Patriots

Belichick, Patriots look ahead to Tebow Time

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Belichick, Patriots look ahead to Tebow Time

FOXBORO - Day 1 of Tebow Week. (The Patriots also play the Broncos on Sunday at 4:15 p.m.).

Bill Belichick? Not yet prepared to give the specific hosannas he usually trots out for the opposition on Wednesday.

Asked Monday about the prospect of dealing with the running skills of the Broncos quarterback, Belichick said, "Tim is a strong runner, good athlete, he can hurt you out of the pocket. Weve faced other quarterbacks like that. The big thing is just the whole offense: they run the ball, they have different types of running plays, running attack and then they have a lot of good receivers and they throw the ball down the field. There are a lot of challenges there. "

The fourth-quarter production of Tebow and the entire Broncos team has been remarkable. Anything different in that quarter, Belichick was asked.

"I wouldnt say its dramatically different," the head coach explained. "Yeah, its not like they run out a new whole thing. Theyve done it in different ways theyve done it throwing the ball, running the ball, driving it, making big plays. Well have to obviously study it a little bit more carefully but from what Ive seen, theyve made plays when they had to make them, critical plays. Again, whether thats the strip fumble, the field goal, a pass, a run. It hasnt just been one thing; theyve won as a team."

All the way out in the Rockies on Monday, Broncos coach John Fox talked about some of the same elements Belichick was being asked about.

He causes the defense to run around more, because he runs around a lot," Fox said when asked the implications of Tebow's ability to run. "Whether its as a runner or a scrambler on drop-back passes, it can be frustrating for a defense Ive been there many times on the other side of it. I think that causes your condition level to get taxed some as a result of the running around, and he does a good job of it.

The interesting thing about Tebow is that, because of the potency of his legs, teams are demanding they beat them with his arm.

I think, all in all, with the man coverage I spoke of earlier, I think theyre daring us to pass," explained Fox. "I think it started with us back in Detroit, and I think were improving in the pass game. I think our quarterbacks improving. I think our young receivers are improving.

"Tim, obviously, makes some things happen, even when the protection breaks down, because of his mobility. I think, at the end of the day, were getting better throwing the ball, and were going to have to be a lot better this week. We had some blips Sunday against Chicago with some drops, but talking about WR Demaryius Thomas, he came back and made some big catches at the end to overcome some of those drops.

While the Patriots usually spend Monday and Tuesday formulating their game plans for the weekend, Belichick did mention that one of the things making the Broncos offense hard to deal with is that they don't change personnel when they call for Tebow to run his option stuff.

"They have several different, Id say, concepts not really packages, because you dont know when theyre going to be in them and when theyre not because they dont change personnel. Its not like seeing a running back or a receiver come back and stand behind the center a different guy its always the same guy," he explained. "They can either be in it or not be in it at their discretion so you have to be ready for it even though thats not what theyre doing, and then you have to be ready for it and that is what theyre doing.

"It definitely has a Wildcat option element to it, no question about it. But they also run a lot of plays that I think we would say are conventional plays, if you will whatever that is, you know, plays that are more familiar to all of us.

"They do both and thats part of the problem; you dont know when youre going to get one thing or get another. They dont substitute necessarily to get into it, so you just have to figure it out. Sometimes at the line of scrimmage or sometimes after the ball is snapped you have to figure it out. They create some problems on that, no question."

Problems - and questions - that the Patriots will be dealing with all week long.

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is on pace for 5,224 yards passing in 2017, just a shade under his total from his career-high in 2011. He's on track to have 34 touchdowns and just five picks. Barring a continued run of ridiculous efficiency from Kansas City's Alex Smith, those numbers would be MVP-caliber in all likelihood.

But Brady's not thrilled with the way he's played of late. What gives? 

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In his past two games, he hasn't thrown the football as consistently as he would have liked. After starting the season with a 10-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he's 3-to-2 in the last couple of weeks. His accuracy has been at times pinpoint (as it was on his 42-yard completion to Brandin Cooks to help set up a Rob Gronkowski score against the Jets), but it has also been uncharacteristically erratic.

He was picked deep down the middle of the field by Buster Skrine last week, but the more concerning throw may have been the quick out-route to Gronkowski that Skrine dropped for what should have been an easy interception. Brady missed Phillip Dorsett on what looked like it could have been a long touchdown with Dorsett running free behind the defense. He threw behind Chris Hogan twice in the game, one of which opened up Hogan to a rib-shot that landed him on the injury report this week.

Against the Jets, Brady was not sacked and he was hit only four times -- a light day for him compared to other weeks this season when he's been battered. Yet he still completed just under 53 percent of his passes for 257 yards and a season-low 6.76 yards per attempt. 

"Well, I've got to hit the open . . . If the throws are there I've got to be able to make them," he said on Friday. "It's disappointing when I don't. To me, it just comes back to technique and fundamentals and making sure everything is working and that's the consistent daily thing that you're working on. I'm always working on my accuracy.

"I wish I hit them all. I'm capable of hitting them all and I need to be able to do that. I said last week that some of these games wouldn't be as close if I was playing better in the red area. I think some of those missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully, I can do a better job for this team."

Brady is no longer listed on the Patriots injury report, but he dealt with a left shoulder injury against both the Bucs and the Jets, and it's worth wondering if that somehow impacted how his passes traveled in those games. Balance is key in Brady's world, and even though he can make flat-footed throws look easy, perhaps an injury to his front side limited his ability to place the ball where he wanted. 

Keeping Brady upright could go a long way in helping the 40-year-old regain his form from Weeks 2-4 when he didn't dip below a 104 quarterback rating. Bill Belichick said earlier this week that part of the reason the Jets pass-rush wasn't quite as effective as others they'd faced this year was his team's ability to run the ball. Productive rushing attempts on first and second down mean manageable third downs, which mean shorter pass attempts. Those of course, in theory, lead to less time standing in the pocket and a healthier quarterback.

"It's great," Brady said of his team's recent surge running the football. "I mean, to be able to run the ball consistently in the NFL is important for every offense. It does take a lot of . . . I wouldn't say pressure, it's just production. If 400 yards of offense is what you're looking for and you can get 150 from your running game, the 250 has got to come in the passing game. If you're getting 50 yards in the rushing game then it means you've got to throw for more.

"I don't think it's pressure it's just overall you're going to get production in different areas and the backs are a big part of our offense and handing the ball off to them is an easy way for us to gain yards if we're all coordinated and doing the right thing. But those guys are running hard. The line is doing a great job up front finishing blocks and so forth."

Against the Falcons and their talented -- though underperforming -- offense this weekend, the running game could be key. First, it could help the Patriots defense by controlling possession and keeping Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman off the field. Next are the obvious advantages for the signal-caller who could use a stress-free day in the pocket to help him solve his recent accuracy issues. 

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