Patriots

Belichick on Bolden: 'Skill set is really, really good'

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Belichick on Bolden: 'Skill set is really, really good'

FOXBORO -- Now that the Patriots know they'll be without LeGarrette Blount for the remainder of the season, the question is who will be the "next man up?"

The most likely candidate is Brandon Bolden, who filled in for Blount after Blount suffered a hip injury in the second quarter of New England's win over the Texans on Sunday night. The fourth-year running back ran for 51 yards on 16 carries and force six missed tackles with his hard-charging running style. 

Primarily a special teams contributor during his career in New England, Bolden has served as a valuable backup for the team as he has been able to handle the duties of both "passing back" and "big back." Back in Week 9, it was Bolden who took the running back reps after Dion Lewis suffered a torn ACL against Washington. In that game he caught three passes for 27 yards and a touchdown.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick lauded Bolden for his overall skill set in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. 

"He has been a valuable guy for us on all four downs, so whether it’s carrying the ball, making tough yards, playing as a sub back and playing in the kicking game, he’s shown a lot of versatility and given us a lot of quality plays in all those situations," Belichick said. "I think his skill set is really, really good. He’s got good quickness. He’s got the ability to break tackles in space with his playing strength, but he also has quickness to make guys miss out there, too."

Belichick pointed out one play made by Bolden in Houston that stood out to him in the fourth quarter. With the Patriots trying to salt away the game with a 21-point lead, Bolden took a handoff on third-and-eight and ran for 11 yards and a game-ending first down. Though it appeared as though the play was designed to go to the right -- left guard Shaq Mason pulled to that side -- Bolden cut back to where there was more space, ran through an attempted tackle by safety Will Demps, and got the necessary yardage for a new set of downs that allowed the Patriots to run out the clock. 

"He’s got good run vision, sees the holes and sees where there is space," Belichick said. "The play that he made at the end of the game last week in Houston was a really good cut, good play on his part. I don’t think we had the play blocked for the kind of yards he made on that play. He got six or seven yards with his vision and getting the ball into space on the cut back and probably made another four or five yards just with his running strength and balance to knock over a couple tacklers and pick up the first down.

"Probably a little over half that yardage came on his vision, his run instinct and then a few extra yards came on his physical running style and balance. I think that run is a good indication of all those things being a part of his playing style and effectiveness."

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was also complimentary of Bolden's versatile abilities when he spoke to reporters on Tuesday. When it comes to some of the things that don't show up in the box score -- ball security, pass protection -- Bolden can handle those duties as well.

"He’s carried the ball in cold, sloppy weather and protected it for us as he’s matured and grown in our system," McDaniels said. "He’s a dependable guy. We trust him to blitz pick-up. We trust him to be in the game in those critical situations when you get a lot of different looks from the defense.

"He studies hard. He’s a guy that comes to work and prepares well. There’s always been a lot of talent with Brandon and his dependability, and his ability to do a lot of different things within our offense has just improved with each year that he’s been here. Brandon’s a good runner and he does a lot of things that are really valuable to our football team whether it be on offense or in the kicking game. We’ll try to certainly do the best thing we can here going forward in terms of how we use him among the rest of our backs."

How well does Tom Brady play against former Patriots coaches?

How well does Tom Brady play against former Patriots coaches?

The Patriots will face the Detroit Lions Sunday night in the Pats latest matchup against a former Bill Belichick assistant. The Lions hired Matt Patricia after the defensive guru spent 14 seasons under Belichick in New England. But so far, Patricia and the Lions are off to a rough start (0-2), and it could get worse -- it's been well-established that former Belichick pupils have struggled against the Patriots. 

TOM E. CURRAN'S HARD TRUTHS

But what about Tom Brady against Patriots assistants-turned-head coaches? Patricia will be the fifth former coach Brady will face, joining Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel, Bill O'Brien, and Josh McDaniels. Patricia will join Mangini and Crennel as former defensive coordinators to scheme against Brady, while O'Brien and McDaniels went from calling plays for Brady to trying to stop him. Who has the advantage, Brady or his coaches?

VS. ERIC MANGINI

Belichick first discovered Mangini as a ball boy in Cleveland. Mangini eventually became New England's defensive coordinator for a season before accepting the head coaching job with the New York Jets. Because he was in the AFC East, Brady played Mangini the most of any former coach. Brady and the Pats went 4-2 in the regular season and 1-0 in the postseason against Mangini's Jets. Mangini's defenses picked Brady four times in those six games, but Brady still threw nine touchdowns. He completed 116 of his 190 pass attempts (61 percent) for 1,346 yards.

As head coach of the Browns in 2010, Mangini's team beat Brady and the Pats 34-14 for one of their five victories that season. Brady went 19-for-36 for 224 yards and two TDs in that game.

VS. ROMEO CRENNEL

The defensive coordinator for the Patriots' first three Super Bowl champion squads had no answers for Brady and the New England offense in a matchup against the Browns in 2007. The 2007 NFL MVP completed 22 of 38 passing attempts (58 percent) for 265 yards, three TDs, and zero interceptions. 

VS. BILL O'BRIEN

Bill O'Brien called plays for the Patriots from 2009 to 2011, but is probably most known in New England for his infamous yelling match with Brady on the sidelines during a game in 2011. O'Brien is now in his fifth season as the coach of the Houston Texans and his defenses -- which, for the record, have been very good -- have had absolutely no success against Brady. The Patriots are 3-0 in regular-season games and 1-0 in the postseason when Brady starts against O'Brien. Brady threw for 1,168 yards in those four games, completing 91 of 142 passes (64 percent) and throwing 12 TDs and just three interceptions. 

VS. JOSH MCDANIELS

McDaniels, who is in his second stint as the Patriots offensive coordinator, has a great relationship with Brady, as shown in Brady's Facebook docu-series Tom vs. Time. But in 2009, the two faced off against each other when in McDaniels' first season as Broncos head coach. McDaniels got the win in overtime, but Brady played solid. He was 19 of 33 (58 percent) for 215 yards, with two TDs and no picks. 

OVERALL

It's been business as usual for Brady against his former coaches, with a record of 8-3 in the regular season and 2-0 in the playoffs. In those 13 games, he completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,218 yards, 28 TDs and seven interceptions. Brady will look to continue his success against Patricia this weekend, as the Patriots look to get back on track with a win.

-- Will Lefkovich

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