We talk to Big Vince Wilfork the day after the Patriots blew-out the Bears, and as they begin preparations for the showdown of the season as Peyton Manning and the Broncos come to town.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined Dale & Holley on Monday to discuss his team’€™s 51-23 win over the Bears. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

During the victory, New England played a well-balanced game that saw the team get positive play in all areas of the game. From Tom Brady to the defensive line, the team’€™s overall effort made Sunday’€™s game a blowout.

Said Belichick: “I thought we had our moments. But we did get contributions in all three phases. The sequence at the end of the first half where we were able to score, have good kickoff coverage, have a good punt return, score, turnover on defense. That was obviously a big turning point in the game after they’€™d cut it to 17-7. You get something that skews the game a little bit, I think it was more competitive game that that. But I think our guys, we had a lot of energy. We were able to score first, get it back, get some points on the board early, score on eight of nine possessions offensively, had couple of turnovers on defense. There were good contributions everywhere.”

Brady had one of his best offensive performances this season Sunday when he completed 30-of-35 passes for 354 yards and five touchdowns. He spread the ball around, as six players had at least one catch. Belichick said he doesn’t look as much at what his quarterback does, but rather how the team as a whole performs.

“In evaluating how our team does, it’€™s points is the name of the game — scoring and giving them up,”  Belichick said. “Nothing more important than that. … Move the ball between the 20s, and then not be able to convert in the red area. It’€™s good, but it’€™s not good versus being able to get the ball in the end zone, and finish the drive and complete it. Whether that’€™s on a big play or whether it’€™s on a conversion in the red area, low red area, whatever it happens to be, those are the plays that end up resulting in points and make a difference.”

Continued Belichick: “I’€™d say Tom made a big jump from ’01 to ’03 in that two years. I think he’€™s continued to make jumps. I think he continues to improve, he works hard. He’€™s always working on little things, situational things, technique things, reading defenses, finding matchups, all of those things. He works very hard at it. I don’€™t think that’€™s ever been a weak point, but it continues to get stronger.”

The hosts were curious about how the coaching staff reacts to a situation if Brady doesn’t like a play or would rather run a different one out of the playbook.

“On the not liking plays, we have enough plays to run that I don’€™t think any of us, myself Josh [McDaniels], Tom, any of us feel real strongly about a play we don’€™t like then there’€™s enough plays we do like that it’€™s a lot easier to run one of those,” Belichick said. “Somebody likes a play, then we’€™ll always look at it. Tom and Josh have a lot of communication. Tom and I, like I said, we meet on a regular basis. There’€™s plenty of communication and exchange there, if anyone us has a thought of, ‘Let’€™s do this, let’€™s do that,’ the other ones are always listening.”

Running back Jonas Gray, who was on the practice squad a few weeks ago, stepped up on Sunday at tailback. On 17 carries, he ran for 86 yards against the Bears.

Said Belichick: “The same situation with [Deontae] Skinner a few weeks back in the Minnesota. Those guys know at the beginning of the week they could be alive on Friday and Saturday, as late as Saturday afternoon. They prepare just like they would if they were on the roster because they could be on the roster. And if they end up not being on the roster, that preparation just helps them for some time when they will be on it. And so Jonas did a good job for us. He helped us in the kicking game, he helped is offensively. I thought he did was asked to do. He did it dependably and with good toughness.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

On Rob Ninkovich‘€™s performance with the Patriots: “When we got Rob, it was like right at the start of training camp. We were down a couple of guys, couple of linebackers got hurt. And he wasn’t with anybody. We brought him in,  he made the team, he made the team because primarily I’€™d say because his play in the kicking game. But as usual, that’€™s a good route to more playing time on offense and defense is to play well on special teams and get to the roster and get to the games. … Certainly he’€™s performed well for us all the way through since he’€™s been here as linebacker, defensive end, as a pass rusher. He’€™s got a nose for the ball, he intercepts them, he strips them, he comes up with them.”

On Akeem Ayers’ adjustment to the team: “I think it’€™s challenging. I mean, the good thing here was that Akeem is a veteran player and it’€™s his fourth year in the league, so he’€™s has a level of playing experience. But a new system, moving to a new city, coming to a new team, special teams, defense. We tried to get him ready for a couple roles on defense. But only taking five linebackers to the game, there was a possibility that he could’ve had to do more than what it ended up. He’€™s smart kid, he worked hard, he spent a lot of time with coach Graham and the other defensive coaches, going over the game plan and understanding our calls.”

On playing Peyton Manning again this season: “The Broncos are a real good football team, they’€™re  strong in all three in all three phases of the game. They play very well. They played great recently, they have a lot of great players, great coaches. We know we’€™re going to have to play our best game. We need a great week of preparation, we’€™re going to have to play well on Sunday.”

Blog Author: 
Andrew Battifarano
Aqib Talib always made for good copy. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Aqib Talib always made for good copy. (Elsa/Getty Images)

In his year-plus with the Patriots, cornerback Aqib Talib gained a reputation in the locker room with reporters as a terrific quote. In the wake of his discussion about the Patriots on Monday, in no particular order, here are our four favorite exchanges Talib had with the media over the course of the 2013 season:

1) “My bad, man. I had to say hi to Gisele.” — Apologizing to WEEI’s Mut & Merloni on Aug. 14 for being late to an on-air appearance

2) “It’s fun. It’s the NFL. You watch Tom Brady throw bombs, [and I think,] ‘He’s on my team. Hey man, that’s fun!’” — Speaking with reporters Aug. 7

3) “I don’t watch NFL Network or read the newspaper during the season. I’m a basketball fan. My TV pretty much stays on NBA TV. I don’t really read what nobody says.” — Responding to Stevie Johnson’s claim the Patriots didn’t have anybody who could stop him, on Sept. 5

4) “It’s never personal man. It’s never personal. I’m sure, if I see Steve, it’ll be, ‘Hey, what’s up? How you doing?’ It’s never personal. Him and the other guy from St. Louis? That was personal. I mean, he didn’t say he was going to punch me in my face after the game. He just told me to go get in the tub. Kind of thoughtful.” — On his confrontation with Steve Smith during the loss to Carolina on Nov. 20

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Aqib Talib was with the Patriots for almost two years before signing with Denver. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Aqib Talib was with the Patriots for almost two years before signing with Denver. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Aqib Talib is returning to Foxboro.

The former Patriots corner, who signed with the Broncos as a free agent in the offseason, will be making his first trip back to New England since joining the Broncos.  The eminently quotable Talib was at his best when he met the Denver media on Monday to discuss his return.

Talib, who played a year-plus with the Patriots — he was acquired from Tampa Bay in a trade deadline deal in 2012 — isn’t sure of the sort of reception he’ll get when he takes the field, but he’s pretty sure he’ll be amped come Sunday afternoon.

Probably.

“I don’t know. We’ve got to put an amp meter on me or something,” he told reporters Monday. “I don’t really judge my ‘ampness’ for the game.

“But yeah, I get pretty excited for every game, though. So if I’m a little more juiced for this game, I guess you all will be the judge of that.”

Talib said Monday he enjoyed his time in New England, which included two trips to the AFC title game.

“Just the repetitions — the experiences,” he said when asked what made him a better player and better person in New England. “[When you] get older, you grow. I had a great coach, Bill Belichick — great coach. Playing against [QB] Tom [Brady], you learn stuff. Just getting older.

“It’s a real good atmosphere,” he added. “They play real well at home. It’s definitely hard to play there. They’ve got a great crowd. They’re going to be loud. They know when to be loud; they know when to get quiet. So it’s going to be a great atmosphere. It’s going to be a challenge.”

When asked about some of the differences between playing in New England and playing in Denver, Talib offered a philosophical take which was pretty much in line with his occasionally offbeat quotes from his time with the Patriots.

“In the home games, the Patriots wear blue. For home games for Denver, we wear our orange.” he said. “So there are a whole bunch of things that are different. Everything is different.

“It’s the next game. It’s two of the top teams in the AFC, so it’s always important,” he added. “It could have been anybody, any team you can name. If it’s a top team in the AFC. It’s a very important game coming up because it’s going to have something to do with home field advantage when you get to the end of the year.’

While with the Patriots, Talib made his rep as someone who covered a variety of different targets, including New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham. While it’s unlikely he’ll spend much time opposite Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski on Sunday, he’s ready for the possibility of squaring off against his ex-teammate.

“He’s 6-foot-7, 200 and who knows what? And then he can run like a wild dog, man,” Talib said of Gronkowski. “Great hands, great catch radius. He’s one of the top tight ends in the league. He knows how to play the game of football and then on top of that, he’s got a great quarterback throwing him the ball.”

Ultimately, Talib is grateful to be a part of another matchup between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

“I grew up watching it. I grew up catching it on TV any time I could,” he said of the Brady-Manning showdown. “Got to live in it a couple times. And then on Sunday, I get a chance to see it again. So it’s definitely always a good matchup with those two guys. You definitely get your money’s worth.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Tim Wright

Tim Wright

FOXBORO — Tim Wright has three touchdowns this season — two of them coming on play-action plays from the 1-yard line, but they don’€™t come as easy as one might think.

“The margin of error is critical,”€ Wright said. “Like I said, if it’€™s one second off, the whole play can shift just like that. You see guys fighting for one yard, you know — one yard you think at the 50-yard line is pretty simple, but down in that red zone and goal line area it gets critical.”

Wright had a 1-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter of Sunday’€™s win over the Bears and also had one against Buffalo earlier in the season — also on play-action.

He says sometimes he can tell just lining up looking at the defense it is going to be a successful play.

“When you see a look lining up, you can lick your chops a little bit — maybe the percentage will go up if everybody executes their job,”€ Wright said. “But then sometimes [the defense does] a good job as well and they give you a look that you may haven’€™t seen and they defend you well so that’€™s what comes along with it.”

For the season the Patriots are 17th in the NFL in red zone touchdown efficiency, scoring touchdowns 54.8 percent of the time. Denver, the Patriots’€™ next opponent is the best in the league, scoring a touchdown on 82.6 percent of its red zone trips.

The Patriots tight end notes things get more difficult in the red zone with tighter windows to throw, but helps having a quarterback like Tom Brady throwing the ball.

“Things happen fast in the red zone,”€ said Wright. “I think the coaches have called great plays and you know, on a particular play there are particular details you have to do because it’€™s the red zone, especially inside the five because everyone is crossing. Tom [Brady] does a great job of delivering the ball when it needs to be there and we just capitalized on it.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

The NFL is a dangerous game, apparently even when celebrating.

Late in Sunday’€™s game against the Patriots, Bears defensive end Lamarr Houston was proud of his sack of backup quarterback Jimmy Garappolo. Despite his team being down by 20-plus points, Houston jumped in the air after he brought the quarterback to the ground.

ESPN NFL analyst and former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, in his weekly interview with WEEI’s Dale & Holley show, offered his view on New England’s blowout victory over the Bears, the challenge that lies ahead in game-planning for Peyton Manning and the

Jonas Gray

Jonas Gray

FOXBORO — Jonas Gray has been watching the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry for a long time, but this coming Sunday the Patriots running back will be apart of it, and admits it’€™s pretty exciting.

“€œIt’€™s pretty cool,”€ he said. “I was watching some of it on the NFL Network, I know they are hyping it up. It’€™s a cool thing. Brady, he does a good job of not downplaying it either, he knows how big of a rivalry it is between them two. I’€™m just happy to be apart of it.”

The Patriots are fresh off a 51-23 blowout win over the Bears Sunday — their fourth straight win and now right in the thick of the AFC playoff picture.

Aside from Brady’€™s five-touchdown, 354-yard performance, Gray was effective on the ground, rushing for 86 yards on 17 carries — getting the bulk of the carries with No. 1 back Stevan Ridley out for the season and Shane Vereen catching passes out of the backfield on most of his plays.

“It was huge. The guys did a good job of blocking up front and like I said yesterday, those holes were big enough so anyone could run through them,” said Gray. “I used my vision, used my legs and went down hill.”

Gray and the rest of the team have already moved past Sunday’€™s win and are completely focused on the Broncos.

“€œYou have to keep going back everyday, going to work, not thinking about last game — taking it week-by-week, day-by-day, focusing on the next opponent and doing everything you can with your preparation,”€ said Gray.

With the Patriots having their bye week after Sunday’€™s game, they can let it everything out on Sunday knowing they will have the next week off to refresh their bodies for the second half of the season. This will only benefit them as the Broncos come in 6-1 and outscoring their opponents 149-75 the last four games, winning all four.

“Ultimate focus this week is on the task at hand, which is beating Denver,” said Gray. “Getting our preparation, understanding our opponent as best we can and coming out prepared and at our best.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

ESPN NFL analyst and former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, in his weekly interview with WEEI’s Dale & Holley show, offered his view on New England’s blowout victory over the Bears, the challenge that lies ahead in game-planning for Peyton Manning and the Broncos and the embarrassing season-ending injury for Bears linebacker Lamarr Houston, among other topics.

Bruschi noted that the Patriots offense appears to be in a tremendous rhythm, with the performance of the offensive line in combination with the return to full Gronkitude by Rob Gronkowski combining with the emergence of wide receiver Brandon LaFell to give Tom Brady a tremendous number of weapons. That being the case, Bruschi suggested that pursuing Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson in a trade would be an ill-advised course.

“I think you look down the road and consider if it would help. I think you consider it for a moment because that’s what a good general manager would do. But in terms of this situation right here with the New England Patriots, I don’t think it’s the right move at all, especially with the development of Brandon LaFell,” said Bruschi. “You see the development. You see the progression. Ever since that first drive of the Cincinnati Bengals game is when I think this offense truly woke up and said, OK, let’s go. From that point, they started rolling and rolling.

“I just don’t think you want to put in another element into it that you may have to spoon-feed things to. You can’t give him the entire plate right now because he couldn’t handle it right now. He probably couldn’t digest the entire plan right now. So you spoon-feed him a little. But when you do that to one player, it has a trickle-down effect to others along the line,” added Bruschi. “Jobs are going to be different for other people down the road. Say Vincent Jackson comes in and you say you can only play this position. It messes up this offense. You’ve got to know how to play every single receiver’s spot along the front so they can have that flexibility that they want. You wouldn’t have that off the bat with him. Would you have some growing pains along the line to develop that? I think you would. I think you roll with what you’ve got right now.”

To listen to the complete interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page. Here are other highlights of Bruschi’s interview:

On whether Sunday against the Bears was as well as Bruschi had seen Brady play: “No, I don’t think that’s the best I’ve seen him play just because of the quality of competition he was going up against yesterday. There were some young defensive linemen who really didn’t know what they were doing for the Bears. The linebackers, oh my gosh, they looked lost at times. I’m still waiting for them to read play-action. They still can’t find it.

“It’s a team that, even watching Miami the week before, they had a lot of difficulty with misdirection. ‘€¦ How they’d bite and just commit to the first look was really something you knew you could hit somehow if you could designate a plan. ‘€¦ These linebackers, I counted them this morning, there were times when they were taking six false steps. Usually you hop, you take one step, you read, you get back to your zone coverage. ‘€¦ They went all the way with that run. They took it hook line and sinker, and it made for an easy day. So I’m not going to say that’s the best I’ve seen Tom play. I’ve seen him play much better against a lot better competition.”

On the Broncos: “I think the biggest improvement, looking over to the Broncos side of the ball, is their defense, how much better they are than last year. … Brandon Marshall, not the receiver, the linebacker has been playing good football for them. But Chris Harris Jr., the cornerback, he’s one of those players that a lot of people don’t know about. He’s a great player. Of course Talib is over there. TJ Ward is a good safety. The defensive backfield is playing really well. It’s easy to point out the health and production of Marcus Ware and Von Miller but that defense is going to be the reason why if Peyton has some success this year.”

On game-planning for Peyton Manning: “You’re concerned every time he throws the ball, especially now as you’re looking at this offense. The weapons that they have where you can throw it behind the line of scrimmage to whomever you want and they can still take it the distance, of course I’m talking about Demerius Thomas. I would think, with the addition of Julius Thomas, I would have this mindset: Every time Peyton Manning handed the ball off was a good thing because that’s one less time he would throw the ball.I would dare him to run it. I’d put four or five goes in the box, double up, man-up outside, have guys deep in the middle of the field and say every handoff to Ronnie Hillman and whatever running back you’ve got back there, it’s better than every time Peyton Manning throws the ball. Let’s scheme it that way. Let’s throw the three-man rush at them, four-man fronts. If they want to throw the ball, which they did last time — Moreno I think had a huge career day against the Patriots — but still, you’re taking it out of the hands of one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL at quarterback in Peyton Manning and forcing him to run the ball. … He does have an equation in his mind coming up to the line of scrimmage. He says to himself, ‘What do I have here? What’s best for offensive success on this single down?’ If he reads it and he says, ‘I’ve got to run this ball because they’re daring me to,’ I think that’s actually the plan to start. … If you dared him to [run] every single down, I don’t think he’d do it every single down. Eventually he’s going to throw it. You have the numbers, and maybe you get the advantage that way.”

On the success of the offensive line and importance of establishing the run: “[The running backs] weren’t actually getting touched until they got through the line of scrimmage, which is getting yards before contact, which is always great for setting up play-action. They were using the play-action on first down to LaFell, a lot of load-X slant, where you load one side of the formation, get the linebackers to go to that side, the back-side of the X you hit on the slant. There was a lot of that going on and LaFell is a big-bodied receive to get that done. … If they can win inside, a lot of good things can happen from it.”

On how a linebacker might try to cover Rob Gronkowski: “I think if I were a linebacker that had to cover Rob Gronkowski in coverage, I’m using my defensive end.  … That’s my hope. Once he displaced, then I’d be happy because it wouldn’t be my problem. Hopefully he’d turn over to a safety or cornerback. But that’s a tough assignment for any linebacker in the league right now. As Rob starts to get his feet under him, he’s looking good, he’s shedding tacklers, breaking away in the open field, it’s such a great thing with that to combine with, you get four or five yards a carry, you’re able to get Gronkowski, you’re able to get play action, you’re able to split him out on a simple five-yard in against a smaller cornerback. … That’s something no linebacker wants to see. I’d probably pass it off to [Roman] Phifer, actually.”

On Rob Ninkovich‘s impact: “Even from mistakes, he learns from them. He gets beaten to the flat earlier in the year by Lamar Miller with the Dolphins, you don’t see him make that mistake again. That’s the sign of a great football player. You make one mistake, you learn from it you don’t make it again. … You expect him to do the fundamentally right things every single down but then all of a sudden he’s making plays that change games. He’s done this for the last two years or so. Very underrated linebacker. It’s going to be hard for him to make a Pro Bowl or something like that, but I think he deserves it because of the consistency he’s shown throughout the last two years, always making plays. Ninkovich makes it easy for Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick to make a game plan. They know he’s a guy, if there’s someone we know we need to put more of a burden on, who has the mental capacity to handle more on his plate, I think Ninkovich is the guy they look to.”

On the injury incurred by Bears defensive end Lamar Houston, who blew out his ACL celebrating a garbage-time sack while his team was being blown out: “I felt sorry for that guy. I felt bad for him. ‘€¦ A guy got hurt. He made a mistake … not understanding the situation, man. You’re losing by a lot. You sack the backup quarterback. The dance comes out. You guys have said it already, but that’s not what you’re looking for.

“He acted like he hadn’t been there in a while. ‘€¦ His production hasn’t been what he wanted to be, and, ‘Oh, man, I got it, I don’t care who it is, and I’m supposed to do something, right?’ Like I said, guys, just not what you’re looking for.”

Blog Author: 
WEEI

Patriots tight end Tim Wright checked in with Middays with MFB on Monday, after catching seven passes for 61 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s 51-23 victory over the Bears. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.