Curran: Patriots, beware of Ochocinco


Curran: Patriots, beware of Ochocinco

By TomE. Curran
So let's get this straight. Bill Belichick was so pissed at Wes Welker's veiled swipes at Rex Ryan that he sat him down for the first series of a playoff game. A PLAYOFF game. Wes Welker. Aguy who battled back from a blown ACL in order to be ready ahead of schedule for this regular season. A guy who's caught 466 balls and 24 touchdowns in 65 games (including playoffs). A guy who generally wouldn't say s if he had a mouthful. And he gets punished pretty severely for a one-time verbal wobble? Compared toChad Ochojohnson, Welker is talkative as a window sill, inflammatory as a dandelion.
Yet we're all speculating on the possibilitythat Ochojohnson -- a man more brand than football player -- is legitimate quarry for the Patriots?It's the slow season. Chad's got his shortest, tightest skirt on and is stepping off the sidewalk to stick his bald head in the window of every passing car.But how plausible is this notion? I know the respect Belichick has forChad's game (can I call him Chad? I'm going withChad).Between both press conferences and normal conversation, I'veheard enough to know that Chad was -- at one point -- the receiver Belichick most admired. For a five-season stretch - 2003 through 2007- he caught 462 balls (92 per season) for an average of 1,374 yards and 43 touchdowns. ThenChad turned 30. In the past three seasons, he caught 192 balls (64 per season) for an average of 793 yards and 17 total touchdowns.He's on the decline. Not useless, not at all. Look at whatTomBrady did forDeion Branch, a playerseeminngly washed up whenhe arrived in New England back in October. But can Belichick convince Chad to give up cold turkey his"look at me" persona andbe a football drone?Just as important, can Brady? Forget the outward bouquet-tossing. He'd had all he could stand of Moss by the time Moss was dealt. The need to be fed the ball, the tepid effort on balls that needed extra effort, the resultant interceptions when he didn't compete . . . all of it came to a head against the Jets in Week 2. Moss saw four passes his way in the next two games and went buh-bye. Chad's every bit as demanding. And a helluva lot more verbal about it on Twitter and in the locker room. Or at least he has been. Will Brady -- coming off another surgery and a soul-crushing playoff loss -- be excited about having a high-maintenance receiver in his huddle after finding all the success he did with a bunch of team-first guys?Seems a stretch. Then of course there's the fact that Chad is UNDER CONTRACT AND CAN'T BE TAMPERED WITH!Already, this seems lost on one coach. Hue Jackson, the new man in charge of the Raiders, claimed Chad is his "son." We'll see what Rex Ryan says in response to Chad and Terrell Owens both saying they want to play for the Jets. Bengals owner Mike Brown can do vindictive. Think he'll want to release Chad so he can go sign where he wants? Or that he'll deal Chad to a place he's openly whored himself out to? At this rate, Ocho's probably piled up enough comments to get one of those "conduct detrimental to the team" punishments and get his posterior put on ice. Which is another dynamic to watch for. I'm hesitant to dismiss out of hand the idea that Belichick would want to coach Chad. Look at the track record -- no coach has made more unconventional personnel decisions than Hoody. But look at the makeup of the Patriots, their youth and need to keep maturing. Look at the recent history of how things went with a high-maintenance wideout with a me-first attitude. Consider the seriousness of Tom Brady and the grabassery Chad is constantly involved in.
When you look at it, it hardly seems logical. Tom E. Curran canbe reached at Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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? 


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.