Patriots

Harmon's had enough of Patriots' poor defensive showings

Harmon's had enough of Patriots' poor defensive showings

FOXBORO -- Duron Harmon has seen enough.

Shortly after his team surrendered 33 points to a Carolina Panthers offense that previously couldn't get out of its own way, let alone find the end zone, the New England Patriots' fifth-year safety held court, calling out any and all teammates on the defensive side of the ball. 

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"In my five years here, we pride ourself on being a smart, tough football team, especially defensive-wise," he said. "We're just not doing it. It's frustrating because we do put a lot of work into it, but it's obviously not enough. We need to go really look at ourselves tonight and we need to come with a better attitude tomorrow, an attitude to work, to do more."

The Patriots have now been gashed for 30-plus points in three of their first four games. That's about as un-Patriot like as anything we've seen since Bill Belichick walked through that door. Not only that, but teams are piling up yardage at an ungodly rate -- 1,827 yards to be exact. Only a half-dozen teams in NFL history have ever given up that many through the first four weeks of the season.

It shouldn't look this way. It's not as if Belichick the GM turned over that entire unit in the offseason following a Super Bowl win. Yes, the Pats lost Rob Ninkovich to retirement, and Logan Ryan and Jabaal Sheard to free agency, but the veteran core remains. Up front, there's still Trey Flowers and Alan Branch and Malcom Brown. Kyle Van Noy and Dont'a Hightower remain. The secondary returns all three safeties and two of its top three corners from a year ago. Actually, that group was suppose to get better after investing $31 million in guaranteed dollars in former Buffalo Bill Stephon Gilmore. However, it's been one big play after another allowed by the back end, which is truly baffling to Harmon.

"You can't explain it," he said. "We continue to go out there, we work hard, we work hard each and every week. We practice as hard as anybody in the NFL. So for us to go out there and do what we do I really believe it's because of a lack of focus. We need to be able to zero in on each play -- there's gonna be between 60 and 70 plays a game -- we gotta get the mental toughness to be able to do our job each play, take one play at a time. Not looking ahead. Not looking behind. Just be able to focus."

Harmon was asked if defensive coordinator Matt Patricia needed to ease back on his defense, simplify the calls and checks so that the players can be more free to just react and play fast. Only problem is, that just what Patricia did after Week One. He's stopped flipping his corners based on matchups, added a more traditional middle linebacker into the mix in Elandon Roberts to streamline communication, and, just this weekend, finally got back the lynchpin in all of this: Hightower.

It didn't matter. Cam Newton looked like the 2015 NFL MVP, not the average quarterback that he's been ever since.

"We simplified," said Harmon, shaking his head. "Can't get no more simple than what we're doing. We just gotta take a look in the mirror, everybody, top to bottom, defense-wise and just see what can I do to be a better football team for the Patriots, what can I do to make sure I do my job each and every play when I get my opportunity. We gotta look in the mirror. We gotta understand that it's nobody but yourself."

Message sent. Will it be received? We'll find out very soon. The Pats are in Tampa Thursday on a short week with a lot at stake.

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What we're hearing: Brady has painful thumb injury

What we're hearing: Brady has painful thumb injury

First things first, this is not a drill. Tom Brady’s right thumb is messed up. This isn’t a Patriots’ ruse, this isn’t a misdirection, and this isn’t what the team was looking for as it tries to get to its seventh Super Bowl since 2001.

What’s given me the most pause since learning there was an injury is that I just haven’t heard from any sources, “Pffffttt, it’s nothing. He’s fine.” The truth is, nobody with what I would consider first-hand knowledge is saying anything. It’s quiet. Too quiet.

Which leaves a guy working the periphery. Our bright and informed readers understand the periphery isn’t as reliable.

So as of Friday afternoon, I don’t know precisely what the situation is. Best I can do is ask you to settle for “chatter.”

This isn’t a “reporting” or a “breaking”. It’s just a “what I’m hearing”. And if you’re not gonna live with that caveat, stop reading.

Brady’s right thumb bent back badly when he was smashed into by a running back. Somehow, the ball got jammed back into the webbing between his thumb and index finger and it caused a cut. Might have been the laces. There may be stitches. He’s not taking snaps under center. He can take them in shotgun. He’s trying not to aggravate the thumb between now and kickoff so the reps are at a minimum. He can throw. I have no idea how hard, how far or how accurately.

He may take a shot of Toradol prior to the game since the area still hurts from the trauma (hence the X-ray on Wednesday to rule out any structural issues).

That’s what we got.

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Felger: Thumb not fractured, won't affect him Sunday

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Felger: Thumb not fractured, won't affect him Sunday

A source familiar with the situation has told Mike Felger that Tom Brady’s thumb injury is a cut that is not expected to impact his play Sunday against the Jaguars. 

Brady took the field for Friday’s practice wearing gloves on both hands. While Brady would not share any details of his injury or his participation, Malcolm Butler remarked to media members that Brady threw the ball “pretty good.”