Patriots

Ex-teammates Moss, Brown have Brady's back

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Ex-teammates Moss, Brown have Brady's back

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - Getting a read on how Tom Brady is dealing with the stress of a four-game suspension -- and his ongoing legal battle to erase it -- is virtually impossible when talking with Patriots players and coaches. They have the answers down pat.

Take Matthew Slater today, for example.

Me: "Are you surprised Brady was able to have such a great day in practice with all that’s on his plate?"

Slater: “Not at all.”

Me: "So standard operating procedure?"

Slater with a smile: “It’s Tom Brady.”

So if the Pats are keeping it in house, let’s take it outside the house.

Two former Brady targets, Randy Moss and Troy Brown (both residents of West Virginia), were in attendance at the final joint practice between the Pats and Saints. As a distant relative of the family, Moss was more open than most.

“One thing you all have to realize is Tom is human," said Moss. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you it doesn’t affect him. I think not only does it affect him, it affects everybody in his circle. That’s something, as a professional, you just have to live with it and move on from it.”

Brown thinks Brady has been able to do that, at least from what he observed Thursday.

“He does a great job of being focused on his mission, and that’s to get better day after day; you know how it is around here,” said Brown with a smirk. “That’s what he was focused on, getting better and getting the guys around him better and focus on the things that are important. So it doesn’t surprise me that Tom is able to channel all of his attention to the details. Nothing surprises me with Tom.”

Brown said he doesn’t discuss Deflategate and the fallout with Brady. Moss falls in that camp as well.

“We talk every month, but that’s something we don’t talk about,” said Moss. “I told, Tom first and foremost, I’m going to stand by him regardless of what happens and I don’t call him to talk to him about anything negative. Friends are suppose to stay positive and move you in the right direction and that’s what I’m there for.”

Brady clearly enjoyed having his ex-teammates around, and at one point he playfully tossed the ball to Moss a couple of times. The sure-fire Hall of Famer is now running a football academy in Charlotte, focusing on teaching kids not only how to play the game, but how to prepare physically and mentally.

Moss, who last played in the NFL in 2012 for the 49ers, misses the game and, he says, is only now understanding just what he accomplished as a player.

“I always wondered myself how I would reflect on my career," he said. "You know what’s funny? I look on the Internet, look at myself, and wonder how was I was able to run and do the things that I was able to do. I never really got caught up in things when it was dealing with me, like overwhelming, but some of the things that I see myself do, knowing that I’m older, I was like, 'Wow, how did you do that stuff?'

“I think you have to have a certain swag to play this game, and like I said, me going back and looking at my highlights, man, is just something. For 14 years, I think I did something right.”

Would Moss, looking as good as he does, ever consider giving the game one more shot?

“I would say never but . . . " He paused. "Ummmmm, ahhhhh, ahhhhh . . . let’s leave it at that.”

And with that, Moss disappeared. But not before he once again left a mark, this one in favor of the best quarterback he ever played with.

 

 

 

Steelers can score - and be scored on

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Steelers can score - and be scored on

THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Record: 11-2
Last week: 39-38 win over Ravens
Previous three: 3-0 (Bengals, Packers, Titans)
2016 record: 11-5
Coach: Mike Tomlin
Offensive coordinator: Todd Haley
Defensive coordinator: Keith Butler


 
THE BASICS
The Steelers haven’t lost since Oct. 8 when they got whacked at home by the Jaguars, 30-9. They’ve been on the edge – four of their past five victories have come as time expired of the foot of kicker Chris Boswell, including the past three. The Steelers have two of the most dynamic offensive players in the NFL with running back LeVeon Bell (1,005 yards rushing and 579 receiving) and Antonio Brown (1,509 receiving yards on 99 catches). Both players have nine touchdowns. The Steelers have been yielding points to bad offenses – 38 to Baltimore, 28 to the Brett Hundley-led Packers – in a way that makes you wonder how much damage New England can do to them. They’ve lost their best linebacker, Ryan Shazier, and have allowed 282 yards on the ground on 48 carries the past two weeks. They also spent the offseason saying boldly that they had a plan for Tom Brady this time around.


 
WHAT'S GOOD 
Offensively, the Steelers are fourth in yards and second in passing yards (New England is first) and they are yielding the second-fewest sacks per attempt. They still aren’t the greatest in the red zone (25th in the NFL), but their playmakers – tight end Jesse James and wide receivers Martavis Bryant and Juju Smith-Schuster need to be included there – may be as deep as any team. And Ben Roethlisberger is the sloppy assassin. He is second in the NFL in the percentage of passes when the game is late and close (42-for-59, 71.2 percent). He’s also gotten 1,760 yards after the catch this year. Brown leads the league in 25-plus yard catches (16) while Bell leads the NFL in YAC (615). Cam Heyward is the Steelers defensive anchor up front. Vince Williams and T.J. Watt are also good at getting after the quarterback (13 sacks between them).


WHAT'S NOT 
The loss of linebacker Ryan Shazier was chilling. It also removed the team’s best defender and one of the NFL’s speediest linebackers from a defense that has – in years past – struggled mightily to keep pace with the Patriots. The aggressiveness of the Steelers defense has been used against it by Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels through the years and Pittsburgh looks ripe for the picking again after allowing 38 points to the Ravens. Also, despite Bell’s rushing numbers, the Steelers are just 28th in rushing yards per play. They are not tremendously balanced either with Roethlisberger having attempted 502 passes and throwing 13 picks – tied for third most in the NFL.


 
HISTORY
The Patriots have won the past four meetings, including two last year by scores of 27-16 at Heinz and 36-17 at Gillette in the AFC Championship Game. The Steelers beat New England at Heinz back in 2011 but are 1-4 in their past five at home against New England.

 

Steelers' great escapes - resilience or luck?

Steelers' great escapes - resilience or luck?

FOXBORO - The Steelers have done what they were "supposed to do." Barely.
 
That's how Mike Tomlin put it two weeks ago when he spoke about holding serve until his team's Week 15 matchup with the Patriots. Then as long as the winner of that game wins out, Tomlin explained in his interview with NBC's Tony Dungy for Football Night in America, the site of the AFC title game will be decided.

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Since that interview, the Steelers have won three games by a combined seven points. Their latest triumph came on Sunday night, a skin-of-their-teeth, hold-onto-your-butts, 39-38 comeback win over the Ravens. In Week 13, they nipped the Bengals in a brutal affair, 23-20. In Week 12, they escaped a primetime matchup with the Brett Hundley-led Packers, 31-28. 
 
Eight Steelers games this season have been decided by a touchdown or less. Tomlin's team is 7-1 in those games, including close victories over the Colts, Lions, Chiefs and Browns. 
 
There are two ways of looking at those numbers. The first? The Steelers are clutch. The second? That kind of close-and-late success is not sustainable. 
 
In all likelihood, a regression is coming. 
 
The Steelers defense, now forced to go without top linebacker Ryan Shazier, will probably be the culprit whenever that regression hits. Pittsburgh allowed the Ravens to pick up 6.7 yards per play and 5.8 yards per carry, and it gave up four touchdowns on Joe Flacco's four red-zone trips Sunday night. Against an offense that ranked in the bottom third of the league, according to Football Outsiders DVOA going into the game, that's an out-and-out problem.
 
The Patriots (10-3), unlike the Steelers (11-2), didn’t do what they “supposed to do” in Miami on Monday, and enter the showdown a game behind the Steelers. Still, this game at Heinz Field is the one that matters. It would give the Patriots the tiebreaker over the Steelers, and all Bill Belichick's team would have to do after that is what it would be expected to do: Win out, beat the Bills and Jets, and earn home-field advantage through the AFC Championship Game. 
 
Of course, what you're supposed to do and actually doing it are two very different things -- just ask the Steelers. So maybe Monday night in Miami was more important than it seemed. 

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