Why are the Patriots better at tackling this season? ‘Because we preach it’
FOXBOROUGH — Patrick Chung is perennially near the top of the list of Patriots tacklers, the hard-hitting safety always in the thick of things for what is now the top-tackling team in the league.
According to Pro Football Focus, New England has a missed tackle percentage of just 9 percent — the lowest number in the NFL.
To Chung, who is second on the team with 62 total tackles, there’s just one statistic that matters — the next tackle.
“We’re getting better,’’ Chung said Wednesday when asked to assess the club’s tackling this season. “Tackling is a lost art — people forget about that part. So, we’re getting better at that — but one missed tackle is one too many. So as long as we can keep going in the right direction we’ll be all right.”
While proper tackling techniques are taught, preached, and valued in New England, Chung said it often comes down to something pretty basic — physicality.
“Tackling is more of a will thing . . . either you want to tackle or you don’t,’’ said Chung, who is often cited by coaches as one of the team’s top pound-for-pound tacklers. “Bill [Belichick] puts that here so these guys in the locker room, like we’re trained to play physical, play football with pads on.’’
Chung was asked if he could point to any specific reason why the Patriots have graded out so highly this season compared with years past.
“Because we preach it. You can’t tackle, you can’t play,’’ he said. “We have pads on for a reason. We preach it, we practice, and we want to see that carry over to the game. If you can do that, then you have a good chance of playing.’’
Chung dismissed a notion that the change in defensive leadership has sparked the uptick in tackling percentage. It has always come from the top, he said.
“No, that’s not [it]. It’s [Brian Flores and Matt Patricia] but it’s Bill,’’ he said. “You’re not going to go out there and be a little softie. You’ve got to go out there and be physical and play tough, play hard. You might have to hit some people and it is what it is. You’ve got to be tough out there and just go play ball.’’
A healthy start
The Patriots continue to have a healthy outlook as they begin preparations for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game against the Dolphins in Miami Gardens.
Every player was spotted during the media portion of Wednesday’s practice as the team stretched to a country theme of “Nobody to Blame” by Chris Stapleton and “Never Comin Down” by Keith Urban.
Tom Brady (knee), Rob Gronkowski (ankle/back), Dwayne Allen (knee), and Chung (shoulder) were the only players listed as “limited” for the full-pads session.
Allen appears to be progressing steadily — he looked free and fluid during the session — and the tight end could be on track for a return this week.
Former Patriots receiver Danny Amendola was one of six Dolphins listed as questionable. Amendola missed last week’s win over Buffalo because of a knee injury, but appears poised to play against his old team.
Dolphins coach Adam Gase wasn’t willing to declare Amendola a full go, saying he wants him to take it slow and make sure he’s not overdoing it.
“This is the first time that I would say that he’s not being very compliant with me,’’ Gase said with a laugh. “He wants to play in this game as bad as anyone.’’
Chung fully expects to see his friend, who leads the Dolphins in receiving yards, on Sunday.
“Danny’s the man,’’ Chung said. “I mean, that’s because he’s my friend but he’s a small dude but he’s stronger than you think and he’s feisty. He’s going to be ready for us. He’s a tough dude, plays through injuries, smart. Whatever the injury report says, we’re getting ready for Danny because he’s good. He’ll be there. He’s a tough guy.’’
A perfect 10?
New England has a chance to clinch its 10th straight AFC East title with a win or tie in South Florida . . . New England is 1-4 in its last five trips to Miami . . . Brady enters this game with a career record of 79-19 against the AFC East — with 10 of those losses coming at the hands of the Dolphins . . . The Patriots dominated the trenches against the Vikings, so it was no surprise that four defensive linemen were among nine practice players of the week, including Derek Rivers and practice squad members Trent Harris, Frank Herron, and Ufomba Kalamalu . . . Others to earn the honor: rookie cornerback Duke Dawson, offensive lineman Ted Karras, and three other practice squad members: receiver Damoun Patterson, tight end Stephen Anderson, and linebacker Calvin Munson . . . Dolphins general manager Chris Grier is a Holliston native, and executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum is from Needham.