Brandon Browner has helped spark the Patriots secondary to new heights with a physical style of play. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Brandon Browner has helped spark the Patriots secondary to new heights with a physical style of play. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

When the new emphasis on defensive holding and hands to the face was announced at the start of training camp, there was the understanding that certain players would struggle more than others adjusting.

It appears no one on the Patriots has had a harder time than Brandon Browner. As Chris Price points out, Browner has been flagged for 13 penalties (4 defensive holding, illegal contact, encroachment, 4 defensive pass interference, illegal use of hands, facemask, unnecessary roughness) 118 yards. Those 13 penalties are six more than the next closest perpetrator (Brandon LaFell, Logan Ryan six apiece).

On Tuesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked if he cuts Browner some slack for his team lead in the dubious category because of the physical style he brings to the secondary.

“Penalties have been an issue for us all year as a team,” Belichick said. “We’€™ve had a lot of penalties, more than we want, €“ way more than we want. We’€™re trying to decrease that number and the frequency. [We’€™re] certainly not there yet, but we continue to make it a priority and address it and work to reduce them. I think there’€™s definitely been some progress, but we’€™re not there yet. That goes for everybody.”

By not singling out Browner publicly, Belichick made it clear that he’s expecting cleaner play across the board.

“It’€™s everybody’€™s responsibility to play penalty free in their area, whether it’€™s the coaches on play-calling and substitution and things like that, or whether it’€™s the individual players based on their techniques and whatever the situation is that they’€™re in: offense, defense, special teams. Whatever it happens to be, it’€™s to play penalty free,” Belichick said. “That always has been an emphasis point for us, and it will continue to be one for everybody.”

After the San Diego game, Devin McCourty noted that Belichick and Patriots’ coaches asked the defense to occasionally play “on the edge,” and that sometimes you live with penalties because of a certain situation on the field. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia fell more on the side of Belichick’s no-tolerance stance on Tuesday.

“I think Coach Belichick hit the question right on the head,” Patricia said. “Obviously, we are always going to coach and teach within the rules as [they] are explained to us and we are trying to abide by those rules. I think collectively as a whole we are always trying to eliminate penalties. It is something we are trying to do whether it’€™s from the coaching aspect of it or the playing aspect of it.

“You know you can’€™t have them. They are things that we look upon as detrimental to a drive, to a series, to a play. [It’€™s] something we are continually trying to eliminate from our game. So I don’€™t think there’€™s a situation where you are ever walking away saying, ‘€˜Hey, that penalty is OK’€™. We are always trying to coach within the rules. We are trying to coach what the point of emphasis is and we’€™re trying to do whatever we can to eliminate penalties from our play.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Through 14 games, the Patriots have been flagged for 110 penalties (fifth-most in the league) for a total of 987 yards (third-most in the NFL). To this point in the season, here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

‘€¨’€¨Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
CB Brandon Browner: 13 penalties (4 defensive holding, illegal contact, encroachment, 4 defensive pass interference, illegal use of hands, facemask, unnecessary roughness) 118 yards
ST/DB Logan Ryan: 7 penalties (illegal block above the waist, 2 defensive pass interference, 2 defensive holding, illegal use of hands, offsides on free kick), 88 yards
WR Brandon LaFell: 7 penalties (offsides on free kick, 3 offensive pass interference, 2 false starts, illegal shift), 50 yards
OL Nate Solder: 7 penalties (2 offensive holding, illegal block above the waist, 4 false starts), 50 yards
LB Jamie Collins: 6 penalties (unnecessary roughness, 2 defensive pass interference, 2 defensive holding, defensive offsides), 43 yards
S/ST Patrick Chung: 5 penalties (2 defensive holding, facemask, offensive holding, illegal block above the waist), 42 yards
OL Jordan Devey: 4 penalties (2 offensive holding, false star, unnecessary roughness), 40 yards
OL Bryan Stork: 4 penalties (2 false starts, 2 offensive holding), 30 yards
TE Rob Gronkowski: 3 penalties (false start, unsportsmanlike conduct, unnecessary roughness), 35 yards
LB Dont’€™a Hightower: 3 penalties (roughing the passer, defensive offsides, unnecessary roughness), 35 yards
ST/DB Don Jones: 3 penalties (3 offensive holding), 30 yards
OL Dan Connolly: 3 penalties (chop block, offensive holding, false start), 29 yards
Team: 3 penalties (illegal substitution, false start, illegal block above the waist), 24 yards
CB/ST Malcolm Butler: 2 penalty (defensive pass interference, offensive holding), 34 yards
DL Chandler Jones: 2 penalties (2 roughing the passer), 30 yards
WR Danny Amendola: 2 penalties (facemask, offensive holding), 25 yards
S/ST Duron Harmon: 2 penalties (face mask, illegal block above the waist), 21 yards
OL Ryan Wendell: 2 penalties (facemask, false start), 20 yards
S/ST Tavon Wilson: 2 penalties (offensive holding, illegal block above the waist) 20 yards
DE Rob Ninkovich: 2 penalties (illegal use of hands, facemask), 20 yards
DL Dominique Easley 2 penalties (neutral zone infraction, unnecessary roughness), 20 yards
QB Tom Brady: 2 penalties (2 intentional grounding), 20 yards
WR Aaron Dobson: 2 penalties (offensive pass interference, false start) 15 yards
OL Marcus Cannon: 2 penalties (offensive holding, false start), 15 yards
OL Cameron Fleming: 2 penalties (false start, offensive holding), 15 yards
CB Kyle Arrington: 2 penalties (illegal contact, tripping), 15 yards
OL Sebastian Vollmer: 2 penalties (false start, illegal use of hands), 14 yards
CB Darrelle Revis: 2 penalties (2 defensive holding), 10 yards
CB Alfonzo Dennard: 2 penalties (2 defensive holding), 10 yards
WR/ST Brian Tyms: 1 penalty (unsportsmanlike conduct), 15 yards
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 1 penalty (offensive holding), 10 yards
RB/ST Brandon Bolden: 1 penalty (offensive holding) 9 yards
DL Sealver Siliga: 1 penalty (illegal use of hands), 5 yards
OL Josh Kline: 1 penalty (false start), 5 yards
WR Julian Edelman: 1 penalty (false start), 5 yards
LS/ST Danny Aiken: 1 penalty (false start), 5 yards
TE Tim Wright: 1 penalty (false start) 5 yards
DE Zach Moore: 1 penalty (illegal use of hands), 5 yards

Most penalized by position
Offensive line: 27 penalties, 218 yards
Cornerback: 26 penalties, 260 yards
Special teams: 13 penalties, 117 yards
Wide receiver: 12 penalties, 95 yards
Linebacker: 9 penalties, 78 yards
Defensive line: 8 penalties, 80 yards
Tight end: 5 penalties, 50 yards
Safety: 4 penalty, 39 yards
Team: 3 penalties, 24 yards
Quarterback: 2 penalties, 21 yards

Most frequently called penalties
False start: 21
Offensive holding: 18
Defensive holding: 14
Defensive pass interference: 9
Illegal use of hands: 6
Illegal block above the waist: 6
Facemask: 6
Unnecessary roughness: 6
Offensive pass interference: 4
Roughing the passer: 3
Offsides on free kick: 3
Defensive offsides: 2
Illegal contact: 2
Intentional grounding: 2
Unsportsmanlike conduct: 2
Chop block: 1
Illegal shift: 1
Illegal substitution: 1
Neutral zone infraction: 1
Encroachment: 1
Tripping: 1

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Geno Smith and the Jets passing game have struggled this season. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Geno Smith and the Jets passing game have struggled this season. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Ground and pound. Three simple words that defined the brash and power New York Jets when they were successful under Rex Ryan.

With a 3-11 record, gone is the cockiness but the desire to find different ways to run the ball is still priority No. 1 with Ryan’s Jets. Whether it’s Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson, Jeremy Kerley or even the newly acquired Percy Harvin, the Jets are trying to compensate for the lack of a passing attack from Geno Smith. But Smith, along with Ivory, Johnson, Kerley and Harvin, is a definite threat to run.

“Well they use a lot of guys. They have a lot of good runners: Ivory probably runs as hard as any player we’€™ve played against recently. Johnson has a lot of skill; Smith hurt us running in the first game. He’€™s a good runner, he’€™s a very athletic guy, can scramble in the passing game,” Belichick said. “They ran a bunch of reverses, Kerley, obviously Harvin. They use a lot of people in their running game to make you defend from sideline to sideline, as well as the inside power-type games and some read-option plays.”

Harvin has 31 carries for 201 yards (6.5 yards/attempt) and a touchdown this season, 21 of those coming with the Jets after he was acquired from Seattle. Ivory leads the Jets with 739 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Johnson has 613 yards and a 4.5 yards/carry average with a touchdown. If there’s a way the Patriots could be in trouble Sunday at MetLife, it starts with the Jets getting their running game up to speed.

“They have a very extensive and diverse running game,” Belichick said. “This will probably be the most volume of running game schemes and run game issues that they create that we’€™ve had in quite a while, certainly all year.

With Smith struggling as a passer, the Jets have turned back to their “Wildcat” to try and take some pressure off the signal caller, sometimes taking Smith off the field altogether.

“I think the Wildcat is, like a lot of things, defensively you just have to be ready for it every week. Wildcat, unbalanced line, empty formation, all those different type of things, if a team has shown them, they’€™ve shown them,” Belichick said. “But if they haven’€™t shown them, there’€™s always a possibility that they could put something like that together as a game plan thing. We always have to be ready for those type of things.

The Wildcat with the quarterback extended is, yeah, definitely I would say a version of the old single-wing type of scheme type of offense. It just presents another ‘€“ but it’€™s no different than a running quarterback. If you have a running quarterback in the backfield like [Ryan] Tannehill, Tannehill is back there with a running back and him, when he either gives the ball or fakes it to the back and then he either keeps it around the end or boots it and doesn’€™t have the ball, you still have to defend that.

The Wildcat, whether you split the guy out, or whether you do what Miami did and take the quarterback out after he hands the ball, you have to have somebody to account for that guy. It just creates another gap for you on the defensive line that that’€™s the problem that you just run out of guys or you don’€™t have the player that you would normally have if he wasn’€™t assigned to the quarterback. You won’€™t have that player because you have to commit somebody to the quarterback. It changes your numbers and some of your run defense fits and reads to again, depending on what coverage you’€™re in or what type of defense you’€™re in, but that’€™s the problems it creates and that’€™s why teams use it.

“However you do that with the quarterback, whether you boot him and pass it like the [Mike] Shanahan offenses did, they were so famous and productive for in Denver with the stretch play and then the boot, you have to have somebody to contain that guy. Or the read-option concept or the Wildcat concept, they’€™re all ways to try to take one guy out of the defensive front and force you to account for either the quarterback coming out of the backfield or him already be extended out. Then you have one less player in the box than your normal running game. That’€™s what they’€™re trying to do.”

As for Harvin, Belichick is ready for Rex Ryan to make full use of his speed as a weapon, someone Ryan didn’t have in the first meeting Oct. 16, and someone Belichick and the Patriots didn’t have to worry about.

“He is a weapon and they’€™ve used him as a weapon,” Belichick said. “They’€™ve handed him the ball a number of times. He’€™s certainly a threat as a receiver, so he can go down the field and get behind the defense. He can carry the ball on outside plays like reverses and speed sweeps and things like that. He’€™s also very dangerous on catch-and-run plays like under-routes and slip-screens and those type of things. They move him around in different spots, so you don’€™t know exactly where he’€™s going to be.

“Sometimes he’€™s detached, sometimes he’€™s in the backfield. He’€™s obviously a problem in kickoff returns. He’€™s a player that we know will be utilized somehow in their game plan. We have to have an awareness of where he is. They’€™ve been creative in getting him the ball and in different ways and trying to get him into space and give him a chance to get started. He’€™s an explosive and very dynamic player. That will be a big challenge for us to mentally make sure that we don’€™t make a mistake on what we’€™re doing and then playing whatever play they run properly and doing a good job with our leverage and our tackling on not only him, but really all the other skill players. They have those backs and they’€™ve got a lot of guys that are hard to tackle that make yards on their own.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

There has been lots and lots of speculation this week that this will be the final meeting between Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick, at least with Ryan serving as head coach of the rival Jets.

Chris Jones (94) earns congratulations from Bill Belichick after blocking a potential game-winning field goal against the Jets Oct. 16. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Chris Jones (94) earns congratulations from Bill Belichick after blocking a potential game-winning field goal against the Jets Oct. 16. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

There has been lots and lots of speculation this week that this will be the final meeting between Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick, at least with Ryan serving as head coach of the rival Jets.

Ryan said Monday that he has tremendous respect for Belichick and the Patriots. And while on Tuesday, Belichick said he has respect for the Jets, he wasn’t interested in throwing a bouquet of flowers at Rex on what could be his penultimate game on the Jets’ sidelines.

“We have a lot of respect for the Jets,” Belichick said on a conference call of the 3-11 Jets. “They’€™re a good football team. We had a real competitive game with them earlier in the year.”

That 27-25 escape job thanks to the left paw of Chris Jones serves as a reminder that this isn’t so much about recalling past battles as it is focusing on a team that will be hellbent on spoiling New England’s bid for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

“I’€™m not really that concerned about what happened five, 10, 15 years ago. [I’€™m] more concerned about this matchup this wiek. They played another tight, tough game last week and beat the Titans at the end. They’€™ve been in a lot of close games ‘€“ won some, lost some. We were in one with them and expect a tough, 60-minute battle.”

That didn’t keep the questions coming about Rex’s Jets against Belichick’s Patriots. Ryan won the only postseason match up Jan. 2011 but overall, Belichick holds an 8-4 advantage since Ryan came to New York proclaiming he wasn’t about to kiss “Belichick’s rings.”

Belichick was asked Tuesday if he’s enjoyed competing against Ryan, his teams and his scheme since 2009.

“I mean, every week we have challenges,” Belichick said. “Every team has good players, good coaches and tough matchups. This is the Jets.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Sunday could mark the last time that Rex Ryan is part of the Patriots-Jets rivalry as head coach of New York.</p>
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Tom Brady has had a lot of success when using play action this season. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Tom Brady has had a lot of success when using play action this season. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Sunday’s second half performance against the Dolphins was dominant.

The Patriots outscored the Dolphins 27-0 led by their quarterback Tom Brady, as the signal caller went 13-for-20 with 205 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the second half of the 41-13 win.

Playing a major part in his success was using play action, which was used on Rob Gronkowski‘s 27-yard touchdown catch to blow the game open following a Patrick Chung interception.

Overall in the game, per Pro Football Focus, Brady was 10-for-12 with 135 yards with a touchdown and an interception when using play action.

“We definitely used it in the second half maybe a little bit more than we did in the first half,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said on a conference call Wednesday. “I think it’€™s always a part of what you want to be able to do to complement the rest of your offense. You have a chance to run the football and then try to go ahead and use some play-action to complement your run game.

“I think it’€™s always a good design and a good idea, but ultimately the credit and the responsibility lies with the players and the execution, and they did a great job of doing that. The line gave Tom [Brady] an opportunity to play action fake and then get his eyes down the field and find some people open in the defense. We were able to get behind them a few times there in the second half to create some chunk plays for ourselves and some momentum.”

For the season, Brady has been one of the most effective quarterbacks in the league when using play action. According to Pro Football Focus, Brady is 98-for-143 (68.5 percent) with 1,334 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions.

His 1,334 passing yards are the most in the league, his eight touchdown passes are tied for fifth, his 68.5 completion percentage is seventh and his 108 quarterback rating is eighth. The Patriots run play action on 27.3 percent of their drop backs, which is fifth in the NFL.

“It’€™s always been a part of what we do,” McDaniels said. “We’€™ve had weeks where we’€™ve been very good at it and other weeks where it’€™s been more limited in terms of what you’€™re able to do, and some of that is determined by how the defense plays you, too. It definitely played a good role in some of our success in the second half, and hopefully we can continue to do that.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

WEEI_FantasyFootball_2014_hdr

Welcome to the Week 16 waiver wire! I think congratulations are in order for most of you. If you are still playing this time of year, you are either in a bowl game, or at worst a semifinal game. That’€™s obviously outstanding news, but it also represents a logistical change as far as free agency is concerned. For one, you are now competing against a single team for pickups, so you are very likely to get a top option and you also have no need for long-term depth as only this week matters. Lastly, and most importantly, you probably have a team filled with studs — that’€™s why you are still alive. Having a great squad can lead to over confidence, so don’t fall into that trap. You need to be proactive this week whether you need players or not. Remember, any player you do not add is there for your opponent. So, if you are all set with your starting lineup, you should scout your opponent and isolate their biggest need and go after the free agent who best fills that need. Be proactive and leave no stone unturned.

I will be posting my usual expanded waiver wire over at Rotobahn this afternoon. It’€™s free, so head on over if you play in a deep format or are looking for some defensive teams to stream in Week 16.

As always, the ownership percentages are listed for each player. These rates of ownership are based on Yahoo! leagues, which tend to be smaller and more representative of the 10-team leagues most of us play in. Obviously, these numbers are mostly for perspective. What really matters is which players are available in your particular league, and you’€™ll need to do the legwork on that.

To keep pace with all WEEI and Rotobahn fantasy football content, including Sunday chats and The Fantasy Football Hour with my co-host Jim Hackett, follow me on Twitter.

QUARTERBACK

Mark Sanchez, Eagles — 55 percent

He’€™s a good bet to bounce back against Washington, who are very beatable through the air. Sanchez is not a desirable play, but he’€™s probably the best thing you can pluck off of the average waiver wire for Week 16.

Eli Manning, Giants — 61 percent

He’€™s the best guy out there on a lot of waiver wires, but he has a tough matchup at St. Louis this week. The good news is the Giants seem to have rallied around head coach Tom Coughlin and their exciting rookie receiver Odell Beckham. Manning will get you serviceable stats, but the Rams should take the big game off the table.

Kyle Orton, Bills –€” 13 percent

They have a good road matchup and they are riding high after their stunning win over the Packers in Buffalo last week. This is a road matchup, but it’€™s at Oakland and that should provide Orton with ample point-scoring opportunity. He’€™s a good pickup if you are in a jam.

RUNNING BACK

Joseph Randle, Cowboys — 11 percent

I’€™m putting this one up top for emphasis. First for DeMarco Murray owners, Randle is absolutely a must-add due to Murray’€™s hand injury, which required surgery and should keep him out of Week 16. Of course, if you do not own Murray, you’€™ll still want to add him even if it’€™s just to keep him away from your competition.

Carlos Hyde, 49ers — 35 percent

Frank Gore could miss this week with a concussion, so Hyde is a potential stud as long as he is healthy himself, as Hyde suffered knee and back injuries in the same game last week. He’€™s potentially the most valuable pickup out there, but there is the risk that he sits out. Hyde is a must-add for Gore owners and should be pursued by all for his upside when the 49ers host San Diego this weekend.

Toby Gerhart, Jaguars –€” 33 percent

He may not be a sexy name and he was just decent last week against the Ravens. Having said that, Gerhart faces a very beatable Titans run defense in Week 16 and that makes Gerhart a very tempting play, especially in larger formats. If you are hurting at running back this week, Gerhart is very much worthy of consideration.

Dan Herron, Colts — 61 percent

He has a solid matchup at Dallas this week and he’€™s been consistently productive since Ahmad Bradshaw went down. I like him as a RB2 this week especially in PPR formats.

Latavius Murray, Raiders –€” 56 percent

He’€™s a legit RB2 option this week if you need him, but he lacks big upside because of his matchup against the surging Bills defense. Murray is a solid option, but not spectacular.

Andre Williams, Giants — 59 percent

Like Murray, Williams will be a solid option, but his matchup with a stingy Rams defense limits his upside potential for this week. Starter Rashad Jennings re-injured his ankle in Week 15 and is a good bet to be out for Week 16. If you had planned on starting Jennings this week, you may want to add Williams.

Doug Martin, Buccaneers — 51 percent

Martin showed some of his old running ability in Week 15 and he has a decent matchup with Green Bay in Week 16. Martin has RB2 appeal, especially in larger standard scoring leagues.

WIDE RECEIVER

Martavis Bryant, Steelers — 64 percent

Do you need an upside play for Week 16? Bryant is certainly that. While he can be limited to just a few catches, he can also score multiple times on a given week and not just as a red zone weapon. Bryant is an outstanding deep threat due to his size/speed combination. So again, if it’€™s upside you seek, this is probably the guy.

Jarvis Landry, Dolphins — 45 percent

If you read my pre-draft scouting report on Landry, you know how much we like him as a player. Over the last nine weeks, Landry has been a consistent WR3 option, especially in PPR formats. While Landry has primarily been used in the slot, he’€™s also been a very strong red zone threat and that gives him WR3 value in 12-team standard leagues. His matchup in Week 16 with the Vikings is nothing to fear.

Nate Washington, Titans — 5 percent

He was one of our sleepers last week and he posted a 100-yard game against the Jets. This week Washington gets a mediocre Jaguars pass defense, so he’€™s certainly a viable high-volume option if you need him.

Stedman Bailey, Rams — 14 percent

He’€™s got a Week 16 matchup with the Giants and that makes him an appealing WR3 option, especially in PPR formats. Bailey has been a productive option over the last five weeks with only one poor outing. He can help you this week if you need him.

Charles Johnson, Vikings — 32 percent

He posted solid numbers in a very tough Week 15 matchup and he’€™s got another tough matchup in Miami this week. That said, Johnson is the receiver to own in Minnesota right now and he’€™s a good bet for WR3 production in 12-team leagues.

TIGHT END

Dwayne Allen, Colts — 65 percent

He got back into the end zone in Week 15 and he should continue to improve as his ankle gets closer to 100 percent. I like him as a TE1 option this week when the Colts travel to play the Cowboys.

Owen Daniels, Ravens — 39 percent

He was active last week and that should continue in Week 16 when the Ravens travel to Houston to face Daniels’€™ old team. If you need a tight end this week, Daniels is a very good waiver wire add.

Kyle Rudolph, Vikings –€” 51 percent

I pumped this guy for a few weeks to mediocre results. In Week 15 I shied away and, of course, Rudolph stepped up and got involved the way we thought he would all along. He finished with seven catches for 69 yards at Detroit and he gets another very tough matchup at Miami in Week 16, so he’€™s a low-end TE1 option, but still quite viable.

Blog Author: 
Peter Davidson

If referees are going to continue to make questionable calls in an effort to protect quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, the league might as well institute a two-hand touch rule.</p>
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FOXBORO — Devin McCourty is considered one of the hardest working and generous people inside the Patriots locker room. Now, that generosity and leadership on and off the field has been recognized by the team.