Patriots

Brady understands Gronkowski's frustration

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Brady understands Gronkowski's frustration

You're never surprised when Tom Brady has Rob Gronkowski's back. The big tight end has helped make Brady's life a little easier since he arrived in New England as a second-round pick in 2010.

That's why it barely caused a ripple when Brady quietly lobbed some support Gronkowski's way as he stepped to the podium at New Era Field on Sunday.

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Devin McCourty was finishing up his press conference by making a joke that Patriots defensive backs to a lot of holding when trying to defend Gronkowski in practice. Brady replaced McCourty at the microphone with a smile and a quick quip.

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After the country had several hours to chew on what happened at the end of the Patriots' 23-3 win in Buffalo -- when Gronkowski took a shot at Tre'Davious White following White's fourth-quarter interception -- Brady spoke to WEEI's Kirk and Callahan about his tight end's actions.

"Obviously, it was unnecessary roughness. He got the penalty for it," Brady said. "It’s an emotional game. These are spur-of-the-moment things. They just happen. We deal with the penalties. They got some penalties on the play too, and you’d always love to keep your cool all the time, but when you’re in a sport when you are trying to run, block and hit, tackle, and be physical and aggressive, that is why people tune in. I think if it was a pillow fight I don’t think people would tune in to watch."

Then Brady laid out why Gronkowski sometimes feels as frustrated as he does -- something Gronkowski himself explained immediately following the game. It's an issue Gronkowski has actually been very open discussing in the past, and it's one Brady was willing to delve into on Monday morning.

Clearly, they're hoping for some kind of change in how plays involving Gronkowski are officiated. At different points in his career, he has been among the league leaders in offensive pass interference penalties, and he picked up another to start the second half on Sunday.  

"I think for him it is frustrating," Brady said. "He’s 270 pounds, so when they put a 190-pound player on him, any time there’s any contact, just by inertia the other defender is going to move. You basically limit it to a non-contact play and it’s just try to out-quick someone, which obviously those guys are a lot quicker. 

"Gronk tries to get as close as he can to use his size, but the refs, they throw a lot of flags on him. He’s tried to change his style of play a little bit, but I think he obviously gets grabbed and held all day long. I’d say it is very frustrating for him to get these pass interference calls and he’s getting held the whole game and he doesn’t get a call. I can see why he’s very frustrated. It’s frustrating for everybody.”

Gronkowski finished the game with nine catches for 147 yards, but the question is now whether or not he will be able to build on that performance next week against the Dolphins. The league will certainly kick around the possibility of further discipline for his hit on White. 

“I hope not," Brady said when asked about the possibility of a Gronkowski suspension. "I certainly hope not. Yeah, I hope not.”

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Brady, Pats look to continue unparalleled December success

Brady, Pats look to continue unparalleled December success

Nobody appreciates the month of December quite like Tom Brady and the Patriots. Well, unless you’re a big believer of that fat man from the North Pole. The numbers have been repeated so often they don’t even require a double check but do bear repeating over and over again.

Brady is 55-10 in the final month of every year, far and away the best of any in his storied career. But it’s not just Brady, obviously. It’s an entire team, one that’s changed over the years but still has embraced the final quarter of the regular season like few other, especially in those “Super” seasons. The Pats are 26-2 during Decembers when they’ve eventually gone on to play for Lombardi Trophies, and one of those losses was a throwaway in 2014 to Buffalo in the season finale. 

“I’ve been a member of some great teams that have really paid the price months earlier to put you in a great position to succeed in December when the games are the most meaningful because there’s fewer of them,” said Brady.

To Brady and others, these games mean more. That puts an even greater onus on preparation, both big and small. That’s always been a hallmark of Bill Belichick coached teams. To have continued December success, it can’t change.

“When there’s a little bit more at stake and the ante moves up I think you compete a little bit harder,” said Belichick. “You prepare a little bit harder.”

“Coach [Belichick] would say ‘no days off.’ Just work hard every day, no matter what you’re doing,” added Brady.”Whether you’re on the field or not on the field, you've got to be putting the time in mentally or physically to get yourself physically, mentally, emotionally ready to play for those games.”

Despite their 8-game winning streak - one that has vaulted the Pats to the top of just about everyone’s power rankings (for whatever that’s worth) - this group doesn’t think it can get away with anything other than their best. Of course, that hasn’t always been the case this season. There certainly have been a couple of victories that weren’t the way the coaching staff drew ‘em up, but you can sense a certain level of disappointment from this players in the aftermath. They’ll take it, but they’re measuring themselves against something greater. That’s a belief ingrained into the important players and one that filters down the roster. 

“…we’re a team that we can't afford to come in Wednesday and have a bad Wednesday,” said Devin McCourty. “Like we're not good enough to catch up on Thursday and Friday and then walk–through Saturday and think Sunday it's just going to turn on and we'll be ready to go. We have to be ready throughout the whole week. We need to have a good Wednesday, a good Thursday, string good practices together where we're going over everything that we might get, whether we've even had walk–throughs sometimes out there. But we get a lot of plays done, we get a lot of things talked about, communicated and that gives us a chance to win on Sunday. I think once you get in December it's about not slipping up any of those weeks.”

“We can’t afford anything less than our best,” said Brady. “I know it’s not going to be perfect out there, but you try to do as best you can, especially in the preparation so that you can be ready to anticipate and compete as hard as you can like this on a Monday Night Football game in December.”

If your best players think this way, how can the mid-level or bottom-end guys not approach their jobs the same way? It partly explains Brady’s success, but the team’s as well. And it’s why they’ll treat tonight’s game against the Dolphins as if it’s the most important game they’ll play all year. Because it is. And if the Patriots keep stacking them up, then the games keep getting bigger and more important. Until it’s Super Sunday and the whole world is watching you try and lay claim to another Lombardi.

Steelers take a different route, but are on track for showdown with Pats

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Steelers take a different route, but are on track for showdown with Pats

Even if there's South Florida toe-stubbage of 2004 proportions tonight, the Patriots will meet Pittsburgh late next Sunday afternoon in a game that will, in all likelihood, decide who runs the AFC this season.

Then we will learn whether the horseshoe the Steelers have had lodged in their posterior all season was permanently implanted or removable.

Sunday night, the Steelers won their eighth straight. They won it on a field goal in the final minute, as they did against the Bengals the week before and the Packers the week before that and the Colts two weeks before that.

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They allowed 152 yards rushing, made Joe Flacco look ordinary (that's an upgrade for him this season) and allowed six plays of 20 or more yards. They committed six penalties for 101 yards, blew a 14-0 lead and had to chase the Ravens down from behind. They were on the verge of being closed out all night.

So why weren't they? Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger, like him or not, is a Hall of Fame quarterback. The best-in-the-game-right-now conversation always centers on Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, but their late-game Houdini routines aren't more commonplace than Roethlisberger's.

It's just that -- because he looks like he just got up from a two-day bender -- there's a whiff of "Oh, Ben finally woke up . . . ". instead of the awe and reverence Brady and Rodgers inspire. Pittsburgh was 12 for 18 on third down against Baltimore. And that's supposed to be a good defense. Roethlisberger was 44 for 66 for 506 yards. Brown caught 11 passes for 213 yards on 18 targets.

Watching Brown, to me, is like watching Steph Curry in a way. When Roethlisberger drops, surveys, then tilts his shoulders so you know he's heaving it down the right sideline, there's an anticipation mixed with certainty that a generally low-percentage heave is going to be complete. To Brown. Who is sublime.

Cris Collinsworth said during the broadcast last night that Brown deserved MVP consideration. I personally have a hard time saying any position aside from the game-directing position of quarterback can truly be more valuable. But Brown deserves Offensive Player of the Year, for sure. Ninety-nine catches for 1,509 yards and nine touchdowns? He has 627 yards and six touchdowns on 39 catches in the last four games as he almost singlehandedly keeps the Steelers in stride with the Patriots.

And that's where the Steelers are. Somehow, despite being on the edge of an upset every week, they are 11-2 and will this week do their, "Lemme at ‘em! Hold me back!" routine when talking about the Patriots.

Which is in contrast to how New England does it. Everything about the Steelers is in contrast to New England. Where Mike Tomlin is all about emotion and swagger and chest-puffing, Bill Belichick is stoic, calculated and clandestine. The Steelers defense is a lead-pipe to the base of the skull, attack, attack, attack. The Patriots defense is quicksand. Looks benign. Still deadly (or at least has been to the last eight opponents). Roethlisberger looks like he has pastrami and cheese on his breath and will probably need a size-54 jacket when he gets to Canton. Brady's breath probably has a whiff of almonds and altoids and will look runway ready when he's inducted in 2031.

And the fanbases? You cannot help but enjoy the passion of each but they are both -- by and large -- condescending, easily offended and entitled. Which makes the runup to a game like this even better.

All the Patriots have to do is take care of business in Miami tonight and then full attention can go to the Steelers. And it should be a helluva week.

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