Patriots

Rob Gronkowski No. 21 on NFL Top 100

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Rob Gronkowski No. 21 on NFL Top 100

As NFL Network continues ticking down on its list of Top 100 Players of 2012, another Patriot is named.

Rob Gronkowski is ranked at 21.

The record-breaking Patriots tight end did a remote interview with a quartet of NFL Total Access analysts: Kurt Warner, Steve Mariucci, Warren Sapp, and Heath Evans.

On being the No. 2 tight end on the countdown:
First off, it's just an honor to be even recognized as a Top 100 player. To be at 21, just my second year in the league it's just an honor for me. Got to stay humble, and just got to keep grinding every single day and every single year. Just keep working hard.

Warner asks what it is about the Patriots system that fosters success:
Just everyone around you. Everyone's in, all for each other. Having a great supporting cast around me from the coaches to the players. Everyone has one goal, and it's to win. No matter how you can get it done If it's one of the wide receivers having 14 catches a game, three touchdowns. Or if it's a running back having a good game, or if it's one of us tight ends having a good game. We're all in it for each other, we're all there to support each other and that's all everyone wants to do -- we just play together as a team to get that victory.

Mariucci inquires into Gronkowski's offseason goals:
Just to improve my game every single game. First off, getting in the playbook, learning the offense; you can never not know the offense 100-percent. Just always learning more and more every time you step out on the field. And also, just using every single aspect of the game, from blocking and pass catching-wise -- just focusing and getting better in every single thing. Taking my weaknesses and making them stronger and taking my strengths and making them better. Just working on every single aspect of my game so that when training camp comes rolling into the season, I'm ready, strong and ready to roll.

What's your favorite route, Sapp asks:
My favorite route is definitely the flag route. I just love giving the little shake at the top, at 10-12 yards and bursting out over in the corner. I mean, I'm most comfortable running that route and it's always been my favorite -- ever since high school.

Evans knows all about Bill Belichick's weekly Q&A sessions, but enlighten the fans:
You've just got to be ready for anything, at any time, any type of questions. You just always want to be prepared. You want to know your plays, you want to know your opponents, you want to be studying up on film. Whenever it comes down to a question, your heart is just you're feeling it. You just want to get that question right, whatever it is. It just keeps you on your toes at all times to make sure you're mentally prepared coming in every single week, which is great.

Owen Daniels said Gronkowski is the TE all TEs are measured by. Who do you measure YOURSELF by?
That's an honor that he even said that, Owen Daniels I've actually been looking up to him when I was in college watching him play and everything. That's just an honor to be mentioned like that from other players. My favorite players were Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates just growing up in high school and college watching all them. I still compare myself to them, I still watch their film all the time. I still try to take tips from their game and add it to my game.

And just right now, Jimmy Graham, he's in the same class as me. He's a great player. He's a great tight end. I'm always looking at his game, too. Trying to figure out what he's doing because he's having so much success down there in New Orleans.

So much respect for all the other tight ends out there.

QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

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QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

3:00 Why has Bill Belichick been so surprisingly positive of his team’s performance in tight wins?

6:30 Phil Perry breaks down what grades he gave the Patriots on his report card following the win over the Jets

15:00 Reaction to the Austin-Seferian Jenkins overturned touchdown, and what changes need to be made in the NFL replay system. 

23:00 Why was Patriots offensive line much more effective against Jets?

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

25:00 Patriots-Falcons preview, how did Falcons blow a 17 point lead to the Dolphins?

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

FOXBORO - We’re not quite at the point of fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, or 40 years of darkness, or even dogs and cats living together, but this Patriots season isn’t headed down the right path, despite a 4-2 record and the top spot in the AFC East. 

There are several elements that appear missing at this juncture - chief among them a defense that actually has a clue. Please don’t celebrate holding the Jets to 17 points - I’m looking at you, Dont’a Hightower. Josh McCown threw for just 194 yards against the Cleveland freakin’ Browns for goodness sake, but he got you for 354 and two scores?! Even the 2009 Patriots defense is offended by that.

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We’d be foolish to think the Pats can’t get this leaky unit fixed for reasons so obvious I won’t state them in this space so as not to waste my time or yours. We also know - long before Bill Belichick’s 6 1/2-minute explanation on the Monday conference call - that it's not supposed to be perfect right now. Actually, it’ll never be perfect. That’s not how this game works. 

Yet week after week, we see uncommon breakdowns and one defender looking at the next as if to say, “I thought you had him?” or more to the point, “what the hell were you doing?” It started Sunday at MetLife on the third play of the game. Malcolm Butler, playing 10 yards off Robby Anderson, looking as if he’s never played the position before, inexplicably turning his back on Anderson even though the wide receiver makes no real move to the post. That results in just about the easiest completion of McCown’s life, a 23-yarder on third-and-10. 

On the same series, on another third-and-long, the Pats rushed four and dropped seven into coverage. Defensive end Cassius Marsh continued his season-long trend of rushing so far upfield he ended up in Hoboken. With Deatrich Wise ridden outside on the opposite edge, McCown wisely stepped up and found prime real estate with New York City views. He wanted to throw and could have when the Pats fouled up a crossing route from the backside of the play. But with that much room to roam, McCown took off, scooting for a quick 16 yards and another first down.

Fittingly, that drive ended with a Jets touchdown on yet another dumb play, this one courtesy of Mr. Hit or Miss, Elandon Roberts. Channeling his inner Brandon Spikes, the second-year pro blew off his key and responsibility on third-and-goal from the 1, charging hard to the line. This, despite one of the most feeble play-action fakes you’ll see. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a real play-action fake. Anyway, score it as a touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and an indictment on David Harris, who apparently can’t vault past the erratic Roberts on the depth chart.

Similar to the week prior in Tampa, the Pats found better footing after that. They forced three straight three-and-outs in the second quarter and then helped turn the game when Butler intercepted an ill-advised throw by McCown just prior to the half. They got another turnover to start the third, with Butler coming off the edge on fourth-and-1 and forcing McCown into panic mode. The veteran QB fired an off-target throw to - get this - a wide open receiver who went uncovered on a drag route and Devin McCourty was gifted an interception.

But this group frowns on prosperity. It took a little-seen rule to prevent a Seferian-Jenkins touchdown in the fourth, and on the game’s final drive, the Pats allowed a 32-yard completion on fourth-and-12. Then, on what turned out to be the Jets final play, the Pats let Tavaris Cadet leak out of the backfield and run unchecked 20 yards down the field. Had McCown not soiled himself again, Gang Green would have had a first down and at least one crack at the end zone. Then, who knows what the heck happens?

It was just a season ago that the Patriots led the entire NFL in scoring defense. If you’ll recall, we spent a better part of the year wondering if that defense was championship quality. Turns out they were. Right now, we’re wondering once again if this defense is of that ilk, but through an entirely different prism. It’s on the players and staff to change the current outlook, or those cats and dogs will have to figure out their shared space.