Patriots

Sanchez says all the right things about Patriots secondary

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Sanchez says all the right things about Patriots secondary

FOXBORO -- Mark Sanchez was late for his conference call.
He claims he was busy studying some tape and "trying to figure out how to win" on Sunday.
If we see him on the cover of next month's GQ, we'll know he lied to us. If he doesn't throw like crazy on the Patriots secondary Sunday, we'll know he really lied to us.
Of course, Sanchez said all the right things when asked about the Patriots and their shoddy pass defense, but there's no doubting his hopes of jump starting that 49.7 completion percentage of his.
"I think they're a great group of players," Sanchez said of New England's secondary. "I know they're always capable of having big games and I know they're going to be in the right position, so it's my job to be smart with the football. And it's always a challenge no matter what the numbers say against these guys. I have a lot of respect for their team."
Always going to be in the right position... good one, Mark!
But all kidding aside, sure, it'll be a challenge nobody says it won't be. And New England's defense won't just stand around and watch Sanchez air it out. But how can Sanchez explain why team's have been so successful going deep? He can't or wouldn't really.
"Different plays happen at different times for different reasons," he said.
Ah, of course! Why didn't we think of that? But he continued.
"I think some of them have been really good throws, some have been pretty good schemes that have gotten guys open. So that type of stuff happens to any secondary, but I think these guys are a tough group and they always play well."
Sanchez has played well against New England in years past, but he hasn't taken the leap that many thought he would take to the "elite" level of quarterbacks. In fact, some think he's peaked as a QB. One thing he has taken is a lot of flack from the New York media and fans, but has done what he can to block it out.
"You are what your record says. Statistics, that's the way that you're judged. So there's a ton of teams at 3-3 and we're trying to just keep playing hard and do well. But as far as my personal play we just have to get more wins. I think there are a few throws that I want back and stuff but that's natural. We're working through some personnel issues here getting guys healthy so that's helped this last week. But I'm just trying to find ways to get wins and not really worry about outside opinion."

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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