Something special for you tonight. In addition to our usual hots and nots from the print edition, I'm going to offer you the Tom Brady press conference transcript as compensation for a really boring set of game notes (which were tardy in my email inbox as well). It was also one of the rare times that I didn't add Brady quotes to my story, so this is for all you TB12 fans that might be upset that I didn't.
First the hots and nots from the Patriots' 30-7 win:
CHANDLER JONES: Sacks of 6 and 9 yards showed that he’s taking a liking to his new role as stand-up pass rusher.
JULIAN EDELMAN: Eight catches in eight targets for 99 yards and two punt returns for 51 yards, with a long of 30.
SHANE VEREEN: Two touchdown catches, both impressive plays. The 40-yarder was a turn-on-the-afterburners sprint, and the 6-yarder was very athletic to get the ball to the pylon.
STEVAN RIDLEY: Just eight carries for 28 yards, but he held onto the ball on all eight. Progress!
STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI: After missing two field goals in his previous games, the veteran kicker boomed kicks of 47, 60 and 21 yards. He’s ready.
STEVE BEAUHARNAIS: The backup linebacker had an interception and 61-yard return, and he actually showed some moves to get the runback started.
WILL SMITH: The veteran defensive lineman doesn’t seem to be fitting in. His penalty in the third quarter may hasten his Independence Day.
RYAN MALLETT: His only appearance was a 2-for-3, 14-yard cameo in the first quarter as Belichick wanted to see if he was paying attention. He did get three points out of the possession.
5: The channel number for KFVE-TV in Honolulu, which carries the Patriots’ preseason broadcasts.
6: Chandler Jones’ team-high tackle total, including two sacks.
28 for 36: The Patriots’ receivers caught all but eight passes thrown at them.
60: The longest field goal Stephen Gostkowski has ever kicked. Unfortunately, it’s the preseason.
61: Steve Beauharnais’ runback of an interception.
67: The Patriots’ third-down conversion rating.
138.9: Tom Brady’s passer rating.
199: Bill Belichick’s regular-season win total. One more win, and he’ll be the sixth NFL head coach to hit 200.
The Patriots’ game advance press release for the Carolina game contained three full games of notes about tight end Rob Gronkowski, a player that had not played a single down in any of the two previous games because of his ongoing rehabilitation from offseason knee surgery.
And the Tom Brady transcript:
Q: You guys started out slow, but was it nice to know you could come back?
TB: Yeah, it was a slow start all the way around, but it was good to make some plays there late in the second quarter and then the third quarter. There’s a lot of work to do, but it was fun being out there. It’s great to win, especially this game. They’re a good football team and if you don’t execute well, they’re going to be really tough. I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys [from] playing them last year. They’ve got a great team.
Q: How dangerous is Shane Vereen?
TB: Yeah, he made some great plays tonight. He’s been that way – he’s really had such a dependable role for us for the last few years and just done a great job. When the ball is in his hands, good things are happening for our team. We’re going to try to just keep getting him the ball.
Q: Last week you said the third preseason game was a good barometer for the team with a lot of starters playing. You must be pretty pleased with how the offense is looking?
TB: Yeah, it wasn’t bad, but there are a lot of things that we left out there. We got bailed out there a few times on a few defensive calls. Missed some blitz stuff, missed some throws. I think we can be a lot better. It’s an important week for us to try to get better. The days are winding down until all these games count. It gets pretty exciting here in a few weeks, but you’ve still got to try to use these days to make as many improvements as we can. This game was good because you can really see where you’re at and you can see the things you need to get better. I think there’s a lot of things we can improve on.
Q: In your experience, are you guys where you need to be about this time of the summer?
TB: Yeah, I think we’re just still working at it. You can never stop getting better. We’re going to hopefully be that way through the whole season. Each of these games you learn something. Different players do different things and find different roles for themselves. This was a good game because we’re playing a really good team. They challenge in a lot of areas. Like I said, we got off to a slow start, which you never really want to do, but we made a few plays and got some momentum and ended up having a great lead there at the end of the game. But I think we’re just going to focus on the individual plays and see where were can get better. Because you have to go out there and do it and see where you’re at and adjust to the game speed, adjust to the coverages, and then go out there and execute against a great team in a couple weeks.
Q: What happened on the bobble? Did you trip or did someone step on your foot?
TB: Yeah, I couldn’t tell because I had my back turned, but I think someone just got my foot. I don’t know if it was a defensive lineman or offensive lineman, but, yeah, you never want that to happen. That, against a good team like this, usually ends drives, and that one certainly did this time.
Q: Is your back OK? It looked like someone maybe kneed you in the back when you were trying to get the ball to Shane.
TB: No, I'm good. I feel pretty good.
Q: Your kicker kicked a 60 yarder. How does that uplift a team?
TB: Yeah, I mean, incredible kick. That’s a long ways away, so it gives everybody a lot of confidence that if you get the ball to whatever, the 42-yard line, you’ve got a chance at three points. That was a great kick, great execution by everybody. Hopefully we can get him a little closer during the season and make it a little easier on Steve [Gostkowski], but we know he’s got it there in him if we need that to happen at some point this year.
Q: You mentioned some bail out calls. There was a long one on the third-and-15 on the pass to Brandon LaFell. You ended up getting three points at the end of the drive – pretty well-executed drive, but it’s almost like getting a mulligan and then getting a birdie. Does it take the shine off it a little bit?
TB: Yeah, I mean, I think you look at each of those individual plays and you figure out what we need to do better to execute better to make the plays so that – you never want to rely on things like that. You’re right – you get a little bonus chance. And we’ll get those from time to time over the course of the season, and it’s really good to take advantage of those when you do get them. There are going to be times when we get calls on third down that go in our favor. But you know when we have opportunities to execute plays; that’s what we really want to do. We don’t want to have to wait for the ref to throw a flag or something like that. But we’re learning. We’re all learning out there with each other. Football is always about anticipation and confidence in one another and everyone being on the same page. Anticipatory offensive football is what the best offenses are all about. Those are the things that we still need to improve on. That’s why it’s still the preseason. We’ve got a few weeks until it matters and we have to try to do as many good things as possible over the next few weeks to make those improvements and then over the course of the year you try to do that every week also.
Q: Defensively was it encouraging to get the ball back pretty quickly?
TB: Yeah, they played great. We’ve been going against them all camp, so it’s nice to see them go against another offense and watch those guys rush the quarterback, pass breakups, tight coverage. That’s what we’ve been getting all camp, so it’s been great for us, great for our passing game to see the type of coverages that our defense plays. We’ve got a lot of experience with those guys. It was great to see them out on the field, rallying to the ball, making plays. We can’t lose if they don’t score, so that’s a good thing for offensive football.
Q: Overall is this a confidence builder game?
TB: Well, we could have lost 30-7 and none of it’s going to matter two weeks from now. I think it’s more just about our improvement and guys finding roles for themselves and getting into their game conditions. I think that’s what this game is all about. It’s not so much the final score; it’s just more how guys are playing and how guys are reacting to situations and whether guys can find a role on the team.
Q: So how much does it help you and the offense in general to have so many receivers back from last year, as opposed to having so many new faces last year?
TB: Yeah absolutely. I think there’s a lot of growing that you do over the course of the year. There are a lot of balls you throw, a lot of meetings, conversations you have. All the guys that came last year, there was a lot that was forced on their plate, and they’ve been able to handle it and that’s why they’re still here trying to work their butt off to try to find a role this year. You’re right, there’s not as many things you need to go over. You’re still trying to make improvements. You’re always trying to get better. No matter what point you’re at, you’re trying to build. It’s just that we were building from a different place last year. We have a lot of confidence in each other, KT [Kenbrell Thompkins] and Josh [Boyce] and Aaron [Dobson] and those guys from last year that were new – Danny [Amendola], certainly. We made some plays tonight that would have been tougher to make last year, just based on the situation in the game and the anticipation that you need from both positions.
Q: Were you able to say hi to Luke Kuechly or anybody and talk about how last year’s game ended?
TB: No, I missed those guys. I didn’t say anything. I saw them after the game, a few of the guys, but no, we didn’t bring up last year. That was…Yeah we won’t forget that one. That was some way to end it.