Patriots

Patriots RB Mike Gillislee: 'Every time I get the ball, I'm trying to score'

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Patriots RB Mike Gillislee: 'Every time I get the ball, I'm trying to score'

FOXBORO -- The approach Mike Gillislee takes to his job makes sense. A backup for the vast majority of his first four years in the NFL, he has developed an almost over-eager attitude coming out of the backfield.

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"Every running back is different, but for me, I try to score," Gillislee said. "You know, opportunities in my career, I've barely gotten them. But now, every time I get the ball, I'm trying to score."

His average was pretty good in Week 1 against the Chiefs. On 15 carries, he scored three times, all of them from two yards out or closer. But there were moments when maybe Gillislee might've been better off looking for a sharply-lined single to the opposite field as opposed gearing up for an awe-inspiring moon shot. 

One play that stood out from Week 1 was Gillislee's off-tackle run with 10:23 remaining in the third quarter. Left guard Joe Thuney pulled and sealed one defender while fullback James Develin led the way to take out another. Instead of waiting a beat and allowing a hole to develop, Gillislee tried to bounce the run outside and lost four yards. 

"There were some things I looked at on film that I could see I could do better," Gillislee said this week. "Just perfecting the schemes. Every running play, every passing play, it's schemed the way that coach wants and the way that it works." 

There's a fine line between patience and aggressiveness as an NFL back, Gillislee explained.

In short-yardage situations, the get-it-and-go approach is ideal. "I'm not waiting," Gillislee said. "I'm trying to hit it." That's exactly what he tried to do on both fourth-and-one runs last week that failed when the line in front of him was unable to create much in the way of running room.

But on first and second down? There may be a little more leeway there, and Gillislee indicated that having a feel for the timing of how the play will develop in front of him can help him adjust one way or the other.

Gillislee he has done what he can to ensure that he's up on that timing, running drills with his teammates, talking to them in the locker room about what they see in certain situations. But he missed a large chunk of training camp with a hamstring issue and there still may be work to do in that regard.

From Gillislee's perspective, any ground they have to make up isn't necessarily a result of missed practice time -- "I wouldn't directly point to that," he said -- but he acknowledged the chemistry between him and his linemen can always improve with practice repetitions.

"Just getting those reps, developing those reps, me gaining their trust," Gillislee said, "I think it's going to come."

There should be opportunities for Gillislee to do some damage against the Saints on Sunday as they gave up 127 yards rushing to Vikings rookie runner Dalvin Cook in their Week 1 loss.

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? 

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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. 

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