FOXBORO, Mass. — Some notes and nuggets from Friday’s New England Patriots media availability at Gillette Stadium:
— Ahead of Sunday night’s Patriots-Falcons showdown, much has been written about how New England’s banged-up secondary will match up against Atlanta star receiver Julio Jones.
Jones deserves the attention — he’s one of the NFL’s best wideouts — but you can be sure the Patriots also have spent considerable time preparing for the 1-2 punch of Atlanta running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
Freeman and Coleman both are equally dangerous as runners and receivers, prompting Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower to compare both to Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell.
“Obviously, Coleman’s fast as hell,” Hightower said. “He’s a good receiver for them. They do a good job of letting him outside — whether it’s a (go) route or a drag route — just doing a good job of utilizing his speed. Freeman, he can do it all, too. But I think he’s really quick. They do a good job of getting him the ball out of the backfield — a lot of angle routes, screens and stuff like that.
“They’re definitely a lot different. It’s like going against two Le’Veon Bells. They can run, they can get out of the backfield, they can line up as a receiver, or they can just hand it off to them. So they do add a different demeanor to the offense.”
Freeman has been the more productive rusher this season, leading the Falcons with 353 rushing yards and five touchdowns, while Coleman has better receiving stats, catching 14 passes for 157 yards and one score. Coleman also has the better rushing average of the two, averaging 5.6 yards per rush on 38 carries.
— The Boston sports scene still is buzzing about the broken ankle Celtics star Gordon Hayward suffered earlier this week. And with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers also going down with a potentially season-ending injury last weekend, Patriots QB Tom Brady was asked Friday how he personally dealt with spending nearly an entire season on injured reserve.
“It’s just a big reality check, I think for all of us, because we all think we’re invincible to some degree,” said Brady, who tore his ACL in the 2008 season opener and missed the final 15 games. “Then you go and you have this really tough injury that just happens, and it is tough. Everyone probably goes through a little something a little different, or it hits them at different times.
“I feel bad for both of those guys, but I’m sure they’ll both come back stronger and better than ever. That’s what you have to do as an athlete. You’re always faced with adversities, and you’ve got to overcome them and mental toughness is a big part of that. I know both those players have a lot of that.”
Thumbnail photo via Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports Images
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