Patriots

McDaniels keeps seeking consistency

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McDaniels keeps seeking consistency

"Why this and not that?"

That question is posed a few million times in living rooms and bar rooms, on airplanes and sidelines and over coaching headsets every single NFL Sunday.

Everybody has the right to wonder. Loudly if they so choose. And - contrary to what some may have you believe - the guys selecting "this" over "that" make the wrong decisions. A lot.

Clearly, the Patriots' offensive performance over the past few weeks leaves them open to some questioning and second-guessing.

Because they have players who've demonstrated a high level of competency, there is no question about whether their talent is an issue. So when the offense fails to gain separation in the second half and leads leak away, it logically comes down to either play-calls or execution.

The myriad variables that flow off of that are too long to list.

During a Monday conference call, I asked Josh McDaniels if he felt any closer to establishing what the offense does really, really, really well. What can it rely on?

"I think that you always try to evaluate what the team does well and hopefully were making as many good decisions about what to do with our players and our offense as we can all the time," said the Patriots offensive coordinator. "I think youll also learn as you go through this portion of the season. ...There are always some things you learn from each game, whether it be a new package that may have a chance to be productive for you or less of something else and more of this."

The essence of coaching successfully is either coaching with a relentlessly predictable efficiency so that, even if the other team knows what's coming, it can't stop it. Or winning the game with subterfuge and hitting them where they ain't. Usually, it's a blend.

A team as offensively diverse as the Patriots has lots of answers. Their challenge is providing the right ones when the defense presents them with a problem. Diversity is awesome. But simplicity is nicer.

Of course, the opponent is throwing subterfuge back at you, which McDaniels alluded to.

"So many factors go into each week ... like the way we attacked Seattle, it would have been hard to say thats exactly the way to attack the Jets because theyre so different in terms of the way they play and the schemes they use and the player strengths they have on defense," he explained. "You try to take the things that you do best that make sense to use against the team youre playing and then try to do them the best you can that week."

In-game adjustments, McDaniels said, create another level of complexity that makes the "that" which should work consistently a changeable thing.

"There are certain games we go into expecting to be pressured a lot and maybe we dont get blitzed," he pointed out. "Or theres a certain game we expect a lot of coverage and we get pressured a lot. In those situations, you may have to change what you anticipated would be a strength for your team as you go into it and try to do something else.

"Its Week 7 of the season, going into Week 8," McDaniels reminded. "There are always things you can learn about your team so that hopefully youre playing your best football as you head into the last half to last quarter of the season. So hopefully youre really peaking at the right time."

Patriots cut ties with Cassius Marsh, sign Eric Lee to help front-seven

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Patriots cut ties with Cassius Marsh, sign Eric Lee to help front-seven

Cassius Marsh was brought to New England to help a depleted defensive end group and play in the kicking game. The Patriots wanted him badly enough that they parted with two draft picks -- a fifth and a seventh -- to acquire him in a trade with the Seahawks just before the start of the season. 

Less than three months later, they've decided to part ways with the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder. 

Marsh played in nine games for the Patriots this season, providing the team with an edge defender and someone with special-teams experience. He blocked a kick in Week 7 against the Falcons that earned him an enthusiastic attaboy from coach Bill Belichick. 

Coming off the edge, Marsh recorded one sack and 13 hurries. Against the run, he was used more sparingly, and he was one of the Patriots on the scene for Marshawn Lynch's 25-yard run in the second quarter on Sunday. He played in just two snaps in Mexico City after missing the previous week's game in Denver due to a shoulder injury. 

Without Marsh the Patriots remain thin at defensive end. In order to help bolster that spot, the corresponding move the Patriots made to fill the open spot on their 53-man roster was to sign defensive lineman Eric Lee off of the Bills practice squad. 

Lee entered the league with the Texans last season as an undrafted rookie out of South Florida. Listed at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Lee has bounced on and off of the Bills practice squad this season since being released by the Texans before this season.

The Patriots got a good look at Lee during joint practices last summer with the Texans at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. In the preseason game with the Texans that week, Lee played 40 snaps and according to Pro Football Focus he had two quarterback hurries. The Patriots have a history of snagging players they've practiced against, and with Lee, that trend continues

Belichick takes some heat for 'earthquake' comment

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Belichick takes some heat for 'earthquake' comment

Bill Belichick sounded less than enthused about traveling to Mexico to play a game. And his line about being "fortunate there was no volcano eruptions, earthquakes or anything else while we were down there," didn't exactly sit well with some folks south of the border.

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“Personally, I wouldn’t be in any big rush to do it again,” Belichick said on his weekly appearance on WEEI's "Dale and Holley with Keefe" show Monday. “Players did a great job dealing with all the challenges that we had to deal with. I think we’re fortunate there was no volcano eruptions, earthquakes or anything else while we were down there. I mean you have two NFL franchises in an area that I don’t know how stable the geological plates that were below us [were], but nothing happened so that was good.”

Pancho Vera of ESPN Mexico took exception to Belichick's comment on Twitter, which, translated, called out the "ignorance of the genius of the NFL." More than 200 people were killed after a quake centered near Mexico City struck in September. 

Other Twitter users said, using Belichick's reasoning, they wondered if they'd be fortunate not to be killed or wounded in a mass shooting if they were to travel to the US:

Translated, the tweets read "I also have luck in Las Vegas I was not in a shooting" and "But you are right, I apply the same when I go to the U.S. and say I was fortunate I was not in some crazy shootout."