Patriots

Patriots 'got to play to the last second' in win over Texans

Patriots 'got to play to the last second' in win over Texans

Tom Brady bailed the Patriots out again. With just 29 seconds left in Sunday’s game with Houston, the 40-year old quarterback/surgeon dropped back, froze the safety with his eyes and delivered the game-winning 25-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks. Gillette Stadium erupted.

“They were playing a two-high defense and we got Cookie (Brandin Cooks) behind the corner,” said Brady shortly after the game. “We had Danny (Amendola) going up the middle of the field, so I tried to stare down the middle and then put it up and didn't really see the end of it until I saw it on the scoreboard. It was close, and then they reviewed it. I'm glad we got the two-point play. It was a great win. Got to play to the last second.”

MORE:

The review was necessary because Cooks was awfully close to being out of bounds. But the third-year pro had the wherewithal to know his position on the field and what his feet and body needed to do.

“It’s one of those things you don’t really work on in practice,” said Cooks on keeping his feet inbounds. “It happens in practice but it’s more of a natural instinct.”

The effort was appreciated.

“It was awesome,” said Rob Gronkowski. “I was just jamming [on] that play. I saw Tom [Brady] release the ball and [Brandin] Cooks open. I was like, ‘Please have this complete for a touchdown’. I was like, ‘I see Cooks wide open,’ and it was a great throw.”

“Cooks, obviously, on the last play against Cover-2 down the sideline made a great catch there.” said Bill Belichick. He wasn’t smiling but you know he was - somewhere on the inside.

Of course, the ending almost didn’t come to fruition. The Pats had a couple of bad three-and-outs earlier in the 4th quarter, and then decided to add an extra 10 yards to what goes down in the record books as a 75-yard drive but actually covered 85 thanks to a David Andrews holding penalty.

“Yeah, we kept making it hard,” recalled Brady. “I mean, we had penalties and then the sack and the fumble and it just kept feeling like we were going backwards.”

“We played bad for a lot of the game,” admitted left tackle Nate Solder. “Not up to our standard, but when you win and pull off a win in tough circumstances, there’s something to be said for that. It’s building block.”

The drive didn’t have life until the first of two third down conversions. Brady hooking up with Gronkowski short of the sticks. Gronk willing his way to move the chains.

“I know a lot of people look up to me to get the drive going, to make the first play to get everyone rolling,” said the tight end. “It was about third-and-12 I would say and I just knew that – I saw the defense, I saw the coverage and I knew that I had to make a play there. Tom [Brady] read it pretty good and threw a really good pass and I just made the catch and I saw where the first down marker was and I knew I had to get it to get us rolling in that [two minute drill]. Everyone did their job from there on out.”

Brady then hit Cooks for 18 yards to move the ball past midfield. But then came the next roadblock. Brady was sacked and fumbled the ball. Andrews alertly recovered it, but now the Pats were operating from their own 48. An incomplete down the deep middle to Cooks on 2nd down had the Pats facing third-and-18 with just 54 seconds to play. Enter Danny Amendola. 

“They were playing kind of a deep man coverage/ zone that turned into man after 25 yards,” recalled Amendola. “I had a deeper route. Me and Hoagie {Chris Hogan} crossed. I came out the backdoor and it worked out.”

“Danny made a really awesome catch,” added Hogan.

That set the stage for Brady to Cooks. 

“Tommy Ice came out and did his thing,” said defensive end Cassius Marsh.

“I mean, that’s the way you write it,” said Hogan, smiling. “it was a great drive by everyone on that offense.”

Inevitable, it seemed, but the reality was far more difficult.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans end 11-game skid to Colts with 36-22 win

titans_marcus_mariota_101617.jpg

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans end 11-game skid to Colts with 36-22 win

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Marcus Mariota threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to Taywan Taylor with 5:29 left , and the Tennessee Titans beat the Indianapolis Colts 36-22 on Monday night to snap an 11-game skid tied for the NFL's longest active losing streak against one team.

Mariota didn't move around much on a cool night after missing a game with a strained left hamstring, but still managed to throw for a season-high 306 yards. He completed each of his three passes on the drive that ended with Taylor's tiebreaking score.

The Titans (3-3) also snapped a two-game skid with the win.

Jacoby Brissett tried to rally the Colts (2-4) to a second straight overtime. But Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard forced Brissett out of bounds shy of the first down marker on fourth-and-inches with 2:19 left. Coach Chuck Pagano lost his challenge.

Derrick Henry then clinched the win for Tennessee with a 72-yard TD run with 47 seconds left. Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner, finished with a career-high 131 yards on 19 carries. DeMarco Murray also scored.

The Titans looked like the NFL's worst scoring defense in the first half instead of Indianapolis, with Brissett directing the Colts to a 13-9 halftime lead. John Simon then intercepted Mariota's first pass of the third quarter and returned it 26 yards for a TD.

But the Titans forced the Colts to go three-and-out on three of their first four drives of the second half, and Avery Williamson stripped tight end Jack Doyle of the ball after a catch.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Bill Belichick: 'Incomprehensible' to think Patriots would pick up from where they left off last season

patriots_bill_belichick_101517.jpg

Bill Belichick: 'Incomprehensible' to think Patriots would pick up from where they left off last season

Bill Belichick knows that people outside his organization expected big things from his team this season, but he gave a long explanation for how those expectations should have been tempered headed into 2017. 

Belichick was asked during a conference call on Monday how he balances week-to-week adjustments with the foundation of the system his team installed before the season began. What resulted was a 789-word response on how teams have to come together early in the year -- and why it's difficult for things to look like they're running smoothly through the few weeks of the regular season. 

It felt like Belichick had something he was itching to share on the topic, so here is Belichick's response in full . . . 

"Well, I’ll just say that when you start the season, you have, let’s call it 20 practices, not including the spring. So let’s call it 20 practices and some preseason games, and during that time you’re trying to evaluate your team, work on a lot of basic and fundamental things and I’ll say basically get your team ready to play not only on the opening day, but for getting conditioned and build your fundamentals and all that so that you can compete in the 16-game regular season.

"In those 20 practices and however many preseason games certain players play in – two, three, four, whatever it is – against other teams that are doing the same thing, so you’re not getting schemed, you’re not getting game planned, you’re not getting some of the more sophisticated and the higher degree of difficulty things in any phase of the game. You’re in more of an evaluation mode and a fundamental mode. That’s where you’re at, and then as you get into the season, you build on that and you have things that attack certain schemes or you have to use to address certain issues that your opponent is trying to pressure you with.

"Maybe you just sit in your base, whatever it is, to handle it. Maybe your basics handle it, but maybe you need to go a little bit beyond that or maybe you see opportunities to create a play that you might install on a weekly game plan basis, and then all that accumulates. So, when you go from 20 practices to, let’s call it 60 practices over halfway through the season, maybe 80 practices at the end of the season, you’re going to have a lot more in with 80 practices and you could probably triple the number of meetings on that and everything else then where you’re going to have after a relatively short period in training camp. So, along those same lines, I mean, if we keep running the same play all year, the same ones that you put in in training camp and keep running those same plays all year, it’s not that difficult in this league to figure out what those few things are and game plan accordingly.

"So, if you don’t increase the volume of your scheme on offense, defense and special teams, then every week, your opponent’s just looking at a handful of things and probably most of them they’ve seen before. So, I don’t know how much problem, how much stress you’re really putting on your opponent if that’s the way that you do it. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because you can play your basic stuff, and if it’s working well and if you’re doing well with it and people can’t handle it, then there’s no reason to change it. But I don’t know how many teams in the league fall into that category. I wouldn’t say it’s an exceedingly high number and it never really has been, based on my experience in the league. Although, I’m not saying that can’t happen, but I would certainly say that’s not the most common way that teams evolve throughout the course of the year. 

"So, you do what you need to do each week to try to win. You put in the plays, make the adjustments, you don’t want to overload things – I mean, nobody’s talking about putting in a new offense every week. That’s not it at all, but are there some modifications you can make? Sure, and as you rep those and you use them and if those situations come up again, then maybe you can fall back to that same type of scheme. But to think realistically, which it’s incomprehensible to me, but, I mean, I don’t know. 

"Maybe I just can’t figure it out, but it’s incomprehensible to me how anybody could think that a team that’s practiced for six months and played 19 regular-season and postseason games and had triple-digit practices, five months later, after not playing a game, after having a fraction of that type of experience, could be anywhere close to the level of execution that they were five months before that after all of the things that I just listed. I mean, it’s impossible in my view. So, each year, you start all over again. You start that process all over again. You build your team over the course of the year though practice repetitions, through preseason to regular season games, through the evolving of your scheme, and that’s why each year is different and unique. But, I understand I’m in the minority and most other people don’t see it that way, which is OK, but that’s the way I see it."