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Grading the Patriots Addition of Jabaal Sheard

With the NFL free agent frenzy well underway, it’s time to take an in-depth look at the key signings made by the Patriots throughout the next few weeks.¬†

Player: Jabaal Sheard

Position: Defensive End / Outside Linebacker

Former Team: Cleveland Browns

Grade: A

After a wave of depression swept New England in the aftermath of Darrelle Revis signing with the New York Jets Tuesday night, the Patriots made their first significant addition.

Sheard, a 2011 second-round draft pick out of Pittsburgh, has¬†posted 23 sacks the last four years. The¬†6’3, 264 pound edge player had his most productive season his rookie year, when he was used as a 4-3 defensive end and tallied 8.5 sacks.

Along with offering some pass rush ability, he also is known to be stout against the run.

The 25-year-old (he turns 26 in May) has dealt with three different defensive coordinators during his time in Cleveland, and also was moved to a 3-4 outside linebacker because of the change in philosophies.

While he showed the versatility to play standing up, he has been more effective with his hand on the ground in a 4-3 defense. Note: 15.5 sacks in his first two seasons as 4-3 DE, 7.5 sacks previous two seasons as 3-4 OLB.

Sheard has been durable throughout his four years in the NFL, missing just three games in his career all in the 2013 season.

The Patriots signed Sheard to a two-year, $11 million contract with $5.5 million guaranteed Wednesday evening.

So why is this signing an “A”? For several reasons.

For starters, he’s a young, versatile and tough edge player that gives New England more flexibility in the front-seven. Also,¬†Sheard¬†will have the benefit of coaching stability.

His best football is ahead of him.

With current defensive ends, Rob¬†Ninkovich¬†and Chandler Jones, playing such a high level of snaps the past two seasons — no defensive lineman in the NFL played a higher percentage of snaps than Ninkovich in 2014 — this move will allow the team to rotate in a third quality player to keep everyone fresh.

In today’s NFL, you cannot have enough guys to attack opposing quarterbacks.

An interesting note, current Patriots front office member Michael Lombardi was the General Manager in Cleveland when the team drafted Sheard in 2011. New England was also rumored to be interested in Sheard, but ended up selecting cornerback Ras-I Dowling (whoops) four spots ahead of him in the second-round.

A fresh start for a talented player, along with a need filled and under a reasonable contract for the team, this is a win-win.

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

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†PatsFans.com¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.

The Patriots and Revis Part Ways After Both Sides Stick to What They Know Best


Darrelle Revis and the New York Jets agreed to a five-year contract Tuesday evening. (USA TODAY Images)

A little more than five weeks after winning the Super Bowl, the sky is falling in Patriots Nation.

After one year with New England, cornerback Darrelle Revis is heading back to the New York Jets. The feared realization is setting in, the Patriots just lost their best defensive player.

Revis is reportedly signing a five-year contract, worth up to $70 million and $39 million guaranteed.

New York was desperate to make a splash and bring back one of the franchise’s most popular players. Forget Rex Ryan and John Idzick. It’s the Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan era now, and it’s still a defense-first philosophy.

New York gains support from the media, fans, players and added a transformational talent to help their defense. With Revis back in the mix, New York’s defense could be a formidable unit once again. Only this time, maybe the front office and Head Coach won’t ignore the offense like the previous regime.

But this worked out for Revis, too.

Many thought¬†Revis was a mercenary, and Tuesday only cements no.24’s legacy as a business man first, NFL player second.

Revis has earned over $85 million so far in his career, and now just added a minimum $39 million with this new deal.

He’s earned awards, accolades, several big contracts and thanks to his time in New England, a super bowl ring. He’s the modern-day Deion Sanders. And just like “Primetime”, he’s a Hall of Fame player one day.

The Patriots were in the mix, but ultimately could not bring themselves to match the financial commitment it took to keep Revis Island in New England.

Apparently $39 million was too rich for Bill Belichick and the Patriots front office.

If you’re a Patriots fan, you know the manta by now — “The Patriot Way.”

The Patriot way does not mortgage the team’s future for the present, no matter the player. It’s about building a team and compiling players that fit Belichick’s system to achieve ultimate team success.

We’ll know more in the coming days, but the Patriots reportedly¬†were willing to go around $35 million in guarantees for Revis. So why not $40 million?

On one side, you’ll hear fans say the team was cheap. That seems like a reactionary, unfair label to a team that just re-signed defensive back Devin McCourty to a $47.5 million contract a few days ago.

There’s one word that fans don’t want to hear, though. No, not cheap. The dreaded “v” word. Ah yes, value.¬†The Patriots set a value for Revis, he surpassed what he was worth in their minds.

It took several years for the team to rebuild the secondary. Investing money, time and numerous draft picks in the process.

Now it’s time for them to start over, again.¬†¬†So where does Belichick and the Patriots go from here?

You can’t replace Revis with one player. New England will have to retool, add depth¬†and upgrade at other defensive positions to mask the loss of one of the NFL’s premier cornerbacks.

But Revis’ loss creates even more problems than just a hole at the cornerback position.

Part of what Revis brought to the table was his ability to go toe-to-toe with the opposing team’s top passing target, allowing New England’s defense to roll coverage to other areas.

McCourty was one of the biggest benefactors, as he was able to play single-high safety, roaming the backend of the defense and make plays throughout the season. With a less talented cornerback in Revis’ spot, the Pats won’t be able to do the same things schematically. Unfortunately, this could mean more pressure on McCourty and less impact plays.

It could get even worse.¬†Remember the soft zone days? Let’s stop before we both have nightmares.

And let’s face it, judging the Patriots at this juncture isn’t fair. Do you have the right to be upset at the loss of Revis? Of course. But we are looking at one piece to an incomplete puzzle.

As bad as it seems now, Belichick has earned the right to ask for patience. After all, last season when the team lost Aqib Talib to the Denver Broncos, the very next day Revis fell into his lap.

Maybe the “In Belichick We Trust” Kool-Aid is flowing too strongly, but there’s a contingency plan in place.

It’s not what Patriots fans want to hear, I get it. You lose one of the NFL’s best defenders and now you hear, “Oh this is just what the Patriots do.”

But, it’s true. This is what they do.¬†And from the other side of today’s news, this is what Revis does too.

This only adds to the Patriots and Jets rivalry. Revis returns to where he started his NFL journey, but New England will always have this season over New York.

As shocking and wild as today has seemed, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. The Revis and Patriots chapter wasn’t as long as many in New England would have liked, but you can’t argue with the short-term results.

In the end, both sides stuck with what they know best. Now we’ll see how it plays out.

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

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†PatsFans.com¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.

Gostkowski Signs Franchise Tender


Stephen Gostkowski and the Patriots have until July 15 to reach a long-term agreement after the kicker signed his franchise tender Friday afternoon. (USA TODAY Images)

New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski signed his franchise tender Friday afternoon.

The 31-year-old is now signed for $4.59 million in¬†2015. The team released a statement shortly following Gostkowski’s decision to sign. —

“Stephen has been extremely productive and a vital component to our success since joining our team in 2006. Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal.”

As the Patriots mentioned in their statement, signing the tender keeps Gostkowski for the upcoming season while allowing both sides to work on a long-term extension.

The deadline for players who received the tag to sign an extension is July 15, a little over four months from now. It seems unlikely the two sides will not be able to reach an agreement before then.

Gostkowski has been extremely reliable and productive throughout his career.

He made 35-of-37 field goals (94.6 %) in 2014 and has played in every game since being drafted in the fourth-round of the 2006 NFL draft.

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

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†PatsFans.com¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.


Patriots safety Devin McCourty will be one of the most sought-after free agents if he hits the open market next week. (USA TODAY Images)

Pending free agent Devin McCourty spoke with ESPN’s Josina Anderson Monday evening after the Patriots decided not to place the franchise tag on him. The 27-year-old safety is set to become an unrestricted free agent on March. 1o, the start of the new league year.

The following are direct quotes from Anderson’s conversation¬†she tweeted out on Monday.

McCourty on the Patriots¬†not using their franchise tag on him:¬†“I really didn‚Äôt know. There was no real information from them on if it was going to be me or (Stephen Gostkowski). So I was kind of going off of what everybody else was going off, with what people were reporting as far as sources and all that. So, I guess it’s more realistic now that (there’s) a chance that I might not be back there. Or there’s still a chance that I will, but I guess (there’s) more of a chance now with the franchise tag going to Steve that I could be playing in a different place. Still, keeping an open mind and trying to enjoy the process.”

McCourty on New England’s thought process:¬†“No matter what they do with players somehow they always end up winning so. I really don‚Äôt know what their thought process is with me exactly, but I think both sides want to be back. So we will see how it works out.”

McCourty on whether he wants to return:¬†“I want to play there, but I also understand it’s a business. I don‚Äôt want to play there no matter what, but I want to be back. We’ll have to see how it works out.”

Whether McCourty would be bitter not returning to New England after a Super Bowl win:¬†“It would definitely be bittersweet. You stay somewhere for five years and really make a name for yourself in that place. I‚Äôve gotten a lot of help. I know a lot of people in the area, built great relationships, so it will definitely be bittersweet. But my mom always reminds me that comes with the territory. That’s part of being in the NFL, that change is always coming.”

McCourty¬†on where else he wants to play if he doesn’t return to the¬†Patriots:¬†“Not sure. I‚Äôm actually going to meet with my agent tomorrow to kind of start putting stuff together and try to get situated… We‚Äôll have to see what teams are interested, and what the best situation is. But I know no matter where I go, it’s probably going to be a little different from New England. It’s a well-oiled machine there… It‚Äôs my first time going through this. I really don‚Äôt know what to expect or what to think really.”

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

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†PatsFans.com¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.

Upcoming Dates for the Patriots and NFL

As the 2015 NFL league year approaches, here’s a preview of key dates in the league calendar.

March 7-10:¬†NFL¬†teams are permitted to contact and enter into contract negotiations with the agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents (Mar. 10). A contract can‚Äôt be signed until the new league year begins, though. Essentially it’s a legal tampering period.

March 10: The 2015 league year begins at 4 p.m. All teams must be under the 2015 salary cap (only the top 51 cap figures count). Teams must submit qualifying offers to Restricted Free Agents and exercise options on players before 4 p.m. Free agency begins at start of new league year.

March 22-25: Annual owners meeting, Phoenix, AZ. `

April 6: Teams that hired a new coach can begin offseason workout programs. The league allows new coaches a two week jump in order to implement new systems, etc.

April 20: Clubs with returning head coaches can begin offseason workout programs.

April 24: Deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign offer sheets.

April 29: Deadline for prior club to exercise Right of First Refusal to Restricted Free Agents.

April 30-May 2: Annual NFL draft. This year the event is held in Chicago, IL. The Patriots pick 32nd in the first round (Always fun to say that).

May 8-11: Teams can hold a three-day rookie minicamp.

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

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†PatsFans.com¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.

Positions the Patriots Need to Upgrade this Offseason


Despite Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich returning next year, the Patriots should add another pass rusher in the offseason. (USA TODAY Images)

While New England is still celebrating the 28-24 Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks, the Patriots are onto the offseason.

Teams around the league are gearing up for the NFL Combine in Indianapolis and the time is rapidly approaching for free agency. The Pats have some big decisions to make on their own free agents,¬†but it’s time to start thinking how the team can improve for next season.

Here are some positions of need the team should evaluate as the offseason begins. —

*Quick note: No specific order

Interior Offensive Line: The Patriots drafted Bryan Stork in the fourth-round of the 2014 draft. With hindsight being 20/20, from this viewpoint he was far-and-away the best draft selection last year as of now.

New England needs to upgrade on the interior. Adding more youth, size, power and toughness to the offensive front. When Stork or Dan Connolly — who’s a free agent and will be 33 when next season begins — were injured last season, the line struggled.

Ryan Wendell and Connolly are decent options, but it’s time for the team to start looking forward. A prospect in rounds one-three should be used targeting the guard position.

Edge Rusher: Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich have been the starters, but a rotation of pass rushers can benefit any team. In a league that hinges on an effective passing game, the Patriots should target a third and fourth option on the edge.

Akeem Ayers did a solid job after a mid-season trade brought him to the team, but now he’s a free agent. If he can be re-signed at a good value, that helps with depth, but¬†would anyone protest adding another player who can attack the opposing quarterback?

Jones has only played one full season since being drafted in the first round, and while he’s been effective when healthy, he has not quite reached the level many expected. Adding another rusher, either through the draft or free agency, would take more pressure off Jones and Ninkovich while allowing players to be more fresh in obvious passing situations.

As much as the Patriots defense improved in 2014, there were many situations opposing signal-callers had too much time in the pocket.

Interior Defensive Line: The Patriots defense struggled at times against the run last season. While the team used a rotation of players last year, questions surround nearly every one of them.

Vince Wilfork isn’t getting any younger and the team may need to trim his salary yet again. Dominque Easley had¬†a disappointing rookie year, but expectations will be high next season. Sealver Siliga and Chris Jones have played well at times, but neither seem to be starting caliber players, but instead rotational pieces for a defense. Alan Branch is a free agent, but could return if the money is reasonable.

The Pats may look for a younger player in the draft or a veteran option in free agency as a way to upgrade. Even if the team decides to keep the majority of their defensive line together for next year, it might be time to groom younger players down the line.

Cornerback: Darrelle Revis’ contract situation is at the top of New England’s offseason list, but let’s assume he is on the roster for next year. Going into the 2014 season, there was a lot of talk about how much depth the Patriots had in the secondary. But was that the case?

Alfonzo Dennard was placed on injured-reserve and it’s hard to determine if he was injured or had fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. Logan Ryan had an up-and-down second season, but does not seem like the ascending talent he was thought to be at this time last year.

Kyle Arrington played well for the majority of the season, but is his roughly four million salary figure too high? Brandon Browner will be 31 at the start of next season. And while Malcom Butler made one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history a few weeks ago, the question remains if will he be able to grow and improve into his second season.

So, while there are questions about each of the these players and it’s always smart to develop secondary prospects in today’s NFL, should the team draft or add a veteran to the mix? Seems like a strong possibility, even if Revis returns.

Running back: The Patriots have leaned towards a running back-by-committee approach under Bill Belichick, and that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere for the near future. LeGarrette Blount took the lions share of the carries down the stretch, but Shane Vereen was a heavy part of the offense as well.

With Vereen a free agent, along with Stevan Ridley who is also coming off a season-ending knee injury, the team might move on. Jonas Gray flashed when given the opportunity, but was not a big part of the rotation. Brandon Bolden was given an extension, but is primarily a special teams player.

So will the team be able to retain Vereen or turn the job over to James White? White only received 14 touches (9 carries, 5 receptions) in his rookie season. It depends how the coaching staff views White. If the team doesn’t make any significant roster moves, they could be looking at White as a key contributor.

If they choose to draft a prospect or add one in free agency, that could be your answer. But regardless, this position has a lot more questions than answers.

Safety: Devin McCourty is another big priority for the Patriots this offseason. He’s a leader in the locker room and loved by the coaching staff, so it’s hard to see him going elsewhere.

Aside from McCourty, the team could look to upgrade over Patrick Chung or their depth overall. Chung played much better than expected in his second stint with the team, but was exposed in pass coverage at times. Duron Harmon and Tavon Wilson have mainly filled reserve and special team’s roles.

If McCourty re-signs, which seems likely, there are still a lot of questions surrounding the other players at the position. It won’t be a shock if another safety or two is added before next season.

Wide receiver: Brandon LaFell joined the team last season and came on strong during the year. With he and Julain Edelman under contract, the focus shifts to the other players at the position.

Aaron Dobson was an afterthought in his second year, and while he shouldn’t be counted out completely, it’s hard to have strong expectations he’ll be an impact player with what we have seen so far. Training camp will be big for him.

Danny Amendola was brought up as a possible cut in lat year’s offseason, but his contract kept him around. He contributed throughout the year, but was a big factor in the post-season. Will the team ask him to restructure? If he declines he could be on the way out.

The Patriots could look to develop a young receiver in a prospect-heavy draft class, but their track record isn’t great. Adding another veteran to compete for a spot as a third or fourth option seems like a strong possibility.

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

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†PatsFans.com¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.

Breaking Down the Patriots 2015 Free Agents


Patriots safety Devin McCourty could be looking to cash in when free agency begins next month. (USA TODAY Images)

The offseason has begun. Many New Englanders and Patriots fans around the world are still on a high from their 28-24 Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Feb. 1. But now that we are more than a week removed, it’s time to turn the page.

Here’s a look at the Patriots free agents, with some thoughts on each player. —

Quick Note: Cornerback Darrelle Revis is not a free agent, but the team has a $2o million option on him for next season. If the team picks up the option, Revis will count $25 million against New England’s salary cap.

Revis is a key factor this season, obviously. Ideally the Patriots and Revis agree to a new, long-term contract that not only lowers his salary cap hit for 2015, but also keeps him on the team going forward. This will be one of the biggest offseason stories over the next several weeks.

Devin McCourty: The Patriots safety, like Revis, is another huge key for New England this offseason. McCourty could be an option for the franchise tag, but that would make his salary $9.5 million next season.

Is McCourty an elite level safety? Some may put him in that level, but he’s probably in the second tier from this viewpoint.¬†The NFL has a shortage of very good safety play, however, so if he hits the open market, there’s a good chance he gets paid.

Regardless, he’s developed within Bill Belichick’s system and has been a positive figure around the team. The Pats cannot let him walk after struggling to build their secondary for so long.

Stephen Gostkowski: The the 31-year-old is coming off a very strong season, ranking second in the NFL in field goal percentage and¬†becoming New England’s all-time scoring leader in the process.

Gostkowski was a core component of a strong special teams unit for New England and the Patriots will most likely bring him back. He could be franchise tagged, if the sides fail to agree on a new deal.

Dan Connolly: A smart, talented and versatile lineman will always have a job in the NFL. Connolly was one of the team’s most consistent offensive lineman this year and has an opportunity to come back next season. With that being said, it will most likely come down to how much he’s worth.

Connolly will be 33 when the 2015 season begins, so don’t expect the Patriots to offer a long-term deal. If the lineman wants to return for one or two years worth a reasonable, but team-friendly salary, he’ll be back. If another team offers a bigger more lucrative deal, the team will likely move on.

Shane Vereen: Coming off a solid year, Vereen could draw some interest around the league. More polished as a receiver than running back, Vereen offers an intriguing option on offense.

Free agent running backs have not been highly paid in recent years, but it will be curious to see if the Pats will match another teams bid or if they’ll be content moving on to the second-year tailback, James White. While New England may want him back, there’s a chance he’ll get more money from another team.

Stevan Ridley: After suffering a knee injury that ended his season, Ridley is now a free agent. While durability or production aren’t major concerns,¬†his value will be low because of his medical status.

Ridley has proven he can be a NFL starting running back, but will the Patriots want him back or are they set with LeGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray? Time will tell, as the market could dictate his future.

Akeem Ayers: Acquired from the Tennessee Titans in a midseason trade, Ayers put together a solid season for the Patriots. While his playing time and production dipped towards the end of the year, he totaled four sacks in nine games.

Ayers could get some attention on the free agent market, as pass rushers are a valued commodity. How much do the Patriots value his services? That will be determined in the coming weeks. And while the team would¬†likely welcome him back, don’t expect them to break the bank to do so.

Jonathan Casillas: Another core special teams player for New England this season, acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers midseason. Casillas was solid in a backup role, fitting in seamlessly in the transition. There’s a good chance both sides come to an agreement for next season.

Alan Branch: After joining the team midway through the season, Branch filled his complementary role well. A big-bodied, veteran defensive lineman with toughness was exactly what Belichick envisioned when he was signed.

Don’t expect a long-term deal, but a one-year deal for 2015 would be good for both sides. That is, of course, if Branch was happy with his role this season and another team doesn’t hand the 30-year-old more money next month.

Chris White: Primarily a special teams player and depth linebacker, White has developed within the Patriots system. He won’t command a big contract on the open market, which makes his return to New England very possible.

Danny Aiken: Despite a few shaky moments, Aiken did a solid job long snapping for the Pats last season. The question is, does the team want to upgrade or move on?

They have brought in players to challenge Aiken, such as Charley Hughlett in training camp. To Aiken’s credit, he won the job. Expect the¬†Patriots and Aiken to agree on a new deal, giving him an opportunity to fight for his job next season.

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

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†PatsFans.com¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.

Brady Delivers in the Clutch Yet Again, as Patriots Win Their Fourth Super Bowl


Tom Brady was dominant on the final two drives Sunday night, leading the team to victory for their fourth Super Bowl trophy in franchise history. (USA TODAY Images)

12:10 left on the clock, down 10 points in the biggest game of the year.

The New England Patriots had battled all game, but the Seattle Seahawks had a 24-14 lead into the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl Sunday night.

Tom Brady and the offense took over at New England’s 32 yard line. On the first play, Seattle’s Bruce Irvin got to No.12 for the sack. The Patriots could have been rattled, facing an uphill battle versus one of the best secondary units the NFL has seen in recent history.

Then, Brady found Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen on consecutive downs. Three plays, 34 yards and add another 15 for an unnecessary roughness penalty. They were rolling now.

Five plays later, Brady found Danny Amendola in the back of the end zone. The Patriots were right back in it, down 21-24 with eight minutes to play.

On that drive, Brady went 5-for-7, 59 yards and a touchdown.

The Seahawks took over at their own 20, then proceeded to go three-and-out. The Pats defense did their job. Seattle punted to New England’s 36 and Edelman received the kick with a fair catch.

Down three points, Brady and the offense had 6:52 left in the fourth quarter.

Working primarily from the shotgun formation, No. 12 spread the ball around to Vereen, Edelman, LaFell and Rob Gronkowski on eight different plays. Brady hit Edelman in the end zone from three yards out and gave the Patriots their first lead since the end of the second quarter. 28-24 New England.

Of the ten play drive, eight were passes and New England connected on each. On this drive, Brady went 8-for-8, 64 yards and a touchdown.

Patriots fans have seen Brady elevate his performance in the playoffs in years past, and saw it once again in this game.

Over the final two drives, Brady was 13-of-15 for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

The final Seahawks possession resulted in a roller coaster of emotions, generating some of the most incredible plays in Super Bowl history. While undrafted rookie, Malcolm Butler, ultimately sealed the victory, Brady brought the team down the field twice for touchdowns.

Prior to Sunday, the Seahawks defense had allowed only 14 points in the fourth quarter of their previous eight games. The Patriots scored 14 to give them the lead, including the go-ahead touchdown for the franchise’s fourth Lombardi Trophy in team history.

When the Patriots needed it, Brady delivered in the clutch once again.

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

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†PatsFans.com¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.

The Patriots Did Their Job, Finished the 2014 Season as NFL Champions

Exhale.

The New England Patriots are champions once again.

Has it set in yet? The season feels like a blur. Back in training camp, myself and other staff contributors Steve Balestrieri and Russ Goldman watched the team put in work day-in-and-day-out. They never stopped.

Seven months later, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick hoisted their fourth Lombardi Trophy in Glendale, Az.

New England’s roster was much more balanced than years past. The defense, with the addition of Darrelle Revis, improved dramatically and gave the team a new edge.¬†Rob Gronkowski had an All-Pro season and his health throughout the year was critical in the team’s success.

You can name a few players for their individual performances, but this was about 53 guys coming together with one goal in mind. Really, more than 53 — with the practice squad players, coaches and front office personnel executing at a high level.

There were a lot of ups-and-downs during the season. The first four weeks were shaky and the Pats meltdown in Kansas City was a true turning point for the franchise.

With the country and national media questioning the team’s future, the Patriots never wavered. New England won seven-straight games and finished the regular season with 12-4.

After incredible performances against the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium, the Pats punched a ticket to the Super Bowl.

New England defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 Sunday night, receiving the franchise’s fourth Lombardi Trophy in team history.

So exhale, fans. They did it, you did it.

We did our job.

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

Listen to our ‚ÄúPatriots 4th¬†and 2 Podcast‚ÄĚ on Blog Talk Radio as writers Russ Goldman, Steve Balestrieri¬†and I from¬†PatsFans.com¬†discuss the latest Patriots news on Wednesday.

Three Keys to a Patriots Victory Over Seahawks

The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks lay it all on the line this Sunday.

Super Bowl Sunday is less than two days away and both teams are gearing up for the premier sporting event of the year. The Patriots and Seahawks, both holding a 14-4 record to this point, have been the best in their respective conferences for the majority of the season.

The Patriots fought their way back from two separate 14-point deficits against the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round, becoming the first team in NFL history to do so, before defeating the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

The Seahawks have not lost since Nov. 16, falling 24-20 to the Chiefs in Kansas City. Since then, Seattle has won eight-straight games, including a thrilling overtime finish over the Green Bay Packers to punch their ticket for this weekend.

Here’s three keys for New England to come away with a victory Sunday evening. —

Run Game in Focus: New England must find a way to establish the run and stay balanced on offense this week. Tom Brady cannot drop back 50-plus times Sunday. If the Patriots can generate some momentum on the ground, it will open up opportunities in the passing game and keep the unit balanced.

In Seattle’s four losses this season, they allowed an average of 139 yards on 33 rush attempts. Compare those numbers to their 14 wins, when their opponent averaged just 73 yards on 22 ground attempts.

On the other side, the Pats defense will focus on Marshawn Lynch. The NFL’s fourth leading rusher gained over 1,300 yards on the ground this year.

Quarterback Russell Wilson’s ability to run is also a concern. Wilson rushed for more yards than any other signal-caller in the league this season, and his read-option with Lynch will test New England in a variety of ways.

Jamie Collins could take on a “spy” role, shadowing Wilson and keep him in-check. Dont’a Hightower will be responsible for setting the Pats defense and minimizing Lynch’s impact on he ground.

Red Zone Offense, Scoring Key: In the NFC Championship Game two weeks ago, the Green Bay Packers had the Seahawks on the ropes. In Green Bay’s first three scoring opportunities, however, they had an interception and settled for two field goals.

Seattle has an efficient offense, but won’t generally light up the score board. The Patriots must capitalize on every opportunity in the red zone, finding a way to score touchdowns and not settle for three points.

The winner of the last four Super Bowls has scored first in those games. In fact, teams who score first are 32-16 in the Super Bowl. The Patriots scored first in 10 of their 18 games in 2014, winning each of those contests.

Scoring first and finishing drives with touchdowns will go a long way Sunday.

Short Passing Game: The Seahawks have one of the best defensive back units in recent NFL history. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor lead the “Legion of Boom” secondary.

While Seattle’s secondary gave up a league low only 190.4 passing yards-per-game this season, there are still holes for New England to exploit.

With the Seahawks presumably focusing on Rob Gronkowski, other receivers will have to step up. Sherman will stay on the defensive left side, with Byron Maxwell on the right. Seattle’s cover-3 defense, will play the Pats close to the line of scrimmage, in an attempt to disrupt timing with Tom Brady.

Brady could look at Julian Edelman, Brandon Lafell or Gronkowski at times, but Danny Amendola could be the surprising x-factor. The Pats will be looking to get the ball out of Brady’s hands quickly, and Amendola could be the best option with other players grabbing more attention.

New England will likely use a lot of “stacked” formations, crossing routes and pick plays to create space underneath Seattle’s defense, letting their wide receivers pick up yards after the catch.

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