foot-4 and Jackson 6-5 -- the trend of letting passing yards slip shouldn't sit well with Leigh Bodden, Devin McCourty and the rest of the cornerbacks corps.

Bodden was visibly frustrated after the game.

"It's a challenge just like every week," he said, staring straight into his locker. "But those guys are tall and Rivers threw it pretty high a few times and they just came up with the ball. They just made plays. We're right there, but they just ended up making the play."

That description sums up McCourty's night.

As a rookie he thrived on being disruptive; his seven interceptions in 2010 marked the second best total in the league. But this year McCourty's having a hard time finding the ball in the air.

On San Diego's second touchdown of the fourth quarter McCourty was initially in position, but Jackson shucked him off for a 26-yard completion and six points. Rivers did have plenty of time on the throw as the Patriots pass rush appeared to be napping. Consequently, Jackson had a few extra beats to shake McCourty.

Bodden says there's no excuse for a missed assignment.

"The defensive line doesn't affect our coverage. We have a man, we have a zone; we have to cover that zone as long as we have to. Or if we're playing man, we have to play man as long as we have to. The pressure has nothing to do with us. We have our job to do and we have to do it."

Ah. Execution: The hard part.

Kyle Arrington, who's starting over Bodden as the third cornerback, had trouble matching up with Jackson in the slot. One point on film to watch, rewind, and watch again is that San Diego third down catch-and-run in the second quarter. Arrington got blown up by Jackson: 28 yards, first down.

You might not remember it. Five plays later, Arrington's flub and the drive were swallowed up by the Patriots' crowd-pleasing goal-line stand.

McCourty was in the fray, bounced up in that moment of his overall see-saw evening. He got aggressive on the goal line, working upfield to force 243-pound San Diego running back Mike Tolbert off his path. Jerod Mayo was there to stuff Tolbert's run.

"I'm just trying to help everybody else out," McCourty said. "On that goal line I'm probably the littlest guy in there. Whenever it's a run play I just try to read my keys and see if I can just make a play."

"Sometimes I think I went and I did a pretty good job of covering. And then there's plays when I just got beat. Right now I'm just trying to be competitive and get consistent. I feel like I played a little better this week and I'm just going to keep getting better week after week so this team can really depend on me down the stretch."

The Patriots need him. They need McCourty on par with those 2010 numbers: 82 tackles, two forced fumbles, 17 passes defensed. And they need Bodden, too. His playing time -- or lack thereof -- reflects his battling thumb and back injuries, but will likely rise out of necessity.

Rookie corner Ras-I Dowling left the game in the first half with a thigh injury. And Arrington took a big blow to the head late in the fourth quarter, so while there's time in the season to improve, that clock is ticking at an accelerated pace.

That means no more missed coverage. No giving up 41 first downs on the pass. And, for Bodden, no more penalties. Twice he was whistled for a hold away from incompletions on other side of the field.

Fine. He says he's ready.

"I'm 100 percent. I feel like the thumb is still hurting a little bit, but that's casted up game to game. Body feels good. I'm contributing wherever I need to contribute."

Buffalo would be a great place to start.

Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is up next for the Patriots and he's throwing the ball well. Fitzpatrick passed for 208 yards and four touchdowns in Kansas City, and 264 and three TD's against Oakland. His favorite target? David Nelson, a 6-5 wideout.

It's going to be a busy week in Foxboro.

"That's key when you play defense," McCourty said, "your job is not to let them score. Of course, as defense, we want to be more consistent, but no matter what we do we've got to continue making those game-changing plays and that's our goal . . . make them kick field goals, make them line it up and see what we can do, going after the field goal there.

"We've got to keep them out of the end zone. That's something we talk about and we'll keep talking about that and get it done."

Another night, on another field, without a heroic defensive line effort to lean on, the secondary will be the difference in the game. Hopefully for the Patriots, it will be for the win.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti.

Brady remains undefeated against Father Time


Brady remains undefeated against Father Time

The Old Man got the last laugh. Tom Brady has outlived his replacement.

Remember when Jimmy Garoppolo was selected out of that football powerhouse, Eastern Illinois in the second round, 30th overall, in the 2014 draft? That was the beginning of the end for Tom Brady, remember?

Then Brady and the Patriots got off to that horrible start in '04 when they went 2-2, culminating with that butt whipping by the Chiefs in Kansas City.Good thing that the Hooded Genius was thinking ahead by drafting his boy Jimmy G., eh? Garoppolo would learn from the wise master (Brady) and then be ready to go in a couple of years when father time would finally catch up with TB12.

Well, Father Time is still in Brady’s rear-view mirror and Garoppolo saw his replacement drafted on Friday night: Jacoby Brissett out of North Carolina State. With Brady still playing at a high level and Jimmy G.’s contract up after the 2017 season -- two years before Tom’s new deal expires -- Garoppolo's days here are numbered. He's on the market . . . and that might be a good thing for him. Replacing a legend like Brady isn't easy. Garoppolo may leave here with three years of Belichick and Brady University under his belt, headed for a less pressurized situation.

Since, the Pats picked Brady’s understudy in 2014 Brady went on to win his fourth Super Bowl and could have won his fifth if his offensive line hadn’t wilted down the stretch and his head coach had not brain camped in the Eagle and Dolphin games.

I'm surprised. Brady is the greatest quarterback off all time but even the greatest has to make way for the future. That will happen eventually to Brady.

 I think.

Patriots OL coach Scarnecchia feels refreshed after two-year retirement


Patriots OL coach Scarnecchia feels refreshed after two-year retirement

FOXBORO -- Dante Scarnecchia wasn't looking to get back into coaching. He wasn't sitting at home for the last two years, living and dying with each Patriots offensive snap as though he was still the team's offensive line coach. 

He was spending time with his wife and his grandchildren. He was traveling. He was going to bed early. He was retired, and he was loving it. 

But he got a call over the winter, soon after the Patriots lost the AFC title game to the Broncos, asking if he would return to his old job at One Patriot Place. He discussed it with his wife for more than a week before coming to the conclusion that he'd make his return. 

The team announced that Scarnecchia had been re-hired, replacing Dave DeGuglielmo, in March.

"It is a tough decision because you become very used to a very nice lifestyle," he said on Monday. "I like retirement, now. Retirement was great. A lot of fun. We saw things we hadn't seen ever. Took trips, spent a lot of time with our grandkids. All that was great. To a degree, it's very, very hard to give up.

"We talked about it, my wife and I, and we decided this would be a good thing on a lot of different levels, as far as the grandkids being able to come to the games for free and just be a part of it all. And I like coaching football. I love coaching football. I didn't retire because I didn't like coaching football. I retired because I got tired of the lifestyle. Two years off, I'm OK."

Scarnecchia was clear: He wasn't getting back into it if any other team came calling. 

"I think the No. 1 thing is, if you decide to go back into coaching, you're kind of at the mercy of the business. That is to say, who's going to hire you and where are you going to go? What makes it unique here is everything is the same. That really makes it easy.

"Honestly, I probably would not have gotten back into coaching had I had to go somewhere else. Because I was going by myself. [My wife] ain't going. Let's get that straight. I can't leave my kids and my grandkids. I'm not doing that."

Though he feels good, feels refreshed, Scarnecchia has been reminded very quickly of what the job entails. During one of his first days back on the job, the Patriots held a 14-hour personnel meeting. 

That part of the yearly routine, he did not miss. 

"It wasn't like I was sitting at home thinking, 'Boy, I wish I was there and I wish I could do this.' It wasn't any of that," Scarnecchia said. "I know what the job entails. Yeah it's fun being out on the field, it's fun being in the meeting rooms, it's fun being a part of the whole situation, but you know, the hours are long, the days are long. It's a tough business, it's a really tough business, and I was willing to step back into it despite all that."

Scarnecchia will have a few familiar faces in the offensive line meetings that take place during Phase Two of the offseason program, including Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer and Josh Kline. Most of the others, though, have been added to the team since Scarnecchia retired following the 2013 season. Centers Bryan Stork and David Andrews, as well as guards Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason will all have to adapt to a new voice. 

Scarnecchia explained, however, that the system is still the same as it ever was under DeGuglielmo. And even though he's been gone for two years, the game itself -- and offensive line play in particular -- is as it always was.

"The game's pretty much the same," he said. "Get off the ball. Hit him. Do a great job of setting. Put yourself between the launch point and them, with inside out leverage . . . . We ain't building rockets."