Patriots

Jerod Mayo remains quietly consistent for Patriots 'D'

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Jerod Mayo remains quietly consistent for Patriots 'D'

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

SAN DIEGO -- The New England Patriots have shown some on-the-field inconsistencies.

Jerod Mayo isn't one of them.

Coach Bill Belichick discussed his linebacker's skill set during the week leading up to the matchup with San Diego.

"Jerod has terrific instincts,'' he said. "He had those in college and I think that's one of the impressive things about watching him at Tennessee just the way he was able to sort plays out, find the ball, get over trash, get past guys that are around his feet or in the pile in the way and get past that to make the tackle.''

Mayo did his coach's words justice on Sunday, recording 10 tackles in New England's 23-20 win.

He got involved in four different hits on San Diego's second drive to set the tone, setting up shop on both the left and right sides of the field and bringing down whichever wideouts and running backs dared to pass.

Mayo's instincts really came up huge with under five minutes to play in the first quarter. Teammate Brandon Spikes broke up a third-and-15 pass between Chargers QB Philip Rivers and Kris Wilson. Mayo recovered the third-down fumble to set his team up on the San Diego 22.

Five plays later, Tom Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski for New England's first touchdown of the game.

Mayo only continued to make his presence felt.

On San Diego's sixth first-and-10 of its sole third-quarter drive, he went one-on-one with tough cover running back Darren Sproles. Mayo, though slower, couldn't be fooled. He swallowed Sproles up.

But it didn't matter if it was Sproles, Ryan Matthews, Patrick Crayton, Mike Tolbert or the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Buster Davis -- Mayo got his man.

Safety Brandon Meriweather acknowledged his fortune of playing behind such a talent.

"Mayo's a great player. He's a very good player,'' Meriweather said. "He runs the defense. He's the one who keeps all of us composed and does all the little things that count when you're in big games. It's great for me to look in front of me and see Mayo. It helps me relax.''

Mayo has 72 takedowns now at Week 7.

The stat makes him the NFL leader in tackles. It also puts him in position to be the first Patriot to have three 100-tackle seasons since Lawyer Milloy's five-straight between 1997-2001. Impressive company.

Unfortunately, Mayo's stellar play might continue to fly under the radar. The drama of losing to one division rival (Jets, Week 2), flattening another (Miami, Week 4), and come-from-behind overtime victories (23-20 over Baltimore last weekend) and San Diego can overshadow the guy who's just doing what he's supposed to. Even if he's doing a tremendous job.

But that's the New England way, right?

"Just trying to go what's asked of me,'' Mayo said. "You know I have to give that Patriots answer. I'm just trying to do what's asked of me. It's something differentevery week andI just want to win games."

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

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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