Patriots

'I would have never taken Peyton over Brady'

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'I would have never taken Peyton over Brady'

Covering the NFL for almost 20 years allows you to make relationships with a bunch of people. So I thought I'd tap into some of those people for a series of topics we've been kicking around.

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The panel consists of one former Pats player still in the game, two scouts of AFC teams, one front-office member in the AFC, and one NFC scout. They all requested anonymity for obvious reasons (as the player said, "Hey, I might want to end up back there!"). I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I had talking to these guys.

Today's topic: Tom Brady

Scout 1: “When he says he has all the answers to the test, he’s not lying. Some of those Rex Ryan defenses back in Rex’s Jets days were able to confuse him. Ditto for [when Ryan was defensive coordinator in] Baltimore. Now? I can’t really remember a time when you popped in the tape and said, ‘Shit, they fooled him for a series, or a half or a game.’ It’s like he refuses to let you beat him, wherever it is that you’d try to find that edge.”

Scout 2: “Who could have predicted this?  You wondered about his long-term viability several years ago when they drafted [Jimmy] Garoppolo. It looked like the end was near. Maybe it lit a fire. Sometimes even Tom Brady needs that push. Now what can you say?  He’s gotten here and you can’t deny . . . the [overall] results. Brady was the best QB a decade ago and he’s the best QB now. That’s not how it’s suppose to go when that QB is 40." (Brady turns 40 Thursday, Aug. 3.)

Scout 3: “I remember the debate, Manning versus Brady. From a sheer talent standpoint, I think it was Manning, right up until the arm strength decreased, but I would have never taken Peyton over Brady in any of those years. Brady has a way about him -- we’ve had former Pats come through here and they back my opinion -- that Manning didn’t have. Slows it down when Manning would seemingly let it speed up, especially in those big moments. I’m surprised we haven’t heard a Joe Montana-like story about him, the one from the Super Bowl, when Montana pointed out John Candy in the end zone. I just think while hyper-focused, he knows how to put his teammates at ease. We would love to find that in a QB. So would every other team.”

Former Patriot player: “I loved competing against him, and I loved pissing him off. It didn’t happen often, but he’s so [bleeping] intense that every 1-on-1, or 7-on-7, or team period, he wants to beat you. Thing about it was, you get him once, he might come back at you the very next time. I didn’t keep score, but I’d guess that he won way more of those matchups then I’d like to admit.

“You know those training-camp practices, when it’s hot and humid and the crowds start to get smaller? Those days are the worst. You’re sore and tired and everything hurts. Bill [Belichick] wants to make it hurt. They all do. It sucks. But Tom’s one of those guys that won’t let the practice get away from us. He’s yelling at himself. He’s screaming encouragement at Gronk or [Julian Edelman]. He starts chirping at us. Man, does he love to shit talk us. Pisses you off. And before you know it, your energy has gone up because he’s talking. Now practice is better. Then it’s over. That’s not an accident.”

Front office executive: “Tom personifies everything you want in that position: Leadership, intelligence, toughness, his teammates clearly love him and, let’s not forget, talent. He has loads and loads of talent. Who gets better at 38? 39? You can’t do that without skill. Plus, that speaks to his work ethic, as well. If someone with his resume is still battling his ass off every day, how can I not push myself the same way? He’s the perfect player and while we’ll all be happy when he finally retires, I admire him.”

A bunch of unnamed assistant coaches told Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report they thought the drop off was coming this year. What do you think?

“I think those coaches have very little to base that on. I’m not sure I’d want those [coaches] on my staff. Tell me they aren’t on my staff.”  

Football Outsiders said there was a decrease in arm strength as last season wore on.

“You think Bill and [Josh McDaniels] aren’t paying attention to what his arm looks like, how it responds? I think in some of those conditions, he still managed to cut it through the wind and the elements. He doesn’t have the arm of, say, a Blake Bortles or Aaron Rodgers, but it’s obviously more than good enough to win with. He’s done that better than anyone in league history.”

 

Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

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Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

While being away from home isn’t uncommon for the Patriots - just think about all those Super Bowl trips - Tom Brady believes each excursion takes on its own feel, its own flavor and - eventually - its own meaning.

Back in 2014, the Pats went from playing in Green Bay and losing to the Packers straight to San Diego for a week on the West Coast prior to a rousing victory over the Chargers. That week, many players said in the aftermath, helped propel the team to great heights,.  You’ll recall, that season ended in grand fashion, a triumph in Super Bowl 49 over Seattle, at the time - and maybe still - the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

“I think all these experiences are pretty unique,” Brady said Friday from Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy. “That was a very unique experience. This is different.”

Brady spoke about the number of stops the Pats have and will have to make on this trip - from Denver to Colorado Springs then on to Mexico City Saturday before a Sunday night return to Foxboro and their own beds for the first time in 10 nights.

“When you’re on the road like this, there’s less to do,” he said. “You know my family is not here, my kids aren’t here. There’s nobody telling me what I did wrong in the house. It’s just being at home and now it’s being here and trying to figure out a way to win a game.”

Brady quickly smoothed over any possible ill-will at home - why make Gisele mad? - smiling and saying “I didn’t mean that so I’ll take it back.”

Kidding aside, the 40-year old signal caller seemed pleased with the work the Patriots have put in during this long trip. A week of team-bonding can’t be a bad thing, especially for a group that seems to be hitting it’s stride both on and off the field. There’s the five wins in a row and also a locker room that has a better understanding of one another than it did during the first month of the season. But Brady is not ready to make any grand proclamations. That just wouldn’t be his style.

“I think it’s still work in progress,” he said of team chemistry. “You look at still adding a player like Marty (Bennett) last week. Things are always changing and evolving. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing well and after 8 or 9 weeks, you start to figure those things out. Now we have to work hard at those things, try to really own them, and use them going forward to try and win the most important games. We have a lot of important games coming up, starting with this one. Hopefully we can play our best football going forward.”

Brady said he’s been fired up for this game with the Raiders south of the border ever since the schedule was released all those months ago.

“I’ve never been to Mexico City,” he said. “It’s been a game you kind of look forward to. We’re playing against a really good football team in a pretty cool environment. It will be very memorable. I think everyone is excited.”

Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

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Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

The Patriots will be without center David Andrews on Sunday when they play the Raiders in Mexico City. Andrews, who hasn’t all practice all week with an illness, is one of four Pats listed as out on the injury report released Friday.

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Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, who didn’t play last week against the Broncos is also out, along with wide receiver Chris Hogan and special teams captain Matthew Slater. Offensive linemen Ted Karras and Joe Thuney each took reps at center so one of them will likely start in Andrews’ absence. LaAdrian Waddle filled in for Cannon and performed well last week vs. Denver. 

Here’s the full injury report for the Patriots and Raiders: