Patriots

Patriots hold their breath, but Brady emerges none the worse for wear after another rushing TD

Patriots hold their breath, but Brady emerges none the worse for wear after another rushing TD

FOXBORO -- The reactions varied from player to player inside the Patriots locker room.

Some were thrilled to see Tom Brady put his legs to use to score a pivotal fourth-quarter touchdown in the Pats' 43-40 victory on third down from four yards away, lunging head-first for the goal line when he got close. Others were concerned the way they might be concerned for a relatively fragile family member who got a little aggressive on the Slip-And-Slide on the Fourth of July. 

"I was pretty excited," Chris Hogan said. "I was just hoping that he didn't get hurt."

He didn't, though for the second time in as many weeks Brady paid the price for trying to break the plane of the end zone with the nose of the football. 

The 41-year-old took a shot from the Colts as he jumped and stretched across the line for six in Week 5.

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On Sunday night, with 5:25 left, he looked and looked and looked for a receiver but couldn't find one with the Chiefs dropping eight into coverage. 

"I don't know what happened," Brady said after. "They doubled three guys on the play. I'm just glad . . . Gotta watch it tomorrow, but I got close to the goal line and I just tried to get it in. We needed it."

The play made the score 37-33 and helped Brady -- who made some critical throws to win the game late -- atone for an egregious strip-sack that was recovered by the Chiefs deep in Patriots territory at the end of the third. 

But Brady's scramble-drill score almost never happened. He was in the grasp of outside linebacker Breeland Speaks, who couldn't wrap himself around Brady's legs firmly enough to bring the quarterback down. According to NFL Media's Mike Giardi, Speaks later blamed his inability to finish on his concern for picking up a roughing-the-passer penalty. 

For the offensive line surrounding Brady, it was a stressful play, and not just because Brady left his feet and was hit by two defenders at the end. In a scramble situation like that, with the Chiefs in a prevent coverage (or "P-coverage) and only rushing three, there's only so much Brady's blockers could do.

"I was kind of stuck in no-man's land," David Andrews said. "Think it was P-coverage. They only rushed three. I was going right with the protection. Tried to swing back when I saw there was only one guy coming right. I got to where the d-tackle went inside and Joe [Thuney] flushed him. I turn around and [Brady's] standing there. 

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"You don't know if you can go block downfield because he might flip it. You're just kind of watching. Unfortunately. I'm sure there's something I could've done better, but in the moment you're just kind of stuck there. You feel paralyzed almost because you don't want to get in his way, but you don't want to go downfield. Especially in that situation where we're so close to the goal line."

When Brady landed in the end zone, the Patriots had the lead again, and there were no apparent injuries to lament.

"Any time that happens [you worry], but he's tough," Andrews said. "And I guess he's pliable."

"Still got it," Matthew Slater said. "Forty-one, scampering around the gridiron. Looking nimble, agile. It's always fun when he uses the legs . . . and he comes up healthy. That's a plus."

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Patriots are betting front-runners to land Emmanuel Sanders in trade

Patriots are betting front-runners to land Emmanuel Sanders in trade

According to at least one sportsbook, the buzz about Emmanuel Sanders potentially joining the New England Patriots is very real.

The Patriots have the best odds (+200) to acquire the Denver Broncos wide receiver before the NFL trade deadline, according to SportsLine Oddsmakers.

New England has plenty of competition for Sanders; the San Francisco 49ers are in a close second at +250 odds, while four other NFC teams and one other AFC club (the Baltimore Ravens at +700) also are in the running.

These odds come one day after a report that the 2-5 Broncos are "likely" to trade the veteran wide receiver before next Tuesday's deadline.

The Patriots seem to be an obvious fit: Bill Belichick's club already has tried and failed to integrate star wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Antonio Brown, and with Josh Gordon currently injured, the team's depth chart after Julian Edelman -- Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski -- is pretty uninspiring.

Sanders is 32 years old and coming off an Achilles injury but has managed to be somewhat productive in Denver's anemic offense, with 30 receptions for 367 yards and two touchdowns in seven games.

The Broncos reportedly are seeking a third-round pick or better for Sanders, so the Patriots will have to weigh their options. But it appears they're very much in the hunt for the two-time Pro Bowler.

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An interesting MNF subplot is afoot with Tom Brady and Shawn Hochuli

An interesting MNF subplot is afoot with Tom Brady and Shawn Hochuli

FOXBORO – We’ve seen a whole lot of prime-time games hijacked by officiating this year. Last week, a sketchy Sunday of officiating was topped by a “make it up as we go along” effort by the Monday Night Football crew.

By the end of that one, the Lions had gotten jobbed, the legend of Aaron Rodgers (despite getting a couple of critical mulligans) had grown and the league’s “brain trust” was left sweeping up the wreckage the next day at the owner’s meetings in Fort Lauderdale.

It’s standard operating procedure, unfortunately. Officials are given an offseason list of rules to “emphasize” after years of letting the boys play. Next thing you know, flags are flying both for real violations and imagined ones.

This year it’s holding. There’s also a dash of hands to the face. And, of course, there have been creative interpretations of the pass interference penalty with blatant restrictive contact not called (and not overturned on review) and incidental, no harm-no foul bumping drawing flags.

Shawn Hochuli, Son of Guns, is the head referee Monday night when the Patriots and Jets square off.

His last game was Texans-Chiefs in Kansas City and it was a blizzard of yellow. Houston drew 11 penalties, the Chiefs had 10. The game before that, Hochuli’s crew threw 16 flags in total – 12 against the Chargers – in a game between LA and Denver.

Earlier this season, Hochuli was the ref for a Thursday night game between the Jags and Titans that got so absurd with the flags, Tom Brady took to social media to air his opinion.

“Too many penalties. Just let us play!!!! #TENvsJAC,” was Brady’s first tweet.

His second, “I’m turning off this game I can’t watch these ridiculous penalties anymore #TENvsJAC.”

The last time the Patriots played the Jets in New York, Hochuli had the game. There were 11 flags on the Patriots and eight on the Jets. The following week, his crew threw another 21 flags.

I asked Brady on Saturday whether an officiating crew’s recent history is part of the pregame preparation.

“Coach talks about that,” Brady allowed. “He talks about kind of what they call and so forth. This particular crew may call a lot of holdings or a lot of defensive pass penalties, so we do discuss that. I mean, once you get out there, I think you do business as business is being done. Sometimes they call it a little tighter, sometimes they let you play a little bit. But, football, there’s kind of penalties on every play. It’s just a matter of whether they call them or not. So, if they’re calling it tight, then you just have to be cognizant of that.”

Hochuli’s crew has been going crazy with the holding penalties this season. They have 52 holding flags in six games. By contrast, Bill Vinovich’s crew has 15 in five games.

I asked Brady if he gets attuned to how a game is being called.

“I think that happens,” he agreed. “It’s probably the middle of the second quarter, you start to feel that. If there start to be a lot of penalties there in the first quarter, then the game gets a little slower, but yeah, you feel it."

Legendary NFL official Bernie Kukar spoke to a Minnesota radio station last week in the wake of the Packers-Lions debacle and said that the constant backseat driving from the league office and Competition Committee has officials running blind.

“They’re calling anything now … because [a crew] got drilled the week before they’re calling anything that looks like a foul,” said Kukar. “In my opinion, what’s happened is New York — I don’t know if it’s coming from the commissioner or if it’s coming from the Competition Committee or if it’s coming from the coaches or where — but they’ve taken common sense out of the game relating to officiating.”

Whatever the reason, penalties are up, Hochuli’s crew is at the forefront of the flag-happy movement and this is the first time Hochuli’s done a Patriots game since Brady put his crew on blast. It’s an interesting Monday night subplot.

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