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#pounditMonday, October 18, 2021

New England Patriots

Dak Prescott loses touchdown on fumble after bad call on play before

Dak Prescott leaps over the pile

The New England Patriots created one heck of a game-changing turnover on Sunday after getting some help from the referees.

The Dallas Cowboys were on the goal line with a minute and a half left in the second quarter at New England. Dallas was down 14-10 and had an obvious chance to take the lead. On third down, Dallas gave the ball to Dak Prescott for a quarterback sneak. He appeared to get into the end zone pretty convincingly, but the officials said he was short.

Then on 4th-and-goal, Prescott took the snap and leaped over the pile towards the end zone. But Ja’Whaun Bentley knocked the ball loose and caused a fumble.

Though the officials initially signaled touchdown, a review showed that Prescott lost possession before breaking the plane of the goal line.

New England was awarded the ball through a fumble.

What a terrible sequence for the Cowboys. They got robbed of a touchdown on third down, then they lost a fumble on fourth down. What a bad break.

Tom Brady shares nice tributes to Bill Belichick, Patriots on Instagram

Bill Belichick Tom Brady hug

Tom Brady always takes time to praise his teammates on Instagram after each Tampa Bay Buccaneers win, but the quarterback had flattering things to say about both his team and the one he beat in Week 4.

Brady gave shoutouts to several Bucs players on Tuesday for the role they played in Sunday’s 19-17 win over the New England Patriots. He also paid tribute to Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft and many of his former teammates. Here are some of the screenshots:

Brady said leading up to Sunday’s game that he didn’t expect a “homecoming” in Foxboro, but that is basically what he got. The seven-time Super Bowl champion received a warm welcome from Patriots fans and heard chants of “Brady! Brady!” multiple times after he took the field. He also had a lengthy private meeting with Belichick.

It’s obvious Brady was touched by the way he was treated in his return.

Tom Brady reveals biggest takeaway from facing Patriots

Tom Brady

Tom Brady has admitted that he experienced a wide range of emotions before and during Sunday night’s game against the New England Patriots, but the seven-time Super Bowl champion says one aspect of his return to Foxboro really stuck out.

During the latest episode of his SiriusXM podcast “Let’s Go!” with Jim Gray, Brady revealed his favorite part of returning to Gillette Stadium as a visiting player. He said it came after the final whistle blew in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 19-17 win.

“I got to see some people after the game that I just love so much. The best part of the night was having the game over and seeing them,” Brady said, as transcribed by WEEI’s Ryan Hannable. “And understanding that no matter how we compete, my relationship with those people transcends wins and losses. … The hugs, the handshakes, the congratulatory messages, all the different things that I heard really in the end to me is what continues to motivate me and inspire me.”

Brady also said it wasn’t fun playing against veterans like Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower, Matthew Slater and Devin McCourty, whom he described as “amazing people that I’ve gone to war with.”

“The reality is, sports, sometimes you go different places and now you’re on the other side of it and on the other sideline,” Brady added. “You want those guys to do so well because you know how important it is to them. You know how much it means to them.”

A lot was made about Brady’s relationship with Bill Belichick and how the 44-year-old would have loved to throttle his former team, but that didn’t happen. Brady led the Bucs to a hard-fought win, but no one wound up embarrassed. He even caught up with his former coach for a lot longer than people expected him to. In many ways, the night probably went exactly how Brady wanted it to.

Patriots pick on Richard Sherman during his season debut

Richard Sherman

Richard Sherman made his season debut on Sunday, and the New England Patriots wasted no time picking on him.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Sherman on Wednesday. He was a free agent and dealt with an offseason arrest, but the Bucs ended up signing him amid a rash of injuries.

Without cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean unavailable, the Bucs started Sherman against the Patriots. Mac Jones went right after Sherman like he was targeting a rookie and had a great deal of success throwing against him in coverage.

Sherman looked like a guy who only signed on Wednesday. He was constantly a step slow and got beat regularly.

At least Sherman had a fumble recovery in the third quarter. And from his standpoint, things probably could not get much worse.

Do Patriots, Mac Jones have a Cam Newton-inspired audible?

Mac Jones Superman

Do the New England Patriots have a Cam Newton-inspired audible call? Something Mac Jones did on Sunday night left many wondering.

A minute into Sunday night’s game between the Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jones used a “Superman” audible call. He pretended to pull his shirt apart to reveal a mock Superman “S” on his chest.

Many fans likely recognize that move as the celebration Cam Newton used to do after scoring touchdowns. Newton was the Patriots’ quarterback last season and was with them until being cut just before the season began.

NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth wondered whether the audible call was for a play Newton liked. We don’t know whether the audible has anything to do with Newton, but it wouldn’t be a stretch if it did.

Bill Belichick shares his opinion on why Tom Brady left Patriots

The most highly anticipated regular season game in NFL history is just days away, and Bill Belichick is going to be peppered with questions about Tom Brady all week long. He answered a few of them on Monday morning, and some of what the New England Patriots coach said might surprise you.

Belichick said numerous times when he coached Brady that he wouldn’t want any other quarterback playing for him. During his weekly appearance on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show,” he was asked when that changed. He responded that “it never changed” and said it was Brady’s choice to leave.

“There were a lot of things there — he looked at his options and made his decision,” Belichick said. “We weren’t as good of an option as Tampa. You’d have to ask him about all that, but it wasn’t a question of not wanting him that’s for sure.”

Belichick added that he has the utmost respect for Brady, but he repeatedly stated that he’s focused on preparing his team to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“My focus is on the game here, and look, I have so much respect and appreciation for Tom and everything he did here and for me and for our team,” the coach said. “We’re just getting ready for Tampa this week and we’re going to keep our focus on that.”

Brady would probably disagree that Belichick wanted to keep him. Brady’s father, Tom Sr., told Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston last week that Belichick wanted his son “out the door.”

On the other hand, Brady’s longtime trainer and best friend Alex Guerrero criticized Belichick for the way he treated Brady. That would imply that Brady grew tired of the culture in New England and wanted out.

So which one is it? The answer is both. Brady wanted to stay in New England, but he wanted Belichick to show more appreciation for him — both in the locker room and by acquiring better players to continue chasing championships during the twilight years of the quarterback’s career. When Belichick refused to change, Brady decided to leave. That was technically Brady’s choice, but Brady likely would have preferred to stay had Belichick been more flexible.

Both Belichick and Brady will likely do everything they can to downplay the importance of Sunday’s game. That’s simply how they operate. But if Brady tries to claim it is “just another game,” we already have proof he is lying. He and his former coach both know it is anything but.

Peyton Manning says Patriots would bug his locker

Peyton Manning

Peyton and Eli Manning continue to produce the best broadcast for “Monday Night Football” possible.

The brothers were featured on ESPN2, giving their commentary of Monday night’s Green Bay Packers-Detroit Lions game. They brought in a slew of guests to join them. They offered sharp analysis as well as great wit throughout the game.

Early on, they also brought the conspiracy theories.

Peyton was noting how the Packers were running the ball frequently, which followed the suggestions they made to the team. He joked that Green Bay had them bugged.

“I feel like the Packers were listening to our conversation. I think our conversation was bugged, kind of like the Patriots used to do back in the day,” Peyton joked.

Peyton then took it further. He said that the New England Patriots used to have his locker bugged, so he wouldn’t discuss plays near it. Instead, he would go into the shower.

“Every time I played against New England, I used to talk to my receivers in the showers. Don’t talk about a play next to my locker because I know it’s bugged. I know it’s got a hot mic in there. Very strange to see 7 guys hanging out in the shower,” Peyton said.

Was he being serious or joking? That’s up to you to decide.

Keep in mind, this is nothing new. Tony Dungy said in 2015 that Peyton feared the Patriots had his locker bugged. The Colts used to sweep for bugs when they played in New England. Many NFL teams used to do that but never found anything.

Maybe the Patriots were just in opponents’ heads.

Cam Newton reveals reason he believes Patriots cut him

Cam Newton

Many people were surprised that the New England Patriots released Cam Newton rather than keeping him as their No. 2 quarterback behind Mac Jones, but the former NFL MVP thinks the team would have viewed him as a distraction if he stayed.

Newton discussed his final days with the Patriots during his highly anticipated “Freaky Friday” video. During the sit-down with his father Cecil, Newton said the Patriots felt he would have been a “distraction” as a backup QB.

“The reason they released me is because, indirectly, I was gonna be a distraction,” Newton said.

The 32-year-old also hinted that he did not feel he was given a fair shot to earn the starting job. Newton believes the Patriots knew they would have been able to win with him, which would have made it tougher for them to turn things over to Jones at some point. For what it’s worth, he thinks they will win with the rookie, too.

Newton emphatically denied the claim that Jones was teaching him the playbook this offseason. He said he, Jones, Brian Hoyer and Josh McDaniels were always consulting one another about the offense, which is normal for any team. He also said that he believes the Patriots would have released him regardless of his COVID vaccine status, though he admitted missing several days of practice didn’t help his cause.

Had the Patriots wanted to keep Newton as a backup, he says he would have told them “absolutely.” You can hear more of his comments below:

Newton’s rationale about why he lost the starting job doesn’t make much since. If Bill Belichick believed Newton gave the Patriots a better chance to win, he would have gladly had Jones spend time holding a clipboard. There’s no reason to believe the Patriots made a concerted effort to rush a rookie quarterback into action. Just ask Peyton Manning how difficult it is to play the position in the NFL as a rookie. Jones was simply better than Newton during training camp and in the preseason.

As for his playing future, Newton said his career is not over. He is, however, looking forward to spending time with his family. Newton believes he is still good enough to start in the NFL, but there is one big reason he may not play this year.

Bill Belichick clarifies his comments on COVID vaccine

Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick faced some unwarranted criticism last week over some remarks he made about the impact of COVID-19 on NFL teams, and the New England Patriots has decided to clarify his stance.

There was some speculation last week that Cam Newton’s vaccination status (he is unvaccinated) played a role in the Patriots’ decision to release him. Belichick shot that down and noted that there have been several unvaccinated players and staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19. Some, like Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, made the leap that Belichick was implying COVID vaccines are not as effective as people think.

Belichick opened his press conference on Monday by reiterating that he has not made any roster moves based on vaccination status. He said the team is “better off” if everyone is vaccinated but did not back down from his assertion that vaccines don’t solve all COVID-related issues.

The NFL obviously was not pleased with Belichick’s initial remarks. Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills responded last week by saying data has “consistently shown higher rates of infection in unvaccinated players than in vaccinated players.”

Not surprisingly, everyone seems to have misinterpreted what Belichick was trying to say. He was responding to a specific question about Newton being released due to vaccination status. His point was that a player who is vaccinated can still test positive, which is why he would not base a roster decision on vaccination status. The coach was in no way trying to claim that COVID-19 vaccines are ineffective.

If Newton outplayed Mac Jones in training camp and the preseason, he would still be on New England’s roster. We’ve heard of many reasons that have nothing to do with vaccination status that may have cost him his job. It’s silly that Belichick even needs to defend what he said originally.

5 NFL teams that could surprise in 2021

Kyle Shanahan

Seeing teams go from worst-to-first has become the norm in the NFL. We are likely to see that happen again in 2021. There will be many top teams that sink to the bottom while others rise up and surprise the football world.

We’re not here to predict which team will go from worst-to-first, but we are here to examine five teams that could surprise in 2021.

Let’s take a look.

5. Carolina Panthers

It almost feels like a fresh reset in Carolina after Matt Rhule’s first season as head coach was marred by injury, inconsistency, and personnel issues. They now have former first-round pick Sam Darnold under center, will see the return of running back Christian McCaffrey, and they added top-end talent like cornerback Jaycee Horn and wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. through the draft. They also made a hefty investment into their offensive line, which should pay immediate dividends. Yes, it will still be tough sledding against the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but with both the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints potentially in no man’s land, there is a path to the playoffs for Carolina if they can just stay healthy.

4. Minnesota Vikings

After five consecutive seasons of .500 or better, the Vikings slipped a bit in 2020 and finished with a record of 7-9. That largely came due to a poor defense and struggles at home. In an effort to combat that, Minnesota went out and added several big-ticket defenders. They added cornerback Patrick Peterson and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, quality depth in cornerback Xavier Woods, and a familiar face in defensive end Stephen Weatherly. They didn’t slow down during the draft, either, selecting defensive end Patrick Jones II and linebacker Chazz Surratt to go along with offensive lineman Christian Darrisaw. Their weaknesses appeared to be shored up. Provided the Vikings’ defense can make a quick leap, they should be back to competing for the NFC North title.

3. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers fell back down to earth in 2020 and landed with a thud. They finished 6-10 a year removed from making the Super Bowl, leading many to wonder if that had just been an anomaly mixed in among years of sub-.500 play. And maybe it was, but every season is different, and Kyle Shanahan’s group isn’t exactly low on talent. Yes, they lost some quality assistant coaches this offseason, but they also gained rookie quarterback Trey Lance, who will start sooner rather than later, and beefed up other areas of their roster with some underrated free agent signings. It’s also worth pointing out that they were 3-3 against a very tough division. Two of those losses coming by a combined seven points. So long as the 49ers can stay tough in the NFC West and improve their home record, they absolutely have a chance to surprise.

2. New York Giants

It feels like the Giants have been awaiting their sudden turnaround for about a decade now because, well… they have been. But perhaps more than at any other point over the past 10 years, there is optimism rising in East Rutherford. The Giants appear to have finally found their rock at head coach in Joe Judge, while the team’s personnel has vastly improved over the previous two seasons. Provided quarterback Daniel Jones can make the much-needed third-year leap, the stars may be aligning in New Jersey. The Giants very nearly stole the horrid NFC East a season ago thanks to a strong finish. If that can carry over, Big Blue could find themselves once again competing for a playoff spot, and potentially even a division title with the Washington Football Team and Dallas Cowboys.

1. New England Patriots

Some may argue against New England’s inclusion on this list because they’ve been one of the league’s most dominant teams over the past two decades, but nothing lasts forever. Without Tom Brady a season ago, Bill Belichick’s squad came crashing down to earth in dramatic fashion, and he wasn’t happy about it. In response, the Patriots went out spent $159.6 million over the course of nine days to revamp their roster and return optimism to Foxborough. They also drafted well, as they usually do, and may have their QB of the future in Mac Jones. But the surprise in New England may not come via return to the playoffs. Rather, the Pats may surprise by being little more than average despite their desperate attempts to prove Brady wasn’t the driving force behind their previous success.