Scarnecchia has O-line ready for anything


Scarnecchia has O-line ready for anything

There was no update on Logan Mankins' knee during a conference call on Monday with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien. His status for Week 17 is still unknown. What is known, though, is that the Patriots' healthy offensive linemen stepped up during the second half of Saturday's 27-24 win over the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.

Much of the praise has been given to players like Donald Thomas and rookie Marcus Cannon, who had to be thrown right into the fire after Matt Light was a late inactive and Mankins left late in the first quarter.

But beyond the on-field execution were the adjustments that New England's O-line made at the half. And those adjustments were made by offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who got plenty of praise from his fellow coaches on Monday.

"We have a lot of depth up there, because we bring in guys that are multiple-position guys," said O'Brien. "They're smart guys and they're tough guys, and then Dante gets them ready to play. So when one guy goes down, it's really the next-guy-up mentality. "

That mentality can easily be credited to the players for being ready when called upon. But the guy that keeps them prepared and in the right mindset is Scarnecchia.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dante, and what he's done in his career," said O'Brien. "He's a guy that I've learned a lot from. He really helps me a lot during games. I rely on him quite a bit. He's a no-nonsense guy, he's a very direct guy, and we have a good relationship, it's an open relationship. And I enjoy working with him. He does a hell of a job."

Veteran offensive lineman Brian Waters echoed those sentiments after Saturday's come-from-behind win against the Dolphins.

"He's a great coach, flat out," said Waters on Saturday. "And he's going to always preach that you've got to be ready to go. No matter what the situation is, he always makes sure those guys get reps during the course of the week and that they're always prepared. He's as tough on those guys as he is on anybody, to make sure that they're prepared and ready to go."

And according to Belichick on Monday, there's certainly a reason why Scarnecchia is the only coach in Patriots franchise history to be a member of all six teams that went to the Super Bowl.
"Dante does a great job for us and he has since Ive been here," Belichick said Monday. "We go back quite a ways back to the 96 season here. Dante, as Ive said many times before, is really just an outstanding coach at every level whether its working with experienced players or developing young players or game planning against sophisticated schemes or teaching the most basic techniques to rookies, undrafted players, things like that.
"He really is very thorough, well prepared, smart, communicates well with his players . . . I have a lot of confidence in him. Hes done a great job all the years that Ive been here. Im fortunate to have him as part of the staff."

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.”


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.