Patriots Notebook: Bills kick things off with pregame shoving match
FOXBORO — The Bills apparently looked to a relatively unknown member of their special teams to set the tone yesterday at Gillette Stadium.
Backup safety Robert Blanton started a skirmish with the Patriots prior to the 16-0 victory, walking purposefully toward quarterback Jacoby Brissett and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell while waving his finger and then shoving Brissett.
While Brissett continued to jog away almost unfazed, Mitchell engaged in a shoving match with Blanton, who head-butted Mitchell.
As others gathered around to break it up, Bills safety Aaron Williams shoved Pats defensive line coach Brendan Daly three times from behind.
“It definitely set the tone,” Williams said. “We didn’t want to come out flat.”
Bills coach Rex Ryan wasn’t bothered by Blanton’s head-butt or Williams’ repeated contact with an opposing coach who had his back turned while trying to ward off the contact.
“I didn’t think it was that big a deal,” Ryan said. “It’s not like anyone was throwing down on anybody. It looked like it was just some words out there.”
It all went down while Brissett and Mitchell were taking part in the Patriots’ weekly pregame jog down the sideline that is typically reserved for Tom Brady and his backup quarterback, a routine that’s gone on for years and has never caused a stir with a visiting team.
“We thought they were just trying to get in our head because they never did that before, not since I was here,” Bills cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman claimed. “They never did that to us before. I felt like they were just trying to get in our head.
“The first time they ran through, we were just like, ‘Hey man, run on the sideline inside the white just to show you’re jogging.’ But they were on the infield inside the green, and they were really running through our drills. … The first time they ran it through, we told them to run on the white. The second time they came back through and didn’t listen.”
To be fair, it didn’t appear as though Brissett and Mitchell were anywhere near the Bills’ drills.
“I mean, that’s nothing,” Brissett said of the incident.
Mitchell didn’t have much to say about it, either.
“At the time, I did what I thought was best,” Mitchell said. “Am I right or wrong? I don’t know. I just did what I thought was best at that particular point in time.”
Mitchell said he wouldn’t have done it if he thought it would have hurt the team, but he couldn’t offer much of an explanation for what the Bills were doing.
“Let’s just hope we’re not in that situation again,” Mitchell said.
Tight end Martellus Bennett wasn’t thrilled with the Bills’ antics, particularly since they were targeting two rookies, one of whom was the starting quarterback, especially when there were only a handful of Patriots on the field at that point. It’s also worth noting Blanton’s Vikings played the Patriots in 2014, and he never acted up on Brady.
“I don’t let that (expletive) happen,” Bennett said “That’s who they are.”
Bennett led the Pats with five catches for 109 yards and is now second on the team with 15 receptions with a team-high 247 yards this season.
But most importantly, Bennett said his shoulder is fine after landing on it awkwardly along the sideline in the fourth quarter, which yielded a loud groan from the crowd when it was caught live on the video boards. Bennett quickly returned to the field, too.
“I’m good,” Bennett said. “Get knocked down, get back up. It’s life. Get back up swinging. That’s just who I am.”
Bennett has been a particularly valuable member of the offense, both as a blocker and as a receiver, especially while Rob Gronkowski remains limited. But Bennett said yesterday’s stats offered no solace.
“You always want to put points on the board,” Bennett said. “But it doesn’t matter, zero points, two points .?.?. if you lose, you lose. It doesn’t matter how many points you put on the points. It’s all about getting the ‘W.’?” .?.?.
There was no immediate word on running back Brandon Bolden’s left knee injury. Bolden remained on the ground for a while and went directly to the locker room afterward.
Gronk on board
Gronkowski’s first catch of the season came in the fourth quarter, going for 11 yards on third-and-8 for the Pats’ lone third-down conversion of the day. He was used a bit more than last week’s debut when he only ran one route on 14 snaps.
“I felt good today,” Gronkowski said “The coaches, training staff and everything, we just had a little plan, obviously, not to go every single play, but to build it back up.
“I felt good out there, felt good every time I stepped out there, just got to keep on improving. It’s basically just up to me to get back to full speed. I’ve just got to go out to practice and do what I’ve got to do to get back to where I need to be.” .?.?.
After the game, the NFL Players Union posted on their official Twitter account: “After consultation with Tom Brady and our appellate counsel, we have decided to not pursue additional appeals in this matter.”
So Deflategate is now officially over, and Brady will be back in Foxboro today.
***Clarificiation: Comments attributed to Robert Blanton in an earlier version of this story were actually from Nickell Robey-Coleman. The story has been updated to reflect the editing error.