Patriots

Patriots prepare for Irene before going to Detroit

191543.jpg

Patriots prepare for Irene before going to Detroit

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
FOXBORO Earlier this week, parts of New England felt the rippling effects of an earthquake that measured 5.8 on the Richter scale.

Now comes Hurricane Irene, which is expected to pound the East Coast sometime this weekend.

Even though the New England Patriots will play at Detroit on Saturday, Hurricane Irene is still a major concern in terms of its potential impact on when the team leaves as well as when it returns.

"It sounds like we'll be out before it comes in," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "Hopefully we'll be in before it comes in. But definitely we have to keep an eye on it and kind of batten down the hatches."

The Patriots are scheduled to leave for Detroit on Friday and return after the game Saturday night.

Hurricane Irene is considered a Category 3 Hurricane with sustained winds between 111-130 miles per hour that have ravaged the Bahamas and are expected to impact a number of major cities on the East coast -- including Boston.

By the time it hits New England on Saturday, Hurricane Irene is expected to be a Category 1 or 2 storm with sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour.

The impact of Hurricane Irene can already be felt in Foxboro.

Country music star Kenny Chesney was scheduled to perform at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. However, hurricane concerns led to Chesney's concert being moved up to Friday.

The decision makes a lot of sense, especially after bad weather recently led to deaths and serious injuries at the Belgium Pukkelpop Festival and the Indiana State Fair.

"Our first and foremost priority is the fans' safety, so we have made the difficult decision to reschedule the show," promoter Louis Messina of TMGAEG Live said on Chesney's website.

Chesney added on his site, "I want the last weekend of the 'Goin Coastal' Tour to be a great experience for everybody. But I also want it to be the safest experience for everyone. I've always said Foxboro is a highlight of our tour, because the fans are ready for a great night of music and fun no matter what night it is!"

But moving the concert to Friday presents a potential problem for the Patriots, one that might become an even bigger issue than Hurricane Irene.

"It looks like that's a potential issue," Belichick said. "We're going to hit a little traffic coming out of here on that one. Hopefully we can maneuver through it."

New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch is more concerned about the weather's impact on his family and the families of his teammates.

"And then trying to get back once the game is over," Branch said. "Those are things we think about; most importantly, family and stuff. We'll make sure we have everything set up before we leave."

New England defensive end Andre Carter spent is first five seasons in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers (the last five in Washington), so he has seen his share of severe weather conditions such the earthquake earlier this week that was felt throughout parts of New England.

"That was different," Carter said of the earthquake. "It's kind of scary. To hear of an earthquake on the East coast, is definitely uncommon."

Fortunately for the Patriots, the Lions play on dome-covered Ford Field so weather conditions won't be a factor during the game.

"It is what it is," said Carter, a San Jose, Calif. native who starred at Cal. "Sleet, snow, rain or shine, you have to prepare your mind for a physical game. The majority of us, especially vets have been through all types of weather. This is just football. You have to play against the elements."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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? 

MORE PATRIOTS:

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. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE