Patriots

Kyle Van Noy has perfect message for Tom Brady critics in 'NFL 100' video

Kyle Van Noy has perfect message for Tom Brady critics in 'NFL 100' video

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady received more criticism last year than perhaps any other season of his Hall of Fame career.

His stats -- 4,355 yards with 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions -- were very good, but not the MVP level numbers we typically see from him. Brady did look a bit more human than normal throughout 2018, but in fairness, his top receivers (Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Josh Gordon) all missed multiple games due to injury or suspension. The Patriots also went 3-5 on the road and finished at 11-5 overall, ending their streak of seasons with 12-plus wins at eight.

Brady saved his best football for the perfect time, though. He was remarkable in the playoffs, including late game-winning drives in both the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs and Super Bowl LIII versus the Los Angeles Rams. 

He recently was ranked No. 6 in the NFL Network series "NFL Top 100", which is voted on by the players. A few of them shared their thoughts on Brady in the video, including one of his teammates, Kyle Van Noy. The Patriots linebacker's message for Brady critics was spot on.

“Any time you get older, there’s negativity, but I just don’t get it.” Van Noy said. “People say he’s fallen off. It’s just like, what are you watching? He hasn’t had the craziest numbers, but he’s still playing at a high level. Just really a competitor. In the Chiefs game (in Week 6), he broke off a tackle and rushed it in the end zone. It just shows his fire, his desire to win and will to do anything. Even when you don’t think he can run, he’s still got it.” 

Brady reminded everyone in the AFC title game and Super Bowl LIII that when the game is on the line, he's still by far the most trustworthy quarterback. The AFC Championship Game was particularly impressive. He led a go-ahead touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter in a hostile road environment in frigid weather. He then led a similar touchdown drive in overtime to punch New England's ticket to the Super Bowl. Brady didn't play very well in Super Bowl LIII, but he went 4-for-4 on the Patriots' touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that led to their 13-3 victory. 

Brady turns 42 years old on Saturday, and despite being the oldest active starting quarterback, he's still one of the top players in the league regardless of position. Oddsmakers clearly aren't expecting a huge dropoff from Brady in the 2019 season -- the Patriots are the favorites to win Super Bowl LIV.

Click for Brady's reaction to replacing Rob Gronkowski in 2019>>>

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How the reported expanded NFL playoff proposal impacts the Patriots

How the reported expanded NFL playoff proposal impacts the Patriots

NFL owners are pushing for a big change that would be part of a new collective bargaining agreement with the players. The league reportedly will propose expanding the postseason to add a seventh playoff team in each conference.

As ESPN's Adam Schefter detailed, the league would now have six games on Wild Card weekend under the new proposal, three in each conference, and only the No. 1 seed in each conference will get a playoff bye.

Also in the proposal is a 17-game regular season and a shortened preseason to three games. The changes would be implemented for the 2020 season if the new CBA is ratified by the owners and NFL Players Association.

If adopted, this is certainly a massive change and one that could have a big impact on the New England Patriots. 

The Patriots have mastered the art of qualifying for a bye in their two-decade-long dynasty. In fact, this past postseason was the first time New England didn't have a first-round bye since the 2009-10 postseason. The Patriots finished as the No. 3 seed and promptly lost to the Tennessee Titans at home, marking their earliest playoff exit since the '10 postseason.

Thus, the elimination of one of the byes could have a significant impact on the Patriots. Since Bill Belichick took over as coach before the 2000 season, the Patriots have made it to the Super Bowl nine times. In each of those seasons, they've had a first-round bye.

In the Belichick Era, the Patriots have been the AFC's No. 2 seed on six occasions. They advanced to the Super Bowl and won three times in those six instances, and it's fair to wonder if they would've had a similar chance to advance had they needed to play another game, even if it was against a seventh-seeded team.

In the past seven Super Bowls overall, no team has made it to the big game without a first-round bye. The 2013 Ravens were the last team to play Wild Card weekend and make the Super Bowl.

So, needless to say, the No. 1 seed in each conference will now have a major advantage, and the Patriots are going to have to fight harder to earn it. They're certainly capable of earning the No. 1 seed. They were the No. 1 as recently as the 2017 and 2018 playoffs, when they beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51 and lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in SB 52.

The road to the Super Bowl will become a little more difficult without that No. 1 seed if the new format is approved. Only once in the Patriots history have they reached the Super Bowl as a Wild Card team and that was 35 years ago in the 1985 season. The No. 1 seed and home-field advantage will carry even more importance, but they'll have to outduel some powerful up-and-coming AFC teams if they want to earn it in the near future.

For a team with the NFL's toughest projected strength of schedule in 2020, that will be no easy task.

Here's how Jim Craig compares Bill Belichick's leadership to legendary Herb Brooks

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USA TODAY Sports

Here's how Jim Craig compares Bill Belichick's leadership to legendary Herb Brooks

Motivation is essential to being a great head coach, and few coaches have motivated players with more success than Bill Belichick and Herb Brooks.

Brooks was the United States men's hockey coach at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, N.Y. He helped lead Team USA to an amazing 4-3 semifinal win over the Soviet Union in one of the greatest upsets in American sports history. The U.S. beat Finland for the gold medal a few days later. 

Belichick has won a record six Super Bowl titles as head coach of the New England Patriots. His first championship came in 2001 when the Patriots upset the heavily favored St. Louis Rams -- aka the "Greatest Show on Turf" -- in Super Bowl XXXVI.

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Boston University star Jim Craig was the starting goalie for Brooks' 1980 Olympic team, and in an appearance Wednesday on WEEI's "Dale & Keefe" show, he explained how Brooks and Belichick are so effective in instilling a strong sense of belief in their players. 

“What both Herb and Bill have very much in common is there's only one winner, and they know that. What they do is they focus and prepare to win, not to compete against a team. That preparation for us was so revolutionary, and Herb drove change. We played 61 games in a little over four months, and we played it against the best in the world. What he did is he put us in positions to fail so that we would know how to prepare to win. As we got closer as teams, the recruiting and how Herb recruited was really great. All the teammates that I played with had won at every level. They knew how to win.

"In the book I always say it's amazing what you can accomplish when nobody has to take credit. What Bill does really well, in my opinion, and what Herb did really well is they don’t take credit for it. It’s their job. They prepare. They become your confidence. In leadership, there’s two types of leaders: There's people who want people to follow them, and there’s people who want people to believe them. Herb and Bill are ones who prepare people so that not only do they believe in what he’s doing or what the coach is doing, but they believe it themselves."

One part that sticks out from Craig's comments is not taking credit. Belichick isn't one to publicly praise himself for a great season, even as he's gripping the Lombardi Trophy after a Super Bowl triumph. 

It's all about the team, doing your job, and trusting your teammate will do his job. It all sounds cliché, but it's impossible to argue with the results from Belichick's and Brooks' legendary careers as coaches.