Patriots

Gilmore finds himself in tight corner after crucial mistakes vs. Panthers

Gilmore finds himself in tight corner after crucial mistakes vs. Panthers

FOXBORO -- If Stephon Gilmore was looking for a smooth transition from Buffalo to New England, he’s out of luck. The Patriots' newest and most expensive cornerback has found himself at the center of a maelstrom.

Week after week, every time you look up, it’s Gilmore who is either getting beat for a big play, in the general vicinity of a big play, or getting flagged for critical penalties that extend eventual scoring drives.

PANTHERS 33, PATRIOTS 30

The latest nightmare on Patriot Place happened Sunday in a 33-30 loss to the Carolina Panthers. The earliest example was a 28-yard scoring strike to Fozzy Whittaker that saw both Gilmore and Devin McCourty adjust to motion and leave the entire backside of the play wide open. You’d be hard pressed to think of another time when the Pats defense left someone that alone. 

The ensuing drive, there was an issue with Eric Rowe that let Devin Funchess slip into the end zone unencumbered and uncovered. Score another touchdown for the previously point-challenged Panthers.

As if those weren’t enough, Gilmore was whistled for a pair of hands-to-the-face penalties, both on third downs, both negating positive defensive plays. Cam Newton and company took advantage of both occasions. The first led to Funchess’ second TD, which gave Carolina a 23-16 lead.

That came at a bad time. The second came at the worst.

Deitrich Wise sacked Newton on third down, just three plays after the Patriots had rallied from two scores down to tie the game, 30-30, late in the fourth quarter, but the play was negated by another penalty against Gilmore. Instead of having to punt -- and giving Tom Brady a chance for yet another last-minute gate-winning drive -- the Panthers were given a first down. They then marched on, recording a couple more first downs and eventually kicking the game-winning field goal at the clock struck zero.

“iI was surprised,” said Gilmore of the second penalty, “but I was playing aggressive. I don’t know what else I can do.” 

Play better. That's a no-brainer. Although in Gilmore’s eyes, this isn’t a physical issue; rather, it’s all about a secondary and a defense that isn’t on the same page.

“It’s communication,” he said. “We gotta get better on the communication. I gotta get better on the communication.”

That’d word -- communication -- came up repeatedly in the nearly six-minute interview with the soft-spoken corner; 11 times by count. Gilmore isn’t wearing down from the expectations that happen the moment you get paid and Malcolm Butler doesn’t, but it’s also troublesome to him, for sure.

“It’s frustrating when it’s communication, when it’s not ability,” Gilmore said. “I gotta get better at the communication part. It’s my fault on the communication.”

That remains to be seen. The Pats aren’t into revealing who screwed up and who didn’t, but the fact that Gilmore didn’t start the third quarter in base defense may very well be an indication that the coaching staff was putting some -- if not all -- of the blame on Gilmore. Or he could have had an equipment issue. It’s a moot point anyway, as Eric Rowe re-injured his groin on that very play and put Gilmore back into the spotlight.

“I’m a corner," said Gilmore. "It’s my sixth year. Got a short-term memory. So I can handle it.”

He needs to, and that needs to happen sooner rather than later. Or the Pats might just have a problem that they just can’t fix.

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Tom Brady mum on hand injury, practice status

Tom Brady mum on hand injury, practice status

FOXBORO — Tom Brady basically told the media to talk to the hand.

More specifically, Brady replied, “I’m not talking about that” to each question about his right hand injury in Friday’s press conference.

MORE ON BRADY'S INJURY

Brady stood at the podium wearing the very red gloves that have been captured in pre-practice photos the last two days. Asked why he was wearing them indoors, Brady replied, “I’ve worn them before.” 

The five-time Super Bowl champion was also mum on whether or not he participated in practice Friday, sharing only that he was “out there,” which adds no clarification given that he was on the field before Thursday’s practice but did not participate. 

When asked if he was confident he'd play in Sunday's AFC Championship Game against Jacksonville, he responded: "We'll see."

Brady is believed to have suffered the injury in Wednesday’s practice. Friday’s practice report will be released this afternoon. 
 

Dion Lewis: 'Nobody's really worried' about Tom Brady

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Dion Lewis: 'Nobody's really worried' about Tom Brady

James White put it perfectly on Thursday. When asked if he was the one who injured Tom Brady's hand in Wednesday's practice, the running back replied, "The world may never know."

During an interview with NFL Network, another Patriots running back said you can't put Brady's injury on him.

"Not me," said DIon Lewis. "No, it wasn't me . . . I actually didn't see it happen, but from when I talked to other guys, I knew he was gonna be oaky. It's Tom, so regardless of any situation he's put in, he's going to make sure he's out there game day. Nobody's really worried."

That seems to be the general consensus inside the Patriots locker room. They're all expecting Brady to play. And when they're asked about how he's looked, their answers have ranged from evasive to joking about Brady's handsomeness

The focus, as Lewis explained, isn't so much on the health of their quarterback but rather the game plan they're putting in place to take on the top defense in the AFC. 

"We have a great idea," Lewis said, "of what we think we can do to have success against this defense . . . We just gotta be on point every play. We don't got plays to give away."

Might that mean a load of two-back or two-tight end sets to keep Jacksonville's base personnel on the field? Might that mean plenty of work in the screen game, as Jerod Mayo suggested on this week's Quick Slants the Podcast? Might that mean a heavy dose of Rob Gronkowski?

There are soft spots in the Jaguars defense, as talented as it is, but it will probably require Brady being able to grip a football for the Patriots to exploit them. His teammates seem confident he'll be able to do that.