Patriots smart to be wary of Buffalo's backup


Patriots smart to be wary of Buffalo's backup

By Mary Paoletti

FOXBORO -- For the second time in two years, 27-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick is being given the reins of the Buffalo Bills. But instead of replacing an injured Number One, this time he is being asked to perform better than the healthy-but-struggling Trent Edwards.

It would be a lot of pressure for the quarterback of the new-look Bills anyway, even if Fitzpatrick's first start of 2010 wasn't coming against the New England Patriots. But it is, so it's a good thing he's smart. Ivy League smart.

Tom Brady is just one of many people who is aware of it.

"I got a General Studies degree from Michigan, barely,'' Brady laughed. "He's one of those Harvard guys . . . we've had a few of those around here. We're not getting into a math contest, thank God.''

No, the two QBs won't be facing off on the Wonderlic this Sunday. But the best quarterbacks are smart -- they're quick thinkers and proficient problem-solvers -- and Fitzpatrick's Harvard education won't hurt in that capacity. It's also important to remember that his Finance degree isn't what's earned him a starting job in the NFL this week. Fitzpatrick is a good football player. He's the kind of guy Bill Belichick would never underestimate.

"Hes a strong-armed guy, can get the ball down the field. He has a little more experience. Hes been in a couple different systems,'' New England's coach remarked. "Hes a smart guy, handles himself well. He's a good quarterback. We had a hard time with him last year there.''

The Patriots did win that December game, 17-10, but Fitzpatrick didn't make it easy for them. The quarterback kept Buffalo in the game by finding Lee Evans for a fourth-quarter touchdown and some late-game agitation for New England's defense. It was impressive that Fitzpatrick stayed tough; the Patriots sacked him four times that day.

On Wednesday, Belichick didn't credit his team's pressure to any weakness of The Crimson Kid.

"I dont think it was specific to Fitzpatrick. If guys come free up front, then they come free. I think hes a relatively mobile, athletic guy. This week will be a new challenge,'' he said. "I dont think that's really an issue with him. He's a tough guy. He'll stand there in the pocket. Every quarterback gets hit sooner or later.''

Patriots safety Patrick Chung was also complimentary of Buffalo's backup.

"Obviously we know he's a running quarterback,'' Chung remarked. "He can run it, he can pass it, he's got a strong arm . . . He's smart. There's a lot of fast guys at Harvard; he was one of them. He's a good player.''

A smart player. A good player. A guy who will be playing to earn a starting role. The Patriots would be wise not to undervalue the geek on the gridiron this Sunday. It sounds like they won't.

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

Patriots release DT Darius Kilgo, reportedly sign WR Griff Whalen

Patriots release DT Darius Kilgo, reportedly sign WR Griff Whalen

The New England Patriots have announced that they've released defensive tackle Darius Kilgo. 

The move creates an opening for wide receiver Griff Whalen, who they have reportedly signed to a one-year deal, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Kilgo, a sixth-round pick out of Maryland in 2015, did not make an appearance for the Patriots after being claimed off waivers from the Broncos last week. He played 81 snaps for Denver this season.

Whalen, 26, played in two games for San Diego in 2016 where he caught two passes for a total of 22 yards. 

The former Colts wideout is perhaps best remembered in New England for his part in Indianapolis' disastrous fake punt against the Patriots last season.




John Harbaugh: Ravens’ trickery different than Patriots ‘deceptive’ formation

John Harbaugh: Ravens’ trickery different than Patriots ‘deceptive’ formation

FOXBORO – John Harbaugh explained on Thursday the difference between the rules loophole his Ravens exploited recently and the one the Patriots exploited in the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoff Game that caused him to cry, “Foul.”

What it boiled down to? Everyone knew about the loophole the Ravens took advantage of when they committed an en masse holding penalty at the end of the game against the Bengals. 

Nobody had seen what the Patriots successfully pulled off when they made eligible receivers ineligible and vice versa and went on a touchdown drive that changed the tenor of the game.

“You’re right. I don’t want to get into all that,” Harbaugh said when I asked what the difference was. “That’s all been hashed out. I believe what I believe and I think it’s all been proven to be right.

“The point about [the punt hold] is, it’s been talked about, it’s been looked at, it’s been something that’s been used for 20 years so it’s nothing new,” he explained. “It’s nothing that hadn’t been addressed before by officials or the competition committee.”

Harbaugh said that, in Super Bowl 47, his Ravens used the tactic and his brother Jim, coach of the Niners, took it up with the Competition Committee. John Harbaugh supported the change, he said. The league declined.  

“Everybody knew about that so it didn’t create an unfair advantage for anybody,” said Harbaugh.

LISTEN: New Quick Slants podcast w/ more stories of Ravens antics

After the Patriots beat Baltimore in a tremendous game, Harbaugh was in a snit in his postgame press conference alleging the “nobody’s ever seen that [eligible-ineligible trickery] before.” He said the play was “illegal” and “deceptive.”

I mentioned that Alabama had run the play in a nationally televised game against LSU and that the Titans had done the same thing on a game-ending play against the Jets a few weeks earlier.

Aside from whether or not the information was accurately communicated by the officials, the tone of Harbaugh’s comments left little room for interpretation. He indicated the Patriots were underhanded and that his comments seemed to discredit New England.

“That was not the intent and if you go back and read my comments at the time and the tone of it anybody that takes it that way is taking it the wrong way,” said Harbaugh. “That was not the point of it at all. You had an eligible receiver that wasn’t identified and an ineligible receiver that wasn’t identified as such. The official had no way to identify that for the defense so there was no signal or any other way that they could do that. That was something that was addressed the very next week. If somebody wants to look at it some certain way, that’s not my concern.”

When I offered that referee Bill Vinovich not only identified Shane Vereen as being ineligible but added, “Don’t cover 34…” over the stadium mic, Harbaugh wasn’t having it.  

“That’s not something that had ever been gone over,” he insisted. “Players were never taught don’t cover that player. When you’re on the field, you can’t hear that microphone. That’s not something you can even hear or are listening for. The next week there was a tweak.”

Indeed there was. And not just with the officials then being on the hook to make more detailed announcements. The further tweak, perhaps spurred by the formation chicanery and Tom Brady’s recommendation that Baltimore “study the rules” came when the Ravens passed on intel to the Colts for the AFC Championship Game. One of the recommendations from Ravens special teams coach Jerry Rosburg was to watch that the Patriots’ sideline staff didn’t monkey with the kicking balls. That was included in a letter to NFL Operations man Mike Kensil along with an allegation that it was “well known around the league” that the Patriots deflate footballs before the game and that the league needed to keep an eye on that.

Harbaugh hasn’t hidden from the fact he found Brady’s comment offensive.

"I was pissed off," he said this past summer. "It was uncalled for. And the rules are deeper than that, and I know the rules, and I stand by why that play shouldn't have been allowed...So yeah, that should never have been said."

He has, however, disavowed any talk by his staff about the Patriots allegedly deflating footballs. "Any conversation that was had with the Colts had nothing to do with deflated footballs, which is what we've been saying since the very start," Harbaugh said in 2015. "I know that we've answered the questions from the beginning to the end very simply. Our yes is yes. Our no is no. We've answered questions directly and honestly and straightforward from the start."

Whether the Patriots’ formation plays and the Ravens response to it led to a $30M investigation that hijacked the NFL’s attention for 20 months and resulted in a four-game suspension for Brady is still not definitively known. Could Rosburg and the Colts equipment man have possibly discussed kicking ball chicanery without sharing notes on the belief the Patriots deflated footballs? Rosburg and former Patriots defensive coordinator and current Ravens coach Dean Pees were both spoken to by investigator Ted Wells. What did they offer

Just like everything else between Ravens and Patriots, it’s complicated.