Patriots

Curran: Brady takes a licking and keeps on ticking

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Curran: Brady takes a licking and keeps on ticking

FOXBORO -- Two telling things happened Sunday, when Whitney Mercilus exploded off the left edge, motored past Nate Solder and forced a strip-sack fumble that teammate Jadeveon Clowney returned for a touchdown. 

The first, everyone could see immediately. Mercilus -- the 6-4, 254-pound, 27-year-old -- remained on the field in a state of disrepair while the 40-year-old Brady dusted himself off and walked to the sideline. 

The second, well, you need to watch it again to see why Tom Brady rarely misses games.

Watch what Brady does when he realizes he’s in Mercilus’ grasp. Once the ball is out, he braces his fall with both hands. Then, as he nears the ground, he spins his body so that he lands on his left side. 

On Wednesday, when Brady met with the media just three days after getting whacked around by the Texans in an eventual 36-33 Patriots win, I asked him about the punishment he took. 

“I’m feeling pretty good today,” he began. “Honestly, I mean, I know you guys think I’m crazy when I say it, but probably when I was younger it was a lot harder for me. Now, I actually feel better, faster, just based on the things that I do. Today I feel good. I feel good.”

On the long list of things Brady is hailed for, toughness doesn’t show up early enough. The belief that Brady whines for flags on late and low hits (he does) overshadows the fact that the punishment he absorbs is astronomical. 

For instance? Before the 2015 AFC Championship Game at Denver, two Denver defenders lamented that Brady complains too much. It dominated a news cycle.

When the game was played, Brady absorbed -- by some counts -- 25 hits. Click on this for a refresher on the beating he took that day.

Recalling that game, Denver defensive end Demarcus Ware said, “A couple of years ago, we sacked Tom four times and we hit him 20 times. Twenty times. The thing was, every time we hit him, he got back up. We hit Tom more times than any quarterback had been hit in any game that season, and he still had his team a two-point conversion away from tying the game late in the fourth quarter. The dude is relentless. Everybody knows what Tom Brady can do with the football. He has great arm strength. He’s accurate. He throws a great deep ball. But he can also take a hit.”

The alleged skinny on beating Brady is that you have to beat him up. And quarterback pressure no doubt helps to bring him back to near-mortal. But driving him from the game by driving him to the turf doesn’t work. 

Brady actually practices falling. During some workouts with his body coach Alex Guerrero, Brady will allow himself to be whacked with pads as he falls to mimic the hits he’ll take as he falls. He also has learned not to fight when he’s going to the ground, instead trying to make his body relax instead of tensing up. 

Through three games this year, Brady’s been sacked 10 times and -- according to NFL stats -- has taken 20 quarterback hits. That puts him on pace for 53 sacks and 107 hits. In 16 regular-season games last year, Patriots quarterbacks took 24 sacks and were hit 73 times. Brady was hit 19 times and sacked 9 more in the playoffs. 

Here are the quarterback hits and sack numbers for the Patriots back to 2009. The top number is regular season, the bottom number is playoffs.

2015

97 and 38

17 and 4

2014

82 and 26

17 and 4

2013

81 and 40

8 and 4

2012

67 and 27

13 and 1

2011

71 and 32

13 and 3

2010

52 and 25

7 and 5

2009

70 and 18

4 and 3

Brady understands that discretion is the better part of valor. On Wednesday, he said, “I think decision-making is important for all players. I tell the receivers all of the time, ‘You catch the ball in traffic. You’re a 190-pound receiver. You’ve got 240-pound linebackers. To run and take that amount of force for one extra yard and then you miss three games -- I don’t think that helps us much.’ 

“It’s the same as a quarterback,” he continued. “You stand in the pocket. You do have to learn how to find the way down in a way that you’ll be able to get up and try to play the next play, especially with your right shoulder. I think for me more than anything I try to land more on my left shoulder than my right shoulder because you’ve only got one right shoulder and I need this for a lot of throws, and the more hits you take on it then the harder it is to take. I just do the best I can do. There’s some luck involved, but let’s go again, baby. Let’s line them up and play.”

The Patriots won’t see a defense like the Texans every week. And the offensive line -- which has been somewhat shaky early -- figures to improve. In other words, Brady’s not getting hit 100 times and sacked 50 in 2017. But the fact that, at 40, he can still shake it off like nobody else while around the league, younger quarterbacks -- and defensive ends like Mercilus -- wind up writhing is an amazing thing.  

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Browns' GM John Dorsey says dumping Kenny Britt "was an easy decision"

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Browns' GM John Dorsey says dumping Kenny Britt "was an easy decision"

After a nearly ineffective performance against the Miami Dolphins, it appeared that injuries were finally catching up to the Patriots.

A few days after their dreadful Monday Night Football performance, the team moved to sign wide receiver Kenny Britt. The receiver has not had the most productive 2017 but put up 1,000 yards receiving as recently as last year.

Britt is healthy, and Patriots fans will look for him to help out a struggling offense immediately. But can the wide receiver put his troubled past in Cleveland behind him?

John Dorsey, during his first full day as GM, made it a priority to immediately cut Britt. Today on WKNR 850 Cleveland, Dorsey ripped into the former Browns wide receiver.

"I have no problem making that decision,'' Dorsey said today on "The Really Big Show'' with Aaron Goldhammer on WKNR, a radio partner of the Browns. "From a cultural standpoint, I don't think he fits in the prototypical character point of what I'm looking for in terms of a leader. He did not live up to his expectations as a player.''

Dorsey went on to add that Britt "may have a higher opinion of himself than I have of him as a player, so I thought that was easy.''

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No days off: Brady present at Patriots practices, says he's 'feeling better'

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No days off: Brady present at Patriots practices, says he's 'feeling better'

FOXBORO -- Over the course of the last three weeks, Tom Brady has taken Wednesdays to receive some extra treatment. This week? No days off.

In a slight change from what has become the norm since he's been listed on the injury report with an Achilles issue, he has been out there for Patriots practice on both Wednesday and Thursday. He's been a full participant at both sessions. 

"Just feeling better," he said on Thursday. "Short week so try to get out there to practice. I try to take it week to week and I'm feeling really good this week so I'm happy about that."

Brady let go of a handful of throws on Monday night that looked . . . off . . . and he took a few shots from Miami's buzzing front-seven so it's hard to know exactly how well he's feeling. But if all's well, that's obviously a very good sign for a player who is about to face a team that he's historically carved up. 

Before the season, still stinging from Brady's performance against them in the AFC title game, the Steelers acknowledged that they would have to change things up defensively if they wanted a different result against him. 

Though Brady explained that Pittsburgh will mix up its coverages, they still look like the same defense he's come to know quite well over the years. 

"Within their zone there's always man elements," he said. "It looks like the Steelers to me. They've had the same defense for a long time. Whatever they decide to do, we'll be prepared for it. We prepare for everything. We'll go out there and cut it loose on Sunday."

And what of the off chance that the Steelers do shift gears drastically? What if jettison the zone pressure schemes they're known for and pull something else -- maybe some of the Cover-1 looks the Dolphins used on third down Monday night -- out of their hats? 

Brady wasn't all that concerned about being faced with the unexpected.

"I mean, I think at this point in the year, it’s not like you’re going to go reinvent your whole defense in Week 15," he said. "They’re ranked pretty high. They do a lot of things well. I’m sure they’re going to want to continue to do those things well. They rush good, they’re tight in coverage, they mix their schemes in – zone and man and blitzes – and they do it on all three downs. They don’t make it easy for you.

"Now, for us, it’s just being on alert. We’re going to try to go out and play the way we play, too, and that’s what makes for a good game. They’ve had a lot of good teams over the years. These are always pretty big matchups and this is a big one for both of us."

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