Patriots

Belichick: By midseason 'you kind of know what you have'

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Belichick: By midseason 'you kind of know what you have'

I think we can all agree that the Patriots have a stacked roster, one that had us opining about the potential for a perfect season. But as training camp has shuffled along, this deep roster has shown it’s not laden with all-world pieces at every spot. Thus, we have questions about defensive end, linebacker and who is that third tackle. Not exactly Jacksonville Jaguars problems, but certainly something for us to chew on, and, to a degree, Bill Belichick as well.

Appearing on Dale, Holley and Keefe on WEEI Monday afternoon, Belichick said it will be awhile before he really knows what kind of team he has, especially when you factor in injuries, growth of players and, in some cases, decline.

“Midseason to me is always about the time where I think you kind of know what you have," Belichick said. "September, I think we’re all trying to figure out a little bit. You go into the season thinking one thing and then after you play three or four games, a lot of time you’re not as good at some things as you thought you were or maybe you’re better at some other things than you might have thought you were. Maybe some guys are performing higher, some guys lower, whatever. It takes a little while to find that equilibrium."

Belichick has a deep reservoir of knowledge acquired over some 43 years of coaching. It’s clear, that even after all these years, his passion for the game is as strong as ever. You can see it in the way he interacts with just about everyone on the roster, from Tom Brady to Danny Amendola to some of the undrafted players who don’t have a snowball’s chance of making this - or any other - roster in the NFL. Which may be why Belichick explained in great detail why everyone, including Brady, need to start over every year.

“As it relates to training camp, look I have been coaching for 43 years, but at the start of training camp as a coach I have to refine my on-field coaching skills," Belichick said. "I have to refine my in-game coaching skills. It is something I haven’t done for six months and it’s with a different team. It’s with different players, different options than a year ago or two years ago. There is a whole preparing process involved there that I don’t care how long you played, each year is different because you have to start all over again. You have a new team and you’re doing something you haven’t done in six months. If you stopped doing something for six months and tried to pick it up later - it might be related, scouting players or going through draft process, things like that, but it’s not the same - it’s on-field coaching decisions, that didn’t start until two weeks ago.

“Then as it relates to players in general, experienced players know a lot about the game, but again there are new players. Every team you play is different. Each opponent is different. They have different players, different strengths and weaknesses and they have made changes to their system just like we made them to ours. So, I think that is important to tell any player. I don’t care how long he’s played in the league. If he’s been in the league 17 years it doesn’t mean he knows the team we’re playing because whatever changes they made from last year to this year, or maybe we’re not familiar with that team, then it is your job as a coach to try and get him prepared for that team. There’s a lot of things as a coach you try and do for every player, not just the rookies.”

So whereas Brady may think he has all the answers to the test, Belichick will be there to keep hitting him with pop quizzes - just like he will with the rest of the roster - to make sure they’re at the level he wants them to be, when he wants them to be there.

Rex Burkhead, David Harris in uniform for Patriots vs. Falcons

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Rex Burkhead, David Harris in uniform for Patriots vs. Falcons

FOXBORO -- The Patriots went into Sunday night's game with only three corners available to them, and even one of those was questionable. Pitted against a Falcons attack that features the reigning MVP and one of the most physically-gifted receivers to ever play, that felt like a problem. 

It still might be, but that one questionable corner -- Johnson Bademosi (abdomen) -- will be in uniform to help thwart Julio Jones and Co. Patriots tight end Jacob Hollister (questionable with a chest injury) is also active and in uniform. 

The Patriots ruled out three players in the days leading up to the game: corners Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe and defensive end Harvey Langi. Joining them as inactive on Sunday night at Elandon Roberts (ankle), Geneo Grissom (healthy scratch), Cam Fleming (healthy scratch) and Cole Croston (healthy scratch). 

Running back Rex Burkhead will be available to the Patriots for the first time since Week 2 when he injured his ribs against the Saints. Though he's only seen a very limited number of snaps this season, when he was on the field through the first two weeks he was heavily involved. He's seen just 18 offensive snaps, but he's carried the ball five times and he's been targeted seven times in the passing game. 

Also in uniform will be veteran linebacker David Harris. He's played just seven snaps this season, but with Roberts out, maybe this is the week when he sees more playing time. He should slot in behind Kyle Van Noy and Dont'a Hightower as New England's off-the-ball 'backers. 

AFC: Steelers shut down Bengals to pull away for 29-14 win

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AFC: Steelers shut down Bengals to pull away for 29-14 win

PITTSBURGH - Ben Roethlisberger threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns, Le'Veon Bell added 192 total yards and Pittsburgh's defense dominated the Cincinnati Bengals in the second half of a 29-14 victory on Sunday.

The Steelers (5-2) relied on their stars to take the lead and then on their reinvigorated defense to blunt Cincinnati's and give themselves a significant cushion over the rest of the underwhelming AFC North.

The Bengals (2-4) came in looking to add some street cred to their resurgence after their 0-3 start, but instead spent the second half reverting to the kind of ineffective offense that got Ken Zampese fired two weeks into the season. The Steelers picked off Andy Dalton twice and sacked him three times over the final two quarters to pull away.

Chris Boswell added five field goals for Pittsburgh, which posted its highest points total and appears to be rounding into form as Halloween nears.

Two weeks after openly questioning whether he still "had it," Roethlisberger put together easily his best half of the season. He hit Antonio Brown for a 7-yard touchdown to cap Pittsburgh's first drive, found a wide-open JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 31-yard score in the second quarter and threw a perfectly placed 23-yard deep out to Brown late in the second quarter to spark a drive that ended with a 24-yard Chris Boswell field goal that put the Steelers up 20-14 at the half.

Dalton and Cincinnati appeared ready to keep pace early. He connected with Brandon LaFell and Tyler Kroft with first-half touchdowns, but when the Steelers turned the pressure up, the Bengals crumbled while losing for the eighth time in their last nine meets with their longtime nemesis.

Cincinnati managed just one first down in the second half, much of which Dalton spent on the run or throwing picks. Joe Haden collected his first interception with Pittsburgh when he made a juggling grab that set up Boswell's field goal. William Gay added one later in the third quarter on an ugly overthrow by Dalton.

Dalton finished 17 of 30 for 144 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Bengals had just 19 yards of total offense in the second half. Given one last desperate shot to get back in it with 5 minutes left trailing by 15, Dalton threw the ball away on fourth down, a microcosm of a forgettable afternoon.

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