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Archive for September, 2012

3 Up, 3 Down: Patriots Roll In Buffalo

A look at both the good and bad individual performances from the Patriots 52-21 win against the Buffalo Bills.

Up:

Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden - After struggling in the beginning of the game, the Patriots found out how to beat the Buffalo Bills — ¬†by running the ball. Ridley and Bolden combined for 38 carries, 243 yards and three touchdowns. Bolden played exceptional.Tom Brady – The Patriots signal caller was on his game Sunday. He did throw a couple of low passes, but Brady finished 22 of 36, for 340 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran one into the endzone, seriously. 


Brandon Spikes set the tone of defense Sunday. The third-year linebacker forced two fumbles and delivered several big hits. (FILE:USPresswire)

Devin McCourty - McCourty was all over the field during the contest. Blanketing receivers in coverage, as well as contributing in run support. Fun fact: the Patriots are now 9-0 all-time when Devin McCourty has an interception.

Brandon Spikes – I know it’s three up, but I’m cheating here. I couldn’t leave Brandon Spikes off of this list after a great performance Sunday afternoon. The linebacker delivered several huge hits and forced two fumbles.

Down:

Rob Gronkowski – No excuses for Gronkowski’s poor play. A fumble to go along with a few dropped passes. Just not what you’d expect from one of the best – if not the best – TE in NFL.

Stephen Gostkowski - The Pats kicker Missed two field goals of 49 and 42 yards in the contest. He has struggled this season.

Steve Gregory and Patrick Chung - The two safeties took poor angles throughout the game and really struggled to help New England’s cornerbacks.¬†Donald Jones’ 68-yard touchdown catch sticks out.

For Patriots updates in an instant, follow me on Twitter: @PatriotsHaven!

Roster Shuffle: Pats Sign McClain, Release Forston

The New England Patriots announced Wednesday defensive lineman Terrell McClain has been signed. With the addition of McClain, the team released defensive lineman Marcus Forston.

The terms of McClain’s contract were not announced.

After playing eight snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Forston as been replaced by another defensive lineman moving forward. Forston was¬†signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent on May 10, 2012 out of Miami.

The 24-year-old McClain was a third round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2011. Last season the 6-foot-2, 291-pound McClain started in 12 games, finishing the season with 19 total tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery.

McClain showed flashes of ability last season, but he quickly fell down the depth chart after an inconsistent off-season and training camp for the Panthers.

For Patriots updates in an instant, follow me on Twitter: @PatriotsHaven!

Belichick Fined 50k For Grabbing Official

The NFL announced Wednesday¬†New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been fined $50,000 for incident with referee¬†after Sunday’s game.

The league cited Belichick had “impermissible physical contact with an official.” The referee was¬†Esteban Garza.

Belichick was not the only coach around the league who was fined after this weekend though. Additionally, the NFL announced Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was fined $25,000 for verbally abusing an official after Washington’s loss to the Bengals on Sunday.

There is quite the difference in terms of amount between Shanahan’s and Belichick’s fines, but I am very not surprised. Not only did Shanahan verbally abuse the official while Belichick made contact, I think it is obvious the NFL wanted to make an example of the Pats Head Coach; even if Shanahan’s actions during the game seemed to be more egregious.

Fifty thousand is steep, but Belichick was prepared for any discipline the league would hand out. After saying, “No.” when asked if he would be fined in Sunday’s post-game conference, he said, “Whatever the league decides to do, I’ll respect.” on Wednesday morning.

Along those lines, the league is not pursuing discipline for any of player’s tweets after Monday’s officiating decision.

For Patriots updates in an instant, follow me on Twitter: @PatriotsHaven!

Spikes, Patriots Speak Out On Officials

After the Patriots 31-30 loss to the Ravens on Sunday night, it was easy to be frustrated. Not just as a fan, but as a player and coach as well. Shortly after the game’s conclusion, a few New England players took to Twitter to release some steam. Leading the charge was linebacker Brandon Spikes.

“Can someone please tell these f—ing zebras foot locker called and they‚Äôre needed Back at work !!!! #BreakingPoint”

The outspoken linebacker has tweeted some controversial statements in the past, but you can bet he will hear from the NFL after this tweet.

Defensive lineman Kyle Love agreed, saying “I’m witchu”, but deleting shortly after. He went on to say.

“I got so much s— I wanna say right now! But ima be quiet……..”

Defensive back Sterling Moore added,

“Bleep, explicit, Bleep, explicit, Bleep, explicit, Bleep, explicit, Bleep, explicit, Bleep, explicit!!!!!!”

Both he and Love did a better job censoring themselves than Spikes. All players were clearly frustrated with the officiating though.

This did not exclude Bill Belichick, whose comments in the press conference did a poor job masking his frustration.

A reporter said he appeared to be trying to get the attention of the officials and asked if there was a certain call he wanted to discuss with them,

‚ÄúI‚Äôm not going to comment about that. You saw the game, what did have 30 penalties called in the game?‚ÄĚ Belichick said.

After he responded, the Patriots head coach was asked if he thought he would be fined for grabbing an official after the game,

‚ÄúNo.‚Ä̬†Belichick said.

Current Patriots weren’t the only ones who spoke out after tonight’s loss, however, as Patriots hall of fame receiver Troy Brown also had a few comments of his own.

“I know these refs are doing the best they can but this is the NFL!” Brown said.

Shortly after, Brown added to his previous remarks.

“Ok, I’m tired of being nice! These refs are a joke! It’s hard to watch. I want to enjoy watching an entertaining game not entertaining refs!”

With all that was said by the players and coach Belichick, it should be interesting to monitor how the league handles their comments as well as their ongoing negotiations with the referees.

I do believe the officials played too large of a role in Sunday night’s game and while that may have impacted the outcome of the game, the Patriots did not capitalize on their chances to win the game. What do you think? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!

For Patriots updates in an instant, follow me on Twitter: @PatriotsHaven!

3 Up, 3 Down: Ravens Squeak Past Patriots

A look at both the good and bad individual performances from the Patriots 31-30 loss against the Baltimore Ravens.

Up:

Tom Brady – Facing a tough defense, Brady has a terrific performance. Finishes the game 28-41, for 335 yards and a touch down pass.


Patriots Devin McCourty played well at times, but struggled when it mattered most in New England’s Sunday night loss to Baltimore. (FILE:USPresswire)

Wes Welker/ Brandon Lloyd - The two wide receivers picked up the slack left by Aaron Hernandez’s absence. They combined for a total of 17 receptions for 250 yards.

Logan Mankins – The offensive lineman gets down and dirty, defending his teammates throughout the game. He was an animal in the trenches and helped control a hostile Ravens front seven.

Down:

Referees – Plain and simple, the officials had too much of an impact on tonight’s game. A lot of missed calls and calls that shouldn’t have been flagged. The NFL should be ashamed of the officiating in not only Sunday night’s game, but at the quality throughout the season to this point. Time for a change.

New England’s Front Seven – The Patriots failed to generate a pass rush for nearly the whole game and Joe Flacco picked the secondary apart. The Pats made adjustments and the Ravens ran the ball down their throat. The unit just did not play as well as they had up to this point.

Devin McCourty - I may be the only one who thought so, but I thought McCourty had a good game for a large portion of the contest. Unfortunately, the defensive captain did not capitalize with two dropped interceptions and had crucial penalties called against him. Not what I expect from a leader and first round draft choice on this team.

For Patriots updates in an instant, follow me on Twitter: @PatriotsHaven!

 

Roster Shuffle Reaction: Patriots Sign Winslow, Branch; Release Three

The Patriots were very busy on Tuesday, making a multitude of roster moves. The team released wide receiver Greg Salas, linebacker Mike Rivera and fullback Lex Hilliard.


The Patriots re-signed wide receiver Deion Branch on Tuesday. (FILE:USPresswire)

With the three open roster spots, the Pats started to fill them by signing tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr. and re-signing wide receiver Deion Branch.

The team has one open roster spot remaining, which I would expect to be filled on Wednesday.

Analysis:

The Salas release surprised me given the depth on the depth chart at receiver and he was just acquired in a trade from the Rams on Sept. 1. In exchange for Salas, the Patriots sent St. Louis a seventh-round pick in 2015. Curious why he did not stick.

The corresponding move by New England, however, did not surprise me. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, I mentioned how I expected Jabar Gaffney or Deion Branch to return once Salas was cut.

Like many other Pats fans, I was very happy once the news broke Branch was returning. Yes, he is older, slower and not the same player he use to be, but he is still a very capable and dependable player for an offense that needs some stability at the moment. Also, he was very productive last season; starting 15 games, catching 51 passes for 702 yards and five touchdowns in the 2011 season.

On the Winslow signing, I thought the move made a lot of sense with Aaron Hernandez reportedly sidelined for a few weeks. Winslow also as not missed a game in the past three seasons, despite having a reported knee issue. Last season the 29-year-old tight end caught 75 catches, for 763 yards and two touchdowns. The signing would help the Patriots stick with their preferred option of the multiple tight end offense.

For Patriots updates in an instant, follow me on Twitter: @PatriotsHaven!

Tale of The Tape: A Look At The Good And Bad Performances From Sunday’s Loss

A few thoughts on both the good and bad performances from the Patriots 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Positives:

Run defense, front seven – For the second straight week, the front¬†¬†seven was tremendous for the Pats. Holding the Cardinals to only 68 yards off 26 carries. Rookies Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower continue to make an impact. The line backing trio of Jerod Mayo, Hightower and Brandon Spikes showed why they could be a force to be reckoned for opposing offenses this season.¬†

Devin McCourty -¬†The defensive captain played outstanding during Sunday’s contest. Along with him, Sterling Moore and the safeties did a phenomenal job against Fitzgerald; who was held to one catch for 4 yards.

Even though they have faced Jake Locker, Matt Hasselbeck and Kevin Kolb through the first two games – Hasselbeck coming in for Locker after being injured in week one – the unit looks to have improved a bit from last season.

Along those lines, the improved front seven may be a big reason and also, there was really nowhere to go but up from last year’s 31 ranked pass defense. They should be tested against Joe Flacco in Baltimore next Sunday night.


Aaron Hernandez’s ankle injury added salt on the wound to the Patriots 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. (FILE:USPresswire)

Stevan Ridley – He wasn’t sensational, but Ridley was an underrated bright spot in the game. While some thought he played bad, I felt he maximized a large majority of his opportunities, without much help from the offensive line, and continued to illustrate what kind of dynamic presence he brings to the offense. It would have been hard to out do his week one performance, but he flashed for the second week in a row and, more importantly, did not fumble.

Negatives:

Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels -¬†I put this loss on the coaches more than anything. I could rant, but instead I will keep it short and sweet. The leaders of this team didn’t deliver today. Bad decision making, poor preparation¬†and the play calling was atrocious. I expect more from a great offensive mind in McDaniels and arguable the greatest coach in NFL history, Bill Belichick.

Offense – Along with the coaches, I put a large portion of this loss on Tom Brady. For a second week in a row, he didn’t “wow” like one of the league’s best should. As the signal caller and captain, I thought he was very underwhelming. He¬†was 28-of-46 for 316 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but he did complete 11-of-15 passes for 125 yards and one score in the Pats‚Äô final three drives. Too little, too late.

After a poor pre-season, the offensive line had a lot to prove when the season started. After a solid week in Tennessee, the line was terrible against the Cardinals. Nearly no push for Ridley, poor protection for Brady and just were manhandled by a very good Arizona defensive line.

Special Teams Unit: The Cardinals are known for a strong special teams unit, but not many people expected them to make an impact like they did on Sunday. While¬†Stephen Gostkowski’s missed game-winning field goal was huge,¬†Arizona linebacker Quentin Groves blocked a punt attempt by Zoltan Mesko in the end zone in the third quarter that was very costly and resulted in a touchdown a few plays later.

Aaron Hernandez’s Ankle: The¬†injury was another tough pill to swallow for Patriots fans.¬†Hernandez was injured on the New England’s third offensive play in the game. While blocking on a screen pass to Julian Edelman, he was hit from behind and was landed, rolled up on. It did not look good when the replays were shown.

He reportedly left the Stadium with crutches and a walking boot on his injured right ankle. He did not comment to the media after the game. While x-rays were negative, early diagnosis is a high ankle sprain which could sideline him from 2-8 weeks. Too early to tell at this point.

Stephen Gostkowski -

As Gostkowski put it post-game,¬†“As kickers, we know what it’s about when we sign up for this.” After kicking four beautiful field goals from¬†46, 34, 51, 53 yards to start the game,¬†Gostkowski pulled a 42-yard field goal with one second remaining on the clock.

By no means put this game on him, but the play seemed rushed and perhaps he was feeling too confident. Certainly a glaring mistake, but one of many made by the team Sunday.

Following the game, Gostkowski said,¬†‚ÄúYou get opportunities like that not very often, and I‚Äôve got to do a lot better job of coming through for the team,‚ÄĚ. ‚ÄúWe had a chance to win, and it came down to me, and I didn‚Äôt pull through. It stinks, and I feel bad for the fans and my teammates.‚ÄĚ

For Patriots updates in an instant, follow me on Twitter: @PatriotsHaven!

Scouting Report: Spotlight on Larry Fitzgerald

In New England’s week two match up against the Arizona Cardinals, their ability to stop wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald may be the key to victory. However, that is easier said than done. The Cardinals receiver has been dominant during his nine-year career and has no signs of slowing down. Here are a few notes to keep in mind for Sunday. -

- During Tuesday afternoon’s conference call with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, he certainly didn’t hold back when talking about Arizona’s all-pro receiver.


The Patriots secondary and defensive captain Devin McCourty will certainly be busy trying to cover Larry Fitzgerald Sunday. (FILE:USPresswire)

“He does everything well. He’s a great, great receiver. (He) will go down as one of the all-time greats and might end up being the best one ever, I don’t know,” Belichick said.

“He (Fitzgerald) has size, quickness, ability to separate and gets open, exceptional hands. He’s good short, deep, with the ball in his hands after the catch; strong, very smart, sets up his routes well. They move him around, they put him in a lot of different spots, it’s hard to even find; you have no idea where he’s going to line up from play to play,” Belichick added.

Belichick praises an individual of a team they will face every week, but he offered some high praise for Fitzgerald. The six time pro-bowler will undoubtedly be a big part of the defenses preparation as Sunday’s kick-off approaches.

- In his nine-year career, Fitzgerald has only missed four games during the 2006-2007 seasons. Not only is he dependable, he is no slouch on the field. The 29-year-old wideout has 697 receptions, for 9,678 yards and 73 touchdowns in that time.

Along those lines, Arizona’s biggest flaw is at the quarterback position. Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Max Hall and Kevin Kolb have all lined up under center since the departure of Kurt Warner¬†in 2009. Despite Arizona’s shaky quarterback play, Fitzgerald has managed to still haul in 170 passes for 2,548 yards and 14 touchdowns in the last two seasons.

- Fitzgerald fits the mold of a number one receiver in the NFL. At approximately¬†6’3, 218 pounds, he has a solid frame and is highly regarded as one of the league’s best receivers. While Fitzgerald may not run a 4.4 40-yard dash, his real talents are his knowledge of the game and the subtle techniques that separate good from great¬†receivers.

- My biggest concern with Fitzgerald for Sunday is his big play ability. Last year the Patriots pass defense was ranked 31st in the NFL and Larry Fitzgerald hauled in 25 passes that went for 20 yards or more; only Carolina’s Steve Smith (29) and Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (32) had more 20 plus yard receptions. The Pats secondary and defensive captain Devin McCourty will certainly be busy trying to cover Fitzgerald Sunday.

Analysis:

The Patriots ability to contain Larry Fitzgerald will undoubtedly be one of the keys to the game. While these notes may make that out to be a tough task, it is not impossible. Yes, the Patriots defense struggled against the pass last season, but Bill Belichick has always done a great job of taking away what opposing teams do best.

Hopefully, the defense builds off their week one performance against the Tennessee Titans and continues to make strides. I believe the Pats do enough to control Fitzgerald, 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!

3 Up, 3 Down: Patriots Rookies Make An Impact

A look at both the good and bad individual performances from the Patriots 34-13 win over the Tennessee Titans.

Up:

Rookie Class – ¬†Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower stole the show on Sunday afternoon and it was hard to not be impressed with their performances. Second round pick Tavon Wilson also added an interception.


Vince Wilfork was dominant in the Patriots 34-13 victory of the Titans on Sunday afternoon. (FILE:USPresswire)

Stevan Ridley – The second year tailback ran hard in the season opener with 125 yards rushing on 21 carries and a touchdown. He also hauled in two receptions for 27 yards. He¬†becomes the first Patriots running back to rush for over 100 yards in a season-opener during Bill Belichick’s tenure as coach.

Vince Wilfork – The defensive captain induced chaos Sunday afternoon. He¬†did a tremendous job getting push up the middle and disrupting Tennessee’s offensive rhythm. He set the tone for a very active defensive front seven.

Down:

Nate Solder - Overall the second year tackle did an ok job, but he was responsible for the “look out” sack on Tom Brady, which resulted in the quarter back’s nose being blooded.

Rob Ninkovich – Looked lost in coverage and containing the QB throughout the game. He was absolutely stonewalled for the majority of the contest and could not take advantage of the attention the rest of the defensive line was commanding.

Wes Welker – The receiver was very quiet throughout the game and only memorable moment was a drop over the middle. He finished with only 14 yards.

For Patriots updates in an instant, follow me on Twitter: @PatriotsHaven!


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