Patriots

Belichick didn't consider taking Brady out with score out of hand

Belichick didn't consider taking Brady out with score out of hand

FOXBORO --- Bill Belichick’s Patriots weren’t playing their best game Sunday, not by a long shot,. However, they were still seemingly in control of the Dolphins, leading by double digits for the better part of the afternoon. 

Almost from jump, quarterback Tom Brady was under siege, taking one hard hit after another. It was a throwback to the first month or so of the season when the Pats offensive line had difficulties keeping their most valuable player upright and - eventually - in one piece.

True to form, Brady stood in there and took it, delivering the goods despite the punishment. No question it wore on him at points - Brady threw only his 3rd interception of the season - but still finished with 227 yards passing and 4 touchdowns.

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“I definitely took some shots,” said Brady. “They're a tough d-line. They've obviously made a lot of investments in that group and those guys play really hard. You're right, they got some good shots on me today but I'll be back at it and be ready to go Wednesday.”

As the game wore on, and the Dolphins seems to be taking some liberties both during and after the play. Social media - and a few in the press box - believed it might be best for Brady to put on a baseball cap and let Brian Hoyer finish up the game. One reporter decided to pose that question to Belichick in his postgame press conference. It went as you would expect…

Were there any thoughts about taking Brady out of the game late with the score out of hand?

“What – on the kneel downs? What difference does it make?” the coach wondered.

The question continued. Before that. Belichick contorted his face and had at it.

“No. I mean it’s easy for you to sit there and say the game is out of hand. I mean, if you watch games in the National Football League, a lot can change in a hurry,” he scolded. “The only time I think the game is in hand is when they’re not going to have enough possessions to get the number of points that they need. Sorry, we just see that one totally differently.”

Thus ended the exchange, but reopened a debate that has been had many a time during the Belichick era. Should Belichick be more protective of Brady?

The answer now is no. It’s always been no.

Brady’s backups don’t tend to get many snaps, even in lopsided games - anyone remember the 2007-08 season? - and nothing has changed, not even with Brady turning 40 before the season started. No, this is the way Belichick coaches. He keeps his QB in late, has his starters take snaps on special teams from wire-to-wire (Rob Gronkowski broke his arm on an extra point once in a one-sided game with the Colts) and continually insists that no one player is bigger than any other. That might not be entirely accurate, but Belichick is sticking with his story until he tells us otherwise. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

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Curran: Pats and Steelers a study in contrasts . . . and we should be grateful

Curran: Pats and Steelers a study in contrasts . . . and we should be grateful

PITTSBURGH --- Mike Tomlin started embracing the "elephant" s on November 27.

Foreplay with the pachyderm can finally cease. The Patriots and Steelers get after it this afternoon. This is the Game of the Year in the AFC. Maybe the NFL.

While Tomlin started hyping the Patriots game 21 days ago, the Patriots didn’t breathe a word about it until this week. And that only came after a Monday night loss in Miami that raised the stakes for this game into a do-or-die for the Patriots in terms of getting the No. 1 seed.

PATRIOTS VS. STEELERS

That whiff of vulnerability that descends after every Patriots loss was in the air this week. Segments of the fanbase react like the worst kinds of hypochondriacs -- perfectly fit but thinking every day that every twinge means an aneurysm is near.

But on Saturday, the 40-year-old quarterback did for New England what he’s been doing since 2001. Put his hand on its shoulder and said, “LFG.” 

Thank God for Tomlin. As much as we lampooned his giddy embrace of this matchup, he got the hype train out of the station and the tub-thumping since has made this the most anticipated Patriots game since February.

While we’re at it, thank God for the Steelers. For Big Sloppy Ben, for Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell and the detestable James Harrison. Without them, the Patriots would be completely without a foil in this league.

Think about it. The NFL is Rex-less. Peyton’s long gone, the Colts are dead, the Broncos are also dead, the Ravens are washed, Eli’s on his last legs for a two-win team.

The Steelers are the only ones out there, picking up a rock and fitting it in a slingshot for the rest of the conference, the rest of the league.

Take it a little further: Thank God for the Steelers as an organization. They serve as an AFC measuring stick for the Patriots. They won back-to-back Super Bowls twice in the 1970s and have won six Lombardis overall. While there’s no arguing which franchise has been better since the 1990s, you can have a spirited talk about whether the Patriots have yet supplanted the Steelers in overall historical resume. You want 45 years of really good with spikes of being the best, as Pittsburgh’s had? Or 40 years of not-so-good with spikes of real good and then a 17-year stretch like no team’s ever had?

These Steelers and Patriots have nothing in common when it comes to the way they do things. The coaches are polar opposites. The quarterbacks are nothing alike. The Steelers defense flies around with the same danger and disorganization of a wasp attack. Playing the Patriots defense is like punching a snowbank for three hours. Everything about the Patriots offense is based on timing and precision. The Steelers have an air of winging it when they have the ball, whether it’s Bell hanging out in the backfield after the snap until a crease opens or Roethlisberger waiting to restart a play while Brown skips through the opposing secondary.

The Steelers always talk a big game. The Patriots say next to nothing.

As consumers, we all love the talking and the hype because it ratchets up the drama. But as football observers based in New England, we’ve come to believe that talking beforehand is like giving your own eulogy.

But a lot of what Mike Tomlin said you can agree with even if you’re only on your couch today. You will remember this game, as opposed to the succession of beatdowns over the procession of also-rans the Patriots seasons sometimes become.

"It's good to be in the kitchen,” said Tomlin this week. “The kitchen's in Pittsburgh, PA, this week in the National Football League, and at Heinz Field. That's where you want to be in the middle of December. We don't take it for granted."

And neither should we.

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Patriots will be without Kyle Van Noy for showdown against Steelers

patriots_kyle_van_noy_111917.jpg

Patriots will be without Kyle Van Noy for showdown against Steelers

The Patriots' defense won't be at full strength Sunday as linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who's been battling a calf injury for weeks, is ruled out against the Steelers:

And NBC Sports Boston's Mike Giardi wonders if it could have been avoided:

And what will it mean this afternoon? Giardi has an idea:

There is some good injury news for the Patriots, however:

As for the Steelers, they're getting nothing but good news: