Vra­bel gets shot at Pats

New Eng­land heads to Ten­nessee look­ing to go into bye with com­mand­ing lead in AFC East

Pawtucket Times - - SPORTS - By TERESA WALKER

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Mike Vra­bel won three Su­per Bowl rings over eight sea­sons with the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots. He even caught eight passes — all for touch­downs and all thrown by Tom Brady.

Then Bill Belichick traded the line­backer away to Kansas City in 2009.

“We didn’t talk for a cou­ple months, maybe a year,” Vra­bel said. “Then we be­came friends, and I used him as a re­source when I started my coach­ing ca­reer, and still talk to him a lot now. This week we’re com­peti­tors.”

In his first sea­son as an NFL head coach with Ten­nessee, Vra­bel gets his first crack at both his old coach and for­mer team Sun­day when the Ti­tans (4-4) host the Pa­tri­ots ( 7- 2).

The men share some of the same philoso­phies about foot­ball, though not per­son­al­i­ties.

Ti­tans cor­ner­back Lo­gan Ryan, who spent his first four sea­sons in New Eng­land, says Vra­bel’s also younger and taller than Belichick. Vra­bel may dress a bit bet­ter too dur­ing games, and Ryan sees some other sim­i­lar­i­ties.

“They’re hard-nosed. They care about the fun­da­men­tals,” Ryan said.

For his part, Belichick says Vra­bel will be a great coach with his pas­sion and foot­ball knowl­edge as a player eas­ily car­ry­ing over. Belichick also be­lieves Vra­bel de­serves to be rec­og­nized in the Pa­tri­ots Hall of Fame, and yes, the Nashville na­tive cheers for Vra­bel and the Ti­tans every game ex­cept this one.

“It will be the Pa­tri­ots against the Ti­tans,” Belichick said. “That’s what it will be.”

The Pa­tri­ots have won six straight af­ter beat­ing Green Bay 31-17 last week. They also have won the past seven against the Ti­tans, in­clud­ing play­offs, with the most re­cent a 3514 romp in the di­vi­sional round last Jan­uary. The Ti­tans snapped a three-game skid Mon­day night with a 28-14 win in Dal­las.

Some things to know about the Pa­tri­ots and Ti­tans:

LAST THREE

Only a trio re­mains of those who played along­side Vra­bel dur­ing his ten­ure in New Eng­land: Brady, kicker Stephen Gostkowski and spe­cial teams cap­tain Matt Slater. Brady spent eight sea­sons with Vra­bel from 2001 to 2008. Gostkowski ar­rived in 2006, and Slater was a rookie dur­ing Vra­bel’s fi­nal sea­son in 2008 be­fore be­ing traded.

“His body can do it longer than mine could at the po­si­tion that he plays,” Vra­bel said of Brady.

NEW ENG­LAND TIES

Pa­tri­ots cor­ner­back Ja­son McCourty spent his first eight sea­sons with the Ti­tans and now plays along­side twin brother, Devin, in New Eng­land. Try­ing to re­build, Ten­nessee has stocked up on for­mer Pa­tri­ots in­clud­ing gen­eral man­ager Jon Robinson, Vra­bel, Ryan and right guard Josh Kline. Robinson signed cor­ner­back Mal­colm But­ler and run­ning back Dion Lewis this off­sea­son. Also, Ti­tans de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dean Pees was an as­sis­tant and co­or­di­na­tor with the Pa­tri­ots. He was the lineback­ers coach in 200405 and de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in New Eng­land from 2006-2009.

Pa­tri­ots wide re­ceiver Julian Edel­man called Lewis a fiery jit­ter­bug.

“He meant a lot to me when he was here. Now I hate him,” Edel­man said with a smile.

DE­FEND­ING BRADY: Brady en­ters this game hav­ing won five straight against the Ti­tans. His lone loss came in 2002 in a 24-7 set­back dur­ing Brady’s third year in the league. That also was his only meet­ing with the Ti­tans in which he didn’t have a touch­down pass and the only time he threw an in­ter­cep­tion.

In six reg­u­lar-sea­son meet­ings with Ten­nessee, Brady has thrown for 1,561 yards, 12 touch­downs and the one in­ter­cep­tion, while com­plet­ing 66 per­cent of his passes.

“He’s seen every look in the book, and even ones that haven’t been in the book,” Vra­bel said of Brady. “Any­time that some­body’s open, they get the foot­ball. Any­time you make a mis­take, he’s al­ways go­ing to find the guy that you make a mis­take on and get them ball re­ally quickly.”

MORE BRADY

The three-time MVP will play his 300th game, in­clud­ing the post­sea­son, Sun­day. Brady will join Brett Favre as the only quar­ter­backs to reach that mark, and the Pa­tri­ots quar­ter­back needs four TD passes to pass Pey­ton Man­ning (579) for most TD passes in NFL his­tory for reg­u­lar sea­son and post­sea­son com­bined. The Ti­tans, the NFL’s top scor­ing de­fense and also best in the red zone, are al­low­ing only 17.6 points per game and have al­lowed three TDs in a game only twice this sea­son. MERRY-GO-ROUND Ten­nessee has to be ready for an un­con­ven­tional look in the Pa­tri­ots’ back­field. With rookie Sony Michel nurs­ing a knee in­jury the past two weeks, re­ceiver Cor­dar­relle Pat­ter­son has emerged as New Eng­land’s go-to threat at run­ning back. Pat­ter­son led the Pa­tri­ots in rush­ing each of the past two games, in­clud­ing 61 yards and a 5-yard touch­down last week.

Both Michel (knee) and Pat­ter­son (neck) started this week lim­ited in prac­tice. Belichick cur­rently has just two healthy run­ning backs: James White and Ken­jon Barner.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.