Tedy Bruschi tries to maintain some sense of journalistic detachment while watching football games as an NFL analyst for ESPN. But even though he’d picked the Colts to beat the Patriots on Sunday night, the former New England linebacker couldn’t help himself in the middle of the game.

“The Colts attempted to be tough. They attempted to come back and punch back, but the Patriots took out their heart and they left it by a TV camera,” Bruschi said, referencing Rob Gronkowski bulldozing Indianapolis safety Sergio Brown on a Jonas Gray rushing touchdown. “I picked the Colts to win, but was I high-fiving my kids when Gronk threw that kid on the TV camera? Absolutely. It was awesome to see, and just to see the toughness of [Julian] Edelman and the toughness of Gronkowski and just this team to respond the way it did was a great sign for this team.

“I don’t think anyone on the team had a problem with that [penalty],” added Bruschi. “It just took me back when I saw Gronk throw that kid into that TV camera. That made me fired up and that old Patriot in me came out.”

Bruschi suggested that teams have yet to find a successful formula for handling Gronkowski. Indeed, Bruschi suggested that the tight end is the best player he’s ever seen at the position.

“All the tricks have been implemented on this guy. All the tricks. And you still see him throwing guys off. Even the blocking element he has. You’re ready for coverage but all of a sudden he’s lined up in the line of scrimmage and he’s a blocker,” said Bruschi. “In my lifetime, Gronkowski is the best tight end I’ve ever seen, to tell you the truth. Gonzalez, Tony Gonzalez was special. He was. But the toughness of Gronkowski, to me, puts him over the top, because we’re talking about the tight end position. We’re not talking overblown wide receivers like a Jimmy Graham and other guys who just go out there and blocking isn’t part of their vocabulary. This is a guy that does it all, that whole tight end thing of blocking and toughness and setting the tone, things like that. Gronkowski is who you should be as a tight end.”

To listen to the complete interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page. Here are some additional highlights.

On the Patriots’ dominant rushing attack against the Colts: “I didn’t know that was in them, that they could just dominate the line of scrimmage like that and run the ball in obvious running situations, basically running and saying, ‘Yes, this is what we’re going to do again, and do you think you can stop it this time?’ Jonas Gray having the day that he had, this offensive line, where it’s come, you just can’t underestimate the value of good coaching, of continuing to try to find the right combinations and the right players of running backs, interior offensive linemen, who you use at the tight end position, how they keep searching for it and then it all came to a head last night with all of the success they had running the ball.

On whether one offensive lineman’s progress has stood out: “I think you’ve got to look at [center Bryan] Stork and how he’s been able to look more comfortable in there. I’m not saying he’s a road grader in there, because he’s not. Maybe he progresses to that. He still gets blown off the ball a touch, but he’s able to stay in position almost like he’s learning to almost attempt to take the defender where he wants to go and trusting his running back to find his hole off of his block rather than continuing to try to blow somebody off the ball, which isn’t his strength right now. I think he’s starting to use his mind a little more. That’s what the best centers do. They’re never the strongest. They’re never the most physical. Linebackers can even handle them in one-on-one situations when you have a two-gap. The savvy centers, those are the ones who really succeed in this league. Maybe Stork is getting to be that way.”

On the Patriots defense‘s performance against the Colts running game: “The linebackers, I’ll just talk about [Jamie] Collins and [Dont'a] Hightower. I don’t think they’re robotic anymore. That’s easy to be when you’re young in a Bill Belichick defense. [When] you’re robotic, it’s, ‘OK, my coach has told me once I see this run to go up, take on this guard this way, protect this gap. This is what I’m supposed to do.’ When you start to feel a little bit more comfortable as a linebacker, you start to trust your instincts a little bit more and even though that’s where I’m supposed to be, as a play progresses, your instincts tell you, I don’t need to do that even though they want me to, and if I take this chance, I have the ability to make that. These two linebackers have that ability, once they see something, to act on it. That’s what they’re doing now. Rather than just doing what they’re told to do, they’re also adding their own individual aspect of it. That’s what makes the defense special, especially this defense at the linebacker level.

On Tom Brady‘s performance: “What I’m most excited about was that although Tom didn’t play his best — I think the whole game, it wasn’t a Brady-esque game — the team still won, and the team still dominated. I think that’s what Patriots fans out there should be most excited about that the other aspects of this team can even be more valuable than the quarterback play. I think that was their problem a few years back in getting to this point to where you’re actually looking to Brady all the time, to where you need to put up MVP numbers for us to be successful, for us to win football games. Last night they showed it doesn’t have to be that way and there are other elements of this team. It just fired me up to watch because it’s so, ‘Brady-Belichick, Brady-Belichick, Brady-Belichick.’ It’s just not that way. It wasn’t last night. That’s what you should be excited about. That’s how you get really far when you get into the tournament and possibly when you get into the big game, when you have other aspects of your time really contributing like they did last night.”

On Andrew Luck: “I overestimated what Andrew Luck was becoming as a quarterback. … I think I overestimated his development. Last night, he still made some of the same mistakes he made last year, a couple years ago. … He’s still not ready.”

Blog Author: 
Jonas Gray celebrates after one of his four touchdowns Sunday night against the Colts. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Jonas Gray celebrates after one of his four touchdowns Sunday night against the Colts. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — In Sunday night’s dominant win over the Colts, much of the attention was centered around running back Jonas Gray and his 199 yards and four touchdowns, but he would not have been able to pick up those yards if it weren’t for his blockers leading the way in front of him.

Used to pass-blocking for Tom Brady, left tackle Nate Solder said he and the rest of the offensive linemen sometimes enjoy games like Sunday where the team rushed for 244 yards on 45 carries.

“Yeah, when it’s working, yeah,” Solder said with a smile. “When it’s working you do like that, definitely.”

It was a complete team effort as everyone was involved in the blocking game. Rookie Cameron Fleming saw his first action since Week 4 and was used as an extra tight end on a number of occasions — this going along with fullback James Develin and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui doing their usual solid work.

“Everyone has got their roles and when Cam [Fleming] came in, he did a really good job for us in that jumbo tight end look,” said Develin. “Then Hoo-man [Hoomanawanui] and Gronk, they consistently get the job done on the edge and our offense line blew open some huge holes. It was fun to watch those guys work.”

It was the second game this season the Patriots have had 200 or more yards rushing as they ran for 220 yards against the Bengals in Week 5. It was the 12th time the team has ran for over 200 yards under Bill Belichick and they are 12-0 in those games.

“It’s a group effort,” said Solder. “There were certainly times that I didn’t block well and the play still went, it’s not always one guy, it is everyone working together.”

It truly was a team win, as not only was the running game stellar, their run defense was also impressive. The Colts finished with just 19 yards rushing on 17 carries.

“It was a great win,” Develin said. “It really came full circle and the team played well as a whole. Our offense — obviously Jonas ran for almost 200 yards and that was great, but our defense played very, very well and they played very opportunistic. When you hold a team like the Colts to 19 yards rushing, that’s pretty impressive.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Jonas Gray

Jonas Gray

FOXBORO — The rumors are true, Jonas Gray was indeed a former standup comedian.

“Back in the day, I called myself a funny guy — did a little stand up,” Gray said Monday, fresh off his 199-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Colts Sunday night. “I was pretty successful at it here and there. I was boo’d off the stage a few times.”

Gray confirmed he opened for Screech from ‘Saved by the Bell.’

“I did, yeah. It was an honor. He did a good job,” he said.

When asked who he would compare himself to as a comedian, Gray was pretty quick to answer.

“Kevin James,” Gray said. “I’m similar to that. He’s pretty good at what he does.”

As for the game its self, Gray had a breakout game for the ages rushing for 199 yards on 38 carries, to go along with his four touchdowns. This all comes after Gray was a member of the Patriots’ practice squad until Stevan Ridley went down with a season-ending knee injury Oct. 12 against the Bills.

“I’d probably say high school, maybe,” said Gray when was the last time he got that many carries in a game. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a game where I had 38 carries. Going into the game I didn’t think I’d get 38 carries. They prepared us well and all week coaches were talking about getting my conditioning up, doing all the extra things I can do to get in a mindset where if I have to carry it a bunch of times I’m ready for it. It was a good thing [they] said that.”

During his three years at Notre Dame, Gray only had one, 100-yard rushing game.

Following going undrafted in 2012, Gray signed with the Dolphins and was on their practice squad for the 2012 season, and then was one of the last cuts before the 2013 season. Gray was able to latch on with the Ravens on their practice squad for 2013, but was unable to get any game action.

Gray was able to get his first taste of NFL action just three games ago against the Jets, so in the grand scheme of things, the 5-foot-9 running back was just happy to be on the field.

“I was excited to get out there, get some stuff going, he said. “A lot of things we were working and we came out with the victory.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Ndamukong Suh is a big part of the Detroit defense. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Ndamukong Suh is a big part of the Detroit defense. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Five things you have to know about the Lions, who will face the Patriots Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

They are really, really good at defending the run.

The Lions are the best team in the league when it comes to run defense, holding opponents to an average of 68.8 rushing yards per game. Only one team — the Jets — have rushed for more than 80 yards against them. (New York finished with 132 rushing yards in a 24-17 loss to Detroit.) In fact, only three teams in the last 20 regular-season games have topped 100 rushing yards in a game against the Lions, a remarkable feat for any team. Linebacker DeAndre Levy and defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley are three of the best run defenders in the league at their positions, with Levy doing a great job cutting through the wash and flowing to the ball (he leads the team in tackles with 96) and Suh and Fairley creating a massive wall up front. As well as the New England offensive line and running game did last Sunday night against the Colts, the group will face a massive challenge this week with Detroit. They’re actually pretty good defensively across the board: the Lions allow an average of 290.3 total yards per game (best in the league), 221.5 passing yards per game (fifth-best) and 15.6 points per game (best in the NFL).

Conversely, they struggle to run the ball.

On the surface, the Lions are pretty much a one-dimensional offensive team that pays only minimal attention to running the ball. Joique Bell (122 carries, 422 yards, three TDs) and Reggie Bush (53 carries, 191 yards, 1 TD) are the closest thing the Lions have to a nucleus when it comes to the ground game. The Lions have topped 100 rushing yards as a team just twice in the last 11 regular-season games, dating back to last year. (Bush does offer some value in the passing game, but even then, he’s not nearly what he used to be, having caught 25 passes through the first 10 games.) Bell, who was a target of the Patriots as an undrafted free agent coming out of Wayne State, is a 5-foot-11, 229-pound banger who is coming off his best game of the season, a 14-carry, 85-yard effort in a 14-6 loss to the Cardinals in Arizona.

Calvin Johnson is really, really good, but you can’t forget about Golden Tate.

Not exactly breaking news here on Johnson, but Tate has developed into a really dependable option for the Lions in the passing game. The 26-year-old Tate has a team-high 68 catches (on 95 targets) for 950 yards and three touchdowns. The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder out of Notre Dame has at least 100 receiving yards in three of his last four games, including two games against against the Dolphins where he finished with 11 catches on 13 targets for 109 yards in a 20-16 win over Miami. Don’t sleep on Megatron, as he’s been struggling with an ankle injury (he missed three games earlier in the year) and was slowed by an elbow issue in Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals. But he’s still a potent offensive option for quarterback Matthew Stafford — he’s second on the team behind Tate with 34 catches on 64 targets for 520 yards and three interceptions.

Matthew Stafford is still a work in progress at quarterback.

The 26-year-old out of Georgia had an insane stat line from 2011 through 2013 — no other quarterback in that span attempted as many passes as Stafford (2,024, an average of 675 a season). This year, he’s on a far more manageable pace — through 10 games, he’s 226-for-369 (61 percent) with 2,679 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and nine picks. On his current pace, he’ll finish 361-for-590 (61 percent) for 4,286 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The picks are still too high (and he still has a tendency to take too many sacks — 31 so far this season, a pace for 50 on the year), but the Lions look to be in a better place now than they were the last few seasons. The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder will face the Patriots for the first time in his career on Sunday.

They still take more than their share of penalties.

The Lions developed a rep as taking some boneheaded penalties over the last few seasons, and while it probably isn’t altogether fair, they’ve still shown a knack for getting whistled at some pretty inopportune moments this season. Detroit actually started the season in really good shape, but have hit the skids as of late, as the Lions have committed 12 penalties in three of the past four games and have been at 70 yards or more in penalty yardage in each of their last four games. Entering Monday night football, the Lions have 73 penalties (11th in the league) for 627 penalty yards (10th). While Patriots have certainly have no right to chortle at the Lions’ penalty woes — the Patriots have been at or near the top of the league all season in both penalties and penalty yardage — it’s starting to look like the same old song for Detroit.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Sergio Brown, the Colts safety who trash-talked Rob Gronkowski during Sunday night’s game before

Sergio Brown, the Colts safety who trash-talked Rob Gronkowski during Sunday night’s game before ultimately getting blocked out of bounds and into an NBC camera by Gronk, had himself quite a day on Twitter Monday.

First Brown got duped by a fake Jonas Gray account and later deleted his response to said fake account.

Later in the day, Brown decided to rant against Gronkowski, claiming that he “put straps on that boy” and that Gronk blocked him out of bounds in an act of frustration because he “can’t do [poop emoji] inbetween the whistle”. Brown deleted the series of tweets a few minutes after concluding his rant, but thankfully screen grabs exist.

We’ll let you know if anything else pops up on Brown’s Twitter feed.

Blog Author: 
Patriots OL Dan Connolly joined the show and spoke about the struggles of the offensive line unit early in the season. He also shed a little light on how the Logan Mankins trade was received, Bryan Stork playing center, and Jonas Gray working hard to become a featured back.

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Jonas Gray

Jonas Gray

Following up on a column we wrote last week about the Patriots, their options in short yardage situations and how it all relates to their running game, it was interesting to see how New England approached things offensively Sunday night against the Colts. In all, the Patriots faced third down on 12 occasions against Indianapolis, and were able to convert in nine of those situations. Here’s a breakdown of what happened on each third-down situation (eight pass attempts, three runs, and one other):

3rd and 7 — 9-yard pass to Julian Edelman for first down
3rd and 1 — Jonas Gray run for 20 yards for first down
3rd and 3 — incomplete pass to Tim Wright
3rd and 3 — 20-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski for first down
3rd and 10 — 13-yard pass to Julian Edelman for first down
3rd and 1 — intercepted pass for Rob Gronkowski
3rd and 1 — Jonas Gray run for 2 yards for first down
3rd and 6 — 26-yard pass to Brandon LaFell for first down
3rd and 3 — 16-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski for first down
3rd and 2 — Indianapolis penalties yield first down
3rd and 4 — 26-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski for touchdown
3rd and 4 — Jonas Gray run for 5 yards for first down

When it came to 3rd and 3 or less — our definition of “gotta have it” yards, New England faced those scenarios on seven occasions Sunday. The Patriots ran in twice (handoffs to Gray, which produced runs of 20 and 2 yards) and threw it four times (including two 26-yard pass plays, one to Gronkowski and another to LaFell), with a seventh play ending in a penalty. It’s important to note that matchups and situational football often dictate play calling, but it was interesting to see them lean more on the passing game than on the backfield in those situations. (As a team, they were 5-for-7 on third down in those short-yardage situations.) As Gray (presumably) become a bigger part of their game plan as the season continues, 3rd and short will be worth monitoring to see if the running game becomes more of a factor in those situations.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Things to consider as I take Knee-Jerk Reactions to WEEI.com. Same grammatical mistakes. Same wildly misinformed football analysis. All-new location!

Patriots LB Rob Ninkovich joined the show to talk about shutting down on the leagues premier offenses, stopping the run and forcing Andrew Luck to pass, and Sergio Brown getting "thrown out the club" by Gronk.