Patriots

What was old is new again for Broncos with Osweiler at quarterback

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What was old is new again for Broncos with Osweiler at quarterback

"The Don”  John Elway made a mistake with his quarterbacks. Denver’s head of football operations pursued Tony Romo this offseason but Romo chose the broadcast booth instead. Elway then decided his Super Bowl-level defense would be complemented by either Trevor Siemian or 2016 first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch. So about that…

Siemian is a not a big guy to begin with and the consensus amongst the previous coaching staff was that the former Northwestern product would never be able to last for an entire season. They were right a year ago and - to a degree - right again this year. Siemian re-injured his non-throwing left shoulder early in the season and his performance - and that of the offense - suffered considerably. Just 16 points in a loss to Buffalo, 16 again in a win over Oakland, 10 versus the then-winless Giants, a whitewashing at the hands of the LA Chargers and finally, 19 against the Chiefs. At the tail end of that game, first-year coach Vance Joseph turned not to Lynch, but Brock Osweiler. What was old is new again. Actually, it was more like desperate times calling for desperate measures.

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You see Osweiler isn’t supposed to be here and he sure as hell wasn’t supposed to be starting in this past weekend’s 51-23 beatdown at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles. No, this Broncos QB job is supposed to belong to Lynch. But after being unable to get a firm grasp on the offense in year one, Lynch scuffled mightily in the preseason despite the team giving him every opportunity to win the job. Hell, they basically handed it to him and Lynch couldn’t take advantage. That, coupled with a shoulder injury, led Denver back down the Osweiler road and he rewarded them by completing just 19-of-38 for 208 yards and a pair of interceptions in Philly. Yet it’ll be Osweiler again Sunday when the Patriots come to town.  Good luck with that.

“I thought Brock had an excellent week of preparation,” said Joseph when asked about Osweiler’s work. “It felt good to our team—it was a confident week and the energy was better. It was urgent, it was detailed and the meetings were better. Brock’s experience and Brock’s personality really helped our team bounce back and gave us confidence going into this week. I think Brock’s earned it from that standpoint. In the football game, it wasn’t perfect. Again, he had two interceptions, which he can’t have, and he understands that. He had a couple of ill-advised throws.”

The Pats are quite familiar with Osweiler. They saw him twice last year when the 6’7” thrower was doing a poor job running the Houston Texans offense. The year prior, they lost to the Osweiler-led Broncos in Denver, arguably the best moment of quarterback’s professional career. Osweiler was filling in for the injured Peyton Manning on that November night and found himself in a two-touchdown hole in the 4th quarter. Against an undefeated Patriots team. In the snow. But the Idaho native put Denver ahead late in the fourth, first hitting Demaryius Thomas for a 36-yarder just prior to the 2-minute warning, then throwing a 3-yard touchdown pass to Bubba Caldwell with a little over a minute to play. The Pats would tie the game on a last-second field goal by Steven Gostkowski, but it was the Broncos who won in overtime thanks to CJ Anderson’s 48-yard touchdown jaunt. 

Bill Belichick said the Pats have looked at all of Osweiler’s work - both Denver and Houston - in preparation for Sunday.

“The most important thing is what he’s done in the offense that he's in and the reads and where he’s throwing the ball and his progression and so forth in the current offense,” said Belichick. “But yeah, we have a familiarity with players when we've played against them, how there are certain plays – I'd say maybe not every play – but there are certain plays that stick out that are worth noting because of the player’s athletic ability or his experience or, in this case, a throw that he was able to make, that type of thing. There's some relevance there, but look, we're eight games into the regular season here so there's a lot of good tape on Denver to watch including the entire team, but in his role last week.”

Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said all the right things about Osweiler despite the most recent tape showing something else.

“Certainly Brock is someone we played against a couple times and a guy who has had some success against us,” said Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. “He's a big guy, does a good job of keeping his eyes downfield, he's tough, he's strong in the pocket. We've definitely had some good hits on him and he's bounced up and really been able to stand in there and make some decent throws and read the coverage and get the ball to the right guy. So I think for a player who's moved around a little bit, been in a couple of different systems, had a couple of different coordinators, he's a guy that can step in at any time and be productive.”

Despite their improved performance prior to the bye, Patricia knows the Patriots defense can’t afford to take anything for granted, but this is almost exactly the same team from a personnel standpoint they faced a year ago in the Mile High City and held to 3 points. The only major difference: Siemian was the QB. He may be again before Sunday’s over if Osweiler’s decline - a decline that dates back to December of 2015 - continues.

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Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

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Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

The first came in the second quarter, when Brandin Cooks turned on afterburners to beat a Raiders double team and glide underneath a Tom Brady heave for 52 yards. The second came in the third quarter, on the third play from scrimmage of the second half, when Cooks faked an out-route, jetted past rookie corner Obi Melifonwu, and sped into the end zone to make the score 24-0. 

Both deep completions in New England's 33-8 win over Oakland just added to cumulative effect that Cooks has had on the Patriots offense since arriving before the season to become their top deep threat. 

Paired with Brady, Cooks has actually become the most productive deep threat in the NFL. 

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According to Pro Football Focus, Cooks leads all receivers with 431 yards on deep passes (throws that travel 20 yards or more down the field). In second place is Houston's DeAndre Hopkins with 313 yards. 

And Brady, who has long been more effective in the short-to-intermediate range than he has been deep, is now among the league leaders in creating explosive plays from the quarterback position. The Patriots are third in the NFL with 41 pass plays of 20 yards or more, and they are tied for second with nine plays of 40 yards or more. 

"You're always trying to work on that," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show of his team's deep passing game. "It's not one particular year [you work on it]. I think that's been a concerted effort by our entire offense, trying to make more explosive plays in the pass game. 

"Sometimes your offense is built differently. We actually have some guys now that can really get down the field so that becomes more of a point of emphasis. The way Brandin runs, the way that Chris Hogan runs, the way that Phillip Dorsett runs, they're very fast. You need to be able to take advantage of their skill set . . . 

"When we had David Patten we were throwing it deep. I mean, but David Patten didn't run a lot of short routes. I would say Brandin Cooks, in general, he doesn't run a lot of short routes. Everyone has a different role. If we can get by you, I think that's a good place to throw the ball. if we can't, we gotta figure out ways to throw it underneath and different weeks are going to call for different things based on the strengths of the defenses we're playing, too."

A week before beating the Raiders, against the Broncos and their talented corners, the Patriots had less luck pushing the ball down the field -- though they tried to hit Cooks deep multiple times. In Mexico City, Cooks matched up with a weaker secondary, and he wasn't at all slowed by the altitude, catching six passes in all for 149 yards and a score. 

Per PFF, Cooks has seen almost one third of his targets (30 percent) come on deep passes, which is the ninth-highest rate in the league. He's caught all 11 of his catchable deep passes, three of them accounting for scores.

"Obviously when you're throwing the ball 50-60 yards down the field," Brady said, "your chances of completion go down, but if you hit it, it ends up being a very explosive plays and you can change a lot of field position and get a defense really on their heels if they have to defend every blade of grass on the field." 

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Belichick remembers Glenn: 'A good person with good intentions'

Belichick remembers Glenn: 'A good person with good intentions'

Terry Glenn, the Patriots' top draft pick in 1996, died early Monday morning in a one-car accident in Irving, Texas. He was 43. 

Bill Belichick coached Glenn as an assistant with the Patriots during Glenn's rookie season. He was later Glenn's head coach in 2000 and 2001. Belichick traded Glenn to the Packers before the 2002 season after a tumultuous run in New England that involved legal trouble, injuries and clashes with the coaching staff.

During a conference call with reporters soon after the news of Glenn's death was published, Belichick remembered Glenn for his natural physical ability and "a good heart."

"I was pretty close with Terry," Belichick said, "and his rookie season was my first year here in '96, and so I had a lot of interaction with him and other people that were involved in his life and his upbringing separate from the Patriots. Terry's a very smart individual. Had a lot of, obviously, a lot of physical skill and talent. Could do a lot of things on the football field very naturally. And I think he was deep down inside a good person with good intentions and, you know, a good heart. Obviously it's very unfortunate. Very unfortunate passing. I mean, it's a sad day. Sad news."

According to reports, Glenn was with his fiancee at the time of the accident. She's being treated at a local hospital for unspecified injuries.