A few Super thoughts as Patriots warm up for Minneapolis
Here’s a few tids and bits on this latest New England Patriots Super Bowl run after we spent Tuesday slipping and sliding:
First, if you listened to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, there was genuine concern with the way the Patriots had started the season, especially after the loss to Carolina at Gillette Stadium that dropped them to 2-2.
“It didn’t look good at 2-2 and you just keep showing up to work every day, and we sit in these chairs and Coach (Bill) Belichick gets up (at the podium) and he demands a lot out of us and he tries to get the most out of us every day. It’s (the results) not always great. Sometimes it’s pretty average.”
-Still on the start of the season: It took until Week 7 before an opposing Patriots quarterback threw for less than 300 yards. Care to guess who that was? Incredibly, Matt Ryan. He only threw for 233 yards in Steve Sarkisian’s joke of an offensive game plan in a 23-7 loss. QBs Alex Smith, Drew Brees, DeShaun Watson, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston and yes, even Josh McCown, all threw for over 300 yards against the Patriots. Hey, Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles almost did, ending up with 298 yards thanks mainly to the Jags trying to force feed back Leonard Fournette on the Patriots.
— You have to be happy for Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore. A seemingly soft-spoken guy who rarely if ever thumps his chest, he was the target of fans’ ire in the first month or two of the season. An expensive free agent whose presence likely annoyed popular Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler, Gilmore was looking as if he had been putting one over on the Patriots. But the way he’s played over the last two months – Belichick the other day lauded his play over the last six weeks – certainly has shown why the Patriots jumped out to sign him. He always faces the music, good and bad, after every game. His locker is the one used by former big-name Patriot corners Aquib Talib and, yes, Darrelle Revis.
-A year ago in Arizona, Patriots defensive lineman Alan Branch was viewed as a surprising key cog in the Patriots defense. He was a stabilizing force, basically taking the Vince Wilfork -type role of clogging the middle but also had the quickness to sometimes disrupt the offensive backfield. Interviewing him at last year’s Super Bowl, he talked about how he was nervous about the unknown of free agency, hoping to get one more contract. He did, with the Patriots, but injury and sub-par play have put him on the inactive list for the last few games. In fact, he was left home for one road game even when healthy. He’s clearly lost his job to another veteran pickup, Ricky Jean Francois. Guess is, unless there are other injuries, Branch will be inactive for the Super Bowl, which would be too bad given how valuable he was a year ago.
— Good for Mike Vrabel, perhaps one of the very first Patriots “tweeners” as a linebacker or defensive end, being named head coach of the Tennessee Titans. Belichick said in a conference call Tuesday that Vrabel is “a tremendous person, coach. He was a great player here and he certainly has a ton of attributes that would be a great addition to any organization – leadership, work ethic, toughness, all those things.”
Vrabel was one of the Patriots’ first acquisitions (free agent) after Belichick’s 5-11 first season. Many felt he would name Ohio State assistant coach Ryan Day as his offensive coordinator, but Day opted to stay at OSU with a promotion. Day If the name sounds familiar, Day played quarterback for Manchester Central in the mid 1990s, giving Nashua and other opponents fits and set some career passing records at the University of New Hampshire. In 2015, he was Manchester’s Chip Kelly’s quarterbacks coach on…the Philadelphia Eagles.
-Bill Belichick’s little jabs at the media for basically causing the hysteria over Tom Brady’s hand injury is pretty funny. “What went on outside the locker room is all you guys,” he said after Sunday’s win. Well, the Patriots being so tight-lipped about things – Brady included – caused most of the hysteria. One can understand that the Patriots didn’t want to have him come out and say he was playing no matter what, but the secrecy of the whole thing is what had panicked everyone. Ironically, afterward, Brady was pretty forthcoming and admitted that when the cut happened, he was definitely worried he might not be able to play.
— Minneapolis forecast next week? Looks like partly sunny most days, highs mid-20s, lows in upper single digits. Snow and sleet possible next Wednesday, little snow early Saturday (and low of minus-1). Partly sunny Super Bowl Sunday, although doesn’t matter much as the game is indoors. Heck, everything should be indoors.
Tom King can be reached at 594-1251, firstname.lastname@example.org., or @Telegraph_TomK.