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Sunday, December 4, 2011
Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

By Mike Reiss

Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. Ron Winter is assigned to referee today’s Patriots-Colts game. In the past, that has meant a lot of flags and a longer game. Followers might remember the Patriots’ 27-21 win over the Ravens in 2009 when Belichick relayed how he told his players the game would be called tight with Winter (link here).

2. I’d be surprised if former Patriots receiver Taylor Price isn’t claimed on waivers, mainly because a lot of teams liked his athleticism coming out of Ohio. A team looking to the future which had a high grade on him in the 2010 draft makes sense, which puts the likes of Miami, Jacksonville and Carolina on the radar. As for what happened in New England, I don’t think Tom Brady ever fully embraced Price. It never clicked between them, from Price’s first day on the practice field in spring camps.

3. If the Patriots-Broncos game on Dec. 18 is going to get flexed from 4:15 ET into prime time, we should find out by tomorrow at the latest. NBC currently has Ravens-Chargers.

4. All the focus with the Texans is if they’ll be able to maintain their winning ways with rookie quarterback T.J. Yates now that Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart are out for the year with injuries. Two stats stand out when it comes to the Texans: Their 10 turnovers are tied for fewest in the NFL, and they rank second in the NFL in points allowed (16.2 avg.). Taking care of the ball and playing solid defense has been a winning formula.

5. Picked-up nugget from behind-the-scenes cameras on Patriots All-Access this week: Bill Belichick, in the moments after Sunday’s win over the Eagles, had high praise for punter Zoltan Mesko and mentioned it in front of all the players. Mesko is having a solid season (5th in NFL in net, 40.7).

6. While it’s clear the Jaguars’ next head coach needs to believe in quarterback Blaine Gabbert, I don’t think the new hire necessarily has to be an offensive mind. He just needs to surround himself with good offensive coaches. John Harbaugh’s success in Baltimore – he was a former special teams coach – is an often-overlooked example of how a good head coach doesn’t have to specialize in one side of the ball. He just needs to specialize in leading men, being well-rounded from an Xs and Os standpoint, and surrounding himself with good coaches.

7. Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton has 10 rushing touchdowns and is threatening to break former Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan’s NFL record of 12 for a quarterback, set in 1976. Grogan said this week that he’s surprised his record has last this long.

8. Speaking of rushing quarterbacks, Tom Brady is 4 of 4 this season converting third-and-1 situations on runs. Quarterback sneaks have been good to the Patriots. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis has also been solid on third-and-1 rushes, converting 5 of 6 this season.

9. If the Packers win today on the road against the Giants, I think they’re en route to 16-0. Remaining games – vs. Raiders, at Chiefs, vs. Bears and vs. Lions.

10. Cornerback Devin McCourty on what he’s seen from receiver Julian Edelman when Edelman has played defense: “When you see him on the field, you see competitiveness at its best. He’s just feisty.” Well said.

11. Buffalo News sports writer Allen Wilson was a class act. News of his death Saturday at the age of 49 was met with sadness (link here). Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan penned a wonderful tribute (link here).