Patriots

Bell's style, and unique talents, present challenges to Patriots defense

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Bell's style, and unique talents, present challenges to Patriots defense

FOXBORO -- There are plenty of damn good running backs in the NFL but there is only one Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers star shuffles, darts and then dashes, often with bodies crashing all around him, many of them intent on doing serious bodily harm . . . but often failing.

“He’s very unique,” said linebacker Shea McClellin. “I don’t think anyone else runs quite like he does, but it’s efficient and it works.”

Defensive end Chris Long concurred: “His style is so unique, his patience, what he’s able to do with his vision. And as far as breaking tackles, being a complete player, catching the ball, he can do all that stuff.”

Now don’t get it twisted. The Pats respect the hell out of Bell, but they’d prefer they weren’t in charge of corralling him Sunday because everyone has failed during Pittsburgh’s nine-game winning streak. Bell, who played in eight of those games, has piled up over 1,500 yards from the line of scrimmage during that stretch -- 1,172 yards rushing, 336 yards receiving -- while scoring 9 touchdowns. 

“He’s really fun to watch unless you’re getting ready to play him,” said Long.

The respect Bell commands in Foxboro is evident when talking to the Pats running backs, who spoke glowingly about the former first-rounder and in LeGarrette Blount’s case, former teammate.

“No one can do what he does,” Blount told me. “They can try, but it won’t work.”

“That’s his style,” added Dion Lewis, himself a shifty fella. “You can’t try to do that. I’m pretty sure he’s the only guy that can do that.”

So how do the Pats accomplish something no one has been able to do over the last two-plus months? How do they slow Bell down, as they did back in Week 7, limiting him to 81 yards rushing (only 3.9 yards per carry)? 

“I think defensively he really forces you to be disciplined,” said Pats coach Bill Belichick. “You jump out of there too quickly then you open up gaps and open up space. Le’Veon has a great burst through the hole. He doesn’t really need long to get through there, runs with good pad level. He’s hard to tackle so if you don’t get a full body on him then he’ll run right through those arm tackles. [He] really forces everybody to be sound in their gaps.”

“If there’s space or if there’s a gap in the defense or if there’s an edge in the defense, he’s quick to take advantage of that,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia told us during a conference call earlier this week. “He’s going to be able to get into that open space pretty quickly so you can’t really -- I don’t think you want to sit there and guess.”

If the Pats defenders, especially at the linebacker level, do that -- guess and attack a gap aggressively in attempt to make a splash play -- they may fill one gap but open two others. And that’s where a four-yard gain can turn into 40.

“Everyone on the field, it’s their job to get to him, gang tackle and be aggressive,” said Rob Ninkovich. “It can’t be just one time but every time you’re on the field.”

“There’s no one guy that can stop him,” added Belichick. “You’re going to have to have everybody doing a good job in a number of different areas all the way across the front and then do a good job of tackling.”

The Pats are a terrific tackling team, and haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season (actually, not since November of 2015), but the red-hot Bell will put recent history to the test. 
 

Report: Patriots to sign Kenny Britt

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Report: Patriots to sign Kenny Britt

According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the Patriots will sign veteran receiver Kenny Britt. 

Britt, who was released by the Browns last week, has seen injuries and off-field issues interfere with a promising career since being chosen 30th overall by the Titans in 2009. He was suspended for four games in 2012, his final season with the Titans, before playing the next season with the Rams. This was his first season with the Browns, but he was released after making 18 catches over nine games. 

Why did Malcolm Butler retweet this graphic about Jay Cutler carving up the Patriots?

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Why did Malcolm Butler retweet this graphic about Jay Cutler carving up the Patriots?

This makes me feel like Felger, so apologies.

Malcolm Butler might not love Bill Belichick the GM, and there’s a chance he’s made some light commentary on Belichick the coach. 

After Monday night’s Patriots loss to the Dolphins, a Pro Football Focus graphic was posted detailing how well Jay Cutler did when the Patriots blitzed him. It was retweeted from Butler’s account. 

Though Butler un-retweeted it by Tuesday morning, the retweet was an interesting act. Twenty blitzes (by how PFF measures blitzes) is a high number. Was Butler just pointing out that Cutler had a good game or suggesting that maybe the Pats shouldn’t have kept blitzing when Cutler was responding to them so well. Might be a shot at Belichick or Matt Patricia. Might be something else. Might have misread "Cutler" for "Butler" and thought he was retweeting a compliment. Reading into social media is a gas.