Patriots

Wakeup Call: They'll need a little help from their friends

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Wakeup Call: They'll need a little help from their friends

Here's your wakeup call -- a combination of newsworthy andor interesting tidbits -- for Monday, February 11:

BASEBALL
Not so fast on that King Felix extension . . . and for the worst possible reason. (NBC's Hardball Talk)

As the PED scandal laps at his feet, Ryan Braun has one strong defender: His manager, Ron Roenicke. (AP)

First Dice-K, and now Jason Giambi. If this was 2007, Terry Francona would have quite the team there in Cleveland. (AP)

Armando Galarraga's not too proud to accept a minor-league deal as he tries to work his way back to the majors. (AP)

Looks like old friend Derek Lowe is, though. (Hardball Talk)

The Cubs are confident Carlos Marmol will be cleared of the assault allegations he's facing in the Dominican Republic. (CSN Chicago)

Problems? What problems? Tim Lincecum and Buster Posey don't have any problems. Right, boys? (CSN Bay Area)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Indiana rebounds from its upset loss with an impressive 13-point victory at No. 10 Ohio State. (AP)

Still, it may not be enough to prevent the Hoosiers from losing the No. 1 ranking to Duke . . . despite the Blue Devils' skin-of-their-teeth escape at, of all places, Boston College. (NBC's College Basketball Talk)

Speaking of Duke, Seth Curry's 18-point performance at BC put him and his brother, Stephen, at the top of the Division I siblings scoring list. And I'll bet you didn't even know there was such a thing, did you? (CSN Bay Area)

Any outside chance Arizona might have had to leap seven spots to the top went up in smoke at the hands of Cal. And at Tucson, no less. (AP)

All this poll talk is well and good, but the landscape for tournament time may have changed with the return of Syracuse's James Southerland. (College Basketball talk)

Pretty good week for Illinois, wouldn't you say? (AP)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
The Paterno family goes public with a detailed critique to the Freeh report on the Jerry Sandusky scandal, calling it a "rush to injustice". (AP)

But Dan Wetzel calls it a "a masterful testament to unnecessary declarative statements, the creation of straw men and everything else one gets when lawyers are hired by wealthy clients to prepare a 'thorough' report" that does "little to nothing to suggest that Paterno didn't know" Sandusky was sexually molesting young boys. (Yahoo! Sports)

For his part, Louis Freeh isn't impressed with the Paternos' "self-serving report." (NBC's College Football Talk)

In the end, this bickering over the Paterno legacy is ugly. And sad. (CSN Philly)

If you remember Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside, Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, then you probably remember Doug Kenna, the quarterback of those great Army teams of the '40s. He died Jan. 28 at the age of 88. (AP)

Cam Cameron, whose firing as Ravens' offensive coordinator -- coincidentally or not -- seemed to spark Baltimore's run to the Super Bowl, apparently is resurfacing at LSU. (CSN Baltimore)

GOLF
Your weekend winners: Brandt Snedeker at Pebble Beach . . . (AP)

. . . Rocco Mediate in his Champions Tour debut . . . (AP)

. . . Richard Sterne in the Joburg Open . . . (AP)

. . . and 15-year-old Lydia Ko in the New Zealand Women's Open. (AP)

Ko, an amateur who now has won three professional titles in 53 weeks, should create quite the stir when she makes her arrival at next week's LPGA season opener. (golfchannel.com)

HOCKEY
If anyone still doesn't believe in the Blackhawks, consider: They remain undefeated, at 10-0-2, after completing a two-week, 4-0-2 road trip with a 3-0 win over the Predators. (CSN Chicago)

Not at that level, but still hot, are the Devils, who beat the Penguins, 3-1, for their fifth victory in a row. (AP)

I don't know why Mike Babcock thinks getting the game-winning goal with five seconds to play is "ugly," but beauty's in the eye of the beholder, I guess. (AP)

Now that the labor problems are settled, the NHL and NHLPA are talking realignment again. (NHL's Pro Hockey Talk)

The Maple Leafs' Mikhail Grabovski is being called in on the carpet for allegedly biting Max Pacioretty. Have the good citizens of Montreal called 9-1-1 yet? (AP)

ESPN Boston did what? Oh, wait . . . wrong Joey McDonald. (AP)

OLYMPICS
Lindsey Vonn is "resting comfortably" after undergoing surgery to repair torn ACL and MCL and a fractured lateral tibial plateau, all of which she injured in a horrific fall in Austria last week. (NBC's Olympic Talk)

PRO BASKETBALL
Not often we root for LeBron and the Heat around here, but old habits die hard. (AP)

When the Clippers are healthy -- which, to be fair, they weren't when they were here last week -- they're quite the handful. Just ask the Knicks. (AP)

As are the Spurs, even without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. Just ask the Nets. (AP)

Hey, the Magic finally won one! (AP)

Trade winds: The Nets are going hard after the Hawks' Josh Smith . . . (NBC's Pro Basketball Talk)

. . . and the Suns want the Knicks' Iman Shumpert. (Pro Basketball Talk)

Not without deer antler spray -- or something -- he couldn't. (Pro Basketball Talk)

PRO FOOTBALL
The Super Bowl champion traditionally hosts the next season's opener on the Thursday after Labor Day, but the Ravens are going to need some cooperation from the Orioles for that to happen this year. (CSN Baltimore)

Ray Lewis' departure means the Ravens need a new leader. Terrell Suggs graciously says he'll share the job with Joe Flacco. (NBC's Pro Football Talk)

Even though University of Kansas coach Mark Mangino doesn't usually defend his former cornerback, Aqib Talib, he takes issue with the notion that Talib doesn't work hard. (Pro Football Talk)

Hey, Dolphins. Reggie Bush wants to know: Where's the love? (Pro Football Talk)

Rob Ryan and the Saints make official the worst-kept secret in the NFL. (AP)

The growing national sentiment for gun-law reforms got five big-name supporters in Emmett Smith, Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin, LaDainian Tomlinson and Marshall Faulk. (AP)

TENNIS
Normally you wouldn't call losing in both the singles and doubles finals "very positive," but just being back on the court was the big victory for Rafael Nadal. (AP)

And now that he's back in the spotlight, he took the opportunity to rail against those, in any sport, who use performance-enhancing drugs. (AP)

U.S. coach Mary Joe Fernandez says she's "really proud" of her team despite its first-round ouster from the Fed Cup. (AP)

Bill Belichick: 'Incomprehensible' to think Patriots would pick up from where they left off last season

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Bill Belichick: 'Incomprehensible' to think Patriots would pick up from where they left off last season

Bill Belichick knows that people outside his organization expected big things from his team this season, but he gave a long explanation for how those expectations should have been tempered headed into 2017. 

Belichick was asked during a conference call on Monday how he balances week-to-week adjustments with the foundation of the system his team installed before the season began. What resulted was a 789-word response on how teams have to come together early in the year -- and why it's difficult for things to look like they're running smoothly through the few weeks of the regular season. 

It felt like Belichick had something he was itching to share on the topic, so here is Belichick's response in full . . . 

"Well, I’ll just say that when you start the season, you have, let’s call it 20 practices, not including the spring. So let’s call it 20 practices and some preseason games, and during that time you’re trying to evaluate your team, work on a lot of basic and fundamental things and I’ll say basically get your team ready to play not only on the opening day, but for getting conditioned and build your fundamentals and all that so that you can compete in the 16-game regular season.

"In those 20 practices and however many preseason games certain players play in – two, three, four, whatever it is – against other teams that are doing the same thing, so you’re not getting schemed, you’re not getting game planned, you’re not getting some of the more sophisticated and the higher degree of difficulty things in any phase of the game. You’re in more of an evaluation mode and a fundamental mode. That’s where you’re at, and then as you get into the season, you build on that and you have things that attack certain schemes or you have to use to address certain issues that your opponent is trying to pressure you with.

"Maybe you just sit in your base, whatever it is, to handle it. Maybe your basics handle it, but maybe you need to go a little bit beyond that or maybe you see opportunities to create a play that you might install on a weekly game plan basis, and then all that accumulates. So, when you go from 20 practices to, let’s call it 60 practices over halfway through the season, maybe 80 practices at the end of the season, you’re going to have a lot more in with 80 practices and you could probably triple the number of meetings on that and everything else then where you’re going to have after a relatively short period in training camp. So, along those same lines, I mean, if we keep running the same play all year, the same ones that you put in in training camp and keep running those same plays all year, it’s not that difficult in this league to figure out what those few things are and game plan accordingly.

"So, if you don’t increase the volume of your scheme on offense, defense and special teams, then every week, your opponent’s just looking at a handful of things and probably most of them they’ve seen before. So, I don’t know how much problem, how much stress you’re really putting on your opponent if that’s the way that you do it. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because you can play your basic stuff, and if it’s working well and if you’re doing well with it and people can’t handle it, then there’s no reason to change it. But I don’t know how many teams in the league fall into that category. I wouldn’t say it’s an exceedingly high number and it never really has been, based on my experience in the league. Although, I’m not saying that can’t happen, but I would certainly say that’s not the most common way that teams evolve throughout the course of the year. 

"So, you do what you need to do each week to try to win. You put in the plays, make the adjustments, you don’t want to overload things – I mean, nobody’s talking about putting in a new offense every week. That’s not it at all, but are there some modifications you can make? Sure, and as you rep those and you use them and if those situations come up again, then maybe you can fall back to that same type of scheme. But to think realistically, which it’s incomprehensible to me, but, I mean, I don’t know. 

"Maybe I just can’t figure it out, but it’s incomprehensible to me how anybody could think that a team that’s practiced for six months and played 19 regular-season and postseason games and had triple-digit practices, five months later, after not playing a game, after having a fraction of that type of experience, could be anywhere close to the level of execution that they were five months before that after all of the things that I just listed. I mean, it’s impossible in my view. So, each year, you start all over again. You start that process all over again. You build your team over the course of the year though practice repetitions, through preseason to regular season games, through the evolving of your scheme, and that’s why each year is different and unique. But, I understand I’m in the minority and most other people don’t see it that way, which is OK, but that’s the way I see it."

Malcom Brown helps spark Patriots run defense vs. Jets

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Malcom Brown helps spark Patriots run defense vs. Jets

The Patriots use a defensive scheme that often asks its defensive tackles to do the dirty work. Two-gap. Take on multiple blockers. Free up linebackers to crash down and make tackles in one-on-one situations with opposing running backs. 

It's not the most glamorous job. Sometimes it's difficult to see in real time when one of the big bodies up front is executing his duties effectively or not. But it's a critical role all the same.

On Sunday at MetLife Stadium, the Patriots got some solid work from their tackles to help limit the Jets to 3.1 yards per carry and just 74 rush yards total. Malcom Brown stood out as the team's top tackle on the day, and one of his team's best defensive players overall. 

The third-year 320-pounder had four tackles that limited to the Jets to gains of two yards or less. He also picked up a sack when he chased Josh McCown across the field and touched him down behind the line of scrimmage in the third quarter.

Brown was flagged for a defensive holding call just before Austin Seferian-Jenkins' fumble -- he locked onto the first blocker that engaged him and then didn't release quickly enough when that blocker tried to move on to another Patriots defender -- but overall it was a strong day, according to his head coach.

"I think Malcom’s improved pretty much every week," Bill Belichick said on a conference call Monday. "I know he’s definitely helping us making some significant plays for us out there and, again, eating up a lot of plays in front of him so that other guys, like Elandon [Roberts], Kyle [Van Noy], Dont’a [Hightower] and those guys, can fit in and make the tackles."

Brown wasn't alone. Lawrence Guy was in on a pair of run stuffs that went for two yards or less, and he was credited with three total tackles. Alan Branch played in 22 snaps after being made a healthy scratch in Week 5, and Adam Butler saw 17 snaps on the line.

"I thought we got contributions from all those players . . . They all have a little bit different playing style, but they were all productive," Belichick said. "It certainly helps our linebacker play when the defensive line plays consistent and they can do a good job in front and then the linebackers can do a good job and then the secondary can fit off them, so it works in front of that. 

"But, I thought our defensive line did a lot of good things yesterday. There’s still a lot of things we need to work on, obviously. I’m not saying we’re there yet, but we did a lot of good things up front."

Coming into the game allowing 5.0 yards per rushing attempt, what the Patriots were able to accomplish against the Jets in the run game -- behind a stout performance by Brown and his teammates in the trenches -- can certainly qualify as a step in the right direction.