Patriots

Pats feel no need to amp up pressure

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Pats feel no need to amp up pressure

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - Standing pat. The Patriots turned their noses up to the front-seven group that Bill Belichick said was a landmark collection of players. More impactful guys at the top of the draft than any April he can remember. This - along with offensive line -was the most glaring need for the 2011 New England Patriots entering this draft. They allowed 47.1 percent conversions on third down last year. They mustered 36 sacks - 5.5 of those from Mike Wright, a player who led the team in that stat despite missing a huge chunk of the season. And while Belichick downgrades the importance of sacks, saying that pressure is the tell-all, the pressure was lacking in 2010. Witness the playoff loss to the Jets, where Mark Sanchez had time to scan the secondary and text message teenagers before whipping critical completions unmolested.
Yet the only potential pass-rusher they took was Markell Carter, a defensive end from Scottie Pippen's alma mater Central Arkansas, as the 194th overall pick in the sixth round. Despite that, Belichick indicated Friday night he feels OK about not grabbing a pressure-generator. "We have some young players on our roster and I think that those players in all the various positions, not just at that specifically but I think younger players will still continue to develop," Belichick said. "But there are good players up there on the board and we got the ones that we felt were best for us. There are other players that are good players, too, that went to the other teams. Thats the way it always is."Here's the thing I'll happily acknowledge. I don't know what the limitations of Cam Jordan would have been or how long the Patriots would have expected to wait for a return on taking the Cal DEOLB. Or Cameron Heyward, Adrian Clayborn, Jabaal Sheard, Allen Bailey, Da'Quan Bowers and right on down the line. But Tully Banta-Cain, Jermaine Cunningham, Gerard Warren, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, Eric Moore, Myron Pryor, Mike Wright and Marcus Stroud are a collection of castoffs, has-been and lowly-regarded players the Patriots have been counting on. Bless 'em, they have gotten the job done adequately on some Sundays. Many Sundays in the instance of Banta-Cain and Wright.But I'm at wits end to explain why, if Bill Belichick still genuflects at the mention of Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks, he cannot bring himself to spend a pick on a guy who can generate pressure. Specifically. I'll never buy a ticket on the "Belichick is arrogant and thinks he's smarter than everybody else" train. It's not true. But I cannot explain with great logic why a team hurting for players capable of chasing down quarterbacks ignored that need when the guy in charge said there were a ton of those players available. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Energized Patriots defense forces 'critical swings' with turnovers

Energized Patriots defense forces 'critical swings' with turnovers

“We’re a blue-collar team…”

Devin McCourty didn’t hesitate when asked about the Patriots’ identity. Moments prior, McCourty and his teammates had just stomped the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City, 33-8, to run their win streak to a half-dozen games. The Pats are tied for the best record in the AFC with the Steelers

“We played at a high level,” said McCourty. “They made some plays, but I thought we executed our game plan and did exactly what we wanted to do today.”

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After surrendering a 100-points per game through the first month (ok, it was only 32), the Pats defense has flexed their muscle during this stretch, allowing 12.5 points per game, which would be the best in the NFL were this a season-long thing. We’re not looking at the same unit even though the personnel is largely the same. If anything, from a talent-level, this defense has less skill than it did when the season started. Their best player, Dont'a Hightower, is out for the year, lost during the first win of this 6-game streak. They’ve also survived three-game absences from $31-million cornerback Stephon Gilmore and their most consistent interior defender, tackle Malcom Brown. Yet the defense keeps showing up, keeps improving and its confidence is growing by leaps and bounds.

“We’re just playing together…we’re kind of figuring that out,” said McCourty. “We’re understanding how we need to prepare, how we need to practice, whether it’s a hard, full-padded practice, whether it’s a walkthrough, we know what we need to do on each of those days and when we do that, we give ourselves a chance. You’re seeing that on Sundays. Everyone running around, everyone knows their job and it’s all about execution.”

“I thought our players gave a great effort tonight,” said Bill Belichick. “We came out and performed well early, throughout the game and played really good situational football.”

The Pats were opportunistic, forcing three turnovers, including one in a huge spot, when Marquis Flowers stripped the ball from wideout Seth Roberts as the Raiders were knocking on the door. It was 14-0 at the time, and Oakland had life. Second-year cornerback Jon Jones battled Roberts, Flowers popped the ball free and safety Pat Chung pounced on it. Instead of milking the clock and heading into halftime up two scores, the Pats turned that fumble into points, driving to midfield before Steven Gostkowski kicked a career-long 62 yarder. That further energized a Pats team that was already surging.

“It’s something we talk about every week,” said McCourty. “We’re playing solid defense, executing the game plan, but changing the game with turnovers - you know, even Duron’s interception was a third down so it was kind of like a punt. The energy that brings - when the offense takes the field after we get a turnover - that’s huge. And then with them driving again in the red area before the half is what we talked about, getting that stop.”

“We had some real critical swings with those turnovers,” admired Tom Brady, a chief beneficiary of those change in possessions.

Earlier this week, I asked McCourty if he got a sense that the team was coming together at the tail end of their stay in Colorado Springs. He smiled and joked initially, but you could sense the veteran safety can see and feel what the rest of the league is now a witness to.

“I hope so. I mean, it’d probably be terrible if I say yeah and then we go on a five-game losing streak. I can see the headline: ‘McCourty was wrong.’ So, no, I think we understand how the season starts to pick up. You know, each game means more. We understand that seven wins (now 8) doesn’t mean anything. We have to continue to get better. So, I think why we end up usually improving is because it’s the understanding of there’s no tomorrow.”

The defense ordered that Code Red after losing to Carolina in Week 4, and since then, they have worked harder, worked longer and cleaned up so many of the issues that ailed them that opening month. It’s a credit to the players, “they won’ the game tonight,” said Belichick, and the coaching staff as well. if you’ve followed this team over the years, you know even now, they’re not satisfied. There are “things to work on” added Belichick and they’ll start that work on the flight home from Mexico City to Foxboro. 

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