The Buffalo Bills' quarterback switch has been kind to wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

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Since Kyle Orton replaced EJ Manuel in the starting lineup at the start of October, the rookie has seen an across-the-board increase in production.

On Thursday, the NFL named Watkins its rookie of the month for October.

Watkins caught 21 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns over the past month. It's a marked improvement from his September performance, when he had 17 catches for 197 yards and two touchdowns.

He becomes the first player in Bills history to win the NFL's offensive rookie of the month award. Last season, linebacker Kiko Alonso won the NFL's defensive rookie of the month honors for September.

Tom Brady (14 TDs, 0 INTs) named AFC Offensive Player of the Month

October, 30, 2014
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What a difference a month makes for Tom Brady.

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Less than five weeks after struggling in a blowout loss to the Chiefs that prompted critics to wonder whether he was on a steep decline, the New England Patriots quarterback Thursday was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for his scorching October.

In the four games the Patriots played following the debacle in Kansas City, Brady went 100-for-144 for 1,268 yards, 14 touchdowns and no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 129.1.

Brady had a pair of 300-yard passing games in the month, including a brilliant performance against the Bears this past Sunday in which he went 30-for-35 for 354 yards and five touchdowns.

Brady’s 14 touchdown passes were tied for the most in the NFL for October (matching Peyton Manning) and he was the only starting quarterback not to throw an interception for the month.

Prior to this four-game stretch, Brady had just four touchdowns in the first four games of the season and had two interceptions. He averaged less than 200 yards passing per game, as opposed to 317 in the four games since.

The Patriots averaged 39.5 points per game in October and rattled off four straight wins during that span. The Patriots jumped from 24th in to third in points-per-game over that span and are averaging 29.8 PPG for the season.

Brady has now earned AFC Offensive Player of the Month honors seven times. This is his first such honor since December/January of 2011.

Chiefs vs. Jets preview

October, 30, 2014
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The Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets, teams headed in opposite directions, meet Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. After losing their first two games, the Chiefs climbed to 4-3 after Sunday's 34-7 win over the St. Louis Rams. The Jets, after beating the Oakland Raiders to begin the season, have lost seven straight games, including Sunday's 43-23 defeat to the Buffalo Bills. This week, the Jets replaced struggling quarterback Geno Smith with veteran Michael Vick.

ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Jets reporter Rich Cimini preview Sunday's game.

Teicher: Rich, do you think the Jets are making the best decision for this game by replacing Smith with Vick?

Cimini: I don’t think the change will solve the turnover problem, but Vick might bring a spark to the offense. He isn’t the Vick of 2010, but he’s still capable of escaping trouble with his legs. That alone will be good for a few first downs a game. It’ll be interesting to see how he responds to a full week of practice reps with the starters, something he hasn’t had with the Jets, including training camp. I know one thing: The players were ready for a change after last week’s brutal performance by Smith. The downside to Vick is that he will fumble; he’s always been careless with the ball. He had four fumbles last week (and lost two). Obviously, Andy Reid knows him better than anyone, having coached him in Philadelphia. That insight will help in the game planning.

It looks like the Chiefs are taking dink and dunk to a new level. How would you describe their passing game and what’s the deal with Alex Smith’s shoulder?

Teicher: It is a dink-and-dunk passing game. Smith last Sunday was the first NFL quarterback in two years to win a game by attempting just one pass longer than 10 yards down the field. While that’s an extreme, Smith has had similar games earlier in the season. Shaky protection is part of the problem. The Chiefs have allowed more sacks per pass play than all but four other teams, so the Chiefs put a premium on Smith getting rid of the ball quickly. The Chiefs have no pass play of longer than 33 yards. All the other teams have at least two pass plays of 34 yards or longer. The Chiefs ask their receivers to earn yards after the catch. Tight end Travis Kelce, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and running back Jamaal Charles do that well.

The Jets are allowing a lot of points and their pass defense has been horrible. Give me a scouting report on the Jets defense and detail some of the reasons they’ve been so bad on that side of the ball.

Cimini: You’re right; the defensive performance has been stunning. Blame injuries and poor personnel decisions at cornerback. Rex Ryan is playing cards with half a deck, and the results have been lousy. They’re giving up big plays (nine pass plays of 40-plus yards), they stink on third down (a league-high 12 touchdowns) and they can’t steal the ball. Incredibly, they have only three takeaways -- one interception and two fumble recoveries. They don’t have anyone who can play man-to-man, so Ryan is playing more zone than ever before. Now, I will say this: The Chiefs don’t have an explosive passing attack, so this matchup plays to the Jets’ strengths, stopping the run and rushing the passer.

Obviously, Justin Houston is having a great year. What makes him so effective in Bob Sutton’s scheme, which is similar to Rex Ryan’s scheme?

Teicher: Houston would be a good fit in a lot of schemes, but he’s the perfect outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. He’s a solid all-around player, good against the run and in coverage as well as rushing the passer. He’s getting plenty of help in pressuring the quarterback. Tamba Hali, a relentless player, is a nice complement to Houston as an edge rusher. Allen Bailey and Dontari Poe have been effective inside rushers.

The Jets traded for wide receiver Percy Harvin last week and they got him involved immediately in the game against the Bills. How did they utilize him and what difference, if any, should he make in the Jets’ offense?

Cimini: Harvin didn’t make much of a difference in his Jets debut -- seven touches on offense for a total of 50 yards. Instead of using him as a “gadget” receiver -- bubble screens, jet sweeps, etc. -- the Jets used him as a traditional X receiver. I guess they think they’re smarter than the Seahawks, but the only plays that worked were his old Seattle plays. Two of his three catches came behind the line of scrimmage. Elsewhere, he caught only one of seven targets. His four rushes came from a running-back position. He played 44 of 84 snaps last week, so look for that total to increase after another week of absorbing the system. He’s fast, all right, but he’s not the kind of player that can elevate those around him.

After an 0-2 start, the Chiefs seem to have their act together. Could they pull a reverse of last year, finishing strong and becoming a factor in January?

Teicher: It’s possible. I think the Chiefs will be a strong contender for a wild-card spot. They’ve greatly reduced the number of big pass plays they’re allowing. That was a big problem for them last season, even during their 9-0 start. They aren’t a big-play offense, but they run the ball well and are very effective on third downs. They finally got a significant contribution last week on special teams, where they won on a weekly basis last year. If they continue to get that, the Chiefs will be tough to beat during the second half of the season. If they do make the playoffs, their chances of winning a game or two would be better than they’ve been in a long time, depending on the matchup.
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The San Diego Chargers (5-3) will travel to face the Miami Dolphins (4-3) in an important game with early playoff implications. Both teams could be fighting for a wild card in the AFC, which would make owning the head-to-head tiebreaker important.

Who will prevail in this matchup? ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams and ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker discuss:

Walker: Miami has won two in a row and San Diego has lost two in a row, so momentum may be a factor in this matchup. Where are the Chargers in terms of confidence and ending their losing streak?

Williams: The Chargers are a veteran-led group that understands the ebb and flow of an NFL season, so confidence will not be an issue traveling on the road to face the Dolphins. Two of San Diego's three losses have come on the road, against teams that have one loss apiece (Denver and Arizona). San Diego's other loss was a three-point setback to AFC West rival Kansas City at home.

The Chargers don't make a lot of mistakes and generally force opponents to beat them. Coach Mike McCoy is meticulous in his game-day preparation and his staff is skilled in making in-game adjustments. I expect San Diego will be ready for whatever the Dolphins plan to do scheme-wise on both sides of the ball.

The Dolphins are doing a nice job of running, ranked No. 6 by averaging 138 rushing yards per game. How has new coordinator Bill Lazor turned things around on offense?

Walker: Most people expected Lazor to come in and quickly fix the passing game, but he has made his biggest contribution with the running game. Miami's ground game has been consistent, whether it was Knowshon Moreno early, Lamar Miller lately or even quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has three runs of 30 yards or more in the past three games. Lazor has done a good job of spreading out defenses and calling run plays at the right time. His read-option with Tannehill and Miller has been a huge success. Miami's passing game still needs work, but there is progress.

West Coast teams often don't look the same in Miami; San Diego hasn't won here since the 1981 season. How are the Chargers combating that and will the 10-day layoff help?

Williams: Although West Coast teams traditionally struggle in early games traveling east, the Chargers have been relatively successful of late, posting a 7-5 record in 10 a.m. PT games since 2012. The extra days off have given this banged-up team a chance to get some players healthy, and with Philip Rivers controlling the offense, the Chargers are competitive more times than not. One of the keys for San Diego will be the possible return of running back Ryan Mathews. Out for the past six games with an MCL sprain, the Fresno State product could help provide some much-needed balance to San Diego's offense if healthy and cleared to play on Sunday.

After starting 1-2, the Dolphins have won three of their past four games to get back into the AFC playoff race. What has been the difference?

Walker: Part of it is the schedule. The Dolphins cannot hide from that fact. All three of Miami's victories during this stretch have been against the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7), Oakland Raiders (0-7) and Chicago Bears (3-5). Those are bad teams the Dolphins must beat if they want to be considered playoff contenders, and to their credit they took care of business.

The Dolphins are 1-3 against teams with winning records. That is why this game against San Diego is such a good measuring stick of where the Dolphins stand. Miami's next four opponents have a combined record of 22-9 (.709 winning percentage), so we are going to find out quickly whether the Dolphins are contenders or pretenders.

San Diego was banged up before its previous game against the Broncos. Where are the Chargers injury-wise heading into Sunday's game?

Williams: The Chargers should be in a better place health-wise. Four weeks ago against Jacksonville, the Chargers barely had enough healthy bodies to fill 46 spots on the active roster. Along with Mathews, cornerback Brandon Flowers and running back Donald Brown are possibilities to return from concussions. Pass rushers Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring) and Cordarro Law (ankle) also should have a chance to make it back on the field on Sunday. Offensive linemen D.J. Fluker (ankle) and Rich Ohrnberger (back) have been playing with injuries, so the extra time should work in their favor as well.

The Dolphins are No. 3 in passing defense, holding teams to just 212 passing yards a game. How does the front seven set the tone?

Walker: Miami's front four are the strength of the entire team. The Dolphins have waves of good players, starting with defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon and defensive tackles Jared Odrick, Earl Mitchell and Randy Starks. Miami also is getting contributions off the bench from Derrick Shelby, Chris McCain and Dion Jordan, who recorded a couple of tackles in his first game off suspension. This group sets the tone for the defense. The Dolphins' linebackers have been inconsistent with the exception of Jelani Jenkins, who leads Miami in tackles (53) by a wide margin.

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Second-string Jets quarterback Geno Smith practiced but, given the lingering soreness in his right shoulder, the newly christened backup did not throw the ball on Wednesday.

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So will Smith be able to go on Sunday in Kansas City in the event of an injury to starter Michael Vick?

"We've got to play it day by day," Smith said, "follow the instructions of the training staff and see how it goes."

Smith said he was injured against the Bills a few plays before his third interception, sustaining a stinger, and then reinjured when he pushed Bills safety Aaron Williams out of bounds a yard shy of the end zone on an interception return.

"That last play really hurt me," Smith said.

In more ways than one. Smith was done for the day, but if Ryan hadn't pulled him after throwing three interceptions, Smith isn't sure he would've been able to finish the game.

"I would've tried," Smith said. "I always try to push through those things. I'm not sure if I would've or not."

The team took X-rays of his shoulder after the game and, although they didn't officially announce the results, he has been cleared to practice.

So now Smith has to rehab his shoulder and his wounded ego on the bench. He hasn't been anything but the starter since his freshman year at West Virginia, so this is an unfamiliar spot.

"I'm just preparing myself to be able to play on Sunday," Smith said. "You never know what can happen, so I'm preparing to be ready to play."

Gronk ready for reunion with T.J. Ward

October, 29, 2014
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The last time New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski faced Broncos safety T.J. Ward, who was then on the Browns, Ward delivered a crushing hit to Gronkowski’s right knee, tearing Gronkowski’s ACL and ending his 2013 season.

Gronkowski made a catch and planted his right foot onto the field when Ward came in low with a hit he would later be criticized for as he slammed his shoulder into Gronkowski’s right knee. Gronkowski’s knee bent back in a way knees are not supposed to bend.

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After the hit, Ward went down on one knee and then approached Gronokwski to shake his hand as the tight end was carted off the field.

A season later, as the two prepare to face each other again Sunday, the hit by Ward on Gronkowski emerges again. So Gronkowski was asked if Ward ever reached out to him to apologize.

“No,” Gronkowski said.

While it has yet to be determined who will be covering Gronkowski, it is likely Ward will be involved in plays with Gronkowski. Another player who could see time on Gronkowski is former teammate Aqib Talib, who was with the Patriots in 2012 and 2013.

“Whatever the situation is, you have to prepare for everyone,” Gronkowski said. “You never know what they are going to pull until you play the game, so you have to be prepared for any situation. If it’s Aqib covering me, then it’s Aqib covering me.”

Gronkowski is ready for the challenge of playing against an improved and tough Broncos defense.

“They have very good pass rushers, a very good secondary, and they have good linebackers, so just overall they have a very solid defense,” Gronkowski said. “They are playing very well together and they are a very good team.”

Gronkowski didn’t stop there in giving praise to the Broncos.

“I feel like Denver is the best team in the NFL right now,” Gronkowski said. “They have a solid offense and a very, very solid defense, great rushers. A very good team. So we have to be ready. We have to be prepared. We have to bring all that we have to compete out there.

“The atmosphere is going to be unbelievable, especially playing at home in front of the home crowd. It’s going to be a great game. The Denver Broncos are a very, very, very good team.”

With all eyes on Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in this matchup between the Patriots and Broncos, Gronkowski acknowledged the magnitude of playing on the same field with two of the all-time greats at quarterback.

“It’s an honor to be out there with both of them,” Gronkowski said. “Brady versus Manning can’t get any better. [They are] two great quarterbacks and two legendary quarterbacks. It’s an honor to be a part of it.”

Setting aside all the talk of facing Ward again and the Brady-Manning rivalry, Gronkowski is focused on one thing.

“I definitely want to be on the winning side.”
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rookie linebacker Deontae Skinner, an undrafted free agent who played more than expected on defense early this season, was waived by the New England Patriots on Wednesday. The open roster spot was created to accommodate the previously reported signing of veteran defensive tackle Alan Branch, which the club formally announced.

Skinner
Skinner, out of Mississippi State, played in seven games with one start this season, and coaches credited him with nine tackles and one sack. When starting middle linebacker Jerod Mayo sustained a season-ending torn patellar tendon on Oct. 12, Skinner was elevated from the fourth spot on the depth chart to the third, meaning he often came on to the field in the 4-3 base defense.

Skinner's release came four days after he missed a tackle early in Sunday's victory over the Chicago Bears, and after two trades over the last week in which the Patriots acquired linebackers Akeem Ayers (Titans) and Jonathan Casillas (Buccaneers).

At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, Skinner is more of a downhill run-thumper who also played on the "big four" special teams units -- kickoff coverage, kickoff return, punt coverage and punt return. Coaches credited him with five special-teams tackles this season.

Casillas, who has proven to be a solid special-teams player in his first six NFL seasons, is likely to fill Skinner's void in that area.

Should Skinner clear waivers, he likely will be re-signed to the Patriots' practice squad.

Tom Brady on Pats-Broncos: Doesn't get any better

October, 29, 2014
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots-Broncos game Sunday will be the 16th matchup for Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and the rivalry with Manning never gets old for Brady.

“You wait a year to play this game,” Brady said during his news conference Wednesday morning. “You get one of the best teams in the league against us. And we feel like we are a pretty good team and that’s why you play the game. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

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Brady, who has a career record of 10-5 against Manning, doesn’t look for extra motivation when facing his rival.

“I’m pretty self-motivated,” Brady said. “He’s always been someone I really look up to and study and admire. I mean, he is older than me. He has more playing experience than me. So maybe when I’m his age, I’ll be playing as well as that.

“Peyton has been a phenomenal player, so consistent, so durable over a long period of time. We’ve had a great rivalry in the AFC and this year is no different. It’s a great matchup.”

With Denver averaging a league-best 32.0 points per game and the Patriots in third with 29.8 points per game, Brady is more than aware of the potential for this contest to turn into a shootout.

“He’s a great player and I think that you just know you are going to get one of the best offenses in the league,” Brady said. “So what that means for me is that our offense has to be at our best. You can’t think you are going to go out and score 10 points and win the game.

“I don’t think any of our games have ever really come down to that. It’s really an important week for our team and all of us on our offense have to bring our best because we are playing against one of the best offenses in the league.”

In the regular season last year, the Patriots trailed the Broncos 24-0 at halftime and staged the greatest comeback in franchise history by scoring 31 straight points en route to a 34-31 overtime win. Brady stressed the importance of avoiding the same start as last year.

“They have challenged a lot of teams this year,” Brady said. “They have gotten ahead of a lot of teams this year and really put the nail in the coffin. That’s a Halloween reference. We are going to have to be able to do the same thing to them.”

The Patriots are underdogs despite playing at home in Gillette Stadium, where they are 96-18, including the postseason.

“We expect to go out and win,” Brady said. “That’s what the expectation has always been. It’s certainly not to go out there, run around, break a sweat and lose the game. So we have to do everything we can to put the pressure on them, score as many points as we can. That’s what it’s going to take.”

Bill Belichick singularly focused on Broncos

October, 29, 2014
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There’s no shortage of hype surrounding Sunday’s high-profile matchup between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos.

Brady vs. Manning.

Belichick vs. Manning.

Revis and Browner vs. a talented Denver receiving corps.

Belichick
Bill Belichick isn't concerned about any of that, though.

Speaking with the media in his Wednesday news conference, Belichick was his usual deflective self.

Wondering what Belichick thinks of the way the Broncos could utilize linebacker Von Miller and cornerback Chris Harris on Sunday?

“You’ll have to ask the Broncos about that.”

Does Belichick appreciate the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry?

“Yeah, sure.”

Any thoughts on the atmosphere at Gillette Stadium for Sunday’s game?

“I’m sure our fans will be enthusiastic about the game, but I’m really more concerned about where our team is. I can’t do anything about anything else. Just try to get our team ready to go and hope that we can coach and play well on Sunday.”

One reporter asked Belichick a question relating to the health of former Boston mayor Thomas Menino.

“I’ll really just stick to the Broncos here,” Belichick said. “I don’t want to get out of my element. That’s about all I’ve been working on for the last three days. With all due respect to the other news stories that are out there, I’m sure there’s a lot of important ones, I don’t think that’s really my field.”

As great as the team’s 51-23 blowout victory over the Chicago Bears was last Sunday, it’s clear that Belichick spent little time savoring the win. As soon as the game ended it was on to Denver, against whom Belichick expects to have his hands full.

“Obviously they’re a real good football team,” Belichick said. “Playing great, doing everything well -- offense, defense, special teams. Disruptive on defense, scoring a lot of points on offense. Controlling field position in the kicking game, they’ve got a lot of explosive players. Well coached. Really doing everything really well. Big challenge for us this week. Had a good week of preparation here. We’ll be ready to go on Sunday.”
The NFL's trade deadline came and went Tuesday afternoon, and wide receiver Mike Williams will remain with the Buffalo Bills.

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Williams' agent, Hadley Engelhard, approached the Bills about the possibility of trading Williams after the veteran wideout's playing time dipped. General manager Doug Whaley said he would entertain offers.

Clearly, there wasn't enough of a market for Williams -- if there was any at all -- for a trade to happen. Through eight games, Williams has eight catches for 142 yards and one touchdown.

Williams saw slightly more playing time Sunday after an injury to starter Robert Woods but his snaps remain much lower than Chris Hogan, who has surpassed Williams on the depth chart. Once Marquise Goodwin returns from a hamstring injury, Williams could lose his spot on the 46-man game day roster.

The Bills did make one roster move Tuesday, placing undrafted rookie safety Kenny Ladler (arm) on injured reserve. That opens a roster spot as the Bills enter this bye week.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots are welcoming back 17 of the 22 players who were part of their three Super Bowl championship teams (2001, 2003, 2004) and will honor them at halftime of Sunday's highly anticipated game against the Denver Broncos.

Of the 22 players who earned three Patriots Super Bowl rings, only Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri are still playing. In addition, Larry Izzo (New York Giants), Mike Vrabel (Houston Texans) and Adrian Klemm (UCLA) are currently on active coaching staffs and will not be able to attend this weekend. The 17 other players from those three Super Bowl teams are listed below and expected to return to Gillette Stadium to be honored at halftime of Sunday’s Patriots game against the Broncos:

OL Joe Andruzzi
OL Tom Ashworth
WR Troy Brown
LB Tedy Bruschi
LB Matt Chatham
S Je'Rod Cherry
RB Kevin Faulk
LB Ted Johnson
CB Ty Law
OL Matt Light
OLB Willie McGinest
OL Stephen Neal
RB Patrick Pass
WR David Patten
LS Lonie Paxton
LB Roman Phifer
DL Richard Seymour

"Collectively, these 22 players will always share a special bond,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement. “While individual Super Bowl teams will certainly be celebrated in the future, these 22 players represent the greatest era in franchise history and one of the greatest accomplishments in NFL history. It is always fun to participate in reunions with former players. The stories they share from their playing days are always entertaining and it is always fun to see the ovations the players get from our fans. I look forward to seeing them and sharing those experiences with them."

Bill Belichick on Peyton Manning: He has no weakness

October, 28, 2014
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Bill Belichick is used to facing Peyton Manning, but Manning’s near-flawless skills as a quarterback continue to amaze the New England Patriots head coach.

“He’s good because he does everything,” Belichick said during a conference call Tuesday. “But, really, I don’t think there are any bad points in his game.”

Belichick proceeded to list off everything that makes Manning such a remarkable quarterback and competitor: “He’s very smart. He has a great understanding of concepts, timing, game management, clock management, situation football, third down, red area, great utilization of the field from sideline to sideline, attacking the deep part of the field, accurate, great decision-maker, quick release, has very few negative plays.”

Belichick and his own future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady are 10-5 (including playoffs) in their careers against Manning. They have seen Manning with Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark in Indianapolis and now with Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and the familiar Wes Welker in Denver. No matter who Manning has on his offense, he plays into their skills.

“It doesn’t really matter who is out there with him,” Belichick said. “Whoever it is, he finds a way to utilize him. He has had different players at different positions in different combinations, and guys have been out and other guys have been in. But no matter who it is out there, he does a good job of finding ways to utilize those skills of the group that is out there relative to the defensive matchup.

“It seems like he causes every defense a problem for the last 15 years or however long it has been.”

Belichick knows his defense has a tall task ahead of it to contain Demaryius Thomas and touchdown machine tight end Julius Thomas. And that's before getting to Sanders, Welker, and running backs Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson.

“You have to know who the people are out there,” Belichick said. “Everybody has to do their job to defend them. You can’t just stop one guy or one thing. But [Manning] does a great job of utilizing his players, his resources relative to what the defense is giving him or what looks best -- a combination of his personnel and where the defense looks soft.”

Belichick brushes aside trade questions

October, 28, 2014
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The NFL trade deadline of 4 p.m. is looming. And the question is whether the Patriots will make a move in the hours leading up to the final tick of the trade clock.

In four of the past five years, the Patriots have been active at the trade deadline by acquiring a player. The Patriots already made one move last week when the team traded a sixth-round pick to the Tennessee Titans for linebacker Akeem Ayers and a seventh-round pick.

Head coach Bill Belichick was asked during a conference call on Tuesday if he could shed some light on whether the team was looking to make another move at the NFL trade deadline. He gave a classic response.

“Yeah, I’ve been watching Denver film all morning,” Belichick said. “That’s all I can tell you.”

In typical Belichick fashion, he kept all insights locked away, if there even are any details to provide.

There have been minimal trade rumors so far throughout the day.

While Belichick has been known to stir up trades at the deadline, the Patriots are not looking to overpay. Depth and injuries become factors in trades at this point of the season, and Belichick said on Monday that trades are easier to make prior to the start of the season as opposed to halfway through the season.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins are putting up some astounding statistics in the first half of the season throughout their 4-3 start.

One impressive but overlooked stat is Miami's NFL-best 259 yards on interception returns. The Dolphins are on pace to break their franchise mark of 522 yards for interception returns set in 1966. Miami's 43.2 return yards per interception also would be a new NFL record for a single season.

[+] EnlargeLouis Delmas
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP PhotoDolphins free safety Louis Delmas returns an intercepted pass 81 yards for a touchdown past Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts.
The Dolphins have interception returns of 81, 50, 43, 32, 31 and 22 yards this season. Two interceptions from safety Louis Delmas and cornerback Brent Grimes went for touchdowns in Sunday's 27-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Miami's lengthy interception returns are not an accident. Dolphins' defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said he's making a conscious effort to practice interception returns more than any time in his three seasons with Miami. His focus is quickly getting all 11 players in sync after a turnover and in position to advance.

"We've done drills in the past, but we came up with a new one this year that I think is getting everybody on the same page as to where to go, how to set the blocks up and how to return the ball," Coyle explained. "It's been effective for us and hopefully we'll see it continue as the year goes on. We've just got to keep getting interceptions and see how much it works."

Miami's drills on interception returns are detailed. According to Dolphins' coaches, players practice specific blocking assignments after turnovers each week, similar to what you may see on a long kickoff or punt return. One of the best examples was two weeks ago against the Chicago Bears when Dolphins safety Reshad Jones picked off quarterback Jay Cutler and benefited from several clean blocks downfield during a 50-yard return.

"There's semi-art to it, if you will. ...It's something we like to teach a lot and they take pride in it," Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said.

The Dolphins' defense excels at changing field position after turnovers and providing the offense a boost with hidden yards. In addition to the 259 yards on interception returns, Miami cornerback Cortland Finnegan also has a 50-yard fumble return for a touchdown in Week 4 against the Oakland Raiders. The Dolphins are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers with three defensive touchdowns this season.

Miami's defense certainly knows what to do with the ball in its hands, and its third-rated pass defense will get a stern test Sunday against MVP candidate and San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

"As a defensive player, our mindset is to go against the best," Delmas said. "We have a [Hall of Fame] yellow-jacket quarterback coming in that we know has some interest in making every DB look bad."

The Film Don't Lie: Dolphins

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
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A weekly look at what the Miami Dolphins must fix:

After a solid start, the Dolphins' pass protection has suddenly dropped to 2013 levels the past two games. That is a major concern as the Dolphins (4-3) prepare to face the San Diego Chargers (5-3) on Sunday in a big game for both teams.

The Dolphins' offensive line allowed seven sacks in victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears. Miami's offensive line allowed only 10 quarterback sacks on Ryan Tannehill in the first five games.

Miami is having trouble with its interior offensive line. Guard Daryn Colledge has struggled. Fellow guard Mike Pouncey, who missed the first five games with a hip injury, is still shaking off the rust and making uncharacteristic mistakes. The Jaguars and Bears brought pressure up the middle with a lot of success.

The best solution is for Miami to put Pouncey back at center, his natural position. I've said from the start Miami was making a mistake by making an elite, top-five center into an average or slightly above-average right guard. The Dolphins need that strength and athleticism in the middle and can find someone else (Samson Satele? Nate Garner? Shelley Smith? Dallas Thomas?) to fill in at right guard.

The Dolphins probably won't make any drastic changes on their offensive line this week, especially if they continue winning. But things could change if pass protection remains an issue.

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