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Underappreciated no more: Patriots LB Kyle Van Noy thriving – New England Patriots Blog

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was jawing with Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen during Sunday’s game, it wasn’t lost on one player who was the first to have Belichick’s back.

It was linebacker Kyle Van Noy who returned verbal fire in Thielen’s direction, an exchange that highlighted his growing stature as a leader on the team.

That’s how safety and longtime captain Devin McCourty viewed it. Watching that exchange, and Van Noy’s quick ascent to that type of role since being acquired in a 2016 trade from the Detroit Lions, has been fun for McCourty to see unfold.

“The one thing I loved about KV when he first got here and started playing a lot more, he used to always look back at me and [safety Duron Harmon] and say, ‘I’m hungry.’ I think he’s a guy who probably felt a little outcast in Detroit, and he got here with a chip on his shoulder and he’s stayed that way,” McCourty said Wednesday.

“I think that’s why he’s been a leadership guy for us. A guy who can run the defense. A guy who plays multiple positions. It didn’t take long for us to really count on him.”

The Patriots (9-3), who can clinch the AFC East with a road win over the Miami Dolphins (6-6) on Sunday, are counting on Van Noy more than ever.

Van Noy leads the team in tackles (75), has played 88 percent of the defensive snaps in a hybrid linebacker/defensive end role and has filled in on the punt team in recent weeks to help solidify what had emerged as a troublesome area.

Such contributions haven’t generated much national buzz for the five-year veteran, but inside One Patriot Place — and in opposing locker rooms — many are taking notice.

“He’s been a nightmare for us, I know that,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “He disrupts. He goes a great job setting the edge. If we ever try to run the ball to the edge [against him], it’s getting to the point where it’s kind of pointless — he just shuts down the run to his side.

“That whole defensive line does a great job working their stunts; they set each other up so well. There’s a lot of unselfish football going on along the defensive front and he plays a big part of it.”

That unselfish play was noted in Belichick’s “plays of the week” segment on the Patriots’ official website this week, with Belichick spotlighting Van Noy’s work on Trey Flowers‘ key sack to help create the play. It’s the type of effort that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet under Van Noy’s name, but gets him extra credit in coaches’ film review.

“He’s a pleasure to have on our team and to coach,” Belichick said. “It depends on what we need him to do, but Kyle’s done a lot of different things for us and he’s done them well. He’s certainly one of our more versatile players, so when you put together different schemes, having somebody like that that can adjust and execute those things, Kyle’s a good guy to have.”

Added defensive playcaller Brian Flores: “I think he brings a great deal of energy to the group. He’s got a great spirit about him; people gravitate to him. He’s smart, he’s versatile, he does a good job with the younger players. The big thing for me is he’s a great teammate. He’s selfless, he’ll do whatever we ask him to do, winning’s important to him. Those are things we covet here, and he embodies a lot of those.”

Earning that type of respect from coaches and teammates is meaningful to Van Noy, as it can be easy for Patriots defenders to be overlooked because of the star power of the team’s offensive personnel, which includes quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski and receivers Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman.

“We hold ourselves to a high standard here,” Van Noy said. “Whatever that position you’re on the field, you’re held at a standard that you may not have been somewhere else, or looked at differently somewhere else, and you want to do everything you can to meet that standard. You don’t want to be the person singled out. That’s the motivating factor for me: I don’t want to let the guy next to me down.”

That hasn’t been a problem.

“He really studies the game and knows things in and out, and I think that’s one of the big things that makes him who he is,” said linebacker John Simon. “You can say he’s underappreciated out there, but I don’t think he’s underappreciated at all in this locker room. We know what he does for this team.”

“He’s a smart guy who does his job. And he does a lot of jobs,” added linebacker Elandon Roberts. “He embraces all the roles, and when there’s a different role he needs to play, he can adjust to it really well and that makes him more elite as a player. He’s also a great teammate. You know he’s always going to have your back.”

As Sunday showed, that includes Belichick’s back as well.

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Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph defends kicking field goal on fourth-and-1 vs. Cleveland Browns — ‘I wanted points there’

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DENVER — The Denver Broncos went with math over a gut feel Saturday night, and many of their faithful left the 17-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns talking about a fourth-and-1 on which the team didn’t go for it in the closing minutes as the Broncos dropped to 6-8 and the brink of postseason elimination.

With 4 minutes, 39 seconds remaining, trailing 17-13 and with a fourth-and-1 on the Cleveland 6-yard line, Broncos coach Vance Joseph sent kicker Brandon McManus out for a field goal as boos cascaded down from the stands.

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It wasn’t pretty, but for at least one more night, the Browns are still in the playoff hunt – Cleveland Browns Blog

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DENVER – The Cleveland Browns don’t care how it happened, they just care that it did.

When Jabrill Peppers sacked Case Keenum on fourth down with the Broncos at midfield and down one, the visiting sideline erupted.

The Browns somehow had slogged through for a 17-16 win, their fourth in five games.

And they had somehow kept their flickering playoff hopes alive.

It was a struggle — for both teams, but the Browns now hope for help on Sunday and point to Cincinnati in a home game on Dec. 23. The team is 4-2 with Gregg Williams as interim coach and Freddie Kitchens as offensive coordinator.

The Browns got a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield and some big runs from Nick Chubb as they beat the Broncos for the first time since 1990.

Mayfield was nowhere near as effective as he had been the previous four games, but when it mattered most he came through. After a T.J. Carrie fourth quarter interception, Mayfield hit Jarvis Landry for 12, Rashard Higgins for 16, Landry for six and then found Antonio Callaway for the touchdown that provided the winning points.

Denver would get a field goal to cut the lead to one, but Chubb broke a 40-yard run and the Browns were able to keep the ball until 1:49 remained.

Keenum got the Broncos to the 50, but a spike and two incomplete passes led to the fourth-and-10, when the Browns called blitz and Peppers came through up the middle to end the game.

Mayfield started strong, throwing a 31-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman on the Browns first possession. He finished 18-for-31 for 188 yards, with two touchdowns, one interception and a lost fumble.

It wasn’t a spectacular effort.

But it was a winning effort, and a Browns team that had won four games in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons combined has won four of five to keep the postseason in view. At 6-7-1, the Browns trail five seven-win teams in the standings. If the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans all win Sunday, Cleveland would be eliminated from the race. But, still, at least for Saturday night, the Browns are still alive.

That’s not a prediction many would have made when the Browns fell to 2-6-1 after Williams’ first game, or even before the season.

But that’s where the Browns are.

Believe it or not.

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Von Miller eclipses Simon Fletcher as Broncos’ all-time sacks leader

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DENVER — Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller has always said he considers the most important part of his job is “getting sacks and making game-changing plays,” and he has now done that more than any other player in franchise history.

When Miller launched himself through the Cleveland Browns‘ offensive line on the last play of the third quarter Saturday night and pulled quarterback Baker Mayfield to the ground, he had his 98th career sack.

Miller passed Broncos Ring of Famer Simon Fletcher, who finished his career with 97.5 sacks.

The play came at an opportune time for the Broncos, as the Browns had driven into Denver territory against a Broncos defense depleted at cornerback by injury and Jamar Taylor‘s ejection. The sack also gave Miller 14.5 for the season, the second-highest single-season total of his career.

His career high is 18.5 in 2012.

Miller was asked this past week if he thinks about awards and records down the road.

“I don’t really,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t. The thing about getting sacks, the sack race is so close right now. I’m three sacks away from [Rams defensive tackle] Aaron Donald, and the next guy behind me is just a sack away. So, it’s a tight race and every sack could mean the difference. That’s where my mindset is at right now.”

The Browns beat the Broncos 17-16.

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