Patriots

Another week, another Pats bounce back

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Another week, another Pats bounce back

FOXBORO - In the Dolphins locker room Saturday evening, players were talking about the character their team showed by competing even though Miami was eliminated from the playoffs weeks ago.

"It just speaks to the character of the men in this room," said Miami guard Richie Incognito. "We dont quit.We just fight and keep swinging.That has been our mentality all year. Just keep swinging and try to clock as many wins as possible.

Said linebacker Karlos Dansby, We are resilient, we have a lot of pride. We dont lay down. We will never lay down. We have proud men in this locker room. We will never lay down."

There is something to be said for that, no doubt. There are teams across the league that are just punching the clock now. But it is a hollow bow those players take.

In the Patriots locker room, their resilience has led them to a 12-3 record. And while the Dolphins started the season 0-7, the Patriots have now won seven straight in the crucible of NFL crunch time. Simply competing and playing hard when there's nothing but pride on the line does show mental toughness. But being able to take blows, correct and commandeer wins in the span of 60 minutes shows a lot more resilience.

And the team on the turf at Gillette Stadium that was most resilient on Saturday was the one in the dark blue jerseys.

For the third straight week, the Patriots erased a deficit and overcame a poor start to win. It's remarkable. This may not be the most talented team , but it has backbone of steel.
Why are they able to take the shots and come back?

One thing they say from the day you come in here is just do your job," explained guard Brian Waters. "And I think that we trust each other in that fact. There are no special things around here that are any different from anybody else, outside of everybody is just wondering about what they need to do and they take care of their business.

"The end result is we never panic," he said. "We never panic. There was no panic on the sideline. More people will probably think, You guys were too calm. There wasnt any yelling, there wasnt any screaming, it was just about getting to the things that we knew we could do well and going after it after that.

There was yelling and screaming, linebacker Jerod Mayo said. From coaches who demanded things get better in the second half. But there are coaches on every sideline screaming non-stop whether their team is leading or trailing.

The onus is on the players to hear the message in the high decibels and then carry out the commands.

"We said we only needed one play to get it started as a team," said Vince Wilfork, who helped provide that "one play" with a big fumble recovery early in the second half that led to a touchdown which narrowed the Miami lead to 17-10. "All the while, we never gave up on one another and never said anything negative to one another. Going down 17-0 is a pretty big deficit but once again, this team showed its character. We believed in one another and stepped up and once we got going, it seemed that all we needed was that one play. Once we got it, it opened up everything else on offense, special teams and defense. It was a great win for us and we still have room for improvement. Each week we are going to get better.
That's been a promise that's been scoffed at throughout the season. But it's a promise that's being backed up weekly.

During the course of the season, you learn a lot of things, right?" asked Waters. "We had some situations where we got off to bad starts and didnt come back and didnt play particularly well in the end. And weve had some things happen for us where weve gotten off to bad starts and end up finishing well. Today is just another lesson learned.

When the 2009 Patriots - a truly soft team that couldn't muster wins in the face of even the adversity of a plane ride - got behind in the playoffs against Baltimore, they were toast. No character.

This team? It has a survivor's mentality. Which will serve it well in the postseason because - the way the defense often plays - a deficit in the playoffs is a guarantee.

"Theres nobody playing perfect football right now," said Waters. "So were no different from any other football team outside of the fact that weve got an extended season that we know we have in front of us and next week is a great opportunity for us to get even better going into that part of the season.

While the other teams that pass for elite in this weird 2011 season are still riding the roller-coaster in terms of wins and losses, the Patriots - who ride the roller-coaster in 60-minute snippets - keep reeling off wins. Building confidence. And strengthening a resliency that's already proven remarkable.

Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

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Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

The first came in the second quarter, when Brandin Cooks turned on afterburners to beat a Raiders double team and glide underneath a Tom Brady heave for 52 yards. The second came in the third quarter, on the third play from scrimmage of the second half, when Cooks faked an out-route, jetted past rookie corner Obi Melifonwu, and sped into the end zone to make the score 24-0. 

Both deep completions in New England's 33-8 win over Oakland just added to cumulative effect that Cooks has had on the Patriots offense since arriving before the season to become their top deep threat. 

Paired with Brady, Cooks has actually become the most productive deep threat in the NFL. 

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According to Pro Football Focus, Cooks leads all receivers with 431 yards on deep passes (throws that travel 20 yards or more down the field). In second place is Houston's DeAndre Hopkins with 313 yards. 

And Brady, who has long been more effective in the short-to-intermediate range than he has been deep, is now among the league leaders in creating explosive plays from the quarterback position. The Patriots are third in the NFL with 41 pass plays of 20 yards or more, and they are tied for second with nine plays of 40 yards or more. 

"You're always trying to work on that," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show of his team's deep passing game. "It's not one particular year [you work on it]. I think that's been a concerted effort by our entire offense, trying to make more explosive plays in the pass game. 

"Sometimes your offense is built differently. We actually have some guys now that can really get down the field so that becomes more of a point of emphasis. The way Brandin runs, the way that Chris Hogan runs, the way that Phillip Dorsett runs, they're very fast. You need to be able to take advantage of their skill set . . . 

"When we had David Patten we were throwing it deep. I mean, but David Patten didn't run a lot of short routes. I would say Brandin Cooks, in general, he doesn't run a lot of short routes. Everyone has a different role. If we can get by you, I think that's a good place to throw the ball. if we can't, we gotta figure out ways to throw it underneath and different weeks are going to call for different things based on the strengths of the defenses we're playing, too."

A week before beating the Raiders, against the Broncos and their talented corners, the Patriots had less luck pushing the ball down the field -- though they tried to hit Cooks deep multiple times. In Mexico City, Cooks matched up with a weaker secondary, and he wasn't at all slowed by the altitude, catching six passes in all for 149 yards and a score. 

Per PFF, Cooks has seen almost one third of his targets (30 percent) come on deep passes, which is the ninth-highest rate in the league. He's caught all 11 of his catchable deep passes, three of them accounting for scores.

"Obviously when you're throwing the ball 50-60 yards down the field," Brady said, "your chances of completion go down, but if you hit it, it ends up being a very explosive plays and you can change a lot of field position and get a defense really on their heels if they have to defend every blade of grass on the field." 

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Belichick remembers Glenn: 'A good person with good intentions'

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Belichick remembers Glenn: 'A good person with good intentions'

Terry Glenn, the Patriots' top draft pick in 1996, died early Monday morning in a one-car accident in Irving, Texas. He was 43. 

Bill Belichick coached Glenn as an assistant with the Patriots during Glenn's rookie season. He was later Glenn's head coach in 2000 and 2001. Belichick traded Glenn to the Packers before the 2002 season after a tumultuous run in New England that involved legal trouble, injuries and clashes with the coaching staff.

During a conference call with reporters soon after the news of Glenn's death was published, Belichick remembered Glenn for his natural physical ability and "a good heart."

"I was pretty close with Terry," Belichick said, "and his rookie season was my first year here in '96, and so I had a lot of interaction with him and other people that were involved in his life and his upbringing separate from the Patriots. Terry's a very smart individual. Had a lot of, obviously, a lot of physical skill and talent. Could do a lot of things on the football field very naturally. And I think he was deep down inside a good person with good intentions and, you know, a good heart. Obviously it's very unfortunate. Very unfortunate passing. I mean, it's a sad day. Sad news."

According to reports, Glenn was with his fiancee at the time of the accident. She's being treated at a local hospital for unspecified injuries.