Archive for September, 2012

Patriots Look to Even Up Against Bills

The Patriots are not used to looking up at the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East division standings. Heading into Sunday’s game in Buffalo, there’s pressure to make sure they find a way to make sure both teams walk away with a 2-2 record. The season is almost a quarter of the way through and it’s time for the Patriots to assert their dominance.

Logan Mankins and the offensive line need to start protecting if they want to start winning. (FILE:USPresswire)

Here are three things to watch heading into Sunday’s game:

1) The Pats’ offensive line will need a big performance:

The key to victory on Sunday will likely lie in the protection of Tom Brady. The Patriots offensive line will have their hands full with a tough defensive line. Mario Williams and a familiar Mark Anderson will be rushing the edges trying to put pressure on Brady. It will be up to Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon to hold strong and give him some time. He’s been sacked seven times this season and his confidence is noticeably rattled. It’s said every week but now the season is heating up and it’s time for the offensive line to prove to Brady and the fans that they are capable of providing protection.

2) The pressure is on for New England’s secondary:

The secondary will once again have a tough matchup. Steve Johnson is averaging 13.2 yards per catch and if left alone, he could be very dangerous. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not an elite quarterback so as long as the front seven can work to put pressure on him, the Johnson situation should take care of itself. But be aware that more is expected from this secondary. They have been giving up big gains to opposing teams and what they need to show is their ability to shut down a team’s momentum on big downs.

3) The coaching element should be interesting to watch:

A final element to watch on Sunday will be on the sideline. Josh McDaniels has made some interesting calls these past few weeks and is clearly thinking outside the box. He got creative with an end around that ended up costing the Patriots fourteen yards due to poor execution. What he needs to do is work with the players he has and stop getting fancy. The Patriots do not run a sneaky offense with trick plays. McDaniels needs to incorporate Rob Gronkowski and utilize a screen pass every now and again. It will be nice to see Brady get into several rhythms during the game and march the offense downfield.

It’s time for this Patriots team to start playing at the next level. The Buffalo Bills are a great place to start because they have some challenges, but overall it should be no contest. The Patriots have the same problems each week so we’ll see if on Sunday they’re able to put something together and find a way to elevate their game.

Patriots Moving Forward After Loss to Ravens

Last night’s game was one of the most difficult Patriots games I’ve had to watch in quite some time. It wasn’t the Patriots play that was the problem, it was the constant flag throwing and penalty calling. On Sunday Night Football it became clear that the replacement referees are in over their heads and Roger Goodell needs to speed up negotiations with the actual referees. For the sake of the game and the safety of the players, something needs to be done and soon.

The Patriots took some bad calls from the refs Sunday night but that doesn’t mean they were flawless. The Baltimore Ravens were able to expose the defense and put a serious block on the run game. They held the Patriots to just 77 yards rushing with Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead picking up only 37 and 34 yards respectively. In Week 3 the Ravens showed the rest of the league that a stout defense can clog up what was an impressive streak of run plays by the Patriots.

Brady and the Patriots fought hard but came up short Sunday night. (FILE:USPresswire)

The positive side of that is the Patriots were able to adjust and make some big plays in the air. Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker both had big games and it was encouraging to see that Tom Brady has finally gotten in sync with his receivers. Welker had eight catches for 142 yards and Lloyd had nine for 108 yards. Josh McDaniels seemed to do a better job with the play calling this week which wasn’t easy with the speed and size of the Baltimore defense. The offensive line stepped up their game in response making some big holes and protecting Brady a lot better than last week. They seem to be on the right track, progressing in each game.

The Patriots defense on the other hand struggled to get to Joe Flacco. Chandler Jones and Michael Oher fought hard and Oher did a good job of keeping Jones in check. The linebackers were unable to collapse the pocket and Flacco stood tall all night. He proved he is a better quarterback than we all give him credit for. He was 28 for 39 with 382 yards and three touchdowns. They executed the run game and the Patriots were unable to take Ray Rice out of the game. He carried the ball 20 times for 101 yards and completely changed the pace of the game. Once the Ravens hit the ground running, the game shifted and momentum was on their side. The Patriots defense showed this week that they are not invincible. They still have some work to do and the secondary still needs to elevate the level of their game.

Moving forward to next week the Patriots are going to have to work more on their offense than defense. The defense will rebound and should not have a problem with the Buffalo Bills as long as the secondary can keep Steve Johnson in check and the line can stop C.J. Spiller. Offensively Brady and McDaniels need to find a way to incorporate Rob Gronkowski as well as the other receivers. He is a big target that should be utilized. For the first time since 2003 the Patriots are under .500 and that should be motivation enough to have a good week of practice and get their focus and hunger back for next Sunday.

Patriots Offense Was Simply Shut Down by Cardinals

One thing can be said about the Patriots performance on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals: the offense was anything but ordinary.

From the offensive line to the receivers, something was amiss from the start. On the Patriots first possession of the game, a Tom Brady pass attempt was tipped by Arizona defensive lineman Darnell Dockett and intercepted by cornerback Patrick Peterson. That, as it would turn out, set the tone for the offense for the rest of the afternoon.

Jerod Mayo and the defense were the only bright spots for the Patriots in their loss to the Cardinals. (FILE:USPresswire)

The biggest blow of the day came when Aaron Hernandez got his ankle caught up in a tackle and needed assistance from two trainers to get off the field. Luckily it isn’t broken, it is just a high ankle sprain and after the game he was seen leaving in a high walking boot and on crutches. Now it may “just” be a high ankle sprain, but this is still a big blow for the Patriots offense. Hernandez is one of the most versatile players on this roster and was on the field for a majority of the snaps. He will most likely be out for at least the next few weeks, so the team is going to have to adjust to life without him.

Another adjustment that needs to be made is on the offensive line. They were tested by a tough Cardinal defense with some big bodies, and they definitely struggled. Brady was sacked four times and was under constant pressure. He completed just over 60% of his passes going 28 for 46 and threw for 316 yards with an interception and just one touchdown. It was an uncharacteristic day for number 12. Now it didn’t seem like it, but the majority of the Patriots yards came in the air. They had 297 passing yards and just 90 yards rushing. Things were less balanced today with the play calling and that’s another thing to look at. Josh McDaniels clearly understood that running on Arizona was going to be difficult, but somehow Stevan Ridley still managed to be effective. Unfortunately with the receivers, there were some dropped passes and the Patriots were unable to pick up the big gains needed to spark the offense. The only positive from this performance was Wes Welker. He passed Troy Brown to become the Patriots all-time receptions leader with 558. Although he didn’t start, he led the receiving core with 5 catches for 95 yards.

The defense today was once again outstanding. They struggled to start but got into a groove midway through the first quarter. Chandler Jones showed his incredible speed and strength and had himself another impressive game. He really dominated the line and got in the head of Kevin Kolb. All of the linebackers did their job and put pressure on the quarterback and dampened the run. Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo were everywhere and Rob Ninkovich had four tackles and a sack. A lot of different members were contributing and that includes the secondary. They all but eliminated Larry Fitzgerald, holding him to one reception for four yards. They did the job they set out to do and it is encouraging to know they can hold down a marquee player like him.

Offensively the Patriots have to be better if they want to win. The defense has been doing its job so now it’s time for Brady and these receivers to step it up. Stephen Gostkowski is not the reason why the Patriots lost so putting it all on him is wrong. If you think about it, he scored 12 of the Patriots 18 points today. Brady and the offense scored six. It’s a team effort and now it’s time for the pieces to come together and for us to see a complete win. Next Sunday it’s the Baltimore Ravens in primetime and given the history these teams have, you can believe they’ll both be fired up.

Patriots Outlook for Home Opener

Larry Fitzgerald got some love this week from Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. At his weekly press conference, he praised the wide receiver as one of the best, even saying he “might end up being the best one ever.” That kind of statement shows the amount of respect Belichick has for this player. Fitzgerald was surprised with the remarks saying it’s an honor Belichick knew his name and that he is “arguably the best coach to ever do it.” Some strong words of praise from both sides before their matchup on Sunday.

In Arizona there are a lot of questions surrounding the quarterback position. The starting job hasn’t been given to either John Skelton or Kevin Kolb. Last week Skelton was carted off the field after suffering a low ankle sprain in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks and Kolb came in to lead the team on an 80 yard drive to win the game. From a consistency standpoint, it is difficult for a team to rally around an offensive leader that is constantly changing. From a player standpoint, it can’t be good for your confidence to feel as though your coach doesn’t trust you enough to give you the starting job outright. However on the other side of that, Skelton and Kolb could use this situation to their advantage and play like they have nothing to lose. For Kolb, who will start on Sunday against the Patriots, he’s going to need all the confidence he can muster, going up against a defense that had an outstanding week one performance.

Devin McCourty and the Patriots defense will likely be challenged by a Cardinals offense that features Larry Fitzgerald. (FILE:USPresswire)

The Patriots absolutely shut down the Tennessee Titans run game last Sunday. This week they will look to do that again. With each passing week players get more familiar with each other’s playing style and become more effective as a unit. However, there is no sense in thinking that the defense of week one is going to be the defense we see all season. There will be some highs and lows and as Belichick also said in his press conference, when it comes to the rookies, “Are you kidding me? They’ve played one game.” On Sunday we will see if this defense really has changed or if it was merely a mismatch last Sunday.

The biggest and most important job the defense will have on Sunday is shutting down Fitzgerald. Devin McCourty got lucky on a blatant pass interference call last week and should he be the player to matchup with Fitzgerald, he will have to be careful. The Patriots are going to have to double up the coverage of Fitzgerald because he is just that good. It’s easy to lose him on the line and he can catch any ball that is thrown in his direction. With that being said, that means somebody will be left open. It will be up to the secondary to make the necessary adjustments and make sure what they are taking away hurts the Cardinals more than what they are leaving open.

On the offensive side of the ball, the o-line is going to have their hands full. The Cardinals run a tough defense with blitzes and quick changing coverage. They have some powerhouses on their defensive line, including defensive end Calais Campbell. He is a big guy standing at 6’8″ and weighing in at 300lb so the Patriots offensive line will have to do their part to keep him away from their quarterback. His long arms are sure to bat down a few balls on Sunday. Look for the Patriots passing game to be more of the star this week. Tom Brady will have to be at his best to read what the Arizona defense is throwing at him.

Overall the Patriots will be the better team on Sunday. They have the ability to adapt as the game progresses and I think we will see that this week. It may start out as a close game but come the second half the Patriots will be in full control. It’s the home opener and with the induction of Troy Brown into the Patriots Hall of Fame, emotions are sure to be high. The Pats need to feed off the energy of Gillette Stadium and continue the style of play we saw last week.

Patriots New Look In Week One

It was a solid win for the Patriots on Sunday when they took down the Tennessee Titans 34-13. Tom Brady threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns while Stevan Ridley absolutely dominated the run game with 21 carries for 125 yards. From the looks of it, it seems as though Josh McDaniels is making some serious changes with the offense.

Stevan Ridley brought back the Patriots run game with an impressive performance.(FILE:USPresswire)

Brady targeted six different receivers in the game which made it a difficult afternoon for the Titans secondary. They had their hands full with Rob Gronkowski who, to nobody’s surprise, found himself under a lot of double coverage. But when that happens, somebody is undoubtedly left open. Aaron Hernandez’s touchdown in the first quarter was due to a great route and the fact that Gronk was doubled up. Brady could have been sharper, throwing a few passes at the feet of receivers, but the rest of the team stepped up. Last year when Brady was off, the whole system was shut down.

This year things are looking up and that is because of Ridley. It is amazing how much more effective a passing game is when it is balanced by a serious ground attack. Ridley had quick feet, good cuts and really showed his toughness. A run game makes a team tough. The Patriots are finally back to the days when they can run out a game clock by picking up first downs on the ground. It’s only week one but so far, the run game seems to be a serious factor in this Patriots offense. Bill Belichick likes to play a balanced game and today was a great start. 162 rushing yards and 228 passing yards looks okay to me.

Looking at the Titans running game as a comparison, they had 20 total rushing yards with Chris Johnson carrying the ball 11 times for just four yards. He is coming off the worst season of his career (262 carries for 1,047 yards and 4 TD) and I can assure you he was not expecting to start off the season with a performance like this. The reason why he was so ineffective was the Patriots front seven. Talk about a new look, this is a remarkably different team than we saw last year. Vince Wilfork continues to be impressive and rookies Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones filled in seamlessly. The duo were quick to the ball and Jones showed some serious potential to be a pass rush threat. His size and speed are going to be a big asset to him as he gets more comfortable in the NFL. As for Hightower, he fits in perfectly with Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hightower outperforms Spikes this season.

The numbers on defense were very uplifting. Mayo had 13 tackles, while Jones forced a fumble that Hightower recovered for a touchdown. Rookie Tavon Wilson was also impressive with four tackles. The only thing that looked the same on defense was the secondary. I am still unimpressed with the lack of speed from Kyle Arrington and I wish Devin McCourty would turn around and see the ball after getting away with what should have been a pass interference penalty on Sunday.

Going forward this team looks poised for success. Week one had a lot of good, but there is still work to be done. This offense is going to be exciting and McDaniels definitely seems to have some tricks up his sleeve. As for the defense, let’s keep an eye on the front seven and see if the secondary can stop having some games where they make opposing quarterbacks look like superstars.