Patriots

What we're hearing: Brady has painful thumb injury

What we're hearing: Brady has painful thumb injury

First things first, this is not a drill. Tom Brady’s right thumb is messed up. This isn’t a Patriots’ ruse, this isn’t a misdirection, and this isn’t what the team was looking for as it tries to get to its eighth Super Bowl since 2001.

What’s given me the most pause since learning there was an injury is that I just haven’t heard from any sources, “Pffffttt, it’s nothing. He’s fine.” The truth is, nobody with what I would consider first-hand knowledge is saying anything. It’s quiet. Too quiet.

Which leaves a guy working the periphery. Our bright and informed readers understand the periphery isn’t as reliable.

So as of Friday afternoon, I don’t know precisely what the situation is. Best I can do is ask you to settle for “chatter.”

This isn’t a “reporting” or a “breaking”. It’s just a “what I’m hearing”. And if you’re not gonna live with that caveat, stop reading.

Brady’s right thumb bent back badly when he was smashed into by a running back. Somehow, the ball got jammed back into the webbing between his thumb and index finger and it caused a cut. Might have been the laces. There may be stitches. He’s not taking snaps under center. He can take them in shotgun. He’s trying not to aggravate the thumb between now and kickoff so the reps are at a minimum. He can throw. I have no idea how hard, how far or how accurately.

He's listed as questionable on the injury report. He may take a shot of Toradol prior to the game since the area still hurts from the trauma (hence the X-ray on Wednesday to rule out any structural issues).

That’s what we got.

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Tom Brady leaves Joe Mixon starstruck after Patriots-Bengals exchange

Tom Brady leaves Joe Mixon starstruck after Patriots-Bengals exchange

When you play on the worst team in the NFL, you have to find your victories somewhere.

Joe Mixon found his after the Patriots handed his Bengals a 34-13 loss in Cincinnati on Sunday, as New England quarterback Tom Brady shook the running back's hand and exchanged a few pleasantries.

Hours later, Mixon was still giddy about his interaction with the GOAT.

Mixon did plenty to earn Brady's respect Sunday, gashing the Patriots for 156 total yards (136 rushing, 20 receiving).

But apparently the 23-year-old Oklahoma product didn't have the courage to ask for Brady's jersey, like fellow Oklahoma product Adrian Peterson (and many more) have done throughout the season.

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Mixon tagged Brady in the tweet, though, so maybe he's hoping the 42-year-old sends him a No. 12 jersey in the mail before Christmas.

Bengals defensive lineman Carlos Dunlap also found a silver lining in the loss thanks to Brady, sacking the QB in the second quarter and reveling in adding Brady to his "resume" after the game.

Brady and the Patriots, meanwhile, are on to a crucial Week 16 showdown with the 9-4 Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium.

How Patriots' Stephon Gilmore knew to jump the route on his pick-six

How Patriots' Stephon Gilmore knew to jump the route on his pick-six

CINCINNATI — Stephon Gilmore knew what was coming. Or at least he had a very good idea. That much was clear. 

Gilmore made two picks in the third quarter of his team's 34-13 win over the Bengals, the second of which he took back for a 64-yard touchdown to make the score 27-10. Almost single-handedly, he buried a one-win team that was sniffing its second, down just three points trotting out for the second half.

"On the first, he kind of got me off the line, but I knew the route so I undercut it and made a good play," Gilmore said. "The second one, kind of knew the route, too. Was able to jump it. We had a blitz coverage so I knew our pressure was going to get there, and I was able to make a play."

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Gilmore had an idea of what to expect on those throws not because of anything the Patriots content team shot of the Bengals sidelines the week prior. That video, at least a portion of it, was broadcast by Fox on Sunday and showed the Bengals sidelines as substitutions were made.

What Gilmore studied in the days leading up to the trip to Southwest Ohio were routes. Route combinations. Concepts. Splits. Situations. Gilmore's anticipation on both of his picks was thanks to the film study he engaged in prior to Sunday, he explained.

"They gotta switch the play up," Gilmore said. "I won't say it was easy, but I knew the route. I trusted myself, and I was able to make a play."

On the game-changing interception-return, slot receiver Tyler Boyd aligned as the No. 2 (count receivers from the outside-in on both sides of the formation) to the field (the side opposite the hash where the ball is snapped), and he ran a quick out-route on first-and-15. Under pressure, Andy Dalton went for it.

"As soon as he threw it," Gilmore said, "I knew I was going. Just had to catch it."

The play, it turns out, has been somewhat of a go-to for the Bengals offense when they've been in get-back-on-schedule situations, trying to manufacture a manageable third down. (A play that goes for eight yards on first-and-15, for example, creates a more manageable second-and-7, which is more likely to lead to third-and-short.) 

In Week 8, Boyd was the No. 2 receiver to the field side on a get-back-on-schedule second-and-13 play. Similar scenario. Similar concept. 

There it was again in Week 5 — Boyd as the No. 2, running an out-route on second-and-long — helping the Bengals chip away at the Cardinals defense.

There it was yet again in Week 4, during a divisional matchup between the Bengals and the Steelers. It was second-and-11. Boyd was the No. 2 to the field side. And, despite the fact that it was a long throw, Dalton wanted to give Boyd an opportunity to make a play.

When Gilmore aligned across from Boyd on first-and-15 Sunday, he did so playing off of Boyd's outside shoulder. With a good understanding of what might be headed his way, Gilmore wanted to take away Boyd's path to the sideline. 

Boyd knew that Gilmore knew, and because Boyd knew the play was likely doomed before the ball was snapped, he awaited an audible call that never came.

"He (had) outside leverage," Boyd said of Gilmore. "He had perfect leverage on an out-route. We were running an out-route to the field with man coverage, outside leverage. Think it's going to be a pick?"

Boyd was also the intended target when Gilmore made his first pick of the afternoon.

"It was just one-on-one," Boyd said. "I won the majority of the matchups . . . But the two plays he made were great plays. He sat on the curl and played great leverage on the out-route. He was already in perfect leverage. We should have (called) a slant."

Boyd is just the latest receiver Gilmore has frustrated. He was targeted five times with Gilmore on him, catching only two for 24 yards. On top of the two interceptions, Gilmore also broke up a pass intended for Boyd.

Gilmore now leads the league with six interceptions, and he has a league-high 16 disruptions (breakups and picks combined). According to Pro Football Focus, Gilmore has allowed only 46.3 percent of targets sent his way to be completed, which is the second among corners. His quarterback rating when targeted is 32.8, which is tops among corners who've played at least 60 percent of their team's defensive snaps.

With excellent speed, enough size to play physical man coverage, and the IQ to have a sense of what's about to happen before it does, Gilmore is putting together another All-Pro caliber season to add to last year's masterpiece. If he keeps it up, he might eventually be recognized as the league's Defensive Player of the Year.

Gilmore is on the kind of run that had him feeling thankful Sunday evening — thankful that Dalton kept throwing his way.

"They gave me an opportunity," Gilmore said. "If they don't throw it, I'm not going to make no plays . . . Appreciate it." 

Gilmore has perfect tweet after two-INT performance>>>>>