Injury report: Brady practices, Branch missing

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Injury report: Brady practices, Branch missing

Tom Brady who has missed Wednesday practices the past few weeks and skipped back-to-back practices last week with an Achilles injury, was back at practice today as the Patriots geared up for their showdown with the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Rob Gronkowski was back after missing last week while serving his one-game suspension. Defensive lineman Trey Flowers was back as one of several limited participants after missing the Monday night loss to the Dolphins and newly signed receiver Kenny Britt also practice. Defensive lineman Alan Branch, who injured his knee against the Dolphins, didn't practice.

Here's the full injury report:


Brady unable to get comfortable without security blanket Gronkowski

Brady unable to get comfortable without security blanket Gronkowski

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Was it the number of hits Tom Brady took from the Dolphins defense two weeks ago that were still fresh in his mind? Or did he simply understand that without Rob Gronkowski it was going to be a difficult night? 

Whatever it was, the Patriots quarterback seemed uncharacteristically jumpy from the beginning of Monday night's game at Hard Rock Stadium, and he wasn't able to help his team mount much of a fight in a 27-20 defeat that was not as close as the score indicated. 

The Patriots went 0-for-11 on third down -- their first game without a third-down conversion since 1991 -- and went three-and-out seven times. They managed only 25 yards rushing (a season-low) and 248 yards passing (also a season-low). 

Brady went 24-for-43 for 233 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He was picked twice in the Divisional Round last season against the Texans, but Monday was his first regular-season game with two picks since 2015. His 59.5 passer rating was his worst in four seasons. He's now 7-9 in Miami for his career. 

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"Yeah, it was pretty bad," Brady said after the game when asked about the difficulty he had on third down. "We can't get any worse than that. We couldn't stay on the field and just didn't make enough plays. It's just a bad night. We've had a lot of good nights this year and this was a bad night."

Brady's first dropback of the night may have rattled him. He managed to get off an incompletion despite Lawrence Timmons screaming off the right edge unblocked. On the next snap, he had plenty of time but underthrew Brandin Cooks badly and was picked by Xavien Howard. 

On the first play of the next Patriots drive, Brady bailed on a throw early, perhaps sensing that Ndamukong Suh was wiggling free from his block. The pass went incomplete to James White despite the fact that Brady had time to throw and was in no real danger of being hit. 

Brady made some remarkable throws later in the first half. His 20-yard floater to Dion Lewis as he was being hit by Kiko Alonso stood out. So too did his seven-yarder to James White that was completed after Brady avoided an Andre Branch pressure. 

But in the second half, the pressures began to pile up and take their toll on the front-runner for MVP. After taking an eight-yard sack, he was picked deep down the middle of the field by Howard on another underthrown shot to Cooks. The Dolphins went up 20-10 on the subsequent drive, and all of a sudden Miami rushers could pin their ears back and hunt. 

Brady attempted one third-down throw to a smothered Cooks on the outside when he might've had Dwayne Allen available for first-down yardage. He threw another third-down prayer deep to Chris Hogan that went incomplete. Yet another was fired to Cooks on a slant that was so off-the-mark it looked almost like a throwaway. 

With a lead, Suh, Phillips, Branch, Cameron Wake and Charles Harris stalked Brady from the other side of the line of scrimmage, making life difficult for the Patriots offensive line. Brady was hit six times, sacked twice, and pressured on numerous other occasions -- even when he had more time than he thought. 

The result was an unsettled offense.

"I think that's accurate," Nate Solder said. "I think there was a lot of drives where we were just playing behind on the chains, and that made it really tough. We know they have a great pass-rush and the front four is as good as any that's in the league. When you're playing behind like that, you have to take their best shot every time. It just is gonna look bad, it's gonna be tough, and it's a long, hard day."

Not having Gronkowski to attract coverage -- and beat man coverage even when blanketed, as he so often does -- didn't help matters for the Patriots. Neither did having a No. 2 receiver in Chris Hogan who hadn't played in more than a month and may have had some rust to knock off. 

But Brady was not himself early, and that led to issues later on as the score got away from him and his teammates.

"We got behind and that's not the way we want to play the game. It's a bad loss," Brady said. "I wish we played better, but we didn't. We have to move on and try to play better next week."

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Dolphins' Wake promises pain for Patriots on Monday night

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Dolphins' Wake promises pain for Patriots on Monday night

Monday night, Cameron Wake will be trying to hurt Tom Brady. Pain – inflicting it, enduring it, the specter of it – is a football fact of life.

And no matter how hard the NFL tries to legislate out the danger of the game, it will always be inherent. Brady gets that better than Wake does. He’s been on the receiving end of it a lot longer than Wake’s been dishing it out. And while Brady’s gets to do his job with plenty of protections, he spends a lot more time prone and vulnerable than Wake does.

The Dolphins defensive end went deep last week talking about the nature of the game, the protections afforded, the risks players take and what he sees as the inconsistencies.

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Asked about the injury suffered by Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier last week, Wake said, “I’ve seen a lot of injuries so, unfortunately, that comes along with. This is my thing: I want to hurt everybody I play. I don’t want to injure anybody.

“I want you to be able to get up and go to the next play or feed your family and play next week but I want you to say ‘Man, Cameron Wake …’ ” Wake continued. “I don’t want you to be off the team or like not playing. I want you to obviously be physically defeated. I want to intimidate. I don’t want you to be harmed beyond tomorrow at all. It doesn’t always work that way.”

Continuing, Wake did a little math to make a very good point.

“We have 10 guys on IR or whatever? I’m sure every team has about that with 50 players on a team and then when you think about a 90-man roster … That’s a 20 percent chance every time you’re on the field, a 20 percent chance that whatever happens to you, you’re not going to play football this year.”

As appetizing as the NFL tries to make its product for the masses, the truth is that every single one of the players in the league has reconciled himself to the brutal, primitive nature of the game in which an opponent isn’t just defeated but beaten – literally.

Which means you will see a quarterback exhibit the fencing response as Tom Savage did Sunday, a linebacker unable to walk off the field because he can’t feel his legs as Shazier did last Monday or a well-liked tight end go barbaric on an opponent who made him mad as Rob Gronkowski did last Sunday.

Consumers, advertisers, social media and fans recoil. But violence is as much a part of the game as the football.

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