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Tag:Tom Brady
Posted on: January 19, 2012 11:45 am
Edited on: January 19, 2012 12:04 pm
 

Brady to return to Pats practice today

Brady

By Josh Katzowitz

On Wednesday, Tom Brady missed practice, though as CBSSports.com’s Will Brinson wrote, it was likely more a result of the team wanting him to rest as opposed to the left shoulder injury that’s been bothering him lately.

Well, good news for the Patriots, as Brady will return to practice today.

Patriots vs. Ravens Preview
Brady was asked about missing Wednesday’s practice, and Brady said (via the Boston Herald), "It’s not the first practice I've missed."

Luckily, coach Bill Belichick was more forthcoming earlier in the day about the reason Brady missed practice. “"He wasn't out there,” Belichick told reporters. “Hopefully, he'll be out there today."

Now that Brady will be, this story takes on a more “nothing to see here” feeling.

Besides, if Brady’s shoulder hurt bad enough that he couldn’t play quarterback with it, he always can contribute to the team in other ways.

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Posted on: January 18, 2012 3:17 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2012 4:48 pm
 

Tom Brady misses practice, likely just resting

Brady missed Pats practice Wednesday. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We already told you about one superstar quarterback missing practice Wednesday, and maybe Eli Manning and Tom Brady are more alike than even Eli knew, as Brady missed Wednesday's practice in advance of the AFC Championship Game as well.

Patriots vs. Ravens Preview

Brady's reason for missing was entirely different than Eli's (stomach bug) however. Brady missed, according to our Patriots Rapid Reporter Greg Bedard, because of what's "likely for scheduled rest."

Earlier this week, Brady called the Ravens "the best team we've faced all year."

"They’re physical, they’re tough, they can cover and they’ve got some of the best players in the history of the NFL at their positions in (Terrell) Suggs and Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata," Brady said, per Bedard. You’ve got phenomenal players there. So, we’ve really got our work cut out for us."

So it's not like Brady's skipping because he considers this game a bye. (Duh.) Instead, it's really more about making sure his shoulder, which bothered him late in the season, is totally rested and healthy heading into Sunday's game.

Besides, the Ravens/Patriots game might ultimately not be about the physical matchup so much as it is mental. Andy Benoit made that point in his Film Room preview of the game and Brady reinforced it.

"It’s a film study game with him,” Brady said via Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald. “He wants to ID everything. We want to disguise what we’re doing."

And while Brady's sitting at home for the physical part of practice, there's no doubt he's working on the mental angle.

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Posted on: January 18, 2012 2:20 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2012 12:16 pm
 

Film Room: Patriots vs. Ravens AFC CG preview

Brady and Lewis will match wits in the AFC Championship Game. (Getty Images)
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

Tom Brady is right: the Ravens are the best team the Patriots have faced this season.

Cam Cameron’s offense poses problems for Bill Belichick’s defense, while Ray Lewis’ defense actually has a fighting chance against Brady’s offense. Here’s the breakdown.



1. Patriots formation versatility
Keep in mind, the Patriots, at least offensively, are also the best team the Ravens have faced all season. Their versatility is like nothing we’ve seen before.

Last Saturday they spent a bulk of the game in a no-huddle that featured tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and wideouts Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Julian Edelman. Remarkably, they were able to run effectively out of this personnel grouping, as Hernandez carried the ball five times out of the backfield for 61 yards.

Those runs are almost just gravy – something the defense must now respect. The real purpose of putting Hernandez in the backfield is the same purpose as all of New England’s other alignments: to get a potent pass catcher matched up on a linebacker. Even safeties have major trouble covering Hernandez and Gronkowski.

This game will be no exception, as Baltimore’s strong safety Bernard Pollard is simply not capable of doing it, and the Ravens are unlikely to remove Ed Reed from centerfield. Brady rarely throws in the direction of starting cornerbacks. Even when he goes to Wes Welker, it’s often when Welker has drawn a matchup against a backup slot corner or non-cornerback.

Because the Patriots don’t try to confuse defenses so much as force them into bad matchups, HOW the Patriots line up to play is almost more important than how they actually play. Most of the damage is done through crafty presnap alignment. (This is one reason so many of Brady’s throws come off three-and five-step drops; the decision of where to go with the ball is made prior to the snap.)

The Patriots frequently go up-tempo to prevent defenses from having enough time to regroup or alter matchups before the snap. The only sure way to take the chess match element out of the equations and force the Patriots to win with execution is to play press-man coverage across the board. Problem is, no defense, including Baltimore’s, has enough quality cover artists to do this.


After a win over the Texans last week, Joe Flacco and the Ravens will take on Tom Brady and the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship. Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan preview this game. Watch the game on CBS at 3 PM ET. 

2. Baltimore’s response
The Ravens may not have enough cover artists to play the Patriots man-to-man, but they might be the one team capable of matching wits with them. Ray Lewis is arguably the smartest front seven defender in the league, while Ed Reed is arguably the smartest back four defender. Those two are capable of recognizing New England’s subtle tendencies and getting their teammates into the proper defensive play-call.

Of course, Brady and Bill O’Brien know this and will likely inject a few tendency-breaking wrinkles into the gameplan. Of course, the Ravens know that the Patriots know that they know this, and the Patriots know that the Ravens know that they know and ... you get the idea – this has the potential to be one heck of a chess match.

Look for the Ravens to do plenty of presnap communicating and disguising at the line of scrimmage. It helps that they’re comfortable playing a plethora of different coverages. The outcome may be decided by which side can bully the other into a reactionary position. The Patriots can do that by going hurry-up; the Ravens can do it by blitzing fervidly up the middle.

3. Ravens pass-rush
To beat Tom Brady, you have to rob him of the trust he has in his pass protection. Brady – like any quarterback – does not like pressure directly in his face. And though he’s as tough in the pocket as anyone in the game, he has a tendency to get just a tad jumpy after taking a few hits from edge-rushers.

Recent playoff history shows that if a defense can create pressure and doubt, Brady will eventually start eating up the play clock worrying about protections. That makes him a significantly less dangerous player versus when he’s hurrying things up and concentrating on his receivers’ routes.

The question is, can the Ravens generate a pass-rush? If they blitz, they likely can. But one of the best kept secrets in football is that this is generally a four-man rushing defense. Because the Ravens use so many 3-4 or 2-5 fronts, their four pass-rushers come from a variety of different spots, thus creating the illusion of a blitz:

The Ravens use a lot of zone exchange concepts in their pass-rush. A zone exchange is essentially a four-man pass-rush where linebackers or safeties rush the quarterback, while a defensive lineman or another linebacker drops back into coverage. It can be confusing, often creating the illusion of a heavy blitz. The Thanksgiving night game – in which Baltimore had nine sacks – provided a good example.

Above (click image to enlarge): Upon first glance, this appears to be a blitz featuring five, possibly six pass-rushers.

Below: The Ravens use a lot of zone exchange concepts in their pass-rush. A zone exchange is essentially a four-man pass-rush where linebackers or safeties rush the quarterback, while a defensive lineman or another linebacker drops back into coverage. It can be confusing, often creating the illusion of a heavy blitz. The Thanksgiving night game – in which Baltimore had nine sacks – provided a good example.

The Ravens’ four-man rush has seemingly evaporated over the last month. It registered a quiet five sacks over the final three weeks of the regular season and then got zero pressure on T.J. Yates in the divisional round. With talents like Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee, it’s imprudent to assume the pressure can’t suddenly return.

But worth noting is that the Patriots’ pass protection in the last month has also been as sharp as the Ravens’ pass-rush has been dull.

4. Dialing in on Ray Rice
Bill Belichick always builds his defensive gameplan around eliminating the opponents’ greatest strength. This season, no man has done a better job at eliminating Ray Rice than Cam Cameron. (Rice averaged less than 10 carries a game in Baltimore’s four losses.)

To be fair, Cameron has featured Rice most of the season, and the results thus far speak for themselves: 13 wins and Rice leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage.

But if Belichick has inside linebackers Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo shadow Rice, or if he brings safety Patrick Chung down in the box every play or has his linebackers sellout against the run, will Cameron have enough patience to stay with his superstar?

The Patriots run defense is coming together, while their secondary can be tempting to attack.

5. Baltimore’s passing game
It was virtually nonexistent against Houston, mainly because deep threat Torrey Smith was nullified by Johnathan Joseph. The Patriots don’t have a corner on Joseph’s level (or even in Joseph’s stratosphere).

If the Ravens want to take their deep shots with Smith, all they’ll have to do is block a mundane Patriots pass-rush (last week’s performance at Foxboro notwithstanding). Devin McCourty was serviceable as a nickel free safety against Denver, but it remains to be seen whether the struggling corner can suddenly play a new position when facing a strong-armed quarterback and polished play-action passing game.

In other matchups, tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson were quiet against Houston but should be able to work the seams against New England. Anquan Boldin will be extremely problematic for the Pats. The thought of him working outside against Kyle Arrington seems patently unfair; inside is even worse, as the Patriots don’t have a true slot corner.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all the Championship games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: January 17, 2012 11:07 am
 

Super Bowl Odds: Championship Game Previews

A rematch of the 2007 Super Bowl is almost likely at this point. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Earlier this month we took a look at the odds for teams to win the Super Bowl, just before the playoffs began. If you bet on the 49ers (+1200), you're feeling pretty good about life. If you bet on the Packers (+16), well, not so much.

The odds have been recalibrated in advance of the AFC and NFC Championship Games so let's take a look at who's likely (and unlikely) to win the Super Bowl. Plus: hypothetical Super Bowl matchups! All odds courtesy of Sportsbook.com.

Odds to Win the Super Bowl

Team: New England Patriots
Super Bowl Odds: +120
Value of Bet: 4
What Has to Happen: The Pats defense has to show up for at least one more game and Tom Brady needs to keep being the angry, destructive cyborg that he was in the first half against the Broncos. The Patriots are a shockingly high favorite here given that they've got to win two games like everyone else, and given that the Ravens stomped their faces the last time Baltimore came to New England.
Fun Prop to Play This Weekend: Under on the longest touchdown of the game at 47.5. Both the Ravens and the Patriots give up long plays, but if you look at each of their last five games, most shots have been taken from 40 yards in. Only Torrey Smith represents a true "deep threat" on either team.

Team: San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl Odds: +325
Value of Bet: 2
What Has to Happen: Alex Smith keeps getting his Joe Montana on. The defense has to play well, of course, but roughing up the Giants is different than roughing up the Saints; New Orleans is a finesse team (no offense to Drew Brees and Sean Payton). Once Pierre Thomas was knocked out, they struggled to punch the 49ers in the mouth. The Giants won't have the same problem and are infinitely tougher. Smith successfully orchestrating the offense gives San Francisco a tremendous advantage.
Fun Prop to Play This Weekend: Super Bowl UNDER at 50. You think 50 points are getting scored if we get 49ers vs. Ravens? It's not even a total backfire if the Giants make it: only once since 2005 (last year, in fact) has the Super Bowl gone over 50 points total.

Team: New York Giants
Super Bowl Odds: +325
Value of Bet: 3
What Has to Happen: The secondary needs to keep shutting folks down; they've done a tremendous job improving over the past four weeks or so. Also, Gregg Doyel pointed out that the Giants wanted to get physical with Jermichael Finley during the Packers game. They will need to do something similar with Vernon Davis (and then possibly Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez) if they plan on winning the Super Bowl. At the very least, they shouldn't leave Vernon in one-on-one coverage.
Fun Prop to Play This Weekend: Giants +4.5 versus Patriots in a hypothetical Super Bowl. Yes, you can bet on this. Crazy right? Already, no one believes in the Giants. Good times! (All future SB matchups listed below.

Team: Baltimore Ravens
Super Bowl Odds: +600
Value of Bet: 1
What Has to Happen: Joe Flacco and Cam Cameron have to get it together for two games and do their jobs more efficiently. Were it not for Jacoby Jones gifting the Ravens a touchdown on Sunday, Flacco might be the goat for a huge upset right now, and Cameron throwing with two minutes remaining and Houston trying to use their timeouts gave the Texans an additional possession. Do that against, say, Brady and Eli, and it'll burn you.
Fun Prop to Play This Weekend: The under on Ray Rice's rushing attempts. I don't even know what it is but I know Cameron will find a way to go under regardless.

Hypothetical Super Bowl Matchups
Patriots (-6.5) vs. 49ers: That's not a surprising line considering how strong the Patriots looked and it would generate a lot of action on each side of the ball. However, if the 49ers look good in taking down the Giants, I'd think this would open up closer to 3 than 7.

Patriots (-4.5) vs. Giants: The Giants would be somewhat surprising underdogs considering their strong run but remember that last time they were 12.5-point dogs (!) against the Patriots. So maybe this more reasonable. Best guess: the Giants would get a LOT of action and push this line down.

Ravens (-2) vs. 49ers: A two-point line means "We have no real idea, but I guess we like the Ravens." The over/under isn't listed but you best believe it's lower than the current line of 50. Defensive matchups like this put a lot of the weight on Flacco and Smith which is why no one knows.

Giants (-1) vs. Ravens: Again, no one knows. I'd personally love the Giants in this situation, because as hot as they've been, this line seems destined to climb. Plus, if you've got two really good defenses, don't you want the team with the elite quarterback? (That's not you, Joe Flacco.)

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Posted on: January 15, 2012 1:38 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2012 1:38 pm
 

Despite blowout, Tebow/Brady 2.0 gets big ratings

The NFL denied Harrison's appeal of his one-game suspension(Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Saturday night's Broncos-Patriots game didn't end in a climatic way: New England steamrolled Denver 45-10, and the drama was out of the game by halftime. But that didn't stop people from tuning in, as the CBS Saturday night affair brought in big-time ratings.

The average overnight rating/share for the game was 20.6/34, making it the highest-rated NFL divisional round game in primetime on any network in 11 years. (By contrast, when the two teams met in the regular season, the game drew a 19.5/36 overnight rating/share.)

It was the second-highest rated AFC divisional game in 18 years, trailing only the matchup between the Los Angeles Raiders and Buffalo Bills in 1994.

The peak ratings for last night game between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. ET, which shouldn't be a huge surprise. That's right about when the game was still competitive and right about when Tom Brady decided to unleash a pair of touchdowns to send the Pats into the locker room with a 35-7 lead.

Considering the vast differential in the score and the blowout factor, it's a real testament to the drawing power of Tim Tebow's Broncos and Brady's Patriots, especially when pitted against one another.

That, and the NFL's constantly growing popularity.

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Posted on: January 15, 2012 12:50 pm
 

Casserly: NFL will look into Broncos-Pats fight

Brady's punt fired up the Broncos players on Saturday. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

On Saturday night, as the Patriots were wrapping up a 45-10 blowout win over the Broncos, Tom Brady took the ball on third down and ... punted. That didn't sit well with the Broncos players; Von Miller got a shot in on Dan Connolly's back, Matt Light took umbrage and the result was a skirmish on the Patriots sideline.

CBS Sports Charley Casserly reported on Sunday morning that the NFL will examine the tapes of the fight on Monday and determine whether or not folks will be fined.

"I talked to the league this morning and they told me that tomorrow they're going to look at the tapes of [the fight] and decide who, if any of the players, should be fined," Casserly reported on The NFL Today.

Miller, the Broncos rookie linebacker, is almost a sure bet to be fined: he hit Connolly in the back and instigated the entire thing. It'll take a further look at the sideline action to determine if anyone else is getting fined, but it's entirely possible that some Patriots players could be fined as well.

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Posted on: January 15, 2012 9:59 am
 

Brady's punt: disrespectful or pretty darn cool?

By Josh Katzowitz

As CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman pointed out in the immediate aftermath of the Patriots destruction of the Broncos on Saturday, the fact that Tom Brady punted late in New England’s 45-10 win seemed somewhat disrespectful.

Even though it was cool to see Brady take the shotgun snap and then use the short punt in such an old-school manner – plus, the punt went 48 yards and was downed at the 10-yard line! – was Patriots coach Bill Belichick trying to insult Denver with the maneuver (especially since the punt incited a short brawl between the squads)?

Pats dominate Denver
Not exactly, Belichick said in his postgame presser.

As ESPN Boston writes, “Belichick explained the team didn't want to face the various punt rushes the Broncos had on fourth down, so the call was for the unusual quick kick.”

Brady said the team has been practicing the play for seven (!) years and the hope was to land the ball inside the 5-yard line, especially since the surprised Broncos defense didn’t have anybody back to receive the punt.

The only other time Brady punted occurred in 2003 when his punt was actually downed at the opponent’s 1-yard line. That was nine yards better than Saturday’s attempt. So, basically Brady is regressing as a punter.

“I’m disappointed we lost that field position,” Belichick joked. “It’s funny, I mean that’s the kind of play we work on forever and you never know when it’s going to come up.”



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Posted on: January 15, 2012 1:52 am
Edited on: January 15, 2012 12:37 pm
 

49ers, Patriots pulling hard for upsets on Sunday

The 49ers and Patriots know who they'll be rooting for Sunday. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

The Patriots and the 49ers advanced to their respective conference championship games on Saturday. San Francisco did it with defense and a heroic effort by Alex Smith, while Tom Brady simply eviscerated the Broncos. And on Sunday, both teams will be rooting for upsets in a big way.

For the Patriots, it's hard to imagine that anyone can beat them if they play like they did on Saturday; Brady threw five touchdowns in the first half and that game was never really close.

Divisional Round Recap

And they're already locked for home-field advantage. Regardless of whether it's the Ravens or Texans they play in eight days, the game will take place at Gillette Stadium.

But given a choice between the Ravens and the Texans, it's hard to imagine the Pats wouldn't prefer facing rookie passer T.J. Yates.

Yes, the Texans defense is stout and, yes, the Texans running game is explosive and dangerous and two-headed.

But the Ravens are a brutally physical team that provides a tougher matchup and potentially nightmarish memories of the 33-14 loss to Baltimore in New England during Wild Card Weekend in 2009. Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith would at least, presumably, keep the Pats defense honest enough to let Ray Rice run wild.

The Patriots would have a much easier time bottling up Arian Foster and Ben Tate with Yates providing minimal damage.

As for the 49ers, neither option for the NFC Championship Game is great. Both the Packers and Giants present problems. But if the Giants were to upset the Pack in Lambeau on Sunday, that would put the path to the Super Bowl squarely through Candlestick Park.

For the 49ers, getting a second home game would be absolute gravy. They've been nearly unstoppable in Candlestick this year, with their only loss a 27-24 overtime nailbiter to the Cowboys in Week 2. Once this season, San Francisco's beaten the Giants there. It's a clear-cut advantage.

And, of course, there's the quality of opponent. The Giants are terrifying if you're the 49ers because of their fierce pass rush and the problems that could pose for Alex Smith.

But the Giants actually allow more rushing yards per game than Green Bay (121.2 to 111.8) though the Packers are the preferred defense if you're the 49ers. They're not the preferred offense though: while Eli Manning's elite, the Giants simply can't cause the kind of matchup problems that the Packers present.

And the 49ers already stopped Drew Brees and the Saints. They can stop anyone, clearly, but if they're picking between a the pair of opponents they could end up against, they would absolutely rather see the Giants in San Francisco than the Packers in Green Bay.

Which is why they, like the Patriots, are pulling for an upset on Sunday.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com