Patriots

Belichick heaps rare praise upon pair of Chargers pass rushers

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Belichick heaps rare praise upon pair of Chargers pass rushers

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick saved the best for last during his lengthy opening remarks on Wednesday. As he praised for the Chargers for five minutes without stopping, he hit on their special-teams units, their passing game, their running game . . . and then their defense.

Carried by two of the best 10 pass-rushers in football at the moment, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, Belichick knows his team will have its hands full up front this weekend.

"Two great, great pass rushers . . . Those guys do a lot of damage," Belichick said. "[Chris] McCain comes in and he does a lot of damage, too, and that moves Ingram inside. They’re very explosive players. They’re good inside with Corey [Liuget] and [Brandon] Mebane, two very disruptive guys on the inside part of the defense. They create a lot of negative plays there, very good on third down.

"Third-and-long's basically just a sack-and-turnover reel. They create a lot of bad plays in those situations. Obviously, we need to try and stay out of as many of those as possible."

The scheme the Chargers employ will be a familiar one to Belichick and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels given who they faced last weekend. Bolts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and Falcons head coach Dan Quinn both have a background coaching defenses under Pete Carroll, and as a result their styles are similar.

Single-high safeties. One-gapping fronts. Aggressive. Fast.

What gives Los Angeles a different wrinkle is its pass rush.

"Bosa and Ingram make this defense, I would say, put that into a special category," he said. "There’s not many teams in the league that have one player like this. They have two."

Ingram has 8.5 sacks this season, placing him fourth in the NFL in that category. Bosa, the No. 3 pick in the draft last season, has 7.5 sacks already after notching 10.5 in 12 games in 2016 to pick up Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

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"He plays really hard," Belichick said of the second-year standout. "Every play he’s all out. He makes plays from the back side, chase, outstanding pass rusher. He’s got good strength but he’s got good quickness and he knows how to use both of them. If you are over-aggressive on him he’s quick enough to get by you. If you sit back then he is explosive enough to power the blockers into the quarterback or into the backfield. He’s a very disruptive player.

"He’s got a lot of length so he gets to a lot of plays, tackles, tipped balls, can reach out and get the quarterback. He’s a hard guy to throw around or over. He’s really just good at everything but he’s got a great motor so you’ve got to deal with him every play. You can’t run away from him; that’s not the answer because he'll chase down plays.

"Running at him is not the answer either because that’s a problem, too. So to say 'Well, let's just run away from him,' well A) – you're running into Ingram and B) – these guys, Ingram and Bosa, will both make plays from the backside. They’re good. They’re really good . . .

"They can both throw a number of different pitches. They do one thing and then you go to stop that and then they do the next complementary move that goes with it then you’re thinking about that and then they just run you over. It’s just a continuous [process]. Honestly, as you go through each game it’s just a continuous highlight reel between the two of them. It’s usually one of them, but a lot of times it’s both of them that are just being disruptive."

The Chargers are fifth in the league in pass defense (185.4 yards per game) and eighth in points allowed (18.7) thanks in large part to their front. They haven't allowed an opposing offense to crack the 30-point threshold this year, and after shutting out the Broncos last weekend, they're allowing an average of 12.6 points during their three-game win streak. 

Had it not been for a pair of missed field goals -- a potential game-tying kick in Week 1 and a would-be winner in Week 2 -- the Chargers record could look very different. And their defensive turnaround, after ranking 29th in points allowed in 2016, would be one of the more well-worn storylines of what has been a wild first half of the season in the AFC.

"They could easily be 6-1," Belichick said. "A good football team, playing well right now."

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Cardinals reportedly choose Wilks; Flores a logical choice to replace Patricia

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Cardinals reportedly choose Wilks; Flores a logical choice to replace Patricia

The brain drain in New England after this season may not be quite as severe as it once looked like it might be.

According to ESPN, the Cardinals have chosen to hire Panthers assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Steve Wilks as their next head coach. That would mean that Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, a finalist for the job in Arizona, will shoot to the front of the line of candidates to succeed Matt Patricia as Patriots defensive coordinator. Patricia is expected to be named Lions head coach after Super Bowl LII. 

For the Patriots, holding onto Flores would be a significant boost to their coaching staff in 2018.

The team is also expected to lose Josh McDaniels, who could be named head coach of the Colts after the season. Special teams coach Joe Judge is working on an expiring deal, per ESPN, and could be elsewhere next season as well. Then there's offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who will be 70 later this month and could be interested in going back to the retirement life he enjoyed for two years in 2014 and 2015 before returning last season. 

Flores, 36, has been with the Patriots since 2004. He's served as a scouting assistant, a pro scout, a special teams assistant, a defensive assistant and safeties coach (2012-2015) before taking over linebacker duties. As our Mike Giardi wrote earlier this month, Flores is highly-respected by Patriots players and would make all kinds of sense as the team's next defensive coordinator.

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Patricia family enjoys the moment following final game at Gillette Stadium

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Patricia family enjoys the moment following final game at Gillette Stadium

Matt Patricia was on his back, laying in confetti, his son sitting alongside, soaking up the last few moments of the night. It was well after the Patriots had defeated the Jaguars to claim their shot at Super Bowl LII, and Patricia probably knew it was his last game at Gillette Stadium as Patriots defensive coordinator. 

Every week, in conference calls with reporters, Patricia adheres as strictly to the "on to fill-in-the-blank" as anyone. But on Sunday night, more than two hours after the game had ended, he was very much living in the now.  

"After the game had kind of settled down and everything," Patricia said Monday, "I had my son here at the game, he hasn't really been to a lot of games -- he's been to two -- so that was kind of his second game. He wanted to go play on the field. 

"We played a good game of touch football. He beat me 4-0. He kind of out-ran me there a little bit. He made some good plays on me, I couldn't catch him. Just fun to have him out there running around and just seeing the excitement that he had to be out on the field. Kind of a special little moment for myself and him and my wife."

Patricia is expected to be named the next coach of the Detroit Lions, which will mean a new city, a new chapter for his family after he spent the last 14 years in New England under Bill Belichick. Before that happens, he'll have one more game with the team that gave him his first job in pro football. And maybe a shot at a rematch with his son.

"He's pretty good," Patricia said. "I mean, he's pretty quick. I might have to try to get in better shape before that happens. We'll see. We'll see what happens. I might have to take the physical game to him."

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