No huddle: Brady on Welker, fullbacks & a fuzzy first game

No huddle: Brady on Welker, fullbacks & a fuzzy first game

By Mary Paoletti Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady's 1,327 passing yards in three games is an NFL record.

He should send a thank you note to Wes Welker.

Welker has long been one of Brady's favorite targets and this season is no exception. The receiver has 458 receiving yards and four touchdowns in Weeks 1 through 3. His performance against Buffalo was tremendous: 217 yards (a career and franchise record), 16 catches (a personal record and tie for the Patriots' best with Troy Brown) and two TDs.

"He's just a great player," Brady said Wednesday. "And he's been that way since the day he got here. He had a great game last week in an individual effort that made some incredible plays. And he always seems to do that. In Miami he did the same thing. He's done that in practice every day, every day in training camp -- he never missed a day. He's just a tough, hard-nosed football player."

Brady said Welker's entrance the league as an undrafted free agent drives him to do more, be better.

"You can never underestimate someone that's worked the way that he's had to work, because he hasn't had all the opportunities, that maybe a lot of other guys have had early in his career. And he realizes that and he still works as hard today as he's ever worked. I love being out there with him. He's a great teammate, he's an incredible player, receiver, leader on this team. Team's are always trying to find ways to take Wes away."

'Try' is the operative word. Arguably, the most impressive quality about Welker's game is his consistent ability to get open. This is his fifth season as a Patriot and a starter, but he's never been listed as active and gone catchless in a game.

Brady remains impressed

"Different guys create different separation different ways. Wes uses his quickness a lot of the time and you see he gets a lot of separation because he's so good getting in and out of his breaks.

"Taller guys, some don't get as good of horizontal separation because their vertical length and their catch radius...they could be open even if the DB is a lot closer. Wes doesn't have that so he's got to be open. He's got to get separation. And he does that. That's what his quickness really allows him to be able to do."

Brady had plenty more to say on non-Welker topics.

HEARD THE PATRIOTS WORKED OUT TWO FULLBACKS THIS WEEK. DO YOU MISS HAVING A TRADITIONAL FB ON THE ROSTER? "We have different guys that kind of play that similar role. There's not necessarily a fullback on the roster, but the things that some teams would ask a fullback to do, we ask of the different tight end variations that we have. Different guys do different things well, so in this situation we just...don't have a fullback."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR FIRST THREE GAMES WITH CHAD OCHOCINCO? "It's been three games for all of us together. In this offense: Chad, Wes, Deion... all of us in this receiverquarterback combination, we're trying to do better each week. We're trying to make improvements each week. We're not where we need to be, we're not where we're going to be.

"We're going to keep working hard at it and we're going to try to make some improvements. That's for myself, that's for every position on the team. As long as we show up and work hard every day and have confidence that we're going to get better, We're going to try to get better within the system of what coach's is asking us to do."

DOES COMING OFF THE LOSS TO BUFFALO GIVE YOU ADDED MOTIVATION FOR THE WEEK AHEAD? "I think we always prepare pretty hard. We aren't doing anything extra special this week. I think we, like every week, identify problems that were a problem, we see things that we did well, try to eliminate some of the problems and understand what it takes to win these games.

"When you look at the different opponent that you're facing, you have a different game plan, you go out there and you try to attack them in a different way and everybody's really got to get up to speed on what we're trying to do there. We're preparing pretty much like we always prepare."

THE 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF YOUR FIRST NFL START IS COMING UP. HOW ABOUT THAT? "I don't even remember. That was a long time ago... God. Yeah, I don't even remember."

YOU WON BIG. "Yeah, we beat the Chargers...."

...IT WAS THE COLTS. "Was it the Colts? God, see?"


YES, YOU DID. "I got to watch that game again."

Mary Paoletti can be reached at Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

'Man, why do we continue to do this?' Patriots FG block work finally pays off

'Man, why do we continue to do this?' Patriots FG block work finally pays off

FOXBORO -- Stay low. Drive off the tight end's inside shoulder. And whatever you do, keep your feet. You don't want to be falling into kicker and picking up a penalty. 

Those were the kinds of things that were bouncing around somewhere in Cassius Marsh's subconscious as he lined up to try to block Falcons kicker Matt Bryant's field-goal attempt from 37 yards away at the end of the first quarter. Swimming past his blocker off the snap, Marsh got both arms extended and into the path of Bryant's kick, knocking it down and giving his team a boost. 


"Guys work hard on that every week," Bill Belichick said after his team's 23-7 win. "Cassius has gotten some opportunities in practice. It’s hard to block Steve [Gostkowski]. Steve gets good height on the ball, gets the ball off quickly. I think this one with not quite as much height maybe as Steve's ball, or at least what Steve's balls were in practice, Cassius got a hand on it. 

"It was a big play for us because, again, we worked so hard on that and that’s everybody across the board. That’s all 11 guys, not just the guy that blocks it. The other guys have to do their job and if they block Cassius and take him away then that gives somebody else an opportunity so we never know how that’s going to go. We just want everybody to come hard and do their job right and wherever the opening is it is. That was a big play for us . . . 

"You can see the whole team – we were all excited. Sideline, players, guys on the field. That was a big moment for us. Our special teams units work very hard. They take a lot of pride in their job. The return teams, the coverage teams, the field goal and the field goal block team. It’s good to see that hard work pay off in a big play like that."

It was a big enough play that it earned Marsh a high-five from his coach. Marsh laughed about his reception on the sideline, remembering that the last time he got that kind of recognition from Belichick it came after a Week 4 sack.

"That's pretty much it that I can remember," Marsh said, beaming. "He only really smiles in situations like that so you've gotta cherish those moments."

The Patriots recovered at their own 26-yard line and embarked on an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to get them on the scoreboard.

"With the defense playing as well as they were, to be able to preserve the shutout at the time was big," said special teams captain Matthew Slater. "Those are huge momentum plays when you're able to block a kick. It's not a traditional play that happens every game. Huge play. A UCLA guy stepping up, who would've thought? 

"You gotta tip your hat to those guys because they coach that, they work that and sometimes it seems like, 'Man, why do we continue to do this?' But it paid off for us tonight. You tip your cap to not only Cash but the rest of the guys on that unit." 

While Marsh's block was the highlight, it was a strong night overall for New England's special teams units. Every Falcons drive started inside their own 30-yard line, and Gostkowski had kicks returned to the 12, 19 and 18 before they were stopped.

Slater called it the most complementary game the Patriots played all season. Offense, defense, special teams. They all worked together to make Sunday perhaps their most dominating performance of the year. 

"That's the effort that we've been looking for and striving for all year," Slater said. "I think that's a good starting point for us. Lot of football left. Nine games left so we're going to have to continue to do it and be consistent week in and week out."


Butler credits improved Patriots defense for 'playing smarter'

Butler credits improved Patriots defense for 'playing smarter'

As safety Duron Harmon emerged from the showers following the Patriots 23-7 win over the Falcons, he noticed a crowd gathered by his locker. As one of the captains of the team - and a man nicknamed by teammates as “The Voice” because of his ability to articulate the right words at the right time, the affable safety is a must listen postgame. But for a change, Harmon knew the mass gathering of media wasn’t there for him - at least not yet. We were there for Malcolm Butler, who had just played his best game of the season.

“You all want to talk to Malcolm?” Harmon sang. “I’d want to talk to Malcolm too.”

Devin McCourty got in on the act as well with some good-natured chirping in Butler’s direction. Both safeties were energized by the victory but also, it seemed, by the performance of a player they’ve come to rely on in games just like this. 


“Awww man, Malcolm. . . Malcolm was great for us,” said Harmon later. “We need that.”

It's hard not to draw the parallel between Butler having his best performance of the season a week after making two of the biggest plays in the game against the Jets. He did all this while the man who indirectly caused so much of the 28-year old’s troubles - Stephon Gilmore - hasn’t been able to play because of a concussion. Meanwhile, an undrafted player in his 6th year, Johnson Bademosi, has emerged opposite Butler to play very sound football.

“Communication,” said Butler of the team’s defensive improvements. “Just playing smarter and better. That’s all.”

Butler himself didn’t want to spend much time analyzing his own performance. That’s usually not his thing. And it wasn’t as if that performance was perfect. Far from it. But Butler’s energy was evident right from the jump. He stuck his nose in there on running plays to his side, including a terrific submarine tackle of Tevin Coleman in the opening quarter. Butler also got his fair share of Julio Jones over the course of the night. Even though he surrendered that late touchdown to the Falcons wideout, he showed not only a willingness to play the big dog, but to go right at him. That is - after all - a Butler trademark. 

“Just competing,” said Butler. “Great player; you just got to compete.”

It’s not just competing, but it’s playing with confidence, something Butler said was an issue for him in the aftermath of his snap reduction in New Orleans. But now? That seems long gone and hard to find.