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Foxborough, Mass. –After leading the Lynn Classical Rams to a perfect 4-0 start to begin the season, first-year head coach Brian Vaughan has been named this week’s New England Patriots High School Coach of the Week.

Coach Vaughan, a former standout running back from league rival Lynn English, led the Rams to an impressive start with back-to-back victories over Medford High and Malden High by a combined score of 79-7, before notching their third victory; a 12-6 overtime thriller against the Revere Patriots. Last week, Coach Vaughan’s team was able to pull off a 21-19 victory over the Gloucester Fishermen in a nail biter between the two undefeated squads. The Rams jumped out to an early lead behind two touchdown passes from junior quarterback Keith Ridley, while Ridley added another score on a 13-yard run to give the Rams a 21-0 advantage at the half. Despite a late push from Gloucester, the Rams were able to remain unbeaten and atop the Northeastern Conference’s Central Division standings. Next up for the Rams is a date with undefeated Danvers High School this Friday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m.

Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett, now the team’s executive director of community affairs, visited the Rams players and coaching staff Tuesday afternoon to present Lynn Classical High School’s football program with a $1,000 donation on behalf of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, in honor of Coach Vaughan. The visit and check presentation will be featured on the Patriots weekly television show, “Patriots All Access,” which airs on Friday night at 7 p.m. on WBZ-TV in Boston and will be available immediately after on

This is the 22nd year in which the Patriots joined the National Football League in conducting the High School Coach of the Week program, which recognizes outstanding high school coaches and promotes youth football throughout New England. The 2017 season marks the seventh year that Tippett has taken the award on the road to visit the schools that benefit from the program.

“What an impressive start for Lynn Classical and Coach Vaughan,” Tippett said. “Jumping out to a 4-0 start under a new head coach shows the Rams have bought into Coach Vaughan’s leadership. We wish them the best in 2017.”

At the conclusion of the fall, one of the weekly winners will be named the New England Patriots High School Coach of the Year and will receive a $2,000 contribution towards the school’s football program.

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For good teams, point spreads are friendlier when playing on the road. Take the New England Patriots, who not only own a nine-game road winning streak, they’re 8-1 against the spread over that span. Coming off a surprising home loss, New England is on the road this week, favored by less than a touchdown at Tampa Bay for Thursday night.

NFL point spread: The Patriots opened as five-point favorites; the total was 53.5 early in the week, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark (line updates and matchup report).

NFL betting pick, via OddsShark computer: 29.1-25.8 Buccaneers (NFL picks on every game).

Why the Patriots can cover the spread

The Super Bowl champs are playing for the bounce-back this week, after falling at home to Carolina on Sunday 33-30. The Patriots led for most of the first half, fell down 30-16 early in the fourth quarter, rallied to tie the score at 30-30 with three minutes to go but lost on a 48-yard field goal the last play of the game.

On the day, quarterback Tom Brady hit on 32 of 45 throws for 307 yards and two touchdowns, the last one on a fourth-and-goal from the Panthers one-yard line to tie the game. But two defensive penalties on Carolina’s last drive, including one that negated a third-down sack, basically cost New England a chance at winning the game.

Despite the loss, the Patriots lead the league in total offense, averaging 424 yards per game, 27 more than second-ranked Kansas City.

Why the Buccaneers can cover the spread

The Bucs just pulled a bounce-back of their own, a week after a poor showing at Minnesota, beating the Giants on Sunday 25-23. Tampa Bay took an early 13-0 lead on a pair of Jameis Winston scoring passes, fell down 23-22 with only three minutes to go, but drove 59 yards and won it on a Nick Folk field goal.

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The Patriots expected to be at a bit of a disadvantage.

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are not going to blame their loss at the hands of the officials. They know they didn’t accomplish what they needed to in order to avoid letting one or two calls affect the outcome of the game. They also knew that head referee Jerome Boger was going to flag the Patriots whenever he could.

“From previous [games], that crew has called much more penalties on us than the other team,” Patriots QB Tom Brady said on WEEI. “We have to figure out how to play and tighten it up. If we don’t get the calls, we don’t get them. We still have to go out and play better than we played.”

And if you look at the past two games, that Boger has called with the Patriots, Brady’s not wrong. In 2014, Boger was the referee for the famous “We’re on to Cincinnati” game where he flagged the Patriots 12 times for 114 yards and the Bengals just 4 times for 37 yards. Boger also called the game between the Patriots and Rams in 2016 and called 8 penalties against the Patriots versus just 4 for Los Angeles. On Sunday, Boger flagged the Patriots 7 times and the Panthers only once.

So over the past three games with Boger, the Patriots have been penalized three-times more than their opponent (27 to 9). Boger is actually responsible for penalizing the home team at a rate far above the league average and calling multiple penalties more than average per game.

There were five big penalties against the Patriots that really shifted the course of the game and some were much more valid than others.

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This team is so locked in that every game is just a business trip. That trip, of course, ends with someone forced into a lake of fire and under the watchful eye of an ancient demigod.

Dan Quinn has gone through a lot. In order to win games, he had to make sacrifices to a potentially evil metal falcon’s lake of fire. That has been pretty tough, but not nearly as tough as losing two separate Super Bowls to the New England Patriots thanks to his offensive coordinators.

“Never again,” says Quinn. The sadness that previously haunted him is entirely gone. One more season of sacrifices could lead him to that Lombardi trophy. “Time to crack a few eggs,” says Quinn, as the elevator door opens nearly 500 feet below the new Mercedes Benz Stadium.

“This feels a little weird, Dan, but at least you aren’t taking me into the old indoor training camp building again to push me into the…”

Robert Alford sniffs the air, and knows the strong smell of sulfur means he’s in for trouble. Can he escape the lost souls stuck in the fire? This is a new location for him, so he might run out of his normal cheats.

Alford!!! He’s been a mix of his terrible early 2016 and his fantastic late 2016. Ultimately, too many bad penalties and plays made him the worst player on the field against the Green Bay Packers.

So far, Quinn has sent both Wes Schweitzer and Alford to the lake of fire. 14 more and we are into the playoffs!

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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Taylor Heinicke throws a pass during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Miami Dolphins, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots announced today that they have signed QB Taylor Heinicke to the practice squad and released WR Demarcus Ayers from the practice squad.

Heinicke, 24, was originally signed by the Minnesota Vikings as a rookie free agent out of Old Dominion on May 6, 2015. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder, made the Minnesota 53-man roster as a rookie in 2015 but was inactive for all 16 games. He began the 2016 season on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list before being elevated to the 53-man roster on Nov. 8, where he was inactive for the last seven weeks of the season. Heincke was released by Minnesota on Sept. 11, 2017.

Ayers, 23, was signed by the New England Patriots to the practice squad on September 4. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seventh round (229th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Houston. Ayers spent time on the active roster and practice squad for the Steelers as a rookie, seeing action in two regular season games with one start and finishing with six receptions for 53 yards and one touchdown. He played in two postseason games and caught three passes for 27 yards. He was released by Pittsburgh on Sept. 2.

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The Patriots have been battling with injuries they didn’t have to face in 2016.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

1. In 2016, the Patriots finished the season with just three players on the injured reserve: LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulders), TE Rob Gronkowski (back), and TE Greg Scruggs (knee). Two other players were on the PUP list and did not play all season: OG Tre Jackson (knee) and OT Sebastian Vollmer (everything).

This year, the Patriots are in much worse shape. WR Julian Edelman (ACL), CB Cyrus Jones(ACL), EDGE Derek Rivers (ACL), EDGE Caleb Kidder, and TE Matt Lengel were all placed on the injured reserve prior to the start of the season and cannot return this year, while EDGE Shea McClellin, WR Malcolm Mitchell, and DT Vincent Valentine were placed on the injured reserve after week 1 and are eligible to return.

This does not include the non-football injury players in EDGE Keionta Davis, OG Chase Farris, OT Antonio Garcia, and OT Andrew Jelks.

The Patriots are able to bring two players back from the injured reserve this year, so two of McClellin, Mitchell, and Valentine will return based upon team need. My guess would be on the first two.

2. As MassLive’s Kevin Duffy highlighted, the Patriots have made eight draft selections in the first four rounds of the past two drafts. Just two remain on the Patriots active roster in 2016 third round OG Joe Thuney and 2017 EDGE Deatrich Wise.

2016 2nd round CB Cyrus Jones is out for the year with a torn ACL, 2016 third round QB Jacoby Brissett is now with the Indianapolis Colts, and 2016 third round DT Vincent Valentine and 2016 fourth round WR Malcolm Mitchell are on the injured reserve with knee injuries. 2017 third round EDGE Derek Rivers tore his ACL in camp, while 2017 third round OT Tony Garcia wasn’t able to participate due to his limitations.

The Patriots really need to figure out what went wrong with all of these injuries and if they can fix the problem moving forward. It’s hard to blame all of this on the turf.

3. The Herald’s Jeff Howe did a nice job highlighting why Rob Gronkowski wants to play so badly against the Texans. The Patriots and Gronkowski added new incentives into the tight end’s contract and he’s not on pace to reach the highest level at this point in time- and missing any more time could cost him the second-tier of incentives.

Gronkowski has the opportunity to produce in the Patriots offense and it would be fantastic if he could provide the same offense every week that he did against the New Orleans Saints, but he can’t do that from the sideline.

4. RB Dion Lewis and RB James White join Gronkowski as offensive players with playing time incentives, while LB Dont’a Hightower, DT Lawrence Guy, DT Alan Branch, SS Patrick Chung, FS Duron Harmon, and LB David Harris all have playing time incentives on defense. The Patriots aren’t the type of team to sit players for the sake of reducing their annual earnings, but that’s certainly something that the players are thinking about.

Lewis, Branch, and Harris are three players that aren’t seeing the necessary playing time to come close to their incentives because there are better (and younger and cheaper) alternatives on the roster. Hopefully Branch can find his 2015-16 form and regain his role, but Lewis and Harris are unlikely to see the needed time without more injuries.

The other players are on the bubble of reaching their incentives and need to keep playing at a high level to achieve them.

5. The Patriots have intentionally brought players back from injury at a slower rate than their competitors because they would rather them be as close to 100% as possible. New England is able to do that because the Patriots have done such a strong job of building the depth of the roster- and part of building this depth is giving younger players an opportunity to play early in the regular season, as an extension of sorts for the preseason.

Don’t be surprised if a lot of the players that were listed as limited on the injury report this week are eased back on the field to give younger players an opportunity.

6. I spoke with Kenneth Levy of to see if there were any Texans that the Patriots might be able to acquire in the middle of the season as reinforcements.

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Forced to step in at cornerback, second-year player Jonathan Jones, who’d primarily been used as a special teamer to that point in time, stepped up last Sunday in New Orleans.

Jonathan Jones majored in business ad ministration at Auburn Univer sity.

Which is exactly what he was doing at the Mercedes- Benz Superdome last Sunday afternoon – taking care of busi ness.

“It was a good feeling to be out there, be out there with those guys and be able to con tribute on defense,” the Patriots cornerback-special teamer said. “I’d say you have to be pre pared when your name’s called and when it’s your time go out there and not miss a beat and for it to (not) look like the backup’s in because they’re go ing to come at the guys they’re not used to seeing. So you have to be able to step in and make the plays.”

With the groin injury Eric Rowe suffered in the game forcing Jones into some rather extensive duty, the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder was on the field for 27 of the Patriots’ 62 plays on defense (42 percent) and an other 19 on special teams in their 36-20 victory over New Orleans.

Jones had two tackles, but what were easily his two biggest plays in the game were two breakups of Drew Brees passes, one on which he literal ly stripped Ted Ginn of a po tential touchdown reception, the other denying Brandin Coleman on a deep ball.

Those two plays drew a rave review from head coach Bill Belichick, who said “the technique that (Jones) used to finish the play at the final re ception point was excellent, perfect” and called it “textbook technique, what we teach all of our players to do.”

“I think the biggest point is just trying to make an impact in any way you can,” said Jones. “If you’re on the team, whatever they ask you to do be able to do it and do it to the best of your abilities. I think for me, that’s definitely important. A guy that’s undrafted, you get in where you fit in and be able to do more. Bill always says that. The more you can do and just be able to contribute in any way possible.”

While he quickly developed into a key contributor on spe cial teams (eight tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in that phase of the game during the regular sea son; four special teams stops to tie Patrick Chung for the team lead in the playoffs), Jones has had to bide his time on defense (only six tackles and one pass defensed all of last year; he was on the field for just three de fensive plays in the Patriots’ 42-27 season-opening loss to Kansas City this year) since he entered the league as a rookie free agent out of Auburn.

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Are you mentally prepared?

Can you handle the what if?

As in, what if the Patriots are in decline . . . for real?

Which, without doubt, means Tom Brady, too.

Mental preparation is a hallmark of the Patriots success. Now Pats fans must become mentally prepared, get geared up for what they saw on opening night — The End.

Bad enough the Chiefs spit on the Pats’ fifth Super Bowl banner festivities, but now the wonder of it all, the glory of the last 16 years of fab football in Foxboro, a sad glimpse of what happens to dynasties.

Nothing lasts forever, except for a Red Sox game.

So how do you get mentally prepared for The End? How do you deal with a two-, three- or four-win season? Yikes!

Well, scream therapy is sometimes helpful, but how about simply recalling bits of past Patriots putridness. In small doses, please.

One can watch highlights of the Rod Rust era. At least that won’t take too much time.

Or how about recalling the chaos of the Ron Meyer regime. Meyer was fired after firing Rust, his then assistant coach, who then succeeded Raymond Berry to coach the Pats to that 1-15 season in 1990.

At the same time, remember the late 1980s to mid-’90s collection of nutty owners, from an aging Billy Sullivan to a clean-shaven Victor Kiam to Midwest carpetbagger James Orthwein. Phew, that will speed up your mental preparation for The End.

Then there’s the run of stadiums for the grand AFL Boston Pats, from Braves Field, to Fenway Park, to Alumni Stadium, to Harvard Stadium. Followed by the concrete colossus of Schaefer Stadium.

So give thanks to Bob Kraft for finally giving us a major league stadium, even though he never lets us forget it.

One can go on and on about the terrible and tawdry times of Patriots football while knowing the 2017 season is far from The End, though those thoughts are creepingly creepy.

Now is the time, Pats fans. Nothing like getting mentally prepared for The End. Bill Belichick would love it.

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“My confidence will never waver. They can come after me. I’m here.”

Tom Brady and Drew Brees during training camp in 2010.
Tom Brady and Drew Brees during training camp in 2010. –AP Photo/Winslow Townson

The Patriots are headed to New Orleans this weekend for a matchup between two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks over the last decade. Both teams are looking for a first win in the 2017 season.

Here’s what the Saints had to say about the Patriots ahead of Sunday’s kickoff:

Sean Payton, Head Coach

On playing a Patriots team coming off of a loss:

Obviously they are a real good football team and they are very well-coached and very talented. And I think it’s pretty common in our league there’s a certain I guess level of urgency, especially losing your opening season game, like we just did and like New England just did. … Our preparation and our focus has to be internal. We have to correct a lot of things that kept us from winning the other night and will continue to keep us from winning games if we don’t get it squared away.

On Rob Gronkowski and the evolution of the tight end:

You have to find him first. He lines up everywhere. He is outside, he is inside, he is in-line. I think his versatility is one of his biggest assets. He’s a guy that can play in the running game, just as well in protection, just as well as a receiver. So that flexibility and versatility does not make him one-dimensional. He is a big target and he has strong hands in traffic.

The location throws that Tom (Brady) does a great job with become challenging in regards to how you defend. It is not one thing you have to do. If you let him just run up the field without any type of obstruction that probably helps him. I think that they do a great job of moving him around to these different spots. Often times you get a pre-snap man or zone read based on who goes outside to cover him. If there is a receiver in the slot and Gronkowski is outside and you see a big go out there, safety or linebacker, it is probably man. There are a number of things you have to look closely at and watch on the tape.

It used to be that you would find those tight ends next to the tackle and then one day (Kellen) Winslow stood up in a two-point stance and it was like the solar eclipse. Then someone said, why don’t we put (Shannon) Sharpe outside of (Ed) McCaffrey in Denver and that was like we split the atom and pretty soon they’re everywhere.

On Brandin Cooks:

He’s a great competitor and he comes to work every day with an intensity each rep. There’s not really an off-speed rep for him and the way he prepares, I know he’s a good teammate, well -respected. For us you’re constantly looking at how you can improve some of the areas where you feel like you’re lean and we just felt like that was going to be one of the assets possibly that we could utilize, but his personality and each day you know what you’re getting and that’s a good thing. He has a great smile on his face, there are a lot of things to like.

Drew Brees, Quarterback

On Brandin Cooks:

I loved Brandin, loved playing with him for three years. I felt like we had some great years together. I felt like he had a lot of success in this offense. I wish him nothing but the best. We’re still good friends off the field, just happens to be that he’s on the other side of the ball this week coming back here to New Orleans, but nothing but great respect for him.

On the Patriots defense:

Yeah, they are big, thick, they do some interesting things upfront with their scheme. They can give you a lot of variations, obviously very game plan specific so we have to be ready for anything.

On Tom Brady:

We played against each other in college. We’ve known each other for a long time, I guess since 1999, when he was at Michigan and I was at Purdue, but I’ve got a ton of respect for Tom and what he’s accomplished. I don’t know if there is a guy in this game that is more disciplined, more mentally tough and has just been so consistent, so so consistent. A lot to be respected and I have a ton of respect for him and his approach and his accomplishments.

On facing the Patriots after a loss:

That’s a team especially after a loss, comes out with a vengeance and we know that they are going to be ready to play and we need to make sure that we are ready to play.

On Dont’a Hightower:

He is a very good football player and he’s a game changer, extremely smart, tough, plays all over the place. The leader of the defense, just an exceptional football player.

Ted Ginn Jr., Wide Reciever

On the Patriots’ starting cornerbacks:

It’s a great duo. They’ve got a lot of range to them. They play the ball pretty good. You have to be real fine in your routes to be able to get open.

De’Vante Harris, Cornerback

On the prospect of being targeted by the Patriots:

I’m a competitor, man. I just gotta keep in the mentality that I’m going to win more than I’m going to lose. Playing this game, being a corner, you gotta have a real short memory. You gotta be able to eliminate the bad plays that happen to you and I feel I can do that.

My confidence will never waver. They can come after me. I’m here.

Manti Te’o, Linebacker

On facing the Patriots in Week 2:

Obviously, having the Patriots in here, it doesn’t make it a bigger game; we just understand who’s coming in here,” Te’o said. “After this past Monday and for them last week Thursday, you ask both teams, it doesn’t matter who we line up against. It’s a big game because of the statement we hoped we’d make on Week 1, but now you get another opportunity. So, we hope we can make it this week.

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Every detail you need to know in order to watch the Patriots take on the Saints.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The (0-1) New England Patriots travel to face the (0-1) New Orleans Saints.

The Patriots are looking to rebound from their week 1 embarrassment and to get the 2017 season back on track. Teams that start the year 0-2 have roughly a 10% chance of reaching the postseason (8%-12% based on how far back you look), so the Patriots must come out laser-focused.

QB Tom Brady and QB Drew Brees face off in what is the most impressive battle of the old guns in league history. Hopefully they can put together a strong performance.

Here’s all the game information below.

Date: Sunday, September 17th, 2017

Location: Mercedes-Benz Super Dome, New Orleans, Louisiana

Kickoff: 1:00 PM EST

SB Nation


Announcers: Jim Nantz and Tony Romo, with Tracy Wolfson on the sidelines.

ChannelsCourtesy of the New England Patriots media guide.


Boston, Mass. WBZ-TV Channel 4

Online StreamingNFL Game Pass for international viewers, 98.5 The Sports Hub Online Radio Stream.

Radio: 98.5 FM, with Scott Zolak and Bob Socci

Additional Information: The Patriots provide an incredible breakdown on their website.

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