Patriots

Matt Cassel recalls playing in 60 mph Buffalo winds: "You couldn't throw a pass 10 yards"

Matt Cassel recalls playing in 60 mph Buffalo winds: "You couldn't throw a pass 10 yards"

Matt Cassel's weekly Patriots story keeps getting better. After last week's tale of how Wes Welker schemed his "foot" press conference to troll Rex Ryan, the former Patriots quarterback shared one his favorite memories from playing the Bills in Buffalo. 

In 2008, when Cassel had to take over for the injured Tom Brady for a full season and led the Patriots to an 11-5 record, New England traveled to Buffalo for a Week 16 matchup that was expected to have severe weather conditions. 

"The night before the game, (Bill) Belichick comes in, we had an elaborate game plan, about 112 plays," Cassel said on Patriots Pregame Live. "And so we sit in this meeting thinking we’re going to go over the offensive game plan, and the next thing I know, he says, ‘Alright, we’re gonna go with these 10 run plays and maybe we get some screens for you,’ and I’m like ‘What’s going on?’ 60 mph winds are expected for the game.

"There was sleet, there was snow, you could not throw a pass 10 yards that way," he said. "They’re holding up the goal post with ropes, we threw I think eight passes and rushed the ball like crazy."

The Patriots ended up winning the game 13-0 and Cassel indeed threw just eight passes, completing six for just 78 yards. LaMont Jordan and Sammy Morris combined for 44 carries on the day for 149 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps Cassel's most impressive showing of the day came on a quick kick.

"The best part of the game was they let me do a ‘quick kick’ on third down because we were backed up. I kicked the ball maybe 20 yards but the wind took it another 40. I’ve got a 60-yard average people!"

He wasn't kidding either. According to Pro Football Reference, Cassel's punt went 57 yards. 

After what Cassel called the craziest experience of his career, the Patriots flew out of Buffalo the same day in those brutal winds and Tedy Bruschi did his best to keep the mood light on the plane. 

"We flew out after the game! Tedy (Bruschi) was playing Blaze of Glory (by Bon Jovi) on his boom box in the plane ride," he said. "I can’t believe we took off in it."

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Ex-Patriots scout gives interesting details on Bill Belichick's NFL Draft grading scale

Ex-Patriots scout gives interesting details on Bill Belichick's NFL Draft grading scale

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, despite some recent struggles, has enjoyed a ton of success selecting players in the NFL Draft.

Just a few days ago, Hall of Fame general manager Gil Brandt tweeted Belichick is the best drafter of his lifetime. Brandt is 87 years old, so he's seen plenty of drafts.

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Former Patriots scout and current Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy in a few tweets Wednesday provided some interesting information on how Belichick and his staff grade prospects entering the draft. One example he used was based on evaluating cornerbacks. 

Check out Nagy's explanation below:

The Patriots' ability to contend in the AFC in 2020 could hinge on their success in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft, which is still scheduled to begin April 23 despite the outbreak of the coronavirus.

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New England has lost several key players on both sides of the ball through free agency and trades over the last few weeks.

The most notable departure, of course, was quarterback Tom Brady, who took his talents to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent after spending 20 seasons and winning six Super Bowl titles with the Patriots. The Pats have lost a bunch of important defensive players, too, including linebackers Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy, as well as safety Duron Harmon. Special teams also has taken a hit with the losses of safety Nate Ebner and longtime kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

Filling this holes won't be easy, but luckily for the Patriots, they have 12 picks in the 2020 draft. These picks include No. 23 overall in the first round and three selections in the third round. Only the Miami Dolphins (14) have more picks than the Patriots.

Another positive for the Patriots is many of the top players in the 2020 draft class are wide receivers or defensive players -- two areas of need for New England. In fact, it's possible we see more than half of the first-round picks used on defensive players, and many recent expert mock drafts predict Belichick will target that side of the ball with the 23rd overall selection.

Are Patriots losing their grip on AFC East now that Tom Brady is gone?

Are Patriots losing their grip on AFC East now that Tom Brady is gone?

In the past 20 years, the Patriots have so often accomplished impossible things that most have just given up on doubting them.

No matter how bleak things seem, no matter how high the odds are stacked against them, they still somehow find a way.

Malcolm Butler. 28-3. The 199th pick becoming the greatest quarterback ever while playing for a coach people thought was too grim to ever succeed.

Those are the nail holes non-believers had to see and touch in order to believe. And most did.

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And now? With Tom Brady gone and the team turning its lonely eyes to Stid? With no cap room available to shop for free agents and five years of subpar drafting in their rearview mirror? With one of the NFL’s oldest rosters ready to do battle in an AFC East which suddenly looks real competitive?

Well, even Patriots fans are willing to acknowledge that the grip on the division has slipped just a bit.

On Tuesday, we threw out our Quarantine Question of the Day (thank you to the 4,131 respondents for playing along), asking how strong the Patriots’ grip on the AFC East is right now.

Tellingly, only 3.7 percent of the respondents were willing to say that the grip remains “Strong. Real Strong.”

The vast majority of votes were cast for “Looks loose. But it's not” (42.9 percent) and “Slip, sliding away…” (39.6 percent).

And a lot of those see any dip on the grip is a temporary thing.

The Bills are seen as the biggest threat to the Patriots’ reign — no surprise given their offseason so far and their playoff appearance in 2019.

Also not a surprise? How vocal the “They’re F*****!!!!!” minority was.

Personally, I think the grip is slip, sliding away. And it’s closing in on, “They’ve lost their grip…”

That’s not an opinion based just on the loss of Brady or the others who’ve gone out the door in 2020. That’s based on the trade deficit this team’s been running since 2015.

Look at the players and coaches who’ve left in the past three seasons alone: Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks, Kyle Van Noy, Dante Scarnecchia, Brian Flores and on and on.

And who — whether it be via draft or free agency — has the team brought in as legitimate cornerstone-type players for the next few seasons? Guys who could start for any team around the league? Joe Thuney. Shaq Mason. Lawrence Guy.

Maybe, given time, Isaiah Wynn, Chase Winovich and Jarrett Stidham? Possibly J.C. Jackson and N’Keal Harry?

Has there been a time in the past 10 years where the franchise faced this many questions and this much roster uncertainty? No.

The only time close was the 2008-2010 period, and the Patriots hoisted themselves out of that very mild malaise with incredible drafting prior from 2008 through 2012.

So are the Patriots losing their grip or merely readjusting it?

For it to be the latter, they have to rip it up in this year’s draft and get huge strides from their 2019 class which — given the pandemic — may be hard to accomplish.

If it’s the former? The rest of the division will finally be able to breathe again.

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