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Brady still on target to make history

By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / December 21, 2011
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FOXBOROUGH - Tom Brady is on pace to break Dan Marino’s NFL record for passing yards in a season, with 4,593 yards through 14 games. Having a group of receivers who aren’t greedy about who’s getting the ball helps, he said.

“Everybody knows that they’ll have an opportunity in the game. We don’t have a bunch of selfish guys,’’ Brady said. “It’s a great group of guys that are very unselfish, that really are happy when another guy does well.’’

Aaron Hernandez was the primary target Sunday, catching nine passes for 129 yards. Both are career highs. Fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had been one of Brady’s primary targets for the preceding six games, only had five balls thrown his way.

“Believe me, no one is happier for Aaron than Rob and Wes [Welker] and Chad [Ochocinco], myself, because that’s what it took,’’ Brady said. “Next week it may be someone else.

“I think collectively, the skill players, we’re all in this together. If I’m doing my job, [I’ll] help get someone the ball.’’

Brady isn’t the only one threatening to top the 5,084 yards Marino put up in 1984. The Saints’ Drew Brees (4,780 yards), the Giants’ Eli Manning (4,362), and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers (4,360) are also within range.


Brady and coach Bill Belichick downplayed the assistance they received from the Steelers, Ravens, and Texans, who all lost over the weekend, leaving the Patriots as the AFC’s only 11-3 team, and in line for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

“We have to go out and win, that’s what we have to do,’’ Belichick said. “We can’t worry about what everybody else does or doesn’t do. We don’t have any control over that.’’

Said Brady: “I don’t think we think about any of those things other than Miami. You control your own fate. We certainly always control it.’’

Carter on IR

The Patriots made it official yesterday, placing defensive end Andre Carter on injured reserve, which ends his first season with the team after 14 games and a team-high 10 sacks. Carter injured his quadriceps on the last play of the first quarter Sunday.

Carter took to Twitter last night, saying, “Big day tomorrow. Thank you for your prayers,’’ which creates the speculation that he will undergo surgery today.

With Carter’s injury, the Patriots now have two spots open on the 53-man active roster, because the team also released defensive lineman Eric Moore yesterday. Moore had played in the past two games after signing with the Patriots Dec. 10. He didn’t have a tackle, but made 13 in four games with the Patriots last season.

With two defensive lineman gone, the Patriots signed another, Cedric McKinley, to the practice squad. McKinley, 24, was signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent before the 2010 season, and has spent part of this season on their practice squad. He has not appeared in any games.

The Patriots are expected to sign veteran defensive back Vincent Fuller, a league source said last night. Fuller, 29, was a fourth-round draft pick of the Titans in 2005; he has played in 76 career games, with five starts.

He was most recently with the Lions this season, but he played in one game and suffered an elbow injury. Detroit placed Fuller on IR, but he was released from IR last week, making him a free agent. Listed at 6 feet 1 inch, 192 pounds, Fuller has played slot/nickel cornerback and is a solid special-teams player.

Change at top

Todd Bowles is the Dolphins’ interim coach after Tony Sparano was fired Dec. 12, and led the team to a 30-23 win in Buffalo on Sunday. He had served as Miami’s secondary coach for the last four seasons before assuming the lead role after the shakeup.

Belichick was part of a coaching staff that saw an in-season change at the top, when he was with Detroit in 1976 as its assistant special teams coach. Head coach Rick Forzano was fired four games into the season, and replaced by Tommy Hudspeth.

The Lions’ first opponent under Hudspeth? The Patriots, who lost at Detroit, 30-10.

“Everybody’s on a team and has a job to do,’’ Belichick said. “Whoever the head coach is, that’s who you take your direction from.’’

Belichick coached one more season with the Lions, was with the Broncos for the 1978 season, then joined the Giants for an 12-year run starting in 1979.

Not following

Chad Ochocinco, who has more than 3 million Twitter followers, persuaded Welker to open a Twitter account yesterday. Six hours later, Welker had more than 57,000 followers. One of his first tweets: “Don’t tell Bill I’m on here!’’

Belichick was asked if he’ll ever have his own Twitter account.

“Never. You’ll never see me on Twitter, MyFace, Yearbook, or any of that,’’ he said, drawing laughs at his gaffes. “Forget about that. Before I can join any of those, I’d have to know what they are.’’

Vollmer not at practice

In addition to Moore, offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer was the only other Patriot not at practice, which took place inside the fieldhouse. Safety Patrick Chung, who has missed the past six games with a foot injury, was on the field . . . The foundations established by Vince Wilfork and Gerard Warren hosted an event at Bass Pro Shops last night, a holiday shopping spree for 30 children from Massachusetts and Rhode Island homeless shelter programs. Those two players, in addition to Gronkowski, Zoltan Mesko, and other Patriots, were in attendance . . . Miss the Patriots-Broncos game? NFL Network will air a replay tonight at 8.

Shalise Manza-Young of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Michael Whitmer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.

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