Lions head coach Jim Caldwell spoke of the challenges Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski will present come Sunday. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell spoke of the challenges Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski will present come Sunday. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Christmas is more than a month away, but Lions head coach Jim Caldwell is already talking about gifts.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been on a tear the past six games with 40 catches for 587 yards and six touchdowns. Over that span Gronkowski has been able to showcase his pass catching abilities, as well being able to run after the catch — no bigger example than his 26-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win over the Colts.

“He’€™s obviously a great talent, just an incredible run, particularly when you look at the one he had against Indianapolis,” Caldwell said on a conference call Wednesday. “He can catch the ball, and not only is he a fine pass catcher, but he can also run with it after he gets it. Very, very unusual gifts that he has.”

Gronkowski isn’t the only player Caldwell and the Lions are worried about, as he also spoke on quarterback Tom Brady.

“Obviously, he’€™s been doing some great things like he always does,” he said. “They are a very surgical sort of a procedure, where he’€™s throwing the ball accurately, getting it to all of his playmakers and putting points on the board.”

Sunday’s game will feature the Patriots offense, which is averaging 45.3 points in its last three games, against a Lions defense who comes in allowing an NFL-low 15.6 points per game. Caldwell, in his first season with Detroit, knows it will be a challenge.

“It’€™s a challenge. Every week you are going to run into teams that have great talent on both sides of the ball like the Patriots do,” said Caldwell. “They’€™re going to put you to the test. That’€™s the great thing about the National Football League.”

Detroit comes into Sunday’s game off a tough, 14-6 loss last week in Arizona, but the Lions are still leading the NFC North at 7-3. The Lions have been in a lot of close games of late, as six of their last seven games have been decided by one-possession. New England comes in as the hottest team in the AFC, winners of six straight and in their six wins they have won by an average of 19.2 points.

Even with facing the Patriots Sunday, it appears the Lions are treating it just like another game.

“Every week is a new challenge,” Caldwell said. “You’€™re faced with different issues and problems. These guys test every single phase of your operation ‘€“ offense, defense and then the kicking game. What we are concerned more about than anything else is just getting better every week, that’€™s the real key.”

Added Caldwell: “We don’€™t get tied up in what’€™s been done previously and in the earlier part of the year. We really try to throw that away and try to look at each game as its own set of challenges and take it on that way. We don’€™t try to reflect much back on accomplishments and things of that nature because at this point in time they don’€™t mean anything. We will see how well we play and we’€™ll count them up at the end of the year.”


Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable


FOXBORO — It will be strength against strength Sunday when Darrelle Revis and the Patriots secondary square off against the most fearsome receiver in the NFL, Calvin Johnson.

While it’s possible Revis won’t spend the entire game playing “Megatron” straight up, he will still likely have to know where he is most of the time.

Having missed several games in the middle of the season with an injured ankle, Johnson has been limited to 34 catches for 520 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson needs just two more touchdowns to reach 75 for his career, joining Barry Sanders as the only players in Lions history to reach that milestone. It could happen Sunday.

“He’s Megatron,” Revis beamed on Wednesday. “That’s what makes him different. He’s a man amongst boys out there. You see it all the time. He’s 6-6, 230 pounds and he runs a 4.3 [40-yard sprint]. That’s pretty freakish. It’s like the ultimate receiver you want. If you can create him on the video game, that’s basically what he is.

“A lot of respect for him. I feel our defense has a lot of respect for him. He’s a lot of respect around the league as well.”

Revis has played against Johnson twice before, and his teams are 2-0 against the Lions. Would he welcome the chance of going up against him again mano-a-mano on Sunday?

“Bro, it’s competition,” Revis said with a big smile. “Like I said, we don’t back down from whoever the receiving corps are, the guys are, it’s competition. I’m sure it’s the same if you ask Calvin. We’re looking forward to it as much as him and their offense. It’s competition. Competition is fun. We just have to keep on competing and working hard at what we do and what we do best.”

Johnson, who technically is listed at 6-foot-5, will be like facing Rob Gronkowski but only with a lot more speed.

“Calvin is faster than Gronk,” Revis said. “Size-wise they’re similar. I don’t know Calvin’s size. He’s 6-6, I don’t know. He’s huge. He’s like an NBA player out there when you’re playing against him.

“You see on the film all the time, two or three defenders around him, [Matthew] Stafford still throws the ball up and he comes down with it sometimes. We’re well aware of that. We just have to keep on game-planning and we’re looking forward to the matchup Sunday.

“I play against a lot of great receivers, week to week, some of them will probably be future Hall of Famers. It’s great. There’s a matchup every week and you look forward to that as defense.”

The Patriots’ secondary comes into Sunday’s game with a great deal of confidence, having held the high-flying Colts to just 20 points at Lucas Oil Stadium last week.

“It’s the same thing we’ve been doing. It starts with preparation and guys coming to work and guys have been coming to work and have been determined to work through the game plan and do what the coaches tell us to do,” Revis said. “Who’s ever next on the schedule, that’s who we have to face and that’s our opponent. We don’t back down from any challenges. We respect every opponent. We’re playing against some awesome offenses in the league. We played against the No. 1 last week and we’ve got to keep on going.

“You know the saying, ‘practice makes perfect.’ I feel like perfect practice makes perfect and we try to practice as consistent and as perfect as we can when we’re on the practice field, whether it’s angles, anything, somebody being in the gap, being on top [of routes] when we need to in certain situations on defense.I think we just to try to be as smart as a group as we can when we’re out there and try to figure out those situations come into a game, figure out what’s best for us.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — Some new injuries have appeared on the injury report for the Patriots in advance of Sunday’s meeting with the Lions at Gillette Stadium. This comes following Wednesday’s practice, which was held indoors inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse and was a walkthrough.

FOXBORO — Some new injuries have appeared on the injury report for the Patriots in advance of Sunday’s meeting with the Lions at Gillette Stadium. This comes following Wednesday’s practice, which was held indoors inside the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse and was a walkthough.

Julian Edelman (thigh) popped up on the injury report for the first time this season, and was limited in the practice. Edelman landed awkwardly on his side during the first quarter of last Sunday’s game, and has taken a beating all season long, so it really seemed like a matter of time before his name appeared. The injury did not seem to phase Edelman as he missed just a few plays.

Offensive lineman Cameron Fleming (finger/ankle) missed the practice in its entirety. Fleming injured his ankle late in Sunday’s game and did not return, while he suffered the finger injury Week 4 in Kansas City — the injury has been on the injury report since that game. Last Sunday was Fleming’s first action since that game.

Finally, offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (hip) was limited. It was the first time he’s appeared on the injury report this season. Cannon saw limited action Sunday as a substitute offensive lineman.

Chandler Jones (hip) once again did not practice and Matthew Slater (shoulder) was removed from the injury report. Defensive lineman Sealver Siliga returned to practice for the first time since being placed on injured reserve designated for return after injuring his foot in Week 3. The Patriots have 21 days to decide whether or not to add him to  the active roster or shut him down.

Here is the full practice report:

Did not practice

OL Cameron Fleming (ankle/finger)
DE Chandler Jones (hip)

Limited participation

OL Marcus Cannon (hip)
DL Dominique Easley (knee)
S Nate Ebner (finger)
WR Julian Edelman (thigh)
OL Ryan Wendell (knee)

Full participation

QB Tom Brady (ankle)

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO —’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price discuss how the 8-2 New England Patriots will handle Calvin “Megatron” Johnson and the 7-3 Detroit Lions.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — Like any football fan, Tom Brady likes watching Aaron Rodgers throw a football. Turns out, he’s been taking notes, too.

One of Brady’s most productive throws during his six-game winning streak is the back shoulder pass to wide receiver Brandon LaFell. He completed two of them on Sunday night alone, part of LaFell’s three catches on four targets for 62 yards. One of them came on a key third-down conversion to keep a touchdown drive alive.

Brady was asked about the level of trust it takes to let go of the ball before a receiver is turned around on back-shoulder throws.

“We’€™ve been working pretty hard at it for a while, Brandon and I,” Brady said. “I think it’€™s a big trust thing. You’€™ve got to trust that when the ball is in the air that they’€™re not going to make the play on it. And when you’€™re in those one-on-one situations, as a quarterback, you can only really control it until it leaves your hand. Even though the outcome may not be good, sometimes you may make the right decision. But as a quarterback, when you’€™re decisive and you trust that someone is going to make a positive play, it’€™s much easier to just let it rip. He’€™s really allowed me to do that. He’€™s been such a fun player and a fun teammate to have. He’€™s my locker mate, so we’€™ve got a great relationship. It’€™s been a lot of fun.”

It’s the kind of relationship Brady will see up close and personal next week when the Patriots travel to Green Bay.

“It’€™s all those things that amount to a good passing game. When you see certain quarterbacks play with certain receivers, like I see Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson ‘€“ they are probably the best at it,” Brady said. “It’€™s the timing of when to throw, how hard to throw. It’€™s when to look. If you look too early, if you slow down as a receiver, it’€™s a low percentage play. If you throw it too hard or too high, it’€™s a low percentage throw.

“It’€™s just a big trust throw, and both people really have to be on the same page. We’€™ll just keep working at it. Those are big plays. You have to throw to the perimeter of the field. And it’€™s 25 yards down the field and [when] you make plays like that where you can gain a quarter of the field in one throw, it’€™s a big momentum play. That probably got me most excited. But we need more of those. Hopefully we can make a few of those this week.”

When the Patriots signed the 6-foot-3 LaFell in March as a free agent, Brady was pumped up because he was getting a big receiver that could go up and fight for the ball on that play.

“That’€™s the advantage of having a big player like that, too, where you’€™re physically bigger than the opposing player that you’€™re going against, and you can use your body and your size to protect the ball,” Brady said. “I think that’€™s one of Brandon’€™s great strengths. For those to come up, it’€™s not a big surprise. He’€™s a big guy. When guys get tangled up with Brandon, they usually get the brunt of it.

“The closer you are to him, sometimes I don’€™t think that’€™s the best thing because he’€™s such a big presence, and he’€™s got really long arms and he’€™s got big hands to be able to make those types of plays. Those are good plays for us to make. Like I said, we’€™re going to need to keep making them, and as the season keeps going on and the games get bigger, we need to have those plays in our back pocket and know that we have confidence that we can go out there and hit them.”

Here are some other takeaways from Brady on Wednesday:

Q: How much ‘€˜little kid’€™ do you see in Rob Gronkowski and how infectious is that for the rest of the team?

TB: I think it’€™s just the positive enthusiasm [that] is the best part. This is when football season really starts to challenge everybody, and when you have people in the locker room who are positive and are ‘€“ not laid back ‘€“ but just have a fun sense about themselves, it makes it a lot of fun. We’€™ve had a lot of guys like that over the years, like [Mike] Vrabel and Matt Light, who really soften the mood. This is still a game, and it’€™s football. It’€™s serious and it’€™s fun, but at the same time, they bring a lightness to it, which I think softens the mood for everybody. This environment here, even when we win, it probably doesn’€™t feel like it very often, but guys like Gronk always bring out the best in everybody and bring out that child-like enthusiasm that we all have for the game.

Q: What have you noticed from the way Ndamukong Suh impacts games?

TB: He’€™s a phenomenal player, and we’€™ve got to think about him on every play. He can ruin a game. He’€™s a big, physical presence, and I think he really sets the tone for that defense. He’€™s a great player. They’€™ve got a lot of other good ones on the front ‘€“ Ziggy Ansah and [Jason] Jones and [C.J.] Mosley. They rotate a lot of guys in there. Definitely, the front seven is big, fast [and] athletic. I think they’€™re one of the best defenses in the league. They’€™re rated I think like top five in most every category. It’€™s a big challenge for us. I think we’€™re going to have to have a good week and really a good week of execution because that’€™s what it’€™s going to take to score points. They’€™ve shutout some pretty good offenses, so it’€™s going to be a tough week.

Q: What are your thoughts on Jonas Gray winning AFC Offensive Player of the Week?

TB: That’€™s great. He’€™s earned it, and I think we’€™re going to need a lot more from him. This is a big stretch for us. Things start getting really fun around this time of year. It starts to feel like football weather out there. I think the toughness really starts to play a part of the team, and we’€™re going up against a real tough team in and of itself. They’€™re physically and mentally tough. They’€™ve been in more close games than any team in the league the last two years. They’€™re real good, they’€™re tested, so we’€™re going to need our guys to show up and really play their best, too.

Q: What have you guys done well in the red zone, and what is the challenge of facing a team that’€™s been one of the best red-zone defenses?

TB: Yeah, our execution has been better. That’€™s the main thing, I think. This team does a great job in a lot of areas. Certainly, their run defense is phenomenal, so they gave up just a few yards ‘€“ 60 yards ‘€“ last week to Arizona. When you start trying to throw it into real, tight spaces, it gets tough down there in the red area. But they challenge you in the run game and the pass game. They put a lot of pressure on you with just their front four. They don’€™t blitz a ton, but I think they have a lot of confidence in the guys they have up front, which they should. This is when we’€™ve got to start playing our best because this is when it matters the most. Every game gets bigger from here, and I’€™m excited for it.

Q: When someone like Jonas Gray goes from being relatively unknown to the cover of Sports Illustrated, is there a point when you have to go over to him and remind him that it’€™s just outside noise? Does his mindset seem to be mature?

TB: Absolutely, yeah, he’€™s a very mature guy. Similar to when things don’€™t go well, I think when things do go well, it can be equally distracting. There’€™s a reason [for] how you get to this point, and you’€™ve got to stay focused on that. For us as individual players and then collectively as a team, one good week is great, but it’€™s in the past now. It means nothing going forward. It’€™s great, yeah, we did it, but OK, what are we going to do this week because that’€™s always kind of been our mindset. You can learn from the previous week or you can learn from a previous month, but ultimately it’€™s not going to help you at all for the upcoming game. You’€™ve got to put the same work in. You’€™ve got to treat things the same way. You’€™ve got to still prepare as hard as you possibly can so you can be prepared to give yourself the greatest chance for a positive outcome. Everyone is trying to stay grounded, and Coach [Belichick] always does a pretty good job of keeping us humble.

Q: You missed a few throws in the first half, but then you went 9-for-11 in the second half. Was there anything in your mechanics or fundamentals that you adjusted at halftime?

TB: I always need to do a better job. Obviously, when you’€™re there at halftime and I didn’€™t play as well as I’€™m capable, then I’€™ve got to do a better job. It always starts with me, and that’€™s where my focus is. Hopefully, I put together four quarters of good stuff this weekend, not just two.

Q: Rob Gronkowski had the one-handed catch against the Broncos and then the catch and run for the touchdown against the Colts. Which play was more impressive to you?

TB: They both highlight what his strengths are. He’€™s got phenomenal catching ability. I don’€™t even think he thinks about it. All these guys do catching drills and stuff like that. I don’€™t think Gronk has ever done a catching drill in his life. He just doesn’€™t even have to think about it. He does a great job run after catch. He always has. They’€™re great individual plays, and we need more of it if we’€™re going to keep winning games against ‘€¦ This is our third opponent that’€™s first place in their division, so if we’€™re going to keep trying to beat these teams, then we’€™re going to have to be at our best and make plays like that.

Q: The offensive line helped you rush for around 250 yards last week and have only given up two sacks over the last four games. How happy are you for those guys up front and what do you think has been the key for their improvement?

TB: It’€™s a great group and they’€™ve really come together here. I’€™ve got so much respect for those guys and appreciate them so much for what they do for our team. It’€™s such a selfless position to play. You really don’€™t get mentioned unless something goes wrong. It’€™s great for those guys to see, and to be challenged like they were last week and then to run for 250 yards, that’€™s a great accomplishment. It doesn’€™t happen very often. I just have a lot confidence in what they’€™re doing, and they set the tone for our team, certainly for our offense. This is one of the biggest challenges they’€™re going to face this week and one of the best defenses in the NFL. We’€™ve got to kind of meet force with force and stand up to the challenge and see if we can go out there and make a bunch of good plays.

Q: Can you talk about how the offense has developed with getting more people involved, compared to earlier weeks where people we’€™re saying it was mainly just Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.

TB: It’€™s great. The more of those guys that can be involved, the better we’€™re going to be as an offense. We need to find ways to distribute the ball to everybody because if you’€™re on the roster, you have talent, and we’€™ve got to find a way to get the guys on the field and use that talent. Who knows who it’€™s going to be on a particular week? You really have to see how the game plays out, and if things are working like they were last weekend then you’€™ve got to stay with it. You always have a plan for what you want to do and then when you get into the game, how that evolves based on how you’€™re playing and what’€™s working and what you need to adjust to, then different guys have to be ready to make those contributions. It’€™s just too much pressure for an offense to have to go through one or two players the whole season. You’€™re not going to be a very good offense. Probably like any team sport, you need contributions from everybody. That’€™s why everybody that’€™s on the roster has high expectations. We all practice, [and] we all sit in the same meetings together. Whoever is called upon has to go out there and execute.

Q: Your team hasn’€™t been in a lot of close games this year. How do you judge your team’€™s mental toughness when you have so many blowout wins?

TB: I think you see it in practice a lot. I think you see it when we’€™re challenged. There are some points in those games, you’€™re right, where the final score might not end up being close, but there is a point in the game where the game is really close, and we’€™ve found ways to make the plays to kind of pour it on, so to speak. The games are always close. At some point they end up not being close, and I prefer those probably a lot more than the close ones. It’€™s all just about our execution. If it does come down to the last possession, I think we’€™ve proven that we can handle that, too. Whatever it takes to win I think is ultimately what I care most about.

Q: You played the Lions in your first ever appearance on Thanksgiving in 2000.

TB: That’€™s right, I know. That’€™s a long time ago.

Q: What do you remember about that game?

TB: It was in the Silverdome, and we didn’€™t play very well, so that’€™s probably why I was in there. I was in mop-up duty. I don’€™t remember much from that game. I’€™ll have to go back and watch the film. But it was an inauspicious start.

Q: Do you remember your first completion?

TB: Who was it to ‘€“ J.R. [Redmond]? Yeah, I think that was my only completion that day. I almost threw a pick-six going the other way.

Q: That play got wiped out on a penalty. Rod Rutledge was your first completion.

TB: Oh, Rutledge was? Hot Rod, yeah.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia's Mike Petraglia and Chris Price preview Sunday's Patriots-Lions game and discuss what the Pats offense needs to do against Detroit's front seven, as well as what the Pats defense can do against Calvin Johnson.

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[0:03:27] ... strides throughout the season that is one of the benchmarks of a Bill Belichick coached team at this offensive line is even exceeded I think those standards in the and those trademarks of a Belichick coached team you talked to the patriots offensive linemen here on Wednesday you're writing about it on WEEI dot com what are some of the takeaways. That you gleaned from both Dan Connolly Sebastian Vollmer and Nate salt. I think one of the things one of the biggest takeaways was after question you asked about consistency and continuity of the same five guys out there. Over an extended period of time and how important is that and colleagues that you know that really helped. I think over the last 345 games. They've been able to have the same five guys out there Bryan stork had been kind of moved in and out because of concussion issues as well as Dan Connolly but at the same time. That means something that count for something colleague told us. Did you need to build that trust ...
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More time in the pocket has benefited Tom Brady of late. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

More time in the pocket has benefited Tom Brady of late. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — There is no denying Tom Brady and the Patriots offense were a different team in the second half than in the first half in Sunday’s 42-20 win over the Colts.

In the first half, Brady went a pedestrian 10-for-19 passing for 84 yards with two interceptions, including one with less than two minutes remaining — arguably one of the worst throws he’s made in his 15 seasons, as the throw hung in the air for a lifetime before Colts safety Mike Adams picked it off.

The Colts scored a touchdown a few plays later and the Patriots got the ball back with 55 seconds remaining, but Bill Belichick didn’t mess around and kneeled out the clock sending the Patriots to the locker room with just a 14-10 lead — perhaps sending a message to Brady and the offense.

“I always need to do a better job,” said Brady. “Obviously we were there at halftime, I didn’t play as well as I am capable of. I have to do a lot better job. It always starts with me and that is where my focus is. Hopefully I can put together four quarters of good stuff this week.”

The second half was a completely different story as the offense scored touchdowns on four of its five possessions and the only one they didn’t score was the last possession of the game when they were running out the clock late in the fourth quarter. While the ground game was exceptional (Jonas Gray’s 201 yards rushing, four touchdowns), but Brady was a major reason as well. He was 9-for-11 passing for 173 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. (One of the incompletions was a Julian Edelman drop over the middle.)

So, what changed in the second half? Brady had more time to throw.

The quarterback looked much more comfortable in the pocket in the second half, as he was given more time to throw. By our calculations, in the second half Brady averaged 2.61 seconds from snap to release, compared to 2.20 second in the first half — almost half a second difference.

In the first half on Brady’s completions he averaged 1.9 seconds from snap to release, and in the second half 2.54 seconds. Yes, these numbers need to take account game planning and short passes, including quick wide receiver screens, but it’s clear more time to throw has benefited Brady all year long.

Early in the season Brady wasn’t getting the time to throw, as in Weeks 2-4, Brady was averaging 2.1 seconds from snap to release by our count, including a season-low 1.96 seconds in Week 4’s beat down against Kansas City. But, the time has increased from week-to-week since, including a season-high 2.58 seconds vs. the Jets in Week 7. Sunday, the more time continued as Brady was given an average of 2.41 seconds. While obviously it isn’t the only thing working, it is worth noting the Patriots’ six-game win streak has come along with Brady getting more time.

The numbers back it up, too. According to Pro Football Focus, Brady has a quarterback rating of 101.3 when taking 2.5 seconds or less from snap to release, which is 13th in the NFL. Then, he has a rating of 103.4 when having 2.6 seconds or more, which is fourth in the NFL. It’s clear the best quarterbacks in the league are best when getting more time, as the top five quarterback ratings when getting 2.6 seconds or more include Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, Peyton Manning and Brady.

The Patriots’ offensive line has hit their stride as they have found a group best to protect Brady in Nate Solder, Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork, Ryan Wendell and Sebastian Vollmer. The group has started three straight games, and four of the last six.

“It’s a great group and they really come together here,” Brady said. “I have so much respect of for those guys and appreciate them so much for what they do for our team. It’s such a selfless position to play. You really don’t get mentioned unless something bad goes wrong. It’s great for those guys to see and really to be challenged like they were last week and to run for 250 yards and that is a great accomplishment. It doesn’t happen very often. I have a lot of confidence in what they are doing and they set the tone for our team, certainly for our offense.”

The Patriots will host the Lions this week, their third straight game against a division leader, and things don’t get any easier with Green Bay on the road next week and San Diego after that.

“This is when we have to start playing our best because this is when it matters the most,” said Brady. “Every game gets bigger from here. I’m excited for it.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO — Defensive lineman Sealver Siliga was present at the start of Patriots practice Wednesday, the first time he has practiced since being put on short-term injured reserve on Sept. 27. Siliga suffered a foot injury in the Patriots’ Week 3 win over the Raiders.