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Archive for October, 2011

Report Card: Patriots Not Up to the Test in Pittsburgh

The Patriots came out of the bye week with a 5 – 1 record and were off to a solid start, but they played their worst game in recent memory on Sunday afternoon. The team’s 25 – 17 loss in Pittsburgh was a tough one to swallow for Patriots Nation. After such a disappointing loss, there is certainly a lot to digest and discuss. Here is my report card for week 8. -


Bill Belichick is left with more questions than answers after Sunday’s 25 – 17 loss in Pittsburgh. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Offense Grade: D+

When you have a team like the Patriots, and are built around the offense, that unit has to carry the squad. Unfortunately for the Patriots faithful, that was not the case on yesterday. The offensive line was man-handled on several occasions by a physical Steelers defense. New England could not establish the running game and the lack of balance hurt the team throughout the game.

Tom Brady played ok, but missed a few throws that should have been completed; I thought this may have been in result of the line’s subpar protection. Chad Ochocinco and Taylor Price continue to be non-factors in the offense, and the receivers seemed to struggle to find separation in Pittsburgh’s secondary. The fact the offense only had the ball for 20 minutes should also be taken into consideration.

Defense Grade: C-

Yes, this grade is only a C-, as I am sure many of you would have thought the grade would have been lower. Like I previously mentioned, this is an offensive driven team. I do not expect the defense to be elite, but I would like to see them make some stops when it counts. The unit was on the field for nearly the entire game and there were certainly a good amount of mistakes.

I thought the tackling, again, needs to improve immediately. For whatever reason, the defense has more success stopping third and short, rather than third and long.

In terms of coverage – When you play a soft zone, there will eventually be holes if the pressure does not reach the quarterback in time. The pressure was better, but Pittsburgh spread the defense out and got rid of the ball quickly. I would have liked to see the defensive backs move up and play more physical against the Steelers receivers.

I was, however, pleased with the pass rush. The defensive line was one of the few bright spots on Sunday. Bottom line, however, this unit needs to improve if the team wishes to make a title run.

Special Teams Grade: D+

Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 46-yard field goal at the end of the second half, but missed a critical 42-yard try as well as a failed onside kick attempt in the fourth quarter. Those two missed opportunities hurt the teams chance to make a late game comeback.

I also thought the coverage on the Steelers returns was poor and the team continues to get very little out of their return men. Special teams is often a bigger factor in games than some people realize, and the team has been struggling in this phase of the game lately.

Overall Grade: D+

Overall, the Patriots have a ton of work to do and are not playing well enough to go deep into the playoffs ‚Äď plain and simple. However, it is easy to be reactionary after the team losses such a a tough game, but there is no need to lose hope. There is still nine weeks left in the season and the Pats have time to improve.

Keep in mind, I do not believe the Patriots could have played much worse and only lost by one score. There is still nine weeks of NFL action to play and the season does not end with this loss.

Hopefully the Patriots learn from this game and fix many of their problems as the season progresses. New England returns home next week to face the New York Giants. Further analysis on this contest and my pre-game thoughts for week 9 will be posted later in the week.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Rapid Reaction: Patriots Not Ready for Steelers

The Patriots lost their second game of the season on Sunday afternoon, losing 25 – 17 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. This was a game New England deserved to lose, as the team played their worst game in recent memory. After such a disappointing loss, there is certainly a lot to digest and discuss. Here are a few thoughts and observations on the game. -


Kevin Faulk’s return was on of the few bright spots in the Patriots week eight loss to Pittsburgh. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

- This game was incredibly frustrating to watch if you were a Patriots fan. For starters, the defense was absolutely abused all afternoon. With all of the game planning put into Mike Wallace this week, Heath Miller seemed to be forgotten about, which is very uncharacteristic for a Bill Belichick coached defense.

- The Steelers had no problem moving the ball throughout the game. Pittsburgh did not even punt until 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter. I thought New England did a decent job protecting the run, but their soft zone coverage was painful to watch. Bill Belichick will have to face plenty of questions about the defense’s disappointing performance after releasing veteran Leigh Bodden on Saturday.

- Kevin Faulk was one of the few positives from Sunday’s game. So much for gradually integrating the 13 year veteran back into the offense, he led the team in touches with 6 carries and 5 catches. Once again he displayed his value to this team in every aspect of his game; a true class act.

- Tackling continues to be an area this team needs to work on moving forward. Such a basic football fundamental should not be this big of an issue in week 8 of the season. I expected Belichick and the coaching staff to focus on this throughout the bye week, but it seems like many other issues, there is still work to do.

- Shaun Ellis went to the locker room at the end of the first half and did not return. The veteran defensive end had his ribs evaluated by trainers on the sideline before leaving the field.

- This was one of more physical games I have seen this season. This type of game, and lower scoring contest, certainly played into the Steelers hand. I thought the Patriots hung around during the game, but Pittsburgh’s superior play and New England’s lack of execution led to defeat.

- This team is built around the offense, and when they struggle, the team struggles. The offensive line played poorly and had Tom Brady under duress for a good portion of the game. New England could not establish their running game and the great balance we had seen for the past few weeks was non-existent. It seemed the Steelers offense was on the field for the majority of the game and the Pats could not get into a rhythm. Definitely not how you want the game to go from a New England perspective.

Overall, the Patriots have a ton of work to do and are not playing well enough to go deep into the playoffs Рplain and simple. However, it is easy to be reactionary after the team losses such a a tough game, but there is no need to lose hope. There is still nine weeks left in the season and the Pats have time to improve. Hopefully we see some of that improvement take place next week when the team returns home to face the New York Giants.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Patriots Inactives

The New England Patriots have listed their inactives for today’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Patriots inactives for Sunday are RB Shane Vereen, LB Dane Fletcher, S Josh Barrett, QB Ryan Mallett, WR Julian Edelman, LB Jermaine Cunningham and OL Donald Thomas.

Great news for the Patriots as Jerod Mayo, Albert Haynesworth and Sebastian Vollmer are all active. Not a good sign for Jermaine Cunningham, however, as he was not listed on the injury report at all this week; have to assume he is a healthy scratch.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

 

Patriots Activate Two, Dowling Out for Season


The Patriots placed Ras-I Dowling on IR Saturday. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

The New England Patriots announced yesterday evening that veteran running back Kevin Faulk and defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick have been activated to the 53-man roster from the reserve/physically unable to perform list. The Patriots were inside of a three week window to make a decision on the players.

Unfortunately, the team also placed rookie cornerback Ras-I Dowling on injured reserve with a hip injury. The 23-year-old Dowling played in¬†the first two games of the season before missing the next four games with a multitude of injuries. The rookie’s hip and hamstring injuries lingered throughout the year.

The Patriots secondary, ranked 32nd against the pass, now has even more question marks surrounding them after releasing Leigh Bodden and then losing Dowling for the rest of 2011. It will be interesting to see how the team responds moving forward.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me:@PatriotsHaven!

Dowling Injury Woes Continue, Fletcher Remains Out

Patriots rookie cornerback Ras-I Dowling’s injury woes continue as he was not spotted at the start of practice. Dowling has not been able to play since Week 2 against the Chargers. This hip injury has lingered throughout the season and highlights the biggest knock on the defensive back coming out of Virginia.

The indoor session, held inside the Dana Farber Field House on Thursday, took place with the players in shorts and shells after a full pads practice on Tuesday.

Another concern is Dane Fletcher’s thumb injury that has kept him from practicing for the third straight day. I find it highly unlikely he will play Sunday at Pittsburgh at this point.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me:@PatriotsHaven!

Fletcher Remains Out, Mayo and Six Others Limited

For the second straight day Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher missed practice. He appears to be sitting out with a thumb injury, but he was the only New England player to not participate on Wednesday.


Jerod Mayo is limited in practice, but hopes to play Sunday. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

In addition, the Patriots had seven players who were limited in participation, including defensive captain Jerod Mayo who is trying to make a comeback this Sunday in Pittsburgh. Here is the full report. -

Did Not Practice
LB Dane Fletcher (thumb)

Limited Participation
S Josh Barrett (thumb)
CB Leigh Bodden (thumb)
CB Ras-I Dowling (hip)
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (toe)
DL Albert Haynesworth (back)
LB Jerod Mayo (knee)
OT Sebastian Vollmer (back)

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Gronkowski Apologizes, Ready for Pittsburgh

During the Patriots bye week, one of the big non-football related topics was a picture involving tight end Rob Gronkowski. In the photo, he was shirtless with adult film star Bibi Jones and she was wearing his jersey. While this story was way overblown, Gronkowski apologized Wednesday and stated he was ready to move on.

“I didn’t intend anything to hurt the reputation of anyone on the New England Patriots or on behalf of Robert Kraft,” said Gronkowski. “That’s all, just a simple picture, that’s all. From here on out, I’m just here to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers and the big game this weekend.”

While the apology was not necessary in my eyes, I thought it was a nice gesture from the budding superstar. To read a transcript of the conversation Bibi Jones had on her appearance on “Toucher & Rich” on 98.5 The Sports Hub, click here.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Scouting Report: Spotlight on Mike Wallace

In New England’s week 8 match up against the Pittsburgh Steelers, their ability to stop wide receiver Mike Wallace may be the key to victory. However, that is easier said than done. The Steelers receiver has been dominant at times this season and has no signs of slowing down. Here are a few statistics to keep in mind for Sunday. -


Devin McCourty against Mike Wallace should be the match up to watch on Sunday. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

- At the moment, Wallace is third in receiving yards league-wide. Through seven games this season, he has 36 receptions, 730 yards and 5 touchdowns. As if his 20.3 yards per reception average wasn’t impressive enough, he is also averaging over 100 yards per game.

- Wallace fits the mold of a number one receiver in the NFL. At approximately¬†6 feet, 199 pounds, he has a solid frame and is highly regarded as one of the league’s fastest players. Last season, former Patriots cornerback Darius Butler said the Steelers deep threat was the fastest player he had ever seen. If Wallace gets behind New England’s secondary, it could spell trouble.

- Perhaps the most worrisome statistic is Wallace’s big play ability. This year, he has had 11 plays of 20 yards or more, including a 95-yard bomb last week against the Arizona Cardinals. The Patriots defense on the other hand, has given up a league leading 37 plays of 20 yards or more through the air and an average of 322.2 passing yards per game in 2011. Devin McCourty, who has struggled through the vast majority of the season, will have his hands full Sunday afternoon.

Analysis:

The Patriots ability to contain Mike Wallace will undoubtedly be one of the keys to the game. While these statistics may make that out to be a tough task, it is not impossible. Yes, the Patriots defense has struggled this year, but Bill Belichick has always done a great job of taking away what opposing teams do best.

Hopefully, the defense builds of their week 6 performance against the Dallas Cowboys and continue to make strides. I believe the Pats do enough to control Wallace, resulting in another New England victory. Look for my full pre-game thoughts and score prediction later this week.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Where They Stand: A Look Around the AFC East

Seven weeks into the season, the divisional standings have begun to take shape. Enough games have been played to get an idea of the direction each team is heading with 10 weeks left to play. Here is a look at where the AFC East stands at this point in the season.

New England Patriots –

Overall Record: 5 Р1     Conference: 4 Р1     Division: 2 Р1

Next three games: At Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, at New York Jets

 

Buffalo Bills –

Overall Record: 4 Р2     Conference: 3 Р1     Division: 1 Р0

Next three games: Washington Redskins, New York Jets, at Dallas Cowboys

 

New York Jets –

Overall Record: 4 Р3     Conference: 3 Р3     Division: 1 Р1

Next three games: Bye Week, at Buffalo Bills , New England Patriots

 

Miami Dolphins –

Overall Record: 0 Р6     Conference: 0 Р6     Division: 0 Р2

Next three games: At New York Giants, At Kansas City , Washington Redskins

 

Analysis:

The Patriots have a slim lead in the division, but they are heading in the right direction. The team has the best record in the AFC and is definitely in contention moving forward. The Bills seem like they are for real and are in position to make a run at the post-season. While I believe they are much improved, I still do not consider them true contenders this year.

If I had to describe the Jets with one word, I would use inconsistent. Their defense is good, but not up to the level of past seasons. Their anemic offense needs to be adjusted if they want to be considered a threat later in the year. The Dolphins, well they are struggling in every area. The “suck for Luck” campaign seems to be in full motion and Tony Sparano is certainly on the hot seat.

There is still plenty of games to be played in the 2011 season, but the next few weeks should speak volumes for each team’s fate in January.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Inside the Numbers: Where do the Patriots Rank?

After seven weeks of regular season action, I decided to look into where the Patriots rank in various statistical categories. Even though teams are still developing and not quite at their peak potential, seven weeks of gameplay can give insight to where each rank.

Even though the Patriots are off to a 5 Р1 start, the season has been an emotional roller coaster filled with frustration and excitement. For this edition of Inside the Numbers, here is where New England ranks league wide. -


Bill Belichick and the Patriots still have a lot of work to do moving forward. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Offense:

- Total Offense: 474.5 yards per game. Currently ranked 1st in the NFL.

- Points Scored: 30.8 points per game (185 total). Currently ranked 4th in the NFL.

- Passing: 350.5 yards per game. Currently ranked 1st in the NFL.

- Rushing: 124 yards per game. Currently ranked 10th in the NFL.

- Penalty Yards: 353 yards this season. Currently ranked 16th in the NFL.

 

Defense:

- Total Defense: 423.7 yards per game. Currently ranked 32nd in the NFL.

- Points Allowed: 22.5 points per game. Currently tied at 17th in the NFL.

- Passing: 322.2 yards per game. Currently ranked 32nd in the NFL.

- Rushing: 101.5 yards per game. Currently ranked 8th in the NFL.

- Penalty Yards: 432 yards this season. Currently ranked 30th in the NFL.

What are your thoughts on some of these statistics? Are these numbers misleading or do they portray what the Patriots have become to this point in the season? Share your thoughts below!

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!