Dont'a Hightower and the Patriots will have to tackle well to contain Marshawn Lynch. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Dont’a Hightower and the Patriots will have to tackle well to contain Marshawn Lynch. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower has seen enough of Marshawn Lynch to know he and his Patriots teammates better be in tackle mode next Sunday to stop Beastmode.

Hightower doesn’t need to look at Lynch’s regular season accomplishments of 1,306 yards and a career-best 13 touchdowns. All Hightower has to do is watch game film of how he’s been running in the playoffs.

In two postseason games, the All-Pro running back has carried the ball 39 times for 216 yards and a touchdown, including the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter of the NFC championship game against Green Bay, a team he sliced through for 157 yards. He is averaging 5.5 yards every time he touches the ball.

When defenses know he’s going to get the ball, what specifically makes him so difficult to defend?

“A little bit of everything. He’€™s aggressive, he’€™s strong, he’€™s got great vision, great balance, good feet ‘€“ he has everything that you would want in a back,” Hightower said. “His feet never stop moving no matter what he’€™s doing, whether it’€™s picking up blocks in protection or getting out on a screen pass or a check down. He’€™s always looking to make that big play.”

Hightower laughed Saturday when asked about how elusive Lynch can be in answering questions from the media.

“I think everybody’€™s seen that,” Hightower said. “I think it’€™s apparent that [he] doesn’€™t want to talk to the media. It is what it is. A lot of guys don’€™t want to, but you’€™ve kind of got to.”

Does Hightower think it’€™s funny?

“Yeah, I think it’€™s funny,” Hightower said. “I’€™m pretty sure you all think it’€™s funny, too, so don’€™t just put me up here and act like I’€™m the only one. But it is.”

But Hightower knows tackling Lynch in Glendale will be no joke.

Hightower is second on the Patriots in the playoffs with 11 total tackles so far, trailing Jamie Collins’ 15. Both linebackers will have to make sure to wrap up Lynch, who ranked fifth this season among running backs in the NFL with 639 yards after contact.

“Of course, especially tackling Lynch or Wilson or [Doug] Baldwin. They have great skill players who all have big-play impact,” Hightower said. “If you go back and you watch film, a lot of those plays were to get the ball to them real quick and out in space. Any time they can do that, they’€™re willing to take advantage of it, and that’€™s something they want, is to have that big-play ability.

“Again, everybody kind of looks at Lynch and thinks that he’€™s just an aggressor and wants to run everybody over. That might be his game, but I see it as both. He’€™ll run you over to get where he wants to get, but you never see him run out of bounds. He’€™s always looking to cut back and make those big plays and those 80- and those 70-yard touchdowns that you see. He does everything.”

Here were some other takeaways from Hightower’s media availability over the weekend at Gillette:

Q: Does the two-week break between the AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl affect your preparations?

DH: Absolutely not. This is a game that, [during] the OTAs and the offseason workout and stuff, this is the game we’€™ve all been training and getting ready for. This is the big show, so definitely approaching this game, trying to approach it like a regular week, but it means more than that. There is always going to be extra time in the film room, guys just talking outside, coaches being there, us just sitting down, chilling, watching film [and] picking each other’€™s brains just to make sure we’€™re all on the same page whenever that day comes.

Q: Describe the difficulty of defending their read option, with a back like Marshawn Lynch and a running quarterback like Russell Wilson.

DH: It’€™s definitely going to have to be an execution thing. Both of those guys mean a lot to their team ‘€“ not just their offense ‘€“ their team. We’€™re just really going to have to be able to execute 100 percent. Like you said, Lynch is probably the best running back in the league, and Russell Wilson is a dual threat. He runs when he needs to. He’€™s not always looking to pull it down and run, but if it’€™s there he’€™ll take it. Defending that is definitely going to be a big part in what we want to do to be successful come game day.

Q: How valuable is it to have experience playing against guys like Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch?

DH: Honestly, it’€™s really just going to come down to want to. You can do as many tackling drills as you want and you can get as many repetitions as you want, whatever, but it comes down to if you want to. If you don’€™t want to tackle, then you don’€™t want to tackle. So, it’€™s really just going to be guys; we’€™ll just have to get out there, get everybody to the ball and everybody’€™s going to want to tackle. There are going to be plays in the game where I’€™m pretty sure that him or Russell Wilson or Baldwin or [Ricardo] Lockett or somebody is going to be one-on-one, and it’€™s just going to come down to us wanting to tackle.

Q: How much motivation is it to not want to be a part of another Beast Mode video of him running through a defense?

DH: Yeah, no comment.

Q: ‘€˜Deflategate’€™ ‘€“ have you had about enough of that?

DH: Yeah, no comment on that, too.

Q: Russell Wilson seems to get more dangerous as the game goes on. How much focus is there on his ability to make game-changing plays late in games?

DH: It means a lot, and I definitely feel like sometimes guys don’€™t always ‘€“ respect is not the word I’€™m looking for ‘€“ but don’€™t think people are as elusive as they seem. I feel like sometimes that people don’€™t always give Russell Wilson his credit for being a dual-threat quarterback. He can sit in the pocket and he can throw the deep ball and he can scramble around and make a deep ball throw there as well. It’€™s really just going to be coming down to execution.

Q: Were you surprised that Seattle was able to pull it off last week?

DH: They have a really good team. That’€™s why they’€™re back, and they all have big-play ability. That goes on the defensive side as well. So I’€™m not surprised.

Q: You’€™ve had a lot of success pressuring quarterbacks up the middle this year. Because of Wilson’€™s scrambling ability, do you almost not want to do that?

DH: You just have to be careful. I’€™m not going to throw out some of the game plan hints or whatever, but any time you’€™re rushing a dual-threat quarterback or a quarterback that’€™s mobile like [Joe] Flacco or Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, you always have to be careful rushing the pocket because they’€™ll scramble out to run and they’€™ll scramble to throw the ball downfield.

Q: Considering the weather today, are you excited to get to Arizona?

DH: Yes. Yes. I’€™m ready to get away from the snow.

Q: What are your thoughts on their offensive line?

DH: They look really good. Lynch is a great running back, but I definitely feel like his offensive line does a great, great job as far as getting off blocks and getting moving and getting them downfield. You can watch a lot of Lynch’€™s runs where there are a lot of linemen downfield pushing the pile, trying to knock guys off of Lynch and that gets Lynch those eight-to-10 extra yards. Their offensive line looks really good.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — Unfortunately for Jerod Mayo he cannot play in the postseason for a second straight year, as for a second straight year he suffered a season-ending injury. But, that doesn’t mean Mayo has stopped playing a part in the success of the team.

Mayo tore his patellar tendon in Week 6 against the Bills, but he’s still helped out his fellow linebackers and defense, as the defensive captain has remained around the facility watching film, and even was on the sidelines in the last two playoff games — something unusual for an injured reserve player to be on the sidelines on a Bill Belichick coached team.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower has really appreciated what Mayo has been able to do despite his injury.

“He’€™s meant a lot,” Hightower said Saturday. “I mean, even before the injury, he was still a coach on the field to us, and he’€™s been a real big part, especially last week and the week before with helping me and Jamie [Collins] see things on the sidelines and giving us adjustments. Matty P [defensive coordinator Matt Patricia] has a big job on the sideline with talking to Bill and B Flo [safeties coach Brian Flores] and everybody, so Mayo has really helped that front seven just as far as seeing side things on the sideline.”

On WEEI this week Mayo talked about being on the sidelines and how he was able to calm the defense down in their win over Baltimore, as the Patriots trailed by 14 points on two occasions.

‘€œI just tried to keep the guys calm,” Mayo said. “I know it’€™s a long game and sometimes things don’€™t go your way,’€ said Mayo of what he did in the Baltimore game. ‘€œI try and keep everybody calm and obviously I can see things from the sideline that you can’€™t really see on the field. It’€™s difficult to see the entire field when you’€™re out there looking at certain keys. I can see a lot of things on the sideline and I just try to rely some of the things that I see to the guys.’€

Being in his third season, Hightower sometimes refers to himself as a “football nerd.” Even with as much as he knows, he says Mayo is smarter. With Mayo being in the league for seven seasons, Hightower has learned a lot from Mayo in the three years they’ve been on the same team.

“He’€™s helped me a lot,” Hightower said. “I feel like I have a pretty decent football IQ, but Mayo’€™s is on a different level. Whenever I’€™m able to pick his brain about anything, it really means a lot. I really feel like almost he could come up with a game plan on his own if you give him the time of day. He’€™s really smart.

“He’€™s helped me learn the game. He’€™s helped me help myself as far as understanding the things that could make myself play better as far as me playing downhill and getting out in space and some of the things that he’€™s good at.”

 

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
James Develin

James Develin

FOXBORO — This coming week’s trip to Arizona won’t be the first time the Patriots have spent a week preparing for a game away from their usual confines of Gillette Stadium, as the team spent a week in San Diego in December prior to their game with the Chargers.

New England played Green Bay in Green Bay on Nov. 30 and then the Chargers the following Sunday night. Instead of traveling back to New England and then across the country again a few days later, the team instead went right to San Diego and spent the the week there.

Fullback James Develin said the experience could help the team a bit for what is to come this week in Arizona.

“I think so,” he said. “It’€™s always valuable to have some kind of experience like that –€“ going away for a long period of time, but really, we’€™re just looking at this week and just trying to prepare for it the best we can and just try to get ready for Seattle because they’€™re a very good team.”

New England played one of their better games of the season after their week out West — a 23-14 win over the Chargers.

For kicker Stephen Gostkowski he doesn’t care where the Super Bowl is and where the team has to spend a week — as long as his family gets there, that is all that matters to him. He said the things will still be the same as the Patriots will still need to have their old saying, “Ignore the noise.”

“I mean, we don’€™t think about that stuff,” Gostkowski said. “We just worry about the game and the people who handle the logistics deal with that and we just worry about making sure our family and friends get down there safely and we enjoy the experience. At the same time we have a job to do and it’€™s all focus on the game, really. We could be playing in Missouri and we wouldn’€™t care. It’€™s the Super Bowl, it’€™s exciting, we’€™ve stayed at hotels before, nothing is different. There’€™s just going to be a big spotlight on it and we’€™re just going to deal with the distraction and ignore the noise.”

Cornerback Kyle Arrington joked how getting away from New England at time of the year is good no matter what, but having their families with them, unlike in December, will be a positive thing.

“Well, ideally, it’€™s nice to go somewhere warm this time of year and not be in Foxboro, but it was a good experience being out in San Diego for a week and being away,” Arrington said. “This time a lot of guys will have their families out there in Arizona, so it will make it less difficult.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO — This was a Bill Belichick no one had ever seen before.

Bill Belichick said he was proud of his team during Saturday's press conference. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick said he was proud of his team during Saturday’s press conference. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — This was a Bill Belichick no one had ever seen before.

The coach with over 40 years of coaching experience rarely ever gets as fired up and passionate about something as he did Saturday afternoon in an impromptu press conference to put an end to the Deflategate story this week — at least for the time being.

It was in that 25 or so minute press conference that he went off course a bit and discussed this year’s team and how hard they work when referencing the footballs the team uses in practice, as they are often messed with (ie. pouring water on them) to prepare the team for the toughest of playing conditions.

“Anyone who has seen us practice knows that we make it harder, not easier, to handle the football,” Belichick said. “Our players train in conditions that a lot of people would recommend that we not drive in. That’€™s what they do. They’€™re a physically and mentally tough team that works hard, that trains hard, that prepares hard and have met every challenge that I put in front of them. And I know that because I work them every day.”

“This team was the best team in the AFC in the regular season. We won two games in the playoffs against two good football teams. The best team in the postseason, that’€™s what this team is,” he added. “I know that because I’€™ve been with them every day and I’€™m proud of this team.”

Despite all the distractions this week, the team still has their biggest task of the season ahead — Super Bowl XLIX against the Seahawks Feb. 1 in Glendale. The team is looking to avoid losing three straight Super Bowl games and give Belichick his fourth title as a head coach.

He sent a strong message — he is moving on. Moving on to more important things like preparing his team, which he genuinely likes and believes in, for the Seahawks and next week’s Super Bowl.

“This is the end of this subject for me for a long time, OK? We have a huge game, a huge challenge for our football team and that’€™s where that focus is going to go,” said Belichick.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Bill Belichick said he was proud of his team during Saturday's press conference. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick said he was proud of his team during Saturday’s press conference. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — This was a Bill Belichick no one had ever seen before.

The coach with over 40 years of coaching experience rarely ever gets as fired up and passionate about something as he did Saturday afternoon in an impromptu press conference to put an end to the Deflategate story this week — at least for the time being.

It was in that 25 or so minute press conference that he went off course a bit and discussed this year’s team and how hard they work when referencing the footballs the team uses in practice, as they are often messed with (ie. pouring water on them) to prepare the team for the toughest of playing conditions.

“Anyone who has seen us practice knows that we make it harder, not easier, to handle the football,” Belichick said. “Our players train in conditions that a lot of people would recommend that we not drive in. That’€™s what they do. They’€™re a physically and mentally tough team that works hard, that trains hard, that prepares hard and have met every challenge that I put in front of them. And I know that because I work them every day.”

“This team was the best team in the AFC in the regular season. We won two games in the playoffs against two good football teams. The best team in the postseason, that’€™s what this team is,” he added. “I know that because I’€™ve been with them every day and I’€™m proud of this team.”

Despite all the distractions this week, the team still has their biggest task of the season ahead — Super Bowl XLIX against the Seahawks Feb. 1 in Glendale. The team is looking to avoid losing three straight Super Bowl games and give Belichick his fourth title as a head coach.

He sent a strong message — he is moving on. Moving on to more important things like preparing his team, which he genuinely likes and believes in, for the Seahawks and next week’s Super Bowl.

“This is the end of this subject for me for a long time, OK? We have a huge game, a huge challenge for our football team and that’€™s where that focus is going to go,” said Belichick.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (left) poses with good friend and Patriots owner Robert Kraft. (Getty Images)Shame on the NFL, again.



MIKE PETRAGLIA

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Bill Belichick gave a surprise press conference on Saturday.</p>
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick spoke Saturday afternoon for over 23 minutes on the Deflategate situation, maintaining the team didn’t do anything wrong and followed “every rule to the letter” after conducting an internal investigation.

Here is his partial opening statement:

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick spoke Saturday afternoon for over 23 minutes on the Deflategate situation, maintaining the team didn’t do anything wrong and followed “every rule to the letter” after conducting an internal investigation.

Here is his opening statement of sorts:

“I want to take this opportunity to share this information. I’ve spent a significant amount of time this past week learning what I could learn, more than I could ever imagine to tell you the truth about ladders, air gauges, stitching, pressure, game day ball preparation, rub downs, so forth.

“I’m trying to be as helpful as I can here with everything I have learned. Having coached for 40 years in the National Football League, played for several years, growing up in a football family, being around this game my entire life — it’s clear that I don’t know very much about this areas.

“Over the last few days I have learned a lot more than I ever knew, exceptionally more. I feel like this is important because there have been questions raised and I believe now 100 percent that I have personally, and we as an organization have absolutely followed every rule to the letter. I feel on behalf on everyone in the organization, everyone that is involved in the organization that I needed to say something.”

More to come…

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable