Patriots have quick turnaround for Chargers


Patriots have quick turnaround for Chargers

By Mary Paoletti Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
FOXBORO -- The Patriots have a short week going into Sunday's game versus San Diego. And they've got to buckle down quickly; Tom Brady believes he and his teammates will be tested.

"Guys in here are kind of walking around a little stiff, a little tight," he said Wednesday. "But we've got to move on from last week's game and really get working hard on these guys."

The Chargers' 2010 record (9-7) almost had another in the 'W' column, as New England just barely escaped a 17-point fourth-quarter San Diego surge last October. The 23-20 Patriots win wasn't pretty. And, if anything, Brady thinks the opponent has improved since then.

"They were pretty good last year," Brady said. "They lead the league in defense. That was our fewest production of the season when we played them. We had, like, 200 yards of offense 128 net passing, 179 total. Didn't really do well in the red area, didn't run it great -- certainly didn't throw it great. Didn't protect as well as we were capable. We were pretty fortunate last year when we played them. Hopefully we can execute better.

"They've got a good team, they've got a good defense," Brady added. "They've got veterans, they're tough, they're aggressive, they can tackle, they're experienced. They've got a very good offense that can put up points and do it quickly. Special teams are much improved from last seasons. It's one of the best teams in the AFC -- always has been. Got a great quarterback. It's going to be a big challenge for us."

The compliments are thrown wide but not contrived. Brady was sacked four times in San Diego last season, twice by linebacker Antwan Barnes, and once each by tackle Antonio Garay and explosive LB Shaun Phillips. That was Week 7, when Chargers were weighed down by five early losses.

This season is starting better for Norv Turner's club. Last week the Chargers overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Minnesota, 24-17. The game became a grab bag of highlights: Shaun Phillips tipping a screen pass to himself for an interception, 243-pound running back Mike Tolbert rushed for three touchdowns, Mike Scifres scored on his first NFL field goal attempt (40-yards).

Brady saw it all on the tape.

"San Diego is one of the most talented teams in the league every year," he said. "I think they've gotten off to some slow starts the last few years, but it doesn't look like they're starting slow this year. I think that's really been a point of emphasis for them. You can really see it on film. It's an attacking defense. They've got great players at every position."

The Patriots don't look so bad themselves. A Week 1 win in Miami is no small prize and Brady was positive in retrospect. The foundation has been laid, he said, and now there's work to be done. It's time to get back to practice, clean things up and build off of it.

"I thought we got off to a decent start," he said. "I think there was a lot of three-and-outs, we had penalties, we had a turnover. It wasn't a perfect performance by any stretch. I think we were fishing, I think we took advantage of the opportunities that we had, but there were certainly more plays out ther for us to be made. There are some games where you can't make any mistakes and I think that's what we've got to strive toward.

"It's been one week. I know there's not much to go on other than one game, but we're trying to string it together for a very, very long season. We got off to a decent start. I wouldn't say it was our best performance I've ever seen around here. It was one game and now we've got to move on to the next one."

The rebound rate will have to be good; it's a hurry-up week.

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

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

FOXBORO -- They sounded like a couple of old pals. 

First it was Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who spoke of Ravens coach John Harbaugh during a conference call like one of his favorite fellow lacrosse dads.

"John and I saw a game a couple of years ago, a [Johns] Hopkins vs. Maryland game," Belichick said, adding that Harbaugh's love for the sport is just starting to blossom. "Yeah, I think John is seeing the light."

Belichick added that the two might be closer if they weren't competing so often, both in-season on the field and for free agents in the offseason. 

"As you know, we get into a situation like we’re in now where they have a good team, we have a good team, we’re playing a big game on Monday night," Belichick said. "Both teams are going to do everything they can to compete as hard as they can on Monday night. That’s what it is and that’s what we all signed up for. We all know that’s a part of it.

"When we’re not going head-to-head, which isn’t very often because we compete against each other in the offseason, we compete against each other to build our team and so forth, it just puts things in a little bit of a different situation."

During his press conference with reporters on Wednesday, Harbaugh echoed Belichick's sentiments. Belichick was famously one of Harbaugh's biggest supporters earlier in his career, calling the Ravens on Harbaugh's behalf when the franchise was looking for a new head coach. And if only they weren't so frequently competing against each other, they might be even closer, Harbaugh indicated. 

"I feel like we have a good relationship," Harbaugh said. "Like you said, we're probably not socializing that much, but I don't know how many coaches really do. We're all so busy. I'll see him or any coach at the Combine or at the owner's meetings, and we have a chance to talk. It's always good. I have a ton of respect for him. I really like him as a person. I think he's a great coach -- greatest coach of this generation. He's earned that title.

"And I study him. I've always studied him. I've always studied coach Belichick from when I first met him when I was an assistant at the University of Cincinnati, and he came in and just was great to be around.  [We have a] similar background with the special teams and that sort of thing. All of that kind of goes out the window when you compete against one another. It's like anything else, you want to win. I'm sure he feels the same way."

The recent history between their respective franchises is rife with emotion: There was Baltimore's irate reaction to Belichick's unusual formations in the AFC Divisional Round two seasons ago; there was the Ravens' supposed involvement in sparking Deflategate; and there was Harbaugh's subsequent denial. But Belichick and Harbaugh made it sound on Wednesday as if all's good between them.

Are Patriots still 'pissed off' at Ravens for Deflategate role?

Are Patriots still 'pissed off' at Ravens for Deflategate role?

The Patriots should always be motivated heading into games against the Ravens. After all, Baltimore might be the team’s primary rival. 

Yet Monday’s matchup might be about more than past meetings. It could be a revenge game for the Ravens’ role in the Deflategate fiasco. 

As Tom E. Curran notes in the above video, the then-recently eliminated Ravens set off the ordeal when they tipped off the Colts entering the 2014 AFC Championship game. From there, the year-and-a-half-long saga played itself out, ultimately resulting in Tom Brady accepting a four-game suspension from the league. 

Curran and Mike Giardi discussed whether Monday could be a revenge game, with them both concluding that they feel the Patriots are still “pissed off” at the Ravens. 

"I’m just reading the tea leaves,” Curran said. “Bill Belichick will usually throw bouquet after bouquet at the Baltimore Ravens any time they play, from Ozzie Newsome, to George Kokinis, to Eric DeCosta, to John Harbaugh, Dean Pees, everyone. Not a lot of that today. Make of that what you will; I don’t think it’s a coincidence because I do know that when the Patriots were going through the process early on, the fact that the Ravens had dropped a dime -- their assistant special teams coach Jerry Rosburg calling the Indianapolis Colts and saying, “Look there was some foolishness going on with the K balls.’

“Additionally, when that email from the Colts to the NFL was sent to Mike Kensil, it said, 'It’s well-known throughout the league that the Patriots screw with the balls after they’ve been checked by the officials.' So if that conversation was going on during the week between those two teams, one certainly has to surmise that they also spoke about the fact of deflating footballs. 

“So as much as John Harbaugh has tried to dissuade anyone from thinking there was involvement, Dean Pees was interviewed by Ted Wells, Jerry Rosburg was interviewed by Ted Wells. Those are the only two principals from other organizations who were involved, so yeah, I think they’re still probably pretty pissed off about it.”