Patriots

After Gronk play, Belichick makes another pitch for goal-line cameras

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After Gronk play, Belichick makes another pitch for goal-line cameras

DENVER -- Rob Gronkowski was hot after his team's win Sunday night at Sports Authority Field. The reason? He thought he had a touchdown -- or a "tug," as he calls it -- wiped off the board because of a missed call.

Late in the second quarter, it looked as though Gronkowski made a diving grab near the goal line, but it was immediately called incomplete. After the Patriots called a timeout, and after Gronkowski did some serious lobbying to Bill Belichick to challenge the ruling, the coach opted to toss his red challenge flag.

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"I went up to Coach, and he’s like, ‘Are you sure?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m sure, man.’ I would never say that if I wasn’t 100 percent sure, because you don’t want to lose that kind of trust," Gronkowski said after the game. "And I thought I caught it, man. I know I caught it. My fingers were underneath it.”

Yet after review, the call on the field stood. There was not enough video evidence to overturn. 

"I mean, I didn’t see any replays or anything like that, but did you guys see any time where the ball hit the ground? Because it didn’t, that’s why,” Gronkowski said. ”I put my hand underneath the ball. I know for sure I caught it. I just don’t understand why it wasn’t a tug. It didn’t show any evidence of it hitting the ground. I know it didn’t. My fingers were underneath it. It tilted up the ball, and I knew it was right there. And I brought it in, and it landed on my forearm when I brought it in, and I knew exactly."

Belichick said during a conference call on Monday that he wouldn't hold it against Gronkowski. Most players like to think they catch every pass sent their way, he explained. And it even after review, Belichick said, it looked like an incredibly close call. 

Because the topic of replay and goal-line calls was brought up, Belichick used the opportunity to once again make it known that he believes there should be more cameras in order to provide more angles for plays like that Gronkowski's. 

The play ended up not mattering because one snap later Dwayne Allen was in the end zone for an 11-yard score, but what if that was an end-of-the-game play? What if the score was tighter? Wouldn't you want more angles to know you got the call right? 

That's Belichick's point. It's one he's made before.

"It went the way it did and I understand that," Belichick said. "Again, not that it made any difference on that play, but again, I’ll take this opportunity to say that I just am all for trying to get these plays right. I think that would have been a good example of where a goal-line camera or a pylon camera would have been given a good opportunity. 

"I think we saw in the Kansas City-Oakland game a couple weeks ago the great shot that that camera gave, so again, I think this would be just another example. In the end, it didn’t make any difference in the game last night, but had that been the final play of the game or one of the final plays of the game in a close game, whichever side it was on, just want it to be right. Whether he caught it or didn’t catch it, just make sure that we make the right call."

The play Belichick was referencing occurred last month during a Thursday night game between the Chiefs and Raiders. Oakland tight end Jared Cooks appeared to get into the end zone for a game-tying touchdown, but thanks to a review, he was marked down at the 1. 

The Raiders eventually scored and won the game, but it was a good example of how a camera in that area of the field can be helpful. 

"It’s a tough call," Belichick said of Gronkowski's near-grab. "The official made the call. It’s a tough call. The official that made the call was standing pretty close to me on the sideline. He was probably 30 yards away. It was a close play. I saw it the same way he did. 

"It was really close, so maybe the league can find a way to finance that project and get a good quality shot of some of those goal line plays, like they had in the Oakland-Kansas City game."

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Five non-Brady storylines to track as Patriots host Eagles in Week 2 of preseason

Five non-Brady storylines to track as Patriots host Eagles in Week 2 of preseason

Thursday night should be Tom Brady's night. That's the plan, at least, according to him. 

That's not to say he'll have the spotlight all to himself against the Eagles, or that that's what he wants. But if he plays at all, there will be boatloads of attention paid to every snap he receives. They'll be his first plays he gets against another opponent since Super Bowl LII, and they'll just so happen to come against the team that beat him back in February. 

We went over the various aspects of Brady's night we'll be watching closely here, if Bill Belichick decides he wants Brady to play at all. But we can't train our focus on No. 12 in blue all night, and we know you won't either. So here are five more storylines -- non-Brady storylines -- to track when the Patriots host the Eagles at Gillette Stadium. 

DECKER CATCHING ON?

Eric Decker had one of the worst starts to a practice of any Patriots receiver this summer just a few days ago. He pushed off in a one-on-one drill. He dropped a pass in a one-on-one drill. Soon thereafter, he dropped two more passes when there wasn't a defender in sight. Not what you're looking for. Decker did, however, bounce back. And for him that was encouraging. Thursday will give the newest Patriots receiver another opportunity to show that he's gaining in his understanding of the playbook. If that's coming along, the fundamentals -- like playing penalty-free and catching the football -- should follow. Given the state of the receiver position in Foxboro at the moment, the Patriots may need to lean on Decker more than they would like. They'll certainly give him some time to figure things out, but he'll have to continue to show progress, as he did during that up-and-down (or down-and-up) session earlier in the week. 

PATRIOTS HAVE THEIR (BIG) BACK?

There's an opportunity here. The Patriots have gone without both Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead for the last handful of practices, meaning there will be reps galore for the likes of Mike Gillislee, Jeremy Hill, Ralph Webb and Brandon Bolden. All four (plus James White) saw action offensively in the preseason opener against the Redskins. Of that group, I think the most fascinating battle is between Gillislee and Hill. It was Hill who looked the strongest last week (51 yards on 11 carries), but he looked limited at times in practice this week. Is he dealing with something that could drop his snap count Thursday? Will that leave the door open for Gillislee, who had a ho-hum night (43 yards on 14 carries) last week? Hill looks like the more capable pass-catcher and the more kicking-game friendly (three first-team special teams units against Washington) back at the moment. 

McCOURTY'S CHANCE TO SHINE?

The Patriots held Jason McCourty out of preseason game No. 1. He didn't have much of an answer as to why that was the case, but he didn't seem too concerned when he spoke to reporters on Sunday. On Monday and Tuesday, he was taking snaps with the first-team defense. Will that continue to be the case against the Eagles? McCourty could be in the running for the No. 2 corner role -- Eric Rowe has held that down for most of camp -- and might be able to use a strong performance against Philly as a springboard to greater consideration from the coaching staff to be a starter. In competitive periods Monday and Tuesday, McCourty looked good. He picked off a Brian Hoyer pass intended for Phillip Dorsett in one-on-ones and broke up another intended for Rob Gronkowski near the goal line. He said he's been doing his best to teach the young corners he's in competition with -- JC Jackson, Keion Crossen and Ryan Lewis have all stood out at different points this summer -- but Thursday could be his night. 

BENTLEY SPEEDING TO A ROSTER SPOT?

Inside the Patriots facilities, Ja'Whaun Bentley has an argument as the most pleasantly surprising player of training camp. As a fifth-round pick, he wasn't guaranteed a roster spot . . . but he now seems to have a jump on one. After a strong performance against Washington -- where he showcased good instincts, an ability to relay play-calls, confident pre-snap communication, and competency in coverage -- we landed him on our first 53-man roster projection and highlighted his skill set in our "Long Shot" series. A three-year captain at Purdue, Bentley isn't a next-level athlete, but he has the potential to be a middle-of-the-defense voice on a unit that could be enticed to deploy its best communicator, Dont'a Hightower, on the edge. "Eager to learn," Hightower said of Bentley this week. "He’s really become a sponge. First dude in the classroom, last one out, always asking questions. Nice-sized kid, good on his feet. He’s going to be a good ballplayer."

TIME TO TACKLE THE ISSUE AT HAND?

The Patriots had nine missed tackles against the Redskins last week, and two more were wiped out due to penalties. That kind of thing will drive a coaching staff nuts, but in some ways it's to be expected this time of year. In camp, the Patriots almost never have any periods where players are tackled to the ground. (Goal-line run periods are probably the closest thing to "live" for Belichick's club, and those 22-car pile-ups are rare.) The result is a team that's not accustomed to tackling, trying to tackle in a preseason game that (for some) doesn't really matter. It can get ugly out there, and Belichick knows it. "Running and tackling are two skills that you don’t work on from the end of the season until pretty much the first preseason game. You can do a little drill work, but it’s not quite the same. So, any player that’s involved in any of those, running or tackling, they might have done it before, but they haven’t done it recently, and they haven’t done it at the timing and speed that it occurs in the game. So, there’s an adjustment, a break-in period for all of us, and that’s part of what preseason games are for . . . We can improve our tackling. We can certainly improve our running and breaking tackles. So, that’s part of the process."

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: What to expect from Tom Brady in his first preseason action of the season

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: What to expect from Tom Brady in his first preseason action of the season

1:22 - Trenni, Chris Gasper, and Phil Perry preview the Patriots/Eagles game and discuss what they are most interested in seeing from Tom Brady in his first preseason action of the season.

6:04 - Tom Curran and Paul Perillo join Tom Giles on Boston Sports Tonight to break down Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey’s comments about how Jacksonville should have trusted Blake Bortles more in the AFC Championship game against the Patriots. 

10:00 - Trenni, Gasper, and Perry talk about Lane Johnson continuing to bring up the Patriots and their fans as he prepares for the preseason game in Foxboro.

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