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Archive for September, 2011

Ten New England Patriots Thoughts For Week 4

After an unfortunate loss on the road for the Patriots against they Bills, they are on the road once again this Sunday to face the Oakland Raiders.

There’s certainly plenty to talk about, so here are some thoughts for this week ranging from comments on some of the players performances against the Bills, along with my thoughts on the upcoming game in Oakland.

1. The Bills have had an impressive start to the season, but are not built for the long haul. They have had struggled for several seasons, so part of me is happy for their recent success. The team certainly knows how to come from behind as they showed in their victories against the Raiders and the Patriots.

However, the Bills defense is not ready for prime time, and that will ultimately be their demise. Let’s be honest here, the Patriots offense beat themselves with some of their turnovers, along with some costly penalties against the Bills.

The Bills did make a few plays, but that defense is just not ready yet. The offense is good, but I don’t see it at the same level as the Patriots. Eventually, teams are going to figure out how to really stop Ryan Fitzpatrick.

If you are a Bills fan, I would enjoy the beginning of the season, because the second half of the campaign could be rough. They are pointing in the right direction, but it will take some time before they are legitimate contenders in the AFC East.

2. How many of the four interceptions were Tom Brady’s fault? I would say at least one and possibly two should go on the shoulders of Brady. That was a poor decision, forcing the ball into Rob Gronkowski.

I think the Chad Ochocinco interception could be placed on both of the players. The other two picks, I don’t think were Brady’s fault at all.

3. Kyle Love has played pretty well so far. I thought he did a nice job in the Buffalo game. He plays a tough position at defensive tackle, and when he has played, I have not seen a huge drop-off on the line.

Against Buffalo, he was called for roughing the passer, but the fact that he got to the quarterback is significant. He has 3 tackles in 3 games, but he picked up some slack with the injuries on the line on Sunday. He might be more valuable this season than originally thought. Keep an eye on Mr. Love.

4. Leigh Bodden had a terrible game against Buffalo. Many media members and fans have been focused on the poor play Devin McCourty. However, Leigh Bodden has been just as bad at the cornerback position.

He was burned often against the receiver he was covering in Buffalo, and has not performed well at all this season. This is a very scary thought that the Patriots top 2 cornerbacks could have bad years. If they both continue to play poorly, the Patriots defense will have a tough season overall.


Albert Haynesworth could be a big key in stopping the Raiders’ running game. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

5. Albert Haynesworth and Mike Wright both being out on Sunday really hurt the defensive line. Say what you want about the defense, but in the first two games the line was playing well. The rotation I believe was a huge help in keeping players fresh.

However, with both Haynesworth and Mike Wright being out I think hurt the defensive line’s performance on Sunday. Myron Pryor was also put on injured reserve so you were actually down another member as well. Moving forward, the health of the defensive line could play a huge role in the overall performance of this unit.

6. I am glad to see Gerard Warren back with Patriots. Having Warren back on the defensive line, certainly helps my discussion on the 5th topic. I was surprised that he was not brought back a week earlier when the Patriots put Pryor on injured reserve.

Instead, the Patriots went with Landon Cohen, and that was probably because he is younger. However, Warren gives you experience and was rock solid last season for the Patriots. I think he will help stabilize the line.

7. Rob Gronkowski really reminds me of Russ Francis. Many fans and media members are putting their focus on Aaron Hernandez at the tight end position.

However, Gronkowski I think has the potential to be an even bigger overall threat at tight end. He can block, catch, and score touchdowns in the red-zone. Against Buffalo, they had him lined up on many occasions farther outside than normal. He had 7 receptions for 109 yards, and 2 touchdowns.

Hernandez is more of your Dallas Clark style of tight end, but Gronkowski is your throwback do it everything player at that position. I wouldn’t be shocked that in a season or two he is thought of as the best tight end in the game.

8. Reportedly Brady forgot who his opponent was in his first start 10 years ago. Brady recently was asked by the media his thoughts on the 10 year anniversary of his first start for the Patriots. Supposedly Brady thought it was against the Chargers.

However, since I was at this game, I can tell you that it was against the Colts. The Patriots beat the Colts 44-13, and it was a very impressive starting debut for Mr. Brady. I wish he remembered the game, because I certainly did not forget it.

9. If Albert Haynesworth plays I am not worried about the Raiders running game. I have been hearing so much about Darren McFadden, and Michael Bush this week. They are very good running backs, but I think the Patriots will contain them.

If Haynesworth does play, the Raiders running backs I think will have a tough time running the ball. The Patriots are also bringing back Warren who can stop the run as well. I will be surprised if the Raiders run wild on the Patriots.

10. This is the game to play a one gap attacking style of defense against Jason Campbell and the Raiders offense. The Patriots have been a very conservative defense so far this season.

They now have the personnel to attack, and I hope we see that on Sunday. Campbell tends to hold on to the ball for a long time, and is afraid to make a mistake with a bad pass.

This is the time to let Jerod Mayo shoot gaps and be very aggressive. I would blitz him very often in this game, and would also send safeties as well to get after Campbell.

There is no excuse in this game. This quarterback is tailor made to be blitzed and attacked. I hope we see it on Sunday. If we don’t see this style of defense on Sunday, I am convinced we will not see an aggressive defense at all this season.

Those are my 10 thoughts for week 4, but feel free to leave some of your thoughts or concerns on this upcoming game in the comment section below.

Behind The Scenes Of “The Adam Jones Show” On ESPNBoston.com

On the Thursday before the opening game of the Patriots season, I had the pleasure of actually being in Gillette Stadium in a radio studio observing “The Adam Jones Show”, which is a fairly new show covering the Patriots as well as other Boston Sports. It was a unique experience watching a sports radio show unlike any in Boston, and here is my behind the scenes look at “The Adam Jones Show” on ESPNBoston.com.

At about 10 minutes before noon the show begins, and Drew Brooks, who is co-host of this show, calmly prepare all the details he needs to run the program. At that moment, Adam Jones walked in and mentioned that he just came from an open Patriots Locker Room session.

He discussed briefly his time in the locker room, and then the co-hosts went over the summary of that day’s show. Shortly after the show began, and these two hosts went into action.

What was interesting after being there was the fact it’s only the two of them running this 2 hour show. It is only been on the air since April 8th, but the chemistry between the co-hosts was very obvious.


Andrew Brooks and Adam Jones of “The Adam Jones Show” on ESPNBoston.com

The show flowed very seamlessly from one segment to the next. It started with a “Read and React” segment, which is where they discuss several topics at the top of the show, and that springboards them to use those same points throughout the program. On this day, the topics ranged from Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, to a discussion on Peyton Manning.

They also had 2 guests scheduled, and which included ESPN Boston writer Mike Reiss, and ESPN Fantasty Football expert Chris Harris. Between the guests there were obviously callers, and of course Adam and Drew discussing the topics of the day.

There are a few things that make this show unique to the Boston market. First of all this is an internet only station, so you can only listen to it online or through an app on your mobile phone.

Second, in my opinion, the style of the show is very different than what you are used to listening to on Boston sports radio. This show has more guests, and discusses more topics rather than harping on one particular subject. I think you will notice a different “feel” to the show.

I had the opportunity to talk to Louise Cornetta who is the Program Director for ESPN Radio. I wanted to learn more about the show, and the future direction of the station.

I first asked her what are the long term plans for the show. She stated, “Well, right now the plans are to continue to grow Adam and Drew’s show online, and we really don’t have plans beyond that at the moment”.

I next asked her was she concerned about WEEI going on the FM Dial. She responded, “It is wonderful for WEEI. We are not looking to compete with WEEI or 98.5 The Sports Hub.

“We reach a lot of people in Boston, around the country, and the world because we are online. We don’t look at it as competing with them. We think there is room for everyone.”

So before I mention my discussion after the show with Adam and Drew, I wanted to tell you something about them.

Adam is a veteran of sports radio in Boston. He worked at ESPN 890 from 2006-2009. He then moved on to 98.5 The Sports Hub where he co-hosted a show with Boston Globe sports writer Dan Shaughnessy.

Drew is the show’s producer and co-host. He also worked prior at ESPN 890. More recently he hosted a show on ‘The Fan’ in Phoenix, Arizona before coming to ESPNBoston.com.

What is interesting about this show is really about the two hosts, and how they interact together. Adam and Drew both told me that working together in the past helped, but the chemistry really began when they started this new show together.

As I observed the two hour block of radio, the show continued to flow from segment to segment effortlessly, and they made the topics interesting. There were a few callers, but for the most part it was the two of them doing the majority of the talking.

The style of this show I would say is more like two friends just talking about the teams in town. Their show is as “fair and balanced” on Boston sports as I have listened to in the Boston area.

They do talk about all of the Boston sports teams, and are also not afraid to talk about National stories. However, you will notice they talk a good amount about the Patriots.

I thought the reason for so much Patriots talk would be that their studio was in Gillette Stadium. However, they told me the real reason is they both just like talking football.

They have incredible access to Patriots related guests. They have Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com on often, who is obviously one of the best beat writers in the business on the team.

They also have the ability to have players on the show. Players such as Rob Gronkowski, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Deion Branch, and many more have come on the show.

Adam told me that they don’t have any restrictions on what they can say about the Patriots from either ESPN or the team. He actually mentioned that Jonathan Kraft was on their show and he told them they are free to do what they want. Adam stated,”if they have a bad game, we are going to be critical of it.”

As I stated before, Adam and Drew do talk a great amount of football so before I left Gillette, I had to ask them both a question and a prediction regarding the Patriots.

What would be a successful season for the New England Patriots?

Adam: I will just say win a play-off game which will probably be the AFC Championship Game. To just win a game would a success but the goal is to win a Super Bowl. If they go 14-2 again, and lose in the first round of the play-offs that is not a success.

Drew: A successful season is winning in the play-offs. To me it is getting to the AFC Championship game.

What is your prediction for the Patriots record this season? 

Adam: 13-3

Drew:  12-4

There are 2 sports radio stations that dominate the airwaves in Boston, but the good news for fans is the fact there is another option out there, and while this one might be online, it certainly has plenty to offer the local sports fan in Boston.

I want to thank Adam Jones and Drew Brooks for letting me into their world three weeks ago. It certainly was a tremendous experience. I also want to thank Louise Cornetta, the Program Director for ESPN radio for inviting me to come down, and observe the show. I finally want to thank Mike Reiss, because without his help, this article would not be possible.

You can check out ”The Adam Jones Show weekly between noon-2 PM EST on ESPNBoston.com.

What We Learned From The Patriots Loss Against The Bills

The Patriots had beaten the Bills 15 times in a row going back to the 2003 opener against the Bills. The streak unfortunately ended Sunday, as the Bills beat the Patriots 34-31 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Patriots built up a lead of 21-0 in the first half. However, they would see that lead disappear completely in the second half, and ultimately costly mistakes would lead them down the road to defeat. A Rian Lindell 28 yard field goal in the last seconds of the game would propel the Bills to their victory.

This was a loss where turnovers were a huge factor in this game. Tom Brady threw 4 interceptions that took potential points off the board for the Patriots, but also led to several scores for the Bills.

However, you cannot overlook the play of the defense, as at times they were effective, but huge passing plays, and a lack of pass rush really hurt the team as well. This was a complete team defeat.

So what did we learn from watching the game on Sunday?


Not even Tom Brady can overcome a 4 INT game and still win. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

The first thing we learned is that even when Tom Brady has 4 interceptions, you are probably going to lose. Every quarterback is going to make mistakes including Brady. Maybe only 2 of the interceptions were really his fault, but regardless they are huge factors in wins and losses.

Peyton Manning has had 5 games in his history that he has thrown 4 or more interceptions. Each time the Colts lost. Just keep that in mind when you look back at the significance of that huge amount of turnovers.

The second thing we learned is the defense is ultimately not getting the job done right now. They put very little pressure on the quarterback, and the cornerbacks were lit up like Christmas trees. If you are going to play man to man in the defensive backfield, you do need some pressure on the quarterback. They do go hand in hand. The Patriots defense did not pass the test against the Bills.

The third thing we learned is that so far this season including yesterday, the Patriots front seven are playing a mostly conservative “read and react” defense with very little blitzing. Right now what we saw in the pre-season from the defense, I have not seen at all in this game, or any other in the regular season. This front seven defense is not aggressive whatsoever.

Ultimately though you have to give credit to the Buffalo Bills for coming back in this game, and finding a way to win. I think they took a step forward in their progression as a team.

On offense, Ryan Fitzpatrick was not perfect, but he made huge plays down the field when he needed to. He was 27-40 for 369 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Fred Jackson showed he is a complete back combining 161 yards of total offense. At times the Patriots contained him, but it was only a matter of time before he would take advantage of the Patriots defense.

On defense, I wasn’t impressed with Bills. The Patriots moved the ball at will on them. Brady had all day to throw the ball. Their saving grace though were some nice plays to cause turnovers. That is a step in the right direction, but this defense has a way to go.

For the Patriots offense, for huge parts of this game, they looked as impressive as ever. However, the mistakes killed them, and really were a huge factor in the loss on Sunday. Brady was 30-45 for 387 yards and 4 touchdowns. However, you cannot forget the 4 interceptions that Brady threw.

On defense, the Patriots once again gave up huge amounts of yardage. The Bills had 448 total net yards. That is not what you are looking for. The one positive is they were better on third down with a 36% conversion rate. Overall, this defense needs to get better if the Patriots want to go far this season.

As I always do, I like to look back at my keys to victory to see what kind of role they played in the game. Below is my analysis of ” My Five Keys To Victory For the Patriots Against The Bills.”

1.The Patriots need to contain Fred Jackson. Well the Patriots could not control Jackson, and in the final drive of the game his catch and run put the Bills on the one yard line to ultimately kick the winning field goal. The Patriots defense did a poor job on tackling Jackson as he would often extend plays for extra yardage. The Patriots definitely failed in this key.

2. Jerod Mayo needs to be very active in this game. Mayo had five tackles and played is usual efficient game. However, the coaches did not let him loose like I was suggesting. I did not see him often if at all shooting gaps, or getting after the quarterback in blitzes. When will the Patriots let Mayo attack?

3. It is time for Devin McCourty to become the shut-down corner once again. The only word to describe the play of McCourty has to be horrible. He looks like he has very little confidence right now, and the receiver is constantly one step ahead of him. At this point, McCourty is in a sophomore slump, and the Patriots need him to get out of it soon.

4. Rob Gronkowski needs another big day in the red-zone. Gronkowski was definitely a positive for the Patriots as he dominated play in the red-zone. He scored 2 touchdowns, and continued to show what a constant threat he is on the field in general. He overall had 7 receptions for 109 yards.

5.Who will pick up the slack for Aaron Hernandez being out? Chad Ochocinco did not have a good game, and made two costly mistakes. Apparently, it looks like he did not make a strong route on the interception that was under-cut by Leodis McKelvin. He also dropped a sure touchdown pass from Brady on the Patriots drive. If he scores there, the Patriots score earlier, and maybe there is more time for Brady for one final drive at the end of the game.

Julian Edelman only had one reception, and overall was a non-factor in the game. The Patriots receivers did not pick up the slack for the loss of Hernandez.

So what did we learn from this game? I think the offense will be fine, but turnovers can still really change a game. The defense still deserves much more time to make any real judgement on. However, right now we are not seeing any progress in this unit.

In the large picture of the season, it is only one loss, and I don’t see it as a trend. There is much more football to come and I predict we will forget about this loss very soon.

What are your reactions to the game? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of  the Patriots 34-31 loss to the Bills.

 

Patriots Fourth And Two Debuts

Monday night was the debut of my new internet radio show called “Patriots Fourth And Two”.  I was joined on this show by fellow Patsfans.com bloggers, Steve Balestrieri and Damien Jarrett.

On this episode we break down the loss to the Bills on both sides of the ball with several topics. Subjects range from the play of Tom Brady, to the play of Jerod Mayo in this game. We also have a discussion on the defensive philosophy of the New England Patriots.

We do plan on doing many more shows this season. We have not decided on a set day or time yet. The show might broadcast more than once a week, but that hasn’t been determined yet.

In future episodes, we hope to get on special guests to join us. This show does broadcast live, and we will take calls from fans.

We hope you do take a listen to “Patriots Fourth And Two”.

 

 

My Five Keys To Victory For the Patriots Against The Bills

The Patriots (2-0) are coming off of an impressive 35-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers in their home opener, and now are back in action on Sunday to face the the Buffalo Bills (2-0)  on the road at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Here’s a preview with my five keys to the game that I hope will lead to a Patriots victory.

WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live Sunday on WBZ-TV Channel 4 at 1:00 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.

GAME NOTES: The Bills were down 21-3 at the half at home last week against the Oakland Raiders. They rallied in the second half to eventually win 38-35 against Oakland. It was an impressive come from behind victory for the home team.

The Patriots beat the Bills twice last season, but in week 3 at Gillette Stadium the visitors gave the Patriots all they could handle. The Patriots eventually got the victory with a score of 38-30, but it was coming out party for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick who has since really established himself as a starter in the NFL.

On defense, the Bills front seven definitely has some talent to deal with. Nose tackle Kyle Williams could be a handful for Patriots center Dan Connolly to contain. The linebackers are lead on the outside by Chris Kelsay and Shawne Merriman.  Kelsay has given Patriots trouble to deal with in the past, and Merriman a few seasons ago was a real force rushing the passer with the Chargers.

The Bills could be vulnerable in the defensive backfield. Terrence McGee is injured, and definitely a loss for the Bills. Leodis McKelvin and Drayton Florence are decent cornerbacks, but they could get exposed by the Patriots offense.

On offense, this unit has been on fire to start the season. They are currently 1st in the NFL averaging 39.5 points per game and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has had a great start to the season. In 2 games he has completed 45-71 for 472 yards and 7 touchdowns and has definitely raised his game from last season.

However, the most dangerous player on offense for the Bills is running back Fred Jackson, who has had great games against the Patriots in the past. So far this season, he has run for 229 yards, and averages 6.5 yards per carry which is excellent. The Patriots will need to figure out a way to slowing him down.

The Bills have started the season so far very strong. Their offense is legitimate, and should not be taken lightly. However, I expect Brady to have a field day against their defense, and I do like the Patriots in this game.

Here are my “five keys” which  I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.


The Patriots could use a big day from tight end Rob Gronkwoski today. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

1.The Patriots need to contain Fred Jackson. This key is very pivotal in this game and also very obvious. Jackson could really control the game, and the clock with his running. It is important for the Patriots defense to limit him as much as possible, and make Fitzpatrick beat them.

2. Jerod Mayo needs to be very active in this game.  This could be the game that the Patriots turn Mayo loose, and allow him to just shoot gaps and get after the quarterback.

He has been asked so far to play a great deal in coverage. I think this changes against the Bills, and we see Mayo all over the field making plays.

3. It is time for Devin McCourty to become the shut-down corner once again. It has been a rough beginning to the 2011 season for McCourty. Stevie Johnson is a decent receiver, and this season so far he has 12 receptions for 162 yards, and 2 touchdowns. It is time for McCourty to put the clamps on this player, and really put more pressure on Fitzpatrick to find an open receiver.

4. Rob Gronkowski needs another big day in the red-zone.  Gronkowski is heading home to Buffalo where he grew up. Last season in his homecoming he had 4 receptions and 2 touchdowns. I expect him to be Brady’s main target in the red-zone.

5.Who will pick up the slack for Aaron Hernandez being out? I think the Patriots offense will survive without Hernandez this week who is injured.  I am just wondering which players will make up his production in the passing game?

I think this is a perfect situation for Chad Ochocinco to raise his play, and have a breakout game for the Patriots. I would also look for Julian Edelman to be involved in the passing game as well. It might take a few receivers to make up the difference with the loss of Hernandez.

The Bills are playing well, and I expect them to give the Patriots a great game. However, in the end it will be too much Brady, and I am predicting a 38-31 victory for the Patriots.

What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.

Each week I am hoping to bring a view of the upcoming game from a writer who covers the Patriots opposition, and this week we have Dan Goldman who writes about the Bills for the Daily Messenger in Canandaigua N.Y.

Dan was generous enough to take some time to answer my questions about Sunday’s game, and it’s always interesting to get some insight from someone who writes about the opposing team.

Here are my “Five Questions About The Upcoming  Bills Game with Dan Goldman of the Daily Messenger in Canandaigua, N.Y.”

1. The Bills have started the season 2-0, and have been impressive so far in their victories. Do you feel that this team is ready to be a serious factor in the AFC East this season?

That’s the big question right now in western New York. I can say that this is the best offense in Buffalo since 2002 – Drew Bledsoe’s first year in town. However, to compete in the AFC East, the Bills need to be able to beat the Patriots and Jets. Buffalo hasn’t beaten New England since 2003, the Lawyer Milloy game and I’m not going to be convinced this team is for real until it gets a win over the Patriots.

In recent years, the first meeting of the teams has been close and the second has been a blowout. The Bills lost 38-30 last year in Ryan Fitzpatrick’s first game at quarterback and lost 25-24 in 2009 due to a fumbled kickoff by Leodis McKelvin. I think this could be their best chance of the last two years.

2. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a pleasant surprise as the starting quarterback for the Bills. Do you feel after all the years from Jim Kelly, that the Bills have finally found a quarterback that they can count on every week?

There are reports going around that the Bills are discussing an extension with Fitzpatrick, so it seems the front office believes he is the guy for at least a few years. The list of Buffalo quarterbacks since Kelly is long and ugly and I like him much more than JP Losman and Trent Edwards. There is some question as to how much of the offense’s success is due to Chan Gailey’s play calling.

However, Edwards did play awful in the system twice last year before he was let go. Fitzpatrick doesn’t have a cannon and isn’t the most accurate quarterback sometimes, but he seems to run the offense well. Unlike Edwards, he will throw the ball to receivers who aren’t wide open and give them a chance to make a play. This of course does cause some interceptions. If Fitzpatrick proves he can play consistently through all 16 games, then I think he should be the long-term starter in Buffalo.

3. What do you feel are the strengths and weaknesses of the defense?

The strength of the defense seems to be stopping the run between the tackles. Buffalo drafted Marcell Dareus in the first round of the draft and he combines with Kyle Williams and Dwan Edwards to make for a strong front three. Inside linebackers Nick Barnett and Andra Davis are both reliable tacklers.

The defense did struggle with speedy outside runners and screens in the first two games. Despite the addition of Shawne Merriman, the Bills have struggled to generate a pass rush. Terrence McGee is injured, so the cornerback position is pretty shallow. Drayton Florence is good, but Leodis McKelvin frequently gets burned deep. I’m still not convinced the Bills can cover a decent tight end.

4. On offense, the Bills running game has been very strong with Fred Jackson really becoming a dominant back. Do you think running the ball is more important than the passing game on Sunday to beat the Patriots?

I think the run game is vital to the Buffalo offense. Jackson has established himself early in both games so far and I believe that is why Ryan Fitzpatrick had so much success. The run game can also run down the clock and keep Tom Brady and the high-scoring Patriots offense off the field.

However, the Bills are going to need to score points and the Bills do that mostly through the air. I see the Patriots getting in front on Sunday, so the passing game will probably become more important.

5. And finally, what do you feel will be the key match-up to watch between these two teams?

I’d say Buffalo’s front seven vs. New England’s offensive line. From what I’ve seen of the Patriots so far, Tom Brady is going to kill any team if he has time to stand back in the pocket for a few seconds. Past Bills coaches like Dick Jauron couldn’t generate a pass rush and just played a Tampa 2 scheme in hopes of limiting big plays.

I think the Bills need to unleash Shawne Merriman from the outside and hope Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus can collapse the pocket from the inside. When Brady gets rattled he doesn’t play well, but few teams have shown the ability to do that.

Mr. Goldman is predicting a 34-28 Patriots victory.

A special thanks to Dan for taking his time to give his thoughts on this weekend’s match-up. You can also follow him on twitter at MPN_DanGoldman.

Ten New England Patriots Thoughts For Week 3

After a successful home opener for the Patriots, they are now getting set for an AFC East showdown against the Bills on the road this Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

There’s certainly plenty to talk about, so here are some thoughts for this week ranging from comments on some of the players performances against the Chargers, along with my thoughts on the ovation that Drew Bledsoe received at half-time at the game.

1. San Diego has serious talent, but they are not a complete team. Statistics are wonderful, and can help in evaluating a team. However, there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration that statistics really don’t measure.

In the case of the Chargers, there is no question on both sides of the ball, they have so many great players. The problem for San Diego is there are factors that hurt this team from possibly winning a Super Bowl.

They are not a very disciplined team, and seemed to often make key mistakes when they couldn’t afford to make them. Whether it was a turnover or making a yard on the goal line, this team I feel is not mentally strong enough to win a championship.

Another factor has to be coaching. Norv Turner has a wonderful football mind, but some coaches just should be coordinators, and Turner should be in that category. He’s not strong in “situational football” and it seems like in key situations his players just are not prepared enough to succeed.

His  “in game” coaching decisions just don’t seem to be at the same level as the coach here in New England. These factors will probably prevent the Chargers from winning a championship.

2. Safety Sergio Brown stepped up and played a solid game. I had a close-up look at his battles with Antonio Gates, and he was on top the majority of the time. He jumped a route to get his first interception right in front of Gates.

However, he was called for pass interference once, but I was at the game and saw it live, and I really question that call. Overall, I came away very impressed by him.

 


Jerod Mayo made a great play on the Patriots goal line stand on Sunday. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

3. The Patriots defense deserve more credit for their goal line stand. Again, I had a great view of this “4th down on the 1″ situation for the Patriots defense. I have heard certain media members criticize the play call by the Chargers. I disagree with putting the focus on the Chargers with this play.

The Patriots defense made a surge on the line, and forced Mike Tolbert to go more wide where Jerod Mayo was there waiting for him. Most of the credit needs to go to the Patriots defense for their determination.

4. Chad Johnson is progressing and it showed against the Chargers. He might have only caught 2 passes, but both of them were important for the Patriots offense. The crispness of the routes showed improvement and confidence.

On top of it I think his confidence will only grow considering the ovation he received from the fans. I think you are going to see this wide receiver build on this performance, and eventually play a bigger role in the offense. Just give him time, because he is starting to get it.

5. The offensive line did a tremendous job on Sunday. The Chargers have some players that can rush the passer led by Shaun Phillips. They did get to Brady at times, but for the most part he had all day to throw.

The line for me is showing serious strength after two games. I heard all the criticisms before the season began. Would they be able to protect Brady? It is only 2 games, but I think they are on their way to answering that question.

6. That was not “roughing the passer” by Andre Carter in my opinion. Carter got to Phillip Rivers, and hit him clean. He didn’t lower his helmet.

The roughing the passer penalties in the league are getting out of control. The defender has a right to hit the quarterback as long as it is done correctly. I saw nothing on that hit that looked like a penalty. He just hit, and wrapped up the quarterback. I hope the NFL looks into this, as it could become a real problem.

7. I think the Patriots offense will be fine this week without Aaron Hernandez. Reportedly, Hernandez could be out some time with an MCL sprain. I think way too much is being discussed about his loss to the offense.

Hernandez was out a few games last season, and the Patriots offense moved on. I expect the same amount of production out of this offense. I just think you will see other players pick up the slack for his production. Johnson or Julian Edelman could be featured this week, and I see them being able to make up the difference.

8. The crowd at Gillette Stadium was really loud at times. In the past I have criticized how loud Gillette can get for a game. Well, on Sunday I thought the crowd was tremendous in supporting the Patriots. The crowd can make a difference in a game with noise, and I thought on Sunday they succeeded.

9. Drew Bledsoe got a tremendous ovation at half-time of the Chargers game. Fans at home missed the event at half-time when Bob Kraft introduced Jon Morris and Bledsoe as the newest members of the Patriots Hall of Fame.

The applause that Bledsoe received was incredible, and he had a tough time getting his speech out. Bledsoe is definitely a Patriots Hall of Famer, and the fans showed their appreciation. It is a shame this was not broadcasted live.

10. The Bills will not be an easy game on the road. I am not a fan that just believes that the Patriots will just destroy the Bills on this coming Sunday. In fact, I think it will be fairly close, and you could see the Patriots pulling away in the middle of the second half.

Do not underestimate a team that plays you two times every season. I think the Patriots will see a team playing with confidence, and that could be dangerous with some nervous moments.

Those are my 10 thoughts for week 3, but feel free to leave some of your thoughts or concerns on this upcoming game in the comment section below.

 

What We Learned From The Patriots Victory Against The Chargers

It was the home opener for the Patriots on Sunday, and the home team did not disappoint in what ended up being an entertaining 35-21 victory over the Chargers.

The Patriots gained control of this game early in the second quarter, and looked comfortable going into half-time. However, to the credit of the Chargers, they really fought back in this game, and there were several nervous moments in Foxboro. The game was finally put to rest just after the 2 minute warning with a 16 yard touchdown run by Benjarvus Green-Ellis.

The Chargers are a very talented team, but as we have seen from them in the past, their mistakes cost them dearly. They had 4 turnovers, and were stopped on 4th down on one drive on the Patriots one yard line.

This was not an easy game at all for the home team. In the end, the Patriots did plenty offensively, and enough defensively to insure the first home victory of the season.

So what did we learn from watching the game on Monday Night?

The first thing we learned that is similar to last week, is that the Patriots offense is very difficult to shut down. The offensive line is giving Tom Brady so much time to survey the field and find the open receiver, and that’s one of the main reasons he’s off to such a great start. The Chargers are very good defensively, and at times gave Brady some trouble. However, the offense still could not be contained for a long period of time.

The second thing we learned is that the hurry up offense that the Patriots use has really been effective so far through two games wearing down the opposing defense. Now, the Patriots did not use it exclusively the entire game. However, when it was used, you could see the negative effects it had on the Chargers defense as the game progressed.

 


Devin McCourty and the Patriots defense are clearly still a work in progress. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

The third thing we learned is the defense is still evolving, but there are positive signs to take away. Just like last season, the defense is creating turnovers, and that is a very important part of the game. You give your team a better chance to win if you can win the turnover battle.

They also showed for the second straight game, a toughness near the goal line. Regardless of what people think of the play calling by San Diego, to stop this offense on on 4th down on the 1 yard line is huge. Jerod Mayo made the play, but it was the defensive surge that helped cause the stop.

The defense gave up plenty of yardage, but there are signs that the defense could really improve. It is their play in certain situations that really showed me something out of this unit on Sunday.

The Chargers I feel will be in the mix to win the AFC this season. However, their overall play Sunday made them look weaker than we’ve seen in the past.

On offense, Phillip Rivers showed me he is in the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks. He was 29-40 for 378 yards, and two touchdowns. What was impressive about his play was his ability to get the ball to his receivers in tight areas. His passes were very often right on target where only his receiver could get to it. The Chargers running game was decent as it ran for a total of 98 yards.

The problem with this unit has to be mistakes and turnovers. You can have a great offense, but you need to take advantage of your scoring opportunities. Against the Patriots, this unit made too many mistakes that really hurt them.

On defense, at times, this unit really got after Brady. However as the game went on, the pressure seemed to lessen. The defensive backfield had a horrible time staying with the Patriots receivers. I actually expected more out of the Chargers defense than they showed on Sunday.

For the Patriots offense, it was another great performance by Brady. He was 31-40 for 423 yards, and 3 touchdowns. The Patriots also ran for 94 yards as a team. Overall, this unit was tremendous once again.

The defense, as stated earlier is still working out what it is going to become. The defensive backfield had a tough day, but the Patriots did take away Antonio Gates, and that is definitely an accomplishment. The major negative though was this unit was not good on third down as the Chargers were 10-12 on third down conversions. There is good and bad to take away from the defense, and that is why I feel it is still a work in progress.

The most important thing to take away from this game is the Patriots defeated an AFC championship contender. These teams could meet again down the road, and knowing you can beat this team is a positive.

As I always do, I like to look back at my keys to victory to see what kind of role they played in the game. Below is my analysis of ” My Five Keys To Victory For the Patriots Against The Chargers.”

1. The Patriots need to contain tight end Antonio Gates. As stated earlier, the Patriots did take away Gates as he had no catches. Vincent Jackson had a big game with 10 catches for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, taking away a huge weapon like Gates clearly had a positive effect on the game for the Patriots.

2. The Patriots tight ends have to be huge in the middle of the field. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski again had huge games. Hernandez had 7 receptions for 62 yards, and 1 touchdown. Gronkowski had 4 receptions for 86 yards, and 2 touchdowns. The tight ends were huge in the middle of the field, and also in the end-zone.

3. The defensive tackles need to be disruptive and push the pocket back.  I think at times the defensive tackles did push the pocket back. I did see Albert Haynesworth and Vince Wilfork have their moments. Unfortunately, I don’t think the defensive ends got enough pressure on Rivers to compliment the defensive tackles’ play.

4. Patrick Chung needs to be very active in this game. I thought Chung did his job on Sunday. He had 4 tackles, and was pretty active at times. He could be a very important part of this defense this season.

5. Center Dan Connolly needs to stabilize the offensive line. Connolly definitely did a real good job in protecting Brady. The offensive line as a whole gave Brady plenty of time to throw the ball. They did give up 2 sacks, but against this defense, I think that is a job well done.

So what did we learn from this game? I think the offense continues to just dominate its opponent. On defense, the parts are still learning how they all fit together. But, I see this unit having a huge upside that could pay huge dividends as the season goes on.

What are your reactions to the game? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of New England’s 35-21 victory against the Chargers.

My Five Keys To Victory For the Patriots Against The Chargers

The Patriots are coming off of an impressive 38-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins to open the season, and now they’re back in action on Sunday to face the San Diego Chargers in their home opener. Here’s a preview with my five keys to the game that I hope will lead to a Patriots victory.

WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live Sunday on WBZ-TV Channel 4 at 4:15 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.

GAME NOTES: The Chargers came from behind in the second half to beat the Vikings in their first game 24-17 at home at Qualcomm Stadium.  They held the Vikings scoreless in the second half to earn the win.

Last season, the Patriots held onto a 23-20 road victory against the Chargers where San Dieog kicker Kris Brown missed a 50 yard field goal at the end of the game to insure the Patriots win. The Chargers will obviously be looking for a different result this time in Foxboro.

On defense, this team last season was ranked #1 overall in the entire NFL. In rushing defense they were ranked #1, and in passing defense they were #4. This unit is strong on all 3 levels of the defense, and their front seven is excellent in their 3-4 scheme. On the line, Dan Connolly will have his hands full with Antonio Garay at nose tackle. The former Boston College standout had 5.5 sacks last season. At linebacker, the Patriots are going to have contain Shaun Phillips on the outside. He had 11 sacks last season, and has the ability to harass Tom Brady. They also brought in veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes to control the middle of the defense.

The Chargers are also very solid in the defensive backfield led by cornerbacks Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason. However, the player that could still wreak havoc on the Patriots is former Indianapolis Colts safety Bob Sanders.

On offense, this unit is led by quarterback Phillip Rivers who is definitely one of the best in the entire NFL. Rivers in his last game was 33-48 for 335 yards and 2 touchdowns. He has played very well against the Patriots in the past.

He happens to have many weapons for the Patriots to worry about. Tight end Antonio Gates is still expected be a huge factor in the passing game, and last week he had 8 receptions for 74 yards. Also, the Chargers have two very tall and active receivers who did not face the Patriots last season. Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd both have the ability to go deep, and the Patriots defensive backfield will need to contain these players.

The running game is very good with Ryan Matthews who is in his second season. Last season he averaged 4.3 yards per carry. Also, Mike Tolbert is a real threat near the goal line, as he scored 11 touchdowns last season.

The Chargers have the talent to be a legitimate threat to go to the Super Bowl. I expect them to be on top of their division, and be a factor in the playoffs. The Patriots are facing a top opponent on Sunday. However, I do like the Patriots in this game, but by no means will it be easy.

Here are my “five keys” which  I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.

1. The Patriots need to contain tight end Antonio Gates. It is no secret that the Patriots have struggled in the middle of the field on defense. Gates can still take over a game, and the Patriots will have their hands full.

The Patriots defense had a tough time last week with Anthony Fasano. Whether it is Gary Guyton or possibly Patrick Chung covering the tight end, limiting his touches could be a huge key to this game.

2. The Patriots tight ends have to be huge in the middle of the field. Against Miami, Aaron Hernandez had 7 receptions for 103 yards, and 1 touchdown. Rob Gronkowski had 6 receptions for 86 yards, and 1 touchdown.

I think it is vital that these 2 players take advantage of the middle of the field, as it could open up the entire offense for Brady. The Patriots other receivers could benefit tremendously from the tight ends, if they become the focus of the San Diego defense.

3. The defensive tackles need to be disruptive and push the pocket back. Albert Haynseworth showed glimpses last week what he can bring to the line. He could make things uncomfortable for Rivers if he and Vince Wilfork could get pressure on him up the middle.

Also, watch out for Myron Pryor and Kyle Love. These two other defensive tackles show promise, and you might not see a huge drop off when they are in the game. If the defensive tackles can affect the pocket from the middle, it could throw Rivers timing off with his receivers.


Patrick Chung will need to raise his game on Sunday. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

4. Patrick Chung needs to be very active in this game. Chung is the veteran now of the safeties, and he will be needed to raise his game on Sunday. He was an impact player against Miami with 1 sack and 9 tackles.

Whether he is asked to cover Gates, or come up on a blitz, this player could have the ability to be a play-maker. The Patriots need him to be one against the Chargers.

5. Center Dan Connolly needs to stabilize the offensive line. Taking over for Dan Koppen is not an easy job, but it certainly could be pivotal on Sunday. I expect the Chargers to try to take advantage and attempt to challenge him.

Connolly was solid last week coming in from Koppen, as the Patriots did not skip a beat with him in there. They will need him to play again at a top level against a defense that could be throwing the kitchen sink at him.

This is a very tough opponent coming to Gillette Stadium on Sunday. I expect this to be a back and forth one score win for the Patriots. I think it might take time, but Brady will eventually figure out the Chargers’ defense and I am predicting a 35-28 victory for the Patriots.

What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.

Patriots vs. Chargers: Five Questions with Tim Sullivan Of The San Diego Union-Tribune

Each week I am hoping to bring a view of the upcoming game from a writer who covers the Patriots opposition, and this week we have Tim Sullivan who covers the Chargers as a columnist for the San Diego Union Tribune.

Tim was generous enough to take some time to answer my questions about Sunday’s game, and it’s always interesting to get some insight from someone who covers the opposing team on a daily basis.

Here are my “Five Questions About The Upcoming Chargers Game with Tim Sullivan Of The San Diego Union-Tribune.”

1. The Patriots beat the Chargers 23-20 last season in a game where the home team made several mental errors that really cost them the game. Do you feel the Chargers this season will be a disciplined complete team that can go far into the playoffs? 

I think the Chargers can be a team that goes deep in the playoffs, but they will have to play better than they did Sunday and avoid the kind of key injuries that left them shopping for a kicker this week.

Philip Rivers remains an elite quarterback and he starts this season with his key receivers all on the field at the same time. That’s a significant step forward from last season.

The larger questions are on defense. Specifically, can the Chargers stop the run and rush the passer? They did a decent job on Adrian Peterson Sunday and held Donovan McNabb to 39 yards passing, but I suspect Tom Brady will present a significantly greater challenge.

2. The Chargers lost Louis Castillo to injury in their opening game against the Vikings. What type of impact does his loss have on the Chargers defense?

I don’t think Castillo’s injury is as significant as Nate Kaeding’s because of the Chargers’ depth at defensive end. Vaughn Martin and Jacques Cesaire are both serviceable players and rookie Corey Liuget has been impressive.

3. The Chargers had the #1 ranked defense in the NFL last season. What do you feel are the strengths and weaknesses for this unit for the 2011 season? 

As I wrote previously, there are still questions about the run defense and the pass rush. The acquisition of Bob Sanders and Takeo Spikes have provided some veteran leadership on a unit that sometimes seemed rudderless, but I don’t know that either of them are going to generate a lot of sacks.

4.The Patriots have once again been vulnerable in the middle of the field on defense. On the Chargers offense, do you feel Antonio Gates is the biggest threat to the Patriots on Sunday, or would it be the deep threat with the wide receivers?

Antonio Gates, at the top of his game, is one of the biggest threats in pro football. But he’s been something less than his old self because of a nagging/chronic foot injury.

I would expect the Chargers to try to stretch the field with Jackson and Floyd and exploit short-range openings with Gates and passes to the running backs. Which player has the best day will likely depend on how the Patriots deploy their defense.

5. And finally, what do you feel will be the key match-up to watch for between these two teams?

It will be interesting to me to see how much Takeo Spikes learned about Tom Brady during his years in Buffalo, and whether those insights make any difference in efforts to slow the Patriots down.

Brady’s work against the Dolphins was dazzling. I have to think the Chargers pose a bigger challenge, but if I were betting on this game, I would be inclined to take the “over.”

Mr. Sullivan is predicting a 31-24 Patriots victory.

A special thanks to Tim for taking his time to give his thoughts on this weekend’s match-up. You can also follow him on twitter at sdutsullivan.